Wednesday, July 08, 2009

DEFCON 1: Seven Modern Sacraments

I apologize for placing so many links in this posting.

As the Episcopal Church's General Convention 2009 kicks off today, I was thinking about how modern secular issues interact with religion. This interaction is unavoidable, and dealing with issues is, in my opinion, part of the "mission" of the Church.

As thoroughly modern Episcopalians, we have been instructed to examine the Scriptures, Tradition, and Reason when asked where we "stand" on the issues. Often times, people lean too heavily on one of the legs of this "three legged stool," and as a result they can tip over. In 2009, we are increasingly being asked to look at "Justice" as well, thus creating a wobbley four legged chair.

As one who tends to rely on the first 2 legs, I frequently fall because I short change Reason. I believe this is mostly due to my poor skills at chess and other such mental gymnastics. At other times I fall because of lack of knowledge of traditional teachings, and at other times it is because of the sin of not knowing the Scriptures. As far as "Justice" goes, I defer to Fr. Dan Martin's recent post found here.

As the Episcopal Church marches on with its Reason/Justice based agenda despite the warnings of Tradition and Scripture, I continue to ponder what "Rights" will become "Rites," and what "Rights" will become "Sacraments" in the future.

First a little background on the sacraments. Thumbing through the BCP, as I often do in my spare time, I recall that we answer the questions in the Catechism (pages 858-861) about sacraments by stating that there are two "great sacraments given by Christ" (Holy Baptism and Holy Eucharist) and there are five others that are sacramental rites that "evolved" under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (Confirmation, Ordination, Holy Matrimony, Reconciliation of a Penitent, and Unction of the Sick). Also please see Article XXV on page 872 for the "historical" description of the sacraments with the last five using the Catholic terminology and described as in part "states of life allowed in the Scriptures." These are essentially the same ones we inherit from the Council of Trent. I defer to the Catholic Encyclopedia,
The Council of Trent solemnly defined that there are seven sacraments of the New Law, truly and properly so called, viz., Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Orders, and Matrimony. The same enumeration had been made in the Decree for the Armenians by the Council of Florence (1439), in the Profession of Faith of Michael Palaelogus, offered to Gregory X in the Council of Lyons (1274) and in the council held at London, in 1237, under Otto, legate of the Holy See. According to some writers Otto of Bamberg (1139), the Apostle of Pomerania, was the first who clearly adopted the number seven (see Tanquerey, "De sacr."). Most probably this honour belongs to Peter Lombard (d. 1164) who in his fourth Book of Sentences (d. i, n.2) defines a sacrament as a sacred sign which not only signifies but also causes grace, and then (d.ii, n.1) enumerates the seven sacraments. It is worthy of note that, although the great Scholastics rejected many of his theological opinions (list given in app. to Migne edition, Paris, 1841), this definition and enumeration were at once universally accepted, proof positive that he did not introduce a new doctrine, but merely expressed in a convenient and precise formula what had always been held in the Church. Just as many doctrines were believed, but not always accurately expressed, until the condemnation of heresies or the development of religious knowledge called forth a neat and precise formula, so also the sacraments were accepted and used by the Church for centuries before Aristotelian philosophy, applied to the systematic explanation of Christian doctrine, furnished the accurate definition and enumeration of Peter Lombard. The earlier Christians were more concerned with the use of sacred rites than with scientific formulae, being like the pious author of the "Imitation of Christ", who wrote: "I had rather feel compunction than know its definition" (I, i).

Since the General Convention of the Episcopal Church 2009 will discuss resolutions aboout creating new rites and blessings, I wondered where it could possibly end. Being certain that someone had thought of this before, I went searching for a list of modern sacraments of secular culture.
Here is one list I found. It was written by Catholic Bishop Thomas Doran of Rockford in 2006 (I added a few choice links for those unfamiliar with the terms),

1. Abortion
2. Buggery
3. Contraception
4. Divorce
5. Euthanasia
6. Feminism of the radical type
7. Genetic experimentation and mutilation

His list summarizes some of the issues that the secular world has blessed. Can anyone come up with a way of integrating the secular sacraments with religion? Oh yes, I have a list in mind. I will place the "historical" sacraments alongside the "Brave New" ones.

1. Baptism : This will probably stay but let's change the name to a sacrament of Self-Improvement.
2. Confirmation : Dropped because this is 1. not needed in an age of open communion (see sacrament #3 below), and 2. non-inclusive and discriminatory against Muslims/etc.
3. Holy Eucharist : This one will probably stay but will be renamed "Open Communion" or "Happy Meal."
4. Penance : Since there is nothing for which to be penitant, this will be changed to the sacrament of the MDGs to reflect the collective guilt of the Church.
5. Extreme Unction : This will need an additional sacrament of Euthanasia .
6. Orders : New sacrament of C.H.A.O.S.
7. Matrimony : The "Holy" will be dropped and new sacrament called "Love the One You're With" will be put in its place.

When things get worse, in place of 1, and 2 I suggest
1. Bishop Doran's Rite for Abortion (Believe it or not, this Liturgy has already been written (paid for in part by the Episcopal Church). You can see it here (H/T Standfirm),
2. Divorce (This liturgy appeared on the Episcopal Church's site under the Office of Women's Ministries a while ago but was removed.)

I am still thinking that more will be added. I am open to suggestions. So is GC 2009, they appear open for anything.

In the spirit of the "Ubuntu" theme for the convention, I pray they don't fuss or fight. And please no Ubuntu Kung Fu.


  1. I like your modernizations, but doesn't there need to be a rite of corporate self-affirmation?

    That seems to be the sacrament a la mode.

  2. Assuming you are correct, query which of the seven churches of Asia Minor, to whom Christ speaks in Revelation, would The Episcopal Church be emulating?


  3. How about this one,

    Revelation 2:18-21
    18 And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;
    19 I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.
    20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
    21 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.