Words of Wisdom from the Big Apple

I commend to you Fr. Gerth’s comments in the last communique from Smokey Mary on inclusive language and the proliferation of trial liturgies. For those unfamiliar with him, he knows the liturgy backwards and forwards, reveres the tradition without being an antiquarian, and stands solidly within the tradition of orthodox Christianity. I particularly appreciate his take on how the traditional language can provide solace for those damaged by abuse, patriarchy, et al. I’d even wager that seeing Christ as the true high priest may also be a way to call into question and relativize the power-hungry in purple shirts and the harm our political wranglings are inflicting on the Body of Christ.

12 thoughts on “Words of Wisdom from the Big Apple

  1. Caelius

    Good piece. Thanks for pointing it out.

    “Another way of posing the question Father McMichael raised is to ask whether the Church would attempt to authorize baptisms with alternative language. If not, why does the Church feel free for the principal prayer of Sunday worship, the Eucharistic prayer, to avoid ordinary Trinitarian language for God?”

    Someday I will ask this question.

    However, what worries me is that the concerns about inclusive language will frame the debate about the trial liturgies. We also should think more carefully about how the theology of the Eucharist as a whole is represented by these liturgies. Some I’ve found to be better than others.

  2. LutherPunk

    That is a pretty good piece. I appreciate his approach, in saying that feminist theologians have raised legitimate questions regarding language, but that need not automatically cause liturgical shifts ased on languge alone. There needs to be a very solid theological foundation for that shift.

    I look ofroward to hearing what *Christopher thinks about this one

  3. bls

    Well, I hate to mention it, but one time a young anti-inclusive-language Catholic sneered at me during one of these discussions and said that he was glad that during every celebration of the Mass, the congregation would be using the “traditional-language” response “It is right to give HIM thanks and praise.”

    Using caps, just like that, BTW. ;-) So let’s just say that it’s not only one side here that’s doing things backwards, or that has certain deeper issues.

    I was going to link to this article also, interestingly. I don’t really see the problem with using gender-neutral pronouns for God anyway, as long as it doesn’t harm the liturgy. It’s a truer thing to do anyway; I don’t think we should change direct quotations from Christ, but other things – those developed by the Church itself – should be open for reconsideration. IMO, people who object to “And blessed be God’s kingdom, now and forever” are the ones who have the issue; it’s a much better statement than what’s there now.

    On the whole, I agree with Stephen Gerth, though. I definitely think Trinitarian is the way to go; it’s so much more interesting anyway, and will provide us all with centuries more of entertainment.

    P.S.: God is obviously not a male, since God is three persons and one of them definitely is – or at least used to be – a girl….

  4. bls

    (BTW, one of my monastic friends finds the Trinity to be totally “transgressive” and postmodern. Her thinking goes something like this:

    Here’s a single parent who conceives a child by artificial insemination – a boy, BTW, who’s anything but “traditionally male.” My friend added some funny descriptor of the Holy Spirit, too, but I can’t remember exactly what. In any case, she thinks, the Trinity is definitely not the traditional nuclear family….;-) )

  5. Anastasia

    I don’t have a problem with gender neutral pronouns for God, although masculine language for God doesn’t bother me especially either. I know I’m supposed to find feminine language for God welcoming because of my biology but I don’t and that’s because of who my mother was/is. That said, I think a mixture of masculine, feminine, and gender neutral language would be great.

    language about human beings is totally something else and I don’t at all like my parish’s habit of using masculinized language for human beings. The version of the creed we say contains the line “For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven.” I can’t even say it.

    On the other hand, Jesus is male. References to Jesus that get changed to be gender neutral strike me as pretty silly. I have in mind “blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” If by that we mean Jesus (you know, palm sunday, triumphal entry and all that) what’s with the awkward circumlocution to make it netural? Also, the hymnal, which changes “Lo, he comes with clouds descending” to “Jesus comes with clouds descending.” I think that sort of thing is really silly.

    Anyway, I guess the point is I like the focus on theology in the piece and the reclamation of traditional language that does actually have a valid theological basis.

  6. *Christopher

    For the most part I find this statement an accurate assessment of where I would find myself, though I would think we need to think about a process for trials (our BCP hails from folks doing experiments in Edward’s Chapel) a parish to deanery to diocese to region to national approach that allows for more testing for any supplements for other occassions, etc. (but not for principle Sunday worship), but leaves the BCP alone. I after all could be accused of proposing trial liturgies, but under the circumstances we’re lacking liturgies for some rather important matters, including dealing with the death of a newborn/infant, etc. that was in need of being rectified.

    Funny, I wrote this over at Fr. Jake’s regarding Jesus as Mother (an image I’m quite fond of, but not so much as I am with him as friend):

    Personally, I’m quite fond of “Father” given Aquinas’ and the Fathers’ understanding of analogies because these analogies turn patriarchal understandings on their head. Jesus in his being/doing shows us an image of what the Father is like and it is often anything but the controlling/wrathful “father” image that some folks seem to project onto the Father.

    I remember taking great comfort as a child that this God whom I could speak to as Father was so loving and in contrast to the alcoholic rages and abuse of my own father.

    Though this may be the case, more and more, our language of worship and of God I find slowly losing such meaning for myself in the current foment and the powerplay of ordained leaders. Words like “grace” and “love” have become meaningless, and even the name “Jesus” is a mixed bag. Under those circumstances, I find the best language is none at all, as the tried and true language has become part of the stumbling block.

  7. Derek the Ænglican

    Language is so central to what we do especially because the liturgy is the place where Christians are formed into our own distinctive langauge. I agree with much that has been said. I have no problem with inclusive language for the congregation. Jesus–historically speaking–had a penis; God doesn’t. Much of our language about God is metaphorical but Scripture and tradition have revealed and certified that the key root metaphors for our Triune God are Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

    Thos who revise hymn text must do so with great care, however. Congregants and liturgy geeks alike have long memories–I still think nasty thoughts of the renaissance pope Urban VIII who took it upon himself to “correct” the tradition latin hymns. And that was over 450 years ago…

  8. bls

    You know, I really can’t go with the “certified key root metaphors” bit. Lots of things have been claimed as “certified” by Scripture and tradition – centuries of persecution of Jews and others, for instance – but that doesn’t justify them. Those are the very things we ought to be questioning, IMO.

    I’m fine with “Father” only because Jesus used the metaphor – “Abba” – and He is indeed the key and the root. That, believe me, is the sole reason I play along; it has literally nothing to do with the Church – as usual for me.

    It’s more of an A.A. thing, actually; you respect others’ ideas of what God is – and naturally, in this case, I call God “Father” out of love and respect for the Lord. But that’s the only reason to do it, IMO: out of love.

    Which is why it’s so important to get people intimately connected with the story and with God; people from outside the tradition just aren’t going to listen to a “Church and tradition” argument. People need the direct encounter.

  9. Anastasia

    i disagree that people from outside the tradition won’t ever be compelled by the “church and tradition” argument in favor of an undefined direct encounter with God.

  10. Marshall

    Personally, I’m ready for a new Book of Common Prayer. I love the 1979 Book. I was trained in it as the Blue Book, I was in Denver when it was approved, and it’s been the Book of my career. However, I’m becoming convinced that all the trial usages, each used in a few places but with none of them being experienced broadly, risk balkanizing our liturgical practice even as we watch our Communion fragment between those who still look to the 1662 Book and the 1556 Articles, and those who have embraced renewal based in 4th century documents. There are things to appreciate in those trial usage liturgies I’ve experienced. However, I’m beginning to fear that the niche marketing of liturgies will dissipate that tradition of common worship that we claim as the formative principle of being Anglican.

  11. Annie

    I have puzzled over this issue a great deal. For me, I see that language has locked in the perception of a humanized version that limits God in our imaginations. Humbly, I worry that anybody who is offended or whose concept of God is challenged by use of the feminine pronouns has not adaquately contemplated the nature of God. What I find interesting is that the ancients didn’t do this–but it is their language that has locked us in. We have afforded God the highest compliment by using the pronouns that we apply to ourselves–everything else being lower and less and our language never accomodating something higher and greater. I am not eager to rush to a solution until we have attempted to solve the problem of awkwardness. If it like a graft on a tree where you can see that it has been grafted and has not grown naturally out of usage, then it will continue to be awkward and unnatural. So, I think we need to go back to the drawing board on the nature of God. It is very important because our faith isn’t mature until we do. All of us, male and female, are God’s equal creations, created as mortal organisms that must reproduce–if we think to favor the male over the female we have done a great injustice to God’s intent and purpose, whatever it is.

  12. Anastasia

    “However, I’m beginning to fear that the niche marketing of liturgies will dissipate that tradition of common worship that we claim as the formative principle of being Anglican.”

    I kind of think that ship sailed with the division of the prayer book into rite I and rite II.

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