Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

In the words of Tiny Tim, "God bless us, every one!"

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thanksgiving: Not Good for My Diet

I've been "off the farm" for a couple of weeks. Tonight, however, I weighed-in. Gain of 1.6 lbs. Oh, well. Tomorrow begins a new week.

Friday, November 13, 2009

No loss of weight this week.

in fact, not only did I not lose weight I gained 0.4 pounds. But I was really bad. I didn't record my intake of food all week and I ate whatever I wanted. This week, I gotta get back on the wagon.

Friday, November 6, 2009

2.4 more pounds!

I moved in the right direction again this week! Weight Watchers tells me I have lost 2.4 more pounds.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lost 3 pounds this week.

Weight Watchers thinks I have lost 11.8 pounds so far. 3 pounds in the last week! Much better than last week!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

39 Articles of Religion

In the back of the Prayer Book of the Episcopal Church, in the "Historic Documents" section, you will find a copy of the "39 Articles of Religion." While these articles have no formal authority in the Episcopal Church, they do still have formal authority for many other places in the Anglican Communion. Given their historic role in the shaping of Anglicanism, I find the interest of some Anglicans in becoming Roman Catholic rather interesting.

Here are some excerpts to give you an idea of what I speak:

Article XIX. Of the Church
The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.
As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch have erred; so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith.

Article XXII. Of Purgatory
The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping, and Adoration, as well of Images as of Reliques, and also invocation of Saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.

Article XXXVII.
...The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England…

Saying Bye to MySpace

I put up a My Space page a couple of years ago to promote the reform of the health insurance industry in Kentucky. Given the current political state and the role of reform of the health insurance industry nationally, I have deleted my site. If I have anything interesting to ad to the discussion, I will ad it here. If I come across any interesting links, I will add them here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Unhappy on Bayly

I gained weight this week. :=(

I am 1.3 pounds heavier this week than I was last week. I didn't exceed my "points" and I dutifully recorded everything. I am told some weeks are like this--but it is discouraging.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Church Shopping

A fifth to a third of my parish is comprised of former Roman Catholics. Roman Catholics make very good Episcopalians. I have heard them tease "All the liturgy--none of the guilt" as though they were intoning a commercial for Anglicanism. Would that all my parishioners felt such pride and joy in being Episcopalian.

The former Roman Catholics in the parish I serve appreciate the Episcopal Church in ways that cradle Episcopalians sometimes take for granted. Those Roman Catholics who migrate to Canterbury come because they seek a place where their heart and their head can co-exist. The Roman Catholic Church ceased to be that place for them. They became convinced that women should be allowed to be priests, or that priests should be allowed to marry, or gay and lesbian persons should be treated with dignity and respect, or the use of contraception is not immoral, or that abortion should be a woman's choice even if it is always a tragic choice, or they are divorced and they don't want to have to pretend they were not married the first time in order to marry again, or....I could go on and on here--but you get the idea. Their convictions change and they don't want to pretend they believe other than the way they do and so they leave and in their exile they stumble across the Episcopal Church and find a new home. Call it Catholics on the Canterbury trail. Would that we all could better see ourselves as pilgrims.

Likewise, since Henry VIII made himself (rather than the Pope) the head of the Church in England, some Anglicans have crossed the Tiber and returned to Rome. The Anglicans (or Episcopalians as we call ourselves here in the States) have been too Protestant for the liking of some born Anglican and they have found themselves in Rome and at home. Would that all could find a place to call home.

News has come this week that the Vatican is making the journey to Rome easier for those Anglicans so inclined. Anglicans except Romans as properly baptized and confirmed and ordained. So, the transition has always been easy for those moving toward Canterbury. Historically, Rome has been less hospitable--but the rigidity has been part of the attraction and the lack thereof amongst Episcopalians part of the repulsion. This week the Pope made it a bit easier. Hospitality is a Christian virtue. Would that we all were more hospitable.

I am sympathetic with those who feel like refugees from the faith of their childhood. I left the religious tradition of my youth and as an adult did my own migrating. I understand why people leave and why they come--on an existential level. I also think it is unfortunate and tragic.

We are all poorer after we Church Shop. The cost is sometimes necessary--but it is still expensive. The places we leave are poorer for our going. Admittedly, the places to which we travel are enriched--but the new theological segregation makes us all poorer. It is not a zero sum game. The Church is richer when our diversity is visible on a local level. We are poorer when that diversity is hidden behind denominational labels. Would that we were richer, as well as hospitable.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Doing the Math

With regard to my goal of loosing 104 pounds in 52 weeks, I am on track. Two weeks down and ten pounds down. Fifty weeks to go. 94 pounds to go.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Week 2 a Success

I am pleased to inform you that I lost 5 pounds in the last week. I now have lost a total of 10 pounds since I started Weight Watchers. I have, however, one less point a day for week 3.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Traveling and Dieting

If I lose any weight this week it will surprise me. I haven't cheated--but I have used a lot of my allotted points! On a good note, I managed to drink all my water today.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Long Car Trips are Tough on the Diet

I only have 3 points left for the day and I haven't had dinner yet! Like the prodigal son, I squandered my resources (weight watcher points) in riotous living (fast food).

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Day 10 or so

Truth is, I have lost count. But the good news is that I have been very good. I have yet to exceed my allotment of Weight Watcher's points. I still can improve, however, on the quality of my spent points. I need more vegies in my diet and I still need to up the water intake. Oh well, tomorrow is another day! We will keep on keeping on.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Lost 5 Pounds this Week

I am pleased to inform you that I lost 5 pounds in my first week on Weight Watchers. 1 week down and 51 to go. 5 pounds down and 99 to go. Remember: my goal is 104 pounds in 52 weeks. All in all, a good start.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Day Five

Yesterday I managed to get all my water down my throat (thanks Crystal Light!). I learned I really need to change my "regular order" at my favorite oriental restaurant (I consumed way too many points at lunch).

Monday, October 5, 2009

Day Four

Gotta drink more water. I did really poorly on the water today. I still have not exceeded my allotment of points! And I played football tonight (played on the offensive line so I wouldn't have to run--I fall down when I try to run--its a brain thing).

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Day Three

So far so good. I haven't "cheated" on my diet. I have very faithfully recorded everything I have eaten and I have stayed under my allotment of Weight Watcher points. My children are a little concerned they will never get to eat at their favorite establishments again (they were trying to figure out how many points were in my usual Mexican meal). I went for a nice bicycle ride yesterday. If the weather is nice, I hope to do it again tomorrow.

I am supplementing my water drinking with crystal light. I haven't given up on just water, but a little flavor makes it a bit easier for me at this point.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Day One

One day down, 364 days to go. I was very good. I ate fewer points than I was allotted. I still, however, need to work on drinking more water and eating more vegetables. My children are not very excited about Dad's diet. But it will be good for them too.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Honoring the Body

Before I got sick and was out for a bit, I resolved to take better care of my body. I determined that I would reduce my Body Mass Index to below the recommended 25. I got sick, however, and gained more weight during my illness and recovery. Now that I am better, I find I have more weight than ever to lose. To help me reach my goal, I have joined Weight Watchers.

As I was sitting in the meeting tonight, I was mulling the movie Julia and Julie (or is it the other way around?). Like Julie, I am going to give myself a year to complete my goal. In my case, however, it is not recipes, but pounds. I am going to lose 104 pounds in 52 weeks.

I will keep you posted.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Third Reflection on Rowan's Reflection

In the Archbishop’s view, for any province to undertake blessing same-sex unions or consecrating openly gay bishops, would be a major break with the way that the church has consistently read the Bible for two thousand years, and would be unacceptable unless a strong theological case were to be made and a high level of consensus achieved among Anglicans and across the ecumenical spectrum, which has not happened. At present, he suggests, anyone in a same-sex union is in a similar position to a heterosexual person living with a lover to whom he or she is not married, and so not able to have a role which involves representing the church. This standard would condemn Cranmer and Parker, both bishops “representing” the church.

Please note that Canon 7 of the Second Lateran Council (1139) provided that marriages contracted in violation of the ecclesiastical law regarding celibacy would not be regarded as matrimony--i.e., would be invalid. Thus, priests could not (in the eyes of the Church) marry. Those outside of the Church might recognize a couple as married, but the Church would view the priest as merely living with a woman not his wife. Such a priest would, according to Williams, be in the same position as a gay person living with a partner.

Consider the first two Archbishops of the Reformation. Thomas Cranmer, a widower, was ordained priest c. 1520; in July, 1532, he married again, but the marriage was invalid under Canon 7 of Lateran II. As Cranmer was consecrated with papal approbation on 30 March 1533, it might be argued that Clement VI knew about the secret marriage and decided to overlook it. Unless that is the case, however, Cranmer was, by Rowan Williams’ standards, precisely as unable to serve as a bishop as Gene Robinson.

Consider further Matthew Parker. Parker was ordained priest in 1527; in 1547, the first year of Edward VI, he married. Again, the marriage was in violation of both canon (changed in December of that year) and statute (changed in 1549). The statute of 1549 was repealed by Queen Mary's First Act of Repeal in 1553, and under Mary's Injunctions of 1554, all "married" priests were required to be deprived and divorced. Elizabeth then recognized existing clerical marriages by section XXIX of her own Injunctions in June of 1559, just in time for Parker to be nominated as Archbishop in August. So Parker, unlike Cranmer, had a valid marriage at the time of his consecration in December, albeit one that had been invalid when contracted and also for the preceding five years. (We might also note that its 1559 re-validization depended on the lay Royal Supremacy, rather than on any clerical power.) But so far as I know, Parker did not put away his wife during the time in which the then-invalid marriage would have made him, as a priest, an inappropriate representative of the Church.

It is particularly problematic that two of Dr. Williams' predecessors might not qualify for an invitation to Lambeth.

(Thanks to “4 May 1535+” for putting me on to this. See “4 May 1535+” comment at I am curious as to "4 May 1535+" relation to the Carthusian Martyrs.)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

More on Rowan Williams

The second in a series of reflections
on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s reflection

“The truth shall set you free”--Jesus.

The Archbishop asks, “Is the Church free to recognize same-sex unions by means of public blessings?” The Rev. Anne Vouga, Priest of the Episcopal Church canonically resident in the Diocese of Kentucky and passionate reader of the Archbishop’s theological work, has suggested that I should say more about the Archbishop’s use of the word “free.” She suspects it may be for him an important concept and his use of it may mean that he is indeed being proscriptive rather than descriptive.

I have already indicated some of the problems with a “proscriptive” reading of his reflection and have concluded that his reflection is best understood as “descriptive.” Further, I have said that if descriptive, I can find no fault in his requirements for a positive answer to the question he posits. If, however, his reflection is taken as proscriptive, I find his requirements to be problematic. Finally, I have suggested that we be generous in our reading and assume he is being descriptive. I now turn to a less generous reading.

As Archbishop, Rowan Williams has felt constrained. He has said that his office, as Archbishop of Canterbury, constrains him to speak only of behalf of the Anglican Communion and forces him to lay aside his own theological convictions. Perhaps, better said, would be to say that he “brackets” his theological convictions in a Husserlian sort of way, perhaps unbracketing them at such a time when he no longer finds himself encumbered by the duties and obligations of being the Archbishop of Canterbury. Conversely, one could say he does not feel free to speak his mind--only the mind of the Anglican Communion. Thus, it is easy for observers to conclude that his deepest theological conviction (a particular ecclesiology perhaps) supersedes his theological commitment to the theological concept of being free. In fact, he may not see “freedom” as theological at all, but merely political or social.

I suppose that when a Yankee speaks of freedom to a Brit, the specter of the American Revolution necessarily raises its head. The British do seem to be rather preoccupied by Colonization, the British Empire (and its fragmentation),, in a way reminiscent to the way the Vietnam War haunted Americans two decades ago (and still haunts in some quarters). Since, arguably, the Anglican Communion is the last vestige of British Empire, perhaps it would not be shocking for the Archbishop to hear the word “free” in a political and not a theological way. Certainly, in the quote from Jesus with which I opened this essay, it is not easy (if even possible) to disentangle the political from the theological. One must remember that the context of Jesus’ remark was his living under the colonization of another empire--the Roman Empire.

With that caveat, however, I find it hard to believe the Archbishop would be vulnerable to that particular British malady. He is, no doubt, familiar with the theological concept of freedom and its importance. Despite his reference to “civil liberties,” I find it difficult to believe that he hears all talk of freedom to be outside the bounds of theology. Perhaps, he simply believes that some in the conversation have a merely secular understanding of freedom that is forming the basis of their convictions on this particular issue. In so far as that is true (and I cannot say one way or the other), then he is certainly correct to say that a purely secular understanding of civil liberties is insufficient to ground a doctrine of the Church. Likewise, if one’s belief in human dignity is grounded in the United Nations declaration of Human Rights, then such a grounding would be insufficient for the grounding of a doctrine of the Church.

He does not allude to the freedom one finds in Christ. He does not speak to the notions of justice and love embodied in the prophets. His mentioning of the forming of the individual conscious of the believer, does, however, bring to mind the Baptist doctrine of “soul competency.” Our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ have also done considerable theological work in this area. I am supposing that this is the theological background for his use of the word “free.” He combines this background with the Christian obligation to be “pastoral” in our response to those in need or want. For the prophets those in need or want were the widows and orphans and others marginalized by their society. For Jesus it was women, Samaritans, tax collectors, lepers, and others marginalized by their society.

While he chastises those who do not have a theological understanding of being “free.” He also suggests that even those who do, are not appropriately applying the concept in this conversation. If this is the correct reading of his phrase, “...the issue is not simply about civil liberties or human dignity or even about pastoral sensitivity to the freedom of individual Christians to form their consciences on this matter,” then he perhaps setting up a dichotomy between the sort of freedom individuals have and the sort of freedom the Church has. Perhaps, this dichotomy is rooted in his own experience in being the Archbishop of Canterbury. Remember he feels that while he has the freedom of forming his own conscience, he does not have the freedom of expressing that conscience in his role as the Archbishop of Canterbury--he can only express the conscience of the Anglican Communion. Likewise, perhaps he is suggesting that while other individual members of the Episcopal Church have the same freedom, the Episcopal Church as a whole should only express the conscience of the Anglican Communion (or the Church with a capital C). If so, perhaps his requirements are indeed proscribing the appropriate behavior (in his mind) of the Episcopal Church.

I am tempted at this point to explore the notion of a group having a conscience analogous to that of an individual. I am also tempted to explore the paradox of one acting upon their conviction that others cannot act on their convictions. I will, however, resist these temptations and instead continue on the course already set.

The Archbishop’s comments on the Anglican Communion being a “mere federation” might be instructive here. Some have taken his dismissive attitude to “federation” as preferring some other way of organizing ourselves--such as monarchical. Perhaps, however, he is simply dismissing as unimportant a political analysis of the situation. If all we are is a particular way of organizing ourselves (whether federal, monarchical or whatever), then we are not Church. Perhaps, he does not want to engage a political analysis, but to raise the conversation to the theological. Perhaps he feels we are stuck on the level of political analysis and we should be moving on to a theological analysis of the situation.

If this is his intent--I have a word of caution for the Archbishop. Just as it is difficult to disentangle the political from the theological in my opening quote from Jesus, likewise it is difficult to disentangle the political from the theological in this situation. Aristotle’s great insight was that form and substance are always found together. Thomas of Aquinas found Aristotle helpful to his theological project, perhaps the Archbishop should as well.

Meanwhile, the Archbishop may be suggesting that if we only understood the organic nature of the Church, we would bracket our convictions the way he has done as Archbishop, and do nothing that is not representative of the whole. In this, if this is indeed his intent, I fear he is in error.

First, the Episcopal Church is not the Archbishop of Canterbury. He may feel that he represents the whole of the Anglican Communion and cannot take any stance that is not representative of the whole. The Episcopal Church, however, does not represent the whole of the Anglican Communion. We are but one of thirty-eight provinces of the Anglican Communion.

Second, I do not know why he feels compelled to use Lambeth Resolutions as infallible doctrinal statements reflecting “the mind” of the Anglican Communion. If that is the role of such resolutions, we should not pass anymore resolutions. The Episcopal Church has never agreed to the Anglican Communion having any binding authority upon us. No instrument of unity, no resolution of any one of the instruments of unity, are binding or enforceable. This is the political analysis the Archbishop dismisses, but it is the concrete manifestation of our theological convictions. The same theology that prevents the Eastern Orthodox Church from recognizing papal authority, prevents the Episcopal Church from recognizing the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury and any of the “instruments” that office has developed in recent years in the hope of promoting some sort of “unity” among Anglicans. If the concrete manifestation of his theology is converting the Primates meeting into a Roman style Curia, then his theology is in error. If the concrete manifestation of his theology is converting the Archbishop of Canterbury into a Roman style Pope, then his theology is in error. He would be better served looking to the East (as he has often done) for better models of organizing. Further, the theological impulse he dislikes and sees as merely secular, is rooted in our reformation heritage. Being Anglican means being both Catholic and Reformed. As Archbishop of Canterbury he needs to remember, if he is to represent the whole, to be both--not just Catholic, but Catholic and Reformed.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Catechesis with the Rector

“Catechesis (pronounced /ˌkætəˈkiːsɪs/) is an education in the faith which includes especially the teaching of Christian doctrine imparted, generally speaking, in an organic and systematic way, with a view to initiating the hearers into the fullness of Christian life.”

The Rector of St. Mark’s is the Rev. Charles Hawkins. Dr. Hawkins has been the Rector of St. Mark’s since August of 2000. He holds two master degrees and a Ph.D. in theology and has done additional study at Oxford University (Oxford, England) and the University of the South (Sewanee, Tennessee).

This year, the Rector will be regularly conducting a class on Sunday mornings during our Church School Hour. All adults are invited and welcomed but those adults who are considering baptism, reaffirming their baptismal vows, being received into the Episcopal Church, or being Confirmed are especially encouraged to attend this class.

Topics will vary widely (watch the weekly “Parish Announcements” for the topic each week). Topics will include scripture study, church history, liturgy, theology, and ethics.

Format of the class will also vary. Often there will be audio/visual aids (such as videos or slideshows) followed by a facilitated discussion. Occasionally there will be a lecture followed by a question and answer period. Sometimes the class will be lead through a theological reflection on a particular issue or scripture passage.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Homily for Proper 16 Year B 2009

You have heard it said: “All is fair in love and war.”
Love and war--uttered in the same breath. The comparison of the two can strike the ear as a sour note, as dis-chord, dissonance, disharmony. But the two are often joined.
Jordin Sparks, who knows not a sour note, sings in her current pop hit: “I never meant to start a war/ Don't even know what we're fighting for” She plaintively asks: “Why does love always feel like a battlefield?” And to ensure you will not forget the name of the song--she repeats the word “battlefield” a bazillion times.
Jordin sings: “I guess you better go and get your armor/ (Get your armor)/ Get your armor/ I guess you better go and get your armor/ (Get your armor)/ Get your armor. More echos for the slow to hear.
Jordin Sparks is not the first to draw upon war as a metaphor for love. Twenty-five years ago Pat Benatar’s single “Love is a Battlefield” was at the top of these same pop music charts. And about two thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul drew upon the same metaphor.
Paul, in a letter to the church in Ephesus, encourages them to fight the good fight. He admonishes them to put on the armor of God. This is special armor for a special battle. He warns them that he is using a metaphor-- “our enemies are not flesh and blood.” Like when Jordin Sparks compares romantic love to war, creating an interesting metaphor--Paul does the same sort of thing. Paul, however, is not concerned with romantic love, the greek word eros--but agape--godly love. Turns out--godly love is also a battlefield.
A phrase from Song of Songs is an interesting case study: “His banner over me is love.” I sang it as a worship song as a child in Vacation Bible School. The image is of a military banner with “love” written on it. The War Scroll from Qumran mentions banners bearing such mottos as “the truth of God,” “the righteousness of God,” “the glory of God,” “the justice of God.”1 The woman in the Song may be announcing that she is under the cover, or refuge, of her lover.2 If so, the poet has taken a military image and subverted it to love’s ends: on the male’s banner is written “love.”3 Military metaphors are not unusual in Song of Songs: 6:4,10, and 12; 1:9; 3:7-8; 8:6.4 Jordin Sparks is not the first to connect love and war in this way. So, the next time you sing, “his banner over me is love,’ imagine, if you will, a banner with ‘love’ written on it signifying God’s unquenchable love for his people, but also remember that the phrase in its original context describes the love of a young man through the eyes of the young woman he loves. The text overflows with eros. But synagogue and church found no difficulty in transposing the language onto a register expressive of God’s love for his people, and of their love and worship of God. That audacious hermeneutical move has held generations of believers in its embrace for more than two thousand years.
In our text, Paul tells the Christians in Ephesus to put on righteousness (acting rightly--justice’s first cousin) as if it were a breastplate. Wear truth as a belt. Shod your feet with telling everyone good news of peace. Keep the faith--“Your faith will be your shield,” he says. Truth. Peace. Faith. Righteousness. God’s rescue will be your helmet. Together, these are godly armor.
The Spirit of God is your sword, not a sword of metal--a sword made of Word. When Alexander Pope said that “the pen is mightier than the sword,” he was thinking of battlefield’s of flesh and blood. We, however, are thinking differently.
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God...Word became flesh--Jesus. When Jesus was being arrested, Peter drew a sword and cut off the ear of one of those who had come to take Jesus away. Jesus told Peter to put his sword back in its sheath. Jesus said to Peter, “those who live by the sword, die by the sword.” Peter was on the wrong battlefield. Peter drew the wrong sword.
It is rather subversive, don’t you think, to use words that connote violence, to advocate non-violence. The words of The Word, were constantly misunderstood by the more literally minded. In our Gospel lesson today Jesus asks (of words he had uttered) “Does this offend you?” Had they answered, they would have answered “Yes.”
Paul’s use of the language of war is both subversive and offensive. But Paul believes that love and war have more in common than a lack fairness--Paul believes love is a battlefield. Are you ready for battle? Will you fight? Will you take up arms against evil? Have you put on your armor--righteousness as a breastplate, salvation as a helmet, shoes of proclaiming the good news of peace? Got your shield--that is, Faith? Is Truth your belt? Ready to take up your sword of the Spirit.
With Jordin Sparks, I can sing (think of it as karaoke): “I guess you better go and get your armor/ (Get your armor)/ Get your armor/ I guess you better go and get your armor/ (Get your armor)/ Get your armor. More echos for the slow to hear.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Reflection on a Reflection

The first in a series of reflections
on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s reflection

In his reflections upon the recent General Convention of the Episcopal Church, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury writes:

“...the issue is not simply about civil liberties or human dignity or even about pastoral sensitivity to the freedom of individual Christians to form their consciences on this matter. It is about whether the Church is free to recognise same-sex unions by means of public blessings that are seen as being, at the very least, analogous to Christian marriage.”

I will frame my reflections on his reflection, by moving toward an answer to his question: Is the Church free to recognize same-sex unions by means of public blessings?

Williams believes that in

“the light of the way in which the Church has consistently read the Bible for the last two thousand years, it is clear that a positive answer to this question would have to be based on the most painstaking biblical exegesis and on a wide acceptance of the results within the Communion, with due account taken of the teachings of ecumenical partners also. A major change naturally needs a strong level of consensus and solid theological grounding.”

A positive answer to the question, he says, needs:

painstaking biblical exegesis
Wide acceptance within the Anglican Communion
Due account taken of the teachings of our ecumenical partners
A strong level of consensus
Solid theological grounding

I agree with his first requirement. And can say that the first has been done. I will, at the end of this reflection, add a short bibliography.

The second is a rather odd requirement and I am afraid I do not understand it. It looks rather straightforward at first, but when you stop to think about it, the requirement is circular. Further, I am unsure why this should be a requirement--the Anglican Communion is not, I remind the Archbishop, the Anglican Church.

Let me say more on the second requirement’s circular nature. Mary-Jane Rubenstein has recently reminded us that toward the end of Three Guineas (1938), Virginia Woolf takes a moment to marvel at the recent findings of the Church of England’s Commission on the Ministry of Women. Although it found no theological support for the position, the Commission continued to bar women from the priesthood because doing so reflected “the mind of the Church” In short, the Commission declared that the church should not ordain women because it did not ordain women. Rubenstein’s suggests that the Anglican Communion cannot accept the blessing of same-sex unions until the Anglican Communion accepts same-sex blessings.

Thus, I am driven to think that the Archbishop must mean something else. Perhaps, he means that the Episcopal Church is not free to recognize same-sex unions until there is widespread acceptance in the Anglican Communion. If this is his meaning, then I think he is mistaken. First, canonically speaking, the Episcopal Church has not (and is not likely to grant) the Anglican Communion such power. Second, within the history of the Anglican Communion, such a requirement would have meant that women’s ordination could not be recognized by the Episcopal Church (thank you Virginia Woolf for reminding me of that reality).

Whether he means the first or the second, matters not. Both are wrong-headed. The first possible meaning circular and the second factually mistaken.

Let me, then, suggest a third possibility and if he means this third possible reading, then let me be the first to say “I agree.” If the Episcopal Church recognizes same-sex unions by means of public blessings, it does not mean that the Anglican Communion recognizes same-sex unions by means of public blessings. The Episcopal Church does not “speak” for the whole of the Anglican Communion. Just because the Episcopal Church ordains women priests it does not mean that the Anglican Communion endorses the ordination of women to be priests. Just because the Episcopal Church consecrates an openly gay man to be bishop, does not mean that the Anglican Communion consecrates openly gay men to be bishops.

Since I do not like to think of the Archbishop as wrong-headed (I deeply admire his work as a theologian), I am inclined to prefer this third possible reading of his second requirement. Further, the context of his second requirement may suggest not widespread acceptance of blessings for same-sex unions, but just the biblical scholarship that would form the basis for such a decision (though one would like to think acceptance of the dictates of Holy Writ would naturally lead to conforming action by all Christians). If so, then the proverb “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” comes to mind. The Biblical scholarship can be provided, but some may refuse to read it. Nonetheless, as a purely descriptive remark, the Archbishop’s second requirement is self-evidently true.

Moving on now to his third requirement: the concept of “due account” is rather ambiguous. Mary Ann Case has remarked on the teachings of one of our ecumenical partners,

“...Pope Benedict XVI, has been quite clear and direct in linking his Church’s recent teachings on homosexuality, on the ordination of women, and on heterosexual marriage in a theological anthropology of essential sex and gender differences.  Benedict analogized what he saw as the growing disregard for the essential “nature of the human being as man and woman” to the destruction of the rainforest in his December 22, 2008 address to the members of the Roman Curia.  Given the historical exclusion of women from decision-making in the Church, Rowan Williams’s invocation of the “venerable principle” that “what affects the communion of all should be decided by all” (”Quod Omnes Tangit”) as a brake on change in the direction of freedom and equality in matters of sex and gender is, as one of Boccaccio’s heroines suggested on Day Six of the Decameron, deeply problematic.”

Deeply problematic indeed. Unless, “due account” simply means accurately recording our ecumenical partners dissenting opinions on the subject. Again, I am going to suggest that this must be exactly what he means--otherwise the Anglican Communion’s teaching on a host of subjects--the authority of the Pope, the use of contraceptives, the role of women in the Church (to name but a few)--would be called into question. In fact, if he means anything stronger--the very existence of the Anglican Communion is called into question, as is all of the Christian tradition formed by the Reformation. Or for that matter, the whole of Christianity post the great schism of East from West.

No, he must mean something more modest. He must mean simply duly noting their dissenting opinions. Easy enough to accomplish. We can assign the job to Bishop Epting’s office. I am sure a “due account” could be provided in short order.

His forth requirement looks and sounds a great deal like his second, but lacks the second’s specificity. I am left wondering as to what body be believes must form a consensus. As I ponder the various possibilities, I am drawn to the belief that he means the body of Christ--the Church universal. The Church, across time and space, cannot be said to recognize the same-sex unions by means of public blessings, until a consensus (answering the question in the affirmative) within the Church is found to have been formed.

Again, one cannot properly say the Church recognizes same-sex unions just because the Episcopal Church recognizes same-sex unions. Furthermore, should the time come that the Anglican Communion were to recognize same-sex unions (don’t hold your breath on that one), one still could not properly say that the Church Universal recognizes same-sex unions. If this is his meaning, then let me say “I agree.” It is a rather obvious thing to say, but I can find no fault in saying it.

His fifth requirement is perhaps the most interesting--a solid theological grounding. Much work has been done in this regard. I would want to begin, however, with the Archbishop’s own solid theological grounding of the issue in his 1989 essay “The Body’s Grace.” To my reading, he has supplied his fifth requirement himself.

Alternatively, his fourth and fifth requirements may simply be a summary and reiteration of his first three requirements--if so, then see above. I need not repeat myself just because he does.

In conclusion, the Archbishop’s question (Is the Church free to recognize same-sex unions by means of public blessings?) is of limited (if any) immediate consequence. Given his requirements for a positive answer (which seem rather self-evident), the answer is “no.” It is the same answer one would have to give for any number of similar questions. We can substitute “papal authority” for “same-sex…” and be driven to the same “no.” We can substitute “the legitimate use of contraceptives” for “same-sex…” and be driven to the same “no.” Virginia Woolf could have asked “Is the Church free to recognize the ordination of women?” and have been driven to the same answer--”no.”

The answer is of no immediate consequence, for the question on everyone’s mind is not this rather academic question--but rather the very practical question “Should the Episcopal Church recognize same-sex unions by means of public blessings?” Followed by the question “If the Episcopal Church does recognize same-sex unions by means of public blessings, what will be the response of the Archbishop of Canterbury?” On these questions, the Archbishop is silent.

I suspect the Archbishop must then be addressing the Anglican Communion and reassuring those opposed to the actions of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church that whatever the Episcopal Church does, it does not speak for the whole of the Anglican Communion. Furthermore, I suspect the Archbishop must also be addressing those ecumenical partners of which he speaks and reassuring them that whatever the Episcopal Church does it does not speak on behalf of the whole of the Anglican Communion. If I am correct in this reading, then this one paragraph of his reflection, at least, is descriptive, not proscriptive. He is not indicating how he believes it should be, only trying to accurately describe how it is. If this is indeed his meaning, then I find no fault in it. If, however, I am wrong and he did indeed intend these requirements to be proscriptive, then his argument is seriously flawed (see above).

Next essay--why I may be wrong and the Archbishop may be proscribing requirements for action.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Reflecting on Cal Thomas' Reflection

Mr. Thomas begins his article by referencing the '70s comedian Flip Wilson who created a character for his NBC television program called "Reverend Leroy" of "The Church of What's Happenin' Now." The reference is meant to make a connection between contemporary culture and the Episcopal Church, suggesting that the Episcopal Church follows contemporary culture, rather than the mandate of the Gospel.

Mr. Thomas (rightly) says that like some contemporary "reverends," Reverend Leroy was a con artist. Without saying it, he manages to place clergy of the Episcopal Church with "con artists." Such an attack is properly called an ad hominem abusive. He further makes that connection by saying that the "Reverend Leroy would feel right at home in the modern Episcopal Church." Mr. Thomas never explains why clergy who are con artists would feel at home in the Episcopal Church. Mr. Thomas "name calls" then moves on. So far, his piece is without substance.

Mr. Thomas then erroneously says that the Episcopal Church "voted at its denominational meeting in Anaheim, Calif., to end the ban on the ordination of gay bishops". In this instance, he is simply inaccurate (see previous blog entry)

He goes on to say that the Episcopal Church voted to "permit marriage "blessings" for same-sex couples." Again, he is inaccurate. More precisely the Episcopal Church voted to ask its liturgists (the Standing Liturgical Commission) to compile resources for meeting the pastoral needs of same-sex couples. If the 2012 General Convention receives the resources, and if those resources contain a blessing for same-sex couples, it is still unlikely to act on them until 2015. At the earliest, the Episcopal Church is not apt to adopt any liturgy for the blessing of same-sex unions for another six years. Mr. Thomas should have said: the "Episcopal Church" took the first step toward what may one day be an approved liturgy for the blessing of same-sex unions" As it is, what he did say is inaccurate and misleading. Even at that one should always show some humility when predicting the future, just ask any meteorologist. The Episcopal Church may never adopt such a liturgy, or they may adopt one in 2012. Nobody knows.

So far, his article is either without substance or erroneous. So far, nothing in his article has any merit.

He sites un-named denominational leaders who supposedly explained they are attempting to stem the exodus from their church by embracing a new doctrine they call "inclusivity," which they hope will attract young people. (1) I need to see the actual quote. I doubt seriously any leader of the Episcopal Church would use a phrase like "new doctrine." The phrase sounds more like Cal Thomas than Katharine Jefforts-Schori. As to "doctrine" the Episcopal Church uses the two historic creeds in our worship (Nicene and Apostles) and we have an outline of the faith (a catechism) in the back of the prayer book. There are no other explicit officially authorized doctrines. All other "doctrines" are implied in the liturgy. Mr. Thomas simply does not know what he is talking about. (2) I doubt seriously if any leader of the Episcopal Church would believe (much less say) that the actions taken at General Convention were merely a means ("new doctrine") to an end ("to stem the exodus"). DO25 is about respecting the dignity of every human being--something Episcopalians vow to do at their baptisms. Hardly a means to an end.

Mr. Thomas' then says: "Apparently church leaders think that if they can reach people before they have fully matured in their faith, they can sidetrack them into beliefs that have nothing to do with the God that Episcopalians once claimed to worship and that they can be shaped into practical secularists who are willing to seek the approval of men, rather than God." The key word here is "Apparently." His alleged quote from an un-named source that is itself untrue is now morphed into his own conjecture as to motive. We learn more about Mr. Thomas in this line, than we do about the Episcopal Church. Again, there is no substance in his attack. He has created a "straw man."

If you are counting logical fallacies in his article, you will now need a second hand to keep track.

Beginning with faulty premises, Mr. Thomas then attempts to draw conclusions. As we have seen the whole notion of "inclusivity" in his article is a non sequitur, however, his statements manage to be factually wrong on top of being logically flawed, He says "Inclusivity has nothing to do with the foundational truths set forth in Scripture." Jesus, the Truth, seems to be all about inclusivity in his life and work and died to save the whole world (radically inclusive). Mr. Thomas' account of ecclesiology is also flawed. He says, "The church, which belongs to no denomination, but to its Founding Father and His Son, is about exclusivity for those who deny the faith." (1) Episcopalians are Trinitarians, the correct doctrinal formula is not "Founding Father and His Son" but "Father, Son and Holy Spirit." Ironically, Mr. Thomas' way of naming the divine makes him a heretic. Something I feel sure he will wish to avoid being. (2) Rather than the "Body of Christ," Mr. Thomas seems to think the Church is a country club, denying membership to some who break the club rules. In short, his understanding of the Church is so theologically problematic that to address it adequately I would need to write at least another essay dedicated to that theme.

He misunderstands the theology of the Church ("The church is inclusive only for those who are adopted by faith into God's family"). His statement implies that faith is assent to intellectual propositions--a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of faith. The metaphor "adopted" is properly joined with "family of God." So one might correctly say something like: All are invited to God's banquet table. Those that accept the invitation are adopted into the family of God. Mr. Thomas has a habit of making "grammatical" mistakes when trying to speak the "language" of faith.

Once again, he commits the logical fallacy of ad hominem abusivee. He says, "There are more biblical references to this than there is room to cite here, but for the Episcopal leadership, biblical references no longer have the power to persuade, much less compel them to conform." To say that any group of Christians would not be persuaded by holy scripture is to "name call." In this particular case, with regard to Episcopalians, it is a false statement. The resolutions with which he is in disagreement are rooted in a faith informed by prayerful reading of holy scripture. Mr. Thomas should, more accurately say that he reads holy scripture differently--not that Episcopalians are not persuaded by holy scripture and fail to conform to its dictates. Perhaps, it would be more accurate to say that Episcopalians are not persuaded by Mr. Thomas' understanding or holy scripture and do not conform to Mr. Thomas' reading of the Bible.

Again, Mr. Thomas bases his conclusion on faulty premises. He says, "That's because Episcopal leadership has denied the teachings of Scripture..." The key words here are "That's because." He is attempting to make a logical inference. But in logic, true conclusions only necessarily follow from true premises. As has been shown, his premises are false.

He finishes that sentence with another wrong-headed assertion: "... in favor of, well, inclusivity, a word that appears nowhere in Scripture." Again, the ministry of Jesus was all about being inclusive. If Episcopalians are about inclusivity (and he has not shown that they are--he has just asserted it), then Episcopalians would be in conformity with the life and teachings of Jesus.

He then does more name calling: "Episcopal heretics — for that is what they are".

He supposes that Episcopalians would not want to use the word "inclusivity" but "would choose another word to make them feel more comfortable." While Episcopalians have not used the word "inclusivity" (at least not that Mr. Thomas has cited in his article), he has not shown that the concept is unbiblical or incongruous with the Christian faith. Even with all that said, he misses the point when he concludes "accommodation with the world seems to be a more important objective than the favor of God." Who exactly is making accommodation with the world is not self-evident. If the Episcopal Church did what he claims (and they did not), it is hard to see such an action as accommodating the world when the United States has enacted a "Defense of Marriage Act" and 20 states have amended their constitutions to ensure that marriage is unavailable to same-sex couples" In my own state the amendment passed with a 75% majority. A prima facia case can be made that those who are against same-sex couples being able to marry are following culture rather than the mandate of the Gospel.

Mr. Thomas then attacks President Carter, the most overtly religious of Presidents. President Carter attended Church regularly before, during and after taking office. In Georgia, he taught Sunday School. Even as President, Mr. Thomas correctly notes that he "occasionally taught a Sunday school class." President Carter does indeed claim to believe holy scripture and Mr. Thomas is correct that President Carter is convinced that a woman's right to choose to have an abortion is not incompatible with the teachings of scripture. And Mr. Thomas is correct that President Carter recently announced his support for same-sex "civil unions." And Mr. Thomas is correct when he says President Carter "says he sees nothing prohibitive in Scripture to such arrangements." While President Carter is not an Episcopalian (he is a Baptist), Mr. Thomas does demonstrate that someone who is committed to the authority of scripture and has been a student of holy scripture across a lifetime, can hold positions different from those held by Mr. Thomas. Mr. Thomas misses the point of his own example. Mr. Thomas then commits another ad hominem abusive by saying, "Carter must have gotten hold of a Reader's Digest condensed version [of the Bible]."

Mr. Thomas concludes his piece with another attack on Episcopalians, arguing that they have accommodated culture--rather than being faithful to Christianity. He says, "If the church — Episcopal, Baptist, or whatever — is to be a beacon to an increasingly dark world, it must know not only what it believes but in Whom it has placed its faith. For these Episcopalians and the kinds of Baptists admired by Jimmy Carter, it is a church that has made its bed in the world, and it has as much power to illuminate as a burned-out bulb." In so concluding, Mr. Thomas again fails to recognize that in so far as Episcopalians (or Carter) are guilty of believing that the Gospel of Jesus Christ requires us to take certain actions that may be different from the actions Mr. Thomas has taken, it does not necessarily follow that Episcopalians are the one's simply accommodating culture. One could just as easily make the argument that it is Mr. Thomas who is the accomodationist.

Ultimately, Mr. Thomas' piece is obviously not about being logically sound or factually accurate. In fairness to him, it must be said that he probably did not intend the piece to be either. In the piece, he is acting as "cheerleader" to those readers who already agree with his politics (and/or to a lessor extent his theology). He most likely was not trying to write a substantive and carefully reasoned piece. Thus, the spiritual gift of discernment is therefore beyond the scope of his interests. If, however, he would wish to write a substantive reflection on the recent actions of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, then I would encourage him to give some thought to how communities of faith determine (that is discern) God's will in the midst of their own context--temporal and geographic. In the United States, in 2009, how should Christians respond to some states legalizing same-sex unions and many more ammending their constitutions to prohibit it?

Cal Thomas & DO25

Mr. Thomas does not understand or willingly misrepresents the situation in the Episcopal Church in a recent op-ed piece.

Background: Thirteen resolutions were proposed to deal with the 2006 statement that called for a "moratorium" on ordaining gay bishops—a misnomer for the appeal for restraint. Six resolutions called for repealing the statement; another six called for strengthening it.

The 13th resolution included a description of where we are as a church right now. This was the resolution that became DO25. Bishop Bruce Caldwell of Wyoming is reported as having said DO25 was "largely descriptive of where we are today". Affirming my "read" of the resolution (see above).

Mr. Thomas should be more careful in his "reporting" and not base his opinion pieces on misinformation.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

General Convention Reflection

The latest General Convention of the Episcopal Church has concluded. Many matters were taken up to be considered, some were resolved, some were left on the table. Two matters are certain to be news worthy in the secular press. Before commenting on those matters not apt to be addressed in the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, let me say a few words about the two issues that you will be reading about in the "news."

First, the convention (the highest earthly authority in the Episcopal Church) will make headlines for doing nothing. Resolution D025 (which passed both houses) says what the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church already made clear--sexual orientation is not a criterion utilized in the consideration of who to ordain. This is not a change, it is not really even a clarification. It is probably best seen as a "bone" thrown to those who were upset by last convention's resolution B033. Therefore, one should read the two resolutions side by side.

For most of us who have forgotten B033, we need to remember that it called for "restraint" in ordaining anyone whose ordination would cause "strain" in the Anglican Communion. Despite that fact that B033 did not explicitly say "sexual orientation", the resolution was widely seen as providing a moratorium on the ordination of gay and lesbian persons to be bishop in the Episcopal Church. And supporting that interpretation is the fact that no openly gay or lesbian person has been ordained Bishop in the Episcopal Church since the passage of B033.

I believe it is best to read the new resolution (D025) in light of B033. The General Convention seems to be saying on the one hand that "we do not wish to cause strain to the Anglican Communion and dioceses and bishops should show restraint when ordaining anyone whose ordination would cause such a strain" and on the other hand that "there is no canonical prohibition against such ordinations." That is to say, "restraint" is not "prohibition." We all knew that to be the case and dioceses have voluntarily (without need of a prohibition) shown "restraint" since the passage of B033. Therefore, D025 does nothing more than state the position in which the Episcopal Church finds itself. In short, we live with ambiguity. For those who hate ambiguity, this state of affairs is intolerable. For those of us who believe that learning to live with ambiguity is essential to a maturing faith--it is par for the course. As for the moritorium, it will hold, until it does not. Frankly, I am surprised it has held as long as it has. Meanwhile, until a diocese elects an openly homosexual person to be bishop, the candidate recieves the necessary approvals from other dioceses, and the consecration of the candidate takes place, the moritorium will be lifted--but not until that moment.

Second, General Convention (in passing C056) voted to ask the Standing Liturgical Commission (the body responsible for such things) to develop a liturgy for responding to the pastoral needs of same-gender couples and voted to give bishops some discretion in utilizing such liturgical resources in the interim. Such discretion was already happening, particularly in states in which civil unions of same-gender couples are legal. This resolution, however, makes it official. Further, it means that at the next General Convention (in 2012) a vote on particular liturgical resources addressing the pastoral needs of same-gender couples will be brought up for a vote. Regardless of the particularities of the resources or the outcome of the vote--it is sure to be news in 2012.

As for all those matters you are not apt to read about in the New York Times, I will be posting about those in the coming days.

Friday, June 12, 2009

All the ads are posted

I have now posted all the ads developed so far. Which one's should we use (if any)? Tell me what you think.

Ad #5

Ad #4

Two ads for the men's room

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ad #3

Comment on Ads

To get the attention of 20 somethings, the ads need to be provocative--which might be shocking to non-twenty-somethings. Because of their provocative nature, there is a chance they will get media attention as "cutting edge" or some such. Free media attention is usually a good thing--but in this case the wider exposure might give us heartburn.

Placement is an issue as well. While the ad was generic, the fact that we advertised the Saturday evening service in Leo and Velocity was the reason that several new members came to St. Mark's. One such person said, "I figured any church that would advertise in Leo was the kind of church I was looking for." Others, however, might wonder why on earth a church would advertise in bars, alternative publications, etc.

But places where 20 somethings dance and hang out to talk, are the best places to reach this unchurched group. To reach the unchurched you have to go where the unchurched are. This is tricky--you will recall how much grief going out with prostitutes, gluttons, and drunkards caused Jesus. As a general rule, the already religious don't like it much.

All of the above is, of course, why parishes don't do more in trying to reach this demographic. It may very well be that we too cannot make this attempt to reach them. The internal downside might just be too high a price to pay for the experiment.

What do you think?

Ad #2

Monday, June 8, 2009

The first of the Ads

I want to generate a discussion of the ads. What do you think? Remember, the target audience will be young adults.

Friday, June 5, 2009

New Ad Campaign

check out a special web-site we are developing to promote our Saturday Evening worship service to young adults (20 somethings without children). Let me know what you think?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Help Needed

Help! I am in need of people to donate two hours of their time on Wed. May 20th (7 - 9 pm) at St. Mark's. I have to complete a continuing education project that requires the feedback of a gathered group. You will watch six short videos and talk to each other about each briefly. I will take notes. I will provide beverages and munchies! RSVP if you are available.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Organist and Choirmaster at St. Mark's

I am pleased to announce that St. Mark’s has called Robert McDowell Fogle to be the Organist and Choirmaster for the parish. Mr. Fogle will begin his duties on June 1.

Known affectionately as “Mac,” Fogle received a Bachelor of Music in Organ Performance and Church Music from the University of Louisville School of Music in 1991. At U of L he studied organ with Melvin Dickinson. In addition to his studies at U of L, he has received a Master of Music in Organ Performance from the prestigious Manhattan School of Music in New York. While in New York, Mac sang in the choir and served as choral rehearsal accompanist at St. John the Divine Episcopal Cathedral.

Mac has been serving congregations since he was in college (1989 to be precise). Most recently he has served as Director of Worship and Music at St. Albert the Great Roman Catholic Church, Louisville.

At St. Mark’s, Mac will bring unity and focus to our music program by playing the organ at all our services, teaching the children and youth sacred music through the Royal School of Church Music program at St. Mark’s, directing all our choirs and choristers, and conducting our hand bell choir. Further, he will assume responsibility for assisting the clergy in the coordination of volunteer worship leaders and the preparation of all aspects of our liturgies.

St. Mark’s had over forty applicants for the position. Many of the applicants had extraordinary training and experience. The Task Force that was advising me in the selection, however, stopped the search process after meeting Mac. As you get to know him, I know you will come to respect him and enjoy being with him as much as I and the task force have. I look forward to planning, preparing and leading worship with Mac at St. Mark’s. I am confident that Mac is the right person to build upon the strong foundation of music excellence that those who have come before him have laid.

I want to thank the Task Force: Mendy Cumberledge, Herb DeLegal, Chuck Eirk, Nancy Urbscheit, Tamara Meinecke, Laurie Duesing, Laura Nevitt, June Gibson, and C. Ann Gittings. I also want to thank David Arnold and David McDaniel for hosting one of the prospective candidates during his visit to the parish. Finally, I want to thank Alice Covell, who encouraged Mac to apply for the job.

We all are grateful for those who have served us during this interim period. As we conclude the season of our life together, be sure and express that gratitude to Jack Ashworth, Robert Lee, Laura Lea Duckworth, and June Bailey. They all have done an outstanding job and we are in their debt.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Parade

Crescent Hill holds an annual "Easter Parade" on the Saturday before Easter (I know, I have tried to tell them it is not Easter until sundown--but they don't pay any attention to me). Anyway, St. Mark's always has a float, etc. Here are a few snap shots of our entry this year.

Background: They painted my truck, "decorating" the eggs. Yes, it is real paint. No, it will not wash off. And yes, it is probably an improvement.

Maundy Thursday

Someone asked me this week why "Maundy Thursday is called Maundy Thursday." I told them, "we don't really know." Here is a longer answer.

"Maundy Thursday" is the name for "Holy Thursday" in England. It is conjectured that the name "Maundy" comes from the Latin word mandatum meaning "commandment" or the Latin word mendicare meaning "beg". We cannot say for sure. The name traveled with the British Empire.

According to a common theory, the English word Maundy is derived through Middle English, and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" ("A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you"), the statement by Jesus in the Gospel of John (13:34) by which Jesus explained to the Apostles the significance of his action of washing their feet.

According to other authorities, the English name "Maundy Thursday" arose from "maundsor" baskets, in which on that day the king of England distributed alms to certain poor at Whitehall: "maund" is connected with the Latin mendicare, and French mendier, to beg. According to this theory, the term "Maundy" comes in from the English maund, which as a verb means to beg and as a noun refers to a small basket held out by maunders as they maunded. The name Maundy Thursday thus arose from a medieval custom whereby the English royalty handed out "maundy purses" of alms to the poor before attending services on this day.

Or, in short, we don't really know.

Easter Basket

A communicant at St. Mark's recently sent me this in an email. I share it with you for your own reflection. I have filed it under "things that make you go ummmmm....."

"BTW, in reference to your homily a couple of weeks back (the one about Sacred Violence), the next day while shopping at the grocery store, I noticed an Easter basket titled: Combat Theme Easter Basket. It contained soldiers, guns & a bomber plane. So much for the Prince of Peace."

Monday, March 30, 2009

A meditation on the Shrine of the Holy Breath

In October of 2008, I traveled with several other clergy to the Holy Land on a pilgrimage. My roommate was the Rev. Tom Plumbley. Tom meditates upon an experience he and I shared. I now share his meditation with you.

Jer. 31.31-34 3/29/09

A meditation on the Shrine of the Holy Breath.

It was surely an epiphany. My friend and roommate Charles Hawkins, a Duke-educated Episcopal priest from Louisville, Kentucky, was going with me to explore the Old City of Jerusalem. Searching for a shortcut out of the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center where we were staying, Hawkins and I headed down a little-used stairwell. Little did we know what God had in store for us that afternoon. Near the bottom of the stairwell, next to a Jesus mural painted on the wall, on an appropriately “elaborate” plain white plastic pedestal, we saw a Plexiglas case, about 12-14 inches tall, the kind in which you might expect to see a small statue in a museum, or an elegant bracelet in a jewelry store, or a handful of stolen watches at the pawn shop. But we were in Jerusalem, the Holy City, and in Jerusalem you never know what holy thing you might see. In Jerusalem you can see two places where Jesus died; two different places where he was buried and from which he rose; a half dozen places where he may have wept; two dozen places where he may have slept—though, according to the Synoptic Gospels, he only spent maybe 4 or 5 nights there – ever. And that was after a week in Galilee where we had viewed place after place where this or that was supposed to have taken place in Jesus’s life—there, or maybe just down the road from there—you can’t be sure. Yet at each of these some entrepreneurial sorts have put up a sign and an offering box to assist pilgrims in their spiritual quest for nearness to the holy. And near the offering box there’s usually a rock encased in Plexiglas, with a hole in the Plexiglas so you can reach in and touch the rock—the rock on which whatever was supposed to have happened there is supposed to have happened.
It was after days of seeing such “holy” things, that Charles and I happened upon this Plexiglas display box – which, to the casual observer may have seemed merely to have been stored away in an unused stairwell, not containing really anything. But Hawkins and I were not casual observers. We are educated, priestly types, keenly attuned to special revelations from God. And God revealed to us, right there and at that moment, the true contents of that box.
It was, a voice from the stairwell whispered, The Last Breath of Our Lord! Charles thought the voice was mine. I thought the voice was his. So it must surely, then, have been the voice of God—Don’t you see? So right there and then, Fr. Charles Hawkins and I established the Shrine of the Holy Breath. We put up a sign to that effect, and an offering box to assist pilgrims in their spiritual quest for nearness to the holy. Pilgrims are asked to send $7 (American) either to his church or mine. (He must be getting all the offerings. I knew I shouldn’t have let him put his address at the top.)

Now, for those of you who are not absolutely convinced that the air inside the Shrine of the Holy Breath just may not actually be the air Jesus exhaled as he died on the cross, perhaps you’re just not sufficiently advanced in your spiritual walk. For you, Fr. Hawkins and I will be happy to send you a facsimile of an authentic first-century Kleenex in which you may blow your skeptical nose. It’s absolutely free, for only $19.95 postage and handling.

I could go on and on with this.
But my point is something that any visitor to the Holy Land knows, or should know. The Christian faith is a historical faith. It is based in and arises from real events in real places, in real time. Going to those real places, if we can pinpoint them, may (or may not) help us get in touch with the reality, but the places are not the reality.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre (we’ve mentioned it before) is a good example. The actual sites of the Crucifixion and Resurrection were destroyed and covered over with trash and abandoned after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. They remained that way for over three centuries. Only with Constantine did someone go back and try to find them. They were simply not allowed to do so in the interim.
So, how accurate are the sites? The accuracy varies with the site. But the reality of the faith grew anyway. For the faith is something in the hearts and minds of real men and women. God has put the new covenant within us. It has been written on our hearts. Why hasn’t God preserved those sites? Well, why should God want to? Why isn’t the evidence for our faith more plain? Why does it take faith? Why bread only daily?
One day when the ancient rabbi Ben Jochai was teaching about the way God provided manna in the wilderness, a student asked him why God did not furnish enough manna for the entire trip or for an entire year all at once. The rabbi answered with a parable. He said, once there was a rich man who had a son to whom he promised an annual allowance. Every year on the same day his son would come, and the man gave the son the entire amount. It wasn’t many years before the man realized he only saw his son once a year. So the father changed the plan and only gave the son enough for one day. The next day the son had to return to receive the next day’s allowance. From then on, the father saw the son every day. As hard as it may be to grasp, God apparently loves us so much that God wants to see us … every day!
Consider the way you and I live. We live with unease almost constantly. If it’s not economic uncertainty it’s the threat of terrorism. If it’s not somebody doing something squirrely in Washington it’s somebody doing something nonsensical in Austin. If it’s not the kids making us crazy it’s our parents. If it’s not our knees giving us pain it’s our teeth. If it’s not a job security issue it’s somebody new seeking nuclear capability. Rotting in a Nazi prison, awaiting the hangman’s noose, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: “I believe that God will give us all the strength we need to help us resist in all the time of distress. But he never gives it in advance, lest we should rely on ourselves and not on him alone.” [Letters & Papers from Prison]
We cannot sustain our physical bodies on past meals or on promises of future ones. Likewise, we cannot sustain our inner life on past blessings or on promises of future ones.
C.S. Lewis preached at Oxford in 1939 days after Germany invaded Poland. To young people faced with war any day he said,
A more Christian attitude…is that of leaving futurity in God’s hands. We may as well, for God will certainly retain it whether we leave it to him or not. Never, in peace of war, commit your virtue or your happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by [one] who takes … long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment “as to the Lord.”It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.
This is all because – in the new covenant – God has put the law within us, written it on our hearts. We are not granted a lifetime of security, only day-by-day provision. We are not offered a book with all the answers, only a witness from people just like us. We are not assured by newsreels of the actual events from which our faith has grown, only stories spoken over the centuries or written in different ways by folks very different than we.
For we serve a living God that is never captured in stone or wood, never remembered in any relic, and never encased in Plexiglas or between the covers of any book. We serve a living God whose word is alive in our hearts and who is lived in glimpses and glances by real human beings, alive, not by ancestors from long ago. We live it, or it is not. Simple as that!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Mortality, Flu & Cold Season=Lent

Maybe we are all doing penitence for our many sins. Maybe getting a cold or the flu helps us focus on our mortality. Can a cold be a sacrament (an outward and tangible sign of an inward and spiritual grace)? Isn't it convenient for us that cold and flu season coincides with Lent? At the very least, thanksgivings for antibiotics and neti-pots.

Monday, March 2, 2009

More on Evolution

If you are interested in the intersection of science and faith and particularly the biological theory of evolution and the Christian faith, then I commend to you

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Mundane FYI

My assistant and I are switching days off. The Rev. Anne Vouga, Assistant Rector at St. Mark's, and I will be flip/flopping our days off. She will be taking Mondays off and I will be taking Fridays off. Effective this week.

Diocesan Convention went well, I thought. Naturally the big news surrounds the unfolding of (a) the Bishop's retirement and the search for his successor and (b) our sharing him with the Diocese of Ft. Worth in the short term. Everyone behaved themselves and were cordial. A good time was had by all.

Anne Vouga was elected to the Ecclesiastical Court. Alex Campbell and Katherine Kingren were appointed to the Committee on Canons. Alex, as Chair of the Search Committee, gave a very nice presentation on the search process. It was nice to see Hilary Bogart, who was an intern at St. Mark's, now seminarian at Yale Divinity School--she led Noontime Prayers for us.

Attendance at our principal worship service seemed a little down today (as it was last week). I really liked our seminarian's sermon on Noah and "Rainbow as a divine post-it note." Nice. It will, no doubt, appear in my next sermon on the passage (Think Lent 1, 2012). Big "Thank You" to David McDaniel who sight read the "Great Litany"!

"Everyone" has the flu or a cold or some such ailment. Anne Vouga was home today with the Flu. Marti Taber (Financial Secretary and Parish Secretary) is home with the Flu (her daughter Anne also has it). The office has been sprayed with Lysol. Remember our sick staff in your prayers and be patient with us this week if you call the parish office. The understaffed office, just became the really understaffed office.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Today is the day we Episcopalians remember George Herbert. In a way that may well be overly Romantic (and hence out of character for me) he is my role model of a parish priest. Below is what the Episcopal Church has to say about him via Lesser Feasts and Fasts.

If you are unfamiliar with Lesser Feasts and Fasts, let me commend it you. I read the bios on the appropriate day at Morning Prayer at St. Mark's and use the collect attached to each bio as the "Collect of the Day" for our Morning Prayer service.

George Herbert is famous for his poems and his prose work, A
Priest in the Temple: or The Country Parson. He is portrayed by
his biographer Izaak Walton as a model of the saintly parish priest.
Herbert described his poems as “a picture of the many spiritual
conflicts that have passed betwixt God and my soul, before I could
submit mine to the will of Jesus my Master; in whose service I have
found perfect freedom.”
Herbert was born in 1593, a member of an ancient family, a cousin
of the Earl of Pembroke, and acquainted with King James the First
and Prince (later King) Charles. Through his official position as Public
Orator of Cambridge, he was brought into contact with the Court.
Whatever hopes he may have had as a courtier were dimmed, however,
because of his associations with persons who were out of favor with
King Charles the First—principally John Williams, Bishop of Lincoln.
Herbert had begun studying divinity in his early twenties, and in 1626
he took Holy Orders. King Charles provided him with a living as
rector of the parishes of Fugglestone and Bemerton in 1630.
His collection of poems, The Temple, was given to his friend, Nicholas
Ferrar, and published posthumously. Two of his poems are well known
hymns: “Teach me, my God and King,” and “Let all the world in every
corner sing.” Their grace, strength, and metaphysical imagery influenced
later poets, including Henry Vaughan and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Lines from his poem on prayer have moved many readers:
Prayer, the Church’s banquet, Angel’s age,
God’s breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, the heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth.
Herbert was unselfish in his devotion and service to others. Izaak
Walton writes that many of the parishioners “let their plow rest when
Mr. Herbert’s saints-bell rung to prayers, that they might also offer
their devotion to God with him.” His words, “Nothing is little in God’s
service,” have reminded Christians again and again that everything in
daily life, small or great, may be a means of serving and worshiping God.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Inviting you to an observance of a holy Lent

Ash Wednesday was yesterday. The theme: penitence and mortality. Mortality is the tougher of the two for me. Those who are terminally ill, diagnosed by a medical professional as having some ailment that will mean their end, stand before me. Maybe some of their fellow church goers know of their situation--most probably do not. But I know. They stand before me and nod ever so slightly. I plunge my thumb down into the ashes and place it upon their bowed foreheads. I say, as I make the sign of the cross, the sign of death, "Remember you are ashes, and to ashes you will return." A tear forms in the corner of my eye. They do not notice, they are lost in the meaning of those words as well.

Next a young mother, holding her infant, is before me. She presents the child to recieve the ashes. I make the mark and tell the newborn, "Remember you are ashes, and to ashes you will return."

A teenager comes forward, unable to fathom mortality--I look into their eyes and know that they believe themselves invincible and life unending and the future open-wide--eternal. They smile a shy smile and nod. I place the ashes upon them and say, "Remember you are ashes, and to ashes you will return." They smile again as they turn to leave, thinking about the homework they must finish before they go to bed and wondering why I had a tear in my eye when they first approached the altar. On the way back down the isle, they pause for a moment to quietly play with the infant with the ashes on its forehead. The terminally ill smile at the scene, with tears in their eyes.

The theme of Ash Wednesday is penitence and mortality. I know. I went to seminary. But I must tell you, for me it always ends up being about grief--greiving my wretchedness, greiving our wretchedness (just watch the news tonight)--and grieving, making silent laments, for the fragility and shortness of life.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Darwin's Birthday and the Christian Faith

When you live in the same state as the “Creation Museum” it is good to make note of reports that highlight to the larger culture that every Christian is not a luddite or a no-nothing. NPR had a nice piece on the “Clergy Letter Project.” I signed the “Letter” a few years ago. You can access the NPR report here ( or by going to the clergy letter project web page listing media reports (  
Fox News is scheduled to run a piece as well, but I have not seen it. And there have been a growing number of other very favorable stories, including one in The Baptist Standard, on in and one in Religion Dispatches.  All are available on the “Clergy Letter Project” web site.

New Scientist ( posted a story about the Vatican’s rebuttal of intelligent design that prominently featured the efforts of The Clergy Letter Project.
As a general rule I don’t “do” focus themes for Sundays (praying for Mothers in the Prayers of the People on Mother’s Day or taking up an offering for Episcopal Relief and Development on a particular Sunday is about as far as I will go), but many Protestants without a Church Calendar and/or Lectionary are always looking for some theme around which to focus worship. For those, a worthy theme would be “Evolution Weekend.”

Evolution Weekend is sponsored by the “Clergy Letter Project.” On Evolution Weekend a couple of years ago I invited a biologist (retired) from the University of Louisville to speak on evolution and his faith in God. He was an excellent Coffee Hour speaker.

I note that this year the number of congregations participating in Evolution Weekend has grown considerably.  Last I looked, 986 congregations from 14 countries were on board. You can check it all out at their website ( 

I am hopeful that due to the collective efforts of many clergy and laity, we are slowly changing the nature of the discussion about religion and science in our society.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Doing Church in Extreme Weather

About five years ago, a larger than average snow fell across the bluegrass. We don't get much snow in Louisville, and when we get more than a flurry, things tend to shut down. This snow fell on a Saturday--a priest's nightmare.

There are two schools of thought about doing church in extreme weather: (1) cancel services--someone will get hurt trying to get to church or (2) never cancel a service--people need church, no less so in extreme weather.

I do not naturally subscribe to either school. I worry about someone getting hurt, but usually have services anyway.

Such was the case five years ago. My daughter and I arrived early for the early service. The telephone was ringing as we came through the door. "Yes we are having services for those who are able to get here." "No, I am not going to cancel services. If you don't feel safe getting here, please stay home." "Well, I'm here. So, I figure I will have services with whoever else gets here." And so on and so forth.

As I got ready for the early service, my then nine year old daughter took over telephone duty. My daughter, having heard me answer the same question a dozen times, did a fine job with the--"Yes, we are having services, but stay home where it is safe" message I was preaching. But there is no pleasing everyone. One telephone caller (a seventy year old female that ought to have known better), told her to "Tell you father he is stupid! No one should be having church in this weather!"

My daughter hung up the phone and wrote me the following message in typical nine year old handwriting. "Dad, crazy woman called, said you where stupid, didn't leave a number."

I wish i had saved the message.

Several winters later, a similar storm hit town on a Saturday. This time, however, the snow was so heavy, I couldn't get the walkways cleared in time for the regularly scheduled services. No path from the parking lot to any door was available. I telephoned the TV stations and let them know I was canceling services. I called everyone I could think of that might need to know, naturally I forgot several. But then again, the local TV stations and radio stations were helping get the word out.

This time it was a male, buying a snow shovel at a hardware store, ranting and raving about my having canceled services. The "check out girl" was also a parishioner. She told me "He said you were stupid for canceling Church services. "I thought I should let you know, since most of the people in the store heard all about it."

All this brings me to my decision to have services in the after math of our last winter storm a couple of weeks ago. Ice had left much of the city cold and dark. The parish buildings were no exception. The rectory, however, was an exception. Several parishioners who were powerless found their way over to the rectory. We had a slumber party of sorts. The kids had a blast. I moved the parish office over to the rectory so we could get out the parish newsletter on time. I slipped on the ice a couple of times, once sacrifcing my body to save a computer monitor I was transplanting to its temporary home in my dinning room.

Worship services, however, were a different matter. I told everyone that called to go to the Cathedral for services--they had heat and lights, but that "yes, I would be holding services for anyone who showed up at St. Mark's." A few did actually show up. There was a bit of shivering and we all looked kinda silly all bundled up like polar explorers. I was actually pretty comfortable under all the layers of vestments we priests wear for Holy Eucharist services.

I knew the woman who thought I was stupid for having services would not be there. She transfered to another parish a couple of years ago. Presumably the priest of that parish has enough sense to know when to cancel worship services.

I was, however, a little surprised when the gentleman who called me stupid for not having services didn't show. Turns out he stayed home. I'm betting he figured that only a really stupid priest would hold services in the cold and the dark.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Parish Covered in Ice

No power and no heat at St. Mark's. Office closed until power and heat are restored. If you need me, call me at home or on my cell.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Return to Blogging

I am blogging again. This time, not about the status of my health--but the parish and the world. I will be periodically commenting on events inside and outside of the parish of St. Mark's.