Category Archives: Current Unpleasantness

faux catholic

I went for a run last night in the rain. It was only my second real run since my high school cross-country days (and boy am I out of shape!). Since the spider episode I’m much more committed to improving my fitness so with that behind me and the good example of M before me, I’m out pounding the pavement again.

It gives me space, an open place, to think as I run.

Last night my mind kept drifting back to the English decision on women bishops and to this post on the matter by Third Mill Catholic. If not accepting women bishops and clergy is the distinguishing mark of catholicism, then Young Fogey and others are right—it is done within Anglicanism, now and forever. If we’re honest, it was a done deal back in the ’90s but the implications are only now moving towards their inevitable conclusion.

If women can be priests, then there is no logical reason why they cannot be bishops. If they can be bishops, there is no reason why they cannot be archbishops. If they can be archbishops than it is only a matter of time before one sits upon the throne of the See of Canterbury.

In England, the Anglo-Catholics who remain will be further indulging themselves in a game of “let’s pretend”. In America, the “true” catholics are acting like congregationalists and joining themselves to to a Protestant province or hooking their hopes to an evangelical organization who won’t hesitate to turn on them once it’s convenient. (If liberals who like to play dress-up and swing-the-censer without an embrace of catholic theology are AffCats, we’ll shortly need to come up with a new word for evangelicals with similar tastes.)

I suppose in the midst of all of this, I’ll just keep on being what I am: a faux catholic. I’m resigned to never meriting being a real one as I’m not against the right things. I’ve irrevocably sold-out the faith by maintaining the silly notion that what grounds and guides Christian morals is the practice and cultivation of virtue, rather than ticking boxes on vice lists. I’ve betrayed Christianity in my belief that the power of the Holy Spirit and the firm promises of Christ are efficacious even without the presence of a penis. I’ll just keep understanding scripture in light of my three creeds and seven councils. I’ll keep on reading the Fathers.

But the readings from Matthew we’ve been moving through in the Office sound the louder note: it’s not about our words or the faith that we profess. It’s not even about our deeds of power. It won’t matter at the end of the Day what back-stabbing little faction we’re part of—the key is our fruits.

When we look at others do we strive to see Christ; when Christ looks at us, does he recognize himself?

Another thing rolling around on my run was words I’d read on the bus ride home from work:

Since all of our Lord’s sacred utterances contain commandments, why does he say about love as if it were a special commandment: This is my commandment, that you love one another? It is because every commandment is about love, and they all add up to one commandment because whatever is commanded is founded on love alone. As a tree’s many branches come from one root, so do many virtues come forth from love alone. The branch which is our good works has no sap unless it remains attached to the root of love. Our Lord’s commandments are then both many and one: many through the variety of the works, one in their root which is love. He himself instructs us to love our friends in him, and our enemies for his sake. That person truly possesses love who loves his friend in God and his enemy for God’s sake. (Gregory the Great, Hom. 27)

The love of which Gregory speaks is not some gooey emotion, a set of excuses for bad behavior,or a label to cover over a different agenda. It’s a way of life. It’s a fundamental orientation.  It’s a burning engine that impels and compels us to do even that which we do not wish to do. And from where I sit it seems in precious short supply. God knows I lack it in spades, but that seems to be not uncommon around our Communion either.

Now don’t get me wrong—I’m not calling for an end to Christian factionalism. After all, it has a long proud history: every single writing in the New Testament mentions it at one point or another. It’s more traditional than Tradition itself!

What I do wish is that we have an awareness: every time we pull out the long knives—whatever we achieve—-we always carve away a piece of ourselves in the process…

Shrewd as Serpents

I have refrained for quite a while from commenting on Anglican affairs, but the time has come to speak my piece.

The presenting topic is, of course, the Jerusalem Declaration, but I think it worth the time to step back and take a bigger picture view of what is going on. I will, however, begin with that document.

The Jerusalem Declaration is the declaration that the emperor—or archbishop, rather—has no clothes. That is, regardless of whether the Archbishop of Canterbury has the power or authority to discipline, the declaration challenges whether he has the will to discipline. It makes sense from their perspective: after begging him for five years to discipline the American and Canadian Churches, they have decided that they, in like fashion, will go ahead and do what pleases them, emboldened by the complete lack of consequences to us.

Technically speaking, a schism has not occurred in that no-one has broken with Canterbury—they’ve simply declared him irrelevant. Pittsburgh will still be leaving; Fort Worth will still be leaving. No doubt Quincy and others will soon attempt to follow. Parish departures will increase. While schism has not happened I think we’ll find that the incursions of foreign prelates will increase in the coming months.

Which will call forth a response… Yes, the GAFCON crowd has been shrewd—but they are not alone in their shrewdness.

At a particular point—and I’m sure a careful review of news stories could tell you exactly when, one or more liberal Episcopalians discovered an interesting use of antitrust law. They determined that the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation could be used as leverage. In a nutshell (from a non-lawyer here), this legislation means that, in order to prevent Enron-type malfeasance, a much wider group of people are responsible for checking on what the organization as a whole is doing. In nonprofit circles, it means that the board is also liable if a president is up to something untoward. Within our little circle, the interested parties realized that these laws could be used to apply leverage to bishops; if they negotiated with dissidents and did something like—say—selling them their property at fair market value, they could be sued for breach of fiduciary responsibility.

Now, whether a threat of this sort was actually made or whether it was simply detected, I don’t know. What I do know is that dioceses in negotiations abruptly ended them at roughly the same time and embarked on a national policy of litigation.

So many people are being so shrewd these days—by my reckoning too shrewd by half.

Litigation won’t help me. It won’t help us. Rather, it reminds me what’s at the bottom of all this. I’m sorry, but I really don’t think this is about “inclusion” or about the “authority of Scripture”, or even about the “faith once delivered”. Some in the pews may see it that way, but at the end of the day the sense that I get is that this is about whose clique calls the shots. I see it as a power game, pure and simple. And that’s what makes me most angry. I see two groups at the highest levels in a pissing contest that has pulled in the entire Anglican world. We’re burning through literally millions of dollars in big international gatherings and conferences and lawsuits while we stand on the brink of something much bigger and much more dangerous.

America is heading into a recession. Of that I have no doubt. And, if the peak oil people are right—and I’m becoming more and more persuaded that they are—than it will be longer, harder, and deeper than anything we’ve seen in a very long time. There are going to be a lot of people who will need help: covering rent, covering bills, families who have lost jobs, houses, and hope. How much do our squabbles and litigations cost when measured out in bags of flour and gallons of milk?

Not only will we need money to face the challenges of social change, we’ll also need grounding. We’ll need a rooted, grounded faith to proclaim as everything else is shifting.

How are we doing there?

Today is the first day that Seabury-Western officially has no faculty. Bexley Hall is collapsing back into rented quarters at a Lutheran school and EDS is selling off buildings. Not exactly hopeful for the well-trained clergy of tomorrow… How much do our squabbles and litigations cost when measured out in faculty salaries or credit hours?

I’m not happy with our leadership—and I don’t see these trends reversing anytime soon. But I’m not going anywhere. I’ve already swum the Channel from the Lutherans and could plausibly head across some other body of water but I’ve burnt my ships. I’m staying put and the church will have to deal with it.

Caelius may say he’s wondering what to do
, but I think he already knows—at least the outlines—and I do too. There’s no point in waiting for the pointy-hats to come around. Lay people and local people need to:

  1. Rediscover the Book of Common Prayer. As a broadly catholic and evangelical document, the Prayer Book in its many forms holds together the essentials of our theology, our doctrine, and the necessarily disciplines of a robust spiritual life.
  2. Teach the Book of Common Prayer. We cannot rely too much on the clergy. Clergy are already swamped with what they do and, frankly, not all have been blessed with the gifts to teach and inspire others with regard to our basic documents and history. And no, you can’t teach the prayer book with out simultaneously teaching Scripture, history, and theology—they all flow together.
  3. Recover Practical Rhythms of Life. A deeply grounded spirituality does not happen apart from regular ol’ life as we know it. Spiritual rhythms are sustainable rhythms. And that goes back to knowing who and what you are and where your priorities lie.
  4. Recover Communities of Faith as Communities of Practice. Modern Americans are notorious for rejecting social opportunities (the Bowling Alone phenomenon). And yet, churches are places where people gather and form a community in spite of themselves. As things get worse—whether short term or long term—local communities will become more important. People and communities weather crises best when supported by effective habits and disciplines. The time to get these up and going is now, not later. Do things together. Do things that instill healthy, simple, practical practices together. Does your church have a garden? Does it landscape with herbs and/or edibles? Is there a compelling reason why not? Even if the fossil fuels last another three hundred years is there a good excuse for not doing some of this now?
  5. Collect and Craft the Necessary Resources. All of the above things are good (in my eyes), but none of them are simple. They’ll take work. To do them poorly may be as bad as not doing them at all. There’s simply no point in attempting them without adequate preparation. And this is where we find ourselves now. The internet provides the perfect place to collect resources, instructions, and histories of projects successful and unsuccessful gathered into a common place. It’s time to start collecting and it’s time to start creating.

++Rowan Sends Letters

++Rowan has sent ’round the world this morning two letters–one for Advent and one for Christmas. Ever the liturgical snark, my first instinct was to wish he had sent the Christmas one later than the Advent one if even only by a day or two…

There will be lots of talk about these letters and their contents. I may weigh in on them–I may not. But I do want to suggest that the Advent letter be analyzed with two entirely different questions in mind:

  1. Does this letter reflect the Anglican understanding of the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury? How well does it go about being faithful to our Anglican ways of relating to each other?
  2. How should the Episcopal Church respond–in so far as we are able to respond in any kind of unified way?

Again, I want to stress that I see these as two entirely different questions that will help us gain a better sense of where we ought to be moving in response to this missive.

Positive Points from a Purple Shirt

Given the behavior of bishops the last few (yeah, ok, 18 hundred or so) years*, it’s always refreshing to see a bishop make some clear, cogent, and thoroughly Christian points. And these are the Canadian Diocese of New Westminster which—as I understand it—is one of the more divided dioceses theologically in the Anglican Church of Canada.

I’ll only editorialize one little bit and that’s to cite James: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (Jam 1:22). It’s important to think these things—but it’s not enough to congratulate yourself for saying you think them; they must be ennacted as well. And that goes as much for the bishop who spoke them as for the rest of us.


Pray for the unity of Christians, for a spirit of charity towards those with whom we may disagree, and for God’s forgiveness of our mutual failure to honour the prayer of Christ in St. John’s Gospel “that they may be one.”


Give particular support to those conservative and traditional Christians who remain with their church and grieve the departure of friends.


Teach our members about the genius of Anglicanism and its balance of Scripture, reason and tradition within the boundaries of common prayer.


Emphasize in our preaching and leadership the centrality of mission and its priority over ecclesiastical politics.


Challenge the false stereotypes that foster polarization – e.g. the ‘heartless conservative’ or the ‘unbiblical liberal.’


Give thanks that our church, for all its messiness, is honestly and openly facing issues some other bodies cannot.


Press forward in ministry and evangelism at the local level.


Deepen our study and immersion in Scripture. Place ourselves under the authority of the Christ it reveals. Avoid both an empty relativism and a harsh literalism.


Encourage both local media and the non-churchgoing public to understand the deeper roots of this development.


Take the ‘long view’ – i.e. remember the consistent triumph of the Gospel over the historic fragmentation of the church, and the persistence of faith through the failures of human discipleship.

Please remember our diocesan and national leaders in your prayers too. And above all, let’s get on with the normal work of being the church.

A big thank you to Lisa from My Manner of Life who posted it and a h/t to the Postulant for linking to it.

* Yes, I believe in bishops. As an Apostolic Succession believer I believe they’re necessary for the fullness of the Church. But I also believe they’re completely human and have ably demonstrated over the centuries their fallibility…

No More

More news . . . the retired bishop of Newark has decided to send a calculatedly insulting letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The incessant politicking, posturing, and rhetoric will only escalate from here.

I will be posting no more material on the current Anglican Unpleasantness until Martinmas at the earliest. There are plenty of voices of sanity and credibility out there to whom one should listen for such news—just don’t expect any here.

My time and energy will be much better spent in the 10th century. . .

Three More Bishops…

Rwanda’s Anglican Church has just elected three more Americans to be bishops. They are the Rev. Terrell Glenn, the Rev. Philip Jones and the Rev. John Miller. [h/t Thinking Anglicans]

I don’t know any of these folks–but you know who they’re not?

the Reverend William Ilgenfritz

Does that name ring a bell? No? He was the candidate that Forward in Faith put forward to become a bishop by some cooperative foreign Anglican body back in 2002 along with Fr. David Moyer. The call was re-iterated in 2007 when five years later Fr. Ilgenfritz was still not consecrated… (Fr. Moyer was consecrated a while ago by the Traditional Anglican Communion, a group not in communion with Canterbury.)

So—however many American bishops later and Fr. Ilgenfritz has not received the nod. I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t seem to bode well for the place of FiF and traditional Anglo-Catholics in the coming realignment.

[To clarify the confused, I know members of FiFNA and the SSC, have cordidal relationships with them, have learned much from them, but do not agree with them concerning the ordination of women.]

Refusing the Spectrum

Fr. Haller has an interesting post up where he looks at current Anglican issues in terms of realists and idealists. I agree with much that he writes, but I’m not sure I agree with this one… I think I can sense what he’s trying to set up, but it’s not quite there yet. One difficulty with the post is his initial rhetorical decision: to make the liberals the realists and the conservatives the idealists. In my experience, the liberals I know tend to be the idealists, then attempt to impose their ideals on those around them. I’m not saying conservatives don’t do this, I just think that both groups have both idealists and realists in them.

He presents a binary list of options. But, as I read through them, I found myself not only choosing freely from both, but just as frequently wishing for options not offered. Here are a few I offered in my comment–with a few new additions:

eschatology: sacramental
mood: optative
goal: maturity
pedagogy: experiental (i.e., liturgical)
gospel: Matthew
ecclesia: militans
theological school: benedictine
the church: “you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it”
creation story: John 1

I keep hearing about this spectrum but in an important sense…I’m not on it!

I’ve said before, I’m a moderate by default because I don’t fall into the camps described. Furthermore, I don’t think either of two camps should be the goal. To me, Anglicanism is about a set of boundaries defined broadly by the literal sense of the historical creeds and defined more narrowly (but still fairly broadly) by the theology encoded in the prayer book. I don’t want either liberals or conservatives to shoehorn me into their dogmatic statements; I’d much rather they join me in worshiping in the beauty of holiness and in works of mercy.

In short, I’d really like the conversation to move beyond the binary. We need to be challenged by those on all sides. All those who confess Christ crucified have something to teach me about loving and serving him and my neighbor. I need to be challenged by the “liberals” and the “conservatives” and by all those who don’t fit into either of these  for my own growth and correction(…let the righteous smite me in friendly rebuke…)–and I’ll return the favor too.

Arora’s Law

This is a phenomenon that has needed a name for a long time and now it does. It’s a version of Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Analogies–but the current Anglican version. As Godwin’s Law projects that the longer an internet debate continues the likelihood grows that Nazis and/or Hitler will be invoked, so Arora’s Law projects that in any Anglican online debate the longer it proceeds the likelihood grows that Jack Spong will be mentioned.The whole thing is here… (h/t Thinking Anglicans)

On African Bishops

Okay, I may well have been wrong before–with the announcement of a North American Ugandan bishop it seems like there may well be a coherent plan that the “Global South” bishops are following to get a replacement province in place before September 30th so that on October 1 they can demand a new Anglican entity in North America.

If we are moving towards this new flat-earth (Friedman style) Anglicanism where we can all select the bishops we serve under regardless of continent or diocesan boundaries, ++Schori may have to worry about losing me to an African bishop… I quite liked this sermon which arrived over the wires the other day from ++Ndungane. Imagine, a primate who keeps his proclamation centered on the love of God, is open to modern (responsible) biblical interpretation, AND openly confesses a creedal understanding of who Jesus is…