Monday, December 29, 2008

Enjoying the Red Rocks

One of the best vacations I can think of is time by a fire and lots of good books.
I have a chance to do exactly that during this Christmas-tide. Laura and I are at the house in Oak Creek, keeping warm (it was 21 degrees yesterday morning)and doing lots of reading (even though the temptation to use the computer sometimes wins out). I am especially enjoying a new translation of the Canterbury Tales which Jordan gave me fo Christmas.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Phoenix Light Rail begins!

Both kids (in their twenties) were home for Christmas and both asked why I haven't posted anything on my blog recently. So along the lines of a New Year's resolution, here goes...

Yesterday Laura and I spent a very cold day in Phoenix riding the new Lightrail or "metro" (in homage to Paris?) on its opening day. It took a decade to do and cost well over a billion dollars. It will remain to be seen if anyone uses it or not, since the route does not serve the most important areas of the city. Still it is a step in the right direction, and since we had to put up with 3 years of construction noise, we do feel a bit proprietary.

There were huge crowds, so there is some real interest. I suspect that we will use it to travel out to events a ASU in Tempe and perhaps use the library out there more.

There has not been a rail system in Phoenix for 60 years.

Having marked that historic occasion, we packed up both dogs and headed for Oak Creek where we will be until New Years.

Monday, September 22, 2008

What does the House of Bishops look like?

I can remember the first time I actually witnessed a meeting of the House of Bishops, before I was elected. I think that I expected to see a group of mostly men sitting around wearing copes and mitres and discussing theology. The reality was much different--and a little disappointing. Many of you have enjoyed the video clips that I posted from Lambeth. So here is one from the recent House of Bishops meeting last week in Salt Lake City. As you can see, we met in a nice but ordinary hotel ballroom. The Presiding Bishop is speaking, and in the back of the room are tables for the staff and translators. Maybe copes and mitres would not be a bad idea?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Opening ceremonies

Did anyone else find the opening ceremonies of the Olympics to be a bit scary?
There was lots of media commentary about how they marked China's entry into the world community. That certainly is true, but I wondered if they weren't also intended to shock and awe viewers around the world (and there were a record number of them in the US).

I found the huge masses of synchronized dancers to be just a bit intimidating. The message seemed to me to be, "We can get huge numbers of people to work together to do anything--those of you in the West, watch out!" I doubt I was the only one who was reminded of similar mass displays in the Nuremberg Party rallies of Nazi Germany.

If that impression is true, that America is finding itself increasingly to be a second rate economic and military power, then there are some implications for how we see ourselves as American Christians as well. Maybe we are not quite as important as we think we are?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Back fom Lambeth

After more than three weeks in England, I now back in Phoenix, reflecting on our time there.

For those of you who missed the musings while at the Lambeth conference, you can find them all on my special site,

Now that I am home, I will be returning to this blog address.

The first item is to share the letter I wrote the my Diocese today:

Feast of the Transfiguration,
August 6, 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Laura and I have just returned from three weeks in England, where we attended the Lambeth Conference, the meeting of the world-wide Anglican Communion held at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury every ten years.

Some of you have been following my daily reports of that meeting, and these will remain posted (along with some videos I took) at In addition, many of you have already looked at the final “Reflections” document produced at the Conference ( Much of what is contained in that document, especially the sections referring to full inclusion of gay and lesbian folks in the Anglican Communion, will no doubt serve as material for further discussion and debate here in our Diocese and in our American church, especially when it meets at its General Convention next year.

So although the work of Lambeth 2008 will take some time to digest, I felt that this would be a good time to share with you some of my initial impressions.

Overall, it was an extremely positive experience. Those critics who predicted that the Anglican Communion would fragment at this conference were proved wrong. Far from resulting in schism, the meeting provided us all with a chance bishops from around the world to get to know each other and the contexts in which we work. In spite of the fact that we occasionally disagreed, there was no hint of rancor or anger in any of our meetings, only the desire to share in the mission of the Gospel of Jesus in the world. The highlights of our time together were the small Bible study groups we had each morning and the larger indaba discussions which followed (indaba is a South African technique for making sure every voice is heard). While the bishops focused on scripture and doctrine, the spouses in their meeting concentrated more on the relational side of our life together. Laura heard stories of hardship and suffering from spouses who have experienced rape, murder, and terror as the result of their witness.

Although the Reflections document is merely a report of our discussions (Lambeth has no legislative authority), many of its comments related to human sexuality are bound to gain attention in the coming months. The American Church realizes that our policy of inclusion is not shared by the majority. The document reflects that fact. Even though I had hoped that the Communion could accept the American Church’s actions, I was disappointed that this was not the case. Bishop Gene Robinson’s exclusion was personally difficult for me, and I supported him the best I could by attending an off- campus Eucharist with him. Most (but not all) of the 38 constituent provinces still feel that there is need for a covenant agreement which would contain some kind of discipline for those provinces that proceed with the consecration of openly gay or lesbian bishops, or who offer blessings of same gender unions. Both the meaning of these passages, and the disciplinary implications are still unclear, but I don’t think it would be an overstatement to say that many of us in the American Church feel caught between our love for the Communion and our conviction that in the church there can be no outsiders. The result, as someone half jokingly remarked, is that “the Anglican Communion welcomes everyone, except a few, and the Americans, who welcome everyone.” So this tension will continue.

For my part, I intend to do three things. The first is to nurture the friendships I made with my colleagues from around the world. I am sure my prayer-group members (which included one very vocal critic of the American Church) and I will be friends for life, for we pledged to pray daily for each another. Second, our mission partnerships need to be strengthened. I hope to build on our relationship with Western Mexico and Dar es Salaam, and both will be present at our Convention in October. Third, the clergy and I will be discussing the pastoral implications of the Reflections document at our clericus meetings this fall and how we as one Diocese can best respond to it.

Lambeth Conference was for both Laura and me a life changing experience which will affect our ministries for years to come. In addition to the formal meetings, I will always treasure the personal opportunities I had during my time in England to do such things as sit in prayer in Canterbury cathedral for two days of retreat; to visit Cambridge University where I got to touch original documents of Thomas Beckett, Thomas Cranmer, and Martin Luther and to hold in my hands the oldest book in England that Pope Gregory gave to St Augustine in 597; to play the organ in the Cathedral; to walk in solidarity through the streets of London with 700 other bishops in purple cassocks in support of the Millennium Development Goals; and yes, to enjoy the gracious hospitality of the Queen at Buckingham palace! I will always give thanks for the opportunity to represent you, the people of the Diocese of Arizona at this gathering. I am proud to be your bishop and I am proud to be part of our great and historic church throughout the world.



Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Salvation from Seniors

This past weekend I had the chance to spend some time with my longtime friend and mentor, Bishop Claude Payne, retired Bishop of the Diocese of Texas. Some of you will remember that it was Bishop Payne who wrote the book, Reclaiming the Great Commission, which I have found to be a very helpful guide in my ministry as Bishop. Bishop Payne was in town to preach at the installation service of The Rev. Philip Jackson, the new rector of Christ Church of the Ascension in Paradise Valley. Philip's connections with Bishop Payne go back further than mine. They worked together in Texas, and the Bishop presided at Philip's marriage ceremony.

Bishop Payne was one of the oldest bishops ever elected in this country, not taking the reins of the Diocese of Texas until age 61. But once started, he accomplished some amazing things. Prior to his call to the priesthood, Bishop Payne was an engineer. Like most engineers, when confronted by a problem, he devised a solution and then implemented it. The newly-minted Bishop Payne faced a diocese with declining membership, stagnant growth and lack of vision. But thanks to his methodical approach to problems and solutions, the result is that Texas is now one of the largest and healthiest dioceses in the country.

What struck me most strongly during the time we spent together this weekend was that although now well into his retirement, and at an age when many of us would be content to play golf or bridge, Bishop Payne has taken on a quiet, but determined, reformation of the Episcopal Church. A few years ago, he began a series of informal meetings of bishops and clergy, a "Gathering of Leaders." Those attending share a common goal of not being sidetracked by the all too ubiquitous political infighting and to keep focused on the church's main task of spreading the Gospel. We share best practices with each other, and give each other mutual support. I am honored to be part of this group, and I have, in turn, invited several young clergy of our diocese to participate.

Not long ago I visited a vestry where, after I had challenged them to commit to a new vision of growth, one exasperated vestry member said, "We can't do that, we're too old!"

I recalled the saying of Winston Churchill, "Most good is done in the world by people who don't feel very well."

Bishop Payne is an example of someone who is having a huge effect on the lives of many in his "retirement." I am sure you can think of other examples in your own church or community who contribute to a future they may never see. I am quite proud of my Dad who last year at the age of 84 volunteered to work on a building project for the poor in Guatemala, who spearheaded a library expansion program in their town, and who sat on the board of directors of their county community college district. I recall a gentleman from St. John's church in Glendale who sang in the choir there-up to when he was 102!

It is true that the Episcopal Church is "grayer" than many denominations. That is certainly true here in Arizona. But that does not mean that even our older members can't continue to exercise dynamic, thoughtful, and productive ministries, and even change the course of the church for the future.

I wonder what Bishop Payne plans to do once he turns 80?

Monday, June 2, 2008

Interviewing for the Faith

This past week I joined some of my Episcopal colleagues in New York City for some “media training,”—translated, “how to give an interview on television and not look like a doofus.” Together at the recent House of Bishops meeting in Texas we had all had a taste of this, but a group of us decided that we needed some more intense work in this area, including some practice runs on camera.

I think that the Presiding Bishop (probably prompted by our own Chuck Robertson) realized that at the upcoming Lambeth Conference we are likely to have a microphone stuck in our face and we had better be ready to respond intelligently. Moreover, I realized that since I have been bishop, I have probably given about 25 such interviews.
After last week’s media training, I wish that could have done most of them over again!

Dealing with journalists is not easy, but there are at least three main points that we learned in our training—take time to prepare, know your core story (the point you want to make sure you get across in what is likely to be a seven second sound-bite), and always include a story.

It occurred to me that these tips for doing a good interview are also fundamental to being a good evangelists—know the topic (the Gospel of Jesus Christ), insist on the core point (this is “Good News” for all people); make it personal and passionate (speak from your own experience).

We had a chance to critique several recorded television interviews. It was amazing to see how many people when confronted by a camera wander off-topic, or string together the worst kind of generalities, or are distracted by curve-ball questions which have nothing to do with the topic at hand.

How are we doing when it comes to proclaiming the Gospel? Do we take time to prepare what we are going to say? Our coach reminded us that most clergy spend 10-20 hours a week preparing a sermon that a few hundred people might hear. What about an interview that thousands or even millions will read or listen to? I am often saddened by the small number of folks who participate in parish education classes or the Church School teacher who brags that they “looked over the lesson for a few minutes on Saturday night,” or the priest who clearly has not his or her homework, or the Sunday morning service which is thrown together with no real thought. “Be prepared” is not just the Boy Scout motto, but for any of us in Christian leadership.

Likewise, our frequent lack of passion about what we proclaim is often a result of the fact that we don’t take it personally. Unless we share with others our own experience of God’s work in our lives, then we cannot expect to influence them. This does not mean that every sermon has to be a personal testimonial, or every coffee hour an occasion for witnessing, but it does mean that our religion is rooted in our experience ( Frederick Buechner once said, “Religion begins with a lump in the throat”), and unless we base our words on what is going on in our hearts, our presentation of the Gospel will be boring and irrelevant.

Most of us will never have to face a camera team, but each of us is called everyday to be interviewed by others about our faith. It can happen in simple ways: around the water-cooler, on the sidelines of the soccer field, at the senior center. The questions may be more subtle than on TV, but they are asking the same thing—tell us about what you believe and why?

What will be your answer?

“Film at 10”

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

God is Green?

The Diocese of Arizona recently received some good front page coverage in the Phoenix paper, the Arizona Republic, when they did a long piece on how churches are being environmentally responsible.

You can read the article at

Its a good start, but we have a long way to go!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Thoughts from the House of Bishops

I have not posted anything here for a while, so I will share with you all the report from the House of Bishops that I sent to the folks in the Diocese of Arizona:

Wednesday afternoon
March 12, 2008

The spring House of Bishops Meeting in Camp Allen has just concluded and I want share my impressions with you before I head back to Phoenix.

We have enjoyed 6 days of fellowship, prayer (we worshipped together three times a day), great preaching and teaching against the backdrop of a springtime in rural Texas. I even managed to join some colleagues for a couple of hours of horseback-riding!

Much of our time together was spent on the hearing of reports and presentations, but the meeting was framed by two very emotional bookends.

The first was the announcement that in spite of intensive lobbying by many bishops of our church, the Archbishop of Canterbury has decided not to permit Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire to participate in any capacity at the upcoming Lambeth Conference in July. Although Bishop Robinson was the only American bishop not to receive a formal invitation, it had been hoped that a way could be found to have him present in an unofficial capacity. This news was greeted with great sadness by most of the House, and we are working to find ways support our brother during our time in England, and especially to invite our counterparts in the Anglican Communion to meet with him. I invite you to read all the documents that are posted on the Episcopal News Service website, including Bishop Robinson’s very moving response to the Lambeth decision, as well as a resolution passed by the House in support of him. Whether one agrees with him or not, it is important to remember that he is a duly elected Bishop and that his exclusion is hurtful not only to him, but to the integrity of the American church.

The other sad moment in our time together came when we took action to depose two bishops of the church who had violated their ordination vows by working to take parishes out of the Episcopal Church, Bishop John-David Scofield of San Joaquin, and Bishop William Cox, retired Suffragan of Maryland. This action was taken after long moments of prayer and silence reflection on the floor of the house. All of us wished to be as charitable and forgiving as possible, but the fact remains that both bishops have worked for many years to separate themselves from our church and in doing so have cause great harm to their dioceses. We consider our action to be a recognition of an existing situation, and not a punitive action.

Many of the presentations we heard focused, appropriately enough, on reconciliation and on our need to go to the Lambeth conference in as open, humble, and cooperative way as possible. We spent an entire learning about “faith-based reconciliation” and how it has been successfully practiced in our own church in around the world. We also renewed our commitment to anti-racism training.

As always, there were a number of practical items. We can expect, for example, some changes in our clergy medical insurance program that should result in considerable savings. We also received some training in dealing with media which will come in handy when we are interviewed by reporters this summer.

I continue to be impressed by the great wealth of talent and diverse thinking of the bishops of the American church, and their willingness to undertake decisions prayerfully and seriously.

A prayer used by our chaplains at worship each day sums it all up:

Give to your Church, O God,
a bold vision and a daring charity,
a refreshed wisdom and a courteous understanding,
that the eternal message of your Son
may be acclaimed as the good news of the age;
through him who makes all things new,
even Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen