Extra Ordinem Methodist Style: The Church Within a Church Movement (CWAC) has set October 19 as the date for the first ordination extra ordinem in the United Methodist Church (UMC). The ordinands are two women who have been blocked from ordination in the United Methodist Church process and who have completed the CWAC candidacy process. The women were approved for ordination in March 2008.
The ordinations will take place at Mount Vernon Place UMC in Baltimore, Maryland. United Methodist leaders and leaders in the Presbyterian, Lutheran, Catholic and United Church of Christ will participate.

It's Not About the Restrooms: On January 28, 2008 the ciy council of Gainesville, Florida approved an ordinance to prevent discrimination on grounds of gender identity.
On August 6 the Catholic News Agency (CNA) reports that a coalition of businesses and individuals (Citizens for Good Public Policy (CGPP)) has gathered enough signatures to put a measure on the March, 2009 ballot that would remove gender identity from Gainesville's anti-discrimination policies. If passed, the March ballot measure would prevent the city of Gainesville from enacting any anti-discrimination policy that is "based upon a classification, characteristic or orientation not recognized by the Florida Civil Rights Act."
CGPP statements on the issue inevitably appeal to public restroom anxiety: This ordinance, among other things, allows a male with an "inner sense of being" female to enter most publicly accessible female restrooms in Gainesville with full legal protection (churches and government offices are exempt).
CGPP receives legal assistance from the Thomas More Law Center ("The Sword and Shield for People of Faith") based in Ann Arbor Michigan. Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, apparently believes that gender identity is a hoax of some kind:
The concept of 'gender identity' was fashioned by radical homosexual groups and advocates to protect the bizarre sexual behavior of a few people. In practical effect, these types of ordinances end up being used to intimidate and prosecute Christians and anyone else who raises objections to this form of deviant behavior.
It may be that Mr. Thompson has no direct experience of people with different gender identities. If lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex friends are not an option, we'd recommend a short primer like What Are You: Male, Merm, Herm, Ferm or Female? by William O. Beeman.

Lambeth Conference Ends: The 2008 Lambeth Conference drew to a close on August 3. The Lambeth Conference, which brings together bishops from throughout the Anglican Communion, is one of the four Instruments of Communion for Anglicanism. The conference is held every 10 years.
The 2008 Lambeth Conference was unusual in many ways. More than 200 of the 800 Anglican bishops boycotted the conference to express dissatisfaction with the admission (in some parts of the Anglican Communion) of LGBT people and women to the clergy and episcopacy. (The dissenting bishops and their supporters staged the Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON) earlier this year in Jerusalem.)
Also noteworthy was the use of indaba, an African model of purposeful discussion, to structure the Lambeth program.
The conference is not a legislative assembly, and this year its output is a lengthy reflections document that attempts to summarize the bishops' discussions on a variety of topics over the three-week conference. For those who don't want to read the primary source, the Episcopal News Service distilled the highlights of the reflections document complete with helpful links to supporting material (for example, the St. Andrews Draft of the Anglican Covenant and the Windsor Process).
Though no one will say as much, the consensus of the Lambeth participants seems to be "stay the course." In practical terms, this means to continue work on an Anglican Covenant as a tool for articulating what the communion holds in common, to continue the Windsor report "moratoria" on "ordinations of persons living in a same-gender union to the episcopate, the blessing of same-sex unions, and cross-border incursions by bishops," and to let the communion's legislative and judicial bodies to proceed without interference.


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    Not all of the bishops in attendance will comply with the continuing moratoria. Bishop Marc Andrus of the Diocese of California said his diocese would not abide by the moratorium on same-sex blessings. He noted that he and the diocese have the responsibility "to both understand the position of those to whom that moratorium is important, and to convey the reality of our life together to the world."

    Archbishop of Canterbury a Quiet Ally?: With the Lambeth Conference barely concluded, the BBC reported on August 7 that, in newly released private correspondence from 2000 and 2001, Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, declared that, like marriage, gay partnerships could reflect God's love if they showed "absolute covenanted faithfulness". Dr. Williams made the statements in an exchange of letters with Deborah Pitt, a psychiatrist and evangelical Christian in Dr. Williams' former diocese in South Wales.
    The timing of publicity around this correspondence may prove awkward for Dr. Williams. Asked about the conflict between his personal position and that of the Anglican Communion, Dr. Williams responded:
    The Anglican Communion has made its position corporately clear through the Lambeth conference and through all the things we have been going through in recent years. As Archbishop of Canterbury that is where I stand, and that is the position I am committed to stand with.

    Serial Foot Washing Exhibitionism: The ELCA press release arrived in our email at 10:43AM on August 4. At 10:48 while we were still digesting the tabloid-worthy headline ELCA Presiding Bishop Washes Feet of HIV-Positive Women, an indignant report from our Far-Flung Observer Network (FFON) arrived: "That's a news headline in 2008????"
    And, indeed, we were so distracted by the headline that we almost missed Bishop Hanson's declaration that compassion is only half of the what Christians are called to do:
    The other half of the call is to stand with people at the margins so that they will no longer be marginalized. I think too often Christians have found their comfort zone in acts of charity, compassion and love, rather than the struggle for justice and the full inclusion of marginalized people.

    Minutes later another email comment on the press release arrived and noted that a foot-washing anecdote had also been featured in Bishop Hanson's sermon at the July installation of Sierra Pacific Synod Bishop Mark Holmerud.
    A pattern was emerging, so we investigated further and found Repairing the Breach, Bishop Hanson's May 24, 2007 sermon, on the Southeast Michigan Synod web site. That sermon included the foot-washing story later told at Bishop Holmerud's installation. Bishop Hanson:
    Two weeks ago I spoke at the commencement of Fort Peck Community College on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana. It is one of thirty-two tribal colleges in the United States. What could I say? I was told by someone that I was the first white person invited to speak at graduation. Every attempt at how to begin the speech seemed inadequate and empty. So I began by inviting two graduates to come forward, remove their shoes, and I washed their feet. I could think of no other act that might begin to convey my humility and repentance for the racism that has so permeated the response of we who are white to American Indians for centuries.
    I spoke of Jesus, the teacher and rabbi, washing his disciplesí (students) feet and instructing them to love one another as he has loved them. I said that absent my repentance for the sin of racism, we could not even to begin to imagine what reconciliation and justice might mean for us today. Absent my public repentance for our collective sin of racism, I suspect my talk about the many contributions of American Indians would fall on deaf ears.

    With Bishop Hanson, we are convinced of the need for public repentance, and there is no doubt that the ceremony of bathing another's feet can be a symbol of repentance. But bathing and repentance (even public repentance) are intimate, immediate acts: we repent in the moment; we wash feet in the moment. But when we tell the story outside the moment (in a press release or even a sermon), the symbol begins to lose its compass, and may not point where one had hoped.

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