Sunday, April 29, 2012

Hope is Not a Method

I received an advertisement yesterday from Morehouse Publishing, a division of Church Publishing, Inc., the official publications arm for The Episcopal Church.  The advertisement is for a new book and in its blurbs it contains the following language about the theological method used in the work, "...using the Anglican approach of scripture, tradition, reason, experience--and fun!"

Anyone notice anything?

Some would argue that "Scripture" is traditionally capitalized in Anglican circles when referencing it for theological method.  The reason for capitalization is to differentiate the Christian canon, from other types of scripture.  That would be small fry.

OK, notice anything else?

If you guessed that "fun" is not a classic Anglican theological method, you would be correct.  Not that I am against fun, I hope there is fun in the Christian journey and in the study of Scripture, but it is not a method of theological reflection.

Anything else?

Yes, the formula listed here is actually Wesleyan, not classically Anglican.  Richard Hooker is generally considered to be the formulator of Anglican theological method, however, he merely cataloged what had the method used by no less a light than Thomas Cranmer.  All confirmed Episcopalians as Anglicans, especially our publishers, should know that the classic method is Scripture, Tradition, and Reason.  It was John Wesley, due to his pietistic influences who added "experience" as a category for theological reflection. This has become known, thanks to Albert Outler, as "The Wesleyan Quadrilateral".  Of course, this quadrilateral is not an equal sided square, and this Wesleyan addition has never been adopted as "the Anglican approach".  Indeed, Wesley's definition of experience was based on his Aldersgate moment of the "heart strangely warmed" by the Gospel.  He never understood it as the individual sensory experiences that we tend to give primacy to in contemporary American culture.

To be clear the classic Anglican approach is Scripture, Tradition, and Reason and is colloquially known as Hooker's Three Legged Stool.  In reality, Hooker never used the term "three legged stool" and if his works are read attentively, it would be apparent that the "legs" are not of equal length.

The short form for understanding Anglican theological method is:  Scripture (primary), Tradition (the Patristic consensus, re" the fathers and mothers up to, and including, the last of the Ecumenical Councils), and Reason (the communities' reasoned reading of the consensus and its application to religious life).  This is the Anglican approach.

Now are experience and fun, bad things?  Of course not, but they are not our approach. I would expect our publishing house to know the difference.

PS:  I believe that Cokesbury (the Methodist publisher) is filling all Church Publishing orders now due to downsizing and costs at CPI.  That may explain the content of the advert.

Friday, April 20, 2012


Of course, after I worked on the previous post I came across this video.  John Allen makes a great argument, that no matter what the environment for religion in America is, persecution in the rest of the world is on an upsurge, and must be addressed by the Church.

It is a truly wonderful presentation, with application to The Episcopal/Anglican world as well.  Be sure to stick with it for the question/answer period.

Public Square

Regardless of your individual position on the HHS Contraception Mandate, the Catholic Church, and the controversy surrounding it, the following quote from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch should at least raise your eyebrows.

For this entry, in the words of the great orator, "Let me be clear", I do not want this to devolve into a debate on the HHS Mandate or the Catholic response.  "Let me be clear," I do not care it you are pro-HHS, pro-Catholic, anti-HHS, anti-Catholic, or "Hey, let's skip the anchovies tonight, pass the Xbox controller".  Got it?

Now the quote (emphasis added):
This editorial page has profound respect for the work of the Catholic Church and its individual members in health care, education and social justice. We do not take issue with church beliefs or internal operations, regardless of the church, as long as they do not enter the public square. The U.S. bishops, in their call for civil disobedience, have entered the square.
Anyone notice anything?  If you guessed that I have an issue with the keep your religion private and out of the public sound to it, then you win the prize.  According to the editors, it's OK if the Guys in Pointy Hats with Large Crooked Sticks have opinions, and beliefs, just keep them confined to those buildings with the + signs on the funny sticky up roofs. 

I am certain that the good editors will make the same remarks when Guys in Pointy Hats (Catholic) or Guys and Girls in Pointy Hats (Episcopalian) speak out for open borders, ending the "war on terror", helping the homeless, increased public aid, care for those who suffer for the sake of conscience, banking controls, and universal health care*.  Right?  They are consistent right?  (Now, lest you think I have a political axe to grind here, please refer to paragraph two and insert issue in the underlined space).

What I am saying, is that I would guess the editors would have no problem with religion being inserted into the public square as long as those who inserted religion agreed with the editors' positions.  If this be the case, it is necessarily consequential that only the right kind of Guys in Pointy Hats, or religious people are allowed to "enter the public square".  If I may ask a question of the editors, are only the right kind of Catholics allowed in this debate?  If that is indeed the subtle message, I find it chilling.  Is this limited to Catholics only, or are only the acceptable sort of (insert minority religion/people group here) welcome to bring their core values and ontological selves into the public square for debate and to influence political and cultural decisions? Oh, wait, that has happened before (need I name names?) and classic liberalism abhors it.

On the other hand, maybe the editors just mean that religion should have no place in the public square?  If that's the case, it's all the more chilling as a Christian cannot be a Christian at home and in worship only.   I introduce as evidence Hymn 293 in the Hymnal 1982:
They lived not only in ages past, there are hundreds of thousands still, the world is bright with the joyous saints who love to do Jesus' will. You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea, in church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea, for the saints of God are just folk like me, and I mean to be one too.
No matter your politics, the subtle push to separate faith from public action and discourse should cause concern.

*Actually, the USCCB has argued strongly for many of these positions, and should be applauded.  Now, that might be a political statement.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Great Sermon

I have always admired the preaching in the African-American church.  This has become my new favorite.  As we would say in my former tradition, "Preach it, Brother".

Caution:  Language.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Renewal of Vows

Tuesday (4/3) was the Liturgy of Collegiality at the Cathedral in Springfield.  I always enjoy these events, despite the busy-ness of Holy Week, as we really do not see much of our fellow clerics throughout the year.  It is always a good time for serious conversation punctuated with moments of high hilarity.  Actually, it may be more the latter than the former.

Part of the liturgy is the renewal of our ordination vows.  Between renewals and actual ordination, I have made these vows at least 11 times, and I am continually aware that often I fall short of the vows that I made.  When that awareness rises to the surface, I give thanks for the grace of God to always begin again. 

So here, in the hopes of accountability is the order for the renewal of vows.

Bishop: Dear friends, the ministry we share is none other than the sacrificial ministry of Christ, who gave himself up to death on the cross for the salvation of the world. By his glorious resurrection he has opened for us the way of everlasting life. By the gift of the Holy Spirit he shares with us the riches of his grace.
We are called to proclaim his death and resurrection, to administer the Sacraments of the New Covenant which he sealed with his blood on the cross, and to care for his people in the power of the Spirit.
Do you here, in the presence of Christ and his Church, renew your commitment to your ministry, under the pastoral direction of your bishop?
Answer: I do.
Bishop: Do you reaffirm your promise to give yourself to prayer and study?
Answer: I do.
Bishop:  Do you reaffirm your promise so to minister the Word of God and the Sacraments of the New Covenant that the reconciling love of Christ may be known and received?
Answer: I do.
Bishop: Do you reaffirm your promise to be a faithful servant of all those committed to your care, patterning your life in accordance with the teachings of Christ, so that you may be a wholesome example to your people?
Answer: I do.
Bishop: And now, as your bishop, I, too, before God and you, re-dedicate myself and reaffirm the promises that I made when I was ordained. I ask your prayers.
Bishop and Clergy: May the Lord who has given us the will to do these things, give us also the grace and power to perform them.

What are your thoughts about the ordering of these vows, and will you help me to fulfill the vows I have made?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Location, Location, Location

I admit that I indulged a bit last week, and bought a ticket for the $540,000,000 lottery.  You may assume, since I am writing today from the office, that I did not win.  In many ways this was just a harmless indulgence, a $1 charge for a 10 minute fantasy.  I will not tell you what I had planned to do with the money, although there would have been enough for some real philanthropic work.

Today, as I scanned the radio dials, I came across a commentator who spoke of the lottery and the winner from Illinois.  He read the announcement that the winner was from Redbud, located south of Springfield, and made the comment that if you have to define a location by its relationship to Springfield, it must be remote.  It was a bit of a shot, kind of like what I heard from Cincy friends when I moved to Springfield Diocese (it was called the "hinterlands"), but it started me thinking.

By what relationship(s) are you defined?  What do you place at the center of your life?

In the Church this week we walk with Jesus through the events of Holy Week.  In the days ahead we will meditate on the Mandatum, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Crucifixion, and Resurrection.  We will discover again that for the Christian, Jesus, is to form the center of our life.  We are defined, by nothing else, but our proximity to Jesus, and vice versa!  And he, truly, is not remote!