Tag Archives: SCLM

One Thing on TREC

The TREC report is out.

That sentence means something to a certain sort of Episcopalian. If you’re one of them, this is likely old news and you’ve probably already read it. If it doesn’t mean anything to you, you probably won’t care…

People who know far more about this kind of thing than I do are already writing reactions, chief among them being Crusty Old Dean; I’m waiting to hear thoughts from Susan Snook and Scott Gunn too.

One of the recommendations is that all of General Convention’s Standing Commissions should be swept away but two: the Standing Commission on Constitution & Canons and the Standing Commission on Liturgy & Music.

They recommend “Renaming the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music ‘Theology, Liturgy, and Music’ to enhance its role in evaluating and developing proposals related to the core Episcopal identity and Church life in aspects of Anglican tradition, worship, and
Christian life.”

I must confess to having a few concerns here… I have, in the past, been quite critical of the work of the Standing Commission on Liturgy & Music; I was punished for that by being appointed to it, and currently serve as Secretary as well as co-chair of the Calendar subcommittee and chair of the Digital Publications subcommittee.

One of the current issues is the status of the “music” part of the SCLM. There are already concerns that “music” is an afterthought in the current composition of the Commission. For instance, I can hold down a bass part in a choir pretty well, but that doesn’t make me a church musician by any stretch of the imagination. Too, I am one of the few advocates for “traditional” church music on the Commission. My fear is that adding “Theology” to the Commission’s title and purview will even further dilute musical representation on the Commission. If the “music” roles are headed by one or two people, then their perspectives—whether representative or not of what the church wants or needs—will be magnified in policy-making decisions.

Second, what will the selection criteria for the Commission look like going forward? Will the addition of “Theology” in the name mean a further shift in the composition and role of the Commission? Will we be looking for musicians, liturgists, sacramental theologians, dogmatic theologians, or people who are somehow all of the above? There are many gifted, well-trained, sacramental theologians who cannot be depended upon to draft a decent collect. There are skilled liturgists who would be clueless if directed to point the new EOW canticles for Anglican chant. Are too many roles being consolidated in one Commission?

Perhaps TREC’s idea is not necessarily to change anything about the Commission, only to underscore the relationship that liturgy and theology should have in the Episcopal Church. But look at what the SCLM has produced recently. How do we judge the theological content and implications of Holy Women, Holy Men and Daily Prayer For All Seasons? Have theological deliberations been done carefully and well here? I’d like to think that my subcommittee has been intentional in addressing and articulating issues of theology in the creation of “Great Cloud of Witnesses” (which you’ll get to take your potshots at when the Blue Book reports are made public), but there’s still quite a lot not said and not done here.

While I appreciate the weight placed on the Commission’s work, I find myself wondering if this is a good idea…

Daily Prayer for All Seasons, Again

I’ve been pretty heads-down on the GCW material and other, non-liturgical, projects since coming back from Toronto. In preparation for the SCLM’s meeting in New Hampshire next week, one of our instructions was to bring our copy of “Daily Prayer for All Seasons” (henceforth DPfAS). So, I picked it up again this morning and looked through it.

I’ve done that a few times now—I keep hoping that I have been looking at it while in a bad mood, and that if I get a fresh perspective on it, I’ll learn to like it better. No such luck.

I was not involved in DPfAS’s creation at all; it was completed before I was appointed to the SCLM. Part of me is sad about this. I wish I could have had a role in working with it and shaping it. But more of me is not sad. I’d rather have had no input into the process than to have had limited or disregarded input and yet still have my name attached to it. (That feels very harsh as I type it—and yet, that’s where I am right now.)

What makes me feel this way? Well, like I said, I’ve got a lot of balls in the air right now and this will not be a fully thought-out explication. (That may well come in its own time!) I cannot say I’ve given it a thorough evaluation, but I have looked through it on a number of occasions. Here are a few key points that have consistently come up as I have glanced through it.

1. It claims a continuity with the Tradition that it manifestly does not possess.

In the introductory material, the work makes reference to the tradition of “praying the hours” and “praying at set times” (p. VIII). It then makes reference to Benedictine monasticism: “For the inner structure, each set of seasonal prayers falls into eight ‘hours,’ which follows the pattern of Benedictine monks, who divided the day into a cycle of eight intervals, called ‘hours,’ that effected a rhythm between work (labora) and prayer (ora). . . . Each hour has a name, which also dates back to Christian monastic history and which we printed in italics after the hour’s “work” name [more on that in a moment…], for example, Praise (Lauds)” (p. IX).

Alright—what are we to make of this? I see this implying a connection between the eight monastic hours and the hours that will be found in the book. Indeed, the work moves beyond implication when it actually borrows the names of the hours in the text itself. But—the hours presented here have no connection with the traditional hours in their structure, their intent, or their content.

Structure: In a standard Benedictine configuration, Matins was the first office. This was the long Office that contained the main Scripture readings, sermons, homilies and the sung responsaries that broke these readings up. It was the monastic wake-up call and the start of the day. It ended the Great Silence that began at the end of Compline in it’s beginning citation of Ps 51: “O Lord, open our lips/And our mouth shall proclaim your praise…” Then you have Lauds that was a mid-sized office structurally balanced with Vespers so that the chief sunrise and sunset offices were consonant with one another. Prime immediately followed and balances with Compline (although not as directly as Lauds and Vespers); then Terce, Sext, and None were the mid-day little hours, identical in structure with one another.

DPfAS begins with Lauds. It’s a short office, one of the shortest in the book, and is structurally identical with Vigils, the last office of the day. (Classically, the names “Vigils” and “Matins” were used for the same office.) Then, the versions of Terce, Sext, None, and Compline are structurally identical with one another, but are mid-sized offices formed by adding more material to the pattern laid down in Lauds/Vigils. Lastly, Prime and Vespers are balanced together as the longest offices by adding still more.

In short, the way that the hours relate to one another has nothing whatsoever to do with the classical pattern of Benedictine monasticism to which the book’s introductory material refers.

Intent: The system of hours inherited and passed on by the Benedictines had a system of intentions built into it. As liturgical scholar Laszlo Dobszay writes:

The Lauds and Vespers was the regular morning and evening prayer of the church; it was also the continuation of the Old Testament prayer hours, furtheremore: of a basic religious institution of the mankind. The Vigils (Matins) was originally the time of occasional long prayers and meditation, connected to the feasts and the memorial days of the martyrs. The Terce, Sext and None was short stops during the daily activity, and also commemoration to three moments of the history of salvation. The function of the Prime and Complet was something to organize the daily c[o]urse of communities, to bless the start and close of the working day. (from here)

The notion of work and prayer (ora et labora) that grounds the Benedictine system is the idea that prayer (chiefly the psalms) and manual labor are complimentary with the additional notion that once one has internalized the prayer, than the work too can become an act of prayer as the psalms are continually recited and ruminated upon as one works. The mid-day hours in particular were brief moments of recollection—a monk could stop his work, go through these short (usually memorized) offices, then get on to it having been spiritually reoriented and having been explicitly reminded of some psalmic material to ponder as he labored. Confession in particular happens at Prime and Compline: the beginning of the work day (note that the liturgical day had already started hours before with Matins) and the end of the complete day, just before sleep.

In DPfAS, the hours that feel the most like the quick, “redirectional” hours vis. the classical Terce-Sext-None are assigned to Lauds and Vigils. The mid-day hours are now longer instructional things, and Confession happens at Prime and Vespers. But the chief thing about intent in the new system is that there are specific themes given to each office. Invoking the principle of ora et labora, DPfAS uses terminological sleight of hand to suggest that there is particular “work” that ought to be done at each hour. But this intent has little to do with the classical pattern, and when it does it is a cause for concern—the office with the work/intention of “Praise” (Lauds) is the most meager office offered!

Content: The heart of the Benedictine Offices is the psalms. Period. End of story. The ceaseless recitation of the psalter is the crucible of monasticism. The character of psalm-shaped prayer is absent from DPfAS.

How this work can claim to be in continuity with the hours of Benedictine prayer given the omission of any kind of discipline of psalmody is beyond me.

2. The character of the DPfAS feels disjunctive from the character of the Book of Common Prayer.

The BCP is a product of a Reformation-minded Church that was, nevertheless, strongly formed by the traditional cycles of prayer. The ’79 BCP remains in continuity with this formative heritage despite complicating matters by the inclusion of the “4th century agenda.” The ’79 Offices retain the fundamental grounding of the psalms.

DPfAS feels different. The use of prompts and leading questions, among other things, gives a very different feel to the liturgies. There is a certain amorphous quality that may be intended to offer room for meditative freedom lacking in the prayer book.

If one were to praying Morning and Evening Prayer from the prayer book, then use the DPfAS hours for the other hours, there would be a striking difference between the BCP offices and the DPfAS offices. Whatever it is, DPfAS lacks a certain complementary character. Its hours are not of a piece with those in the prayer book.

There’s more to be said here; it relates to what DPfAS is trying to do and be vs. what the prayer book is trying to do and be. I do get that they’re not trying to do/be the same thing. And, yet, I perceive a fundamental discontinuity between the two to be teased out at greater length some other time.

3. The tone of the prayers is didactic. 

To my ear, prayers have certain tones to them. I’ve never tried to categorize these or make a systematic study of them—perhaps I should one day! The prayers of DPfAS strike me on the whole as what I characterize as rather “didactic.” There’s an intrinsic self-awareness where the prayer knows that one of its functions is to make you aware that you need to think more about the big-ness of God.

Having said that, let me back up and say a few things to provide context for this label.

First, prayer is first, last, and always speech to God. Whenever it loses that character, something about it has profoundly failed.

Second, God doesn’t need our verbal prayer; thus, our verbal prayer has an inherently formative quality. We say certain things for a reason knowing that the words matter to and for us rather than God. Our praying shapes us.

Third, our recognition and awareness of the formational aspect of prayer must be considered carefully in the compositional act. That is, knowing that prayer forms people and communities, prayer must yet in spite of that be first and foremost speech to God lest it lose the fundamental character of prayer. To my mind, prayer that is too aware of its own role in this regard can crosses a fundamental line where it ceases to be speech to God and becomes an exercise in consciousness-raising or becomes merely didactic. I recall some Presbyterian pastoral prayers that I’ve heard that felt more like a second run at the sermon than the assembled community’s prayer!

Fourth, I don’t have an issue with expansive language for God in prayer. After all, I pray the psalms!  There is all kinds of expansive and non-gendered language for and about God tucked away in there. I do have an issue with it when it 1) it feels overly contrived or overly didactic (see above) or 2) when it is offered as replacement language. That is, expansive language offers us deeper ways of looking at God by expanding us beyond the traditional metaphors. We are offered new metaphors that help us round out our notion of God. The path of catholic orthodoxy recognizes the wisdom of both the cataphatic and apophatic traditions. We can say “God is Father” and recognize that we are borrowing a metaphor. At the same token we can equally affirm “God is not ‘Father'” because no metaphor of human language is capable of containing and conveying the true nature of God to humanity. Good expansive language helps us to not get trapped in certain metaphorical boxes. But when expansiveness starts becoming impressed with its own openness, it heads back into didactic territory…

I do know that I saw some regular prayer book prayers in it as I flipped through, so not all of the prayers are of this character—but many of the new compositions do feel this way to me.

Ok—I’ve spent way more time on this than I intended to. I’m still pondering.

One good thing that I do see in it, though, is that it makes more of Mary than most Episcopal resources, if only a tentative step. We could do with more Mary. Indeed, I think there’s a Roman Catholic Captivity of the Blessed Virgin that we in the Episcopal Church are well positioned to speak against. I don’t know that DPfAS does this, but even including the Blessed Virgin at a few points is a step in the right direction.


M and I got home without incident from the Society of Catholic Priests conference in Toronto. As always, it was a great experience! We reconnected with old friends, met people we’d only known online, and made new friends. My talk was well received. Usually I post them here—I won’t this time because I don’t actually have the substance of it. Fr. David Cobb and I presented on the new revision of the St. Augustine’s Prayer Book. I talked a bit about the historical background of devotional books for the laity (also used by clergy) and went through the psalters, books of hours, primers, and later devotionals to provide some context for the SAPB. I decided to work from bullet points rather than a manuscript ; hence the lack of material to post here.

I’m desperately trying to get work on ‘Great Cloud of Witnesses’ (GCW) done before the SCLM meets in person to finalize our Blue Book submissions for General Convention. I’m pulling together the efforts of various members of the committee and giving it a final once-over. As I do so, I find more tweaking to do…

Look—it’s pretty clear. If you trouble to turn to page 357 of your ’79 BCP you’ll see a section of the Eucharist entitled “The Collect of the Day.” Under that is a rubric: “The Celebrant says the Collect.” (This is also exactly what appears on p. 325 in the Rite I Eucharist.) Ergo, whatever prayer is inserted there ought to be a Collect. A Collect is a particular kind of prayer. While the Prayer Book itself doesn’t give a definition, it certainly gives us enough examples so that we ought to be able to recognize one when we see it!

So many of the prayers in HWHM being reworked into material for GCW simply aren’t collects! I’ve written sufficiently on the topic of definition to not bore you with it here, but at least the notion bears frequent repeating. The blame, if blame there even needs to be, belongs at the feet of the 1980 revision of Lesser Feasts and Fasts. This edition signaled the move to the “biographical ‘collect'”—an approach tried and rejected in the first trials towards the Calendar in the ’50s and ’60s. What we see in HWHM is an extension of what was already done there.

Vatican II and the Liturgical Renewal Movement made much of the phrase “noble simplicity.” Typically, I’ve not been a fan of it because in its usual application, it means an attempted return to imagined 4th century liturgical norms and removal of “medieval accretions.”  However, it keeps forcing itself to the forefront of my consciousness as I work on these materials; I guess I’ve been more formed in this way than I thought. In particular, it means an instinctive desire to trim the vast thickets of relative clauses currently littering the new compositions appearing in HWHM.

Oh well—at the very least it’ll be interesting to see how these efforts get received at the SCLM meeting and beyond…

Decision on Calendar Issues

The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music met yesterday afternoon. One of the top topics was the future of commemorations and the state of the Episcopal sanctoral calendar. I had pulled together the work of the subcommittee into a document which was further modified by committee and which was subsequently posted to the SCLM blog where we asked for feedback. Based on the feedback and discussion in the SCLM, we will be moving forward with a reconfiguration of HWHM tentatively retitled “A Great Cloud of Witness” (likely with a clear and descriptive functional title appended to the Scriptural phrase…).

Here are the key features of the recommendations:

  • We clarify that the sanctoral calendar of the Episcopal Church consists of those days celebrated by all—the Principal Feasts and Holy Days of the Book of Common Prayer—and that the calendar in the prayer book reflect this.
  • We clarify that all other days are—as they have always been—optional. They can be celebrated or not at the discretion of the presider or parish.
  • We move away from a canonization model. Instead, the resource follows a “family history” model and identifies people who have been significant and important for the church being the church in the 21st century.
  • The recognition of sanctity of any of the people either on or off the list is a local decision.
  • The central ecclesial act of recognizing a saint is eucharistic celebration. In order to clarify that the list of names and the resource is not a sanctoral calendar, entries will contain a collect for devotional purposes but not full eucharistic propers. However, suggestions for appropriate propers will be provided should a local community choose to honor a given person or group as a saint or saints.
  • Speaking of collects, the prayers currently contained in HWHM will be overhauled. We agreed that the goal is for each commemoration to have an actual collect that is appropriate for worship (not a supplementary mini-bio as one person said in the meeting…). However, given the scope of work, some entries may share appropriate Common collects if unique rewrites cannot be completed for all.
  • The bios will also be redone to remove errors and to highlight Christian discipleship.
  • Because this is not a sanctoral calendar there will be a clause in the criteria allowing for extremely occasional inclusion of non-Christian people with the clear understanding that the bio needs to be upfront about the fact that this is an exception and be equally clear on how the person’s life, witness, work, whatever directly connects to the church’s understanding of Christian discipleship. For example, all of the Dorchester Chaplains will be included—even Rabbi Goode—because the a significant part of the witness of this group is their ecumenical nature. To leave out Rabbi Goode would undercut an important aspect of the commemoration. Is anyone suggesting that Rabbi Goode is a Christian, “anonymous” or otherwise? No. Is his inclusion here indicating that the Episcopal Church now thinks of him as a saint? No. Instead, it recognizes that he was an integral part of a heroic gesture of compassion and ecumenical cooperation that local congregations are free to observe or not at their discretion.
  • The Weekday Temporal material and the Commons for Various Occasions will be collected together and will receive greater emphasis as equally valid alternatives on non-festal days.

There are other things that haven’t been fully decided that still remain to be hashed out. Too, none of this is official until General Convention renders a decision on it. GC may decide to scrap the whole thing and go back to HWHM. However, this represents what we’re working to pull together and put before convention.

As regular readers know, I don’t consider this a perfect solution. There are a number of things I would do differently if it were up to me, but it’s not—this is part of a church-wide process that must satisfy a wide range of theological and political positions. However, it is a workable solution, and addresses many of the flaws identified in HWHM. Whether we’ve just created new flaws, only time will tell…

An Incomplete Update

I’m here in Milwaukee for the SCLM meeting, and we’ve just concluded the first day of our deliberations.

The main topic for the morning was my proposal on Holy Women, Holy Men. It was not accepted as drafted. However, we have come to a compromise that I think is workable; further meetings over the next couple of days will hash out some aspects of the compromise that are currently up in the air. I’d rather not comment on the nature of the compromise yet while so much remains provisional. Rather, I will have much more certainty and specifics on Wednesday and will post on it then.

HWHM Update

At the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) meeting yesterday, there was quite a lot of debate around the best way to proceed with HWHM. The minutes aren’t finished yet which means that I haven’t gone back through the conversation carefully. However, it was decided that we would not make any firm decisions now and are waiting to hash it out in person at our June meeting.

There was a decent amount of interest in the historical almanac idea.

Currently the plan is for Sandye and me to :

  • go back through General Convention legislation, achieve clarity on just what we can and are supposed to mess with,
  • put together a proposed list of who would be in the almanac and the Calendar,
  • identify which commemorations are in the “keep” list and which in a “questionable” list
  • present proposed guidelines (if there are any changes from the current) and the degree to which we think we should allow exceptions to the guidelines/criteria

Current Considerations on HWHM

[I submitted the following thoughts to my fellow members of the SCLM in advance of our discussion tomorrow.]


When Dr. Meyers informed me that we would spend some time discussing Holy Women, Holy Men at this meeting, identified the material she was circulating to the group, and asked if there was any additional material for inclusion, I had hopes that I would be able to complete in time a formal response to the ATR paper that she had written along with Dan Joslyn-Siemiatkoski. As I worked on it over the past week it has become abundantly clear that I will not be able to give it the care it deserves and circulate it with enough time for it to be read in advance of the meeting. Rather than producing a comprehensive argument, I thought it might be helpful to jot down the major concerns that I have with HWHM and that others have mentioned to me either on my blog or in person.

Before I begin with these concerns, though, I must start by acknowledging that a tremendous amount of work has gone into this project. My intention is neither to denigrate nor attempt to undo that work. To that end I’ve already reached out to Bishop Alexander (whom I know well as my former diocesan) to request his perspective on HWHM. Rather, I believe that the current state of HWHM serves as a foundation that can be built upon and refined to craft a high-quality, theologically-grounded Calendar reflecting our multiple diversities that can be proudly claimed by the whole Church.

The other point which must be stated—and cannot be overstated as we approach this work, I think—is that the Calendar is the official record of individuals commemorated throughout the transnational Episcopal Church. Entry onto the Calendar is not what makes a saint. Furthermore, not being included on the Calendar does not prevent an individual from being a saint or from being honored as one.

The calendar is, currently, our sole practice of social memory which is the process by which societies and organizations connect themselves to the past and make statements by reference to people and events of the past concerning their present identity. Being included on the Calendar means that an entry has particular bearing on who we are and what we do as a body of believers. Furthermore, the balance of the various kinds of saints says something significant about how we construe our priorities as a church and what roles and disciplines we value. The Calendar’s role in defining and directing Episcopal self-identity must be carefully guarded lest the Calendar become the property of one faction or another rather than being a collection that can be embraced by the whole church.

Clarity on the relationship between the Baptismal Covenant/Baptismal Ecclesiology and an Episcopal theology of sanctity

One of the foundational discussions of sanctity in Scripture occurs within the Pauline writings. In the two great letters on the church—1 Corinthians and Ephesians (with a healthy dash of Philippians thrown in for good measure)—a vision of Christian life emerges grounded in the principle of imitation. This vision is succinctly captured in Ephesians 5:1-2: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” To read this as an individual call to an individual person would be incorrect, however, for this is the capstone of a broader discussion in the chapter before. Chapter 4 is a sustained argument to “lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Eph 4:1). The gifts of the Spirit are not just for individual edification but for a grander purpose:

To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.  But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love. (Eph 4:12-16)

In Baptism, all Christians are grafted into the Body of Christ; however, incorporation into the Body of Christ does not automatically confer the Mind of Christ. As individuals we must grow to maturity, but our own maturity can never be fully separated from the rest of the community. True maturity, a faithful imitation of Christ, is constituted by a relationship with Christ and his Church, a relationship rooted in faith and made visible in works of love that communicate Christ and bring the rest of the Church towards maturity as well.  This is the life of discipleship. But what does it look like in practical terms?

As Episcopalians, this is where we can turn to the Baptismal Covenant. Following the rite in the prayer book, a life of discipleship minimally means:

  • believing in the Triune God as revealed in the Church’s Creed
  • continuing in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers
  • persevering in resisting evil, and, whenever we fall into sin repenting and returning to the Lord
  • proclaiming by word and example the Good News of God in Christ
  • seeking and serving Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves
  • striving for justice and peace among all people and respecting the dignity of every human being

This is a life grounded in the faith of Christ and that reflects that inward belief and personal transformation in outward action and corporate transformation. If the Baptismal Covenant reflects our core understanding of discipleship, then our definition of sanctity must necessarily be rooted in the keeping of the Baptismal Covenant. After all, a covenant is an agreement between two parties: God makes promises to us, but we also make promises back—the transformation of discipleship is, among other things, about us holding up our end of the bargain! One aspect of the saints, then, is that these are mature Christians who, in their keeping of the Baptismal Covenant, inspire the rest of us to do the same.

In using the Baptismal Covenant to frame our understanding of what makes a saint, two items need to be noted. First, the covenant relationship with God found in Baptism is not optional. It’s hard to be an exemplary keeper of promises you haven’t taken. Second, history tells us of a myriad good, moral, inspiring, and important people not all of whom need a place on our Calendar. Sanctity is not just a matter of morality or inspiration—it’s about incarnating Christ to the community in the pattern of a life shaped by Christian maturity.

The report from the Calendar Committee in the 1982 Blue Book contains a line which keeps coming back to my mind because it so succinctly challenges a facile understanding of the saints and why we remember them:  “It is essential that the prime criterion for inclusion in the Calendar continue to be (as is traditional) the witness of the person commemorated to the power of the Risen Christ, rather than a pedagogical desire to set certain persons forward as ‘examples’ for the faithful to follow” (Blue Book 1982, 146). To me, this quote focuses not upon specific actions  or general types of action, but the way that each individual life in its totality shows itself to be an offering to the Church in and through the imitation of Christ and incarnating his message of love in its own radically particular time, place, and situation. Do some entries in HWHM focus on certain exemplary deeds rather than a life suffused with Christ?

The Eschatological Implications of Baptism

I focused on this angle in the Living Church article so I won’t rehash it here but to note the high points. Because of the nature of our life-in-Christ due to Baptism, the whole Christian community is eternally present as Christ is present. The saints are fellow-workers with us now. The collects give me the odd feeling of talking about someone in the room as if they were not there—we talk to God about the saint as if they weren’t part of our immediate worshipping community.

Too, we likewise fail to acknowledge how the individuals identified might feel about being included on a Calendar of this kind; Calvin and Barth must not be too pleased given their own thoughts on the saints!

Sufficiency of the Criteria

Since the publication of the proposed sanctoral calendar for the Episcopal Church in 1957, three sets of selection criteria have been put forward.

In the 1982 Blue Book, Thomas Talley presented a work entitled “The Passion of Witness: Prolegomena to the Revision of the Sacred Calendar” that included five criteria for inclusion: 1. Historicity; 2. Christianity; 3. Significance; 4. Historical Perspective; and 5. Memorability. Talley ends by saying that this list is not intended to be exclusive:

While other criteria may be appropriate or needed, and while suggestions toward them are invited, these have been set forth as consistent with the theology of sanctoral commemoration which we have articulated and which we take to be fundamental to further development of our celebration of the victory of Christ, “in memory of those athletes who have gone before, and to train and make ready those who are to come hereafter.” (Blue Book 1982, 161)

During the vote to add 7 new names to the Calendar in 1985 and the subsequent argument in the House of Bishops over the appropriateness of Aelred and Edmund, the Bishop of Texas made an amendment that the SLC present a report to the 1988 convention that contained “clear and detailed” guidelines that would govern the inclusion of new names. This passed as resolution 1985-A092. The following convention saw resolution 1988-A097 that presented Talley’s criteria with only a few changes in wording (like the clarification that two generations of perspective is equivalent to fifty years, hearkening back to the Lambeth study on saints which recommended the same length of time).

Also in 1985, the SLC rather sourly submitted a resolution (with the pointed note that it was submitted, not recommended) adding Charles Stuart—aka King Charles the Martyr—because the House of Bishops had expressly desired it to do so, and it was canonically required to obey. This resolution (1985-A094) was tabled and died upon adjournment. However, Charles returned at the head of resolution 1991-A119 and, in combination with 1991-A118, made this the year of Calendar Backlash at convention. The list of names for final authorization recommended in 1991-A118 was savaged, the House of Bishops rejecting all but one of the entries and demanding a rationale for the rest at their next meeting. The Deputies fought back and insisted that two entries be replaced (Bride and Underhill). The Bishops relented and the resolution was passed. With the appearance of 1991-A119 and a list of names book-ended by King Charles and Thomas Becket, the committee scrapped the resolution wholesale and submitted in its place a strongly worded reaffirmation of the 1988 criteria, a demand for expansion of the criteria particularly around the concept of martyrdom, directed a wider circulation of the criteria, and tasked the SLC alone with historical inquiry and the provision of material around candidates pointedly preventing the House of Bishops from submitting names directly.

As a result of the Caroline Martyrdom Controversy, the SLC brought forward 1994-A074 which altered and expanded upon the Talley criteria. It offered eight, the first of which gave a much clearer definition of martyrdom: 1. Heroic Faith; 2. Love; 3. Goodness of life; 4. Joyousness; 5. Service to others for Christ’s sake; 6. Devotion; 7. Recognition by the Faithful; 8. Historical Perspective. While Talley’s criteria put forth a good set of generalities, this set is superior. Sanctity and its criteria don’t just fulfill one function; it isn’t just about who goes on an official Calendar. A robust set of criteria for sanctity serves as a working definition of the life of discipleship—it offers a plumb-line for the practice of the faith and puts flesh on the bones of Christian maturity. What Talley presented were procedural guidelines. Enshrined in 1994-A074 is a roadmap towards a life hid with Christ in God.

Connected with the criteria was also a process. Brought up in criterion 7 and documented in sections III and IV, this resolution outlines a process where commemoration begins at the local level, gradually grows and attracts more attention, and—if there is enough momentum and conviction that this commemoration should become a church-wide phenomenon—a formal proposal may be made. In such a case, “documented evidence of the spread and duration of local commemoration is essential to include in the proposal to the Standing Liturgical Commission.”  Section IV identifies the requirements for National (now “Church-wide”) Recognition including 3 or more bodies participating in the process and a formal proposal containing “a detailed rationale for commemoration based on the Guidelines (above) and demonstrating how this person manifests Christ and would enhance the devotional life of the Church,” a biography, “information concerning the spread and duration of local or international commemoration of this individual or group,” and proposed collects and readings.

This is quite a process and includes quite a lot of devotion and documentation. As a result, it comes as no surprise that the 1997 Blue Book, after citing the complexity of the process, contains the following note: “no new names have come before the commission” (Blue Book 1997, 282). However, beginning in 2000 and continuing in 2003, names began entering back on the resolution docket headed—ironically—by Florence Nightingale, one of the entries specifically rejected by the bishops in the Calendar Revolt of 1991. In each of the cases, I wonder if the proposals mandated by 1994-A074 were duly submitted. The process was required; was it followed?

Following resolution 2003–A100 which directed the work that would ultimately become Holy Women, Holy Men, the Blue Book 2006 states that the Calendar Committee “created new principles of revision as agreed norms within which the proposed revision would be developed” (Blue Book 2006, 131). The set of 10 criteria offered for approval in 2006-A057 are these: 1. Historicity; 2. Christian Discipleship; 3. Significance; 4. Memorability; 5. Range of Inclusion; 6. Local Observance; 7. Perspective; 8. Levels of Commemoration; 9. Combined Commemorations; 10. Common of the Saints. Looking at the source of the criteria, the first are largely those of Talley (1, 2, 3, 4, and 7) borrowing only the principle of local observance (6) from the 1994 set, and introducing four new principles (5, 8, 9, and 10). While only 1 criterion was adopted from the 1994 set, its procedure was retained largely intact requiring the proposal with its documentations, particularly to local observance. It should be noted, though, that the present criterion 7 n local observance was weakened by being deemed “normative” but not necessary.  Although 5 is new in its inclusion among the criteria, it reflects a concern with diversity in the Calendar which was expressed by Talley and the Calendar Committee in 1982 and reaffirmed by several resolutions in the intervening years particularly focusing on the inclusion of women and people of color.

In 2009, a textual revision was made to criterion 3 on Significance. Candidates may either exemplify heroic faith or “They may also be people whose creative work or whose manner of life has glorified God, enriched the life of the Church or led others to a deeper understanding of God;”  this alteration was passed in resolution 2009-A098 though not without an attempt (albeit unsuccessful) to strike the new addition.

My chief concern is the shift from 1994 to 2003: these are—once again—procedural notes rather than a vision of the sanctified life. Certainly a sanctified life is referenced in criterion 2 and is connected to living out the Baptismal Covenant, but is quite spare when viewed against the 1994 provisions: “What is being commemorated, therefore, is the completion in death of a particular Christian’s living out of the promises of baptism.”

I see a need in the Church for a stronger vision of discipleship. Evangelicals may talk about the “Purpose-Driven” this and that, but we as a Church have been poor at providing a purpose, a goal, for the Christian life in general and a spiritual life built around the prayer book system of spirituality in particular. What we offer the world is a sacramental path to discipleship. Our official Calendar of saints should be a straight-forward proclamation of what that looks like and offer a crystal clear vision of Christian maturity backed up by the biographies and lives included therein.

Faithfulness to the Criteria

While I would like to see a stronger set of criteria, a failing of the present work is that it is not even faithful to the criteria it offers.

Historicity has once again become an issue. This was a particular hobby horse of Prayer Book Studies IX which insisted that anyone commemorated be historically verifiable. In particular, it memorably vented its spleen on St. George:

 The fact that he has become a patron saint of England does not make him any the more real; nor does it necessitate making him a saint of the American Church. Fairy-book tales may indeed be edifying. When they become part of the folklore and tradition of a great nation they can become stirring symbols. But it is asking too much of the majority of our American Church membership, who have no such traditional and patriotic associations with the name, to respond with mature devotion to a saint of whom it can only be said, “He may have existed, sometime, somewhere.” (PBS IX, 36)

The appendix to the study also included a set of saints celebrated within the Anglican Communion but not recommended for the American Church; some of these were on historical grounds notably Valentine, George, Anne, Cecilia, and Catherine. The middle three now appear in HWHM. Has new evidence of their historicity appeared in the last fifty years? Furthermore, Lucy is back who was one of the saints who was presented then disappeared after the Calendar Backlash of 1991. (And I do note these with a certain regret as, like many Anglo-Catholics, I have a love for the martyr saints of the persecution years.)

The “50 year” clause of the Perspective criterion is a clear case. Either someone qualifies on a mathematical basis or they do not. If they do not qualify for church-wide recognition on mathematical grounds, then the promotion and observance of a local commemoration—as directed in the criteria—should certainly play a role in keeping the commemoration before the faithful until the required time has passed.

Baptism is explicitly listed as a requirement for inclusion in criterion 2. Rabbi Goode of the Dorchester Chaplains has been often and publicly cited as a failure of this criterion in public debate. No one is saying (certainly not within my hearing!) that Rabbi Goode is any less of a heroic witness of faith for his lack of baptism. But he is a heroic witness of the Jewish faith, not the Christian faith, and for us to co-opt him as one is quite insensitive to him and his tradition. Especially as we seek to tie the Baptismal Covenant and a baptismal ecclesiology to a theology of sanctity, baptism must be required for entry on the Calendar. Again—I say this with regret—if Anne and Joachim, parents of the BVM, need to be removed for the sake of consistency, so be it.

The most complicated criterion to apply and yet the arguably most import is criterion 2 on Christian discipleship. All other criteria—and here I’m looking specifically at that added line in criterion 3—are subject to it. Indeed, the presence of 2 is why the wiggle-room provided by that line in 3 does not bother me. However, in the definitional reduction between 1994 and 2003, applying additional sufficiently fine criteria around “the completion in death of a particular Christian’s living out of the promises of baptism” is complicated. One thing that we can say, though, is that those who chose to turn their backs on the church and its community will fall short of this criterion. According to my limited knowledge, this would disqualify people like W.E.B. DuBois and John Muir. And, if the “promises of Baptism” include fidelity to the creeds with which our Baptismal Covenant begins, then the case of Florence Nightingale (and possibly others) does need to be examined again.

The Number and Growth of Commemorations

The sheer volume of people added to the Calendar in HWHM is problematic. Particularly with the addition of so many names, I am concerned that we are not able to give each commemoration the attention it deserves to ensure that we are selecting the finest examples of Christian maturity who will inspire us to a similar maturity. While I am sure that there is an official table that contains all the data pertinent to HWHM, I have not yet seen it and fall back on my own resources; my initial sweep of calendrical proceedings over the past 50+ years yields the following graph:

Entries 1957-2013

The next logical question is this: where do we stop? When are we done? We’ve already begun adding multiple commemorations to some days—will we go until there are no ferial days left?

On the practical side, the growing number of commemorations causes problems for our diversity statistics. Based on my unofficial data this is the gender balance over the years:

Gender 1957-2013

Attention was first explicitly drawn to gender in 1982 and we see an immediate improvement in the next edition of LFF released in 1988. We have seen improvement with the influx of names in the introduction of HWHM in 2009, but women haven’t broken the 20% mark yet. It seems unlikely that the percentage will get much better without some sort of drastic intervention such as the removal of quite a number of men and the continued addition of women.

The Professionalization of the Calendar

As mentioned in my Living Church piece, I have difficulty with the way that we are clustering professions: architects on December 16th, artists on August 5th, composers on July 28th. Indeed, when you come right down to it, I have an issue with criterion 9 which advocates linked and combined commemorations. Again, going back to a baptismal basis, clustering commemorations lessens the individuality and therefore the witness of the people commemorated. Clustering draws attention to and exalts the “type” rather than the human life that bore witness to Christ. Yes, Christians of all professions can be and have been saints—but I fear that this gathering leads to abstracted types and examples rather than the witness of resurrected lives.

The “Modernization” of the Church

As I mentioned at the outset, the Calendar is a practice of social memory and it functions as a collective rather than a group of discrete individuals. After all, this is why diversity in the collection is important… The composition of the group matters and says something about how we understand our Church as a group and our selection of important people and events. Not just the individuals but the balance of the group is a powerful expression of group identity.   One of the effects of the huge influx of names is a sudden disproportionate effect upon the balance of the church over time. This graph tracks the count of named individuals by the centuries in which they died according to the main points in Calendar revision:

Ind by century by revision

In the proposed Calendar of 1957 there were observable spikes at the 4th century, the 13th century and the 19th century. Now the graph is completely dominated by the modern period. There are more saints in the last three centuries than in the seventeen leading up to them. The implicit message is an embrace of temporal myopia: we only recognize as important those people and events that have occurred within our immediate past. The converse is that we do not value our past and our connection to the church of our ancestors. Are we a church that sees ourselves in continuity with the baptized through the ages, or are we a church that understands ourselves as a recent phenomenon?

The Category of “Prophetic Witness”

In HWHM there are 23 individuals within 18 commemorations who are identified with the epithet of “Prophetic Witness.” I have two issues with this category. The first is that its use implies an exclusive property. Our Commons are drawn in such a way that they are not the air-tight categories of former days (Bishop-Confessor-Doctor, Virgin-not-Martyr, etc.) but are flexibly open. Nonetheless, they define particular areas of effort and focus: Pastor, Missionary, Theologian/Teacher, etc. Introducing Prophetic Witness among them seems to indicate an area of focus. I’m sympathetic to that intention, but this is the wrong name. To retain this label is to imply that martyrs are not prophetic witnesses. And yet that is at the very heart of the Christian definition of martyrdom! As is well-known, the English word “martyr” is a loan-word from the Greek term for “witness”; to suggest that there is nothing prophetic about being willing to give up your life for your faith is crazy! Likewise, monasticism represents a principled stance against the predominant principles and values of a society. How is this not a prophetic witness?  Indeed—most of the saints on our calendar represent a form of prophetic witness because a life of discipleship will always stand out by means of its virtues, character, and disciplines of life from those around it; it will be a witness of the resurrection that will always challenge the power structures around it.

This leads to the second issue—the category is euphemistic; the use of the term imbues it with an artificial gravitas. A more accurate epithet would be “social reformer,” “renewer of society” as used in the Lutheran calendars, or “social progressive.” After all, as a thought-experiment, it could be argued that in his fight to preserve the rank of Bishop from the Puritans, Charles Stuart was being prophetic  to the prevailing society around him. Could he then be called a “Prophetic Witness” and fit in the company of the others? Of course not! What would distinguish him from the others is that they sought to alter the status quo while he sought to preserve it. Again, we believe the Gospel calls us to personal transformation and to extend that transformation and liberation into the culture around us; this is a helpful and necessary category—but it needs a more accurate name.

Clarity on Liturgical Function

It is clear from the time the Proposed Calendar appeared in Prayer Book Studies IX that the propers provided were intended for Eucharistic celebration and were never intended to replace the in-course readings in the Daily Office. Explicit notice of this would serve to reduce confusion. I would think that in the section “Concerning the Proper” a line or brief paragraph could be added identifying the Eucharistic nature of the propers, but allowing that the collect can be used in the Office either as the Collect of the Day (governed by the order of precedence in the Calendar section of the prayer book) or in addition to the Collect of the Day.

Historical Almanac vs. Sanctoral Calendar

One of the fundamental questions before us concerns the nature of the document itself: is it an historical almanac or a sanctoral calendar? The line between the two can be fuzzy because, since we recognize only historical figures as saints and the saints ran their earthly races in the past, data about them is historical data. I would draw the distinction between the two in this way. An historical almanac is a record of people and events in the past that are meaningful to the group compiling it. It is a practice of social memory, but its entries are selected by a criterion of importance—the people and events are either important in their own right, say something important about how we see ourselves and our corporate identity, or both. A sanctoral calendar, in contrast, is a remembrance of individuals who stand as exemplars of Christian maturity and whose lives and witness call us to Christian maturity as well.

Some of the recent commemorations added in particular have been moving us in the almanac direction. Take, for example, the new trial commemoration of Virginia Dare and Manteo approved for August 17th. Virginia and Manteo were among the first people baptized in North America.  At first glance, this looks like a really good idea: it grew out of a local diocesan commemoration, it adds needed diversity to the Calendar by giving us a woman and a Native American, and it focuses our attention on baptism. My issue is this: how does Virginia Dare’s life manifest Christian maturity and call us to the same? Unfortunately, this is really hard to assess because she was part of the Roanoke Colony that disappeared! There is absolutely no record of her life—only the fact of her baptism.

I feel torn with commemorations like this one because it does offer us something worth remembering—but is the place for it a sanctoral calendar? Perhaps one way to honor the work that has been done without confusing the categories is to issue an official almanac precisely for items like these that are significant and important but don’t meet the criteria or fit the concept for sanctoral celebration. An official almanac too would be a useful repository for information about important people who didn’t rise to the level of sanctity for whatever reason but whom it is important for the Church to remember. It might also be the perfect waiting place for those who have not yet crossed the 50-year threshold but whom we are still considering as candidates for the sanctoral calendar.

Again, thinking practically, moving some individuals into an almanac will give us an opportunity to redress the ongoing gender gap issue which has been put before us time and again—and mandated legislatively since 1982.

In Conclusion

Holy Women, Holy Men represents a lot of hard work on Church History and Episcopal History. For that it deserves our praise. But there are still issues that need to be addressed. The sufficiency of our criteria and our adherence to them stand first and foremost in my mind. The balance of the Calendar is also a crucial issue for how we describe our connection to the ages that have come before us; the current composition reflects a radically disproportionate emphasis on the modern period. There are other ways—notably an official almanac—that can be used to preserve this work and yet to keep the integrity of the sanctoral Calendar. I look forward to our upcoming discussion, and to the rest of the work that lies before us.

SCLM Meetings: Past and Future

One of the issues with Church committees, commissions and decision-making processes is their almost constant state of opacity. It doesn’t need to be this way and, indeed, isn’t supposed to be this way. Minutes are taken for the meetings and the minutes are posted publicly—it’s just that very few people know anything about where they are…

As the secretary of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, I feel it’s my job to take the best minutes possible and get them out to those who are interested in wading through them. Thus—without further ado (and only two months after the fact!)—at this link you will find a PDF file of my minutes for the November meeting for the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music.

These are out just in time for another meeting to roll around. This upcoming Wednesday will be another meeting. The agenda is publicly posted as a PDF here. The single biggest topic on our plate with essentially an hour of the two hour meeting devoted to it is Holy Women, Holy Men. You’ll note on the agenda that I will be jointly leading this portion of the discussion as the Chair and Vice chair of the Commission have seen fit to appoint me co-chair of the Calendar Committee alongside Sandye Wilson. In preparation for the meeting, Ruth Meyers circulated an article she had co-authored on HWHM, my piece and the subsequent responses from the Living Church, and the Principles from HWHM itself. I have one other piece to submit for study and reflection which I will post here after I have delivered it to the Commission.

Needless to say, this will be an important meeting for those who have strong feelings about HWHM and the Church’s Calendar. Please keep the Commission and its work in your prayers!

SCLM: Initial Meeting

So—I’ve now had experienced my first meeting of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music. I’ve been processing it now, both figuratively and literally. That is, I was appointed secretary so I’ve been literally processing the meeting by compiling my notes into a coherent set of minutes.

It’s an interesting group. On the balance, it’s very much weighted to the “liturgy” side rather than the “music” side. Of the members gathered, only two are full-time church musicians—there is a third who was unable to join us this time. Of course, two of the priests are quite musical as well and others of us have interests in the music area. Nevertheless, out of an appointed group of 12 that’s not too many. Musically, their interest and passion is in looking outside of the box (particularly the box represented by the ’82 hymnal) and gathering resources for world music.

On the liturgical side of things, I got only a slight sense of where people were. Clearly there are a range of views represented—as is proper—and, not surprisingly, I find myself on the more conservative side of the represented spectrum. Obviously, I don’t know how things were in the past, but I don’t think that the Commission in its current configuration can be accurately described as being united behind any one particular agenda.

Most of what we did was business stuff. We elected officers, hashed out priorities and budget requests, and tried to figure out meeting times. (And trust me, working out meeting times among 18 very full schedules is not an easy task!) Needless to say, our main priorities are those directed to us by General Convention. The four big areas that will require and demand most of our attention this triennium are 1) feedback and continued theological work on the rite for same-sex blessings, 2) work on resourcing congregational song, 3) continued work on Holy Women, Holy Men, and 4) revision of the Book of Occasional Services and materials heading into EOW (like the liturgies on the adoption of children and the creation materials). Other items that are not as front-and-center (but on which we still hope to get good work done) include material for combating Christian anti-Judaism particularly with reference to interpreting lectionary texts, criteria for acceptable biblical translations, and the electronic publication of resources.

While I’ll be involved with all of these, I signed up to work specifically on HWHM, Christian anti-Judaism, and electronic publication. While the working groups have been identified, the heads of the groups have not.

Clearly lots went on and I have thoughts and opinions on the meeting for which this is not an appropriate forum. I do want to say a little about meeting people. I’m really glad that it was a joint meeting gathering a whole lot of people into one group.  I had the opportunity to meet in person many whose names have become very familiar to me over the past six or so years. I got to meet Jim Naughton in the flesh for the very first time! The Presiding Bishop addressed us and I did pass her in the hall once—nothing to report there. Gay Jennings, on the other hand, I did cross paths with several times. She comes across as a very straight-shooter and as being quite grounded; I liked what I saw of her. In passing, I met Marshall Scott, Susan Snook, reconnected with Sam Candler, and met a number of readers. I enjoyed meeting my whole group; we’re an interesting lot but I think we’ll work well together. In particular, I got to meet and share meals with two people I’ve been wanting to meet for some time—Dr. Louis Weil, liturgy professor at CDSP, and Gregory Howe, custodian of the prayer book.  Here we are in a small camera phone pic: (from left to right—Louis Weil, Gregory Howe, and me)


One thing that I noticed overall across all of the many folks gathered and which I’ll probably write about further was a relative dearth of young laypeople. Liza Anderson and I were noting that so many of the younger folks there were ordained. It made me wonder if we, as a church, have succumbed to the notion that the clerical estate is the proper state for anyone that interested in church. Alternately, it underscores the difficulties that we laypeople face in participating in leadership: clergy can either get time off to travel to meetings like this or they’re on the clock while doing it. Me—it’s vacation time from work that then takes away from what’s available to spend with my wife and kids. (And I’m just glad I’m not an hourly employee anymore or it would mean lost wages as well!) At this point I have no point—I’m just putting out an observation that I hope to reflect on at leisure.

One last thing which falls under “business”… Regarding Holy Women, Holy Men, I would like to ask for your help. I’ve expressed my own opinions on the project, its overall shape, and some of its specifics both here and elsewhere. The resolution voted on at Convention (A051) directs its third resolve thus: “that the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music continue to seek responses from the wider Church during the coming triennium.”

I’m looking for your response here.

What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it? What do you find problematic about it? Where do you see it as an improvement over Lesser Feasts & Fasts?