As indicated above, “A Great Cloud of Witnesses” offers a wide and diverse collection of people from across Christian history and the Episcopal story. As our common life continues to unfold, new names will need to be added. These criteria provide guidelines for how these additions will be considered.
It should be noted at the outset that there is a certain necessary tension between criteria 4 and 5 that also existed in the criteria in Holy Women, Holy Men; criterion 4 notes that some people need to be remembered who have been forgotten. Those who have been forgotten will have difficulty meeting criterion 5, and its call for a widespread remembrance. Not all of the selections included within “A Great Cloud of Witness” will meet criterion 5 at the current time because the committee judged that the desire to create a more inclusive resource outweighed the need for broad commemoration in every case. However, going forward, names recovered from our collective memories should grow to the level of regional commemoration before being submitted for inclusion in “A Great Cloud of Witnesses.”
The criterion requiring an individual to have been deceased for at least fifty years has also been dropped. While that provision is useful for gaining appropriate perspective regarding the deceased, it has not been a universally observed rule in Christian history and practice. This requirement has been removed as a reflection of the need to retain some people with the collective memory of the church prior to fifty years since that person’s death. In light of this, criterion 6 speaks of a “reasonable period of time” elapsing.
1. Historicity: Christianity is a radically historical religion, so in almost every instance it is not theological realities or spiritual movements but exemplary witness to the Gospel of Christ in lives actually lived that is remembered in our family story. Like all families, however, our family includes important matriarchs and patriarchs about whom little verifiable is known yet whose names and influence still exert influence on how we understand ourselves in relation to them.
2. Christian Discipleship: The family story captured here is uniquely and identifiably a Christian story. This set of stories commemorates the ways particular Christians live out the promises of baptism. A worthy summary of these promises is captured in our Baptismal Covenant including a commitment to the Triune God as captured in the Apostles’ Creed, continuing in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship: the breaking of bread and the prayers, resisting evil and repenting when necessary, proclaiming by word and example the Good News of God in Christ, seeking and serving Christ in all persons, and striving for justice and peace among all people. Rather than being an anachronistic checklist, these should be considered general guidelines for considering holistic Christian life and practice. There may be occasional exceptional cases where not all of these promises are successfully kept, or when the person in question is not Christian, yet the person’s life and work still significantly impacts the ongoing life of the Church and contributes to our fuller understanding of the Gospel.
3. Significance: Those remembered should have been in their lifetime extraordinary, even heroic servants of God and God’s people for the sake, and after the example, of Jesus Christ. They may also be people whose creative work or whose manner of life has glorified God, enriched the life of the Church, or led others to a deeper understanding of God. In their varied ways, those remembered have revealed Christ’s presence in, and Lordship over, all of history; and continue to inspire us as we carry forward God’s mission in the world.
4. Range of Inclusion: Particular attention should be paid to Episcopalians and other members of the Anglican Communion. Attention should also be paid to gender and race, to the inclusion of lay people (witnessing in this way to our baptismal understanding of the Church), and to ecumenical partners and people who have had their own distinctive influence upon us. In addition to the better known, it is important also to include those “whose memory may have faded in the shifting fashions of public concern, but whose witness is deemed important to the life and mission of the Church” (Thomas Talley).
5. Local Observance: Similarly, it should normatively be the case that significant remembrance of a particular person already exists within the Church at the local and regional levels before that person is included in the Church’s larger story.
6. Perspective: The introduction of new names should be done with a certain economy lest the balance of the whole be overwhelmed. In the cases of the recently departed—particularly in the case of controversial names—care should be given to seeing them from the perspective of history. Names added should show a broad influence upon the church and result from a wide-spread desire expressed across the Church over a reasonable period of time.
7. Combined Remembrances: Not all those included need to be remembered “in isolation.” Where there are close and natural links between persons to be remembered, a joint commemoration would make excellent sense (e.g., the Reformation martyrs—Latimer and Ridley; bishops of Lincoln, Robert Grosseteste and Hugh).
Use the revised criteria to place your bet on when Bishop Gene Robinson (ret.) will be seeded into the cloud,
"Reviewing Gene Robinson's book, 'God Believes in Love': But perhaps the most astounding of all his biblical propositions on marriage was his observation that Jesus and the apostle that He loved, John the Apostle, were homosexual 'soulmates,' while perhaps not lovers.'" (from "First Things")Historicity, check.
Christian Discipleship: Striving for "justice", check.
Significance: heroic and extraordinary, check.
Range of inclusion, check.
Local Observance: not yet
Perspective: Broad influence, check.
Combined Remembrances: Mary Glasspool? maybe.
He's a shoe in.