Archive for June, 2007

“Total Ministry”

June 9, 2007

Bishop Jim Kelsey’s funeral in Marquette, Michigan on Friday was not only testimony to a valued colleague, but a gathering of many of us who would consider ourselves advocates of “total ministry.” I put the last words in quotation marks because they have become somewhat controversial in recent years.  They refer, loosely, to a comparatively non-hierarchical approach to ministry  which celebrates the collaborative, mutually supportive exercize of the ministry of lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons in the church and in the world.

One of those who shared reflections about Jim said that he was a product, in many ways, of the Episcopal Church’s current Book of Common Prayer, authorized about the same time he was ordained. Three aspects of that liturgical document which he embraced — and which shaped his ministry in many ways — were the Peace, the centrality of the Eucharist, and the Baptismal Covenant.

Over the next several days, I thought I might reflect upon those things as they pertain to the central concern of this web log — the desire “that we all may be one.”  I hope you’ll check it out.

Anglicans and Roman Catholics

June 6, 2007

Just completed a nice visit with Bishop Stephen Platten from the Diocese of Wakefield in England. Stephen is chairman of the Board of Governors of the Anglican Centre in Rome. He was in the States to greet our new Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, and to meet with the American Friends of the Anglican Centre.

The Anglican Centre is 40 years old this year and is located on the second floor within Palazzo Doria Pamphilj in the heart of Rome. Its mission is to promote Christian unity by developing friendly and informed relations between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church.

It provides a permanent Anglican diplomatic presence in Rome and exercises a ministry of hospitality and prayer and creates affordable educational opportunities for clergy and laity so that all may be involved in working toward Christ’s prayer ‘that we all may be one.’

Their website is Check it out!  

It’s Raining in New York

June 4, 2007

It’s raining in New York. Seems appropriate somehow because we lost our friend and colleague, Jim Kelsey, over the weekend. The 54 year old Episcopal Bishop of Northern Michigan was killed in an automobile accident while returning from a normal Sunday visitation to one of his parishes in the Upper Peninsula.

I sometimes wonder why more of us aren’t killed in this way, since most bishops spend much of their lives in automobiles visiting parishes for confirmation, driving to  diocesan meetings, coming home late at night after mediating in some kind of parish dust-up.

Our Presiding Bishop described Jim as one of the bright lights of our church. Certainly he was smart, committed, and passionate about God, God’s people, and God’s justice. She also said we would miss his “easy grace.”

As I said in my post to our bishops’ list serve: I find it impossible to improve on that description and will never be able to hear the phrase “easy grace” without thinking of Jim.

He’ll be missed. And today…

It’s raining in New York.  

A Day, Primarily, For Worship

June 3, 2007

As the only “holy day'” set aside to celebrate a “doctrine” rather than an event in Jesus’ life or a sainted person, Trinity Sunday does not lend itself so much to sermons about the Trinity, but rather invites us into standing before our  God in reverence and in awe.  God is ultimately unknowable, even though  revelation  has come to us  through  scripture, tradition, and reason, giving us glimpses — and more than glimpses — of the divine nature.
And so the biblical texts today describe Isaiah’s experience of his call to be a prophet in the midst of temple worship ( Isaiah 6:1-4). In the second reading, St. John the Divine holds up a vision of heavenly worship in order to sustain his community as they were facing persecution in the early days of the Church’s life (Revelation 4:2-6). And the Gospel lesson quotes Jesus in what is perhaps the perfect text for Trinity Sunday: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now!” (John 16:12)

In an earlier posting about Anglican and Orthodox relations, I mentioned a wonderful new resource entitiled “The Church of the Triune God.” And I would commend it to anyone for use in the classroom, for study and discussion, for theological reflection, even as a focus for meditation on the mystery of the Holy and Undivided Trinity.

Today, I hope you will simply join with fellow Christians in quiet and splendid beauty, listen to the descriptions of heavenly worship, sing the words of hymns exalting the Triune God in poetic phrases which lift the mind and heart, pray “in spirit and in truth,” and receive in faith the sacrament of Bread and Wine.

And, after you have so worshiped, say with Isaiah, “Here am I…send me!”

The Visit

June 1, 2007


We celebrated yesterday Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, when they were both pregnant and awaiting the births, respectively of Jesus and John. On the one hand, it is the most natural thing imaginable – two relatives rejoicing with one another, giving support to one another at a critical juncture in their lives.

But it’s clear that Luke has more in mind than this as he relates this story! The child in Elizabeth’s womb “leaps” at the sound of Mary’s voice, Elizabeth is described as being suddenly “filled with the Holy Spirit” and crying, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” This is an encounter with prophetic dimensions – saying something, not only about the relationship of the two women, but the intertwined nature of their sons’ lives as well…lives which will affect the very history of the world! 

The whole scene provides a context for Mary’s Song which begins a few verses later. It’s often been pointed out that the Magnificat is of the same type as the Song of Hannah in I Samuel 2. Both speak of rejoicing in the Lord, about the hungry being fed, and about the powerful and mighty being brought low. 

It’s interesting that in certain ancient manuscripts, and in Irenaeus, and in Origen’s writings, there is the suggestion that the Magnificat in the original text may have been ascribed to Elizabeth rather than to Mary! 

Although scholars today generally follow the traditional ascription of the Magnificat to Mary, the song would make sense on Elizabeth’s lips as well: both Hannah and Elizabeth were old; both Hannah and Elizabeth had been unable to bear children (a great grief, especially in their Jewish culture); in both cases their barrenness was overcome by a wondrous act of God; and they would each give birth to a prophet, a forerunner of the Messiah – Samuel and John. 

Hear these words, just for a moment, as if they had been sung by Elizabeth, as a parallel piece to the Song of her husband Zechariah a little later in this chapter: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.”   

Well, as I say, we will no doubt follow the weight of evidence that the Magnificat is Mary’s Song, nonetheless, the words stand on their own. They are powerful words of praise…and thanksgiving…and justice…and faithfulness…and they describe the actions of the God of Israel who always fulfills his promise to Abraham and his children…for ever. And so we say with Isaiah:

“Cry aloud, inhabitants of Zion, ring out your joy, for the great one in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel!” (Canticle 9, BCP 86)