Thursday, February 02, 2017

I'll Take the BCP Behind the Curtain, Monty

So the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music is offering us four options for going forward on BCP revision:
  • Revise Book of Common Prayer
  • Create Book(s) of Alternative Services, and leave the BCP 1979 alone
  • More talking, listening, researching, and discerning
  • Deepening our relationship with the 1979 BCP
They also offer a "technical fixes" option which could go with any of the other four.

If you've read many of my BCP revision posts, you can guess that I prefer the fourth option: no revision yet. The current book needs some revision, but limited, and revision only. We already, in the form of Enriching Our Worship, have the second option, and it has been a major problem, both in terms of commonality and in what those alternate rites say. New rites (e.g. the trial same-sex blessing rite) have consistently taken precisely what is problematic about EOW as a starting point, and there was a large outcry when revision was announced of people who saw the process as specifically to legitimize if not impose these deviations; I was one of them. So the first option is undesirable, and the second option, legitimizing the current mess, is undesirable.

And more talking? Well, they didn't say "dialogue", which as we all know tends to mean "We know better than you on this topic and we’re going to have a ‘dialogue’ until you see the error of your ways and agree with me at which point our dialogue will be done." But setting the terms of the talking is crucial and problematic. Already we have Matthew S. C. Olver saying "I think it is important to acknowledge at the beginning of this piece that Christians must take seriously the concerns raised by feminist theologians" and "Related to this more experiential concern is the basic Christian theological claim that God is neither a man nor a woman, neither male nor female." OK, well, I do not agree to the second, which is not to say that I disagree, but simply that the issue is debatable. In the first place, if this is going to be "basic" for a Protestant, it has to be attested directly from scripture. And while I am certainly open to be corrected about this, I am not aware of such attestation; the principle appears to arise out of neo-Platonic idealism about God. Furthermore, the problem is not as a rule language concerning the Godhead, but about the three Persons. There the whole thing starts to come apart very quickly when the words "male" and "female" are pinned down, because given current sexuality doctrine there is nothing one can say about the words as genders that affords any objective truth, and without something objective to anchor them on, treating the names as rhetorical figures devolves into meaninglessness.

The bigger issue, however, is the demand to engage feminist theology. I'm plenty happy to engage it, but when I start complaining about its category errors, left and right, things are surely headed off into Dialogue. The tendency in these "dialogues" is to exclude me because I am male, and therefore (if I dissent) a troglodyte who has to be instructed (that is, lectured and then dismissed). It's hugely problematic that the many people who accept women as priests but who have problems with radfem talk about God are largely ignored, and the attitude from the SCLM up to now has been that EOW is the starting point for everything new. EOW is also our local source for the pro omnis error, which they don't mention; but it also represents a step away from Protestant principles.

I suppose there needs to be talking all right, but it needs to be about more fundamental principles than feminism or universalism. The biggest issue is our institutional hypocrisy about theology as a whole. We have creeds, which we stand up and say "on Sundays and Major Feasts", and then our clerics deny that we believe them. We affirm the church's teaching that communion is only for the baptized, and then advertise in all too many parishes that "all are welcome to partake." We promulgate a church position on abortion that has been reaffirmed several times over now, and nobody would dare to teach it on a Sunday. On the one hand, we get subjected to controversial deviations as if there was consensus to do so; on the other, we get subjected to deviations when there is stated consensus that they are deviant and not to be done. Trying to work out a new prayer book in these circumstances is a huge problem because this sort of behavior makes it a bad-faith effort.

that's why I'm in favor of sticking with the last option. I think there is plenty to fix in the current book, but I don't see how we can go about that until, to be really blunt about it, the progressive side starts playing fair.

1 comment:

underground pewster said...

Don't hold your breath waiting for the progressive side to play fair. There are no rules in a knife fight.