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?