Halloween and the masks of marriage

By Jean Fitzpatrick

The bride in a black cocktail dress with a black veil, carrying a flower bouquet adorned with miniature skulls. The groom in dark slacks, a pirate shirt and a top hat. Theme music from The Addams Family and The Munsters. Guests in costume. That's what Lisa Panensky and Jim Nieves had in mind when they booked their Halloween 2009 wedding at Westchester County's Old Dutch Church, built in 1697 and cited by Washington Irving in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." "Sleepy Hollow is the Halloween capital of the world," Nieves told the local Journal News explaining the couple's eagerness to be married there. "It's a landmark."

But the Rev. Jeff Gargano, pastor of the Old Dutch Church, nixed the plan. Gargano did offer to perform the ceremony outside in the church's historic "Burying Ground" (where, it is said, Irving's Headless Horseman tethers his horse nightly among the graves) but Nieves and Panensky declined. The wedding will reportedly take place -- Munsters music and all -- at their home in nearby Elmsford.

But the couple remained disappointed and puzzled by the minister's objections. (This is, after all, a church where Irving's ghoulish story is read aloud every year in the sanctuary.) "I don't know where he [Gargano] got this idea of burning crosses and killing babies," said the bride-to-be. I guess the pastor worried that darker forces might be involved in the Halloween wedding, he perhaps not subscribing fully to the engraving on the 1685 Old Dutch Church bell: "If God Be For Us Who Can Be Against Us?"

I'll admit that I'm partial to the long white wedding dress. But let me tell you what really upset me about this story, and it had nothing to do with the Addams Family. According to local news reports, the church had decided to waive its requirement that the couple participate in premarital counseling.

Now, that's scary.

You've heard the statistics. And with or without a pirate shirt and skulls, today's couples -- so often lacking role models for how to sustain a marriage through crises and everyday conflicts -- benefit enormously from the opportunity to reflect on their union and learn practical relationship skills. Sadly, many are so busy with work and wedding plans that they are hard pressed to find time to lay the groundwork for their relationship without encouragement. Even if they've had some previous therapy, as a couple prepares to walk down the aisle, it is essential that they talk together about the meaning of marriage, their own experiences of relationship, their struggles and hopes and dreams.

As for the Old Dutch Church couple, what a missed opportunity that was to make a real connection with them. I can't think of anything more telling than to ask an engaged couple about their masks and disguises. The costumes we choose, like Venetian carnival masks, conceal our identities...but they also reveal our deepest yearnings and fantasies. What do those skulls mean to Lisa, anyway? And why did Jim the groom decide to don a pirate hat? How do their two "characters" relate to each other? Sounds like the start of a rich and interesting conversation.

Through the years, those identities and yearnings often evolve. With each new life stage we deepen certain aspects of ourselves, discard others, discover new ones. I can't count how many times a husband or wife has sat in my office and told a partner, "I don't know you anymore," or "This is not the person I married." At times like these we feel as gloomy and bedraggled as trick-or-treaters on a rainy night. The beauty is that if you're willing to keep on stumbling along in the dark, sooner or later a door opens, you wind up at a house that's all lit up and warm, and a friendly face is inviting you in.

Jean Grasso Fitzpatrick, L.P., a New York-licensed psychoanalyst and a member of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. A layreader in the Diocese of New York, she is the author of numerous books and articles, including Something More: Nurturing Your Child's Spiritual Growth and has a website at www.pastoralcounseling.net.

What I found in "Lost"

By Peter M. Carey

I am a big fan of the television show “Lost.” If anyone doesn’t know by now, the set-up of this show is that a jet airplane crashes on an island in the middle of the Pacific, and when no rescue happens, the passengers have to contend with surviving on an island that is increasingly dangerous, and mysterious. What begins, perhaps, as a 21st century Gilligan’s Island, develops into a far more complex, interesting, and confounding story. I have spent a great deal of time reflecting on Lost, and was very interested that in a recent Speaking of Faith broadcast on NPR, Krista Tippett discussed “Lost” among other television shows as a “Parable of our Times.”

There is one aspect in particular which has been quite instructive to me as I continue my ministry in the church. I am interested in the ways that the creators of the series have chosen to reveal the back-story of each survivor on the Island. At first, the viewer is merely observant of behavior and dialogue of characters stuck on this island. However, as time goes by, like an onion being peeled, we are treated to see the stories of each of these characters. The viewer sees how one character ends up in the custody of a federal marshal, how another character becomes a priest without ordination, how another loses, and regains, use of his legs, and how another becomes a multi-millionaire. Several episodes are dedicated to tell the story of a different survivor, bouncing back and forth between the present and the past.

Of course, the world view, behavior, and attitudes of each of the characters is formed in part by their history. They are not blank slates. They each bring their history and their “baggage” with them. As the series has moved through the various seasons, the writers have also been courageous enough to allow the characters to be formed and changed by one another. The selfish thief begins to show leadership qualities, the recovering drug addict shows selfless love for his friends, and a diverse and eclectic group is transformed.

There are many ways to reflect upon this rich television show, but what I have found most helpful as I have entered into a new church community is the ways that each member of our church has many layers, and has a history that is fascinating to discover. We each have our stories which inform who we are both in ways we are proud and in ways that we are not. We all bring our gifts and our baggage with us wherever we go. Recognizing this fact can help inform the way that we treat each other and the way that we treat ourselves! Our history does not define us in total, but it certainly affects who we are.

When I have the patience to really sit and hear someone’s story I am treated to their own “backstory” which, of course, informs their world view, behavior and attitude. At times, I wish it were easier to learn these stories, but, of course it takes patience, presence and prayer to open up a space to listen. Of course, we each have our stories (including pastors and priests), and we are also formed, in part by our own history.

Like the individuals washed up on the beach, each of us enters a church for the first time as strangers, maybe sometimes feeling out of place in a strange land. At times, this feeling of being lost can also occur over and over after we experience tragedy, doubt, or grief. As people of faith, when we have the courage to listen, and to share, we are no longer “Lost” strangers on the beach, but persons in communion with God and one another. When the church is at its best, we allow people to share their stories, and we offer friendship and love both “because of” and “in spite of” our stories.

The Rev. Peter M. Carey is associate rector at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Greenwood, Virginia. He blogs at Santos Woodcarving Popsicles.

More important than Rome

By Lauren R. Stanley

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti – The blogosphere is awash with commentary about Pope Benedict XVI’s offer to take in disaffected Anglicans and let them be, in essence, “pretend Roman Catholics.” The surprise offer from Rome last week has been in the newspapers, all over the television and was even the subject of NPR’s Sunday edition of All Things Considered.

Many, many commentators have said that they are insulted by this offer, and have written tens of thousands of words about how insulted they are.

But what is more insulting to me (perhaps that word is too strong, but I don’t know how else to say this right now) is that while so many of us are focused on what is ultimately a non-issue, people are dying or being threatened with death every moment, and we are not all atwitter over that.

Last Tuesday, four people living in slums in Haiti – forced to live there because they could not afford anything else – were killed in mudslides, and four others were reported missing after heavy rains … and there was almost no coverage of that at all. Do not poor people need our attention?

On Saturday, 32 people were reported killed in three separate terrorist attacks in Pakistan, pushing the number of those killed there in October well past the 100 mark. Are we praying for peace in Pakistan?

On Sunday, twin blasts in Baghdad killed at least 155 on Sunday morning, damaging not only buildings and cars, but also the prospects for peace in that war-torn land. St. George’s Anglican Church was damaged in the bombings. What are we doing to support peace there?

On Monday, 14 Americans were killed in Afghanistan, bringing the number of U.S. service members killed in October to 45. Are we praying daily for those who serve our country?

Fighting continues in Sudan, where more than 1,000 people have died in inter-tribal fighting and at the hands of rogue militias in the last six months alone. Others have been killed by members of the Lord’s Resistance Army out of Uganda. How do we support our brothers and sisters in Christ in that harsh land?

In Uganda, there is a bill that is threatening gay people with jail, at the very least, and the death penalty, if certain people get their way, simply for being gay. Are we speaking out on this, demanding that God’s justice be done?

I know the announcement from Rome was a shocker. I know it deserves comment. But really: Isn’t it more a tempest in a teapot than anything else? Does it really deserve all the miles of press it is getting? Does it deserve all the space we’re giving it in our heads?

There are serious things going on in this world, things to which we are not paying sufficient attention. People’s lives are literally at stake.

This is where I am centering my prayer life. This is where I am focusing my attention.

An offer from Rome to go worship there? Thanks, but not thanks.

‘Nuff said.

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is an Appointed Missionary of the Episcopal Church serving in the Diocese of Haiti, where she works on the Partnership Program and Development. Her website is http://GoIntoTheWorld.net.

Seeing the face of Christ in an unexpected place

By Carol E. Barnwell

Kermit Oliver spoke about his painting “Resurrection” at Trinity Episcopal Church, Houston, in 2007 and the chapel was standing room only. People strained to hear his low, gentle voice explain every detail in the contemporary altarpiece. But when someone asked about the face of Christ, Oliver’s eyes welled with tears and he turned away, unable to speak for a time. No one breathed, sensing the deepest of torments. Moments later, Oliver explained that the face of Christ was painted after his son, Khristian.

What he did not say was that his son was on death row for the 1998 murder. Khristian’s execution has been set for November 5.

“The idea[s] of birth, death, rebirth or resurrection…these elements I use really reflect … my religious upbringing. Basically I was looking at themes that dealt with the idea of immortality, the transitory [nature] of life, the idea of growth…the butterfly, the cocoon, the fish…all these are images that deal with the advent of a God that sacrifices his godliness to bring about salvation to humanity. And this idea of rebirth, you know, redemption…that especially,” Oliver said in a 2006 interview.

The 9-foot tri-foil altarpiece hangs in the Morrow Chapel at Trinity. It shows a triumphant Christ, his head crowned with lilies, rising from the tomb, while a violent orange and black background seem to explode behind him. Fabric draped around the body floats up as well as down, one piece torn and falling away.


Oliver explained that the twining shape of the cloth is reminiscent of human DNA, the humanity of Christ, as well as the curtain tearing in the temple at the time of Christ’s crucifixion. The painting is laced with allegory within the freeze at the base of the painting where Christ’s foot is stepping on a serpent, a dove perches near the cock and grapevines climb across the stone carving.

Khristian Oliver was one of four persons convicted in the burglary and homicide of Joe Collins, 64. Oliver, convicted of murder, was sentenced to death. The others received sentences from five to 99 years.

Collins went out to pick up a hamburger for dinner March 17, 1998, and returned to find Oliver, then 20, and 16-year-old Benny Rubalcaba inside his home. Rubalcaba’s 15-year-old brother and Oliver’s girlfriend were outside waiting in a pickup truck. Evidence showed Collins shot Rubalcaba in the leg after which Oliver shot Collins then grabbed the man’s rifle and beat him with it, resulting in fatal skull fractures.

The U. S. Supreme Court denied Oliver’s appeal last April, and the execution will take place on November 5.

Kermit and his wife Katie, also an artist, were married in 1962. He taught art until the couple moved to Waco in 1978 where Oliver took a job with the US Postal Service. He worked the night shift and painted in the mornings. The job provided a salary, pension and benefits -- more security than most artists enjoy -- while it insulated the quiet Oliver from the limelight he has sought to avoid. They have three children.

Oliver’s paintings are widely collected and he has designed more than two dozen scarves for Hermes, a Paris fashion house. Houston art dealer Geri Hooks, who represents Oliver through the Hooks-Epstein Gallery called Oliver one of “the top five of artists in America today.”

The Olivers will show their work, together with Khristian’s, in an Art Center Waco (http://www.artcenterwaco.org/) October 16, 2009 - January 24, 2010 in an exhibit titled “Oliver Retrospective.”

"A lot of church art celebrates the truth that God has come into the world and loves us. --that what has happened is glorious and full of grace. In Resurrection, Kermit Oliver challenges our assumptions about what is to come. He engages our spiritual imaginations. Then, learning that the face is his son's, Khristian, life and death swirl together in the orange cloud," said the Rev. Murray Powell, assitant rector, Trinity, Houston.

With information from the Waco Tribune.

Carol E. Barnwell, communication director of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, is an award winning photographer, writer and producer, who also edits a monthly newspaper for the diocese's 84,000 plus members. She has served on the press teams of four General Conventions and the Lambeth Conference, and has covered numerous international stories.

Bishop Meade's Annual Report of 1861

By William Meade (November 11, 1789 - March 14, 1862)
Third Bishop of Virginia

Dear Brethren and Friends: ...

Having thus presented a statement of those things pertaining to our Diocese which the canon requires of me, I now ask your attention to a few remarks concerning the present unhappy condition of our State and Country.

My brethren and friends will bear me witness how carefully I have ever avoided, in all my communications, the least reference to anything partaking of a political character, and how I have earnestly warned my younger brethren against the danger of injuring the effect of their sacred ministry, by engaging in discussions which are so apt to disturb the peace of society. But in the present circumstances of our country the cause of religion is so deeply involved, that I feel not only justified, but constrained to offer a few remarks for your consideration.

It has pleased God to permit a great calamity to come upon us. Our whole country is preparing for war. Our own State, after failing in her earnest effort for the promotion of peace, is, perhaps, more actively engaged in all needful measures for maintaining the position which she has, after much consideration, deliberately assumed, than any portion of the land.

A deeper and more honest conviction that if war should actually come upon us, it will be on our part one of self-defense, and, therefore, justifiable before God, seldom, if ever, animated the breasts of those who appealed to arms. From this consideration, and from my knowledge of the character of our people, I believe that the object sought for will be most perseveringly pursued, whatever sacrifice of life and comfort and treasure may be required. Nor do I entertain any doubt as to the final result, though I shudder at the thought of what may intervene before that result is secured. May God, in great mercy and with His mighty power, interpose and grant us speedy peace, instead of protracted war! But can it be, that at this period of the world, when so many prayers are offered up for the establishment of Christ's kingdom in all the earth, and such high hopes are entertained that the zealous efforts put forth will be successful, and our country be one of the most effective and honored instruments for producing the same, that the great work shall be arrested by such a fratricidal war as that which is now so seriously threatened ? Is there not room enough for us all to dwell together in peace in this widely extended country, so large a portion of which is yet unsettled, and may not be until the world that now is shall be no more ? The families or nations which sprung from two venerable patriarchs of old, could find room enough in the little pent-up land of Judea to live in peace, by going the one to one hand and the other to the opposite. At a later period, when Israel and Judah separated, and the latter having the city and temple in possession, and the supremacy, according to prophecy, was preparing to go up against the former and reduce the people to submission, and bring them back to union, the Lord himself came down and forbade it, saying: "Thou shalt not go up, nor fight against your brethren, the children of Israel. Return every man to his house, for this thing is of me." And they hearkened unto the Lord, and ever after the history of the two kingdoms is written in the same sacred volume, in which are also recorded the evidences of God's favor to both, and though sometimes at controversy, yet how often were they found side by side defending the ancient boundaries of Judea against surrounding nations. God grant that our country may learn a lesson from this sacred narrative. Let none think that I am not mindful of law and order, and of the blessings of Union. I was trained in a different school. I have clung with tenacity to the hope of preserving the Union to the last moment. If I know my own heart, could the sacrifice of the poor remnant of my life have contributed in any degree to its maintenance, such sacrifice would have been cheerfully made. But the developments of public feeling and the course of our rulers have brought mo slowly, reluctantly, sorrowfully, yet most decidedly, to the painful conviction, that notwithstanding attendant dangers and evils, we shall consult the welfare and happiness of the whole land by separation. And who can desire to retain a Union which has now become so hateful, and by the application of armed force, which, if successful, would make it ten times more hateful, and soon lead to the repetition of the same bloody contests ?

I trust, therefore, that the present actual separation of so many and such important portions of our country may take place without further collision, which might greatly hinder the establishment of the most friendly and intimate relations which can consist with separate establishments. I trust that our friends at a distance, and now in opposition to us, will most seriously review their judgment, and inquire whether the evils resulting from a war to sustain their wishes and opinions as to a single Confederacy, will not far exceed those apprehended from the establishment of a second—an event far more certain than the result of the American Revolution at the time of its occurrence.

In connection with this civil and geographical separation in our country, and almost necessarily resulting from it, the subject of some change of the ecclesiastical relations of our Diocese must come under Consideration. There is a general and strong desire, I believe, to retain as much as possible of our past and present happy intercourse with those from whom we shall be, in other matters, more divided. A meeting is already proposed for this purpose in one of the seceded States, whose plans, so far as developed, I will submit to the consideration of this body at its present session.

I cannot conclude without expressing the earnest desire that the ministers and members of our Church, and all the citizens of our State, who are so deeply interested in the present contest, may conduct it in the most elevated and Christian spirit, rising above uncharitable and indiscriminate imputations on all who are opposed. Many there are equally sincere on both sides, as there ever have been in all the wars and controversies that have been waged upon earth; though it does not follow that all have the same grounds of justice and truth on which to base their warfare.

It was the maxim of an ancient sage that we should always treat our friends as those who might one day be our enemies, and to treat our enemies as those who may one day be our friends. While abhorring, as I am sure we all do, the former part of this cold-hearted maxim, let us cherish and adopt the latter, so congenial with the spirit of our holy religion. The thought of even a partial separation from those who have long been so dear to me is anguish to my soul. But there is a union of heart in our common faith and hope which can never be broken. The Church in Virginia has more dear friends and generous patrons amongst those who are on the opposite side of this painful controversy than any other, and feels most deeply the unhappy position in which we are placed.

As our State has, to its high praise, endeavored to avert the evils now threatened, so may our Church, and all the others in Virginia, by prayer and the exercise of true charity, endeavor to diminish that large amount of prejudice and ill-will which so unhappily abounds in our land.

Let me, in conclusion, commend to your special prayers all those who have now devoted themselves to the defense of our State. From personal knowledge of many of them, and from the information of others, there is already, I believe, a large portion of religious principle and genuine piety to be found among them. I rejoice to learn that in many companies not only are the services of chaplains and other ministers earnestly sought for, but social prayer meetings held among themselves. Our own Church has a very large proportion of communicants among the officers of our army, and not a few among the soldiers. Let us pray that grace may be given them to be faithful soldiers of the Cross, as well as valiant and successful defenders of the State.

If all of us do our part faithfully and according to the principles of our holy religion, we may confidently leave the issue to God, who will overrule all for good.


The following resolution was offered by Judge Thomas S. Gholson, and adopted:

Resolved, That so much of the Bishop's address as refers to the present condition of our political and ecclesiastical affairs, be referred to a Special Committee of three Clergymen and three Laymen, with instructions to report as soon as practicable to the Convention some plan of action.

The Chair appointed the following gentlemen such committee: Rt. Rev. John Johns, D. D., Judge Thomas S. Gholson, Rev. J. Grammer, Mr. James Gait, Rev. William Sparrow, D. D., Mr. R. H. Cunningham.

Source: Journal of the Sixty-sixth Annual Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Virginia, May 16-17, 1861.


From Bishop Johns' address the Annual Council of the Diocese of Virginia, 1866: From Norfolk I proceeded to Richmond, and thence to Augusta, Georgia, to attend the General Council, which met in that city on the 8th of November. ... They involved nothing of special interest to us at present, except the recognition of the right of each of the Southern Dioceses to determine its
ecclesiastical relations, as its own Council might elect. Under this recognition every other Diocese of our late confederation has returned to its former connection with the Church in the United States, of which formal notice has been communicated to the ecclesiastical authority of this Diocese. It remains for us to avail ourselves of this annual meeting of our Council to take such action as our christian duty, the interest of the Diocese, and the unity and fellowship of the general Church may require. My own views on this subject were frankly and fully expressed in my address to our last Council. I have since seen no reason to change, but much to lead me
to reaffirm them with more decided emphasis.

By the withdrawal of the other Diocese, which, with our own, formed the ecclesiastical organization in the Southern States, that organization has ceased to exist, and now, certainly, we are free to act as we may think proper, without being embarrassed by the fear of appearing to be discourteous to our late respected associates. And as all apprehension as to the mind and bearing of our Northern brethren toward us has been happily removed by the christian spirit which characterized the last General Convention, and the conciliatory measures by which it expressed itself, the way is fairly open for a becoming re-union, and I cordially recommend, what I trust you will unanimously approve, (the adoption of a resolution that the Diocese of Virginia now resume her former connection with the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States.)

The failed ecclesiology of Rowan Williams

By Adrian Worsfold

Let's do a round up of recent worldwide Anglican history to the present.

We have an Archbishop of Canterbury who brought his High Church identity into his job, along with his form of narrative theology, and was thought to have skills relating himself to contemporary society and social movements.

He headed a Church of England in the middle of an identity crisis, as one school, the Evangelicals, thought they were on a takeover trip, where the Liberals' ability to handle the middle and keep relatively quiet was coming undone, much because the Catholic traditionalists were defeated on female ordination and looked to be finished regarding female bishops. No longer a triangle, it was Evangelicals versus the Liberals.

The Archbishop then started on his quest to answer a question from Rome always put, that is, 'What is Anglicanism?' Williams's answer was to use the crisis now around the Evangelical's issue of homosexuality, which gave them some third world ballast and international power-leverage, to build a worldwide Anglican identity more like a Church than a Communion. Whilst he and successors could not be a pope, he could have Instruments of Communion.

He decided that actual Anglican Churches were "local" Churches. A "local" Anglican Church would recognise another "local" Church by its slavishness to a more or less fundamentalist use of the Bible, especially when it came to ecclesiastical ethics, like homosexuality. This Reformed or Protestant recognition would then have, in its difficulties and disputes, a Catholic solution, in terms of bishops in dioceses running up to him, bypassing the "local" Churches except as it related to the Instruments: him, bishops all gathered together, prelates gathered together, and the only representative body in any sense, the Anglican Consultative Council. Presently, let's be clear, there is no international seat of authority, other than friendliness and getting togetherness, but under a Covenant there would be a description of a process of dispute resolution that involved describing these instruments of international authority. Thus Anglicanism would be a Reformed or Protestant believer's fellowship in that strained biblical way, but then its authority would be vertical going up the Catholic pole.

Forcing the Covenant through, and that almost has meant through hell and high water, he could then take his Covenant result to his mate Benedict, and answer the Roman question 'What is Anglicanism?'

However, while the Archbishop used homosexuality this way, and did so to the shocking extent of being able to mouth that no one who is homosexual could represent Anglicanism in any ministry, the Pope, his friend, was looking at women and bishops and saying that no one who is female can be a bishop and taking a view that the Church of England is the central Anglican Church.

The Church of England General Synod made it clear that women will become bishops. It is when, not if. It decided that diocesan bishops, men and women, could decide provision for those who were awkward about accepting women sacramentally. A committee then decided that this would be done by statute instead, bypassing the diocesan, but certainly not by having new non-geographical dioceses. But everyone knows that the Synod, barring amazing elections of the reactionaries, would overturn the committee and reinstall the diocesan principle. We know by the previous General Synod, which decided on, at best, a diocesan code of practice, that the Archbishop of Canterbury bellyached about the traditionalists, despite the fact that they were digging their own grave, or building their own ark to go across the Tiber or perhaps the Bosphorous or some other world cruise.

But now Benny has pulled the rug from under him and stuck the knife in. Before Rowan Williams can go to Rome with a Covenant on a silver tray, before some 'solution' can be made regarding women bishops, Benny has done what he wants. He could have waited three or five years, which is nothing in Roman Catholic timing, though plenty for his stage in life.

What a humiliation for Rowan Williams to have to sit next to the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster and make sweet ecumenical noises. What a climb down that Williams has (again in Curia style, as it must 'fall to him') to write to "the Bishops of the Church of England, and the members of the Primates Meeting of the Anglican Communion" that this is:

...in no sense at all intended to undermine existing relations between our two communions or to be an act of proselytism or aggression'.

The humiliation is evident in the statement also there to say:

I am sorry that there has been no opportunity to alert you earlier to this; I was informed of the planned announcement at a very late stage.

That's because, while he regards the Pope as the boss, and has welcomed the Pope's visit to these shores next year in the usual grovelling terms (the "joy" of "all" Anglicans), the Pope obviously regards him as insignificant - not worthy of advance notice of an action that basically and potentially takes traditionalist Catholic priests en masse out of his Church and short circuits the female bishops decision making and the whole matter of the Covenant and Anglican identity.

Williams has shown himself to be run around by every group except the one with whom he was mistakenly identified; by his actions he has separated out ecclesiastical rights from human rights, and has become complicit in the actions of African prelates and civil authorities against gay people; he has turned Church life into a form of isolated ecclesiastical bureaucracy; he has made a joke of critical theology and Biblical study when it comes to Church authority, and now for all this overturning of Anglican sensibilities for the greater goal he has been humiliated by Rome.

Everything he has stood for and acted upon, everything he has done, has now been overturned. The Roman Church simply no longer recognises any Anglican authority now: For Rome, the identity of Anglicanism has been reduced: now just a 'tradition' and hardly even, any more, an 'ecclesiastical community'. Williams's Catholic fantasy has been underlined by the sheer power brokering of Rome.

Well, for the Church of England, the way is clear for women as bishops as well as men. The only thing that will continue resistance by traditionalist Catholic clergy is the loss of their monthly payment in the bank. They'll have to have the courage of their convictions regarding empty pockets, when they swim off or take the boat trip, but they have the systematic getaway option now. Any 'getting paid' reasoning for resistance won't go very far. Secondly, the whole wider purpose of the Covenant is dead: already wilting, the Pope has given it a good kicking as, essentially, a waste of time (which it is).

Incidentally, the Anglican Church of North America won't stay in one piece: the two extremes of Protestant and Catholic had no middle ground to smooth the way, and now the Catholic end has its true goal in sight of running off to Rome. Wrecking the 'orthodox' Anglican breakaway suits Rome: it suits Rome to have, in its eyes, all of Anglicanism either Protestant and/or unacceptable - not even an ecclesiastical community.

There are some extreme evangelicals for whom the Covenant has been just a tactic to get one over The Episcopal Church. They've never been committed to it. The only ones that have been positive have been a small bunch of verbose essayists with their foghorn 'leader' in the present Bishop of Durham. They are all undermined as well. They saw the Covenant as a way of maintaining a worldwide fellowship and an additional structural unity, but the structural unity is bust and the rest is dispersed without it.

There is one good thing about what the Pope has done, in short-circuiting all the agony of Anglicanism. He will bring this Covenant nonsense to a quicker conclusion regarding its failure; he will get females as bishops in the Church of England cleaner and should be quicker; he will make it more obvious that Anglican ecumenism lies with the Old Catholics and the Lutherans and with Protestant denominations; and he might just persuade Rowan Williams to end his disastrous period in Anglican office by resignation sooner than would have been the case when his imposition of his pet project fell to pieces.

Adrian Worsfold (Pluralist), has a doctorate in sociology and a masters degree in contemporary theology. He lives near Hull, in northeast England and keeps the blog Pluralist Speaks.

Canterbury approves "Vatican use" rite

By Christian P. Hansen

LAMBETH PALACE, Thursday, October 22, 2009. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, held a second joint press conference this morning. Dr. Williams announced that, with immediate effect, the Church of England would permit parish churches to establish a "Vatican Use" liturgy to allow disaffected Roman Catholics to find a church home more to their liking.

The Roman Catholic Church has for centuries refused to ordain women, refused to allow priests and bishops to be married, and demanded that its followers acknowledge that the Bishop of Rome is unable to err in matters of defined faith and doctrine. In addition, the celibate hierarchy of the Roman communion forbids Roman Catholics from using artificial means of birth control or using condoms to prevent the transmission of HIV.

"The establishment of 'Vatican Use' in the Church of England will allow those who, in conscience, cannot accept all of the doctrinal and ecclesiological positions of the Pope of Rome to move to the Anglican communion, where you are not required to check your conscience and reason at the door of the church." said Dr. Williams, while Archbishop Nichols looked on from the side. "We in Anglicanism have a tradition of accepting people of rational faith from whatever background. We are especially welcoming to Roman Catholic priests who have been forced out of the active priesthood because they wish to be married, or just have a girlfriend like that priest in Miami. Keeping the 'Vatican Use' will allow like-minded refugees from Rome who have swum the Thames to be in community with others who have made that same journey."

Dr. Williams continued, "As we have also been in the forefront of ordaining women to the historic priesthood and, in many provinces, the episcopate, we welcome those Roman Catholic women who feel that God is calling them to a vocation as priests and bishops in the Church of God. We feel that the Roman Catholic Church would welcome this reshuffling of people from each side, from Anglicanism to the new Personal Prelature and from Romanism to the welcoming folds of the Anglican Communion."

Archbishop Nichols said, "We believe that the presence of former priests who are married in the Roman Catholic church is detrimental to the future development of Holy Mother the Church. In addition, allowing women who feel called to a vocation as priests or bishops to remain Roman Catholic means that a dangerous third-column of dissenters would exist in each parish and diocese across the land, distracting us from our mission to build up the Church of God that Jesus intended, with a male priesthood and episcopate as well as fecund parishioners who raise up large families of children and encourage them to enter the priesthood or the convent as appropriate."

He continued, "We welcome this historic realignment of the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches into two distinct confessions, allowing people to make a clear choice between the two. The Holy Father has sent his personal blessings on the 'Vatican Use' to his Grace the Archbishop and expressed his hope that this initiative will be duplicated throughout the world."

Archbishop Williams thanked Archbishop Nichols for the kind words and blessings on 'Vatican Use' Anglicanism, and concluded with a request that other provinces of the Anglican communion share in 'Vatican Use' and give Roman Catholics in their provinces the opportunity to share in this historic initiative.

Their Graces then repaired to the Library at Lambeth Palace for a lunch of humble pie washed down with Bishop's Finger.

Chris Hansen is an Episcopalian transplanted to London now coping with the Church of England as a lay leader in his Diocese. This essay originally appeared on his blog.

Are we able to drink his cup?

By Bill Carroll

Are you able to drink the cup that I drink?
Are you able to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?

Jesus addresses these shocking questions to the sons of Zebedee. He also addresses them to us. Jesus thereby takes familiar and comforting sacraments—the shared cup and ritual washing—and makes them unsettling and strange. His cup is that of a murdered prophet. His baptism is that of a martyr, washed in his own blood.

Are we able to drink his cup? Are we able to be baptized with his baptism?

These questions—central ones in the life of faith and discipleship—are not meant to be morbid. By them, Jesus intends to give us life. Ours is not a joyless or life-denying faith. But it is a realistic one. Without grappling with the forces that put Jesus to death, without drinking the cup of his suffering and drowning with him in the waters of baptism, we cannot receive the gift of Easter joy. As Christians, we make sense of our lives by following in the steps of the crucified. It is here—in the place where Jesus walks—that we find resurrection hope and new life.

Our own sufferings are likely to be small by comparison with those of Jesus. And yet, there is no particular suffering he has not known, and no one is beyond the reach of his compassion. Moreover, we have been given his Spirit. In baptism, we have pledged ourselves to follow him. We cannot know in advance how this will put us in conflict with the rulers of this present age. Nor can we know ahead of time what other sufferings life will bring.

Lately, I’ve been reading a book by a Jesuit named Jon Sobrino entitled Witnesses to the Kingdom: The Martyrs of El Salvador and the Crucified Peoples. In it, Sobrino reflects on the meaning of martyrdom, in light of the Church’s experience in El Salvador. Sobrino narrowly escaped martyrdom himself. He was out of the country, when assassins entered the university where he taught, looking for Jesuits like him, who had confronted the brutal regime and its abuse of the people. Six of his brothers were killed that day.

But, rather than dwell on these six priests or on Archbishop Romero, who was murdered at the altar and whom Sobrino knew firsthand, I’d like to share with you from his account of the funeral of four women from the United States, three nuns and a social worker from the Diocese of Cleveland. Until God sent these women to El Salvador, they led lives not unlike our own. Here’s what Sobrino had to say about them:

I have stood by the bodies of Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan…There has been martyrdom upon martyrdom—an endless procession of priests, seminarians, students, campesinos, teachers, workers, professionals, and intellectuals murdered for the faith in El Salvador. Death has come to be the inseparable, dismal companion of our people. And yet, each time we gather to bid our martyrs farewell, the same feelings well up inside…

There were three hundred of us priests and sisters gathered in the chancery to hear Archbishop Rivera. His voice had a new and different ring as he denounced the Security Forces of the Christian Democratic Junta. He tore the masks from their faces. He pointed the finger of shame and guilt. Once again the truth was crystal clear. And with the truth came courage—and the Christian resolve to keep on, shoulder to shoulder with the massacred people, even if it meant the church must march once more to the cross.

It was like the first Christian Easter all over again. The horror, the abandonment, the solitude of Jesus’ cross had driven the disciples to their refuge in the upper room. But Jesus’ spirit was mightier than death, and it flung the doors wide apart. The disciples emerged stronger than before, determined to preach resurrection and life, determined to proclaim the good news of the reign of the poor. The archbishop’s residence had been transformed into a latter-day upper room. The God of life was there.

I think it would be easy for us to judge James and John for their desire to sit at the left and right of Jesus. In some versions of the story, it is their mother who seeks these places for her sons, because she wants them to reign with Christ. In Mark, however, the brothers ask for these places themselves.

What are they looking for? Power and authority? Perhaps. But they are also looking for a place close to Jesus, in whom they have found forgiveness, mercy, and life. Jesus does not dispute the claim that they are able to drink his cup and share his baptism. Indeed, he knows that both of them will do so. Which of us could be so certain that we are willing to follow Jesus, regardless of the cost? For all the flaws implicit in their question, James and John are willing to follow Jesus wherever he leads.

But the place of honor, at his right and left hand, is not his to give. That place belongs to those for whom it is prepared. Despite their profession of willingness to follow Jesus, James and John do not yet see the scandal of his cross. Jesus is to be crucified between two common criminals. He is to die in the place of shame, so that he may be the servant of ALL and his life be given as a ransom for many.

It’s not that Jesus did not know the human cost of suffering. As the letter to the Hebrews assures us, “in the days of his flesh,” Jesus offered “loud cries and tears” and was heard for his “reverent submission.” Although Jesus is born the Son of God, his mission in the world is brought to completion through his suffering and death—and through the willing obedience by which he embraced his passion. In a fallen world, suffering is the price of obedience. Enduring the world’s hatred, mockery, and violence is the price of setting others free. By his suffering and death, Jesus becomes first of all and the servant of all. He transforms the cross of shame into the tree of life.

Even in the darkest and most abandoned places of our lives, we discover the God of life who accompanies us on our journey. We discover Jesus, who lived and died among poor and simple people—
who broke bread with them and shared their struggles. We discover Jesus, who sets us free.

Are we able to drink his cup?

The Rev. Dr. R. William Carroll is rector of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Athens, Ohio. He received his Ph.D. in Christian theology from the University of Chicago Divinity School. His sermons appear on his parish blog. He also blogs at Living the Gospel. He is a member of the Third Order of the Society of Saint Francis.

The Church of England's reactionary drift

By Adrian Worsfold

It is an interesting exercise to reduce to essentials the points made in Peter Selby's recent address to Inclusive Church opposing the Covenant. When the points are given headings and reordered, they become even more powerful.

When looking at these points again, keep in mind this: the Church of England Synod voted for draft legislation that meant that in the future diocesan bishops, men and women, would provide male only alternatives to congregations not accepting women bishops. A committee of nineteen overturned this in favour of a general statute, undermining the diocesan principle (the one that elsewhere the Archbishop of Canterbury upholds to the point of undermining Anglican Churches). This revision will go back to the Synod, but this is an example of how the Church of England undermines even the semblance of representational democracy in favour of hierarchy.

Bishop Peter Selby on...

Recognising Anglicanism

Recognisable Anglican practice takes controversial decisions because they seemed to be right, and taking time to see whether they were legitimate developments or not. Recognisable Anglican practice has not been based on procedures of the kind the Archbishop of Canterbury now has in mind.

Unrecognisable Anglicanism in numerous provinces other than TEC has involved bullying, threats, withdrawal of communion, unilateral invasions of others' territories.

Given the treatment given to TEC it is less likely to make a positive response. The Archbishop's Response warm comments on TEC carry little weight if most of his thoughts are actually directed against it.

Anglican Communion

Why does the Archbishop of Canterbury have to deny that the Covenant is a manifestation of centralisation?

The Covenant is a 'when accepted' due to TINA (There Is No Alternative)

Representational congruity, like that of recognisability, cuts in more than one direction.

Membership of the communion ('track A') will in some way be made dependent on conformity to the Covenant text with its message about recognisability and congruity.

The Archbishop of Canterbury would settle for a stalemate, which is what his response actually advocates.

Shared Discernment Recognized by All article: the ACI/ Bishop of Durham 'all' is just selected 'insiders'

The People not the Hierarchy

'Facts on the ground' get established for reasons of conscience and integrity by both 'sides' and reveal the importance of the matter in hand. It is unrealistic for the Archbishop of Canterbury to reject these.

Truth gets discovered precisely in the context of biblical and theological reflection and acted out in worship: the Archbishop quite wrongly suggests that the Church will have ended up conforming to social mores. An example from the people of God in worship: the congregation remained in their seats until a gay pair whose partnership was to be Civil Partner registered had received Communion together.

What is happening to the role and person of the Archbishop if an issue 'seems to fall' to him to articulate a matter? His response to TEC was addressed to 'the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Anglican Communion', like a papal encyclical.

Ecumenical Relations

Anglicans shall have to take steps to notify ecumenical partners that 'Anglicanism' is not represented only by participants 'signed up' to the Covenant. Such will be 'not in my name' and this excluding will just be the official Church not the peopled Church.

Church of England

The Church of England criticises TEC for collusion with its surrounding culture, but it is itself one of the most successfully enculturated churches.

The Church of England has discomfort with ideologies opposing centuries of European monarchical history, conditioning assumptions behind approaches to Rome rising in priority presently.

Over more than twenty years Bishops' Meetings have brought more mistrust and less openness than at any previous time. There is a pretence of unity that needs to be confronted for the sake of the integrity of ecclesial life.


The Archbishop of Canterbury needs to own some responsibility for the situation regarding homophobia in the Church being far worse than during his predecessor's time.

The Archbishop treats issues of sexuality only as ecclesiastical problems and solutions, denying theological insight and fresh thinking regarding this issue as given to other matters.

There are many forms of 'Church' but 'Hygienic Church' is the one innovation apparently to benefit everyone.

When the Archbishop says that there must be no questioning of LGBT people's human or civil rights or of their membership of the Body of Christ, he is.

His personal opposition to homophobia does not exempt him from complicity in the way that he deals with this issue that traditionalists have used precisely because of the visceral responses which homosexuality arouses and its energies tapped.

'Lifestyle' wording to describe gay partnerships is something of a giveaway of the Archbishop's attitude.

The Archbishop has responded to overwhelming pressure, there is also an element of personal choice and he has arrived at a false consciousness.

Denunciations of homophobia are made without reference to the Archbishop being personally responsible for requiring Jeffrey John's withdrawal from his acceptance of the see of Reading.

The decision not to allow the appointment of a gay person as a bishop is a representative action.

Adrian Worsfold (Pluralist), has a doctorate in sociology and a masters degree in contemporary theology. He lives near Hull, in northeast England and keeps the blog Pluralist Speaks.

A plea to Bishop Alexander in compiling a new hymnal

A host of resolutions are passed every three years at General Convention. Of these, only a few ever receive air time. And we all know which ones they are: the wedge issues used by seasoned culture warriors Left and Right to energize bases and attract new recruits. And yet, every three years, at least a few changes get made that rarely if ever get talked about but that truly move the church to its foundations. These shifts are rarely obvious but are comprehensive in scope because these are the changes that affect the people in the pews—whether they’re aware of it or not.

One of these resolutions was passed three years ago with little notice or fanfare. This resolution, known to history as 2006-A077, is only four lines long yet invalidates and replaces some twenty pages of the Prayer Book, affecting every Sunday morning service in the Episcopal Church. I speak of the change to the Revised Common Lectionary.

Another such resolution was passed this summer.

Bishop Neil Alexander of the Diocese of Atlanta submitted a resolution to begin the process of compiling a new hymnal for the Episcopal Church. It was Resolution B004. While not quite as big of a change as a new Prayer Book, a new hymnal will change the very sounds of Episcopal worship—from what service music we sing, to what hymns we use to worship. And singing is prayer too. What we sing shapes how we understand ourselves, our gathered church community, and God as well.
This is no insignificant change. This will change the very words we use to worship. This matters.

The Plea
Bishop Alexander, members of the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music, and those who make decisions regarding the shape of this future hymnal:

As you begin this weighty work, I submit three suggestions. They are interrelated. While each can stand on its own, the combination of the three will, I believe, seize the unique opportunities that this moment offers in the realms of spirituality and communication. First, restore the hymnody of the Daily Office to the place that it deserves in our life of worship. Second, establish a commission uniting skilled linguists and liturgical poets to create the new definitive Modern English translations of these texts. Third, whatever works this commission produces—do not copyright them.

On the Hymnody of the Daily Office

The Book of Common Prayer intends for the Eucharist and the Daily Offices—Morning and Evening Prayer with their attendants, Noon Prayer and Compline—to function hand in hand. The Holy Eucharist is “the principle act of Christian Worship on the Lord’s Day and other major Feasts” (BCP, 13); the Offices are the principle acts on all the other days, taking a secondary place on Sundays and feasts. With the success of the ’79 Book of Common Prayer, however, rarely are the Offices heard in our churches. Rarely are their patterns taught. Rarely do devout laity—not to mention clergy—take prayer book in hand at the hinges of the day to link hearts and hands and voices in this ancient Anglican rite.

The more recognition we give it in official materials, the better. Anything we can do to increase its visibility enables it to continue shaping Episcopalians in the ancient patterns of prayer, East and West, and blessed by our Anglican forbearers.

For our Offices derive from the classical eightfold hours of prayer, and continue their legacy. Of these, the three major Offices, Matins, Lauds, and Vespers, had special hymns for each season, often referred to collectively as the breviary hymns. The majority of these have been in constant use for over thirteen hundred years. Through the rise and fall of empires, languages, and peoples, these hymns have reinforced fundamental Christian principles and shaped how we understand the pattern and purpose of the liturgical seasons. They images they deploy, the Scriptures they borrow, have become inextricable parts of the fabric of the Western liturgy. To ignore them, to lose them, to misplace them is to consciously cultivate an amnesia of the meaning behind the deepest patterns of the liturgical year.

These hymns—they ground us in what it means to walk the year with Christ.

And I wonder if you, Bishop Alexander, felt a pang as I did when at Convention you saw the proposal for a Creation Cycle within the Pentecost season? Did you—a musician and liturgical historian immediately think of the weekday hymns for Vespers in the Time after Pentecost that extol the wonders of the earth and its creatures, remembering in turn each day the wonders God wrought in the first week of Creation? Imagine—a resolution calling for the composition of something that the Church has already used continuously for well over a thousand years, if only we can remember.

Of course, for those who know, many of these hymns can be found—either whole or in part—in our present 1982 Hymnal. (Only two of the Vespers creation hymns appear, Lucis Creator optime, 27-28, and Immense caeli Conditor, 31-32) Several even offer the option of singing the ancient words to either a plainchant melody or a more recent chorale. But they are, in fact, hidden. No symbols denote them. No preface identifies them. They languish unless discovered by chance.

A Translation Commission

Several times in our past the breviary hymns have been discovered anew and restored to the English-speaking church. The greatest advocate on their behalf is certainly the renowned translator John Mason Neale, Anglican priest and gifted poet. No less than 45 hymns in our current hymnal are direct translations of his; he is a silent partner in at least a handful more which are themselves adaptations of his efforts. His works and our great debt to him on their account should never be forgotten—and yet it is past time to build upon his foundation. His poetic diction is not ours. His deliberate archaicisms are today’s incomprehensibilities. It’s time for new translations to be done.

As no new Neale seems apparent on our horizon, a team of both skilled linguists and accomplished liturgical poets will need to collaborate upon this task. Both will be required to achieve the goal: accurate, sober, and faithful translations of the originals that will yet thrill both ear and mind, consonant with the originals in tone, style, and yes even meter, yet in lucid modern English.

Please, I beg you, shun the notion of paraphrases! Root out with relentless fervor that suggestion of “improving”, “updating”, or “making relevant” these treasures! After all, thirteen centuries of continuous use point to a relevance that transcends any decade’s favored talking points. (Remember Urban VIII and observe what he failed to see!)

Without Copyright

If such a commission were to succeed in its task, its value to the Church could only be enhanced by foregoing the process of copyright. The American Books of Common Prayer have all been published into the Public Domain. Nothing could be more fitting than for such labors to likewise be given into the keeping of all. John Mason Neale himself once stated, “I am very glad to have this opportunity of saying how strongly I feel that hymn, whether original or translated, ought, the moment it is published, to become the common property of Christendom; the author retaining no private right in it whatever” (Joys and Glories of Paradise, preface [1865]). I’ll let lawyers argue the finer points of intellectual property till the cows come home; in this case I agree with Neale.

The treasury of Christian prayer, whether spoken or sung, is the patrimony of all—our modern achievements no less so than our eldest treasures.

Furthermore, in this internet age, ideas, efforts, and even translations spread on the basis of their availability and merit. Should such a commission succeed as I imagine it could, should its works be made available to all, its works would quickly find a home not just in our denominational hymnal but in bulletins, servers, and databases around the world wherever Christians use English in worship. High quality public domain translations could offer a new gold standard, supplanting inferior options due to the combined powers of quality and availability.

Would this cut into Church publishing’s profits? I don’t know. Would it be a contribution beyond value to the faith? I know it would.


Bishop Alexander, your hymnal resolution is one that looks forward, both to the contemporary world and to the future. Your calls for the church to “explore sensitivity to expansive language, the diversity of worship styles, the richness of multicultural and global liturgical forms” are calls to look around at the contemporary world and to look forward to our common global future. Only the last call to explore “the enduring value of our Anglican musical heritage” looks back. I pray that as you look back to see what value the past will play in grounding the future richness of our global faith, you will consider these liturgical gems that over the ebb and flow of empires and peoples and languages have formed countless Christians ever deeper into the mind of Christ.

Derek Olsen

Derek Olsen is in the final stretch of completing a Ph.D. in New Testament at Emory University. He has taught seminary courses in biblical studies, preaching, and liturgics; he currently resides in Maryland. His reflections on life, liturgical spirituality, and being a Gen-X/Y dad appear at Haligweorc.

The contribution of the lone translator

By Deirdre Good

Take a look at the Bibles on your bookshelf. Which are the ones you read again and again? Many of us read the New Revised Standard Version, and the King James of course, but alongside these, we value translations by individual authors. On my own shelves, for example, I read Tyndale daily, and I often read Everett Fox's Five Books of Moses and Robert Alter's translation, The Book of Psalms.

Individual authors have been translating the Bible for centuries, but their work has little authority. From the Septuagint in the 2nd Century BCE to the King James translation of 1611, it is not translations by individuals but by committee that are authoritative. Individual translations of the Bible, however, have a vitality that just doesn't appear in the work of translation committees. So renditions of the Bible by individuals are crucial to the dynamism of the text. In this article, I'm going to explore the rationales some individual authors give for their Bible translations and the authority of their work both immediate and derived.

Jerome, perhaps the earliest individual translator, the patron saint of translators, revised Old Latin manuscripts on the basis of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts he gathered at the request of Pope Damasus in 382. His revision, the Vulgate, became the bible of the western Church. Jerome's theory of scriptural translation favored a rendering by sense over semantic equivalence (i.e. word for word). Augustine argued unsuccessfully that Jerome's rendering needed to be subjected to the scrutiny of other scholars to be authoritative. The first book to be printed in 1455 from the press of Gutenberg at Mainz was the Vulgate. The printing of quantities of identical copies gave additional authority to the Vulgate.

John Wycliffe created the first translation of the whole bible from the Vulgate into English between 1380 and 1384. He wanted people to have access to the word of God in a language they could understand. A less literal and more readable revision by John Purvey was completed in 1408 but the then Archbishop of Canterbury banned the use of all unlicensed Bible translations a year later. It's worth noting that in these two different translations we see a distinction still operative today between a more literal-formal translation and a more idiomatic or functional one. After his death, Wycliffe's bones were removed from sacred ground because of his translation work. Henry De Knyton, a scholarly monk, complained that Wycliffe made the gospel "vulgar and more open to the laity, and even to women who can read."

Erasmus produced in 1516 the first printed New Testament in Greek. In parallel columns he set out his own revisions of the Vulgate on the basis of the Greek text and he included detailed annotations explaining his proposed changes. Erasmus wanted to return the Bible to the heart of Christian life and reconnect theology to its biblical roots. Theologians and churchmen saw his work as undermining their authority, although that was not his intention.

William Tyndale encountered Erasmus' Greek and Latin New Testament as the basis for Luther's New Testament and he sought permission from Bishop Tunstall to translate the New Testament into English. When Tunstall refused, Tyndale went to Europe and from Germany produced a New Testament in English in 1526 and again in 1534. In 1530 he produced the Pentateuch and in 1537 Joshua to 2 Chronicles and Jonah. Tyndale emphasized God's law, that is, scriptural authority over the authority of the church. He translated the Greek word _ekklesia_ as "congregation" in Matthew 16:18 (as Erasmus before him had done) thus excluding a reading of papal primacy from the passage. Sir Thomas More described Tyndale as "a drowsy drudge drinking deep in the devil's dregs" intent on destroying Christian tradition. Tyndale's martyrdom and the incorporation of his translation into the King James version gives his work a derived authority.

In 1876, Julia Smith (1792-1886) published at her own expense a translation of the Bible that she had worked on for twenty years. From an educated family, she learnt Greek and Latin and then proceeded to teach herself Hebrew. Arguing that the King James translation was not literal enough, she translated "word for word, giving no ideas of my own" the Greek New Testament and Septuagint, together with the Hebrew Bible. By the end of her life she made a total of five translations.

In 1875, Smith was interviewed for the New York Sun. She describes her method: "I have used only the lexicon and, of course, have looked up the King James translation, but I have consulted no commentators. It was not man's opinion that I wanted as to construction or rendering, but the literal meaning of every Hebrew word that I wrote down, supplying nothing and paraphrasing nothing…" In her translations, she specifically eliminated all the italicized words of the King James' version. "Let every reader supply them for himself, as these translators did," she added. Smith's work is unjustly neglected.

Of 20th Century individual translations, that done by J. B. Phillips in 1947 is noteworthy. He had encountered young people for whom the language of the New Testament was completely obscure. So he sought to render Paul's letters into language he hoped would induce the same reaction as those first reading them might have felt. C.S. Lewis appreciated his work and argued in an Introduction that the immediacy and simple character of the Greek was better conveyed by such a translation than by the now-archaic rendering of the Authorised Version (the King James version of 1611). Phillips said that his goal was to make a translation "not sound like a translation at all."

A white southerner, Clarence Jordan translated Paul's Epistles in the Cotton Patch Version (1968) thus: "we go right on proclaiming a lynched Christ" (I Corinthians 1: 23). He explains, "It may be that 'lynched' is not a good translation of the Greek word which means 'crucified.' Christ was legally tried, if we may call it that, and officially condemned to death. So, technically speaking, it was not a lynching. But anyone who has watched the operation of Southern justice at times knows that more men have been lynched by "legal" action than by night-riding mobs. Pilate publicly admitted that his prisoner was being lynched when he called for a basin and washed his hands of official responsibility. If modern judges were as honest, then 'lynching' would be an appropriate translation of 'crucifixion.'"

Jordan believed that words and also context had to be rendered. So in the Cotton Patch New Testament, Jew and Gentile became "white man" and "negro." By rewriting the gospel in this southern idiom, Jordan made the reader a “participant” in the text. Thus the gospel is present reality, not past history. In Jordan’s rendition, the Good Samaritan is black, and good. It is the good person who through unlimited love opposes cultural stereotypes.

Something entirely different happened in 1995. Everett Fox produced the Schocken Bible as a translation of the Five Books of Moses. Influenced by the work of Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig in translating the Bible into German, Fox's more formal translation seeks to draw the reader into the world of the text by replicating the patterns of spoken Hebrew.

Fox's rendition prioritizes the source language over the target language. His work has been well received and occasionally read in synagogues. What Fox invites us to consider is how we might produce a formal rendering of the New Testament. Mark's gospel, for example, is often improved by translations. Would it not be more authentic to render Mark in a rough, unpolished English that would reflect Mark's vulgar Greek?

In 2002, Eugene Peterson produced "The Message" to bring the Bible to life for people in the pews. He described people's response to hearing the Bible read. "It was just awful. They'd fill up their coffee cups and stir in sugar and cream and look at their cups and they weren't getting it. I went home after the third week and said to my wife that I was going to teach them Greek. If they could read it in Greek they would get it, they'd understand what a revolutionary text it is and couldn't just keep living in their ruts. She agreed that would empty the class out fast."

Peterson says that "Language has its own colloquialisms and every time the Bible gets translated, it expands, it's not diluted, it's larger." Reading is a translation. We need constant correction as we try to understand the revelation of Jesus.

So what's the merit of biblical translations done by individuals? Without Jerome's work, we wouldn't have the Vulgate. Without Wycliffe, we wouldn't have an English translation of the Bible. Without Tyndale we wouldn't have the King James translation. If Julia Smith had been included amongst the groups of scholars in 1870 to prepare a revision of the King James Version, the English Revised Version of 1881, we might have had a more inclusive translation sooner than the NRSV. We'd be more aware of the interpretative italics of the King James version and less inclined to see it as literal. Without the work of Clarence Jordan, we might miss the inherent racism of some translations and interpretations. Without the work of Buber and Rosenzweig underlying the translation of Everett Fox, the world of Hebrew wouldn't be so strange and accessible. And we wouldn't be considering a new and different way to apprehend the New Testament. Without Eugene Peterson's work, Bono might not have found the Bible so engaging. Our apprehension of the Bible is impoverished without individual translations, so why not read these translations alongside others both privately and publicly? Why not print official and individual translations side by side in new editions of the Bible? We just might bring about new encounters with the living word of God.

Dr. Deirdre Good is professor of New Testament at The General Theological Seminary, specializing in the Synoptic Gospels, Christian Origins, Noncanonical writings and biblical languages. An American citizen, she grew up in Kenya and keeps the blog On Not Being a Sausage.

What Project Runway can teach us about Christian formation

By Marshall Scott

So, there I was, watching Project Runway, when I found myself thinking about Clinical Pastoral Education.

Perhaps I need to back up a bit. I'm not a fan of most "reality shows" or "unscripted television." The first such shows, focused on a combination of manufactured events and cutthroat gamesmanship, couldn't hold me. Neither could the next generation, even though I think music and dance have value. Somehow the weekly wager, which seemed less about the contestant's talents than on the confrontation of the contestant's apparent hopes and a judge's rigorous, not to say scathing, response, largely left me annoyed.

I must admit, however, that I do eat and I do cook; and so there's hardly a cooking competition on television that I don't catch. I've been a fan of "Iron Chef" since it was only available dubbed from the Japanese. And I do dress and care what I look like, and even sew a bit (I at least repair my own cuffs when the hems sag); and so I found myself interested when my wife was watching "Project Runway."

I think what I find most interesting in these shows is the interplay of personalities. To some extent, I mean the interplay between contestants, and between contestants and judges. More than that, though, I mean the interplay between each contestant and his or her own work. I find interesting the process of creativity, of how each person sets a vision and pursues it, in light of the demands (the "secret ingredient" or the special client), the limitations (of time and resources), and the qualifications of the judges.

I must admit, too, that I am something of a geek, and in each of these shows there is a "geek moment." That's when some person, whether one of the judges or a special consultant, comes to each contestant in the midst of the process and asks what the contestant is doing. Now, the initial response of the person makes more sense to the geek than to me, with its bare description set in professional jargon. However, there is after that another question or comment, intended to understand how the contestant is thinking: something like, "You're using capers; do you worry that the dish will be too salty?" or "Is a skirt that short going to make your model look cheap?" The comment doesn't always stop or even sway the contestant, but it presses the person to think, and invites the audience to think, too.

That sort of question is also relevant to CPE. For those not familiar, "CPE" is clinical pastoral education. It is an opportunity for students in ministry to experience ministry first hand, and to learn in the process of doing. It's called "clinical" because the first such education centers (and the great majority of centers today) were in hospitals. It's "pastoral" in that the point is for students to learn how to be better pastors, largely by understanding their own gifts and learning needs, and working to improve on both. Most folks in professional ministry have some experience of this sort, whether in CPE or in supervised ministry experiences and internships in congregations. However, since CPE is the primary educational experience for my work as a hospital chaplain, it's the model with which I'm most familiar.

I even thought, for a few years, that I might have been called to be a clinical pastoral educator, a CPE Supervisor (in my program; other programs use the title "Diplomate"). For several years I was in clinical education focused on, not only how I might be a better pastor, but on how I might help others be better pastors. I was deeply involved in educating "reflective practitioners" (some readers will recognize the influence of the work of Donald Schon), professionals who were not only good at what they did, but who were also thinking about what they were doing so as to consider how they might do it better. The goal to which I wanted to call students was reflection on practice, not only after the fact, but in the midst of practice.

And that, I think, is how I found myself watching "Project Runway" and thinking about CPE. I was watching the "geek moment," when the estimable Tim Gunn was asking a contestant both what the contestant was doing and what the contestant was thinking. Connections flashed in short order (sometimes when my wife asks what I'm thinking, I respond, "I'm bouncing."). I found myself thinking about Tim Gunn's tenure as a professor of fashion design, and wondering just how one teaches "design." Then I realized that it had to do with teaching reflective practice, which brought to mind Donald Schon's work (especially Educating the Reflective Practitioner, which was important in my own study). And so I found myself thinking about CPE.

I also found myself thinking about formation. After all, any process of pastoral education (indeed, of any professional education) is about formation. It's more than simply imparting a body of knowledge or a set of skills. It's also about shaping the mind and the heart of the practitioner so as to know what information is relevant, and what skill to use and when.

This is at the core of many kinds of professional practice, really. It's the idea behind the Quality Improvement/Quality Management movement in business and industry. It underlies the focus in healthcare on Performance Improvement and even the current discussion of Comparative Effectiveness. All such programs are really about paying attention to what we do in practice so that we can think about how to do better the next time.

Which is, actually, what all formation is about, including Christian formation. This is not simply a part of the vocation of the religious "professional;" it's part of the vocation of every Christian. Every Christian is called to "profess," which is the core requirement of a professional. We are all called to this sort of vocation, to be formed as "professional Christians."

Now, we might shy away from that title. I fear that the title "professional Christian" has taken on a narrow image; or more specifically an image of a narrow Christian, full of knowledge, with known skills, and prepared to be critical - largely of others.

But that's not really the call of the professional, as entertaining as it can be on a reality show. The call of a professional is to be self-critical, to be a reflective practitioner. The thoughts I'm called to are first "How can I be a better pastor," and second "How can I improve the pastoral work of the Church," and not, "I know what he or she needs to do to be a better pastor." (And, yes, there is a time and place for that question; but it's in the voluntary relationship of student and educator, of directee and director.)

So, I think we are called to be formed as, and to help form "professional Christians." Indeed, I think that it's well established in our faith. Think about Paul's image of the athlete, always in training to do better. Think about our ascetical tradition, with its attention to how we might be ever more open to God in our lives. Think, indeed, about our continuing use of the sacrament of penance. Granted, we repeat that aphorism, "All can; some should; none must," emphasizing most often that "none must." However, the rite itself is about recognizing our failures as grounds for amendment of life, not wallowing in our wretchedness. It is, if you will, a tool for reflective practice and performance improvement.

We are all, I believe, called to be "professional Christians," and "professional" specifically in the sense of being reflective practitioners. Moreover, when we are called to be educators and directors, I think we are called to help others form as reflective practitioners. I know this isn't really new thought; but like many classic thoughts, it's worth returning to now and again. If we can be attentive to our lives as Christians, not only acting but reflecting on our actions; not only caring but attending to our caring; we will discover how we might better live out our lives as Christians. We will discover how we might be more "professional" in our professing. We can make the phrase "professional Christian" representative of the best the Church has to offer, and not of a narrow caricature. It is a part of our vocation to become more professional in our professing. It might even help us attract new folks who want to profess with us.

The Rev. Marshall Scott is a chaplain in the Saint Luke’s Health System, a ministry of the Diocese of West Missouri. A past president of the Assembly of Episcopal Healthcare Chaplains, and an associate of the Order of the Holy Cross, he keeps the blog Episcopal Chaplain at the Bedside.

Found in translation

By Kathleen Staudt

Call me a nerd if you llike, but this past August, my end-of-summer treat to myself was to sit in on the three week intensive course in New Testament Greek that the seminary offers to incoming students. Students required to take a Biblical language expressed some surprise that someone would choose this, but people who know me and my love of language and languages predicted: “You’ll get hooked.” And they were right.

Even now, with my time more limited by the regular semester, I am trying to show up once a week for the continuation of the introductory course. It’s an exercise in humility; my brain is getting pretty full-up with verb forms and noun endings and vocabulary, and I’ve got a generous colleague and student TA reading my often muddled papers and quizzes. But I’m also finding that it’s a return to “vacation mode” for me when I can spend a couple of hours drilling on my flashcards, and solving the intriguing word-puzzles posed by the Greek-English translation exercises, and the “aha” moments that come with translating passages from the Septuagint and the Greek New Testament.

The reward, for me, comes in moments of exquisite clarity, when a passage from Scripture, familiar in English, suddenly makes sense to me in its own language. It began with learning to read and pronounce the alphabet. Words which previously looked like hen scratches on the page began to sound, and sing. Our teacher wisely provided us with the Greek of the first chapter of John, mixed in with the course materials, not assigned, but just there for our perusal.. Within the first week, I found I could transcribe and read: “En arche eyn ho logos” I puzzled it out: ”En Arche” “En" for “In” “arche” like “archeologist. In the beginning. Then a little word – likely to be a form of “to be” and a word I recognized: “Logos” - Word – and there it was – with the sudden immediacy of poetry: “In the beginning was the Word”.

Naturally, I looked further down the page, wondering what John 1:14 would look like in Greek. I could just sound out: : “Kai ho logos sarx egeneto” (And the word was made flesh) “Sarx” – like sarcophagus. Flesh, mortality. I remembered Bible studies where someone told us that there are 2 words for “body” in Greek – “sarx” and “soma” – and this is the one that is the gritty, fleshly, mortal one: even the sound conveys it: “sarx” – the sound sharp and guttural next to the smoothness of “logos”. There it was: the poetry emerging from what was once looked to me like secret code: now the words were singing.

“It’s like being there,” a friend remarked to me, telling of her experience gaining fluency in Biblical languages and reading the texts. I doubt I’ll ever reach her level of fluency but I’m learning enough now to receive in a new way the poetry of the New Testament – in the language it was written in – and so in the word themselves, now new gifts to me.

All this has me reflecting further – in ways for which I there are no words – about a reality that we meet, by God’s grace, within our humanity. Reading Scripture, I am receiving in words the revelation of a God who has chosen to come to us in ways that meet our humanity--our language--our bodies. En arche eyn ho logos. . . Kai ho logos sarx egeneto. It gives me the shivers. It’s like being there

Dr. Kathleen Henderson Staudt keeps the blog poetproph, works as a teacher, poet, spiritual director and retreat leader in the Washington DC area. She is the author of two books: At the Turn of a Civilisation: David Jones and Modern Poetics and Annunciations: Poems out of Scripture.

Life, in some superlative form

By Adam Thomas

Over the last few months, I have had the opportunity to serve several people who were grieving over the deaths of loved ones. I’ve been a priest for nearly a year and a half, but it was not until this summer that I officiated at a burial office or spent hours with families, stumbling together through the wilderness of loss. These recent months have again and again brought me to the eleventh chapter of the Gospel according to John (which appears more than once in the burial service) and to my own first remembrance of the loss of a loved one.

In the months before she passed on, she began having difficulty remembering which of the people in the room were related to her. One time, she thought my father was her biological son, though he had married one of her four daughters thirty years before. The last time I saw my grandmother, she was confined to her bed in the nursing home, a sterile facility a few miles inland from the rock beaches of the northern Massachusetts coastline. In my memory, she was always a small woman, shrunken by age. But during that final visit, I was shocked by her deterioration: the sheets and blankets seemed to double her body mass. Her white hair, once so carefully curled, hung limply from her head. She spoke in a choked whisper, as if her words were too special to share with the rest of the world. And, in a way, they were.

We got the call one summer evening and immediately made plans to fly to New England. When we arrived, we joined the rest of the extended family and pooled our grief with theirs. Cousins and aunts and sisters shared long embraces and reassuring shoulder squeezes and tears. We conversed in muted tones, offering our favorite memories of Esther: the swing set adjacent to her apartment complex; her inability to cook pot roast; her glowing love for her grandchildren and great grandchildren. As we remembered my grandmother, we started repeating certain phrases. “She lived a long life.” “She’s no longer in pain.” “She was ready to go.” “A part of her died twenty years ago with Jack; I’m so glad they are together again.” These sentiments comforted us as we shared them with each other. An outsider listening in on our conversations might have scoffed at such clichéd remarks, but for our family such well-worn comments gave us words to assuage our grief.

When Jesus arrives in Bethany, Martha leaves her home and goes out to meet him. Their conversation begins with similar phrases that emerge out of grief. I imagine that Martha and Mary had often said, “If Jesus had been here, Lazarus wouldn’t have died,” in the four days since they had buried their brother. And now Martha addresses Jesus with these words: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Perhaps, this is an accusation; perhaps, it is a statement of faith. More likely (as is so often the case), it is a combination of the two. She continues, “But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”

At first, Jesus responds with what sounds like an empty, stock answer to a grieving person: “Your brother will rise again.” Indeed, such a statement had probably reached cliché status at that time, considering a large portion of Jewish society believed in a final resurrection. Judging by her next words, Martha certainly takes Jesus’ words in this clichéd manner. I imagine her hanging her head when she says, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

But Martha has not grasped Jesus’ full meaning. Far from offering the usual comforting words to a person in grief, Jesus eliminates the cliché by completely retooling the rules for resurrection. “I am the resurrection and the life,” he says, “Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

The writer of the Gospel throws the full weight of Jesus’ “I am” statements behind these words. By taking resurrection into his very identity, Jesus proclaims to Martha and to us that his business is always remaining in life-giving relationships. Yes, death will occur, he says; after all, resurrection cannot take place without death. But life, in some superlative form, emerges when resurrection denies the finality of death. The first verses of the Gospel link life and light: “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.” Just as darkness did not overcome light, death fails to conquer life because of the power of the resurrection.

Jesus’ words to Martha appear in our burial services to remind us of that power. But these words carry the weight of Jesus’ divine identity, and thus serve as so much more than a simple reminder. Resurrection is not some impersonal thing that may or may not impact our lives and deaths. Resurrection is not something to bring up just to make a grieving person feel better. Jesus is resurrection. Jesus is life. By revealing resurrection as part of his identity, Jesus further divulges the lengths to which he goes to be in relationship with us. Death cannot stop this relationship, because Jesus is resurrection and life.

Martha understands that resurrection assures this continued relationship with Jesus. When he asks her if she believes his words, she replies in the affirmative, but she answers a different question than the one Jesus asked. “Yes, Lord,” she says, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” She answers that she believes in him. Rather than her belief fulfilling a requirement for resurrection, her belief simply affirms her relationship with Jesus. She desires a relationship with him, and Jesus, in his unwillingness to end such a relationship, offers the gift of resurrection. Our belief in Jesus affirms our desire to remain in relationship with him. His gift of resurrection affirms his desire to remain in relationship with us.

When my grandmother died, my family came together to celebrate her life in the midst of our grief. We spoke comforting words to each other, words that had the power of love behind them. And at the service where we laid Esther’s body to rest next to her beloved Jack, we heard Jesus’ words of life proclaiming Jesus’ desire to continue his relationship with us beyond death in the power of the resurrection.

The Rev. Adam Thomas, one of the first Millennials to be ordained priest, is the curate of Trinity Episcopal Church in Martinsburg, WV. He blogs at wherethewind.com.

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I am not a nobody

By Lauren R. Stanley

When, pray tell, did I become a “nobody”? I want to know, so that I can readjust my thinking, readjust my life.

Over in the Church of England, a proposal is circulating that would limit the powers of some women bishops if anyone – apparently anyone – objects to that woman.

Rod Thomas, chairman of Reform, a conservative Anglican group in England, was quoted as saying this so-called compromise was “sensible.”

“It represents a compromise,” Mr. Thomas told Reuters. “It doesn’t go as far as some wanted, it goes further than some liberals wanted. It is a way in which nobody can lose.” (emphasis added)

“Nobody”? Is that what I am? A “nobody”?

It has taken the Church of England years, and lots of nasty infighting, to even consider the idea of women bishops. This after taking the same Church years even longer to decide to allow women to be ordained priests.

Just months after agreeing to open the episcopate to women, conservatives are forcing the Church to pull back. The Revision Committee already has voted to change the rules so that certain powers can be removed from women bishops simply to appease those who don’t want them. If women bishops face opposition from traditionalists in the dioceses in which they serve, some of their powers – as yet undetermined – would be taken away from them and given to male bishops.

One Church of England spokesman says that in parishes that “don’t recognize women bishops and want to look to another bishop,” – read “a man” – that diocesan bishop’s duties and responsibilities to those parishes would be reduced “automatically.”

So there would be no attempt at education, no attempt at mediation, no attempt at reconciliation. Apparently, just one person can object, and poof! There goes the diocesan bishop’s ability to function.

Liberals in the Church are decrying this latest development, claiming it would create a two-tier church, allowing discrimination against women to get even easier than it already is.

As a woman priest ordained for these past 12 years, I can assure you: The two-tier system that the liberals in England fear has existed for millennia. The Church has perpetuated this system throughout its history.


Because, apparently, it is still acceptable to declare women “nobodies.”

I find it ironic that this last brouhaha is taking place in England, which has been ruled, quite successfully, by queens and one woman Prime Minister. It’s OK for the nation to be liberal enough to recognize that women are equal, but heaven forfend if the Church were to do so!

Let me be clear: I am not a nobody. I am a beloved child of God, created in God’s image, brought into being because God loved me into being.

I have no desire to be a bishop, and certainly do not serve in the Church of England, so in theory, this latest development has nothing to do with me. But in fact, it does, because the women who are being called “nobodies” over there are my sisters in Christ. They, too, are beloved children of God, they, too, were created in God’s image because God loved them into being.

So my heart breaks to hear of this proposal, because it tells me that the Church of England is more concerned with appeasing those who cannot accept a new thing than it is with living into a basic tenet of our theology: That we are all created in the image of God.

Because that is true, none of us is a “nobody.”

It would be nice if the Church of England were to remember that.

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is an Appointed Missionary of the Episcopal Church serving in the Diocese of Haiti, where she works on the Partnership Program and Development. Her website is http://web.me.com/merelaurens/GoIntoTheWorld.net.

Sharper than any two-edged sword

By Greg Jones

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is coming up this Sunday — Hebrews 4:12. It says, "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." I love this.

When I was a kid growing up in Washington, D.C., I was fascinated by the precincts around the Capitol, Washington Monument and White House. My dad's office was always downtown, and there were many "boring" Saturdays, when I would have to tag along with him while he was slaving away in the office. In those days, I was allowed to stroll around in the neighborhood and explore a bit. The White House was nearby, and a host of other interesting statues, buildings and monumental structures all over the place.

There is one particular monument that always mesmerized me as a boy — the flaming sword memorial at Constitution Avenue and 17th Street, N.W. This giant golden sword rippling with tongues of fire — it dropped me in my tracks every time I went by it. And it is always what I think of when I hear Hebrews 4:12 — "the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword."

Like most children, I was prone to mystical notions as a boy. I had a very deep appreciation for awe, and wonder, and spooky stuff. Being surrounded by enormous monumental buildings and incredible statues and memorials fed my creative imagination without question. To be regularly able to sit and stare at giant flaming swords of gold, or eat a hot dog by the Capitol dome, or go to church at the National Cathedral — these all fed the realm of soul and spirit. And of course it is in there that faith, belief and wonder pour out.

What are you doing to penetrate deep into the heart of your creative imagination — that fertile soil where the implanted words of God go to grow and change you?

The Rev. Samuel Gregory Jones ('Greg') is rector of St. Michael's in Raleigh, N.C., a trustee of General Seminary and the bass player in indie-rock band The Balsa Gliders — whose fourth studio release is available on iTunes. He blogs at Anglican Centrist.

Walking the way of the psalms

By Leo Campos

Lately my kids discovered passwords. Not the type we use on computers, but rather the daily shibboleths we have. For example, my 3-year-old is having to learn the "Please" password. Without the password he will not gain access to whatever goods or services he needs from mother or father. His older brother has taken the password game to a whole new level.

He will say: "What's the magic word?"

The younger one will diligently say "Please."

"Wrong," the older one says. "the magic word is 'magic word'."

Round and round they go, trying to out trick each other, in the verbal equivalent of computer hacking.

The other night I was retelling the story of Ali Baba and the 40 thieves to them. I think the question came up regarding "Open sesame" and what exactly is "sesame". At any rate, it was important that Ali Baba use the correct password. To say "Open bananas" would not work no matter how heartfelt, how loudly it was shouted.

One, or perhaps "the", most marked trait of monastics of any stripe are their focus on the psalms as a primary way of prayer. Be it Benedictines chanting in choir or Jesuits whispering psalms to themselves as they go about the world, psalms are part and parcel of a monastic's toolbox.

I have been asked, by those who begin to be more concerted in their spiritual efforts how to pray the psalms - as if the psalms will open Ali Baba's cave. Apart from learning some secret chanting technique, people are concerned about what appears to be the spiritual and emotional immaturity of the psalm composers. The conversation usually goes something like this:

"David is whining again! I do not know how I can be uplifted by his psalms!"

"Why do you think he is whining?"

"Because he keeps blaming everyone else for his problems. Does he really think he is perfect?"

"And you think this is wrong?"

"Of course it is wrong! No one is blameless. He is falling into this victim-hood trap!"

"And the way to avoid it is?"

"To accept responsibility, of course! To rely on God!"

"So in your spiritual life you live with full realization that the things that happen to you are really your fault? Or God's?"

It is easy for us to blame David for blaming others. But the opposite view is equally unbalanced. We cannot blame ourselves for everything that happens either! If you do that you are going down the road of such New Age mumbo-jumbo as the Prosperity Gospel and the stuff preached on the book The Secret. If you blame God for everything then you are falling into some sort of Calvinistic fatalism which denies the freedom which God has granted you.

So there has to be a balance, of course. But this work of balancing your life is not the purpose of the psalms. They are not there to balance you, but rather to expose your heart to its own imbalances.

Another very important part of the psalms is what it feeds us. We are what we eat, or to put it more generally, we will become like whatever we give our attention to. If you think and dream about money then everything you see and do is colored by money, value, profit and loss. The same thing goes to any of the eight wrong thoughts as outline by Evagrius. That is why they are "deadly". They deaden your heart and spirit. Jesus asks us to find our hearts by looking at what we treasure. This is not as complicated as it seems. What do you treasure?

There is another level of reading the psalms which is important - and this is to just read the psalms. Let me tell you what I mean. Let us take a well-known psalm such as the 23rd psalm. "The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want..." But how we usually read it is to put a lot of silent commentary between the ideas. Add emphasis or some personal "tone" to each psalm. If your mind is like mine the inner dialog tends to be both absurd and profane.

To really make the psalms your way, or as the Camaldolese would say it "the way is in the psalms", you need to resist the temptation to follow any association of ideas. You just take the one psalm in front of you and it alone. You can follow the various connections to specific Old Testament passages later when you do Bible study. There will be other times for that. You can also let the psalms inspire your thinking at other times of the day, and even to let your prayer life be circumscribed by the psalms. This is all very good and profitable, but it is not using the psalter as a tool.

Read a psalm very slowly. At first read it as if there was a comma between each word: "The, Lord, is, my, shepherd." Then do it as if there was a stop: "The. Lord. Is. My. Shepherd." But do not put any special emphasis in any of the words. Just each word at a time. With plenty of silence around them.

Of course, at this rate it will take you about 10 minutes to recite the 23rd psalm. Clearly you cannot go through the psalter with a lot of speed! You may end up spending a week or more on the longer psalms, like 119. But so what? What's the hurry? You can read through and study and cross reference the psalms during your Bible study time. But when you are using them to pray just say the psalms.

Brother Leo Campos is the co-founder of the Community of Solitude, a non-canonical, ecumenical contemplative community. He worked as the "tech guy" for the Diocese of Virginia for 6 years before going to the dark side (for-profit world).

Freaks for Christ: Mourning Brother Squirrel

By Christopher Evans

Imagine someone holding a funeral for a squirrel on the roadside as you drive to work. Crazy, no? Probably.

Some time back as I drove to work, I noticed a dead squirrel in the middle of the opposite lane. Two other squirrels were trying to rouse him, shaking his body to and fro without success. A third was chattering from the bank on the side of the road, clearly agitated. They were all running back and across the road. Should I stop? Keep going? I continued driving on. I had nearly made it into the parking lot at work when my fellow-feeling hit. In their attempts to help their fellow squirrel, now presumably dead, one of the other squirrels might get killed as well.

So, I turned around and drove back. I parked. I got out and searched through the trunk, coming up with some cardboard and a plastic lid with which to move his body. As I moved toward his body, one squirrel was trying to move his body, little legs widespread, pushing the body toward the curb with great difficulty. I paused as a truck approached, put my hand up to indicate slow down, and waived the driver around. I turned back to the body. He, for he was clearly male, was dead. I was relieved for that much for his own sake and for mine, as I do not know what I would have done if he were still alive and suffering ever so slowly to death from crushed innards. His right-hand eye was popped clear out of its socket. His teeth were pushed clear forward nearly out of his mouth, blood beginning to dry on his lips. I stooped down and scooped his furry tan-and-black body onto the hard plastic lid using the piece of cardboard. I moved his body to the side of the road beneath a three evergreen trees.

I placed his body on the ground, resting his paws in his breast, and having no spade with which to dig, I did my best to cover his body with earth using the plastic lid which I’d used to move his body. And with one squirrel on the ground to my left observing, another nearby in a tree chattering, and the third to my right up another tree, I made the Sign of the Cross, paused with them for a moment of silence, and then raising my hands in the orans position, I chanted aloud a version of my “Roadkill Prayer”:

Blessed are you, O God of all creation, we give you thanks for the life of this squirrel, your creature. Now receive him into your eternal care where he might enjoy you forever according to his estate; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I closed with the Sign of the Cross. Yes, it all felt a little silly at near 8:00 AM on a workday morn. A man was mowing his law across the street. What must he have thought as I stood there praying with three very twitchy squirrels momentarily still? Another Bay Area freak?

But the gesture was profoundly right. I was changed. It is as if scales began to fall from my eyes just a bit. Who pauses to mourn a squirrel? To think anew about how we drive without care of our surrounds and those who inhabit them with us? There are countless millions of these pesky rodents. Yet, this squirrel was a fellow creature, a unique creation of flesh and blood whom God declared “good, indeed, very good.” He too is a subject of God’s care and concern in his own right irrespective of how he stands in relation to us human beings. God hears his “Holy, holy, holy” with our own, as the Psalmist reminds: “All thy works shall give thanks to thee, O Lord, and all thy saints shall bless thee!”

In our anthropocentrism, we are only now discovering the vast and varied intelligence of our fellow creatures and the relationship of ours to theirs. And as our own existence and survival is pressed, we are just beginning to understand the ecological and cosmological dimensions of our faith in Christ and calling as Christians. We need not go far to readjust our vision. We need only put on our Prayer Book lens to recover a sense of reverence.

This line of oblation from Prayer D in our Prayer Book exemplifies and sums our role in Christ and our proper orientation to all of creation: “and offering to you, from the gifts you have given us, this bread and this cup, we praise you and we bless you.” In the Orthodox tradition from which Prayer D heavily borrows, in Jesus Christ we are priests of creation, called to glorify, bless, and praise God without ceasing and to pray for and serve all of God’s creatures as bearers of blessing.

To give thanks, eucharist, is our rightful place at Holy Communion as well as in the Daily Office. These properly mark our daily life and work as thanksgiving in their own right. Thanksgiving and blessing and service are our “dominion” and “rule,” “right” and “image.” Our Prayer Book stands in complete contrast to those who justify the “rape of the earth” for the sake of production, consumption, and progress.

Tongues wagged as my own bishop, Bishop Steven Charleston, addressed the close of General Convention 2009 with a prophetic challenge: This earth, “our island home” is in grave peril. Species are dying. Biomes are changing too rapidly for adaptation. Toxins are killing everything. We cannot keep living like this.

While most paid all of their attention to matters of human sexuality, I rejoiced at the passage of resolutions addressing animal welfare. I am sure some eyes rolled at the passage of Resolution C078: Liturgy for Loss of a Companion Animal.

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That this 76th General Convention reaffirm that all animals are a part of All Creation, for which we are called to be stewards of God's gifts; and be it further

Resolved, That the Episcopal Church embrace the opportunity for pastoral care for people who grieve the loss of a companion animal; and be it further

Resolved, That this General Convention direct the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to develop liturgical resources to observe the loss of a companion animal and that it reoprt its work to the 77th General Convention.

Various groups within the Church have shown an interest in developing inclusive liturgies for events that touch people's lives, for which there currently exists no authorized rite. The bond between humans and their animal companions can be strong, causing a deep sense of loss, grief (or even guilt) over the animal's death, especially when dealing with the loss alone, without the presence of their community of faith, or having the preconception that such an event falls outside the interest of their church. Our animal companions provide a unique connection to creation and expand our sense of God's diverse gifts in creation. In many cases they also join us as partners in ministry, in such capacities as assistance animals, i.e., seeing eye dogs, etc. as well as therapy dogs and cats used in health care facilities and for pastoral care. An authorized rite in the Book of Occasional Services would give clergy and others a resource for offering pastoral care at the death of a companion animal.

How far-gone must the Episcopal Church be that they are passing legislation directing the development of rites for animals? Too few in the Episcopal Church know of the jabs the Rev. Dr. Andrew Linzey has taken for developing precisely these sorts of liturgies and a theology of animals heavily rooted in the Incarnation upon which his thought and concern are based. We are witnessing the expansion of our lex orandi through revisiting and reappreciating our lex credendi: Christ’s Incarnation is for the sake of all flesh. No less than SS Benedict, David, Francis, and Seraphim could have told us as much, if we would but pay attention to our ancestors in faith. Again, the seeds are already planted in our Prayer Book and resources.

To bless God in Christ by the Spirit is the foundational act for our living, our serving, our dying. This is the embrace to which our Lord Christ calls us as images of His own “great High Priesthood,” in the words to the close of Prayer C. Reverence begins with what is in front of us by giving thanks for God’s goodness. A bow for He who comes in the Name of the Lord matters at the Thrice-Holy. A thanksgiving before eating daily bread acknowledges gift. A desire to see each person blessed by tangible graces and up-building words greets Christ. An unwillingness to pause in appreciation at the felling of a thousand-year old tree teaches blasphemy. The put-down of another makes flesh our curses. Or in F.D. Maurice’s words, “the Incarnation may be set aside in acts as well as words.” The recovery of this sense of wonder and awe at a God’s creation is a first step to finding our proper place again, that is, to learning humility. To recover reverence of God’s gifts is to profess the Incarnation.

Certainly, to offer words of thanksgiving for the loss of a domesticated animal companion will not save the planet. Nonetheless, to bless God for the life of just one animal, who has been a friend and companion, begins to have us think anew about our fellow creatures, about creation, about ourselves, about God. Such a gesture may be small, but it is significant step toward recognizing our coexistence with, our reliance upon, and our shared flesh as fellow creatures. And so we find these words from another resolution passed, D015:

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 76th General Convention support the humane and merciful treatment of all of God's Creatures; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention urge Diocesan Environmental Commissions or Committees to provide information to educate our congregations about decisions that would affect the lives and health of endangered species, farmed food animals and domesticated animals; and be it further

Resolved, That each congregation be encouraged to refer this resolution to their outreach committee or other such venue in order to ensure the education and dissemination of information to their members about endangered species, farmed food animals and domesticated animals.

The Christian Tradition holds that God has created the earth and all that lives herein. It teaches that all God created is “good”, and further, that we are held accountable for the right stewardship of God's creation. A number of endangered species are rapidly becoming extinct; a notable example is the Red Knot bird that traverses between Argentina and the Arctic with a key food stop in New Jersey where one specific local species is under siege threatening the elimination of the Red Knot's critical food, the eggs of the horseshoe crab, by the crabs' over-capture as fishing bait. And overdevelopment of United States' virgin lands has put a large variety of indigenous species' existence in imminent jeopardy. Food animals continue to be cruelly and mercilessly treated: pregnant sows are totally confined in gestation crates, veal calves are penned in veal crates and are barely able to move around or even stand up; chickens are crammed together for life into battery cages in a space no larger than this page; geese are brutally force fed to make foie gras; grazing animals are fed antibiotics to increase size, that are then contained within their meat, passing these antibiotics on to consuming humans who become more and more vulnerable to resistant bacterial strains. Huge factory farms house animals in deplorable and unsanitary conditions resulting in foul run off, polluted ground water, and contamination linked to human diseases. Stressed food animals produce stress hormones. This can compromise their immune systems. Antibiotics are in turn routinely given to ensure that the animals are not overwhelmed by ambient microorganisms. Small doses of these antibiotics, showing up in the meat eaten by humans, actually increase human vulnerability to resistant strains of microorganisms. By education we can make a real difference in the level of awareness of these problems and practices. Congregations can become aware of the most vulnerable of God's creation and respect the dignity of “all things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all” (Cecil Frances Alexander, Hymn 405 in Hymnal 1982).

In all truth, to do so is to begin to recognize the height and depth and breadth of the Incarnation. In the words of our newer prayers, Prayer 3 of Enriching Our Worship: “through Jesus Christ, your eternal Word, the Wisdom from on high by whom you created all things.”

It is precisely these lines borrowing from the Prologue of John and the hymns of Colossians and Ephesians that inspired a revolution in theology—Creation is in Christ. As St Maximos the Confessor, F.D. Maurice, and Charles Gore and the Lux Mundi school discovered, Jesus Christ is a social Person. We are not autonomous, but embraced. In Christ is the whole of creation. In Christ we live and move and have our being. By Christ we have hope for all of God’s creatures. We are most ourselves in Christ. And we humans are charged to “live no longer for ourselves, but for him who died and rose for us, he [who] sent the Holy Spirit, his own first gift for those who believe, to complete his work in the world, and to bring to fulfillment the sanctification of all.” May we be freaks for Christ. Amen.

(For footnotes, click Read more.)

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Imagine no religion

By Donald Schell

Until yesterday morning, those billboard and bus signs had only annoyed me. I hated their cartoonish stained glass background and the smug large letters of the message. Of course, I also heard John Lennon’s line, ‘…and no religion too.’ Why’d Lennon have to add that? Then truthfully, somewhere in the back of my mind, I also thought, “Sorry, John, religion’s my work. You did your job; I’ll do mine,” but I hated that. I do not welcome my inner priest voice defending the religion business.

After seeing it so many times, this time I dropped my protest and simply read the “Freedom From Religion” ad as an invitation and got to work imagining.

Okay. ‘Imagine no religion.’ So, no Shakespeare. Ouch.

Biking through the traffic, I thought of Karl Barth and Rene Girard. Both argue that what we practice is no religion at all because Jesus refuses to tell us how to get our way with God and won’t bind us into stultifying groupthink. Good thoughts, but I was co-opting the billboard message. The red light stopped me, and I told myself no fancy dodges, no letting myself off the hook with religionless Christianity. What would be good riddance if we had no religion? I pedaled on.

No Spanish Inquisition.

No witch trials in Europe or Salem.

No Catholic-Protestant struggle in Northern Ireland.

No Serbia-Croatian War.

No Buddhists and Hindus fighting in Sri Lanka.

No 9/11? (but what warped Islam to get those guys flying the planes into the Twin Towers?)

The bus caught up with me at the next light. As I waited by the sign, I considered faces looking out the window above it. “Imagine No Religion.” Their minds were elsewhere. The light changed to green and pressed on.

No Religious Right.

No religious scorn for my gay friends.

No Aztec human sacrifice on the Pyramid of the Sun…but the sacrifices were done. So, just no Pyramid of the Sun. I remembered climbing it when I was fifteen.

I was pedaling uphill now.

No Genesis story of Ham to justify slavery.

Pushing my speed up on the hill, I thought again of Shakespeare. The imagining cuts both ways. What would we miss without religion? Immediately I noticed how personal this list was. What would make my world smaller without religion? The list is more idiosyncratic. What’s your list? Comments welcome! Here’s mine from the bike ride -

No Hagia Sophia in Istanbul,

No Bach Cantatas or Mozart’s Requiem,

No Gandhi,

No Peace Prize for Desmond Tutu, and no Truth and Reconciliation Commission,

No St. Francis,

No Teresa of Avila outwitting the Inquisition while she taught us how to be friends with God in holy community,

No Franciscan Third Order giving serfs religious basis to refuse their overlord’s call to war against neighboring dukedoms.

No Hospitals? At least we know Christians, Buddhists, and Muslims founded the first ones to care for the sick and indigent poor.

And Shakespeare? So am I certain Will Shakespeare was a Christian and that his glorious work speaks faith? I sense our faith in his plays, but some people don’t. But there’s no question that the Bishops’ Bible and Coverdale Psalter sparked his language.

No end to slavery? Ah, tricky one. Yes, religious justifications helped sustain slavery, but it was virtually universal in human history until priest and then bishop Bartolome de Las Casas made his heroic effort to outlaw it in Spain’s New World colonies. Like many good stories of religion, this one began in a muddle. Las Casas came to Cuba as young nobleman where, as a slaveholding landowner he surprised himself and his friends by becoming a priest, and when his prayers made him see the plight of his Indio sisters and brothers, he freed his own slaves and crossed the Atlantic almost a dozen times to convince King Philip II to do what no other monarch had ever done, outlaw slavery.

And our abolitionists? Two hundred years after Las Casas, Anglican Deacon Thomas Clarkson wouldn’t stop pushing, teasing, cajoling, demanding the church’s and Parliament’s repentance for the English slave trade. Clarkson plagued William Wilberforce when he gave up the fight. He berated John Newton and the Archbishop of Canterbury for the profits they made on the trade. He more or less invented community organizing, and in forty years got England to outlaw first the trade and then slavery itself. But bitter with the church’s long resistance he more or less became a Quaker.

I reached home out of breath from riding up the hill and parked my bike in the garage.
“Imagine no religion.”

No mystical poets. No Juan de la Cruz, no Emily Dickinson, no T.S. Eliot, no Mary Oliver, no Ephrem the Syrian, no Hildegard von Bingen.

Through the day I kept coming back to the billboard’s request.

Late morning I recalled 20th Century violence done in the name of Non-Religion. I decided a low death score in a Religion vs. No Religion doesn’t win any contest. Evenhanded remembering only gets to this – we’ve all got blood on our hands.

Just how do we imagine the dark side of this?

Dostoyevsky did it clipping news stories of the worst and cruelest things people did to other people. Believing Christ was drawing the whole world into God’s embrace, he felt the song of praise ready to spring even from humanity’s worst, but could he trust that without acknowledging

Readers – what would break your heart if we had no religion?

After lunch I remembered my widowed parishioner in Idaho who always brought a roast to our midweek Eucharist and potluck, saving up from her social security check to share something delicious with her friends. Communion.

Communion again holding the hand of the comatose, dying unbeliever, the father of two young children. “Even in coma, people hear,” I’d thought, so, speaking slowly with a confidence that came from something beyond me, I said he could continue loving his wife and daughters, but it was time to let go, and the next moment he took one long, last breath and died.

By the end of the day this priest was thanking the Freedom From Religion Foundation. FFRF’s invitation to imagine “no religion” puts us right back to the mystery of why we choose faith. Mixed bag? Amen! Religion has inspired the very best and much of the worst of who we.

In the end I remembered sweet moments of falling in love with Jesus again.

Keep our eyes open Lord Jesus. Make us truthful and humble. Show us how to repent of what we’ve done in your Name and make us grateful for what you do in, for and with us and for all humanity.

The Rev. Donald Schell, founder of St. Gregory of Nyssa Church in San Francisco, is President of All Saints Company.

Outside looking in

By George Clifford

In downtown San Francisco, an abandoned building has furniture, including a refrigerator, sofa, chair, and lamp, hanging out of windows and otherwise attached to the exterior. The building has stood that way for years, with colorful murals decorating the sheets of plywood placed around the ground level to keep people out. I do not know the building’s story, whether the perpetrator(s) intended it as an artistic statement or something else.

In any case, the building seems an apt metaphor for too many denominations and congregations. These churches leave some of the people who should be integral to their community hanging in limbo outside, superfluous except as a painful statement of the types of people that Christian group excludes.

Sadly, some churches even boast about the types of people whom they exclude. Intentionally excluding people contravenes Paul’s vision of the body of Christ as mutual interdependence in which no person, regardless of perceived externalities, is dispensable. Each and every person brings gifts to the body, enriching the membership, strengthening the community, and contributing to the incarnation of Christ's body in the world.

Healthy Christian communities regularly monitor themselves to identify the types of people whom they exclude, intentionally or unintentionally. In the past, most Christian communities excluded the physically challenged because buildings were not handicap accessible. People with mental challenges or behavioral control issues often exceeded (and still do in many places) a congregation’s tolerance for behavior outside conventional norms. Fear of contamination, as happened when the full magnitude of the HIV/AIDS problem first shattered public apathy two decades ago, erected new barriers to inclusion and thereby excluded some from Christian communities. Snobbishness, whether based on socio-economic status, perceived moral probity, or another factor, continues to bar some from admission in local Christian communities.

Each person is, as it were, a lump of clay in the potter’s hands, still being sculpted into the artistic and useful vessel the potter designed. Excluding people from the community not only impoverishes the community but also devalues the potter’s unfinished work as unworthy. Intolerance, from the right or from the left, has no place in Christian community. All people, no matter how personally repugnant I may find their views or behavior, are, like me, an unfinished vessel in the potter’s hands, still being sculpted into an artistic and useful creation.

Part of the historic Anglican genius has been our commitment to unity in the midst of diversity. Sometimes called “big tent Anglicanism,” this requires making room for those with a wide array of beliefs. Preventing the big tent from collapsing on top of those within it, stifling both their vibrancy and their ability to welcome others, requires humility, trust in the potter, and honoring our baptismal vow to respect the dignity and worth of all persons.

I’m thankful for the courageous stands that the Episcopal Church took at its 2009 General Convention. Having clarified who we are, and whose we are, now the harder work of lovingly living into that vision of inclusivity begins, a task in which we chart our direction and our progress with more difficulty. But even as the heat of a kiln is necessary to finish transforming clay into a useful and artistic vessel, so the heat of the hard work in the years ahead is necessary for us to incarnate fully God's loving embrace of all people.

The Rev. Dr. George Clifford, Diocese of North Carolina, served as a Navy chaplain for twenty-four years He taught philosophy at the U. S. Naval Academy and ethics at the Postgraduate School. He blogs at Ethical Musings.

Washing away our sins

By Lauren R. Stanley

PETION VILLE, Haiti – The power went out – again – the other day, leaving me with little to do on the computer. No power, no Internet. No Internet, no connection with others.

So I did what I usually do: I washed my clothes.

Washing clothes in Haiti is arduous work. Most of us do it by hand, in round rubber tubs, sitting, in my case, on the edge of the shower stall. It’s not like washing clothes at home: There, we dump the clothes in the washer, add detergent, turn a few knobs, push a few buttons, and walk away. After a while, the washer stops, we take the clothes out, toss them in the dryer, turn a few more knobs, push a few more buttons, and walk away again. When the buzzer goes off, we take our clothes out, fold them and put them away.

Here, washing clothes is intentional work. You pour water in the tub, add soap, dump in the clothes (not too many at once), let them soak a bit, then start churning away. You try to replicate what the washer does back in the States, agitating and swishing and swirling the clothes around. You take the special bar of laundry soap and scrub at stains and dirt. You examine each article of clothing individually to make sure it’s clean. You rub the material together to get the clothes cleaner. Then you wring each piece out and put them in another tub. When you think everything in this batch is clean, you start the rinse cycle. Each piece of clothing gets dipped and swished and swirled through the clean water. You wring again and again. Then you hang up your clothes in your bathroom, or out on a line if you have one (but they’ll get dirty outside, hanging in the polluted air, so drying them inside seems to be the better option). Finally, you wait … sometimes overnight … for your things to dry. Haiti may be a hot climate, but in this rainy season, it’s also a humid one. Few things dry quickly here.

It can be a tedious job, doing the wash by hand, but even so, I’ve found some blessings in it. All this cleaning and scrubbing has become good prayer time. As I wash, especially those collars on my shirts, I find myself thinking about the people and places I love, and sending prayers to God for their well-being. I pray for the end of war and violence and oppression. I pray for others’ happiness. For peace in the world. For the people with whom I served for four years in Sudan. For my incredibly extended family, moving in my mind from place to place, hop-scotching across the country and around the world. I give thanks for the blessings of my life, and pray for guidance in my ministry. My hands do the work and my eyes watch for stains, but my heart and soul are with God the whole time.

And I reflect on how washing my clothes in this time-honored fashion is rather like being washed clean by God. You see, as I’m washing and scrubbing and agitating the waters, swirling the clothes around, I see all the dirt come loose. I watch the water, which is more or less clean at the start, turn gray, and then, sometimes, dark gray. Occasionally, the water turns almost brown. Haiti is not a clean place … we have dirt, we have dust, we have all the pollution from cars and trucks. It’s hot, and I sweat a lot. All that combines to make my clothes pretty dirty, sometimes after just one wearing. As I pour out the now-dirty water and watch it swirl down the drain, I think of how washing the dirt from my clothes is rather like washing the dirt from my spiritual life. Sometimes, I can leave my spiritual life to soak, and that’s enough. Usually though, I think God has to put me through a wringer, swirling and agitating and scrubbing hard at those sinful parts of my life, those times when I was not nice, when I hurt another person, when I have been frustrated and thought of tossing this whole ministry-in-another-country out with the wash water. I think that some days, God has to work especially hard to get me clean again, dunking me again and again into the waters of forgiveness, not because God has to work to forgive me, but because I can be so stubborn I don’t want to be forgiven, or I won’t forgive another for some perceived slight.

But God doesn’t give up on me. God keeps scrubbing away, keeps checking for hidden stains, keeps soaping up and rinsing and wringing me out until, when God is done, when I have finally acquiesced to all the God freely offers me, the stained, dirty parts of my life wash down the drain and God’s love and forgiveness make me clean again.

By the time I finish my wash, even a small load, I am exhausted. My arms get a great workout from all the wringing out, I’m covered in sweat and the clothes I wore to the do the wash are the next ones to go into the wash basket.

And each time, I am left to wonder: Does God have to work this hard to get me clean?

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is an Appointed Missionary of the Episcopal Church serving in the Diocese of Haiti, where she works on the Partnership Program and Development. Her website is http://web.me.com/merelaurens/GoIntoTheWorld.net.

Of the streets and courts

By Gregory C. Syler

Sitting with Hemingway’s breakthrough classic, The Sun Also Rises, once again, I noticed what must have always been there, though I hardly saw it before: a robust catholicism; a “grand religion” no less vital to Spanish culture than to a few of the American ex-pats who tried to renew life, at least for a while, in a fictional summer. Read of protagonist Jake Barnes’ experience in the Bayonne cathedral, relishing the cool stone, awkwardly feasting in quiet prayer, soaking up time-honed sacredness of place.

Hemingway began to write it in those early years spent abroad with his wife and child. Bored and brooding as 1925’s summer turned to fall, he headed off by himself to Chartres, and found the ancient pilgrimage site an excellent place to refine the novel. Biographer Michael Reynolds notes: “Catholicism held for Hemingway a strong emotional attraction. It was the religion of the bullfighters and royalty, a religion of the streets and courts.”

Something there speaks to me. Not the watered-down cultural religiosity but the honest appraisal of what is in the Episcopal Church, as well, a catholic truth: If we take Jesus seriously, we’ll find ourselves singing, praying and eating with the rich and poor, the homeless and those with mortgage woes, the ones we’d like to vacation with and the ones we’d rather serve lunch to, behind the protected wall of a parish hall’s kitchen counter.

You see, I’m the rector of a small but increasingly vibrant Episcopal parish in St. Mary’s County. Not much happens where we live and worship in the village of Valley Lee, but an Anglican church has been here, continuously, since 1638. No modern church planter would start a congregation in this precise spot, because it doesn’t marry with the modern layout of roadways in southern Maryland, but St. George’s is a simple whitewashed building almost exactly halfway between the great manor houses nearby. Sure, this was a church for the landed gentry, but it also was a congregation for the folks who tilled the land and worked the waters, those who got up with the sun and rested when the day was done.

That’s something to be celebrated, a truly Christian community in which the wealthy and not-so-prosperous gathered around the same altar. Even today, long after the slave galleries were ripped out and the manor barons’ wealth all but dried up, St. Mary’s is a booming mix of U.S. Navy, military contractors, retirees and folks who can still trace their line to the founding of the colony. And they gather, still, around the same altar – those with doctorates and oversight of multimillion dollar defense contracts right next to those who learned from their grandparents how to stuff a ham and whose parents showed them how to catch rockfish according to native American customs.

To me, it’s both amazing and humbling because, like many, I chose the Episcopal Church as an adult Christian and (let’s be honest) many of us, myself included, relish that our church is a fairly elite group that still prides itself on how many U.S. Presidents we claim, how intellectually curious we can be, how upper-crust we still seem, and that Vanderbilt, Washington and Lee all count as members of our clan. As the relative wealth of colonial manor homes gave way to the contemporary wealth of Navy contracts down here, it’s refreshing to know that the Episcopal Church has, all along, also been founded on watermen and tobacco farmers, on honest, simple folks (myself most certainly included) as well as the elite; a “religion of the streets and courts.”

This also is refreshing, I should hope, to congregations in the Episcopal Church that don’t necessarily share the colonial heritage that quaint little St. George’s, Valley Lee does, for number-trackers continue to alarm faithful Episcopalians (and diocesan staffs) when they show the average attendance at an Episcopal church today as something like 70 folks on a Sunday morning and an increasingly aging population and, well, never mind the rest of the statistics but throw up your hands and cry “Oh, my, the ship really is sinking!”

If you look at it another way, however, you realize that a lot of church-folk in southern Maryland learned the lesson, long ago, that a church of 70 or so on a Sunday morning can still be the recipe for a pretty amazing Christian body, and they don’t have to come with deep pockets. In Valley Lee and other hamlets here, we are growing in spirit as well as in numbers, and we’re doing it through readily identifiable Christian work: education, outreach, worship and pastoral care; not just finding the next wealthy manor lord. We may not be the Upper Crust Church and, like others, our overall attendance may have slipped from previous decades, but we are still fairly successful Christian congregations who are passionately committed to reaching out in Jesus’ name.

Maybe numbers and size and average-education-level don’t matter so much as faithfulness and vibrancy. And maybe a new door is being opened for the Episcopal Church just as the old one is closing, slowly, decade after decade. Maybe congregations like “quaint little St. George’s” will become the model for the rest of us – that the rich faithfulness and robust quality of Christian faith matters, above all else, and those qualities can be found chiefly at those altars where the streets meet the courts.

The Rev. Greg Syler is rector of St. George’s Episcopal Church in Valley Lee, Md.

Does this car make me look fat?

By John B. Chilton

Contrary to what you might think, people who drive to restaurants are thinner those who walk. But that result is a classic example of an omitted variable. Those who walk are more likely to be poorer and live in neighborhoods that lack an affordable restaurant serving healthy food that is within walking distance. (The thinnest people are those who don't drive and do not have a fast food restaurant nearby.) The study appears in the September issue of the Journal of Urban Health: see this post at the LA Times blog, Booster Shots.

There are similar findings with respect to the availability of grocery stores in poorer neighborhoods -- the poor face lower access to healthy foods, and they pay higher prices. As Daniel Engber observes,

We know, for instance, that the lower your income, the more likely you are to inhabit an "obesogenic" environment. Food options in poor neighborhoods are severely limited: It's a lot easier to find quarter waters and pork rinds on the corner than fresh fruit and vegetables. Low-income workers may also have less time to cook their own meals, less money to join sports clubs, and less opportunity to exercise outdoors.

One thing that gets insufficient attention is that the clearest waste in the American health-care system, if you think of personal choices as part of that system, is primarily at the level of the personal health-care practices: poor eating habits, lack of exercise, smoking, teenage pregnancy, violence. As the economist Greg Mankiw has observed, "For men in their 20s, mortality rates are more than 50 percent higher in the United States than in Canada, but ... accidents and homicides account for most of that gap. Maybe these differences have lessons for traffic laws and gun control, but they teach us nothing about our system of health care." And homicides also teach us lessons about poverty.

We know why we have become less responsible about exercise than our ancestors: the development of labor-saving devices at work and in the home, the automobile, the TV. Less obvious, but also true, we eat less responsibly because the price of food has fallen -- all foods - but especially yummy fatty foods relative to healthy foods. On the plus side, as the result of education, taxes on cigarettes and social pressure, fewer Americans are smokers today than in the past, and we should expect to see this pay dividends in the future.

John Tierney in his Findings column recently presented evidence that the longevity gap between the U.S. and other developed countries reverses if you take account of one major difference: until the 1980s Americans were exceptionally heavy smokers. He quotes medical researchers Samuel H. Preston and Jessica Y. Ho : "The health care system could be performing exceptionally well in identifying and administering treatment for various diseases, but a country could still have poor measured health if personal health-care practices were unusually deleterious."

In a related finding, in a new paper the economist Robert Gordon writes, "A continuing tendency for life expectancy to increase faster among the rich than among the poor reflects the joint impact of education on both economic and health outcomes, some of which are driven by the behavioral choices of the less educated." This could include everything from bad eating habits to teenage pregnancy to gun violence.

Health education in schools is one suggested remedy. And there are various things government might do to create incentives for better individual choices like helmet laws and taxes on sodas, liquor and tobacco. But see this level-headed post on the Food Police -- if we knowingly make bad choices and we bear the consequences, the higher health care costs, what business is it of the government's to intervene; if Americans are especially irresponsible that will make the U.S. look like an outlier in terms of health care costs, but it's not the fault of the health care system per se.

Pooling individuals into insurance exchanges will create a perverse, if perhaps unavoidable incentive towards irresponsible behavior, a perverse incentive that also exists under employer-provided insurance. (It is disingenuous to point out the flaw with the insurance exchanges proposed in current bills working their way through Congress without acknowledging the same is true of employer-provided insurance.) Some of us are lucky enough to have health insurance through our employer. Ultimately the insurance premium the employer pays comes out of our salary. But because I'm pooled with others my premium does not reflect my personal health-care choices which play a substantial, though not exclusive, part in my pre-existing conditions. As a matter of public policy we may not want to penalize those whose pre-existing conditions are beyond their control, but what about those whose pre-existing conditions are?

In short, once you follow the logic full circle, none of us bears the full consequences of our poor personal health-care choices.

If you're like me there's no excuse for not making more responsible personal health-care choices. I'm just taking advantage of the system. I would suggest, however, that some personal health-care practices are not due to freedom of choice so much as they are due to a paucity of options. The poor don't choose to be poor [or do they, in a way?], and many of their options are bad ones. If you can only afford to live in a poor neighborhood what fault is it of yours that your only choices are fast food? Or that you are exposed to more violence? Yes, life expectancy is increasing more slowly among the poor because the poor are more likely to make bad choices due to lack of education, but where is the choice in education if your schools are failing?

Health insurance reform is worthy. But it won't solve a root cause of waste in our health-care system: poverty.

John B. Chilton holds a doctorate in economics from Brown University. He has taught at the University of Western Ontario, the University of South Carolina, and the American University of Sharjah (United Arab Emirates). He resides in Orkney Springs, Virginia, home of Shrine Mont, a Conference Center of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. Shrine Mont is the location of the Cathedral Shrine of the Transfiguration. He keeps several blogs.

In defense of the organic church

By Jim Stockton

The Church of England describes itsef as “episcopally led and synodocally governed.” Bishop Pierre Whalon recalls at his blog site the comment of the late Church of England Bishop Ian Cundy, intended as a gentle corrective: “Our modality is historically the ‘bishop-in-synod’ rather than ‘episcopally led and synodically governed’”. It is a distinction, perhaps, that a bishop of the Church of England can appreciate, but one wonders if the lay person or priest there would do the same. Certainly, one wants the late bishop to be correct; and not simply out of respect for the dear departed, but because it reflects a high ideal: the notion that the institutional Church is guided by the Spirit of God moving in the organic Church gathered.

But one wonders, then, why comment on ‘bishop’ at all? Perhaps even within a relatively populist comment, the reality remains evident that the Churches of the Anglican Communion are institutionally weighted in favor of the bishops. The same tension that emerged as early at Cyprian’s third century declaration: Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus, “Outside the Church there is no salvation” seems to continue. Outside what Church? What is meant here by ‘Church’?

The Churches of the Anglican Communion are respectively engaged with the question of how they are to remain a Communion. They are being asked, if not required, by the Archbishop of Canterbury to consider and respond to the unfinished latest draft of an “Anglican Covenant.” Implicit, then, in the Archbishop’s request is the requisite assumption that the Communion cannot remain such without such a document. It is unfortunate, I think, that this assumption betrays a bias toward the institutional Church and a lack of confidence in the organic.

The modality of the institutional Church is indeed oriented around bishops, even in synod or council. However, with regard to our councils, it should be helpful to recall that it is a modern innovation that councils or synods incorporate lay or clerical participation at all. Historically, the Councils of the Church were populated only with bishops. This is true for the Church of England until as recently as 1970, when its General Assembly was established. Its General Assembly is the only gathering of the Church of England that we Episcopalians would recognize as in any way similar to the democratically organized bodies that we name as our ‘councils’ or ‘conventions.’

The modality here in the U.S. has been to proceed with a healthy suspicion toward bishops. Historically, Church of England bishops here were, as they are now, agents of the English government. Their presence in, and affection for, the colonial churches were almost nil. Colonial churches were populated with lay leadership and priests ordained in England, having then made the arduous journey here to serve. When the colonies declared their freedom, the Church gathered itself without any bishops at all, since the American Church had only one bishop at the time, and this one having been irregularly consecrated in Scotland. It was this initial Convention, much more organic than institutional, that decided to continue with bishops and to identify itself nominally with their ecclesial Office. Here, then, the modality has been quite different from that of England and her Church.

This may explain why many of our fellow Anglican Christians, at least their bishops, continue to fail to understand how it is that we here in TEC could, much less would, proceed with democratically established practices in our own Church that they cannot accept in their own. The Church of England, while far ahead of us in the practical sense in terms of gay unions and openly gay clergy couples, gets a bit of a pass from the criticism, presumably because of the Church’s status as an arm of the government and thus its consequent subjection to that governments laws. The Episcopal Church, though laden with institutionalism, is nevertheless far more organically organized and governed than the Church of England as well as most of its fellow member Churches of the Anglican Communion.

Maybe this explains, also, why the notion of an ‘Anglican Covenant’ is viewed here with increasing suspicion. As the Church of England itself once did, we of TEC have a resentment toward the institutional intrusion into our Church’s autonomy and autocephaly by foreign prelates, in this case, via the proposed ‘Covenant.’ Just as this nation was built upon suspicion toward such institutionalism, so also was our Church. Our modality is distinct. Because we are more organic, we are decidedly not “episcopally led;” instead, we are episcopally served. We are not even oriented around “the bishop-in-synod;” the corrective is too subtle for our organic reality. Instead, our synods, our councils or conventions, hold the bishops accountable. After all, we elect them.

Because it is rooted in the organic Church it enjoys comparatively fuller participation of the entirety of its membership, and so is comparatively more accessible to the movement of the Holy Spirit. If the organic Church spurns the product of an institutional modality, we can be assured that its perpetuity will remain far from tenuous. The existence of institutionalized organizations may well be threatened, and probably rightly so. But the status of One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic is claimed with profound integrity by the Church organic. It will thrive.

The Rev. Jim Stockton is rector of the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Austin Texas.

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