Statement on the Primate’s Communique from Lambeth January 2016

EpiscopalDiocese_Logo_RGB_lowres.jpgBy now many of you are aware that the Primates of the Anglican Communion, gathered in Canterbury this past week, have released a report that places temporary sanctions on the Episcopal Church. The primates voted these sanctions because of our decision this past summer to amend our canons to allow for same-sex marriage. There is a real sense of pain and sadness that the Episcopal Church is being censured for decisions it made in response to the pastoral needs of our members in our local contexts.

I believe it is important to note that the decisions made by our General Convention were done after decades of passionate conversation, biblical and theological engagement, by those in favor and those opposed, and with the understanding that no one is expected to uphold a position that their conscience cannot support. We believed that these decisions were made in response to the Gospel call to proclaim the news of God’s love for the created as far and as broadly as possible, and to listen to the voices of those whom the world has rejected. As a result of these decisions, the Episcopal Church was warned that there would be consequences. Today we have learned what they are.

In the news conference following the end of the meeting, the Archbishop of Canterbury stressed that the Episcopal Church was not “punished” or “sanctioned”. Episcopalians are invited to work beside Anglicans in other parts of the world on relieving the suffering of the poor and disaster relief. But it is the decision of the majority of the Primates that the Episcopal Church may not participate with the rest of the Anglican Communion in conversations about common belief and theology or in other wider ecumenical work, at least for the next three years.

Our Presiding Bishop has written of the pain that these decisions bring to many in the Episcopal Church, and in particular to those who feel they have been marginalized once again by the Church in which they long to fully participate. Bishop Michael has also reiterated his intention to remain at the table in what ever capacity is allowed and to work on maintaining relationships as much as possible. And he has said that he does not imagine that the Episcopal Church will reverse its course. I agree with him on this point. I stand by my vote and that of our General Convention deputation this summer. I want to assure the LGBT people of Rhode Island that you are fully welcome in our diocese.

Though I know it will be difficult for many of us right now, I would ask that you join me in standing with Bishop Michael and continuing to participate in the common work of the Anglican Communion to the degree that we will be allowed. When someone rejects you for doing what you prayerfully discern to be the right thing to do, the Bible teaches us that we are to respond in love, by staying in relationship, doing what we can to show God’s love to those who are rejecting us. Walking beside the rest of the members of the Anglican Communion is the best way for us to witness to the World what the Gospel asks us each to do.

Finally, I ask you to pray for our witness to the World. I ask you to pray for the Episcopal Church, for the Anglican Communion and for the whole Church of God.

Gracious Father, we pray for thy Holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it 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; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ thy Son our Savior. Amen. (BCP p. 816)

If you would like to know more about the decisions that were made, the Dean of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale has done a good job of explaining them. And I’d close by inviting you to listen to these words from the final day of the meeting in Lambeth by our Presiding Bishop.


An invitation to the Office: a resolution for the New Year

When I was newly ordained, I struggled for sometime trying to construct a prayer life that was as satisfying as the one I had while I was a seminarian. Being part of an organized community that read the Daily Office daily made it easy to look after my prayer life. But when I was out on my own, I found it was much harder to set aside the time – and it was a different experience reading it by myself.

By my third parish (Trinity Church in Bethlehem PA), I was able, with the help of a larger staff and some lovely and faithful parishioners, to read the office daily when I was in the office. I wasn’t terribly consistent when I was away from the parish, but something that was like daily prayer was better than something that wasn’t close. And, having learned that particular discipline, I was able to keep at it in the years I served at Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix and am still keeping that practice with the diocesan staff here in Rhode Island.

But I’m not satisfied with what happens on the days that I’m not in the office, when I’m not present to a community that keeps the discipline of the daily office. So this year, I’m resolving to be more intentional about my prayer practice, and to make it all work, I’m going to commit to using Derek Olsen’s wonderfully useful resource: St. Bede’s Breviary.

vd.jpgI know that Derek’s been working on upgrading the server and the configurability of his breviary for the past few years, but it was only recently that I took a moment to reconfigure my preferences (Rite 1, Prayerbook basic) and discovered how well it works as a prayer support tool. And now it has a mobile friendly page for the times when one is on the road and needs to use a phone or a tablet to access the lectionary. It’s so easy to use, and so easy to tweak to your own preferences, that there’s little reason not to make regular use of it.

So, I invite you to join me this year in faithfully reading the office no matter where you are. The discipline of a taking a few moments daily for regular silence and prayer has made significant changes in my life and who I am as a person. I invite you to join all the faithful people of God as we make ourselves present to God’s activity in our lives and to witness your own transformation in this coming year.

Come Prince of Peace


Starry Midnight

I’ve always found the last two verses of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” to be some of the most arresting imagery found in Christmas carol. And that’s true evenmore so this year than in past ones.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The World has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousan years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song that they bring:
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing!

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When, with the ever-circling years,
Comes round the age of gold;
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendours fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

In our prayers this holy night, let us pray that the promise of the final verse becomes real in our time.

Merry Christmas to all as we celebrate the birth of our Lord, the Prince of Peace.

In support of our Muslim neighbors

This morning I joined my sisters and brothers of Rhode Island’s faith and civic communities at The Rhode Island Council for Muslim Advancement for a press conference in Support of Rhode Island’s Muslim Community. Below are the words I shared at the event.

The framers of the Bill of Rights knew the danger of giving a government the power to control how citizens were allowed to think and worship. They remembered the hundreds of years of war that Europe had then recently endured as nations used their religious beliefs to justify acts of war against their neighbors. They remembered how citizen turned against citizen using another person’s different way of praying or thinking to justify violence against their neighbor.

My Church of England tradition came to this country and had to give up its status as a government sanctioned faith. It took us years to learn that the American vision of freedom of religion, of the strict limitation that keeps our elected officials from prescribing any person’s faith or establishing one set of beliefs over another, is by far the better way. As a US citizen and as an Episcopalian, an Anglican, I can not imagine our nation betraying its great visionary stance, one which has been followed again and again in new nations in the following centuries.

That is why it is so important for Americans, for Rhode Islanders, for people of faith to reject the voices that are calling for us to treat people of one faith differently than all others. The idea that how you pray creates an automatic suspicion that you are not a loyal American citizen is much more dangerous to the health of our nation than any possible threat of extremist violence.

My faith community has come to depend on the Constitution and the equality and the call to serve the common good that are its heart. I ask us all to put our fear behind us and to live up to the ideals that have guided us since our nation’s founding.


The Rt. Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely DD, SOSc
Bishop of Rhode Island

Statement from Bishop Knisely on Syrian Refugees

The Episcopal Church has been resettling refugees for over 75 years and we will be active in welcoming Syrian refugees to America. It is wrong to discriminate against those fleeing violence, oppression or certain death merely because of where they come from or because of their religion. In the Book of Leviticus, God says to the people of Israel that, “the foreigner who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the foreigner as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.” We are, therefore, called to welcome the stranger and aid our brothers and sisters in their time of need.

How to welcome the refugee and the foreigner into the land

Looking for information about the Syrian refugee situation for Episcopalians and what you can do to get involved, to welcome the stranger and the alien into the land (Leviticus 19:34)? Got you covered:

To help understand the current situation with Syrian refugees, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society will present two live webinars, both 60 minutes long, on Thursday, November 19 and Monday, November 23 to examine this emerging refugee crisis.

Presented by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s Episcopal Migration Ministries and Episcopal Public Policy Network, the live webinars will begin at 2 pmEastern on November 19 and 8 pm Eastern on November 23.

More details and links to resources here: Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society presents special important webinars: Syrian refugees in the USA

Bishop of the Armed Forces: Veterans and the Church

Don’t ask what we can do for the vets, instead ask them what we can learn from them.

Jay Magness, Bishop Suffragan for the Armed Forces and Federal Ministries, and himself a veteran, has long essay on the evolving relationship between the faith community and the veteran community. This is just a taste below.

Veterans Day 2015: A Meditation Upon the Uneasy Relationship:

On this Veterans Day 2015, unlike some of my friends in the faith community, I am not all that interested in what we can do for service members and veterans. I am, however, very interested in what these persons can do for the faith communities of America. Service members and veterans, if given the appropriate recognition, honor, welcome, and permission can teach us so very much about the spiritual value of personal and corporate sacrifice.

We live in an age dominated by the values of personal achievement and material acquisition. It will do us well to hear the encouraging word that service members and veterans can teach us about the spiritual value of sacrifice.

(Via Episcopal News Service)

It’s good advice. Don’t ask what we can do for the vets, instead ask them what we can learn from them.

Bill Nye contra climate change deniers

Bill Nye, the Science Guy, is releasing a new book on the science behind Climate Change and the implications – in the short and long term – for all us.

When asked about the myths that have come to surround the whole topic he speaks very plainly:

The biggest myth is that scientific uncertainty, plus or minus so many percent, is the same as doubt about the whole thing. And that’s wrong; that’s patently wrong. And that’s a dangerous confusion. This is one of the big reasons I wrote the book.

The full interview is here: Bill Nye demolishes climate deniers: “The single most important thing we can do now is talk about climate change.” –

Former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori says something very similar in a video we and others did on the Catechism of Creation (that ought be out and available for parish and small group use any day now…)

Memory eternal: René Girard

René Girard, a major influence on my faith and theology, died yesterday.

The renowned Stanford French professor, one of the 40 immortels of the prestigious Académie Française, died at his Stanford home on Nov. 4 at the age of 91, after long illness.

Fellow immortel and Stanford Professor Michel Serres once dubbed him “the new Darwin of the human sciences.” The author who began as a literary theorist was fascinated by everything. History, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, religion, psychology and theology all figured in his oeuvre.

More here: Stanford professor and eminent French theorist René Girard, member of the Académie Française, dies at 91 | Stanford News Release

The article on the Stanford website is quite telling in that it makes little or no mention of Girard’s faith or his influence on modern theology. While Girard did seminal work in literary theory and art criticism, I believe it is his insights into the meaning of the Atonement that will have the most lasting impact on Western thought.

My preaching and the way I read the biblical narratives have been totally transformed by his work from the first day I read “The Scapegoat“.

My hope is that there will be a number of articles posted in the next few months that try to communicate what an earth shattering insight into human society his theories on mimesis and scapegoating have had. Those of us who have been studying his thought for years will have now look to his disciples Gil Baille, James Allison and others to extend his work.

Update: Additional articles are starting to be posted like this one by Adam Eriksen in which he writes:

As I reflected upon the news, I was struck by the fact that René taught us so much about death. Specifically, about the scapegoat mechanism. René confronted us with the truth about being human. We all have a propensity to manage our conflicts by blaming someone else for them. We find unity against a common enemy. In good sacrificial formula, all of our conflicts and sins against one another are washed away as we unite in expelling or sacrificing our scapegoat. Temporary reconciliation and peace descends upon the community, but it is only temporary. For the expulsion or murder of our scapegoat never actually solves our problems. Our conflicts re-emerge and the scapegoating mechanism continues.

But if René taught us about death, he also taught us about life. The solution to our natural inclination toward scapegoating is found in the Judeo-Christian tradition, specifically in the Gospels’ portrayal of Jesus’ death. “Christ agrees to die,” wrote René in his book Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, “so that mankind will live.”