Los Angeles Times reporter K. Connie Kang had another interesting story on the Godbeat or, in this case, the gods beat. Yes, the Episcopalians are involved. It seems that the Diocese of Los Angeles hosted an interfaith service with Hindus at St. John's Episcopal Cathedral there on Saturday. Kang simply reported it without any analysis, which I think is good for an initial story on what turned out to be a rather controversial event. She described how a Hindu nun blew into a conch shell to begin the Indian Rite Mass. A band from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (aka Hare Krishna) chanted during the service.
The article is full of fascinating quotes from participants and observers:
During the service, the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, issued a statement of apology to the Hindu religious community for centuries-old acts of religious discrimination by Christians, including attempts to convert them.
"I believe that the world cannot afford for us to repeat the errors of our past, in which we sought to dominate rather than to serve," Bruno said in a statement read by the Rt. Rev. Chester Talton. "In this spirit, and in order to take another step in building trust between our two great religious traditions, I offer a sincere apology to the Hindu religious community."
The bishop also said he was committed to renouncing "proselytizing" of Hindus.
The comment went over well with the Hindu leaders who were honored during the service. I'm not sure how it went over with the Christians in Orissa and other Indian states. Kang also did a good job with play-by-play coverage during another part of the service:
All were invited to Holy Communion, after the Episcopal celebrant elevated a tray of consecrated Indian bread, and deacons raised wine-filled chalices.
In respect to Hindu tradition, a tray of flowers was also presented. Christians and Hindus lined up for communion, but since Orthodox Hindus shun alcohol, they consumed only the bread.
The sermon emphasized commonalities between Christianity and Hinduism, according to Kang.
Last week I noted that stories fail to explain why the Episcopal Church is so aggressive about property issues but not doctrinal issues. And with this story we have yet another example of why this needs to be explained by reporters.
For instance, Canon I.17.7 of the Episcopal Church (.pdf link here -- see page 55) explicitly prohibits administering Holy Communion to unbaptized persons:
Sec. 7. No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church.
And yet this service, hosted by none other than the Los Angeles Diocese, clearly offered communion to unbaptized people. Now let's go to property disputes. The Episcopal Church's argument for why it should retain the property in the disputes with the departed parishes is on the basis of another canon (Canon I.7.4 -- page 40 of the previous link):
All real and personal property held by or for the benefit of any Parish, Mission or Congregation is held in trust for this Church and the Diocese thereof in which such Parish, Mission or Congregation is located. The existence of this trust, however, shall in no way limit the power and authority of the Parish, Mission or Congregation otherwise existing over such property so long as the particular Parish, Mission or Congregation remains a part of, and subject to, this Church and its Constitution and Canons.
Wouldn't a story examining the disparity between which canons are enforced and which canons are not enforced be interesting? Put another way, why are some bishops free to violate some canons while other bishops are threatened with punishment if they permit their dioceses to even vote about whether to realign? I'm sure the Episcopal authorities have their reasons, but we need to hear what those are. Why aren't reporters asking them to explain how this works?
UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times made a major, major, major correction to this story. So major, in fact, that we may have to look at this in an another post:
FOR THE RECORD:
Hindu-Episcopal service: An article in Sunday's California section about a joint religious service involving Hindus and Episcopalians said that all those attending the service at St. John's Cathedral in Los Angeles were invited to Holy Communion. Although attendees walked toward the Communion table, only Christians were encouraged to partake of Communion. Out of respect for Hindu beliefs, the Hindus were invited to take a flower. Also, the article described Hindus consuming bread during Communion, but some of those worshipers were Christians wearing traditional Indian dress.
I've personally seen communion offered to non-Christians at Episcopal services in Washington and San Francisco. Others have publicly attested to the same -- in the Los Angeles diocese and other locations. And, therefore, the questions I posed at the end of this post remain.
But, oh man, is this a major error. I'd love some more context for how this correction came about and where things fell apart. Please let us know if you know anything.