Episcopal Diocese of NY nominates five for bishop, including married lesbian priest

Here’s hoping you haven’t had too much damage from Irene.

Like every reporter, I’ve been driving around the past few days checking out the floods and downed trees and talking to exasperated people who don’t know when they’ll get power back.

But it appears that things could have been worse.

Otherwise…an interesting development from the Episcopal Diocese of New York.

You may know that Bishop Mark Sisk will retire over the next few years. The diocese has started a process to choose his successor. This morning, a committee announced the names of five nominees, one of which will be chosen by delegates to a diocesan convention on Oct. 29.

One of the nominees is the Rev. Tracey Lind of Cleveland, who is dean of Trinity Cathedral there. She is also a lesbian who got married in New Hampshire last year.

For obvious reasons, Lind’s election would be big news.

Although the Episcopal Church is very gay-friendly — and this is especially true of the Diocese of NY — many are still uncomfortable with gay marriage. In fact, Bishop Sisk supported the passage of civil gay marriage and has been an outspoken advocate for gays in the church, but does not believe that his priests should perform marriages for gay couples. Instead, he supports “clergy who wish to bless a couple who are members of the Church and who have entered into a same-sex civil marriage.”

If Lind was chosen bishop, would the Catholic Church send anyone to her installation?

Maybe we’ll find out. Maybe we won’t. Lind was also a candidate to become bishop of Chicago in 2007, but was not chosen.

You can read about the other nominees here.

Back to storm coverage…

A new Catholic archbishop for Philly; Episcopal bishops divided in New York

Two things:

1. Should the Yankees play the Phillies in the World Series this fall — a possibility, at this point — we could see a high-stakes bet between two of the highest-profile and fastest-talking Catholic churchmen in the country.

New York pizza or a Philly Cheesesteak?

That’s because squaring off with Archbishop Dolan would be Archbishop Charles Chaput, who is leaving Denver to lead the deeply troubled Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Chaput is a provocative and straight-talking bishop who promotes orthodox Catholicism — as he would put it — without compromise. Like Dolan, he’s a guy who says what he believes and isn’t afraid to use the media to get the word out. In fact, Chaput is one of the few bishop who regularly returns reporters’ calls.

He’ll get some calls in Philly, where a second Grand Jury report this  year blasted the archdiocese’s handling of sex abuse. In March, Cardinal Justin Rigali suspended 21 priests who had previously survived allegations of abuse.

Chaput tells the Catholic News Agency: “The Church in Philadelphia is at an important point in her life. It’s not a time to be embarrassed about what we believe. In fact, it becomes even more crucial to preach the Gospel – both within the Church and outside the Church.”

Chaput is well known for demanding fidelity of Catholics, including Catholic politicians. He says: “If we don’t live as faithful Catholics, we betray the Gospel. We forfeit the opportunity God gives us to make a significant difference for the evangelization of culture.”

If there is a Fall Classic bet between Dolan and Chaput, you know Dolan will be seriously craving that cheesesteak. I’m not sure how much Chaput likes to eat.

2. On a COMPLETELY unrelated note…

The NYTimes writes today about the Episcopal bishops overseeing the six dioceses of New York state being split over how to deal with the coming of civil gay marriage.

The Episcopal Church has long been quite gay-friendly, particularly in New York. But the national church has not staked a clear position on gay marriage, giving local bishops a lot of local leeway. But when comes to the Big M, New York’s bishops don’t see eye-to-eye.

As the Times’ Shaila Dewan writes: “In the state, with six Episcopal dioceses, the bishops are split: two have given the green light for priests to officiate at same-sex marriages, one has said absolutely not, two are undecided and one has staked out a middle ground, allowing priests to bless, but not officiate at, weddings of gay men and lesbians.”

Here in the Diocese of New York, Bishop Mark Sisk has been a vocal advocate of gay acceptance within the church. He also supported the legalization of civil gay marriage.

But he’s not ready to see his diocese conduct same-sex marriages until church law says it’s okay. “The church is still in the process of creating liturgies for these rites and incorporating them into church law,” he said.

Sisk told the Times that churches could host civil marriages led by secular officials — with an Episcopal priest offering a blessing.

Now that is a serious search for middle ground.

The Episcopal drama continues

The next step in the slow break-up (or whatever it is) between the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communication appears to be underway.

Episcopalians Gay BishopsThe Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles has elected a lesbian priest as a bishop. If U.S. church leaders affirm the decision and the Rev. Canon Mary D. Glasspool (that’s her) is consecrated, well, the chain reaction is pretty easy to foresee.

In fact, it’s already started.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, normally a cautious fellow, has already released this statement:

*****
The election of Mary Glasspool by the Diocese of Los Angeles as suffragan bishop elect raises very serious questions not just for the Episcopal Church and its place in the Anglican Communion, but for the Communion as a whole.

The process of selection however is only part complete. The election has to be confirmed, or could be rejected, by diocesan bishops and diocesan standing committees. That decision will have very important implications.

The bishops of the Communion have collectively acknowledged that a period of gracious restraint in respect of actions which are contrary to the mind of the Communion is necessary if our bonds of mutual affection are to hold.

*****

Of course, it was the consecration of openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire in 2003 that really highlighted the growing divide between the Episcopal Church and much of the Anglican Communion over homosexuality.

As has been reported ad nauseum since then, Episcopalians are much more liberal on these matters than many of their Anglican brethren overseas.

Episcopal leaders decided in 2006 to try to refrain from picking any more gay bishops for a while. But they said “oh forget it, we’ll do what we want” this past July.

So we’ll see what happens.

As I often say at the end of these Episcopal break-up posts, it’s all much ado about nothing here in the Diocese of New York, where bishops, most priests and most parishioners are gay-friendly, proud of it and largely disinterested in doing anything to please their would-be detractors.

The diocese’s statement about gay marriage being defeated by the NYS Senate last week included this: “In calling your senators and in continuing to advocate, be sure to let them know that the Episcopal Diocese of New York remains on the record as supporting marriage equality for same-sex couples, as per our resolution at the 2008 Diocesan Convention.  Although the governor and the senate leaders were told of this, we should continually remind them as we go forward, so as to balance out the voices of other religious groups that fought against marriage equality.”

A liberal Episcopal bishop on civility

I had a story on LoHud/The Journal News a few days back about whether there is less civility in the public square these days.

My hooks were Kanye West, Rep. Joe Wilson, Serena Williams, the health-care debate.

It was what we call a “talker.” People are talking about it. Reflect the conversation.

One person I called was Bishop Catherine Roskam, the assistant bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. I called her because she is always thoughtful about social trends and because I know that she has been engaged in a sometimes-civil, sometimes-uncivil debate within the Anglican world on gay issues.

tjndc5-5btp4n07l14k44srp1j_layoutRoskam is liberal on theology and politics and a strong supporter of gay rights.

She told me what she thought. But her remarks got cut out of my story, along with some others, because of a lack of space.

So here’s what she said. Liberals will agree. Conservatives won’t.

*****

I think we’re in a much less civil culture than when I was a child. We were taught good manners and taught that freedom of speech meant not shouting each other down.

I think some of it is politics. The politics of the right have actually moved us in a less civil direction through a politics of ridicule and disparagement that we find on talk radio with people such as Rush Limbaugh. They promulgate the idea that if you think in a certain way, you are American, and if you think a different way, you’re un-American — which is probably the most un-American way there is. It’s one-way or the highway. People are reluctant to say this, because people will say “You’re very partisan.” For me, it doesn’t have to do with ideas held by the right, it has to do with the methods.

With the decline of public education, you have a decline in analytic thinking. It has become easier to sway people with emotion rather than rational argument. I don’t think we have the same social expectation of civility that we used to. It’s okay to get heated up while making an argument. But shutting other people down is bullying. Bullying has a kind of currency that it never had before.

*****

I asked Roskam about civility in the Anglican world. She said: “I think the debate in the Anglican Communion was very much shaped by the American political debate. Again, it is the far right in the church that took a page out of the book of the far right in American politics. Their tactics are a kind of ecclesiastical terrorism.”

Episcopal Diocese of NY supports civil marriage for same-sex couples

The Episcopal Diocese of New York has come out in favor of civil marriage for same-sex couples.

At its 232nd Convention days ago, delegates approved this resolution:

[6] Resolved, That the 232nd Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, in keeping with Resolution 15 of the 217th Convention of the Diocese, which made “known to the President of the United States, to the United States Senate and House of Representatives our support of full civil rights for all American citizens irrespective of sexual orientation,” calls upon the Governor and the Legislature of the State of New York to ensure civil marriage equality in this state by enacting the necessary legislation to permit same-sex couples to marry; and be it further

[7] Resolved, That copies of this Resolution be sent to the Governor, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the Assembly of the State of New York.

Tina Donovan, Bishop Mark Sisk’s Deputy for Public Affairs, said: “When the delegates were considering an earlier resolution, the bishop said that what we were doing was attempting to discern the will of the Holy Spirit through the messy process of democracy. We think that that was precisely what we did with this vote…”

Of course, homosexuality — in particular, the consecration of an openly gay bishop — has been roiling the Episcopal Church and the larger Anglican world for some time. The Diocese of NY’s decision to take a stand on what is in some ways the parallel civil debate will be cheered by some, jeered by others.

Stephen McFadden, chair of the diocesan committee on LGBT Concerns (who proposed the resolution), said: “Civil marriage provides dignity, rights and protections to same-sex couples and their families when they face the crises that can happen to any family, when a spouse becomes sick or disabled or dies, when we lose our jobs or need health care, or in caring for our children when an emergency occurs. At a time when some religious groups are actively fighting to block same-sex couples from marrying, the Episcopal Diocese of New York is standing up for equality.”

Episcopal Bishop Sisk on the financial crisis, serving the poor, and more

The Episcopal Diocese of New York — which includes more than 200 churches in NYC and the Hudson Valley — had its 232nd convention a few days back.

Bishop Mark Sisk, the boss, gave a long address that you can read HERE.

Here are some highlights:

On the matter of offering a public Christian voice that is an alternative to the “religious right,” Sisk said:

What we are attempting to do is nothing less than change the grammar, as it were, the reference points, of the public conversation, when it comes to the matter of religion. What we are attempting to do, as I have said so often before is to bring to bear, on the wider public consciousness, the concerns of the Christian community as expressed from the point of view of the broad, moderate, Christian center, rather than the current dominant, strident, and often simplistic voices that have become so prominent. The task is daunting. We are called to travel against the traffic. No wonder the road seems so long. But I believe it is our duty to follow it. We simply can not allow the faith we hold so dear to be captured by what I would have to say is one, narrow, point of view. I continue to believe that, working with our Cathedral, we will be able to focus much more sharply on the great issues which urgently face the human community. We can, we must, enter into a nation wide, indeed a world wide, conversation.

On the financial crisis:

The very first theme to be noted is the remarkable level of anxiety, even fear, that grips so many. This, in turn, casts a stark light on the extent to which we have allowed concerns about security, as measured in dollars, to claim a central role in our lives. I remember clearly, even though it was many years ago, when a leading political pundit responded to an interviewer’s question as to his understanding of the purpose of the freedom enjoyed by an American citizen. The purpose, he responded, was for, “the free and unfettered accumulation of goods.” I wondered then, as I wonder now, just how far that notion was from the hopes and dreams of those Mayflower pilgrims who risked and sacrificed so much for their freedom to worship.

It is our duty, as it is our privilege as Christians, to remind ourselves and assure others that, as important as material well-being may be, it is not the purpose of life – it is not what gives life meaning. We can and should remind ourselves that we, and all people, all creation, exist and live continually in the embrace of God’s Almighty arms of love. With that knowledge we can face any hardship.

On the tensions within the Anglican world over homosexuality:

What we do here, in this Diocese, in this Episcopal Church of ours, affects the life in tiny villages in Tanzania, the Sudan, or Sri Lanka, Jamaica, Pakistan, and Brazil, and on and on around the world. What we do affects them – and what they do affects us. We are not hermetically sealed off one from the other. We can not ignore them nor they us – yet neither they nor we can be held captive by the other. We are not called to be each others prisoners – rather – we are called to recognize each other as brothers and sisters. And, as every family knows, and often knows painfully well, family relationships entail not only compassion, patience, and understanding, but also, from time to time: disappointment, frustration, and even anger. There are, obviously those who conceive of this Anglican Communion of ours as something akin to a venerable club, a voluntary membership association of largely like minded individuals. Others among us, conceive of the Anglican Communion more as a family, a home to belong to, and a community to relate to, as we live out our lives as Christian people. And as Robert Frost famously reminded us,

Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.

On serving the needy at this difficult time:

I find it more than a little ironic that when the issue of meeting basic human needs is raised: be that education, or healthcare, or housing for the homeless, a common objection is the firm and wise sounding declaration: you know, you can’t just throw money at a problem. And yet, when financial institutions are in crisis, led by the very well paid people, who did so much to bring us this crisis in the first place, when they ask for aid that is exactly what happens. Money has been thrown at the problem. And it has been thrown without a really clear understanding of exactly what it will actually accomplish. As you know so well, we’re not talking here about billions of dollars, or tens of billions, not even hundreds of billions, but, in the end, something in excess of a trillion dollars. In human terms this is more money than the human mind can fathom.

Mind you, I am not saying that this shouldn’t be done, or that it won’t work. What I am saying is that we should keep all these things in perspective and be mindful of just who finally is asked to actually pay the price for the national excess that has brought us to this sad moment.

We, as a community of faith, need to be among that company of people who press hard for the needs of the most helpless amongst us. At the same time, we must resist the temptation to continue what has become a familiar practice: impoverishing the future for the benefit of the present. To escape the tangle that engulfs us all a difficult balance must be struck.

4th Episcopal diocese may bolt

Another Episcopal diocese is expected to decide at its annual convention today and tomorrow to leave the Episcopal Church — the continuing fall-out from the 2003 consecration of an openly gay bishop.

No, it’s not the liberal and gay-friendly Episcopal Diocese of New York that’s bolting (even though they are having their 232nd convention in Mahway, N.J.)

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, is expected to make the big move. It would be the fourth to take off after the dioceses of San Joaquin, Calif., Pittsburgh, and Quincy, Ill.

Bishop Jack Leo Iker of Fort Worth gives here his “10 Reasons Why Now is the Time to Realign.”

Here’s his top 3:

*****

1. This is God’s time – our kairos moment – and it has been coming for a long time. We believe that God the Holy Spirit has guided and directed us to this particular time and moment of decision. Some might well ask, “Why has it taken us so long to take definitive action, given the past 30 years of the shenanigans of The Episcopal Church?” We have explored every avenue and exhausted every possibility. Now is the time to decide to separate from the moral, spiritual, and numerical decline of TEC.

2. Actions of the General Convention have brought crisis and division to the whole Anglican Communion, not just TEC. More than 20 of the Provinces of the Communion have declared themselves to be in a state of broken or impaired communion with TEC because of the ordination of a homosexual bishop living in a sexual relationship with another man and the blessings of same-sex unions in many places throughout this church. We need to dissociate ourselves from the bishops and dioceses that are violating the teaching of Scripture by doing these things.

3. The heresies and heterodoxy once proclaimed by just a few renegade bishops – like James Pike and John Spong – are now echoed by the Presiding Bishop, who is the chief spokesperson for TEC and speaks on behalf of our church to the rest of the world. She does not reflect the orthodox beliefs of Episcopalians in this diocese. The greatest problem we face with Katharine Jefferts Schori is not that she is a woman, but that she is not an orthodox bishop.

*****

After the Diocese of Quincy voted Nov. 7 to leave the Episcopal Church and become part of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said she lamented the decision:

“The Episcopal Diocese of Quincy remains, albeit with fewer members, and we are working to assist in the reorganization of diocesan affairs,” she said. “We assure all, both Episcopalians and former Episcopalians, and members of their surrounding communities, of our prayers for clarity and charity in their spiritual journeys. May all be reminded that the Gospel work of healing this world will take the best efforts of every person of faith.”

Episcopal churches look to strength public education

tjndc5-5jh44wl8lp51a0ej0nyy_layout.jpgEpiscopal Bishop of New York Mark Sisk (left) is holding a conference on public education on Saturday (Nov. 1) at the Cathedral School in NYC (112th and Amsterdam Avenue).

The keynote speaker will be the renowned author and education critic Jonathan Kozol.

Deputy NYC Mayor Dennis Walcott will also speak. The program will run from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

The 2007 Diocese of NY convention resolved that “every parish is encouraged to work with its community and youth to develop a partnership with a local public school that can ensure every youth has access to a high-quality education.”

Saturday’s conference will mark the launch of “All Our Children,” a program to encourage churches to strengthen public schools. Nine parishes are part of the pilot program. One of them is Christ Church in Bronxville, which is offering drama, music and dance programs to children from Mount Vernon and Bronxville.

“All Our Children has the potential to change so many lives — in the partner schools and in the parishes,” said Bishop Catherine Roskam, assistant bishop of the diocese.

Talking sexuality without rancor — and then dancing away from Lambeth

catherine-roskam-46_783631a1.jpgIn her final blogs from the Lambeth Conference, Bishop Catherine Roskam of NY writes about the bishops’ discussions on human sexuality and about saying goodbye.

Her thoughts on the “sex talks” seem quite positive:

What can I tell you about all this? That we shared with honesty and without rancor, the latter being a most blessed change from Lambeth 1998. That the atmosphere here has been prayerful and hospitable. That we have shared in depth and thereby deepened relationships. But I cannot tell you that all our differences have been resolved. They have not, and some seem irreconcilable at times. It is a great sadness to learn how much misinformation still circulates about the Episcopal Church and the Church of Canada and how little is known of our efforts to remain in communion, some of which have engendered considerable sacrifice.

Nevertheless, what has been evident all along is the deep desire of everyone here to remain in communion. I hope and pray that with God’s grace, this will get us past our difficulties.

And in her final post, Roskam writes about all the Anglican bishops heading outside to boogie after the final Eucharist:

After the service we exited in the pouring rain for an outdoor picnic. As one Canterburyite said to us as she held her umbrella over our heads, “Welcome to an English barbecue!” After getting our food we hurried out of the rain into the auditorium where an exceptionally good band played music in the style of New Orleans. We were all very circumspect for a short while, but the music got to us, and before you knew it, bishops and spouses and our young stewards and monks and nuns were on the dance floor energetically responding to the beat in a variety of steps and styles, some I am sure never seen before! Different provinces danced with each other. Young and old danced together. The spirit of the room was pure joy. It was the kind of scene I would never have expected to see at a Lambeth Conference. But with God everything is possible. I am sorry that not all the bishops were there to share in this experience. But it is an image that gives one hope.

And now Roskam returns to her Dobbs Ferry office, from where she oversees Region 2 of the Episcopal Diocese of New York — Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties.

New York Episcopal bishop denies supposed comments about domestic violence

New York’s Bishop Catherine Roskam, it seems, has started an international stir!

I’ve been writing in recent days about Roskam — the assistant bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York — blogging from the Lambeth Conference (the once-a-decade gathering of Anglican bishops in England).

I’ve noted that she is a consistently honest and liberal voice who is an unabashed supporter of the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in church life.

Yesterday’s headline in the the UK’s Telegraph was this:

Woman bishop claims church leaders from developing countries beat their wives

catherine-roskam-46_783631a.jpgBeneath the headline was this photo of Roskam. Yowza!

The article opened like this:

The Rt Rev Catherine Roskam, Suffragan Bishop of New York, said domestic violence is deemed acceptable in some parts of the world and that “even the most devout Christians” are guilty of it.

She said some of the 670 Anglican bishops gathered in Canterbury for the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference probably beat their wives, and added that it is difficult to discuss it with them because they do not believe it is wrong.

Her comments have been condemned as outrageous and untrue, and a further example of the condescending attitude of western Anglicans to those in developing countries.

The Telegraph included these reactions:

Archbishop John Chew, the Primate of South-East Asia, said: “I don’t think it’s fair for her to say that. Bishops respect their wives – how could any bishop condone domestic violence?

“I don’t think we see things like that in the church, what she said is far removed from the real picture.”

Bishop Paul Yugusuk from Sudan said: “I don’t think it’s true – the church speaks out against this.

“In the wider community these things still exist but we don’t do that as bishops or pastors.

“She is being unfair – she’s talking from a general view without any evidence.”

In her latest blog post (sent to me via email, but not on her blogpage as of this writing), Roskam writes that she was horrified when she saw the newspaper story. She says the newspaper quoted “selectively” from an interview she had given at a press briefing.

Roskam writes:

And no, I did not say that clergy in the Third World beat their wives! In fact I said nothing about violence in the developing world per se. All my comments were made in the context of the pervasive nature of vioence against women all around the world. The only area I singled out was our own context, siting the recent spate of murders in the New York area of women, and sometimes their children also, by husbands or boyfriends. But of course, those comments were not quoted.

Roskam writes that she asked to address the matter during an afternoon session yesterday.

“I stated unequivocally that I never said — nor would I say — that clergy in the third world beat their wives,” she writes. “I told them of the context of what was quoted and told them of what had been omitted. I apologized for anything I might have said that led to misunderstanding toward my brother bishops or jeopardized already difficult ongoing conversations at this conference.”

She writes that her fellow bishops expressed mostly support after her comments.

Roskam concludes her blog post with this:

I have to say it is very disheartening after all these years of building relationships around the globe to think of these lies going out over the internet to people who don’t know me and who will believe what was said. At the same time, I also need to reiterate that violence against women remains a problem the world over, and all of us within the church and in the larger society must do all we can to prevent it.