31 July 2006

My Aching Back.

Looking for a way to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the assasination of President Garfield? Me, too. Here's just the thing:

WASHINGTON — Three vertebrae, removed from the body of President James A. Garfield, sit on a stretch of blue satin. A red plastic probe running through them marks the path of his assassin’s bullet, fired on July 2, 1881.

The vertebrae form the centerpiece of a new exhibit, commemorating the 125th anniversary of Garfield’s assassination. The exhibit also features photographs and other images that tell the story of the shooting and its aftermath, in which Garfield lingered on his deathbed for 80 days. Located at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, on the campus of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the exhibit opened on July 2 and will close, 80 days later, on Sept. 19.

Since this is, you know, a family blog, I couldn't excerpt the best piece - so read the whole thing.

Planning & Trusting.

From Bishop Duncan's address to the Anglican Communion Network Council:

"...It has been very hard indeed to speak of some “plan,” except in retrospect about “God’s plan.” The central reason for this is that we are part of a system, the Anglican Communion, whose reins we do not hold. We have done our part, initiating and responding as the Lord has led, but ours in just a part, a portion, of the story and the cast. This is very hard for us to admit, and even harder for us to accept. Our preference is for a “microwave church,” nearly instant results, on our terms, at the moment we desire. Let’s face it: It is the culture of the micro-wave that has gotten ECUSA into the troubles that have beset her, and we, too, have embraced that culture. The Bible is filled with stories of people who wanted God to act now to deliver, and to deliver on their terms. One of Scripture’s main messages is that God can be trusted for the results in His time and on His terms. A very big piece of the reformation of behavior that is being asked of us is in this matter of impatience and need for control. We dare only risk “plans” from the framework of trust and of repentance, or God will find it better to keep us in the wilderness or the exile, as He did with His people so long ago…and has done with the faith-less in every generation.

Having said this, I can risk talking about plans for the days ahead..."


28 July 2006

Summer's Grace, Summer's Burden.

‘IN THE GOOD OL’ SUMMERTIME…’ All my life I have loved the summertime. I like hot, hot weather. I like long days with plenty of after supper daylight for additional outdoor fun. I like to swim. I like summer camp. I like not going to school, but I do like summer reading. I like watermelon. I like the 4th of July. I like thunderstorms. I like lightening bugs. All in all, I am extremely Pro-Summer. One other great thing about summer is that most of us will shed an item or two from our normal ‘school year’ agenda. The pace of things tends to ease up a bit, and this general ratcheting down of the normal whirl of activity allows, or potentially allows, some time for reflection and appreciation. Daydreaming is no vice in the summertime. If one is careful to look for and preserve it, there is in summer the luxury of space for unhurried, uninterrupted thinking about questions big and small: Shall I slice up this perfect tomato for a sandwich or just eat it right now like an apple? Or, what is my obligation in the current crisis in Iraq? Of course thinking, in and of itself, is an idle activity and liable to turn into self-indulgence. As G.K. Chesterton said, the object of opening one’s mind, as of opening one's mouth, is to close it again on something solid. Really, thoughts, even excellent, noble thoughts, must at some point become actions. Which then imposes something of a burden on summer. We really ought to do something with it.

About 2,600 years ago, the prophet Jeremiah wept for unrepentant Judah, saying, ‘The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved’ (Jer 8.20). Judah’s failure was preeminently a failure of thinking – specifically a failure to remember. The people, God’s chosen and redeemed people, had failed to keep in the forefront of their minds just that – that they were God’s chosen and redeemed people. Through Jeremiah, God declared, ‘I had planted you like a choice vine of a sound and reliable stock. How then did you turn against me into a corrupt, wild vine (2.21)? And then the question is answered: ‘Does a maiden forget her jewelry, a bride her wedding ornaments? Yet my people have forgotten me, days without number’ (2.32).

What will we do with this summer’s burden of time? God grant that we will do some thinking, some remembering. Of all those thoughts we have time to indulge this summer, none is so important, so solid, (in the summer and always) as is God’s great mercy to us in Jesus Christ. We gather each Sunday to do just this, hearing God’s words of mercy and grace, and coming in gratitude to the heavenly meal, ‘in remembrance’ of him whose yoke is easy, and whose burden in light (Mt 11.30). And, having remembered, and having been fed with spiritual food, the time comes for action. We ‘go in peace, to love and serve the Lord.’


*From the June 2004 St. Joseph of Arimathea newsletter.

27 July 2006

The Mission Field Next Door.

n the Presbyterian Church in which I spent my teen years, there was often a little sheet inserted into the Sunday service bulletins that offered bits of news related to Christian missions. I remember very clearly reading one Sunday morning (though surely not during the sermon!) that the Catholic Church considered France a mission field. Not being terribly well informed about modern European culture, I found this news shocking. France, after all, was the land of Notre Dame and Chartres, the Avignon papacy and, well…Christendom. I guess I knew a little more about medieval Europe than modern. (Those interested in the political and social – and especially demographic – consequences of Europe’s advancing secularism should read George Weigel’s The Cube and the Cathedral.)

When we think about missions and missionaries (if we think of them at all), we tend to think of intrepid men and women carrying the gospel to remote parts of the earth where the Church has never been established. However, while it is certainly true that there are far distant places where the Gospel has not yet taken root, or where there is an ancient but small Christian community now persecuted and nearly overwhelmed by Islam, it is also most certainly true that we live smack dab in the middle of the mission field. The question of whether America is or ever was a “Christian nation” is debatable and much debated. There had been, of course, a strong moral consensus heavily informed by the Judeo-Christian tradition. But it should be abundantly clear that no matter how we understand our history, that consensus has now faded.

Don’t worry – this isn’t meant to be one of those doom-and-gloom, America is going to hell-in-a-hand-basket jeremiads. This is simply to say that on every side we find people who desperately need to learn of the grace of God freely given in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. You know the old story of the commander informed by his troops that they were surrounded by the enemy: “Excellent!” replied the commander, “We can attack in any direction.” That is our situation, and that is our call in the time and place in which God in his providence has positioned us. Except, of course, that we are not “attacking” our “enemies.” No, we are loving our neighbors – offering ourselves in love and service, working to make our community a better, happier place, and sharing the Good News that in and through the Church of Jesus Christ, God is reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor 5.18,19). And there is not the slightest sense of superiority in this. How could there be? “All have sinned,” St. Paul reminds us, “and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3.23). And we all know too much the reality of that “fallen short-ness” in our own lives. No, as we often say around here, the work of evangelism is simply “one beggar telling another beggar where there is bread.”

The church I attended while a student in St. Louis had posted above the building’s main exit a sign which read, “You are now entering the mission field.” Amen. Our Lord who called us to himself also sends us in his Name to call others: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt 28.19,20). As it happens, “all nations” are right across the backyard fence, next to us at the coffee shop, sharing in our businesses, going to school with our children. Does speaking to someone about the hope that is within, even simply inviting a new acquaintance to church seem a daunting thing? Remember that it is precisely here, as we reach out in his Name, that our Lord promises his blessed Presence.

*This article is from the August issue of the St. Joseph of Arimathea parish newsletter.

Sitting Down Safely.

Very funny from P.J. O'Rourke:

"...I was out on the patio the other day wondering (as writers of conservative opinion pieces constantly do) what's wrong with America. I noticed a tag affixed to my collapsible canvas deck chair, and my wondering ceased. What's wrong with America was printed on the tag:

--Do not attempt to lift the front end of the chair while sitting down on it.

Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that chair manufacturers feel compelled to tell Americans this. You'd flip over and whack your head on the concrete. Yet millions of Americans must sit themselves down, spread their knees, grasp their seats, and give themselves a tremendous backwards yank..."


26 July 2006

Good Movie.

Really enjoyed this movie. It's not quite Spellbound, but it's pretty good, with its fair share of much-stranger-than-fiction characters. Also, I enjoyed sitting in theatre with pasty white folks who drive old Volvos and believe everything they read in the New York Times. There was an audible affirmative "Mmmmm" when Will Shortz said he worked for the "two best news agencies in the world - NPR and the New York Times," recognizable to anyone who has ever prayed with evangelicals.
(Fine. I'm pasty white but drive a Toyota and think the editorial board of the Times should be prosecuted for treason.)

Truth: Making It Up As We Go?

Today on the Weekly Standard's site:

For those who are shocked by the crack-up of the Episcopal Church, let me explain: The answer was on a T-shirt I saw last month while traveling to the Presbyterian Church USA General Assembly in Birmingham and the Episcopal Church General Convention in Columbus. It read, "I'm Making It Up As I Go."


Both denominational meetings were characterized by division, polarization, and discord as conservatives and liberals attempted to discern and approve God's will on issues ranging from divestment from companies doing business with Israel to gay clergy to the doctrine of the Trinity ("Mother, Child, and Womb"?). As left and right argued their cases, the real issue emerged. It is not the opposing opinions on assorted overtures and resolutions that divide left and right; it is the underlying understanding of truth, and how we know it.

The left--also known as progressives, liberals, revisionists, and (in some circles) heretics--base their convictions on individualism, subjectivity, and majority vote with passing references to Scripture and creeds. The right--also known as traditionalists, conservatives, evangelicals, and orthodox (not necessarily said as a compliment)--insist on submission to the authority of the Bible and of historic confessions, regardless of contemporary preferences. It is this division that makes the conflict between the two sides so rancorous. Compromise on issues is possible. Compromise on the fundamental questions of truth and authority is not.


25 July 2006

Shark Attack.

Happened across this video of a hammerhead shark taking a hooked tarpon on YouTube today. This is a regular thing around Boca Grande on Florida's gulf coast. There are a few common vulgarities (and understandably so).

Voice Of A Martyr.

Father Christian de Cherge, martyred 24 May 1996 Islamic terrorists in Algeria:
"...If it should happen one day–and it could be today–that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready to encompass all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would like my community, my Church, my family, to remember that my life was given to God and to this country. I ask them to accept that the One Master of all life was not a stranger to this brutal departure. I ask them to pray for me: for how could I be found worthy of such an offering? I ask them to be able to associate such a death with the many other deaths that were just as violent, but forgotten through indifference and anonymity.
My life has no more value than any other. Nor any less value. In any case, it has not the innocence of childhood. I have lived long enough to know that I share in the evil which seems, alas, to prevail in the world, even in that which would strike me blindly. I should like, when the time comes, to have a clear space which would allow me to beg forgiveness of God and of all my fellow human beings, and at the same time to forgive with all my heart the one who would strike me down..."
Here's the whole thing. Via First Things.
See also this piece in the New York Times.

24 July 2006


Nashville is undergoing an upsurge in gang-related violence. A headline from today's Nashville Tennessean:


21 July 2006

Fr. Sanderson Speaks.

Wise words from Fr. Dow Sanderson, rector of the Church of the Holy Communion in Charleston and president of the Diocese of South Carolina standing committee.

...On the 28th of June, I wrote, and the Standing Committee affirmed, a statement for the Diocese of South Carolina asking for Alternative Primatial oversight from the Archbishop of Canterbury. From the moment this statement was made public, I have been receiving innumerable letters, e-mails, phone messages etc. that exhibited considerable want of charity. Some have been peppered with profanity of the nastiest sort. I have been accused of “betraying” my ordination vows, and, by appealing to “a crown-appointed, un-elected member of the House of Lords”, as being downright un-American!

Most of these insults I have received with a grain of salt. But some of the letters to the editor that we read in our daily paper have served the purpose of further driving wedges by those who have their own agendas. That is to say, we have been ridiculed as being closed minded, intolerant, bigoted, etc. etc. For the record, our statement begins by rejecting bigotry. Homophobia is a sin. Categorical cruelty, verbal abuse and the like are always sinful. I have friends as well as family who are gay people. Clearly I love and care for them. They are welcome in our lives, in our homes, and in our churches, as are all other fellow-sinners. But loving and including are not the equivalent of blessing and ordaining. So when people write letters that accuse us of intolerance, they are simply using what the Archbishop of Canterbury calls the rhetoric of inclusion as a tool to ridicule anyone who holds to the traditional Christian perspective. It really is ludicrous if followed to its logical conclusion. Was Mother Teresa a bigot? Pope John Paul a shameless homophobe? Of course not! But the shrill voice of condemnation for anyone who dares embrace a traditional view of Christianity would have us think otherwise...

Please read the whole thing. Via TitusOneNine.

Of Elijah And Iron.

James Kushiner offers a serendipitous reflection on Elijah:

...Elijah's assumption into heaven in a fiery chariot, writes Nes in her book of icons, "may be understood as a prefiguration of Christ's ascension." And the story of Elijah itself is bracketed in fire, with the fire from the Lord descending on Mount Carmel and the fire of the chariot ascending with Elijah into heaven. The fire itself is often associated with transforming power of God, even with His very being: "Our God is a consuming fire."

However, unlike the devouring devil who consumes man, the consuming fire of God is positive, even as it burns away all sin and dross. Nes writes:

"St. John of Damascus compares the saints with red-hot iron. Iron that is made red-hot by fire is still iron, but unlike iron that has become cold, it can be moulded. The saints do not lose their identities as individuals by striving to become one with God."

For the saint, it is choice to say yes to the Lord, and a resounding no to the other gods that entice us away from our true identities in God. It's one of the lessons of Elijah, man of God and prophet in whose steps walked John the Baptist, who also preached of fire even as he prepared the way for Christ, the One who baptizes with fire and spoke of casting fire upon the earth...


20 July 2006

Bring Out Your (Almost) Dead!

Several interesting things up today on Opinion Journal's "Taste Page," among which is "How Faith Saved the Atheist":
. . . "Dr. Death" was just one of several. A new resident appeared the next day, this one a bit more diplomatic but again urging us to allow my father to "die with dignity." And the next day came yet another, who opened with the words, "We're getting mixed messages from your family," before I shut him up. I've written extensively about practice of bioethics--which, for the most part, I do not find especially ethical--but never did I dream that our moral compass had gone this far askew. My father, 85, was heading ineluctably toward death. Though unconscious, his brain, as far as anyone could tell, had not been touched by either the cancer or the blood clot. He was not in a "persistent vegetative state" (itself a phrase subject to broad interpretation), that magic point at which family members are required to pull the plug--or risk the accusation that they are right-wing Christians.
I complained about all the death-with-dignity pressure to my father's doctor, an Orthodox Jew, who said that his religion forbids the termination of care but that he would be perfectly willing to "look the other way" if we wanted my father to die. We didn't. Then a light bulb went off in my head. We could devise a strategy to fend off the death-happy residents: We would tell them we were Orthodox Jews.
My little ruse worked. During the few days after I announced this faux fact, it was as though an invisible fence had been drawn around my mother, my sister and me. No one dared mutter that hateful phrase "death with dignity."
Though my father was born to an Orthodox Jewish family, he is an avowed atheist who long ago had rejected his parents' ways. As I sat in the ICU, blips on the various screens the only proof that my father was alive, the irony struck me: My father, who had long ago rejected Orthodox Judaism, was now under its protection.
As though to confirm this, there came a series of miracles. Just a week after he was rushed to ICU, my father was pronounced well enough to be moved out of the unit into North Shore's long-term respiratory care unit. A day later he was off the respirator, able to breathe on his own. He still mostly slept, but then he began to awaken for minutes at a time, at first groggy, but soon he was as alert (and funny) as ever. A day later, we walked in to find him sitting upright in a chair, reading the New York Times...

19 July 2006

Tennessee and "APO."

The following was emailed today to all the congregations of the Diocese of Tennessee:
July 11, 2006

Dear Friends,

The Bishop and the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Tennessee have received several requests and suggestions that they consider asking for Alternative Primatial Oversight of the Diocese of Tennessee. The Bishop and the Standing Committee take these requests seriously and receive input from and listen to all concerns that are voiced within the diocese.

At their meeting on July 11, 2006, the Committee and the Bishop discussed at length the present situation in the church, the requests they had received and possible actions to be taken. The reality is that the Bishop and the Standing Committee have no authority to request Alternative Primatial Oversight. Only the Annual Convention could initiate such a request.

There are a host of unknown factors related to Alternative Primatial Oversight. Neither we nor those dioceses who are proposing such an action know what that would look like, how it would work and what the effect would be on a diocese. The Archbishop of Canterbury apparently does not know what it means. He said of requests by U.S. Dioceses for direct primatial oversight from outside the U.S., “This raises very large questions indeed; various consultations are going forward to clarify what is being asked and to reflect on possible implications.” To pursue such a course does not seem wise or prudent with the upcoming Episcopal Election. To do so could jeopardize receiving consents from other bishops of jurisdiction and Standing Committees.

The Bishop and the Standing Committee will continue to be in dialogue about the critical issues that face us in this diocese as we work to find ways to empower and strengthen our mission.

Thank you for your concern for our church.

The Right Reverend Bertram Nelson Herlong, D.D.
Bishop of Tennessee

The Rev. Gene Wise
President, Standing Committee

I know of one of those parishes making a request for "APO" (and it's not St. Joseph of Arimathea), but not the others. Attempting to place myself in a disinterested mode and so expressing no opinion as to whether "APO" would or would not be a good thing for the Diocese of Tennessee, at some point one wonders just exactly what the Standing Committee can do. After all, apparently other Standing Committees can make such an appeal.

18 July 2006

Reading Scripture With Windsor.

Provoked by a meeting with rancorous clergy (i.e., me), Richard Kew returns to the Windsor Report and offers helpful reflections:
"Windsor envisages us reading the Scriptures in communion with one another, for in paragraph 62 it states that since the Spirit inspires Scripture, the Bible ought to be the means of unity and not division. "In fact, our shared reading of scripture across boundaries of culture, region and tradition ought to be the central feature of our common life, guiding us together into an approriately rich and diverse unity by leading us forward from entrenched positions into fresh appreciation of the riches of the gospel as articulated in the scriptures."
What, in fact, Windsor is saying is that now that we are a genuinely global community of believers, and able to be in close communication with one another, there is no excuse for us to hide behind our own cultural barriers and preferences when it comes to the manner in which we handle the Word of God. While I am absolutely certain that those in the Global South bring their own slant to the manner in which they use Scripture, so are we in the West..."

Read the whole thing. I would add that while reading Scripture, as Windsor and Richard note, is a task of the whole community, it is vital to remember that that community is properly called the Communion of Saints, and it stretches not just around the world, but through time (and into eternity). This being the case, it then follows that a communal reading is necessarily to some degree a "pre- (not 'anti-') critical" reading. We (those of us who happen to be walking around) are the bearers of an authoritative Tradition - which, as Jaroslav Pelikan famously noted, is "the living faith of the dead, not the dead faith of the living". The Bible is the Church's book before it is the academy's. Rusty Reno makes the point in his preface to the new (and highly recommended)
Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible:
"Is doctrine, then, not a moldering scrim of antique prejudice obscuring the Bible, but instead a clarifying agent, an enduring tradition of theological judgments that amplifies the living voice of Scripture? And what of the scholarly dispassion advocated by Jowett? Is a noncommitted reading, an interpretation unprejudiced, the way toward objectivity, or does it simply invite the languid intellectual apathy that stands aside to make room for the false truism and easy answers of the age?
This series of biblical commentaries was born out of the conviction that dogma clarifies rather than obscures..."

17 July 2006

I Am Not An Animal!

Amy Sutherland offers notes towards a well-trained husband:

"Then something magical happened. For a book I was writing about a school for exotic animal trainers, I started commuting from Maine to California, where I spent my days watching students do the seemingly impossible: teaching hyenas to pirouette on command, cougars to offer their paws for a nail clipping, and baboons to skateboard.

I listened, rapt, as professional trainers explained how they taught dolphins to flip and elephants to paint. Eventually it hit me that the same techniques might work on that stubborn but lovable species, the American husband...

Once I started thinking this way, I couldn't stop. At the school in California, I'd be scribbling notes on how to walk an emu or have a wolf accept you as a pack member, but I'd be thinking, "I can't wait to try this on Scott."


Eat Your Heart Out, Clapton.

A virtuoso ukelele performance. But, as Jody Bottum ponders, why?

Children's Literature, R.I.P.?

I suspect (and pray) news of this death is somewhat exaggerated, but this sort of thing is disturbing:

"Parents have always fretted about what to read to their children, and experts have always been ready with advice. In their educational writings, John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau together mentioned only three books worthy of a child's mind. Locke recommended Aesop's Fables and Reynard the Fox, while in Emile the tutor Jean Jacques offered his charge only Robinson Crusoe. How times have changed. The new 2,471-page, lap-crushing Norton Anthology of Children's Literature includes several hundred entries, both old and new. But far from representing an efflorescence in childhood literature, this volume marks the genre's sad end.

The editors of the anthology acknowledge in passing their debt to Locke and Rousseau—who in a sense created our modern understanding of childhood, permanently influencing all subsequent children's literature. The editors, however, wish to promote a revolution of their own: a new, more candid, and frankly, more nihilistic corpus. Despite heralding children's literature as "life-enhancing" and "life-changing," the Norton editors aim in fact to dampen children's enchantment with the world, forcing them to acquiesce to the grim realities and multicultural obsessions of contemporary adults...

As the editors declare in the preface, "In our choice of texts and in our introductions, we have paid close attention to…perceptions of race, class, and gender, among other topics, in shaping children's literature and childhood itself." Practically every text and every author (save for the "emergent") is subjected to a wicked scolding from the editors for its racism, sexism, and elitism. Forget about ogres, witches, monsters, and evil stepmoms; today's villains are gender stereotypes, white males, the middle class, and the traditional family. Retrograde literature must therefore be replaced by a new one, one that is, as it were, beyond good and evil: "In our postmodern age, in which absolute judgments of 'good' and 'evil' are no longer easily made, the distinction between heroes and villains is often blurred."

This puts me in mind of Eric Metaxes' review of "Shrek":
"The old fairytales aver the opposite; that what everyone knows in his heart to be true is true, that there are such things as goodness and beauty and truth — and even though they are hidden, a time will come when they no longer are hidden, when the truth will be revealed, when dragons will be slain and bewitched captives will be set free forever. Till such stories are told again, I won't choose between schmaltzy focus-group-tested niceties and sophomoric joke-strewn subversion. I'll rent old videos and wait."

16 July 2006

Wouldn't It Be Nice?

Wouldn't it be refreshing if news reports about the Episcopal Church sounded more like this? From today's local paper:

More than 2,000 people from across the country are expected to convene in
Nashville today for a national gathering of Greek Orthodox clergy and church

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America convenes every two years to worship as a national body and discuss church finances and other issues…

At the same time, he said, "we have many new members who have been attracted to Orthodoxy in the past decade." The number of new converts baptized — most not of Greek heritage — has increased about 12% or 13% each year, he said.

Unlike other similar national gatherings of Christian denominations that have grabbed headlines this summer — Episcopalians, Southern Baptists and Presbyterians, for example — the Greek Orthodox Church's 2006 Clergy Laity Congress will include no heated debates over thorny social issues such as gay marriage and women in leadership positions.

There are no women clergy and no plans to recognize or perform same-sex weddings. And unlike those denominations, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America is not grappling with stalled membership growth or declining numbers of clergy members.

While the church is always in need of new priests, there has not been any decline in the number of clergy members, also because of a large number of converts to the faith, the archbishop said. About 20% of the church's priests and seminary students are converts to the faith, he said.


15 July 2006

Compendium Commended.

The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is now available online - take advantage of this wonderful resource!

422. What is justification?
1987-1995, 2017-2020
Justification is the most excellent work of God's love. It is the merciful and freely-given act of God which takes away our sins and makes us just and holy in our whole being. It is brought about by means of the grace of the Holy Spirit which has been merited for us by the passion of Christ and is given to us in Baptism. Justification is the beginning of the free response of man, that is, faith in Christ and of cooperation with the grace of the Holy Spirit.
423. What is the grace that justifies?
2005, 2021
That grace is the gratuitous gift that God gives us to make us participants in his trinitarian life and able to act by his love. It is called habitual, sanctifying or deifying grace because it sanctifies and divinizes us. It is supernatural because it depends entirely on God’s gratuitous initiative and surpasses the abilities of the intellect and the powers of human beings. It therefore escapes our experience.

Thanks to Pontifications for the tip.

14 July 2006

Is The Anglican Communion Worth The Bother?

Two friends engage the question.
Fr. Chris Findley, Vicar of St. Francis' Mission in Goodlettesville, TN offers "What is the Anglican Communion? Why Does it Matter?":
Some have said that we don’t have to go through Canterbury to get to Jesus. That is indeed a true statement. The Anglican Communion is not an essential part of the Christian faith. But I think it is an immensely beneficial one –a privilege I share as an Anglican / Episcopal priest. Other people have disdainfully remarked to me that, “The Bishops of Anglican Communion should just leave us alone. Who cares what they say?”
That’s an incredibly arrogant statement. I hope we care. They are our brothers and sisters. Maybe the Holy Spirit wants to speak through them. In any case, before we throw off the shackles of the Communion we should remember a point made a half century ago by Archbishop Michael Ramsey, “There is no Christian community mentioned in the New Testament which has not behind it some authority responsible to a larger whole.” (Ramsey, 46)
Fr. John Parker, formerly an Episcopal priest in South Carolina and now an Orthodox priest, responds with "What is Communion and Why Does it Matter?":
Now more than ever, with the advent of high-speed transportation and higher-speed communication, Anglicanism—more specifically the ‘faithful remnant’ of ECUSA might consider asking a new question. Instead of “How do we fight for our rightful place in the Anglican Communion?” rather, “Why constantly defend our connection to England, and instead find our way back into communion with the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church?” Communion is not first and foremost a group of people with a common episkopos (or now episkopisa). Rather, communion is the reception together of the Holy Body and Precious Blood of our Lord and God, and Savior, Jesus Christ—the sign of our commonly shared fullness of faith (not four pieces, but the whole thing). This communion is the sign of unity, and NOT the maker of it.

Be sure to read the whole things.

13 July 2006

First Folio For Sale.

I'm a sucker for used book shops, but...

"The most important book in English literature was sold earlier today at Sotheby's for £2,808,000. The successful bid for a copy of Shakespeare's First Folio of plays was made by Simon Finch, a London book dealer based in Mayfair..."

That's over 5 million clams. Here's the whole thing.

...Created Them Male And Female.

Common sense from Slate.com, of all places:

"...But what if these gay-marriage bans were not animated by anti-gay bigotry? What if they represent a deeper-seated anxiety about gender and gender roles? What if popular aversion to gay marriage has less to do with hating same-sex couples than with a deep psychological attachment to a powerful symbol of sex difference: the tulle-covered bride and the top-hat-and-tails groom?

No one clearly admits this, perhaps because most people aren't sufficiently self-aware to name their deep anxieties—if they were, psychotherapists would be out of work. But you can hear the longing for secure gender identity in some of the comments of same-sex-marriage opponents. After San Francisco's same-sex marriage experiment, one observer in a red county nearby complained: "God made marriage for Adam and Eve; not Adam and Steve." It's telling that this objection to same-sex marriage doesn't rely on moral condemnation of same-sex couples but instead on the most primordial account of natural sex difference.

Of course, some opponents of same-sex marriage are just anti-gay. But to dismiss all opposition to gay marriage as pure bigotry is to miss an important point. The key to evaluating the real stakes here is to think of gay rights in terms of two major categories: gay marriage and everything else. Because for gay rights other than marriage, the news isn't nearly so dire...

How to reconcile the growing support for equal rights for gay Americans with the seemingly hardening opposition to gay marriage? It certainly suggests that homophobia is only part of the explanation for the widespread resistance to same-sex marriage. A lot of the resistance is less about sexual orientation than about sex difference. In other words, it's not about the difference between gay and straight; it's about the difference between male and female. By this logic, conventional marriage doesn't exclude gay couples from a special status reserved for straights; it excludes women from a special status reserved for men—that of husband—and excludes men from a status reserved for women—that of wife.

Does this sound purely semantic? It's not..."


Of Contradictions.

From a middling review by George Marsden of Debby Applegate's The Most Famous Man in America, a biography of Henry Ward Beecher:

"As an antislavery advocate, Beecher was in on the ground floor of the founding of the Republican Party and did not hesitate to campaign for its candidates from the pulpit. He also pointed up the cruelty of slavery, for his parishioners and other Northerners, by holding mock slave auctions in his massive church--and using the affairs to raise money to buy the freedom of young female slaves who would otherwise be sold into virtual prostitution. Though Beecher was not the most radical of antislavery leaders, he was one of the most effective. Aspiring politicians such as Abraham Lincoln sought him out and welcomed his aid.

In "The Most Famous Man in America," Debby Applegate does not skimp in presenting the considerable evidence of Beecher's moral failings. In her telling, it is the story of someone from a rather austere background who yields to the temptations that accompany wealth and adulation.

Beecher became the confidant of several wives of his wealthy parishioners, and already by the early 1860s rumors circulated that he might have moved beyond the bounds of pastoral counseling. The relationships had intense spiritual dimensions, and he may have persuaded the women that physical consummation was justified by a higher spirituality that transcended legalism. In one case, Ms. Applegate suspects that Beecher was the father of a neighbor's daughter, a child with whom he always maintained an especially affectionate, grandfatherly connection..."


11 July 2006

Re Zidane.

Do we have any sports writers who can do this? Would we want them to?

"Here is a man of providence, a savior, who was sought out, like Achilles in his tent of grudge and rage, because he was believed to be the only one who could avert his countrymen's fated decline. Better yet, he's a super-Achilles who--unlike Homer's--did not wait for an Agamemnon (in the guise of coach Raymond Domenech) to come begging him to re-enlist; rather, he decided himself, spontaneously, after having "heard" a voice calling him, to come back from his Spanish exile and--putting his luminous armor back on, and flanked by his faithful Myrmidons (Makelele, Vieira, Thuram)--reverse the new Achaeans' ill fortune and allow them to successfully pull together.

And then this valiant knight who is a hair's breadth from victory and just minutes from the end of a historic match (and of a career that will carry him into the Pantheon of stadium-gods after Pelé, Platini and Maradona); this giant who, like the Titans of the ancient world, has known Glory, then Exile, then Return and Redemption; this redeemer, this blue angel dressed in white, who had only the very last steps to scale to enter Olympus for good, commits a crazy incomprehensible act that amounts to disqualification from the soccer ritual--the final image of him that will go down in history and, in lieu of apotheosis, will cast him into hell..."

Here's the whole thing, translated from the French original.

Bishops & The Bomb.

C of E bishops weigh in on Britain's defense budget:

"Nineteen bishops have joined the row over the replacement of Britain's nuclear weapons by warning the Prime Minister that the possession of Trident is "evil" and "profoundly anti-God".

In a letter published in The Independent today, the bishops give weight to the growing opposition among Labour MPs to the plan to approve the Trident replacement by the end of the year..."

Here's the whole thing. It is certainly true that "mutually assured destruction" is an inherently immoral policy (all the more reason, in a dangerous world, to support research & development of a "strategic defense initiative" or other missile shield.) Odd to me, though, that the good bishops' letter apparently makes no objection to these weapons on the obvious "Just War" - ius in bello grounds: the use of these weapons precludes discrimination between combatants and non-combatants (this may not be the case with "tactical nuclear weapons").

An A.C.I. Assessment.

From the Anglican Communion Institute:

"ACI expresses its gratitude to God for the recent statements of Archbishop Rowan and views them as pivotal, charitable, and hopeful. The work is there ahead of us. Many will seek to frame a covenant on terms satisfactory to them, and the larger forces of conciliarity will need then to go to work. In the meantime, we have been given a clear statement that the resolutions of General Convention were incomplete at best and await the adjudication of Communion Instruments. ACI has already noted the difficulty for conciliarity posed by the election of a Presiding Bishop whose public views and actions in respect of human sexuality are at odds with Communion teaching.

This should explain in part why requests are now forthcoming for something being called ‘alternative primatial oversight’..."


Mass Music.

Here's some horrible reporting, as of course the Pope hasn't "demanded" anything - but still, one more reason to love Benedict XVI:

"The Pope has demanded an end to electric guitars and modern music in church and a return to traditional choirs.
The Catholic Church has been experimenting with new ways of holding Mass to try to attract more people. The recital of Mass set to guitars has grown in popularity in Italy; in Spain it has been set to flamenco music; and in the United States the Electric Prunes produced a "psychedelic" album called Mass in F Minor.
However, the use of guitars and tambourines has irritated the Pope, who loves classical music. "It is possible to modernise holy music," the Pope said, at a concert conducted by Domenico Bartolucci the director of music at the Sistine Chapel. "But it should not happen outside the traditional path of Gregorian chants or sacred polyphonic choral music..."

Here's the whole thing, such as it is.

10 July 2006

"Faith v. Reason"or "Brights v. Dims"?

Princeton University professor of jurisprudence Robert P. George on what he has characterized as "the clash of orthodoxies" in American culture:

Why do you call it that?
It's a clash of two faiths. The folks on the elite side of the divide often try to depict this as a clash between religious believers—people who, they suppose, do not honor reason as having a role in moral decision making—and "reasonable people," that is, people like themselves who allegedly act purely on the basis of reason and do not rely on or appeal to faith. But I think the reality is that in the elite sector of the culture, people hold the views they do as a matter of faith every bit as much, perhaps even more, than do people in the broader culture.

For example?
The belief that autonomy is such a high value that it trumps the sanctity of human life. For example, secularist elites widely believe that we ought to create human embryos by cloning or other means to be destroyed in biomedical research. Implicit in that belief is the proposition that the human embryo is either not a human being or not a human being with value. Now, the belief that the human embryo is something other than a human being in the earliest stages of his or her development flies in the face of reason. It can only be defended by appeal to some sort of faith that allegedly justifies ignoring the established facts of science. Of course, there are people who acknowledge that human embryos are human beings, but maintain that not all human beings are "persons." Human beings at early developmental stages—embryos, fetuses, and even infants—are not yet persons and can, therefore, rightly be killed to benefit others.

When these arguments are advanced by people like Princeton University philosopher Peter Singer, they lead to such radical conclusions as the endorsement of infanticide on a massive scale to produce transplantable organs. Singer is logically consistent. He is true to his faith. But most liberals are not willing to go there and haven't seen (or refuse to face up to) the implications of their view.

In most cases, support for the destruction of human life by abortion or for embryonic research is not carefully researched. Such views are held as a matter of faith. They're the convictions of "our kind of people," the convictions of people who consider themselves to be sophisticated and bright.

Daniel Dennett, a philosopher, even has a name for people who share the secularist orthodoxy. He calls them, and he includes himself in this, the Brights. And the implication of that is the others are the Dumbs or the Stupids.

The Dims.
That's a better word, the Dims.

Here's the whole thing. This interview is part of the Christian Vision Project, exploring how Christianity can be a "Counterculture for the Common Good" - warmly recommended.

10 Questions For KJS.

The Presiding Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church answers some questions for Time. Some of her responses certainly trend toward disturbing (i.e. re uniqueness of Christ), and one is classic head-in-the-sand Episco-babble (re Archbishop Williams' post-GC reflection), but mainly they are too short to make much of. Nonetheless, analysis and comments at TitusOneNine ensue.

Mais Pourqois!?

Le head-butt heard 'round the world.

The Face That Launched A Thousand Sonatas.

That's Mozart's widow Constanze, 49 years post-Mozart, on the left (click image to enlarge).
Here's the story of the just-discovered photograph.

Philip Rieff, R.I.P.

Fr. Neuhaus comments on the death of sociologist Philip Rieff, author of the invaluable Triumph of the Therapeutic, which goes so far to explain American intellectual culture (and the culture of the Episcopal Church and the training of its priests). Rieff also posed some serious questions for reflection by more traditional Christians, as Neuhaus notes:

"...Rieff, a Jew, believed that Christianity supplied the best bet for a sustainable culture, but that’s all gone now. In a 2005 interview with the Chronicles of Higher Education, he says he does not believe that an authentic religious culture could be resurrected, no matter how hard we might try. Following Marx, Weber, and Freud, he argues that modern prosperity, cities, bureaucracy, and science have completely transformed the terrain of human experience. People who try to practice orthodox Christianity and Judaism today, he says, inevitably remain trapped in the vocabulary of therapy and self-fulfillment. “I think the orthodox are role-playing,” he says. “You believe because you think it’s good for you, not because of anything inherent in the belief. I think that the orthodox are in the miserable situation of being orthodox for therapeutic reasons...”

And here is Professor Rieff in an interview in the Guardian last year:

What is it that is so ominous about the third culture? Rieff: “It’s characterized by a certain vacuity and diffidence. The institutions which were defenders of the second world, or second culture–I think cultures are world creations–have not offered the kind of defense or support that would have been more powerful than therapeutic forces. So Christianity becomes, therapeutically, ‘Jesus is good for you.’ I find this simply pathetic.”
So are you a pessimist? Rieff: “I don’t know that I’m pessimistic. Therapies are better than nothing.”

And here's the obituary from the New York Times.

07 July 2006

A Pastoral Letter from Bishop Herlong.

Issued today.

(To be read or distributed at all services on July 16th or July 23, 2006)

Dear Friends,

I write to you to share my reflections on the recently concluded 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. A brief but similar article will appear in the next issue of the Cross & Crozier, our diocesan newspaper.

Let me first note that your Tennessee Deputation to the convention worked hard and did an excellent job. Then let me turn to the two major issues that confronted the Convention: The election of the next Presiding Bishop and the Response of the Episcopal Church to the Windsor Report.

In the election of the Presiding Bishop, The Right Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Bishop of Nevada led from the beginning of the voting and was elected on the 5th ballot. Her nine-year term of office begins November 1st.
While this was a significant event in the recognition of the ministry and leadership of women in the church, it raises significant questions about the acceptance of Bishop Jefferts Schori by the Primates of the Anglican Communion in other parts of the world, two-thirds of whom do not accept the ordination of women. Other serious questions may arise because Bishop Jefferts Schori has authorized the blessing of same-sex unions in Nevada and she voted to confirm the election of the Bishop of New Hampshire, a homosexual man living in a non-celibate relationship with another man.

Bishop Jefferts Schori has promised to be fair in her treatment of all points of view and to provide a place for differing opinions. We should not make premature judgements about what will happen, but should wait and see how her performance affects the program and direction of the National Church. Bishop Jefferts Schori is our Presiding Bishop and we must respect the office even if we do not agree with the performance of the individual who holds that office.

Regarding the response to the Windsor Report, I was among several bishops who signed a statement of disassociation from the actions of the General Convention on this issue. In my opinion, the responses were an attempt to make it look like something was being done without really doing anything. (A copy of the Bishops’ Statement is available from the Diocesan Office.) The 173rd Annual Convention of the Diocese of Tennessee officially adopted the Windsor Report and I have acted in support of the actions of our convention. My aim has been to accept and submit to the requests of the Windsor Report and to do everything possible to keep the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion. The resolutions of the General Convention fall far short of compliance with the Windsor Report by not expressing repentance for the action of the 74th General Convention, by not declaring a moratorium on the blessing of same-sex unions and the election and consecration of bishops living in sexual relationships outside of the traditional marriage of one man and one woman.

Interestingly, a group of liberal bishops also registered a minority report because they thought the Windsor Resolution B033 went too far and was unfair to gay and lesbian persons. The press has reported that at lease one of those bishops said publicly that he would not abide by the resolution.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has written what I believe is a very insightful response to the General Convention’s actions on the Windsor Report. (available at: www.archbishopofcanterbury.org)

I encourage you to read this important document. In it, the Archbishop proposes that a covenant agreement between the Provincial Churches of the Anglican Communion is a possible way forward. This would allow the various national churches of the Communion to “sign-on” as “constituent” members of the Communion. Those who do not agree with the covenant could relate to the communion as “associate” members.

The Archbishop wrote, “Those churches that were prepared to take this on as an expression of their responsibility to each other would limit their local freedoms for the sake of a wider witness: some might not be willing to do this. We could arrive at a situation where there were ‘constituent’ Churches in the Anglican Communion and other ‘churches in association’, which were bound by historic and perhaps personal links, fed from many of the same sources but not bound in a single and unrestricted sacramental communion and not sharing the same constitutional structures.”

One of the resolutions of the General Convention (A166) committed the Episcopal Church to the Covenant process requested by theWindsor Report. My prayer is that the Episcopal Church will participate in this process and be able to remain in the Anglican Communion although the poor response of the General Convention seems to indicate that in spite of the rhetoric of convention resolutions, a majority of the Deputies and Bishops are willing to “walk apart.”

All of the questions raised by actions and lack of action by the General Convention will be answered in time, but do not expect immediate responses or solutions. As I have said many times, it took us a long time to get where we are and it is going to take a long time to work out ultimate solutions. In the meantime, we must not let the problems we face in our National Church divert us from our mission. We are still the Episcopal Church in Middle Tennessee. Again, I am calling for faithfulness and continued commitment to our mission and ministry of bringing the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to those who do not know him, giving pastoral care to our people, caring for the young and the aged and infirm, teaching the faith and reaching out in love and service to those in need. The resolutions of the General Convention are temporal; the salvation of souls is eternal.

Now is the time of us to stick together to work on our own differences and unite in electing a strong leader, a faithful pastor and a godly priest to be the 11th Bishop of Tennessee. Remember, God is still in charge, Jesus is still Lord and the work of the Holy Spirit is ongoing in our common life. May God strengthen and sustain us in the days ahead.


The Right Reverend Bertram Nelson Herlong, D.D.
Bishop of Tennessee


03 July 2006

Oh, Look At All The Lonely People.

From yesterday's New York Times:

"A recent study by sociologists at Duke and the University of Arizona found that, on average, most adults only have two people they can talk to about the most important subjects in their lives — serious health problems, for example, or issues like who will care for their children should they die. And about one-quarter have no close confidants at all.

"The kinds of connections we studied are the kinds of people you call on for social support, for real concrete help when you need it," said Lynn Smith-Lovin, a sociologist at Duke and an author of the study, which analyzed responses in interviews that mirrored a survey from 1985. "These are the tightest inner circle."

The study "should provide a wake-up call to our society," said Bill Maier, a vice president and psychologist in residence with Focus on the Family, the evangelical Christian group. "We're missing out on deep, meaningful interpersonal relationships."

Yet within the analysis there was at least a suggestion of hope.

"The one type of relationship that actually went up was talking over personally important things with your spouse," Dr. Smith-Lovin said...