30 November 2006

Semper Reformanda

Today's Episcopal Church news added to the study I was already engaged in reminded me of Avery Cardinal Dulles limpidly clear piece of a few years ago in First Things, called "True and False Reform." Among his principles for trye reform was this:

5) A reform that is Catholic in spirit will seek to maintain communion with the whole body of the Church, and will avoid anything savoring of schism or factionalism. St. Paul speaks of anger, dissension, and party spirit as contrary to the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:20). To be Catholic is precisely to see oneself as part of a larger whole, to be inserted in the Church universal.

Here's the whole thing - a brief and very worthwhile read.

Lesson: Crack & Gators Just Don't Mix.

Dad sends along this harrowing report from the hometown paper:

Fifteen to 20 feet from shore and in chest-high water, the deputy spotted Apgar.

"When I first saw him he was crouched down and he said he felt another gator in the water,'' Osborne said.

At this point, Deputy Michael Parker waded through the water to get near the alligator, but it started to thrash around.

The deputies, who were just a couple of feet from Apgar and the alligator, said their first instinct was to shoot the large reptile.

"When it started thrashing, we couldn't get a good shot and the man was in the line of fire," Osborne said.

At one point, the alligator released its grip on Apgar but quickly grabbed him again, Parker said.

What followed was a life-and-death struggle between the deputies and the alligator with Apgar in the middle.

The two deputies latched on to Apgar's arms and were in a tug-of-war with the alligator.

"He was saying, 'He's gonna kill me!'" Parker said.

And then comes the kicker, from which I think we may all take a salutary life lesson:

Judd said Apgar told deputies he had been smoking crack cocaine and was nude when he was pulled from the lake.

Here's the whole thing. And hurray for those deputies.

A Long Way From Canterbury To Rome. . .

. . . and getting farther?
At National Review Online, Benedict XVI's trip to Turkey is occasion for Fr. Raymon de Souza to ponder the ecumenical state of affairs, mainly with regard to Orthodoxy (why the Pope is in Turkey to begin with), but here with regard to Anglicanism:

Ecumenism is not about friendly encounters only, as good as they might be. The biblical mandate for Christian unity stresses that unity is for a purpose. As Jesus prays in John 17: That they all may be one … so that the world may believe. Unity is a good in itself, but it is also intended to permit a compelling evangelical witness to the world. While ecumenism has progressed since Vatican II, the common witness has not kept pace.

On the Anglican front, the prospect of unity has disappeared precisely because it is not clear what the Anglican Communion believes. Archbishop Rowan Williams’s visit to Rome was marked by open speculation in Britain that the Anglican Communion will formally disintegrate at the 2008 Lambeth Conference. The proximate cause will be the debate over the morality of homosexual acts. Some argue that they are sinful; others that they are sacramental. This is an unbridgeable gap and it appears impossible for Canterbury to straddle it, try as he might.In any case, Benedict announced in Canterbury’s presence, obligatory formalities and niceties notwithstanding, that for all intents and purposes Catholic-Anglican ecumenical relations will soon come to an end:

"Recent developments, especially concerning the ordained ministry and certain moral teachings, have affected not only internal relations within the Anglican Communion but also relations between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church. We believe that these matters, which are presently under discussion within the Anglican Communion, are of vital importance to the preaching of the Gospel in its integrity, and that your current discussions will shape the future of our relations."

The future of those relations, should Anglicanism continue in its embrace of doctrinal novelties, will be one only of friendly encounters. The structures of dialogue will continue, but the prospect of communion will be gone. There will be no prospect of unity, as there is diminishing common belief that can be given witness to.


Of The Evidence Of Moral Transformation, or "No Duh."

As if on cue following the next item down comes this item. I don't know why this would surprize anyone, but whoever edits and writes the copy for Arts & Letters Daily (whence cometh the link) is plainly shocked (and notice too that the reviewer is so nonplussed he mistakes a sales inducing blurb for the actual subtitle). Turns out the God-fearing give more of their income to charity than do the godless, according to a newly published study:

In Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism [sic] (Basic Books), Arthur C. Brooks finds that religious conservatives are far more charitable than secular liberals, and that those who support the idea that government should redistribute income are among the least likely to dig into their own wallets to help others.

Some of his findings have been touched on elsewhere by other scholars, but Mr. Brooks, a professor of public administration at Syracuse University, breaks new ground in amassing information from 15 sets of data in a slim 184-page book (not including the appendix) that he proudly describes as "a polemic."

Here's the whole thing. Review includes this interesting map correlating presidential voting and charitable giving. Here's the author's website.

Of Moral Transformation.

Re-reading some P.D. James mysteries in the evenings lately (highly recommended for the Winter). A bit of dialogue from Original Sin between Commander Dalgliesh and Sister Agnes, a nun who is part of the investigation:
Sister Agnes: . . . De Witt is an example of a man who leads a good life without the help of religious belief. There are those who are apparently born with a deficiency of original sin. Goodness in them is hardly a merit.
Dalgliesh: Surely religious belief isn't necessary to a good life.
Sister Agnes: Perhaps not. Belief in religion may not influence behavior. The practice of religion surely should.

29 November 2006

Irrational Rationalists.

Maggie Gallagher reports on a recent gathering of scientists and their enlightened opinions of religion and the religious:

This original tension between Athens and Jerusalem (reason and faith) -- out of which much of Western civilization, but most especially America, was formed -- is still very much with us. Case in point: This month the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., held a forum on science and religion, which (according to The New York Times) "began to resemble the founding convention for a political party built on a single plank: In a world dangerously charged with ideology, science needs to take on an evangelical role, vying with religion as teller of the greatest story ever told." (See it at www.tsntv.org).

The scientists at this conference were almost all atheists or agnostics. They pose as strong men of Athens, but in the intense, lively, fascinating anger at religious influence, their clay feet keep peeping out: in the deep discontent some displayed with merely doing science as a rational activity, in their need to find a greater meaning and purpose, and in their strong human desire not only to proclaim the truth, but to suppress people and ideas that they feel threaten their founding truths.

On the one hand, Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of New York City's Hayden Planetarium, displayed heartbreaking pictures of deformed newborns to disabuse the audience of any idea that an intelligent, loving creator could be behind our existence. On the other hand, Carolyn Porco of Colorado's Space Science Institute displayed a photo of Saturn and its rings as evidence of the universe's grandeur: "Let's teach our children from a very young age about the story of the universe and its incredible richness and beauty. It is already so much more glorious and awesome -- even comforting -- than anything offered by any scripture or God concept I know." The fact that these are contradictory responses to nature seemed not to make a dent in the faith of those present that they are moved only by their profound commitment to reason.


Still More Christus Rex.

Apparently our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters are severely afflicted each feast of Christ the King by a particular, um, hymn - here rendered with interpretive dance by Steven Colbert. Much Catholic conversation and commiseration about same at Amy Welborn's blog.

More King of Kings.

On the subject of Christ the King, Anthony Esolen has reflections:

To say that Christ is King -- not duke, not earl, not prince -- has profound political implications, as Pius certainly saw. Most obviously, it limits what a state can legitimately do; and in that sense it frees a people from Nazis, Fascists, Bolsheviks, and intellectual elites. Because a man belongs first and last to Christ, the state may not legitimately abrogate those rights which are inalienable from the very being of a soul made by God and for God. The state may not murder; may not sterilize; may tax, but may not expropriate all the fruits of a man's labor; may not encroach upon the sanctuary of the family, unless to protect the life of the helpless; may not arrogate to itself the absolute right to determine how children shall be educated; may not, in essence, set itself up as a god, with its priesthood of elites, to be honored by the little ones without whose sweat there would be neither state nor elites. You don't have to be Christian to see these implications; Tom Paine, the deist teetering upon atheism, saw them and wrote about them in Common Sense. If Christ is King, then no man, not the dainty sot Louis XIV, nor the generally affable and articulate George III, can claim absolute authority.

It really is pretty simple; but human beings will always fall back into the same old errors, and the state, left to the ambitions of the elites who run it, will always tend to reassume its old place as object of cultic worship and unappealable authority. In the end, we lapse into worship of power: so in Egypt the Pharaoh -- Great House -- is a god, and the embodiment of the state. So the lugash in Babylon becomes a manifestation of Marduk, the tutelary god of the city, and is the embodiment of the state. So the Roman republic is a ceremonial shell after the reforms of Augustus, the First Citizen -- and he, not entirely against his will, is worshiped as a god, and becomes the embodiment of the state. In America too the process is underway. Not that we worship presidents as gods, though we do crave celebrity and honor it. But it may be telling that images of Liberty no longer appear on our coins; rather images of a few great men, a few good but overrated men, an insuffragette, and a faithful Indian guide with her baby.

Here's the whole thing.

King Of Kings.

Fr. Sanderson sends along, for my edification and yours, Fr. Clarke's fine Christus Rex sermon, from St. John 18.33-37:

Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.

In + nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.

They faced one another across the Judgment Hall, the Governor of the province and the Prisoner accused. Behind the Governor stood the cohorts and the legions with the centurions and the generals, an army which held in dominion the totality of the western world from the Rhine to the Sahara, from Hadrian’s Wall to the Temple Wall in Jeru-salem. Behind the Governor stood the Senate and the Roman people, and last but certainly first Tiberius Caesar himself, the greatest figure of the greatest empire since Alexander ruled the universe 300 years before. The empire itself was older even that that, tracing its civil and cultural lineage back 800 years, to the day when a she-wolf suckled the infant boys Romulus and Remus after their grandfather flung them into the Tiber River to ensure they would not challenge his power later. These kings knew how to protect their thrones. All this power, all this history, this fear and murder and blood and subjugation, all stood behind the Governor, and together they peered with furrowed brows and gritted teeth into the eyes of the Prisoner.

They faced one another across the Judgment Hall, this Prisoner accused by his country-men and the provincial Governor. Behind the Prisoner stood no one in particular –save perhaps a peasant woman and a youth, who would follow the Prisoner to the hill called Golgotha outside the city wall; but no one else: certainly not kings or emperors, neither legions nor generals, no one of any consequence whatever. Those standing behind the Governor all faced the Lonely Prisoner accusingly–yet oddly enough it was all the others staring at him whose brows were knitted in perplexity, for the Prisoner stood with confidence, the confidence of One who knows he stands clothed with the Truth.

“Are you a King?” demanded the Governor—demanding to hear from the Prisoner anything resembling a self-condemnatory YES, the final proof that the Prisoner was indeed guilty of sedition, treason, rabble-rousing, zealotry… oh, something, anything, to justify the sentence of death the Governor knew he must pronounce for fear of the mob, to protect his position.

Say it! Say anything resembling the YES I need so that I may satisfy the rabble you have stirred up, who now demand your execution. And why? What do I know of these crazy Jewish notions of imageless Temples and personal righteousness and blasphemous claims to divinity! Am I a Jew? I’ll leave the mumbo-jumbo for these back-water fanatics. Just give me the seditious YES I need.

“So you are a King?” The Prisoner continued to face the Governor across the Judgment Hall. His eyes did not drop, he did not shift from foot to foot. He returned the Governor’s gaze with the confidence of One who actually knows himself, and replied, “You say that I am a King. For this alone I was born and for this alone I have come into the world, to bear witness to the Truth. Everyone who is of the Truth hears my voice.”

It was then in the heat of the moment that the Governor’s mind ran out, that the Governor failed his countless supporters. “And what is truth?” he demanded—not remembering that you never ask a question unless you know the answer; not knowing that this question, when asked, answers itself; not realizing that with just that question the whole bloody imperial history of the world fell like so much dust and ashes into the scales—to be weighed, and found altogether lighter than vanity itself. For in that moment the Truth Himself unmasked all the world’s pretensions to greatness and power based on fear, murder, subjugation.

The big lies:
That might makes right,
That a majority vote is the voice of heaven,
That wealth or position or family offers immortal greatness.

The big lies:
That a State built on financial or military power, flying banners of science,
pluriformity, pro-choice, or what-have-you, may claim our total allegiance as if
that State were itself divine.

The big lies are revealed: as the King of Kings, the Truth Himself, stands in quiet humility before the RAGE OF HISTORY and says, “My kingdom is not of this world….” This King, with His motley crew of followers – a peasant woman, a youth, eleven reclaimed disciples, and those ten thousand times ten thousand who would follow him, offer the world a vision where MERCY, and not might, makes right. And all the empires, from suckling she-wolves to chopped-down cherry trees, find themselves so much dust and ashes, altogether lighter than vanity itself—as laughable as their proud, pathetic motto, “We have no King but Elvis.”

For Truth is the foundation of all heavenly dominion, Truth is the throne where sits the One Eternal King. Truth is He who reigned from a tree crowned with thorns bearing all the lust and hate of power-mongers, procurators, princes and presidents upon the nails driven through his wrists. Truth is He who died and was raised on the third day, saying, “My kingdom is not of this world,” he who says: Mercy, and not Might, makes right.

They face one another across the Judgment Hall yet, the Governor and the Accused, and their words are the same even in this hall today. “I have come in the world to bear witness to the Truth,” say the One. “What is truth?” asks the other. And the Judgment Hall is the human heart—yours and mine.

We are free to choose the Voice to which we shall listen.

In + nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.

Fr. Daniel Lee Clarke, ssc
curate, Church of the Holy Communion

28 November 2006

Pro-Life, Pro-Sex.

The latest issue of NOEL For Life's newsletter is available online in .pdf format. From the cover article by Alan Medinger, which is a brief explication of John Paul the Great's Theology of the Body:

Today, except for books on marriage, most (if not all) Christian resources dealing with sex and sexuality are written to address the problems of sexual sin in order to help people break free from them. In our ministry we are all too aware how pervasive these problems are, and so nearly every day we are recommending one or more of these excellent resources to those who struggle with sexual sin. But there is a danger here. For even when we are aiming to fix the problem, focusing in on sexual sin and struggles can easily take our eyes off the goodness of sexuality.

In contrast, imagine if you will, a Christian book dealing with sexuality that has little focus on adultery, homosexuality or masturbation. Now imagine a book like this based on the teaching of a man who never married and who quite likely never engaged in sexual intercourse. What I’m describing is the teaching of the late Pope John Paul II in his Theology of the Body. . .


There was a time in my life when through an odd concatenation of circumstances I, though myself certifiably and forever square, was friends with a number of thoroughly hip musicians. In those days, I spent nearly all of my net disposable income (not too dang much) on CD's. I read Mojo and No Depression as if they were the Daily Office. I read the record reviews in Rolling Stone in the store, though I am proud to say I rarely lowered myself to level of purchasing that magazine. Anyhow, I recently read through a batch of rock criticism for the first time in a long time and was amazed (in a bad way) at the insularity and, well, completely unaware scenester-ish-ness of it all. Imagine my gratification when I checked in to Books & Culture and found out I was right:

Let's impose a moratorium on rock critics. Now. A few months ago, I came across this line by critic David Dunlap, Jr.: "[The band] Windsor for the Derby has plenty of experience jumping subgenres … everything from slo-core to krautrock to electronica to its current flavor of Mancunian-tinged postrock."

Call me square, dismiss me as an oldster, but I think when you're referring to Mancunian-tinged postrock, it's time to hang it up. Pop music criticism has grown so insular, full of itself, hipper-than-thou, and, most important, aesthetically disjointed from the thing it claims to examine that we'd best start over—beginning with a rediscovery of the granddaddy of all modern rock critics, Lester Bangs. . .

Here's the whole thing. See, I'm still borderline hip.

27 November 2006

Raising Taxes Conservatively.

Warren Buffet did a little experiment, and Ben Stein makes sense:

Mr. Buffett compiled a data sheet of the men and women who work in his office. He had each of them make a fraction; the numerator was how much they paid in federal income tax and in payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, and the denominator was their taxable income. The people in his office were mostly secretaries and clerks, though not all.

It turned out that Mr. Buffett, with immense income from dividends and capital gains, paid far, far less as a fraction of his income than the secretaries or the clerks or anyone else in his office. Further, in conversation it came up that Mr. Buffett doesn’t use any tax planning at all. He just pays as the Internal Revenue Code requires. “How can this be fair?” he asked of how little he pays relative to his employees. “How can this be right?”

Even though I agreed with him, I warned that whenever someone tried to raise the issue, he or she was accused of fomenting class warfare.


No Prisoners.

Jordan Hylden has some thoughts on the new (putative) Presiding Bishop:

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

But those days, alas, are now gone. Our new presiding bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori, is by comparison a model of clarity, and within the span of a month has managed to offend a rather astonishing range of people, including Catholics, Mormons, individuals without a graduate degree, and mothers with children. Lord Carey, former archbishop of Canterbury, has said that conservatives ought to give her a chance, which is of course the charitable thing to do. But for those less inclined to charity, there is good reason to believe she intends nothing less than to run conservatives out of the church, finalize the split between the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, and set up an international communion of liberal Anglicanism as a rival to Canterbury. In short, from her recent actions and public statements, it is reasonable to infer that her term is likely to tear the Episcopal Church in two—and, what’s more, that that is precisely what she intends.


Of Spiritual Childhood.

Al Kimmel recently posted this excerpt from the writings of St Thérèse de Lisieux - so wonderful that rather than simply link to it, I'm reproducing it in full:

Even if I had performed all the deeds of St Paul, I would consider myself an UNPROFITABLE SERVANT. I would notice that my hands are empty. But that is precisely the cause of my joy: since I have nothing, I shall expect everything from the good God.

We must do everything we are obliged to do: give without reckoning, practice virtue whenever opportunity offers, constantly overcome ourselves, prove our love by all the little acts of tenderness and considerations we can muster.

In a word, we must produce all the good works that lie within our strength—out of love for God. But it is in truth indispensible to place our whole trust in Him who alone sanctifies our works and who can sanctify us without works, for He can raise up children to Abraham out of stones.

Yes, it is needful, when we have done everything we believe we have to do, to confess that we are unprofitable servants, at the same time hoping that God, out of grace, will give us everything that we need. This is the way of spiritual childhood.

Lord, I do not want to gather merit for heaven … in the evening of this life I will appear before You with empty hands. For I do not ask you, O Lord, in any way to count my good works. Rather, I will clothe myself with Your justice and receive from Your Love the eternal possession of Yourself.

Some resources (gathered from Wikipedia) for St. Therese:

Web site of the Pilgrimage Office at Lisieux
ICS Publications, source of the authoritative English translation of the writings of St. Therese
Official web site of the full-length feature film on the life of St. Thérèse of Lisieux
Poems of St Thérèse of Lisieux
Pope John Paul II's Divini Amoris Scientia in English
Catholic Encyclopedia article
Works by Thérèse de Lisieux at Project Gutenberg

Please pray for Al, who is to be ordained into the priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church this Sunday.


The World Wide Cloister.

Blogging poverty, obedience, and chastity:

SOME days she goes to classes on chastity and obedience. Other days are reserved for prayer and contemplation. Yet life is not all about spiritual devotion for one of the younger members of an intriguing new religious order — nuns who have taken to the internet to describe their convent lives, writes Tony Allen-Mills.

“Yesterday three of us went and played mini-golf. We had a blast,” writes Sarah, a 26-year-old Benedictine novice whose weblog, The Ear of Your Heart, discusses everything from the teachings of Jesus to cooking tofu stir-fry.

They have become known as the “sister bloggers”, a network of nuns around the world whose online diaries are providing insights into previously closeted lives.

With disarming enthusiasm and intriguing frankness, dozens of nuns of all ages are contributing to a revival of American interest in life behind convent walls.

“I’m wildly enthusiastic about our mission of putting communications technology at the service of the gospel,” declared Sister Anne, a Catholic nun in Chicago.


19 November 2006

A Chapel For Nothing.

The vigilence of the secularist busy bodies is unceasing and utterly impervious to common sense or aesthetic perception:

"The decision late last month by the new president of the College of William & Mary to remove the 100-year old Wren Cross from the college’s 274-year-old school chapel in order to make it “more welcoming” has abruptly brought the nation’s second oldest university to a dramatic crossroads. If this decision, at what has been one of the world’s leading liberal arts universities, ultimately stands, it will signal a dramatic weakening in the intellectual standing of a once proud college and will have corrosive effects for the wider culture. . ."


18 November 2006

Canterbury & Rome.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on his upcoming visit with Benedict XVI:

From another angle, if the Pope asked you why you persisted in remaining an Anglican, what would you say to him?
I’d say that I don’t believe the essential theological structure of the Church is pyramidal: that it has one absolute touchstone embodied in a single office. I’m certainly prepared to believe that there’s a role for the Petrine ministry of conciliation, interpretation, and mediation in the Church. I don’t see that as an executive centre; so I’d start from what would historically be called a conciliarist position. And the thing that always held me back from becoming a Roman Catholic at the points when I thought about it is that I can’t quite swallow papal infallibility. I have visions of saying to Pope Benedict: “I don’t believe you’re infallible” — I hope it doesn’t come to that. [Laughs] That’s how I’d answer, I think: that I’m wary of loading too much on to an individual office.

That’s why you’re not a Roman Catholic. Why are you an Anglican?
I’m an Anglican because this is — it’s what I learnt in Sunday school, really — this is the Church Catholic in this place, gathered around the word and the sacrament, exercising a canonically continuous, recognisable form of the threefold ministry, structurally slotting in with how Catholic Christianity works.

If you were starting from scratch, do you think the Anglican model works better than the Roman one?
Pwff! — by what imaginable standards would you answer that, I wonder? I don’t know, but the argument I’d give, I think, is not unrelated to what Vincent Donovan says in his book Christianity Rediscovered, responding to mission in East Africa, where he says, in a sense, you’ve got to let Churches grow out of their local setting, discover the need for recognisability, and build outwards from that. He describes the process by which some of his converts in East Africa almost invented the idea of Catholic ministry for themselves, the idea that if this is the kind of community that we are, if this is what the eucharist means, then we need that to be recognisable, and we need to know that, when we travel, it’s the same Church that we belong to, gradually accumulating like that. I think that’s a bit more Anglican than someone saying, “We’ll decide from the centre what the shape will be.”


17 November 2006

Thanksgiving In New Orleans.

New Orlean's Church of the Annunciation is to be featured in a Thanksgiving Day t.v. program to be called "An American Thanksgiving." Here's Fr. Kramer's note; program airing information towards the end.

17 November 2006 AD

Dear All,

Below are some details on an upcoming Thanksgiving Day T.V. programme featuring the trailer park church here in New Orleans (we don't have a working television and don't know what the CW Network is!). While millions are lined up around the country this morning for their Play Station 3 games, we have a line around the block waiting on food, clothes and cleaning supplies. And unlike the Play Station lines, there is no violence or fussiness here. Our people are generally gracious and most grateful. We're in particularly desperate need for coats and cold weather clothing, children and adults, all sizes.

The reality is that we're going to be slammed for help from Thanksgiving through the Christmas Holiday Season with people trying to return home and make a go of it here. I believe America is the greatest country on earth. But our greatness depends on rescuing and rebuilding a great American city and helping get American citizens back on their feet. We are struggling mightily and the reality is that, for the most part, it's the faith based groups that haven't forgotten or turned their backs on us.

Roughly 150,000 people (homeowners) would qualify for the Road Home programme (government monies to help get us back in our homes); 75,000 or so applications have been received to-date and 22 checks cut thus far. Keep in mind the vast, vast majority of these folks (like my family) have never asked or needed the government for anything.

We're partnering up with the Church of All Souls in the Lower 9th Ward for Thankgiving worship and dinner. They had fifty in attendance last Sunday while still worshiping in the garage of a house that went completely under water. We're presently working on finding a lot for them in the 9th where we can plop down a double-wide for their church and office. Pray we find an available, workable lot.

So watch us on t.v. and please keep us in your prayers. We remember you daily. Blessings from South Louisiana,

jerry+ op et al.

The Rev'd Jerry and Stacy Kramer
Free Church of the Annunciation
New Orleans, LA USA

----- Dear Fr. Jerry,

Hope all is well with you and the congregation. Your newsletters have kept me in the loop as to the goings on, and things seem to be moving ever forward.

The Thanksgiving show is ready to air next week, and your segment turned out wonderfully. We couldn't have done it without the support of you and the entire gang. It was an amazing shoot, and the integrity and heart of Annunciation really shines through into the show. Powerful imagery and a powerful message.

"An American Thanksgiving with Bryant Gumbel" will air on Thanksgiving Day from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm on the CW Network. According to our website, that's WOOL-TV 38 in New Orleans, but you'll want to check you local listings just to make sure.


Of course, I'll send you DVD copies of the show after it airs.

And I also wanted to let you know that I have a longer version of your segment (a nearly 12 minute "producer's cut") that I made before time-related edits were imposed upon me, and I'll send copies of that version as well. I don't quite know how much time was shaved off of the final broadcast segment (they were still tweaking last I checked), but it's somewhere around 8 minutes.

I hope everyone enjoys the show.
Happy Thanksgiving (again)!


Via email from the Anglican Communion Network.

From Fr. Fishwick.

Received today via email:

November 2006


Christ Episcopal Church,Charlottesville,VA

One of the great mythologies floating around the Church today is that "doctrinedivides and service unites." The idea here is that if we can't agree about doctrine thenat least we can get on with the mission of the church. At first glance this notionsounds appealing. Aren't we all tired of the theological arguments dominating the lifeof the church today? Can't we just all get along? Doctrine, especially in the hands ofsome of its most ardent supporters is often used as a club to beat down conversationand even dissent on important theological matters. Even the traditional wordorthodoxy has become, in some quarters, to be seen as a code word for a narrow,shrill and defensive stance of what turns out to be social conservatism. As FlemingRutledge says, " in a culture that prizes what is iconoclastic and transgressive, orthodoxy has come to sound constricted and unimaginative at best, oppressive andtyrannical at worst."

But there is a difference between the perception of right doctrine (orthodoxy) and itsindispensable role in the life of the Church. The Historic Creeds and Confessions ofthe Church are gifts of the Holy Spirit. Therefore our affirmation of these giftsshould always be expressed within the context of generosity as God himself isgenerous and self-giving. Christian doctrine needs to be seen as the foundation of adynamic courageous intellectual life on the frontiers of 21st century challenges. Without basic affirmations we are dangerously unequipped. As Rutledge says onceagain, "when the Biblical and creedal bedrock of the historic faith becomes optional, it is fatal for the Church, for she loses her distinctive theological character."

Several weeks ago my wife and daughter attended Grace Cathedral in San Francisco,one of the premier Episcopal Churches in America. As they prepared to worship they saw this mission statement right in the front of their worship booklet: "We believe in one God, known to us in Jesus Christ, also known by different names in different traditions. We seek to challenge and transform the world, beginning with ourselves, and to celebrate the image of God in every person. All who seek God and are drawn to Christ are welcome at God's table." What sounds so inviting and hospitable isreally terribly cruel because that statement denies the uniqueness of Christ as theSavior of the world, and negates the crucial importance of Holy Baptism as theoutward and visible sign of what it means to be a member of the body of Christ, theChurch.

"Doctrine divides, and service unites" is exactly the wrong way around. We see this everyday in the life of the church. When busy people are working at cross-purposesargument and discouragement are always the fruit. Only the Word can hold ustogether, and teach us to see our different tasks coherently as facets in the many-angled ministry of Christ's people. Ultimately our service is about God- a God whospeaks. For centuries Scripture and the historic Creeds and the confessions of theChurch have been a light unto our path, to know that we have not been abandonedto our own devices. "The Sheep hear his voice and the sheep follow him." (John10:3f) This voice is a true and trustworthy guide for us as we seek here at Christ Church to be God's people and His witnesses in the 21st century.


Jeffrey Fishwick


Christ Episcopal Church, Charlottesville,VA


16 November 2006

Of The Theocrat Menace.

In the New York Times (of all places), Books & Culture editor John Wilson exposes the loopiness and general ignorance of those who hammer out Warning! for fear of evangelical "theocrats":

" . . . Many years ago, when I was teaching English at a large state university, I sat through part of a faculty debate on the problem posed by evangelical groups who were “proselytizing.” These professors, you understand, were fully committed to free speech — they’d swear to it, so help me Mario Savio — but they were concerned about the vulnerability of impressionable young minds to the seductive wiles of Campus Crusade for Christ, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and other such evangelical organizations.

I left while the hand-wringing was still in progress and walked across the campus, passing a row of tables. One displayed books published by Progress Press, including works by Lenin and some classics of Socialist Realism. The books were dingy, as if they had been sitting outside for a long time, but I was tempted by Viktor Shklovsky’s study of Tolstoy. The fellow who took my money — studious, by the look of him, and with hair almost as long as mine — wanted me, improbably enough, to become a Communist.

The university was a marketplace of ideas. Wherever I turned, someone was trying to persuade me to do something. A young woman in a fetching tank top wanted me to join the army of the credit-card indebted. (I had already enlisted and re-upped, foolishly, at great eventual cost before I was discharged.) A couple of beefy guys wanted me to drink beer and do whatever else fraternity guys do. But some ideas are more threatening than others. So the evangelicals were a problem.

Evidently we still are. But such is life in a pluralistic nation. Even as book after book sounds the alarm about the evangelical menace — coming in January, Chris Hedges’ “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America” — conservative evangelical activists are sending out fund-raising letters portraying themselves as a beleaguered remnant. The reality, as usual, is considerably messier."

Here's the whole thing. Cited some time ago, but Ross Douthat has already accomplished a complete dimantling of the paranoid stylings of the theocracy alarmists.

Of Moral Authority.

First Things' Jody Bottum had to go to the doctor, which became the unsought occasion for some worthwhile moral reflection, but also this too true observation:

Not to worry: There’s nothing wrong with me except some aches and pains and lingering colds, all caused by general lack of “taking care of yourself,” as one doctor kindly explained. Actually, she said, “You are in as bad a shape as a body can possibly be and not actually be very sick. There are these things called exercise, sleep, and regular meals. You ought to try them sometime.”

Turns out that coffee and cigarettes are not completely reliable substitutes. Good to know, I suppose. But that physicians’ tone of moral authority—oh, how it grates, and, oh, how it works. Even dentists have it, the voice that speaks from certain knowledge of right and wrong in your personal behavior: “Do you floss after every meal?” There isn’t priest or pastor left in America who would dare assume that stern, judgmental tone.

Of course, Episcopalian clergy, being priests of a church with no "core doctrine," are explicitly in this predicament; there is only individual preference, no transcendent moral order, no certain (as in revealed) knowledge of right and wrong.

15 November 2006

Secession. (Updated)

The historic (and large and vibrant) Falls Church is seceding from the Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church; the rector, Fr. John Yates, writes to the congregation:

To the family of The Falls Church

November 14, 2006

Dear Friends,

I want to inform you of the Vestry decision last night. First let me say how much I appreciated the attitude and tone of mutual love and respect that everyone demonstrated at the parish meeting Sunday afternoon. We all know these are terribly hard decisions, and you showed the love of Christ to one another in our time together. Your thoughtful, wise, and serious comments were very helpful to me and to the vestry in being able to come to a decision last night.

The decision of the vestry, as we met last night, was to recommend to the congregation that The Falls Church disaffiliate with The Episcopal Church and affiliate with the Anglican District of Virginia, an association of Virginia churches who are joining together to realign traditional Anglicans in Virginia. The district is part of CANA (the Convocation of Anglicans in North America), a branch of the Anglican Communion within the Church of Nigeria that has The Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns as its Bishop. The vote was 15 aye, 2 nay, and 1 abstention.

The Vestry and I will be providing you with as much information as we can about the Anglican District of Virginia and CANA in the next few weeks. We will have two congregational informational meetings to explain and discuss these matters, as well as to go over the resolution and ballot, which we expect to use in the congregation-wide vote on this matter. . ."

Update: Likewise goeth Truro Church. TitusOneNine has many more updates and interesting and sometimes helpful comments (!?).

14 November 2006

First, We Kill The Ethicists.

Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart has a low-ish opinion of the ethicists' guild and all its pomps:

" . . . there is good cause to suspect, from a purely utilitarian vantage, that academic ethicists—especially those like Fletcher, who are notoriously mediocre thinkers, possessed of small culture, no discernible speculative gifts, no records of substantive philosophical achievement, and execrable prose styles—constitute perhaps the single most useless element in society. If reproduction is not a right but a social function, should any woman be allowed to bring such men into the world? And should those men be permitted, in their turn, to sire offspring?
Actually, he's just making a point (a good and undeniable one) about the intrinsically vicious and malevolent nature of eugenic thinking:

. . . If I were asked to decide what qualities to suppress or encourage in the human species, I might first attempt to discover if there is such a thing as a genetic predisposition to moral idiocy and then, if there is, to eliminate it; then there would be no more Joseph Fletchers (or Peter Singers, or Linus Paulings, or James Rachels), and I might think all is well. But, of course, the very idea is a contradiction in terms. Decisions regarding who should or should not live can, by definition, be made only by those who believe such decisions should be made; and therein lies the horror that nothing can ever exorcise from the ideology behind human bioengineering. . ."
Here's the whole thing. It's from a two member New Atlantis symposium on John Paul II's "Theology of the Body." The other contribution is from Robert Jenson.

13 November 2006

Reforming The Reform.

As a grateful alumnus of one of the few remaining, I was glad to come across this good news:

"The government's long war against single-sex schooling ended Tuesday, when the Department of Education published rules that will make it easier for public educators to offer girls-only and boys-only schools or classes without running afoul of Title IX. That section of the 1972 Education Act barred sex discrimination in all education programs and activities that receive federal funding. While it most famously kicked doors open for female college athletes, it also compelled men-only public universities to admit women.

More recently, however, Title IX has been used to bludgeon elementary- and secondary-school educators who are trying to improve learning opportunities for girls, as well as boys. Inspired by evidence that some children learn better in sex-specific classrooms, more than 240 public and charter schools around the country have begun offering single-sex education (although not all provide it for every course). Most significantly, the typical student is from a low-income, minority family. Parents compete fiercely, often by lottery, for the chance to give their kids the kind of learning environment that wealthier parents regularly pay for at all those single-sex private schools. . ."

Here's the whole thing.

10 November 2006


"In a recent article for The Wall Street Journal's Masterpiece column, Adam Nicolson, the author of "God's Secretaries," marveled that the King James Bible is "is the richest, most passionate . . . of all works of English prose." It is "full of grandeur and a vivid, heart-gripping immediacy" yet, as he noted, it was composed in the 17th century by a committee of roughly 50 men.

An exception that proves the rule, perhaps. Group projects, as any middle-school social-studies teacher can tell you, rarely produce inspiring results. But if you think writing by committee is hard, try drawing by one. That's what Donald Jackson, the former official scribe for Britain's Queen Elizabeth, signed up for when he agreed to create the first handwritten English Bible in 500 years.

As Mr. Jackson tells it, he approached the Benedictine monks of Saint John's University in central Minnesota in 1995 with the idea of writing and illustrating the Gospels to celebrate the 2000th anniversary of Christ's birth. Two years later, the monks agreed to an even larger project, commissioning Mr. Jackson to handwrite and illustrate the whole Old and New Testaments at a cost of $4.5 million (underwritten by profits from the sale of printed versions of the handwritten Bible and by the generosity of donors ranging from a Boy Scout troop to the Target Corporation). The project would require that Mr. Jackson collaborate with a team of several calligraphers, to whom he would teach a script that he had developed just for this purpose. And a commission of monks would have to approve each of the 160 illustrations. . . "

Here's the whole thing. And here's the St John's Bible site.
Via Fr. Freddy.

09 November 2006


Tuesday's GOP drubbing has raised the profile of one local congresswoman:

Marsha Blackburn, just elected to her second term as representative to the House of Representatives from Tennessee’s seventh district, has established herself as an up-and-coming conservative in Congress. As House Republicans face minority rule in the 109th Congress, Blackburn is throwing her hat in the leadership-contest ring. Late Wednesday, Blackburn answered some quick questions from NRO Editor Kathryn Lopez about new life in the election, life in the minority, and her role in the new Congress.

Kathryn Jean Lopez: What went wrong Tuesday for Republicans?

Representative Blackburn: The ultimate problem was that Americans believed — fairly or not — that Republicans had become more about power than principle. We have to get back to the basics and remind people what it is we stand for and why our philosophy is the better one for America. Democrats didn’t so much beat us as they stood quietly by while we suffered from self-inflicted wounds. The answer to our ailment is a disciplined and aggressive communications strategy built around our party’s core principles. We can’t afford to be out-communicated the way we’ve been the past year.

Here's the whole thing.

07 November 2006

7 Principles For Giving.*

"See that you excel in this grace of giving."
--1 Corinthians 8.7

1. The Source of all blessings.
Because “the world and its fullness” belong to the Lord (Psalm 50.12), our regular giving to the Parish is rightly called stewardship, not fundraising or even philanthropy. As we say together in the offertory sentence: “All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee.” The things that we have, the material blessings that are ours, are just that – blessings. Even the money we earn by the sweat of our brow, we have ultimately by God’s grace – he gave us the talents, the good health, the opportunities, and the will with which we do our work. So all that we have is from God.

2. Stewards, not owners.
If all that we have is from God, then we are stewards and not owners. The difference is crucial. Owners have ultimate control and the full right to dispose of their possessions as they see fit. But stewards have responsibilities. Stewards have a duty to use the things they have been given in accordance with the Giver’s wishes. We are especially considering money here, but this truth applies equally to our time, our talents, our property, our influence – all the gifts that we have. We hold all these things in trust, and we must remember that one day we must give an account for all that we have done with what God has entrusted to us (Hebrews 4.13).

3. A blessing, not a burden.
This trust ought not to be a burden for Christians. In fact, when rightly understood, the “duty” of stewardship reveals itself to be but one more of God’s blessings. Every serious Christian will admit that money is often a real problem and a constant occasion of sin. This is not surprising; after all, the Scriptures tell us “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6.10). The best way to free ourselves of money’s power over us is to take the decisive step of persistent, intentional generosity. Giving money away frees us to trust in God and thus to store up real treasure in Heaven, “where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6.19). This is really a basic question of faith. Do we believe what God has said? Are we willing to commit to it? Not only does proper stewardship liberate us from the love of money, in a very tangible way it incorporates us into God’s work in reconciling the world to himself. This is one of the great privileges of the Church, that in the ministry of the Gospel, we become “God’s fellow workers” (1 Corinthians 3.9).

4. Gratitude, not guilt.
Though through proper stewardship we do, in a sense, accrue blessings to ourselves; that is not the best reason to be generous. The best, and finally the only, reason to give is because God has given so much to us. Stewardship is one of the God-ordained means of gratitude. In the Eucharistic prayer we render thanks to God “for that thou, of thy tender mercy, didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the cross for our redemption.” We give out of gratitude to the God who gave himself for us, and in doing so gave us all things. Do you believe this? If not, it might be best not to give, for God loves a cheerful giver, and, after all, he does not need our money. Dangerous words in a stewardship campaign? Perhaps so, but more dangerous still to give grudgingly or bitterly. But, “behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called the sons of God” (1 John. 3.1). God has loved us lavishly, and the more deeply we understand this, the more our giving will be marked by gratitude and love.

5. The tithe.
The Biblical guideline for our stewardship is the tithe – 10% of one’s income (Leviticus 27.30). This is not an easy thing to do; that’s largely the point. If you are not in the habit of tithing to the church, you might consider a program of proportional giving that will allow you and your family to move toward the tithe. Simply calculate the percentage of your income given in 2006, and increase that amount by a couple of percentage points in 2007, gradually moving your giving closer to the tithe.

6. Pledging.
Your pledge should be considered prayerfully. Pledge cards are not irrevocable contracts written in stone and signed in blood. They provide you with an opportunity to make a decisive commitment to generosity, and they provide the Treasurer with a tool for predicting the Parish’s income for the coming year. Our practice is not to set a budget including all the things we would like to do, and then to try to raise money to fund our plans, but to calculate how much income the Parish can expect to receive through pledges, and then to budget accordingly as faithful stewards of the resources God entrusts to us through your giving. Your pledges are confidential and may be altered at any time by contacting the treasurer.

7. Study and pray.
You should be clear in your own mind that these principles of stewardship are not clever means for keeping the lights on and the priest decently clothed. Stewardship is at the same time an avenue of and response to the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Our giving is also an essential part of the Biblical worship of God. To “excel in the grace of giving” (1 Corinthians 8.7) is what God requires of us, which means that he intends to bless us in it. Some passages of Scripture you might look at are: 1 Timothy 6.17-19; Malachi 3.8-12; Psalm 50.8-12; and 2 Corinthians 8.1-9; 15.58-16.4. You also might like to use the following prayer in your devotions:

“O merciful Creator, your hand is open wide to satisfy the needs of every living creature: Make us always thankful for your loving providence; and grant that we, remembering the account that we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of your good gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

*I cobbled this together some years ago with, I'm sure, a variety of sources and sermons in mind, which I've now forgotten; I'm sure none of these thoughts is original, just their expression.

A Hospital For Sinners.

Frederica Mathewes-Green offers salutary reflections on the Ted Haggard scandal:

". . . So it is a mistake to present Christianity the way some churches do, as if it is the haven of seamlessly well-adjusted, proper people. That results in a desperate artificial sheen. It results in treating worship as a consumer product, which must deliver better intellectual or emotional gratification than the competition. And that sends suffering people home again, still lonely, in their separate metal capsules.

What all humans have in common is our pathos. Getting honest about that binds us together. And then we begin to see how the mercy of God is pouring down on all of us all the time, just as the Good Samaritan bound the wounds of the beaten man with healing oil. May God give this healing mercy to Ted and Gayle, and to their children. May God reveal his healing mercy to Michael Jones, who told the truth. May God have mercy on all of us. "


06 November 2006

Church, Steeple . . . People?

From the Christian Century:

" . . . Though Episcopalians are not known for evangelistic endeavors, the church had offset its death rate and defections with an influx of Catholics and other churchgoers, the formation of new churches and the rising popular interest in spiritual matters. In 2002 the church lost only 8,200 members overall.

“In fact we were actually doing better than most other mainline denominations in the 1990s through 2002, with a few years of growth,” Hadaway told the Century. “So it is a precipitous drop in losing 36,000 in both 2003 and 2004, and now 42,000 in 2005.”

Half of the losses stemmed from parish conflicts over the 2003 Episcopal General Convention’s approval of the election of an openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, according to Hadaway. . ."

Here's the whole thing.

Animal House: The Memoir.

Chris Miller has written The Real Animal House; reviewed by Christopher Buckley in the the New York Times:

Has it really been almost 30 years since “Animal House” came out? We grow old. The movie, on the other hand, hasn’t aged a bit. “Double secret probation,” “See if you can guess what I am now? I’m a zit! Get it?” and “To-ga, to-ga!” are classic, time-defying, laugh-out-loud moments encased in celluloid amber. I’ve watched the movie with my father, now 80, and my son, who is 14; both were on the floor gasping for breath.

Comes now Chris Miller, Dartmouth Class of ’63, who wrote the screenplay along with Harold Ramis and Douglas Kenney, to give us, as his subtitle puts it, “the awesomely depraved saga” of Alpha Delta Phi, the fraternity whose bacchanals and outrages provided the inspiration for the movie, along with Ramis’s and Kenney’s own experiences of Greek life. (Not to be confused with Plato or Pythagoras.) Miller calls this book, on its cover, “a mostly lucid memoir.” It’s unclear whether “lucid” is a typographical error. Miller may well have meant “lurid.”

His book is sophomoric, disgusting, tasteless, vile, misogynist, chauvinist, debased and at times so unspeakably revolting that any person of decent sensibility would hurl it into the nearest Dumpster. I couldn’t put it down. I make this self-indicting admission with all due trepidation, but there it is. For better or worse, this an utterly hilarious book.

Here's the whole thing.

04 November 2006


Lots of activities at the parish today, and so lots of questions about the investiture of the new putative Presiding Bishop. I would say that these vestments pretty much tell the story.
Update: GetReligion ponders those vestments and related matters, and even connects the media dots between Gene Robinson and Ted Haggard.

Sermon Illustration.

Country songwriter ("They Don't Make Jews Like Jesus Anymore"), mystery novel author, and now candidate for governor of Texas Kinky Freidman to David Letterman on last night's Late Show:

"May the god of your choice bless you."


03 November 2006

Identity Or Soul?

Naomi Schaeffer Riley today on Opinion Journal's "Taste" page:

"Earlier this week, the protesters at Gallaudet University got their way. After months of blocking off campus entries and occupying administration buildings, students and faculty at the school for the deaf in Washington, D.C., convinced the board of trustees that the university's provost, Jane K. Fernandes, should not be its next president.

Different protesters have different agendas, but there are many who seem to think that Ms. Fernandes is not qualified to lead the school because, they say, she is an "audist," someone who believes that the ways of hearing people are superior to those of the deaf. Ms. Fernandes, who is deaf, has not expressed these sentiments, but she did not learn sign language until she was in her 20s and she does seem to think that growing up in a hearing family and being taught in mainstream classrooms have their advantages.

A lot of groups in recent years--feminists, gays and lesbians, a variety of ethnic minorities, not to mentioned the disabled--have appropriated the language of the 1960s to describe their struggles. The students at Gallaudet have gone further, adopting the rhetoric and behavior of the more radical elements in the civil-rights movement. Like the black-power activists before them, the deaf are supposed to be an oppressed minority. And Ms. Fernandes is a sort of "Uncle Tom" figure who denies her own identity for the sake of pleasing the oppressor, that is, the hearing world. She has been accused of not being "deaf enough" the way certain blacks are not "black enough."
If this sounds slightly absurd, well, it is.

. . .

Religious folks talk about a person's soul, something intangible and permanent that makes people worthy of compassion whatever their condition or the choices they have made. The language of the Founders--referring to Creator-endowed "inalienable rights"--was, in that sense, soulful. The civil-rights protesters of the 1960s only wanted the rights bestowed by God to be recognized, finally, by man. In other words, they were appealing to a standard that was already there.

But now that intellectual relativism requires us to talk about "identities" not souls, the protesters have to discover other reasons they should be respected--like the supposed authenticity of "deaf culture." If they think the civil-rights struggles were tough, they may find the battle against common sense to be downright impossible."

Here's the whole thing.

01 November 2006

Jesus - One Experience Of The Ultimate Among Many?

Katherine Jefferts-Schori was interviewed by Robert Young on NPR this morning. CaNN provides a transcript:

RY: TIME asked you an interesting question, we thought, “Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven?” And your answer, equally interesting, you said “We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.” And I read that and I said “What are you: a Unitarian?!?” [laughs]

What are you– that is another concern for people, because, they say Scripture says that Jesus says he was The Light and The Way and the only way to God the Father.

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

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

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

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

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

In other words, yes, she's a unitarian.

Here's the whole transcription, and here's the NPR audio.