28 February 2007
Dar es Salaam Confidential.
The Sunday service in Zanzibar put a face upon the primates’ divisions with no group photo, no con-celebration of the Eucharist, and six primates refusing to receive the sacrament with Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori. When the primates returned to business on Monday morning, the meeting’s final day, all signs pointed to an impasse with the Global South coalition refusing to endorse the joint communiqué.
As negotiations intensified, the consensus swung away from Archbishop Williams’ soft approach toward the Global South’s demands for a clear and unambiguous response from the U.S. The dynamic within the meeting shifted further as two of The Episcopal Church’s strongest supporters -- Archbishops Mauricio Andrade of Brazil and Njongonkulu Ndungane of Southern Africa -- had departed, leaving 33 primates to complete the final document.
Over several grueling sessions, marked at one point by tears and raised voices, negotiations over the language of the document continued throughout Monday, forcing the cancellation of a press conference several times. Outside the meeting, reporters and lobbyists received mixed signals on the deliberations.
Unlike the 2005 meeting in Northern Ireland, where access was strictly limited but information flowed freely, in Tanzania the primates kept their own counsel with little news leaking out. The self-imposed media blackout even extended to the ACC staff members, who occasionally visited the press side of the hotel to find out what was happening in the meeting.
When the primates broke at 8:30 p.m. for a gala dinner, they were at an impasse. Sources told TLC that Archbishop Akinola was holding out for stronger language and for protections for the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori was also uncertain as to whether she had the authority to bind the American church or had the political capital to bring the House of Bishops along with her.
Bone Boxes & Easter.
Father Chris Townsend, information officer for the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference, said: "It will be very difficult to verify if the bones are indeed those of Jesus... We should be more concerned with living the good news, not worry about bones."
27 February 2007
- James Cameron foisted "The Titanic" on the American film-going public and hasn't yet served a day in prison - where is the justice?
- "If, as seems likely, the conclusions prove somewhat less than airtight, the most instructive aspect of the film will be the public's reaction to it.
Cameron and Jacobovici will mortally offend many Christians. Some critics will personally vilify them, while others question their motives and integrity.
But prominent Christian clergymen won't issue any death warrants, and the Vatican won't call upon "all believing Christians" to avenge the insult. Neither Cameron nor Jacobovici will have to spend the next decade or so in hiding.
Now imagine if they'd gone after Mohammad instead of Jesus . . ." --(Mark Goldblatt)
26 February 2007
We normally think of prodigies as children who exhibit some kind of miraculous ability in music. Joyce Hatto became something unheard of in the annals of classical music: a prodigy of old age — the very latest of late bloomers, “the greatest living pianist that almost no one has heard of,” as the critic Richard Dyer put it for himself and many other piano aficionados in The Boston Globe.
Little wonder that when she at last succumbed to her cancer last year at age 77 — recording Beethoven’s Sonata No. 26, “Les Adieux,” from a wheelchair in her last days — The Guardian called her “one of the greatest pianists Britain has ever produced.” Nice touch, that, playing Beethoven’s farewell sonata from a wheelchair. It went along with her image in the press as an indomitable spirit with a charming personality — always ready with a quote from Shakespeare, Arthur Rubinstein or Muhammad Ali. She also had a clear vision of the mission of musical interpreters, telling The Boston Globe: “Our job is to communicate the spiritual content of life as it is presented in the music. Nothing belongs to us; all you can do is pass it along.”
Now it has become brutally clear that “passing along” is exactly what she was up to. Earlier this month, a reader of the British music magazine Gramophone told one of its critics, Jeremy Distler, that something odd happened when he slid Ms. Hatto’s CD of Liszt’s “Transcendental Études” into his computer. His iTunes library, linked to a catalogue of about four million CDs, immediately identified it as a recording by the Hungarian pianist Laszlo Simon. Mr. Distler then listened to both recordings, and found them identical.
Two significant factors to start with. The debate triggered by certain decisions in the Episcopal Church is not just about a single matter of sexual ethics. It is about decision making in the Church and it is about the interpretation and authority of Scripture. It has raised, first of all, the painfully difficult question of how far Anglican provinces should feel bound to make decisions in a wholly consultative and corporate way. In other words, it has forced us to ask what we mean by speaking and thinking about ourselves as a global communion. When ‘gentlemen’s agreements’ fail, what should we do about it? Now there is a case for drawing back from doing anything much, for accepting that we are no more than a cluster of historically linked local or national bodies. But to accept this case – and especially to accept it because the alternatives look too difficult – would be to unravel quite a lot of what both internal theological reflection and ecumenical agreement have assumed and worked with for most of the last century. For those of us who still believe that the Communion is a Catholic body, not just an agglomeration of national ones, a body attempting to live in more than one cultural and intellectual setting and committed to addressing major problems in a global way, the case for ‘drawing back’ is not attractive. But my real point is that we have never really had this discussion properly. It surfaced a bit in our debates over women’s ordination, but for a variety of reasons tended to slip out of focus. But we were bound to have to think it through sooner or later.
And it has arisen now in connection with same-sex relationships largely because this has been seen as a test-case for fidelity to Scripture, and so for our Reformed integrity. Rather more than with some other contentious matters (usury, pacifism, divorce), there was and is a prima facie challenge in a scriptural witness that appears to be universally negative about physical same-sex relations.
Who's Deludin' Who?
The redoubtable Alvin Plantinga, John A. O'Brien Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, examines (in entertainingly acerbic fashion) the anti-God argument made by Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion:
Richard Dawkins is not pleased with God:The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction. Jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic-cleanser; a misogynistic homophobic racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal….
Well, no need to finish the quotation; you get the idea. Dawkins seems to have chosen God as his sworn enemy. (Let's hope for Dawkins' sake God doesn't return the compliment.)
The God Delusion is an extended diatribe against religion in general and belief in God in particular; Dawkins and Daniel Dennett (whose recent Breaking the Spell is his contribution to this genre) are the touchdown twins of current academic atheism. Dawkins has written his book, he says, partly to encourage timorous atheists to come out of the closet. He and Dennett both appear to think it requires considerable courage to attack religion these days; says Dennett, "I risk a fist to the face or worse. Yet I persist." Apparently atheism has its own heroes of the faith—at any rate its own self-styled heroes. Here it's not easy to take them seriously; religion-bashing in the current Western academy is about as dangerous as endorsing the party's candidate at a Republican rally.
Dawkins is perhaps the world's most popular science writer; he is also an extremely gifted science writer. (For example, his account of bats and their ways in his earlier book The Blind Watchmaker is a brilliant and fascinating tour de force.) The God Delusion, however, contains little science; it is mainly philosophy and theology (perhaps "atheology" would be a better term) and evolutionary psychology, along with a substantial dash of social commentary decrying religion and its allegedly baneful effects. As the above quotation suggests, one shouldn't look to this book for evenhanded and thoughtful commentary. In fact the proportion of insult, ridicule, mockery, spleen, and vitriol is astounding. (Could it be that his mother, while carrying him, was frightened by an Anglican clergyman on the rampage?) If Dawkins ever gets tired of his day job, a promising future awaits him as a writer of political attack ads.
Now despite the fact that this book is mainly philosophy, Dawkins is not a philosopher (he's a biologist). Even taking this into account, however, much of the philosophy he purveys is at best jejune. You might say that some of his forays into philosophy are at best sophomoric, but that would be unfair to sophomores; the fact is (grade inflation aside), many of his arguments would receive a failing grade in a sophomore philosophy class. This, combined with the arrogant, smarter-than-thou tone of the book, can be annoying. I shall put irritation aside, however and do my best to take Dawkins' main argument seriously. . .
25 February 2007
From Bp. Bauerschmidt.
The Primates spent time in prayer, bible study, and reflection on the mission of the Church. They had an opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist in the cathedral in Zanzibar, a place of worship built on the former site of a slave market. They heard, among other reports, about the Millennium Development Goals and about a study of Theological Education in the Anglican Communion. They assented to the initiation of a Communion-wide study of the methods of Scriptural interpretation.
24 February 2007
Consider a paradox outlined by London School of Economics economist Richard Layard in Happiness (Penguin, 2005), in which he shows that we are no happier even though average incomes have more than doubled since 1950 and "we have more food, more clothes, more cars, bigger houses, more central heating, more foreign holidays, a shorter working week, nicer work and, above all, better health." Once average annual income is above $20,000 a head, higher pay brings no greater happiness. Why? One, our genes account for roughly half of our predisposition to be happy or unhappy, and two, our wants are relative to what other people have, not to some absolute measure.
Happiness is better equated with satisfaction than pleasure, says Emory University psychiatrist Gregory Berns in Satisfaction (Henry Holt, 2005), because the pursuit of pleasure lands us on a never-ending hedonic treadmill that paradoxically leads to misery. "Satisfaction is an emotion that captures the uniquely human need to impart meaning to one's activities," Berns concludes. "While you might find pleasure by happenstance--winning the lottery, possessing the genes for a sunny temperament, or having the luck not to live in poverty--satisfaction can arise only by the conscious decision to do something. And this makes all the difference in the world, because it is only your own actions for which you may take responsibility and credit."
23 February 2007
From Bishop Duncan.
TO ALL THE FAITHFUL IN CHRIST JESUS WHO ARE MEMBERS OF THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION NETWORK, AND TO ALL WHO ARE PARTNERS WITH US:
Beloved in the Lord,
We continue in an extraordinary moment in church history. It is my conviction, with St. Paul, that “He who has begun a good work in [us] will complete it to the end.” [Phil. 1:6]
Resolution III.6 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference authorized the Primates’ Meeting to include among its responsibilities both “intervention in cases of exceptional emergency which are incapable of internal resolution within provinces, and giving of guidelines on the limits of Anglican diversity in submission to the sovereign authority of Holy Scripture and in loyalty to our Anglican tradition and formularies.” At Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the Primates Meeting of 15-19 February exercised these mandates in most significant fashion.
Following up on the historic appeal for intervention 20 other bishops and I made on August 5, 2003 – and responding directly to the Appeals for Alternative Primatial Oversight (or Relationship) lodged by eight Network dioceses between July and November of 2006, as well as to requests from the Windsor coalition of Bishops conveyed in a letter of January 2007 – the Primates Meeting acted to address the crisis in our Province, The Episcopal Church. The result can surely be described as an answer to prayer.
I was joined in Dar es Salaam by Bishop Bruce MacPherson of Western Louisiana from the wider Windsor Coalition (a coalition of some two dozen diocesans that includes all the Network diocesans among its members). We were given the opportunity to provide testimony and entreaty as to how the situation in the United States could be addressed. Among the matters covered were:
- Our assessment that the Episcopal Church’s official response to the Windsor Report and Dromantine Communiqué was inadequate, grudging and calculated.
- Belief that the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop had to be seen as a significant aspect of that official response, especially in light of her consent to New Hampshire’s election, to her authorization of same-sex blessings as diocesan bishop, and to her theological heterodoxy.
- Observations on the majority’s emerging theological construct where 1) claims of justice replaces morality, 2) many ways replaces the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ, and 3) experience replaces “Holy Scripture as the ultimate rule and standard of the Christian Faith.”
- Testimony as to the extent, expense and acrimony of the civil lawsuits under way across the country, most significantly noting the scandalous involvement of the Presiding Bishop’s Chancellor in suits brought not only against parishes but also against individual clergy and lay leaders.
- Statistics bearing out the assertion that the Network and Windsor Dioceses, together with AMiA, CANA, and Network Convocation and Conference parishes across the country, represented a number equal to one-quarter of The Episcopal Church’s membership, minimally some 500,000 souls, a number larger than 18 Provinces of the Anglican Communion.
- Clear discussion of the particular hostility of the “majority Episcopal Church” to the Forward in Faith Dioceses, as well as its failure to work with them and all those who hold to the Communion’s older “integrity” concerning Holy Orders.
- Evidence of the increasingly unlikely confirmation of the Bishop-elect of South Carolina by diocesan standing committees, on grounds including the revealing mis-use of the “manner of life” language of TEC’s supposed acceptance of Windsor (Resolution B033, General Convention 2006).
- Request for recognition of all those who accept the Camp Allen Principles concerning full acceptance of the Windsor Report as the Communion’s unquestioned partners in the United States.
- Appeal for some means of suitable and sufficient separation of the majority and minority parties of the Episcopal Church, including a practical “cease-fire,” until the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant process will have run its course and determination of which of the parties in the U.S. dispute are to be viewed as the “constituent” members of the Communion.
- Our willingness as Network and Windsor Bishops to participate in a Primates-proposed domestic structure that could take the first steps toward addressing the escalating crisis.
Clearly we were heard. The Communiqué from Dar es Salaam, together with the “Key Recommendations of the Primates” and the transcript of the “Archbishop of Canterbury’s Comments at the Final Press Conference,” all speak to address the American crisis. The Episcopal Church has been given another chance to make an “unequivocal” response to Windsor and to Communion Faith and Order. Those of us who have already made clear our willingness to submit to the Windsor Report and to the Anglican Communion have been given the proposed Pastoral Council and a Primatial Vicar, to be nominated by the participating bishops and responsible to that Council. We have a call for the cessation of all civil legal actions. We can work with this. We will work with this. It is not perfect and there are a number of potential obstacles. We will enter in good faith. The Primates spent so much of their meeting on our concerns that we can do no less in response to their best assessment of a path forward. What we have is an interim proposal for an interim period with interim structures, while the Episcopal Church majority has one last opportunity to turn back from its “walking apart.”
For the Network parishes of the International Convocation (congregations under Uganda, Kenya, Central Africa and Southern Cone) and for the churches of the Anglican Mission in America and of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, there are particular concerns about relating to those still within the Episcopal Church, even if under the Pastoral Council and Primatial Vicar.
For the Alternative Primatial Oversight appellant dioceses, not least the Forward in Faith dioceses, there are still concerns about the role of the Presiding Bishop, about how the working relationship with the wider Windsor Coalition develops, and about whether “good faith” will characterize the other side. All we can do is be ourselves at our best. That is certainly, by God’s grace and your intercession, what two of us, on behalf of all of you, were within the Primates’ Meeting. Even though it is Lent, let Te Deum be said and sung. And let’s keep on, faithful to the Scriptures, focused on the mission, and submitted in unity, till the work is done, whatever the cost, always in prayer.
St. Paul speaks of the trust that is mine and yours and ours: “He who has called you is faithful, and He will do it.” [I Thess. 5:24]
Faithfully in Christ,
+ Bob Pittsburgh
RICH LOWRY: Faith moved a nation. “The Wilberforce”AN NRO SYMPOSIUM: Sam Brownback, Tom Coburn, Chuck Colson, Richard Land, Mark Rodgers & Mark Souder & more remember Wilberforce. “Amazing Man”Q&A: Eric Metaxas on the life and times of Wilberforce. “Amazing Story”STEVE BEARD: It’s an inspiring story. “Force for Good”JONATHAN BEAN: We would do well to remember Wilberforce. “Wilberforce and the Roots of Freedom”
Wm. Wilberforce: The Movie.
Nowadays it is all too common--and not only in Hollywood--to assume that conservative Christian belief and a commitment to social justice are incompatible. Wilberforce's embrace of both suggests that this divide is a creation of our own time and, so to speak, sinfully wrong-headed. Unfortunately director Apted, as he recently told Christianity Today magazine, decided to play down Wilberforce's religious convictions--that would be too "preachy," he said--and instead turned his story into a yarn of political triumph. The film's original screenwriter, Colin Welland, who wrote the screenplay for the acclaimed and unabashedly Christian "Chariots of Fire," was replaced.
The movie "Amazing Grace" nods occasionally in the direction of granting a role to faith in social reform, but it would do us all well to supplement our time in the movie theater by doing some reading about the heroic and amazing Christian who was the real William Wilberforce.
In The Paper Today.
Some of Tennessee's 15,000 Episcopalians, a group believed to be largely conservative theologically, welcomed the decision as a firm rebuke to a church they see as drifting away from core biblical values.
"I'm encouraged by how seriously the (Anglican leaders) took this situation and are dealing with it in a forthright and honest manner to try to cajole the Episcopal Church into being forthright and honest as well," said the Rev. Patrick Allen. His St. Joseph of Arimathea Episcopal Church in Hendersonville is in the midst of a 40-day period of prayer and reflection to decide whether it will leave the Episcopal Church over its acceptance of gays.
And now, those Episcopalians in the 2.3-million member U.S. denomination who back gay acceptance — faced with a deadline to reverse their position — are finding themselves struggling with the same question as Allen's congregation: Has the cost of membership become too high?
The global Anglican Communion, represented in the United States by the Episcopal Church, has spent years debating how its 77 million members should interpret Scripture on salvation, truth and sexuality.
But for theological conservatives, the time for talk ended in 2003 when the U.S. denomination consecrated its first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.
D.J. - R.I.P.
From the Boston Globe:He was the guy who would miss 11 straight shots, then come down the court with everything on the line and drill the game-winner without blinking.That's how I will remember Dennis Johnson, the freckle-faced bulldog who joined the Celtics in 1983 and was a pivotal member of the 1984 and '86 championship teams. DJ's role was often diminished amid the long shadows of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish, yet he was the one Bird singled out as "the best teammate I've ever played with."Johnson collapsed and died yesterday in Austin, Texas, where he was the coach of the Austin Toros of the NBA Development League. He was 52 years old, too young to have his life cut so terribly short.
22 February 2007
"Under No Circumstances . . .
Regarding the recommendations to the Episcopal Church, I am willing to be persuaded that a temporary compromise on issues of governance may be necessary to keep the Anglican Communion intact. However, under no circumstances will I support a moratorium on the consecration of individuals living in same-sex relationships to the episcopacy, and under no circumstances will I enforce a ban on the blessing of same sex unions in the Diocese of Washington, if that, in fact, is what the Primates are asking us to do.
Christians throughout the world are born into cultures that persecute, stigmatize and deny the dignity of God’s gay and lesbian children. We marginalize them, make them scapegoats and refuse their manifold gifts. The Episcopal Church is as guilty of these offenses as any other, and in recognizing this we have begun a journey of repentance. In its fourth decade, this journey is still incomplete, and its success, as ever, is in doubt. How agonizing then, in this holy season of Lent, to see the Archbishop of Canterbury succumb to the Archbishop of Nigeria and call upon us to remain in our sins.
Denial Of Death Yields Culture Of Death.
Metaphysics, the philosopher Hans Jonas once wrote, “arises from graves.” So, in a crucial sense, does bioethics. Of course, death is not the only human problem of bioethical significance. Natality, not mortality, is arguably the source of today’s gravest and most novel quandaries—from the prospect of human cloning to the genetic screening of embryos to the return of eugenics in the form of amniocentesis-and-abortion.
Yet it is also the case, interestingly, that the very technological civilization that has developed these marvelous new methods of making babies—children for the infertile, children without disorders, children for older women—is also the least interested in procreation, at least by the numbers. Modern, advanced democracies have the lowest birthrates in human history; they are not producing enough children to replace themselves. And it may be that our anti-natalism has much to do with our understanding (or misunderstanding) of our mortal condition. We readily ignore death, making procreation seem less urgent to men and women who think there will always be more time; and we desperately evade death, making procreation seem less important than sustaining the healthy self into the indefinite future. A death-denying civilization is also, it seems, a child-denying civilization.
Frederica On Fasting.
A few weeks ago, a videographer from Beliefnet.com came to my house and we taped 5 short commentaries (about 3 min each) of me talking about prayer and other stuff while sitting in my icon corner. The first one, on fasting during Lent, is now edited and live on the "Preachers and Teachers" area of Beliefnet's website:
There's a hundred ways I'd like to do it over better, but the folks at Bnet seem pretty happy with it. Have a blessed Lent!
Meaningful Discipline? Credibly Catholic?
“We came very close to separation,” said Archbishop Gregory Venables of this weekend’s meeting of global Anglican leaders, “but Biblical doctrine and behavior have been affirmed as the norms in the Anglican Church.”
It could have gone the other way, and for a time it looked as if it would. But, in the end, Anglican conservatives everywhere breathed a collective sigh of relief on reading the strongly worded statement issued unanimously by the Church’s thirty-eight primates, which bluntly called on the Episcopal Church—the province of the Anglican Communion in the United States—to reverse its course or face expulsion. Of course, it remains to be seen whether or not the liberal American church will decide to comply. But by avoiding schism and enacting meaningful discipline upon one of its errant members, the Anglican Communion proved itself to be a reality with substance rather than the failed experiment many feared it had become. Today, concluded the theologian Philip Turner, “Anglicanism remains a credible expression of Catholic Christianity.”
“God grew tired of us. He tired of bad deeds and wanted to finish us.” These apocalyptic words of a refugee from the brutal civil war in Sudan provide the title for a new documentary, directed by Christopher Dillon Quinn and narrated by Nicole Kidman. God Grew Tired of Us chronicles the resettlement of three refugees (John, Daniel, and Panther) from Sudan, as they move first to Kenya and then to the United States. The result of Quinn’s work, which follows a different group of refugees from and for a longer period of time than the 2003 film The Lost Boys of Sudan, is a crisply edited and unadorned film, consisting mostly of interviews with the boys both before they leave for America and over a four-year period after they reach the U.S.
The film’s restraint and sobriety render it a powerful vehicle for communicating the horrors of genocide, a realistic appraisal of America as a land of second chances, and a moving depiction of the irrepressible work ethic and deep religious faith of the refugees.
. . .
The most difficult adjustment is to the loss of the community that defined their very existence in Africa. In coming to America, the boys suffer a double separation: from families in native Sudan and then from fellow lost boys. One of them observes, “In Africa, we were a large group. Here, we are only four; it is not enough.” The individualism of American life forces them to unlearn lessons they learned in their refugee camp, such as that “the best way when someone’s suffering is to involve yourself in his problem.”
The sense of duty to family is rooted not just in their traditional way of life in which numerous generations live together and rely on one another, but also in their Christian faith. Echoing St. Paul, they speak of individuals as having different talents or gifts in accord with which each person has a duty or a role. As Christmas approaches, one of the boys captures their rather direct, biblical faith when he states, “In Africa, Christmas is a time to prepare ourselves spiritually to receive Jesus Christ.” Without any hint of cynicism, they wonder about the point of our Christmas celebrations: Santa Claus, Christmas trees, and shopping.
The power of the faith of the refugees is clear from their undaunted hope in the face of the horrors they have witnessed. One young man describes how, because of his height, at the age of 13 he was put in charge of 1,200 young persons. His first lesson was “how to bury the dead bodies.” No wonder he was led to ponder the biblical account of the end of time. It seemed to be the “last day, as people say in the bible,” when “Jesus will come and the “earth will be judged.” Without heavy moralizing or inordinate attention to violence, the film, which ends with an emotional scene of reunion, moves the hearts and minds of viewers to make judgments about genocide, about America, and about religious faith.
21 February 2007
Wright Re Lewis.
I have something of the same feeling on re-reading C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. I owe Lewis a great debt. In my late teens and early twenties I read everything of his I could get my hands on, and read some of his paperbacks and essays several times over. There are sentences, and some whole passages, I know pretty much by heart.
Millions around the world have been introduced to, and nurtured within, the Christian faith through his work where their own preachers and teachers were not giving them what they needed. That was certainly true of me.
My Oxford tutors looked down their noses if you so much as mentioned him in a tutorial. This was, we may suppose, mere jealousy: He sold and they didn’t. It may also have been the frustration of the professional who, busy about his footnotes, sees the amateur effortlessly sailing past to the winning post.
And partly it may have been the sense that the Christianity offered by Lewis both was and wasn’t the “mere” thing he made it out to be. There is a definite spin to it. One of the puzzles, indeed, is the way in which Lewis has been lionized by Evangelicals when he clearly didn’t believe in several classic Evangelical shibboleths. He was wary of penal substitution, not bothered by infallibility or inerrancy, and decidedly dodgy on justification by faith (though who am I to talk, considering what some in America say about me?).
But above all, like my businessman friend, it worked; a lot of people have become Christians through reading Lewis and, though, like me, they may have gone on to think things through in ways he didn’t, they retain, like me, a massive and glorious indebtedness. All that now follows stands under that rubric.
Lent & The Crucial.
Earlier this week I heard a minister quote a spiritual genius: "All the problems in the world are caused by man's inability to sit quietly in a room by himself." We're restless and need action, which in a modern media world means information. We need the busy buzz--the Internet, TV, instant messages, magazines and newspapers, the beeps and boops and bops. Rudy's up in Iowa. Hillary's stuck. We want to be among the first to have this information and the first to share it. And we want it not because it's crucial but because it distracts us from the crucial. It takes our minds away from what is most important. Who you are, for instance, or what we are about. It's a great relief not to think about the important. It's a relief to focus on factoids.
"Regiving" God's Love in Christ.
“They shall look on Him whom they have pierced.” Let us look with trust at the pierced side of Jesus from which flow “blood and water” (Jn 19:34)!
The Fathers of the Church considered these elements as symbols of the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist.
Through the water of Baptism, thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit, we are given access to the intimacy of Trinitarian love. In the Lenten journey, memorial of our Baptism, we are exhorted to come out of ourselves in order to open ourselves, in trustful abandonment, to the merciful embrace of the Father (cf. Saint John Chrysostom, "Catecheses", 3,14ff).
Blood, symbol of the love of the Good Shepherd, flows into us especially in the Eucharistic mystery: “The Eucharist draws us into Jesus’ act of self-oblation, […] we enter into the very dynamic of His self-giving” (encyclical "Deus caritas est", 13).
Let us live Lent then, as a “Eucharistic” time in which, welcoming the love of Jesus, we learn to spread it around us with every word and deed.
Contemplating “Him whom they have pierced” moves us in this way to open our hearts to others, recognizing the wounds inflicted upon the dignity of the human person; it moves us, in particular, to fight every form of contempt for life and human exploitation and to alleviate the tragedies of loneliness and abandonment of so many people.
May Lent be for every Christian a renewed experience of God’s love given to us in Christ, a love that each day we, in turn, must “regive” to our neighbour, especially to the one who suffers most and is in need.
Only in this way will we be able to participate fully in the joy of Easter. May Mary, Mother of Beautiful Love, guide us in this Lenten journey, a journey of authentic conversion to the love of Christ. I wish you, dear brothers and sisters, a fruitful Lenten journey, imparting with affection to all of you, a special Apostolic Blessing.
Lent, Parochial & Plain.
Is there any Christian who starts by taking Lent seriously on Ash Wednesday and yet comes to Easter Sunday who does not feel “bloodied by the contest,” caught up in the ganglia of sin coiling about the soul? But for Newman that’s just the point. For it is the struggle itself that teaches us how we stand before God. Reliance on grace is taught in the pedagogy of the struggle, and Lent is that pedagogue:I am speaking of . . . what every one must know in his own case: how difficult it is to command himself, and do what he wishes to do; how weak the governing principle of his mind is, and how poorly and imperfectly he comes up to his own notions of right and truth; how difficult it is to command his feelings, grief, anger, impatience, joy, fear; how difficult to govern his own tongue, to say just what he would; how difficult to rouse himself to do what he would, at this time or that; how difficult to rise in the morning; how difficult to go about his duties and not be idle; how difficult to eat and drink just what he should, how difficult to regulate his thoughts through the day; how difficult to keep out of his mind what should be kept out of it.These are difficulties for all Christians, of course, but most especially for those serious about Lent. That was why for Newman Lent ultimately was the season for learning how to rely on the grace of God—and on the hope that is the fruit of that grace. And that, in the last analysis, is all he can really have to say to us infirm sinners: “As men in a battle cannot see how it is going, so Christians have no certain signs of God’s presence in their hearts, and can but look up towards their Lord and Savior, and timidly hope.”
TitusOneNine is gathering together responses to the Primates' communique (Update: Kendall has gathered many more responses). Among them are:
- Katherine Jefferts-Schori (Presiding Bishop)
The Episcopal Church has been asked to consider the wider body of the Anglican Communion and its needs. Our own Church has in recent years tended to focus on the suffering of one portion of the body, particularly those who feel that justice demands the full recognition and celebration of the gifts of gay and lesbian Christians. That focus has been seen in some other parts of the global Church, as inappropriate, especially as it has been felt to be a dismissal of traditional understandings of sexual morality. Both parties hold positions that can be defended by appeal to our Anglican sources of authority - scripture, tradition, and reason - but each finds it very difficult to understand and embrace the other. What is being asked of both parties is a season of fasting - from authorizing rites for blessing same-sex unions and consecrating bishops in such unions on the one hand, and from transgressing traditional diocesan boundaries on the other.
- Robert Duncan (Bishop of Pittsburgh, Moderator of the Anglican Communion Network) This document recognized the large number of bishops, clergy, and people who are completely with the received teaching of the Communion. We have asked for oversight from the Primates and at this meeting, I reaffirmed this request. This document goes a very long way towards providing that. The document recognizes that there are some in the Episcopal Church who for theological reasons and for ecclesiological reasons cannot recognize Katharine Jefferts Schori as our primate. The document recognizes the legitimacy of our request of opening a space between the two sides while the covenant process moves forward. It is a very acceptable result.
What I think I really want to say is that I am cautiously optimistic. Anglicanism, as represented by the Primates at this meeting, has stood with the faith once delivered. We are in the midst of a reformation, and still have much work ahead for us. (From Church of England Newspaper interview)
- Neil Alexander (Bishop of Atlanta)
- Mark Sisk (Bishop of New York)
- Mark Andrus (Bishop of California)
- Jack Iker (Bishop of Ft. Worth)
- Henry Orombi (Archbishop of Uganda) The Primates Communiqué from our last meeting in 2005 in Dromatine, Northern Ireland, put in place several recommendations in order for trust to be restored within the Communion, which TEC was supposed to address at its General Convention in June of 2006. While TEC may have done the best they could at the time, it was not good enough. We need reassurance that they are really serious. So, we have asked for two simple things before 30th September.
1. The House of Bishops of TEC needs to make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses or through General Convention
2. The House of Bishops of TEC needs to make a statement that all its members will definitely NOT consent to the consecration of any person as a Bishop who is living in a same-sex union
If they do not give these assurances, it will have “consequences for the full participation of [their] Church in the life of the [Anglican] Communion.” TEC’s Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, signed this Communiqué. We pray that she will take it more seriously than her predecessor did when he signed our Communiqués but proceeded to denounce and violate them.
Feeling Pretty and Witty and Bright?
There once was a time when a nagging sense of unworthiness was considered a good thing. This was before 1969, when Nathaniel Branden published The Psychology of Self-Esteem, which sanctioned narcissism and pronounced self-esteem as the cornerstone of success. As the cult of self-esteem swelled, the art of self-deprecation — even in jest — became a character flaw, indicative of an interior smoldering heap of insecurity and self-loathing. Humility displaced pride as the seventh deadly sin.
Creaky old relic that it is, the Church persists in thinking that human beings are imperfect creatures that benefit from the occasional sober contemplations of their flaws. Today, the dies cinerum, is one such day. Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans and even some rogue evangelicals mark the beginning of Lent with ashes smudged on their foreheads, a sooty reminder of mortality and sin: For dust you are, and to dust you will return. As self-esteem goes, you can’t go any lower than this. The ashes, in truth, impose. The Rev. Mark D. Roberts, a Presbyterian pastor, wrote in a Lenten meditation that some congregants complain that the Ash Wednesday service is a “downer.” (Note to these people: Good Friday looms. Get Prozac.)
Somewhere, in the Church of Self-Esteem, a pastor today will smear StriVectin on foreheads, not ashes. “You are special,” he’ll whisper, and the worshiper will smile.
A Face Made For Radio.
Numbering Our Days.*
Teach us to number our days,
That we may apply our hearts to wisdom.
“Begin with the end in mind” is one of the principles shaping Stephen Covey’s best-selling self-help book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and that is good advice whether one is starting a business, a round of golf, or a war. But it is just a variation on the ancient wisdom of the Church entrusted with the revelation of God. This “teach us to number our days” business is Moses’ poetic way of saying that we will all die, and he sees that the height – or depth – of foolishness comes in living as if that were not so, as if we would live forever. The way of wisdom is to begin and live with the end in mind.
Problem is, we live in a passionately death-denying culture. (Paradoxically, but predictably, it has also become, in John Paul II’s phrase, a “culture of death” – but that must wait for another Grail or sermon.) And before we can assess our days and prioritize our commitments with the end in mind, we need first of all to be reminded, to have it driven into our heads, that there will, in fact, be an end. And so, with Moses, we need to pray that the Lord would “teach us to number our days.”
The Lord does teach us, and he does so in and through our participation in the life of Christ’s Body, the Church. And in the yearly cycle of that life, we come, this year on the first day of March, to the Church’s annual memento mori: Ash Wednesday, when ashes are imposed on foreheads, and we each receive Moses’ wisdom, but in starker terms:
Remember, O man, that dust thou art,
And unto dust shalt thou return.
This is no exercise in guilt-inducing morbid introspection. It is a coming to grips with reality, with the intention that we will then better order our lives in accord with reality – which is to say, that we may live wisely.
In February, we buried the dear lady who had been our oldest member, Mary Hudgins, a woman who had her whole long life applied her heart to wisdom. When Mary was growing up, her father led the family every night in evening devotions from the Book of Common Prayer. Included in those devotions was this prayer, which well sums up the lessons of Ash Wednesday:
Make us ever mindful of the time when we shall lie down in the dust; and grant us grace always to live in such a state, that we may never be afraid to die; so that, living and dying, we may be thine, through the merits and satisfaction of thy Son Jesus Christ, in whose Name we offer up these our imperfect prayers.
May that become our prayer as well. I look forward to seeing you on Ash Wednesday as we together learn to number our days and apply our hearts to wisdom.
George Washington, Distiller Of Spirits.
MOUNT VERNON, Va.--Although George Washington was born 275 years ago tomorrow, most Americans think they know a great deal about him. He led American soldiers in winning our independence from Britain. He was the nation's first president. He adorns our dollar bill and a new dollar coin. But how many people know he was also a leading businessman, probably the No. 1 whiskey producer in all of colonial America?
Indeed, Washington was a prosperous farmer and entrepreneur throughout his life. "He thought like an American businessman," says Jim Rees, the executive director of Washington's Mount Vernon estate. "He was a true disciple of the free enterprise system, and he sensed that our new system of government would encourage people to think creatively, take chances and invest."
Mr. Rees is proud that Mount Vernon is helping showcase our Founding Father's business career by opening a complete reconstruction of his 75-by-30-foot distillery, which at its peak turned out 11,000 gallons a year of corn and rye whiskey along with fruit brandy. (The distillery and accompanying museum open to the public on March 31.) James Anderson, a Scot who was convinced making whiskey was a growth industry, pitched the idea to Washington just weeks before he retired from office. Import taxes had reduced the consumption of molasses-based rum and made home-grown hooch popular. At the time, the average American consumed five gallons of distilled spirits every year, compared with only 1.8 gallons today.
20 February 2007
Matt Kennedy re The Primates Meeting.
The orthodox in North America and, indeed, in the Communion world-wide needed three things from the primates meeting in Tanzania:
1. Recognition that the Episcopal Church has not sufficiently complied with the Windsor Requests as articulated by the Primates at Dromantine.
2. Substantive discipline
3. Protection for Windsor Compliant parishes and dioceses both within and outside the Episcopal Church.
We have recieved all three.
19 February 2007
From The Primates.
Following through the Windsor Report9. Since the controversial events of 2003, we have faced the reality of increased tension in the life of the Anglican Communion – tension so deep that the fabric of our common life together has been torn. The Windsor Report of 2004 described the Communion as suffering from an “illness”. This “illness” arises from a breakdown in the trust and mutual recognition of one another as faithful disciples of Christ, which should be among the first fruits of our Communion in Christ with one another.
10. The Windsor Report identified two threats to our common life: first, certain developments in the life and ministry of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada which challenged the standard of teaching on human sexuality articulated in the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10; and second, interventions in the life of those Provinces which arose as reactions to the urgent pastoral needs that certain primates perceived. The Windsor Report did not see a “moral equivalence” between these events, since the cross-boundary interventions arose from a deep concern for the welfare of Anglicans in the face of innovation. Nevertheless both innovation and intervention are central factors placing strains on our common life. The Windsor Report recognised this (TWR Section D) and invited the Instruments of Communion to call for a moratorium of such actions .
11. What has been quite clear throughout this period is that the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 is the standard of teaching which is presupposed in the Windsor Report and from which the primates have worked. This restates the traditional teaching of the Christian Church that “in view of the teaching of Scripture, [the Conference] upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage”, and applies this to several areas which are discussed further below. The Primates have reaffirmed this teaching in all their recent meetings , and indicated how a change in the formal teaching of any one Province would indicate a departure from the standard upheld by the Communion as a whole.
12. At our last meeting in Dromantine, the primates called for certain actions to address the situation in our common life, and to address those challenges to the teaching of the Lambeth Resolution which had been raised by recent developments. Now in Dar es Salaam, we have had to give attention to the progress that has been made.
One must not read between the lines to see the deep division reflected in this document.
The definitive text of any proposed Covenant which could command the long term confidence of the Communion would need extensive consultation and refining. Although several possible texts have already been developed, a text for adoption would need to be debated and accepted in the Provinces through their own appropriate processes before formal synodical processes of adoption, if the Covenant was to be received and have any strength or reality.
At the same time, there needed to be a commitment now to the fundamental shape of the covenant in order to address the concerns of those who feared that the very credibility of the commitment of the Anglican Churches to one another and to the Gospel itself was in doubt.
The CDG therefore proposes that the Primates give consideration to a preliminary draft text for a covenant which has been developed from existing models, that they commend this text to the Provinces for study and response, and that they express an appropriate measure of consent to this text and express the intention to pursue its fine-tuning and adoption through the consultative and constitutional processes of the Provinces.
The Primates are not being asked to commit their churches at this stage, since they are all bound by their own Provincial constitutions to observe due process. What they are being asked to do is to recognise in the general substance of the preliminary draft set forth by the CDG a concise expression of what may be considered as authentic Anglicanism. Primates are also asked to request a response from their Provinces on the draft text to the Covenant Design Group in time for there to be the preparation of a revised draft which could receive initial consideration at the Lambeth Conference.
The text offered is meant to be robust enough to express clear commitment in those areas of Anglican faith about which there has been the most underlying concern in recent events, while at the same time being faithful and consistent with the declarations, formularies and commitments of Anglicanism as they have been received by our Churches. In this way, nothing which is commended in the draft text of the Covenant can be said to be “new”; it is rather an assertion of that understanding of true Christian faith as it has been received in the Anglican Churches.
What is to be offered in the Covenant is not the invention of a new way of being Anglican, but a fresh restatement and assertion of the faith which we as Anglicans have received, and a commitment to inter-dependent life such as always in theory at least been given recognition.
6 Unity of the Communion
(Nehemiah 2.17,18, Mt. 18.15-18, 1 Corinthians 12, 2 Corinthians 4.1-18, 13: 5-10, Galatians 6.1-10)
Each Church commits itself
in essential matters of common concern, to have regard to the common good of the Communion in the exercise of its autonomy, and to support the work of the Instruments of Communion with the spiritual and material resources available to it.
to spend time with openness and patience in matters of theological debate and discernment to listen and to study with one another in order to comprehend the will of God. Such study and debate is an essential feature of the life of the Church as its seeks to be led by the Spirit into all truth and to proclaim the Gospel afresh in each generation. Some issues, which are perceived as controversial or new when they arise, may well evoke a deeper understanding of the implications of God’s revelation to us; others may prove to be distractions or even obstacles to the faith: all therefore need to be tested by shared discernment in the life of the Church.
to seek with other members, through the Church’s shared councils, a common mind about matters of essential concern, consistent with the Scriptures, common standards of faith, and the canon law of our churches.
to heed the counsel of our Instruments of Communion in matters which threaten the unity of the Communion and the effectiveness of our mission. While the Instruments of Communion have no juridical or executive authority in our Provinces, we recognise them as those bodies by which our common life in Christ is articulated and sustained, and which therefore carry a moral authority which commands our respect.
to seek the guidance of the Instruments of Communion, where there are matters in serious dispute among churches that cannot be resolved by mutual admonition and counsel:
by submitting the matter to the Primates Meeting
if the Primates believe that the matter is not one for which a common mind has been articulated, they will seek it with the other instruments and their councils
finally, on this basis, the Primates will offer guidance and direction.
We acknowledge that in the most extreme circumstances, where member churches choose not to fulfil the substance of the covenant as understood by the Councils of the Instruments of Communion, we will consider that such churches will have relinquished for themselves the force and meaning of the covenant’s purpose, and a process of restoration and renewal will be required to re-establish their covenant relationship with other member churches.