Don't repeat the mistake on page 847 of The Prayer Book .  Here is what God really requires from the chosen people:

Do justice

A series of essays towards General Convention in 2003

Holy Penguins! Taking Risks in the Episcopal Church

Holy Penguins!

Taking Risks in the Episcopal Church

By the Rev. Dr. Robert Stiefel RENStiefel@AOL.COM

A prologue and then a story with a moral, followed by a coda.

Prologue: for me, one of the most important things I learned in the study of church history (aided and abetted by William Petersen and Arthur Michael Ramsey as profs) was that significant change in the church nearly always occurs as the insistence of a few affects the behavior and eventually understanding of more and more of the faithful by the power (one hopes) of the Holy Spirit. Then, not before, church councils meet and approve the change and make it into canon law. If one is in full conviction that one is in obedience to the Holy Spirit, one has no choice but to go ahead and "do it." Faithful Anglicans used birth control and even got divorced long before the church(es) approved of either. A bishop ordained a woman in 1949, and others did in 1974. Then we got around to voting on it and approving it.

Story: it is said that each morning the penguin colony approaches the edge of the ice with apprehension. They are all hungry and must go into the water to find fish. But what if there are predators waiting for them in the water? There often are. So the penguins crowd at the edge of the ice and in effect hold council, sic et non. But then, lo, suddenly, one penguin or two or three are in the water. Did they choose to jump? Or did they fall in by the press of the crowd? Those still on land watch to see what happens. If the penguins in the water don't get eaten, then the rest of them dive in after them for breakfast.

Moral of the story according to my straight spouse the deacon-theologian: this is how the church operates. We were the first province of our sacramental church with apostolic succession (or of any such church) to ordain women. We were the first penguins in the water. So far, on the whole, the water seems fine and others have followed, even if some still haven't decided to jump in.

If enough of us have the same courage of convictions about acceptance of sexual/gender minorities in the church, the "usual and customary" pattern is likely to repeat itself. Hats off to New Westminster! Hats off to Newark and New Hampshire and Kansas (!) and California and other dioceses in which it has been made clear one way or another that some penguins are in the water and the fishing is fine.

Coda: I can't believe I just wrote this, for two reasons:

  1. I am so weary of discord within the church(es), all of which is so contrary to what I understand Jesus of Nazareth to have taught, that I have to remind myself each day that I am still a priest and am not going to pack it in as far as organized religion is concerned and retreat into academia. Besides, I know that academia, like everywhere else, contains its own taste of hell.
  2. I am more concerned for and fearful of the developments taking place in our government, especially at the federal level, in all three branches, but most notably the executive, than I am at this moment worried about the holding together of the Anglican Communion.
  3. But I do like the penguins, I really do.


    Robert Stiefel
    Priest in the Diocese of New Hampshire and glad of it.
    Professor newly appointed to the faculty of the University of New Hampshire, and grateful for it.


    An ex-partner was a Penguin Specialist, and often used the First Penguin analogy in various settings -- humorously noting that they probably nudged the most naive one, or the one with fewest friends, over the ice-edge.

    Unfortunately, the First Peng too often is eaten by a sea lion.

    I have qualms about celebrating First Peng-hood in the Church. If we had to worry only about life/death (not constituencies, pledges, conventions and the Trollope-like intrigues of Church life), it would be a piece of cake.

    Pat Crawford BROK

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