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Welcome to Stand Firm!

Dr. Kendall Harmon—CLCC Keynote Speech, Part 1: Narratives, CounterNarratives, & Decisions

Tuesday, December 18, 2007 • 6:00 am

On November 3, 2007, the Reverend Dr. Kendall Harmon, Canon Theologian of the Diocese of South Carolina, was the keynoter for the Communion Clergy and Laity Fall conference in the Diocese of Colorado. Stand Firm is posting all three audio files of Kendall Harmon’s talks, along with transcripts of those talks.  We believe that these talks will be deeply important over the coming year for reasserting laypeople and clergy to digest and discuss and we hope that you will print these out and distribute them to other laypeople and clergy who do not have access to the Internet.

Stand Firm gratefully acknowledges Christ Episcopal Church’s recordings of these talks.  We also are deeply grateful to the dozen volunteers who are readers of Stand Firm who stepped forward and volunteered to transcribe and proof Kendall’s talks.  We would never have been able to do this work as bloggers and are overwhelmed with the help and eager assistance that was given to us.  We thank these volunteers with all of our hearts.

In this first talk, Kendall describes two competing historical narratives in the Episcopal church and Anglican Communion, and along the way he states what he believes is the most significant event in the Anglican Communion in the past 50 years.

He also describes and challenges a competing theological narrative, and articulates a counter-narrative that deals with scripture, marriage, decision making in the church, and the shape of the gospel itself.

Finally he deals with a portion of Jeremiah, saying why he believes that it is the most important book for us to confront as Anglicans in crisis.  He describes a number of themes for reasserting Anglicans.

1) We are in a time of judgment and exile.
2) Judgment forces decisions; we must decide.
3) Jerusalem is no more; we must deal with reality.
4) We must invest ourselves in our decisions while making those decisions tentatively.

Link to MP3 file.

Hi there, Kendall. I’m Andy Kline. I’m sitting here with Kendall Harmon, the Canon Theologian of the diocese of South Carolina. We are here on Nov 3rd 2007 at the Communion Laity and Clergy Conference at Christ Church Denver. And we’re just really glad that you’re here, Kendall. It turns out that the sound guy didn’t show up; so, I ended up being that. We are going to come in about to the first third of your morning talk, and so I just wanted to ask if you could help orient the listeners on that kickoff that you made to us and setting up the rest of the afternoon.

Thank you, Andy, the first thing I did when I presented this talk was to say two things by way of introduction ’cause I hate listening to outside speakers who show up, parachuted in, sound like just their resume. I actually grew up in an environment where everybody defined themselves by their resume, and I’ve rebelled against it ever since. I don’t know if you all know the beginning of A Chorus Line, but it’s got a nice little guy coming out after this spectacular dance number, and he sings a little song which basically goes like this: Who am I anyway? Am I my resume? Which is a picture of a person I don’t know. And that’s the way I feel about resumes.

So let me just say a quick thing about myself. I, like almost all clergy, Andy Kline included, I married up. My wife is taller and better looking than I am. She is a native of the Pittsburgh area. We met in seminary when she was serving as a nurse in intensive care at the largest hospital in Pittsburgh—Allegheny General—and was a part-time student in systematic theology at the seminary I was attending, Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry.

We met in 1985 and got married in 1987. We have three children, Abigail, Nathaniel, and Selima—girl, boy, girl. Our oldest is a freshman in college. She’s at Wooster College in Wooster, Ohio. Our son is a rising junior at a private school around the corner from us in Summerville, which is half an hour northwest of Charleston by car, where we live. And our youngest, Selima Marie, is two years behind her brother - a arising 9th grader at the Cathedral of Praise school, which is one of the schools run by one of the best churches in the low country. And my wife Elizabeth serves as a nurse practitioner in rural health care in a place called Moncks Corner, SC where most of her patients struggle because they have to decide whether to use their budget to, use it for food or for medicine but not for both because they can’t afford to do both—a part of the world that a lot of us don’t fully acknowledge exists.

I served for 8 years at St Paul’s in Summerfield which is a parish where my family still is, and I now serve as the editor of two publications, Anglican Digest and Jubilate Deo. I’m the director of communications for SC, the Canon Theologian for SC, and
I serve part time as assistant at a Parish called Christ St Paul’s on Younges Island, SC. So that’s just a little bit about me.

Let me say something about my style—just so that my listeners are warned. I taught the book of Revelation when I first got out of seminary for two years. And during the second year during a break in one of my classes, one of the nice lay women in the parish came up to me and said,” Kendall you know when I take a class from you I feel like I’m taking a sip out of a fire hydrant.” So I want to warn you, you are going to get a lot of data thrown at you very quickly, and the whole idea is to put a lot of food on the plate and eat it and then get a chance to digest it; so if it feels like it’s a lot coming very quickly, don’t worry there’ll be a chance for questions and answers throughout the day so that we can digest the material together, but you have to gear up because you are going to have a lot of data thrown at you, and if it feels like you are taking a sip from a fire hydrant, you have been forewarned on the front end.

My talk this morning has two parts. The first part is basically just a partial analysis of some of where we’ve been as Episcopalians and Anglicans in the last few years.

The second part is a theological and spiritual unpacking of some of the principles and ideas in the book of Jeremiah which, I believe, is actually the single most important Biblical book to turn our attention to in this time. And I am going to try to make the case that we are in a time of judgment and exile. And there are key ideas in the book of Jeremiah that we need to come to grips with, so those are two introductory comments about me.

And then I would like to pray, if that’s OK?
The Lord be with you. And also with you.
Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, gracious God, for as much as without You, we are not able to please You, we pray that You would, in all things, by the power of Your Holy Spirit, especially in this time together, direct and rule our hearts.

Lord, take this time and use it for Your purposes.
Open our hearts to what You want to say to us.
Help us with the ears of our heart to hear it, with the eyes of our hearts to see it.
Take each person here and everyone who is listening and speak to them in the way that You want to speak to them. Encourage and strengthen them and challenge them in the way that You want that to happen. And build the very kingdom of God in our midst.
For we pray in the precious name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

My first part this morning has to do with where we’ve been, and I want to say at the outset that this is more important than you might at least at first think. One of the things that’s going on in the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion right now is that we’re going through a period—one analogy for which I like to use is a family in separation possibly headed to divorce, especially in the Episcopal Church. And one of the problems that happens in a situation like this is that in a family that is fracturing, there are competing narratives that arise to describe the same facts, and that is the case also in the communion and in the province of the Episcopal Church. Mom says that this is what happened over the last three years. Dad, however, says that this happened, and the children have to compete and decide which narrative they’re going to believe, and part of the problem is you can’t not decide. Not to decide is to decide. We’ll have more to say about that later. And to underscore the relevance of this for ourselves I need to turn and look no further than today’s news in the communion. I got up this morning; I said my prayers; I read, and then I ran, and when I read in the blogasphere and on the internet this morning, one of the articles I saw was from the Burlington Free Press about the Presiding Bishop’s visit to the Diocese of Vermont. What I read this morning, and what she said to the Diocese of Vermont, was that there are a handful of leaders in the Episcopal Church that don’t want us to ordain anyone who is gay or lesbian

What is so sad about that quote is not even so much that she said it, although that is sad, it’s that I believe she actually believes it. That is an utterly untrue caricature of what those who differ with her about this issue believe. But it’s simply an illustration of the fact that there are competing narratives. One of the key participants in the competing narratives now is the Presiding Bishop. The Presiding Bishop is using the narrative tools available to her to describe those who disagree with her in terms that are untrue. 

You have to decide. Whose narrative are you going to believe? Don’t assume anyone you’re talking to shares a common sense of what’s happened, of the terms of the basis of the debate. One of the things I want to encourage you to do all day today is to learn to ask fundamental basic precept-positional questions. Don’t believe it. Don’t assume it. Make sure to question it.

Well, one of the parts of the competing narratives that we have to deal with on the outset of our day together is what has actually happened isn’t clear. There are competing narratives to describe what’s taking place in the communion. One of the ways that I can describe the competing narratives is at an international level describing what’s happening in the Anglican Communion.

One narrative, which I would argue is the dominant narrative in the media even to this day,  goes something like this: This is a controversy that began in 2003 when the American church was presented with a decision made by the Diocese of New Hampshire in the context in which they serve, because they felt led in that context to elect someone as a bishop on the second ballot that they felt they were led to elect, and our context is not the same as other contexts around the communion, and we brought that election as part of the canons to the diocesan convention’s ratifier when the process is this close to General Convention which is the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. And the General Convention of the Episcopal Church voted to agree with that decision because we have a sense of our context. You hear this word context a lot in these decisions. And the American ratification of the New Hampshire decision caused a sensation throughout the communion. And the international reaction was an international counter reaction of the rest of the communion to the action which was initiated by the American church. So if you are following this narrative, it goes: American action; international; Anglican counter-reaction .The international Anglican counter reaction in its vast majority was “You should never have done this. You’ve caused us huge harm. We don’t understand why you have done this. It’s wrong. It is not in accord with scripture. It’s not in accord with Anglican teaching or practice.”

Then the Archbishop of Canterbury named the Lambeth Commission, an international commission of some of the best minds available in the communion, and they got together and wrote the Windsor Report which was a kind of a coalescing and a sacramental way of enfleshing the international counter reaction to the American action. And the Windsor Report said that there were certain things that the American church needed to do. So then the American church reacted to the International reaction to the American church initiation. The American Church Bishops met and hemmed and hawed and did various things, and then we got to General Convention 2006, which came after a number of these meetings. And we hemmed and hawed, and we didn’t do what we were supposed to do, and we didn’t respond in the terms that we were asked to respond, but we responded in our own way and reluctantly passed this resolution called BO33 at the end. And then that was our counter reaction to the international reaction to our initial action, and then the international Communion got the ball back because we hit it back to them at General Convention 2006. And then we got to Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, where the primates met, and they set a deadline September 30, and they said this is unacceptable. We still have questions we need clarified. We don’t fully understand what you are doing and why you are doing it. Please answer these questions. Please do it by September 30, so that was the international reaction to the American reaction to the international counter-reaction to the American action .

And then we had New Orleans, which was the final American response. So if you are following, it goes: American, International, America, International, America. That’s one narrative. What you need to understand at the outset today is that story which is believed by a number of the people and which is in the media all the time is utterly false. It’s not a true description of what’s happening. It is not accurate. It is not based on what really took place. It’s an example of the competing narratives. If that isn’t true, what is true? Well, I appreciate your asking the question.

The other narrative which I believe is the true narrative is a very different narrative, and it is a narrative about the Anglican Communion, and particularly the Anglican Communion, beginning in the Post WWII period but especially beginning in the late 60’s and the early 1970’s, and in the Anglican Communion something happened which wasn’t just happening in the Anglican Communion specifically, but was actually happening in the church globally which was all through out the Global South that is to say mainly the churches of South America, Southeast Asia and Africa. There was a huge booming and, indeed one could say, mind-boggling growth taking place in those areas of the Christian world. One of the resources that I commend to your attention is something called The World Christian Encyclopedia. It is put together by Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. It is available on the web. I commend it to you as a resource. It is very worthy of your study and reading and attention. If you look up the World Christian Encyclopedia, by the way, parenthetically that tool is based on, mainly on the work of a Kenyan Anglican, but that is another story for another time. If you look up this tool on the web, what you will find there is statistics like these. These are just a sampling of them to illustrate the booming growth in the Global South that I referred to. In 1970, according to the World Christian Encyclopedia, the Anglican Church in Ghana had around 100,000 members. In 2000, thirty years later, the Anglican Church in Ghana had 236,000 members. In 1970, in the Anglican Church of Kenya, there were 582,000 members. In 1970 and 2000 there were 3.1 million members. In the Anglican Church in Uganda, there were 1.28 million members in 1970, and in 2000 there were 8.58 million Anglican members in the Anglican Church of Uganda. Archbishop Henry Orombi now says, in 2006 and 2007, there are between 9½ and 10 million Anglicans in Uganda. The growth is continuing and most dramatically of all, perhaps, in the Anglican Church of Nigeria. I should have you guess; in 1970 there were 2.9 million Anglicans. And in 2000, there were 18 million Anglicans. There are more Anglicans worshiping in Anglican Churches in Nigeria, on any given Sunday, than all the Anglicans in America, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and England combined. We are talking about dramatic growth.

Now one of the ways that this booming growth of the Global South began to be seen in the communion was in something called the Lambeth Conference. This was started in the second half of the 19th century, and it is a once every 10 year gathering by the Archbishop of Canterbury to Lambeth initially and now to the University of Kent, because they can’t fit everybody, all of the Anglican bishops from the Anglican Communion once every ten years. And the growth of the Global South was taking place as the bishops were meeting for these once every ten year gatherings, and if you talk to those who participated in a Lambeth Conferences of 1978 and 1988 and 1998, you will learn something very significant about what happened in that time. Those who were present say that the Anglican leaders of the Global South at the 1978 Lambeth Conference tried for the first time to get to the microphone and to actually say things that people could hear. They were not entirely successful. Most of them felt ignored and not entirely well-treated, but they tried, and it was the first time that they actually were able to speak. At the 1988 Lambeth Conference ten years later as the dramatic growth continued, the Global South leaders not only got to the microphone and not only said things, but they begin to say things that had an impact for the first time in the history of the Anglican Communion.

But the most significant event in Anglicanism in the last fifty years, in my opinion, was the 1998 Lambeth Conference. Let me say that again. In the last fifty years in the Anglican Communion, I believe the most significant event was the 1998 Lambeth Conference. The reason why the Anglican Lambeth Conference of 1998 was so significant is that whereas in 1978, they tried to get to the microphone and say something for the first time. And whereas in 1988 they actually got to the microphone and said some things that were heard and began to have a small impact, in 1998, as the growth continued, they not only got to the microphone, they not only got to the microphone and spoke, but they actually had an impact on what was done and how it was done at the conference. They influenced, not simply by voice but by action and participation, the actual outcome of the meeting, and the most dramatic example of this was on the matter of blessing same-sex activity and the ordination of people involved in non-celibate same-sex unions. The western churches came with what the Global South viewed as a liberalized sexual ethic that they were seeking to export to the rest of the Anglican Communion, and the Global South wanted no part of it.

As one of the bishops memorably said in another context, “You sent missionaries to us and gave us the Bible now that we are quoting the Bible to you, why are you getting upset?” And the key resolution of the 1998 Lambeth Conference was so-called resolution Lambeth 1998 1.10. I commend that to your attention and prayerful meditation. It’s an excellent summary statement of Christian thinking both in terms of pastoral practice and theological truth in this area, and what that resolution essentially said was same-sex practice for Christian leadership is not acceptable for a Christian church.

And the vote on it was overwhelmingly in favor by those bishops in 1998. Now why do I talk this about this? Because in this narrative, the initiation was not by the American church but by the global Church and the key date was not 2003 but 1998. So in this second narrative, the initiation is global. not American, and what you need to understand, then if you don’t already, is what then happened after the 1998 Lambeth Conference was that the American churches were scared to death. They were very furious particularly some of the more prominent liberals. They were very angry. They were shocked at what they saw and some of the things that were said. The bishop of Los Angeles, at the time one time chaplain of Princeton University Frederick Borsch, he memorably said when he came back to Los Angeles, and I quote about Lambeth 1998, “the Holy Spirit was not there.” It’s an interesting quote, that by the way. The very same people who said that the Holy Spirit wasn’t present at Lambeth 1998 were some of the same people who said that the Holy Spirit was definitely present at General Convention 2003. I’d love to get with some of these people and figure out how they have such an inside track on the Holy Spirit to be able to say with such confidence and specificity where the Holy Spirit is and what He is doing exactly in history. In church history, historically, people who have had such confident assertions about exactly what the Holy Spirit is doing in history of that time tend to be seen in historical retrospect not very favorably. One thinks for example of ***Montis to give one of hundreds of examples.

In any event what you need to understand is, all 2003 General Convention was, was the most public sacramentally visible aspect of a whole series of American counter reactions to Lambeth 1998. This is Andy Kline’s full story to tell, and I’m sure he would be willing to tell it to you if you have enough time, but one of the other people present at Lambeth Conference was the bishop of New Hampshire, Douglas Theuner. And Doug Theuner came back to New Hampshire after Lambeth 1998, and one of the things that he made clear to his diocese is that he was furious. That it was outrageous what happened. That it would not stand. He was utterly determined for his diocese to create facts on the ground that would say otherwise, and would speak to some other truth. And that that was absolutely necessary for New Hampshire to do. Don’t you think for a minute that Gene Robinson’s election was not carefully thought through and strategically implemented by several key players in the Episcopal Church hierarchy? It was, but it was one small part of a whole series of counter-reactions where various dioceses said Lambeth 1.10 is wrong. We repudiate it. We don’t support it, etc. etc. etc.

So this second narrative begins with an international initiation. Then you get the American counter-reaction in 2003, and then what the Windsor report is is the international reaction to the American counter-reaction to the international initiation. And so that narrative goes back and forth, but it goes International American then International American then International American, and isn’t it interesting that we get these two competing narratives from an American province. Americans are in the most ethno-centric nation in the world. We believe, wrongly, that everything revolves around us. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the poster “A New Yorker’s View of the World.” It’s very hysterical, and I’ve always enjoyed it partly because my dad grew up in New York City. But if you’ve ever seen the poster, the whole poster is this small island which just basically all of New York, and there is hardly anything in the middle, and then there is kind of California at the end, and that’s really the center of the world, and then there’s this sort of other stuff there. Isn’t it interesting that the most ethno-centric nation in the world has a church which makes up a narrative that all revolves crucially around what the Americans do? The truth is otherwise.

If you go to France, for example, and watch French TV, or listen to French news on the radio, it can be quite shocking. I lived with a French family for a summer. You can go many nights and not hear any American references on the news, and when you do hear a reference, it’s not to a primarily American story, but it’s about some aspects of what the Americans are doing and how it’s affecting Europe or how it’s affecting the rest of the world and the primary interest is in the rest of the world and how and why it’s being affected. You can watch the BBC news in Britain, and it’s the same thing.

You watch the American news and every story is about America and when there is a story that is not about America, it’s something global. It’s always about the way in which America is affecting that particular global situation. So be careful with these two narratives. You have to decide, and it’s the second narrative which is the correct narrative. What really was going on in 2003, was that a mainly white, mainly male, mainly wealthy, mainly dying western Episcopal Anglican Church was confronted with the fact that it had had the power in the communion through its money and its influence for decade upon decade, and a mainly black, mainly female, mainly younger, mainly nearly Pentecostal rest of the Communion was rising to challenge that power, and it scared them to death, and what they were determined to do was to implement their new theology in practice on the ground before their threatened power slipped away.

Now the second narrative that I want to relate to you, you won’t be surprised to hear is that someone who is the Canon Theologian for the diocese of South Carolina is that theology matters. That’s right! You heard it here first, theology matters! And as a theologian, I need to make sure that we stop and ask the question:  “What has actually happened?”

And it’s important that we take the time to ask this question because a lot of us aren’t actually clear even to this moment as to what has happened. One of the things I need to say to you that I have been saying over and over again in the last four years is we are in a church that no longer tells itself the truth about itself. We’re a church that lies to ourselves, so we need to pause and ask ourselves what’s really happened. One of the traps of this story and this is now the second narrative. The first narrative was a kind of communion and ecclesial narrative. This is a theological narrative.

One of the traps of the theological narratives is this is really about sex. All the media stories seem to sound like this. It’s a bunch of American Anglicans fighting about sex. Someone has said, “Americans have sex on the brain. What a strange place to have it.” And of course, it is about sex, but the mental trap that this narrative presents to us is it is not primarily or mainly about sex. Indeed, that narrative should trouble you because if it was only about sex, we wouldn’t be fighting this dramatically and this deeply and for this amount of time and this long. It is about sex, but it is about so much more than sex, and the analogy that I like to use is of an iceberg. Sex is the tip of the iceberg above the water, but the real controversy is under the water. And the question I want to ask at the theological level at the outset today is what are the levels of this controversy under the water?

What you need to understand is the first level under the water of what this is really about is not so much about sex but about the authority and interpretation of scripture. Notice the way I said that “It’s authority and interpretation of scripture. Those two things are inextricably intertwined. They always go together. One of the things that I like to say about the Bible is “as scripture speaks, God speaks” that actually is what Anglicans have always believed, but there is a problem with that statement that you need to be clear about as we begin together this morning that is if you misunderstand what the Bible is saying you misunderstand what God is saying so you have to get the first one right or you won’t get the second one right. At the initial level under the water, this is a debate about the interpretation and authority of scripture.

We’ve talked about 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1998 1.10. Let me remind you of exactly what that said. It said, and I quote, that the reason they rejected “homosexual practice” is because, and I quote again, “it was incompatible and is incompatible with scripture.” In other words, the rule and standard of faith of Anglicans is the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as the word of God - as Article 20 of the 39 says, “God’s word written.” And when the bishops gathered, they said, “We cannot embrace this. We must repudiate this because it is at odds with what the scriptures teach us the truth is.”  Now look, it’s important for us to understand at the outset that what’s at issue here is not just a few individual Bible passages. This is said over and over again in this debate even to this day. When I debated Sam Candler at the open hearing at the 2003 General Convention on same-sex blessings, when Sam got up and made one of his initial arguments one of the things that he memorably said was, “Look this only really involves two or at most three passages of scripture.”

Sam is a friend of mine. He’s a very bright fellow. He’s the dean, as we speak, of the Cathedral of Atlanta. Sam typifies a way of thinking that’s very common among some Episcopal Church leaders. It’s only just a few passages. It’s really hardly any. I guess the Bible didn’t know much about what you and I know about what homosexual practice really is. That’s utterly untrue. What needs to be understood is that the Bible is written as a whole book. It has a narrative structure.

My mom, who died this year, was an English teacher. She taught me how to read a book. A book is written with an intelligible structure. An argument, a narrative that the author has, is a skeletal way of holding the whole thing together. The Bible is presented as the author being one mind even though there’s lots of people involved, and so it has a narrative structure. It begins in a garden; it ends in a garden. And what we need to understand about the Bible teaching about sexual practice is that all the way through the narrative is a thread which argues that the only proper place where sexual activity is to be engaged in and to be celebrated and to be enjoyed is between a man and a woman who are married together.

And that narrative thread flows all the way through the primordial couple in the garden of Eden through the Song of Solomon that I’m still waiting to hear my first Episcopal sermon on through the undefiled marriage bed in the book of Hebrews to the marriage supper of the lamb in the Revelation of St John at the end of the New Testament. And the whole point is this: the Bible’s positive teaching is that marriage is intended by God to be a one-flesh union which embraces the complementarity of the two sexes which physically fit together in the sexual act. And that physical union is nothing but a sacramental enfleshment on the oneness that is supposed to characterize the union not simple physically but in every possible level. And that one flesh union which is the Bible’s positive teaching place for sexual practice, that positive teaching is the thread that goes all the way through both testaments. And it’s over against that positive teaching that all the negative prohibitions come

Homosexual practice is a violation of God’s purpose for sex, as is bestiality, as is adultery, etc., etc, etc. God has a context. You don’t take milk and put it in a car. It’s not because a car isn’t good. It’s not because milk isn’t good. It isn’t the way things work. And in the mystery of God’s providence, the way that God set it up is that the gift of sexuality belongs in a certain context. It only works in that context. That’s the way the Author of that gift set it up. If you put sexual conduct in context other than marriage, you mess it up. Don’t get mad at me. Get mad at God. He set it up that way.

What you need to know is that even the good liberals in this debate acknowledge now that the Bible’s teaching is clear. This is one of the remarkable things about Biblical scholarship on this issue in the last four years is the best scholarship, even by those who differ with me and many of you on this issue, acknowledges that what the Bible teaches on this issue is clear. I offer you Walter Wink who teaches at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City, and I quote, now this is someone who differs with me on the sexual debate right? Are you all clear? He’s on the other side. Listen to what he says, “Efforts to twist the text to mean what it clearly does not say are deplorable. Simply put the Bible is negative toward same-sex behavior, and there’s no getting around it.” Gee, you’re kidding.

But the point is that what’s going on in this debate which is why it’s such a big deal is that if the Bible’s teaching is clear against sanctioning this behavior, and then the Episcopal Church approves of its practice in that in its highest office namely bishop, the rest of the world sees this as an act of a church that is standing over against scripture and rebelling against its authority and direction. Oh now you’ve gone from preaching to meddling, you see, now it’s a really big deal.

The second thing that this is about is marriage. You don’t hear any sermons about marriage in the Episcopal Church. The previous parish where I served, I served for eight years, and there was one early morning. There are three services there, and the first is the one I call the classic 7:30 Anglican liturgy. It’s 45 minutes; there’s no music. You kind of get a sermonette. You know the kind I’m talking about. Like fifty or sixty people, and the lectionary had Genesis 2 this morning, so I thought, you know, I’d take a crack at it, so I preached this sermon about marriage. Now, fifty or sixty people; they’re like the mail, you know, come rain or sleet or shine, they’re always there, faithful, nice; they tend not to say a lot, but they’re very faithful and very loyal. So I’m standing at the door at the end of the liturgy; so it’s 8:15, next liturgy 8:45, there’s a whole lot more to do, getting greeted doesn’t usually take a great deal of time, and it’s like “take a ticket.” First woman out of the line, 73 years old, looks me in the eye, and says, “Thank you so much for that sermon. That’s the first sermon I’ve heard on marriage in the Episcopal Church.” I thought, OK. I never even got to the later service because people were still greeting me in the line from the early service about the sermon. I thought to myself hang on a second, what does this say?

Well, we’ve actually been reflecting about marriage as Christians for a long time, and I don’t have time to take you through all this stuff although I’m desperate to do it. But my discipline rule, you’ll have to trust me as I summarize it, but, but marriage has a certain way of being put together, and there’s basically four ideas of the way that marriage works. Marriage is for union; it’s for communion; it’s for procreation, and it’s for prevention. Those are the four aspects of Christian reflection on marriage, and the way that it works. And a relationship of marriage that does what God intends does all those things. It’s a wonderful thing, and we’ve lost the sense of the beauty and the significance of marriage, and part of what people need to understand about what’s happening in the Episcopal Church is—Remember what I told you: Don’t be afraid to ask precept-positional basic questions, I really mean it. Here is, here’s an issue question. What is the nature of the relationship that Mr. Robinson of the Diocese of New Hampshire is in? Let me ask the question again: seems real basic. What is the nature of the relationship that he’s in?

Oh! Well, if you read the literature, it’s a life-long monogamous same-sex relationship. Ok, well, what is that? Well, it’s a holy, faithful, mutually life-enhancing union. Oh, OK, well, what is that? And you get all this language, and you say, “Hang on a second.”  So, is it a marriage? Well,…..and the answers start disappearing, and what you realize is, and this was true of General Convention 2003, in spades, is the only thing people were clear on was what it wasn’t. Most of the people acknowledged that it wasn’t a marriage, but what it actually was? They had no idea.

Now look, in 2000 years of Christian reflection there have only been two states of human existence, singleness and married. We just invented a third, and we’ve got no theology to support it. As I never tire of saying “these are relationships in search of theology.”  Incredible! We’ve actually made a theological decision, and we’ve got no theology to support it. The consequences, by the way, for marriage, are devastating because this clearly is up there in some kind of parallel with marriage. So if it isn’t marriage, how isn’t it marriage? And if it isn’t marriage, than what does it say about the doctrine of marriage? So it’s about scripture. Gee, that’s important. It’s about marriage; that sounds really important. It’s about decision making in the church - who makes those decisions and how those decisions are made. This is a big deal.

America just woke up and discovered that they were a part of a global church they didn’t pay much attention to. But in Lambeth 1998 they found out in spades. They didn’t like it much, but the rest of the world warned us amply before 2003 not to do what we did. They said, “Please don’t do this. If you do this, you will cause us unmitigated damage in our context. You will break the bonds of fellowship.” They pleaded with us not to do it, and we not only did it, but we did it without consulting them. Now the whole way—this is Ephraim Radner 101 I am coming up on by the way –so I won’t spend a lot of time on it, because if he was here, he would be standing up and cheering in the back.

The whole way that the Anglican Communion makes decisions is councilary. A councilary church is a church where God works through councils. I’m sorry this is the way God set it up. We’re actually in a church where God works through vestry meetings, diocesan conventions, general conventions, and Lambeth Conference. It’s messy. I realize that. That’s the way that a councilary church works, and the whole idea of a council-based church is the more important the decisions, the more widely you consult. And here you’ve got this hugely significant decision where we’ve re-defined the nature of marriage among many other things that the rest of the world of course bent over backwards to tell us not to do, and we not only did it, but we did it without consulting them.

My mother is from the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. And there are hundreds and hundreds of French’s in her family in that part of the world. When I go to Thanksgiving dinner, I stop counting at 200, and I still haven’t figured out all the relationships, and I’m in the family, but one of the great things about the French’s in the Shenandoah Valley is that they are an extended family. You can actually, I can actually show you streets where the French family lives there, lives there, lives there. And they actually own, among many other interesting parts of that family, they actually own a business in common. There are individual families that have homes and they have their own ways of raising their kids and so and so forth, but there are things that they do in common as an extended family, and one of the things that they have is a family business. They meet once a year. They have a charter and so and so forth, and the equivalent of what the American church did in terms of the world-wide communion is the whole family of French’s gets together at their once yearly meeting, and one member family of the rest of them of the extended family completely changed the charter of the entire family and didn’t even ask the rest of the other families what they thought about it. Do you think that that would cause a problem?

This is not how you operate as a Christian. Do you know that we promised at our 1991 General Convention not to make any major decision in this area without consulting with the rest of the world-wide church? It’s there. Look it up. We promised. We violated our own promise. Now it’s getting more serious. The scripture is at stake, marriage is at stake; the nature of the church and its decisions is at stake. And the final piece, which is the hardest to talk about, is the ethos at General Convention in 2003. The whole way that everything was itself put together. It’s hard to describe, but the sense that you had when you were there was that the heart of the gospel was no matter who you were or no matter how you were doing God wanted to include you and affirm you.

There is so many ways to articulate this, but one of the best ways is to tell you the actual words of the invitation to communion at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California. One of the things you need to know, if you don’t know it is that one of the practices that is increasingly common throughout all of the Episcopal Church, is the practice of the communion of the unbaptised. That is not only against the Christian tradition - although it clearly is, it is actually against the canons - but it’s practiced all over the Episcopal Church, and the invitation to communion at All Saints Pasadena, and I’m doing it nearly verbatim, goes like this: This is what George Regas used to say now, and Bacon and on and on. It goes, “Whoever you are, wherever you are on your spiritual journey, I encourage you to come forward to receive grace and consolation as you move along the way.” Now you may notice about that that it’s distinctly lacking in specificity. That is to say, you know, if you were a Sikh or a Hindu or an atheist, right? I mean whoever you are, wherever you are in your spiritual journey, come forward for grace and consolation as you move along going…What way? Well a whole bunch of ways, apparently.

The whole idea of General Convention was that the essence of the gospel was that Jesus was here to tell us how great we are, that the heart of the gospel was inclusion, meaning God’s including us in his family and so happy that we are included because we are so wonderful. So that the John 8 story of Jesus and the woman caught with adultery in contemporary context re-written goes something like this. You remember the story, they catch her in the act and are getting ready to stone her and Jesus bends down writes on the ground and the contemporary version of this new gospel has Jesus look at her at the end and say, “I love you; I affirm you; I include you.”

And the thing that’s so insidious about this ethos, this therapeutic Jesus. We’ve gone from sinners in the hands of an angry God to patients in the palm of a satisfied therapist. The whole way that this gospel works is, it’s so full of compassion, it’s so full of inclusion, it’s so full of affirmation, and the thing about it, this is true of all false teaching, every single one of those themes is right—that’s all true and not only is it true, it’s what the woman felt, but what you need to realize is you are not following a bouncing ball you’ve had a trick played on you because Jesus doesn’t say to her in the gospel story only I love you, I include you, I affirm you although he does indicate that all those terms are true in terms of the ways he conducts himself. If you are not watching the bouncy ball, there is a piece missing which is the hidden parenthesis in the new re-write of the gospel lesson which is “I love you, I include you, I affirm you” go, and keep being who you are and doing what you’ve been doing.

The trouble is that isn’t the gospel because that gospel has no cross; that gospel has no sin; that gospel has no call to transformation. I don’t know about you but I never come in to the world, and I never come to church as the person I want to go out as and if you do, come and talk to me because I want to talk to you for a long time. Is there anybody here besides me who wants to be rescued from themselves? I mean, my gosh, I don’t just want a God who comes alongside me, and includes me and affirms me, and says how great I am although I do want all those things.

Jesus says, “I love you enough to call you to be a whole new person.” Paul says, “If any man or woman are in Christ he or she is a new Creation” and the Greek in that passage of 11 Cor: 5, the grammar breaks down, and it just says *** [Ky-yay, Ca-tegas a Greek phrase] it doesn’t ever say he or she, it just says “new creation”. It’s so radical, it’s as if God created the whole universe all over again. When God comes to people, He gives them new power to lead a new life which isn’t like the old one so Jesus looks at her and says, “I love you, I include you, I affirm you.”  Yes, He says all those things, but that isn’t all that He says that’s because that isn’t all the gospel is. He says, “I love you more than you love yourself.” C.S. Lewis calls that the intolerable compliment. “Go and sin no more.”

It is a gospel of salvation and transformation, and it is being replaced in the Episcopal Church by a gospel of affirmation and inclusion and they’re not the same. Now, no wonder we’re having a big fight. You see it’s not about sex really, although it is. It’s actually what’s under the iceberg is, you’re following the bouncy ball, scripture its interpretation and authority, marriage its nature and its understanding and its theology. The way the church makes its decisions, how it makes its decisions; finally nothing less than the shape of the gospel itself. No wonder we’re having such a big argument. This is a big deal.

OK, before I go any further, Deb, how much time do I have just so I stay on the bouncing ball. When’s the end? When should I stop? 15 or 20 more minutes, ok.

All right, let me say. OK let me stop then, let me start with a little bit about where we’ve been in terms of its history because, well, let me say, I want to say one more thing about General Convention. I want to say a personal word because I think it’s important for you all to understand this. The atmosphere there was so destructive on theological reflection. It’s hard to re-duplicate. It was American identity politics. My mom was a political science major for Duke. But to be in a place where everyone walked around with a little green buttons that said “ask me about Gene.” The whole atmosphere was like the Democratic or the Republican National Conventions. That’s what it felt like. That’s what the ethos was like.

In the open hearing of the Diocese of New Hampshire Committee meeting which my bishop went to, one of the person’s said—wonderful throw-away word—he said, “Lambeth is irrelevant.” It was a great moment. This radically American centered, radical American politics thing, and the thing that is very important for you to understand is the way that the Episcopal Church system is set up Process triumphs over Truth, and there are many problematic aspects of what happened in 2003; but one of the many that have been missed which is terribly significant is it wasn’t just what we did that was wrong; it was also how we did it. Not only was it not a theologically reflective decision, not only was it American identity politics, but we made a theological decision by putting something into practice the theology of which we never actually discussed and agreed on. Do you know that the official position of the Episcopal Church is still unchanged? Do you know what it is? It’s from the 1979 General Convention, which interestingly enough happened in Denver, Colorado. And the quote is, “It is not appropriate for this church to ordain a practicing homosexual.” 

That is the still unchanged official teaching of this church. What we did was went around the theological debate and put something in practice that changed our theology without officially changing our theology to do it, so not only did we make the wrong decision, but we made the wrong decision in the wrong way, and the one point I want to make, which is so important at a process level, is it is simply impossible to fully describe for someone who is not there the way, when you are there, that the process triumphs over the truth. I had the dubious distinction of getting put on the most significant committee, which was the committee at the Convention about the prayer book and liturgy. And it was clear as a bell that one of the things that was going to happen was we were going to pass a resolution having to do with some aspect of same-sex liturgy. We had this big fight in the committee over this resolution called CO51 which is the second decision made at that convention that was very bad. If you know all about that decision; it was a decision that recognized that in our common life people were using liturgies, and the game was we recognize but not authorize. OH, OK. Wow.

I didn’t buy in to the game at the committee level and there are forty-five members on the committee, and I wrote a one-person minority report against the conclusion of the committee on CO51. When you write a minority report, you have the prerogative when it gets to the floor of being able to speak to the Convention, and those of you who were there or know about it know that I got a chance to speak. What you may not know that you need to know, and I need to tell you now, is that it nearly killed me because the whole pressure of the process is “we are working together, we all need to agree.”  You cannot imagine the cost to me personally on that committee of writing a minority report. They were determined; it’s like a giant blob. It just, it just absorbs everything in its path. “We will triumph. We will work together. We will do what God is calling us to do, and you will capitulate; you will eventually agree to this. We will have a communal decision. There will be consensus.”

And what I also want to make sure that you know is an important detail about the convention—which is, after I filed my one-person minority report and CO51 passed, which is another sad part of the history. This is actually true—on the floor of the House of Deputies, four different individuals got up to microphones and tried to strike from the official record of the Episcopal Church my one-person minority report. It was a stunning moment, and it reminded me of a family who had like Uncle Ned, you know who is up in the attic, and they feed meals to, you know what I mean? And it’s like they, sorta, go to the family reunion and Uncle Ned isn’t there. You know everybody plays “let’s pretend.” Because it’s easier, and you don’t have to acknowledge the truth. So there was this Uncle Ned moment. Everyone was just kind of going to close my minority report off to the side. It was really stunning, and the point of my sharing is, I was talking to Andy Kline about this yesterday, it’s hard to fully describe unless you are in the midst of it, how much pressure is put on you to agree. The communal process triumphs everything.

The reason I mention this is a lot of my friends are frustrated with what happened at the recent House of Bishop’s meeting in New Orleans, and they should be. One of the things that happened in the House of Bishop’s in New Orleans just recently is that we didn’t do what we were asked to do, again, and we did what we wanted to do on our own terms, again. But what’s so revealing about it is all these bishops, so-called Windsor Bishops, went to this meeting, and they were going to do a minority report, and they were not going to capitulate, and they were not going to be drawn in, and guess what? They all got drawn in. There was no minority report. Why did that happen?

It’s because this juggernaut is so powerful, it doesn’t matter what you decide before you get there. It will suck you in. It’s so scary. Did you see what the Bishop of Western Louisiana said? When he was there and right afterwards, he said, “This is good; I support this,” and then he got back to his diocese, and actually to his diocese; as a public leader, he said, “I’m wrong. We didn’t dot the right thing, and what we said about what we did was wrong. I’m sorry. “

And here’s the thing that ought to haunt all of us. What does it say about a church that there’s a process in place that draws the people in to it so powerfully that they can’t think clearly enough, so they’re so self-deceived that they’re good people who understand what the gospel is that on day X say, “Y” and one day later when they go back to their diocese say, “Z,” and say, “I’m sorry I said ‘Y’?”  That speaks volumes about this incredibly powerful juggernaut, and I wanted to make sure to put that on the table for you because it’s so important.

All right, for now, I’m going to be good and skip over my section on where we are, because I’m going to do that this afternoon. I want to finish with some thoughts, theological thoughts on Jeremiah. And I do this with great passion because it is an incredibly important book to me, and I think it is the most important book for all of us to confront in this crisis, and I don’t understand why people have this struggle in the Episcopal Church, but let me make this personal challenge to you. One of the only ways we are ever going to get through this is if all of us rediscover the Old Testament. I’m serious. We don’t read it; we don’t understand it; we don’t know it; it’s an alien world, and there’s no book that’s more important than the book of Jeremiah. Let me simply read you, and I start one reflection of this book describing the book as a whole. See if you can relate to this at all.

“Jeremiah predicts the fall of Judah and its seventy year captivity. He regards himself as the true spokesman of Yahweh against false prophets like Hananiah. He claims that they are not sent by Yahweh even though they think themselves to be sincere. They hate him fiercely and bring pressure to bear upon the king. Jeremiah records his personal history to all these political and religious intrigues of the day.” Listen to this. “He loses politically, but wins spiritually. He feels his sense of aloneness, agonizing over the sins of the people and the sure judgment to come. While he shrinks from his task, he is unable to remain silent. He speaks in parables. He warns of apostasy. He employs burning words of rebuke, contempt, and doom and beneath them all lies the aching heart of a patriot who senses that Israel’s security cannot be divorced from faith in God and a right covenantal relationship of obedience.” 

Oh, boy. Talk about relatives. Now let me say a few things to you in reflection upon this book as I’ve kind of’ tried to work with it this week, and really think hard about it. And this, in a way, is probably, theologically, the most important thing I have to say to you today. The first thing I want to say to you about Jeremiah as a whole in our time is, you must understand, that we are in a time of judgment and exile, full stop. Jeremiah’s story is our story, and there’s a number of aspects of that that we have to put on the table right at the beginning if we’re going to understand how to go through this time spiritually. The first thing is this: You must decide in a time of judgment. There is no luxury not to decide. Not to decide is to decide. Let me say that again. Part of what happens in a time of exile and judgment is the truth about everybody and where they really are is revealed. I have friends who are ending up in different places than me. They’re doing different things than me. Some of them are quite shocking. I have friends that won’t talk to me any more.

This is the way that judgment works. I may not want it; I may not like it, but it is the reality of the way that it works. So the first point is you got to decide. You may say, “I don’t want to do Common Cause; I don’t want to do ACI, and I will say both of those things to you later this afternoon, by the way. But the problem is if you want to say both of those things, and that’s all you say then you’ve decided not to decide, and deciding not to decide is a decision.

The thing about Jeremiah that’s so scary is if you don’t go to Babylon; you say, “Well, I didn’t decide to go to Babylon.” Well, then, you decided to stay in Jerusalem. “Oh no, I didn’t.”  Oh yes, you did. You say, “Well, I didn’t decide to stay in Jerusalem.” Well, where are you? Oh, well, now I’ve gone from preaching to meddling. See, if you don’t go to Babylon, by default you are in Jerusalem. This is what judgment does. Judgment reveals the truth of what is actually there, and it will not allow the luxury of not deciding. Not deciding is deciding. If you’re in a river and you decide not to swim to the other side, you are going downstream with the current. You may try to argue to me that you haven’t decided to go with the current, but you are. And that is the way that judgment works itself out.

So the first thing about judgment is, it forces decisions, and instead of running away from that—I mean I would love to tell you today that you don’t have to decide what to do. As I told Andy Kline last year, if I had a dollar for every time in the last four years, people have said to me, “Kendall, I don’t know what to do what should I do?,” I’d be incredibly wealthy. That is exactly what a time of judgment does. They know they need to decide; they can’t decide, and they are struggling with the reality of the decision, and they are trying to flee from it; and they can’t flee from it, and they can’t figure out what to do. Welcome to Jeremiah’s world.

Number Two: Part of dealing with the reality of the time of judgment and exile is dealing with facts on the ground that have to be nosed. What we have to understand, and what Jeremiah spent the whole of his ministry getting people to understand is, the Babylonians were coming through the gate, the Babylonians did come through the gate; the Babylonians came through the gate, and Jerusalem was no more.

You have to deal with this reality. Here is the way that I formulate the question. Resolve—This is as if it were a debate:  The Episcopal Church as a whole is an effective vehicle for the gospel. True? Or False? Now the point that you have to get is you must realize is that’s an indictment. You have to say, “I believe that the Babylonians have taken over the gates, and Jerusalem is gone. It’s not recoverable. You can just spend all the time in the world wishing that Jerusalem were back, and the Babylonians weren’t here, and part of the struggle with the time of judgment is we don’t want to deal with the reality, and I’m here to tell you that the Episcopal Church as an effective vehicle as a whole for the gospel is done. Full stop. If you want a passage: Revelation 2. It’s one of the scariest in the New Testament. Jesus says, and if you don’t hang in there with Jesus, I’m going to withdraw the lamp stand. It’s really scary. There is no question that this is a church from whom God has withdrawn the lamp stand, and it has to be acknowledged.

Now look, I can spend the rest of the day on this. As I told Andy, I have watched a whole series of my friends, and I’m still watching a whole series of my friends. You have to go through all five Kubler-Ross stages on that question. You gotta go through denial. You gotta get angry. You gotta try to bargain. You gotta get depressed, and then you gotta say, “You know what; it’s over.” But you’re not gonna negotiate the need for wartime settlement if you don’t acknowledge that you’re in a war. We got a whole bunch of peace-time leaders, and they’ve woke up in a war. They don’t even know that they’re there. It won’t work. The Episcopal Church, as it functioned for its history, is gone. Full stop. The Babylonians have taken over the gate. Full stop. That is a fact on the ground. I was telling Andy one time last year, I was on the same platform with the bishop, who shall remain nameless, in the church, and I was all the way through all five stages. Of course, the thing is once you get through all five stages then the question is ok, if it’s over, and you’re in a time of exile then the Babylonians have come, how do you live, but the point is you’re not going to get to that question if you still think you’re in Jerusalem, and it’s business as usual.

Well, I’m sitting there, and I do my presentation, and I got my shtick, and I’m doing my, I mean my whole thing is undergirded by “It’s over.” Ask me some other question. And this bishop gets up there, and he does a great job, he says, things are so bad; it was so tough; it was so horrible, and I thought, this is good, and then about five minutes later, he says, “ You know Sewanee’s really trying right now, and we can really, I think we can turn things around.” And he went on like that, and he had this fight with himself on the platform, and I’m sitting there, and after about thirty minutes, I realize, my gosh, he’s still bargaining. He’s just…I’m literally watching this bishop that I love, and he’s bargaining. It was tragic, but here’s the thing that’s important to understand also, and Jeremiah is very good on this.

You cannot force people to go through this process of discernment at your pace. I cannot emphasize how important that is pastorally. I would love, look, I would have loved to take that bishop after that conference and right in his face and said, “Look, you’re bargaining. Get out of it. Deal with reality. Go to acceptance.”  Utterly worthless. Useless. I cannot, I mean I cannot, that is my process. I had to go through it my way at my pace. It will do him no good for me to try to make him go through what I did my way. He’s him not me. Now, I need to prod; I need to ask questions. I need to have a good hope. But the point is Jeremiah kept saying the Babylonians are coming. Everybody said “No, they’re not. They’re not coming,” and they didn’t come. I’ve been saying for over twenty years, I said in seminary in the mid-eighties that the Episcopal Church was going to blow up on the same-sex issue. I was laughed out of town. Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha. It’s not so funny now, but the point is that dealing with reality is one of the hardest aspects of being in a time of judgment. OK, so, ya’ll with me?

The Babylonians are through the gate, so here comes the next point:
First point is: Not to decide is to decide. You have to decide. It’s a time of decision, a time of pruning. It’s a time of revelation. It’s difficult.
Second point is: You have to deal with reality, the Babylonians are through the gate; Jerusalem is over.

Third point, very, very difficult, is: Confusion is not alien; it is the everyday experience of everyone in exile. What is going on in my life when I deal with this mess? It’s one simple word: Confusion. Everyone is confused. My diocese is confused; my friends are confused; I’m confused. Why is everybody asking me what to do? Because they can’t see straight. Guess why? The military strategists call this the fog of war. The reason you can’t see straight is there’s clouds of dust in the air. Now let me just unpack this for you so you can be presented with real force with the level of confusion that you have to understand is going to go on, is going on, and will go on in your life because people miss this aspect of Jeremiah. Think about the level of confusion there is to deal with.

First of all Jeremiah is confused within himself as to what God is actually telling him to do. It’s a staggeringly powerful book this. He tries to present what God’s calling him to present. What happens? People from his hometown try to kill him. All the authorities get mad at him. The false prophets take all kinds of shots at him. And he concludes after doing this for a long time, this really isn’t fun. I’m going to try to take another tack. God’s telling me to say this, and every time I say it, I make things worse. I get in more trouble. People get madder. My life gets harder. I’m not going to do this any more. I used to try saying what God told me to say. That didn’t work. I’m now gonna not say anything, and it’s so powerful, this. It says in chapter 20, “The word of the Lord became a fire in my bones.” He can’t, he can’t do it. God’s calling him, and God’s word is so powerful that actually the second state for him is worse than the first. And he’s actually internally self-destructive mode and self-destructingly level of pain that’s higher than all the pain he’s had to deal with which caused him to revert to this I’m not going to play this game any more mode. And he says in Jeremiah 20, wonderful stuff this. He says, “God, You tricked me. You’re playing games with me. I can’t even figure out what to do.” 

He can’t even figure out what to say and how to function himself. Forget all the other stuff. You think that’s easy? This is the way that living in a time of judgment is; it’s difficult. Confusion is not abnormal; it is the reality. Don’t run from it. Understand, I’m not saying “Accept it, and, oh, thank God, this is just terrific.”  That’s not what I said. Kendall said, “’It’ll be confusing.’ I’m confused; so, it’s OK” No, I didn’t. I said the nature of a time of judgment is that it will be confusing. That’s part of the way that the sifting works. Understand it, and don’t run away from it realizing you’re called to be faithful in the midst of it, and the very wrestling Jeremiah had to do, you’ve gotta do, and the only way out is through.

The second level of the confusion is you can’t figure out who’s telling the truth and who’s not. I mean I could do a whole time today on true and false prophets in Jeremiah. You talk about harrowingly significant passages of scripture in terms of its application to our current day. I mean it’s very hard if you’re watching Jeremiah, and you’re there at the time to figure out who’s the legitimate spokesperson for God and who isn’t. I mean Hananiah shows up. He’s got these big, you know, things on his shoulders, these big yokes, and he says, “Jeremiah says this; he’s full of baloney; he’s a false prophet; I’m the true guy.” His message sounds coherent; he looks impressive; he’s got this sorta’ sacramental sign. In Jeremiah 23, Jeremiah says, “There’s all these false prophets that’s running around Jerusalem and they’re saying, “The word of the Lord; the word of the Lord; the word of the Lord,” and God said to Jeremiah in Chapter 23, “They’re preaching visions of their own minds, not the word of the Lord.”

Now you talk about significant. It’s hard to figure out. Nobody in the room, myself included, has a clue of the nature of the full truth to which we’re being called. And that is the reality. It’s difficult. There is a tremendous confusion as to who to listen to, as to who is telling the truth, as to who is actually pointing in the direction of God, and who is not, myself included.

Now, this brings me to the next point, and I, in some ways, I think this might be the most important thing I have to say at a personal level about our own movement, and I think after this Deb, I’m going to stop. The next thing at a theological level, and this is real pastoral theology that has to be understood once you get all those first truths in your mind, is that you must decide, you must judge, you must act. Now there’s no luxury for Jeremiah, right? You’re either in Jerusalem, you’re going to Egypt, right, or you’re going with the Babylonians into Babylon. But you have to go somewhere, and not to decide is to decide, but here’s the thing, is you begin to understand the other points, you understand how confusing it is, you understand that you don’t even know whether to listen to yourself; it’s not clear how God is calling you to speak, and how God’s calling you to hear, that there are true prophets and false prophets and who to listen to outside yourself isn’t easy; then what you have to do, and this is so desperately missing in our own movement right now is when you decide, you have to decide tentatively. Nothing I say today is more important than this. What is killing the conservative orthodox movement right now is the pastoral situation, and the way that it is working, and here is the way it works. This is what’s so insidious about the time of judgment. The decision seems so significant because the backdrop is so bad. Right? Jerusalem is gone. There’s this tremendous sense of loss. Therefore, I’ve got to do something big because it’s bad that they took my worship and my liturgy and my home and my language, and Jeremiah says the opposite. He says, “No, the solution in a time of big loss is not to be faithful in big things, it’s to be faithful in little things.” Jeremiah 29: “Build houses. Live in them. Have kids. Teach them the faith.” Go look it up. It’s so powerful.

But what’s important is when you make a decision, what you have to understand is because of the confusion, you’re decision might be right, but it also might be wrong, and you’ve got to be willing to say that. The only time that we’re going to know the full truth of what we’re in the midst of is about thirty years from now. I’m dead serious. And what we’re gonna see is none of us had it right. All of us had mistakes. So what I’m gonna tell you, what I’m going to challenge you with this afternoon and I’m want to pastorally challenge you with this morning is you’ve got to decide but not every body here is going to decide to do the same thing, and what we have to find a way to do is to invest ourselves in these decisions, and their importance on the one hand—A is you’ve got to decide, but—B to do that tentatively in such a way that we say to our friends who make different decisions, because some of them will, “This is what I’ve decided, but I might be wrong, and you might be right.” And what is happening in the orthodox movement is the opposite of that, and I want you to be pastorally sympathetic as to why what has happened is happening. The reason why what is happening is happening is because people are putting so much energy into the nature of the decision that has to be made. So if you are in Common Cause, and you’re out of the Episcopal Church what do you say? I get email every week from people who’re outside the Episcopal Church yelling at me. I get more flack from people outside the Episcopal Church than all the liberals put together all the time. Kendall is compromised. Kendall is interested in position and power and prestige and pension. This is the language that’s used. What? What is going on there? They’re saying, “I have decided this is the way to move; therefore, this is the only way to move, and all other ways are wrong ways. It’s the second that’s killing Anglican Orthodoxy right now. It isn’t true, and if we act that way, we will have the most splintered set of splinter groups you have ever seen.

The way that you live through exile is in the midst of confusion with tentative judgment and fellowship with one another even if people make different decisions. Let me tell you one story to conclude to give you a very enfleshed example of what I am talking about, and then I’ll stop. Many of you know Martyn Minns; he’s a dear friend of mine. We talk every day on the phone. Sometimes, more than once a day. We’ve been friends for a long time, never served in a parish together, first got together at General Convention and have been friends ever since. It’s a very weird, long story for another time, but my friend Martyn Minns, as you know, is one of the leaders in CANA which is associated with the Province of Nigeria; and Martyn is a mighty gospel minister, one of the great faithful people of the last generation; and he’s a dear friend; and Martyn got made a bishop by the Archbishop of Nigeria, as you know, and then he got instituted in Virginia. Martyn invited me to the institution, so Martyn’s my friend, and Martyn invited me to the institution. I’m in the Diocese of South Carolina, and at the time our bishop was getting shot down in flames, in the confirmation process. Everything we said can and was held against us. It was not fun, and so, you know, what do I do about the service? And, and this is what I mean by tentative judgment. This is what’s so important. Look, Martyn is living out his faithful response in a way that I’m not. He thinks my way is wrong, but the grace is, he thinks that tentatively, and I think the same of him. I’m standing before you—maybe Martyn’s right, and I’m wrong, but maybe I’m right, but the point is we’ve got to live that way, and we’ve, I’ve got to support him. I’m not willing to go forward into a future where fellowship gets cracked up on these bases, so what did I do? I went to the service; I participated as a normal congregant, I didn’t process. That was my feeble way, and, by the way, I took tons of flack for doing that from all sides, but my point is, he’s my friend. He’s trying to be faithful, and I’ve got to find a way to be tentative in my judgment and to live that out so that if we have a common future, the way that we’ve invested ourselves in these decisions keeps a sense of tentativeness underneath it, and that is what is missing.

We have people who say, “If you stay in the Episcopal Church, it’s the only right thing, and anybody who says anything else is automatically faithless.” And we have people who say, “If you’ve left the Episcopal Church, anything else is automatically faithless,” and what I’m here to say it’s a very difficult, confusing time. There is no luxury of not making a decision.

Everybody is going to have to decide, but what I’m pleading for is the tentativeness to make a decision and say, “but maybe I’m wrong, and maybe they’re right,” and, therefore, to try to support people you disagree with even in a time like this, and I know that’s hard. You think it was easy for me to go to that institution? You think it was fun to come home and get more flack? I got flack from my own diocese. You know one of my friends said, “You idiot. You further hurt our bishop elect’s confirmation service. I didn’t feel, that wasn’t my desire, maybe it was true, but the point is, I tried to live it out in my faithful way.

But do you understand the point that I’m making? And my point about these things in Jeremiah is all those things of an exile, they were true then; they are true now. So, here’s the bad news and then the good news, and then I’m done. And the bad news is this. As I was saying to one of your participants before we started this morning. You’ve been in America, and you’ve woken up in France, and they’re speaking French. The whole way we’ve gone about things has got to be called into question. We cannot function the way that we’ve functioned before. We’re not Toto. We’re not in Kansas anymore. The Babylonians are through the gate; Jerusalem is over. We’re in a different world; we’re in a different context, and we’re called to operate differently. That’s the bad news in the sense that that’s hard. It was just like Frodo said to Gandalf, when I pray, “I don’t want to be in this time.” You can spend from now until Jesus comes back saying that, and guess what? You’re still gonna be in this time. Don’t get mad at me. Get mad at God. I don’t know why God put us in this time, but I know that He called us to live in this time and to be faithful in this time.

But the good news is if you understand that we’ve got to relearn this than you’re going to embrace the tentativeness because the only way you learn to walk is to take a couple of steps and mess up, and if we have that attitude, God can take us into a different future. All right that’s enough sipping from the fire hydrant.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
And to break. Is that where we’re going?

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I especially liked the account of the General Convention. I think we are so used to majority rule and the consensus process that we forget that the prophets were murdered and the saints martyred because they stood alone. It takes a fair amount of courage to do that. The will of God may be discerned by the truth it bears, not by majority rule. Vox populi, vox dei was the rule in pagan Rome, not in the church.

I have a blog thingy

[1] Posted by Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) on 12-18-2007 at 07:38 AM • top

Great work, Kendall. I look forward to reading the rest.

I think we are so used to majority rule and the consensus process that we forget that the prophets were murdered and the saints martyred because they stood alone.

Never alone.

  7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
  8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;
  9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
  10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

(But I do take your point)

On any unrelated issue, should ***Montis be Montanus?

[2] Posted by Boring Bloke on 12-18-2007 at 07:53 AM • top

The fullness of this is incredible.  His pastoral application of Jeremiah is really touching, coming as it does in the midst of the hard facts.
Thanks, Sarah, for posting this.  I look forward to the whole series.

[3] Posted by Timothy Fountain on 12-18-2007 at 07:57 AM • top

Thanks, Sarah for posting.  Many thanks, Kendall for your erudition, pastoral sensibility, and practical application of prophetic admonition!

One note:

it’s like a giant blob. It just, it just absorbs everything in its path.

  This is as apt a description of spiritual darkness as ever I’ve heard or read.  How many of us have detected its presence in our parishes and dioceses over the last while?

[4] Posted by Athanasius Returns on 12-18-2007 at 09:41 AM • top

When Kendall began speaking, my whole family sat down and listened for over an hour on a busy morning.  I think it was the urgency in his voice that got our attention.  I’ve been reflecting on Zechariah and what he went through in patient silence before he was allowed to speak.  According to Luke 3:2, his son who was to be named John was also known as “the son of Zechariah”.  I wonder if this is because the same sort of tone of urgency that was heard from his father at his circumcision was recognized later in the regions of the Jordan.

[5] Posted by Robert F. Montgomery on 12-18-2007 at 12:29 PM • top

excellent in so many areas….marriage, homosexuality,what to do….confusion; oh yes..thank you Sarah for posting/sharing

[6] Posted by ewart-touzot on 12-18-2007 at 12:37 PM • top

This is outstanding!  What a wonderful way of framing the entire history of the last 40 years or so.  This is almost exactly where I am.  I believe that I am called to remain in TECUSA and witness here as a deacon in the Church.  I believe I am to show the love and joy and peace that passes understanding (even in the midst of being overrun) that comes from living out the Christian faith with fedility to the Holy Scriptures and to the councils of the Church.  However, I know that there are others (even within the physical bounds of the Diocese of Dallas) that believe the best thing is to break from TECUSA (even if that means breaking from the Diocese of Dallas).  They believe they can be more effective witnesses from the outside than from the inside.  They may be right or they may be wrong.  I may be right and I may be wrong.  I will not judge their path, but I will ask that they no judge my path either.  We are both trying to follow God’s will and be faithful as He is faithful.

Phil Snyder

[7] Posted by Philip Snyder on 12-18-2007 at 01:12 PM • top

I loved this. The last 4 pages are the best (but don’t skip to them).
I identified a lot when he started talking about being with people in the different stages of grief.
His use of Jeremiah was so apt. Especially:

This is what’s so insidious about the time of judgment. The decision seems so significant because the backdrop is so bad. Right? Jerusalem is gone. There’s this tremendous sense of loss. Therefore, I’ve got to do something big because it’s bad that they took my worship and my liturgy and my home and my language, and Jeremiah says the opposite. He says, “No, the solution in a time of big loss is not to be faithful in big things, it’s to be faithful in little things.” Jeremiah 29: “Build houses. Live in them. Have kids. Teach them the faith.” Go look it up. It’s so powerful.

Very touching reading about his relationship with Bishop Minns and the need, in a time of decision, to make a decision, but hold it tentatively.

But the good news is if you understand that we’ve got to relearn this than you’re going to embrace the tentativeness because the only way you learn to walk is to take a couple of steps and mess up, and if we have that attitude, God can take us into a different future.

(And you guys always beat me up when I say there is a spiritual truth embedded in the experience of the labyrinth walk.)

[8] Posted by Deja Vu on 12-18-2007 at 02:13 PM • top



[9] Posted by Irenaeus on 12-18-2007 at 02:32 PM • top

You and me, Phil. 
Now all we need is a bishop, and a member of the laity, and we’ve got all the orders present.
Just kidding.  All we need is a new set of letters.

[10] Posted by Rob Eaton+ on 12-18-2007 at 03:07 PM • top

Wow!  I really like the part about how we treat each other during this time.  It cannot be emphasized enough.  It breaks my heart that people have been so mean to Kendall.  The only thing I would add is that the “choice” is also so simple as Common Cause or TEC.  I live in a rural area.  There is no Orthodox Epicopal Church nearby, at least not in driving distance.  There is also no common cause group forming, not that I am aware of.  So, my choices are: RC (which I personally cannot do because of my theological problems with the papacy but I respect Steenson and the others that have made this choice), or some other form of protestantism, probably less sacramental.  Missouri Synod is not even available in driving distance.  For some, it may be Eastern Orthodoxy.  People who live in smaller cities or rural areas (in reappraising dioceses) may find there is only 1-2 ECUSA churches and both very liberal.  People in these places feel especially “trapped” because something familiar (Anglican) like Common Cause is not an option because I don’t have the luxury of living in No. Virginia or Plano.  The choices all seem frightening to me.

[11] Posted by Matthew on 12-18-2007 at 06:43 PM • top

The afternoon’s lectures may be found at the Christ Church website:

[12] Posted by robroy on 12-18-2007 at 06:51 PM • top

Excellent work, thank you so much.

Might I suggest that Cannon Harmon, or someone else, find references to the most important parts of this history, along with url’s of GC & AC acts, and send them to some reporter like Ruth Gledhill, perhaps even draw up a history for the Wikipedia?  This way the most important parts are released from being merely of academic interest & can be pointed out when the flawed histories are presented.

[13] Posted by j.m.c. on 12-18-2007 at 09:22 PM • top

I remember Bishop Jecko’s funeral.  Bishop Stanton presided (as was proper).  The funeral took place at Christ Church, Plano (an AMiA parish).  Bishop-elect Bill Atwood preached.  Bishop Minns vested as a bishop and processed with the other bishops present and was treated no differently than any other Anglican bishop.

If we can meet around the the Lord’s table to remember a Champion of the Faith like Bishop Jecko, then I hold out hope for a Communion based solution that will allow all the orthodox parties to rejoin into one common structure in the USA (or North America or the Americas) and be fully welcomed as part of the Anglican Communion.

Phil Snyder

[14] Posted by Philip Snyder on 12-18-2007 at 09:36 PM • top

j.m.c. makes an excellent suggestion. I remember thinking something similar as I read Kendall’s alternative narrative of the history. We need an online reference to a reasserter timeline for us with reporters etc. Getting it on a Wikipedia page would be ideal.

[15] Posted by Deja Vu on 12-18-2007 at 09:45 PM • top

JMC #13, DjV #15—I believe there is at least one quite thorough timeline of the Decline and Fall of the Episcopal Church; we had a lot of suggestions for it something like a year ago.  No idea whether it’s still being maintained. 

Anybody have a link?

[16] Posted by Craig Goodrich on 12-18-2007 at 10:49 PM • top

“There is no question that this is a church from whom God has withdrawn the lamp stand, and it has to be acknowledged.” KH
The ABC has not acknowkedged this with any action and Harmon is still in TEC because he has not had to deal with the pressures that many others have had to deal with. There is still light in the DSC, but he knows the lamp stand is being withdrawn and some day soon he will follow where the light has moved too. How do I know this? He loves to read and he loves the Word of God.

[17] Posted by Sir Highmoor on 12-18-2007 at 11:40 PM • top

‘dig the Kendall Fire-Hydrant.
‘dig the Kendall Paranthetical Commentaries.
‘dig the Kendall Surprise SHOCK AND AWE EMPHASES.

[18] Posted by J Eppinga on 12-19-2007 at 04:45 AM • top

Dear Deja Vu and Craig, the link to the timeline can be found at Titus on the right hand side under “I. Important documents” or more simply here:

[19] Posted by robroy on 12-19-2007 at 06:11 AM • top

I just have to say this:

I’m sitting here <strike>doing the heavy lifting</strike> helping Sarah get part 2 ready, and it’s something everybody needs to listen to, ESPECIALLY our orthodox leaders.

[20] Posted by Greg Griffith on 12-19-2007 at 10:02 AM • top

Worthy of all persons to be received.

Thank you Canon Harmon.


[21] Posted by miserable sinner on 12-19-2007 at 10:10 AM • top

There is so much in this address, it might be helpful if it were in three threads: one for the history of the last 40 years, one on what has happened to the ‘gospel’ in TEC, and one on Jeremiah and how to be tentative in our decisions now.

Kendall Harmon asserts that the gospel according to TEC has no sin, no cross, and therefore no transformation.  He discusses Revelation 2 and God’s withdrawal of the lampstand.

I think that this is true for the vocal reappraisers.  ++Williams, FWIW, does not think that it is true for all of TEC:

  It would seem reasonable to say that this principle should only be overridden when the Communion together had in some way concluded, not only that a province was behaving anomalously, but that this was so serious as to compromise the entire ministry and mission the province was undertaking….

It is of enormous importance that the Communion overall does not forget its responsibility to and for that large body of prayerful opinion in The Episcopal Church which sincerely desires to work in full harmony with others…and that it does not give way to the temptation to view The Episcopal Church as a monochrome body.

Although everything, everything about the address was interesting, I think that what will be most practically helpful right now is his advice not to force people to go through the process of discernment at our own pace, and to be tentative in our own conclusions.  I feel comfortable telling the strident reappraisers, “You’re wrong,” but I have a hard time telling that to my orthodox brothers and sisters (such as +Howe).  Within the orthodox community, we need to have as close of a communion as we can.

[22] Posted by selah on 12-19-2007 at 08:19 PM • top

Thank you Robroy (#19) for the link.

The link overviews the most important events in the AC and in TEC.  It is missing the “fresh hell” that, in a way, disturbs me more: the druid priests, the Muslim priest, the praising of Baal from the National Cathedral, the Episcopal bookstores with books of love potions and astrology.  These aspects of TEC seem more sinister to me than the Inclusivity Gospel.

[23] Posted by selah on 12-19-2007 at 08:30 PM • top

Yes, thank you Robroy for the link to the chronology. I only reviewed it briefly so far. It does give the first impression that this is mostly about homosexuality.

[24] Posted by Deja Vu on 12-19-2007 at 08:42 PM • top

This is from a comment by TJ this morning on another thread:

....  clearly violated the “doctrine and discipline of this church” by allowing open communion; or blessing of SSB’s; or the removal of the general confession from the liturgy; or the baptism of those not professing the Apostles Creed; or the open “affirmation” of Montanist, deist, universalist, or other theology; or personal denial, on the part of the bishop, of the Nicene or Apostles Creeds; or just outright denying the divinity of our Lord and Saviour.

I copy this here because it gives the scope of the problem. It would be so great if the chronology was more, dare I say, inclusive.

[25] Posted by Deja Vu on 12-21-2007 at 12:57 PM • top

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