Tuesday, December 26, 2006

more incoherence in the media

Here is this from Slate Magazine. But what did I expect (from Slate)? The incredible thing is the fundamentalistic citation by liberals of such things as the Council of Nicaea as some kind of sacrosanct bedrock of church polity. Bob Williams is quoted thus: "One bishop is not supposed to intrude upon another's jurisdiction. This has been true since the Council of Nicaea." Yes, well, practicing homosexuals are not supposed to be consecrated bishops; this has been true since the Council of Nicaea.

Astrid Storm's (the author's) overall point seems to be that the orthodox are a (Nigerian!) fly in the ointment of her mannered religiosity. How difficult that must be. But I'm confident the orthodox aren't intending to disturb the staid and pointless church-going of the Rev'd Storm and her party. With David Booth Beers's and +++++KJS's leave, most of us would love to slip quietly out the back.

Hat tip: Garland.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

left in the dust

Come on, friends! Whitehall is in LAST PLACE at the Anglican Blog Awards thingy-do. Rally 'round! Cast your ballot for the fundamental catholicity of Anglicanism! HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

(Vote here.)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

the smartest man alive?

Possibly. This is the most interesting thing I've seen on T19 lately -- and there have been plenty of interesting things. For the past several years I have lamented that, in the Academy, everything has sort of become a sub-discipline of Sociology / Anthropology. Thus Theology Departments are dissapearing to be replaced by Religious Studies Departments where (as in the Episcopal Church), Christianity is assumed to be one of many equally "valid" and equally interesting religious systems -- on an equal footing, for example, with Islam, Sikhism, and Jainism. And so it goes with the other humanities (Philosophy is an interesting holdout -- the field is dominated by Christians in recent decades). This same shift is at play in the move away from teaching "Government" in high schools to teaching "Social Studies." And so too -- in virtually all of the humanities -- we now have a profusion of this-and-that kind of critic or theorist: Queer, Feminist, Racial, Marxist, Post-Colonial, etc. etc. And we are seeing a shift away from an academic taxonomy of the objects of study, toward a taxonomy of perspective. So now, if you go to Harvard, you can major in Gender Studies, Queer Studies, African American Studies, and so forth. In other words departments are ceasing to be defined by what they study (Art History, Literature, Government, etc.), and are now being defined by how they study it.

Anyway, back to the thing on T19, which was taken from Zenit. (Read it all here at Zenit.) Its an article about / interview with Rene Girard, who has all kinds of interesting things to say. He was in 2005 made one of the "Forty Immortals" of Academie Francais. He's written on mimetic desire, violence, and the place of sacrifice in culture. In the Zenit article, he predicts a Christian renaissance:

I think the relativism of our time is the product of the failure of modern anthropology, of the attempt to resolve problems linked to the diversity of human cultures.

Anthropology has failed because it has not succeeded in explaining the different human cultures as a unitary phenomenon, and that is why we are bogged down in relativism.

Terrific point. This is relavent because ECUSA is most certainly "bogged down in relativism." And I agree that there are signs that Western culture is itself becoming aware of its being bogged down: the age of Derrida (who died in 2004) is ending, and I think Derrida himself, in a moment of clarity, knew that it was ending when in 1993 he penned Sauf le Nom, in which he explores the affinities of Deconstruction with radically apophatic theology, as in the poetry and epigrams of the 17th century German priest Angelus Silesius. The following verse was one with which Derrida was enamored:

To become Nothing is to become God
Nothing becomes what is before: if you do not become nothing,
Never will you be born of eternal light.

I suppose my overall point is, in solidarity with Girard, to note that the sociological way of looking at the world has failed. It was bankrupt from the outset, but Western culture is taking its sweet time to realize this failure. Cf. the fact that this paradigm waxes ever stronger in the Academy. But it has produced various combinations of despair, perversion, violence, and solipsism (Wittgenstein foresaw this last point in the Tractatus 5.62). How, in the end, is Deconstruction different from destruction? I would suggest that it isn't -- unless it can be properly apophatic, and therefore Christian.

Will the failure of the West's late assumptions (which Karl Marx and others have correctly observed began with the Reformation) result in a Christian renaissance? I hope so. Otherwise, to quote myself in a poem I wrote, while on a boat headed for Patmos, in reference to a legendary battle between Saint John the Theologian and a pagan priest named Kynops (which John won):

...trying to avoid this death, maybe
we’ll slide like liquid in each others’ mouths,
or press like sheets against each others’ thighs.
And when this too has failed to save, we’ll see
the modern world impossible in art,
and like our vessel’s supplicating bow,
perhaps provoke the water’s oxygen
to wreathe our bodies’ lifeless flounder-forms,
and with Apollo’s priest:
turn to stone.

the situation in the diocese of virginia

Yesterday, (Sunday) nearly one out of five church-going Episcopalians in the Diocese of Virginia voted to leave the Episcopal Denomination. (Everything you ever wanted to know about it -- so far -- can be found here.) I am conflicted about this kind of thing. On the one hand, the New Religion of ECUSA is a dead-end; it does not nourish; and it is antithetical to the gospel of Christ. On the other hand, I'm not sure what it means to "leave a diocese." As our own Fr Thorpus has intimated in the past, it seems like a better approach would be to band together and elect a rival bishop, and to set up shop as the (real) Diocese of Virginia. That's the way Gregory of Nazianzus and Athanasius handled things in Constantinople and Alexandria in the 4th century. Oh well. Gregory and Athanasius weren't big-e Evangelicals.

I wonder what it means, legally, that Falls Church and Truro both antedate not only the Episcopal Denomination, but the Diocese of Virginia as well... Probably nothing. But it should mean something. And I have to say, trying as hard as I can to look at this dispassionately, Bishop Lee does not look good. First, he's exhibiting ++++++Jefforts-Schori levels of litigiousness, including threatening vestry members individually. Bad form. Bp. Lee goes on to say:

The votes today have compromised these discussions and have created Nigerian congregations occupying Episcopal churches. This is not the future of the Episcopal Church envisioned by our forebears.

Right. Seriously: did Samuel Seabury create a situation with Scottish congregations occupying American churches in the 18th century? Think about it. (The answer is no.) And speaking of "the future... envisioned by our forebears," I'm sure George Washington's Episcopal dream wasn't all about gay pride parades, tie-dyed chasubles, and being on an equal theological footing with Hindoos and Jains. Let's be honest. If your going to invoke what "our forbears" envisioned, be consistent. And anyway, ought we automatically embrace everything our forbears envisioned just because they envisioned it? On that score, Bp. Lee should remember that the capital of the Confederacy was in his diocese. They probably wouldn't have wanted Nigerians in their churches either.

Read all of Bp. Lee's sabre rattling here. I think he's the wrong kind of conservative.

Monday, December 18, 2006

the greater antiphons

One of the great things about ritual catholicism is that you have recourse to loads of beautiful and eddifying prayers. And you don't have to go to all the trouble of thinking them up yourself. Such are the great "O Antiphons" of Advent. Those of you who say the office, I recommend you print them out and use them at Evensong (in full, before and after the Magnificat). Here is the rubric:

To be said in full before and after Magnificat; or, on Feasts, with V. & R. and Advent Collect after the Collect of the Feast.

In other words, these are antiphons for the Magnificat. And here are the antiphons themselves:

Dec. 16 - O Wisdom, * which camest out of the mouth of the most High, and reachest from one end to another, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: come and teach us the way of prudence.

Dec. 17 - O Adonai, * and Leader of the house of Israel, who appearedst in the bush to Moses in a flame of fire, and gavest him the law in Sinai: come and deliver us with an outstretched arm.

Dec. 18 - O Root of Jesse, * which standest for an ensign of the people, at whom kings shall shut their mouths, to whom the Gentiles shall seek: come and deliver us, and tarry not.

Dec. 19 - O Key of David, * and Sceptre of the house of Israel, that openest, and no man shutteth, and shuttest and no man openeth: come and bring the prisoner out of the prison-house, and him that sitteth in darkness and the shadow of death.

Dec. 20 - O Day-spring, * brightness of light everlasting, and Sun of righteousness: come and enlighten him that sitteth in darkness and the shadow of death.

Dec. 21 - O King of the nations, * and their desire: the Cornerstone, who makest both one: come and save mankind, whom thou formedst of clay.

Dec. 22 - O Emmanuel, * our King and law-giver, the desire of all nations, and their salvation: come and save us, O Lord our God.

Dec. 23 - O Virgin of Virgins, * how shall this be? For neither before thee was any like thee, nor shall there be after. Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me? The thing which ye behold is a divine mystery.

vote early; vote often

Just kidding. Vote early; but vote only once. Whitehall has been nominated in the "most theological" category. Cheers. But we are losing. Jeers. So go vote for us. Please.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

more thoughts on unity to get the juices flowing (both mine and yours)

Every Sunday we say, in the words of the Nicene Creed, that we believe four things about the Church: that it is (1) One, (2) Holy, (3) Catholic, and (4) Apostolic. We see all of these elements in our Lord’s high priestly prayer in John 17. Look at the whole thing; its incredibly rich.

Let's look briefly at apostilicity and unity in John 17.

The Church is Apostolic

Jesus was talking to the eleven apostles (Judas having left), so there we have “apostolic.” We know he was praying specifically for the Apostles because he was speaking at the Last Supper, the night before his blessed passion, and St. Matthew in relating the same events tells us who precisely was present: “When it was evening, he sat at table with the twelve…” (see Mat. 26.20). John situates the prayer for unity in our Lord’s long discourse after “…he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table…” (Jn. 13.12), and there follows the four-chapter long discourse in which the prayer for unity is situated. Here too, by the way, we see the scriptural linking of the Church’s apostolicity with its sacramentality: this prayer comes at the institution of the Eucharist, at the Last Supper. Hence the multiplicity of related meanings of the word “communion” – as in “Anglican Communion” on the one hand, and “Holy Communion” on the other.

The Church is One

Our Lord prays not only for the Apostles, but for “those who believe in me through their word” (Jn. 17.20). He prays that those who believe in Jesus through the teaching of the Apostles might be one with the Apostles, and thereby one with himself, and thereby one with the Father. But this is all through the ministry of the WORD, through the Apostles’ teaching. Why? Because it is our Lord’s own teaching. And Christ’s teaching, his “word,” comes from the Father: “…I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me” (Jn. 8.28). And the Lord says of the Apostles: “I have given them the words which thou gavest me, and they have received them…” (Jn. 17.8), and “they have kept thy word” (Jn. 17.6). The Lord says clearly that to hear those whom he sends is to hear him; and likewise to reject those whom he sends is to reject him: “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Lk. 10.16). The unity of the Church is the unity of the Lord with the Apostles – “I in them and thou in me” (Jn. 17.23) – and it is therefore not to be taken for granted; it is a gift, and it is given not just to anyone, but expressly to “those who believe in me through their word” (Jn. 17.20).

The Church’s unity – its oneness – therefore comes through its share in and its reception of the words of God (the theou logoi or, loosely speaking, a unity of theology), which words the Father has given to the Son, and which the Son has given to the Apostles, and which they in turn have given to others. The Father’s gift of his Word to the Son is constitutive of the Father’s having eternally begotten the Son. That is, the Father’s gift of the Word to the Son is an eternal gift, and a gift so tightly given and so closely received, that it constitutes the very essence of God as Son. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn. 1.1). This, again, can be seen in the Nicene Creed: the Word of God is “begotten of his Father before all worlds,” “of one substance with the Father,” and “very God of very God.”

Christ’s gift of the Word of God to the Apostles is shown to be the essence of the oneness of the Church as the Body of Christ. As I have mentioned, this discourse in John is presented in the context of the institution of the Eucharist, where the incarnate Word gives HIMSELF to the Apostles: “This is my body which is given for you” (Lk. 22.19). And therefore the Church rightly recognizes the yoking of preaching the Word and ministering the sacraments: “Give grace, O heavenly Father, to all bishops and other ministers, that they may… set forth thy true and lively Word, and rightly and duly administer thy holy Sacraments” (BCP p. 329). In full expressions of the Church, therefore, it is recognized that to proclaim the Word of God is to imitate Christ in his offering himself to the Father, because the Word of God is not just the abstract teaching of the Apostles, and not just the Bible, but rather as John 1.14 says “the Word became flesh.” If to preach the Gospel is to proclaim the Word of God (and it is), then it is not merely to proclaim a teaching (it is that; but its not just that), but it is even more fundamentally to offer the flesh of Jesus Christ. The whole reason for preaching, for proclaiming the Word, is because it is the enterprise of holding up the unique (unique → unity), which is to say the one flesh of Jesus Christ who is the Word of God: “‘and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.’ He said this to show by what death he was to die” (Jn. 12.32). When Jesus speaks of his being "lifted up" he is speaking, in essence, of his proclamation of himself as the Word of God.

And this unity is the essence of the Eucharistic sacrifice. It is a perpetuation of the Apostolic power of offering the Word of God, which has become unique flesh. To offer the Word is therefore to offer a spotless and immaculate victim, the flesh of the man Jesus of Nazareth, who is of one substance with God the Father. Preaching the gospel and offering the Eucharistic sacrifice are forever and inextricably linked precisely because God’s perfect offering of his own life to humankind is forever and inextricably linked to the offering of perfect human nature to the Father in Christ’s “one oblation of himself, once offered” on the cross. In the crucified flesh of Jesus Christ there is at last perfect intercourse between God and man – a perfect, loving, simultaneous, and mutual outpouring of natures – because it is the ONE Christ who is crucified, and “although he be God and man, yet he is not two, but one Christ” (as the Athanasian Creed affirms). Christ’s sacrifice is the loving and simultaneous self-offering of God to man, and of man to God.

But it is realized immanently only by those whose faith in Christ is circumscribed by the teaching of the Apostles, viz. "those who believe in me through their word." Is this ECUSA?

More anon.

diocese of virginia

Tomorrow the Diocese of Virginia (the largest diocese in ECUSA) could lose about 17% of its church-going population.

Bp. Lee said of the churches voting to leave, "The diocese owns their property." What a strange way of putting it, Bishop. If the diocese owns it, how is it "their" property? And if it's "theirs", how does the diocese own it? Oh well. Civil courts will decide; the secular world will snigger at the scandal; and ECUSA will continue to wither on the vine.

Read about the Diocese of Virginia here.

By the way, ECUSA lost 36,000 people in both 2003 and 2004, and 42,000 in 2005. Go here for details.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Vatican and China quarrel over who shall appoint bishops for the mainland

Apparently, there's been trouble over this before.

Read it all.

What I find interesting is this:

The Vatican asserts that it must control the selection of bishops, although it has allowed governments and dioceses to suggest possible candidates.

Although the mainland church does not take instructions from the Vatican, the Vatican has never declared a schism between itself and the churches in China. The Vatican has taken the position that the differences are political, and not differences of religious belief.

Does anyone else hear echoes of the English Reformation? The situation in China is by no means a new one: European monarchs struggled with Rome for the power of appointment for centuries. (in the purest catholicism, of course, the church appoints its own bishops). That was one of the major differences between Rome and the English monarchs, too. If the Vatican can be so tolerant in the case of mainland Chinese Christians, why can't it rescind any schism between it and the CofE? Our position is as it always has been, that the bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in the English church. Surely Henry's headship of the Church was a 'political' difference, not a matter of religious belief. It wasn't too much different from the 'ancient privileges' that the French monarchs traditionally exercised over episcopal appointments. Granted, much of the English reformation and its Roman backlash was driven by money: Henry didn't want his money going out of the country, and Rome didn't want its fountain cut off in the middle of building St. Pete's. But surely that can be seen as merely political and not a matter of faith.

Does anyone know what status Rome gives to Christians in communist nations? particularly the old Soviet Union? What about Cuba and other communist Latin American states that discourage religion?

congratulations to father al

Father Al Kimel, formerly Father Al Kimel, just (re)became Father Al Kimel. I.e. he was made a Roman Catholic priest on the 3rd of December. Hoozah, Fr Al. I'm sure I speak for all the Whitehallians (to use Fr Thorpus's neologism) when I say I wish you all the very best, and I bid your prayers for your former coreligionists.

Read all about it (mainly look at the pictures).

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

From the Halls of Miscellanea

This is WAAAAY off our recent topics, but here goes:

College Football does not have a championship. That's a misnomer. What it has is a title fight -- the representatives from 6 conferences (out of 11) and 4 bowl committees (out of a zillion) decided they'd create a duel between the two teams perceived to be the best in the country (they'd define what 'best' means) and give the winner the title, "National Champion." The 'championship' is not a creation of the overarching college football organization (the NCAA) and there is no playoff system giving every team a fair shot at winning it all, which is what it takes to earn a real championship - like the Super Bowl, the World Series, or the Stanley Cup (the what?).

The entire system of rankings and bowls and the BCS is not designed to make one team earn a real championship; it's a glorified watercooler conversation, a bunch of fans -- sportswriters, college students, coaches, representatives of the schools themselves, and some arbitrarily chosen computer rankings -- arguing about who's the best. Notice, Who's the Best, not who has earned a 'championship'. The system is designed to rank teams from across the nation, not to throw them all into a playoff bracket and see who comes out on top. It's like ceding in Tennis, or All-Star voting in MLB and the NBA, or the Pro-Bowl for the NFL. The rankings are an opinion poll, plain and simple. That's why you hear talk of 'style points' and 'strength of schedule' -- those things never get quantified. There is no official NCAA strength of schedule index. It's all in the heads of the voters and those who create perameters for the computer-generated indices. Yes, this kind of ranking system is unfair. You get the same thing in invitations to March Madness -- some little school is always squawking about how it got a bum deal and didn't get invited to the tournament. It's the same in pro tennis, pro golf, and any number of other sports. We stomach it there, why not with college football?

What people need to realize about the Bowl system is that it doesn't mean anything. Just like the All-Star-type games I just mentioned, the games don't mean anything. They don't advance anybody in any bracket or result in any meaningful trophy. The bowls are games that exist for the pure joy of playing football. It's two people meeting over a watercooler saying, "The Big Ten stinks: Pac-10 is where it's at." and "The Pac-10 stinks: Big Ten is where it's at. I wonder what would happen if we pitted the best Big Ten team against the best Pac-10 team. They never meet during the season, so let's get them together in, say, January, when there's nothing else to do. We can play some football, sell some tickets, drink some beer, and have a great time." So they do. Sure, money's involved. That's ok. It keeps many NCAA sports afloat that wouldn't get funding otherwise. No, it's not fair. It's not a playoff. That's ok. It's a system of duels for bragging rights and the joy of the sport.

The bowls are the only true post-season there is anymore. What masquerades as 'post-season' in MLB, the NFL, and the NBA is really the only part of the regular season that really counts. The bowls, however, and the BCS 'championship' really have no meaning whatsoever in terms of competition among conference teams. They're all extra-regional matchups, and they don't mean anything. Except honor, glory, bragging rights, all those things that used to mean so much to men of earlier eras.

So when you Whitehallies out there hear people saying we need a playoff system for College Football, don't you believe it. Let's not have every sport the same. Let's keep the traditions and the independence of the conferences alive. Let's keep a meaningful regular season. People who advocate for a playoff system are just tired of the great national watercooler conversation. They're people who don't like the arguments and the ambiguities and want to just quantify it all so we can get on with the Hockey season (the what?). They're bad fans, or at least fringe fans, who want, McDonald's-like, to know what they're looking at no matter which sport they happen to see on the telly. They just want it fair -- not because they really care about the good of the sport, but so that no team feels bad for being left out. No stomach for the ups and downs, the power-plays and spoilers, the complex and nuanced system that is NCAA College Football. The fact is that most of this country loves the watercooler conversation. That's why NCAA football is so popular and is only gaining ground. Ambiguity drives the system and its popularity. Unfairness creates heros and goats and great deeds and terrible betrayals. That's ok. That's a great and powerful story. And every College Football fan has a story to tell about their team, their heroic moments and their tragedies. That's a great sport, my friends.

OU rocks.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

San Joaquin votes to ... do what, exactly?

Here's the ENS story about San Joaquin's action in their diocesan convention. This story is being widely discussed on the blogosphere but there's no reason Whitehall shouldn't weigh in.

A few things to note:
First, note the incredible condescension in the responses of PB Schori and Bonnie Anderson. Surely, they say, surely, they can't be speaking with one voice.

Second, note the four actions:
1. remove references to the Episcopal Church,
2. make the Standing Committee the ecclesiastical authority in the absence of any sitting bishops,
3. put all diocesan trust funds under the control of the bishop, and
4. permit the diocese unilaterally to extend itself beyond its current geographic boundaries.

It is claimed, in this story, that San Joaquin is following a road map laid out by six Global South primates. Although I highly sympathize with this action, I've got to admit the ecclesiological ramifications have me tangled. It seems to me that step #1, in going over TEC's proverbial head and claiming direct communion with Canterbury, is unprecedented. Canterbury, as far as I know, only has relations of communion with provinces. Is that right? Are there any other single dioceses in the world that claim direct communion to Canterbury? Even when Anglicanism was established in the American colonies, we were under commissaries of the bishop of London. Does anyone know in what form communion was formally established between the mother church and the church in America? Probably in the person of William White. That was a direct relation with a diocese. Perhaps there IS precedent for this sort of thing. At any rate, it doesn't fit into the nicely organized categories that the Anglican Communion, as of the late 20th century, was only beginning to codify in documents such as the Virginia report. But maybe it's time for a change. It's clear that the Global South primates who laid out these stepping stones were not laying them within the stream of traditional American Anglican polity, but rather within the framwork of -- what ecclesiology? Anglican ecclesiology in the late 20th century was amorphous at best. We can only hope that our days of sloppy ecclesiology are over, and that the end of all of this will be a Communion with a much more defined [read 'catholic'] sense of the church visible.

The convention also passed a resolution directing the bishop, council, and standing committee "to assess the means of our affiliation with a recognized Ecclesiastical structure of the Anglican Communion," and bring the next convention a "detailed plan for the preservation of our relationship with the Anglican Communion."

This feels to me like an admission that the cart is somewhat before the horse at this point. Communion is a two-way street, and unless Bp. Schofield knows something we don't about the primates and the ABC's intention to reciprocate (which Bp. Schofield may indeed know), this leaves San Joaquin out on an ecclesological limb. If the ABC decides NOT to reciprocate, they're in a pickle, all Global South affiliations aside. They'd become a missionary diocese of some other province, and you'd still have the problem of geographic overlap. Does the ABC's plan for a two-tiered Anglican Communion allow for geographical overlap? If so, that would be a clear statement that real communion with associate churches has been broken, and the lower teir of the system fades into nothingness.

We've got a real ecclesiological puzzle on our hands, that's for sure. I think it all would have been solved if Archbp. Eames' commission had spent more time looking for solutions in the Fathers and less time wallowing in contemporary dilemmas. And that's the tragic flaw of the Windsor Report, now reasserting itself. Until we reach the bedrock of Patristic catholicism, we'll always float listlessly, with some manner of leak in our life-raft. Anglicans once were renowned for our knowledge of the Fathers. Where is that Anglican scholarship today? Why does it not inform our discussions and decisions? Are we a Catholic Communion after all?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

neither here nor there

Some gripes with the Daily Office Book -- (1) Where were the readings for St. Andrew's Day (or for that matter ANY feast prior to the Eve of the Visitation -- May 30)? (2) Given that greater feasts begin at Evensong on the day before the feast, the Daily Office Book doesn't seem cognizant of the fact that all Sundays are such feasts. You can tell because the Church's new year begins TONIGHT, at Evensong. Yet the readings for tonight's Evensong are in the Year Two book... i.e. for Saturday of Proper 29 / Pentecost 25 / Trinity 24. Is it my particular book that's faulty?

more on the blog challenge

There have been some good, very thoughtful comments on the Blog Challenge post of a few days ago, attempting to get a theologically coherent account of catholicity from liberals. Here are some notable responses:

From our own Fr. Thorpus we have what strikes me as a very Anglican (in the good sense) account of patristic catholicity:

My understanding of the historical roots of the term 'catholic' is this: it had two aspects. If you wanted to be recognized as a part of the Church (back when there was considerd to be only one) you had to 1. hold Apostolic doctrine, as defined by the Apostles themselves and expressed in the New Testament and the Creeds; and 2. fit your church into the visible structure of Apostolic leadership - i.e. the historic episcopate, or Apostolic Succession. Those two things were it: apostolic doctrine, apostolic leadership. Nothing about liturgical standardization, nothing about customs and practices. Apostolic Doctrine and Apostolic leadership. These two things were shared throughout the Patristic Church and were the basis for differentiation between the true Church and all the spin-offs, gnostic and otherwise.

As Fr. Thorpus is not a theological liberal, his answer isn't in the running for the prize.

Next we have the following from Hoosierpalian. I thought this very forthright and coherent. Its coherence is not, however, theological. It is less an apologia for some notion of liberal catholicity, and more an explanation of the ubiquitous lack of such. I concur with its main points, which I think draw out the point that the liberal / conservative divide among ECUSA laity is much more political / social than it is theological. There is a great dearth in ECUSA, on all sides, of good catechesis. Here is Hooseirpalian's comment:

As I said on my comment to the post above, I am a big-time "broad and hazy" liberal. I arrived here by clicking on a link from another blog that I regularly follow. I personally think that making a "theologically coherent" statement on any point of Christian faith is like herding cats. We can't do it. Those of us pewsitters on board with the "New Religion" take pride in the fact that we listen to many different points of view. If you wanted to nail the "broad and hazy" contemporary Episcopalian down and ask him what they think "catholic" means in the creeds, he would give you a one word answer--"universal." And then he'd get impatient and bored if you wanted to define it further. Maybe he might say that "catholic" means all people throughout time and space who have believed in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and in the two sacraments of baptism and holy communion.
I love these folks. I'm one of them. But if you want to make the charge that we've become intellectually lazy or lukewarm in our religion, I can agree. We need to crack open our Bibles, read the current and past Books of Common Prayer, become serious about actually living a life of prayer.

Lastly, there is the following trenchant analysis from Bernard Brandt. It doesn't qualify for the prize either, as it doesn't come from a defender of the New Religion, but from a detractor.

I suppose that it all depends on how liberals define catholic. If they define the word catholic in the sense that Lewis Carroll's Humpty Dumpty does (i.e.: "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."), then, like Humpty Dumpty, they can make the word catholic mean whatever they want it to. Of course, we can play the same game, and define TEC and its presiding bishopess as duplicitous, or mendacious, or hypocritical. Oh, what fun!

Of course, if they define the word catholic in the way that St. Vincent of Lerin did (Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus creditur), they have somewhat more of a problem. One can then ask for answers to simple statements of fact, such as: was it always believed that homosexual activity was tolerated or beloved of by God? was it everywhere believed that abortion was a proper choice of action by Christians? was it believed by everyone that contraceptive methods were approved of by or for Christians? and so on.

If the word catholic is defined from its first etymological meaning (kath 'olos, or universal), then they have yet more of a problem. How can they claim that a church of several million who have adopted beliefs found nowhere in Christiandom until the twentieth century, and even then only by a small minority, can in any way be considered universal? The question, of course, is rhetorical: they can't.

And of course, there is the second etymological definition of the word catholic as complete, which has been espoused by some Orthodox theologians. But in the case of some of the statements by Schori, this definition would be applicable only if the word complete were the descriptive adjective to the following phrase: complete nonsense[.]

Lets continue the discussion.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Olive Branch from the PB?

Think Negotiation strategy: So the Primatial Vicar proposal is an olive branch: what good is it to offer a 'compromise' that looks like a real compromise on the outside but studiously avoids giving in to your negotiation partner's priorities? This strategy has two possible purposes that I see:

1. it's a good-faith offer, the first step in a series of offers meant to express your side's priorities. You expect it to be refused, and you expect the other side to offer a similar 'compromise'. You judge by each offer what the priorities are, and work to incorporate both sets of priorities into the final version.
2. it's merely rhetorical posturing, a slick bit of PR to say, "we tried, we really did" (when we didn't) "and those extremists just won't compromise."

If the Primatial Vicar proposal really is #1, we should EXPECT it to be refused by the orthodox, and a good-faith offer to come from that side, equally problematic to the revisionists. This offer and counter-offer, refusal and counter-refusal should get us closer to agreement over time. If this kind of negotiation is really what's going on, perhaps there's hope for reconciliation after all.

If we don't see some give and take going on, speaking and listening, or any good faith, we're left with the conclusion that the Primatial Vicar proposal is merely posturing, a power play, or some slick PR by the PB, perhaps to influence San Joaquin's convention.

I have a hunch that all the negotiation was done at the September meeting between PB's old and new and the APO bishops. From +Iker's letter it appears the negotiations weren't successful, and the Primatial Vicar Proposal was made public without having been agreed to by the APO bishops. This puts PB Schori firmly in category #2, and it calls into question the status of the proposal. ENS reports:

"The response drafted at the New York November 27th meeting is provisional in nature, beginning January 1, 2007 and continuing for three years. The New York group asked the Presiding Bishop to monitor its efficacy, and to consult with the House of Bishops and the Executive Council regarding the arrangement and possible future developments.
The response has been submitted to the Archbishop of Canterbury and to the bishops of the petitioning dioceses."

Does this mean the proposal IS or ISN'T in effect yet? On the one hand, it's been 'submitted' to the APO bishops and the ABC -- can they refuse to ratify it? On the other hand, it's supposed to start up immediately and it doesn't seem to have any connection to any duly formed legislative body of TEC. Is this simply an 'executive order', such that PB Schori can go right ahead with it regardless of objections? That sounds like her bull in a china shop style. I suppose if she's approaching the whole thing as an issue of delegated authority, she can choose to delegate her own authority whenver she likes. But that sidesteps the issue that some of the APO bishops care most about: women's ordination. Those who accept Women's ordination might be able to accept a primatial vicar. Those who don't, not. Is this a slick move to divide and conquer, to hit the orthodox where we're most divided?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

a blog challenge!

This is what I would like to see from Jefforts Schori, or really any liberal / reappraiser who is on board with the New Religion: I would like to see a theologically coherent account of what sort of catholicity they have in mind when, Sunday by Sunday (or twice daily if they say the Office), they affirm that they believe in a (single) Church that's catholic. (For that matter, I wonder what sort of apostolicity, what sort of sanctity, and what sort of unity they have in mind... but first things first.) What does "catholic" mean to those who, for example, want to drive Bishop Schofield out of ECUSA?

Remember I said I want a "theologically coherent" account. "Catholicity means radical inclusion," doesn't count as an answer.

The winner will receive a "Help us Kait Shoree we r catliks" coffee mug.

This challenge is prompted by Father Thorpus' comment below, which deserves to be read entire. But if you're not that ambitious, here's a highlight:

Interesting reading from Zechariah this morning: "Thus said the LORD my God: Be a shepherd of the flock doomed to slaughter." It continues with the taking of two staves, one Grace, the other Unity by name. Both end up getting broken...

jordan hylden in 'first things'

No one thought it possible, but there is a wave of nostalgia sweeping through the ranks of conservative Episcopalians for their old presiding bishop, Frank Griswold. Of course, he may well have been heretical, but no one could really tell for sure. His statements were a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside a bureaucracy, raising what commonly is known as “Episco-babble” to something of an art form. By and large, we conservatives could confidently ignore what he said, resting assured that no one understood him anyway.

But those days, alas, are now gone. Our new presiding bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori, is by comparison a model of clarity, and within the span of a month has managed to offend a rather astonishing range of people, including Catholics, Mormons, individuals without a graduate degree, and mothers with children.... In short, from her recent actions and public statements, it is reasonable to infer that her term is likely to tear the Episcopal Church in two—and, what’s more, that that is precisely what she intends.

Read it all here.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

rowan and benedict

The Archbishop of Canterbury has been visiting Rome. He had a short-ish, private meeting with the pope (about 25 minutes), and they officiated at Noon Prayers (what was once called Sext) together. Read all about it here.

I have two friends who are a part of the Archbishop's entourage. Here is what one of them (Mr. Christopher Wells of Notre Dame) had to say:

Last night was the single greatest ecumenical event that I have witnessed--the welcoming of Anglicans at the community of Sant'Egidio at their evening prayer, which was given to a commemoration of the 7 Anglican martyrs of Melanesia. Their relics were presented to the community and will remain there. The founder of the community, A. Riccardi, basically presented a mini-ecclesiology as martyrdom-- unity in the body of Christ now, around the cross--in his address to Abp Rowan; and the latter responded in kind.
(As an aside, one of the seven Melanesian Martyrs was an acquaintencce of mine: Br. Alfred Hill was the guestmaster at Chester Rest House on Guadalcanal, while I was staying there.)

The link at the beginning (here, if you missed it) contains the the addresses of the Archbishop to the Pope, and of the Pope to the Archbishop. Benedict didn't really mince words.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

eucharist means thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving.

The General Thanksgiving:

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we thine unworthy servants do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us, and to all men; We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all, for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful, and that we shew forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives; by giving up ourselves to thy service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.

Monday, November 20, 2006

schori celebrates diversity

++++++Katharine Schori to Bishop Schofield: "...seek a home elsewhere."

So this is what "conversation and reconciliation" looks like. Fascinating.

But what an honor for Bishop Schofield! Seriously. It vindicates his sanctity and wisdom.

k.j. schori: catholics are dumb and children are bad for the environment

From the NY Times Magazine. Nice PB outfit, KJS.

Hat tip.

How many members of the Episcopal Church are there in this country?

About 2.2 million. It used to be larger percentagewise, but Episcopalians tend to be better-educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than some other denominations. Roman Catholics and Mormons both have theological reasons for producing lots of children.

Episcopalians aren’t interested in replenishing their ranks by having children?

No. It’s probably the opposite. We encourage people to pay attention to the stewardship of the earth and not use more than their portion.

You’re actually Catholic by birth; your parents joined the Episcopal Church when you were 9. What led them to convert?

It was before Vatican II had any influence in local parishes, and I think my parents were looking for a place where wrestling with questions was encouraged rather than discouraged.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

an interesting article and some thoughts on the devotional aspect of my priesthood

Read it all here. Its title is "Pope plans recruitment drive among disaffected Anglicans."

It says "The recruitment drive is a potential embarrassment for Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is travelling to Italy for his meeting with the Pope." But then it goes on to say:

"While the Pope is keen to welcome any conservative Anglicans, he is also keen to forge good relations with Williams. 'The Vatican will do nothing to undermine Williams at such a precarious moment in Anglican history,' one source said."

How does one reconcile these sentiments?

In the end, I suppose, it doesn't really matter whether they can be reconciled. Either the pope is planning a "recruitment drive" or he isn't.

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, and to be personal about it: I am a young priest. No doubt I'm one of the youngest priests in the Episcopal Church. I've been priested for just over a year. My experience of being a priest so far? With few exceptions, it has been a thankless, joyless, unrewarding, heartbreaking, exhausting, and profoundly lonely enterprise. Among my fellow clergy, I have been surrounded in turns by heresy, backbiting, scandal, cynical political maneuvering, and downright atheism. I've known a woman-minister to deny the sacraments to a layman on his deathbead because he could not accept the ministrations of another priest who was a transexual. That's ECUSA. Among the laity, I've encountered combinations of casual indifference, high-minded-secularist condescension, and loads of uncertainty, confusion and precipitous action in the face of the Anglican ecclesial incoherence. In short, I feel ready to retire. Or at least this explains why the prospect of "going over to Rome" is so alluring. Not because the grass is greener in Rome: I know that there is plenty of Roman nuttiness, particualrly in America, and there too is plenty of scandal and cynical maneuvering and what not. But even as an Anglican, one can see the Glory of God shining through the fissures in Rome's worldly surface. And while I think I can see that Glory in Anglicanism too, its certainly not as clear. One has the impression that the glowing of the fissures in Anglicanism might just be the fire of judgment at its core, rather than the Shekhinah Glory. Yet do I hope.

On the other hand, I sort of expected this. General Convention 2003, with the election of Gene Robinson, happened during the summer after my first year at Seminary. So I experienced a good two years of Anglicanism's downward spiraling before my ordination. When the time came for me to be priested, the hand was writing legibly on the wall, and I had serious reservations about being made an Episcopal priest. I had a fairly clear idea of what it would mean for a catholic Christian to submit to ordination in the Episcopal Church. In the end, I felt God was telling me that this was the place where I could be closest to his Son's own priesthood. The ony real priesthood is in the person of Christ (in persona Christi, as they used to say), and therefore to minister the cross in the person of Christ means to minister in Christ at once as priest and as victim. I felt God telling me that here, as an Episcopal priest, I could give the most and get the least. Here I could pour myself out in union with Christ's own outpouring. Here I would have an opportunity to pray for those who don't know what they're doing. Here I could expect dividends only from the treasury of Christ's merit. Knowing this, in the weeks before my ordination, I began to pray Michael Ramsey's prayer at the end of my office each day:

Lord take my heart and break it: break it not in the way I would like, but in the way you know to be best. And because it is you who break it, I will not be afraid, for in your heands all is safe and I am safe. Lord, take my heart and give to it your joy, not in the ways I would like, but in the ways you know are best, that your joy may be fulfilled in me.

And having not prayed it thitherto, at Evensong, right before my priesting, I added the final clause:

So, dear Lord, I am ready to be your priest. Amen.

So here I am, Father WB, episcopal priest. But I cannot forever endure the mess that ECUSA has become. It will kill me. I already feel ready to retire, and I'm not yet thirty years old. I believe that, barring some seismic turn-around, ECUSA will kill whoever remains in it. Negotiating the scylla of heresy and the charybdis of a hardened heart, is a desperate and seemingly impossible task. And that's why I welcome these kinds of Vatican murmurings. Something's got to be done. This is at least a sign of something being done by someone. I also welcome the murmurings of certain of the primates. But it remains unclear to me that they will be able to provide a home for the orthodox remnant and that, even if they can, its not at all clear (to me, anyway) that the Communion will survive America's winnowing.

In the meantime here's what I recommend: pray (really pray; if you want help, email me), read your Bible, and bless those who persecute you.

Update: I shouldn't really say that my ministry has been "joyless." It has been pervaded by joy, but its the kind of serene joy of the cross. And for me, sinner that I am, its fragile.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

boola-boola, halleluia!

Yale trounced Harvard today. Order is restored to the cosmos.

More work for the undertaker,
'Nother little job for the casket maker
In the local cemetary they are
Very very busy with a brand new grave:
No hope for Harvard,
No hope for Harvard!

Boola boola, Boola boola,
Boola boola, Boola boola,
Boola boola, Boola boola,
Boola boola, Boola boola,
When we "rough house" poor old Harvard,
They will holler Boola boo.
Oh, Yale, Eli Yale,
Oh, Yale, Eli Yale,
Oh, Yale, Eli Yale,
Oh, Yale, Eli Yale!

Fight, fight for Yale
The sons of Eli are out for glory.
On to the fray,
We'll tell to Harvard the same old story,
The cry is on, on they come
We'll raise the slogan of Yale triumphant.
Smash, bang, we'll rip poor Harvard
Whoop it up for Yale today!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Dennis Canon fails again

As I've asked before, has the Dennis Canon EVER stood up in court?

FALLBROOK, CA: Court Rules in Favor of St. John's Anglican Church Rejects Corporate Takeover Bid by Episcopal Diocese of San Diego
By David W. Virtue www.virtueonline.org
Fallbrook, Calif. (November 13, 2006) -- St. John's Anglican Church, Fallbrook, was vindicated in its fight to prevent a small group of former members and the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego, led by Episcopal Bishop James Mathes, from interfering with its corporate governance and taking over its property.

Judge Jacqueline M. Stern of the San Diego Superior Court ruled that the diocese's lawsuit failed to establish that the board of St. John's had vacated their seats, and that the small group of dissenters, orchestrated by the diocese, had failed to conduct a valid director election: "The Court concludes that the Board of Director's of St. John's Corporation consists of the individual Defendants named in the instant action; that there was no valid basis for Bishop Mathes' removal and replacement of the board of directors of the corporation; the purported election on Aug. 7, 2006 of a new board was invalid."

"We are delighted that this is the final ruling and that the courts found in our favor," Rick Crossley, senior warden of the parish told VOL. "This fits with what happened in the Diocese of Los Angeles where three parishes who fought and won their properties from Bishop J Jon Bruno."

"The difference here in San Diego is that the dispute was about who were the duly elected directors, in church law who were the vestry. They sued us under California corporate law and they were basically asserting that the vestry of St. John's had vacated their seats. They had not and the courts in San Diego agreed with our position. The bishop has given no indication what he will do."

"We are pleased that the courts agreed with us, but we are not celebrating because we know the national church through its attorney David Booth Beers has said publicly in Washington last week that they intend to pursue church property issues where the courts have seen in favor of the local parish.But Eric E. Sohlgren, the attorney for St. John's, told VOL that the victory was significant and binding.

"The Dennis Canon has become more holy to The Episcopal Church than the Holy Scriptures. The fundamental problem that the TEC has is that by relying on the Dennis Canon they ignore the laws of various states which respect corporate rights and the ability of property owners to retain their property when they exercise their religious freedom to change their ecclesiastical affiliation."

Read the rest.

church could think again over women, says williams

From the Telegraph
By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has reopened the debate on women priests by suggesting that the Anglican Church may one day "think again" about the issue.

Speaking a week before his first official audience with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome, Dr Williams made clear that he remained a firm supporter of women's ordination and that "practically" he did not see how the Church's position could be reversed.

But in an interview with The Catholic Herald published today, he said he could "just about envisage a situation in which, over a very long period, the Anglican Church thought about it again, but I would need to see what the theological reason for that would be".

Dr Williams said the heated debate on the issue had "tested" his theological convictions.

He did not think the reform had "transformed or renewed the Church in spectacular ways", though neither had it "corrupted or ruined" it.

Read the whole thing here.

Interesting. I seem to recall Dr. Williams saying something similar in the context of his remarks to a Global South Primates meeting a year or so ago... maybe in Egypt? Does anyone else remember that? I can't find an references to it...

I think Dr. Williams is thinking coherently about this in general -- i.e.
if the ordination of women were a true teaching, the process of its reception would probably look something like what the current situation in Anglicanism actually does look like. But I wonder whether Dr. Williams appreciates that even within what he is calling "the Anglican Church", this teaching has not been received universally. It seems to me that for "the Anglican Church" to accept this kind of teaching, it must be received at least by the WHOLE Anglican Church. But I would argue that the teaching of Women's Ordination would need to be received by the whole WHOLE Church -- East and West, etc. -- to be authenticated as having come from the Spirit of Truth. And just as Dr. Williams doesn't see a way, practically speaking, for Anglicanism to revisit the issue, neither do I see a way for the Universal Church, practically speaking, to visit the issue to begin with.

Monday, November 13, 2006

best blog ever?

Possibly. Fr. David expresses precisely my thoughts and feelings on a number of issues. Read and be eddified.

Monday, November 06, 2006

this is the problem

An interesting interview with the Bishop of Rochester (in England), Michael Nazir-Ali. Read more here. He has grasped the problem by the root:

"In the House of Bishops on Friday, they were passing resolutions that affect the Anglican understanding of marriage at the deepest level without theological debate," he said.

"It is not only what was done but the way it was done. It was so serious that things like gay bishops are just an interesting footnote."

So true. The aging hippies learned their lesson in propounding their "theological argument" for the priesting of women. It went something like this:

"Women can be lawyers and race car drivers and presidents; therefore women can be priests!"

Sunday, November 05, 2006

i can't wait until aging hippies aren't in charge of anything anymore...

I don't just mean Schori. Or even mainly Schori. The sickness is deep.

In that day, they won't dress like this. And they won't have "Jubilation Streamers." And they won't have creepy forest nymphs frolicking in church.

The Episcopal News Service labelled the photograph above "baptismal journey," apparently because Schori was walking past the font.

Whereas, theologically speaking, the New Religion is hackneyed and incredibly dull, aesthetically speaking its really embarassing.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

more reassurances from jefferts-schori that she is, in fact, making a prey of ecusa by philosophy and empty deceit

In response to questions about whether, in fact, Jesus is the only route to God, Schori has come out with the following (from an AP interview, the whole of which is here):

“If we insist that we know the one way to God, we’ve put God in a very small box.”

So our Lord is a "very small box" -- unless he takes his rightful place: amid the pantheon of heathen gods. (Schori, in another inteview, recommends Islam, Hinduism, and Jainism as attractive alternatives to faith in Christ.)

And then, as though to clarify the christological implications, to make it absolutely clear to everyone that she does
not believe that Christ is fully God, she adds:

“Truth is, like God, more than any one person can encompass.”

I think Schori gets her notions from the elemental spirits of the Universe:

See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human traition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. for in him the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily. (Colossians 2.8-9)

Can anyone even pretend that the faith Schori espouses is apostolic? I mean, there we have St. Paul's words. Its as though Paul were responding to the Schori interview. In the previous post, we have the teaching of John. The gulf between apostolic christology and Schori-christology should be problematic for Episcopalians with an ounce of concern that their faith should be the same faith that the Apostles taught.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

presiding heresiarch-elect schori re-affirms that she's not a believer... at least not in the sense that the author of 1 john was (and is) a believer

This really is sad. But this is the palce to which the Episcopal Church has come. We need a 39th province, for the sake of our own souls, for the sake of the souls in our cure, and that our Lord may be lifted up without the encumbrance of institutional unbelief, to the greater glory of God. To put it another way: if we are not unshackled from ECUSA, we will be flatly unable to obey God; we will be forbidden -- in the name of "tolerance" and "diversity" and such like -- from proclaiming Christ alone as Savior, our only mediator and advocate.

Schori was interviewed yesterday on NPR's Here and Now. Listen to it here (and now). Okay. Now read this passage from 1 John, and then read the following excerpts from the interview with Katharine Jefferts-Schori. Is the faith expressed in 1 John compatible with the faith expressed by Jefferts-Schori?

1 John
5.10-12: He who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. He who does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne to his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life.

Now, here's Schori's take on the same issues (read the whole transcript here):

Robin Young: TIME Magazine asked you an interesting question, we thought, "Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven?" And your answer, equally interesting, you said "We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box." And I read that and I said "What are you: a Unitarian?!?" [laughs] What are you-- that is another concern for people, because, they say Scripture says that Jesus says he was The Light and The Way and the only way to God the Father.

KJS: Christians understand that Jesus is the route to God. Umm-- that is not to say that Muslims, or Sikhs, or Jains, come to God in a radically different way. They come to God through... human experience... through human experience of the divine. Christians talk about that in terms of Jesus.

RY: So you're saying there are other ways to God.

KJS: Uhh... human communities have always searched for relationship that which is beyond them.. with the ultimate.. with the divine. For Christians, we say that our route to God is through Jesus. Uhh.. uh..that doesn't mean that a Hindu.. uh.. doesn't experience God except through Jesus. It-it-it says that Hindus and people of other faith traditions approach God through their own cultural contexts; they relate to God, they experience God in human relationships, as well as ones that transcend human relationships; and Christians would say those are our experiences of Jesus; of God through the experience of Jesus.

RY: It sounds like you're saying it's a parallel reality, but in another culture and language.

KJS: I think that's accurate.. I think that's accurate.

Is it any wonder that membership in the Episcopal Church has decreased by nearly half in the last thirty or so years? I mean, what's the point? The message of our Supreme Leader (elect) is that it doesn't really matter: "our way" of experiencing God is just one of any number of commensurate ways, expressly including Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Jainism.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

nail your colours to the mast: anti-ecusa polemic from a real anglican of yesteryear

The higher the religion the more all-pervading is its "givenness," until in Christianity we find a religion whose very life is divine. Insistence upon the necessity of the Christian Fatih is no mere intellectual conservatism, but loyalty to given truth [ECUSA, sagaciously: Quid est veritas?]; insistence upon the necessity of the Christian Sacraments no mere delight in ceremonies, but the acceptance of given life; its emphasis from start to finish and in all departments is upon the action of God... not upon the action of man... [Cf. the ecusan substitution of the Millennium Development Goals for the authentic gospel, the gospel with teeth.]

This doctrine does not in any way impugn the freedom of the human will -- there must alwways be a human response to the divine action, a response which is real and not forced; but where it is rght it is a response, and not self-initiated. When we come to the Christian Religion we find that which is uniquely given in the Person of Jesus Christ, Who is Himself the Way, the Truth and the Life [
This kind of talk is far too controversial for ECUSA formally to affirm; they were urged to it at Gen. Con. and voted it down].

If this is so it is clear that the Chrisitan life is essentially supernatural. It is the ignoring or denying of this element which is the cause of most of the ineffectiveness of present-day religion [
Cf. ECUSA]. Supernatural religion is not popular, but that does not make it untrue. Protestantism dislikes it, the Reformation was largely a movement for its dethronement; Modernism dislikes it - the pathetic desire to find a merely human Christ and the condemnation of sacramental action as "magic" attest as much; Science dislikes it because it appears to the scientist to introduce an incalculable and undemonstrable element into Nature [Perhaps this explains all the ECUSAn self-congratulation around their choice of an oceanographer / pilot as Presiding Bishop]; the Man in the Street dislikes it because it is beyond his comprehension, and it is a common human weakenss to fear and therefore to hate the unknown; it remains for the catholic uncompromisingly to nail his colours to the mast and live supernaturally, confident that on that level alone will he find fully Him for Whom his soul thirsts.

(From The Elements of the Spiritual Life: A Study in Ascetical Theology by F.P. Harton, sometime Dean of Wells)

Friday, October 27, 2006

if i were king, and i were to plant a church....

... we would have Evensong, and it would sound something like this. Except we would have Aperi, Domine plus Pater and Ave privily before it, and the Sacrosanctae, Pater and Ave privily after. And the final Anthems of our Lady. But otherwise about the same. Except, also, that it would be followed by Benediction. The link, plus the picture above roughly sums up my liturgical fantasy world.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

st. raphael

Today (or yesterday) (Tuesday) is / was the feast of the Archangel Raphael (cf. Tobit).  Happy feast!  I thought the fourth verse, below, particularly appropriate given all my thoughts turning on Church unity lately.  Stay tuned for another post on the subject.  And in the meantime: St. Raphael and all ye holy Angels and Archangels, guard and defend us!

The Father's pardon from above
O Christ, bestow; thy servants spare;
And bending from thy throne of love,
Regard the blessed Virgin's prayer.

Be ever nigh, Archangel pure,
Whose name proclaims God's healing blest;
Bring to the ailing body cure,
And solace to the mind distressed.

Bright Angels, happy evermore,
Who in your circles nine ascend,
As ye have guarded us before,
So may ye still our steps defend.

So may the realms of faith be blest,
So unbelief be chased away,
Till all within one fold find rest,
Secure beneath one Shepherd's sway.

To God the Father glory be,
Praise to the Saviour, Christ our Lord,
Praise, Holy Spirit, unto thee;
And may God's Angels be our ward.  Amen.

Friday, October 20, 2006

legal fiction: or, ecusa's not a church: or, some thoughts on diocesan convention

I hope the following is coherent. I'm very tired, and must be up early againt tomorrow.

Here's the deal, folks. I am so sick of people talking about the "unity of our Church" when they mean ECUSA. Who cares about the unity of ECUSA, per se? I mean, its nice, I guess. But its not an end in itself. Its like the unity of the Boy Scouts, or the unity of the NCAA.

I will let you in on a secret: this is the source of all the confusion: the word "church" is used in reference to ECUSA, when its not really apt. There are different senses of the word "church." There is the thing on the corner, made of brick. There is the "Baptist Church." There is the "Church of England." There is the "Anglican Church." And there is the "One, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church." Etc. Guess which one of these the Lord was talking about when he held up "unity" as a virtue. Here's a hint. It starts with an "O" and ends in an "ne, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church."

A guy at diocesan convention today got up and talked about how he was Confirmed "into ECUSA," and how meaningful that was. Well, that's very moving. But, sir, it is ignorant to think that you were confirmed (or baptized, or ordained) "into" ECUSA. You are baptized / confirmed / ordained "into" THE ONE (holy, etc.) Church. And ECUSA is, at best, a PART of it. I would argue its ceasing to be even that.

That's the crux of the thing. And why ECUSA unity is expendable. Because a dissunited ECUSA is necessary for a united Holy Catholic Church. What did the Lord say? He prayed for the unity of the Apostles, and "for those who believe in me through their [the Apostles'] word..." (John 17.20). That means the Lord's prayer of unity was that the Apostles would be united and that those who have a unity of faith in the apostles' teaching would likewise be united. And that is exactly what ECUSA has repudiated, and the repudiation ECUSA has ratified: the One faith through the Apostles' teaching. Other words for that teaching are "scripture" and "tradition."

ECUSA has new, supposedly better teachings. And that's fine. They're welcome to them. But I don't want to be yoked to the new stuff. I want the old-time religion.

But that's why we shouldn't give a second thought to the unity of ECUSA. And people (please!) should stop talking about being baptized (confirmed, etc) "into" ECUSA. That's nonsense.

Monday, October 16, 2006

iraqi christians fleeing iraq

Read the whole thing here.  Here are some horribly ironical extracts:

"In the northern city of Mosul, a priest from the Syriac Orthodox Church was kidnapped last week. His church complied with his captors’ demands and put up posters denouncing recent comments made by the pope about Islam [being violent], but he was killed anyway. The police found his beheaded body on Wednesday."

"Several extremist groups threatened to kill all Christians unless the pope apologized [for saying muslims were violent]."

"Over the past three and a half years, Christians have been subjected to a steady stream of church bombings, assassinations, kidnappings and threatening letters slipped under their doors."

"...the teenage daughter of another Christian family... was kidnapped recently. The captors initially demanded a ransom, but later sarcastically said the pope was the only one who could release her. She was eventually killed."

Good grief.  What is wrong with these people?  Not only are they horribly violent, "evil and inhuman" (to quote 14th century Byzantine Emperor, Manuel II Palaiologos, and Pope Benedict XVI), but they also seem to be retarded.  No, I don't mean all Muslims.  I have no problem with Salman Rushdie, for example.  I mean the ones who rage and foam and blow people up to prove that theirs is a peaceful religion.

Friday, October 13, 2006

out of africa

Here is a very interesting article about ++Peter Akinola. It uses him as a foil for analyzing the emergence, and coming dominance, of "Global South" Christianity. We live in interesting days.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

more from canon john heidt on a.p.o.

In short, we can accept Katharine Schori as Presiding Bishop of ECUSA legally elected by the House of Bishops, just as we can accept an elected president or prime minister, but we cannot accept any kind of primatial oversight she might exercise such as acting as chief consecrator of episcopal ordinations - a primacy she apparently rejects anyway. The time has come at last for traditionalist bishops to choose or even create a true primate with real authority, local or foreign, who will have the approval of Canterbury – someone not appointed through the offices of the Episcopal Church. Then perhaps we will move a little closer to the original proposal of Bishop Grafton and others.

Read it all here. Good points, all. An especially good point is that "primatial oversight" is not something really exercised by the ECUSA Presiding Bishop to begin with. So "ALTERNATIVE Primatial Oversight" is kind of a misnomer. But the fact remains: whatever relationship obtained, hitherto, between dioceses and the ECUSA Presiding Bishop can no longer obtain. We would like for this relationship to be ended, and replaced with a relationship with another (arch)bishop who will exercise adequate and acceptable Primatial Oversight for us.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

an interesting report on christianity in the global south

From NPR's "Fresh Air" -- which I frequently find irritating and didactic. But this show is interesting. Terry Gross interviews Philip Jenkins, author of The Next Christendom: the Coming of Global Christianity, and more recently The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South.

Go here and listen

Friday, October 06, 2006

a letter from +pittsburgh

This is indeed a hopeful sign. The wait is indeed frustrating and painful. The need is indeed urgent -- as I have realized quite clearly in the last couple of months. And this underscores my frustration with actions such as those of Christ Church, Plano (much as I love them). . . . as well as my frustration with inaction to prevent this kind of thing by bishops such as +Dallas (much as I love him). The orthodox (and semi-orthodox) are indeed their own worst enemies. Notwithstanding the letter below, I remain pessimistic about the ability of Network-types to hold together in the US. I am also pessimistic, by the way, of the ability of the Communion to hold together. But all things are possible with God. And if the "Anglican Experiment" does not end in failure, as it looks like it well might, it will once again vindicate the providence of a God concerned with the affairs of men. As though such vindication were necessary. Still, it helps to be reminded. May Anglicans be so reminded, and soon. And in the meantime, all you orthodox (and semi-orthodox), I urge you: be patient, patient, patient, zealous for righteousness, and at peace:

"But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come. . . . But according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you WAIT FOR THESE, be zealous to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace."

(2 Peter 3.8ff, passim)

Here's +Pittsburgh's letter:

6th October, A.D. 2006
Feast of William Tyndale

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

May the grace and peace of Christ Jesus be multiplied to you, and to all who call upon Him as Savior of the world and who serve Him as Lord of all the ages.

I wrote to you back in June expressing my conviction that a new day was dawning for all of us who understand ourselves to be faithful and orthodox Anglicans whether within the Episcopal Church or gone out from it. Three months have passed since I last wrote, and the evidence bearing out that conviction grows daily.

Seven Network Dioceses appealed for Alternative Primatial Relationship in July. The Archbishop of Canterbury responded in August, intervening (in classical Anglican fashion) by asking the principals to sit down together to see if some “American path forward” might be found. In September, that mediation took place in New York without achieving resolution. Shortly thereafter, the leaders of 20 Anglican Provinces (out of 38 total Provinces and representing some 70 percent of the world’s active Anglicans) met, promising that Alternative Primatial Oversight would be provided, and that the Global South Steering Committee would work both with the leadership of the whole Communion and with Network leadership to work out the substance of such provision. Meetings to carry this pledge forward will begin within weeks. An eighth Network diocese, having joined the Appeal of the other seven, will be part of that deliberation.

One of the things the four Network bishops meeting in New York (representing the seven, now eight, appellant dioceses, and meeting with the Presiding Bishop and Presiding Bishop-elect at Canterbury’s request) refused to do was to negotiate a settlement that did not provide for all of the Network congregations in non-Network dioceses. The Global South Primates meeting in September also signaled their concern for the most vulnerable in the U.S. situation. From Kigali, the Global South Primates wrote the following words: “We are convinced that the time now has come to take initial steps toward the formation of what will be recognized as a separate ecclesiastical structure of the Anglican Communion in the USA. ” For all those “gone out” or “put out,” this gives shape to the longed-for day. For the Network deans and for the clergy and congregations of the Network’s International Conference, this is an urgent concern and answer to prayer.

In September, Network Bishops met with a wider coalition of Windsor Bishops. This was a most encouraging meeting. Recognizing the local contexts in which we bishops serve, there was agreement that each of us would continue the hallmarks of our present differentiated leadership (whether Network or non-Network). At the same time, there was consensus about our common commitment to the Windsor Report and our assessment that the Episcopal Church had by no means made adequate response. Further, to state together our understanding that acceptance of the spirit and the substance of the Windsor Report was the only way for dioceses of the Episcopal Church to go forward in the Anglican Communion was a significant achievement, as was our readiness to express the regret that Report called for. The Network has been ten dioceses standing together, and we will continue to stand as we have done. Nevertheless, having twenty or, God-willing, thirty dioceses standing together as Windsor diocese!
committed to live within Anglican Communion boundaries and under an emerging Anglican Communion Covenant, should be a great sign of hopefulness for us all.

For all in the Network, the last three years have been monumentally challenging, but, as I said in June, the new day is dawning. The contours are not fully clear, but the fearful night is passing. The Global South Primates, writing from Kigali, acknowledged the role the Network has played. The Network remains the domestic key to what is ahead. Your prayers, your participation, and your support remain as crucial as ever they have been.

We have hung together, and thus have not been hanged separately. By God’s grace this will continue. Local needs dictate different courses through the troubles. It has been this way since the defining actions in August and November of 2003. Fear not! The Lord is sovereign and is Savior. Orthodox and faithful Anglicans can be divided from one another only if we allow it to be so. The present separations are temporary. When midday comes, the Lord will have put it all back together in the way He intends, if we will but not get in the way.

“Be watchful. Stand firm in your faith. Be courageous. Be strong. Let everything you do be done in love.” (I Cor.16:13-14)

Faithfully in Christ,

+ Bob Pittsburgh

The Rt. Rev. Robert Wm. Duncan
Moderator of the Anglican Communion Network

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Monday, October 02, 2006

the dmv

Any theodicy worth its salt must account for the existence of the Department of Motor Vehicles.  Why is that place so ubiquitously fallen, so dehumanizing?  Its almost enough to make one a libertarian.

Friday, September 29, 2006

you may now email me

Friends, you may now email me. At the bottom of the sidebar, on the right, just above the "I Power Blogger" button (whatever that may be), you will see a link that says "Email Father WB." Clicking on it should cause your computer to ploink up a little email window for you to contact me. As you like.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

bishop griswold talks to himself

Below is Bishop Griswold's letter in response to (1) the Camp Allen Letter, and (2) The Kigali Communiqué . +Griswold still seems not to understand the issues as articulated by the bishops at Camp Allen, or the Primates at Kigali. That he still doesn't get it just further illuminates (if further illumination were necessary) the fact that our divisions are no longer bridgeable. We cannot work this out among ourselves. God can work it out, surely. But if ECUSA insists on yoking herself to the dissenting American dioceses while God is working these issues out in his own way and time, then ECUSA will have chosen to annihilate the dissenters. And how is that love? I will repeat here what I said to +San Diego (as though he or Griswold read this blog): For the love of God, let us go in peace.

Here is the letter, with certain bits highlighted and commented upon by me:

My dear brothers and sisters:

We have all received within the last days a letter from the bishops who gathered at Camp Allen at the invitation of Don Wimberly. As well, you may have seen an unsigned communiqué sent from a gathering of primates and others from the global south which was held in Rwanda. Let me share some reflections about these two meetings with you.

With regard to the gathering in Texas, advance and follow-up information about this meeting suggest an involvement by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is important for you to know that the Texas meeting was in no way held at the Archbishop’s initiative nor was it planned in collaboration with him. The two bishops from the Church of England did not attend as delegates of the Archbishop, nor were they empowered to speak on his behalf except to give the message that “the bishops meeting are bishops of the Catholic Church in the Anglican Communion.” The Archbishop has always encouraged exchanges of views, as have I. Therefore, I appreciate the concern of those who attended the Texas meeting for the faithfulness of our church. At the same time, such encouragement does not necessarily imply affirmation of or agreement with points of view expressed in the course of such exchanges.

I would like to observe here that our House contains many points of view held by persons of unquestionable faith whose desire is to be faithful to the mind and mission of Christ. Because of this, I have seen during these nine years how unhelpful it can be for us as a community when we separate ourselves from one another by signing, or not signing, statements. As we have learned, position statements can easily occlude the more subtle dimensions of agreement and disagreement, which is where our deepest engagement with one another can occur. As much as we draw comfort from those who share our own point of view, it is important for us on all sides to realize that truth in its fullness cannot be contained in any one perspective.


The fact that some among us feel we did not go far enough in responding to the invitations of the Windsor Report while others feel we have gone too far is to be expected in a church in which people hold differing theological perspectives. We are making our best efforts within our church to be faithful to the Windsor process, and I am gratified by how we, for the most part, are comporting ourselves as brothers and sisters in Christ.

The letter from Texas said it is the clear sense of the signers that “the General Convention of 2006 did not adequately respond to the request made of the Episcopal Church by the Communion through the Windsor Report and the Primates at Dromantine.” It says that this view is “consistent with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Holy Cross Day letter to the Primates.” Given the very nuanced and cautious way in which the Archbishop expresses himself, I think it is important here to refer back to that letter and what Rowan actually said, and I quote: “It is also clear that the Episcopal Church has taken very seriously the recommendations of the Windsor Report; but the resolutions of General Convention still represent what can only be called a mixed response to the Dromantine requests. The advisory group has spent much time in examining these resolutions in great detail, and its sense is that although some aspects of these requests have been fully dealt with, there remain some that have not.”

I note here that Archbishop Robin Eames, Chairman of the Lambeth Commission which produced the Windsor Report, says in his introduction: “This report is not a judgment. It is part of a process. It is part of a pilgrimage toward healing and reconciliation.” As such, I believe the “Windsor process” is a process of mutual growth which calls for patience, mutual understanding and generosity of spirit rather than stark submission.

It also needs to be said that the assessment of the responses of the Episcopal Church to the Windsor process is not the responsibility of self-chosen groups within the Communion. At the April 2006 meeting of the Joint Standing Committee of the primates and the Anglican Consultative Council a small working group drawn from different parts of the Communion was identified to consider the actions and decisions of our General Convention. They will communicate to both the Joint Standing Committee and then the Primates Meeting in February. The Archbishop has repeatedly underscored the need to allow this process to unfold.


The General Convention in Resolution A165 affirmed our commitment to the Windsor process. From my perspective, being faithful to the Windsor process – and the Covenant process which is integral to it – calls for patience and rules out actions which would preempt their orderly unfolding. In my view, portions of the Kigali statement that take issue with the actions of the Episcopal Church in advance of hearing from the advisory group, and before the Covenant has an opportunity to be developed, are inconsistent with the Windsor process, as are continuing incursions of bishops from other provinces into our dioceses. Patience and respect for one another and our provincial structures are required on the part of us all.

The communiqué from Kigali recommends that there be a separate ecclesial body within our province. The suggestion of such a division raises profound questions about the nature of the church, its ordering and its oversight. I further believe such a division would open the way to multiple divisions across other provinces of the Communion, and any sense of a coherent mission would sink into chaos. Such a recommendation appears to be an effort to preempt the Windsor process and acting upon it would create a fact on the ground, making healing and reconciliation – the stated goal of the Windsor process – that much more difficult to achieve.


Having said that, I am well aware that some within our own Episcopal Church are working to achieve such an end. Efforts, some more overt than others, toward this end have been underway since before the 1998 Lambeth Conference. More recently, the Colorado-based organization called the Anglican Communion Institute has posted on its website a paper outlining a four-part strategy toward a new “Constituent body” in the United States, rather than the Episcopal Church, which would participate in the development of an Anglican Covenant. Though the Texas meeting included consultants who are part of the Anglican Communion Institute, I know this goal is not shared by all of the bishops who signed the letter from Texas.

The Kigali communiqué questions Bishop Jefferts Schori’s ability to represent all of our dioceses. The role of primates [1] is to bear witness as fully as possible to the life and complexities of their own provinces. I have sought to bring to the primates’ meetings the wide range of opinions and the consequent tensions within our own church. I have every confidence that Katharine will do the same. Furthermore, the voices from dioceses that the Kigali communiqué fears will not be heard seem to be well represented among the primates themselves. [2]



I am in full agreement with the Kigali communiqué’s declaration that the challenges facing our Anglican structures can be a distraction from the work of the gospel. I am glad to know that a great deal of time at Kigali was devoted to such concerns as poverty eradication, HIV/AIDS, peace building and evangelization. Here I note our own church’s commitment to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, and pray that our mutual concerns will allow us to work together for the healing and reconciliation of the world, and thereby find the source of our healing and reconciliation as a Communion.


I end these reflections with a quotation from one of our great Anglican spiritual guides and teachers of prayer, Evelyn Underhill. The coming of the Kingdom is perpetual. Again and again, freshness, novelty, power from beyond the world break in by unexpected paths bringing unexpected change. Those who cling to tradition and fear all novelty in God’s relation to the world deny the creative activity of the Holy Sprit, and forget that what is now tradition was once innovation; that the real Christian is always a revolutionary, belongs to a new race, and has been given a new name and a new song.


May we indeed be guided by the creative activity of the Holy Spirit as we continue through these challenging days, and in the fullness of time may our various divisions find their reconciliation in the One in whom all things have been reconciled, making it possible for us — with one heart and one mind — to sing a new song.

Yours ever in Christ,