What type of service

Fr. Dan Martins in his blog, Confessions of a Caricoa, posted an entry entitled, Missional Notes.  He is writing about the services of the Church and their connection with people of varying degrees of knowledge about or commitment to Christ.  He is wondering about the growing population of people who are very much in American post-Christendom and what can be understood in these days to draw people into relationship with God through Jesus Christ and the Church.

One thing mentioned is that a service like High Solemn Mass (which we do at St. Paul’s during the regular season) might be over-kill to someone without a church background – the uninitiated or unconverted.  Fr. Dan writes, “Solemn High Mass is solid food, and is likely to induce spiritual
indigestion in those who haven’t been carefully and gradually prepared
for it. Where’s our version of breast milk, strained carrots, and

How do we configure and do “Church” in Post-Christendom and in a culture that is becoming far more pre-Constantinian than post? 

We can no longer assume that new people coming in the door of whatever service or activity the Church engages in know anything about the Christian Gospel, Jesus, or the worship of the Church beyond often trite sound-bytes.  Something like a High Solemn Mass can be very intimidating, and if we actually obey our vows to uphold the Canons of this Church we cannot assume they are baptized Christians, so they may not be able to participate in the central act of such a service.  (They can, of course, come up for a blessing, which is exactly what every unbaptized person to whom I have explained the requirement for communion and why has done once they know they can come forward for a blessing.)  Perhaps this kind of service is for the initiated, while something else may be better suited for these post-Christian seekers.  A fine, well done choral Morning Prayer or Evansong may well fit the bill.

And, how do we configure and do “Church” differently in ways that resonate with younger people and still remain faithful to who and what we are as Anglican Christians in the Episcopal Church?  After all, they are looking for that kind of faithfulness.  An interesting thing about the demographic research – the majority of GenY’ers would rather us say up front who and what we are and clearly delineate what we believe.  They are looking for people and groups who are clear and unafraid to stand for what they believe, as long as we can deal with their honest questions, opinions, and doubts forthrightly and graciously.  With many in the younger generations, it comes down to a matter of rebuilding trust before we can earn the right to speak into their lives.

These are the very questions that I envision the Imago Dei Society dealing with – a charism to research and analyze emerging generations and the emerging cultures so we can meet them in authentic ways that resonate with them without jettisoning the Tradition, both in liturgy and in belief.  Then, taking the knowledge and engaging in “experimental” worshiping communities to see what sticks and what doesn’t.

To be given confidence

I am about finished with a very good book by the new author, Thomas Chatterton Williams, entitled, “Losing My Cool: How a Father’s Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-Hop Culture.”  For the past several years, I have bought an autobiography as one of my summer books.  This is that kind of book for this summer… Williams writing about his life, and I’m finishing it too quickly. 

In his acknowledgments, Williams quotes Truman Capote, “Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot.”  A good statement, a good sentiment, a good thing to remember.

I hated when in school we were told to write about a favorite hero, and everyone seemed to jump right to it.  I couldn’t.  I never really had any heroes, and wondered whether something was wrong with me.

But what about those who gave me confidence?  If I am honest, and I have to ask myself if I am truly remembering correctly, I have encountered more that broke down my confidence than raised it up.  I really have had to be my own motivator for much of my life. 

The person that came to mind most quickly is Dr. Terry Kuhn.  He is retired now, but while at Kent State he was the Vice-Provost and Dean of the new academic unit in which I worked.  He was my boss.  There is much to admire in Dr. Kuhn.  He had enough confidence in me to allow me to branch into areas of interest and person development that never would have been possible, otherwise.  He allowed me to develop the whole technology department for our unit, when I was a student development specialist and hardly a technology guy.

This may be strange way of conveying such a thing, but one of the greatest compliments I remember receiving came from Dr. Kuhn.  I asked him to write a letter of recommendation for me as a perspective student to The General Theological Seminary.  He wrote in the letter that he thought this turn in my life would result in a tremendous waste of talent, but he highly recommended me nevertheless.  There you go. 

Then, of course, there is my mother!

New Troubles

I know I shouldn’t get into this, even before I start.  I have decidedly not been visiting all the Anglican/Episcopalian blogs very often, because, basically, they were truly causing me a lot of angst and distracting me from other important ministry stuff.  I have two brain cells, and when one and half of them is dealing with how this person doesn’t like what that bishop said or whatever that other Primate declared, well, that only leaves 1/2 a brain cell to deal with the rest of my life – just too much to do.  In the end, all this stuff in the Church will come to nothing more than distraction within our culture and defamation of the cause of Christ.

Yet, when I hear this new line of reasoning and affront coming out of the leadership of this Church – whether lay or clergy – I just can’t help myself.  When I hear people attempt to use a line of argument around the Episcopal Church’s sense of “colonial victimhood” when the Church of England’s & the Anglican Communion’s Archbishop of Canterbury makes decisions that spank or put into “time-out” this Church for its self-centered actions, well, that is just beyond the pale.  It really is.  When I hear the leaders of the provinces in Africa making the “colonial victimhood” accusation against the “Western” provinces, I can understand their justifications for such accusation (even while I think they use that accusation for convenience and to attempt to justify their own actions of rebellion within the Communion).  (Before God, we will all give an account for what we do and say according to the attitudes of our hearts, and if any of us do things and then justify those doings with fine sounding arguments that are not the attitudinal reality within our heart – lying, in other words – then we will give an account to our final Judge and jury.)

This Church in the U.S. has absolutely no right to claim colonial victimhood!  

We as a Church act in the world with respect to the wider Anglican Communion just like the Bush administration acted politically and militarily in the world.  We expect that we have the right to do whatever we want unilaterally because we are so developed and so enlightened and so absolutely correct and our “prophetic” doings are so righteous. We can do anything just so it is justified in our own minds no matter what hardship it may cause for anyone else. In our hubris and the resulting blindness, we actually believe that it is “good for them.” 

Then, when we get pushback, or spanked for our childishness (which ++Rowan is doing, now) by those foreigners, then we start to act with petulance.  It is laughable that we attempt to rebuke the English Church because we were once a colony of England – nearly 300 years ago!   We, at this point in our ecclesiastical decline as a Church, can no longer really act this way, but we still do so because this generation of leadership doesn’t know how to act in any other way. We are blind to our own “colonizing” attitudes and “imperialistic” actions with respect to the rest of the Communion, and particularly those “poor, backward” Anglicans in most of Africa (except Southern Africa, because they agree with us). 

The time is coming sooner than later when the rest of the world will stand up to the United States politically, economically, and militarily and say, “No more!”  Just wait until that happens and see the epileptic fits this country will go into.  We will become truly dangerous during the transition from world dominance to a far lesser status.  We will assert our dominance, in the mean time, by brute force if need be because we have lost our moral authority as a great nation and beacon of freedom.  This is what is happening to the Episcopal Church, our Church, within the Communion and with many of our former ecumenical partners.  We may not lob physical bombs (or money, in our case); we will simply not listen to anyone else, hands over our ears. We will simply not face up to reality and our place in the world Communion.   Oh, we want diversity and multiculturalism all right, just so long as they believe just like we do or pretend to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

We have to come up with fine arguments or attacks against those English colonizers in order to attempt to save face, but we continue to act in ways that do nothing much more that prove that we are not trustworthy and unwilling to listen to the plight of those less fortunate than our own American selves.

It isn’t that I disagree with women being clergy or LBGT people being members, priests, or bishops of our Anglican Churches. It isn’t that I don’t think we can or should be advocates of such things around the Communion or the greater Church. What I absolutely disagree with is the way this generation of leadership in our Church has been conducting itself with respect to institutional change and the “controversial” issues.  We treat those issues as civil rights causes and make decisions in like manner.  This is not the way the Church should handle things. 

Now, because our leadership makes decisions in such a political or social manner (they know no other way), we are losing the knowledge of how to made decisions as a the Body of Christ, internationally.  And herein lies the problem of trust and “faith and order” as the other provinces attempt to order their lives when they cannot ignore what the Americans’ are doing without much regard for their plight.

Never Stopped Listening

“My parents told me a story that encapsulates Pappy’s paternal psychology completely.  As a baby, I was with my mother in our old home in Newark, crawling freely while she was trying to clean and watch after my very active five-year-old brother. We were upstairs, on the second floor of the house. At one end of the room, there was a door that led out into the hallway and down a long flight of carpeted stairs onto the parlor level, where my father had his study and received visitors.  I was a quiet baby, and it wouldn’t have been odd for me to not be making much noise as I crawled.  Somehow, my mother had gotten distracted with my brother, and I made my way over to the door, which wasn’t properly closed.  I got out into the hallway and soon began tumbling down the staircase in a bright blue bundle of diapers and pajamas, rushing toward the hardwood floor below.  As my mother gaped from the landing above, the door to my father’s study flew open and out dove Pappy to catch me like a fly ball before I reached the ground.  He had been in the middle of a meeting when suddenly he hopped up, told his guests to wait, and bolted to the door.  He almost certainly saved my life that morning.

“‘How in the world did you even hear that?’ one of the stunned guests asked him afterward.

“‘I’ve been listening for that sound from the moment we brought the baby home from the hospital,’ Pappy said.

“I grew up knowing that no matter where I was or what I was doing, Pappy never stopped listening for the sound of me falling.”

Williams, Thomas Chatterton, “Losing My Cool: How a Father’s Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-Hop Culture”;  New York (2010): The Penguin Press, pp 33-34.

Most Recent Troubles

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, issued a statement in his Pentecost letter to the Communion requesting the resignations from certain inter-Anglican bodies, such as the ecumenical relations committees, of representatives of those Provinces who will not abide by the moratoria agreed upon within the bodies that currently govern the affairs of the Anglican Communion (the Instruments of Unity).  The moratoria consisted of no sanctioning of official liturgies for same-sex unions, no consecration of partnered gay bishops, and no more crossing of diocesan or provincial boundaries by those who vehemently oppose homosexuality and feel they must extend their own ecclesiastical authority into provinces not their own.

Of course, no one is happy.  The liberals in the Episcopal Church howl that Williams is making the Communion into another authoritarian Roman Catholic Church by a different name, with his aping the Pope’s authority.  The conservatives howl that Williams is a weak-willed man who will not be a decisive leader in these crisis times and who cannot do what is necessary to save the Christian faith within Anglicanism from the liberal heretics.  The man can’t win!

From the more liberal side, this from Bishop Marcus Andrus of the Diocese of California via his blog, Bishop Marc:

When an Empire and its exponents can no longer
exercise control by might, an option is to feint, double-talk, and manipulate. Such tactics have been in the fore with Archbishop Rowan since the confirmation of Gene Robinson as the Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. The deployment of the Windsor Report and the manipulation of the Lambeth Conference, as cited above, are prime examples. The archbishop’s Pentecost letter is the most recent example.

In the Pentecost letter, it looks like he is disciplining errant provinces of the Communion, while only a little concentration shows that the underlying goal is to assert his power to be the disciplinarian. Archbishop Rowan is intent on a covenant with punitive measures built in.

IMHO, the belief that Williams is trying to be an authoritarian figure because his presumed “goal is to assert his power to be the disciplinarian” is absurd – not just absurd, but ludicrous!  If Williams has demonstrated anything over the past seven years, it is that he is not an authoritarian and will not come down with a hammer on those “others.”  Now, this is the problem. The Bishop Marc, I will presume, would have been fine if Williams came down with a hammer on the those bishops and provinces that acted in ways that Bishop Marc hated – like boarder crossings.

History & Experience

Comments by Michael Ramsey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, on the place of history and experience in Biblical Studies and the working out of theology in the Christian life:

“I would like to end by suggesting that holding the appeal to history and to experience in balance is really the key both to New Testament studies and to theology as a whole.  In theology, where the history of God in Christ is so central, we must appeal to experience in order to be credible: the experience of the first Christians, of Christians down through the ages, and of ourselves.  And in the area of New Testament studies, we are trying to find out what really happened.  What was said and done by the Sea of Galilee? What was said and done in the streets of Jerusalem, and on the hill of Calvary?  But we are also concerned in New Testament studies with the experience of those first witnesses to Christ the Savior that caused them to write at all — the tremendous experience that left them and us exclaiming, ‘My Lord and my God!'”
(Michael Ramsey, The Anglican Spirit; Dale Coleman, editor; Boston, Cowley Publications, 1991, p. 93)

Ramsey, in this lecture, is commenting on Charles Gore and Liberal Catholicism, in its Anglican form.

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