Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Death of Edward Schillebeeckyx

Edward Schillebeeckyx died on December 23 at the age of 95. He was a great theologian, important to me chiefly for shaping my understanding of the Eucharist as a point of encounter with Christ, and Christ as a point of encounter between our humanity and the divine core of reality. He will be missed. I plan to honor him by reading one of his early books on Jesus that I have never read beforel and by reading Robert Schreiter's introduction to his theology.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Silver Angel

We worshiped at St. Timothy's on Christmas Eve. It was a warmly human service, a cozy service, in a beautifully decorated church. It was the first time Linda and I have sat together in church on Chrismas Eve in many, many years. We were blessed by the sights and sounds of Christmas. They enfleshed for us and revealed to us the Word of grace in the our story.

Then when we got home, there was an angel at our door. On our door actually. A small silver Christmas tree ornament angel with a crystal heart. She went immediately to our kitchy tree. Our secret Santa or Santas made this a lovely Advent. And yes, the white plastic tree will be up again next year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Christian Text In A New World Context

I was having dinner with a group of Episcopal Church leaders discussing “the emergent church” and a bold new proposal to ordain priests for the emergent church with minimal preparation, trusting they would pick up priesthood OJT. I said nothing, but it gave me pause to hear this idea, knowing we tried it in Nevada and other Total Ministry dioceses, sometimes with unfortunate results. In fact, only a couple of conventions ago, the church repealed Canon 9 to get away from that experiment. We are now in the midst of upgrading the training for all orders of ministry so it surprised me to hear that training for priesthood was at risk again. (I am not saying the training has to be conventional seminary education. We are expanding local training, but still requiring that training comes before ordination.)

The conversation then took an interesting turn, the turn that makes this subject blog worthy, because there was a young man at the table – a college student. The older leaders asked his view. He said relaxing the training for clergy was irrelevant. He saw no reason for the church to have ordained people anymore than there was any need for the church to have buildings. (It is an axiom of the emergent church movement that the church should not have buildings.) This led to the leaders asking how he would envision a service led by a lay person in a secular building. The young man did not think church services were such a good idea either. His vision is that the lay minister would hang out at a bar with people and if religion came up naturally in the conversation, then the minister would participate in that conversation.

I suddenly got a vision of the post-modern church: no sacred space; no clergy; untrained laity; no prayers; no hymns; no scripture. I wondered if the bar where religion might come up in the conversation naturally would have a Sunday School area for the children. I am entirely for extending the gospel message into all sorts of settings in all sorts of ways, but I was struck by the idea that so much of the faith that has saved my life might be erased as no longer relevant to people now.

I remembered when I was that college student’s age, I was not a Christian. I did not attend worship services either. But when driving through central Texas – which I did a lot back then – I would without fail stop at an old Lutheran church near a German village. It was always unlocked. I would just go in and look at the stained glass windows and cult objects I did not even understand, and I felt the holiness. What if they had sold that building and become emergent, meeting in a bar, talking about religion if it came up naturally?

I remember when I was his age, and I would go home to East Texas, I would visit Fr. Allen, a pious old Episcopal priest who never said anything to convert me, but who was a holy man and dressed the part so I could recognize him as a personal representative of something much larger and older than himself. What if St. James, Texarkana had decided they did not need any hierarchical professional clergy. Fr. Allen would not have been there for me, teaching me gospel without saying a word, sharing grace just by listening.

In his book, The Cross In Our Context, Douglass John Hall asks the question whether Christianity will survive the 21st Century, noting that some respectable voices question whether Christianity made it into the 21st Century. Christendom, the era when being Christian was a social and cultural norm, is certainly long dead in most places. It may have never reached us here in Nevada. But Christianity is another matter. Is there an authentic Christian voice crying in our wilderness? Is there a Christian word that can be spoken? Is there a Christian word that can be heard? “Does a tree falling in an uninhabited forest . . . ?”

Hall’s premise is that Christians engage the world. “Unlike other religions that draw their converts away from this world, a faith informed by this (Christian) tradition . . . constrains the community of discipleship to enter into its historical situation with a new kind of openness, attentiveness and compassion.” We must share our faith with the world “by word and deed.”

This raises the perpetually recurring issue for us, which Hall speaks of as text and context. We have a text – not just the Bible and the Prayer Book, but a whole tradition of belief and practice. We also have a context – the world around us. Internationally, that is post-colonialism, the fearful conflicts among religions in Africa and the Near East, the post Cold War ascendancy of the United States and China, and to a lesser degree Iran. Closer to home, it is the secular materialism of American culture, in which all religious affiliation is in decline but we are becoming more religiously and ethnically pluralistic, a society in which the new convention is to be “very spiritual but not religious.” Can we be true to our text and engage with this context at the same time?

There has always been a tension between our text and any human context. It may be better when it is explicit as it is today. I have found it harder to make the gospel heard by anyone in a setting where conventional Christianity is the social norm than here where faith is countercultural. It is better shouting faith into the secular void than into the conventional Christian void. The oddness of the words makes people curious if they do not already think they know what they mean. But how shall we go about it? How shall we make the faith understood in our society?

I don’t have answers to that. But I feel pretty sure we have to tell the truth. I cannot expect everyone to connect to God the way I do, but I cannot pretend that my way isn’t my way. Can we be true to our text and engage our context? I desperately hope so. If we are not true to our text, we will not be engaging our context honestly. If we do not engage our context, then we will be false to our text which requires jus this engagement. Jesus called us to be “in the world, but not of the world.” That has never been easy.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Nativity Theologizing

I grew up with a brand of Christianity that was heavily centered on Good Friday. We celebrated Christmas along with everyone else. But the meaning of Christmas was confused at best. It seemed like a necessary first step toward the cross which didn’t quite cohere with Joy To The World.

Decades later, now decades ago, I learned that the folks who first shaped the contours of orthodox Christian faith, especially St. Athanasius, the chief architect of the Nicene Creed, taught that the Incarnation was salvific in itself. Something happened in Bethlehem in 4 B.C.E. (or whatever year Jesus was actually born) that changed the relationship between God and humanity, even between Creator and Creation.

How that salvation worked was and still is hard for me to grasp. It is called “assumption.” In a mysterious way, when God assumes human nature, then human nature is sanctified, redeemed, made holy. That feels right to me even though I can’t explain it logically.

There is another way I have been thinking of Christmas as salvific that I can understand a little better. It goes like this: Being human is a precious and wonderful thing precisely because it is so brief an experience, so vulnerable, so frail, such a mix of joys and sorrow, virtues and vices, moral heroism and moral disaster. The beauty of being human is inseparable from the fragility of being human. I say this as one whose youthful pride and certainty are long gone and as one who has seen love at its tenderest in the hours of suffering and death, in the moments of contrition and forgiveness. Being human is insubstantial, ephemeral, fallible, and for those very failings is all the more to be cherished.

Yet the vulnerability of being human – physical, spiritual, and moral vulnerability – is so great that we cannot bear our human condition. It is just too hard. We need to be sustained now and ultimately redeemed by a God who is above all this, beyond “the changes and the chances” of this life. We need to be held by the Serene Center of the Universe, who was and is and ever will be. Our fragility can subsist only in God’s strength.

The problem is the immeasurable distance between God and us. The vastness, the incomprehensibility of Divine Majesty, the namelessness, imagelessness, unutterable wonder of God means God is beyond our reach. And we cannot climb up to God. All religion that purports to elevate us to God merely inflates our egos and thereby separates us all the farther from God.

It was therefore necessary for God to come to us. “Condescend” is a bad word now. But it used to have a good theological meaning -- “to come down to.” God came down to us. God joined us in the mix and muddle of human life. “For us and for our salvation, he sent his only and eternal son to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us.” And therein the basic shift happened and religion has never been the same.

Instead of our trying to climb up out of our human frailty to meet God in the Divine Serenity, God joins us in the stable of mortal human life. It is in this stable of human living that we meet God. It is here we find the seed of peace and joy. The meaning of our frailties – all of them, physical, moral, spiritual – is changed from the wall the separates us from God into the gate that opens our hearts to God. That is the miracle I celebrate at Christmas. However, you understand this Holy Season, I hope you will be touched by grace right where you live, that you will find a light in your darkness, and that you will experience the assurance of God’s love for you exactly as you are.

Return Of The Mouse

Mid week the mouse arrived. It is a Christmas ornament -- yes a Christmas mouse wearing green and red trousers and a red sweater -- no doubt left on our door knob by the same people who left the white plastic Christmas tree and ealier ornaments.

But this mouse looks familiar. See Night of Reepacheep, blog post May 21, 2009 -- the very mouse who bit my pinkie in Lake Logan, North Carolina last Spring. How much do these people actually know about me?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Icons Or Golden Calves

I just read a great blog post reviewing Martin Thornton's The Rock And The River. I have not read the book, but the blog post is great. http:/

Thornton's point seems to be that the Christian popularizers today attack ideas that they represent as orthodox Christianity. They are not orthodox. As the blog puts it, they are not icons but golden calves. The result is too many of us take the theologically light arguments of the popularizers as the only alternative to fundamentalism. They confuse fundamentalism with the orthodox teachings of the Christian tradition and so lose the spiritual depth of centuries.

Thank you Dean Nick Knisley for posting a link to this review on your FB page.

The Conspiracy Widens

The tin box came by mail to my office all the way from Carson City. It contained two red dice Christmas ornaments. They will go on the white plastic tree tonight.

The tree itself and the other ornaments were a local job. Someone rang the doorbell and ran away. But this is from afar. The plot thickens as the conspiracy widens. Or does it?

Do the Carson City culprits know the Las Vegas vandals? Can North and South be in league, consort, conspire, collude? Or is this some secret serendipy of Christmas magic?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

On The Third Week Of Advent

It is Advent III, Rose Sunday. The Secret Santa struck again -- this time in broad daylight while we were at the Feast of Guadalupe service. They know our schedule.

When we got back from church, there was a bright pink Christmas ball hanging from our door knob. Perfect for Rose Sunday. They know liturgy too.

It has snowflakes cut into the sides. We have hung it on the white Christmas tree.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It Is Happening Again

"It is happening again. It is happening again." -- Twin Peaks

For context, see the previous 2 posts.

So I went out the door on Monday morning and there was another ornament hanging on the door handle. It was a silver colored "Peace." A lovely thing really.

More about the snow man. There is a little switch on the bottom. Flip it on and the snow man lights up in alternating colors, red, blue, green, pink, etc.

And we already had the perfect ornaments for the white plastic tree -- a lot of small plastic pink flamingos in various tropcial attire.

This is the best kitchy Christmas tree ever. We decorated yesterday while listening to O Tannenbaum on the ipod.

We are considering installing a security camera in hopes of learning the identity of our secret Santa.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Snow Man Cometh

And this morning, I found a bag on the front door knob. It contained a tree top ornament snow man. We are having the bag dusted for prints and scraped for DNA samples.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

White Christmas (Tree)

For years, we have had a family issue: the Christmas tree. Linda always wanted an artificial tree. I have no idea why. I don't get it. I insisted on -- and for decades have prevailed -- a big green real tree that smells like the woods. Until now.

These days live, more or less, in Las Vegas. Tinsel town in the desert. The kingdom of kitsch. A classic Chrismas tree here would be trying for something from another planet. So I did more than relent. I swung the other way. I proposed a small artificial tree in flamingo pink. Linda would not have it. She wanted artifical green. (I still don't get it.) So I suggested a silver tree for the silver state. She wasn't buying it. So I said, ok a white artificial tree. She was not persuaded.

Last night, we were innocently watching the Monk Marathon on dvr. About 9:30, the doorbell rang. When I opened the door, there was an Advent miracle. It was a white Chistmas tree!!!! No one to be seen. I went all the way outside and looked up and down the street. No one there. But on our porch: A trunk of white plastic pipe, limbs of white plastic rods, white wires twined about the limbs to suggest something like vegetation but also vaguely reminiscent of fence wire -- and the wires leading to dainty little light bulbs -- pink, blue, green, white, and orange. It was plugged in and shining away on our porch in front of the bust of Palas Athena who looked shocked, her lips parted in wonder.

At first I did not know what to make of it. Then I took it inside and plugged it into a wall socket in the den. There it glows, even to this day.

Who could have been the giver of this wonderful gift! It is our first Las Vegas Christmas tree. We have not had a tree at all the past 2 Christmases. Now this!!! I am beside myself. Linda is bemusedly tolerant.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Convention 09 Retrospective

I may be too worn out from convention -- the logistics !!! -- to give a coherent reflection on it, but by the time I'm rested up it will be old news, so here goes:

We had a more relational convention this year -- less focus on transacting business; more emphasis on developing relationships among people who did not know each other. We did that through a lot of story telling, worship, and Bible study. We spent less time with the whole gathered assembly listening to individuals give reports (talking at) and more time for small groups with common interests to network with each other (talking with).

We also formed new relationships with a place. A lot of folks who had not experienced Camp Galilee before set foot on the land, saw the lake and the mountains, and were of course instantly converted. The reception at Galilee and the Galilee tour connected many of us to this magical place which is both the historic heart of the diocese and the key to our future.

How do we assess that kind of convention? All I know is that it looked to me as if people were having lively conversation. It looked as if people spoke from the hearts while others listened caringly. I hope we came away as better friends.

On the downside, we invited a lot of non-delegates to attend this year. I regret that we failed to prepare for them properly. We ran out of worship books. Guests were not always welcomed in the way I would have hoped. That is a failure of foresight on my part. I apologize and will try to make convention more welcoming next year.

There were three major items on the business agenda: First, we formed a companion diocese relationship with the Diocese of Santiago in the Philippines. This is not a charitable mission. The Diocese of Santiago is indpendent and strong. Our companion diocese bond is a friendship and a partnership so that we can work together, learn from each other, and be in closer communion across the ocean and cultural divides.

Second, we funded a program of Ministry Development led by a Canon for Adult Formation. I believe this will strengthen all our parishes, large and small, urban and rural.

Finally, we funded a Hispanic Ministries inititiave. The centerpiece of this initiative is to hire a Hispanic Missioner but there is more to it than that. We hope to have several more strong Hispanic worshiping communities by this time next year and that those communities will be the cutting edge of some of our most important social ministries.

The Vatican Invitation To Disaffected Anglicans

I am just emerging from Diocesan Convention, so this is my first chance to respond to those who have wanted to hear my thoughts on the Vatican Statement inviting disffected Anglican congregations to become Roman Catholics, but the priests can still be married and they can use Anglican liturgies.

I really think it's perfectly fine. Some disaffected Anglicans are focused on issues where they will line up better with the RC Church -- particularly those who are opposed to the ordination of women. They will have to come to terms with some of the hot button issues in the RC Church, but if they can do that, their unity with a larger group of Christians will sustain their faith, help them be financially viable, and generally promote the gospel mission. We wish them well. We wish the Roman Catholic Church well. It is a good thing.

Other disaffected Anglicans are of a more evangelical persuasion and may not find the RC Church to be a good home. That will be for them to discern and not for us to judge.

Meanwhile, we will continue to seek reconciliation and greater unity with all our fellow Christians.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Johnny Yuma And The Rabbit

Yesterday I drove North along 93 and 318 up toward Ely on my way to Elko. North through a golden October afternoon with the desert grasses tan, red, orange, and green. After Alamo, I was drinking Arizona Green Tea with Honey and Ginseng, eating trail mix, and listening altenately to Sarah Brightman singing operatic Italian and Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire album -- indulging in Walter Mitty fantasies of myself as an ecclesiastical Johnny Yuma. "Dan Edwards was a bishop. He roamed through the West. He packed not star as he wandered far where the only law was a hook and a draw. The bishop. Away, away, away rode the bishop . . . etc."

Night had fallen by Ely. Between Wells and Elko -- it was getting late and I was pretty tired -- I was confronted by a rabbit -- an exceedlingly large rabbit. He was not hippity hopping across the highway. He was standing upright smack dab in the middle of my lane, facing me -- eyeball to eyeball. Which one of us would blink? Who would surrender the lane? Not Jack. I went around him. He never flinched. I bet Johnny Yuma was never stared down by a rabbit.

Today I did my 3rd Roving Workshop on the Eucharist. It was great. We had a good turnout from Elko plus folks from Fallon and Las Vegas. A good time was had by all. Tonight I am trying to finalize the sermon for tomorrow. I have Eucharists in Elko and Eureka with an animal blessing in Eureka.

Happy St. Francis Day everyone. An especially happy Frank's Day to the good folks in Macon, Georgia celebrating their 50th anniversary as a parish -- the youngest Episcopal parish in Macon. Wow.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Las Vegas II

Did you know that right in the middle of this desert city is a swamp? There is. It's a wetland preserved as a park by the County. Two of our folks from St. Matthew's work there.

The swamp actually has water and watery plants. There are roadrunners, hawks, and all sorts of little swamp critters about. It isn't the Okefenoke or the Everglades but it is a bona fide swamp. And there are ducks, little brown ducks indigenous to Nevada.

However, awhile back an eco-terrorist or at least a vandal released four domestic white ducks into the swamp. That was uncool so the swamp authorities rounded them up -- that is they rounded up three of them. The fourth was too smart, too fast, or too something. They could not catch him.

For months, he eluded the swamp police. But there were occasional sightings, and more frequent quackings, to let us know he was still there. We called him Osama bin Duck. I heard a rumor the duck was eventually apprhended. He's probably in Git-mo by now.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Achy Breaky Heart And The Kingdom Of God

Last Sunday we said goodbye to Fr. Ed Lovelady who is retiring from All Saints, Las Vegas. It was a fantastic service. It was tri-lingual and multicultural. A packed house. Great worship!!!

Then came the party. One of my best friends, a Georgian of the gay persuasion, was visiting. At one point, I saw him line dancing, holding hands with Rose (Fr. Jun's mother in law) a Filippina from the Nothern Mountains. Other dancers included Fr. Arsi and Benadette, Fillipionos of the South -- different language, ethnicity, and piety. More of the dancers were Latino. And the music was: Billy Ray Cyrus -- Achy Breaky Heart.

As I watched this wonder, even before I watched Fr. Ed whaling a pinata and scads of children scambling after the candy he broke loose, I thought to myself, "Sometimes the Church works. Sometimes the Church really is a Kigngdom event right here and now."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Las Vegas Valley Isn't What You Think

There is a lot more to life in the Vegas Valley than most people know. I was driving from Albertsons to our house in Henderson this week when a coyote trotted in front of my car, did a 180, and trotted back. It reminded me of Mark Twain's classic account of the deceptive gate of the Nevada coyote, who never seems to quite run -- and yet coyotes, with their casual stiff legged amblulation, always maitain -- not increase, just maintain -- their distance from pursuers, until the pursuers lie prostrate in the dust, their tongues hanging out. Is this how Coyote became the Native American trickster deity.

Did any of you who do not live in Las Vegas know that there is a swamp right smack in the midst of this desert city? In my next post, I will tell you about the elusive duck that haunts our swamp.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Youth Ministry: Starting Over

Youth Ministry in our diocese blew up a few years ago -- especially in the South. There were several events: the collapse of TEC, the inability to continue funding the diocesan youth coordinator, a floor fight at convention. I am sure I don't know the whole story. But this is what I know of how things have been since then: there are very few dynamic youth programs in Nevada and we have had huge difficulty getting participation at the diocesan level.

So this year we are trying something new: we have created two youth networks -- one northern and one southern. Representatives from these two networks will constitute the Diocesan Youth Council. Having two geographical networks, we hope, will get more people involved and allow them to meet face to face more often.

The Southern Youth Network met for the first time last Sunday. It was a good, creative, hopeful meeting -- looking forward, not backward. It's time to move on. There was talk of sponsoring New Beginnings for the younger youth, promoting the Provincial Youth Event in Salt Lake City next summer, and having a Southern Youth Network gathering for music.

We need more Youth on the planning committee which will meet again on November 1. But the events will be for everyone in all the southern churches, not just for those who go to the planning meetings.

The essentia l foundation for a vital youth ministry in Nevada, in my opinion, is children attending camps at Galilee. I suspect that the youth program we had before would have survived the controversies if the youth had previosly formed a solid base of relationship built at camp. Under Stuart Campbell's leadership, Galilee is back. Kids from all over Nevada, even in Arizona, are befriending each other at camp. In five years, I believe we will see the strongest youth program we have had in a long, long time -- if ever.

What we are doing today is just a beginning. We need youth planning thier own program. It is essential that we set up the structures for youth leadership now. That is what we are beginning. My hope is that, in time, more congregations will form collaborative ministries such as the one at Trinity - St. Paul's. I hope more congregations will offer support to youth who are not the children of members, as St. Martin's in the Desert does now. I hope we will see genuine youth ministry specialists in our congregations. At the diocesesan level, I hope to see the day when we have New Beginnings in diverse places, Happening in diverse places, a Diocesan Youth Event in the years when there is no EYE or PYE. I hope to see more youth mission trips like the one we had this summer and a partnership trip to the Philippines.

Youth ministry will not be back full force immediately. But we have begun. Youth ministry is not a problem to be solved with money. It is a mission opportunity to be embraced with our hearts and the investment of our lives.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Budget For Mission -- Not Maintenance

The Standing Committee recently made a bold decision. They supported, in pricipal, using unrestricted savings as seed money for Hispanic ministries. This Saturday, the Diocesan Council followed through by recommending a budget that does just that. An investment of $120,000 could launch several Hispanic congregations this year and lay the groundwork for more next year. None of the savings devoted to this year's budget would come from sale of stocks or bonds. The resources we would devote to this mission are presently in money market accounts earning about 1%.

The remarkable growth of the Hispanic congregation of Todos Los Santos, accomplished through the leadership of Fr. Bernardo Iniesta Avila, in his spare time -- he is a social worker by day -- shows what can happen. The increase in membership, the vitality of worship, and the entusiastic participation of youth is truly dynamic.If Convention follows the lead of Standing Committee and Diocesan Council, the days of our stagnant membership level could be over.

Our Evangelism Budget is not just for the Hispanic community. Council has approved funding of the new Evangelim Committee's request for $15,000 to let people know we are here. This will follow an NPR sponsorship blitz during the final quarter of 2009.

But the best Evangelism efforts will fail unless when people come to our churches they see life in our congregations. That depends on the quality of ministry we do -- all forms of ministry. Most ministry is done by lay people. The quality of our ministry depends on Ministry Development.

Hiring someone to recruit, train, and coordinate a team of lay ministry developers is a budget priority. Diocesan Council supports this initiative as well. At last, we have a plan to empower Ministry of All Baptized without the Regional Vicars program we lost several years ago. This approach will cost roughly 25% of what we spent then. But I believe, in important respects, it will be even more effective.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Social Risk Of Hats In The Great American West

Heading out of Reno on my way to Elko, dressed in my Elko-appropriate Western attire, I stopped at the truck stop in Fernley for road coffee. In the fast food section, there was a genuine bona fide cowboy. Old, weathered, droopy mustache, the real deal. I noticed he was watching me. I felt pretty good. I was passing. He thought I looked like one of the guys. As I walked past him, he mutterd a word of advice, "hat's back-ards."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Happy B-Day St. Martin in the Desert

Happy 2oth birthday to St. Martin's in the Desert. Two decades back, two good Episopalians in Pahrump were driving over the hump to Las Vegas for Sunday morning church. They had an accident, and that persuaded them it was time for Pahrump to have its own church. They started one in their home and invited friends. They later invited the diocese to send clergy support -- Mike Garrison, Richard Henry, Curt Edmonds, Mary Bredlau and others. Eventually, they started growing their own clergy locally just like they make their own wine out there in the desert. I know: desert wine doesn't sound right,but it is just great -- like the desert clergy.

The congregation outgrew the Lunsford home, so they built a small church. They outgrew the small church so they built a larger church. We consecrated it just last year.

This year we celebrated the big 2-0 anniversary. We sang Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus; I Love To Tell The Story, and other hits of faith. Priests and deacons from the old days came to the reunion. The house was packed.

St. Martin's does bang up evangelism and community ministry -- especially to the youth and children of Pahrump regardless of where or whether they go to church. St. Martin's is one of the major supporters of Galilee in the diocese. Folks who live so near Death Valley know Tahoe is worth a drive. They also throw a good party in the old church which now serves as their fellowship hall. It's happening out there, people. At this rate, they may be having to build again before long.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Things I Previously Forgot To Tell You

Dave's Automotive in Fallon also sells boxes and aluminum carports. Moreover, they rent trucks. If you return your truck five minutes late for a good reason, they will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid charging you for an extra day. They also sent me a card thanking my for my $30.12 worth of business. You can spend more than that filling your gas tank anywhere but do they send you thank you notes?

Sierra Joe's in Dayton is unpretentious, clean, and accommodating. The sign says they have a Turkey Burger and a Jalapeno Burger, but they will actually put jalepenos on your Turkey Burger if you ask.

Dayton has a Starbuck's and I am a faithful member of the Starbucks family. I used to be the de facto chaplain to Starbuck's in Macon. They know what I want before I ask at 2 Starbucks in Las Vegas. I never pass the tres sophisticated Starbucks at Keystone & 7th in Reno -- but in Dayton, I go to Makin' Coffee. No glad handing perky greetings. Nothing slick. No way could you think you are in Seattle. But the coffee is first rate, the decor has a darkish Northwestern countercultural charm, and the people are kind. There is a sensitivity bordering on sadness there. And on the wall is a reflection by a single dad whose teenager committed suicide. Makin' Coffee is the real deal.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Service To Children

The Ever Flowing Stream article below is about a ministry that is dear to my heart and has been endorsed by our recent General Convention as a mission priority of the Episcopal Church. CIS is not yet statewide, and some of our churches partner with schools in other ways. CIS is expanding. This is the largest such partnership opportunity and the one that offers us the best way into giving children a chance in life.

An Everflowing Stream
Amos 5:24

EC 2/05 Confirms care for the needs of children as a priority of the Church and urges the President and Congress to make funding for children’s care a priority

Communities in Schools

Communities in Schools is a non-profit organization that provides support to children of all ages by ensuring that they are successful in school, are safe, healthy and able to learn. By empowering students to stay in school and achieve their highest potential, Communities in Schools of Nevada is preparing children not just to survive, but to thrive.

As the nation’s largest dropout prevention organization, CIS brings caring adults into schools to address the children’s unmet needs. The result is that teachers are free to teach, and students—many in jeopardy of dropping out—have the opportunity to focus on learning. And when a child can successfully learn, he or she can stay in school, prepare for college, for a career, and ultimately for a better life.

Communities in Schools of Nevada has identified the many different reasons for a child to be unsuccessful in school and has implemented programs to service each of those needs. Homelessness, hunger and health are big issues in many schools. CIS created a program that sends home backpacks filled with food for the child and their family so that having a nutritious meal is one last thing to worry about and the kids can focus on school.
CIS has also built two health clinics on school grounds that are open to any child in the Clark County School District, absolutely free of cost. Now parents don’t have to worry about how they are going to afford healthcare, and children who were distracted in school because they were sick, or couldn’t see the blackboard, or had a toothache, are now relieved of that pressure and are free to learn.

Communities in Schools of Nevada also offers a mentoring program called the Fellows Academy in the middle and high schools. CIS, along with school administrators, identifies as-risk youth who may be on the path to dropping out or just not doing well in school, and empowers them to learn so that they are empowered to achieve throughout life.

Children who are hungry or homeless or at-risk in some way have certainly never had the opportunity to experience something as amazing as a week at Camp Galilee. It is our hope that the $16,000 needed to fund the camp can be raised so that these children can participate in this wonderful experience.

Please help CIS reach their goal of ensuring that children in Nevada are given every opportunity so that their first focus can be school and reaching their fullest potential in life. There will be more information at the Diocesan Convention, where CIS Nevada State Director, Louise Helton, will be speaking.

(This article was written by Abby Wagner, Marketing Director for Communities in Schools of Nevada, 702-770-7611. For information about the Nevada Social Concerns Network contact millsr007@aol .com)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Kids Say The Darndest Things

My kids are no longer kids but mature young women. They still say the darndest things though. I was headed back from my weekend visit to St. Mary's/ Winnecucca UMC and called my younger daughter, the California army wife, to check in.

I told her about my time in Winnemucca, but she was amused by the name. "It's named for a famous Paiute Chief," I told her. Evenutally, I learned she thought I had been saying:

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Inevitable Happens At Last

It finally happened. After 19 months, the inevitable. Today, I pulled the diocesan car (still held together by duct tape) into a parking space at the Gold Country Inn in Winnemucca, the space beside a 4 x 4 pick-up with Utah plates and “R E I Drilling” on the side. I parked, opened the door, and stepped squarely into a substantial pile of equine excrement.

There was grace. This morning, while hurriedly dressing to get to McCarran Airport, I considered wearing my usual airport sandals with the Velcro straps. But I reconsidered. “One cannot go to Winnemucca in Velcro sandals,” I thought -- rightly. So I was wearing my boots from Nocona Boot Company in Nocona, Texas – home of best all round rodeo cowboy Larry Mahan. I may be a drugstore cowboy, all hat and no cow, but those boots come in handy.

Now the flashback: Last Saturday, I spent an arduous but productive, exciting, hope-lifting day in Reno with the Strategic Planning Team. They did a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) Analysis of the Diocese, then developed an action plan for evangelism – ways the diocese can help parishes share the gospel in their communities. Good stuff. Great team. Thanks to Darrell Spencer for making it happen.

Then Linda and I drove to Incline Village for the next day’s visit. But there was no room in the Inn anywhere in Nevada near Incline. So we went to King’s Beach. There was only one place with a vacancy and it was nowhere Joseph would have taken Mary. So it was on to Tahoe City, California. Desperate we stopped at a place that was not so much a motel as a group of tourist cabins – Morelatos Lakeshore Resort. The desk clerk was a young lady from Russia. Actually she looked like she was from an early Bond movie. Her name was Olga and she had an accent to match. If I were more of a Sean Connery or even a Pearce Brosnan, she might have called me “James” and we would all be in a lot of trouble. As it was, I was just the old country parson. She told me all about studying public relations in college back home in Russia and how she was here for an advanced program in PR. I told her all about being bishop of Nevada and she gave us a discount. It was a very nice place but there were no lampshades. Incongruous. We spent the evening watching one of our favorite films, Men In Black.

The next day was a landmark occasion. We consecrated the church building at St. Patrick’s. The congregation has been worshiping there several years. But this year they paid off the mortgage so we could consecrate it as holy and wholly unencumbered ground. This frees St. Pat’s to devote half its income to community ministries (following the good example of St. Christopher’s, Boulder City) and become in Fr. Jim Beebe’s words, “the church for others.”

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hope That Has Gotten Me Through My Worst Days

"The pity and love which make men revolt against suffering and evil were implanted in them by their Creator, who must be at least as good as His creatures. The evil in the world is there to be overcome, and it can be overcome. Love is active in the world: and who put it there? One day love will have the irresistible power it deserves to have." -- Hugh Marin, The Faith Of Robert Browning

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Romans 12: 2 "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds."

Our family has been negotiating a lot of change the past couple of years. Moving from the Georgia rainforest to the Mojave Desert was the first shift. Being bishop of a diocese is a world apart from parish priesthood. Linda has gone from a well-settled position directing the legal writing program at Mercer School of Law to teaching Property and Wills, Trusts, and Estates at UNLV. Daughter Emilie changed her life roles from daughter and student to mother and social worker. Daughter Katie went from Georgia student/barista to California army wife. Our heads are still spinning.

It isn’t easy – but I’ll tell you what it is: It’s life! And it’s all exciting! Life moves. It shifts, changes, adapts. In one of my favorite novels, Zorba the Greek, a young accountant responds to the plans of the volatile old miner, Zorba, “But isn’t that a lot of trouble?” Zorba replies, “Trouble? Life is trouble. Only in death is there no trouble.” Zorba didn’t shy away from the trouble of life’s adventure. He embraced it in a spirit we Americans don’t even have a word for – but the French do – joi d’vivre roughly “the joy of life” – not just when it goes smoothly, but delight in the whole roller coaster ride of living.

Jesus was about life. “I came that you might have life and that you might have it more abundantly.” So Jesus was about change. He turned over a lot of tables and raised a lot of eyebrows. He changed water into wine; sinners into saints, illiterate fishermen into globetrotting evangelists. Paul called that transformation. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.”

The Christian life is ongoing transformation, growing “from glory to glory” Scripture says -- “growing into the full stature of Christ.” This is the tension for churches. We have two natures. On one hand, churches are human institutions. Human institutions exist to keep things as they are. They institutionalize the status quo. On the other hand, churches are the earthly dwelling of the Holy Spirit – an irresistible hurricane of change. The Spirit moves in each of us to transform our individual lives. The Spirit moves in the Church to change the Church. The Spirit moves through the Church to change the world.

Our diocesan mission statement says God calls us “to transform our communities.” But are we doing that? I say this in all gentleness and love. I am not sure we are changing the communities around us. I am not sure we are even keeping up with them. The world is vastly different than it was 10 years ago. We are decidedly living in a new century. Is the Church an agent of change today? Or are we racing to catch up? Or are we straggling behind, on our way to becoming a footnote in the history of the 20th Century?

This metaphor that may be silly but it is apt. The children’s action heroes The Transformers are “transformers” in two ways. They change their own shape in order to change the situation. They change into the shape required to confront violence and injustice. Just so, the Church can be an agent of transformation in the world only if we are willing to be transformed ourselves. "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds." When Bishop Wes radically revamped our diocese almost 40 years ago, he was setting something in motion, not setting something in concrete.

Compared to some other dioceses we are doing pretty well. I am grateful for all our success. But God does not call us to “do pretty well.” God calls us to work miracles.” If “the power of God working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine,” I wonder if we are allowing God to do all that God wants in us. If we were, we’d see more young adults finding God with us, we’d be sending more mosquito nets to Tanzania, and we would be graduating more than 44% of Nevada’s children from high school.

God calls us to be transformed again so that we can be God’s change agents in Nevada today. What does that transformation look like? I honestly don’t know. All I know is that if we want to follow Christ in this new century, to carry the Gospel into this new century, to be God’s change agents – God’s transformers -- in Nevada, we have to prayerfully rethink everything. We are not here to enshrine memories. We are here to connect people to Jesus by any means necessary.

I am reading a remarkable series of books collectively called Transformations: The Church of the 21st Century. Individual titles:

Transforming Congregations
Transforming Disciple
Transforming Stewardship
Transforming Evangelism
Transforming Vocations

These books, available from Church Publishing Co., offer ways to rethink how to be Church today. All our leaders -- lay and clergy -- would do well to read, mark, and inwardly digest this series. We would do well to meet and discuss them. They are not the answer, but they could spark us to discover our own creative action for the gospel.

Two articles in the upcoming Desert Spirit offer important possibilities for congregational renewal. The first is lifelong Christian formation. General Convention just endorsed the Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation. We do not send soldiers into battle without training or untrained firefighters into a fire. We cannot continue sending Christians into the world without training. Nevada Episcopalians need to know more Scripture, more theology, more church history, and more about our liturgy if they are going to share the faith in a secular society. Our congregations will soon have the opportunity to become learning communities, equipping all our members for daily life and Christian mission.

The other opportunity for change is in our Christian practice. We already do good community ministry, mostly for the homeless and the imprisoned. Today we have a new opportunity to serve children at risk in our communities. This is the most powerfully transformative kind of service we can do. And it is the kind of service that has the most power to transform us. When Louise Helton of Communities in Schools addressed our deacons this summer, there was not a dry eye in the room. We felt the call of Christ to share his love with Nevada’s children, just to give them a chance in life. We felt the power of this ministry to humanize our own lives.

I mention these two new opportunities together because transformation happens by walking forward – left, right, left right. It has a certain yin/yang balance of learning and doing, theoria and praxis, inreach and outreach, renewal and apostolate. It takes both, in balance, for healthy growth.

I cannot imagine all the new songs God will invite us to sing. I cannot imagine all the new things God will do for us, with us, and through us. But I know this much about God’s plan for us: It is life, abundant life.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Where To Get Your Car Fixed In Fallon

The story actually began last Saturday while we were driving the diocesan chariot from Carson City to Tahoe for the Frensdorff Lodge dedication. A thin strip of metal running from bottom to top along the driver’s side edge of the windshield separated slightly from the glass and frame. A long rubber string shot out from beneath the strip of metal. It began flagellating the driver’s side window like a guilt-ridden monk with impure thoughts.
On our way back to Carson, the metal separated further. The rubber flagellant was going berserk by the time we got down the hill. Fortunately, I did not live in Georgia for 18 years without learning what to do in such a situation. We went straight to Raley’s for duct tape. A bit of tape and all was well the rest of the weekend.
But today, at the highway speeds of I-80, on the way from Reno to Fallon, the tape broke loose. By the time we could get to the Pilot Travel Center in Fernley, the metal strip fell plumb off. But I knew what to do. More duct tape. Multiple long cross splices like debriding an incision. 3 long strips from the base of the windshield up onto the roof. Then more cross strips to hold it all in place. It worked like a charm all the way to Fallon.
There I attended a hard but productive meeting, got in the car at 4:00 p.m. and inexplicably but providentially turned on my lights. A senior citizen on a bicycle swerved over beside my still stationary car to tell me I had a headlight out.
I located the nearest garage – which shall remain nameless – and arrived there at 4:30 only to be told all the mechanics had gone home for the day, and no one in Fallon would be willing to help. But, the dour cashier was kind. She called blessed Dave’s Automotive and said, “You wouldn’t be able to fix a headlight would you? That’s what I thought.” But the person on the other end of the line wouldn’t let her off that easy. They wanted to see the headlight, even though they were closing at 5:00.
It was 4:40 when I got to Dave’s. Their cashier Vicki promptly took my keys and said, “We’ll see what we can do.” A bulb would have been easy, but it required a part which came from a parts store right beside the first garage I tried – the one which shall remain nameless. Vicki ordered the part at 4:55 and Ross the tall, raw boned, rough hewn mechanic waited outside in the sun for the delivery. I went outside and waited with Ross. We had a good talk. He told me about his family in Fallon and Chico, and asked me what I do. I explained my peculiar vocation. Eventually, the part arrived – considerably later than it should have. There was a glitch at the auto parts store.
At 5:20 Vicki wrote out my bill, $30.12. So, if you ever need help with your car in Fallon, Nevada, don’t waste time elsewhere. Go straight to Dave’s Automotive in the big blue building next to the bigger blue building which is the Goodyear Tire Store. It’s on the street that is really Hy 50 on the East Side of town. They are a good outfit.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ministry In Nevada: Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow

Last Saturday was a lovely homecoming at the shore of Lake Tahoe. We dedicated the Frensdorff Lodge before a crowd of over 100 people, including Wes's family and the staff and colleagues who serve with him here in that golden age of Nevada ministy. We heard warm reminiscences of Bishop Wes and Dee. It was an honor and a joy to be with all that gathered family of faith. This is what Church really is. You won't find the Church in rules or dogmas. Church is the Holy Spirit incarnate in human lives like these.

Then it was off to St. Peter's, Carson City to ordain Kim Morgan and Mike Patteson to the transitional diaconate. What a head snap -- from Nevada's past to Nevada's future! Traditon -- traditio -- handing on. The saga continues. Praise God.

The next morning was all about ministry here and now. We had a liturgical extravaganza at St. Peter's with a raft of confirmations and receptions, plus a baby blessing. St. Peter's not only does exciting, innovative liturgy -- the best educational programs this side of Trinity, Wall Street -- and upscale fellowship -- St. Peter's does first rate creative ministry in the community. Circles of Support doesn't just put bandaids on poverty; it helps people break free of poverty's hold. And St. Peter's is a leader in Food For Thought. They feed low income students in their public school. This is precisely the kind of partnership with schools endorsed by General Convention, the kind of partnership we are seeing develop around the diocese. My heart is full with joy at what the good people of St. Peter's are doing, thanks to God, and also thanks to the leadership of Fr. Jeff Paul who has been God's agent of change in Carson City.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Pastoral Letter To Nevada Episcopalians

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the 76th Convention of the Episcopal Church is drawing to a close. It has been a benchmark in our common life, the beginning of an exciting new stage in our mission. So many things were accomplished.

Among the most important were: The adoption of the Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation. This charter gives structure and encouragement for our efforts in the Frensdorff School. It marks the Christian life as one of ongoing learning and commits the church to being a learning community.

We endorsed parish partnerships with local schools. Nevada’s developing partnership with Communities in Schools puts us on this track already. It is not acceptable that only 44% of our Nevada children graduate from high school. We can do better.

Several bold steps were taken to strengthen evangelism. The most important for Nevada is a process for training and licensing lay evangelists. I hope every Nevada congregation will have a licensed lay evangelist soon and that they will form a dynamic network for sharing the gospel of Jesus with our neighbors.

We formed a Provincial Partnership with the Church in Brazil, set up a plan for shared mission projects with Anglican churches in the Americas, and strengthened the program of companion diocese relationships. Nevada presently does not have such a relationship but we are negotiating a partnership with the Diocese of Santiago in the Philippines. This is a more important way of being a Communion than formal mechanisms and institutional structures that do not have the human ties of diocese to diocese and parish to parish bonds.

We provided pensions for lay employees, reduced our health insurance costs, reformed the disciplinary process, and passed a budget against all odds.

We had some opportunities to depart from the traditional faith of the church. There were resolutions deleting the word “virgin” from descriptions of Mary in our prayers and authorizing alternative forms of the Baptismal Covenant. We did not do these things. The bishops and deputies were emphatically orthodox.

But none of this, or the many other important and constructive things we did at Convention, will capture the headlines. The journalists are exclusively interested in our actions dealing with the inclusion of partnered gay and lesbian couples in the life of the Church. We passed two such resolutions. I voted for both of them. Some of you may think we went too far. Others may think we did not go far enough. That is perfectly ok. As Episcopalians, we are free to hold different beliefs about issues of doctrine. I am not trying to convince you that we were right. But I do want you to know and to understand what we did and what we did not do.

Some people want to interpret the resolutions one way; some, another. There is some ambiguity that is open to interpretation. We are after all Anglicans and that’s how Anglicans talk. But there are reasonable limits on fair interpretation. I want to tell you how I see these resolutions. You may want them to be a great step forward. I do not want you to be disappointed if they do not live up to raised expectations. You may think they are the worst thing we’ve done ever. I do not want you to be more distressed than necessary. These are definitely resolutions intended to affirm and include gay and lesbian persons, but I do not believe they are as great a change as they appear in the newspapers, let alone the blogs. So let me tell you about these two resolutions.

The resolution pertaining to ordination begins with an extensive statement of our commitment to the Anglican Communion. That takes up at least half the resolution. It then says two more things: First, it acknowledges that God has in the past called partnered gay and lesbian persons into all of the orders of ministry, and that they have served us faithfully. Second, it acknowledges that God may call such persons in the future and we do our discernment of calls in accordance with the canons of our church.

How does this change things? With regard to the ministries of laity, priests, and deacons, not at all. The possible change would be about bishops. But just how much of a change is there for potential bishops? Less than the newspapers suggest. In 2006, the General Convention asked those involved in calling bishops to use “restraint” in consecrating bishops whose “manner of life” might be contrary to the values of other parts of the Anglican Communion. I am paraphrasing. “Manner of life” was understood to mean partnered gay bishops. The consecration of such persons was not banned. The 2006 Resolution was a call for restraint as part of the discernment.

Resolutions to repeal that restraint policy were considered and rejected before ever reaching the floor of Convention. The new resolution does not explicitly repeal the call for restraint. It merely says that we do our discernment process in accordance with our own canons, as we have always done. Gay and lesbian people were not excluded from the discernment process, even for the episcopacy, even after 2006. Some journalists have portrayed the situation as if gay and lesbian persons were excluded from the discernment process before and now the gates have been thrown open. For better or worse, the shift in this resolution is not so dramatic.

The second resolution on same sex relationships also says two things: The first part is purely pastoral. Every resolution of the Episcopal Church mentioning homosexual persons since the early 1980’s has called upon the clergy to offer them pastoral care. The duty to afford pastoral care to gay and lesbian persons has been affirmed by the Lambeth Conference, the Windsor Report, and the Primates of the 39 Anglican Provinces. Every one of our clergy has taken vows to extend such care to “all” our people. So the principle is well established.

This Resolution notes that there has been a recent wave of law making and law changing concerning these relationships –some laws allowing gay marriage, some laws allowing civil unions, and other laws banning such unions. This new legal situation presents new pastoral challenges to which we must respond. The resolution says bishops “may” – not “must” but “may” – offer a “pastorally generous response.” What that means depends on the situation, the context, and the judgment of the bishop. The New York Times says it means blessing civil unions. But I never heard any bishop, liberal or conservative, define it that way. It could mean a special ritual or a prayer or a phone call. It’s up to the bishop. Pastoral generosity is not defined.

The second part of the resolution deals with developing theological and liturgical resources for same sex unions. There was no decision to authorize gay marriage or bless same sex unions. We worked with the language of the Resolution the best we could to make it clear that there is not a decision on that hard question. This Resolution requests the Liturgy and Music Commission to compile and develop theological and liturgical resources so that if and when we consider that issue in the future, we will have some examples to look at.

In 2006, we passed a resolution calling for restraint in “authorizing the blessing of same sex unions” until there has been time for an international conversation on the issue. We have exercised restraint for three years and will continue to exercise restraint while that conversation continues. That does not mean no one anywhere will ever bless a same sex union. The Primates have recognized some leeway for conscience in these matters. Well before General Convention, I assured our clergy that no one in Nevada would be disciplined for following their conscience on this question. That is still the case. The new resolution calls for pastoral generosity on the part of bishops. I hope I was already pastorally generous to all of our people and will try to always be so.

I hope and pray that we will respect each other’s feelings and values in these matters. We are called to love one another, not to agree with one another. In the Diocese of Nevada, we are exceptional at knowing where we stand and letting our neighbor do likewise. But not everyone is so mature. There may well be dissension in other dioceses and internationally. While this Convention was by a county mile the most harmonious Episcopal gathering in recent memory, we usually have some post-Convention uproar. So I ask you to hold the entire Anglican Communion in prayer as we come to terms with the aftermath of General Convention. Please pray also for one another and for the success of our new mission and ministry ventures for the sake of the gospel of Jesus here in Nevada.

May God bless you richly and keep you in holy peace.

Dan Edwards
Tenth Bishop of Nevada
This 15th Day of July, 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Live From Anaheim VI

GLBT INCLUSION: Our Indaba Group met today for another couple of hours and did some serious negotiating over language. The end result was substantively similar to the original proposal but we adjusted the language to make it less challenging for those who were most uncomfortable with the resoltion. The substance is two fairly moderate points:

1. All the recent civil law changes in various jurisdictions create a new pastoral situation. The church is already committed to providing pastoral response to gay and lesbian people. So how do we respond to this new situation? Answer: Bishops are authorized to make “a generous pastoral response.” What that means depends on the situation and the judgment of the Bishop.

2. We asked the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to compile and develop theological and liturgical resources for same sex unions to be presented to the next Convention.

The Indaba Group went to some effort to rephrase this language to clarify that same sex blessings are not a conclusion we have reached, just a possibility we may consider in the future. If we do consider that action, we will have an example to look at. As one advocate for blessing same sex unions observed, there are a lot of liturgies out there, but there is no quality control and they lack an agreed upon theological basis. So it needs work before we can even think intelligently about the question. We tried to say that. But when the substitute resolution got to the floor of HOB, there were further refinements meant to emphasize that this is not a done deal. We are studying and developing possible rituals that may be considered in the future. When the dust settled, we passed the substitute Resolution by a vote of 104 to 30 to 2 – even more decisively than we had passed the resolution on ordination.

Bishop Gene Robinson emphasized: The caveat here is not to make more or less of the resolution than it really says. You recall I prophesied that some would misread D 025 (the ordination resolution). Well the very next day the headline of Episcopal Life’s daily newspaper covering the Convention was an inflammatory misreading of the resolution – sounding as if we had repealed B 033, the restraint resolution. Bishop Katharine apologized on behalf of the Communications Office responsible for that unfortunate spin.

We have acted in good faith, with forbearance, restraint, moderation, and generosity. But there will be reactivity in some quarters and there will be spin. In order to keep our feet on the ground and our hearts true to the faith, I hope we can share throughout the church the spirit of mutual caring we experienced in the Indaba process. Even those who voted against the Resolution said the process had been holy and they were committed to our continuing relationship.

BUDGET: The budget will be passed tomorrow. We just saw it today. The cuts are deep. A lot of folks have lost their jobs. However, Domestic Missionary Partnership, which funds some of our grants was cut by only 20%. I had feared it might be zeroed out. Some ethnic ministries, including Latino ministries, got increases that may actually help us. At present, my brain is mush so I cannot sort this out just yet. A few points of interest: The asking formula will be reduced to help small dioceses. Currently the first $100,000 of the budget is not subject to assessment. That will go up to $120,000. The assessment rate will be reduced by 1% in 2011, and another 1% in 2012. Convention will be shortened by 2 days. They will not publish the blue book (journal of resolutions and reports) in hard copy, just on line. Most committee meeting will be done on line instead of face to face in order to save money.

NEW LITURGIES: We gave final approval to all 4 of the existing volumes of Enriching Our Worship. The most interesting thing for us is the EOW liturgy for installing a new rector. The EOW version clearly grounds the rector’s ministry in the Ministry of All Baptized (MOAB) so it may help to correct the general misunderstanding of their ministry that we struggle with in Nevada. We also approved the trial use of EOW 5 which is for child death and related pastoral situations. And we authorized beginning the study process for a new Episcopal Hymnal.

LAY EVANGELISTS: We created a canon for licensing trained lay evangelists. This will help our Ministry Development Commission and Commission On Ministry to introduce this lay ministry in our parishes. I hope every parish will have a licensed lay evangelist as soon as possible. We can begin commissioning lay evangelists right away. Then we will develop the training and licensing process guided by the new canon.
HIV/AIDS CURRICULIUM: We adopted training and education materials for HIV/AIDS prevention.

THURGOOD MARSHALL: We added to the liturgical calendar a commemoration date for Thurgood Marshall, a devout Episcopalian, the NAACP attorney in Brown v. Board of Education, Attorney General of the United States, and the first African American Justice on the United States Supreme Court.

In the midst of all this legislative work, we had another fantastic Eucharist today. Bishop Steven Charleston preached a passionate call to an environmental gospel. There was a great jazz musical setting for the liturgy. Linda is singing in the Convention choir. My friend and classmate Bishop Mary Gray Reeves, celebrated, alternating English and Spanish. Tonight we went to L A Nights, an emergent church artsy worship service with evangelist Brian McClaren, author of many good books including A Generous Orthodoxy. And now to all a good night.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Live From Anaheim V.5

The proposal on same sex unions hit an emotional gridlock today expressed as a parliamentary tangle. Tonight a self-selected group of 30 bishops met from 9 to 11 p.m. in the Indaba Group style we learned at Lambeth. We told our stories, shared hopes and fears, described the communities in which we minister. We have just closed with prayer and gone to our rooms to pray alone and "sleep on it" quite literally, keeping an eye on our dreams.

We will gather again and resume the process tomorrow at 7 a.m. and continue until 9:15, when we have to go back into legislative session. I don't know what will happen on the floor of the House of Bishops, but we grew much closer tonight. We were left, right, and center -- north, south, east, and west -- older and younger -- veterans and rookies. All those lines were crossed to form personal bonds. It doesn't mean we will vote the same. But it does mean our votes will not break our commitment to each other in Christ.

Live From Anaheim V

GLBT INCLUSION: I have been hoping there would be Inclusion Resolutions I could support. In that respect D 025 was a blessing. It is a mostly well-crafted resolution affirming our commitment to the Anglican Communion and affirming the ministry of gay and lesbian people in all orders of ministry. I could readily endorse those principles especially when held together in the same resolution. After passing the House of Deputies by a margin of about 2 to 1, it passed the House of Bishops by a vote of 99-45-2. I was pleased to be voting along with Bishop Katharine in support of this Resolution. I was also pleased to see the provisional bishops for San Joachim, Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, and Quincy support it. That’s the good news.

The down side is that any resolutions we pass (or reject for that matter) are open to interpretation. D 025 is no exception. This resolution will be interpreted by some in divisive ways that will wound the Church and impair our mission. There will be a price to be paid in some of our other dioceses, in our international relationships, and in Anglican churches in developing nations. But the Resolution simply acknowledges what we have already discerned and affirms that we will continue discerning calls to ministry following our own canons. I feel we have done the right thing. Now it is time to pray and exercise forbearance with one another as we proceed with Christ’s mission.

Today we took up a resolution to study and develop rites for same sex unions to be formally considered in 2012. The Liturgy and Music Commission and Theology Committee would be acting in parallel and in communication. I support this more readily than I supported D 025 – but then came the amendments and amendments of amendments. The resolution is currently caught up in a parliamentary tangle. Some folks think it doesn’t go far enough fast enough, but their efforts to amend it at this point could torpedo the whole thing. I hope we can get it worked out to the satisfaction of all.

COMMUNITIES IN SCHOOLS: We have just passed a resolution encouraging parishes to form partnerships with local public schools to insure the education and well being of children in our communities. This is what Nevada has already begun this year through our developing partnership with Communities in Schools. It is great to have the whole church getting behind our mission and to know we are ahead of the curve. BTW, I did not introduce the resolution. It is out of New York. But I did speak in support.

LIFE LONG CHRISTIAN FORMATION: We passed the Charter for Life Long Christian Formation. This is precisely what our Ministry Development Commission and the Frensdorff School for Christian Formation are about. The new Charter will give them a boost. It calls for each diocese to develop a plan for lifelong Christian education. Again, it’s good to see Nevada just ahead of the curve.

5 MARKS OF MISSION: We endorsed the 5 Marks of Mission articulated by the Anglican Consultative Council: Proclaiming the gospel; baptizing and forming new Christians; acts of mercy; social justice advocacy, and sustaining the environment.

LATINO EVANGELISM: We asked for the allocation $3.5 million for Latino evangelism, with a goal to increase the number of Latino congregations by 15% in the next three years and to increase attendance in existing Latino congregations by 30%. We voted to fund Spanish language curricula for church camps and for use in Province 9 (our largely Spanish speaking dioceses outside the US). Todos Los Santos in Las Vegas is ahead of the Latino ministries curve but Nevada as a whole is not. I plan to ask for seed money from the diocese to grow our Latino ministries next year, and then explore other funding options to make this a major priority in Nevada for the following years.

COMPANION RELATIONSHIPS: We revised the curriculum of College for Bishops to help new bishops develop international companion relationships such as the one Nevada is working on with the Diocese of Santiago, Philippines. 20 Provinces around the world have sent visitors to this convention. 13 of the visitors are the Primates of their Province. We formed a Companion Province relationship with Brazil, which is particularly good because Brazil will support us in the wake of the other decisions made here. And we endorsed common mission projects by Anglican Churches in the Americas. So we should have more chances to work together with fellow Anglicans in the Western Hemisphere.

NATIVE MINISTRIES: We endorsed a program for domestic poverty with a focus on community development projects in Native communities. We also endorsed a plan to protect Indigenous burial sites.

HEALTH INSURANCE FOR CHURCH EMPLOYEES: A canon was passed requiring all Dioceses to participate in the Medical Trust of the Episcopal Church. Nevada already participates so this will reduce our premiums a bit in the near future and a great deal in the long run. It is a particular boon to small dioceses. We will be asking parishes to study and discuss health care issues on the United States.

DISCIPLINARY CANONS: Title IV, the canon law for disciplining clerical miscreants, has been in the process of revision since the year 2,000. A completed new Title IV was submitted in 2006 and shot down. Now, after 9 years of work, we have it back, new and improved. This time it passed.

EVANGELISM: Multiple evangelism resolutions passed including covenant partnerships with other mainline denominations; strategies for evangelism, and an innovators network.

Along the way, we were greeted today by the interfaith clergy of Los Angeles. A male trio sang a blesssing for us -- a Christian in English, a Muslim in Arabic, and a Jew in Hebrew -- all singing together. Yesterday we had a great children's choir from the Bronx offering an African folk song and folk dance. I enjoyed a dinner with my bishop schoolmates (class of 08) last night. It was good to have fellowship with my friends after a long hard day of legislation.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Live From Anaheim IV.5

Addendum to post earlier today:

I forgot to mention a high point of the Eucharist today was Elisabeth von Trapp singing Peace Perfect Peace during Communion. A low point is that two bishops and one lay person were taken from the congregation to the hospital. All are doing fine.

I have gotten some questions over recent weeks about the Theology Committee's study on same sex relationships. I have not known much about it so I have not been able to provide much information. I know a little more now.

The study of same sex relationships from a theological perspective was initiated by the House of Bishops in March, 2008. Surprising it took us this long to begin sorting out the underlying doctrinal issues. This study in our church is running parallel to similar studies being done in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. This is the international study and conversation we did not have prior to 2003.

One popular misconception is that there is no GLBT representation on the Committee. There are actually two homosexual theologians on the committee, both partnered, and in fact married to their partners. One, I am told, has written extensivly on the issues before the committee. The other I know well and respect deeply. She is a noted feminist Biblical scholar and has fought aggressively for GLBT inclusion.

While gathering the different views expressed in the Church is an initial part of their process, the Committee is working toward resolution. Of course, in the Anglican tradtion, our resolutions tend to remain rather open-ended as revelation and discernment never end. But the Committee does aspire to some statement, not just a compendium of opinions.

The Committee is a bit behind schedule, but there has never been a plan or expectation for a final report this soon. The fact that their work is unfinished does not mean nothing can be done about liturgy until the theology is fixed. But some theological clarification would be helpful in the view of some. It is a signficant factor, but not a decisive factor standing alone.

Live From Lambeth IV

The first issue for Stewardship Committee yesterday was a Resolution calling on all Episcopalians to contribute 80 cents per year to foreign missions. This would double the number of missionaries in the field. This is of special interest to Nevada as one of our young adults is a candidate for the Young Adult Service Corps. Our closing hymn in Eucharist today was “Publish Glad Tidings.” The resolution passed and will go on to the floor.

The House of Bishops (HOB) had passed and then rescinded the Resolution for Mission Funding. This is akin to a capital campaign. It is a 6-year drive to raise money for mission through large gifts. We all know it needs doing, but it has already begun and there is much dissatisfaction with the way it is being done. So Stewardship (mostly Bishop Mathes of San Diego) reworked the Resolution to call for backing up and getting it right before going forward. With those changes, the Resolution readily passed the Committee and then passed HOB with no opposition and only one abstention. This would fund things like new church plants in dioceses who don’t have the resources on their own. That would be us.

Yesterday’s HOB legislative session began with presentations from two youth delegates. They were an inspiration. The first thing that impressed me is that they did not repeat what we so often hear about youth representation on committees – valid but not exciting -- Instead it was a call for youth evangelism. They wanted to connect other youth to Jesus. One youth delegate said “we have gone from being fishers of men to keepers of the aquarium.” He wasn’t pushing for a place at the tables where not much happens anyway. He wanted billboards and signs in malls. They also pushed support by bishops and dioceses for Episcopal Youth Event, Provincial Youth Event (next year in Salt Lake), Happening, and New Beginnings.

HOB then moved on to deal with about 500,000 resolutions. High points: We endorsed the principles of the Earth Charter (broader principles but less specific action than Genesis Covenant) to be supported by Biblical and theological arguments. We called for major changes in immigration enforcement to respect human rights and treat people (especially children) decently. We called for a suspension of military aid to the Philippines if necessary to stop the extra-judicial killings and disappearances. And we addressed multiple social justice issues. This may sound like feel good resolutions that have little effect. However, the Episcopal Church acts on these resolutions through advocacy by the Office on Governmental Relations, Episcopal Public Policy Network, and Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation. The actual influence of these representatives depends on active advocacy support from the grass roots. The key to that support is – in a word – deacons. We need more deacons actively organizing the laity to speak out for justice to make the work done here amount to something.

We had an awe-inspiring Eucharist this morning complete with a large group of children paying Polynesian drums and cymbals; liturgical dancers; a gospel choir, and a cast of hundreds. Bishop Katharine preached and celebrated, with Bishops Griswold and Browning concelebrating. While I march around in rochet and chimere, Linda is in the choir contributing to the spirit of worship.

Last night, we had dinner with the General Seminary folks. I sat next to some wonderful retired clergy and spouses who told me about chaplaincy to retired clergy. That’s an important ministry I knew nothing about. I hope we can work on that in Nevada.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Time and Discernment: Abiding

I am up at 2:30 a.m. with ecclesiastical insomnia. I am reading Rabbi Jesus to help me remember what I am doing here. While taking a break from my book, I came across this reflection on discernment sent to me by the Rev. Mary Bredlau of Grace in the Desert. I found it helpful and wanted to pass it on. Of course, none of us in General Convention can afford to concern ourselves with only a few issues. We have to take it all to heart. But the idea about abiding in relationships applies here, and the idea about discernment of callings is generally essential to a servant life. So I wanted to share it:

On staying with what we are called to do, not just plunging into everything we are asked to do.
Practice Integrity [Practicing Spirituality with Quakers]
Fidelity costs energy and time, maybe a lifetime. Every firm yes we say requires many firm nos. After Quaker Meeting one Sunday I was talking with the man who visited prisoners in jail, when a young woman approached, breathless with excitement, to ask if he would join the board of a new peace group she was organizing. In a rush of words, she told him why the cause was crucial, why the time was ripe, why she absolutely needed his leadership. Knowing this man's sympathies, I figured he would agree to serve. But after listening to her plea, he gazed at her soberly for a moment, then said, "That is certainly a vital concern, worthy of all your passion. But it is not my concern." The challenge for all of us is to find those few causes which are peculiarly our own, those to which we are clearly called, and then to embrace them wholeheartedly.
If your goal is to find a center, a focus, a gathering place within your life, then you would do well to practice fidelity. By slowing down, abiding in relationships, staying in place, remaining faithful to a calling, we create the conditions for paying attention, for discovering depths, for finding a purpose and a pattern in our days. Fidelity enables us to orient ourselves, to know with some confidence where we are. It provides continuity, enabling us to see how things change, what is endangered, what persists. It keeps us from drifting, keeps us from hurrying through our days. "The reason why we don't take time is a feeling that we have to keep moving," says Thomas Merton. If we could only be still and look about, we'd realize that we already "have what we seek. We don't have to rush after it. It was there all the time, and if we give it time, it will make itself known to us." — Scott Russell Sanders in Hunting For Hope

Friday, July 10, 2009

Live From Anaheim III

It was a brain numbing soul draining day of parliamentary procedure in the House of Bishops. In the midst of it, good was done – but I am exhausted. Here are some highlights.

Retired Presiding Bishops Edmund Browning and Frank Griswold spoke briefly. I was particularly struck by something Bishop Griswold said: Bishops stay around for convention after convention, knowing that what is not done this time may yet be done next time. Deputies are elected for only one convention at a time. So bishops are inherently inclined to take a long view while deputies have more of a sense of urgency. He said the tension between those two perspectives is helpful and healthy. Sounds right to me.

We voted to reduce church committee meeting expenses by 50% and allocate the savings to mission such as Millennium Development Goals. And we adopted the Genesis Covenant to reduce our carbon footprint by 50% in the coming five years. Cutting down on travel is also a way to reduce carbon footprint. Much has been said about reducing the length and costs of national and diocesan conventions. We also passed the Domestic Poverty Initiative, a project to alleviate domestic poverty, particularly focused on Native communities.

We adopted Holy Women and Holy Men, a substitute for Lesser Feasts and Fasts, on a trial basis – but only after a lot of parliamentary rigmarole. Someone moved to replace the Rite I (Elizabethan English) collect with Spanish; someone moved to amend that motion to add French. Spanish speaking bishops rose up in defense of Elizabethan English. In the end, it passed as is for a 3 year trial with the understanding all our liturgical texts are actually printed in different books with different languages. I personally have a bit of a problem with parts of the book, like the addition of musicians (Bach, Handel, and Purcell) but no visual artists (like El Greco, Caravagio, and Fra Angelico). Also no poets like Tennyson, Eliot, and Auden (but they did add C. S. Lewis but not J. R. R. Tolkein). But I didn’t raise the issue, knowing it would eventually lead to movies and then it there would be no stopping it.

More good news: we approved full communion with the Moravian Church, then stood and sang the doxology in celebration. The HOB also requested $75,000 for camps like Camp Spirit for children of inmates. But the budget crunch may make that more of a nice wish than a reality.

Those were the high points. There were also low points. Lots of word smithing and nit picking. Some good proposals, like the one for licensing lay evangelists, sent back to committee. A number of bright gems gleamed in the dross of tedium.

At the end, we learned that there is a flap in the House of Deputies being stirred up by a deputy from Ecuador Central who is apparently misrepresenting how their new bishop was selected. It is a complicated and sad story going back to the removal of their bishop a few years ago for corruption. The current Bishop, Wilfrido Ramos, has achieved great healing. But wounds remain from the former bishop and they made the process of choosing a new bishop problematic. My last parish had a companion parish in Ecuador Central in the bad old days. So this is a familiar story to me. It would be sad to see Ecuador Central derailed by this. Pray for Ecuador Central.

Tonight Linda and I went to a Program, Budget, and Finance Committee meeting on the financial distress facing the Episcopal Church in coming years. We participated as best we could, being as patient as we could with dioceses that give 2% of their budget while Nevada gives its full 21% assessment. At last, I made a short speech telling the group that Nevada is one of the hardest hit states in the nation when it comes to this recession, but our diocesan income is up; and we are one of the poorest dioceses in the Episcopal Church, but we give our 21%. It’s a spiritual thing. I didn’t say “it’s a moral thing” – but it is. And I feel privileged to be in a diocese that does the right thing, not the easy thing. That’s the measure of character.

Book Recommendation

I awoke this morning chuckling over the wit of a book philosophically inclined Christians would love -- There Is A God by Anthony Flew. A great little book.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Live From Anaheim II

There are so many things going on here all the time. It's hard to keep up and harder still to tell a coherent story of it.

The work of the Stewardship and Develoment Committee goes on -- day after day. We have dealt with a wide variety of issues: the Genesis Covenant; Millennium Development Goals; accommodations for persons wih disabilities; humane treatment of farm animals; the funding of a major develoment project at 815; strategic planning; etc. After some struggle, the issues have been dealt with thoughtfully and come to postitive results.

The House of Bishops (HOB ) has passed most of our work. They adopted the Genesis Covenant following the lead of Olympia and Nevada. HOB requested the reinstatement of funding for Millennium Development Goals -- funding had been entirely cut due to the financial crisis -- and actually increased funding to 1% of the 815 budget. All the national money will go to Nets For Life (mosquito nets) which is fine with me but I hope our diocese and parishes can direct some money to micro credits. I am learning patience with the process.

Our two Eucharists have been holy and inspiring. Bishop Katharine preached yesterday; Archbishop Rowan Williams preached today; Bishop John Bruno (LA) celebrated in Spanish.

Bishop Katharine and Archbishop Williams have both been appealing for unity and restraint -- but they have done so in markedly restrained ways. I dont' think anyone could say this time that there is any undue pressure. But as primates whose role in the Church is to maintain unity, they could not do otherwise than try to hold us together. They remind us of our essential unity in Christ despite our differences and that we need each other.

Yesterday evening, Archbishop Williams gave a program on Faithfulness in the Global Economic Crisis. He treated our financial situation as an occasion for spiritual converstion with implications for social justice and environmental responsibility.

Linda and I attended a late night meeting of the Deputies of Color last night. They addressed issues of shared concern calling for mutual support. It was good to see such diversity and such recognition of commonality. It was an honor and a privilege to be their guest. Tonight we had dinner with the Nevada deputation (plus visitors, ECW, etc.) and the deputation from Navajoland honoring our historic and continuing ties.

This morning, the deputations met together to practice Public Narrative -- story telling leading to a sense of mission. This afternoon, the House of Deputies began their open discussion of B033 -- the 2006 moratorium resolution on same sex blessings, openly gay bishops, and jurisdictional incursions. The House of Bishops will have a parallel discussion soon. We are working on some way to share the fruit of those discussions between the two houses before voting on specific resolutions begins.

As we approach these hard issues, I am struck by how different the situation is from just a few months ago. The Primates have demonstrated a marked change in attitude since Lambeth. They still appeal for the moratoria for awhile longer but acknowledge that some people of good faith may be bound by conscience to violate them -- which does not solve our issues but it does make the moratoria considerably less oppressive than before. The Anlgican Consultative Council has not pushed for the adoption of the international Anglican Covenant at this time -- as we all had expected them to do -- though they still appeal for us to continue the moratoria and the process of discussing the Covenant. The new President of the Anglican Consultative Council is my friend Bishop Jame Tengatenga of Mulawi, a brilliant, compassionate, open minded man.

Many of the more hard line bishops in other nations are on the verge of retirement and the younger bishops are more open to constructive dialogue. We are now hearing from GLBT Anglicans in other nations who need us to remain in relationship with their churches. These voices were not part of our discussion prior to Lambeth. Attitudes are shifting in developing nations, as we saw in the recent reversal of anti-gay laws in India.

In Nevada, I sense that we take these issues seriously but it is not a crisis. Thanks to the conscience clause in the last primate's communique, clergy in Nevada are now free to make their own discernment on this issue. That is not the same as an offically authorized rite. Some beleive that the action of several states in legalizing gay marriage -- in Nevada, legalizing civil unions -- calls for a new liturgical response. Others believe our liturgy should be grounded in our theology instead of tracking secular law. The theology committtee will be issuing its report next year. I anticipate that will very likely lead to a liturgical response.

The shifts that have happened, the shifts that are happening, and the shifts that are about to happen all bear on our deliberations. But there is much discussion and deliberation yet to do. We have a number of resolutions before us, but they are apt to be amended considerably before coming to a vote.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Live From Anheim I

After an uneventful drive to Anaheim, it has been good to see people -- good to see Nevadans and good to see freinds from around the Church gathered here. Last night the Province 8 people gathered; then Linda and I went to a Native Ministries reception at a nearby Church, but were too late for the main action.

I spent most of today working with the Stewardship & Development Committee. I am not very patient with committee process. We spent a long time working on process this morning, then heard a lot of heartfelt testimony tonight -- particularly about Millennium Development Goals and offering support to persons with disabilities who are sent to conventions, etc. as church reprtesentatives. We readily passed a resolution to support a development office for the Church. However, the MDG resolution is on hold for redrafting and the Persons With Disabilities resolution has been defeated as presented but may come back in a redraft. As I say, I lack pateience with such things. These do not seem to me to be matters for nitpicking. But maybe they only look like nits to me.

In the afternoon, we heard inspiring opening addresses by Bishop Katharine and the President of the House of Deputies. We then got an introduction to the Public Narrative Process by the professor at the Kennedy School of Government (Harvard) who first developed it. We will be doing Public Narrative conversations during our time here. The idea is to link our stories to our mission.

I do have to say there is something surreal about a church convention so near Disney Land -- you can see the fireworks each night at 9:30 -- and beginning on the day of the Michael Jackson memorial. But who am I to say such a thing? I get my mail in Las Vegas.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Southerners In Camp; Deacon In Elko; Clarinet In Synagogue

Yesterday, I struck out from Camp Galilee much impressed with their progress. Aside from the spectacular growth in attendance, I was taken with where the kids and the counsellors came from. We had a good representation of children from Bullhead City, Boulder City, and Parhump, plus some representation from Ephiphany in Henderson. I am absolutely convinced "the space between us" is more in our hearts than in our land. The churches that are intentional about youth and children connecting across parish lines will make it happen. People travel from far away to spend time at Tahoe. They come from quite far and pay much more money. Time and money are not our issue. It's a spiritual thing.

I am deeply grateful to the good people of Boulder City, Bullhead City, and Pahrump for showing the rest of us what we can do if we have the will to do it.

This morning Ken Jewell was ordained at St. Paul's, Elko. Fantastic service. Deacons from Reno, Tahoe/Carson; and Fallon attended. I am thrilled to finally have a chance to ordain a vocational deacon. See Deacon Sermon 1 on the sermon blog.

I then drove back to Reno for a kind of emergent synagogue service at Temple Beth Or. Guitar, clarinet, and tambourine can make for a jazzy Shabbat in a scenic house setting overlooking the city. I also enjoyed being frequently lost and stumbling about in the Prayer Book. It helped me remeber what it's like to visit an Episcopal Church. A good reminder. It was also good to worship outside the usual zone. Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. Also fround some great stuff on stewardship from Maimonides in the Prayer Book.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Baseball, Crawdads, and Ministy in NW Nevada

It all began with car trouble at the airport, but we made it to Camp Galilee where I found the greatest team of camp counsellors I have ever met. Business guru Jim Collins says the first step toward success is to get the right people on the bus, and that's what Stuart Campbell has done at Galilee. I made it back to Galilee several days later -- I am there now -- to find over 40 early elementary kids having a fine time. Camp registration is up 15% this year. Stop. Read that again. 15%. Remember the economy which is hurting camps all over the country this year. But Galilee is up 15%!

A lot happened in between these two Galilee visits. There was ordaining Victoria Riley to the priesthood in a jam packed St. Peter's, Carson City. St. Peter's is in some respects our strongest parish. Fr. Jeff has done heroic work there for a long time, and it is bearing fruit with the ordination of an excellent new priest in a vibrant, theologically engaged congregation. And you should have heard the call of Isaiah (Isaiah 6) chanted first in Hebrew then in Enlgish by Rabbi ElizaBeth Beyer. Great service followed by blow out recetion. I'll be back there for two more ordinations in July.

The next morning we were at Holy Trinity, Fallon, a leader in Total Ministy and a parish with a strong commitment to social justice ministries. They have taken the Magnetic Church workshop to heart and put up a great new sign that will do a better job of evangelim. Holy Trinity renovated its offices last year. This year they are coming to terms with the needs of the parish hall, a lovely old building which may need to be replaced due to stuctural problems. They will have to sort out the best way to move forward, but they are undaunted. There is no doubt they will move forward.

Then it was on to St. Alban's, Yerrington, a faithful congregation that is keeping the fires burning until we find the resources to help them flourish again. Yerrington is a happening town. They just need some residential clergy leadership to get the evangelism train on the track.

Then it was back to Reno to watch Fr. Kirk Woodliff throw out the first pitch and to hear the combined choirs of the Reno-Sparks are Episcopal Church sing the National Anthem. Kirk threw a strike, just clipping the lower outside (to a rightie) corner; and the choir nailed the anthem. Over 200 Episcopalians clad in red cheered the Reno Aces on to a 1 run victory.

Along the way, there have been a passel of individual meetings about diverse things. More of that today. But first here I am checking in with you and writing away on sermons for the coming weekend. I am off duty at camp. The boys have specifically asked me not to bless the crawdads. Last year I blessed them and they were mysteriously liberated by the next morning.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bishop's Culinary Guide To Urban Nevada

2nd and 3rd Century Gnosticism taught that the creation was the fall. Material reality is bad; hence, food and all sensual delights are to be rejected in favor of more spiritual endeavors. St. Irenaeus of Lyons was the great defender of orthodox faith, insisting on the goodness of God's creation, the sanctity of human life taken on bodily by Our Lord, and the holiness intrinsic in ordinary experience.

Gnosticism is all the rage again. Cf. Elaine Pagels and the Nag Hammadi enthusiasts. Perhaps we need a theologian like Irenaeus to defend the orthodox faith again. We don't have one, but we have something better -- the Wild River Grill in Reno. Specifically, their seared scallops appetizer is by far the best thing I have ever tasted. To eat just one of those scallops is ot know that creation was a splendid idea.

But one cannot eat such a delicacy on a regular basis. For day to day sustenance, there is Tropical Smoothie in Las Vegas, tucked discreetly into the shoppoing center on the corner of Pecos and Russell. A number of life boosters are afforded there. My personal favorite: the buffalo chicken wrap. Warning: it is spicy! Your mouth will know something has been there long after it has gone. But at least of an ex-Texan fond of heat in food, this sandwich is delicious and perfectly balanced by a barely ripe banana on the side.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sacramento-Reno Whirl Wind

What a whirl wind the end of last week was! Two days of battle in Sacramento warding off movements for "centralization, standardization, and a higher professionalization" of the Church. Arrrgh! I don't know whether I am into critical theory (Habermas, et al), a more charismatic sense of the church, or maybe I am just a curmudgeon. But I believe the whole church, right down to the loose change counting and light bulb changing, has to be a human, relational Lake Wobegon kind of organism -- not a corporate system of FAX's and forms.

Things were much better, but considerably busier, when I got to Reno: 6 meetings, 4 worship services, and a 4-hour workshop, plus a dinner with some church folks one night and a dinner with the new confirmands the next.

It is so very good to see Trinity on track these days. The spirit of the congregation is warm and upbeat. They are a center of hope and energy. I met parish nurses to help with our new Desert Angels ministry, a development person to help us find ways to fund diocesan mission, and someone who is actually learning about stewardship -- our Achilles' heel.

My time at Trinity left me encouraged, uplifted, and inspired. Along the way we confirmed and received a batch of new members, mostly young adults. There were about 7, a nice number, but the main thing wasn't the number. It was that they had genuinely bonded with each other and truly grasped what the Episcopal Church is about. Rev. Stefani is clearly gifted at building community. That is what we need. I am grateful beyond words for her ministry at Trinity. And the children's service, crafted by the Rev. Kathy Hopner, was the best of all -- lots of kids worshiping joyfully alongside their young parents. The church in Reno is just beginning. That is how the church should be -- always just beginning.