Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Jane Shaw

June 30, 2010

The Dean of New College, Oxford has been called to Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. She is as well known figure in the English church (and friend and classmate of our Kanuga speaker, Giles Fraser.) You may be aware that the C of E has been getting itself in a big twist over the inevitability of Women being appointed and consecrated as Bishops and how they will handle/care for those who believe this a theological impossibility. When I asked my mother if she know about the appointment she said she didn’t “but supposed that any talented woman get tired of waiting to be a bishop”.

This looks like a great call and you can read about Dean Shaw here

Galatians 5

June 30, 2010

Last Sunday’s readings have set me on a path of thinking more about how Paul provides a basis for making ethical decisions on just about any controversial issue and at the same time how an ethical ‘rule of thumb’ (or indeed any rule or law) will never be able to save us from the real complexities of life which require our regular acknowledgment that we are not God and are in need of forgiveness. Here is how I get there:
• I assume Jesus’ bias toward the poor based on his concern and the prophetic concern of the tradition for the weak, the widow, the children, the sick, the stranger and the outcast.
• I think of 1 Thessalonians 5:21. “Test all things and hold fast to that which is good.”
• Paul outlines what is ‘good’ as the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5 (almost a summary of the whole epistle which deals with the relationship of Gentile Christians to the Mosaic Law.
• So in any given controversy I ask whether we can identify an increase in peace, joy, hope, kindness and the like (especially among those who identify as less powerful).
• The I listen to the claims of those (especially those who we identify as ‘more powerful’) that they are experiencing loss, factions, anger, dissention, envy and the rest as a result of whatever change is being brought about by emphasis on any particular ethical issue.
• Next, I ask whether the outcome of any debate in any way reduces the capacity of those who believe themselves to be ‘losing’ for peace, joy, kindness etc. This is not to say that there might be real loss: income, status, influence etc in any Magnifcat change, but that such loss is not the same as loss of capacity for the fruits of the Spirit which I do not see as dependent on such things.
• Finally, I recognize that even the best rule of thumb or process does not guarantee that there will be no moral ambiguity when we are addressing complex issues. I note, for example, that those who stress ‘individual responsibility’ are often directing such emphasis at the poor; and that those who abuse ‘community responsibility’ are frequently the poor themselves. There is no simple answer and in all our broken relationships lie opportunities for confession, forgiveness, grace and an increase in our enjoying the fruits of the Spirit.

Dueling Letters

June 30, 2010

Early this month I reacted to a Pentecost Letter by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Subsequently we received a pastoral letter from our own Presiding Bishop that was a much more satisfying and hopeful vision of the church. It has been shared widely in our parish. Some have suggested that Bishop Jefferts Schori’s history is wrong, particularly regarding the Council of Trent. That has struck me as a way of attempting to undermine the main thrust of the ecclesiology of the letter which better expresses the nature of Anglicanism as I understand and seek to live it than the rather fussy and juridical letter of the ABC.

The threats articulated by the Archbishop of ‘discipline’ for provinces that have ignored the ‘moratoria’ suggested in the Windsor Report and elsewhere against the consecration of gay or lesbian bishops, moving toward the blessing or celebration of same sex unions, and ‘border crossing’ by bishops from one province interfering in the life and worship of another. Thus far the only province so disciplined is...wait for it…you guessed it…The Episcopal Church! Yes, our representatives to various ecumenical conversations have been told to withdraw or in one instance, asked to serve as a ‘consultant’. The logic for this is that TEC members cannot represent Anglicanism when it so clearly will not abide by Lambeth resolutions seen as expressing ‘the mind of the church’. Apparently the vibrant bilateral conversation sin which we are engaged are of little matter where we seem to be participating quite well and fruitfully. Our inconvenient beliefs and actions are thought to ‘confusing’ to our conversation partners. Rather than acknowledging challenging differences as being integral to our identity as a communion, the ABC and the Secretary General of the communion are trying to make them go away in favor of an organizational and hierarchical ecclesiology. If that is who we want to be, we really should reunite with Rome and submit ourselves to the Pope. I still believe in the possibility of an alternative and relational vision of catholicity that I thought was the hallmark of Anglicanism over against that (perfectly good alternative, but alternative nonetheless) of Rome.

Removing people from conversation might allay some anxiety in the short term but it won’t really solve the deeper problem.

I wish that the ABC would have used his office to teach and model theological reflection conversation about the substance of the issues that divide us rather than focusing on a controversial ecclesiological vision and using power mechanisms to enforce it without addressing the underlying issue of the proper place of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church, acknowledging that there is real and substantial debate about this, that there are clear cultural tensions and that there are divisions within provinces but that the positions of those who wish to move from tolerance to affirmation of gay and lesbian people are theologically considered, legitimate, and have long been discuss

Words in Summer

June 30, 2010

I have sometimes thought that “A Word from the Rector” should be restyled “Far Too Many Words from the Rector” or perhaps simply “Verbosity”. I’ve enjoyed a break (including a break from blogging) but have been gratified by the fact that some of you have noticed and commented that you miss these ruminations.

A fair bit has been going on in the field of Anglicana, but none of it as interesting as the World Cup. My earliest national sporting memory is of watching the World Cup final in 1966 during which England beat West Germany 4-2 in London. I remember that there was a controversial goal in that match scored by Geoff Hurst of West Ham United. It seems that history has reversed itself with controversy in the recent match in which Germany saw England out of the cup.

In the 1070’s there was a Campaign for Real Ale in England known as CAMRA with the goal of reversing the post war trend toward fizzy keg beer, and urging a return to ‘pure’ local brews. I remember going to a finalist in the Pub of the Year competition in London as a guest of a CAMRA member. The place was crowded and smoky and we drank Flowers Beer from kegs mounted on the bar. We were served the dregs evidenced by the fact that the bung was removed from the barrel to get the last drops into our mugs. It was an indescribably filthy drink. My host declared that “one of the great things about real ale is that it is unpredictable”.

Now I’m a fan of limited production, well kept, local brews. (My favorite is Abbott Ale by Greene King, a brewery in Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk). There is, however, something to be said for technological innovation that ensured a reliable product as well. The governing body of World Soccer (FIFA) has resisted the use of technology to confirm or alter the decisions of referees arguing that the absence of technology is one of the attractions of the sport. I’m not among those who are attracted when in game after game television shows game changing decisions to be in error time after time and from every conceivable angle. My guess is that some kind of official television review will be in place for the 2014 World Cup as has been allowed in other sports. It will not detract from our enjoyment one whit as best I can tell.