My truth is that I am a gay Episcopalian

NYPCover Professional team switcher Jim McGreevey is back in the news. He’s the former New Jersey governor who was forced to resign amid charges of sexual harrassment from a male subordinate. McGreevey was married at the time and had been married previously but somehow managed to turn the bad news into a celebration of his newly revealed homosexuality. Now that’s how you spin, kids. He and his wife are divorcing and he plans to get hitched to his live-in male lover. McGreevey claimed, by the way, that he began an affair with his aide while his wife was recuperating in the hospital from a particularly hard labor and delivery. Classy.

Anyway, McGreevey was also a former altar boy in the Roman Catholic Church he claimed frequently to be devoted to. He formally departed that church this past Sunday for, well, the Episcopal Church.

Okay, so the news in this tangled mess of decepion is that McGreevey wants to become a man of the cloth. Here’s how the Daily News put it:

He’s served as New Jersey’s governor, outed himself as a “gay American,” and now he wants to be Father James.

Raised a Catholic, Jim McGreevey has become an Episcopalian and will study at The General Theological Seminary in Chelsea, beginning this fall.

“We are pleased to confirm that he has been accepted to the seminary’s three-year Master of Divinity program,” school spokesman Bruce Parker said in a statement yesterday.

mcgreeveysI really hoped that an enterprising reporter would follow up with Bruce Parker or an Episcopal official about this statement. “Pleased to confirm?” I mean, I understand the Episcopal Church is going through problems, but I’m assuming the seminaries have some standards about who makes a good student or not. And I’m pretty sure that by almost any measure, the red bells of alarm are flashing about this man for this vocation.

Yes, there is a huge divide between the Episcopal Church and its dissidents. They have very different approaches to Scripture and what God has to say about sexuality, marriage and what support should be given to neighbors in their spiritual walk. But that’s why I have two problems with reporters’ failure to query Episcopal leadership about this latest news.

On the one hand, despite what the seminary spokesman says and the general lack of outcry from church leaders here, I suspect that Episcopalians who support their church’s drift might not be enthused about having — at best — a known liar and unrepentant oath-breaker as one of their shepherds. A few of my Episcopal friends said this was the last thing they needed or wanted, but no story I read had quotes from average laypeople.

On the other hand, if the seminary spokesman really is pleased to confirm that this man has been accepted to his program, that simply must be looked at in more detail. Is this really where the Episcopal Church is on the eve of Archbishop Peter Akinola’s visit to the United States? And, if so, that’s proof positive that reporters have been doing a crappy job on this larger story by making it be just about how evil those Northern Virginians are.

The Star-Ledger, which I believe broke the story, had better details than most. Reporters Josh Margolin and Jeff Diamant included more of Parker’s statement, such as his claim that McGreevey had met all of the seminary’s admission requirements and that his application was evaluated by a committee of faculty members, students and the Director of Admissions. They don’t have any details on whether there was any kind of morality requirement or even a requirement that one must have been a member of the Episcopal Church in order to begin the ordination process. On that note, the reporters also explained how the discernment process for becoming an ordained priest is lengthy and has several steps, such as discussions at the parish and diocesan level as well as graduation from seminary. That might shed light on why or how McGreevey was accepted.

mcgreevey bookA few other notes. I thought the Associated Press concisely summed up some of the religious issues at play at the end of its brief report. The New York Post had one article on the issue, which used the McGreevey news as a hook for looking at the larger Anglican divide over homosexuality. In an article about McGreevey’s parish, the Post also had some notable errors and missed opportunities, such as this:

St. Bartholomew’s spokesman Bob Johnson declined to speak directly about McGreevey’s bid for the priesthood, but he said the church first ordained an openly gay priest, Gene Robinson, three years ago.

“In the faith, priests can be gay, they can be women, they can be married, they can be divorced,” Johnson said. “We’re viewed as more liberal. We’re welcoming to all.”

Sigh. Gene Robinson was ordained as a priest in the 1970s. He publicly acknowledged his homosexuality in the 1980s, around the same time he divorced his wife. He was elected a bishop — the first openly gay one on election — four years ago. That gay, female and divorced individuals can be priests in the Episcopal Church is not news. But is that really what is newsworthy about McGreevey? That he’s a twice-divorced man now living with a male partner? Are there any other moral issues at play? If not, why not? And why aren’t reporters asking these questions — at scandal rags, no less? A gay Catholic blogger noted some double standards with how McGreevey’s morality problems are treated by the media. He basically says the media give a pass to all of his moral problems because of his big “My truth is that I’m a gay American” speech. The blogger wrote the post over a week before this news broke, and it’s worth reading.

This story provides the perfect opportunity to look at what morality means in the Episcopal Church. It provides an opportunity to shed light on the larger Anglican divide. It also would be great to use it to look at what contrition means in the church’s postmodern environment.

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  • http://pererro.blogspot.com David N. Scott

    This guy really irritates me. The fact that he got away so much by invoking the sexuality defense is incredibly frustrating. If only everyone who hired someone for their looks and was later sued for harassing them while married to and having children with someone else could think so fast on their feet.

  • http://www.lutheranzephyr.com Chris (The Lutheran Zephyr)

    With all respect, everybody – including you – seems to be unfamiliar with the ordination process in The Episcopal Church.

    Enrolling in seminary is not the same as beginning the priesthood process (contra what you wrote above). Seminary is a graduate school conferring master’s degrees. Not everyone who goes to seminary becomes a priest. Not everyone who goes to seminary is even religious.

    The ordination process in The Episcopal Church, from what I understand, is made up of two parallel processes:
    - a formation process that takes place primarily in seminary and (in many some cases) parish-based field experiences; and,
    - a series of interviews and evaluations (psych, social, faith, vocation, etc.) that is coordinated by the Bishop’s office. Upon successful completion of seminary and the several years of interviews and evaluations, it is the Bishop’s office, not the seminary, that has the authority to ordain.

    All we know is that McGreevy has enrolled in seminary and says that he wants to become a priest. He’s been Episcopalian for a week. We do not know about the status of his application to the ordination process. This is a wonderfully sensational story, providing lots of red meat for the tabloids, but it’s a non-story. The real power of the ordination process lays with the Bishop’s office, and it doesn’t seem as if any of the media outlets has confirmed McGreevy’s status with the Bishop.

    General Theological Seminary has two types of Master of Divinity programs – pre-ordination, and non-ordination. I’m guessing that McGreevy has been accepted into the non-ordination program and, upon being accepted as a postulant for holy orders by his bishop, could then switch to the pre-ordination program. There is no indication that this has happened yet, and it is unlikely. He’s been Episcopalian for one week.

    That the media-loving McGreevy has announced (on the heels of his wife’s Oprah appearance and book release) that he has joined the Episcopal Church and he intends to enroll in seminary means little. I’ll wager $100 that in four years (one year? Four months?) he is no longer even in the process . . .

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Chris,

    I agree that the media hasn’t done a good job of explaining this but I *did* mention these things in the post — particularly how the Star-Ledger gave better details on the discernment process. But a vicar at McGreevey’s church and many other people close to him say that he’s wanting to become a priest and the seminary says it’s delighted to have him. That’s what I think needs further exploration.

  • Michael

    the seminary says it’s delighted to have him. That’s what I think needs further exploration.

    What did you expect them to say about someone who wants to learn more about the faith and was considering serving the church? With everyone busy scoring points in the McGreevey saga and scoring points in attacking the TEC, did you expect them to say “We are very disappointed that such a controversial person wants to serve God. We wish he’d gone somewhere else?”

    Their response is exactly what you’d expect a spokesman to say and I’m not sure why people would expect anything different on day one of a tabloid story.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Maybe that they were mortified?

    I kid, and it’s true that it was a spokesman’s prepared statement — but I want to encourage reporters to dig further.

    If this is true that the standard for delight about incoming students is this low, than that needs to be dug into. If there’s more to the story about how people feel about this man joining this church and pursuing this vocation — then that needs to be included to.

    Talk to some regular people or players in the larger Anglican divide. Flesh out why and whether there is delight.

    Stories like this are what the public consciousness remembers about the Episcopal divide s they need to be better developed.

  • Michael

    It’s a gossip story, as your tabloid graphic illustsrates. I can’t imagine a worse story to probe the larger Anglican divide, unless the reporter is interested in scoring point or works for the New York Post (or both). If that’s the guide, then the resignation of high level Bush official in a prostitution scnadal is a good opportunity to probe the larger Bush foreign policy and its commitment to abstience.

    Somtimes the best thing a reporter can do is not turn into the National Enquirer or try to find greater meaning in gossip.

  • In Newark

    Yesterday’s Star-Ledger quotes the vicar of McGreevy’s parishas explicitly stating that McGreevy has begun the discernment process at the parish level.
    If you look at GTS’s admission form, they strongly recommend that candidates for ordination not begin their education without the bishop’s approval, and if they are on the ordination track, the bishop’s approval is required. The Diocese has responded by contradicting McGreevy’s own parish priest, and denying that McGreevy is in the discernment process, even at the parish level. It could be that the parish jumped the gun, by putting McGreevy in the discernment process without consulting the Bishop–which would be highly irregular–or it could be that the Diocese is trying to trying to back out of an embarrassing decision.

    Given all the bad publicity, it seems to me that GTS would want to end all the speculation by confirming that McGreevy is not on the ordination track. The fact that they failed to do so in a fairly detailed statement suggests that they have indeed accepted him as a potential candidate for the priesthood.

  • Eric W

    “My truth is that I am a gay Episcopalian”

    The way the news reports things, this is almost a redundancy; i.e., my first thought was: “Is there any other kind?”

    [/sarcasm]

  • cheryl

    I always thought that McGreevy’s self-absorbed and self-indulgent quote (“My truth is that I am a gay American”) was a perfect soundbite for the zeitgeist.

    For McGreevy and so many others, there is “MY truth and YOUR truth and no such thing as subjective truth.

    And it does sound SO much better than “THE truth is that I am an adulterous American.”

  • Maureen

    Btw, why doesn’t anybody mention that _the_ head Episcopalian/Anglican chick is visiting the US this week — i.e., the Queen?

    Shouldn’t that be tied into Bishop Akinola’s visit, at least to deny that the two are in any way linked?

  • Martha

    As several have pointed out, he has applied for the Episcopalian priesthood but there is nothing official to say he’s been accepted. I presume he’ll need sponsorship by his parish or his bishop, and since he’s only formally converted recently, the discernment process will surely take some time.

    On the other hand, it’s going to be tough for whoever turns him down (if he is turned down). After all, TEC have nailed their colours to the mast as being welcoming and inclusive, particularly for the LGBT seekers, and Jim’s default defence to anything seems to be “It’s because I’m gay!”

    Had to resign before he was fired for dipping his fingers in the till? No, he was forced out because he’s gay!
    Faced with a charge of sexual harassment of a male employee? No, it was a consensual affair because he’s gay!
    Embroiled in what looks like a messy custody battle? Hey, his wife knew before they got married that he was gay!

    Refused admission to the priesthood because he hasn’t even been an Episcopalian for a wet weekend? No, it’s because he’s gay – and hey, you guys are supposed to be all about welcoming the gay, so you can’t do that!

    (Cynical? Moi?)

  • Stephen A.

    “Professional team switcher” LOL

    The good news is that the morality portion of the training will be short.

    TEC is desperate for any good news, and the Leftist media is sure to come through in a pinch with a “positive” story like this.

    Of course, this is only slightly less ludicrous than if Paris Hilton (or Ludacris) were to apply for the TEC priesthood.

    Michael’s response (6, above) is, as usual, hillariously and viciously political and utterly breathtaking in its irrelevance. And as such, amusing as heck.

  • Jerry

    I know people are just gushingly in love with the whole Anglican mess, but why not cover other things such as this juicy bit of news about “Jeff Gannon” who is now spokesman for the International Bible Reading Association? Surely another gay man involved with religion is worthy of comment?

    Surely this comment in the column about poor attendance at both the main event and the counter-demonstration by atheists should receive critical analysis?

    Let us pray for the power to understand how Gannon made his way from HotMilitaryStud.com to the International Bible Reading Association.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/03/AR2007050302170.html

    One thing that is worth commenting on is that my local paper did not indicate that the piece was originally a column. Compare http://www.contracostatimes.com/search/ci_5816855
    I’m curious if this omission of the ‘columnist’ title in other papers is common or not. I certainly had a different impression looking at the Washington Post’s version which clearly identified him as a columnist versus the Contra Costa Times.

  • http://onlinefaith.blogspot.com C. Wingate

    Well, at least the reporters could look at the diocesan website, and see this page describingh the process in which it specifically says that the enquirer should not seek out a seminary until the very last step, because the bishop has to approve the choice.

  • In Newark

    Martha (and Chris) –see my post # 7 above. The New Jersey Star-Ledger quotes McGreevy’s rector as saying that McGreevy has aleady begun the discernment process at the parish level. His parish, by the way, is St. Bartholomew’s in New York City. That a wealthy, prominent parish would want to get involved with this raises further questions about how connected TEC trend-setters are with easily recognizable forms of Christianity.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Michael wrote:

    It’s a gossip story, as your tabloid graphic illustsrates. I can’t imagine a worse story to probe the larger Anglican divide, unless the reporter is interested in scoring point or works for the New York Post (or both). If that’s the guide, then the resignation of high level Bush official in a prostitution scnadal is a good opportunity to probe the larger Bush foreign policy and its commitment to abstience.

    Somtimes the best thing a reporter can do is not turn into the National Enquirer or try to find greater meaning in gossip.

    Just because gossip rags are interested in it does NOT mean it’s just a gossip story. This is not about personal behavior but about how that personal behavior is treated by a church body.

    That’s why your comparison to the Bushie who likes to get his massage on is lacking.

    This story has multiple parts — both McGreevey’s colorful antics AND the response of the church to same.

    I’m less interested in his tortured soul than seeing how his church responds to it and treats it.

    This is not private ministry but public — as is all ministry, really. This is a public story — not lurid private gossip.

  • Michael

    This is not private ministry but public — as is all ministry, really. This is a public story — not lurid private gossip.

    Admittedly, it’s a public story because McGreevey made it one. For that matter, the Anna Nicole story is a public story because she made it one. But that it is a “public story” doesn’t make it substantive. Gossip is gossip.

    Understandbly, if one wants to score points against the TEC, it’s an irresistable story. But is the admission to a seminary of a publicity hound really a proper jumping off point for a balanced examination of the TEC/Anglican drama? Maybe in some European-styled journalism exercise, it’s a great story to lay out the attacks on the TEC and “examine morality.” But is it a proper vehicle for dealing with a serious religious question?

    I love gossip as much as the next person and the McGreevey story is greek tragedy and lurid gossip wrapped up in a perfect New York Post knot. I just don’t think it’s a good jumping off point for serious journalism in the objective press. For the National Review or the Washington Times, or even the WSJ religion column maybe, but not for serious objective journalism.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Understandbly, if one wants to score points against the TEC, it’s an irresistable story. But is the admission to a seminary of a publicity hound really a proper jumping off point for a balanced examination of the TEC/Anglican drama?

    See, I think the opposite here. Although I am, quite frankly, confused about what TEC believes about the moral requirements for ministry, I do believe that they have an approach. I want to know what that approach is — and not to score points against them but to understand them.

    What McGreevey does is his business, sure, but how it effects other people and how other people RESPOND to him is not just his business.

    For instance — this might be an interesting hook to explore whether many seminaries have morality requirements and how they differ. The Ledger actually did note that McGreevey would be inadmissable in an RC seminary on account of his homosexuality.

    Well we all know how TEC feels about whether homosexuality is a barrier to ministry/seminary — but do they have any other rules about same? What does the acceptance process entail and if there’s no barrier now for a McGreevey, is there one later on in the process?

    When God gives reporters an exciting hook like this, I think they should take it and not waste it on gossip but use it to illuminate differences.

    The fact is that a story like this reinforces stereotypes about TEC — is that fair or not? Let’s see and get a better understanding of things.

  • http://aconservativesiteforpeace.info The young fogey

    Well put, Chris (The Lutheran Zephyr). I’ve tried to be as fair in my coverage/commentary. Still, I wonder why no disclaimer from General (for most people out there, who don’t know how ‘the process’ works) that for now he’s not on the ordination track.

    And it does sound SO much better than “THE truth is that I am an adulterous American.”

    THE truth is he was a corrupt politician.

    Jim’s default defence to anything seems to be “It’s because I’m gay!”

    Had to resign before he was fired for dipping his fingers in the till? No, he was forced out because he’s gay!
    Faced with a charge of sexual harassment of a male employee? No, it was a consensual affair because he’s gay!
    Embroiled in what looks like a messy custody battle? Hey, his wife knew before they got married that he was gay!

    Refused admission to the priesthood because he hasn’t even been an Episcopalian for a wet weekend? No, it’s because he’s gay – and hey, you guys are supposed to be all about welcoming the gay, so you can’t do that!

    I think Martha’s onto him.

  • http://onlinefaith.blogspot.com C. Wingate

    Well, that’s where the reporting falls down. If you look at the diocesan website, it says a lot about what is supposed to happen. What this incident looks like, to anyone with the least familiarity with the process, is that McGreevey is doing an end-run of the normal process. Ordinarily, in any diocese, there would be a lot of vetting going on before someone gets approved to go to seminary (and their choice of seminary gets vetted too); in a big diocese like NY there is a great deal of formality to this, including background checks, psychological exams, etc…. It’s not at all clear whether anyone bothered to call up the bishop, another obligatory RFC call if there ever was one.

    Trying to pretend that this is all scandal-mongering is pretty laughable. McGreevey’s character issues go well beyond his sexual polarity, and in any case the, um, coupling of them with the apparent abuse of the system is newsworthy at least to us Anglicans.

  • Stephen A.

    Michael writes, incredulously:

    But is the admission to a seminary of a publicity hound really a proper jumping off point for a balanced examination of the TEC/Anglican drama?

    In a word, yes, because publicly admitting him to the ministry says a lot about the church in question and its view of morality.

    I just don’t think it’s a good jumping off point for serious journalism in the objective press. For the National Review or the Washington Times, or even the WSJ religion column maybe, but not for serious objective journalism.

    (Italics mine) Another howler. I suppose the NYT and WashPost are “objective” and all others are not? Sure. Um-hmm. Someone needs to get out of the city one day and talk to real people. This is what’s wrong with the insular, isolated leftist media.

  • Martha

    Michael, you’re right in that it’s a juicy tid-bit of gossip. And since this person was Roman Catholic, I for one welcome his new Episcopalian overlords.

    But – he formally became an Episcopalian just a short while ago; he indicates interest in pursuing the ministry. Well and good. Then the story goes round that he’s actually entering a seminary, and most of us go “Huh? What? How is that possible?” since, setting aside all the questions of character and fitness and whatnot, he has only been Episcopalian a very short time and it’s very soon to be discerning a vocation.

    Therefore, most of us expected something from his parish or the seminary or someone some kind of statement along the lines of “While we of course are delighted to welcome any who feel they may have a call to serve as clergy, in this instance blah, blah, blah”.

    When that did *not* happen, then we got very interested as to what, exactly, was going on. He can do this? He can’t? He’s on a non-ordination track? He’s being supported by his parish but not his bishop? He does or does not need support by a bishop?

    It’s not a stick to beat TEC with (Lord knows they’re doing well enough on that by themselves) but it is a great opportunity for some newspaper somewhere to engage in what this blog is all about: religion reporting. Explain to us how ordination in TEC happens. Tell us if this is credible or not. Tell us why it might or might not be possible down the line. Above all, tell us why the parish/diocesan office/seminary are sayin’ nuffin’ and keeping on saying it, while confusion swirls around. *That’s* what interests me.

  • Richard

    Having been ordained in T[p]ECusa for some years now, I think there may be more and less than meets the eye here.

    Yes, the normal process is to be approved through the parish and diocesan discernment process (usually lasting two years, in my experience, and then getting accepted to seminary. But there are plenty of instances when students matriculate before going through the process and then search for a congenial parish to get them through. (Those seminarians who go through the regular way generally resent those who do an end-run.)

    Often what makes the end-run work is that the prospective ordinand has attached himself or herself to a prominent and wealthy congregation which often pulls strings and calls in favors for a prefered candidate. It is nothing more nefarious than power politcs and the “old (most often) boy” network.

    On top of it, seminaries are competing for a limited pool of prospective students and parish support. Certainly welcoming someone that has been refered by the Rector of St. Bart’s will get preferential treatment (even though they will deny it.)

    Someone in the Diocese of NY is less than happy, I bet.

    But the real story, to the extent that there is one, may be with the Rector of St. Bart’s and either his bad judgement, or his tone deaf he is on wanted publicity.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    — Mollie, just before reading your account of the news coverage of McGreevey’s new found religion and aspirations to the cloth there, I read two blogs claiming Dr. Francis Beckwith of Baylor University and President of the Evangelical Theological Society has swum the Tiber and is now a Catholic.
    In this trade the Roman team certainly got the better of the London team.
    In its own way this story is just as interesting as McGreevey’s (especially since, so far, Dr. Beckwith is still head of the ETS and apparently has given no hint at resigning).
    But is this story “sexy” enough for the MSM????

  • Michael

    I’d love to know how you’d write the story everyone wants given everyone involved is bound by confidentiality and privacy. The rector and the bishop shouldn’t break confidentiality to talk about a parishoner or someone in discernment. The school can’t say more than it has because of privacy rules. In fact, I wonder how the Ledger got the story, unless it was leaked by McGreevey (which it probably was).

    So ultimately the story everyone wants is lots of people speculating or using hypotheticals, or interviewing people on the street to give their two cents about the gossip. Or you can just have the “no one is talking so it must be a liberal coverup” angle that Martha wants.

    Do we really need another story where TEC liberals and Anglican conservatives take shots it each other in the press, just to speculate about a gossip story where the principles are bound by confidentiality and neutral statements?

    If what you want is the interesting story about how people become ministers, how discernment processes work, how “morals” play into becoming a minister/priest/rabbi, that story will be much more interesting if not tied the Page Six fodder of McGreevey or the warfare of the TEC/Anglican divide.

  • bob

    This shouldn’t surprise anyone; before they make someone a bishop the person usually has to go to seminary.

  • William

    The door to the seminary is very wide. The exit door is very narrow.

  • Martha

    Michael, where on earth did you get the impression that I want or see or discern or have been told by the voices in my head beamed straight from Zeta Reticuli that there is a “liberal coverup” involved?

    I hold no brief for Bush or the Republicans and yes, I did enjoy the discomforture resulting from Mr Gannon/Guckert’s career as a close personal friend of certain influential people in a position to get him into places he shouldn’t have been able to get; this is nothing to do with bias for or against any person or party on my behalf.

    As a Roman Catholic and Irish woman, I’m interested (to say the least) when a prominent figure of Irish descent formally defects from the Roman Catholic faith and announces a decision to become a minister of religion in another denomination. Knowing a little about how it works on our side, I am curious as to how it works over there, particularly in a church which claims lineage from Anglicanism as a traditional, hierarchial church. I found it very unusual, to say the least, not that he should indicate a desire to become a member of the clergy, but that as someone who had only been officially received into that church on Sunday 29th April (just under a week ago!) he should seem to already be on track to do so.

    I have seen – how accurate it is, I do not know – that the seminary has said that yes, he has been accepted onto their program. As several commenters have pointed out here, there is – to say the least – some confusion over whether or not this is indeed the track leading to ordination, or a parallel course, or what exactly is going on at all, at all.

    I admit, I fall for the gossip angle. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. But there are legitimate areas of interest qua religion reporting that are *not* being covered here: how does ordination to the Episcopal ministry work? is Mr. McGreevey on the path to ordination? why did he become an Episcopalian?

    That last fascinates me; on the one hand, I will do him the credit to acknowledge that at least he didn’t go the route of bleating “But I am still a faithful Catholic!” but left the church rather than amend his way of life; but why Episcopalian, out of all others? I’ve seen no reason why that denomination appealed to him; had he a relationship with St. Bartholomew’s Parish all along? When did it begin?

    Stuff like that – y’know, religion type stuff – interests me fiercely, not politics. I’d be a Democrat if I were an American and had a vote over there, so it is by no means “Ha, ha! Bash the Dems! Viva the Republicans!” on my part. I’d love to see a credible Democratic presidential candidate, one who could take on and beat the Republicans, but I don’t see one yet. And McCain just shot himself in the foot over the whole blogger thing and threw away a certain proportion of Catholic votes, which is kind of dumb, because it doesn’t matter if you’re running for dogcatcher, you don’t alienate possible constituents.

    Now excuse me: I have to go back to working on the Secret Right Wing Conspiracy To Promote A Global Fundamentalist Theocracy, in complete submission to and under the ultimate and unquestionable authoritarian rule of the Pope (but of course!)

  • Martha

    Begob, but I can’t resist a gauntlet when it’s flung down.

    “If what you want is the interesting story about how people become ministers, how discernment processes work, how “morals” play into becoming a minister/priest/rabbi, that story will be much more interesting if not tied the Page Six fodder of McGreevey or the warfare of the TEC/Anglican divide.”

    Going straight to the horse’s mouth (so to speak): from the website of the Episcopal Church

    http://www.episcopalchurch.org/

    we go onto the FAQs

    http://www.episcopalchurch.org/1521_6550_ENG_HTM.htm

    and ask
    “How does one become an ordained priest or deacon?
    Becoming an Ordained Priest or Deacon
    It is most helpful to talk about one’s call to ordination with others in the faith community. These persons may include clergy from a local or home congregation, chaplains at schools, members of the Bishop’s staff or trusted friends. To be sponsored for postulancy, the canons of the church state that one must have the support of a clergyperson in charge of a congregation in which one is a member, as well as the elected leadership of that congregation.

    Discerning a call to ordination is best done in a community with others who know you and can reflect with you about your gifts for ministry.

    About Vocation
    Commissions on Ministry
    Episcopal Church Canons (See Title III, Canon 4, Section 2)
    Theological Education
    Episcopal Seminaries
    General Ordination Exams”

    Very detailed documents on this here:

    http://www.episcopalchurch.org/documents/Title_III_Ministry.pdf

    Some relevant bits:

    “Sec. 3. Postulancy
    (a) A person nominated for admission as a Postulant for ordination to
    the Priesthood shall provide to the Bishop the following:
    (1) Full name and date of birth,
    (2) The length of time resident in the Diocese,
    (3) Evidence of Baptism and Confirmation,
    (4) Whether an application or Nomination has been made
    previously for Postulancy in any diocese,
    (5) A description of the process of discernment by which the
    nominee has been identified for ordination to the Priesthood,
    (6) The level of education attained and, if any, the degrees earned and areas of specialization, including official transcripts,
    (7) A letter of support by the nominee’s congregation or other community of faith, including a statement committing the congregation or other community of faith to involve itself in the nominee’s preparation for ordination to the Priesthood. If it be a congregation, the letter shall be signed and dated by a two-thirds majority of the Vestry, and the Member of the Clergy or leader exercising oversight,
    (8) A written request from the nominee for admission to
    Postulancy.
    (b) Before granting admission as a Postulant, the Bishop:
    (1) shall determine that the person is a confirmed adult
    communicant in good standing of a congregation or other
    community of faith, and
    (2) shall confer in person with the nominee,
    (3) shall consult with the nominee regarding financial resources which will be available for the support of the Postulant throughout preparation for ordination. During Postulancy and later Candidacy, the Bishop or someone appointed by the Bishop shall review periodically the financial condition and plans of the Postulant.
    (c) On the basis of the application and the personal interview, the Bishop shall notify the nominee and the Commission whether the application process may proceed.
    (d) If the Bishop approves proceeding, the Commission, or a committee of the Commission, shall meet with the nominee to review the application and prepare an evaluation of the nominee’s qualifications to pursue a course of preparation for ordination to the Priesthood. The Commission
    shall present its evaluation and recommendations to the Bishop.
    (e) The Bishop may admit the nominee as a Postulant for ordination to the Priesthood. The Bishop shall record the Postulant’s name and date of admission in a Register kept for that purpose. The Bishop shall inform the Postulant, the Member of the Clergy or other leader exercising oversight of the Postulant’s congregation or other community of faith, the Commission, the Standing Committee, and the Dean of the seminary the Postulant may be attending or proposes to attend, or the director of Postulant’s program of preparation, of the fact and date of such admission.”

    So Mr. McGreevey may have the “letter of support by the nominee’s congregation or other community of faith, including a statement committing the congregation or other community of faith to involve itself in the nominee’s preparation for ordination to the Priesthood. If it be a congregation, the letter shall be signed and dated by a two-thirds majority of the Vestry, and the Member of the Clergy or leader exercising oversight” from St. Bartholomew’s, and the application to GTS is to cover the educational requirements, but he still needs the consent of the bishop, it looks like.

    Which is why I was asking “So, what does the bishop say about all this? What does the seminary say?” If – and it’s a big if – he is indeed going forward for the ministry and has been accepted by the seminary on a program leading to ordination, then it’s neither today nor yesterday this happened. Which means that, given he was only received recently, this has been going on a while. So this story is inaccurate in some of its facts or inferences, and we’d like to see accurate religion reporting going on, not – as you say – gossip column stuff.

    And if a proper newspaper with a proper religion reporter who knew his or her stuff was covering this story, then that’s what we’d get: “Hey, you know, you can’t just walk in off the street and get ordained. If it’s true, and it *is* happening now, then it’s been preparing for a while. So how could he picked as a postulant before he was even received into the Episcopalian church? That’s kind of interesting…”

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    OK, HM the Queen is theoretically head of the Church of England. There is NO “head” of the Anglican Communion.

    The Queen is also supposed to be head of the Church of Scotland, but nobody sneers at “the head Presbyterian chick”, or claims she is “head” of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.

  • Eric

    If there’s more to the story about how people feel about this man joining this church and pursuing this vocation — then that needs to be included to.

    That would be a Very Bad Idea, and I for one am glad the reporter had the integrity to avoid the temptation to do this.

    Every candidate for holy orders has a history, although not all may be as well-known as McGreevey’s. If all people with a checkered past were to be denied entry to a seminary, we would have lost some of the greatest saints in history. As a Roman Catholic deacon, I know that some people were opposed to my ordination, but it would have been irresponsible for the media to run with such a story, and I’ll bet that a solid case could be built against just about anyone in seminary by someone.

    It’s not at all unusual for candidates for orders to change their sponsoring parish — it happens all the time. I did (at the suggestion of my bishop), and about half my diaconate formation class had at some point. It has to do with the interaction between the candidate and the pastor, which can go awry as any relationship can. No one in charge of formation gives it a second thought after hearing a sincere explanation — it then becomes a simple paperwork matter.

    And as some have pointed out, accepting someone into the seminary is not the same as approving him/her for ordination. There are years in between, and anything can happen, and often does. It’s entirely corret for the rector to be pleased at accepting ANYONE into the seminary for years of learning and discernment as these undertakings are technically the path of every Christian. Not only the ordained — or those discerning ordination — are called to a radical change of life. And by the way, to claim that McGreevey was an Episcopalian for a week before the announcement is simply not true; I recall an interview several months ago where he said he had been an Episcopalian for some time at that point. No seminary is going to accept someone who has been a communicant for a week. Come on now!

    McGreevey’s discernment process is private and the public has no right to know the details of it. Not is there any disconnect between someone saying his discernment has not begun and his pastor saying it has; this is the difference between informal and formal discernment, between the individual beginning a path and the formal state involving a community.

    Good for McGreevey for considering how he might serve God and humanity in a radical way. Leave him alone!

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Eric,

    Did someone suggest that someone dig into McGreevey’s private history? I think that everyone here is saying that he has broken some of the most public oaths available — for office and in marraige — and are curious how his response to same affects how others should respond.

    No one is denying that King David was perfect — but he also publicly repented of his public sin. Or Athanasius. Or anyone else for that matter.

    All these “great saints” operated in a construct where sin was defined and committing sin publicly required public contrition.

    The Episcopal Church has rather new definitions of sin and I — and many others — are curious how McGreevey’s behavior fits in the Episcopal Church. Not his private sin. His public sin.

  • InNewark

    One more time. for all the nay-sayers–McGreevy may have leaked the story, but the Ledger ran actual quotes–not paraphrases-from the rector at St. Bart’s, saying that he was already in the discernment process. A GTS spokesman gave a lengthy explanation–quoted word for word–about the approval process, which involved a faculty/student committee going over an appliction that included at least four recommendations. Clearly, this was more than just an ordinary academic admission, which would be of only passing interest.
    The only question is whether the Diocese of New York is alsoinvolved in this fiasco.

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  • Stephen A.

    Eric wrote:

    McGreevey’s discernment process is private and the public has no right to know the details of it.

    Then you would hope that he would KEEP it private, wouldn’t you?

    By making it public, it’s out there, in the public. Just like his public announcement that he was a “gay american.”

    Looks like he wants this to be a public event.

  • Martha

    Eric, that’s the point: officially received into the Episcopalian church last week, then this week announces he’s studying for Holy Orders. It seems that he’s been attending an Episcopal church since 2005, so that gives us at least two-three years that he’s changed denominations, but that’s still rather soon to be saying “Yes, I have a vocation.” And I still wonder if indeed he was told, two or so years agao, “Great! Just as soon as you’re baptised/confirmed as an Episcopalian, you can go right ahead and apply to a seminary!”, because that does seem a bit quick off the mark – to me, at least.

    I wasn’t asking for the details of his private life, just a bit of clarification: has he indeed been accepted into the seminary? is he on the path to ordination? seeing as how he was only formally accepted into the Episcopal church in April, isn’t this a bit fast? what does the rector of his parish say? okay, so what does the seminary say? okay, so now what does his bishop say?

    I’m still – even at this stage – unclear as to whether or not he is indeed a postulant. Some say yes, some say no. Surely that at least can be made clear without any further washing of dirty linen in public? Even so simple as ‘yes, he’s been accepted onto the GTS Master of Divinty program, and yes, that does require permission by the bishop, but no, he is not as such a candidate for ordination” or “yes, he is a candidate for ordination”, whichever is more accurate.

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  • Alice

    I’m curious – you describe him as an

    unrepentant oath-breaker

    How do you know he is unrepentant? Are you his confessor and are breaking the confidentiality of confession? I doubt it. Then you have no way at all to know whether he is or isn’t repentant. I would guess that all those involved in his admission to GTS considered this very seriously and did their best to discern the depth and realism of his repentance.

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  • http://cinecon.blogspot.com Victor Morton

    The queen is a member of the Church of Scotland while in Scotland, but she is not its head in any sense whatever. Presbyterianism headed by a monarch is a contradiction in terms.

  • In Newark

    Alice–His public statements are a strong indication that he is not repentent, either with respect to his conduct as governor, or his treatment of his wife during their on-going divorce.

  • doorless

    I guess I’ll just get right to the point. I don’t know much about the Episcopal church but I am thinking it is a church that reads and teaches the bible. If this is a truth then why beat around the bush with all the questions and answers in this forum? Why not just ask the question, What does GOD say about homosexuality in His word? I believe He is very clear when he says it is an abomination! Did something change? Do gay people have a place in our churches? Yes. These people need to be churched so they can learn the word of God. After they have heard it they must be given time to seek God and change their way. IF they change their way and realize they were wrong, maybe a place in ministry. If no change the bible is very clear that they are to be put out of fellowship. YOU and I can go on and on forever but we can’t change what God says in His word. He is the same yesterday, today and always!


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