Letter to a Discouraged Saint and a Down-Trodden Sinner (same guy)

Good essay by Dan Gilliam over at Next-Wave e-zine.
Read it here.
Pentecost is coming, so what exactly is the “Church?”
The more I think about it, hear what people are saying (and I’m more interested in what un-churched people are saying, honestly), the more I read, the more I experience, I think Dan’s list is a pretty good summation or at least a good foundation upon which to begin, even though his intent is not to present what the “Church” is.

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Holiness

I find myself battling between my upbringing within the tradition of the Holiness Movement and with my current situation within the tradition of Anglo-Catholicism. Both present a very different way of engaging the faith, God, and one another, particularly in how we should live out our lives as Christians.
“Be holy, even as I am holy,” as Jesus said. Yes, but we too often fall into a kind of “perfectionism” that works against our natures as beings that always fall short of the glory of God. That is just how things are, yet not excusing immorality or unholy actions.
As a result, too many of us descend into a “shame spiral” (remember that?) that contributes to unreasonable demands of ourselves and more tragically of others. We expect ever more stringent and demanding proof of our devotion to God exhibited through our actions. (This is the pattern of the politicized Religious Right and fundamentalism) We become Pharisees. Then, we tend to really become Pharisaical – condemning, hypocritical, unrealistic, mean, angry, bitter, seeing the speck in everyone else’s eyes but not the tree trunk in our own, and then trying to demean and squash those who disagree with us.
If course, the other extreme is an attitude that is morally and ethically laissez-faire and a demand that there is really no such thing as sin, no real need for repentance, no need for holiness, and that we are all really good and virtuous by nature.
I want to live into the understanding that we are called by God to be moral and ethical – to love mercy, to do justly, and to walk humbly with our Lord. We are called to be holy. Yet, we all fail again and again and this is our plight. We don’t wallow in it, but we also to not deny the reality of it.
So, give people a break! Be at peace and encourage and cajole and support all to seek God and God’s will, call all to holiness, but allow the judgmentalism to end and let the responsibility of judgment remain with the only one who is justified in judging.

The Triad Of Anglicanism

Tobias Haller, priest, Rector, brother (BSG), writes in his blog, In a Godward Direction, about a few distinctives of Anglicanism.
The entire essay is well worth reading, and is entitled, “The Anglican Triad”
Here are a couple paragraphs that I particularly likes:

For shorthand I will call these three elements Humility, Provinciality, and Variety. They stand in the via media between Humiliation, Provincialism, and Chaos at one extreme, and Pride, Centralism and Uniformity at the other. All three are well attested in foundational documents of Anglicanism (The Articles of Religion, the Prefaces to the English and American Books of Common Prayer) and in the work of those who first focused the Anglican vision, such as Richard Hooker. I’ll limit my citations here to the Articles themselves, by number.

Under “Humility,” he write:

Anglicanism thus humbly rejects concepts of inerrancy and infallibility; even the Scripture itself is “sufficient” for the end for which it was intended: salvation (6). Human understanding, even of the Scripture, is fallible, and subject to a constant review as the church bears its responsibility as the “keeper of Holy Writ.” (19)

A couple things

From the Guardian Unlimited (UK), this commentary by Andrew Brown entitled, “The end of communion,” concerning the Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola’s installation of a Nigerian “missionary Bishop” in Virginia this past week. An interesting read, but from a particular point of view:

For most of the past four years, almost all the energies of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, have been devoted to holding the Anglican communion together in the face of the American civil war. Make no mistake – the supposed worldwide row over homosexuality would never have happened without conservative American money and energy.
and this
The rest of the churches which once constituted the Anglican communion will now have to choose whether they want to belong to any international body at all, and if so, who will head it. Here it seems that Dr Williams may have played a subtle game, because Dr Akinola’s ambition has repelled a great many of his potential supporters.

The Anglican-Episcopal Literacy Quiz:
Of course, this quiz is a bit biased, but bias does not negate truth, at least in most circumstances.
Anglican-Episcopal Literacy Quiz on The Episcopal Majority.
Via: Father Jake Stops the World

Why Liturgy?

Coming from an American-Evangelical/Pentecostal/Charismatic background as I have, the idea that a “liturgy” can really add much at all to the life of a true Christian is pretty anathema. Dead ritural or tradition that takes the place of a true experience of God, which must be “real” in the moment and from the heart – as if a liturgical expression excludes such a thing.
After a good number of years of being in a liturgical church, and particularly the past four years of being in a very liturgical church (Anglo-Catholic of the progressive kind), I am still learning the power and the prose of life within liturgy.
I like the way Rev Sam from Mersea Island, Essex, GB, on his blog Elizaphanian puts it (and this is only a small part of his complete post):

Why liturgy?
So that I can learn how to speak; and pray; and praise.
So that the centre of gravity does not lie in my own feelings and vocabulary but in the expression of the church.
It is not important how I feel when I say ‘Glory be to the Father…’; nor is it important how wholeheartedly I believe what I say. It is a question of obedience – feelings and thought will ebb and flow in my life, but the persistence of discipleship is primarily manifested through obedience.
Liturgy assumes a) that I don’t yet know all that I need to know about Christianity, and b) that the church has learnt some of what it needs to know about Christianity. Liturgy is how that learning is passed on, and developed.
Liturgy is mystery.

Via: Transfiguration Community

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The Fragrance of Life

“You have ravished my heart,
my sister, my bride,
you have ravished my heart
with a glance of your eyes,
with one jewel of your necklace.
“How sweet is your love,
my sister, my bride!
how much better is your love than wine,
and the fragrance of your oils than any spice!”
(Song of Songs 4:9-10)
Oh, to be the beloved. Oh, to receive all that our Lord longs to bestow upon us, His Bride. To have but only a taste of that deep, unfathomable love He makes ready for us, His Beloved. What joy, what rapture, what such unknowing. I can scarcely understand. I can hardly comprehend. I can barely, barely but for a moment – I am overwhelmed.
It isn’t possible, this love, this joy, this peace the Lover of my soul makes known to me. It is hardly possible that this love is freely given – You have ravished my heart, and I cannot endure it. My soul cannot withstand such love, but with only a glance am I devastated.
Oh, is it possible? How is such love possible? The fragrance of Life to the Full.

Horses and horse people

I just got back this evening from the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Championships in Massachusetts. It was a nice drive; well, as nice as it can be driving in and out of New York City. Spring is in the air (cue music). Ashton competed once again in the alumni division (alumnus of Virginia Intermont College), and one of his students from Princeton made it to the finals. They both did a great job, although neither won their divisions. The IHSA includes both Western and English (and by now I actually know what that means!).
I find it refreshing (familiar, satisfying) to re-enter collegiate environments. I miss it, a lot! It is where I want to be. Most of the student competitors are in their final weeks of classes and exam-weeks. I certainly respect their dedication and admire their determination and discipline.
This is a strange sport. Men and women compete against one another. It is very refined, but not at all precious. The horse world is a world in and of itself. They are people who love to compete, but they compete in a very mannered and sane way. And, well, they talk about horses all the time. All the time…
For the most part, it is a great, solid, grounded bunch of students, coaches, and people who just love the sport. The funny thing is that the stereotypic image of students that come from the backgrounds most of them come from does not match their dispositions. Most competitors come from money and privilege, with notable exceptions. They almost have to.
It is good for me to get out of my “world,” which, frankly, is just as obscure and quirky. More so, really. Frankly, I wish some of the people in my “world” were as solid and grounded and well disciplined as those in the IHSA world.
Update: This morning, another thought struck me concerning why these kinds of events feel so good. With the students, coaches, parents, and just interested people, all of us can’t help but be connected to that which is real – dirt/soil, animals, those things that at a foundational level connect us back to the earth, to creation. Despite how wealthy one may be, one can’t help but get dirty, can’t get beyond the smells. We can’t help but be connected to God’s glorious creation.
Living in the kind of city I do, it is very easy to be disconnected with the earth, the rhythms of the world, the seasons, living things.

What is going on?

Since high school, I have claimed to be a “Progressive-Conservative.” Working in academe for all my adult life (until now), claiming to be anything with the word “conservative” in it is not a good career advancement move, but hey, I’m a rebel (!). Working within The Episcopal Church and referring to oneself as some sort of “conservative” can be a form of ecclesial suicide, too.
American “conservatism” (political, social, economic, or religious) is a very different animal than it was 20 odd years ago when I was an idealistic high schooler. I was a political and international-affairs geek, you bet ya. (As I’ve mentioned before, during my senior year I was voted most likely to become president.) Conservatism today, in its more popular and public form, is of a different nature, particularly as it is expressed through the Republican Party and this administration. (In my humble opinion, the Bush administration is not at all “Conservative.” I don’t know what it is, aside from the “neo-conservative” label often applied to it.)
Why is the world experiencing such a relatively swift move to “conservatism?”
Western-Rational-Liberalism (not that individually “Western,” “Rational,” or “Liberal” are to be understood pejoratively) in its drive to remake the world and all institutions and with its underpinning in the Enlightenment idea that history will realize the continual forward movement of humanity as it evolves for the benefit of maximizing human fulfillment, is coming to an end. Modernism vs. Post-modernism. Even during its zenith in the West, it ended up being not much more than “managerialism,” and not done very well at that. (That term comes from Andrew Sullivan’s book, “The Conservative Soul,” which I’m reading right now.) This idea of rational-liberalism had a wide berth – seen in Johnson’s Great Society, the democratic-socialists states of Western Europe, and in Stalinist and Maoist Communism in the USSR and China. It expressed itself, too, in the theologies of the Liberation and Social Gospels, and in “Death of God” and Process Theism. In the United States, the full results of the building societal shift to this way of thinking burst forth most profoundly in the reactionary and revolutionary Baby-Boomer generation of the 1960’s.
Society change was needed legitimately needed during that time. Change still needs to happen, but that generation was determined to bring about the change it deemed necessary. Much good was done, but one of the more negative results occurred in the negative over-reaction to the past and to tradition. There was an obsessive drive to usher in the Age of Aquarius and remake all things in this new image. We are still living with the consequences and still living through the push for such change by those in power who cannot realize that the 1960’s are over and the Age of Aquarius never materialized.
Change in and of itself isn’t the issue. Change is always with us. Uncritical change is the problem – unrelenting change for changes sake. The issue is whether the change being called for or realized is honestly beneficial for the society and for the individual or not. There has been a lot of “throwing out the baby with the bathwater.” A common accusation made by the younger generations towards their parents and grandparents. Remember, the beginnings of Gen-X are now in their mid-40’s. Those that make up Gen-Y have been graduating from college for a few years now.
What has resulted from the often uncritical change occurring over the last 30 years and on such a massive and all pervasive scale is chaos. Forms of chaos are now the norm in education, in economics, in international affairs, in trade, in war, in perceptions of the common good or cohesive cultural glue, in morality, in politics, in religion, in every aspect of life. When chaos rules and when there is little sense of common connections that give identity and the assurance that what one is doing matters and is able to survive and contributes to something good, when all this is missing then the human tendency is to move to “conserve” at least what is perceived to be left of that which gave meaning, identity, and assurity.
We are in a state of chaos, and as a human reaction we have moved more diligently and deliberately and far more swiftly towards “conservatism.” But, towards what kind of conservatism are we moving?
Due to the long march against “conservatism” over the last 30 years by those who claim the “liberal” label, but are really only “anti-conservatives,” what has developed is a form of “conservatism” that no longer represents its best philosophical ideals, but a fundamentalist form of “conservatism” fuelled by angry zeal and a determination for revenge. The label “conservative” is still used, but it has morphed into something different, something more radical, something more determined, something more totalitarian that belies what traditional, philosophical Conservatism actually stands for.
As a result of the inherent deficiencies of Western-Rational-Liberalism, “anti-liberals,” who opened up the table to anyone and everyone except conservatives (even serious and thoughtful ones), are now falling pry to the fruits of their labor. The marginalization and demonization of reasonable, thoughtful conservatives (particularly in academe) has enabled a “conservative” backlash to occur that is far more extreme then anything that existed before. We are in the midst of the backlash and are experiencing the results in politics, economics, and religion; we see it expressed in the American culture-wars, the increasingly fundamentalist turning of the Religious Right and American Evangelicalism, the angry polarization and developing schism in world-wide Anglicanism, and the list goes on and on.
There are positive signs that mitigating forces are afoot, and I can only hope that they will come into ascendancy and keep the extremes from their ultimate triumph – collapse as proof of the evil of the other. I still refer to myself as a “Progressive-Conservative,” and hope that I can live up to the best ideals held within what may seem to be contradictory concepts.