Thursday, December 17, 2009

More Howlingly Bad Liturgy

It's garbage like this that keeps me posting.

Courtesy of this thread at StandFirm, we have a series of Advent liturgies for Year C. You may read them here, if you wish:

Advent 4 isn't up yet, but frankly, I'm not all that interested; it's probably just about as bad as the others.

Here's some points I observe:

  • What is at the point where we should have a eucharistic prayer isn't a prayer at all. It barely manages to brush against orthodox liturgics by including the institution narrative, but God isn't addressed directly, and there's no epyclesis.

  • There's no confession and hardly any prayer. The Lord's Prayer is made to substitute for the normal prayers, and it is repeated (in Maori) as the post-communion prayer. The only other prayer is the collect of the day, and even it isn't always a prayer. It's hardly worth remarking on the significance of omitting the confession during a penitential season.

  • The Epistle reading is omitted. In pre-Protestant days it was the OT reading that was omitted; here it is kept, but there is no reading from the epistles. Why is this significant? Well, it ties into the omission of the confession: the epistles are the section which particularly contains readings concerning the life of the community, so it has all that nasty stuff about personal (and sexual) purity. The OT readings, however, especially at this time of the year, tend to be taken from the prophets; their warnings can be heard as directed outside the church walls, without threat to the assembled parishioners.

  • There are lots of readings from non-Christians. Anne Frank, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Lin Yutang... At least Helen Keller was baptized.

  • The hymns are bowdlerized. Let's go to the opening hymn of Advent 1, whose last line should read: "Thou shalt reign, and Thou alone." And I hardly know where to begin with the horrible mess they've made of the sanctus. At least, to their credit, they have resisted the push to expunge the Father.

  • They've dropped the creed. And thereby they've all but proclaimed their heterodoxy.
All of this is against a background of language which is vacuous, wordy, limp, and nice:

From the beginning, life has been shaped by despair, struggle, and triumph. Oppressive forces have time and again tried to destroy the hope of the marginalized and vulnerable. The forces of wealth and privilege, armies and theology, have beaten down upon the poor. Yet hope is never extinguished. When all seems lost the embers stir back into life, and the light of justice ignites again. For this we give deep and heartfelt thanks.
Well, that inspires me. It inspires me to find a church which, if it is filled with the wealthy and privileged--and what America east coast parish isn't?--at least pays lip service to some other hope besides the social justice which would put these mighty from their seats, and send these rich empty away. The notion that the people in the pews who say and hear these words might have something to repent of is kept at a vast distance. As one Joshua says, it's the perfect realization of H. Richard Niebuhr's summary of bad modernist theology:
"A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross."
This parish has a page explaining why they are doing this. And here's the first sentence: "St Matthew-in-the-City is attempting to step out of the box of the Book of Common Prayer into Liturgical Renewal." Well, yeah, and that's the end of common prayer. There's no "renewal" here, because it's all new-- well, it's the same old "new", but you get the idea. They can't pray with the rest of us, so in essence, they are schismatics, or revolutionaries. The obvious reason why they find the BCP a "box" is because, for all its latitude (and if I recollect correctly, the NZ version allows a lot more of that than 1979, which is saying something) it requires them to actually believe in stuff which they apparently reject, because otherwise, they would say it.

Such, apparently, is the doom of Anglicanism. No creed, no sin, no redemption; no order but hierarchy, and no faith, but in other enlightened people. We don't need renewal to bring us this; we need renewal to rid the church of this international apostasy.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Crunching the Red Book: 2007

Now that the 2007 Red Book numbers are out, it's time to apply the analysis I performed for the 2006 data. This year I've decided to make a longitudinal comparison for 2004-2007, the years for which data is available on-line.

What is most striking to me is the utter consistency of the numbers. The rates of activities per member (baptisms, marriages, etc.) vary but slightly from year to year, showing a slight decline overall in every category of about 10% over the period. The average rates are as follows:

Baptisms per member: 1.92%
Child: 1.69%
Adult: 0.22%
Receptions: 0.31%
Confirmations: 1.21%
Child: 0.55%
Adult: 0.65%
Marriages: 0.70%
Burials: 1.50%

As before, the rates are in proportion to each other. Burials are a bit more than twice marriages, and the latter is slightly less than child baptisms. The disturbing number, as before, is the departure rate. Baptisms plus receptions together are 50% greater than burials, and adding adult confirmations just makes it worse. Somewhere in excess of six thousand people appear to leave the Episcopal Church every year, or about 2.6% of the total membership; this contrasts with average net losses each year of about 1.9% of the membership.

So who is leaving? The conventional wisdom is that it happens soon after teens leave home. puzzling this out of the data is difficult. It's reasonable to assume that child baptisms roughly represent births to Episcopalian parents, and these happen at over the replacement rate at about 2.4 baptisms per marriage. (Note that there is an error possibility here, because of course not all Episcopalians marry within the church. I'm assuming for the moment that marriages that take people out of the church are balanced by marriages that bring people into the church; I'll account for that assumption in a moment.) Now, according to the CDC, about 10% of the population who survives to age 15 never marries. This is surprisingly consistent with the marriage to burial rate, although accounting for successive marriages would lead to a lower expected rate of burials to marriages. Another factor here is that people who are dying now were generally married a long time ago, mostly when the church was quite a bit larger. There actually should be a substantial excess of burials to marriages. Therefore there does seem to be a large outflow of people who have had children and then left. Probably the larger outflow is those that leave before marrying, but at the moment I haven't figured a way to puzzle this out of the data. One of the contributors to this rate is people who marry out of the church (e.g., to Catholics-- we generally would lose these marriages and the subsequent child baptisms to the Catholic church).

At any rate, the evidence is clear: poor retention is what is causing the church to decline.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

2008: The Numbers

After a not particularly illuminating PR dance between KJS and Frank Lockwood, the 2008 stats have been released. See churchwide totals for 2004-2008 and breakdown by diocese for 2007 and 2008 if you like your numbers numeric; you can get graphs on individual parishes here, but they don't show specific numbers and the scale for ASA is too small.

Looking through the last shows a number of cases where the graph shows unchanged numbers for some years. A bit further investigation shows that, at least in some cases, the reason of these reports is that the parish no longer exists, generally because they've split off; the diocese apparently has simply repeated the parochial numbers from the last year before the split. These phantom parishes, if recorded accurately, would surely noticeably increase the reported rate of decline.

And that decline continues as before: membership is down 3% and ASA is down 3%, values which have obtained ever since Robinson's election and consecration. More noteworthy is that, after years of increases, P&P is also down. Moving on to the diocesan figures, the big story is the departure of over 75% of the Diocese of San Joaquin. The other three departing dioceses hadn't left in 2008, but next year's number will no doubt show substantial losses for those as well, not to mention the possibility the South Carolina and perhaps others may call it quits on ECUSA. ASA numbers are as usual quite depressing, with the only large increases being either foreign (see Haiti, the largest ECUSA diocese BTW) or tiny (Navaholand's 5.3% increase sounds good until you realize that the diocese's total ASA is about the same as the ASA of three median parishes), excepting a few southeastern cases.

Thus, the seemingly relentless decline continues: three percent a year, every year, since 2003, after a decade of stable numbers.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Spiked by the elves

So-- Sarah1 (who I believe to be Sarah Hey of StandFirm fame, though I of course could be wrong), dumps a load on me, and the T19 elves spike my response. Well, it's 2009, and I won't be censored so easily.

Here's her comment.

My response:
Which takes me to Sarah's first false assertion. I'll start by saying that she's changed the subject, or rather, that she has cast a bunch of people into the mix who are objectionable for reasons whose variety essentially belies her own thesis. Bennison, after all, is objectionable as much for the way he hid his brother as he is for his episcopal tyranny. Having seen several flaps about things our presiding bishop has said, I personally cannot penetrate her inarticulate pronouncements so far as to establish exactly how heretical her theology is. Chane-- well, on the one hand there was his "I will chastize you with scorpions" inaugural sermon; on the other hand I have heard that he has actually backed down from the confrontational stance with his conservative parishes that characterized Dixon's interregnum. So, I ask, where is the endorsement of Spong's systematic apostasy in any of this? If you want to claim that Jane Dixon endorsed it, give me a citation! In my hearing she has never said any such thing.

And if you you aren't interested in anyone listening, then you jolly well ought to stop jamming the airwaves by talking. What the hell-- who are you trying to save, anyway? It seems to me that you are only preaching to your own little faction and don't even care to increase its numbers. Yeah, there are a lot of dogged partisans out there, and you regularly volunteer (as in this response) to be numbered among them. Let's hit the wayback machine: WRT the possibility of Forrester getting his consents, you wrote: "This is TEC, remember. I think there will be a fine crew of Standing Committees and bishops who do not vote to confirm. But the vast majority of bishops and Standing Committees will do so . . . thus further demonstrating the thing we’ve all been talking about. You then predicted that he would get consents from 3/4s of the bishops, 2/3s at the least. Acto Frank Lockwood, he didn't even get a majority. So what does that mean? I take it at face value: bishops do not think or act as if the various issues are one integral piece.

Your hyperbole about dialogue between a communist and a libertarian exemplifies exactly how your rhetoric pollutes. Communists are ideologues, and libertarians (at least all the ones I have met) are ideologues; but not every Episcopalian is an ideologue, nor every cleric in this church. And even the ideologues are not always ideologues about everything in the same way.


The thing is, I knew Jane Dixon's sermons quite well, because I heard them every Sunday morning the last year or so that I was a parishioner at St. Philips, Laurel. I didn't really like her then, though I came to dislike the direction of the parish to the point where I bailed out. When she became bishop, and especially in her days of acting bishop after Haines's retirement, I might have commented that she was one of those bishops who put the "despot" in despota (EO joke there). But in all my Sundays of hearing her preach, I heard neither the Unitarianism of some clerics nor the Tillichian apostasy that is Spong's theology. She preached middle-of-the-road broad stuff.

This is one of the reasons why the reasserter schismatics are going to lose most of the church: they won't admit that both they and Spong-ite crazies are both small factions. Probably few Episcopalians have so rock-solid a theology as to make the schismatics happy, but I suspect that a majority can say the Nicene Creed without having to cross their fingers. Misrepresenting this just makes the critics of the current regime into a bunch of, well, right-wing, loudmouth, intolerant jerks.

And you don't get points in heaven for this, either, if that's what you're looking for.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Crone-ies Are Our Future

I don't recommend the StandFirm thread which called my attention to this. There is too much snark about the "simple country bishop", and the comments degenerate into argument about homosexuality which is not as snarky as the typical SF commentary, but which is not especially germane to the subject of the post.

That subject is the September newsletter of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. It's not surprising that it has a lot of material about General Convention, or that this material goes off about how inclusive the church is. One despairs of seeing a convention eucharist anywhere outside of, say, Ft. Worth where traditional vestments are worn and a solemn rite is used; apparently that's not celebratory enough, judging from the pictures. Pep rally liturgy doesn't include me, but we all know that a white college-educated married man who wants Rite II straight up and sky-high is not the guy they want to include. Some of the other features get plenty more snark from the SF folks than they deserve, particularly an article about children's bibles which begins with some snark of its own, but then goes on to suggest, well, editions from surprisingly orthodox sources-- did anyone expect someone from Mt. St. Alban to recommend a book published by Zondervan, never mind Adoremus?

But then we get to the "monthly meditation", and we find ourselves reading about "crones". Now, as Ms. Lanyi doesn't quite get around to admitting, "crone" as she uses it comes straight from the whole Wiccan-Gravesian "triple goddess" fantasy. One gets some sense of how things have fallen from the days when Florence King's south (of Southern Ladies and Gentlemen Fame) was terrorized by Dear Old Things, Rocks, and Dowagers (in her taxonomy), so that it can be suggested in this day that an older woman needs some sort of masonic ritual or some such thing to justify her exercise of whatever womanly power she has. And it's ironic that Ms. Lanyi, having just said that crones need a ritual that doesn't look like something pagan, then proceeds to set forth exactly that sort of ritual. For an Episcopalian, it isn't as though we don't have ample material of our own for such a thing. One can mine the Book of Occasional Services for rites for just about anything, and besides that, one can see between that and the BCP the basic Anglican skeleton for constructing such a rite. A versicle and response, a reading from apposite scripture (and it isn't as though there aren't scriptural models for older women), a psalm, invocation of the Holy Spirit...

Instead, what we get is a neo-pagan ritual addressed, more or less, to a different god. Inside of that is exactly what they world recommends in this age: a ritual of mutual self-affirmation. It seems to me that a genuinely powerful woman would dispense with this and do it the old-fashioned way: through sheer force of personality. On another level, I don't want to ridicule the Red Hat Society for what it really is, but it really ought to be admitted that "When I am old, I shall go out to lunch with a club of other women, all wearing red hats" really cuts the heart out of the poem. The sentiment is much the same, and it is once again the antithesis of taking up one's cross.

I would be more likely to dismiss this as an aberration if I had never seen the trial liturgies of the ongoing round of liturgical revision. They are dominated by the same borrowing from pagan sources, except that the borrowing is concealed by using scriptural texts which, in their liturgical context, are assigned the same readings that the neo-pagans and their new age fellow travellers assign to our scriptures. It's at this point that I turn into a 1979 traditionalist. I see no reason to accept liturgy which is constructed at the dictate of non- and often anti-Christian authorities. But there seems to be no stopping it. Once we get gay marriages dogmatized, it seems as though it will be impossible to subject this stuff to any kind of reasonable theological test.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

She Who Must Be Ignored

Putting a title to this one was tough; at StandFirm they called it the Stupidest Anglican Idea Ever, but the competition for that is so intense that I'd hate to choose a winner.

Anyway, this is Katie Sherrod's idea:
Before giving up totally on the Anglican Communion, let's have all the men -- Rowan Williams, all the male Primates, all the male bishops, all the male priests, all the male laymen -- take a vow of silence on this issue for a year and let the women of the Anglican Communion work on reconciling us to one another.

Let's let the people -- women -- who really DO make up the largest numbers of Anglicans in the world work on finding a way we can all live together in love despite our differences.

Let's make IAWN the instrument of Communion.
Well, let's NOT.

First, not to put to fine a point on it, but as Greg Griffith at SF says, the folks at the International Anglican Women's Network seem to be the same kind of nutcases-- when they aren't the same nutcases-- who infest the Episcopal Church Office of Women's Ministries. That is, they are stuck pushing the same 1970s woo-woo womanist claptrap that suggested adding pagan/wiccan material to the liturgy. They are wildly unrepresentative of women in the communion as a whole; they don't even represent well the women in liberal churches like ECUSA.

Second, the notion that women can, by nature, run things better than men is an amusing conceit that is easily belied by middle school. Yes, perhaps the girls are better organized, but the back-biting and viciousness is if anything worse than that among the boys. The notion that a woman can do a man's job, but not vice versa, is old enough to appear in fairy tales, but it is, after all, sexist through and through. And when I look at the presiding bishop, her female role model seems to be Elizabeth I on a good day, or her sister Mary on a bad one. Meanwhile IAWN and OWM represent the gender-neutral conceit of liberal academics that the world would be perfect if ordered according to their flights of fancy.

If we're going to have women run things, though, I have some suggestions. Let Geralyn Wolf run ECUSA, and let's seat Fleming Rutledge in Cantuar's throne. And let's have the remaining All Saints sisters run the Office of Women's Ministries. That way we could have some real change.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

ECUSA: The Not Thinking Church

One of the things that General Convention actually did (as opposed to the controversial resolutions, which didn't so much do anything as permit people to talk about whether they did or didn't do anything) was to pass the wretched kalendar changes put forth in "Holy Women, Holy Men". And if you want to understand ECUSA these days, you need to know that though this is taken from a hymn lyric, the source is in fact the emasculations of The Hymnal 1982. I imagine that one of the reasons it was picked was that "women" appears before "men".

I say this because reading the list of people they added to the kalendar reveals some profoundly questionable choices, and in particular leads to questions about the theology of even having commemorations. A fair number of those listed aren't Anglicans; several weren't even Christian. Three of them are Anglicans who crossed the Tiber. And then there's the collects, whose peculiarities wash over into the other set of supplemental liturgies brought before GC. As Dan Martins points out, the collects are highly adverse to the word "Lord". And a number of them ascribe lordship not to the Son, but to the Father. (They are also terribly written, but that's par for the course.)

Objection to this can be found all over the place. A friend of mine, John Robison, offers much the same critique. Yet this thing seems to have sailed through GC almost without consideration. Robison says at one point, "This [commemorating the atheist John Muir] is just one example of the "cool kids" making a decision and rolling with it." His next post discusses the "cool kids" further, in light of GC starting up eucharistic relations with the United Methodist Church and the failure of Forrester to gain consents. The latter is, I think, one of the most notable developments of late, because it indicates that, however weak, there is a core of orthodox belief about baptism and trinitarian theology. It is especially germane to the present point that objection to Forrester focused particularly on his tampering with the baptismal rite, as nearly every bishop and standing committee who gave a reason for withholding consent made that objection. Yet you would hardly know that from watching the output of GC; about the only orthodoxy-endorsing act was the bishops' reaffirmation of the virginity of the Theotokos. The UMC communion-sharing action simply ignores the differences in eucharistic theology between the two bodies, and while there are probably Episcopal priests out there who hold Zwinglian views (because there isn't any heresy you can't find in the church somewhere), by and large it seems to me that Episcopalians in this day and age hold to the high theory of substantial change embodied in the 1979 rites. Methodists, I gather, mostly do not. But it's what the "cool kids" want, so now we have it.

And that leads to Robison's central point: "Most matters of theological distinction are really rather unimportant to many in power in our Church. [....] Trivialities and feel good affirmations as well as sociology and political aphorisms have replaced the hard work of theology." I'd put it another way: the church does theology like a mob of Harvard undergraduates-- Harvard sophomores. Superficially well-informed, convinced of their own superiority to the point of considering criticism to be something akin to lèse majesté, insular, lazy, fond of a certain radicalism, and given to excusing all manner of coarse behavior among their own kind. So the Office of Women's Ministries puts forth a liturgy containing Old-Testament-condemned pagan practices, and their response upon being challenged about this is to go off on a completely (and ironically) irrelevant tangent about copyrights, when everyone else is wondering how a priest can defend being a druid on the side. And then the next liturgy they put out, once again, has verbiage that is conspicuously from pagan sources. Meanwhile the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music continues their decades-long campaign against God the Father, while dropping all sorts of theological novelties into the texts they want us to adopt. All of this is stuff to gladden the heart of an Ivy League academic (or even more so, one from the Seven Sisters), but it bespeaks a milieu that was passing from the University of Maryland College Park even in the days of my attendance there, thirty years ago. Yeah, we had our supply of radical feminists, but already they had a dated quality to them.

So this stuff comes onto the floor of GC, and rather than being picked over and sent back with a scathing rebuke, the, well, Harvard freshmen among the deputies and Harvard faculty among the bishops wave it on through. I mean, celebrating (and God, I am beginning to hate that word) Kepler and Copernicus in church is so cool! Well, perhaps the fight over homosexuality had them distracted. The next time around, when the homophobes have been more thoroughly routed, will they have that excuse? The next battle is plainly going to be over liturgical revision, and at present I don't think they're going to able to stand up to the "cool kids" who still think that clown masses are groovy and that the bible is so sexist and patriarchal and that having standards of faith is so oppressive. And thus, unless someone else rebels, we'll end up with a liturgy that is so "relevant" that the only thing it in't relevant to is religion.

Monday, July 20, 2009

VGR and the Numbers

Courtesy of GetReligion we have a NYT interview with V. Gene Robinson (breathlessly described as "Episcopalians’ First Openly Gay Bishop", as if he has never before given an interview) in which Robinson, well, not to put to fine a point on it, essentially lies through his teeth about the statistics of his diocese. Now, mostly he doesn't say anything that can't be absolutely pinned down as a lie, but when you look at the official statistics, they paint a completely different picture from the one he presents.

Let's start with the statement that "Our diocese grew by 3 percent last year." I don't know where he got that number, but it didn't come from Kirk Hadaway. Official church numbers for 2008 aren't out yet; 2007, according to the church, showed a 1.3% decline. Lest you think that is an abberation, let's review the numbers:
  • 2002: 16,698 members
  • 2003: 15,621 members
  • 2004: 15,531 members
  • 2005: 14,725 members
  • 2006: 14,347 members
  • 2007: 14,160 members
or if you prefer it in percentages:
  • 2003: 6.4% decline
  • 2004: 0.6% decline
  • 2005: 5.2% decline
  • 2006: 2.6% decline
  • 2007: 1.3% decline
Even if you believe VGR's 2008 numbers, there is a cumulative loss of 2100 members since 2002, or about 12.7% of membership; using the 2007 numbers gives a loss of 2500 members, or about 15% decline. Oh and when VGR said, "There are 15,000 people in the diocese of New Hampshire," he was not telling the truth either. Membership in the diocese hasn't been that high since 2004.

But on to the spin:
Q: Who are you pulling in?

A: We have received so many Roman Catholics and young families, particularly families who are saying, “We don’t want to raise our daughters in a church that doesn’t value young people in our church.”
Again, not to put to fine a point on it, but this isn't what the numbers say. Robinson's earlier statement in the interview that there was only one parish he had to close down may be true, but it's also misleading: 49 parishes and missions amounts to a loss of 280 members per parish from 2002 to 2007, or about nine whole parishes. He may not have rebellious priests and vestries, but he has plenty of departing laymen, far more than enough to offset the supposed RC influx. The fantasy that disaffected Catholics are going to pour into our more inclusive church is simple wishful thinking; four decades past Humanae Vitae, and it still hasn't materialized. Looking at that, and John Kerry, and Catholic Europe, I'm inclined to postulate that at this late date, Catholics have become adept at combining papal allegiance with routine disobedience. Perhaps having to sing all four verses of a hymn is a big turnoff. But the fact is that nobody really knows, that I can tell. Statistics on these conversions simply do not seem to exist.

What is real, by contrast, is the steady decline, year after year; the last year in which the church grew was in 2000, and since then the domestic dioceses have lost 213,000 members, or 9.2% of the 2000 total. And the 2007 membership of the four seceding dioceses amounts to about 2% of the domestic total, so it seems likely that 2008's numbers, when they are released, will show continuing losses.

Addendum: I don't mean to imply here that Robinson, with malice aforethought, stated what he knew to be false. There is nothing here that could not be attributed sloppy math on the one hand or unreasonably rosy thinking on the other. The important point in the end is that the bishop's demographic statements cannot be trusted, whether he is lying to us, lying to himself, or he just can't do math.

POSTSCRIPT

Well, the real numbers are out, and diocesan numbers can be found here. There is some fudge/smudge between Robinson's numbers and the official tallies. Membership grew by 2.4%, not 3%; there's a little lily-gilding in that, though at least the basic fact of growth panned out. The five year loss is 7.2%. A bit more disquieting is that ASA continued to decline, with a loss of 1.1% from 2007. Calling 14,501 members "15 thousand" is really pushing the limits of rounding up, but not technically inaccurate.

So my doubt on Robinson's expression of vigor must be tempered. He does have more members, though not quite so many (either by percentage or in toto) as his round numbers would lead one to believe. On the other hand, the drop in attendance is as discouraging as ever.

I'll have reactions to the 2008 numbers in a later post.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Forrester Disappointment

If Frank Lockwood's tallies are to be believed, Thew Forrester is going to fail to get the necessary consents, and will not be the next bishop of Upper Michigan. Anyone who has followed this is probably aware of how he was first presented as a Buddhist, and how his "election" consisted of him being presented as the sole candidate. These oddities bothered some people, but what really brought him down was his liturgical innovations, which were found out by the blogosphere and broadcast widely as a result. Standing committees and bishops alike referred to his alterations to the baptismal liturgy in refusing to consent. Even dioceses generally considered to be pretty liberal and theologically adventurous (e.g., California) went against him.

It's not over until the clock runs out, apparently, but at this point it appears that without some considerable vote-switching, he will be turned down. And thus the complaining has gotten underway in earnest, as represented by a letter Lockwood received from a pro-Forrester standing committee member. Consider the following excerpt:
As you might imagine, the episode concerning Northern Michigan has sent a chill up the spines of a few folks in the Episcopal Church. What if, at the conclusion of our grueling, intensive & expensive process, a majority of bishops and standing committees decide they don’t like our bishop-elect? How do you think that realistic fear will affect search committees around the nation?? As someone recently said… “Only the bland need apply.”
Well, I don't think it's going to work out quite that way. What's going to happen, more likely, is that nominees are going to take care not to leave a paper/webpage trail, so as to avoid being borked. Forrester's big problem wasn't so much that he was vetted for theology, but that he could be so vetted on the basis of what people could find on the net. In the future, I expect that more nominees are going to look, at least electronically, like David Souter than Bork; but they won't have to be "bland". They just can't leave anything lying around that testifies to their heresies.

And that's the other point. We've finally reached a point where we can identify some of what is in Tennis's "core theology". Yes, it may put a chill up a few spines, but for most of those so affected, it's an overreaction. It does not necessarily signal rejection of the largely Lord-free language of the proposed additions to the Kalendar, for example. It certainly doesn't signal a change of direction on homosexuality, for the ACNA schismatics have surely put paid to that. Really, all that is being demanded is that a bishop-elect believes what he or she says in church on Sunday. That may be beyond the high church Unitarians, but really, it shouldn't be that tough to find candidates who can meet that standard. And it's only reasonable to expect that representatives of an organization actually hold to its tenets.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Atheists Considered Tedious

In the Los Angeles Times, Charlotte Allen writes of atheists:
I can't stand atheists -- but it's not because they don't believe in God. It's because they're crashing bores.
How very, very true.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Second Search Committee

In acomment to this post from Mad Priest, Terry Martin says:
The idea that the entire Church...or for that matter the entire Communion...will function as a second search committee is absurd, imo. If the diocese elected him, and the process was canonically correct, then consents should be given.

Well, nonsense. Why even have a consent process anyway? And if the process to elect Mark Lawrence the first was correct, why object to his consecration? Ah, but the difference in the reasoning is entirely revealing, and never mind on which side of That Issue the two candidates were thought to stand. The stated reason for objecting Lawrence, one may recall, was that he was not sufficiently convincing in stating that he would not try to take his diocese out of the denomination. The objections to Forrester are mostly theological, though the process under which he was elected (and I am not the first to observer that it looks more like a self-appointment than anything else) has also come under criticism. A lot of bishops apparently don't believe that Forrester believes what the BCP rites teach about baptism, among other issues.

The canons do not in fact give any grounds at all for consenting or not. Historically, the last time someone really failed (skipping over Lawrence, whose first pass was denied on a procedural pretext) was DeKoven, and the objections to him were decidedly theological. So as far as precedent is concerned, there is ample, and never mind whether DeKoven should have been elevated.

And since there is a consent process, it seems self-evident that the other dioceses are expected to review what the electing diocese has done. Such checks-and-balances structures are all over Episcopal Church polity; else the House of Bishops would have led us into the Unitarian wasteland long ago. And the nasty issue at the moment, of course, is that there is in fact a great deal of well-deserved distrust about the work of search committees. The liberal institutionalists are afraid of more attempts to take dioceses out of the church; the theological conservatives, well, don't want any more heretics. The not-entirely-a-surprise here is that, on some important core issues, there are a lot more "conservatives" than anyone banked on, and that a lot of the social liberals aren't going to go along with someone whose baptismal theology goes against the prayer book, not to mention 1700 years of doctrine on the matter.

This awakening of resistance is troubling all around. It's bad for the GAFCONites, because it puts paid to the lie that the choice is between them and the Spong-ite Unitarians. It's bad for the radicals because they've counted on being allowed to have their way as a sort of theological courtesy. But maybe, just maybe, it's good for the church.

(Hat tip to Lisa Fox for calling attention to this.)

Monday, May 04, 2009

Bad Theology Breeds Bad Verse

From Peter Ould we have this timeless new hymn sung at the ACC opener:
Lord of our diversity,
unite us all, we pray;
welcome us to fellowship
in your inclusive way.

It goes on like that for four more verses, but in the interests of fair use and reader sanity, I think we can stop at one.

What's particularly awful is that they decided to sing this to the tune of the Ode to Joy. As numerous people have pointed out, the meters aren't the same: this thing is 7.6.7.6, and the Ode is 8.7.8.7D. A check through the online metrical indices shows that 7.6.7.6 tunes are almost entirely iambic, whereas this one starts off trochaic; but then it's iambic on the second line. The only tune I found that fit it at all was the first part of Royal Oak (used for the refrain of "All Things Bright and Beautiful"), and even that is a little forced. Also, dancing around in a circle, holding hands, perhaps does not set the proper tone.

But then again, perhaps it does. Now, even Horatius Bonar didn't hit one out of the park every time; still, this is doggerel at best. And when you think about it, the sentiment is pathetic. Honestly, it sounds like something one would sing of and for kindergarten. Meanwhile both sides are praying, "Lord, let's get this fight over with." Lucky for them, they're C of E.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bishop Epting on "'Open' Communion"

From here:

The point being, we have ecumenical covenants and commitments that we have made over the last forty or fifty years which are predicated on our commitment to certain basic sacramental practices. When these practices involve the most basic sacrament which unites all Christians together, regardless of our other differences, surely we run the risk of being considered unreliable ecumenical partners when we make these changes with virtually no theological conversation among ourselves and certainly none with our ecumenical partners.

And, of course, any priest who formally and publicly invites the un-baptized to Holy Communion is in direct violation of canon law and subject to discipline for that.

But, hey, who cares about that, right?


Well, yeah-- who cares? I mean, canons are only for the bad guys, like the renegade dioceses and parishes. The "radical" in Radical Inclusion means not having to bother with rules, right?

I share Bishop Eppings's skepticism over how genuinely radical this inclusion is. This isn't about hospitality to the genuinely religiously hungry, for they as a rule can understand that there are some things which are reserved to the initiated. What it does instead is open the door to those who profane the sacrament by not caring about it at all, or those who profane it by reworking it in their own minds into whatever fits their private spirituality. On the other side, those who can read scripture or who are aware of the ancient tradition of the church may well be put off by being told to communion with unbelievers.

What particularly bothers me about the latter is that the tinge of being deliberately offensive has increasingly colored the liberal side, to the point of an increasingly conspicuous hypocrisy. How can you tell that you're being radical? Because someone complains. Therefore, you aren't truly radical unless you're offending someone. On that level, "radical inclusion" is an impossibility, because offending people isn't inclusion. Well, okay, I suppose one can try to wash over this this by saying one can't include people who don't want to be included. But still, there's that nagging need to have people to offend. In practice, the radicals of ECUSA will always have those nasty "fundamentalists", which increasingly means no more than "anyone with a real theology", to set themselves against. But the problem then becomes that doing any real theology becomes impossible, because having theological commitments leads to exclusions. And it's very obvious that the "inclusionists" have such commitments, and that they extend beyond a general inclusion into some very specific inclusions. And it's also very obvious that they are basically having not only to stop reading scripture before they get to the Letter of Paul to the Romans, but also to skip over some things that Jesus is quoted as saying in the gospels. So now the exclusions extend very much into making sure the power structures of the church don't express these contrary-but-scriptural expressions of exclusivity. And that leads us back into the old paradox of rigid latitude that has been a marker of the powerful liberals for a very long time.

And pretty soon, in the interest of not offending, the creed has to be put on the shelf, and indeed, practically anything except that specific set of inclusion causes has to be jettisoned. And then, why bother calling us Christian?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Two Tales of a City

Dan Martins writes about the division of Stockton, California between the two competing Anglican dioceses in Two Tales of a City.

I would particularly call attention to his response to Sarah. One of the conceits of the puritan faction is that ECUSA is (except for a few faithful parishes and dioceses) composed of licentious Unitarians. There are parishes like that, of course, and dioceses where the bishop and his staff are like that. But most of the sexually-obsessed liberals aren't Unitarians, and in amongst the liberal command posts and conservative outposts in those dioceses, there are a lots of parishes where the rector doesn't constantly make coded sermons on inclusiveness, and where those who have any notion about the Unitarians make jokes about how the UUs pray "to who it may concern."

One of the not-too-well-concealed issues in the current program of departures is how it's being a bit of an evangelical triumph. While I'm still wondering how the Anglo-Catholics fit into this, it seems increasingly the case that the GAFCONites etc. don't particularly care that they keep approaching the issue of separation in a manner which is repugnant to the middle-of-the-road, if not bordering on slander. The result of the hyperbole about the character of the church is that the people in the middle don't believe the GFACONite/ACMA/etc. crowd, and they do believe the liberal hierarchy's accusations about the schismatic intent of their opponents because the accusations, well, appear to be true. The one group that the "evangelicals" don't really want to evangelize effectively are their own fellow churchmen.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Slogan Busing

Our friends at GetReligion have alerted us to the contest the Guardian ran in response to the atheist bus slogan campaign. So here I have a few:


One for my daughter:


And finally, with apologies to Eddie Izzard: