Friar John's Ruminations

Being the thoughts of an Episcopalian Layman. In Search of and service to "Evangelical Truth and Apostolic Order."

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Friday, December 02, 2011

A bit of liturgical Humor:

"Thank god at last we have a real pope," shouted Bill Barker, grand knight
of the local chapter of the Knights of St. Sepulcher. "Oh don't get me
wrong, Father. Pope John Paul was a good man, God rest his soul. But this
new Holy Father really knows his business." He paused to take a breath. The
force of his conviction caused the plume on his hat to shimmer and his sword
to clang against the folding chair.

"Take this New Missal, for instance. We'll finally get to pray the way that
Moses and the early Christians prayed. Why, these new prayers were
translated straight from Latin, the language Jesus spoke when he talked down
to the crowds and his disciples."

Fr. Dan Wiggins stared in silence at the paper tablecloth and idly rolled
the peas around his Styrofoam plate. He silently thanked God that he could
barely hear Barker over the roar of diners who had gathered in the parish
gymnasium for the Knights' annual fundraising dinner to stop the trafficking
in frozen embryos from China.

Barker nudged the priest to gain his attention and asked, "What do you
think, Father Dan? Don't you like these new prayers the Holy Father has
given us?"

Father Dan impulsively took the bait and said, "Well, Bill, it's easy enough
for you to applaud the changes. All you have to do is memorize a few
phrases. But like everything else that comes from Rome, we priests will have
to do all the heavy lifting. I don't mind the return to more traditional
language, but the new liturgy is too wordy. Some of the Eucharistic Prayers
are so long you could see them from outer space. The sentences run on
forever. Not even a long-winded priest could pray them out loud without
stopping to catch his breath. Why, even the best English teacher in the
world couldn't diagram some of these sentences."

Barker knew a potential wager when he heard one. He leaned over, put his arm
around his wife's shoulders and said, "You know, Father, my little Martha
has been teaching high school English for 30 years. I'll bet you $50 that
she can diagram any sentence you give her from the New Missal."

Martha looked over at the priest and smiled wanly, with a long-suffering
look in her eyes.

"You've got a bet," said Father Dan, as he rose from his chair and left the
crowded hall. Ten minutes later he returned with a copy of the New Missal,
two pencils and a small stack of typing paper. He set them down beside the
coconut pie in front of Martha Barker, handed her a pencil and pointed to a
sentence buried deep in Eucharistic Prayer One.

Martha straightened her shoulders, pushed up the sleeves of her cardigan
sweater and read the sentence: "To you, therefore, most Merciful Father, we
make humble prayer and petition that your Incarnate Son might deign to bless
these unworthy sinners, who have strayed from the eternal light of your love
bestowed upon your Holy Catholic Church . " the sentence ran on and on, like
one of those great rivers in India that starts high in the Himalayas,
meanders across wide, vast plains and cuts through crowded cities before
finally dumping into the Bay of Bengal.

Martha recited the sentence to herself several times. Then she took a deep
breath and sketched a first draft. Lines began to sprout in all directions
on the paper as adjectives branched off from nouns and reached out to
connect with dangling participles. Before long, a crowd gathered and stared
at the cat's cradle of loosely connected words and phrases. Somebody said it
looked like the skeleton of a pterodactyl. The president of the parish
council thought it resembled a street map of Paris. A small boy asked if it
was supposed to be a family of octopi on a picnic.

The diners soon grew bored and drifted away, accustomed as they were to
watching contact sports. Martha crumpled one sheet of paper after another
and tossed them into a nearby wastebasket. It wasn't long before she asked
for more paper. Later she called for Scotch tape and a yardstick. She sent
the parish secretary to find a copy of "Strunk and White." After an hour and
a half, she asked for hot tea and a Xanax.

Finally, her husband handed her $10 and said, "Honey, I'm calling it a
night. Call a cab when you're finished." By this time, the gym was nearly
empty as volunteers swept the floor and turned off most of the lights.
Afraid to disappoint her husband, Martha labored through the night. Around
two o'clock she lost herself in the sentence and couldn't find her way out,
like one of those hapless tourists who panics after getting trapped inside a
hedge maze. Her mind began to reel, her heart palpitated and her breath grew
shallow. Pious phrases swarmed in her head like the dark bats in "Fantasia,"
and the words took on a life of their own and seemed to taunt her as the
floated around the page. Eventually Martha lost all sense of time and began
to hallucinate.

A security guard found her the next morning hunched over a mountain of
crumpled paper, gripping a pencil with both hands and muttering to herself.
When he asked if she was alright, she told him to leave her alone and
explained that she was channeling Catherine of Siena.

The pastor called an ambulance. When Martha resisted the medics, they
suspected that she was having a bad acid trip and threatened to subdue her
with a Taser. Father Dan told them to back off and suggested that she might
be speaking in tongues. Bill Barker insisted that his wife was possessed by
a demon, and he signed the forms to have her carted away in a straitjacket.
As he heaved himself into the back of the ambulance behind the gurney, he
turned to the priest with a look of desperation. Convinced that only the
strongest spiritual medicine could save his wife, he asked, "Father, when
you anoint her, would you do it in Latin?"

[Isaac McDaniel is a Catholic priest who teaches at Bellarmine University
and Spalding University in Louisville, Ky.]

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bishop of Washington Elected on Second Ballot.

From the Lead

The Episcopal Diocese of Washington elected the Rev. Dr. Mariann Edgar Budde as its first female diocesan bishop on June 18, pending the required consents from a majority of bishops with jurisdiction and standing committees of the Episcopal Church.
Budde, 52, rector of St. John’s, Minneapolis, Minn., was elected on the second ballot out of a field of five nominees. She received 102 votes of 163 cast in the lay order and 137 of 175 cast in the clergy order. An election on that ballot required 82 in the lay order and 88 in the clergy order.

May God bless her, the Diocese, and the Church.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

We Have Brought This On Ourselves.

In Ferinheight 451 Professor Faber remarks, while holding a copy of a Bible saved from burning by Montag, that Jesus would be hard pressed recognizing himself in the Corporitist State Controlled media.  In the film version it is claimed by the banal figure of Beatty that books come to be banned so that the ideas they contained would no longer offend those unwilling to be educated. At the end, Montag meets a minister run out of his pulpit for what he preached. In all three of these we find the face of the enemy of the mind that in now romping free across the American landscape. And we have no one to blame but ourselves. I'm not going to try and unpack the complete problem, that is way outside my provence, but I am convinced that no small reason for the rise of the neo-Right is a lack of coherent thought beyond a general "thats not right" to oppose it. Far to often those of us who know better than the way religion, orthodox Christianity in particular, is put forward in the media come off looking like the Vicar in an Eddy Izzard sketch, unable to move other than in the shoulders, and incoherently unable to engage the scriptures at any meaningful level.
We allow those on the "conservative" side of the debate, if a scream followed by a half hearted whimper can be called a "debate," to dominate simply because we have bought into a set of assumptions. The first is the theology, by which I mean the hard work of dogmatics, is unimportant. The second is to play the game of the fundamentalists in so far as we accept Modernism as the determining framework, often by embracing a form of post-modernism that fails to engage. The third is to bow to pressure and be silent in the public square in order to not cause offense to fellow progressives who are of a more secular  bent. In all three cases we refuse to speak our truth before any form of power, all the while reveling in a far more specious "prophetic" ministry of meekly spinning our wheels. We need less of the resolutions at conventions and more of a dynamic claiming of our voice and stepping out in faith. 
We need to attack the Modernist reductionism of Fundamentalism, reject it's false teachings, and voice that it is not "conservative" Christianity at all, but a set of insidious heresies spewed out of fear and hate. We need to reject the false teachings of Objectivism and it blasphemous cousin the "Prosperity Gospel." We must reject and abjure easy power and comfortable social standing to be able to voice our truth. We must also be unashamed of our intellectual and spiritual heritage.  We must allow a Jesus who would recognize Himself to be seen in the world, or we have failed Him.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

An Excellent Sermon.

Over at haligweorc we find the excellent sermon on the Trinity preached at my former parish of St Marks, Highland by the ever capable Rev. Mrs. Haligweorc. Most specifically, she takes on the fashionable Modalism we find so often preached by the Cool Kids.

Do be aware, this is serious theology being presented by a masterful theologian in a parish setting. Don't expect a whole lot of  vague talk of "discipleship." This is about God, not us.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Communion With Out Baptism.

I've said before, and will say again, that this topic is a none starter for me. I find it to be as interesting to write about as an essay cataloging and detailing every type of ship, sail, weapon, armor, horse, saddle, food, utensil, medical supply and name of every participant down to the lowliest peasant involved in the Norman Invasion in 1066 (including the Viking landing that occurred earlier).  It's really an irritant for me, a bur under the saddle. However, the rate at which people keep writing about this, and keep so desperately missing the points made I kinda feel the need to say SOMETHING.

Rather than just blasting the three of you who read this (hi April) with my general feeling that TEC is ill served by not training it's clergy in Systematics, or for the clericalism that cuts real, deep theological learning out of the hands of the laity, I'll try and stick to the topic. As I note, this is a sight full of ruminations. As such I will have to try and focus my scattered thoughts for a bit on the topic and come back. What I will leave you with is a few links I think might be of interest.

Derek Olsen has weighed in here most recently on this.

Charles Wingate has done a good job summing up another argument here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cooties Redux

This is a semi-continuation of posts that start here and continued here.)

My thoughts upon the Covenant and its inherent Donatist double bind have been interrupted by the most recent maneuvers’ of the GAFCON crowd. Namely they have begun their own meandering side steps which will (probably) lead to an attack on the Covenant as being to lenient. They are doing so, at least in part, by demanding another Primates meeting with neither the Primates of TEC nor the Anglican Church of Canada invited. (Examples of this can be found here)
Now, one of the things about Donatism is the fear of infection by association. When several of the Primates refused to sit in the same room as the Primate of TEC or to receive communion with her, they proved their Donatism. Now, to cut off communication because of a perceived sin, and to threaten to widen that shunning, is to follow right down the road paved in North Africa before the Council of Nicea.

This, sisters and brothers, is the conundrum we face. The fearful, hateful, and scornful are demanding that “gracious restraint” be one way, and that they are free, due to the inherent holiness of their own persons. We must all bow to their (ever shifting) demands or else face banishment from the Table they foolishly think of as theirs. That +++Rowan will, no doubt, bow once again to these bullies will again cause the fractures begun in 1998 with the creation of the AMiA to widen. The GAFCON crew has already shown that they are not particularly willing to be in communion on any but their terms.

I was working on a longer post, but the actions of the heserarchs of GAFCON have neatly proven my point. In the end this dissolves into an argument about cooties and purity of some over others. I have no patience with this as a childes game, let alone as a theological argument.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Part Two: Old Sermons and Cooties

(A continuation from here)

I am aware that many of you are saying, “But that’s not what this is about!” We all “know” what the issue is. One of the problems though is that precipitous actions and reactions often have unforeseen and unintended after affects. That and my deeply suspicious nature when it comes to the motivations of many involved lead me to push upon this. I also lift up these little points to try and show that many of the cheerleaders for this dog and pony show called “the Windsor Process” may be inviting in more than they wanted.

Moving past the Melodramatic Transition let me get to the nut of this. The Covenant came about in the same manner as the Lambeth Conferences. To be exact, one Province has a Bishop that has caused people in other Provinces heartburn. Rather than Bishop Colenso going native, as it where, in Natal and acting as if the Africans he was teaching might have something to say or could even think, we have Bishop V. Gene Robinson of Vermont. The dirty little secret that most people don’t like to mention in the oh-so polite salons of Anglicanism is that the vaunted and much respected, venerable, almost sacrosanct Lambeth Conference was born of confusion over a Bishop who not only followed the prodding’s of his African students as to the mathematical probabilities of a literal reading of the Exodus, but who sided with them against the racism of the Colonial government of Natal and South Africa. A cursory glance at the newspapers of the day will show that the conference was called not only to deal with the doctrinal issues, but with the effrontery he presented to the Victorian worlds’ views of race. I drag this up to point out that we are not going about trying to save some institution that sprang Athena like from the brow of Christ. Rather, lying at the heart of one of the Instruments of Unity is a history of colonial and intellectual superiority. Anglicans may talk a good game about the radical historicity of the Faith, but we suffer from the collective Western amnesia, which makes things hard to keep in perspective. Remember folks what it is we are really talking about. We shouldn’t dissolve into paroxysms of despair, we should realize that crisis and distrust are a part of the process it seems and that it serves as the ground from which we grow a new thing, with Gods help. This was born over controversy about a Bishop, it seems that we will grow in a new direction because of controversy. Controversy in our ecclesial DNA, even more than some other branches of the Faith. It might even be fruitful to remember that the Nicene Creed came about out of controversy and dispute. So everybody take yourselves a good deep breath, pour yourself a cup of tea, or a glass of gin, or maybe even some fruit of the barley and we’ll move on.

Steaming past this digression into historical minutia, lets bring this back into the current we were in. The Articles of Religion, also called the XXXIX (that is 39 for those of you who lack the proper Classical Education to figure out that’s not a certification in the Motion Picture rating system) Articles, simply the Articles or “those things we read when the Sermon goes on to long” is my point of departure for a critique of the Anglican Covenant. Now in my last posting I gave a few examples as to why singing onto them is, at this point, tricky. I’ve got one more, before we get to the snapper of this issue.

XXXV, which I mention for almost recreational purposes at this point, is on pages 874 and 875 of the BCP (PECUSA, 1979).  The Second book of Homilies is a collection of sermons meant to help summarize the Christian Faith. They also were designed to fix the problem that +Richard Whatley would sum up almost two centuries later: “Anglican preaching aims at nothing and, generally, hits.”  These are almost precious little gems of rhetorical soporifics and “eat your peas” moralizing that suited a Queen who held preaching in low esteem. They come complete with footnotes that refer to the Greek text of the Bible and do make for fascinating reading, if you’re into that sort of thing. Being some one who is masochistic dedicated enough to wade into this stream of Tudor wisdom, I’ll try and give you the run down. These are not sermons to be set aside lightly. Or even tossed aside with great force. Rather they need to be evaluated carefully. And this careful evaluation needs to be done before we all blithely sign right up to abide by them. I also dare any clergy who read this to get up on a Sunday and read one of these to their congregation. Double points if you do number six. (The Homilies, unlike the Articles themselves, are allowed to be referred to in word form or Arabic numerals.) 

All of this has been simple ephemera, a mist of sarcasm in the face of them main event, as it were, to the inclusion the XXXIX Articles into the Covenant. The problem lies in the text of the Articles and the intent of the Covenant. They lie in open opposition to one another, and no amount of casuistry can make them agree. Article XXVI is a standard anti-Donatism, anti-Arminian, anti-Anabaptist statement. The Sixteenth century was swimming in theology born not of the longer tradition of Augustinian thought but rather of a hyper sensitive idea of holiness. This idea came, just as it did for Donatus and Pelagius from a fairly uncomplicated reading of the Holy Scriptures. Twisting them to feed the pride of those who had decided that they were on the “inside” as opposed to those outside. These were people who rejected Church history and much theology out of ignorance and pride of owning God’s word. They had the Bible, and didn’t need anything else. Into this mix came the most loathsome of all the early heresies: Donatism.

More on these sixteenth century perfectionists, and their twisting of the Gospel, later.

Why the Covenant is Fatally Flawed Part One

Let me at the outset state that I do not reject the concept of a Covenant per se. Quite the contrary, anything that is rooted in compromise, reaction and suspicion as the Communion is needs to have some sort of charter beyond the simple framework of documents such as the Quadrilateral, which was never intended to be anything more than a starting point for ecumenical conversations. The fact that it, along with the Apostles and Nicene Creeds are the only connective materials of weight becomes ever more distressing when one realizes that so many people really don’t know what they say. That there needs to be a clarification of purpose and direction is, in my opinion, unarguable. That the current document that sits as the “final form” of the Covenant is inadequate is as even less arguable a point.

Lets set aside the grammatical errors, the pedantic prose that reads like a power point presentation, and the bland language that is about as inspiring as an instructional manual for a standardized test. Also let us, for the time being, set to the other side the vagaries of Section Four. Rather, I would like to turn to the first section of this act of sophistry perpetrated by committee. In particular, I would like to submit for your perusal 1.1.2, which readeth thus:

(1.1.2) the catholic and apostolic faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation2. The historic formularies of the Church of England, forged in the context of the European Reformation and acknowledged and appropriated in various ways in the Anglican Communion, bear authentic witness to this faith.

The rub in this lies not with the text it’s self, but rather with the footnote that explains what “The historic formularies of the Church of England” are. For the purposes of the Covenant they are “The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.” This raises a significant set of conundrums. I would wager that most people would not really know what the Articles of Religion are, let alone that there were Thirty-nine of them. Precious fewer of them even know what they say. I include in that latter group a majority of the Clergy in most Anglican Churches. To be precise they are a collection of quasi-confessional statements laid out in their current form (more or less) in 1563, during the Reign of Queen Elizabeth I. They were not intended to completely define Anglicanism per se, but rather to serve as a description of the Church of England at that time and to serve as a seedbed for Elizabeth’s desire for a Reformed Catholic faith. As such, they refer to their time period almost exclusively, and to matters at hand in the second half of the sixteenth century. Eventually, they came to be appended to the Book of Common Prayer and eventually became the required “Test” for full membership into English civil society as members of the State Church. Arguments as to their meaning, depth and breadth have gone on for some time. Indeed it is one attempt at pushing the definitions to far, in the infamous Tract 90, that would lead John Henry Newman into swimming the Tiber and joining the Roman Communion.

At this point, I think it would be good to turn to the Articles themselves. It is a part of the oddity of these statements the convention of referring to them in their Roman numerals, rather than Arabic ones. While your humble author thinks this is an example of those uniquely Anglican traits of artful conceit and precious obscurantism, I shall endeavor to follow the form. Rather than trundle through the whole 39 XXXIX of them, I’ll turn to ones that in particular case me to pause. I will refer through out to the American version of the Articles found starting on page on page 867 of the 1979 Prayer Book, that being the authorized edition in The Episcopal Church. I say that because there is no complete agreement as to the currently binding text as several of the Constituent Churches of the Anglican Communion. For example, VIII Of the Creeds as adopted by the PECUSA in 1801 recognizes the Nicene and “that which is commonly called the Apostles Creed.” The 1571 version of VIII includes the Athanasian Creed. That is just one example of the differences that crop up between the Churches, and if we are to default to the 1571 text XXI, XXXVI, and XXXVII all put us in an uncomfortable position, as it were concerning “the Queens Majesty,” and her Parliament.

Moving right along, we come to the first not so abstract an issue but one that comes up. That is Article XXV. For the sake of bandwidth I will refrain from reproducing it. It occurs on page 872 of the ’79 Prayer Book. It opens with a clear numeration of the number of Sacraments. They are limited to the two Dominical Sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and Baptism. The other five commonly called Sacraments are labeled either “corrupt followings of the Apostles” (more than likely referring to Confirmation, Extreme Unction, and Penitence) or “states of life allowed in scripture” but not sacraments (Holy Orders and Matrimony). While I think there are few who would argue that Extreme Unction (i.e.: the reservation of anointing the sick until they were dieing) wasn’t a distortion of the injunction found in James 5:14, many Anglicans would balk at not referring to a full list of Seven Sacraments. Even a Reformed Catholic like myself will refer to the two Sacraments and the five Sacramental Acts, which can be seen as growing out of the Article, but not within the text of the Article, its self.  The third paragraph is the most difficult to parse out for our common practice in TEC today. To whit, the practices of Benediction, adoration and even the reservation of the Sacrament are all forbidden in this one little sentence. The devotional practice of many Anglicans is expressly squelched here. I can think of at least five parishes where Benediction and adoration occur regularly and one that is seriously considering it, as well as processions with the Sacrament and other extra liturgical devotions. This is to leave unmentioned the fact that I can’t think of a parish that has no reserved sacrament, at least for the sick.

The next issue is the Article that happens to be my favorite, if only for its colorful turn of phrase. XXII is entitled “Purgatory,” but touches on the topics of the invocation of Saints and Images and Relics. As I sit here I have an icon of St Jerome (or Hierome as he’s called in VI), little statuettes of Our Lady of Mt Carmel, and Therese of Lisieux, my rosary on my workspace and am acutely aware of the Crucifix upstairs and the icon of the Good Sheppard in the next room. Also, the third class relic of the Holy Mother Teresa of Avila stuck in my Breviary rushes to mind. We have prayers for the dead in the very prayer book that contains this. I say the Angelus every day, and sing the Salve Regina after Compline. I am in flagrant violation of this little paragraph. So are a great many people, most of whom would hesitate at the idea of being called “Anglo Catholics.”

More Later.