Saturday, May 26, 2007

of liturgical import, from the same article

Here's the whole article, referred to in the previous post.

You liturgists out there, check this out.

There are no global statistics on participation in Tridentine Masses. But in the United States — where demand appears to be higher than in much of Europe — 105 of the 176 Roman Catholic dioceses offer at least one traditional Mass each Sunday, Dunnigan said.

Ginevra Crosignani, 34, is a regular at the 10 a.m. Tridentine rite celebrated each Sunday at the Gesu e Maria church in central Rome. She says she started coming about 10 years ago and finds it a much more transcendent experience than the modern services, which she said were more like going to a "nightclub" because of the music and showman-like role of the priest.

"The New Order became a social celebration rather than a religious celebration," she said one recent Sunday as she put away the white lace scarf she wore over her head.

The pews at the Mass had been full — and more than half the people looked to be under 40.
"Before, it was more old people attached to that rite," she said. "I think young people (now) are looking for something, they're eager to find it and they don't find it in the New Order."

In a 1988 document, Pope John Paul II urged bishops to be generous in granting the so-called indults to allow the Tridentine rite to be celebrated. But many proponents say bishops have been stingy — either for personal reasons or because they simply don't have enough priests who know how to celebrate it.

To counter that, Una Voce is teaming up with the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, a traditionalist community, to run a training seminar for priests to teach them the ritual-filled Latin Mass. "We've got a waiting list now," said Dunnigan.

Similarly, the seminaries of another small traditionalist community, the Institute for Christ the King, are overflowing, said the institute's vicar general, Monsignor R. Michael Schmitz.

"There is no vocation shortage at all," he said. "On the contrary, we have so many vocations we can't take them all."

Ought we not to take such phenomena into account when we revise our own liturgies? Or is the old language really so irrelevant?

benedict to restore latin mass

It was one of the most radical reforms to emerge from the Second Vatican Council. The Mass, root of Roman Catholic worship, would be celebrated in the local language and not in Latin. Now, little more than a generation later, Pope Benedict XVI is poised to revive the 16th-century Tridentine Mass.

In doing so, he will be overriding objections from some cardinals, bishops and Jews — whose complaints range from the text of the old Mass to the symbolic sweeping aside of the council's work from 1962-65. Many in the church regard Vatican II as a moment of badly needed reform and a new beginning, a view at odds with Benedict, who sees it as a renewal of church tradition.
A Vatican official, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, confirmed earlier this month that Benedict would soon relax the restrictions on celebrating the Tridentine Mass because of a "new and renewed interest" in the celebration — especially among younger Catholics.

Read the whole thing from Yahoo.

First of all, props to the young Catholics. Keep the Faith. Second, props to the Pope for leading on the way of 'conservative regression.' Apparently Catholic priests can currently only celebrate in Latin with their bishop's permission; Pope Benedict would ease these restrictions and allow them to celebrate that way whenever they want, but would stop short of requiring all Catholics to worship in Latin.

Third and most interesting for the Anglican situation, especially given the recent focus on irregular consecrations because of Lambeth non-invitations, take a look at this paragraph to see how Rome handles ecclesiastical anomalies:

Benedict also was acting, Castrillon Hoyos told bishops in Brazil, to reach out to an ultratraditionalist and schismatic group, the Society of St. Pius X, and bring it back into the Vatican's fold. The late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre founded the society in 1969 in Switzerland, opposed to Vatican II's reforms, particularly its liturgical reforms. The Vatican excommunicated Lefebvre in 1988 after he consecrated four bishops without Rome's consent. The bishops were excommunicated as well. Benedict has been keen to reconcile with the group, which has demanded freer use of the old Mass as a precondition for normalizing relations.

We Anglicans should take a lesson: even though irregularity of ordination or consecration does not mean automatic invalidity, it is within the church's power and responsibility to then create invalidity through excommunication, lest the flock be led astray. If TEC had been faithful to do with with Spong and the first womens' and gay ordinations, we wouldn't be in this mess today.

Friday, May 25, 2007

the catholic position on same-sex relationships

From Father Rowan Atkinson.

insight from archbishop gomez...

The following comments from Archbishop Drexel Gomez, Primate of the West Indies, are from the Church of England Newspaper, via T19. Archbishop Gomez is one of those people who understands whats going on, who understands the stakes -- what we stand to gain, and what we stand to lose.

The more I think about it, the more I think that the fate of the Communion will most likely be decided at the next ECUSA House of Bishops meeting, in September. Of all the many meetings, statements, decisions, etc. over the past four or five years, it seems to me that THAT will be the moment of truth. (And a big part of the significance of the Sept. HoB meeting will be how the "foreign prelates" react to it, which we will know only gradually. So I don't mean that we will KNOW what's going to happen as soon as the HoB releases its statement, but only that what the ECUSA Bishops say at their meeting will fix their fate, and the fate of the Communion.)

The Episcopal Church ‘mishandled the debate on human sexuality’

By George Conger

THE EPISCOPAL Church has mishandled the debate on human sexuality by misleading the Anglican Communion about its intentions to regularise gay bishops and blessings, the Primate of the West Indies said on May 15. By placing autonomy above unity it has brought the Anglican Communion to the brink of collapse, Archbishop Drexel Gomez told the clergy of Central Florida. Archbishop Gomez criticised the leadership of the Episcopal Church for not being entirely straight forward with the Communion. "You just cannot have collegiality," he explained, "if when you meet with your colleagues you don't share."

He also chided the African-led missionary jurisdictions, the AMiA and CANA, operating in the United States, saying they were an unfortunate "anomaly." It was "most unfortunate" that the Episcopal Church had hid its intentions to regularise gay bishops and blessings, Archbishop Gomez said, as it had not seen "fit to share with the rest of the Anglican Communion what it intended on doing." During the 2003 Primates' Meeting in Gramado, Brazil "we had a long discussion on this business of [gay] blessings and samesex unions," he said. But at "no time during the meeting, did [US Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold] even indicate that a situation was developing in the Episcopal Church that would lead to the consecration of Gene Robinson." "It is not good enough as Frank [Griswold] had said that The Episcopal Church has been wrestling with this issue for 30 years and the Spirit has led them to this decision. We were unaware of the problem. It must be a shared discernment if we belong to the body," Archbishop Gomez said. ACC-13 in Nottingham was the "first time any presentation had been made by The Episcopal Church" on these issues, he argued.

At the 2003 emergency Primates' Meeting at Lambeth Palace, "We said unanimously, including Frank Griswold, if The Episcopal Church were to proceed with the consecration of Gene Robinson that it would tear the fabric of the Communion. And yet it proceeded and the fabric has been torn," he said. The consecration of Gene Robinson was "the first time in the history of Christendom that someone has been made a bishop who could not function as a bishop," Archbishop Gomez argued. "Theologically I do not consider him to be a bishop," he said. Bishop Robinson's episcopal ordination was an example of Augustine's argument, Archbishop Gomez stated that "a sacrament could be valid but non efficacious." He "has been sacramentally ordained, validly ordained as a bishop, but he cannot function as a bishop in most of the Anglican Communion."

Archbishop Gomez stated he was also "very concerned" about the formation of rival Anglican jurisdictions in the United States under the sponsorship of overseas primates. These "new groupings are anomalous in Anglicanism" he told Central Florida, adding "I tried hard at the last Primates' Meeting to find an answer to that" difficulty, which "complicates the situation." One of the triumphs of the Tanzania Primates' Meeting, he said, had been the agreement made by the onterventionist primates to turn over their US jurisdictions to an international pastoral council. "We got them to the point where they would stop. This was not easy to achieve," he said. "I thought the House of Bishops would jump at the opportunity" to end foreign interventions, but they "wouldn't look at it." The rejection of the pastoral council by the House of Bishops now makes it "twice as difficult to get this back on the table," Archbishop Gomez said. He also stated the Dar es Salaam Communiqué was the first statement by the Primates where each was asked to give their personal assent.

At prior meetings "we worked by consensus in our decisions," but Archbishop Williams "felt that the decision was so important, so critical" that all should be polled for their views. "Individually [Archbishop Williams] went around and individually every person said yes [to the Communiqué]. [Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori] said yes, but said it would be a difficult sell, but she would try." The question put to the Presiding Bishop was whether she accepted the communiqué, "and Katharine agreed to the proposal." Archbishop Gomez did not expect a decisive response from the House of Bishops to the September 30 deadline for compliance to the Primates' Communiqué. "On the basis of past actions, certainly over the past 10 years, I would presume that the Episcopal Church would seek someway of fudging it. And that would be a consistent pattern," he stated. He told the gathering that he had suggested a September 30 deadline for a response from the House of Bishops. "The intention was to give them two full meetings" before an answer was due, although Archbishop Williams had pressed for more time. The Episcopal Church "will have to make a decision" whether it will remain part of the Anglican Communion. "The official Church speaking through its General Convention places autonomy over its mission. That is the reality we have to face in the Communion," Archbishop Gomez said.

--This article appears in the Church of England Newspaper, May 25 2007 edition, page 7

bishop duncan on various things

I love Bishop Duncan. This is from an interview at Catholic dot org. Read it all here. Via Stand Firm.

How do you respond when people accuse you of dividing the church?

Bishop Robert Duncan: It’s rather like a father in a family who confronts a teenager who’s acting out. And what the other members of the family say is, “Dad, don’t be so hard, you’re dividing our family.” It’s a bizarre argument, but it appeals to the modern heart and mind because it gives the modern heart and mind precisely what it wants.

That is to say, “We ought to be able to do what we want to do.” And the modern Church has no doctrine of sin and no sense of boundaries. So, I divide the church by simply saying: “Well, sin is what human beings are wired to do and from which they’ve been delivered, and the father actually has boundaries, rules and a way he wants us to live because he’s designed and called us to live that way. It’s what’s best for us.”

The other criticism that gets made is that we’re just worked up over sex. That’s not it at all. We’re actually worked up over what scripture says, and in every regard. We’ve been lax about allowing remarriages after divorce. We’ve been lax on what scripture clearly says about human life and its sanctity. We take those positions in morality because of what the word says. Because of what the Lord said.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

good perspective on the invites and non-invites to lambeth

Read Sarah Hey's article at Stand Firm. I agree with just about everything she says.

this is fascinating

One of Israel's most prominent rabbis and kabbalists, Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri, shortly before he died at the age of 108, wrote down the name of the Messiah, and sealed it. He asked that it be opened a year later. It was recently opened. Guess what Messiah's name is. Read it all here. (Hat Tip, Taylor Marshal.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

an interesting day at the anglican circus

The plot thickened interestingly today. Lambeth Conference invitations were issued. +New Hampshire was not invited, and both +Robinson and his allies immediately issued several petulant childishnesses in response. ("How dare you?!" etc. and so forth. The first version (?) of Robinson's statement actually used the punctuation "?!". Incredible.) The bishops of CANA and AMiA were also not invited. +Minns issued a measured, thoughtful statement. The press office of ++Abuja also issued a testy statement.

Here's what I think: Williams has done fine. First of all, its his prerogative. Secondly, he is working within the context of, and being guided by, the Windsor Report and the Primates' Meeting Communiques, as he and the Primates have consistently done. Those who are upset about +Minns not being invited (apparently +Minns himself isn't terribly upset) should remind themselves that these invitations are properly viewed as a step along the road to a coherent Anglican ecclesiology, and NOT as some kind of stamp of theological approval for invitees, or of theological disapproval for non-invitees. The fact is, as orthodox as +Minns and Nigeria may be, +Minns' installation was, in fact, a wrench in the careful, costly, and painstaking achievement of the Windsor Report and the various Primates' Meeting communiques (including and especially, most recently, DeS). If CANA is indeed provisional, as Akinola has insisted, then +Minns ought to be willing to sit this one out for the greater good -- even if it is an injustice for him not to be invited (and I don't think it is).

For those of you who see nothing wrong with initiatives like CANA and AMiA, and who are piping mad that +Minns wasn't invited, here's a question: fifty or a hundred years from now, what will stop the Angelus-praying, Sarum-Mass-saying Anglican Archbishop of Ft. Worth from consecrating a bishop in South Carolina because the legitimate Bishop of SC wants all of his priests to swear they believe and love the 39 Articles? I'll tell you what: a pan-Anglican agreement about WHO MAY AUTHORITATIVELY DECIDE what is, and what is not, within the bounds of our common life as Anglicans. Such an agreement, hopefully, will the Covenant be. May it come, and may it come quickly.

In the meantime, don't harass the ABC for being guided by the mind of the Communion as expressed by the Primates who have, as a group, endorsed the Windsor Report, which has asked that stuff like CANA stop happening until we can sort this stuff out -- just as much as it has asked that practicing homosexuals not be made bishops. Lambeth invitations are not about who's better, or who is more correct. They are about how we live together and order our common life. So my advice is: relax. Its okay that a good and godly bishop (Minns) was not invited. Its part of the plot.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

good lord, this is some ignorant nonsense

Read it all here. Or better, don't. These people assert such things as the following with regard to Father Ephraim Radner's latest essay:

I believe Ephraim Radner is mistaken on several issues right from the start in this and other pieces he has written. He revels in academic theology or what could be called abstract theology – and so he misses out on making the connections with the Christian faith as it is lived out. [Translation into normal-speak: "Radner is too concerned with some outdated mess called "rational thought" to realize its okay for people to have sex with whomever they want."] While theologians must possess the analytical tools necessary to their trade, they must also show some evidence of human engagement over the issues with which they struggle; otherwise, their theology ends up being vapid and their conclusions divorced from the incarnational roots of our Christian faith.

"Incarnational roots of our Christian faith"??? Give me a break. This is the kind of I-feel-so-warm-and-fuzzy opacity that could only come from a generation weaned on hash pipes. "Don't bother us with books, consistency, or thought."

Radner misunderstands the vocation of Christians on the local level, on the diocesan level, on the level of our national churches and provinces and Communion – and even on the broadest possible level, the worldwide church of God, expressed in the work of the multitude of the various denominations as the full Body of Christ! Our vocation as Anglicans worldwide is not the same as the vocation of the Friends (Quakers), the American Baptists, the Greek Orthodox, or the Moravians. God allots the spiritual gifts as necessary for the entire vocation of the fullness of the church. Radner’s view of the church seems the equivalent of going to the circus to watch two and a half hours of elephant acts. A decent circus has elephant acts, but it also has trapeze artists, clowns, performing seals, balancing acts, horseback riders, jugglers, and people selling popcorn. That is the way St. Paul saw the church, and that is the way Jesus chose his apostles.

What? For Radner to be accused, by ignorant kibitzers, of "misunderstanding" ecclesiology is too absurd to merit comment. (I'll comment anyway.) In fact, Radner has written a book on the subject. But Episcopal Majority would probably find it "vapid" because its too well researched, and because its preoccupation with "theology" ignores "the incarnational roots of our Christian faith". My advice to Episcopal Majority would be that they read it anyway. They might learn something. On the other hand, I applaud their honesty in admitting their view that decent churches are like circuses, with trapeze artists, clowns, and performing seals. That sounds about right for practitioners of the New Religion that is ECUSA .

The bit quoted above is followed by more chowderheaded displays of anti-logic, including a little diatribe about how its "ironic" that the same bishops who don't like women's ordination also don't like revising the list of virtues to include sex outside of marriage. I wonder what Episcopal Majority thinks "irony" means?

Then they describe the catholic position on holy orders as "fairly peculiar". How interesting. Perhaps they mean to connote the ecclesiastical sense of "peculiaris", with reference to an extra-diocesan or extra-provincial jurisdiction? But I suspect such a use would be beyond the limits of their ambition. More likely, they just mean "peculiar" in the everyday sense of "odd" or "unusual". Apparently this is just another instance of the darknening of senseless minds (Romans 1.21), of protesting wisdom on one's descent into foolishness.

St. Paul points out that mental illness and moral depravity often go together in faith communities. Calling Iker, Schofield, and Ackerman "peculiar" for their theological convictions reminds one of Schori's recent rebuke to Archbishop Akinola who, according to Schori's obscure logic, is "violating the ancient customs of the Church" by providing episcopal care to the American orthodox. As one blogger (not an Anglican) put it:

I kid you not. The female head of a church with a practicing homosexual bishop planning to "marry" his lover, a church that could accept into seminary the adulterous homosexual governor of New Jersey, a church that embraces splitting open babies' skulls and vacuuming their brains out, is complaining about violating ancient customs? Wow.
If you like Mad Magazine, you'll probably like Episcopal Majority's new article.

Monday, May 14, 2007

good questions

I think the significance of what's going on now (with CANA, AMiA, etc.) is lost on most, though I and others have tried to point it out. Here is one of the first quasi-profound analyses of the ongoing saga of American Anglicanism that I've seen from the secular media. Read the whole thing here. (Via T-19.) I've often reminded myself that as bad as things may be for us now, they have been worse for others. Think of St. Athanasius and the Arian crisis of the fourth century. I've been reading a biography of St. Gregory Nazianzus, and it was much the same for him. Juridical / ecclesial chaos and political maneuverings left and right, swimming upstream culturally, at odds with secular authority, theological confusion, etc. The best we can do, I think, is to tell the truth within whatever contexts we find ourselves, and strive for personal holiness. That's really all God asks: that we turn to him, and then do our best.


The reason for Akinola’s delay seems to be that he wanted there to be no doubt that the leadership of the Episcopal Church would refuse to comply with the demands of the worldwide Anglican Communion before he acted — especially the demand that it accept a “primatial vicar,” or alternative chief presiding officer, for conservatives. Once the door to a primatial vicar was closed, Akinola offered a Nigerian alternative.

Which leaves observers with certain unanswered questions. Why did Akinola establish his own Nigerian alternative rather than support the already existing Anglican Mission in America established by Archbishop Kolini? What, if anything, will mark the difference between the two missionary initiatives? Why did the Anglican Mission, for its part, send no representative to the consecration? Does this action represent a further fragmentation of the conservative opposition?

Some liberal commentators think so and point to the fact that very few congregations have actually withdrawn from the Episcopal Church. But that comment may miss the real significance of the African initiative — namely, to revitalize Anglicanism in America.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

sad news

Fr Binks, the head honcho of CaNN, and a fount of Anglican news and good humor, lost his mother today in a car accident. It was not only Mother's Day, but Fr Binks' mother's birthday as well.

May her soul, and the souls of all the faithful, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Pause and say a prayer for Father and his family.

Friday, May 11, 2007

the challenge of communion: vocation deferred: father ephraim radner does it again

If you haven’t read Father Ephraim Radner’s latest essay, Vocation Deferred, do it now. It is long and challenging but, as usual, well worth the time and effort, particularly for those who are concerned about or involved in the ongoing Anglican realignment.

Various people have commented on it. The comments I have read so far are at Stand Firm, and All Too Common.

In what follows, I will speak to a few of the objections to Father Ephraim’s piece that I have read from various friends. I will then offer my view of what Father Ephraim is on about, and why it is absolutely critical that Anglicans of good will take up the issues he raises.

I admit that I really like Father Ephraim's essay. For one thing, it represents one of the precious few constructive projects going on within Anglicanism – and a project with profound ramifications for Christendom at large, given our divisions since 1054. With regard to Anglicanism in particular, Radner’s essay also addresses a very deep and terminal deficiency: that we Anglicans have a radically underdeveloped and attenuated ecclesiology, practically useless. What Radner is getting at (and I agree with him) is that our ecclesiological deficiencies are more fundamental and systemically problematical than the doctrinal / confessional innovations being promulgated by ECUSA and others; that the former are a necessary condition of the latter, and therefore that the doctrinal / confessional problems will be resolvable only if the ecclesiological issues are first addressed.

Those who are concerned about confessional standards (like Texanglican's comments here and Fr Matt Kennedy's here) are right in a sense. But Radner’s project is more fundamental; the problems he is seeking to address must be addressed BEFORE any kind of confessional standards can be upheld by the Communion. For who now, at the Communion level, has the authority to promulgate them? Lambeth Resolutions, as ECUSA has correctly pointed out, are non-binding, etc. Primates ARE, as things currently stand, little more than “foreign prelates” outside their own jurisdictions. That’s not as it should be; but it’s a fact nonetheless. Because the Anglican Communion is an accident of history (though, I believe, at the same time an orchestration of divine providence), its jurisdictions at the national level remain autonomous. And autonomy, as Radner notes, is a fundamentally unchristian principle, radically at odds with the scriptural call to mutual submission and divine heteronomy in Christ. “The very discussion of the church in terms of ‘body parts’ rules out ‘autonomy’ as a working term,” says Radner. Indeed.

The irony is that the practical autonomy of Anglican jurisdictions, while jeopardizing the Communion’s catholicity, has at the same time ensured that the catholicity of Anglican jurisdictions at the local (diocesan) level has remained possible. Where would Fort Worth be without the affirmation, at the Communion level, of the “two integrities” vis-à-vis the ordination of women (most recently in the Panel of Reference’s report on Ft. Worth). Agreeing to disagree has its advantages; but it is proving fatal for the Communion per se. Radner says:

“..the smallest unit of the ‘local’, according to the Report, is the ‘diocese’. This means that bishops are the ‘local’ expression of whole (in the familiar sense of embodying the “whole church” while presiding at the Eucharist).

But the explicitly episcopal character of this representation has profound practical implications, most pointedly underlined when episcopal links are ‘visibly’ severed and ‘mutual recognition’ of episcopal communion is jeopardized or lost.”

If “autonomy” is our fundamental working principle as Anglicans, as many American prelates have touted it as being, how can we meaningfully claim communion in one lord, one faith, one baptism? Saying it doesn’t make it so. And if it is merely affirmed, while having no ramifications in the life of particular churches (provincial or diocesan), then what could communion possibly mean? Indeed it looks as though ECUSA has embraced a fundamentally hateful working definition of “love” – a definition that is basically about apathy with regard to the other. “Live and let live” is its motto, which is radically at odds with what the Lord said: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” and again, “My sheep hear my voice and FOLLOW ME.” His gift of communion was not without demands: he gives communion to those who believe in him through the teaching of the Apostles (Jn. 17.20). It is no coincidence that the foil on which turns ECUSA’s refusal of the gift of communion, with its demand of mutual submission, is ECUSA’s refusal to love gays and lesbians with the love of Christ, a love that asks a life-laid-down. And it is no coincidence that ECUSA’s intransigence comes with denials by ECUSA’s leadership of the Son’s unique communion with the Father. Such a denial, increasingly systemic within ECUSA, cuts off the grace of communion at the root.

Radner writes:

“The Windsor Report, in this regard, has forcefully taken up on this vision, and strengthened and nuanced it considerably in a particularly Anglican way by rooting the episcopal character of communion in the commending, teaching, and guarding of Scripture’s authority within the Church.”

This is manifestly true in the rites for ordination to the episcopacy in use in our BCP: “A bishop in God’s holy Church is called to be one with the apostles in… interpreting the Gospel…” and thereby “to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church.” A bishop is explicitly called to be “a faithful pastor and wholesome example for THE ENTIRE FLOCK OF CHRIST.” The rite then goes on to ask the candidate: “Will you SHARE WITH YOUR FELLOW BISHOPS in the government of the WHOLE CHURCH…?” This vision of episcopal communion is totally incompatible with the autonomy demanded by ECUSA’s prelates. Communion requires a submission to theonomy, and thus to radical heteronomy. As Radner puts it:

“It is not homophobia – fear of the ‘same’ (sex) -- that is driving this train away from communion; it is theophobia, the fear of God’s reality; and hence most truly, it is heterophobia, the fear of what is truly ‘other’, that is the culprit.”

Likewise, its no coincidence that the peril in which the Communion now finds itself are the result of ECUSA's insistence on autonomy for a particular class of folks within the Church. I am all too conscious of the sacrifice we are asking of gay and lesbian Christians. I have no doubt that the moral standards to which they are called seem impossibly austere. But the Lord assures us that the impossible holiness to which we are all called, when we embrace it even though it breaks our hearts, mysteriously becomes an easy yoke and a light burden (Mat. 11.30). I have had a few gay friends who embraced the Church’s moral teaching, and it was a powerful witness to me: they left the world and the world’s promises for the sake of Christ. They left the possibility of the consolations of having a companion with whom they could share their lives intimately – for the sake of Christ. And I know its not easy for them, but it is an unspeakably beautiful thing they have embraced, even though it means that they will appear to all eyes to suffer for it – loneliness, etc. It is a powerful witness and call to me, and I am very grateful to them for it, because of what it says about Christ’s call in MY life.

And this is what ECUSA has been called to at a corporate level: to forego its desires for the sake of the Body of Christ. Sadly, they seem to have refused that more difficult, but more beautiful, call. And although we are called to hope and pray for ECUSA’s metanoia, I'm not holding my breath. Nor should anyone else among the orthodox. We must move ahead in answering the call to communion, and hope and pray that ECUSA will join us.

This too is what the unspecified confessionalists in Radner’s essay are called to do: to lay aside their desires for a more theologically correct Communion for the sake of the integrity of the Body. Yes, truth is important, but getting it right about the ordination of women (for Anglo-Catholics), or justification by faith alone (for evangelicals), will mean very little to those who have not known Christ. On the other hand, a corporate life of mutual forbearance and submission in love will mean a great deal to those still in the world – as well as for our brothers and sisters in other communions who are concerned about the visible unity of the Body of Christ, and who also are looking for ways to inhabit the Lord's gift of communion. Radner puts it this way: the Anglican Communion can be a school…

“…for the koinonia that can only arise from a specific form of evangelism and ecclesial life that, through its outgoing reach, raises up the challenges of the Body of Christ as judgment and opportunity both.”

This is where all Anglicans are called to be “Prayer Book Catholics”, where we must admit the upbuilding reality of the English Reformation. Father Ephraim and Archbishop Rowan both put this in terms of the Benedictine Patrimony of English Christianity, from the days of Augustine, which was conserved uniquely through the English Reformation in the form of an ecclesial life of truly Common Prayer. Radner notes three elements of the Anglican ecclesial life:

“…the structuring of time away from simple production and entertainment, and towards human growth (in and through God); the character of obedience as mutual discernment and support within an ordered life in common; the commitment to full participation by all – the offering and receiving of support -- within the common life.”

What must happen now is a formal, PAN-ANGLICAN (Communion-wide) ordering of our ecclesial life of Common Prayer, a formal ordering that conserves Prayer Book Catholicism (in the best sense) in an intra-provincial way for the Communion as a whole. For the principles that we have inherited were designed for the Church of England, and have spread by historical accident and, as I noted, by divine providence far beyond the juridical borders of the Church of England.

This, I suggest, is a positive vision for the vocation of Anglicanism within the context of the whole Body of Christ, of which we have only ever claimed to be but a part. Apart from the particular agendas of the liberals, evangelicals, and catholics within the Communion, this ecclesial vision seems to be the only game in town, and indeed the only game at a catholic (= universal) level worth playing. I for one hope that some of us are still willing to take up the challenge, that the world may believe that the Father sent the Son.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

christopher hitchens and douglas wilson debate

"Is Christianity Good for the World?"

There will be more installments throught the month of May.

via Amy Welborn

Monday, May 07, 2007

the pope and liberation theology in the "newspaper of record"

[See also MM's pertinent take here. And WB, perhaps I have answered or echoed your trenchant anaylsis in the comments. Thanks both.]

This article was the lead headline in the print edition of the New York Times today. In light of Pope Benedict's upcoming trip to Brazil, it considers the state of liberation theology in Latin America today (still going fairly strong, apparently). The article discusses Benedict's crackdown on LT's heretical tendencies when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger and the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The problem with LT combines elements of Marxist theory and Christian belief to suggest that Jesus was a sort of Che Guevara of the first millennium. The NYT suggests that the pope's attitudes towards LT have "softened," but this is I think a their misreading. What the pope may have acknowledged is that, in so far as LT tends the needs of the poor and downtrodden, it does what correspond to Christ's commandments: to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. That does not, however, translate into Christianity finding its fullest expression in the Marxist state.

Benedict took up the issues of LT, Marxism, and modern thought in general in his Introduction to Christianity (see the updated preface and introduction), which I have at last taken off my bookshelf and been reading. His point is to recall the uniqueness of the Christian worldview and its central faith in Christ Jesus. When it is admixed with foreign ideologies, its salvific power is seriously undermined. The NYT, like all organs of modern thought, does not see it this way. It persists in believing that there are a plurality of equally legitimate beliefs in the world, and this extends to religion. We should not speak of theology, but theologies, not orthodoxy but orthodoxies. This of course is just an updated, less vigorous, and therefore less satisfying form of Marxism. This of course is nonsense from the inside of the Christian worldview. If the way is not narrow that leads to eternal life, it is not the Way.

Benedict laments in the Intro. that Christianity missed a key opportunity in the last century to engage the world by virgorously countering the corrosive philosophies of Marxist materialism. In 1968 and again in 1989, when the world groaned under the yoke of oppression, the Church failed to make its voice heard, to proclaim the Gospel in the face of social, economic, and cultural dissolution. The instruction given by the CDF in 1984 speaks of the "impatience" of those eager for social justice (a much maligned term in the church these days) who have turned to Marxism in order to pressure society into effecting the Kingdom of Heaven. The problem is those ground-of-being assumptions that Marxism makes about the world differ wildly from those of Christianity. Marxism rests its claims on science, assuming that "science" somehow embodies an objective view of the world and of man and that if human relations can be goverened objectively, then they can be harmonized. The failure of Marxism to achieve such a goal rightly points out the failure of a scientific-materialist world view, that matter cannot provide an objective view of matter. It is the recognition that science has been coming to itself going on a century now. But does this mean we should give up on objectivity? The pluralism latent in the NYT article suggests that we ought to, but as I love to make a point of, such an attitude itself appeals implicitly to an objective order: the objectivity of no-objectivity. But this is mere incoherence. Christianity, on the other hand, recognizes that true objectivity can only be found outside of this world, the world must be considered as an object, and that perspective can only come from the Divine.

It is increasinlgy clear to me, as it was to Benedict forty years ago (the Intro was first published in 1969), that Christianity today has a golden opportunity. From an intellectual standpoint, it's never been easier to justify our faith to the world. As global politics continually show, people desperately want coherence, order, objectivity, and hope, all of which can be found in the Church, and which can only be found in the unique expression of that faith which is the unadulterated belief entrusted to the apostles by Christ. Christianity has not survived or flourished because it rests on universal myths which are reluctantly giving way to the objectivity of science, but because it in itself offers for the first time an objective perspective on the world that resonates with our experience of the world.* When we forget that, we get caught on the same slippery slope that courses straight into the abyss of nihilism.

*This by the way is the perspective offered by René Girard in Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, but there is not room to expound on that here.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

the most beautiful film ever made?

Quite possibly. I am, of course, talking about Into Great Silence, which Fr Nelson has just reviewed over at Theology of the Body, and has been receiving critical plaudits and accolades left and right. That's as it should be.

I didn't say it was the "best" movie ever made, but possibly the most beautiful. I stand by that. Mainly because a film depicting people so utterly given to the Lord can't help but be beautiful, because the lives depicted are beautiful. Another striking thing about the film is how normal the brothers seem, and how happy.

Mainly I second everything Fr Nelson said. I would also add that you need to be ready to see this movie. Don't expect a typical popcorn-gobbling, grab-you-by-the-throat cinema experience. This film seduces you. First of all, there is no soundtrack. In fact, as the title suggests, there are long stretches (maybe ten minutes) with hardly a sound. And there's maybe a grand total of seven or so minutes of actual dialog in the whole, nearly three hour thing.

I lived in monasteries for a year. Watching the film felt like life in a monastery. You get antsy. You get introspective. Little details take on real or imagined significance. Periodically something intensely beautiful (usually something chanted) breaks onto the scene. You notice the weather. You become aware of being forced into a slow, subtle rhythm.

Formally, the film reinforces this "feeling of monasticism" (for lack of a better phrase). There are little passages of scripture and the Fathers periodically thrown onto the screen, e.g. "You seduced me... and I was seduced" or "Whoever does not renounce all that he has... cannot be my disciple." These sorts of passages are repeated from time to time, without commentary, and without obvious relevance to what is on the screen immediately before or after they appear. Their effect in the mind is sort of like an antiphon in the psalter. The meaning is not immediately obvious, or directly relevant to the psalm or canticle being recited. You must sit with it, and let the connections form themselves in your consciousness very slowly.

The film begins in darkness, and moves to the chapel. You notice a red light in the distance. It flickers. You come to realize, as the brothers begin to chant Mattins, that it is the sanctuary lamp, symbolizing the sacramental presence of the Lord in the tabernacle. Again, there is no commentary. You are left to percolate in the slow realization of the significance of this flickering red lamp: that Christ is literally in this place, and in this singing. Again at the end of the film, as the credits roll, there is no sound but the occasional creaking of the floor as the brothers adore Christ in darkness; and again, there is nothing on the screen but the flickering red sanctuary lamp in the distance, formally announcing the mystery of Emanuel, God with us.

The film can be frustrating to watch. But what I realized is that the experience of frustration and impatience was a manifestation of a defect in me, not the film.

The whole thing is breathtakingly beautiful and very, very moving. I saw it first on Good Friday and was blown away. Whatever you have to do to make it happen: get ready, and go see this movie.

the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom

Here's a "wisdom quiz" that I found on the NY Times website. Supposedly it assesses how wise you are. My score: 3.5, which is "relatively moderate wisdom."

A better measure of wisdom is offered by T. S. Eliot in his poem "East Coker," one of the Four Quartets, written after his conversion to Christianity. This is a line I turn over frequently in my mind:

"The only wisdom we can hope to acquire is the wisdom of humility. Humility is endless."

Friday, May 04, 2007

cana and the acn

Is it just me, or is CANA seemingly overtaking the Anglican Communion Network as the entity best positioned to replace ECUSA as the repository of orthodox North American Anglicanism? I haven't heard much news about the Network in quite some time, but I have of course heard more and more about CANA. Also: +Minns' rhetoric seems to indicate that he is moulding CANA into a provincial shape (with himself as its primate, I would venture to guess). I mean things like this from the LA Times (read it all here):

Minns said the convocation, which he said included about 30 parishes and 50 clergy members, was the result of a "broken relationship" between the Episcopal Church and the rest of the Anglican Communion. He said he planned to work closely with other groups of breakaway Episcopalians to try to bring them together.

"We are what the church used to be," Minns said. "Our desire is not to interfere with what [the Episcopal Church is] doing. We simply don't agree with it."

The message seems to be that ECUSA has become irrelevant with respect to the Communion. I tend to agree... but what's interesting is +Minns' implication that CANA is taking over.

What does this mean? It means, I think, that +Duncan is being sidelined as a potential primate. The tone of the rhetoric seems to indicate not only that realignment is definitely in the pipes, that it will happen sooner rather than later, but most significant with regard to my point here: that the "inside strategy" suggested by such things as Windsor, Camp Allen, the DeS Communique, +Stanton, the ACI, inter alia, has lost out to the more bellicose and evangelical.

What do I think about this? On some level, I'm glad something is finally happening. All the talk was indeed frustrating. On the other hand, I've made no secret of my agreeement with the "inside strategy." I'm sorry to see that it seems to have been sidelined, and that its probably now a lost cause. I also worry that the fact that CANA is the brainchild of Nigerian Anglicanism, that unpleasant things like the 39 Articles and other exclusivist, evangelical, confessional standards will be enshrined as the benchmarks of the new North American orthodoxy. I also wonder where this leaves the FIFNA folks? Will they sign on with CANA, or will they form some other thing? I can't say what I think would be better. Probably joining CANA (and insisting on Tract 90 type interpretations of the 39 Articles), as starting a new thing would mean further division.

Also note that those carrying the day (the more vociferously orthodox) do seem to have cast aside the DeS Communique, and that it IS dividing the Primates. Note that whereas ++Williams and ++Akinola were on the same page at Dar es Salaam, they no longer seem to be. These are the dangerous waters I spoke of in a post a few days ago.

Time will tell. But has anyone else sensed this shift (ACN ---> CANA) in recent weeks / months? Other thoughts?

UPDATE (May 5) -- From Fr Kendall Harmon's liveblogging of Bp Minns' sermon at his own installation: "CANA is God’s gift to orthodox Anglicans for those who cannto find a home in TEC as it is currently led." Funny, Bp Minns describes CANA in exactly the terms I would have applied to the proposals of the DeS Communique. Read Fr Kendall's liveblogging here.

UPDATE-PRIME (May 6) -- Then there is this quote from the NY Times, which gets at how the secular world perceives CANA's doings, whatever the nuanced truth may be: "The hope among leaders of the new diocese, the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, is that it will eventually be recognized by the communion as its rightful representative in the United States, replacing an Episcopal Church they say has strayed from traditional Anglican teachings." Read the whole NY Times article here.