Friday, June 30, 2006

Me and Creeds

I dislike creeds. I often have a smirk when I say the Nicene Creed, because saying it is a little bit of a stretch. I realize that many, perhaps most, Episcopalians interpret the Nicene Creed figuratively, but some part of me is not used to doing that. I imagine a line of priests at their ordination, reciting the Creed, all with their fingers crossed behind their backs.

And then, I came across this article by a Baptist pastor:

The Baptists don't do creeds either, it seems. They believe in "soul freedom" - an individual is primarily responsible to God. If there is one Baptist creed, it is belief in Jesus. Bishop John Spong, retired bishop of New Jersey (and very controversial theologian), noted that with time, the required Christian creed got longer and more complex, and it also stifled discussion, since subjects that could have used some wiggle room were now clearly defined. Constantine, who helped convene the Council of Nicaea, intended the creed to be a basic framework for the Christian faith that still allowed some diversity of opinion. The thing is, the world is very complex, there are no easy answers, and we can short-change ourselves by insisting that there are. Spong suggests that we go back to "Jesus is Messiah." "Jesus" and "is" admittedly lack wiggle room, but everyone from a fundamentalist to a closet Unitarian could go along with "Messiah". That proclamation gets rid of all the claptrap and focuses us on the one thing that matters to Christians of all stripes: Jesus.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Frank Griswold has an interview with NPR:

Although I am less than happy with the way he handled the resolution B033 (the one calling for a moratorium on bishops whose manner of life poses a challenge to the wider communion), I wish him a peaceful retirement. as he stated in the interview, there are some bishops who see him as evil incarnate for consecrating +Gene Robinson. indeed, like +Gene, ++Frank wore a bulletproof vest to the consecration.

++Frank seemed to ramrod the final resolution through the House of Bishops, and he and ++Katherine seemed to pressure the House of Deputies into ratifying it. indeed, it was more strict than a previous resolution, which was voted down. in his interview, among other things, he explains his reasoning. ++Frank definitely does support the LGBT community in the Episcopal Church, but one has to appreciate that he was faced with quite a dilemma. his reason for pressing us into adopting this resolution was so that we would be able to go to the 2008 Lambeth Conference, to be in dialog with other Anglicans. it matters less that we change their opinions on homosexuality, it matters more that we change their relationships with us. those relationships certainly need improvement. for example, the Diocese of Southeast Asia had this to say: "In view of ECUSA's action in proceeding with the consecration despite the warnings and pleas of a large majority of Anglican churches worldwide, the Province regrets that communion with the ECUSA as well as those who voted for the consecration and those who participated in the consecration service is now broken.
This means that the Province no longer treats those in ECUSA who carried out and supported the act of consecration as brothers and sisters in Christ until and unless they repent of their action and return to embrace Biblical truths. At the same time, the Province remains in fellowship with the faithful believers within ECUSA who rightly oppose and reject the erroneous actions of their house."

FYI, in Anglican parlance, a + before someone's name denotes that they're a priest or bishop. ++ denotes an archbishop; Presiding Bishop is equivalent to archbishop.

As for our new archbishop, check out this "it's a girl!" bumper sticker:

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Is the Episcopal Church acting like George Bush?

Rev Scott Benhase of St Philip's Episcopal Church in Durham, NC, asks a challenging question. His article in The Witness (a progressive Episcopal magazine) is here:

He believes that President Bush is approaching the struggle on terrorism as if it were an ideology. The Soviet Union articulated a clear, Communist ideology. When the West tried to contain that ideology, it had a clear idea what it was fighting. Direct action, political and/or military, was applicable in that struggle. The struggle with terrorism, though, is about culture. Muslims generally want the West to leave them alone, to not impose our cultural perceptions of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The struggle against terrorism cannot be won with military force. The struggle will be won when Muslim cultures struggle with it - they cannot do that with our interference, because it actually breeds fundamentalism.

The same may be true of the Episcopal Church's position on homosexuality. We cannot dismiss our sister churches as backwards and uneducated, and we cannot believe that if we are persistent enough, they will come around to our way of thinking and then all will be well. The legacy of missionary colonialism is simply too fresh in their memories.

Benhase believes, then, that if our sister churches want us to withdraw from the Anglican Communion, we should do so in a spirit of humility. Hopefully such a separation would be temporary, but it might last forever (or, as Benhase put it, until Jesus comes again). But it might be healthier for all parties involved.

Of course, there are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in other countries. The Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola (a pox be on his house!) has supported legislation in Nigeria that would criminalize same-sex marriage ceremonies, positive discussion of homosexuality in the media or by organizations, or indeed any "public or private" affirmation of homosexuality. The proposed prison term would be 5 years. "Sodomy" is already illegal in Nigeria, punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment. Even the Bush administration condemned this legislation. I suppose that even if we were to stay, we would not be able to stop fundamentalists like Akinola from persecuting people in their countries. But, whatever happens, we must not forget that even in the US, LGBT people do not have the full protection of the law on their side, and they are in even more dire danger in other countries. I wish that Archbishop Rowan Williams would condemn Akinola's actions in this matter, but he has been silent - is he too scared to speak out? Some more info is available here:

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Walter Cardinal Kasper, a Catholic Cardinal, recently warned the Church of England that any move to consecrate women as bishops would make it impossible for the two churches to restore full relations. The Church of England ordains women as deacons and priests, but not bishops. I find this very odd; in the Anglican Church, the only difference between a priest and a bishop is that bishops have more administrative roles and wear large, funky hats called mitres. Can't miss the hats. The Roman Catholic Church should not be upset with us because we may or may not consecrate women as bishops. If they want to do it that way, they should have stopped talking to us when we started having women priests. That, and three provinces in the Anglican Communion (including my newly-adopted Episcopal Church) consecrate women as bishops already, and another seven allow women as bishops but have not yet consecrated any. I suppose one could make a case for ordaining women as deacons and not priests, since deacons can't celebrate communion. But if women can be priests, they be bishops and wear their funky hats. It amazes me that in the twenty-first century, women cannot be bishops in some churches. However, as my mom pointed out, this isn't a matter of keeping up with the times; women have functioned as leaders since the dawn of the Christian church. Conservative CoE clergy have spoken of creating a third province in England (there's Canterbury and York) in response to the future consecration of female bishops; this province would restrict women to the laity.

In the photo, Gene Robinson, the infamous gay bishop of New Hampshire, is wearing a gold mitre (this was taken just after his consecration; I hear he also wore a bulletproof vest to that one). In the Anglican Communion, only bishops wear mitres; in the Roman Catholic Church, only popes, cardinals and bishops wear them, plus some people in other offices that the Pope chooses to honor. In both churches, if you wear a funky hat, you make the rules.

The Presbyterian Church, USA, voted for a resolution that would allow individual churches to ordain gay clergy and elders. However, the national church does not allow the ordination of gay clergy or elders, and the General Assembly voted to reconfirm that ban. I'm glad that PCUSA took a step forward, but conservative Presbyterians will surely challenge the ordinations in church courts. I know one Presbyterian priest who recently went through the wringer because of his support for the LGBT community.

I think the interesting thing in the article is the use of the concept of purity. The name of the bipartisan task force that recommended the local option is the "Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church." The Rev. Michael R. Walker, executive director of Presbyterians for Renewal, a large conservative group, said: "It's going to increase confusion and rancor in the church, and it's certainly going to result in a quagmire within church courts. So, far from promoting peace, unity and purity, it actually promotes unrest and disunity and impurity." He said the compromise solution, in which each church or presbytery could make up its own mind, was not acceptable to many conservatives because they felt "guilty by association" with a church that had "compromised biblical standards" on sexuality and morality. It's dangerous to view one's fellow human beings as tainted objects which we must stay away from, because this can lead to demonization, or it can be a sign of demonization. Demonizing the opposition will get us nowhere.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The following resolution, B033, passed the House of Bishops and House of Deputies at the Episcopal General Convention without amendment:

Resolved, the 75th GC, receive and embrace the Windsor Report's invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation; and be it further

Resolved that this convention therefore call upon standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consecrating any bishop whose manner of life poses a challenge to the church and would lead to further strains on communion.

I don't think this is a good idea, and would have voted against it. For those of you who aren't Episcopalian, the election of Gene Robinson, who is a gay man living with a partner, caused a great deal of controversy in the Anglican Communion; the Windsor Report basically asks us to impose a moratorium on consecrating gay people as bishops, and on same-sex blessings (which some dioceses here and in Canada have done), for bishops who participated in the consecration of Bishop Robinson to consider removing themselves from representative functions, and a few other things. this resolution is meant to answer the Windsor Report. however, first, conservatives in the Episcopal Church don't feel this is an adequate response to the Windsor Report because it isn't binding; in fact, some bishops have already publicly dissented. conservatives in the church may very well perceive it as an insult - I would. second, this resolution asks a minority in the church to fall on their swords. in fact, we decided that a minority was going to fall on their swords for the rest of the church. if all LGBT Episcopalians had volunteered to fall on their swords, I could perhaps condone this, but they have not - we asked them to, and it seems we asked them to for nothing. besides this, our new Presiding Bishop's gender poses a challenge to the church and will certainly lead to strains in the rest of the Communion. the same could be said of the new Bishop-elect of California, who has been married thrice (fortunately not all at the same time). what are we going to do about that?

Bishop Jefferts Schori supported this resolution, and asked the House of Deputies to pass it. she's definitely lost some points with me.

Bishop John Chane and around 20 other bishops have signed on to the following statement:

We, the undersigned Bishops of this 75th General Convention, in the confidence of the Gospel and out of love for this great Church, must prayerfully dissent from the action of this Convention in Resolution B033 (on Election of Bishops). We do so for the following reasons:

The process used to arrive at Resolution B033 raises serious concerns about the integrity of our decision-making process as a Church. In particular we note that we discussed a resolution, A162 , on Tuesday, but were never given an opportunity to act upon it. Instead, we were presented with a different resolution this morning, and were given only 30 minutes for debate and discussion. This resolution bears great consequences both for the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church and unfortunately was not adequately discussed.
Our conversation has been framed in a flawed paradigm, forcing us to choose between two goods -- the full inclusion in the life of the Church of our brother and sister Christians who happen to be gay or lesbian and our full inclusion in the life of our beloved Communion.
The process that brought about the reconsideration of this matter failed to honor the integrity of the House of Deputies by bringing undue pressure to bear on that body.
Our witness to justice has been prophetic in this nation and in the wider Anglican Communion on the issues of the full inclusion of people of color and persons who are differently-abled. For more than 30 years women been permitted to be included in the councils of this Church as lay deputies to this Convention and as deacons, priests and bishops. This witness to full inclusion has borne the fruits of the Spirit and is incarnate in the faces and lives around these tables and throughout the Church. The language of this resolution too much echoes past attempts by the Church to limit participation of those perceived to be inadequate for full inclusion in the ordained ministry.
Any language that could be perceived as effecting a moratorium that singles out one part of the Body by category is discriminatory.
We are absolutely committed to the future of this Communion and the process of healing the strain that we readily admit and regret exists, and has been exacerbated in our own house by events today. We must participate in this process with our own integrity intact and thus we are obliged to make this dissent. We intend to challenge the rest of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion to honor the promise to include the voices of gay and lesbian in the conversations about the future of the Communion. We pray for the Church, for our Communion, and for our lesbian and gay brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

I suppose it was too much to ask that Bishop Jefferts Schori's election be uncontroversial. The Diocese of Fort Worth (Texas, United States) has appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury for "immediate alternative Primatial oversight and Pastoral Care." A primate, in Anglican terminology, is the chief bishop or archbishop of a province, not an intelligent furry mammal. This diocese, and two others, does not ordain female priests, and is understandably upset at having a woman as a Presiding Bishop (equivalent to an archbishop). In the Church of England, individual churches that do not accept the authority of female priests can opt to be overseen by a bishop with similar views, known as a Privisional Episcopal Visitor (aka flying bishop). An episcopal church is a church governed by bishops. The Episcopal Church is the American version of the Anglican Church (although there may shortly be a split). There is also a Scottish Episcopal Church; they in fact consecrated the first American bishop, some time before the American Revolution.

I first went to a very evangelical Methodist church when I was growing up. I disagree now with much of their theology, but they did ordain women. I remember one female pastor at a church I went to every so often, Rev Nga Mee Hee (for my non-Asian readers, Nga is her surname and it's pronounced something like Nah, with the 'ah' as in draft). I found her to be all right, even though they taught us that wives had to be subordinate to their husbands and all that (I mostly never bought any of that, I'm glad to say).

One argument commonly used by the don't-ordain-women crowd is that if Jesus only chose men as his disciples. This is true. Furthermore, he only chose Jewish men. Are any of my Jewish male readers interested in becoming Christian priests? We've got ourselves a bit of a priest shortage. I'm sure you'd be paid quite handsomely.

Actually, the Scriptures were written by men (I've heard an argument that Song of Songs was written by a woman, but I'm not sure what the consensus is among scholars), and have generally been interpreted by men. It's quite conceivable, and even likely, that if Jesus did have female disciples (not among the Twelve), this fact was obscured by male writers who were uncomfortable having women in potential positions of power. Certainly, some of the letters attributed to Paul make reference to women in the ministry of the new Christian church in its early days.
I thought I would highlight the case of Bishop Nolbert Kunonga of Harare (in Zimbabwe). The good bishop last year faced multiple charges in ecclesiastical court, the worst of which was incitement to murder. The judge assigned to the trial withdrew with little explanation, and Archbishop Amos Malingo, Primate of Central Africa, dismissed the charges. He is reported to be a flunkey of President Mugabe, having used his pulpit to decry critics of Mugabe's regime, and to defend Mugabe after he won the rigged 2002 election. He has accepted two farms that Mugabe had siezed from their original (White) owners. Any priest who tries to speak out against him is intimidated - several have had to flee the country. And just to put icing on the cake, he has the gall to hide behind accusations of colonialism: "Throughout history the Anglican church has been an extension of British colonialism and imperialism. Now, England has no jurisdiction over me."

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, effectively called for him to be suspended from his duties. “In other jurisdictions, a priest or bishop facing such serious charges would be suspended without prejudice until the case had been closed,” the statement said. “It is therefore very difficult for Bishop Kunonga to be regarded as capable of functioning as a bishop elsewhere in the communion.” Unfortunately, Most Rev Williams has no authority over this scumbag. Archbishop Malingo, who does have authority, has done squat, as previously indicated.

Contrast Kunonga to Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador (Romero was Roman Catholic). Romero started off as a flunkey but ended up using his pulpit to castigate his government, call for an end to the civil war, name those who had been killed by death squads, and to ask then-President Carter to stop sending military aid to the government that used it to kill its own people. Romero was murdered by a death squad. I wonder what will happen to Kunonga.,,2089-2220135,00.html

Monday, June 19, 2006

"He left that place and set out for the territory of Tyre. There he went into a house and did not want anyone to know he was there, but he could not go unrecognized. A woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him straightaway and came and fell at his feet. Now the woman was a pagan, by birth a Syrophoenician, and she begged him to cast the devil out of her daughter. And he said to her, 'The children should be fed first, because it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house dogs.' But she spoke up: 'Ah yes sir,' she replied, 'but the house dogs under the table can eat the children’s scraps.' And he said, 'For saying this you may go home happy: the devil has gone out of your daughter.' So she went off to her home and found the child lying on the bed and the devil gone."

(Mark 7:24-30)

I read this and I think of Jesus, what an asshole! Were he not the Son of God (however one defines that), we would not be afraid to call him a racist pig or worse. Indeed, Jesus' comparison of the Syro-Phoenecians to dogs is a racial slur. Biblical-era Jews regarded the Gentiles as unclean. Jesus was Jewish, and indeed some theologians believe his mission was solely to the children of Israel. This is one of the less pleasant passages of the Bible, what my chaplain euphemistically calls a "challenging" or "difficult" passage.

However, Edwina Gateley, a Catholic minister to street people and prostitutes in Chicago, offers us another interpretation: that this unnamed woman's "stark and indignant honesty" "stretched Jesus to a deeper understanding of his call to be inclusive." Jesus was said to be fully human as well as fully divine (and some theologians reject his divinity). Well, to be human is to have prejudices, blind spots, people you don't like. At some point, Jesus would have woken up on the wrong side of the bed and chewed someone out. At some point, he would have got whiny over some minor problem. Jesus too was rude to his parents or forgot someone's birthday.

And, in fact, this Jesus is a better Son of God for us than a perfect Jesus. If the Son of God could have prejudices, that is a message to us. Too often we go, "I'm not a racist, but..." We cannot be wilfully blind to our own prejudices. We must acknowledge that we have prejudices, and that, every so often, God makes us meet someone who will challenge them. I pray that people on both sides of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion will open their hearts and minds to this possibility.
The Episcopal Church, USA, has elected the Rt Rev Katharine Jefferts Schori, Bishop of the Diocese of Nevada, as its new Presiding Bishop. Congratulations to, and prayers for, Bishop Schori! She is the first female primate in the Anglican Communion.

Of course, there are still traditionalists in the Anglican Communion who oppose the ordination of women, and it will be interesting to if they will talk with Bishop Schori. She is also considered to be liberal on the issue of homosexuality, which will further displease conservatives. Apparently, she was not certain whether she would consent to Rt Rev Robinson's consecration until the day of the vote, but she did consent.

The Witness, a progressive magazine, has an interview with Bishop Schori on the issue of Bishop Robinson's consecration and her stance on LGBT clergy, and a collection of quotations from her. Here are the links.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Jesus wasn't White!

We believe in the one High God, who out of love created the beautiful world and everything good in it. He created Man and wanted Man to be happy in the world. God loves the world and every nation and tribe on the Earth. We have known this High God in darkness, and now we know Him in the light. God promised in the book of His word, the Bible, that He would save the world and all the nations and tribes.
We believe that God made good His promise by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, a man in the flesh, a Jew by tribe, born poor in a little village, who left His home and was always on safari doing good, curing people by the power of God, teaching about God and man, showing the meaning of religion is love. He was rejected by his people, tortured and nailed hands and feet to a cross, and died. He lay buried in the grave, but the hyenas did not touch him, and on the third day, He rose from the grave. He ascended to the skies. He is the Lord.
We believe that all our sins are forgiven through Him. All who have faith in Him must be sorry for their sins, be baptised in the Holy Spirit of God, live the rules of love and share the bread together in love, to announce the Good News to others until Jesus comes again. We are waiting for Him. He is alive. He lives. This we believe. Amen.

This is the Masai Creed: the Christian faith summarized from the cultural experience of the Masai people of Africa. The creed was written for them by Catholic missionaries around 1960.

At first sight, it's a very nice creed that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. However, the darkness is just below the surface: the creed was written FOR the Masai, but not BY them. Masai Christians have their experience of Christianity defined for them. I'm originally from Singapore, and Christians here have our experience of Christianity defined for us also, mostly by White, Evangelical, conservative missionaries. On my parents' fridge is a small picture of Jesus, his hands outstretched and palms open, a beatific expression on his face. He has light brown hair and Caucasian features. The thing is, my parents and I are Chinese, as are 80% of Singaporeans. And yet, the only images of Christ we see are Caucasian.

Colonialism goes beyond worshipping a God that doesn't look like you, although that is bad enough. Malcolm X, during the Civil Rights era, castigated Black Christians for worshipping a White God and a White Jesus. He saw it as an example of self-hate. Black girls played with White dolls. Even Martin Luther King Jr initially maintained that Jesus was White.

However, Jesus was not White. He was a dark-skinned Semite. A while ago in Popular Mechanics, a forensic anthropologist reconstructed what Jesus probably looked like. The article is here:

Richard Neave, a retired medical artist from the University of Manchester, acquired some skulls of Jesus' era from near Jerusalem, and reconstructed facial features typical of people from that area in Jesus' time. They used drawings from other archaeological sites to estimate Jesus' skin and eye coloration. Paul, in Corinthians, describes it as disgraceful for a man to have long hair; this makes it likely that Jesus had short hair.

If images of Jesus as a Caucasian are the only images available, they are invalid. However, they are valid if Jesus is also portrayed as an African man (the icon above; ironically, orange is the color of the Masai), a Native American, a Chinese man, a woman... It is a sin to appropriate Jesus to serve our cultural values. It is a sin to portray to people of color that Jesus was White - and in retrospect, it does not make sense. MLK eventually came to deny that Jesus was White (although, he did not say that Jesus was Black). Hopefully, churches in Asia will take the Caucasian images down some day. David Abalos says that in order to deal with sustained oppresion and/or to create lasting and positive change, cultural groups must reclaim four "faces", or aspects of themselves: the personal face, the political face, the historical face, and the sacred face. Lentz' portrayal of Jesus as an African goes to the personal, historical, and sacred faces.

Ironically, Lentz is White (Russian ancestry). Whereas people of color often have their skin lightened when portrayed in religious art, Lentz' icons have their skin darkened, if anything. Furthermore, a lot of the Caucasians in his icons look like they've had their skin darkened as well, or at least gone for a tan. Who knows, maybe Lentz is doing subliminal advertising for a tanning salon.

For better or worse, I've finally decided to get into the blogging fad. And of course, what else to blog about but religion? Most people who know me know that religion is quite important to me.

I am a new member of the Episcopal Church in the USA. My newly-adopted church is in the process of self-destructing over, gasp!, the GAY ISSUE! This one will surely be worthy of a two-part episode on Desperate Housewives. All right, I'm exaggerating. Indeed, the issue of human sexuality is contentious, but hopefully cooler heads will realize that Christians acting in good faith have come to differing views on the issue of homosexuality. It certainly is not my hope that the Episcopal Church and/or the Anglican Communion will self-destruct. After all, I just got confirmed!

Acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) people in church, and allowing them to have marriages/commitment ceremonies recognized by religious ritual, is one important issue for me. Issues of colonialism in religion are another. In general, I wish to stretch myself and my fellow Christians to a broader view of our religion. I am a Christian universalist, meaning that I do not believe my religion is the only way to attain salvation, however defined. I am also a feminist, meaning that I believe in valuing the experiences of women; in the field of religion, I strongly support having women as priests and bishops, and I value feminine imagery of the divine, because it stretches all of us to a broader understanding. I am also a liberation theologian, meaning that I believe that God acts through and on behalf of the oppressed, that God strongly opposes injustice, and that God calls us to do likewise.

For a first post, my first image will be Joan of Arc:

For some reason, J of A has always been a favorite of mine, even while I was still a very Evangelical Methodist (and Evangelicals don't typically do saints). Her wikipedia page is quite informative: She was born January 6, 1412. Large parts of France were under English occupation. At age twelve, she experienced her first vision. Sts Michael, Catherine and Margaret exhorted her to drive out the English, and bring the Dauphin to Reims for his coronation. She was at first rebuffed. However, she correctly predicted that the French army had suffered a defeat at the Battle of the Herrings, outside of Rouvray, which was north of Orleans.

And so, by this time, the French were desperate. Desperate enough that they could accept the word of an illiterate peasant teenage girl that she had been chosen by God to lead their army to victory. However, arriving at the siege of Orleans, she disregarded the veteran commanders' often cautious decisions, and rode out to the front of each skirmish with her banner in hand. She pursued vigorous frontal assaults against several wooden siege fortifications. The English abandoned their wooden fortifications, and retreated to les Tourelles, the stone fortress that controlled the bridge. This, too, she assaulted frontally and won. Some historians conclude that she was mainly a standard-bearer whose primary effect was to boost troops' morale; others believe she was in fact a skilled tactician and strategist. Either way, it is agreed that her brief career was very successful.

She convinced the French to march on Reims, and they got there with minimal losses. King Charles VII was crowned there. She next wanted to march on Paris, but the royal court pursued a peace treaty with the Duke of Burgundy, which he broke to reinforce Paris. After the failed attack on Paris, Joan was captured in a minor skirmish, was given to the English, and was put before a kangaroo court. The court could find no evidence against her, but tried her anyway, and tried to trap her like the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus. Asked if she knew if she was in God's grace, she replied, "If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me." The Church taught that no one could be certain of being in God's grace; had she answered yes she would be guilty of heresy, and had she answered no she would have condemned herself anyway.

In any case, as with all kangaroo courts, they found her guilty of heresy. They had to alter many of the trial records against her, and they had to refuse her appeals to the Pope, but they sentenced her to be burned at the stake. On May 30, 1431, she was executed. The English burned her body twice to reduce it to ashes, and cast it into the Seine to prevent anyone from taking relics. The executioner later stated that he "greatly feared to be damned for he had burned a holy woman." An English soldier is said to have given her a makeshift cross before her execution, which she holds in the icon.

The artist who did the icon is Robert Lentz, a Fransciscan monk who is trained in Byzantine iconography and who does a lot of modern icons. His icons are available at