vendredi, novembre 16, 2007

My commentary from today's Inky on Bishop Bennison's suspension

Impact of bishop's suspension
The investigation of an Episcopalian leader has wide effects.

> Episcopalians in the Diocese of Pennsylvania and elsewhere have spent the past couple of years engaged in overt and behind-the-scenes conflict focused on the contentious figure of our diocesan bishop, Charles E. Bennison Jr.
> But for any healing to happen in this divided and disenchanted judicatory, we are going to have to turn the analytical lens on ourselves.
> Bennison currently is under ecclesiastical inhibition, or suspension. In articles, he has been dubbed as "disconnected," a "weak Christian," and a man "void of substance" - and that's just a sample from a flood of condemnatory adjectives.
> Why is Bennison forbidden from exercising the office to which he was duly elected by clergy and lay delegates at a special convention back in 1997?
> The bishop was investigated by church authorities at the highest levels of the United States Episcopal hierarchy for allegedly covering up his brother's sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old girl in the early 1970s. Apparently, there is plenty of evidence to initiate an ecclesiastical trial.
> Prepared by a national church committee, the 12-page presentment (church language for indictment) describes the bishop as "deliberately and systematically concealing" information about his brother's misconduct. Although the bishop may fight the charges, his ecclesiastical future (he could ultimately be stripped of all clergy rank) looks extremely cloudy.
> There also is the possibility of a second presentment on a complaint by the Standing Committee (an elected group of clergy and lay leaders) sent to Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori charging the bishop with using diocesan funds without its consent.
> But for the moment at least, the bishop is gone. And without the distraction of a common foe that brought some very disparate diocesan elements together, we are brought face to face with ourselves.
> As a priest who earns her keep primarily as a writer rather than in a parish setting, I find myself in the odd position of being more an onlooker than a combatant.
> The dangers of our current stalemate are obvious: paralysis, resentment and continued trauma.
> I have talked to a number of clergy around the diocese recently, and they expressed a sense of both betrayal and mistrust.
> While the feeling of mistrust is constant, the target differs, depending to whom one is speaking.
> The upper echelons of the former Episcopal Church leadership have come under fire for apparently not sharing what at least a few of them knew about the Bennison brothers and sexual misconduct allegations 15 years ago.
> The very Standing Committee long publicly at odds with the bishop is under attack for what seemed to some to be its dogged and unyielding pursuit of the bishop.
> Certain conservative and liberal factions in the diocese, temporarily united in their distaste for a common foe, may find that their alliance doesn't last long. A coalition built on the principle that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" cannot stand the test of doctrinal disagreements.
> Where can we find healing?
> Asked the best way to repair trust between individuals in the diocesan family, one Standing Committee member spoke of the need to be consistent in telling the truth - whoever the audience might be.
> Another said that moving beyond polarization to genuine dialogue involved prayerful "deep listening," a commitment that he hopes will begin Sunday in an open "Diocesan Conversation" to be held at 3 p.m. at St. Mary's Church, 104 Louella Ave., Wayne.
> Our diocesan dilemma mirrors the crisis currently afflicting both the national church and the Anglican Communion. Bound more by common interests than by shared theology or understanding of authority, it is easy for us to fracture under stress. At that point, we are prone to let our lawyers do the talking for us.
> In this moment of testing, we are called to embrace truth spoken in charity and a deep sense of humility for our own shortcomings, not just those of others.
> Wherever we stand on these tragic issues, we are united both in sin and in a common need for God's redemption.
> I suspect that if we spend time on our knees, we may be surprised to find out who chooses to kneel beside us - fellow sinners, Christ-followers, children of God.
> Surely that is a good place, the best place, to start.

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jeudi, novembre 15, 2007

Who's got it in for Barack?

If I were Barack Obama, the Presidential candidate from Illinois, I might be a little paranoid. First there are the folks who call me "Osama"-in public. A mistake? Well, possibly, but an ignorant one. Then there are supposed Obama's liberal friends and co-Senators, like Delaware's Joe Biden, who talked about how clean and articulate I am. Naturally, there is no quarter given from the right. Earlier this year Rush Limbaugh (but what can you expect from an unprincipled hound like Limbaugh?) posted a parody, "The Magic Negro" on his site-the line between overt and covert bigotry is fluid.

Mitt Romney is our blow-dried candidate, careful in almost every arena-just a lovely glossified package. So it was intriguing that in an October talk Romney went on and on about Osam- Barack Obama and his gang of terrorists.

From the AP:

"In a slip of the tongue, Republican Mitt Romney accused Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama of urging terrorists to congregate in Iraq. In the midst of criticizing Obama and other Democrats on foreign and economic policy Tuesday, the GOP presidential hopeful said: 'Actually, just look at what Osam -- Barack Obama -- said just yesterday. Barack Obama, calling on radicals, jihadists of all different types, to come together in Iraq. That is the battlefield... It's almost as if the Democratic contenders for president are living in fantasyland. Their idea for jihad is to retreat, and their idea for the economy is to also retreat. And in my view, both efforts are wrongheaded.'"

"Romney was addressing a Chamber of Commerce meeting. Spokesman Kevin Madden said: 'He misspoke and corrected himself and was referring to Osama bin Laden.'"

I have to admit that when I heard this on the radio, my first response was to giggle. I mean, it is so stupid in a way that it's funny. Then I started to think-this Mormon is a presidential candidate, not your average fellow on the street.

That doesn't mean Mitt Romney or Joe Biden are bigots-but it does mean we've set the standards pretty low for emotional intelligence in the US Senate and the Governors Mansion. I'm glad Obama is no Clarence Thomas, constantly playing the race card. He has been nothing but professional in responding to this volley of seemingly innocuous mistakes. But

I do wish he could find a way to take on the Swiftboaters, the shock jocks and operatives, who apparently are truly out to get him.

However, I'm not running for President. If I were, I'd probably be way too gracious, too. Which would make me a lousy candidate for a cutthroat job. It is possible, however, that we need an Obama to restore some civility to the political dialogue-if it was ever civil.

See the link above for Roger Cohen's analysis (in the NYT) of why Obama represents the connections we need to forge with the rest of the world to fix our horrible reputation-and move ahead.

mardi, novembre 13, 2007

What kind of love does it take to allow watch your husband fall in love with another woman and be happy for him?

Apparently that's what's happened with Sandra and John O'Connor. A few years ago, she retired from the Supreme Court so that she could tend to him, as he slipped into the dementia that comes with Alzheimers disease. In Jeffrey Toobin's recent tome about the Supreme Court, The Nine, the first female on the Court seems very aware of her duties, both towards history and her family.

But beyond the sense of responsibility that apparently is just part of O'Connors character is her love for her husband-a love so profound that she can take it in stride when John, now a patient in a nursing home, acquires a girlfriend.

I imagine that you go through so many stages of grief as you gradually lose someone to that awful illness that eventually you surrender almost everything but your memories. But when your husband or wife is still alive-and shows romantic feelings for someone else-what does it bring out in you?

I don't know. I haven't been in those shoes. But I deeply admire the woman who can be this open in what has been such a difficult time for her and for her kids. Thank you for your grace, and for your humility.