Category Archives: Current Unpleasantness

Thoughts on Marriage

Even though I haven’t been writing here, I have been pretty busy over the last few weeks. One of the things I’ve been working on is now up at the Fully Alive site. If you’ve not been following along, a group of four authors—all of whom are regular writers at the Covenant blog run by The Living Church—released a position paper called “Marriage in Creation and Covenant” that was highly critical of the work of the Task Force on Marriage.

Essentially, they’re trying to appeal to the “Augustinian tradition” to argue against same-sex marriages in the Episcopal Church. Unfortunately, there are several rather glaring issues with it that I point out.

Now—I have to admit that I haven’t read the new material out there on the marriage issue. As you can imagine, the polemics of recent years have been bolstered by a number of books on both sides; I haven’t read any of them. As a result, I’m coming to this discussion in the position of a layman who doesn’t know the marriage literature but does have a certain amount of experience with biblical and patristic texts so that’s where I focus.

I am fully committed to our use of Scripture and the Church Fathers as we try to be faithful Christians in the 21st. But part of being faithful means recognizing the cultural distance between us and the Fathers, between us and the Scriptural text, and working through what those differences mean. MCC failed to do that; I try to point out why that’s problematic.

Give it a read and let me know what you think…


Pedantic Lectionary Note on Romans 1

As your official source for pedantic lectionary minutae, I must call attention to the appearance (or lack) of Romans 1:26-7 in the Daily Office lectionary. These two verses appear to contain Paul’s clearest statement on same-sex sexual relations and, as such, have been greatly and hotly debated in recent years. Thus, the absence of these two verses is usually taken as a sign of the co-opting of the ’79 prayer book by the “gay agenda.”

As today’s Speaking to the Soul points out, however, these same two verses were specifically avoided in the Daily Office lectionary of the 1928 prayer book as well, suggesting that the creeping “gay agenda” may not be the only consideration here. However, there is one pitfall and one minor technicality concerning the aforelinked article’s method that I feel compelled to bring to your attention.

The article successfully navigates the pitfall and it is this: you can’t pick up just any 1928 prayer book and expect to see the lectionary dating from 1928. There was a revision to the lectionary tables in 1943 (the nature and character of which I have neither the time, space, nor desire to delve into at the moment…). Thus, ’28 prayer books printed after that point may or may not have the original 1928 Daily Office lectionary. As I said, they dodged this and did indeed refer to a 1928 lectionary.

What the article misses, however, is the relation or lack thereof between the Sunday Daily Office readings and the full-on readings in course. Allow me to clarify… Since the 1559 book, prayer books have, functionally speaking, had three lectionary cycles superimposed on one another throughout the year: the continuous reading in-course (this is the base layer), the appointed Sunday lessons (which are selections from what was “edifying” as defined by the editors), and the Holy Day readings (which are lightly sprinkled on top of the other two).

Yes, the 1928 Daily Office lectionary does omit Romans 1:26-27 during the Sunday reading (Romans 1:17-21, 28-32) and that’s a significant point to note. However, more significant is to look at the state of Romans in its reading in-course where Scriptural coverage rather than “edification” is in the fore-ground. Looking for it there, we note that Romans is being read in-course at Evening Prayer from the Ninth Sunday after Trinity to the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity.  Monday after the 9th Sunday after Trinity appoints Romans 1:1-17; the next day goes directly to Romans 2:1-16. The whole section from Rom 1:18 to the end of the chapter is omitted. This evidence actually makes the omission even stronger. The 2 verses are omitted where the rest of the latter half of the chapter appears in the Sunday cycle and the in-course cycle fails to remedy the lack.

For comparison purposes, the American 1896 lectionary appointed all of Romans 1 for the Thursday after Ash Wednesday, the 16th of February, and the 7th of August.

Important Cafe Piece

I have a new piece up today at the Episcopal Café. It’s a response to Jim’s challenge that we start confronting the problems facing the Episcopal Church head on. In this piece, I focused on what I see as not negotiable. Clearly, the thing that I identify—the prayer-book—will be no surprise to regular readers.

The reason that I call this “important” is because I’ve done a couple of things here that I think are significant.

First, I’ve presented in a nutshell what I understand to be the animating spirituality behind the prayer-book system. This isn’t something that we talk about much. In most presentations that I’ve heard where clergy present the prayer-book to their congregations (when such a thing is even done), this is the biggest piece left absent.

Second, I’ve tried to be systemic and show how our Anglican spirituality ties to our liturgical practice and how that, in turn, identifies directions that we should head in. Now—if our chief goal is  revitalizing the Episcopal Church as a local political action committee, then my suggestions will be quite unhelpful. If we’re interested in revitalizing it as a prayer-book people, then these thoughts may be of more use. As other people write responses or posts of their own, this is the kind of thinking I hope we will see. Not just narrow suggestions on how to tweak organization or structure, but attention to the whole system going back to our first principles and an interest in how attention to these principles will help us develop a leaner but fitter body.

‘Cause, folks, “leaner” is coming whether we want it or not; our decision is whether we want it to be “fitter” and what that looks like.

Brief Anglican Covenant Thought

Much ink, real and virtual, has been spilt over the Anglican Covenant. I’ve largely stopped commenting on the on-going inter-Anglican feuds but can’t resist just one little comment here…

The Archbishop of Canterbury is right: the Covenant has no ability to change what any one church does. It cannot make anybody do or not do anything. If we want to have either girl bishops or gay bishops, a Covenant will and can do absolutely nothing about it.

All the Covenant can do is more completely describe what other parties do about how one particular church acts.

A Covenant cannot and will not limit the actions of the Episcopal Church.

Take a look at the vote numbers from England’s General Synod for a second:

Bishops 39 for 0 against 1 abstention
Clergy 145 for 32 against 11 abstentions
Laity 147 for 25 against 8 abstentions

The passage of the motion for the Covenant to be sent to the dioceses for discussion and ratification was not half-hearted or narrow.

There are two ways to look at the Covenant: 1) a relatively province-neutral organizational scheme or 2) a referendum on North American actions. It seems that most of the rhetoric from the major players see it as the second. If this is true, then the English vote should be seen as a wake-up call to the Episcopal Church. Whether we’re doing the right things or not, our sister church has sent us a message—our actions will have consequences. Our response should be appropriate. That is, continued argument against the Covenant is, to my mind, pointless because it reads as a continuing argument for American exceptionalism, a statement that we don’t want to live up to the consequences of our actions.

On the Mt Calvary “Story”

Paul put up a link to a story from Venom Online in the thread below on Mt Calvary. I usually make a habit of not going there, and I do not link to it for two reasons: first, I find the material there to be deliberately inflammatory and mean-spirited (I know, it’s not alone in that, but that’s not a tone that I take or tolerate here); second, I find that the material there usually contains wild inaccuracies.

The story posted there on Mt Calvary and what happened there Sunday is no exception to this usual rule. There are inaccuracies in the piece and I feel compelled to say something about them. The impression one receives from the article is that my diocese—and my friends—are behaving in a high-handed fashion that serves only to reinforce all of the stereotypes held by those who read that site.

Here are the facts:

Father Parker celebrated a Sung Mass using Rite I of the BCP. I’m assuming the ceremonial was English Use as that is Fr. Parker’s custom. Not Anglo-Papalist, it’s true, but not sloppy anything-goes by a long mile.

In thinking about it, I realized that there are only four priests in the diocese that I can think of who I would trust to properly celebrate solemn high ceremonial: Fr. Parker is one, my priest is another, another friend is the third and was out of town, and the fourth is M. Too, all four would be objectionable to the departed congregation; the only one not in a same-sex relationship is M and—well—she’s a girl.

Of the men, Fr. Parker is the only one who has more than one priest at his parish—he has two assisting priests (contra the article)—and thus could be there and have coverage at his parish.

It was a small congregation, a dozen, of whom Fr. Parker brought precisely one, his server. In other words, it was a larger one than is typical for Mt Calvary’s early mass.

I’m unclear on the “unscheduled” bit. I know that Fr. Parker told Fr. Catania that a mass would be taking place at his church, the only remnant of truth here may be that there was not clarity on the time it was to occur.

In any case the article is correct that Fr. Parker’s mass started late; they did so as to not interrupt the 8 AM mass which ran late. Furthermore, they used the side chapel so as not to disturb preparations for the later high mass.

In short, it sounds to me like the diocese handled the situation appropriately. It would be one thing if they’d sent a liberal female priest to celebrate on the high altar (and I can think of some Episcopal diocesans who might have done just that…). Rather, they sent Fr. Parker, himself from a parish that does not receive women clergy at the altar, who truly understands the theological reservations of the departing congregation. A proper, dignified, prayer book mass was sung with as little disruption as possible. Is it the best of all possible worlds? No. But it assuredly could have been much worse as well.

Catholic Notes

Two interesting things:

Former Episcopalians often have quite a lot to say about Episcopal and Anglican dealings. Their words are often voluminous, often colorful, and not often “edifying”. It’s in light of these realities that I was interested to read a more measured take on the actions of General Convention from a Former Episcopalian now Roman Catholic, our favorite online Cistercian, Br. Stephen. While I don’t agree with everything he says there, of course, I did find his perspective and analysis quite interesting.

On the other hand, I do believe we’ve just been identified as the Antichrist by noted anglo-paplist Fr. Hunwicke:

The essence of the concept of the Antichrist is that he, the ultimate manifestation of evil, is skilfully dressed up so as plausibly to appear the genuine article. It occurs to me that the movement known as Affirming Catholicism is exactly this. The enthusiasm and the technical mastery with which they deploy their props – the lace, the monstrances, the music, the incense, the 39 buttons down their soutanes – are simply deceptions of the Evil One, designed to draw away the faithful from their Redeemer.

I mustn’t let my rhetoric run away with me. Some of them are decent and well-meaning, but misguided, people. I am not their judge; I shall stand before the same tribunal as they do. But there are some of them who have a virulent hatred of us. They do not say “These people who reject women priests are decent and good Catholics with whom I would wish to collaborate in every possible way because – except in this one issue – we share the same faith; and I wish them well because – although they’re just making this one mistake – they can share with us our mission to spread the Catholic Faith within the Church of England”. They want to see us persecuted, they want to see us denied a place within the Provinces of Canterbury and York. Their hatred of us seems visceral.

Now that’s where the devil really is.

Actually, I believe that I do and have said “These people who reject women priests are decent and good Catholics with whom I would wish to collaborate in every possible way because we share the same faith…” so I guess that makes me a well-meaning but misguided soul.

(Personally, I take real issue with the notion that “catholicity” is identical with the Neoscholasticism of the past hundred-and-change years, but now’s not the time for that particular discussion.)

Fr. Hunwicke is, of course, correct: the devil is in visceral hatred of other humans—especially fellow Christians no matter what their “party”. It’s unfortunate how often that point gets missed, and how often the opposite gets pushed on blogs.

Back to Basics

Christopher has a statement up for consideration in light of other statements to be presented at General Convention.

Here’s the heart of it:

Therefore, rather than a program for persuading the Church to a particular point-of-view on matters of justice or on matters of ecclesiology, we recognize that our unity is founded in and maintained by Jesus Christ through Whom in the Holy Spirit we are all children of a merciful Father.

It then goes on to reaffirm the fundamentals:

  1. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as “containing all things necessary to salvation,” and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.
  2. The Apostles’ Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.
  3. The two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself — Baptism and the Supper of the Lord — ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s Words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him.
  4. The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of His Church.
  5. The Book of Common Prayer as authorized in this Church in General Convention as the normative standard of worship in this Church.
  6. Service of the needs of our neighbors and the world in the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

These are the basics of who we are as Anglicans. Please—read it and, if you agree with it, sign it.

A REAL “Listening Process”

Christopher has a nice post up on his take on my previous post.

I want all the bishops and archbishops who read my blog to sit up and pay close attention now.

It struck me as I read through it that “this here” is the vaunted listen process. It’s about people sharing how they do family and do life in the sight of God.

A listening process doesn’t happen when strangers with pre-determined decisions show up in a room and argue for a couple of hours. A listening process doesn’t happen when a large organization comes and has a “conversation” which is a monologue wherein a particular view is shoved down everyone’s throat.

A listening process means sharing the realities of our mundane lives and exploring whether and how God is at work in and through them–listening for the footsteps of God in the midst of life. And noting where we fall into moments or patterns of sin where love is denied or distorted.

A listening process is listening to Christopher talk about the daily realities and ups and downs of family life. A listening process is getting to know bls’s take on art, music, and the events of the day. And about listening and discerning what’s there as well as what’s going on with Chris and Jessicah, Caelius, LP and Mrs. LP, the Postulant and his M, me and my M. (See how inclusive we are here? We’ll even listen to Lutherans! :-D) This is the heart of it–not talking “about gay people”–but talking to and hearing from people–friends–married, partnered, single, dating, talking about the realities of their lives and recognizing the presence of both God and sin in each and all.

The sad reality, of course, is that this will not be recognized. Activist will struggle against activist. The shrillest voices with the keenest pitches will be the “listening process”. Talking poinst will be weighed against talking points and none will be persuaded. So sad—what a mess…


I haven’t said much about it. Partly because I’ve been moving, but partly because it’s not really my place to say it.

Here’s the word I’ve been waiting for.

Bottom line is this: All of our debates have been about homosexuality. There seems to be this belief from the conservative side that “gays run the church”. It really doesn’t work like that. Instead, the church is run by aging baby-boomers who came-of-age in the time of civil rights and either marched or now regret not doing so. Spurred by activists they are eager to be on the right side now but in their eagerness have failed to do what they themselves purport to recommend: listening.

They are not listening well to their people, gay or straight.

I know bishops aren’t representatives; their jobs are not to represent a constituency—but their jobs are to be shepherds of souls.

They would do well to heed Christopher’s advice. Stop talking about issues; start talking to people.

Homosexuality in the Communion–Once Again…

There’s a statement out from the Primate of Sudan said to be representing the views of 150 bishops from 17 provinces commending that Gene Robinson “should just go away from the Anglican world and be a normal Christian”.

This is not really news. (Except, of course, the revelation that Anglicans are not normal Christians…)

I’ll remark on what are the two most important parts of it from my read.

  • The real key quote: “Asked whether there were homosexuals in Sudan, Deng said, ‘They have not come to the surface, so no, I don’t think we have them.'” It’s one thing to look at homosexuality as it currently is lived out in the Western world, to analyze it as we analyze other behaviors, and to come to the conclusion that the Bible, Church tradition, and reasoned evidence in light of scientific and spiritual truths leads one to believe that Christianity does not and cannot sanction it. It’s another entirely to reject a thing without having a grasp on it. This statement shows that Archbishop Deng is speaking from a paradigm that fundamentally does not intersect the North American situation. (And I’d wager a great deal we do exactly the same when we shoot off our mouths about polygamy…)
  • Some interviewer asked if conservative Americans were behind the statement; the archbishop denied it. Based on the people and clergy that I have personally known from the Global South… Actually, back up… From the African people and clergy I have personally known, all of them have been vehemently opposed to homosexuality. I do believe some Westerners are of the opinion that conservative Americans are driving African and other Global South bishops to say something that they wouldn’t ordinarily say. And I think that’s false. I think the Africans would be saying this even if there were no conservative American party. As we all know, however, there is and they are stirring things up in the sense that their support emboldens primates like Archbishop Deng and others to say what they believe with reduced fear of reprisals, financial and otherwise.

One third point…: Along the lines of the first question, I wish a reporter had asked if there were any divorced people in the Sudan and what the Archbishop’s opinion might be of them as parishioners or clergy…


I think it’s important to include this. These fuirther statments found at Anglican Mainstream give us a bit of background for the archbishop’s paradigm and some of the issues that make this whole situation harder:

“This issue of homosexuality in the Anglican Communion has a very serious effect in my country. We are called ‘infidels’ by the Moslems. That means that they will do whatever they can against us to keep us from damaging the people of our country. They challenge our people to convert to Islam and leave the infidel Anglican Church. When our people refuse, sometimes they are killed. These people are very evil and mutilate and harm our people. I am begging the Communion on this issue so no more of my people will be killed.

“My people have been suffering for 21 years of war. Their only hope is in the Church. It is the center of life of my people. No matter what problem we have, no material goods, no health supplies or medicine; no jobs or income; no availability of food. The inflation rate makes our money almost worthless and we have done this for 21 years. The Church is the center of our life together.

“The culture does not change the Bible; the Bible changes the culture. Cultures that do not approve of the Bible are left out of the Church’s life; people who do not believe in the Bible are left out of our churches. The American church is saying that God made a mistake. He made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Adam.

Globalization is a complicated force that we still have no clue how to handle.