Sunday, August 10, 2008

Bits and Pieces

August 10, 2008

The ordination of Penny Nash as a priest was a happy and joyful occasion. Our assisting bishop offered a homily that reflected a very ‘high’ view of orders. He emphasized his belief that the conferring of priesthood was a ‘new creation’ conferring the privilege of a mediating role between God and God’s people. Priesthood, he said, is not ‘just a job’. While I agree that priesthood cannot be limited to a set of functions, I don’t find this high catholic articulation of what is going on the most helpful way of understanding what it is I do. I think there is the interweaving of role and function over a lifetime of service that makes the doctrine coherent rather than some ‘extra grace’ that somehow makes us either ’more than’ or ‘other than’ those we serve. Either way, Penny will have a job to do and in the doing of it, grace will abound.

The day before I finished reading Andrew Krivak’s spiritual memoir A Long Retreat in which he leaves the Jesuit order after seven years of formation and discernment in order to marry. This departure and new beginning took place before he was ordained a priest. He writes briefly and in an affecting way about his realization that he would never be a priest but that he was still called and had “a place in our collective earthly pilgrimage”. That call contained both work and prayer. (p.320) Nicely put.

Another book I have enjoyed is From Stone to Living Word by Debbie Blue. This is the kind of reflection on scripture that those of you who enjoy Martha Sterne’s writing (Alive and Loose in the Ordinary) or Tracey Lind (Interrupted by God) will enjoy this book. Blue is pastor of what is sometimes called ‘an emergent church’. They meet in St. Paul, MN on Sunday afternoons and are not unlike some of the ideas/visions that have been floating around our conversations for some time and which are explicitly part of the conversation of h=our ‘strategic thinking group’. You can learn about them here:

The aftermath of the Lambeth Conference keeps on with the publication of some correspondence between Rowan Williams and an evangelical psychiatrist called Dr. Pitt from eight years ago. Much is made in some quarters about the timing of Ruth Gledhill’s publication of this correspondence in The Times. She says that it was in unopened mail awaiting her return to the office after being in Canterbury for three weeks. In any event there is nothing new here. The ABC thinks ‘as a theologian’ that scripture may not be being read correctly by the church and that there may be moral equivalency between certain homosexual relationships and marriage. He sees scriptural interpretation and a living discipline that allows for change and he distinguishes his personal (private?) positions ‘as a theologian’ from his public role as a bishop of the church. I wonder if a high doctrine of orders might not allow him to discover a greater merging of the role of bishop with his ‘personal views’ rather than this ‘I don’t really think that but it is the mind of the church and therefore my job to proclaim’ position he seems to be in. Could he not say ‘The mind of the church is this or that and I find myself holding a minority position here’? And is it possible that such a position would be helpful to him and so to the rest of us?

Bottom line on Lambeth: At official institutional levels there is not much (if any) change. Archbishop Venables of the Southern Cone says division is inevitable. He is quoted in The times saying: “This is more evidence of the unravelling of Anglicanism. Without a clearly agreed biblical foundation, all the goodwill in the world cannot stop the inevitable break-up. Unity without truth is disunity.” As he is among those fomenting division, he can speak with some authority on the matter! At the same time there has been significant movement on a relational basis between bishops from widely different cultures moving to a place of greater willingness to each see what the other might have to offer. I don’t know what institutional form will emerge from all this, but have faith that we are all being led to right relationship rather than to new rules.

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