31 January 2007

The "H"-Word.

Fr. E.T. Oakes, S.J., has given us an insightful and helpful rumination on Catholics, Docetists, Protestants, Justification, Jansenists, and what is and is not heresy.

I do hereby conclude: When the Western Church fissiparated in the sixteenth century, the Reformers took a portion of the essential patrimony of the Church with them, and they thereby left both the Roman Church and themselves the poorer for it.

. . .

So why am I bringing all this up? Partly it comes from my experience with ecumenical dialogue, especially in Evangelicals and Catholics Together, of which I am privileged to be a member: Disconcertingly, I find I have a lot more in common with this group than I often do with my fellow Catholics who don’t belong to that group! Also, I think it no abuse of language for a Catholic to speak of “orthodox” Protestants (Karl Barth, for example), as opposed to other theologians who are pretty much selling the company store in front of our eyes. (I think I won’t name any names here, lest I risk becoming more controversial than I already am.)

Having afflicted readers with these night-musings, I wish I could come up with a term that Catholics could use when they want to speak of the church-dividing doctrines of classical Protestantism without having to be either insulting or falling to the trap of “anything goes” latitudinarianism. But I can’t. Canon law unfortunately only recognizes schism and heresy, the former being a refusal to recognize duly constituted church authority without any attendant doctrinal deviation (like the Donatists in Augustine’s time), while the latter term is applied to those who explicitly deny key doctrines of the faith, however conceived, and whether they’ve abjured their membership in the Church or not.

Here's the whole thing, and highly recommended.

Religion Is A Divider. . .

But football is a uniter. From the Nation:

Given the chance, I'd watch the Super Bowl with the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who knows about Baal and ball. Twenty years ago, in Lynchburg, Virginia, at a Liberty University Flames game, Dr. Falwell told me: "Jesus was no sissy. He was tough, he was a he-man. If he played football, you'd be slow getting up after he tackled you."

He had me at "sissy." The rest was revelation. The muscularity of Dr. Falwell's evangelical Christianity was a perfect fit with football, another win-or-lose game. For Americans, war hasn't produced a real winner for more than 60 years. That's why we need football. But let's get back to Dr. Falwell. "My respect for Catholicism and Mormonism goes straight up watching Notre Dame and Brigham Young play," he told me. He hoped that, someday, Notre Dame and Liberty, his evangelical college, would meet for the national championship, thus informing the nation that "the Christians are here, we're not meek and we're not going to fall down in front of you. We're here to stay."

While we wait for his Holy Bowl to show us how to kick the other cheek, we do have the gospels, saints, and rituals of the Super Bowl, arguably the holiest day of the American calendar. Nothing in sports draws us together as surely--not elections, the Academy Awards, disasters, terrorist acts, or celebrity deaths. The Super Bowl is a melting pot hot enough for atheists, Sodomites, and Teletubbies to become one with the Saved, if only for a single Sunday. But that's a start.

If I did get to watch the Super Bowl with Dr. Falwell this time around, I'd ask him the following question: Did God design football--and encourage it to evolve into Superbowl-dom--as a model religion for the most powerful empire on earth?

This is not some snide random note from your Jock Culture scribe. Because the entire football season is packaged as a prelude to the championship, it is easy for evangelists to pound home their lesson that life is merely a series of downs en route to salvation. Leave it to heretics to bemoan the loss of process, the idea that a well-played life has honor and meaning even if there is no trophy or ring at the end.

Dr. Falwell avowed the rules when he told me, "If ever you adopt a philosophy that winning is not important, it's how you play the game, you cop out. This is America. If you're not a winner it's your own fault."

Amen, the whistle has blown.



I am just reminded that the appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury of those dioceses seeking Alternative Provincial Oversight is available online in .pdf format. From the appeal:
The Bishops making this appeal reaffirm our common faith in the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ and our common commitment, both to the Anglican Communion and to one another.
Without equivocation, we embrace and submit ourselves to the principles and recommendations of The Windsor Report. We are Windsor Bishops. Likewise, we are Lambeth Bishops, who fully endorse the clear teaching of the Communion as expressed in the resolutions of the 1998 Lambeth Conference. Of particular importance to the current crisis that faces us are Resolution 1.10 on human sexuality and Resolution III.2 on the unity of the Anglican Communion.

The Religion-Free Zone.

A couple months ago I posted about the decision of the president of the College of William & Mary to remove the cross from the Altar in the campus' Wren Chapel. Two William & Mary alumni fear that this decision, should it stand, will lead to the elimination of all religious symbols in state supported institutions.

THIS GLOOMY FUTURE has its origins at the College of William and Mary located in Williamsburg. Founded in 1693, William & Mary is the nation's second oldest university. Last year, the institution hired a new college president, Gene Nichol. Among President Nichol's early acts was his decision last October to order the removal of the 18-inch cross from atop the altar table in the school's 275-year-old Wren Chapel. A gift from the neighboring Bruton Parish Episcopal Church--the same church that William & Mary's first president, the Reverend James Blair, presided over in the 1690s--the cross had been a fixture on the Wren Chapel altar for the last 70 years.

. . .

BUT WHY DID NICHOL decide to remove the cross in the first place? Nichol wrote that over the 18 months he has been president, a number of members of the William & Mary community complained that the display of the cross is "at odds with [William and Mary's] role as a public institution." Nichol went on to cite these same community members as suggesting that the cross "sends a message that the Chapel belongs more fully to some of us than to others. That there are, at the College, insiders and outsiders." [emphasis added].

Nichol's explanation is curious because the language he attributes as coming from community members is the same language ACLU staff attorneys use in letters and lawsuits when they attempt to remove religious symbols from the public landscape.

. . .

SHOULD WILLIAM & MARY'S Board of Visitors punt on the issue, then the task of righting this outrage will fall to Virginia's Democratic governor, Tim Kaine. What will he make of the Wren Chapel controversy? And if he deems President Nichol's move to be prudent, will Kaine see to the removal of the altar cross from the University of Virginia's school chapel? What about the school chapels at Virginia Tech and James Madison?

What about the other crosses across the Commonwealth? There is a cross atop the ceremonial mace of the Virginia House of Delegates that is presented by the sergeant-at-arms in the House chamber. It remains there each day until the House adjourns. The City of Norfolk likewise has a cross-adorned mace. As, coincidentally, does the College of William & Mary. For that matter, the logo of William & Mary's new Mason School of Business also has, naturally, a cross on its top. Where will it end?

THESE WORRIES are not far-fetched. For example, the ACLU is currently litigating for the removal of the century-old cross atop Mount Soledad near San Diego. In 2004, the ACLU successfully forced the dismantling of a cross from federal land preserve in the Mojave Desert. Also in 2004, the ACLU successfully threatened to sue the County of Los Angeles if it failed to remove a tiny cross in the city's logo (the L.A. County Board caved in a 3-2 vote, deciding to avoid the costs of a lawsuit).

Four hundred years ago, the Jamestown colonists waded ashore at Cape Henry and erected a cross in thanksgiving. Today, Gene Nichol, along with his ACLU allies, are working to push them back into the sea. We know the lengths to which the ACLU and its adherents will fight to erase America's historic memory by seeking the removal of crosses and other religious symbols from our public square. What is much less certain is to what lengths other citizens and their leaders will go to stop them.

Update: Newt Gingrich & Christopher Levenick weigh in over on National Review Online.

30 January 2007

Liberal v. Gliberal.

Harvard professor Ruth Wisse takes on the "gliberalism" of her own and other elite American universities:

Military service is a form of protection that the young must offer the rest of us. The age of undergraduates, 17 to 23, coincides with the universal age for military conscription. When the United States ended its draft in 1973, it turned the protection of the country and its vital interests over to a force of volunteers. At that point, the word ought to have issued from the academic community that democracy will henceforth depend on the readiness of the best and the brightest to volunteer for duty. Instead, faculties shaped by the antiwar movement drove ROTC and its recruiters from the campuses. Adding hypocrisy to injury, they later blamed the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy toward gay enlistment for a ban that was already in effect!

. . .

Recent surveys confirm that university faculties have been tilting steadily leftward, but I think it is wrong to assume they have been tilting toward "liberalism" as is commonly assumed. Liberalism worthy of the name emphasizes freedom of the individual, democracy and the rule of law. Liberalism is prepared to fight for those freedoms through constitutional participatory government, and to protect those freedoms, in battle if necessary. What we see on the American campus is not liberalism, but a gutted and gutless "gliberalism," that leaves to others the responsibility for governance, and arrogates to itself the right to criticize. It accepts money from the public purse without assuming reciprocal duties for the public good. Instead of debating public policy in the public arena, faculty says, "I quit," but then continues to draw benefits from the system it will not protect.


29 January 2007

St. Basil Speaks.

Fr. David Thurlow sends along the following, a letter from St. Basil (330-379), Archbishop of Caeserea - as David says, "a godly voice from the past speaking to the Church today."

St. Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caeserea
Letter CCLVII: To the monks harassed by the Arians.

I have thought it only right to announce to you by letter how I said to myself, when I heard of the trials brought upon you by the enemies of God, that in a time reckoned a time of peace you have won for yourselves the blessings promised to all who suffer persecution for the sake of the name of Christ. In my judgment the war that is waged against us by our fellow countrymen is the hardest to bear, because against open anti declared enemies it is easy to defend ourselves, while we are necessarily at the mercy of those who are associated with us, and are thus exposed to continual danger. This has been your case. Our fathers were persecuted, but by idolaters their substance was plundered, their houses were overthrown, they themselves were driven into exile, by our open enemies, for Christ's name's sake. The persecutors who have lately appeared, hate us no less than they, but, to the deceiving of many, they put forward the name of Christ, that the persecuted may be robbed of all comfort from its confession, because the majority of simpler folk, while admitting that we are being wronged, are unwilling to reckon our death for the truth's sake to be martyrdom. I am therefore persuaded that the reward in store for you from the righteous Judge is yet greater than that bestowed on those former martyrs. They indeed both had the public praise of men, and received the reward of God; to you, though your good deeds are not less, no honours are given by the people. It is only fair that the requital in store for you in the world to come should be far greater.

I exhort you, therefore, not to faint in your afflictions, but to be revived by God's love, and to add daily to your zeal, knowing that in you ought to be preserved that remnant of true religion which the Lord will find when He cometh on the earth. Even if bishops are driven from their Churches, be not dismayed. If traitors have arisen from among the very clergy themselves, let not this undermine your confidence in God. We are saved not by names, but by mind and purpose, and genuine love toward our Creator. Bethink you how in the attack against our Lord, high priests and scribes and elders devised the plot, and how few of the people were found really receiving the word. Remember that it is not the multitude who are being saved, but the elect of God. Be not then affrighted at the great multitude of the people who are carried hither and thither by winds like the waters of the sea. If but one be saved, like Lot at Sodom, he ought to abide in right judgment, keeping his hope in Christ unshaken, for the Lord will not forsake His holy ones. Salute all the brethren in Christ from me. Pray earnestly for my miserable soul.

Information on the image of St. Basil.

Spot The Rationalist.

Put me with Flannery O'Connor, who said of the Eucharist, "If it's just a symbol, then to hell with it." Here's a generally positive review of Confessions of an Amateur Believer, a memoir of an academic's coming to faith in Christ, but who is yet faithless with regard to the Sacrament, which raises many quesitons (but then I'm a professional believer):

The discipline of grammar is historically aligned with the study of rhetoric, a subject that fascinates Kirk, at least in the sense that her book develops a phenomenology of persuasion: the everyday, non-expert, experience of people who believe and disbelieve by turns. It's a theme not unfamiliar to readers of other memoirists, Buechner, Norris, and Dillard among them. Kirk's memoir shares their emphasis on everydayness and their alertness to the obstacles to belief. Like them, she knows what it is to doubt the love of God: her bout with unbelief lasted more than half of her adulthood so far. Like them, she knows what it is to doubt the love of neighbor: her experience of sexual assault left her lastingly leery of uncompassionate Christians. But unlike her best-known counterparts, she emerges from her experiences a curiously conservative evangelical, who reads her Bible every morning and goes to a non-denominational church where "the French roll and grape juice we share only symbolize Jesus' body and blood."

Even for unbelievers, close attention to the quotidian requires a kind of sacramental sense of the world. Kirk's memoir emerges from a lapsed Catholicism that doesn't believe the too-large chunks of bread her daughters tear off at the Lord's Supper are actually means of grace. Communion, she says in her essay, "In Memory of Him," "is simply a medium for reminding myself about redemption." Even so, she has a good ear for the earthy guesses that children make about sex, a clear eye for the complex relations of farmers and barns, a sacramental feel for what red ink signifies to her grammar students. For all this redemptive remembering, one narrative habit of Kirk's, I think, keeps her from opening the present as well as she might have.


Your Euros...

...hard at work.
One sometimes hears that the problem with Americans and our institutions is that we and they are not sufficiently European. Whatever. Here's a charming snapshot of healthcare in Europe:

A 12-year-old German boy who insisted he was a girl trapped in a boy's body convinced his parents that something had to be done, so they agreed to allow him to receive a series of hormone injections, making him the youngest sex-change patient in the world, according to published reports Monday.

Now 14, the boy, who went by the name Tim, has now become Kim – a blue-eyed blonde with a growing bust line who is allowed to wear make-up at weekends.
Kim has no boyfriends at present but her parents say she is interested in what, now, is the opposite sex.

Her treatment, which has cost more than $40,000, is being funded by German taxpayers.


28 January 2007

Food v. "Food".

Commonsense re diet and nutrition in the New York Times Magazine:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy. I hate to give away the game right here at the beginning of a long essay, and I confess that I’m tempted to complicate matters in the interest of keeping things going for a few thousand more words. I’ll try to resist but will go ahead and add a couple more details to flesh out the advice. Like: A little meat won’t kill you, though it’s better approached as a side dish than as a main. And you’re much better off eating whole fresh foods than processed food products. That’s what I mean by the recommendation to eat “food.” Once, food was all you could eat, but today there are lots of other edible foodlike substances in the supermarket. These novel products of food science often come in packages festooned with health claims, which brings me to a related rule of thumb: if you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid food products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a good indication that it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat.


Bishop Bauerschmidt.

From today's Nashville Tennessean:
The Rev. John Bauerschmidt will be ordained today as bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee, stepping into the job of leading 51 Midstate congregations through a period of global conflict and turmoil within the denomination.
Divisions over same-sex marriage and biblical authority — in particular, what the Bible says about homosexuality — have been a source of increasingly bitter debate within the denomination since the 2003 consecration of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire.
Locally, the diocese has already directed one Smyrna congregation and its priest to vacate their church building after a majority of the small church voted to seek oversight by an Anglican bishop not affiliated with the U.S. Episcopal Church.
Two weeks ago, Madison Episcopal priest Pete Minton, 68, said that after four decades in the priesthood the diocese had informed him he was "deposed," or defrocked, after similarly leading a small congregation that elected to bypass the Episcopal Church and seek oversight by a bishop recognized overseas.
It's a painful, anxious and tense time for the church, Bauerschmidt, 47, conceded this week.
"The challenge for the diocese of Tennessee is how we are going to be a community during a period of change," Bauerschmidt said. "It's painful, painful as it can be, but sometimes change is the way that a church defines itself and moves forward."
"What's absolutely essential is that people have the willingness and confidence of their own beliefs and that participation in the community is not held hostage by the presence of other views of people who are also in the community," he said.
Here's the whole thing.

Diocese of Central Florida.

Re the annual convention of the Diocese of Central Florida:

Coyle's resolution called on Howe to appoint a task force that would develop a policy "for negotiating with parishes intent on embracing alternative Anglican/Episcopal jurisdictions." In his address during the convention's morning session, Howe said he would rule it out of order because it would undermine the legislative authority of the convention, but he added there is "a far deeper problem" with the resolution. It could, he said, open the diocese to lawsuits by the national church such as those that may be pending against breakaway parishes in the Diocese of Virginia, and Howe vowed he would not allow that possibility. But he also traded on the personal respect and trust he holds among many in his diocese.

"I would remind you that the (rules) of the Episcopal Church say that all real property is held in trust for the diocese and the national church. … But this is my promise: If there are those who decide to leave, I will be more fair-minded and generous to them than any policy that could possibly be established, and I don't have to ask you to believe that. I have proved it," he said, to applause from the delegates.


27 January 2007

Of Plague & Pestilence.

Opinion Journal's Saturday "Five Best" books series today is devoted to natural disasters, the list compiled and annotated by one Gary Krist. Number 5 on the list but number 1 in your hearts? You guessed it:

5. The Holy Bible, King James version (1611).

A world-wide flood, a plague of locusts, a river whose waters turn to blood--when it comes to disaster scenarios, the Bible is hard to top. True, the Good Book's reliability is subject to some debate, but there are natural explanations for just about everything in it. (The Nile, for instance, did occasionally turn red, from contamination by volcanic deposits in the water from Ethiopia combined with decaying algae from the swamps of Sudan.) The prose in the King James version, moreover, can be quite evocative, as in this description of Noah's flood: "The same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened." This is natural disaster viewed through the prism of faith. But Mother Nature at her most ill-tempered has nothing on the Book of Revelation, when the seals of the scroll are broken and those Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride out.


26 January 2007

Tennessee Resolution.

Following is the only resolution offered to the 175th Annual Convention of the Diocese of Tennessee. It passed on a voice vote.

Submitted by the Rector and Vestry of St. George’s Episcopal Church, Nashville, TN


The Diocese of Tennessee recognizes that all people are included in Christ’s redeeming love and welcomed into the fellowship of the Church, where each of us is offered the forgiveness of sins, called to a new life of grace, and invited to share in the Lord’s ongoing work in the world;

We acknowledge the existence of serious division in our worldwide Anglican Communion and within the Episcopal Church USA over decisions of the 74th General Convention 2003 of the Episcopal Church relating to issues of human sexuality. We lament and regret that at times these issues, and the reactions to them, have created tension, conflict and division within the Diocese of Tennessee, the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Communion;

We urge all Episcopalians and members of the Anglican Communion to pray for understanding, compassion, guidance, forgiveness, repentance and healing in the midst of these controversies;

We acknowledge that differences of opinion exist within our Diocese concerning these issues, as well as differences of opinion about how to respond to our current controversies in the larger Church;

We strongly believe and confirm that differences of opinion on these issues do not define or prohibit any person’s membership or presence in our parishes and mission communities and we pledge our efforts to ensure that mutual respect, compassion and forbearance will shape our common life in relation to these issues into the future;

Without regard to any individual personal views on the issues surrounding the Church’s current controversies, we believe the findings and recommendations of the Windsor Report represent the best way forward for the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Communion, and we accept and support those findings and recommendations;

We acknowledge that some leaders in the Anglican Communion are concerned that the House of Bishops and the duly elected deputies to the 75th General Convention 2006 in Columbus, Ohio did not take sufficient action to comply with the recommendations of the Windsor Report, including an expression of regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection with other parts of the Anglican Communion were breached by ECUSA’s actions;

We also affirm and support the recommendations of the Windsor Report that bishops who believe it is their conscientious duty to intervene in other provinces, dioceses, and parishes other than their own should prayerfully reconsider and take action to comply with the Windsor Report concerning the support of dissenting groups within the Church; and

We are committed to:

· remaining a full and active part of the Anglican Communion, in unity with the See of Canterbury, and the Episcopal Church USA;

· forgoing our own local desires for the sake of the greater Anglican Communion; and

· a conciliar approach to decision-making in the life of the Church and the Anglican Communion by working with and heeding the collective wishes of the Communion before making unilateral decisions.

We respectfully request that the Episcopal Church USA take all necessary steps to ensure that Episcopal parishes, missions and dioceses wishing to do so can remain in communion with the Anglican Communion.

Paragraph 7 was slightly amended. The words "We express our concerns that the House of Bishops and the duly elected deputies" were struck and amended to read as above by the General Resolutions Committee.

"24" Life Lessons.

I've not been a fan, and the five minutes I saw of one of the new episodes struck me as pornagraphically violent, but maybe "24" should be Tivoed for the sake of ethical tutelage:

The current season of Fox's television series "24" began with a dilemma that will be familiar to long-time devotees of the program. A man's wife and child have been taken hostage by a terrorist. If the man does not help him carry out his plans, his family will be killed.

Yes, such a dilemma propels the show's pace and intensifies the dramatic ordeal. But it also points toward difficult ethical puzzles with profound implications for our current real-world moment. You don't need to watch "24" as a kind of primer on moral philosophy, but you probably should.


25 January 2007


Diocese of Tennessee annual convention is today and tomorrow. Ordination of John Bauerschmidt as Bishop is Saturday. Please pray for an easy and peaceful convention.

24 January 2007

Meanwhile, Back In The ELCA...

Get Religion reports on reports of the sex wars, Lutheran style:
So a gay pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America faces a disciplinary hearing. Not because he’s gay, but because he’s not celibate. The denomination has permitted homosexual clergy since 1991, and debates have raged within the church body since then over whether to bless homosexual unions or permit gay clergy to have sexual relationships. I’m surprised the story hasn’t gotten more coverage, considering how obsessed the media are over the Episcopal Church’s significant issues with homosexuality and how to interpret Scripture.
Here's the whole thing.

Health Care Costs.

Health Care causes Americans to worry, but

. . . what exactly are Americans worried about? Untangling that question is harder than it looks. In a 2006 poll, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that while a majority proclaimed themselves dissatisfied with both the quality and the cost of health care in general, fully 89 percent said they were satisfied with the quality of care they themselves receive. Eighty-eight percent of those with health insurance rated their coverage good or excellent—the highest approval rating since the survey began 15 years ago. A modest majority, 57 percent, were satisfied even with its cost.

Evidently, though, this widespread contentment with one’s own lot coexists with concern on two other fronts. Thus, in the very same Kaiser poll, nearly 90 percent considered the number of Americans without health insurance to be a serious or critical national problem. Similarly, a majority of those with insurance of their own fear that they will lose their coverage if they change jobs, or that, “in the next few years,” they will no longer be able to afford the coverage they have. At least as troubling is what the public does not seem terribly bothered about—namely, the dilemmas of end-of-life care in a rapidly aging society and the exploding costs of Medicare as the baby-boom generation hits age sixty-five.

All of this makes it difficult to speak of health care as a single coherent challenge, let alone to propose a single workable solution. In fact, America faces three fairly distinct predicaments, affecting three fairly distinct portions of the population—the poor, the middle class, and the elderly—and each of them calls for a distinct approach . . .

Here's the whole thing from The New Atlantis' Eric Cohen and Yuval Levin.

23 January 2007

Primates Prayer Pictured.

If you're praying for the Primates of the Anglican Communion as the Tanzania meeting approaches - and I hope you are - you might be interested to note that Lent & Beyond now has a Primates Picture Gallery.

Understanding Seeks Knowledge

If you want to learn something, it helps if you already know something:

An educational experiment in 1989 pitted a group of students with high reading scores, selected especially for their lack of interest in baseball, against a group of low-scoring students who happened to be avid baseball fans. The two groups were asked to demonstrate their reading comprehension of a passage on baseball. Can you guess which team won?

In The Knowledge Deficit, E. D. Hirsch Jr. recounts this experiment and draws on the work of reading researchers and theorists to argue that “background knowledge,” knowledge not explicitly presented in a text, is essential to reading comprehension. Hirsch advances his case at a time when there is growing concern about the poor reading proficiency of American students compared to their international peers. What is worse, Hirsch points out, is that the longer these students are in school, the lower they drop—to a depressing 15th out of 27 countries by the tenth grade. The scores get worse after the early grades when students are increasingly tested for comprehension and not just for “decoding,” the ability to translate written marks into words.

“We need to see the reading comprehension problem,” Hirsch writes, “for what it primarily is—a knowledge problem.” Schooling, according to Hirsch, must supply our students with the broad knowledge—much less of baseball than of history, literature, science, and other traditional subjects—that is requisite for reading. This broad knowledge of words and of the world is also what standardized reading tests in fact test for, Hirsch says. These typically consist of passages on a variety of topics, undisclosed until testing time, for which only a good general education can prepare the student. In or out of the exam room or the research lab, there is no such thing as reading comprehension without prior knowledge of a text’s vocabulary (90 percent of it is the estimated minimum) and its references, and no such thing as effective education without imparting to students a wide range of specific knowledge.

Here's the whole thing.
Via Arts & Letters Daily.

40 Days Email.

A quick email exchange:

[We] are interested in participating in the 40 Days of Discernment program. What exactly does it involve? Are we going to have special Sunday school lessons in addition to focused sermons and daily readings? Does the program recommend separation or lean towards separation? Can you provide more information?
My response:
My Sunday school class during the 40 days will be part of the program. There will be special prayer services on Wednesday evenings, and other special events as well. I expect that after the 40 days, we will have 2 or 3 or as many as we need parish meetings for discussion and discernment of alternatives and for every voice to be heard, and to reach some consensus as to how t move forward.

I would say that the "40 Days" program - put together by the Falls Church and Truro Church in the Diocese of Virginia certainly leans toward separation. One distinguished colleague (who is sympathetic) calls it "40 Days of Persuasion." That's a little strong, I think - but the drift is certainly clear. I think it's the best tool we have, though, and I will be encouraging everyone to say their prayers and with thinking caps firmly on interact critically with the materials - and certainly with my own teaching as well. This is part of what it means to love the Lord with our minds.


Marriage: The State Of Our Unions.

NRO has two good marriage-related pieces up today. The first is a Kathryn Jean Lopez-conducted interview with the Manhatten Institutes Kay Hymowitz, occasioned by the publication of her book Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age:

Kathryn Jean Lopez: What is the state of marriage in America?

Kay Hymowitz: Given our 37 percent out-of-wedlock birth rate and (approximately) 40 percent divorce rate, you might expect the answer to be — simply — dismal. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. The truth is Americans continue to be marriage happy; hence our gazillion-dollar bridal industry, the continuing lure of shows like The Bachelor, our gaping at Tom and Katie’s weird baronial wedding, etc. The Census Bureau predicts that 90 percent of American women will marry; the percentage for men is only slightly lower. In surveys the majority of young people say that marriage and children is very important goal for them.

What ails marriage is not that it don’t get no respect; it’s that Americans no longer understand its meaning. For most people it appears to be a love relationship between two adults having little to do with childbearing or childrearing. (See: Tom and Katie.) Marriage and children are two discreet phenomena in the lives of women. When “Prudence,” Slate’s advice editor suggested that a young woman, pregnant by her boyfriend of two years, might consider marrying the guy, angry readers blasted the columnist: Doesn’t she know how important a decision marriage is in the life of a woman? You don’t marry a guy just because you’re having his baby!

The irony is that most of those Slate readers will go the Prudence, not to mention the prudent, route. About four percent — tops — of college-educated mothers are unmarried when they have their children. Even more surprising: The large majority will avoid divorce and raise their children with their father. The divorce rate among college-educated women plateaued about 1980 and has even gone down since then. It’s less-educated women who are more likely to become single mothers — both through divorce and non-marriage. To return to your question about the state of marriage then: It’s doing pretty well — though not great — among college-educated Americans. But when it comes to those with less education, marriage is a mess. Hence the subtitle of my book: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-marital Age.

Next up is a piece by Jennifer Roback Morse critiquing some recent New York Times "reporting":

All this establishes is that the New York Times is so eager to show marriage as a declining institution that it tortured the data until it confessed. But, fact is, marriage is in trouble. They needn’t exaggerate. The point of the story was to convince the public that this decline is inexorable, like a force of nature, and that only old fuddy-duddies complain about it.

But should the rest of us just give a big “oh well” sigh and “move on?” The happy single women the NYT depicts for its readers are recently divorced women in their fifties and happily unmarried women in their thirties.

But I hear from a different set of people. The very day this story came out, I met a 43-year-old unmarried professional woman, who would love to be married. But all the men of suitable age and educational level insist on sex on the first date, and she’s not interested. I hear from young people who would love to get married and stay married because they don’t want to put their own children through the misery of divorce that they endured. But these young people are frightened, and not confident about their ability to sustain married life. I hear from women whose husbands abandoned them and their children, for no particular reason. The law in most states does not protect the partner who wants to stay married, but the one who wants divorce. Even one of the NYT happily divorced women mentions that women in her divorce support group are miserable. But the NYT doesn’t think any of those women are worth interviewing. Their misery is just collateral damage in the war for women’s independence.


22 January 2007

The No-God Meme.

Fr. Oakes considers the latest raft of anti-God books:

The publishing world, it seems, is just as prone to the fickleness of trends and fashions as is, well, the fashion industry. A few years ago, a whole spate of books came out on Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust, most of them flogging (surely not by coincidence) the same dead horse of papal perfidy. More recently, several books arguing for atheism have cropped up on the bestseller lists. I’ve looked at a few, and none of them struck me as even trying to get beyond that old dorm-room chestnut: “If God made the universe, who made God?” Gosh, thanks for bringing that up, Professor Bright. I had never really thought of that before—and now, horribile dictu, I’ve lost my faith!

. . .

Tedious and self-consuming as these arguments are, their popularity—if one is to judge by the bestseller lists—did get me to thinking about atheism as a cultural phenomenon. As I always ask my class when I teach contemporary theology: If God exists, why are there atheists? Or rather, and to put more strongly: Since God exists, what makes atheism conceptually possible?

I let my students crack their noggins on that question for a while . . .

Here's the whole thing (and notice First Things' online face lift).


y now most of you will have heard of my resignation as rector of the Church of St. Joseph of Arimathea, effective sometime this July. Ashley and I came as newlyweds to middle Tennessee in 2003 so that Ashley could begin the residency program in internal medicine and pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, a residency that ends in June. Shortly after our move to Nashville I was called to St. Joseph of Arimathea, agreeing with the vestry that as the end of Ashley’s residency approached, we would enter a period of discernment about my continued ministry here. After much prayer, thought, and seeking of counsel, we have decided to return to South Carolina. The time for goodbyes has not yet come, but I do want to say that Ashley and I are continually grateful for the friendship, support, and partnership in ministry we have found in this parish family.
As I say, the time for goodbyes is not yet, and there is a great deal of work to be done; there remains for us in Hendersonville an “open door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ” (Col. 4.3.) in word and deed. So we will keep moving, addressing the challenges and opportunities before us, and full steam ahead – and that is simply to say that we will lean our full weight on Jesus, knowing that he is faithful, and is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or imagine” (Eph. 3.20).
The first task in hand is to deal openly and honestly with the crisis in the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion. We have reached a point at which many of our parishioners feel they can no longer continue in the Episcopal Church, even in an orthodox parish in what has been a safe diocese, as the Episcopal Church continues to be formed by the spirit of the age, embracing new teachings and a form of life that carries it away from the Anglican Communion and far out of the mainstream of catholic Christianity. It now seems likely that following this month’s Primates Meeting in Tanzania there will be a Communion-provided alternative for traditional Anglicans in the Episcopal Church, which means we face a very live question, and difficult one – as the Episcopal Church moves away from the Anglican Communion and what we believe is the “faith once delivered” (Jude 3), will we go with it? My hope is that we will deal with the question in an open and honest manner, without prejudging the outcome. To help us with this task, on Sunday, February 4th, we will begin a “40 Days of Discernment” process of study, prayer, and discussion. This will involve Sunday morning sermons, my Sunday School class, individual guided study and prayer, corporate prayer each Wednesday evening, and other special fora with guests from outside the parish. I have written to Bishop Bauerschmidt and asked him to be fully a participant in this process.
In 2003, following the consecration of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire, I told you that I could not follow the Episcopal Church into schism, and that I have no interest in being part of a regional protestant sect – be it “conservative” or “liberal.” Although I am quite clear in my own mind that the Episcopal Church has decisively chosen to “walk apart” from the Anglican Communion and catholic Christianity, my own hope is that whatever decisions our individual members or the parish as a whole might come to, through this process those decisions will be prayerfully made and theologically informed, rather than in reaction and in anger. To that end, I and the vestry are asking all of you to engage as fully as possible in this discernment process; the insights, opinions, and prayers of all are needed if we are as a body to reach an authentic consensus (whatever that might be), or at least to understand and care for one another as we differ. The “40 Days” guidebook is available online (http://www.40daysofdiscernment.org/); if you are able easily and conveniently to access the internet from your home or office, you may keep up with the daily prayer and study that way (and at the same time save the office considerable time and effort); the same resources will be available in “hard copies” from the parish. Again, this is an important decision, a decision that we must make together, and so it is necessary that together we “apply our hearts to wisdom” and seek the Lord’s will in this matter. Please pray and commit yourself to this process of discernment.
I also want you to know that the vestry has begun forming a committee so that the search for a new rector can begin as soon as possible; the composition of that committee will be announced as soon as it is complete, but it is not too soon to begin praying for the committee and for the one whom God is already preparing to be your next priest and pastor. Ashley and I also ask for your prayers as we begin preparing for our own transition.
That’s a lot of change, and a lot over which we may be tempted to worry. All the more reason, then, to give ourselves over more and more to the Father “in whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (Jas. 1.17), and to the Son who is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13.8), and to the Holy Ghost in whom there is peace and joy, even (and especially) as we seek to be faithful to the Lord’s calling (Rom. 14.8).
God bless you,

*from the February issue of our parish newsletter.


16 January 2007

The Case For Chastity.

Below I called attention to Dawn Eden's book extoling the holy adventure of chastity, The Thrill of the Chaste. She has offered up a brief and helpful precis of her case in London's The Times:

I am 37, and like millions of other girls, was born into a world which encouraged young women to explore their sexuality. It was almost presented to us as a feminist act. In the 1960s the future Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown famously asked: Can a woman have sex like a man? Yes, she answered because “like a man, [a woman] is a sexual creature”. Her insight launched a million “100 new sex tricks” features in women’s magazines. And then that sex-loving feminist icon Germaine Greer enthused that “groupies are important because they demystify sex; they accept it as physical, and they aren’t possessive about their conquests”.

As a historian of pop music and daughter of the sexual revolution I embraced Greer’s call to (men’s) arms. My job was to write the sleeve notes to 1960s pop CDs and I gained a reputation for having an encyclopedic knowledge base, interviewing the original artists and recording personnel. It was all a joy for me, as I was obsessed with the sounds of the era. I would have paid just to meet artists such as Petula Clark, Del Shannon, Brian Wilson, Harry Nilsson, Alan Price, and the Hollies — and instead I was getting paid to tell their stories. I became the top woman in my (overwhelmingly male) profession. The opportunities for shenanigans were endless.

Rock journalism had an extra bonus for me because I was deeply attracted to musicians — all kinds, though drummers, unused to being appreciated for their minds, were easy marks. While I was unaware of Greer’s injunction to make love freely, I read the supergroupie memoir, I’m With the Band by Pamela Des Barres, envying her ability to drink in everything that was desirable about rockers — their good looks, wit, creativity and fame — without seeming to lose any part of herself in her (extraordinarily numerous) dalliances with them.

I tried to emulate her and I suppose to a large extent succeeded. In some ways, the touring rock musician was my ideal sexual partner. By bedding them I could enjoy a temporary sort of fairy-tale bond; knowing it was bound to be fleeting as we would both move on meant that I never had to confront my own vulnerability about properly making a connection with someone. I could establish a transient intimacy and never have to deal with the real thing — and the real rejection that might entail.


Rumours Of Glory.

Alan Jacobs, scholar, essayist, and biographer of C.S. Lewis, is now writing a regular column for Books & Culture:

It seems to me that the careful dance, the difficult balance, of Christian cultural criticism is to be endlessly attentive to the form and the details of the world around us, while simultaneously practicing the "politics of long joy"—and in this way avoiding an unhealthy obsession with "trophies," and avoiding also being conformed to the ways of this world. It's a tough walk to walk, because one of the peculiarities of fallen human nature is that we find it difficult, over the long haul anyway, to remember that there is a world of difference between "I have no control over this" and "this isn't very important." We tend, against all reason, to diminish the importance of everything we cannot shape or direct. But our joy will be short if it is grounded in circumstances and events, because circumstances and events always change: if they please us now, they will displease us later. And then what will we do?

Central to this discipline, for me anyway, is a constant striving to remember who human beings are and what we are made for. Which brings me to the title of this column. On Bruce Cockburn's 1980 recording Humans there's a song called "Rumours of Glory"—a song about "the extremes / of what humans can be," but also about the imago Dei which each of us bears, the divine image that waits always for the discerning eye to notice it. In the song, perhaps his best (which is saying a lot), Cockburn sees the "tension" between what we were made to be and what we in fact are; he sees that human culture is produced by that tension, which generates "energy surging like a storm." At once attracted and repelled by that energy, "you plunge your hand in; you draw it back, scorched." And the hand that has been plunged truly into the human world is always marked by that plunging: it's "scorched", yes, but beneath the wound "something is shining like gold—but better." The truth of who we are, given the extremes of divine image and savage depravity, is hard to discern; perhaps we can only achieve it in brief moments; perhaps we only catch rumors of the glory that is, and is to be. But even those rumors can sustain us as we walk the pilgrim path.


What Participation Means.

From the new Crisis, Russell Shaw reflects on what we might call the "Martha mentality" in approaching the liturgy and sacraments:

A friend of mine tells this story: Not long ago he took some students and parents from the public high school where he teaches on a trip to Italy. There were twelve or 15 of them, and they shared the tour bus with others. The trip was a success. Everyone had a lovely time visiting some of the most beautiful places in a beautiful country.

But after a while my friend realized that something strange was going on.

Whenever they pulled into a town square and parked in front of the local cathedral, everyone piled off the bus and immediately started shooting photos of the church. “They began taking pictures before they even looked at it,” my friend said. “What mattered was shooting those photos. They could see the cathedral later, if there was time.”

My friend thought that was odd. But I couldn’t help thinking that this behavior isn’t so different from what happens at a Sunday liturgy today. The two things may even be related. The emphasis at such a liturgy is on doing things, keeping busy, allowing little opportunity for reflective quiet. Seeing things—not just with the physical eyes, but with the eyes of the spirit—gets short shrift. In liturgical celebrations like this, the ideal of full, conscious, active participation that the Second Vatican Council spoke of has been externalized. This is liturgy for people more interested in taking pictures of the cathedral than in seeing it.


13 January 2007

Pachabel Hell.

Do you sometimes feel haunted by Pachabel's Canon? Comedian Rob Parovonian does:

Arts Journal on YouTube.

11 January 2007

Chronicles Of Wasted Time.

No need to waste all that paper, now there's this!
Via the Corner.

Paris or Jesus?

Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of Nancy, has a new documentary (her Journeys with George, about W's first campaign, was fun and revealing) about American Evangelicals called Friends of God: a Roadtrip with Alexandra Pelosi; Pelosi and her film are the subject of a piece in the New York Times:

“I believe in the culture war,” she said. “And you know what? If I have to take a side in the culture war I’ll take their side,” meaning the Christian conservatives. “Because if you give me the choice of Paris Hilton or Jesus, I’ll take Jesus.”


More Wisdom Of Frederica.

Another email from Frederica Mathewes-Green (subscribe yourself - frederica.com) this time with an article just published as part of a BeliefNet syposium on the subject of women as preachers:

Controversy over the ordination of woman has plagued many denominations, but it hasn't raised similar furor in the Orthodox Church. This is thanks to our way of approaching such issues: if the early church kept unbroken consensus on a matter, we will continue it. Consensus is not obvious in every issue, but it is here. For 20 centuries stretching backward, there have been no women priests.

There were plenty of women *preachers*, however. I've preached at worship services in Orthodox churches, myself.

We have some semantic confusion here, because many things Protestants consider restricted to clergy are done by Orthodox laity. We have women saints who were missionary evangelists, church-planters, teachers, healers, preachers, apologists, spiritual mothers, counselors, miracle-workers, martyrs, iconographers, hymnographers, and theologians. Holy women do virtually everything men do, except stand at the altar. That leaves them rest of the world, which is where most of God's work gets done.


The Wisdom of Frederica.

Frederica Mathewes-Green is on of a number of Christian thinkers asked by Relevant magazine to respond to seven "big questions" - not yet available online. However, Mrs. Mathewes-Green has emailed out a selection (including two which didn't make the print edition) of her responses. Herewith a selection of her selection:

6. How can a Christian fulfill a passion for social justice as a middle class American?

I am cautious about the self-label "I have a passion for social justice." I think it gets in the way. Like wearing a Superman cape. Subtly feeds narcissism. Judgementalism. A temptation to excuse failings because, hey, I'm "passionate."

Also insinuates a belief that there are "us" and "the people we're helping" as if that is two different categories. After the 2004 election I heard a pollster say, "We Democrats used to be the party of the poor. Now we're the party that identifies with the poor." That's worth meditating on.

I'd say, choose a cause that is deliberately un-cool, just to be on the safe side.

(these next questions were not included in the published article.)

[* Where and how do you feel Christians can have the most impact on culture?

By throwing off the tyranny of programatic, public, "billboard" actions, and instead taking on the discipline of being loving, humble, and giving in every personal relationship. "The culture" is a mirage; what actually exists is "other people," and this method works like leaven in dough.

* How should Christians respond to the homosexuality debate?

Within the community, to continue the same approach we find in the early church, that people who are struggling with temptations outside heterosexual marriage, or any other kind of temptation (that is, everybody), should be welcomed and supported as they strive to grow in holiness. One neglected tool for this growth is to have a spiritual father or mother who knows everything about you and gives encouragement and guidance; apart from that, such struggles are nobody else's business. Nor should people in the Christian community monitor the behavior of people outside it. Likewise, people who choose to remain outside the community should not try to censor Christian faith or practice. Live and let live.

I would avoid (I have avoided) participating in public and political movements. My feeling is that this is truly a case where we should not legislate our faith (unlike abortion, because even a minimal government must prevent violence against children). But on the other hand I can appreciate arguments that in a democracy every voice should be heard, including those who want to protect traditional marriage by legislation. They may have an argument there, but so far I haven't felt persuaded enough to join in. ]

More of Mathewes-Green's responses are here. I like her gentle exposure of the magazine's subtle but preening self-regard. Also, notice Relevant has posted an audio interview with Ben Folds. Her denial of "culture" is interesting, particular in how it feeds into her ambivalence regarding homosexuality & public policy issues.

09 January 2007

Decline. [Updates]

Anglican blogger Karen B. came across the just-posted membership statistics for the Episcopal Church and did a quick compare and contrast excericise. It ain't a pretty picture, especially when the non-domestic dioceses are broken out:

Click on image to enlarge.

Update: Considerable email discussion of these statistics, most of which is hard for me to follow because I'm pretty innumerate (got a "D" in statistics, as a matter of fact); however, there is some skewing in these numbers due to (1) non-domestic dioceses added between 2002 & 2005; and (2) calendar anomalies in 2005 - 53 Sundays, and Christmas falling on a Sunday.

More Update: In addition to Karen B.'s comments here, TitusOneNine has a summary of and links to discussion and number crunching. The only diocese to grow relative to general population growth? South Carolina.


Of Christian Burial.

Russell Moore contemplates the meaning of Christian burial and why so many Christians now choose funerals in the pagan fashion:

"I knew my grandfather’s funeral wouldn’t be elaborate or expensive. He was a big-hearted Baptist, generous with his grandchildren but spending little on himself. This was a man who refused the “luxury” of air-conditioning in south Mississippi, a place where most people consider air-conditioning a necessity.

He left instructions that he didn’t want anyone spending money on a casket, embalming fluid, or an elaborate funeral. He wanted to be cremated, the cheapest way possible to dispose of his earthly remains. No one asked my opinion on this, but I wept bitterly at the thought of this great man being reduced to ashes in the twinkling of an eye.

I could understand my grandfather’s request. He was a practical man who wanted to save money for his family. And the financial racket of cushioned caskets, catered “celebration services,” and steel-vaulted graves is a scandal, to be sure. What I couldn’t understand was how few of my fellow Christians joined in my horror at the thought of a Christian man’s cremation.

Of all the issues of controversy among Christians, I find few more incendiary than whether or not we should, well, incinerate the bodies of our loved ones. I find that Christians become agitated, defensive, and personally insulted more quickly on the question of cremation than on almost any other contemporary question. And I find this odd.

A Christian burial seems, in this culture, more and more nonsensical: a waste of money, a waste of otherwise usable land, a waste, perhaps, even of emotion, as we try to “hold on to the past” and fail to “move through our grief and get on with life.” But if someone had asked any previous generation of Christians or of pagans if cremation were a Christian act, the answer would have seemed obvious to them, whether they were believers or infidels: Christians bury their dead. . ."

Here's the whole thing. Timely reading - I opened this can of worms in an adult Sunday School class several weeks ago to the agitation of many.

The Church of Brunch.

Fr. Ference considers a new (but not really) "Church":

Finally, the community is just about ready to approach the table of fellowship—but not until they first raise their heads and join together in a Johnny Cash number. Seeing that his most recent albums have been coated in religious imagery and metaphor, reaching back into the vault and flat-picking a hearty version of “Folsom Prison Blue” is deemed more appropriate. After the song, there is the traditional sign of peace, and then it’s time to break bread.

There’s nothing like singing “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die,” sharing a sign of peace, and then sitting down to a vegan potluck with your brothers and sisters in Brunch.

Here's the whole thing. Makes me hungry.

08 January 2007


From Karen B. at Lent & Beyond:

The Tanzania Primates Meeting is rapidly approaching. The official dates are Feb 14-19 (we’ve also seen reports of February 12-19. It is possible that Feb 12 and 13 are initial consultations before the formal meeting.) Read on to learn how you can get involved in praying for the Primates!

As of today, there are exactly 38 days until the official beginning of the Anglican Primates Meeting in Dar es Salaam Tanzania — just enough time to allow us to pray for one province per day. As we did in 2005 before the Dromantine Primates meeting, Lent & Beyond is seeking to post materials here that will help serve as a resource in facilitating prayer for the Primates and this very crucial meeting. . .

Here are resources for praying for the Primates.