September 2003 Archives

Yesterday, I was officially introduced to my field-placement parish as their new seminarian. Here is what the printed announcements said, "We are privileged and very happy to welcome to St. Paul's Mr. Robert Griffith, as student at The General Theological Seminary who will be serving as our Seminarian. Mr. Griffith is a Candidate for Holy Orders from the Diocese of Ohio. Please introduce yourself to him, and by all means remember him in your prayers."

I like the last half of the last sentence the most, because I certainly need them! Officially, I'm not quite a candidate yet, just a lowly Postulant. Candidacy will be this spring. Father Cullen, the Rector, mentioned also that he didn't want anyone coming up to him and telling him that they don't like me, because he does. This is a great little Anglo-Catholic parish with an incredible history. I think I am very fortunate to have landed at this place. The church is St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Carroll St. in the Carroll Gardens section of Brooklyn.

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Go study, go study, go

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Go study, go study, go study....

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I gotta study and I

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I gotta study and I don't wanna! Please don't make me read any more about Medieval English Christianity! Please cancel the paper on Julian of Norwich! Please don't make us right a book review, picking 12 topics to write on from Pastors and the Care of Souls in Medieval England! Actually, the discussion on Trinity (what the heck?) during Systematics was quite good. I tend to dominate. I need to quit doing that, but I process out loud, and repeating all that Patristics stuff helps me remember it.

Of course, then there is Liturgics. Do an analysis of "Space" at St. Thomas, 5th Ave., and St. Peters Lutheran, somewhere in Mid-town, and write a long paper on it. What does the "space" say about the church's theology of community, nation, individual, movement, eucharist, involvement, yadda, yadda, yadda. Ugghhhhh....... Actually, it is interesting. I'm just complaining, which I know I need to stop doing because I am bugging people. What, then, Pastoral Theology and Homiletics.

I'm also not studying!

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Listening to a piece on

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Listening to a piece on the Texas Legislature's redistricting problems on NPR, I heard it said that the legislature used to be known for its bipartisanism - even going so far as to declare itself the best functioning legislature in the world. It is Texas, after all. Anyway, the thought struck me as they were describing all the rancor between Democrats and Republicans, and now that the runaway democratic legislators have returned to the state, between the Republicans themselves, that the breakdown in the ability of our legislators, whether state or national, to govern is analogous to American Christianity's inability to work through the theological and cultural wars going on now. Which came first, rancorous and intransient legislators refusing to work together to solve state and national problems, or the rancorous and intransient religious leaders refusing to work together to present to the world a faith that doesn稚 go about destroying itself? Who influenced whom? Has the Religious Right, in demanding that the world recognize their particular brand of theological understanding and praxis as they only legitimate expression of Christianity, so influenced politics that politicians now define their party's political theory and praxis as the only expression of good ol' American patriotism, or the other way around. Or something like that.

I do not know enough about the history of it all, but do understand that religious and political wars have been with us from the beginning. It seems to me that as the fundamentalist liberal Christians infused liberal politics in the '70's and as the fundamentalist conservative Christians infused conservative politics in the '80's, politics has come out on the lesser side of success.

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Wondering around the Web, I came across this commentary by Cal Thomas on the Judge Moore, Alabama Ten Commandments monument controversy, and thought it interesting. Thomas does not look very favorably, any longer, on the antics of the Religious Right. As a matter of fact, he and Ed Dobson wrote a book I have yet to read, but am interested in reading, entitled, Blinded by Might. Here is the link to the article. I found the article through The Blinne Blog

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"No one should deny that

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"No one should deny that traditional biblical interpretation has proved inadequate to protect the Reformed Church in South Africa, inadequate to protect the Medieval Catholic Church from the cruelty of the Inquisition - inadequate to protect American Christians from their twentieth-century military (cf.Ethics, p. 314). We cannot correct all the excesses Christians have carried out under traditional cover, but we must ask if we ourselves are helpless prisoners of our traditional ways of reading the Bible."
- James Wm. McClendon, Jr., Doctrine: Systematic Theology, Volume 2, pp. 468-469

Have to read this book for Systematic Theology. He comes from a Baptist tradition and teaches at Fuller. Kind of an odd choice for a more liberal Anglican seminary, but it is very good - someone with whom I actually feel an affinity.

Add to this, southern expressions of national denominations that split, north and south (American Baptists vs. Southern Baptists, for example), as they attempted to biblically justify chattel slavery! We will add to this, later on, perhaps many years from now, prohabitionist Christians and denominations as they demanded belief that homosexuality would be the destruction of Western Civilization, the United States, and of all that is good and virtuous in the world, because the Bible said so!

I'm not a scholar nor an intellectual, but why don't people think?

No dramatic event. The storm came and went without much fanfare in the city. Is it a bit wrong to hope for a very dramatic event when I know people may (MAY) be hurt and property lost, just for the thrill of it? Yes, probably, but I still would have liked to have seen some drama this far north. There was a good bit of wind and at Ashton's place in New Jersey there were a lot of tree limbs fallen, and there was some rain. All is calm this morning. I do feel badly for all the terrible things that happened to people just a little further south were Isabel actually hit. It is not a good thing, not really a thrilling thing when others suffer loss, just a terrible thing.

The controversy continues to pull at the existence of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. Things will never be the same, as much as many liberals want to think this is just another "women's ordination" type issue. There are more than just a few people, both lay and ordained, that are dismayed at the events of General Convention. People are not happy. Many people are absolutely dismayed that the Church would do such a thing. I just read an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the Bishop of Atlanta's first open forum on Robinson's election and the affirmative vote from the diocesan delegates. American society in general is not in a happy mood over homosexuality in general, and of course this translates into the Church. There is no joy. There is no victory. There has to be a third way!

There are a lot of seminarians from Atlanta - probably the largest single contingent from any diocese. Some of them must be very careful about their orientation being made known because of the feelings resident in their sponsoring parish, others have no problem. It is a hard road to navigate.

The issue of Robinson and homosexuality in general has infused many examples given in our classes, the most pertinent being Pastoral Theology. It feels so odd knowing that arbitrary examples given and topics discussed in class relates directly to me - and not me alone but of my kind... a kind not of choice or want, but that simply is. There is almost a surreal aspect to it. Two people discussing the issue and there we sit. General is very supportive and has gay faculty, but knowing that this whole issue is over what and who I am and seeing the Church pull itself apart over - me, my kind - is disconcerting.

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Here is the latest from

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Here is the latest from the Episcopal News Service concerning the international conflict and the situation concerning the American Church's decision on gay issues during the recent General Convention:

Anglicans, Episcopalians still weighing General Convention decisions

This semester is going to

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This semester is going to kill me. I'm not even finished with the second week and I've been unable to complete most of my reading (which truly is impossible anyway, but one would think I would have gotten most of it done). I have a paper due on Thursday afternoon (tomorrow) and I have hardly begun the reading - The Venerable Bede, father of Medieval and Patristic church history in England. When, I ask you - when?, am I going to be able to finish this paper?

I have no clue whether my illness last spring was due to stress or whether stress may have contributed to the problem, but so far this term I'm headed in the same direction. I can't. At least the accountability of a running group will help me practice a little more consistently the whole "self-care" thing they talk about so much here. I think I am going to have to tell Father Wright that I cannot have a paper ready for him by Thursday, come what may. I could hand in anything, but I do want to do a good job.

Besides, the retreat is this weekend. Too bad most of it will be consumed by my attempt to catch up on my reading for classes.

I read in the chapel for the first time for yesterday's Evening Prayer. That one is down, now. What am I doing writing this at 4:50 am?

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I was quoted in the

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I was quoted in the New York Post yesterday. The Times would have been better, but I'll take what I can get. :-)

Fred Phelps and his cronies were protesting the first day of classes of the Harvey Milk High School. The school is for LGBT students where were so harassed and abused in their regular public school that this is their last option. So, Fred was there to make sure the kids knew that they were hell-bound, that according to Leviticus they should be put to death, and that they are destroying the nation. The Post estimated about 200 counter-protesters, including around 17 of us from General. Here is the paragraph:

"Religion and holy writ were also invoked by many of the more than 200 people, most of them New Yorkers, who turned up to support the students, who were quickly ushered past police barricades into the school. 'I'm here as a Christian,' said supporter Bob Griffith, 42," (okay, so they got my age wrong!) "of Manhattan. 'The kind of sentiment being expressed [by the protesters] is not true to what God would have us do.'"

There you have it. I wonder if that is my fifteen minutes of fame? Being in the Gay People's Chronicle in Cleveland several times isn't quite the same as the New York Post, I suppose.

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We had an eventful morning. Fred Phelps and his crew were protesting the first day of classes for students of the Harvey Milk High School in Manhattan. Several of us from the seminary went up to counter Phelps and support the students. I look forward and see more prohibition's taking up the non-hypocritical and consistent application of the Levitical verses on homosexual conduct by demanding death for sodomites, as one of Phelps' signs indicated. As prohibition's argument after prohibition's argument falls by the wayside, the only route left is to get straight to the point - obey the Old Testament, Levitical prescription for death to those men who engage in such behavior.

A former staff leader of the Christian Coalition, who left because he thought they were not being faithful enough, said that until the Religious Right demands what scripture demands - the death penalty for those who engage in homosexual acts - God will not bless the Religious Right's effort to stop homosexuality.

This is only the consistent way to apply these scriptures in the way they want to use these scriptures. Else, they have to give up the use of the O.T. verses coming under the Levitical Law.

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Theology: "Theology is faith seeking understanding." Anselm. From, Studying Congregations: A New Handbook

After seeking, "The Order," yesterday, the idea of the "Carolingian Order," a somewhat rogue order often acting outside the authority of the Roman Church, was to seek understanding and knowledge beyond measure. By the way, in Church History, we are actually beginning "Carolingian Christianity." Hum. Anyway, faith seeking understanding is a good way to sum up my obsession.

At times it seems that

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At times it seems that the American culture/policy is the Wall Mart of the world - we move in, cut the prices until all the locals are out of business, and then just pull out when our margins are high enough. Sometimes, it seems like the politicized Evangelical church is the Wall Mart of Christianity - they bully their way in, demand that everyone accept their definitions, their theological determinations, and in the minds of the majority of unchurched Americans declare that they are the only true vain of Christianity - the only true Christians, God's chosen. In politics, they (politicized Evangelicalism, remember) proclaim they are the salvation of all cultural wrongs, all personal foibles and proclivities because their mind is God's mind - legalistic righteousness. Granted, they generally don't skip town when the margins are too low, but according to their way of thinking, it doesn't matter that there are already present viable and vibrant Christian assemblies who do not share their views on theology, worship, living, aesthetics, and just about anything else. Since they are the low-price leader, the rest of these quaint, outdated, and presumably losing ventures need to move aside while they take care of the locals.

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This is going to be

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This is going to be a tough semester. I'm simply going to have to focus on a couple subjects and let the others go.

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Tomorrow begins the second year, our Middler year. I can't get over how quickly one year passed.

My biggest failing right now is discipline. I have regained all the weight I lost during my illness, which isn't all bad, but I didn't want to gain it all back from eating a poor diet, which is what I have done. Discipline in the way I eat. My sleeping patterns are all out of wack, which has to do in part to a very flexible schedule this past summer, and in part to Ashton, and in part to just not caring that much, but now, I have to. Discipline to go to bed and get up in a consistent manner - in bed by 10:30 pm and up by 5:30 am! Study, well, studying will be as studying is. Discipline to set aside ample time and to stay focused. Disciple with my health - to work out and run! Quiet-time, which I thing as a seminarian, is the most vital part of my life and day. This is perhaps my greatest failing of discipline. Discipline to be with God in that thin-space every morning in order to have peaceful and effective life. A life in order is a good thing indeed, especially if there is so much to be accomplished and that I want to accomplish. Too much stuff, really, to accommodate.

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This comes from the commencement speech by Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University, to the graduating class at Hillsdale College. The speech is entitled, "Freedom and Its Counterfeit." These are a couple excerpts from the speech I found particularly interesting.

"True freedom consists in the liberation of the human person from the shackles of ignorance, oppression and vice... What overcomes ignorance is knowledge, and the object of knowledge is truth - empirical, moral, spiritual.

"True freedom, the freedom that liberates, is grounded in truth and ordered to truth and, therefore, to virtue. A free person is enslaved neither to the sheer will of another nor to his own appetites and passions. A free person lives uprightly, fulfilling his obligations to family, community, nation and God. By contrast, a person given over to his appetites and passions, a person who scoffs at truth and chooses to live, whether openly or secretly, in defiance of the moral law is not free. He is simply a different kind of slave.

"The counterfeit of freedom consists in the idea of personal and communal liberation from morality, responsibility and truth. It is what our nation's founders expressly distinguished from liberty and condemned as 'license.' The so-called freedom celebrated today by so many... is simply the license to do whatever one pleases. This false conception of freedom - false because disordered, disordered because detached from moral truth and civic responsibility - shackles those in its grip no less powerfully than did the chattel slavery of old. Enslavement to one's own appetites and passions is no less brutal a from of bondage from being a slavery of the soul. It is no less tragic, indeed, it is in certain respects immeasurably more tragic, for being self-imposed.

"Counterfeit freedom is worse than fraudulent. It is the mortal enemy of the real thing. Counterfeit freedom can provide no rational account or defense of its own normative claims...

"But counterfeit freedom poses greater dangers still. As our founders warned, a people given over to license will be incapable of sustaining republican government. As our founders warned, a people given over to license will be incapable of sustaining a republican government. For republican government - government by the people - requires a people who are prepared to take responsibility for the common good, including the preservation of conditions of liberty.

"Listen... to President Fairfield.... at that ceremony on July 4th, 1853... 'Unrestrained freedom is anarchy. Restrained only by force and arms, is despotism; self-restrained is Republicanism...'

"The self-government that is the right of free men and women is truly a sacred trust."

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2003 listed from newest to oldest.

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