Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Comments on the Proposed Rite: At the Euthanizing of an Infirm Animal

While browsing through the Episcopal Blue Book the other day, my eyes happened upon an extensive series of proposed rites and prayers for animals. Here is the resolution,
Resolution A054 Authorize Rites and Prayers for the Care of Beloved Animals
Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, That the 77th General Convention authorize for use in congregations or other church groups wishing to provide pastoral care for people caring for animals, liturgical materials found in the Blue Book report of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, entitled “Various Rites and Prayers for Animals.”
As an animal lover, and professional nit picker, I was intrigued and had to read on. I found the section called "Additional Readings and Resources for St. Francis Day," and found a reading from Meister Eckhart, and a reading from The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Those must have been chosen to demonstrate how cool we Episcopalians really are.

Further on I found,
"Prayers Suitable for Use in Church or for Other Gatherings, at the Adoption, Illness, Loss, or Death of Companion, Service, or Other Beloved Animals"
Which contained the following,
"At the euthanizing of an infirm animal:
God, whose wisdom is over all your works: Be with us as we act to end the suffering of A., this creature of yours entrusted to our care. Our power to heal has reached its end, and so we put our trust in your mercy and love to gather into your sacred heart all that is lost and broken. We pray through the kindness of Christ and the grace of your Holy Spirit. Amen."
I am troubled by the middle section and its, "Our power to heal has reached its end..." I was under the impression that all healing was thanks to the power of God.  Words that support a belief that we have the power to heal will support the all too human tendency that we wait to call upon God only after we have exhausted our attempts to heal. Thus, we see, "...and so we put our trust in your mercy and love to gather into your sacred heart all that is lost and broken."

While I do think that there is a pastoral need to help people through the difficult times when an animal is euthanized, I am not convinced that this prayer is ready for prime time.

A scary thought came to mind after preparing this post.

Could this prayer be adapted for use in cases of human euthanasia?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Survey Time in DUSC

I am not sure why the bishop made us fill out a survey today in place of hearing a sermon, or at least that was the plan. Since there was a Baptism today, our priest cheated and gave a brief homily before having us sit down to work on what turned out to be a 60 question survey asking about such things ranging from how we interpret the Bible to how active we as a congregation or as individuals are in social justice issues (no there was no definition of "social justice," but I think that means feeding the "Occupy" protestors or marching in "Pride" events). There was even a question on your interactions with elected officials and another one on if you voted in the 2008 Presidential election.

There was a question on if you believe that all religions are equally good at connecting you with God, and a question on whether or not Jesus was the only way to the Father.

And at the end we were asked to rate ourselves on a theological scale from "very conservative" down to... well, I didn't have to read any of the other choices.

Given the current make up of the Episcopal church, I think you can guess what the results will show.

The question is, what will the bishop do with the results?

How will this help to guide him in his "strategic visioning" process?

I hope he doesn't try too hard to make his strategic plan fit the desires of the people.

The only resource he really needs for strategic visioning should already have a prominent place on his desk.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Something Really is Wrong With Our Bloody Lectionary Today (Redux)

"We have no right to expect anything but the pure Gospel of Christ, unmixed and unadulterated, the same Gospel that was taught by the Apostles, to do good to the souls of men. I believe that to maintain this pure truth in the Church—men should be ready to make any sacrifice, to hazard peace, to risk dissension, and run the chance of division. They should no more tolerate false doctrine—than they would tolerate sin. They should withstand any adding to or taking away from the simple message of the Gospel of Christ."

~ J.C. Ryle  Warnings to the Churches, “The Fallibility of Ministers”, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1967], 105.
With apologies to Admiral David Richard Beatty who made a similar comment about his ships as they went down at the battle of Jutland, but there is something wrong with our bloody lectionary today, as it was last Sunday, and as it was two years ago.

(Editorial Note: See the comments, this has been going on for a lot longer than I thought although probably for different reasons. This was first posted back on June 6, 2010, and I did not think I would ever see the Battle of Jutland repeated, but low and behold, the Lectionary sailed from its sheltered harbor in the dead of night hoping to slip past this lowly blog and feed on the remains of that listing convoy of traditional believing Episcopalians. Almost two years to the day, the Lectionarians are doing the exact same thing they did back then. Little did they know that our lookout has been eating his carrots, and our powder has been kept dry and at the ready for any further attempts to re-write Holy scripture. I thought I would be able to stow my guns after last Sunday's sortie, but the enemy is always up to something. So here it goes again.)

So what is going on with our bloody lectionary? For those of you who do not engage in a daily church service or on-line worship, there does exist an Episcopal lectionary thingy that provides groupings of Psalms, O.T. readings, Epistle readings, and Gospel readings for morning and evening worship and for worship on Sundays, Eucharistic readings, for feasts and Holy days. For the past several years, I have been providing some humble commentary on the verses of the Bible that get left out of the Sunday Eucharistic readings. Most pewsitters are unaware of the omissions as they listen or sit reading along in their Sunday bulletins. Some of these edits appear suspicious in that imprecatory, difficult, or potentially controversial verses wind up being the ones that are expurgated. I don't see as much of this going on during the week as I see on Sundays, but today the Lectionary tried to sneak one by me. You see, during the weekdays, the Lectionary usually reads straight through a book of the Bible so that you can get through the entire Gospel of Luke, for example, in a series of daily readings. But look at what happens to Paul's letter to the Romans between Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

On Tuesday we read (or hear) Romans 1:16-25.

On Wednesday we get Romans 1:28-2:11.

Does anyone notice the missing verses???

I have heard the excuse that the lectionary shortens some Sunday readings so that the service does not run long. I think we have debunked that myth in the past when it was noted that one or two verses were all that got cut. I  read an explanation of the Lectionary in the Prayer Book Society's Spring Quarter 2010 (print version not on-line) of "Mandate," and while the Rev. Gavin Dunbar gives a capable commentary on the history, weaknesses, structures, and purpose the lectionaries, there was no comment like the one I am about to make about the Episcopal Lectionary:

There is a conspiracy to keep you from reading things that might offend the zeitgeist.

I hate conspiracy theories, and here I go starting one, but what else can I do when I pick up the Bible and read today's missing verses:

26 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

Or as we used to hear when read from the KJV:

26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

(Romans 1:26-27)

Does this rank up there with the time the Lectionary dropped the following from the Sunday reading of May 16, 2010 (reported here)?
"I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book; if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book."
(Revelation 22:18-19)
Maybe not, but when even an under the radar Bible reader like me notices that the verses that sound easy, sweet, and soothing never seem to be the ones that get sunk, is it any wonder that one's mind starts questioning the intentions of those commanding the fleet?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

What Does He Need a Sickle For Anyway?

One recurring issue that I have been documenting here is the way the Sunday scripture readings get shortened by our lectionary. All too conveniently, it is the imprecatory verses that get cut. This does provide the congregation the short term benefit of a pleasant Sunday morning free from hearing about God's judgement or His wrath, but what are the long term effects?

In the long run, a steady diet of sweet tasting scripture leads to loss of the teeth that one needs to be able to chew on the tougher parts of the Bible.

And if you never get to work on the tough parts, your body will end up suffering from one deficiency state or another. Perhaps our denomination's deficiencies of doctrine and Theology can be traced back to an underlying problem with dentition.

Today's examples add weight to my theory that it is usually the tough parts that get trimmed by the knives of the lectionary committee.

Psalm 92 was shortened to,

 Psalm 92:1-4,12-15; (It was listed as 1-4, 11-14)

1 It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
   to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
2 to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
   and your faithfulness by night,
3 to the music of the lute and the harp,
   to the melody of the lyre.
4 For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
   at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree,
   and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 They are planted in the house of the Lord;
   they flourish in the courts of our God.
14 In old age they still produce fruit;
   they are always green and full of sap,
15 showing that the Lord is upright;
   he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

That is pleasant enough, but what did we miss?

5 How great are your works, O Lord!
Your thoughts are very deep!
6 The dullard cannot know,
the stupid cannot understand this:
7 though the wicked sprout like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they are doomed to destruction for ever,
8 but you, O Lord, are on high for ever.
9 For your enemies, O Lord,
for your enemies shall perish;
all evildoers shall be scattered.

10 But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox;
you have poured over me fresh oil.
11 My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies;
my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants.
Case closed?

Next we got 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17 which reads,

6 So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10For all of us must appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.
14For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. 15 And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

Inspiring? Yes, but reading between the lines we see what got left to be mixed in with the hot dog material.

11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. 12We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.

I can only guess that "the fear of the Lord " made someone uncomfortable. And so it should, as we were presented with this graphic image from our Lord in today's reading from Mark 4:26-34,

26 He also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’
My concern is that sans the references to God's judgement, folks in the pews just might start thinking that everything that is growing on this Earth is good for the harvest.

Anyone remember the parable of the wheat and the tares? 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Nails in Confirmation's Coffin Lid

The Episcopal Church's Blue Book is sent out prior to its upcoming General Convention and it usually contains lots of controversial material. This year proves to be no exception with same sex blessings and budget slashing to be found as useful fodder for the press and for the blogs.

The big ticket items can sometimes cause the bleary eyed, beaten down, church warrior to give lesser issues a pass. Why bother about arguing over something trivial like removing all references to "Confirmation" from the Canons of the Church when all that other stuff is going down?

Why? Because of the possibility that they got it wrong, and to reflect on the unforeseen consequences of wrong actions.

First, read their explanation,

The 2009 General Convention adopted The Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation, which describes the many processes by which Episcopalians live into the Baptismal Covenant. The explanation accompanying that resolution explained the vision underlying the Charter in this way: “We affirm
that life-long Christian formation is foundational to the success of any church, and in the case of our own, is an integral part of the process by which we will rebuild The Episcopal Church. Our congregations will grow in numbers and health when they are supported by leaders – of all orders of ministry – who know their identity in Christ and are able to access their tradition for the purposes of proclaiming and living out the Gospel.” These proposed amendments of the Canons underscore the importance of lifelong formation as spelled out in the Charter and address a further priority: that people in leadership positions in The Episcopal Church, such as members of a vestry, delegates to diocesan convention, and other appointive or elective positions, demonstrate adequate formation in Episcopal identity. It is important to form new members and those elected to leadership positions in Episcopal identity and governance, building upon the foundation of baptismal catechesis and life-long learning opportunities for all members. 
The resolution does not prescribe a singular mode of instruction but rather affirms the rich and diverse contextual realities in The Episcopal Church and acknowledges that myriad resources for formation in Episcopal identity already exist at parish, diocesan and other levels. In order to fulfill this requirement for instruction, parishes, dioceses and others are encouraged to collaborate and share resources.

These proposed amendments of the Canons underscore the importance of lifelong formation as long as lifelong formation doesn't include anything following a 1979 BCP Baptism.

I have mentioned before that in the past, Confirmation was an important bridge between infant baptism and adulthood. Through Confirmation and its required homework, study, prayer, and commitment, those who had been baptised as infants could, through this rite of passage, be welcomed as adult, committed members of the Church, and would then be able to receive their first Communion. Most traditional societies had rites of passage into adulthood that children could look forward to and have as a goal. Unfortunately, in the Episcopal church, the rite of Confirmation was somehow felt to be a barrier to some, so as part of the many changes which hoped to rejuvenate a declining denomination after the 1979 Book of Common Prayer came out, unconfirmed children began being given the Eucharist. Thereafter, "Confirmation" became, in the eyes of most teenagers, unnecessary. Is it any wonder that secular rites of passage such as getting your driver's license, losing your virginity, your first alcoholic beverage, etc., have superceded traditional, faith based rites of passage in the minds of our youth?

Going back to the Church's explanation of their proposed changes you read earlier, you  do have to love that reference to "...the rich and diverse contextual realities in The Episcopal Church." That is what we call Episcobabble. I hope you didn't mess up your computer screen with any recently ingested diverse consumables after seeing that one.

Let me list the proposed resolutions and highlight the words to be removed from the Canons starting on page 156 of the Blue Book, or as I refer to it, "Le Livre Bleu." 

Resolution A042 Amend Canons: Canon I.1.1(b), Canon I.1.2(a), Canon I.2.5, Canon I.4.1(c), Canon I.4.3(d), Canon I.9.7, Canon III.4.1, Canon IV.17.3
Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, the 77th General Convention
affirm that the Book of Common Prayer teaches that Baptism is full initiation
into Christ’s Body the Church and Confirmation is an occasion for those baptized at an early age “to make a mature public affirmation of their faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their Baptism” (BCP 412); and be it further
Resolved, that the baptismal theology of the Book of Common Prayer understands Baptism and not Confirmation to be the sacramental prerequisite for leadership in The Episcopal Church; and be it further
Resolved, that Canon I.1.1(b), Canon I.1.2(a), Canon I.2.5, Canon I.4.1(c),
Canon I.4.3(d), Canon I.9.7, Canon III.4.1, and Canon IV.17.3 be amended to
read as follows:
Canon I.1.1(b)
(b) There shall be a President and a Vice-President of the House of Deputies,
who shall perform the duties normally appropriate to their respective offices
or specified in these Canons. They shall be elected not later than the seventh
day of each regular meeting of the General Convention in the manner
herein set forth. The House of Deputies shall elect from its membership, by
a majority of separate ballots, a President and a Vice-President, who shall
be of different orders. Such officers shall take office at the adjournment of
the regular meeting at which they are elected, and shall continue in office
until the adjournment of the following regular meeting of the General
Convention. They shall be and remain ex officio members of the House
during their term of office. No person elected President or Vice-President
shall be eligible for more than three consecutive full terms in each respective
office. In case of resignation, death, absence, or inability, of the President, the
Vice-President shall perform the duties of the office until a new President is
elected. The President shall be authorized to appoint an Advisory Council
for consultation and advice in the performance of the duties of the office.
The President may also appoint a Chancellor to the President, a confirmed 
an adult communicant of the Church in good standing who is learned in both
ecclesiastical and secular law, to serve so long as the President may desire, as
counselor in matters relating to the discharge of the responsibilities of that

Canon I.1.2(a)
(a) The Canon shall specify the duties of each such Commission. Standing
Commissions shall be composed of three (3) Bishops, three (3) Priests and/
or Deacons of this Church and six (6) Lay Persons, who shall be confirmed 
adult communicants of this Church in good standing. Priests, Deacons and
Lay persons are not required to be members of the House of Deputies.
Canon I.2.5
Sec. 5. The Presiding Bishop may appoint, as Chancellor to the Presiding
Bishop, a confirmed an adult communicant of the Church in good standing
who is learned in both ecclesiastical and secular law, to serve so long as the
Presiding Bishop may desire, as counselor in matters relating to the office
and the discharge of the responsibilities of that office.
Canon I.4.1(c)
(c) The Executive Council shall be composed (a) of twenty members elected
by the General Convention, of whom four shall be Bishops, four shall be
Presbyters or Deacons, and twelve shall be Lay Persons who are confirmed
adult communicants in good standing (two Bishops, two Presbyters or
Deacons, and six Lay Persons to be elected by each subsequent regular
meeting of the General Convention); (b) of eighteen members elected by
the Provincial Synods; (c) of the following ex officiis members: the Presiding
Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies; and (d) the Vice-
President, the Secretary, and the Treasurer of the Executive Council, who
shall have seat and voice but no vote. Each Province shall be entitled to be
represented by one Bishop or Presbyter or Deacon canonically resident
in a Diocese which is a constituent member of the Province and by one
Lay Person who is a confirmed adult communicant in good standing of a
Diocese which is a constituent member of the Province, and the terms of the
representatives of each Province shall be so rotated that two persons shall
not be simultaneously elected for equal terms.
Canon I.4.3(d)
(d) The Presiding Bishop shall appoint, with the advice and consent of a
majority of the Executive Council, an executive director, who shall be an
adult confirmed communicant in good standing or a member of the clergy
of this Church in good standing who shall be the chief operating officer and
who shall serve at the pleasure of the Presiding Bishop and be accountable to
the Presiding Bishop. If a vacancy should occur in the office of the executive
director, a successor shall be appointed in like manner. 
Canon I.9.7
Sec. 7. Each Diocese and Area Mission within the Province shall be entitled
to representation in the Provincial House of Deputies by Presbyters or
Deacons canonically resident in the Diocese or Area Mission, and Lay
Persons, confirmed adult communicants of this Church in good standing but
not necessarily domiciled in the Diocese or Area Mission, in such number
as the Provincial Synod, by Ordinance, may provide. Each Diocese and Area
Mission shall determine the manner in which its Deputies shall be chosen. 
Canon III.4.1
Sec. 1 (a) A confirmed communicant in good standing or, in extraordinary
circumstances, subject to guidelines established by the Bishop, a
communicant in good standing, may be licensed by the Ecclesiastical
Authority to serve as Pastoral Leader, Worship Leader, Preacher, Eucharistic
Minister, Eucharistic Visitor, Evangelist, or Catechist. Requirements and
guidelines for the selection, training, continuing education, and deployment
of such persons, and the duration of licenses shall be established by the
Bishop in consultation with the Commission on Ministry.
Canon IV.17.3
Sec. 3. The Disciplinary Board for Bishops is hereby established as a court
of the Church to have original jurisdiction over matters of discipline of
Bishops, to hear Bishops’ appeals from imposition of restriction on ministry
or placement on Administrative Leave and to determine venue issues as
provided in Canon IV.19.5. The Disciplinary Board for Bishops shall consist
of ten Bishops elected at any regularly scheduled meeting of the House of
Bishops, and four Priests or Deacons and four lay persons initially appointed
by the President of the House of Deputies with the advice and consent of the
lay and clergy members of the Executive Council and thereafter elected by
the House of Deputies. All lay persons appointed to serve shall be confirmed 
adult communicants in good standing. Members of the Board shall serve
staggered terms of six years, with terms of one half of the Bishops and one
half of the lay persons, Priests and Deacons collectively expiring every three
years, with the first expirations occurring at the end of the year 2012.
 What is interesting to ponder is how these changes will interact with the current trend (and proposed resolution in favor of) Communion without Baptism. Read the explanation to the above resolutions that strike out references to "confirmation."
These amendments bring the canons into conformity with the baptismal theology of the Book of Common Prayer, which teaches that “Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body the Church” (BCP p. 299). They will extend to all members of the Episcopal Church opportunities for serving as appointed or elected leaders. These amendments will equip members of the Episcopal Church with the knowledge and understanding to lead effectively. Amending these canons clarifies that rather than being a prerequisite to holding office in the Church, Confirmation is a “mature public affirmation of faith and commitment to the responsibilities of…baptism” (BCP, 412) through which each confirmand is strengthened,
empowered and sustained by the Holy Spirit (BCP, 418). The canons will continue to require individuals holding office to be “communicants in good standing,” which is defined by canons I.17.2(a) and I.17.3 as “those who have received Communion three times in the previous year,” and “have been faithful in corporate worship unless for good cause prevented and have been faithful in working, praying, and giving for the spread of the kingdom of God.”
Notice that the proposed language does not require individuals holding office to be “baptized" communicants in good standing. This is a big mistake. You see, in the past, in order to be confirmed, one must first have been baptized., and the old language of the canons recognized this as the way things were.  If the current resolutions pass, there will be no requirement that anyone be first baptized before being elected to a leadership position in the church.

The current move to Communion of the unbaptized leads to the inevitable problem that if a priest or bishop allows an unbaptized person to receive Communion three times in one year, and they show up in church on Sundays, then that person is now eligible to do pretty much anything including, serving as "Pastoral Leader, Worship Leader, Preacher, Eucharistic Minister, Eucharistic Visitor, Evangelist, or Catechist" [Canon I.4.3(d)  Sec. 1 (a)]. Of course, some people will not see that as a problem.

They use the same rationale for the next Resolution as well, and I include it for the sake of completeness.
Resolution A043 Amend Constitution Article I, Section 4
Resolved, the House of _______ concurring that Article I.4 of the Constitution
of The Episcopal Church be amended to read as follows:
Sec. 4 The Church in each Diocese which has been admitted to union with the
General Convention, each area Mission established as provided by Article VI,
and the Convocation of the American Churches in Europe, shall be entitled
to representation in the House of Deputies by not more than four ordained
persons, Presbyters or Deacons, canonically resident in the Diocese and not
more than four Lay Persons, confirmed adult communicants of this Church,
in good standing in the Diocese but not necessarily domiciled in the Diocese;
but the General Convention by Canon may reduce the representation to not
fewer than two Deputies in each order. Each Diocese, and the Convocation
of the American Churches in Europe, shall prescribe the manner in which its
Deputies shall be chosen.
This amendment brings the constitution into conformity with the baptismal theology of the Book of Common Prayer, which teaches that “Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body the Church” (BCP p. 299). It will extend to all members of The Episcopal Church the opportunity to serve as deputies to General Convention. These amendments will equip members of The Episcopal Church with the knowledge and understanding to lead effectively. Amending the constitution restores Confirmation to its rightful place as a “mature public affirmation of faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their baptism” (BCP p. 412). The constitution will continue to require individuals serving as deputies for General Convention to be “communicants in good standing,” which is defined by canons I.17.2(a) and I.17.3 as “those who have received Communion three times in the previous year, and “have been faithful in corporate worship unless for good cause prevented and have been faithful in working, praying, and giving for the spread of the kingdom of God.”
One long term problem, of this thing might be found in the next Resolution.
Resolution A044 Review Confirmation Requirements in Title III
Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, that the 77th General Convention
direct the Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Formation and
Education and the Standing Commission on Ministry Development to review
the requirement for Confirmation in the Title III Canons on the ordination
of deacons and priests
and consider any revisions to the canons needed to
conform them to the baptismal theology of the Book of Common Prayer; and
be it further
Resolved, that this review include consultation with other provinces of the
Anglican Communion and full communion partners such as the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America and the Moravian Church; and be it further
Resolved, that the standing commissions report their findings to the 78th
General Convention in 2015.
Resolution 2009-B013 adopted by the 76th General Convention directed the Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Formation and Education
to bring to the 77th General Convention “any proposed revisions to the canons to conform them to the baptismal theology of the Book of Common Prayer.” The Commission began its work by focusing on canons pertaining to lay leadership in the Church. The Commission believes that consultation with the Standing Commission on Ministry Development and others partners is necessary to address canons pertaining to ordination. This resolution permits the Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Formation and Education to complete its work in consultation with the Standing Commission on Ministry Development in the next triennium and to report back to the 78th General Convention in 2015.
Why they didn't just go ahead and do away with Confirmation for those to be ordained is beyond me.

Now they need to see how this will work if and when the unbaptized apply for ordination to the priesthood!

Holy Ambrose! You might even jump from pewsitter to Saint without getting wet!

I may just be picking nits here when the whole scalp needs to be treated with a pediculicide, but I do think that rites of passage are important, and you need to think twice about the long term consequences to the Church, and to families and kids from removing such rites as an expectation. Who needs ongoing Christian Formation when baptism is sufficient?

Isn't it a bit like giving a Cub Scout his Eagle badge upon attending his introductory meeting?

Who would have thought that the seemingly harmless idea (that I first heard in the 70's) that it is unfair to "deny" communion to those who have not, as an adult, confessed their faith through catechism and/or confirmation would lead to this.

I think my Dad thought it would, but he also thought that the introduction of Medicare would lead to socialized medicine.

What did he know?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Is Blood Thicker Than Water?

Today's reading from Mark 3:20-35 contains that famous line from Jesus, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" When "blood" is used in terms of hereditary relationship, and "water" is thought of in terms of the water of Baptism, or the living water of Christ, I am led to reframe another famous question, "Is blood thicker than water?"

Of course, it all depends on what you mean by "thickness."

In terms of the Church, water should win hands down, but how many times do we still seem to get it wrong? Handled poorly, family feuds can wreak a Church.

This past week I was watching a movie about the Hatfields and McCoys and their infamous feud. It did not appear to be a pleasant movie, and I had to turn away, but the basic premise seemed to be that this is what happens when a group of people believes that blood is thicker than water.

Jesus' life, death, and resurrection show us what to expect when we finally see that there is a water that is thicker than blood.

"But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." (John 4:14)
Church feuds over human sexuality, biblical revisionism, or doctrinal disputes are not simple family feuds, and they cannot be resolved by merely asking people to live together despite their differences. They are more often cases of one group determining that the other has been drinking water from the wrong well.

With so many wells out there, where does one find that living water?

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Ray Bradbury: Et Lux Perpetua Luceat Ei

Today I read the reports of the death of author Ray Bradbury at age 91. Another of the favorites of my youth has passed on. I remember the pleasure and the creeps I got while reading Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962).  Last year, while cleaning out the old family estate, I recovered my copy of the book and spent a little time reading through it again. I enjoyed seeing this one through the new lenses I have been given thanks to the effects of maturation. Time and life experience help one see more of the eternal truths the author was trying to express. 

Here is one example:
"Sometimes the man who looks happiest in town, with the biggest smile, is the one carrying the biggest load of sin. There are smiles and smiles; learn to tell the dark variety from the light. The seal-barker, the laugh-shouter, half the time he's covering up. He's had his fun and he's guilty. And men do love sin, Will, oh how they love it, never doubt, in all shapes, sizes, colors, and smells." - Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes.
In an interview with CNN that he gave a year ago he said,

 "...he will sometimes open one of his books late at night and cry out thanks to God.""I sit there and cry because I haven't done any of this," he told Sam Weller, his biographer and friend. "It's a God-given thing, and I'm so grateful, so, so grateful. The best description of my career as a writer is, 'At play in the fields of the Lord.' "Bradbury's stories are filled with references to God and faith, but he's rarely talked at length about his religious beliefs, until now.'Joy is the grace we say to God'He describes himself as a "delicatessen religionist." He's inspired by Eastern and Western religions...
Bradbury's favorite book in the Bible is the Gospel of John...
One of the major themes in the Gospel of John is that of light and darkness.

Et lux perpetua luceat ei.

Oops, Episcopal Blue Book Typo: "Christien" Formation and Education

                         (Not this book but you gotta dig the picture)

I am one of those people that folks on committees hate to see when their hard work is being presented for a vote. I may not be a very good writer, but I have an eye for typographical errors in the work of others. Always the critic, I usually slow everybody down by asking that the typos be corrected before they are approved.

Browsing through Le Livre Bleu the other day, I chanced upon the work of the Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Formation and Education. It looks like they need a little education and formation themselves unless their goal is, as some suspect, to transform the Faith into something that other Christians might not recognize.

You see, on pages 151-161 the headings read,"Standing Commission on Lifelong Christien Formation and Education."


More on the significance of the substance of their recommendations later, but if they can't even get "Christian"  right, can you trust their recommendations on lifelong Christian formation and education? 

Sunday, June 03, 2012

O Trinity

Today is Trinity Sunday, and I stopped to reflect on how long the Trinity has been a part of my life.

Back in grade school, this was our Alma Mater,

"O Trinity we sing to thee, our love and praises hear and see. Be with us now and always give the strength we need to grow and live. O guide us well and make us free to honor and remember thee."
That Alma Mater is as fitting a praise of the Holy Trinity as one can give. No need to sermonize any further.

In grammar school, we had chapel daily and "big church" on Wednesdays. I can't say that I remember any of the sermons I heard back then., but of all the things that Trinity School taught me, the most important was the practice of being still and quiet in daily prayer with others in a sacred space. The importance of this earthly trinity of people, place, and worship remains one lesson that did "take".

Another lesson came from the song we had to sing during our sixth grade graduation ceremony, and that is the lesson to always look heavenward for Truth,

Come my friends and comrades
We’ll sing a song today
As on the path of learning
We take our happy way
Oh sing... our song... today...ay...ay...ay...ay. 

Chorus: We’re marching, marching together
To hills far away.
On the path of learning and duty
We’re marching today,
And we will never forget our school days
When truth shone on high
So march, march on my comrades,
Truth’s still in the sky.

Sing then friends and comrades
Wherever we may be,
And always remember
Our days at Trinity
Oh sing... our song... so
We’re marching, marching together
To hills far away.
On the path of learning and duty
We’re marching today
And we will never forget our school days
When truth shone on high
So march, march on my comrades,
Truth’s still in the sky.

We always accused the choir master of being a Communist for making us sing this because of the repetitive use of the word "comrades". His foreign accent didn't help his case much either.

Sadly, on my last visit to my old school and its historic church, I saw that the Wednesday speaker series was something like "being a good Muslim parent" in the modern world. I was also disappointed in the Sunday sermon. I was obliged to write a tactful letter to the preacher regarding the negative comments he made in the course of his sermon about evangelists and fundamentalists. His reply was that he said nothing wrong, and that he hoped I found a church where the preaching was more to my liking.

I am still shaking the dust from my shoes over that one.

Thank you Trinity church, but I will keep my sights on the Divine Trinity.

Marching on my comrades...

Oh sing... our song... so