Anomalies From the Rooftop

Theology from Anomalies. One story a day from the world of Christianity that is just a little off-beat. Sometimes, in shouting the good news from the rooftop, Christians do some strange things.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Baptist Church Dismisses Female Sunday School Teacher, Citing 1 Timothy

First Baptist Church in Watertown, NY has created a public relations nightmare for itself in the firing of an 81 year-old female Sunday School teacher. The teacher, Mary Lambert, has been a member at the church for about 60 years, and had taught Sunday School for 11. She received notice of her dismissal in a letter from the church's diaconate board. The letter included the following reference to 1 Timothy:
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became sinner. (1 Tim 2:11-14)
The news media immediately seized upon this as a case of a church firing a woman simply because she was a woman and therefore inferior, ignoring Ms. Lambert's own suspicions that the real reasons for her ouster were somewhat more complicated and political.

In a disarmingly conversational public letter, the pastor of First Baptist, Timothy LaBouf addressed this situation, noting that "
scriptural rules concerning women teaching men in a church setting was only a small aspect of that decision. Christian courtesy motivates us to refrain from making any public accusations against her." He also assured people that his "belief is that the qualifications for both men and women teaching spiritual matters in a church setting end at the church door, period." This is an important point, since he serves on the Watertown City Council with a female city manager.

The board's public letter, also available here, make the story all the more intriguing, as the board notes: "
Currently 55% of the Diaconate Board members of First Baptist Church are women. Additionally, by September, 87% of all Sunday School teaching positions will be filled by female educators." Clearly, since most Sunday School teachers are female, Ms. Lambert's status as a female has nothing to do with her dismissal. 1 Timothy was simply an attempt to seek a scriptural justification for church politics.

I can't comment on the inner-church politics in First Baptist, Watertown, NY. But I can say that it was absolutely inane to quote 1 Timothy in her dismissal letter. Thank goodness they stopped at 1 Timothy 2:14, and didn't include 2:15, which would have informed Ms. Lambert that she could still be saved by childbearing.

Friday, August 18, 2006

United Church of Canada Rejects Bottled Water

The United Church of Canada, which at about 600,000 members is Canada's largest Protestant denomination, has recently passed a resolution asking its members to stop buying bottled water. This proposal, which originated from a congregation in London, Ontario, seems to have had its roots in the Untied Church's Lenten program on water this past spring, Water in Focus. In turn, this is related to the ecumenical KAIROS project's current activities regarding water.

This is all well and good. Water conservation and municipal water development are serious social issues to be addressed. People probably do spend more money on bottled water than they need too, and it's certainly not the best use of our resources as Christians. If Christians put all the money they spent on bottled water towards food banks and homeless shelters, we could probably make a pretty substantial dent.

But why is it that the United Church of Canada is putting itself in the headlines by recommending against bottled water? The main thrust of their campaign, according to social policy coordinator Richard Chambers, is "concern about the privatization of water. The United Church is committed to supporting municipal water sources wherever they exist in the country and strengthening those.'' This rather socialist sounding line is logically absurd. People do not drink nearly is much water, bottled or otherwise, as they use for other purposes--cleaning, cooking, watering, bathing. The development of municipal water sources will continue regardless of whether some people buy bottled water to drink or not.

Moreover, why can't the United Church of Canada find a way to phrase its social justice initiatives in a way that sounds at least vaguely Christian? Or did I miss the part of the Bible that was anti-privatization and pro-municipal utility development?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Illegal Immigrant Seeks 'Sanctuary' in Chicago Church

Elvira Arellano, an illegal immigrant from Mexico who has been deported once and later convicted of using a false Social Security number, has sought "sanctuary" from immigration authorities in a storefront Methodist Church in Chicago. Effectively convicted of identity theft, there is really no good reason she should still be in the country. But she has become something of an activist for immigration reform, and says she will stay in the USA because her seven year-old son, a US citizen, wants to stay. Of course, it is not at all clear that her son's citizenship is going to improve his life much if he is stuck in a church.

Slate has a good summary of the current and historical understandings and legal underpinnings of sanctuary. Basically, it's abundantly clear that there is no provision in US law for the principal of 'sanctuary' in a church. But Joel Fetzer, professor of political science at Pepperdine University, summed up the reality well in a Chicago Tribune article: "Just because you are in a church doesn't mean you are less deportable in a legal sense, but in a political sense, it looks very bad to be hauling people out of churches as the camera rolls."

But there is a huge difference between this kind of sanctuary and the kind enshrined in Christian history. Sanctuary used to be a place one could go, regardless of what one had done wrong. In this case, as in the sanctuary movement of the 1980's, the church only provides sanctuary to those who find themselves crosswise with what the church leaders judge are unjust laws. It's not sanctuary at all, but political protest. Even the pastor of the church, Walter Coleman makes this clear, perhaps unwittingly,
"She represents the voice of the undocumented, and we think it's our obligation, our responsibility, to make a stage for that voice to be heard."

Apparently the church did pray over this, and I have no doubt that they see this as an important social justice issue. But their prayers didn't do much to help the congregation or Ms. Arellano understand the term sanctuary. Sanctuary is not about "making a stage for that voice to be heard." It's not a social justice technique.
Sanctuary has something to do with providing a place where the mercy of God is real and tangible. But by making a stage for politics, Adalberto United Methodist Church is obscuring the Gospel in a deluge of political debate.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Australian Jesuit Wins Award for New Christmas Carols

Christopher Willcock, SJ and cartoonist Michael Leunig have won a major award in Australia at the 2006 Classical Music Awards. Their collection of Christmas carols, Southern Star, won 'Choir of Vocal Work of the Year.' Apparently by 'the Year' they mean 'recently,' for Southern Star was first performed on the radio in Australia in 2004.

The work, which is written to be performed by either and adult choir or a children's choir, accompanied by a harp, is a series of 9 Christmas carols. It seems a little out of place to be writing about Christmas carols this time of year, as my computer informs me that it is 102 degrees right now.

Apparently a recording Southern Star will be available by the holiday season, at least in Australia. Here's hoping that the recording, or at least the sheet music, makes it into the hands of some North American churches. Of course, we have very little experience with the Southern Star up here, but maybe the music is really about Christ and stuff...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

PCUSA Publisher's Book Says Bush Responsible for 9/11

Westminster John Knox, the trade and academic press of the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) has published a book by David Ray Griffin, entitled Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11: A Call to Reflection and Action. In the work, which is in the top #1000 on, Professor Griffin argues that the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 were organized by the US government as an excuse to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. Griffin is a member of the "non-partisan association" Scholars of 9/11 Truth, a group of academics devoted to proving that the towers were brought down by controlled demolition and that no 757 hit the Pentagon.

I have no interest in writing about the conspiracy theory--Christian conspiracy theorists are sort of like modern day gnostics, somehow convincing themselves that they are vastly smarter than the large number of actually intelligent people in the world and thus that they possess some sort of secret knowledge integral to knowing the real truth. Academic conspiracy theorists are even worse, since they already feel smarter than everyone else.

Yet even if the "truth behind 9/11" were a matter of any serious contention, the real question is why would Westminster John Knox publish this book anyway? Their answer:
At Westminster John Knox Press we share Griffin’s primary allegiance and seek to encourage sustained, informed, and respectful dialogue about the most pressing issues of our times. Professor Griffin’s thorough research and intellectually rigorous arguments have persuaded us that this book should have a place in that conversation.
WJK's president wrote:
This book is not an off-the-wall polemic but rather a considered work that deserves to have a place in the public forum of discourse about Christian faith and U.S. policy...we sincerely hope publication of this book will challenge American see beyond their respective ideological impulses and provoke discussion on substantive issues about faithful citizenship in this country.
Sounds fair enough, right? But here's the catch, the reasons for questioning 9/11 provided by the Scholars for 9/11 Truth are almost all scientific in nature, mostly about impact velocities, burning temperatures, and the way the buildings collapsed. A retired liberation theology professor cannot possibly be the best person to present such science to the public--certainly an actual scientist would be far better. But what a Christian theologian does have a certain ability to make the topic religious--in an article at Christianity Today, Griffin is quoted as saying that 9/11 was designed to justify American imperial claims, claims which are specifically anti-Christian.

Jack Adams, editor of the conservative Presbyterian Layman, described the situation differently. He pointed out that Griffin is a proponent of liberation theology and that WJK and PC(USA) leadership is relentlessly liberal and anti-Israel. Basically, in Adams' view, this publication is not about "provoking discussion," but is an attempt to undermine the administration and its religious base. He also pointed out that PC(USA) leadership is out of step with the people in the pews, and expects that there will be an outcry over the publication of this book just as where was about PC(USA)'s plans for divestiture from Israel.

WJK is a rather liberal Christian press, but the real issue is that it is seen as the official press of the PC(USA). Even though the press is institutionally separate from the church, for WJK to publish this book seems to give its message a stamp of approval by the PC(USA). Most Presbyterians, of course, wouldn't want to bless such a work. More respect at WJK for the disconnect between the minds in the editorial office and minds in the pew might had prevented this whole mess. And judging by the front page of WJK's home page, which has a big link about why they published the book, they are feeling the heat. (But also probably making money from book sales generated by the controversy).

Then again, respect for the people in the pew isn't what WJK is really all about. They are, after all, Christian gnostics--possessing knowledge about how liberal God is that the vast majority of Christians apparently aren't able to understand.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Digg Covers Evangelicals and Porn

An interesting development has been taking place on the popular news site An article entitled Poll Finds that Evangelicals are Addicted to Porn made it to the front page of the "World and Business" section. This in turn linked to a press release hawking the site and their recent survey of site visitors about sexuality. According to the press release, the "cancerous infection of pornography" has made addicts of 50% of all Christian men and 20% of all Christian women.

The press release is rather abusive of both statistics and language, and really has no business being read for data. It is simply an advertising piece for and Second Glance Ministries (a ministry aiming to promote healthy and pure sexuality among Christians). Somewhat more interesting is the actual survey data available on's website.

A quick glance at the survey should raise several concerns about the claims made in the press release, which in turn made their way onto
  • This survey is terribly subject to self-selection bias. Since it was an Internet survey to visitors of the site, the people taking the quiz are clearly relatively Internet savvy. And the most available source of pornography today is the Internet. But many Christians, perhaps even most, are not Internet savvy, and thus pornography is much less accessible.
  • At the same time, questions about one's personal sin are probably subject to underreporting--so it's impossible to claim any sort of accuracy.
  • The survey never asked about addiction to pornography. In fact, the question is "Have you ever struggled with pornography?" which is entirely different from "Are you currently addicted to pornography?" To make the leap that anyone who has ever struggled with pornography is currently addicted to it is absurd.
  • If 50% of males were really addicted to pornography, more than 40% of them would be masturbating (190 out 463 reported masturbation was a part of their life).
  • Many non-Christians posting on digg (at least those who weren't trolling simply to bash religion) pointed out that it seemed hypocritical for Evangelicals to condemn the very thing they were doing. In turn, it was argued, that it's not hypocritical because they are admitting that they are sinning, and the admission of their own failure is an important step towards recovery and sin. If you actually look at the survey results, this shouldn't even be a debate: 57% of males and 40% of females admitted to sexual sin. It's confession, not hypocrisy. Any moral or ethical framework of any substance, Christian or otherwise, would come crashing down if it could not be espoused by those who fail to live up to the goal they set for themselves.
What's really most interesting about this whole mess is the comments on There are a huge number of them, covering everything from the Old Testament commandments on adultery to the correlation between increased viewing of porn and a decline in rapes. The most interesting ones I read, however, concerned repression.

The basic repression argument against Christian sexual morality is that Christianity rejects sexual activity except within the bonds of marriage and thus represses natural human desires which end up manifesting themselves in other ways (cited examples range from pornography viewing to child molestation). It is a fairly basic and fairly common argument. The problem that people seem to have in countering it is a strong tendency just to point to the Bible or to theology and say, "No, God says don't do it."

While from a logical level, that should be sufficient for a believer, it is rather unsatisfying. If Christians are going to go around "repressing" natural urges, shouldn't the focus be on what such repression is nurturing? If God really says, "don't be promiscuous" or "don't look at porn" doesn't he have a reason? And if there is a reason for the rule, wouldn't it make more sense to focus on the reason and its benefits, rather than to point to the rule itself? My frustration and dissatisfaction with Christian sexual morality has always been that it provides a strict rule without any clear explanation of the reason behind it. When debating points about Christianity in a cultural marketplace like, I really wish Christians would offer more than "don't"s.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The 'Church of Laughter'

The Daily Telegraph is reporting that English cleric Ian Gregory is starting a new church plant in an unused chapel in Cheadle, Staffs. Rev. Gregory believes that much of his work in ministry over the last twenty years has "missed the point." Thus, in his new church, he is going replace traditional Sunday service with a showing of classic comedy films, accompanied by coffee and newspapers. This should help people laugh, for "laughter is as important as prayer." He will offer one-on-one counseling, healing prayers and special sessions on basic life skills. On Sunday afternoons he will offer the most traditional of his services, a worship service with songs, prayers, and discussions.

Apparently, Rev. Gregory cites Dietrich Bonhoeffer as his inspiration for this "religion-free Christianity," which I guess just goes to show how imaginative Rev. Gregory's critical reading skills are. Undoubtedly, this appears to be spirituality focused on the fulfillment of the individual rather than upon the worship of God.

Perhaps the real lesson to be taken from Rev. Gregory's endeavor is his identification of the current weaknesses of Christian institutions. Most obviously, it is apparent that he thinks Christians need to laugh more--probably true. In my experience, the more institutional a church, the more solemn and the less laughter. And a lack of laughter certainly seems to indicate a lack of joy. Institutional churches could also do a better job of providing instruction in basic life skills, such as "The Art of Conversation" (to use Rev. Gregory's example). One of the great lessons to be learned by traditional churches from the rise of mega-churches is that people want religion to have an impact on their daily lives. The hard part is to acknowledge the truth of this desire and reality of its fulfillment without compromising the primary focus on the worship of God.

Finally, I don't see where the ultimate attraction of this new program lies. I can watch classic comedies, read the newspaper and drink coffee from the comfort of my own home on Sunday morning. Then again, maybe I just underestimate other people's desire to engage in these activities as a group on the weekend.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Are We Programmed to See God?

The lead article in the Religion section of this weekend's Dallas Morning News reported on a recent scientific study that indicates people act better if they feel, even only subconsciously, that they are being watched. The premise of the article is that the major world religious we have today were successful because they were the most effective at getting people to feel as though they were being watched by a supernatural power. As Dan Fessler, an evolutionary anthropologist at UCLA put it succinctly (if slightly obtusely), the basic thesis is "that belief in supernatural beings is a side-effect of evolved agent-detector mechanisms."

The author, Jeffrey Weiss of the Dallas Morning News, noted correctly that
"a rabbi or priest might say it's because we're created in God's image." Several paragraphs after this statement, he sums up the scientific view: "our ancestors' brains may have been biologically inclined to believe in the supernatural."

I am still not clear what contrast he thinks he is drawing here. For any Christian who is inclined to accept any degree of evolutionary theory, those two statements--one by religious people, one by scientists, are really just two ways of saying the same thing. I wish I could understand what distinction Mr. Weiss thought he was making, but when I think about what it means to be created in God's image, I just assume there are biological implications. Maybe this is something that Christians need to do a better job of explaining in their discussion with the secular world about the imageo Dei. We need not be afraid of biology.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

African Bible Commentary

The recent publication in Africa of the African Bible Commentary has warranted coverage by some major media outlets over the last month. It is sad that such undertakings have been rare enough to warrant such substantial coverage. Indeed, such a work is anomalous in the history of Africa, but very exciting.

According to The Voice, a Botswanian newspaper:
A new 1,600-page book has been released that provides explanations of verses from all 66 books of the Bible, using local proverbs and idioms to make the teachings relevant to most Africans while remaining true to the scriptures.
The use of these "local proverbs and idioms" also reported by SABC, indicates one of the major differences between African Christianity and Western Christianity. For us in the West, Christianity has so shaped our culture over the past 2000 years that we use Christian proverbs and idioms to interpret local culture, rather than vice versa as in the case of the African Bible Commentary.

According to Malcolm McGregor, international director for Serving in Mission, an organization that participated in the compilation of the commentary, “This publication is not only for Africa, it is also for others to read what this new voice of Christianity has to say at this unique time in world history—a time when belief is at the center of even political dialogues."

Indeed, as the center of global Christianity moves ever southward, perhaps the people who really need to read this commentary live in the Northern Hemisphere. It's only $25.19 on

Update: I'd missed this when I orginally posted, but it seems that the Catholic Church (at least in Kenya) has rejected the African Bible Commentary as incompatible with Catholic Chruch teaching. Cited reasons include the commentary's position on homosexuality, women in the ministry, marriage/divorce, and the relationship between church and state.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Methodists Make ATV Wheelchairs

According to this article from the United Methodist News Service, a group of retirement age Methodists in central Texas are spending their days building special wheelchairs designed to be operated by hand and to stand up the challenges posed by Third-World infrastructure. The article does not even do the wheelchairs justice, but this picture speaks its thousand words. And the word wheelchairs doesn't do these vehicles justice either, the proper term is Personal Energy Transportation, or P.E.T.

This ministry is not limited to these Texas Methodists. Indeed, the umbrella group, A Gift of Mobility, has workshops all over the country. Some of these workshops even have their own websites, like the Tampa P.E.T. group.

In thinking about this project from the standpoint of an individual church, the great thing is that it allows a church to undertake a mission project to a poverty stricken part of the world without ever having to go anywhere. Mission trips where people build things always seem to be the most powerful mission trips for the people who go on them, but it can be so hard (and is often economically wasteful) to get people to fly across the world. But it would be relatively easy to get a group of people together to measure and cut the wooden and metal parts that will finally be constructed into P.E.T.s.

It is impossible to build a cinderblock house or church in Texas and ship it to Africa. But with these P.E.T.s. it is possible to send build something at home that could radically improve a person's life half a world away.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Archbishop Milingo Publicly Supports Married Priests

It seems that rouge female Bishops ordaining female priests hasn't been the only recent public rejection of clerical strictures for the Roman Catholic Church. In a July 12th interview with the Catholic News Service, Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo of Lusaka publicly supported the marriage of priests and voiced his desire to reconcile married priests with the Roman Church. The Vatican has since censured him, though it's not clear what other action will ultimately be taken. Those in his homeland have pronounced themselves "aggrieved and embarrassed."

The Telegraph has a brief but very informative and interesting history on Archbishop Milingo, who first got himself into serious trouble by focusing on exorcisms and witchcraft in Africa, and then really grabbed the Vatican's attention when he married a younger Korean woman in a Moonie ceremony in New York. He has since spent most of his time outside Rome, essentially being hidden from the public's eye by the Vatican. This has apparently not prevented him from playing with his band, "The Monsignor Milingo Experience." He has cut two pop albums.

Archbishop Milingo's position, of course, is easily theologically defensible. This even the Roman Church acknowledges, as it accepts married priests in some of the Eastern Rite churches within its fold and acknowledges the priesthood carried out in the Orthodox Church. I think the real shame in this story is that the person who is getting the news attention for supporting married priests is such an eccentric. Relaxing the demands for celibacy, which are historically a medieval development anyway, could help to renew the priesthood and the Roman Church as a whole, particularly in the West. But the idea will struggle to gain traction as long as the media coverage is focused on a 76 year-old eccentric with a Moonie wife and a penchant for exorcisms.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Preacher's Wife Asks Him to Admit Infidelity--At Gunpoint

At the Sunday evening service at the Pentecostal Church of God in Newport, Arkansas, Tammy Estes pulled a gun on her husband, preacher Larry Estes, and demanded that he admit his infidelity. Members of the church who remained (most left the building when the incident began), have been quick in their assurances that there was no hostage situation. According to church member Brenda Wilson, who was in the church during the two-hour standoff, "They're precious people. She's a precious woman, and I guess we all have our breaking point. She reached hers last night."

Her "breaking point" was apparently reached by a series of text messages that Larry had sent to a member of the church youth group. Thus, telling good guys and bad guys apart in this story is well nigh impossible.

But though her gun in church move certainly can't be condoned, there is a certain calculating brilliance to the tactic employed by Tammy. Rather than simply confront him at home, she confronted him at church, telling him to admit to infidelity in front of the whole congregation. She doesn't appear to have wanted to hurt him physically, just to make him confess publicly. Thus he would be publicly admitting to his whole congregation that he had grievously sinned, and would almost certainly have lost his position in the church and community. There would be no way to cover things up or to smooth them over. Frankly, if anything, the gun at this point weakened her hand, because anything he did admit to he could later excuse as coercion. Still, the general tactic is brilliant--extract a public confession.

Of course, there is a pretty easy counter-tactic for preachers to follow--don't cheat on your spouse with members of the youth group.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Police Call for Prayers to Stop Crime

Over in the UK, the Lincolnshire branch of the Christian Police Association (C.P.A.) has started up a new program called "Prayer Watch" to help its crime fighting efforts. Apparently modeled on the "Neighborhood Watch" program employed by many local police departments, churches and Christian groups can sign-up to receive email updates containing local crime information which they can then use to focus their intercessory prayer efforts.

The Lincolnshire Police spokesman, Dick Holmes, appears not to be a member of the C.P.A. and rather skeptical of the whole idea. He told the Lincolnshire Echo that the C.P.A. is much like a support group, "a bit like the black or gay associations." Reuters also quoted him saying that the"Prayer Watch" program is designed to protect churches and congregations, which are vulnerable to crime, "but with the added bolt-on aspect of prayer."

One thing is certain: the C.P.A. would not consider prayer something that is just "bolted-on"to community policing. Nor, I'm imagine, would members of the black and gay associations claim their race or sexuality was simply something bolted on to their work and identity.

The C.P.A. has other community programs, including Adopt-a-Cop, and much of their website is focused on explaining how Christian beliefs are not incompatible with police work. But what is really unique about this "Prayer Watch" program is that the C.P.A. is seeking the public's help in making their police work more productive through the power of intercessory prayer. Much of what the C.P.A. does involves addressing the spiritual needs of Christian cops. But this program is using spiritual resources within the community to aid in fighting crime.

Actually, from a broad standpoint, "Prayer Watch" isn't much different than praying for people who or ill or in the hospital. In fact, local crime and its victims might be a useful addition to the intercessory prayers of congregations everywhere. At the very least it would help congregations feel more closely connected to their communities. And it certainly can't hurt to ask a just God for a little help here and there.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

8 Women "Ordained" To the Catholic Priesthood

This editorial piece, written by Phyllis Zagano at Hofstra university, draws attention to the recent ordination of eight women to the Catholic Priesthood and four other women to the deaconate. Much more on the organizing groups can be found on the websites of Roman Catholic Womenpriests and Womens Ordination Conference.

This ordination, which is the first time that an ordination of women such as this has taken place in the borders of the United States, occurred on a boat in Pittsburgh. Ms. Zagano does a great job of sympathetically laying out the basic issues with this action in her piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Basically, the ordinations can't be valid without valid bishops, and there is no way that the three of the women who played the role of bishops have been ordained validly as bishops. Ms. Zagano, however, clearly and forcefully points out that there it is impossible for the Roman Church to deny the possibility that women can serve as deacons. They have in the past, and we can only hope they will be able to again soon.

These ordinations of women by women to the Catholic priesthood always take place on a boat in the middle of a river. Look at this Google query, for 'ordination boat women.' According to 'Bishop' Patricia Fresen:
We like the rich symbolism of a ship for our ordinations: a ship or boat was a very early symbol of the church; Jesus often preached from a boat and some of his first disciples were fishermen; we too are learning how to fish, how to weather storms, we learn not to give up when we have laboured all night with no result ... The water is also rich in symbolism, as source of life, as alive, flowing, life-giving, moving, dynamic, often unstable and sometimes dangerous. And it's part of prophetic obedience to find that we're all in the same boat!
There are some "Catacomb Ordinations" that are held in secret for women who cannot risk their church positions with a public ordination, but for the most part, if a women is unofficially ordained in this manner, she is ordained on a boat.

However, I think there is another reason for boat ordinations that 'Bishop' Fresen didn't speak to. There is no better way to control attendance and manage crowds than to go out on a boat. Such a tactic is even Biblical: when Jesus wanted some time away from the crowds, he often got into boats. My guess is that the real reason these ordinations take place on the boat is so that nobody who disagrees with them can come and disrupt the service. Practical I guess, but it certainly contributes of a general air of clandestine, illegal activity that it would probably be best for the group to leave behind sooner rather than later.