Horatio

Horatio
[Photo by Jacquelyn Griffin)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Reading, and a Bleg

As we celebrate the Incarnation, may I offer up a suggestion for anyone looking for some very Anglican reading for this time of the year: Lux Mundi: A Series of Studies in the Religion of the Incarnation, edited by Charles Gore, represents a doctrinal survey by a second and more liberal generation of Anglo-Catholics of the meaning of the Incarnation for modern (well, late Victorian) theology.

How to tempt you...

From Ruth Kenyon's "The Social Aspect of the Catholic Revival", in Northern Catholicism; Centenary Studies in the Oxford and Parallel Movements, ed. by N. P. Williams and Charles Harris. London, SPCK, 1933.

We have here . . . to consider another aspect of the work of the third generation of the Revival, that associated with what might well be called the second Oxford Movement, the famous Lux Mundi group. It was this group which succeeded in doing that which the Tractarians has failed to do, viz. the relating of the Church's claim for the primacy of the spiritual to the new circumstances of a democratic age. Lux Mundi was in fact the foundation of a new apologetic in which Catholic thought no longer stood on the defensive against the thought of the age, but incorporated it and made it a vehicle for its own doctrine. The guiding principle was found in the Johannine doctrine of he Incarnate Logos, the Word entering to redeem the world of which He was already the Creator -- a world which included the historically-developing social order . . . Newman and Manning [had] sought to revive and give practical effect to some such idea of the world and of man. But on the whole the theology of the Movement had remained within the old Evangelical circle of thought -- the soul, sin, and redemption. To this it had added the thought of the Church as the sphere, the sacraments as the means, of Redemption, but still only the redemption of the soul, not the redemption in the full sense of man, nor the redemption of the world. Lux Mundi looked back behind redemption to creation. Evolution was accepted as the work of the Logos through whom all things were made. It followed, among other things, that man's historical development, including that of the present age, is part of the creative movement of the Word, and therefore manifests His Light. Democracy, which characterises the present era, can thus be seen as interpreting the worth of personality and the brotherhood of men. Socialism, again viewed as an existing tendency, illuminates the idea of authority in so far as this involves a rightful claim of the whole upon the part. But only the Incarnation, the fact, that is, of the Word personally become flesh to fulfill and redeem the world order which He had originally created, but which had fallen away from Him, is adequate, together with its extension in the Church and the sacraments, to interpret and validate the life of the individual and of society . . .

Gore's claim was primarily upon the Church and upon the Christian qua Christian. His earnest endeavor was to recall the Church to the idea of Christianity as being "first of all 'The Way' -- a social life to be lived." If the Church would only live this life, revive the distinctness of her saviour, let her light shine, she would be representing Christ in the world by the method of Christ Himself. She should be the visible symbol and sacrament of the life of man as the Creator meant it to be lived. So far as Gore contemplated a relationship of the Church to the world other than that of enlightening it by shining, it was in the prophetic office of the Church as interpreting to the world that which at bottom the world knows to be good, because in posse the world is Christian.
Let me add another distinction. In one sense, the Tractarians were limited by their passionate hatred of the reforming Whig movement, and their tendency to resist all that was new precisely because it was new. As Newman writes "my battle was with liberalism," although he immediately qualifies the statement by adding "by liberalism I meant the anti-dogmatic principle and its developments." Still for Newman, the charms of authority even before he "went to Rome" were considerable. As I have previously noted, his view that as a priest he should live as "simply the servant and instrument of my Bishop" based on the latter's being "set over me by the Divine Hand" (id. at 52) is indicative of his tendency to dogmatize hierarchy and institutionalism to the point where conservatism equates with the Christian faith.

With Gore and his colleagues, we are in a different, more expansive mode--a realm where the Church has numinous value but does not devolve into the oppressive institutionalism of newman, and where increasing knowledge is not feared but welcomed.

Now, to the bleg. I have been asked to select the next book for a study group. We've done two books by Borg, W.R. Inge's Christian Mysticism and Bryant's The Heart in Pilgrimage. For our next book, I'm torn between:

*Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich (continuing our mysticism theme, and adding a woman's voice to an exclusively male (to date) list);

*Where God Happens, Rowan Williams on the Desert Fathers; or

*Common Prayer on Common Ground, Alan Jones on the Great Unpleasantness.

Comments, advice and snide remarks eagerly solicited.

And joyous, belated Christmas wishes to all!

Monday, December 22, 2008

I Know the Feeling



(Almost like me on a morning when I set the alarm to do Morning Prayer...)

(Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The PB on the Wa Po; Decision in Virginia

Interviewed by Sally Quinn, harvested from here.



Comments?

My own, very brief observation on the lower court decision in Virginia awarding the property to the parish is that the statute, which was passed almost a half century before the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment applies to the states as well as the federal government, was clearly constitutional under that pre-14th Amendment order, but equally clearly does not stand scrutiny under Jones v. Wolf, which stated that "the Amendment requires that civil courts defer to the resolution of issues of religious doctrine or polity by the highest court of a hierarchical church organization." The Court did state that "the First Amendment does not dictate that a State must follow a particular method of resolving church property disputes," but made clear that the civil courts could not (1) require a particular form of polity of a church; or (2) override a church's own doctrinal and polity determinations without violating the First Amendment. I think, that by imposing a congregational property preference, the Virginia statute is in conflict with Jones, especially with this statement by the High Court:
If, in fact, Georgia has adopted a presumptive rule of majority representation, defeasible upon a showing that the identity of the local church is to be determined by some other means, we think this would be consistent with both the neutral principles analysis and the First Amendment. Majority rule is generally employed in the governance of religious societies. See Bouldin v. Alexander, 15 Wall. 131 (1872). Furthermore, the majority faction generally can be identified without resolving any question of religious doctrine or polity. Certainly there was no dispute in the present case about the identity of the duly enrolled members of the Vineville church when the dispute arose, or about the fact that a quorum was present, or about the final vote. Most importantly, any rule of majority representation can always be overcome, under the neutral principles approach, either by providing, in the corporate charter or the constitution of the general church, that the identity of the local church is to be established in some other way, or by providing that the church property is held in trust for the general church and those who remain loyal to it. Indeed, the State may adopt any method of overcoming the majoritarian presumption, so long as the use of that method does not impair free exercise rights or entangle the civil courts in matters of religious controversy.
Here, the saving factor that allowed a "majority vote presumption" approach, the rebuttal of the presumption through an amendment to the constitution of the general church--has been invalidated by the court, following the statute, and thwarting the polity of TEC.

Is this a guarantee on appeal? Of course not; the Court could revise Jones, or even scrap it. But I believe that decades of settled expectations of the parties, and allowing churches the maximum autonomy is a sound, workable interpretation of the Constitution, and would replace it with radical indeterminancy and the prospect, unsavory to both, of entangling church and state.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

In Memoriam, Avery Dulles

My alma mater Fordham University is in mourning this week; Cardinal Avery Dulles, who was the first American theologian to be raised to the College of Cardinals died at Fordham's infirmary for Jesuits last Friday.

Cardinal Dulles was a conservative--he resisted the Catholic Church's efforts to enact a a national policy barring from ministerial duties any priest who had ever sexually abused a minor, Cardinal Dulles said the policy ignored priests’ rights of due process:

"In their effort to protect children, to restore public confidence in the church as an institution and to protect the church from liability suits, the bishops opted for an extreme response,” he said. He noted that the policy imposed a “one-size-fits-all” punishment, even if an offense was decades old and had not been repeated. “Such action seems to reflect an attitude of vindictiveness to which the church should not yield.
His conservatism was theological, too; again from the obituary:
In “The Reshaping of Catholicism” (Harper & Row, 1988), he wrote that the Vatican Council had acknowledged the possibility that the church could fall into serious error and might require reform, that the laity had a right to an active role and that the church needed to respect regional and local differences. But he also emphasized that “a measure of conservatism is inseparable from authentic Christianity.”
This equation of conservatism with authentic Christianity would be, I think, shocking to the Jesus that Dulles described so movingly in his scholarly writings. His own Establishment background, and the increasingly conservative ethos of the Roman Church, reinforced this tendency, perhaps.

And yet--Dulles did write so movingly of Jesus, and, in true Jesuit fashion, managed to celebrate life even under affliction:
Well into my 90th year I have been able to work productively. As I become increasingly paralyzed and unable to speak, I can identify with the many paralytics and mute persons in the Gospels, grateful for the loving and skillful care I receive and for the hope of everlasting life in Christ. If the Lord now calls me to a period of weakness, I know well that his power can be made perfect in infirmity. “Blessed be the name of the Lord!”
One need not share the Cardinal's views to honor a superb intellect, and a life fully lived, and lived ad majorem Dei gloriam.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cognitive Dissonance

Over at Stand Firm, Fr. Matt Kennedy has posted the cross-motion his Church of the Good Shepherd has filed in opposition to the motion for summary judgment the Diocese has made for title to the CGS's property under the Dennis Canon. It is, quite frankly, a bizzare court filing, seeking judgment as a matter of law on the property ownership question on the novel theory that the Court should find that the Dennis Canon does not exist.

Yes, that's right. Fr. Kenendy's attorney is arguing that the procedures by which the House of Deputies received and acted upon the resolutions that became the Dennis Canon, as well as the House of Bishops, and the manner of its recordation in the Church's archives are not adequate under "principles of statutory interpretation and the common law of parliamentary procedure." (Cross-Motion at p.6). Therefore, d'ye see, the Dennis Canon is invalid. The source for these arguments? Roberts' Rules of Order. Oh, and a legal hornbook on the subject of how state legislatures enact legislation, which is then asserted to "govern" how one applies neutral principles of law to determine a property dispute's outcome.

CGS demands a far-ranging administrative review of the procedure and polity of TEC--a judicial strict scrutiny absent any legal warrant for doing so, and one that belies the concession that TEC's canons contain "only the most cursory instructions as to the generation of documents by the secretaries and registrars of the General Convention." (Cross Motion at 7). CGS, admitting there is no formal process by which resolutions are "enrolled" then goes on to claim that the Journal of the 1979 Convention does not clearly track the progress by which the Canon was passed, and as he memorably phrases it, "the Dennis Canon is nowhere to be found!" (Id. at 12). Or, rather, since the text does appear in full in at least one place as the CGS admits, the Journal leaves open the possibility that the text was amended, rejected, or in some manner vitiated. The fact that it then subsequently appeared in the official text of the Canons and has continued to do so for just about 30 years, specifically admitted by CGS (Id. at 9, para. 28) does not, in CGS's view, vitiate the argument.

This argument is, frankly, deeply silly. Not a single New York State case, or indeed a case from any other jurisdiction, is cited in support for the notion that a denomination is required to follow legislative procedure equivalent to that of a state legislature. The only New York case cited by CGS are First Presbyterian Church v United Presbyterian Church and Episcopal Diocese of Rochester v. Harnish, ___ N.Y.3d ___ (October 23, 2008). Harnish, in particular is relevant, here, one would think, as it held:
The remaining factor for consideration under neutral principles, however, requires that we look to "the constitution of the general church concerning the ownership and control of church property." It is this factor that we find dispositive. We conclude that the Dennis Canons clearly establish an express trust in favor of the Rochester Diocese and the National Church (see Jones, 443 US at 606), and that All Saints agreed to abide by this express trust either upon incorporation in 1927 or upon recognition as a parish in spiritual union with the Rochester Diocese in 1947. We therefore need not consider the existence of an implied trust. In agreeing to abide by all "canonical or legal enactments," it is unlikely that the parties intended that the local parish could reserve a veto over every future change in the canons. We find it significant, moreover, that All Saints never objected to the applicability or attempted to remove itself from the reach of the Dennis Canons in the more than twenty years since the National Church adopted the express trust provision (cf., First Presbyterian, 62 NY2d at 125).
Now, CGS would distinguih Harnish on the ground that in that case the passage of the Dennis Canons was not disputed as a matter of fact. True enough. But here what is disputed is not the adoption of the Canons, but rather the validity of the process by which it was adopted and recorded, based on alleged defects in the archival evidence. There is no claim, for example, that TEC has not held itself out as having such a canon since the date of passage. The case from which the whole "neutral principles of law" approach stems, Jones v. Wolf, 443 U.S. 595 (1979) explains the requirements of the First Amendment:
It is also clear, however, that "the First Amendment severely circumscribes the role that civil courts may play in resolving church property disputes." Id., at 449. Most importantly, the First Amendment prohibits civil courts from resolving church property disputes on the basis of religious doctrine and practice. Serbian Orthodox Diocese v. Milivojevich, 426 U.S. 696, 710 (1976); Maryland & Va. Churches v. Sharpsburg Church, 396 U.S. 367, 368 (1970); Presbyterian Church I, 393 U.S., at 449 . As a corollary to this commandment, the Amendment requires that civil courts defer to the resolution of issues of religious doctrine or polity by the highest court of a hierarchical church organization. Serbian Orthodox Diocese, 426 U.S., at 724 -725; cf. Watson v. Jones, 13 Wall. 679, 733-734 (1872).
In explaining the application of neutral principles, the Court emphasized that "the constitution of the general church can be made to recite an express trust in favor of the denominational church. The burden involved in taking such steps will be minimal. And the civil courts will be bound to give effect to the result indicated by the parties, provided it is embodied in some legally cognizable form."

No requirement that Roberts' Rules be applied, or the tenets of a 1940 handbook on statutes. Indeed, a respect for Church polity is required as a corollary to the required free exercise of religion, with only "minimal" steps be taken by the church in formalizing arrangements which are only required to be "embodied in some legally cognizable form." In other words, not only does Harnish forestall the argument CGS makes, the very depth of analysis CGS seeks from the court contradicts the lodestone of "neutral principles" jurisprudence. If you doubt this--ask how Fr. Kennedy would like a court doing this level of review of CANA at TEC's request?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Discerning A Diaconal Call

So, a series of discussions with friends and in the official discernment process have led me to consider whether I should put myself forward as a candidate for the diaconate, as my instinct has been trending, or, instead, as a candidate for the priesthood.

Now, the notion of me entering Holy Orders as all is a shocker to many who have known me only superficially, but my closer friends react more by nodding and saying "hmmm..." which I take to denote mild astonishment coupled with a sort of "yes, I can see it, now that you mention it" reaction. A surprising number of people have urged me to aspire to the priesthood, saying that they see my intellectual gifts not used to best effect as a deacon, and that I would love seminary (I'm sure that last part's true!). These objections came mainly from academics, priests, and candidates for the priesthood--people for whom I have great respect and affection, and whose opinions I value.

And yet--

I can't help but feel that these objections don't quite fit where I am, and the call I feel. The pragmatics certainly fit the diaconate: My life has fallen out in such a way that I could commit the hours needed to be a deacon, combine my work with my ministry, and have the two interrelate. It's very doable. The priesthood, by contrast, would require me to withdraw from all I've done until now, and start fresh. I'd have to find scholarships or stipends, and can't see myself taking on new loans.

And yet, if I felt that was the next right step, I'd do it. With some trepidation, but I would. I'd at least go into the committee with the priestly vocation as the focus, and let that conversation unfold. But somehow, it doesn't seem quite right.

Not just because I know several deacons who are tremendous sources of inspiration (although I do), and not because I would model my ministry on theirs (not quite; I have different life experience and skill sets and could not do what they do--admire them though I do). No, I was groping for a way of articulating the tug to the diaconate and failed to do so well, until I happened on Nora Gallagher's book, Practicing Resurrection. (i had bought it some months ago when Gallagher did a reading at my church). Gallagher's own struggle to discern whether she was called to priestly ordination or to a lay vocation is the subject of that book, and led me to some reflection. Some passages of hers that helped me get a better handle on my own call:
The priesthood had become a "profession," like the law or medecine, and was subject to the same corruption. "The more we advocate the professional image the greater the gap between our theology and our implied intentions in ministry," wrote [Urban] Holmes. . . Or, to take it a step further, professionalizing corrupts a call because it changes it from being for the benefit of others to accruing benefits for the self.

You begin with a simple need. . . and then it becomes a way to have power, to keep others out, and it ends up separating everyone, even the leaders themselves, from the vitality of the community.

****

The problem also comes, I think, not just from those who are on top. We are taught to revere the king, or the president, or the analyst or the priest in a way that makes us natural followers, wanting to be led. Our own natural impetus to know, to strive toward, to lead is diminished by our need to have someowne to follow.
Practicing Resurrection at 158-159.

Now,, I don't identify with all of this--although I do think some priests fall into what we can call the power trap--the desire to feed one's own insecurity with what Susan Howatch once called "the most delectable food" for an ego in the grip of any kind of arrogance--power. Far more, though, are separated from their parishoners, and from their neighbors generally speaking, by their calling. The expectation of the priest that he or she perform the role of shaman leads to a setting apart that is virtually impossible to avoid. As Gallagher exlains further:
If I was ordained [a priest], I might lose track of the needs of laypeople, because needs arise from experience....Separation from laypeople was key to the priesthood, at least as it was presently practiced....As a writer, I had guarded my marginality, knowing that with margins come freedom and perspective. The freedom to see what others are afraid to see, the freedom to write what others have a stake in not admitting.
Practicing Resurrection at 158-159.

I undertand what Gallagher means about the power trap, and the utility of being a creature of the margins. Yet, like Gallagher, I find that "to continue life as a layperson felt, now, to be incomplete." The deeper my involvement with study and worship, the more I feel drawn in, and that I need to integrate service, to the church and to the world, with my professional skills and academic researches. And, in the present time of conflict, I feel the tug of one other element of the call to ordination, as identified by Christopher Bryant in The Heart in Pilgrimage (1980) at 89:
Anyone who seriously decides to make the following of Christ, the walking in the Spirit, the journey to the land of wholeness, the major aim of his life may well feel impelled to commit himself in a special sense, both to burn his bridges and to bear signal witness to the priority of God, the presence of Christ and the power of the Kingdom.
As to the power trap, and the burden of separateness, the deacon's order by design helps him or herto largely dodge that bullet. A deacon remains in the world by profession, and the stress and duties of worldly obligations and meeting others in mufti on a daily basis--all these militate against exclusion from the vitality of the community, and protect against the mana of their office and the resultant, rather terrible separateness.

The diaconate, on the other hand, is "a full and equal order" (a point well and often made by Ormonde Plater), but it is different. As Gallagher puts it:
Deacons are meant to go out from the church to the poor or the marginal--originally they were sent out to bring the Eucharist and food and clothing to widows and orphans--and to bring back to the church news of those on the margins. They are supposed to remind the larger church of its duty to those who are silenced and powerless,and to bring to them the comforts of the church and the shelter of its influence and power.
Practicing Resurrection at 185.

Deacons are inhabitants of the margins, then, both by the nature of their ministry and by the fact that almost all deacons are non-stipendiary, and are required to maintain careers outside of the church as well as within. Ideally, those careers can be integrated and support each other, rather than becoming a source of tension and division. But, at the end of the day, a deacon, like a writer, is limited in power but freed to be frank, freed to concentrate on the concrete, and called to teach as well as to model the servanthood of Christ. That focus on the margins, living in the world as a worker among workers, as well as at the intersection of the church and those she serves, provides great opportunity to provide a grounded Christian servant-leadership.

And that is where I feel called to be, insofar as I have come to understand that call.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Sect Appeal

It's official; a rival "province" (quotes to denote the fact that we don't know of what it's a province) has been set up within North America, hoping to displace the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. Self-styled "archbishop" Robert Duncan calls these "Reformation times," and states that "in Reformation times things aren’t neat and clean. In Reformation times, new structures are emerging."

How...very nice. I admit, this schismatic movement tries my charity to its utmost. That's not because the departees feel called to leave; I can, with great reluctance, understand that. (Not that I can agree with it; it seems odd that members of a tradition with its roots in a divorce and with divorced bishops among them, despite the words of Jesus quoted in Matthew are drawing the line at words of St. Paul whose applicability is far less clear. But I digress...). It's their refusal to coexist. I value the conservatives in my church, and hope they value me. We argue, we disagree, we play the Hegelian thesis and antithesis--and when the Spirit is with us, we reach a synthesis we neither expected. Being out of communion, squabbling over property and power, makes that impossible.

And, for traditionalists, they seem pretty cavalier about the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury. From Martyn Minns:
It’s desirable that he get behind this. It’s something that would bring a little more coherence to the life of the Communion. But if he doesn’t, so be it.

***
One of the questions a number of the primates are asking is why do we still need to be operating under the rules of an English charity, which is what the Anglican Consultative Council does. Why is England still considered the center of the universe?
It's not of course. But it is the center of Anglicanism, as the name may suggest to the observant.

Mr. Duncan says that a General Assembly will be held at the Episcopal Cathedral in Fort Worth Texas this summer. Of course, this assumes that the property remains in his dubious possession by then.

The passions these prelates have ignited may be enough to destroy the delicate balance of Anglicanism--a balance of Catholic, Broad Church and Low Church, Liberal and Conservative, traditionalist and modernist. Like Samson, those passions may pull down the temple around them. But what will be left of a nuanced, diverse community of faith in which all are welcome who hold to the core of Christ's message? Must we really all become hard-line conservatives to be good Christians? Is not this new "province" merely an updated version of the old saw that the Episcopal Church is the Republican Party at prayer--made over for the era of Sarah Palin?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Giving thanks is something that is so often rote, if not omitted altogether. And, yet, liturgically, some of the most beautiful words we have are words of thanks:
Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we, thine unworthy servants, do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and lovingkindness to us, and to all men; We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all, for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful; and that we show forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to thy service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.
I'm giving thanks this year for the end of a long, painful process of saying farewell to s relationship that died, after becoming shockingly co-dependent and destructive for both of us, and trying to move beyond the rancor. I knew the relationship was dying when I completely saw myself in this:


Endings can be both painful and worth being thankful for.

So too can beginnings, and in the same period, I have been blessed with the support of a wonderful partner, my family and a faith community that greeted me warmly *and put me to work, but fair dos)

I hope your holidays are sacred and not (too) profane!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Good Cause Alert!

The Order of the Holy Cross is the subject of this story in today's Times, detailing the loss of their Mount Calvary Monastery in the fires that swept southern California since last Thursday.

This part is very OHC:
Brother Brown said the monks, part of the Order of the Holy Cross, spent much of Tuesday meeting with an insurance agent and a contractor to discuss their options. Though the coastal mountains of Montecito were dear to their hearts, he said, they “need time to pray and discern” whether to rebuild there, and if so, how to go about it.

“And we’re like, ‘Hmm, how do we get a hold of Oprah?’ ” he added, speaking of another famous Montecito property owner, Oprah Winfrey, who was not there during the fire but who said on her show last week that she had made a plan to send her staff and dogs to stay at a nearby resort, and that her home was safe.
Prayers for the brothers, whose guest at their West Park, New York monastery I have been, are solicited--by me, that is. They do good work, with a light touch.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On Veterans Day

With thanks to those who yesterday, today and tomorrow have served, are serving, or will serve our country, especially Calvin Schuh (US Navy, World War I), Fred Kalkbrenner (US Army, World War II). You are remembered, with love.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

From :
Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and
keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home
and abroad. Defend them day by day with your heavenly
grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give
them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant
them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Loss of a Classmate

From the Times::
HAEMMERLI--Alice Braverman who died on October 25, was a lawyer, scholar and teacher, who took great delight in both legal argument and in her writing on intellectual properties. In the job she held as Assistant Dean of International Programs and Graduate Legal Studies at the Columbia University School of Law (from which she retired in 2006), she was responsible for both the graduate and international programs. In that capacity, she guided many foreign post-graduate students through the rigors of the American system, and many of them from Jerusalem to Paris, Rome, and South Africa, will remember her with great admiration and affection. Her articles were published in numerous law reviews and she was cited by the Supreme Court on a variety of intellectual property issues. Before Columbia, Alice was a member of the Law Firm of Debevoise and Plimpton where she specialized in intellectual property. Prior to that she was the Director of Public Policy at Chase Manhattan Bank. Most recently, she worked in Pennsylvania for Barack Obama's election. Born in New York City, Alice attended Hunter College High School, and went on to graduate summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Vassar College. She was a brilliant student and won both a Woodrow Wilson Scholarship, and a Fulbright Fellowship which took her to the London School of Economics for her first MA. At Harvard, she earned a second MA in International Relations as well as her Ph.D. in International Law. Her Juris Doctor was granted by Columbia. It was in Cambridge that she met her late husband, Alfred Haemmerli, and they had a long and fruitful marriage until Freddy's death in 2001. Their daughter Justine, who was the most important thing in their lives, continues the family tradition as a dedicated teacher. Her work was important to Alice, but she also took huge pleasure in family, friends and her pastimes, especially riding her horse, French, as well as travel, reading, and music. She is survived by her beloved daughter, Justine, her sisters, Laura Shannon and Marta Bartolozzi, twin brother David, niece, Heather Shannon and dearest lifelong friend, Reggie Nadelson. She will be sorely missed by all those whose lives she touched.
Alice and I entered Columbia Law together, and I always enjoyed her wit, her fire, and her fierce commitment to truth. As is all too often the case, I lost touch with her after graduation, until a few years ago when she and I ran into each other near the Law School.

My sincere condolences to her family; if, as Harry Flashman once said, each death diminishes us, but some more than others, then Alice's loss is one of those.

Vogue a la galere, my friend. Let your ship sail free.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What Did They Say Against Smith and Kennedy?

See, this is one reason I left the Roman Catholic Church:
The Catholic Church teaches, in its catechism, in the works of Pope John Paul II and in the writings of Pope Benedict XVI, that the issue of life is the most basic issue and must be given priority over the issue of the economy, the issue of war or any other issue. These same teachings inform us that when both candidates permit the right to abortion, but unequally so, we must chose to mitigate the evil by choosing the candidate who is less permissive of abortion.

Judgment Day is on its way! I may deny it. I may pretend that it is still far away, I may deny that my actions are sinful, but that will not change God’s judgment of me.
****
Perhaps having to face these issues during this coming election can turn out to be a grace that truly awakens our need to learn more about the teachings of the Catholic Church, and then to use the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that we can receive His mercy and bring our behavior into conformity with the mind and heart of Christ. It is not too late to admit our sinfulness and turn to the Lord in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When we do this, both we and the heavens will be filled with joy!

Judgment Day is on its way. Pray your way into conformity with the teachings of Christ and His Church. Pray the family Rosary daily between now and Election Day so that you may not only make the right choice but also have the courage to discuss these issues with others who may have been misled by our materialistic culture. Include the candidates in your prayer intentions. It is my hope that our discussions will bring all of us to our knees to seek help from above.
That's from the Archbishop of St. Louis, for whom Christianity is about submission to the will of Holy Mother Church, even in secular political decisions.

The Spirit of Pio Nono seems alive and well.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Who's That in the Mirror?


It is not, I admit, a particularly charitable thought, but in the wake of the Pittsburgh vote to realign, my first thought was how offensive the fait accompli, pre-printed "glossy brochure" announcing the vote is.

It's one thing to feel the need to part--that raises theological and ecclesiological issues, as to which (at least the theological) I feel that there are legitimate arguments to be had. Questions of scripture and tradition are important. So too are questions of church polity--although I feel the dissentients' views are even more strained and less convincing on that front.

But is it really necessary to caricature the views of those on the other side in such contemptuous terms? I'm extremely tired, most extremely tired, of being treated like a Christ-denying pagan because I believe that inclusion of women and gays and lesbians is more consonant with the spirit of Christianity than the traditional position. The distored image of my views and those who are aligned with my wing of the Church reflected back is a very hard one to view as other than defamatory.

As to those who claim on Bishop Duncan's behalf that he is a martyr, I suppose I should be grateful that they haven't claimed that Duncan avoided the House of Bishops meeting for fear that the Presiding Bishop was planning to reenact the end of The Wicker Man.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Duncan Demarche

I've been thinking about the potential succession of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and the deposition of Robert Duncan, and, in particular, of the tone of even the most respectful criticism of the deposition, that of Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina. Bishop Lawrence raises three arguments against deposition. Two are process-oriented--that it has strengthened the role of the Presiding Bishop and that it was achieved by interpreting as ambiguous canons previously held to be clear. These process objections seem to me--not a canon lawyer, mind you!--to be held in good faith, but, in the last analysis unconvincing. (More positive reactions may ne seen here and here. More information still is here. My reasons for this need not detain the reader long; I have no special expertise here, but the precedents cited for deposition by a majority of those entitled to vote who are present at the meeting of the HOB have not, to my knowledge, been refuted, and the question of inhibition as a prerequisite would require an absurd result--that the three senior bishops could forestall a decision of the House by refusing to inhibit during the pre-trial (so to speak) period. If you view deposition as a penal, quasi-criminal process, such an interpretation is tenable; if you view it as analgous to a civil proceeding, such as that in labor law for atenured employee, it is not. The former seems too overwrought an analogy.

So on to the more substantive question: Bishop Lawrence refers to the deposition as rending the communnion further. I genuinely find this puzzling; is an institution whose fiduciary declares (for however high-principled a reason) that he intends to take a branch location out of the "brand" and assert a right to prevent the institution that hired, trained and elevated him from operating in the vicinage morally barred from announcing that their affiliation with him, and endorsement of him, is at an end?

It seems, frankly, an impausible position to take.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

An Encounter With the Presiding Bishop

A friend recently invited me to attend the eucharist at the
Episcopal Church Center this afternoon. The celebrant was Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. The chapel is a small space, and the congregation was small--mostly people who work at the Center, and Bishop Katharine was clearly at home and comfortable. I was struck by two things during the service. The first was that, in distributing the Eucharist, Bishop Katharine clearly takes the sacrament very seriously. With each communicant, including me, she made eye contact, and shared the moment of communicating with respect and dignity. Second, in her short homily, she used the reading from 1 John 4--"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God"--to stress the need for openness amd humility in discerning the will of God for us. That which is comfortable, which reinforces our stereotypes and preconceptions--that is inherently suspect.

Remember that this was a sermon preached to a home crowd, her home crowd. She was in essence urging us to engage with those who disagree with us in love and in respect. She called upon all of us to seek Christ in each other, and to be exemplars of the Christ we love to all we meet.

She also displayed a wry sense of humor; in comparing Remigius (whose feast day is today) with St. Jerome (whose feast day was yesterday), she noted Remigius was appointed a bishop at age 22 and served for 90 years, adding (deadpan), "maybe for his sins." She also, by the way, compared the saint in their views on oratory, preferring Jerome's plain style, and avoidance of persuasion by stoking up emotions.

Afterwards, I was briefly introduced to the Presiding Bishop. She was warm, gracious and funny. It's always interesting to meet someone who is the subject of wildly varying accounts; I found myself liking Katharine Jefferts Schori, and heard the Christian message in her sermon.

Monday, September 29, 2008

And the Rest is Silence

The scarcity of posts in the last few weeks is a side effect of the last stages of my divorce case--after two and a half years of horrific wrangling over, essentially, nothing, the case settled before trial.

And, in the last few days since we signed the papers, I've been drawing breath, and slowly beginning to thaw out of the suspended animation that this kind of litigation imposes on a life. As a lawyer myself, I've become more aware than ever of the capacity of this system I've devoted most of my adult life to to abuse and dehumanize.

And now it's time to go on. Sorry about the emotional tone, but if I hid this strange feeling of life on hold, I might be disposed to close my eyes to it, and lose what lessons there are to be drawn from the experience.

As to the divorce, the rest is silence--but the anglocatting will go on!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Collect of the Day

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to
love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among
things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall
endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Words I needed, today. Apologies for the light blogging recently; a long-simmering personal crisis has been coming to the boil. I hope to be back to more substantive things this week. In the meantime--"all will be well, all will be well, and all manner of things will be well..."

Monday, September 15, 2008

St. Ninian

From Bede's History of the English Church and People, Bk. III, ch. 4:
IN the year of our Lord 565, when Justin, the younger, the successor of Justinian, had the government of the Roman empire, there came into Britain a famous priest and abbot, a monk by habit and life, whose name was Columba, to preach the word of God to the provinces of the northern Picts, who are separated from the southern parts by steep and rugged mountains; for the southern Picts, who dwell on this side of those mountains, had long before, as is reported, forsaken the errors of idolatry, and embraced the truth, by the preaching of Ninias, a most reverend bishop and holy man of the British nation, who had been regularly instructed at Rome, in the faith and mysteries of the truth; whose episcopal see, named after St. Martin the bishop, and famous for a stately church (wherein he and many other saints rest in the body), is still in existence among the English nation. The place belongs to the province of the Bernicians, and is generally called the White House, because he there built a church of stone, which was not usual among the Britons.
Bede's History of the English Church and People

Monday, September 1, 2008

"Rivers of Living Water"

Last Friday's Daily Office reading, John 7: 37-52, is an inspired example of Jesus' gift with metaphor. In offering the crowd water, Jesus is restating a theme that we have seen once already, with the Samaritan Woman, and illuminating its scope:
[Jesus] claims that in Him may be found the fulfilment of all which this ritual [of libation at the Feast of Tabernacles] represents. Not only so, but those who slake their thirst at that spring will become themselves fountains for the spiritual refreshment of others. He thus carries further the teaching given to the woman of Samaria. (IV, 14). He who trusts in Christ not only receives the water of life that springs up to eternal life but becomes the source of that gift to others. For no one can possess (or rather be indwelt by the Spirit of God and keep that Spirit to himself. Where the Spiirit is, He flows forth; if there is no flowingh forth, he is not there.
Temple, Readings at 130.

Now, think of this metaphor--not just water--the sine qua non of life, that which makes farming, fishing, existence possible--the primary component of our physical makeup--but living water, that nourishes not only ourselves, but others. We become a source of that nourishment to others, as Archbishop Temple so aptly writes.

Or do we?

I look around at our Anglican Communion and see very little flowing out of the Spirit--much anger (in myself, as well as the ususal suspects) and much squabbling, and much fighting. And an occasional exercise of grace--like Peter Ould's rebuke to his own side that so struck me last month, or the calm confidence of a friend whom I won't name to spare his blushes, that all will be well, and we really have to get to work now--poor to be fed and housed--no time to worry about labels and coalition politics, thankee!

We take water for granted. Let us not take the Living Water, and those who become its fountains, for granted.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

John 6: The Walk on Water and the Arrogance in Prayer

As the Daily Office for this week takes us through part of the 6th chapter of the Fourth Gospel, the passage that leaped out at me was John's depiction of the walk on water:
When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.

And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea,
And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them.
And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew.
So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid.
But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid.
Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.
Jn. 6: 16-21.

William Temple, in his Readings, has a great comment on this account:
St. John tells the familiar story in such a way as to minimise, if not eliminate, the miraculous element in the sign, and to let the significance stand out. For his version does not necessarily imply a miracle at all; the phrase for "on the sea" is also used for "on the sea shore (xx, 1). So his narrative can be read as meaning that the Lord was on shore to welcome the disciples as, after much toil, they approached it. . . .But for St. John the meaning is to be found in the peace of attainment which immediately supervenes when, tossed with trouble, we willingly receive Jesus to be our companion. Christ is the Guide of Life, whom we may follow in the strength that he supplies into the way of peace.
Readings at 77.

Just prior, and after the feeding of the multitude, the crowd is bestirring itself to make Jesus king, leading him to depart. Temple's insight on this impulse is also worth quoting:
Here we see natural religion--the religion to which we are impelled by our natural impulses, and which tries to make use of God for our own purposes. That popular sin ultimately found its focus and final expression in Judas who will very soon now stand as a "cell" of disloyalty within the Twelve. (70, 71). But the same sin was in Simon Peter, who could not endure that the Lord should suffer (St. Mark, vii, 32, 33). How close together in common sinfulness are the disciple whose faith is the foundation of the Church and the disciple whose treachery has made his name the worst insult that one man can fling at another!...Of course, the selfishness of this arrogance masks itself as a generous desire to give honour to our leader. But we make ourselves the judges of what is to His honour. If we are not careful, much of our prayer is like that. We batter at the doors of heaven, demanding audience for our proposals, whereby God may save His world, or promote His purpose. But faith consists in leaving Him to take His own way.
Readings at 76.

Temple has a lesson for us all, not just in daily life, but in the current Anglican flap: to what extent are we, on either side of the divide, seeking to sway God to our own beliefs, or worse, assuming in our righteousness that what we believe is right must reflect God's will? Discernment requires humility, which heaven knows I find hard, and I think many on both sides of the "presenting issues" also find hard. But we need to be humble, to hear the small, still voice of God, and not merely listen to the devices and desires of our own hearts.

Update: I'm not the only one appreciating Temple's work this week, I'm glad to see; Archdeacon Peter Townley in yesterday's Times (London) has a nice profile on my old friend. He concludes it: "Although a much different world than that of 60 years ago, the weight of Temple’s greatness is still felt. Once described as 'a man so broad, to some he seem’d to be Not one, but all Mankind in Effigy', his wide informed vision checks our growing narrowness and self-obsession, his realism our Utopian perfectionism, his generosity of heart a worthy riposte to the mood of cynicism and anger epitomising the age and his statesmanship a powerful reminder of what it is to serve as the national church." It's a fitting tribute (although the last phrase raises interesting questions about the appropriateness of a national church in an era of pluralism).

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Shaw and the Canaanite Woman

Today's Gospel, Matthew's recounting of the encounter between Jesus and the
Canaanite woman, is a hard one; what are to make of Jesus' initial indifference to the woman, an indifference tinged, it would seem, with contempt.

Agnostic and socialist Bernard Shaw, in his Preface to Androcles and the Lion (1912; p. xl-xli in the 1914 Brentano's edition), gives us an insight worthy of considering:
Matthew, like most biographers, strives to identify the opinions and prejudices of his hero with his own. Although he describes
Jesus as tolerant even to carelessness, he draws the line at the Gentile, and represents Jesus as a bigoted Jew who regards his mission as addressed exclusively to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." When a woman of Canaan begged Jesus to cure her daughter, he first refused to speak to her, and then told her brutally that "It is not meet to take the children's bread and cast it to the dogs." But when the woman said, "Truth, Lord; yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master's table," she melted the Jew out of him and made Christ a Christian. To the woman whom he had just called a dog he said, "O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt." This is somehow one of the most touching stories in the gospel; perhaps because the woman rebukes the prophet by a touch of his own finest quality. It is certainly out of character; but as the sins of good men are always out of character, it is not safe to reject the story as invented in the interest of Matthew's determination that Jesus shall have nothing to do with the Gentiles. At all events, there the story is; and it is by no means the only
instance in which Matthew reports Jesus, in spite of the charm of his preaching, as extremely uncivil in private intercourse.
OK, leave aside Shaw's description of Jesus' attitude to the woman as "sin"; remember, he's an agnostic who famously said he can admire Jesus only because he doesn't believe in him. And Shaw's reference to "melting the Jew out of him" means, in the context of the lengthy Preface, that the woman overcame his tribalistic background, not an endorsement by Shaw of antisemitism,I believe.

The real point, I think, is how the woman defeats Jesus in argument--the only person I can think of in all the Gospels to do so. And how does she do so? In Shaw's superb phrase, "by a touch of his own finest quality." In other words, she gets it, and proves she gets it. She's not looking for Jesus as a magician, but for the healing that comes only from God.

You can view it as street theater, if you like. Jesus is not trying to found a cult of personality, based on magic. He wants us to internalize his message. The Canaanite woman's story must be viewed, I believe, in context. Where, throughout the Gospels, the disciples fail, time and time again to do so, the outsider, the Canaanite woman showed that she succeeded--well enough to rebut the Teacher when he, for whatever reason (fatigue? Bad day? To test her, as His answer to her perhaps suggests?), took the exclusive viewpoint antithetical to his own teachings.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Death in the Desert

According to Archbishop William Temple (1881-1944), "the most penetrating interpretation of St. John that exists in the English language" is Robert Browning's "A Death in the Desert." (Temple, Readings in St. John's Gospel (1945) at xvii). Two thoughts from Browning for today.

First, as W.R. Inge notes (Christiam Mysticism Lect. VIII), Browning more than most understands the mystical path to God flourishes in loving engagement with others in the world. In "A Death," St. John, briefly revived on his deathbed, surrounded by his disciples, muses:
If I live yet, it is for good, more love
"Through me to men: be nought but ashes here
"That keep awhile my semblance, who was John,—
"Still, when they scatter, there is left on earth
"No one alive who knew (consider this!)
"—Saw with his eyes and handled with his hands
"That which was from the first, the Word of Life.
"How will it be when none more saith 'I saw'?


"Such ever was love's way: to rise, it stoops.
"Since I, whom Christ's mouth taught, was bidden teach,
"I went, for many years, about the world,
"Saying 'It was so; so I heard and saw,'
"Speaking as the case asked: and men believed.
Afterward came the message to myself
"In Patmos isle; I was not bidden teach,
"But simply listen, take a book and write,
"Nor set down other than the given word,
"With nothing left to my arbitrament
"To choose or change: I wrote, and men believed.
"Then, for my time grew brief, no message more,
"No call to write again, I found a way,
"And, reasoning from my knowledge, merely taught
"Men should, for love's sake, in love's strength believe;
"Or I would pen a letter to a friend
"And urge the same as friend, nor less nor more:
"Friends said I reasoned rightly, and believed.
Note that Browning has St. John delineate revelation, experience and reason, as the three vehicles of his teaching--is it fanciful to view these as Scripture, tradition and reason? Or shall we stress the mystical element in St. John--visions--earlier in the poem, St. John describes his vision of the transfigured Christ in Rev. 1:14, direct experience of God, through Christ, and reason working to discern meaning from both?

Even pain, and age and imminent death do not shake St. John's faith in Browning's imagining, Browning returns to his core theme:
Can they share
"—They, who have flesh, a veil of youth and strength
"About each spirit, that needs must bide its time,
"Living and learning still as years assist
"Which wear the thickness thin, and let man see—
"With me who hardly am withheld at all,
"But shudderingly, scarce a shred between,
"Lie bare to the universal prick of light?
"Is it for nothing we grow old and weak,
"We whom God loves? When pain ends, gain ends too.
****
And, as I saw the sin and death, even so
"See I the need yet transiency of both,
"The good and glory consummated thence?
"I saw the power; I see the Love, once weak,
"Resume the Power: and in this word 'I see,'
"Lo, there is recognized the Spirit of both
Second, Browning uses the notion of the Divine Spark within the soul--most famous in Eckhart, but tracing back to Plotinus--to convey the profundity of God's creation, our being made in His image, limited by our human nature, but fortified by it too, bringing us again to the centrality of love:>
For life, with all it yields of joy and woe
"And hope and fear,—believe the aged friend,—
Is just our chance o' the prize of learning love,
"How love might be, hath been indeed, and is;
"And that we hold thenceforth to the uttermost
"Such prize despite the envy of the world,
And, having gained truth, keep truth: that is all.
"But see the double way wherein we are led,
"How the soul learns diversely from the flesh!
"With flesh, that hath so little time to stay,
"And yields mere basement for the soul's emprise,
"Expect prompt teaching. Helpful was the light,
"And warmth was cherishing and food was choice
"To every man's flesh, thousand years ago,
"As now to yours and mine; the body sprang
"At once to the height, and stayed: but the soul,—no!
"Since sages who, this noontide, meditate
"In Rome or Athens, may descry some point
"Of the eternal power, hid yestereve;
"And, as thereby the power's whole mass extends,
"So much extends the æther floating o'er,
"The love that tops the might, the Christ in God.
As we read St. John in the Daily Office these next weeks, I'll be referring back from time to time both to Browning's portrait and to Abp. Temple's "Readings." Come along on the theological prowl!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

"Reflections" in a Jaundiced Eye

The release of the Lambeth Indaba Reflections strikes me as a good point at which to move on from my self-imposed refusal to opine on the goings on at Lambeth. After reviewing the "Reflections," I find that I have a few thoughts.

First, I think that both "sides" of the dispute have a right to feel as if they have been baulked by the Archbishop of Canterbury. We "reappraisers" (funny, I'm starting to find these terms helpful) have been again asked--or is mandated a better reading?--to sacrifice our GLBT brothers and sisters--who were, themselves, not heard, only talked about. "Reasserters" were asked to sacrifice closure--a clear determination as to TEC's status as amember of the Communion, a juridicial determination as to whether we were "apostates." Neither is offered a clear road forward. For reappraisers, if we do not honor the moratoria, we will be subject to the criticism that we have not let our yes be yes, and our no be no--that is, we will have seemed to accept the moratoria at Lambeth, but flouted them back at home. Such a course of conduct is, to my mind, lacking in honor, even where well intended. If we intend to reject the request for a moratorium, we should say so explicitly and frankly.

And yet--just as I was recurring to my prior theme that the Archbishop's seeming desire for a Covenant to recast the Communion as one Church, with greater central governance--a popeless curia, almost--may have led him to force a compromise to achieve that result, I ran across a surprisingly irenic post by Peter Ould:
there is huge frustration amongst revisionists that many parts of the conservative elements of the church simply haven’t bothered to engage with listening, even five years after the ACC in Nottingham and ten years after Lambeth 1998. When they hear statements such as "We do not have homosexuality in our country", what they hear is a refusal to even engage with the issue at hand. It is blatantly clear to all those with just a smidgeon of anthropological and sociological understanding that homosexualities exist in every single part of the world. The refusal to admit as much is not to take a clear moral stand on the issue, but rather is a pastoral failure of the highest order, because it is evidence of an unwillingness to engage with people where they are at.

****

Listening though is more about just hearing stories. It is also to do with, once having listened, building and affirming relationships. What is so often disappointing in the past few years is the failure of those who have had the opportunity to influence, who have had the public ear, to use that privilege to affirm the humanity and dignity of those they disagree with theologically. We all know the websites that refer to "polysexual sodomites", but it is not just the cruder forms of language in this discourse that are a sign of no real intent to listen and build relationships. . . . Do we need to concentrate on the way that some in our western society want a "plasticisation" of sexuality and cross-generational affection, when the leadership of Integrity and the like are joined with us in condemning paedophilic and ebophilic relationships of any form, consensual or otherwise?

Unless we as the conservative church are willing to admit that we have sometimes (often?) failed in the call of the Lambeth ‘98 resolution to listen to the experience of gay and lesbian people (and post-gay and post-lesbian, for the conservative church is still shockingly ignorant in how to deal pastorally in this area) then we have no right to ask those whom we disagree with to take such resolutions seriously themselves. What we need at this point then is a serious, critical self-examination. Can we truly say that in all cases we are the ones sinned against? Can we really stand clean in front of the Lord and argue that we have not ourselves sinned in this conflict?

****

And let us be clear on one thing. Confession in Scripture is never on the basis of "I will confess if my enemy will". You simply won’t find such a concept. Jesus calls us very clearly to first examine our own eye before commenting on the speck in our friend’s. The plank doesn’t come out at the same time as the speck - it is only in realising that we have a plank and first doing something about it that we gain any ability, morally or practically, to address the specks in others.
Ould then goes on to call upon GAFCON and the Global South to adopt the moratorium on border-crossing--to take the first step toward reconciliation.

Note that Ould does not show any agreement or sympathy with "reappraising" theology; he firmly believes in the righteousness of the theological position he holds on human sexuality. But he is willing to come to the table, and reason together--and not from a position of presumed moral superiority. This is critical; a conservative faction willing to admit that all moral righteousness is not on its side, to engage the best of liberal thought, and to stay at the table--this is an adversary who seeks to open a channel for discernment, and for the Holy Spirit.

As Ould points out, an immediate moratorium by the conservatives would stand as a pledge of good faith for the liberals, and one to which we would then have to formulate a response. I confess I am deeply troubled that the sacrifice will fall on those who have been so often marginalized, subjected to bigotry, and all in the name of Christianity. And yet, if the conservatives engage both in the explicit component of Ould's Modest Proposal--unilateral declaration of a moratorium on boundary crossings-and its implied corollary, begin to participate in a genuine Listening Process, in which we truly seek the good in each other, and to discern the will of God in our present circumstances, I should think we liberals must join them at the table.

Update, 8/14/2008: I do want to make clear that, just as Ould meant for the moratoria he advocated to be limited in time, so too any waiting period to be observed in response would have to be (a) similarly limited; and (2) dependent not just on cessation of incursions, but on mutual listening and an end to demonization and bigotry against our GLBT brothers and sisters. We cannot purchase ecclesial peace by selling them out. In any event, as the comments on Ould's post, and the usual suspects' sites show, this irenic post appears to be a non-starter--even Ould seems to be back-tracking, no longer pointing to the beam in his own side's eye, but speaking of it as a "Reasserter's" last tactic to avoid schism, and thus be sure of their side's righteousness when schism eventuates. Pity. For a moment, I seemed to see some real Christian caritas there...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A Lesson Unlearned

A lesson unlearned by the Bush Administration:
Most of the evidence was gossip: nearly all the confessions were made in answer to leading questions and under torture. Judges who examine in that way will infallibly find confirmation of whatever theory the prosecution was holding before the trial began.
--C.S. Lewis, on the witchcraft trials, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (1954) at 5.

Such age-old wisdom is not for the Bush-Cheney regime, as witness this summary of Jane Mayer's new book The Dark Side:
But it was only the pictures that made Abu Ghraib an aberration. The tactics the president denounced were precisely those he had authorized and encouraged in the growing network of secret prisons around the world. The detainees in these scattered sites — many of them innocent — have been held for months and years without charges, without lawyers, without notification to their families and often without respite from torture for weeks and months at a time. The Bush administration’s response to the Abu Ghraib scandal was not to stop the behavior, but to try to hide it more effectively.

No one knows how many people were rounded up and spirited away into these secret locations, although the number is very likely in the thousands. No one knows either how many detainees have died once in custody. Nor is there any solid information about the many detainees who have been the victims of what the United States government calls “extraordinary rendition,” the handing over of detainees to other governments, mostly in the Middle East, whose secret police have no qualms about torturing their prisoners and face no legal consequences for doing so.

We have traded honor, law, and our tradition, and received nothing--quite literally, nothing--in return. Lewis' famous character, Screwtape, would be so proud; he said that the ultimate goal of the Devil was "to get the man's soul and give him nothing in return." The Screwtape Letters (1943) at 49-50.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Whereof One Cannot Speak Redux

You may (assuming my series of posts on mysticism haven't reduced my readership to my cat, myself and Padre Pio) have noticed that I have remained silent on the subject of Lambeth. It's not that I'm uninterested; it's that I perceive two narratives about the course of the conference, and can't tell which one is true:

1. The Narrative of the Press and Anglican Blogosphere (helpfully rounded up by Canon Kendall Harmon (who is a "reasserter", but one who I think tries to be fair to those with whom he disagrees)). This narrative is one of brinkmanship, tactics, episcopal skullduggery, and will end in a triumph of realpolitik (though whose triumph is anybody's guess); and

2. The Narrative of Indaba--one in which prayer, unstructured conversation and both sides meeting in prayer will lead to a result from the Spirit that we cannot identify. A very dear friend--one who I have long respected as being truly wise as a serpent, yet innocent as a dove--and who is there, tells me that schism wil not likely worsen, and scoffs at my fear that the Arcbishop of Canterbury is not engaged in creating a curial structure at the expense of our GLBT brothers and sisters.

I simply have no idea which narrative will be proven right in time, and what is happening at Canterbury--the skies seem to lower with a Code of Canon Law and a Holy Office of our very own in the offing (aye, this leads nowhere good--I swam the Tiber away from Rome, in part to escape these delights), to say nothing of the pastoral forum perplex. I'd say the auguries are not good--and yet--we don't know and won't know for a lttle while longer.

And so, I remind myself to not occupy myself with great matters, or with things that are too hard for me, but to still my soul and make it quiet, like a child upon its mother's breast. Perhaps we all need a time for reflection and prayer--and to act when the cover is removed from the dish set before us, and we can then decide how to react to what has been cooked up at the Conference--strengthened by not giving way to anxiety as we wait for the table to be laid.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

An Encounter With Matthew Fox

Last Thursday, I attended a lecture by Matthew Fox on Meister Eckhart. Fox has done his own translation of Eckhart, titled Breakthrough: Meister Eckhart's Creation Spirituality, in New Translation (1980), and his devotion to Eckhart's thought was clear in the presentation. He had us break into groups and discuss the first page of Eckhart's first sermon, and my partner and I surprised each other with our slightly differing reactions--he was particularly moved by Eckhart's image of creation flowing in and out of God, like breath in respiration; I was struck by Eckhart's statement that if our image of God is comprehensible by us, then it is wrong--we will have shrunk God to our size.

Fox offered us a different perspective on the "divine dark" which Eckhart and pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite extol; he viewed it as the experience of desolation, of abandonment. I'm not so sure about this. Pseudo-Dionysius describes the dark as:
the ultimate summit of your mystical knowledge, most incomprehensible, most luminous and most exalted, where the pure, absolute and immutable mysteries of theology are veiled in the dazzling obscurity of the secret Silence, outshining all brilliance with the intensity of their Darkness, and surcharging our blinded intellects with the utterly impalpable and invisible fairness of glories surpassing all beauty.
This is not a transient stage of despair, or finding God in the experience of desolation, as well as in consolation, but the ultimate stage, for Dionysius (and I think for Eckhart) of mystical union. (This very aspect of their thought is one reason for Inge's discomfort with both Dionysius and Eckhart).

To be fair, Fox used Eckhart's distinction between God (the Mover) and the Godhead (the Wisdom of God--which he informed was a mistranslation of the Gottheit, more properly translated as the "Godness"). In Eckhart, the Godhead is at points equated with the Divine Dark; for Fox, he stressed Wisdom as traditionally feminine, as restoring the gender balance our patriarchal society denies the Divine. (Actually, Eckhart's disciple Henry Suso, the "Servitor of the Divine Wisdom," whom he saw as a Lady whose knight he was, also drew this concept from Eckhart).

Finally, in place of the traditional three-step mystical progression, Fox postulates a four step path, described by him as "The Via Positiva (joy, delight and awe); the Via Negativa (darkness, silence, suffering, letting go and letting be); the Via Creativa (creativity); and the Via Transformativa (justice, compassion, interdependence). One interesting distinction: Fox's four-fold path emphasizes modes of being leading to action, the traditional path--pugation, illumination, and union--describes a furthering of the soul's union with God. As summarized by Inge, the first step--purgation--includes what Fox describes as his fourth step, duty to our fellow human beings and creation at large. What for Fox is the culmination is for Inge the beginning--the sine qua non.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Attempted Takeover?

From GAFCON's response to the Archbishop of Canterbury's statement concerning its "Jerusalem Statement and Declaration":
On the uniqueness of Christ. We are equally concerned to hear that 'the conviction of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as Lord and God' is 'not in dispute' in the Anglican Communion. Leading bishops in The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, and even the Church of England have denied the need to evangelise among people of other faiths, promoted and attended syncretistic events and, in some cases, refused to call Jesus Lord and Saviour.

On authority. [I]n the Anglican tradition, authority is not concentrated in a single centre, but rather across a number of persons and bodies. This Council is a first step towards bringing greater order to the Communion, both for the sake of bringing long overdue discipline and as a reforming initiative for our institutions.

In situations of false teaching, moreover, it has sometimes been necessary for other bishops to intervene to uphold apostolic faith and order.
On discipline. Finally, with regard to the Archbishop's concern about people who have been disciplined in one jurisdiction and have been accepted in another, we are clear that any such cases have been investigated thoroughly and openly with the fullest possible transparency. Bishops and parishes have been given oversight only after the overseeing bishops have been fully satisfied of no moral impediments to their action.

We assure the Archbishop of Canterbury of our respect as the occupier of an historic see which has been used by God to the benefit of his church and continue to pray for him to be given wisdom and discernment.
My, my. I note three interesting aspects to this:

1. The statement makes clear--not that anyone thought otherwise--that the purpose of GAFCON is power--power to claim the Anglican brand, reducing Canterbury to "an historic see," and stripping the Archbishop of Canterbury of any particular role, while claiming for itself the right to reshape the Communion, to bring forth Order and Discipline.

2. Note the casual conflation of stark accusations of allegeations of heresy behavior with much more modest substantiation; Akinola et al take exception with the Archbishop's statement that the uniqueness of Christ is not in doubt, but offer a very different specification in response; they claim that conveniently unnamed "leading bishops" have (1) denied the need to evangelize among people of other faiths--a disagreement with GAFCON as to tactics, not theology; (2) promoted and attended syncretistic events--which I doubt the GAFCON-ers mean literally, but rather in its more modern sense of "the mixture of dissimilar or incompatible things or ideas." (Id.), which could be nothing more than a tactic not unlike that of Paul in Acts 17; and finally, alleges that "in some cases" have refused to call Jesus Lord and Savior. As to this last, questions need to be asked: How many "leading bishops" do they refer to, and in what context? Do they really mean refusal, or simply the preference of different appellations they apply to Christ? But frankly, the placement of first two prongs of this purported rebuttal suggest that this last prong is one they themselves find weak.

3. Finally, they claim--consistent with point 1--that their members and they alone can judge the juridicial processes of other provinces--free and equal churches within the Communion--and that they are free to disregard discipline imposed by such other churches at their own discretion, with no comity or deferences to such other churches, as must in fact submit to their discipline.

In short, Anglicanism is to give up the via media in favor of a confessional, conciliar model--one in which a self-selected orthodox have the right to judge the rest of us, deciding who are sheep and who goats. And the Archbishop of Canterbury? He's a quaint relic, to be honored for historical significance and little more.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Where I've Been

So, I've been leading a book study of William Inge's Christian Mysticism, and it's been a real learning experience.

First, the members of the group have been very keen to grapple with the sometimes dense philosophical content and have stayed with it even after two weeks of Neoplatonism(!) They've also raised some concerns about Inge's dislike of the via negativa, the "negative road" of mysticism that he feared could lead to quietism, to solipsism, and to divorcing the spiritual quest from prayerful engagement with the world. Also, Inge sought to keep reason at the forefront of his vision of mysticism, quoting Benjamin Whichcote's aphorism that "I oppose not rational to spiritual, for spiritual is most rational."
But, as the members of the group have pointed out to me, Inge's emphasis in thought can seem to be an idolatry of thought--a "cogitolatry," as a member coined. And, while I think it is the Divine Reason, and not human reason alone, I have to admit that Inge did show uneasiness with enthusiasm. It could be the fact that he was, after all, a Victorian Englishman, writing in 1899; it could also be that the Bampton Lectures (which the text of the book consists of) were very prestigious and led to Inge wanting to show his command of the material--but I think, in fact, that Inge was reacting to the Nineteenth Century revival of occultism. The embrace by many of the revivalists of neo-platonism, and the excesses of some of them, would concern Inge, who, in his desire to bring Christian mysticism away from the hermetic tradition of the Order of the Golden Dawn (to which A.E. Waite, Evelyn Underhill, and--gulp!--Aleister Crowley--all belonged, though not all at the same time. He overtly tried to rescue mysticism from the psychological curiosity approach, and, frankly, the horse laugh, of R.A. Vaughn's Hours With the Mystics (1893).

It's been fascinating to engage with a well-informed, passionate group about a book I've long loved, but whose limitations and flaws, stemming in part from the time in which it was written, I can see afresh in going through it with a passionate, intelligent group to whom it is new.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Farewell--For Now--to a Friend

I'm sorry to note that Father Jake is, after five years, calling it quits, and closing his place. The World will go on, without Jake to stop it from time to time, but we in the Anglican blogosphere who have been enriched by his forthright advocacy, and his passionate commitment to the Church, will be the poorer without our daily dose(s).

I understand his reasons for calling it a day, and look forward to his next appearance on the Web--focusing more on the spiritual and less on Church politics. And, as he says, it may indeed be time.

Jake sounded a clarion warning about the schismatics' desire to harvest properties and parishes from the Episcopal Church; we are all alive to that warning, now, and have seen the machinations described by Jake in, among other posts, here come to pass. The wolf has descended on the fold--and some were ready. The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, in particular, has cause to appreciate Jake's ministry. The wider Church does owes him thanks, not just for the wake up call, but also for his providing a place to vent, to express fears and hopes, and to find each other. And, the community of Jacobites will go on--plans are already being formed...

As to the larger Church, and GAFCON, perhaps today, July 4, is a good day to acknowledge that nothing in the Communion will ever be the same--that the differences are out there, now, in the open. And that, if schism is here, the American Church can declare its independence, rather than devolve into the Calvinist, confessional model our "Worthy Adversaries" seek to force us. Whether peaceful coexistence or the parting of the ways is at hand, the time of secrecy is over.

Father Jake's work is, as he believes, done. Father Terry Martin will be back, and in new, exciting ventures, I have no doubt. Vogue a la galere, my friend--we await the next stage with faith.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Inner Ring

Many on the Anglican right have appropriated C.S. Lewis as an avatar of orthodoxy. I wonder if they're aware of his comment on John A.T. Robinson's
Honest to God (1963). Here's a snippet:
The Bishop of Woolwich will disturb most of us Christian laymen less than he anticipates. We have long ago abandoned belief in a God who sits on a throne in a localized heaven. We call this belief anthropomorphism, and it was officially condemned before our time. . . .We have always thought of God as being not only "in" and "above" but also "below" us....His view of Jesus as a window seems wholly orthodox (he that hath seen me hath seen the Father....Thus, though sometimes puzzled, I am not shocked by his article. His heart, though perhaps in some danger of bigotry, is in the right place.
The Honest To God Debate (1963) at 91-92.

Lewis also published in his marvellous collection They Wanted a Paper an essay titled "The Inner Ring", in which he warns of the dangers of belonging for the sake of belonging--and the concomittant pleasure of excluding:
In the whole of your life as you now remember it, has the desire to be on the right side of that invisible line ever prompted you to any act or word on which, in the cold small hours of a wakeful night, you can look back with satisfaction? If so, your case is more fortunate than most.

My main purpose in this address is simply to convince you that this desire is one of the great permanent mainsprings of human action. It is one of the factors which go to make up the world as we know it—this whole pell-mell of struggle, competition, confusion, graft, disappointment and advertisement, and if it is one of the permanent mainsprings then you may be quite sure of this. Unless you take measures to prevent it, this desire is going to be one of the chief motives of your life, from the first day on which you enter your profession until the day when you are too old to care. That will be the natural thing—the life that will come to you of its own accord. Any other kind of life, if you lead it, will be the result of conscious and continuous effort. If you do nothing about it, if you drift with the stream, you will in fact be an “inner ringer.” I don’t say you’ll be a successful one; that’s as may be. But whether by pining and moping outside Rings that you can never enter, or by passing triumphantly further and further in—one way or the other you will be that kind of man.
I wonder how many of our Anglican furious excluders are Inner Ringers, or aspirants to that status, who fear the loss of prestige, position, or acceptance? And I wonder how many of those who bridle at what can seem on the surface to be heresy have tried to meet it with the breezy self-assurance, and sympathetic tolerance, of Jack Lewis?

Monday, June 9, 2008

St. Columba and Friend


Today is the feast day of St. Columba, apostle to Scotland. When I was in college, I took a course in medieval literature, in which we read (among many others) The Age of Bede, in which I learned that St. Columba, among many other challenges in Scotland, ran across Nessie:
[St. Columba, encountering Nessie about to devour a swimming Pict(!)] raised his holy hand, while all the rest, brethren as well as strangers, were stupefied with terror, and, invoking the name of God, formed the saving sign of the cross in the air, and commanded the ferocious monster, saying, "Thou shalt go no further, nor touch the man; go back with all speed." Then at the voice of the saint, the monster was terrified, and fled more quickly than if it had been pulled back with ropes, though it had just got so near to Lugne, as he swam, that there was not more than the length of a spear-staff between the man and the beast. Then the brethren seeing that the monster had gone back, and that their comrade Lugne returned to them in the boat safe and sound, were struck with admiration, and gave glory to God in the blessed man. And even the barbarous heathens, who were present, were forced by the greatness of this miracle, which they had seen, to magnify the God of the Christians.
(Adamnan, Life of St. Columba, ch. 28).

How do you not love a saint who encounters a Great Myth (apparently in an unusually ferocious mood; Nessie is usually described as shy), rescues its victim, and then doesn't feel the need to kill the dragon? I'm reminded of Robertson Davies' book World of Wonders, where it's suggested that the best saints do not kill the dragons they encounter, but rather domesticate them--meaning, of course, that they don't kill off their shadow sides, but confront them, master them, and come to terms with them, even accept them.

As, in a way, did St. Columba.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Whereof One Cannot Speak...

There's a lot happening in the Anglican world just now, but it's mostly feinting and preparing for the much anticipated "Battle of Lambeth."

I find that I have nothing to say about it, just now. The public posturing of the various participants (and the non-participants) may or may not reflect the behind-the-scenes activities in the run-up to Lambeth.

I feel that it's time for me at least to tend my garden, to trust in the Spirit, and to say, with Julian of Nowich, "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well..."

Meanwhile, in my garden (the metaphorical one) what's going on? My discernment process is in a brief (I hope!) hiatus, and a long-standing personal crisis nears its culmination. On the former, the pragmatic factors seem to strongly urge the diaconate (and I can quite easily see myself in a justice ministry), but the academic pull of seminary is strong--so I have a lot of reflection to do.

On a more positive note, I'm teaching at church a seven week class this summer on Inge's 1899 Christian Mysticism, and reading up in preparation.

And so it goes....for now, at any rate.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Prince Bishops?

Courtesy of Thinking Anglicans, I see that Bonnie Anderson is defending the function of the episcopacy in the American church, responding to Archbishop Rowan Williams' Advent Letter from December, 2007. Anderson's concern is raised by the Archbishop's statement that:
A somewhat complicating factor in the New Orleans statement has been the provision that any kind of moratorium is in place until General Convention provides otherwise. Since the matters at issue are those in which the bishops have a decisive voice as a House of Bishops in General Convention, puzzlement has been expressed as to why the House should apparently bind itself to future direction from the Convention. If that is indeed what this means, it is in itself a decision of some significance. It raises a major ecclesiological issue, not about some sort of autocratic Episcopal privilege but about the understanding in The Episcopal Church of the distinctive charism of bishops as an order and their responsibility for sustaining doctrinal standards. Once again, there seems to be a gap between what some in the Episcopal Church understand about the ministry of bishops and what is held elsewhere in the Communion, and this needs to be addressed
Anderson draws from this statement, and the fact that the responses to the second draft of the proposed Anglican Covenant is to be provided by the bishops, a concern that the American polity will be brushed aside, and bishops invited to aggrandize themselves. I can't say that she's wrong.

It's an interesting question, whether the Archbishop's rather high view of the episcopate should be or even can be a required one within all constituent members the Communion. I think, in view of the variety of views expressed within the Church of England (see, e.g., The Historic Episcopate, ed. Kenneth M. Carey (1954); K.E. Kirk, ed. The Apostolic Ministry (1947)), Abp. Williams's apparent suggestion that the role of the bishops inherently carries with it and even requires a certain ability to act unilaterally may be difficult to maintain as an item of faith. (In his contribution to the former, J.A.T. Robinson makes the interesting point that the result of a too-high episcopate is to isolate the bishop from the Church, to the detriment of both).

Well, we'll see how doctrinaire the Archbishop is, or whether indeed he intends to pursue this issue. And further study of this issue is warranted. In the meantime, I suspect that Fr. Tobias Haller's comment on TA that "[i]t isn't just that we are divided by a common language, but a common episcopate, it seems" may be the best one can say.