Thursday, November 11, 2010

Celebration of New Ministry at St. James, Conroe, Texas

Ninja pose after a beautiful celebration of New Ministry for
Jerald Hyche at St. James in Conroe, Texas.
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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Uniqueness of Christ

This was given to the Christian Formation Conference at Camp Allen in September, 2010.  The theme of the conference was the Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation.

Let me begin very clearly with some thoughts about what our work as a Christian Church is… in general.

"The Gospel testifies to the uniqueness of Jesus Christ in God's plan for the salvation of the world.”

“There can be no greater theme - no higher calling for the church to bear witness to salvation in and through Christ." (Sharing the Gospel of Salvation, GS Misc 956, Report to General Synod Church of England, 2010, from forward, SGS)

"...The Christian story is, quite simply, the most attractive account of the world and the human condition.”

“Theology, [how we believe, how we communicate about God] is not an adjunct to the social sciences - on the contrary, Christian theology is the prism through which the social sciences make the most sense.”

“The task of Christians is not to persuade others of the truth of the gospel story through propositional argument (which, John Milbanks - Anglican theologian - claims, always carries undertones of violence) but to "out narrate" other, rival and less attractive narratives.”

“Christians must so live out their faith, in communities which embody the gospel (especially in practices of worship) that others are attracted by the sublime beauty of God reflected in the Church." (SGS, 72)

"The called to be a "community of character", embodying "the peaceable kingdom."

“It is not called to prop up other social institutions, such as democracy or capitalism, however useful they may be, but to exhibit in its corporate life the radically alternative life of those who follow Christ.”

“Others will wish to join this community, not because they are convinced intellectually of its argument but because they are captivated by its example of virtuous living.”(SGS, 73)

I have taken these opening thoughts, these foundational beliefs about our work from a profound work on Evangelism which was received at the English Annual Synod meeting in 2010.

The Episcopal Church is a missionary society.

We are as our Book of Common Prayer says, "The family of God" and the "Temple of the Holy Spirit."

Every leader and every member has a story to share. Communally and individually we have the very best story of spiritual transformation to share with the world around us.

We are invited and charged with the proclamation of nothing less than the very best story that there is -- the story of Jesus Christ and the salvation of the world.

We are challenged to "out narrate" and to communicate our work of "virtuous" living to the world around us. Specifically we are called to do this work in our given mission context.

We are to be working hand in hand with Jesus Christ to transform the world around us. We are as the Charter for Life Long Formation says:

Carrying out God’s work of reconciliation, love, forgiveness, healing, justice and peace.

Faithfully confronting the tensions in the church and the world as we struggle to live God’s will.

Engage in prophetic action, evangelism, advocacy and collaboration in our contemporary global context.

Lift every voice and reconcile oppressed and oppressor to the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.

In the area of Christian Formation we are at work helping to form individuals through the sharing of story, knowledge, experience, teachings, tradition, history, and the scriptures imparting from one seeker to another the sacred story of Jesus Christ and the salvation of the world.

The essential work for congregations is to “out narrate” the world around us. And, to provide the solid foundation upon which the individual and the community rests that it may at once live life within the sacred community and make the profane world around it sacred through its virtuous action.

The Uniqueness of Jesus

Central to our work is the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the prime actor in our sacred narrative.

This uniqueness rests solidly in our faith’s affirmation that God is one.

Deuteronomy 4.35: “To you it was shown so that you would acknowledge that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him.”

Nehemiah 9.6: “And, Ezra said: ‘You are the Lord, you alone; you have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, will all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. To all of them you give life, and the host of heaven worships you.’”

Isaiah 45:5-6: “I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides me there is no God; I arm you, though you do not know me, so that they may know from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other.”

Throughout the narrative of the Old Testament [As Jesus says in Luke’s Gospel: the law and the prophets and the proclamation of John the baptizer] the central theme is that the Lord, the God of Israel, the God of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah is unique because God is the one living and true God.

We proclaim this truth in the first article of the Creed and it is the response to the first question of our baptismal covenant. It is this God who upholds the universe and everything that exists within it and he is the sole sovereign of history. (Adapted SGC, 10)

From the Venerable Bede to Juroslav Pelikan, from Abelard to Justo Gonzales, from Wayne Meeks to N. T. Wright, from Augustine of Hippo to Michael Ramsey, wise men and women, theologians, desert mothers and desert fathers…regardless of who you read Christians have come to believe and proclaim that “in accordance with the promises that God had made to his people, the God of Israel, in the person of Jesus, ‘took Man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance’ in order to proclaim God’s kingdom and to bring it in by reconciling the whole universe through his life, death and resurrection.” (SGC 11)

Each one has passed the narrative to us. Over the centuries the proclamation of this Good News of Salvation has out narrated the secular world’s story of hopelessness. Each held “that after his resurrection Jesus ascended into heaven and at the end of the age he will come in glory to judge the living and the dead and to finally and fully manifest the kingly rule of God over all creation…” (SGC, 11)
John 1.14: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, the glory as of the only Son from the Father.”

Colossians 1.19: “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of the cross.”

Hebrews 1:2-2: “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, who he appointed heir to all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word.”

“On the same grounds they further believed that God exists as the Holy Spirit, the one who had dwelt in Jesus and empowered his mission and whom Jesus had poured out on his followers on the day of Pentecost.” (SGC, 13)

This is the story of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. These are the faith responses of every Christian that has come before us. This is the truth proclaimed in faith responses of the second and third questions of our Baptismal Covenant and are rooted deep in our creed.

This is our story. This is the unique story of our faith. It is profound and it is the rock upon which my faith rests. It is the particular story which gives meaning the world of chaos proclaimed by the powers all around.

You and I are purveyors of a sacred narrative. You are not volunteers. You are not Sunday School teachers. You are not educators. You and I are disciples of the one God.

Like the Blessed Virgin Mary, we are bearers of the sacred truth of God, the Living Word.

We are marked on our foreheads with this sacred story; we are marked as Christ’s own forever. Hands are laid upon us by a bishop that we may be empowered by the same Holy Spirit for a life lived in discovery, a life lived in formation, a life lived out in the world as a missionary of God’s Holy narrative.

Anyone can carry out reconciliation, love, forgiveness, healing, justice and peace. But we understand it is God’s work.

Anyone can confront the tensions in the world. But we do so faithfully trying to live out the life of God’s will and sacred narrative.

Anyone can engage in prophetic action, advocacy and collaboration in our contemporary global context. But only we can engage through the unique prophetic witness of the Good News of Salvation.

Anyone can lift every voice and reconcile oppressed and oppressor. But only we can do the work out of the particular understanding that it is the love expressed through God in Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Uniqueness of Episcopalians

We have a sacred story. We are called to out narrate the world. Yet we must also understand that we undertake this work with a particular and unique perspective within the body of Christ and the catholic or universal witness which is Christianity.

You and I must reclaim our unique Episcopal witness. We must be at work inside and outside of our church helping individuals to understand a very unique narrative. We are Christians but we are specifically and unambiguously Anglicans and more precise still, we are uniquely Episcopalians.

We must be about the business of forming people who are Episcopalians.

Yes, we are interested in formation of Christians. But we are Episcopalians and we have a unique and important version of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is articulated as our charter says, through scripture, tradition and reason.

This unique Episcopal witness is articulated through the words of our Baptismal Covenant:

• our particular manner of Sacramental ministry

• our understanding of Mission

• our fellowship

• our reading of scripture

• in worship, throughout the day, and at home

• our understanding of the importance of our monastic inheritance and spiritual formation

• our proclamation of the Gospel

• our treatment of every human being

• our particular gift for reconciliation and peace

• our work in social and cultural advocacy and just action

• our understanding of creation and the work of sustainable stewardship

• our understanding of service and virtuous citizenship

These are the themes of our story. These are the chapters of our narrative as Episcopalians.

The work…no the art of story telling…which is Christian Formation is specifically to tell the story, to tell our community’s story, to tell our story, and to teach others to tell their story.

Parker Palmer might offer us this reflection: Formation “is always done at the dangerous intersection of personal and public life.” (Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach)

He also said, “I now understand what Nelle Morton [Nelle Morton was a 20th century church activist for racial justice, and later a teacher of Christian educators] meant when she said that one of the great tasks in our time is to ‘hear people to speech.’ Behind their fearful silence, our students want to find their voices, speak their voices, have their voices heard. A good teacher is one who can listen to those voices even before they are spoken—so that someday they can speak with truth and confidence. (Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach)

You and I must reclaim our mission and ministry and tell the story in such a way that when those who retell it and those who hear it reshape the world into the reign of God.

Are we “out narrating” the world?

“Robert Raikes (1735-1811) is remembered as a pioneer of Sunday Schools. He was not; however, the first person to set up a Sunday school, but rather his work pioneered Sunday Schools as a national institution.

“He became aware of the needs of those children whose parents could not provide schooling for them. In 1780 he was dismayed at the sight of children running wild around the city on Sundays and began to consider the possibility of a School. There were other schools being developed by Hannah Ball and Thomas King – all followers like Raikes of the great evangelists George Whitefield and John Wesley.

“In July 1780 a Sunday School was established in the parish of St Mary de Crypt in Gloucester. There were to be two sessions every Sunday and four women were paid to teach children to read and to learn the Prayer Book Catechism. Raikes became actively involved. He visited the children in their homes, examined their progress in reading and gave prizes for good progress.

“While Raikes wanted to provide basic Christian teaching, the first challenge was that of teaching children to read. In 1784, John Wesley noted in his Journal, ‘I find these schools springing up wherever I go. Perhaps God may have some deeper end therein than men are aware of. Who knows but some of them may become nurseries for Christians?’ (Article from Grace online Magazine,

The great Awakening and the Sunday school movement went hand in hand and over the centuries has become exactly what John Wesley thought: a “nursery for Christians.” That is until recently.

The Episcopal Church has reported that in 1965, there were 880,000 children in our Sunday school programs. In 2001, that number had declined to 297,000. Thus in 35 years Sunday school attendance dropped by close to 600,000 students.

Each one of us lives, and ministers, within a particular mission context.

We live in a different world: a world of Sunday sports, busy lives, busy jobs, and all with little time or space for God. We live in a world which is currently out narrating the church. The secular narrative teaches us that more is never enough. The secular narrative says technological relationships are enough. A secular narrative that promises Sabbath some day; maybe if you can afford retirement, if not after you work part-time at Wal-Mart or Starbucks.

We live in a context which largely expects us to do the work of formation as we have done it since the beginning of the Sunday school movement. But the world has changed.

I believe that the Charter’s most challenging words read, “We are to be doing the work Jesus Christ calls us to do… We are to be seeking out diverse and expansive ways to empower prophetic action.”

We have the most transformational message of hope in our culture. Moreover, the Episcopal Church offers a unique and much needed religious life of discipleship to a culture that is seeking spiritual meaning and meaningful action.

The challenge of Christian Formation today is to reinvent the manner in which we engage in the work Jesus has called us to do through entrepreneurial innovation.

I am using the word entrepreneurial to seeing before you, in your missionary context, greenfield potential.

I am using the word innovation to mean making a positive change in our current situation that brings about not only formation of the community and individual but transformation of the world through narration of our particular and sacred story.

We must renew the art of Christian Formation by reinventing, reconstructing, restructuring, restoring, remaking, re-establishing, and rebuilding what is now an outdated missionary system.

In the field of Christian Formation we must tap into our nature as Christian creatives for the health and well-being of our Episcopal Church and our local congregations.


There are six basic stages of innovation and I want to apply them here to the process of reinventing Christian Formation for the Episcopal Church. The stages are: generate new ideas, capture ideas, mission innovation, mission strategy, reflection and improvement, and decline. (From Vision to Reality: The Innovation Process,


I want to begin with the last stage first: Decline.

The sixth stage of innovation is decline. In time, it often becomes obvious that what was once an innovation no longer fits. I have made this argument already and we have seen the case of the Sunday school movements decline.

Once in the stage of decline it becomes obvious that continuous improvement of the existing process, product, or service is no longer of value. The reality is that the former innovation has now become outdated or outmoded.

In our case it isn’t that the rules have changed. We have always been responsible for the formation of disciples and the telling and retelling of our story. It is our culture that has changed.

In the sixth stage of innovation we see that it is time to let go of the past models and set new goals to start the innovation process once again. It is time for new innovations in response to external missionary context in which we the Episcopal Church find ourselves.

In fact as I travel around I see this innovation beginning to take shape in some of our congregations. In fact, it has been changing for about a decade. Nevertheless, I believe a more innovative and entrepreneurial approach is needed if we are to out narrate the culture in which we find ourselves.

Generate New Ideas

The having clearly reached the last stage first, we begin again. We must generate new ideas.  Always begin with bible study and reflection.  Each stage needs to be bathed in scripture and prayer.

I want to be very clear here. We are not generating a new story or a new narrative. We are not becoming Universalists. We are not becoming Buddhists. We can have a very healthy relationship with our ecumenical brothers and sisters. We can have healthy interreligious dialogs. These are essential in fact in the generation of ideas. However, we are Christians who call ourselves Episcopalians. And, I firmly believe that when a person enters into a relationship with us (either by coming to church or by meeting us out in the world) they want to know who we are. Remember, formation begins with the self-knowledge and understanding of the teacher according to Parker Palmer. We already know our narrative. We are looking to generate ideas that will help us provide a narrative within our churches and out in the world.

Begin by asking people you know, inside and outside the church, the following questions or questions similar to these:

• What has God called us to do? You might look at the Charter for Life Long Christian Formation as one source.

• What is impossible to do in our congregation, or in our formation ministry, today, but if it could be done, would fundamentally change the way in which we engage in the work of formation?

Answers to these questions will help you to see the boundaries of your new mission work.

An example is that I challenged the Examining Chaplains to evaluate our process of testing new priests. Is it working? What is missing? How can we improve it? They have developed a new proposed process that engages in conversation and discernment rather than testing, and takes shape within community and in the midst of prayer.
Capture the Ideas

Stage two is the Capturing of the ideas. There will be a lot of ideas. You will need a creative team of experts and ministers to discuss the possibilities of each idea through brainstorming.

For innovation to be successful in our culture today you are going to have to bring in people who are communicators, of different ages, creative people, strategic thinkers, doers, visionary leaders and followers.

It is good to brainstorm individually, then in smaller groups, and then as a team. Collectively organize and prioritize your results.

Not every congregation is going to have a large group. It can be as few as two and as many as eight. Remember though, the art of Christian Formation is a work that is undertaken within community. This is not the work of one individual and a team of teachers…that is the old model.

You will also need to remember your missionary context. You need to discover and think intentionally about those you are trying to reach. You also must be honest and transparent about what you can accomplish given the financial and human resources available to you and your congregation or team.

A good example of this is the team that has been put together to provide a curriculum to study the Anglican Covenant. It includes skilled individuals who know how to write curriculum. It also includes parish leaders and communicators.
Mission Innovation

The next stage is the actual innovation. Review the entire list of ideas and develop them into a series of clear and meaningful statements. The team will then need to agree on which ones to explore further. Quantify the benefits of each statement and discern through prayer and clarity which ones to pursue.

Be clear about your mandate. Are you working on Formation with adults or children? Are you working on Stewardship as a Formation program? What is your mandate?

Ask yourselves: how does this innovative idea fit with the strategy and mission of your church? Innovation can go wrong here. Good ideas which will not further the mission can take up space from essential ideas that will further the mission of formation.

What are the expected outcomes? How will you measure your success? What are the short term goals? Are they achievable? You are working now on the feasibility of your innovative idea. This is important to the whole process. We might remind ourselves of the story from our Gospels about the man who sets out to build a tower without counting the cost.

A good example here is of the process used by the Episcopal Foundation of Texas and the Quin Foundation to plan and structure the new Strategic Mission Grant process. They had to both figure out how to pool the money, design a process of giving the money away, communicating the application procedures, reviewing the grant requests, covenanting with the recipients, and how to do accountability visits.

Mission Strategy and Implementation

Mission strategy and implementation begins in the fourth stage. It usually means a re-think of an existing process and ministry. Once you have settled on the major innovation and even a basic strategy you must work with all those who will be involved in the change and figure out the details.

This is not the same as looking at an existing process and improving it. We don’t need a better Sunday school program. It is describing what a future process will look like and virtually walking it through to its conclusion.

The team will first develop this "picture of the future." You might begin by making a list of the basic assumptions about the way things are done now and begin to see how things will be different. This is the part where most innovative concepts die. They either get launched without fully thinking through this piece or the innovation looks too difficult and so is abandoned and a decision is made to simply repaint the rooms and add new carpet.

Writing or drawing a flow chart or using some other illustrations will enable your team you have to get a look at the entire "future process."

This part of the process is exemplified in the Executive Board’s Mission Subcommittee which reviewed and worked with me on the staff structure and development of the new office of Life Long Christian Formation. Their work with me looked at all the potential areas of conflict, overlap, budgeting, scope of the ministry, and in the end helped me with developing a process for searching for the new Canon.
Reflection and Improvement

Once the missionary innovation is in motion, it is necessary to continuously examine it for possible improvements.

I think a process of review and reflection needs to be in place before the roll out of the initiative. If it is not clear what the matrix of success is, who will evaluate, and when determinations about ongoing work and there is no clear time line given the innovation will have problems.

One of two problems will arise. The innovation will fail because it was not adaptive to either the changing process of delivery or the changing context within the setting. Or the process will go on forever with the assumption that it is still needed and necessary for the survival of the organization.

What are the gaps? What is missing? Where are we misfiring? What are the barriers and blockages that are making the innovation less effective? Are there changing benefits, costs, risks necessary to improve and refine the missionary innovation?

Then the team must recommend and apply the improvements.

A good example of this is the innovation of mission congregation reports. It was important during the nineteenth and most of the twentieth century for the bishop to know what was going on in the mission congregations. Therefore, they were required to give reports on their ministry. The report was written and sent to the bishop on a semi-annual basis. This report evolved into a form and the form was required on a monthly basis. The process seemed to be improving, except that the form required too much information, was not turned in electronically and consequently wasn’t being used by most of the mission congregations. Moreover, the bishop and the staff knew what was going on because of new oversight responsibilities by the Canon for Congregational Development. When a new staff organization was developed in 2005, they weren’t being done at all. Today the diocese receives a brief email report with only a few questions from mission congregations receiving money from the diocese for their ministry. The process was reworked and improved based upon the changing nature of the context.


The Gospel testifies to the uniqueness of Jesus Christ in God's plan for the salvation of the world.

You and I as Christians are challenged to "out narrate" and to communicate our work of "virtuous" living to the world around us. Specifically, we are called to do this work in our given mission context.

We are to be working hand in hand with Jesus Christ to transform the world around us.

You and I, as uniquely created Episcopalians, must reclaim our mission and ministry and tell the story in such a way that when those who retell it and those who hear it reshape the world into the reign of God.

The challenge of Christian Formation within the Episcopal Church today is to reinvent the manner in which we engage in the work Jesus has called us to do through entrepreneurial innovation.

I pray that God, who has given you the will to do these things, will give you both the grace, and the power to perform them in his name. Amen.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Episcopal Identity for Episcopal Schools

Click on the link to hear the audio presentation.  This was preached at St. Mark's Episcopal School, Houston, Texas at the installation of the new head of school Gahrett Wagers.

At the inaugural session of the Continental Congress – with the weight of war and the hope of freedom on their minds, on Wednesday, September 7, 1774, Mr. Duché an Episcopal Clergyman was invited to read prayers to the Congress. As it happened the 35th psalm was appointed for Episcopalians as a part of Morning Prayer. So Mr. Duché began, “Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for mine help.” (American Gospel, Jon Meacham, p.65)

June 28, 1836, it was an Episcopal service that accompanied James Madison, our 4th president and founding father, to his grave. (p.230) And it was Episcopal prayers that accompanied the mourners in their grief.

It was an Episcopal Service of Morning Prayer with hymns that inaugurated the Atlantic Charter between Churchill and Roosevelt on the deck of the HMS Prince Charles on the eve of World War II. (p.160)

April 13, 1943, the Episcopal Presiding Bishop Henry St. George Tucker joined the president and five thousand people to dedicate the Jefferson Memorial with an Episcopal Prayer thanking God for raising leaders up among us. (p.248)

March 4, 1944, it was an Episcopal prayer that was said in which we prayed for our enemies and prayed for peace at Roosevelt’s service commemorating his first inauguration in the midst of a nation at war. (p.167)

Jonathan M. Daniels found his strength in the vision of God preached and prayed in the Episcopal and as an Episcopal seminarian on August 20, 1965 gave his life following the call of Martin Luther King, Jr. to come to Selma, Alabama. It was there that Daniels lived with an African American family, and helped integrate the local Episcopal church.

Three years later in the heart of the Country, Washington D.C., and in the heart of the Jonathan Daniels’ Episcopal Church, the National Cathedral, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. climbed the thirteen steps into the pulpit during an Episcopal service and said:

“We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.” (p203)

On January 14, 2009, then president elect, Barack Obama attended an Episcopal prayer service at St. Johns Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, prior to being sworn in as our 44th president of the United States. After the inauguration he would attend a national prayer service in the same Cathedral and stand were Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed his dream.

From this nation’s very inception, our leaders have from time to time called upon the wisdom found within our Episcopal heritage of prayers and scripture to buoy the people to mission, service, action, and vision.

In times of great discernment…In times of celebration…In times of peace…In times of justice…In times of war…and, in times of civil struggle…our leaders, those whose names we know and those whose names we do not know have called upon the strength of daily prayers found in our Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.

Through regular chapel, and Episcopal Prayer, Episcopal Schools, and specifically St. Mark’s Episcopal School, seeks to provide students with a solid foundation of wisdom (which is quite different from knowledge). We combine this foundation of wisdom with a foundation of prayer. Together they combine to set a bedrock upon which our students may build a good and virtuous citizenship.

Episcopal schools strive to offer academic rigor combined with a spiritual discipline that strengthens the Episcopal student for a journey of continued religious life and public service.

For the non-Episcopalian we hope that we have provided an environment, a community, where the individual student and family may find a spiritual home.

We want all students to find here the possibility and hope of a healthy relationship with God. For the Christian and Episcopalian we want a deepening of relationship. We desire to form an understanding about all of God’s creation and our particular and unique witness to a loving and caring God in Jesus Christ. We hope that those of you of every other denomination, creed, or faith background will find us to be a faithful and partnering family and that you have a sure and certain knowledge of our friendship with all believers.

We do all of this for one reason. We offer this Episcopal heritage to you in order that together we might improve the lives of our neighbors. This is the work of virtue. To understand clearly that we as citizens of the kingdom of God have a very real role in the kingdoms and realms of this world. We are called by our baptism and through Christ’s own love to work for the betterment of all humanity.

President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “The real field of rivalry among and between the creeds comes in the rivalry of the endeavor to see which can render best service to mankind.”

We wish to form Episcopal Students who outdo one another in benevolent leadership which seeks not personal glory but the glory of God in serving others.

We provide the foundations upon which individuals may become honest, moral, and upright members of society; outdoing one another in kindness and in compassion to our fellow human beings.

We seek to provide for you an Episcopal Foundation of Faith.
 A foundation that can be drawn upon at times of discernment and when you are unsure of a course of action.
 A foundation that can be drawn upon for your celebratory events as in marriages and baptisms.

 A foundation that you can draw upon when you are in trouble, fearful, or in pain.
 A foundation upon which you may find resources for the daily living of life.
 A foundation upon which you may with others reshape and make the world a better place tomorrow than it is today.

Our expectation is that each student entrusted to us will be a leader, in their homes and within their families, they will be leaders in academia, sports, and in the arts, they will be leaders in the marketplace and within our governments.

There will come a time for each one of our students when every word will matter, every prayer spoken or silently prayed will count, every thought a necessary component of what comes next, every action an opportunity for change. Into these moments let the wisdom of our worship and prayer and scripture be present for you, uphold you, and sustain you.

Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I never told my religion nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert nor wish to change another’s creed. I have ever judged the religion of others by their lives. For it is in our lives and not from our words, that our religion must be read.” (p. 34)

We expect our students to act so others may see in them what we see in them every day– a great and noble future. We expect our students to act so that others may see in them the best parts of our faith imparted and the blessings of your formation lived out.

This is how people will know their true religion, their true faith. This is how they will know they were formed at St. Mark’s Episcopal School.

 So to you Garhett, you are given a sacred trust as headmaster. To run the school well. Yes.

 To lead in development: working on endowment and debt reduction. Yes.

 To hire the very best educators who can form students and are devoted to the Episcopal culture of education. Yes.

 To lead in recruiting students of a diverse population that we may send forward to excel in the very best Episcopal schools and other schools in Houston. Yes.

 To increase the awareness of the gift of St. Mark’s School within the wider Episcopal and Houston community. Yes.
You are to do these things and many more.

But most of all you are to remember the sacred work of formation given to you as the head of an Episcopal school.

You are to form students with the tools of wisdom and Episcopal prayer that they may understand and live out their mission of virtuous citizenship.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Our Story, Their Story, Christ's Story

When Peter stands and addresses the men and women gathered in Jerusalem, he is addressing a crowd of Parthians, Medes, Elamites, the residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and many parts of Libya, Romans, Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs. It is quite the collection of people and languages. It is a diverse collection of stories.

Peter tells them the one story of the family of God. He tells them the dueteronomistic story of the family of God, which culminates not in the resurrection, but the coming of the Holy Spirit that the entire world may hear of the Messiah, the Christ. When they heard this they were cut to the heart, awe came upon everyone and there were many wonders and signs. (Acts 2)

Christianity is a story - a particular story. It is the story of God who is glorified through creation. When creation falls away from its ultimate purpose, thanks to the work of humanity, our sacred story tells us of the Messiah who comes to reorient and lead us to our eternal place within the family of God. Our sacred story leads us to undertake the work of glorifying God in all things.

This story is told and retold through the experience of people, the diverse spiritual journeys, cultures and languages. Many different people, more diverse than the first Pentecost gathering, tell and retell the story of Christ as they have come to know him and love him and worship him.

In telling the one story of the family of God, the strength of its truth is that missionaries have found the story alive over the centuries within the cultures and peoples who do not yet know Christ. The strength of the family of God, rooted in the Holy Spirit, comes because for centuries Christians have engaged in a conversation with their neighbors, listening to their stories, and seeing (as if for the first time) the story of Christ alive in the "other." Christians leave their world of comfortable symbols and journey to foreign places to discover and rediscover Christ at work in the world.

We might think of the biblical image of Paul speaking to the people of Athens about the "unknown God" (Acts 17.22ff). Paul, a missionary of Christ was able to see in the lives, even in the local worship of idols, the revelation of Jesus Christ. After listening and seeing how they believed, he used this as an opportunity to witness to his own belief.

For the church's mission to be healthy it must exist as a group of people who are dedicated to proclaiming the story of God in Jesus Christ, people who can listen, see and discover Christ at work in the world in the lives of others. The mission of Christ will die if all we do is say there is one way. Get on board! We must be at work in the world helping people to understand, in the words of Rascall Flatts, God blesses the broken road that leads to Christ. Faithful Christians make room for the story telling and for the listening. Christians make room so that those who do not yet believe may come to believe that their lives have been leading them to Christ.

For me, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. As a Christian missionary I have to be willing to listen to people and to discover how Christ is bringing them along the way, to the truth, that they might live the life of virtue. Christians must be willing to touch the lives of others, to listen to their stories of their journeys and see the revelation of Christ so that we can retell the ancient story again and again.

As I reflect upon the work of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Texas this summer I relish in the news of churches who have undertaken mission trips in their own back yards and around the world. Engaging, listening and discovering Christ in the midst of diverse cultures and peoples is our work. These stories beckon to us to renew our missionary commitment at home. We must return to our congregations with the news that Christ is alive in the world about us, God is truly at work in and beyond our churches and we all we have to do is step outside to see the manifest opportunities for transformation. Our missions abroad help form us in the knowledge that we are to be missionaries locally.

Unfortunately, just as we are sure of our one story of Christ, we are sure of the one story about the people who live in the neighborhoods and communities that surround our churches in the Diocese of Texas. We tell ourselves, they already go to church, they don't want to hear from us, they aren't like us, they are unbelievers, they are … they are … they are … As your bishop I would remind you of the missionary knowledge that they are Christ's and we are called to minister to them, reach out to them and to discover Christ already at work in their lives.

Our next issue of the Episcopalian is a celebration of the good work we are doing in Galveston, in Belize, in Honduras, in Uganda, at Camp Allen and in South Africa. I hope it will be a reminder that we have the opportunity to change the world across the street and across the world. Moreover, our own transformation may lie within the work of listening to the stories of our neighbors and witnessing God already at work in their lives.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Stewardship: The Divine Economy: Make our Life the Vision of Thee

Summer is coming to an end. I have just returned from some time off. I fished, worked on some genealogy, listened, read, and listened some more. I also enjoyed listening to a lot of music while I was relaxing. As I prepared for this talk on stewardship I was reminded of a hymn that is somewhat like a summer prayer. The song is by Rascal Flatts and it is called, “Backwards.”

You get your house back

You get your dog back

You get your best friend Jack back

You get your truck back

You get your hair back

You get your first and second wives back

Your front porch swing

your pretty little thing

Your bling bling bling and a diamond ring

Your get your farm and the barn and the boat and the Harley

That old black cat named Charlie

You get your mind back

And your nerves back

Your achy breaky heart back

You get your pride back

You get your life back

You get your first real love back

ohh big screen TV, DVD and a washing machine

You get the pond and the lawn and the rake and the mower

You go back when life was slower

It sounds a little crazy, a little scattered and absurd

But that's what you get

When you play a country song backwards

The economic culture that we live in is economy based upon the loosing of things and the gaining of things; the selling and the purchasing of things.

Sometimes, our church economy is based upon the increase or the decrease of things as well: people, pledges, and plate.

So I thought we should begin at the beginning. We must begin with a sense of the “Divine Economy.”

The poet, author, and Dean of York beginning in 1941, Eric Milner-White, wrote a poem called Thy God, Thy Glory. Here is the last stanza:

O God, most glorious,
Make our life the vision of thee

To the praise of thy glory;

that we all as a mirror may reflect it,

and be transformed into the same image

from glory to glory,

world without end.

Excerpt from: Thy God, Thy Glory

Eric Milner-White, 1884-1963

So we begin as our ancient texts tell us, in the beginning was the Word and the word was with God. (John 1.1)

God looks upon God, and in this looking has a perfect image of God’s self, the perfect and beautiful idea of God’s self. God looks and sees God perfectly, wholly, and corporately. And, in this looking in this perfect beholding of God’s self God is both Father and Son. There is God and there is God’s perfect self the Son.

Our human language cannot incorporate or speak adequately of the eternal, whole, and incorruptible nature of God and God’s self; so we say in our Creed, “God is Father, almighty,” and we also say, “God is Lord, Christ, only Son of God, eternally begotten,” and we say: “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father.”

God looks upon God and perfectly sees God’s self.

In seeing God, God perfectly loves God’s self. God perfectly is bound to God the son. So perfect, so unblemished is God’s love for God’s self that it, too, is actualized and repeats the perfect and beautiful and manifest glory which is God…This perfect love is that than which no greater can be thought.

Once again our human language fails to capture the movement and work of God or the perfection of God who we proclaim as love, so we say in our Creed that we believe in God who is “Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.” And, we recognize this God of three and three in one as eternally present in community one to another.

So perfect is God’s love for God, the Father for the Son, that God’s beauty and perfection and glory overflows, spilling out in the action of creation. God is creator of heaven and earth, God creates through God’s self (the son), through him all things were made. And the creative power and force is itself the very spirit of God, the hands of God at work in the world about us, the Holy Spirit. So it is that all things come to be and are given shape and form. Out of nothing they were created, but for the pleasure of God they were created and God saw all of God’s creation and the reflection of God’s image in its watery forms and green canopies, and creatures and saw that it was “good.”

All of creation is formed out of the divine imagination reflecting to God the glory of God’s self eternally united in a Holy Community we call the Trinity.

This is our sacred Truth.

This community of mutual affection and perfected friendship and undivided unity by its very nature, its very being creates all that we see, all that we have, all that we are for the pleasure and enjoyment and reflection that it provides. It’s as if to say, God creates out of the love for the Son and offers it to God saying, you are my son, see the love I have for you and I give to you in this creation which I hold in the palm of my hand, and offer to you. See in this creation formed out of nothing and given life by me the reflection of our beauty.

This is what we are made for. This is the purpose of all creation. We are made, formed, and given the breath of life for the purpose of glorifying God.

This is what we are made for…this is the divine economy.

We are created out of nothing as a gift to the Son from God the Father so that we might as a whole creation, not just human beings, not just one individual, not just the human self – the whole of humanity in conjunction with all of creation, reflect the dignity of God.

The glory of God is the ultimate purpose of creation.

Our story of beginnings, our heritage of community tells us of our all-to-human and all-to-imperfect attempts to do this work, to make this our ultimate concern. In fact, not only is God’s glory not our ultimate concern or our primary undertaking, it is the opposite of our human willfulness. Through all of history we have perpetrated the primary work of self-glorification, self-preservation, and self-manifestation making us the Gods of creation. This is the lie we live.

So tragic, so pervasive, so broken is this understanding of creation that we – on our own – outside of community only see imperfectly the shape of the world intended by God. So it is God who comes into the world, to possess the world which is a gift, to participate, to undo the powers of this world, by reorienting, refocusing, and drawing our eyes to the greater work of God. They asked Jesus, “Why did you come into this world?” He answers us clearly, “To glorify God.” This is his answer and he is our teacher in the life of holiness – in the divine economy.

Jesus’ death on the cross purchases, redeems for us the freedom from the bonds of self-service that we may follow him along the way, imitating our teacher, and undertaking the glorification of God. We are given by the cross freedom from sin which is nothing less than freedom from avarice, the insatiable desire of a God like self-preservation above all else – the root of all sinful desires and actions.

God not only enters and claims creation as God’s own, but also redeems it, providing a missional map to the work of creation, and breathing, loosing on all creation the ever present Holy Spirit, God with us, to strengthen us for the work of glorifying and magnifying God. The lens is polished that we may see more clearly, with the help of the Holy Spirit, our work and the work of community.

The Holy Spirit, the empowering agent of Godly life, transforms and binds individual sinners into virtuous community. This is the family of God, the community called the Church, with the primary working outwardly, on a daily basis, the inner life of the Holy Trinity. The mission of true virtue, co-creating with God, the community of God, the reign of God, the kingdom of God, on earth and in this moment.

We are as the family of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit, enlarging and actualizing God’s Holy vision in creation.

If these themes of “glorification of God” and “building virtuous community” are our work, what then? (And it is most certainly the orthodox view of creation and redemption rooted deeply in our Anglican theology and tradition.) If this glorification of God is our ultimate created purpose as community and our penultimate work is the perfecting of human relationships one to another in undivided unity – the building of the virtuous community at work in the world -- then stewardship is at the center of our life and our ministry. In fact, we might say, our life and our ministry is stewardship.

Virtuous life, a life lived to benefit God, is a life of stewardship the essential ingredient in the divine economy.

We are created for stewardship of the eternal.

We cannot look upon creation, our use or abuse of it, without the knowledge of its ultimate purpose and our fallen desire to manage it for our own benefit rather than for God’s glory.

We cannot look upon our communities, our towns our cities, without acknowledging the brokenness of human interrelations, and the collateral casualties of economy of wealth, power, and authority which benefit human aggrandizement and not the divine economy.

We cannot look upon our families, our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and children and not acknowledge how we live out our relationships into horizontal alignment along competing self-indulging sibling relationships. The cost of this economy is broken families, record divorces, bankruptcy, astronomical debt, and abuse. God rather intends the family of God to be one of caring and support with roles ordered out of virtuous care for the “other” in our midst.

We cannot look upon our church without recognizing the result of ego driven communities, with mob mentalities, conflicted loyalties, political maneuvering, and argument measured in electronic sound bytes, followers, and power rather than in discerned corporate stewardship of the divine economy.

When we stop, when we pause, when we take a moment to recalibrate and measure our journey along the way – we see clearly that our priorities may indeed be out of sync.

Our ultimate concern may not be God’s. Our primary interest may not be what has been intended all along.

All of this is to say that what we intend to do when we say we are engaged in stewardship is of the most radical transformative work before the church.

Christian stewardship, which is Anglican and uniquely Episcopalian, recognizes the radical work of creature-li-ness: to glorify God and co-create a virtuous community in mission.

And, when we speak of being stewards we are speaking of a radical faith in God who is Trinity, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who is at work in the world as creator, redeemer, and prophetic missioner. We are saying that “we believe in God,” a particular kind of God -- a God who has brought into being creation for the purpose of his glory and his beauty.

We are saying that we care about the earth and its health in reflecting God’s glory.

We are saying we care about our farms, and communities, and towns, and cities and neighbors and how we are relating and care taking of the land, resources, and our relationships.

We are saying that we believe and so we act in our lives, private and public, for the good and in a way revealing and reflecting the goodness of the one who gives us form and breath.

We are saying we believe and as a community we give in accordance with our thanksgivings. We give not 10%, because we know God has given us all that we have, all that we are, our friends, our family, our neighbors, our gifts for ministry, our vocations, our work, our lives, our very lives God has given. We give out of the abundance of what we receive – God in Jesus yes, but moreover, out of the glorious generosity of beauty which is God’s creation all around us. We give, we make a difference, we restore, we co-create, and we design.

As Christian stewards, we understand that we are artists who are intimately engaged in the beautiful things, the beatitudes, in the blessings of neighbors and creatures and creation.

To be a Christian steward at work within the economy of God is a most life changing, and mission altering notion. To glorify God as our primary witness and concern in our lives, with one another, in our relationships, and in our affiliation to God and God’s community is life’s work of stewardship.  So we pray:

O God, most glorious,

Make our life the vision of thee

To the praise of thy glory;

that we all as a mirror may reflect it,

and be transformed into the same image

from glory to glory,

world without end. Amen.

Stewardship: The Divine Economy

Stewardship Conference
Episcopal Diocese of Texas 2010
by the Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle

Friday, August 6, 2010

Following my weekly thoughts on the Gospel?

Every week I am publishing thoughts on the upcoming Gospel lesson. Find those thoughts, and resources for running your own bible study on the Gospel here:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sermon Preached at Prayer Service for Immigration Reform

In the first book of the Bible called Genesis God speaks to Abraham and says, “Leave your country, your family, and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you. I will bless you and make your descendants into a great nation.”
God calls people to leave where they are and go and make new community.

God called Abraham and Sarah.

God called Moses.

God called Joshua.

God called the judges.

God called the kings.

God called the exiles.

For Christians God sent Jesus and called the apostles and Paul and the first followers whose names are recorded in the books of the New Testament.

God calls.

God beckons.

God makes new community.

My family came from England and from Ireland. One almost drowned along the way, others made the journey with ease. All faced life threatening and life giving challenges in a new world. All of them faced a nation that promised new life regardless of the cost of arriving or the cost of staying on these shores.

They came with hope for a future and for something better for their life. Many believed that God had in store for them better things.

Perhaps your parents came too or you came. You and I have arrived here today because the mother of exiles, these United States, promises: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

We are, as the author Jon Meacham has writen, a nation that believes in God and believes in providence; the working out of God’s plan.

We know that God invites, God beckons, God calls out to his people and says: “Go to the land that I will show you.” We know this because we have experienced it ourselves.

God has called us, beckoned us into community.

God is constantly renewing the face of the earth. God is constantly doing his work through the efforts of his holy people. People called to work together, hand in hand, beyond the divisions of homeland and language, for the betterment of creation.

God intends us to be built into a virtuous society, a society who works for the benefit of all of God’s people and not ourselves alone.

When the followers of God have journeyed out into the deserts of life they have called upon God, do not forget us. And, I say God does not forget.

God does not forget his tired, his poor.

God does not forget his huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

God does not forget the fearful or the anxious.

God does not forget the fallen.

And, God does not forget the imprisoned.

God does not forget. God does not turn his eyes away. God remembers his people and their journey. God does not forget, God remembers you and he remembers me.

And when God looks down upon us and sees us in our lives calling out for him. God answers. And, there are many ways in which God answers. One of the ways in which God answers his faithful people calling out to him for rescue and to be saved is to send others.

Did not God send Moses to his people in Egypt? Did not God send Isaiah to comfort his people in Babylon? Do you and I not remember the names of those who God has sent to us to call us by name, to offer us the hand of God, and to lift us out of the dirt and ashes of our broken lives? You and I remember their names.

Those saints of God are generations of immigrants who have gone before us and were not content for their own success. When others arrived they remembered their experience and choose not to act out of fear but to help our immigrant fathers and mothers find their way in a strange land. They did this, these saints of God, because they heard the words of Isaiah calling: help the oppressed.

They heard the words of God speaking to their hearts saying: you were once a stranger in a strange strange land. You remember and you are called by God, this is what our immigrant fathers and mothers heard, you are called to help people into society with dignity, and respect. You are to help them become part of your national family…for they are part of my family -- the family of God.

Immigrants have always built up this nation and benefited us as a nation and as people of faith, by bringing their willingness to hard work, their entrepreneurial spirit, their diverse cultures, and their ethnic foods. Our culture is an immigrant culture.

It is true that immigrants are being demonized today because people are afraid of changing demographics, economic anxiety, border violence, because the system is broken.

These fears are not new fears. They are the same fears that greeted the Irish when they arrived. These are the same fears that greeted the Asians as they arrived. Today these fears greet the immigrant Hispanics, the new Africans, the islanders, and those from the Middle East.

God has never asked us to act out of our fear. God has always called us to act on behalf of the newcomer and the stranger. We know what we must do. We must on God’s behalf see one another as immigrant brother and sister – as family.

We are advocating and praying for reform because we are God’s family.

We are simply advocating for family unity.

We are advocating for reform that allows documentation of immigrants and their families with a path to citizenship.

We are advocating for affordable process.

We are advocating for an environment where people are safe in their community no matter what their legal status is; and that they have the ability to work with our civic authorities to provide for healthy communities.

We are advocating that policies should respect human rights by beginning with humanitarian values. We are advocating that we respect the dignity of all persons.

We are simply saying that we have a moral obligation to provide refuge and to welcome the stranger.

You and I have a responsibility to remember that we were once strangers in a strange land and that we are called by God to care for those now sent into our care.

We must do this because we understand that they represent God. The immigrant and the immigration issues we face today are our greatest challenge as a nation. How we answer the questions posed and the advocacy required will show what we are truly made of.

At the end of the day we can have great slogans, great beliefs, and even be one of the most powerful and greatest nations in the world.

If we do not help people find freedom and liberty…and we do not do this with kindness, and hospitality and love then we may loose the heart of our nation. Indeed, we will have lost the heart of all of our faiths combined.

It is God that calls us into a diverse community, a family of God. It is upon God’s mercy and providence that we depend. And, it is upon God’s call to help the stranger that we discover our journey into God’s kingdom.

God spoke to Abram and said, “Leave your country, your family, and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you. I will bless you and make your descendants into a great nation.”

by The Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, Preached at Immigration Reform Prayer Service, Catholic Charismatic Center, Houston, Texas

Hear the sermon preached in Spanish, with the last 1/4 in English  here:

News following the Immigration Service:,0,3910843.story

Pide a Dios a su pueblo: Ir a la tierra que yo te voy a mostrar. (Génesis 12:1-7)

En el primer libro de la Biblia llamado Génesis, Dios habla a Abraham y le dice: "Deja tu tierra, tu familia y tus parientes para ir a la tierra que yo te voy a mostrar. Con tus descendientes voy a formar una gran nación; voy a bendecirte y hacerte famoso y serás una bendición para otros. "

Dios llama a la gente a salir de donde están y que vayan y hagan una nueva comunidad.

Dios llamó a Abraham y Sara.

Dios llamó a Moisés.

Dios llamó a Josué.

Dios llamó a los jueces.

Dios llamó a los reyes.

Dios llamó a los exiliados.

Para los cristianos Dios envió a Jesús y llamó a los apóstoles y Pablo y los primeros seguidores, cuyos nombres se registran en los libros del Nuevo Testamento.

Dios llama.

Dios nos llama con señas.

Dios hace nueva comunidad.

Mi familia vino de Inglaterra y de Irlanda. Uno casi se ahogó en el camino, los demás hicieron el viaje con facilidad. Todos enfrentaron amenazas y desafíos en la vida que da un nuevo mundo. Todos ellos enfrentaron una nación que prometía una nueva vida sin importar el precio de como llegaron y los gastos de permanecer en estas tierras.

Llegaron con la esperanza de un futuro y por algo mejor para su vida. Muchos creían que Dios tenía reservado para ellos cosas mejores.

Tal vez los padres de ustedes llegaron o usted mismo llegó. Ustedes y yo hemos llegado hasta aquí porque la Madre de los exiliados, los Estados Unidos, promete: "Dame tus cansados, tus pobres, tus grupos confundidos que ansían un libre respirar."

Somos, como el autor Jon Meacham, que tiene la creencia de que una nación que cree en Dios y cree en la providencia, esta trabajando en el plan de Dios.

Sabemos que Dios invita, Dios nos envía señales, Dios llama a su pueblo y dice: "Ve a la tierra que te voy a mostrar." Lo sabemos porque lo hemos experimentado nosotros mismos.

Dios nos ha llamado, nos envía señales en la comunidad.

Dios está constantemente renovando la faz de la tierra. Dios está constantemente haciendo su trabajo a través de los esfuerzos de su pueblo santo. Personas llamadas a trabajar juntos, mano a mano, más allá de las divisiones de la nacionalidad y el idioma, para el mejoramiento de la creación.

Dios tiene la intención de que seamos incorporado en una sociedad virtuosa, una sociedad que trabaja para el beneficio de todo el pueblo de Dios y no solo para nosotros mismos.

Cuando los seguidores de Dios han viajado a través de los desiertos de la vida y han clamado a Dios, no te olvides de nosotros. Yo les dijo, Dios no olvida.

Dios se no olvida su cansancio os sus pobres.

Dios no se olvida de las multitudes que ansían respirar libertad.

Dios no olvida de los que tienen miedo, o sus ansiedades.

Dios no se olvida de los caídos.

Y, Dios no se olvida de los cautivos.

Dios no se olvida. Dios no voltea la mirada al otro lado. Dios recuerda a su pueblo y de sus viajes. Dios no se olvida, Dios se acuerda de ustedes y se acuerda de mí.

Y cuando Dios nos contempla y nos ve en nuestras vidas gritando por él. Dios contesta. Y, hay muchas formas en que Dios contesta. Una de las formas en que Dios responde a su pueblo fiel que clama ser rescatado y salvado es enviando a otros.

¿Acaso Dios no envío a Moisés a su pueblo en Egipto? ¿Acaso Dios no envío a Isaías a consolar a su pueblo en Babilonia? ¿A caso ustedes y yo no recordamos los nombres de aquellos que Dios ha enviado a nosotros para que nos llamen a cada uno por nuestro nombre, que nos han ofrecido la mano de Dios, y que nos han levantado de la tierra y cenizas de nuestras vidas rotas? Ustedes y yo recordamos sus nombres.

Esos santos de Dios son generaciones de inmigrantes que nos han precedido y que optaron por ayudar, no por temor, sino que ayudaron a nuestros padres y madres inmigrantes a encontrar su camino en una tierra extraña. Ellos hicieron esto, porque estos santos de Dios, habían oído las palabras del llamado de Isaías: ayuda a los oprimidos.

Escucharon las palabras de Dios hablar en sus corazones diciendo: una vez fuiste un extranjero en tierra extraña. Recuerda que eres llamado por Dios, esto es lo que nuestros padres y madres inmigrantes oyeron, ustedes están llamados a ayudar a las personas a formar la sociedad con dignidad y respeto. Ustedes están para ayudarles a formar parte de esta nación ... porque ellos son parte de mi familia - la familia de Dios.

Los inmigrantes hoy en día y siempre han construido esta nación y nos han beneficiado como nación y como comunidad de fe, trayendo su voluntad de trabajar duro, el espíritu emprendedor, sus diversas culturas y sus comidas típicas. Nuestra cultura es una cultura inmigrante.

Es cierto que hoy los inmigrantes están siendo comparados con el demonio porque la gente tiene miedo de los cambios demográficos, de la ansiedad económica, de la violencia en la frontera, porque el sistema de inmigración está roto.

Estos temores no son nuevos temores. Son los mismos temores que recibieron a los irlandeses cuando llegaron. Estos son los mismos temores que saludó a los asiáticos cuando llegaron. Hoy en día estos temores saludan a los inmigrantes hispanos, los nuevos africanos, los isleños, y los del Oriente Medio.

Dios nunca nos ha pedido que actuemos por nuestro miedo. Dios siempre nos ha llamado para actuar en nombre del recién llegado y el extranjero. Sabemos lo que debemos hacer. Debemos de parte de Dios vernos unos a otros como hermanos y hermanas inmigrantes - como la familia.

Estamos defendiendo y orando por una reforma porque somos la familia de Dios.

Simplemente estamos abogando por la unidad familiar.

Estamos abogando por una reforma que permita la documentación de los inmigrantes y sus familias en un camino a la ciudadanía.

Estamos abogando por un proceso económico accesible.

Estamos abogando por un ambiente donde las personas estén a salvo en su comunidad sin importar su estatus legal, y que tengan la capacidad de trabajar con nuestras autoridades civiles para establecer comunidades saludables.

Estamos abogando por que esas leyes deben respetar los derechos humanos.

Estamos abogando por los valores humanitarios.

Estamos abogando por que se respete la dignidad de todas las personas.

Simplemente estamos diciendo que tenemos una obligación moral de brindar refugio y dar la bienvenida al extranjero.

Usted y yo tenemos una responsabilidad de recordar que una vez fuimos extranjeros en una tierra extraña y que estamos llamados por Dios para atender a las personas que se envían ahora a nuestro cuidado.

Tenemos que hacer esto porque entendemos que ellos representan a Dios. Los inmigrantes y los problemas de inmigración que nos enfrentamos hoy son nuestro mayor reto como nación. Cómo respondamos a las preguntas formuladas y la defensa necesaria se mostrará de lo que realmente estamos hechos.

Al final del día podremos tener grandes lemas y consignas, grandes creencias, e incluso ser una de las naciones más poderosa y más grande del mundo.

Si no ayudamos a la gente a encontrar la libertad ... y no hacemos esto con la amabilidad y la hospitalidad y el amor, entonces habremos perdido el corazón de nuestra nación. De hecho, habremos perdido el corazón de todas nuestras creencias combinadas.

Es Dios quien nos llama a una comunidad diversa, una familia de Dios. Es la misericordia de Dios y la providencia de lo que dependemos. Y en el llamado de Dios ayudando al extranjero descubrimos nuestro viaje en el reino de Dios.

Dios habló a Abraham y le dijo, "Deja tu tierra, tu familia y tus parientes para ir a la tierra que yo te voy a mostrar. Con tus descendientes voy a formar una gran nación; voy a bendecirte y hacerte famosos y serás una bendición para otros. "

Un Sermon que predico en el Servicio de Oración por Inmigración

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Archbishop of Canterbury's Pentecost Letter & Responses

The Archbishop of Canterbury's Pentecost Letter to the Anglican Communion has energized many responses in The Episcopal Church and throughout the Anglican Communion. Linked are the Presiding Bishop's response and my response.

A Column for the Living Church
I wrote the following guest column for the Living Church at their invitation. It is a more condensed version than the response included above. I have also included it in the Out of the Ordinary.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pentecost Letter: mapping our location

William Smith was born in Oxfordshire, England, in the early 19th century and from an early age he was interested in stones. In his diary he wrote that the small round rocks used for marbles looked like something that once lived.

Dairy maids in Oxfordshire used Chadworth Stones (this is where the word stones came into usage as a weight of measurement) to weigh their butter, moreover, the most popular stones looked vaguely like living creatures as well. Manufactured weights were not available at the time and unknown to Smith, the “marbles” and the “weights” were fossils.

Smith grew “curiouser” and “curiouser” pondering the patterns he noticed in rocky formations while he worked as a surveyor of coal mines and canals. Concurrently, the industrial revolution was driving questions about harnessing energy for manufacturing and human energy for labor. The origins of species was being questioned. It was Smith though, who pulled the many thoughts and questions together and eventually drew the first geological map, accurately depicting the layers of earth's strata. This map is the physical birth of geology and quite literally, changed the world. Geology and the manner of study inaugurated in large measure by Smith literally provided both a wealth of raw resources that industry needed to industrialize the world. I learned this all by reading a wonderful book by The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology by Simon Winchester.

We live in a world that clearly stands upon the answered questions of Smith's day, but we live in no less a chaotic time. Advances in technology, science, global culture and society challenge many of our preconceived ideas about the world and its origins. The speed of this change is momentous. In The Great Emergence, Phyllis Tickle writes that there are three questions being asked today: Where is authority? What is a human being? And what does it mean to be a religious person in a world of global religious complexity?

The top most sought after jobs this year 2010 did not exist in 2004. We are quite literally training children to answer questions and work in jobs that do not yet exist. China will soon be the largest English-speaking country in the world. The United States is the second largest Spanish-speaking country in the world. Twenty-five percent of India’s population with the highest IQ’s is grater than the total population of the United States.

Twenty-seven billion users on My Space make it the size of the fifth largest country in the world. There are five times as many words in the English language today than there were when Shakespeare wrote. One out of eight couples married last year met online.

Billions of searches are done on Google - people seeking answers.

You can watch more of these facts on a YouTube video entitled: Did You Know? at

Where do we go when Google can’t come up with the answer? Who do we talk to when we only get computerized voices on the phone?

It would be nice to find a solid place to stand in this scenario.

While I cannot be certain, I do believe that this the very same kind of question that the disciples asked themselves as Jesus explained to them that he was leaving. If I were a disciple I would have asked it as a follow up to Philip's question on the road to Philippi. I would have asked it at the Last Supper. I would have asked it in the Garden of Gethsemane. I would have asked it in the Upper Room and on the shore of the Galilean lake. I would have asked it every time Jesus said he was going away … and in John's Gospel they pretty much did!

Jesus' answer is the same throughout the Gospel, and it reminds us of God's faithful friendship with the patriarchs and matriarchs of our deuteronomistic family: "I will be with you."

Jesus desires an apostolic community where his disciples are forever unified to God - to the community of God - through the Holy Spirit. Jesus dreams that they will follow him, continue to love as he has loved, and continue his ministry of proclaiming the good news. All of this work intimately reflects the divine community of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), reflects the divine unity, the divine love and the divine outpouring of itself into the world.

We are the Episcopal Church. We are that apostolic community in the world. We are the community united in all of our diversity in and through the power of God's revealing Spirit. We glorify God and we make him known as creator, as unique revelation (Jesus Christ), as empowering Spirit.

Yes, the Holy Spirit, the wind, the pnuema, God's breath, the Paraclete, the wisdom, spirit and perfect love of the divine Godhead moves inside the very being of our church and our congregations, our orders and our mission.

The Episcopal Church is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. And it is in our apostolic family of God that we find our place on the map and where we will find our solid rock. It is from this vantage point that you and I together forge the reign of God - a reign of peace and justice, a reign where people find their dignity, a reign where others are treated as neighbor. Outside the church we are God's hands at work, we are God's revelation.

Our church may not always get it right. We may not have all the answers for how to live life in this chaotic and changing world. But we do know who we are, where we are and in whom our hearts rest.

Come Holy Spirit come, comfort your people and send us out transforming our congregations, our community and the world around us. Come Holy Spirit come!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday Year C

John 15:26 - 16:15

26”When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.

16”I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. 2They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. 3And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me. 4But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts.

7Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9about sin, because they do not believe in me; 10about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. 12“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Oremus online text:

Textweek general resources:

Textweek resources for John’s Gospel this Sunday:

Something for Everyone:

Chris Haslam’s commentary:

William Loader:

"Not everything which masquerades in garments of light brings light. To affirm this Spirit, this Christ of John, is to deny counterfeits and to encounter popular spiritualities inside and outside the church critically."

Interesting article on 4th Gospel from Easter to Pentecost:

Christ be with me, Christ within me,

Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort and restore me,

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me,

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the name,

The strong name of the Trinity;

By invocation of the same.

The Three in One, and One in Three,

Of whom all nature hath creation,

Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:

Praise to the Lord of my salvation,

salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Translation: Cecil Frances Alexander

A collection of prayers for Trinity Sunday:

This week we continue with Jesus' teaching of the interrelated life of the Apostolic community and the Holy Trinity. While last week's lesson from John focused on the coming of the Paraclete, this week gives an understanding of the interrelated nature of God as Trinity and how that interrelated life is to be a part of the interrelated life of the community.

The very first verse is key to the creedal arguments of the second century and the statement that the Spirit proceeds from the Father became a chorus for the Greek or more Western argument.

Jesus says that the Spirit will bear witness to him. What is meant theologically is that the Holy Spirit will, in it's very person, bear witness to the unity and love between the Father and the Son, and bear witness to their love. The Spirit is the very perfect image of God's love.

It is also clear that the Spirit will provide the undergirding of the community and that those followers, the one's whom Jesus called to be with him, will be witnesses because of God's presence with them in and through the Spirit.

It is clear that the passage holds within itself and Jesus' words a sense of dread for the apostolic comity that remains. Whether a forecast of things to come or reflecting the reality of the time in which the text was written, the message is clear - as the movement continues to take shape and bear witness to a new community life they'll be segregated and separated from the religious roots from which their faith was birthed.

Religious zealots have always sought to purify religion (it is human nature it seems). As this is the Sunday after the Pentecost story I cannot help reflect on the major stories of religious upheaval, from Babel to Babylon to Pentecost to the Reformation, we see God building and rebuilding his faithful followers challenging them in ever new ways. Phyllis Tickle speaks of these moments as great shifts. The nature of the church as Family of God is deeply rooted in these emerging shifts over thousands of years. N. T. Wright's work also gives a clear understanding of the emerging deuteronomistic family of God and how it has shaped us.

The disciples are right in the midst of a great shift and Jesus tells them they will not be alone, and that the Spirit will help them to understand their witness of the Truth which is clearly meant to be the Living Word Jesus Christ. From Stephen to Polycarp the names of the earliest martyrs are eternally with us. Perpetua and her friends have been joined by a holy family of saints who have paid the cost of faith - a family of God martyred by Christians and non Christians alike.

There is martyrdom of the physical body and there is martyrdom of the conscience, too. Our zealotry has little room today for difference of opinion and conscience falls away as we wrestle with the cult of belonging. The heresies of the ancient world catch up with us once again, Donatism and its friend on the opposite sides of the spectrum Gnosticism; Nazarene to its partner Manichaeism. Each requires perfection of its followers, rather than mutual and communal discernment of the Holy Spirit's revelation, which begins not with our knowledge, but of unknowing our common search for truth and our common brokenness and sinfulness. Always beyond us and always our aim, the collect for Richard Hooker is therefore prayed in hope: help us seek unity not for the sake of compromise but for the sake of comprehension.

I guess all of this is to say that it is easier for humans to walk apart because of their zealotry than it is for us to walk together for the sake of truth. No wonder Jesus prayed for the comforter to come and for the unity of those who follow him!

The very last verses confirm the reality of Jesus' own perfect revelation in that the Spirit's work will confirm what has been taught. There will not be a new or differing revelation as time wears on. Now some will say, but don't we believe that the Holy Spirit continues to work and reveal God in the world through the mission and ministry of those who follow Jesus?

I think sometimes we get confused about what is changing. As a person who loves to think systematically and theologically, how I understand this may in fact be different than most, but what I am about to say also fits with my understanding of the Episcopate as keeper of the church's faith, handing down a living tradition of apostolic belief. The revelation of God in the unique person of Jesus Christ and the community of the Godhead as Trinity is an unchanging reality and faith. However, I remember at this point, and always at this point (humbly I must admit), the prayer for the church from our prayer book, page 816: where [the Church] is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it... All this is to say that here are the areas where I believe the church is challenged, not with new revelation but with the challenge of seeing God and God's mission more clearly.

Raymond Brown confirms this reading in today's text when he writes: "Verse 14 reinforces the impression that the Paraclete brings no new revelation because he receives from Jesus what he is to declare to the disciples..." The author records Jesus' concept that he, like the Paraclete, is an "emissary of the Father. In declaring or interpreting What belongs to Jesus, the Paraclete is really interpreting the Father to men; for the Father and Jesus possess all things in common...In Johannine thought it would have been unintelligible that the Paraclete have anything from Jesus that is not from the Father, but all that he has is from Jesus." (R.B., Anchor Bible, John, vol ii)

Perhaps in our time the Gospel -- the Good News-- is the promise that seeking the truth, come whence it may and cost what it will, intends to be nothing less than a pilgrimage into the heart and community of God. So I pray at the end of my life's journey, may I find I am closer to God and that such a closeness reveals and births in me a love for my real and ever expanding family of God.

The Lambeth Bible Study Method

This Bible study method was introduced by the African Delegation to the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church. It is known by both names: "Lambeth" and "African." This method is derived from the practice of Lectio Divina. The entire process should take about 30 minutes.
Question #5: "Briefly identify where this passage touches their life today," can change based upon the lesson. Find lesson oriented questions at this website:

Opening Prayer: O Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning. Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

1. One person reads passage. This person then invites a member of the group to begin the process.

2. Each person briefly identifies the word or phrase that catches their attention then invites another person to share.

3. Each shares the word or phrase until all have shared or passed using the same invitation method.

4. The passage is read a second time, preferably from a different translation. The reader then invites a person in the group to begin the process.

5. Each person briefly identifies where this passage touches their life today, and then invites someone who has not shared yet.

6. The passage is read a third time, also from another translation, and the reader invites a person to start the process.

7. Each person responds to the questions, "What does God want me to do, to be or to change?"

8. The group stands up in a circle and holds hands. One person initiates the prayer “I thank God today for …” and “I ask God today for…” The prayer goes around the circle by squeezing the hand to your right.

9. When the circle is fulfilled, the person who initiated the prayer starts the Lord’s Prayer, “Our father…”

Friday, April 9, 2010

Easter Day: Hail thee Festival Day

St. John of Damascus, called the golden tongued doctor of the church, an Arabian, a Christian, a priest, and mystic monk, reflected on this holiest of feasts in the eighth century:

Thou hallowed chosen day! That first

And best and greatest shinest!
Lady and Queen and feast of feasts,
Of things divine, divinest!
On thee our praises Christ adore,
For ever and for evermore.
Come, Let us taste the vine's new fruit
In this propitious day, with Chrsit
His resurrection sharing:
When as true God our hymns adore
For ever and for evermore.
Raise, Sion, raise thine eyes! For lo!
Thy scattered ones have found thee:
From east and west, and north and south,
Thy children gather round thee;
And in thy bosom Christ adore,
For ever and for evermore!

O Father of unbounded might!
O Son and Holy Spirit!
In persons three, in substance one,
Of one co-equal merit;
In thee baptiz’d, we thee adore
For ever and for evermore!

Today we gather to celebrate the great feast of the church, the resurrection of Jesus, the great prophet and ruler who brought to us the reign of God, burst into our world, taught us how to live in love with one another and with our God.

His Holy life, the Holy Meal, the Holy Cross, and the Holy Tomb have birthed for us, for our friends, for our families, for the church, for all of creation: new life, freedom, and resurrection.

Whereas the cross was the end of bondage to sin and death, and the invitation to live a new transformed life…the empty tomb of Jesus Christ is our new beginning -- our recreation. The empty tomb is the nativity of Christian faith and the renewal of Creation through an ever expanding communion with God and in community with one another.

On this day we do not linger on Golgotha’s hill top, at the foot of an empty cross, no we venture down into the new Garden of Eden in which resides our empty tomb.

The freedom redeemed on the cross is freedom purposed for the renewal of God’s covenant relationship with his people and with all creation.

People’s experience of a new and more powerful presence of Jesus Christ on Easter day and in the weeks that followed gave way to a continuum of transformation that flowed throughout the emerging Christian community.

Centered in Jerusalem and in ever expanding circles like the ripples in a pond, the resurrected Jesus appears in different ways -- traveler along the road -- in the midst of locked rooms -- he is there powerfully and emphatically -- a reality to those to whom he visits.

These resurrection appearances and the revelation which accompanied the risen Lord led to the ever clearer revelation of the Word of God and the opening of the scriptures in a way that had been veiled.

Before the empty tomb Jesus’ followers, the crowds, his detractors were deeply rooted in the ancient covenant of Israel. Their emerging understanding was that the cross coupled with the resurrection was a new covenant act provided, along with the Holy Spirit, an understanding of the apostolic mission and the nature of community formed in the aftermath of the empty tomb.

This resurrection and the experience of Christ led the first Christians to see the unveiling of the new covenant story and to understand their place within an ever expanding family of God.

Through the lens of the resurrection the first followers of Jesus began to understand that God wanted and desired and in fact designed creation to flourish under the stewardship of human beings. Jesus’ followers understood though that while this was the inherited promise to Israel they were not able to live within the law and were more likely to rebel against God and one another. And, that in this rebellion all of creation suffers.

The promises to Abraham and all the faithful mothers and fathers who followed God and made a life with him were constantly finding themselves in exile. Those who experienced the resurrection understood that Israel’s exile, their own exile, must be undone and the cross was the key to an empty tomb whereby the mosaic Christ was able to lead his people through exile and the darkness of death into the light of life.

In Christ we have a renewed, new covenant, empowered by the Holy Spirit, salvation and the freedom from sin and death is the gift given in baptism, sustained at the Eucharistic feast and nurtured in a life of daily prayer. The resurrection and empty tomb goes beyond salvation and creates a covenant community that is in mission and ministry in the world.

We do not claim the work of the cross and empty tomb for ourselves alone but for the whole of creation. We claim resurrection as stewards in God’s creation. We claim our mission and our work as the laborers Christ needs to take into the fields, the laborers whom Christ calls to serve the world under his commandment of love.

We are declaring that those who experience and claim the resurrected life of Jesus are part of the global family of the one creator God…we are the family of god, and God is with us as we seek to recreate, renew and restore God’s creation.

Formed in the Episcopal Church and later a Roman Catholic, pacifist, suffragette and the founder of the Catholic Worker movement, Dorothy Day understood the work of the resurrected community of Christ.
We must practice the presence of God. [She wrote.] He said that when two or three are gathered together, there He is in the midst of them. He is with us in our kitchens, at our tables, on our breadlines, with our visitors, on our farms…”

[She said:] What we would like to do is change the world – make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves as God intended them to do. Add to a certain extent, by fighting for better conditions, by crying out unceasingly for the rights of the worker, of the poor, of the destitute – the rights of the worthy and the unworthy poor, in other words – we can to a certain extent change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever-widening circle will reach around the world.

On this day, Christ’s day, we share in and offer to the world resurrection. Our hymns, our prayers, and our worship adore Christ and encourage us out into a world desperate to hear the voice of a loving living freeing God.

On this day, most hallowed of days, queen of feasts, all creation resounds in shouts of praise and thanksgiving feeling and knowing that from east and west and north and south, the great family of God is being gathered in. You and I are changed in the emptying of Christ’s tomb, we are changed, and the world can be changed…for ever and forevermore...


  • "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
  • "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
  • "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
  • "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
  • "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
  • "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
  • "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball