Though in the midst of quite a lot of general busy-ness (yes, I owe several people emails–forgive me!) I wanted to at least say a few words on the current progress of General Convention and some resolutions that are near and dear to my heart…
Communion Without Baptism
There were two resolutions up that dealt with CWOB. One from Eastern Oregon, C040 [PDF], wanted to get rid altogether of the canon requiring Baptism before Eucharist; the other from North Carolina, C029 [PDF], wanted a “study” of the issue (costing $30,000…). To my surprise, these were both assigned not to the Prayer Book, Liturgy and Church Music Committee but to the Evangelism Committee. In all fairness, there was quite a lot assigned to PBLCM and I know that folks of the Ecumenism Committee had asked to review these but this is where they ended up. As I read it, if either of the resolutions had a chance of passing in any of the three committees, passage was more likely to occur in Evangelism: Ecumenism would have shot it down right quick and I suspect something similar would have happened in PBLCM. Despite my fears, the Evangelism folks made some good preliminary moves.
According to my sources, the Eastern Oregon resolution was a complete non-starter. The original text was scrapped and new text was drafted for it reiterating Baptism as the ancient and normative path to Eucharist but recognizing that in some places there is an exercise of pastoral sensitivity with the non-baptized. However, titles can’t change on resolutions meaning that this new resolution—whatever its text might have said—would still have been titled “Open Table” which would undoubtedly lead to confusion on the floor. Thus, they addressed the NC resolution. The committee apparently didn’t feel that with all the budget and structural woes that $30K for a study of CWOB was worthwhile. So, keeping the title, they scrapped some or all of the original text of C029 and imported the new paragraph they had written before.
This is really good news. In the most favorable setting for its passage, the resolution calling for abolition of the canon preventing CWOB was scrapped. The new text affirms Baptism as the ancient and normative practice of the Church prior to Eucharist. I wholeheartedly agree! What concerns me is how the language around pastoral practice will get shaped.
Nobody wants to see a communion rail lock-down; that’s just silly. What needs to be avoided, though, is any sense that Baptism is somehow optional. If we invite any and all to the Eucharist then we have precisely made Baptism optional. That’s not a pastoral practice, that’s deliberately turning our backs on the theology of the Prayer Book and the consistent witness of the Church up until the late 20th century.
What I would love to see in any discussion of pastoral discretion with regard to CWOB is the word “individual.”
The message that the resolution would send, then, is to say that pastoral discretion may be warranted in specific individual and unusual circumstances. A general call to any and all is not pastoral—nor is it evangelism; rather, it salves the consciences of those who want to see themselves as inclusive, but who don’t want to do the work of setting healthy boundaries and inviting all comers within those boundaries through the proper protocols (i.e., Baptism with water in the name of the Triune God).
If the word “individual” is omitted, then I’m concerned that such a resolution mentioning pastoral responses may be seen as permission to flout the canon without regard for our theological and sacramental integrity.
Holy Women, Holy Men
Bishop Martins made an attempt to get HWHM stricken from trial use at all in the next triennium. It failed, but what is currently up for a vote is definitely the next best thing!
The revised version of A051 [PDF] sends HWHM back to the Standing Commission for Liturgy and Music for further revision. In particular, it calls for clearer adherence to the 2006 guidelines. Now, personally, I think that adherence to 2006 is not enough; I’d like to see the 2006 guidelines merged with the 1994 guidelines as I said a while back.
Coincidentally, I’ve been reading a fascinating book by Robert Campany: Making Transcendents: Ascetics and Social Memory in Early Medieval China. One of my good friends from high school with whom I studied Japanese is a professor of Asian Religion now. He recommended this work to me knowing my interests in martial arts, qi gong, and cross-cultural asceticism. Campany looks less at particular ascetical practices and more at the discourse of, about, and around early medieval Chinese transcendents (aka “Taoist immortals”). His methodological chapters, in particular, pointed back to Peter Brown’s seminal work on “the holy man” in Christian Late Antiquity and to other scholars working on social memory and sanctity. Naturally, I couldn’t help reading this with a third of my brain focusing on the text at hand, a third of it considering how Sulpicius Severus uses both similar and different language about Martin of Tours in not just the Life but the additional epistles, and a third thinking about our current use/construction/modification of social memory and sanctity in HWHM… It makes me wonder how rigorously the whole enterprise has been approached from this angle.
In any case, the reformed version of A051 no longer presents HWHM for its first reading at the 2015 General Convention and sends it back for more work.
Forward Movement Prayer Site
Not really a resolution but something that has been sucking up a lot of my time is a new initiative unveiled at General Convention. Forward Movement is re-launching their web presence and one part of it is the new Daily Prayer site. This web app not only offers their signature Forward Day by Day devotional reading but also the Daily Offices from the ’79 Prayer Book! If any of this sounds a bit familiar—it should; the back-end code is a simplified form of the St Bede’s Breviary.
Scott Gunn approached me shortly after being named Executive Director of Forward Movement and asked if I’d be willing to collaborate on this and I happily agreed. I said I’d do the back-end work if I didn’t have to do the front-end/interface and recommended for that one of my favorite co-conspirators who shall remain nameless unless they choose to reveal themself… :-)
A mobile app is also in preparation but I can’t say exactly when that’ll launch; I’ll let you know when it becomes available, though!