Reading Matthew with Monks: Physical Edition!

When M, the girls and I got back from the Boston Marathon late last night, there was a slip indicating that a package was waiting for me at my neighbor’s house. After taking the girls to school this morning, I went by and collected it. And here’s what it contained:


Fifteen copies of my first full-length single-authored book!

As a few of you may remember, I originally started this blog ten years ago to provide an outlet for both thoughts and distractions while working away at my dissertation. That process finished in 2009 with my defense, and then officially with my graduation in 2011. Now, that work is being made public in (hopefully) a more accessible form than than the dissertation in this handsome publication from Liturgical Press.

I’m ecstatic that this work is finally here, and the fact that it is exists is, naturally, the result of a lot of patience and prodding from both my wonderful wife and also my incredible dissertation director who was kind enough to write the Foreword for the book.

I’ll have more to say about it later, most likely, but I’ll leave you here with the Table of Contents:

  • Introduction (Introductions to Hermeneutics, Reading Cultures, and Ælfric)
  • Chapter 1: How Monastic Living Shaped Reading
  • Chapter 2: How Monastic Praying Shaped Reading
  • Chapter 3: The Temptation and the Beatitudes (Ælfric’s sermons on Matt 4 and 5 put into context and placed in conversation with modern commentators)
  • Chapter 4: Two Healings and the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Maidens (Ælfric’s sermons on Matt 8 and 25 put into context and placed in conversation with modern commentators)
  • Conclusion: Bringing Early Medieval Voices into the Conversation
  • Chapter 4:

It had been showing in a “pre-order” state on its page on Amazon; now it says “Temporarily out of stock.” In any case, it exists now in physical form!


Posted in Medieval Stuff, Monasticism, Old English, Scripture | 2 Comments

SCLM Resolution on Article X

There has been a great deal of online discussion over the last couple of days regarding the intentions of the Standing Commission on Liturgy & Music around the Article X resolution. For those who don’t keep track of such things, Article X is the part of the Episcopal Church’s constitutions that deals with alterations to the Book of Common Prayer and other aspects of our worship life.

Here is what the SCLM has included in the Blue Book that touches on Article X—it cites the full article but recommends an addition that I have bolded below:

Resolution A000: Amend Article X of the Constitution: The Book of Common Prayer [first reading]

Resolved, the House of ________ concurring, That Article X of the Constitution is hereby amended to read as follows:

The Book of Common Prayer, as now established or hereafter amended by the authority of this Church, shall be in use in all the Dioceses of this Church. No alteration thereof or addition thereto shall be made unless the same shall be first proposed in one regular meeting of the General Convention and by a resolve thereof be sent within six months to the Secretary of the Convention of every Diocese, to be made known to the Diocesan Convention at its next meeting, and be adopted by the General Convention at its next succeeding regular meeting by a majority of all Bishops, excluding retired Bishops not present, of the whole number of Bishops entitled to vote in the House of Bishops, and by a vote by orders in the House of Deputies in accordance with Article I, Sec. 5, except that concurrence by the orders shall require the affirmative vote in each order by a majority of the Dioceses entitled to representation in the House of Deputies.

But notwithstanding anything herein above contained, the General Convention may at any one meeting, by a majority of the whole number of the Bishops entitled to vote in the House of Bishops, and by a majority of the Clerical and Lay Deputies of all the Dioceses entitled to representation in the House of Deputies, voting by orders as previously set forth in this Article:

a) Amend the Table of Lessons and all Tables and Rubrics relating to the Psalms.
b) Authorize for trial use throughout this Church, as an alternative at any time or times to the established Book of Common Prayer or to any section or Office thereof, a proposed revision of the whole Book or of any portion thereof, duly undertaken by the General Convention.
c) Provide for use of other forms for the renewal and enrichment of the common worship of this church for such periods of time and upon such terms and conditions as the General Convention may provide.

And Provided, that nothing in this Article shall be construed as restricting the authority of the Bishops of this Church to take such order as may be permitted by the Rubrics of the
Book of Common Prayer or by the Canons of the General Convention for the use of special forms of worship.


The Constitution allows the General Convention to authorize alternative forms of worship only for trial use as a proposed revision of the Book of Common Prayer. Since the 1979 Book of Common Prayer was adopted, alternative forms of worship in the Enriching Our Worship series and in Liturgical Resources 1 have been authorized, even though these were not designated for trial use as a proposed revision of the BCP. In addition, a number of congregations are experimenting with other new liturgical forms. This amendment would create a clear constitutional basis for experimental liturgical reforms that are not intended for trial use as a proposed revision of the Book of Common Prayer, while ensuring common prayer through the use of authorized liturgical materials.

I first remember this coming up at the October meeting where we were putting the Blue Book together. Despite the occasional moment when I shoot my mouth off, I don’t consider myself a “church politics” person when it comes to things like constitutions and canons and such. Indeed, I didn’t quite catch what this was saying the first time around and, in fact, thought it said the opposite of what it is attempting to say. I still find the language and the placement of clauses in the explanation a little odd, but I don’t see it as a nefarious attempt to manipulate processes (more on this later…).

Ok—what is this trying to say, and why are we saying it? The addition itself is enabling General Convention to provide for “other forms” (read here–liturgies) aside from what is in the authorized books like the Book of Common Prayer and the Book of Occasional Services.  Why would we do this? The language is “for the renewal and enrichment of the common worship of this church.” Renewal and enrichment as opposed to “regular use.” So—we’re discussing the introduction of novelties and experiments here. This neither says nor implies that this change is giving permission to seek alternate liturgies to supplant those of the prayer book throughout the church. Furthermore, General Convention holds the keys: “for such periods of time and upon such terms and conditions as the General Convention may provide.” So, yes—there can be some experiments, but not a free-for-all, and these experiments ill be sanctioned and delineated by General Convention.

The Explanation portion provides some context and presents an intention for this addition. There’s a whole lot of backstory to this that I have neither the time nor the desire to get into at this point, but let me, instead, point you to Prayer Book Studies XV: The Problem and Method of Prayer Book Revision. If, like me, you might read this title and assume that it will talk about liturgical principles for change, you’d be quite wrong. Rather, it is an 18-page essay written in 1961 intended to persuade General Convention to pass a resolution including the notion and phrase of “trial use.” Here’s a key bit with clear application to the present resolution:

For the past three General Conventions (1952, 1955, and 1958) the Standing Liturgical Commission has offered with its report to the Convention a resolution seeking an amendment to Article X of the Constitution that would set up the possibility of trial use in any forthcoming revision of the Prayer Book. This resolution has been defeated in all three Conventions. The Commission is disturbed, not so much by its defeat, as by the fact that the proposal has not as yet been properly interpreted to the Convention. (PBS XV, 14)

Thus, in the days when the ’79 prayer book was but a twinkle in Massey Shepherd’s eye, there was legislative resistence to the idea of trial use, and when it did finally get passed it was with the constraint that such trial use be specifically intended for the purpose of prayer book revision.

As I understand it, this is still the way the official documents read: trial use is coupled with prayer book revision.

Jump closer to the present. We have the Enriching Our Worship series.  Well—what is it? We are not in a state of prayer book revision. Yet these things exist and are in trial use. Glancing over the prefaces of EOW 1, it appears that these documents were seen in continuity with and were passed in 1997 as the fourth edition of Supplement Liturgical Materials. I have no clue what this series or its canonical/constitutional status except that I think it may have been what Prayer Book Studies series morphed into. (Like I said, I don’t follow this kind of stuff, and all of these things happened before I became an Episcopalian…)

To put it bluntly, I think some canon lawyers messed up. EOW seems to exist in a legislative limbo  that is technically not permitted by the Constitutions. If something is “trial use” it is therefore for the purpose of “prayer book revision.” EOW is authorized for circumscribed “trial use,” but the language of “prayer book revision” has been studiously avoided.

Now we’re in a position to understand the Explanation and what the addition to Canon X is about. The only licit purpose for new GC-authorized liturgies as it currently stands is for prayer book revision. What this amendment is trying to do is to create an official grey area for “alternative forms of worship” to be used on a GC-circumscribed basis that are not necessarily nor inherently intended as part of prayer book revision. As I see it, it’s a retroactive “cover your butt” amendment for things like EOW and Daily Prayer for All Seasons (of which I’ve written in the past). And, of course, the “I Will Bless You” materials in Liturgical Resources 1—and that’s where people start going ballistic in multiple directions…

From where I sit, the point of this amendment is to define what these alternative forms of worship are constitutionally, and to say that they are not currently seen as part of the process of prayer book revision. I, for one, would be very happy to say that EOW and DPFAS exist but are not seen or thought of as replacement for material currently in the prayer book. Chiefly because I don’t think they measure up.

Two of the fellows of the Anglican Communion Institute are quite concerned about this change and see it as a harbinger of great changes to the church and its polity. They see this as the end of the former way of doing things and as the start of a new kind of church with new rules. I think that they are reading way to much into this and are neglecting the context, particularly the explanation. I’m quite sure in response they’d question my naiveté at such a reading.

Bottom line is, of course, do we need an Official Gray Area? I understand the desire for constitutional CYA and provision of a space to point to for the blessing liturgies. But I don’t know if this is the best way to go about doing it.

My own feeling—as I’ve said before—is that the period of reception for any given edition of the BCP ought to be measured in generations rather than years. I do think that waiting four hundred years is too long. But we also need to give the book time to percolate and work amongst the church. The energies are still stewing.

Another issue concerns the SCLM itself. Are we a commission that creates work for itself, then—on passage of the resolutions—insists that we only take up what Convention asks us too? That’s a genuine question. For me, I’d love to see a return to Prayer Book Studies where the SCLM and others are actively studying aspects of our liturgies—use, pastoral value, perception within the church, perception from various bodies outside the church, re-examination of the tradition and history in light of these discussions, etc.  Perhaps a Gray Area is best accomplished through those means.

There’s a lot up in the air. A great deal of the future direction of many of these matters depend on how the TREC resolutions develop. Will the SCLM be one of the last CCABs standing? Will it change is shape and purpose? Will it too be swept away altogther? I suppose we’ll all have to wait for the summer to see…

Posted in Anglican | Tagged | 5 Comments

Drifting Thoughts

  • I think modern Christianity simply doesn’t get “allegorical” interpretation as practiced by the Church Fathers & Mothers and their early medieval interpetive heirs. At its heart, allegorial/spiritual/mystical (the last two were the terms they most frequently used of their own activities…) is an intellectually engaged form of spiritual play. It’s a game—but a reverent, thoughtful one. Spiritual Sudoku. A couple of passages here from Augustine that ground this for me:

7. But hasty and careless readers are led astray by many and manifold obscurities and ambiguities, substituting one meaning for another; and in some places they cannot hit upon even a fair interpretation. Some of the expressions are so obscure as to shroud the meaning in the thickest darkness. And I do not doubt that all this was divinely arranged for the purpose of subduing pride by toil, and of preventing a feeling of satiety in the intellect, which generally holds in small esteem what is discovered without difficulty. For why is it, I ask, that if any one says that there are holy and just men whose life and conversation the Church of Christ uses as a means of redeeming those who come to it from all kinds of superstitions, and making them through their imitation of good men members of its own body; men who, as good and true servants of God, have come to the baptismal font laying down the burdens of the world, and who rising thence do, through the implanting of the Holy Spirit, yield the fruit of a two-fold love, a love, that is, of God and their neighbor—how is it, I say, that if a man says this, he does not please his hearer so much as when he draws the same meaning from that passage in Canticles, where it is said of the Church, when it is being praised under the figure of a beautiful woman, Your teeth are like a flock of sheep that are shorn which came up from the washing, whereof every one bears twins, and none is barren among them? Song of Songs 4:2 Does the hearer learn anything more than when he listens to the same thought expressed in the plainest language, without the help of this figure? And yet, I don’t know why, I feel greater pleasure in contemplating holy men, when I view them as the teeth of the Church, tearing men away from their errors, and bringing them into the Church’s body, with all their harshness softened down, just as if they had been torn off and masticated by the teeth. It is with the greatest pleasure, too, that I recognize them under the figure of sheep that have been shorn, laying down the burthens of the world like fleeces, and coming up from the washing, i.e., from baptism, and all bearing twins, i.e., the twin commandments of love, and none among them barren in that holy fruit.

8. But why I view them with greater delight under that aspect than if no such figure were drawn from the sacred books, though the fact would remain the same and the knowledge the same, is another question, and one very difficult to answer. Nobody, however, has any doubt about the facts, both that it is pleasanter in some cases to have knowledge communicated through figures, and that what is attended with difficulty in the seeking gives greater pleasure in the finding.— For those who seek but do not find suffer from hunger. Those, again, who do not seek at all because they have what they require just beside them often grow languid from satiety. Now weakness from either of these causes is to be avoided. Accordingly the Holy Spirit has, with admirable wisdom and care for our welfare, so arranged the Holy Scriptures as by the plainer passages to satisfy our hunger, and by the more obscure to stimulate our appetite. For almost nothing is dug out of those obscure passages which may not be found set forth in the plainest language elsewhere. (Augustine, On Christian Teaching 2.6.7-8; copied from New Advent’s edition)

14. In all these books those who fear God and are of a meek and pious disposition seek the will of God. And in pursuing this search the first rule to be observed is, as I said, to know these books, if not yet with the understanding, still to read them so as to commit them to memory, or at least so as not to remain wholly ignorant of them. Next, those matters that are plainly laid down in them, whether rules of life or rules of faith, are to be searched into more carefully and more diligently; and the more of these a man discovers, the more capacious does his understanding become. For among the things that are plainly laid down in Scripture are to be found all matters that concern faith and the manner of life—to wit, hope and love, of which I have spoken in the previous book. After this, when we have made ourselves to a certain extent familiar with the language of Scripture, we may proceed to open up and investigate the obscure passages, and in doing so draw examples from the plainer expressions to throw light upon the more obscure, and use the evidence of passages about which there is no doubt to remove all hesitation in regard to the doubtful passages. And in this matter memory counts for a great deal; but if the memory be defective, no rules can supply the want. (Augustine, On Christian Teaching 2.9.14; copied from New Advent’s edition)

For Augustine, the interpretation of obscure parts of Scripture is about pleasure and delight—that’s the language he’s using here. The thrill of intellectual discovery comes when you figure out the puzzle. Have you learned something you didn’t know before? Well, no—not as he sees. it. The obscurities teach nothing that isn’t already said plainly; but it’s a lot more fun to find it in the obscurities!

The other key thing here is the place of memory. Read so as to memorize, and then you can ruminate on those passages that are obscure to you (or, sometimes, that you choose to treat as obscure even if they may have some easier referents…). Spiritual readings are the result of a lengthy process of mental mastication; you have to chew on them for a long time with great attention to detail.

There’s a lot more to say on this topic, particularly with regard to the aims and boundaries of interpretation—i.e., keeping readings on track and what constitute valid and invalid spiritual readings, that I won’t get into except to note that Augustine explicitly orients all good reading on an axis of either 1) promoting charity or 2) restraining vice and that he envisions it within a community of practice bounded by worship: the creeds and sacraments are the ultimate controls.

  • I’ve seen a number of references on Facebook and elsewhere to a Guardian piece on Matthew Crawford that you should definitely read if you haven’t already.   The key pull-quote here is: “Distraction is a kind of obesity of the mind.” When I read this, my mind jumped immediately to John Cassian’s Institutes. In his treatment of the eight principal vices and the corresponding virtues, he starts with Gluttony. I’ve been struck by this. Gluttony is one of the sins this least discussed yet most openly practiced by Western consumer culture. While Cassian tends to speak of it in the literal sense with regard to fasting and such, I read it in the broader sense to include all forms of unnecessary consumption. Yes, some consumption is necessary for life—this isn’t gluttony. Gluttony, the vice, is when consumption occurs for its own sake or for a purpose other than the legitimate needs of the corpus (whether individual or communal). I haven’t thought through this yet, but my subconscious informs me that there’s a deep link between what Crawford is saying about distraction and the spiritual ill that is Gluttony.
  • I saw a great image on Twitter today that I had to retweet.

    First, I love this page, its type, and layout! This is from 1896 and I see it in line with the whole pre-Raphaelite/Arts & Crafts/Morris movement that has ties into Victorian medievalism that buoyed catholic sensibilities in the C of E as well as the graphic arts. I can’t see this page without finding in it a great debt to the late medieval Books of Hours tradition. Again—it makes one think…

Posted in Medieval Stuff, Patristics, Random | 3 Comments

Changes A-Coming

As I noted in one of the posts below, I’m coming up on ten years of blogging. Not all of it has been at this site; I started with Blogger back in the day, then switched over to WordPress when it became clear to me that it would meet my needs better. I think it’s time to shake things up a bit.

When I first started, this was a semi-anonymous blog and served as a sounding board for random stuff, most of which was heading into my dissertation. When I started, “haligweorc” seemed like a great name. It was in Old English, and sounded cool (to me at least…). Not, however, a great choice for branding generally! But—in all fairness—branding was the last thing on my mind when I first started writing here anyway.

I’m working on plans to consolidate all of my projects on another domain. Specifically, that means that this blog and the breviary will be changing addresses. And the blog will be changing its name as well.  Clearly, I’ll have more details on these changes as the new domain comes together. What I can say is that all of the current electronic projects I’m involved in: the St. Bede’s Breviary, the Anglican Breviary Online, the Anglican Gradual & Sacramentary, will be gathered there and have more visibility than some of them currently do.

This will take some time and some expense to do properly; if you enjoy reading the blog or using the breviary and have some spare change to help it happen sooner and better donations to the cause are gladly appreciated!

Posted in Administrative | 2 Comments

Anglo-Catholic Identity–Again

The last couple of posts (Anglo-Catholic Future in the Episcopal Church and its follow-on A Response to Josh) have raised some comments and questions that I’ll try to address. On one hand, Brian has questioned my use and appropriation of the term “Anglo-Catholic”; on the other, Susan, Greg and others have located themselves in the final paragraph of “A Response to Josh” but neither see nor understand themslves as being particularly “catholic”…  As different as these questions are, I think there’s a common thread here that makes me reckless enough to try to tackle them both in a single post.

I’ll start with Brian’s comments:

I am challenged by your self-description as an “Anglo-Catholic” only because, in the history of this blog, I have never seen you cite, or even mention having read about, the Tractarians, especially Newman and Pusey, the Ritualists, the founding priests of the SSC, the slum priests of the late 19th century, the “martyrs of ritualism” who were jailed for violating the Public Worship Regulation Act, the early AC religious orders, the Anglo-Papalists of the early to mid-20C, the participants in the Anglo-Catholic Congresses, the work of Frs. Huddleston, Raynes, and other CR priests in South African missions during apartheid, and so on. I think those of us who were steeped in that tradition, by the priests who formed us, chafe at your description of historic Anglo-Catholicism as “extreme, regressive, and eccentric,” and at your reference to “the sins of the fathers” in your response to Josh. Your vision of Anglo-Catholicism seems historically myopic, and I think it is easy to dismiss those of us who differ with your understanding of the movement if you lack a full knowledge of that history. I say this in good faith after a few days of bemusement.

I know Brian fairly well from our online interactions and, I think, have a good sense of where he’s coming from. Lineage is important. (There’s an additional subtext here around lineage as both of us enjoy martial arts and if there’s one thing martial artists like to argue about its lineage and the implicit connection between lineage and effectiveness…)

When I first started actively attending an Episcopal parish it was one in Ohio headed by a former Presbyterian who was high as could be with smells, bells, and Rector’s forums on Anglo-Catholic topics. When we wnt back to Atlanta, M had a parish placement but we were unofficially affiliated with an Anglo-Catholic parish there. The priest was a member of the SSC and highly placed in Forward in Faith NA. I learned quite a lot from him, his liturgies, sermons, and spiritual direction. (He was the one who introduced me to Martin Thornton.) Bouncing from Atlanta to New York, we alternated between Smokey Mary’s and St Luke’s in the Village and I got up to the Church of the Resurrection a few times. On moving to the Main Line, M got her start in a parish with an incumbent raised at St Clement’s who maintained a prayer-book parish with an Anglican Missal altar party. I could go on, but I don’t feel the need to…

What’s my point in this rehearsal? The Anglo-Catholic movement within the Episcopal Church is a living tradition. And, as a result of being a living tradition, it’s a rather broad one—indeed, much more broad than some would desire.  As you can see, there’s quite a span: Tridentine ceremonial to Vatican II style, those affirming women and queer folk and those not. Which is why there’s also an Anglo-Catholic movement outside of the Episcopal Church. Furthermore, in the time since I’ve started blogging, the span of Anglo-Catholics within the Episcopal Church has narrowed quite a bit. Between the formation of ACNA, the mass departure of Forward in Faith, and the establishment of the Anglican Ordinariate, there has been a lot of shifting around and many who described themselves as Anglo-Catholics left. For those whose ultimate desire was union with Rome, they have left and gone to Rome. Indeed, the FiFNA priest mentioned abve is now a priest of the Ordinariate. For those who were too Anglican (or too remarried) for the Ordinariate, ACNA provided a option.

If you’ll note, I carefully specified my remarks around an Anglo-Catholic movement that wished to be taken seriously within the Episcopal Church. So—I’m speaking to the living tradition of Anglo-Catholism that has chosen to remain within the Episcopal Church and wants to have an effect upon it.

Having talked a bit about the “living tradition” thing, I’ll switch gears slightly, shift to the topic of self-applied labels in identity politics and directly address the points that Brian raised. As I read his comment, Brian is suggesting that I don’t belong within the Anglo-Catholic tradition and have no business claiming the label because I do not have the proper intellectual foundations within it.

So, let me sketch a little bit of my intellectual formation with regard to 19th century Anglicanism. I’m a biblical scholar with an interest in the use of Scripture in liturgy and its application in ascetical theology. That means I do a lot of reading, only some of it related to Anglican topics. I have read the entire contents of Tracts for the Times in my early days as an Anglican and learned a lot from them. I’ve read a lot of John Mason Neale and his circle. I’ve read some from the Ritualists. I’ve read, in particular, liturgical and ceremonial material from the time, focusing on the early history of Ritual Notes and the Directorium Anglicanum and others. Fr. Rock’s Church of Our Fathers in three volumes lives on my Kindle. I’ve read broadly through Hierurgia Anglicana. Those are the folks who fall narrowly within your canon.

No, I’ve not read much from the early SSC founders or their hiers.

I’ve no doubt departed from the narrow way in reading more of J. Wickham Legg, Vernon Staley, Percy Dearmer, and those who I would regard as my best conversation partners, Walter H. Frere and his friend and correspondent Evelyn Underhill. And I’ve been guilty of reading and being formed by other people you didn’t mention like Lancelot Andrewes, Jeremy Taylor, John Donne, and George Herbert.

My take-away from this reading is that the Anglican way is a liturgical spirituality informed by patristic interpretation and practice understood in such a way to speak to the spiritual yearnings of our times. So I spend more of my time reading Augustine, Cassiodorus, John Cassian, Benedict, Gregory, Bede, and the desert tradition generally (that also being the roots of real “Celtic theology” which learned much more from the Desert Fathers than Greenpeace.)

So—am I a real Anglo-Catholic?

Those who have been reading this blog from the beginning will recall that I have a love/hate relationship with the Anglo-Catholic label. Indeed, over the past decade(!) that I’ve kept the blog up, I have attempted to explicitly disavow the label and distance myself from it at least twice.

Once was here back in 2005: Anglo-Catholic.

Another was here in 2008: faux catholic.

I’ve tried to go with different alternatives too. Here was an attempt from 2006: Sarum Anglicans? and another from 2007: What is in a name?

But, like a dog returning to its vomit, I have returned to the Anglo-Catholic label partly because that’s how I am perceived by the wider church. I’ll talk more about this in a moment, but for the sake of completeness let me link to this piece from 2006 where I specifically recant the position that I took in that first link up there from 2005: An Anglican Moderate.

“Anglo-Catholic” to the best of my knowledge—and I’m sure folks will feel more than free to correct me on this if I’m wrong—does have a narrow meaning in which it refers to a particular group of writers and thinkers in late 19th century England who suceeded the Ritualists. However, very few people use it with this narrow referrent. Its far more common usage is a general term for those who insist on a catholic continuity in the Anglican churches. (For instance, check out the authors collected in the mid-ninteenth century “Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology“!) As such, the general term “Anglo-Catholic” is a synthesis. I explore my understanding of such a synthesis in this post from 2010: Tradition: Between Synthesis and Historicity. At the end of the day, such a synthesis is a set of ideas and perspectives enshrined by a current living community, and this is where we really get at the root of things. Brian’s community will not regard me as a true Anglo-Catholic. Why—because I have not read the intellectual canon within which Anglo-Catholicism resides? No—they would tell me that I am not a true Anglo-Catholic because if I were formed properly in that canon I would recognize that women cannot be clergy and that queer folk should be kept in their closets. And—by and large—most of the people who make up Brian’s community have left the Episcopal Church. (As has Brian.)

I, on the other hand, recognize a synthesis largely contiguous with that of Brian’s community (!), that not only has a home but has an important voice to offer the Episcopal Church—and that there is a living community here that embodies and sustains it.

(I identify the two major differences between my position and positions like Brian’s as these: 1) I don’t believe in an infallible church and thus see some matters as open for discussion that they see as closed, and 2) I don’t see the point of the movement as corporate reunion with the Roman Catholic Church. I’m certainly not against corporate reunion with the Roman Catholic Church but, let’s face it, they’ve got some work to do before I’d be willing to sign off on it.)

But there’s another piece here too. Up to now, I’ve been talking about self-applied labels. As my friend Robb noted in a comment on one of the pieces linked to above, there’s a point where a subculture’s navel-gazing breaks down…

The funny thing is that – the more I am engaged in debates about what is truly Catholic – the more it feels like other debates about meaningless subcultures: is Green Day punk in the same way as The Ramones; can you be a true Goth and listen to Marilyn Manson; who best represents country music, David Allen Coe or Kenny Chesney? (btw, there is only one right answer to that last question!!!)

Anybody remember the Goth Code (or the Geek Code)? I’m sure there’s an Anglo-Catholic variant somewhere. If the seventh letter is an “f”, it means you’re for the use of folded chausibles in Lent; if the 12th is an “m” then you think the maniple should be removed for the sermon—but if you do, you’d better be ready for the severe verbal whoopin’ from those who think it should stay on and have three sources older than yours to cite as evidence!!

But these are points that—however significant they may be to insiders—are completely ignored by those outside the subculture.

Here’s the thing. When someone sees me cross myself at the Elevation and genuflect on the way out of the pew they’ll say, “What are you, an Anglo-Catholic or something?” I could say, “Well, no, actually I’m a Reformed Patristic Prayer-book catholic Anglican within the Episcopal Church—not technically an Anglo-Catholic. When I crossed myself, I was following the tradition of the vernacular devotions for the Sarum Mass which is totally different from the use of ‘Anglo-Catholics’ simpliciter as they were simply borrowing the Roman Catholic customs of their day without a whole lot of reference to historical analogues…” but the person making the remark would have wandered off after the third word.

The Episcopal church calls me an Anglo-Catholic. I can disagree, isolate myself because of a concern for terminology not shared by 99.9% of people in or outside the church, and in the process cut myself off from a community of people who may or may not share my terminological scruples with whom I share a great deal in terms of theology and practice. Or, alternatively, I can embrace the label despite my hedging and potential scruples and lend my voice to those who love the church and want to support it in its mission by reminding it of our core beliefs and principles.

This, then, is where we get to the final point I want to make: what a catholic movement (and yes, I do prefer to use this term and to use a lower-case “c”) has to contribute to the broader Episcopal Church. Several people saw things they liked in the final paragraph of my previous post. But—they don’t see themselves as being “catholic” let alone “Anglo-Catholic.” So what gives?

I don’t think that there was anything distinctively catholic in that last paragraph; I think it is something that Anglicans of any stripe ought to be able to get behind. However, I do think that catholic Anglicans (and Episcopalian Anglo-Catholics) may have a clearer perspective on some of these issues because of our chosen theological conversation partners and patterns of life.

Reading the Church Fathers is a manifestly useful exercise. All sorts of discussions and arguments were had in the first several centuries of the Church’s life as we were hammering out language to wrap around our understanding of God in the Scriptures, the experience of the Risen Jesus in the Sacraments, and participation of the Holy Spirit in the life of our communities. The Fathers (and Mothers) got a sense of what thoughts led to skewed practice. And that’s the real problem with heresy—not that someone is thinking an unapproved thought, but that someone has construed who and what God is in a way that will have tragic consequences if we try to live it out. That’s why Arianism, Gnosticism, Pelagianism, Montanism, and others are problems: they live badly. In some way, their communal expression undercuts the abundant life with God and the reconciliation between God and his whole creation promised in the true Gospel.

We who read these writers hear what they were struggling against and are more ready to identify it in our own time.

We who have chosen to lead a self-consciously liturgical and sacramental life will have both different thoughts and different instincts—whether conscious or not—around the sacraments, their relationship to a life of discipleship, and how the church deploys them than those who don’t. Are these thoughts and instincts “better”? I wouldn’t say “better” myself, but they may well be more thought through or more organically integrated in a spiritual life.

Personally, I think the Episcopal Church could stand to learn quite a lot about sanctity, holiness, and the connection between the sacraments and the sacred from the catholic movement. As I’ve said before and will no doubt expand upon, “A Great Cloud of Witnesses” is not the document I wish for the church—but it meets the church where the church is. I hope it serves as a starting place for a set of discussions that can eventually get us to a clearer place.

No, I don’t think the catholic movement is the sole location of faithful Christians in the Episcopal Church—there are myriads who aren’t and have no need to be catholic. No, I don’t think that catholic devotions should be made mandatory or imposed on the prayer book. I’m quite happy having the St. Augustine’s Prayer Book to use alongside my BCP. No, I don’t think that being an Anglo-Catholic in the Episcopal Church is the only way to be one. There are different syntheses recognizably within the tradition. I can honor that and respect those who hold them even while I don’t agree with them.

So—that’s where I am today. An Anglo-Catholic in the Episcopal Church who believes that we have much to offer the church. You may not agree—either that I’m an Anglo-Catholic, or that the church needs to listen—but I don’t plan on shutting up and going away any time soon…

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A Response to Josh

This post started out as a response to the comment that Josh left on the previous post but ballooned beyond the size of a proper comment…

The Church is not about “winning” or “losing” (your language, not mine). I fully believe in the Episcopal Church as a big-tent movement and am committed to it remaining so. One part of that big-tent, though, covers those of us who believe in the creeds without any finger-crossing, and that voice needs to be heard and taken into account.

Yes, the broader church will often ignore what we say because the Anglo-Catholic side has historically been guilty of oppressing and suppressing women and those not in the closet. And the irony of that position is that there were more closeted gay priests in the Anglo-Catholic movement than probably anywhere else in the Episcopal Church put together. The points that I’m making here are these: 1) those of us who do identify as catholic within today’s Episcopal Church need to commit ourselves to fully including LGBT folk, women, and children. I bring this up because I’m addressing an issue I see in my own community. (You may not be seeing it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.) In my experience, there are gay-friendly churches who still limit and suppress the legitimate ministries of women and children. 2) It’s not enough for us to act in these ways, we also need to communicate it broadly so that we can no longer be dismissed because of the sins of our fathers 50 years ago that we have since put behind us. 3) Welcoming women to the altar (as with St Paul’s K Street) is a strong visible step forward, but is not sufficient to say that women—and children—have been fully included.

You haven’t seen these things? I’m not surprised. You’re not an Anglo-Catholic father of two daughters married to a female priest. This situation gives me a very useful perspective from which to observe and comment upon my own community (which is what I’m doing…). I never understood sexism in the church until I was married to M and heard, saw, and experienced the sexism that she did and continues to encounter; I never reflected thoughtfully from an informed perspective on the place of children in church until I had my own.

Is the issue of children in church an issue throughout the church? Most certainly. But an important difference between my community and others is our understanding of the Eucharist. If Communion is just a time to think pleasant thoughts about Jesus while we have a snack together, than kids may well be better served somewhere else coloring pictures of Bible stories. In my theology, though, the Eucharist is the rite through which the whole gathered community most fully embodies myriad and multiple aspects of the Body of Christ as we bring together the mystical, social, eschatological, and sacramental Bodies of Christ into one shared experience. If the children are not there they miss something important; if they’re not there, we miss something important too: the Body of Christ is visibly diminished at the point where we are attempting to enact it most fully.

That deals with the points that I was raising in my previous post. Now, I do need to address a piece of baggage that you felt the need to insert (that I neither said nor intended) and which perfectly illustrates the kind of projection that hapens when an Anglo-Catholic speaks up.

You wrote in your comment:

Maybe if Anglo-Catholics stopped holding themselves out as practicing a superior version of the faith, they’d face less discrimination; I don’t know. . . . Instead, what I see denomination-wide is that the Catholic movement has won (but thinks they haven’t), thanks by and large to the rubric in the ’79 Prayer Book mandating the Eucharist as the principal Sunday service. . . . Meanwhile the “evangelical wing” has been thoroughly routed and/or has walked out. We are all catholic now, we are all evangelical, and thanks be to God. . . . It’s true that Derek and I disagree about the usefulness of pious add-ons (my term) to the liturgy, and that TEC as a whole will never adopt them for general use *unless they appear in the Prayer Book.* But as I survey all the changes in this Church in the last 40 years, in which Protestors have moved almost entirely to the Catholic side, I’m astonished at the persistence of these distinctions, as if the Catholic movement cannot rest until every pious add-on has been adopted by every last one of us. . . . Can Catholics never simply declare victory and throw a party? Apparently not; it really is about all those pious add-ons now, isn’t it. Anything to continue dividing us.

So—I post about making sure that my community is including children in worship and suddenly it becomes “Derek wants to make Josh say prayers to Mary.” Really? What a fascinating reaction…

First off, weekly communion is not a “Catholic” thing, it’s an “Anglican” thing. The celebration of the Eucharist on Sundays and Holy Days was the pattern laid down by both the English 1549 BCP and the English 1662 which has since formed a template for most of the rest of the Anglican Communion. Whether these patterns were actually followed is another thing entirely, but to call them “Catholic” rather than “Anglican” is to misrepresent our Anglican origins.

Therefore, and second, the fact of a weekly Communion does not mean “the Catholic movement has won” as you put it. The Disciples of Christ (some background here) have weekly communion; are they therefore “Catholic”?  You have fallen into a conventional mistake of confusing ritual with theology. Just because a church does a certain thing does not establish what they believe about it. I would suggest that since the convergence of the Ecumenical Movement and the Liturgical Renewal Movement the broad middle portion of the Episcopal church has adopted a number of practices that were seen a century ago as “Catholic”—but that does not mean that the beliefs of these Episcopalians have changed or that they hold to the catholic theologically grounded logic of why some things are done and not others. Indeed, this is a key to our big-tent system: we can participate in the same liturgies yet understand them and what we do in them in some very different ways.

Third, I care not one whit whether you or anyone else uses “pious add-ons.” I use some of them because they feed me spiritual. I have no interest in imposing them on anyone else. You’ll note that they are entirely optional in my edition of the Offices. I’ll even go out on a limb and wager that the catholic movement as a whole doesn’t care if you use them or not. Your knee-jerk assumption about my agenda says more about you than me.

What do I care about? Resurgent Arianism in the church really bothers me; approval and promotion of teachers who suggest that Jesus was just an enlightened revolutionary teacher rather than God Incarnate bothers me. Casual modalism bothers me. Indeed, causual modalism implying that Jesus has no role as Creator or Sanctifier further reinforces Arian tendencies. Insidious Gnosticism and the notion that the faith is about an individual’s intellectual assent to a set of ideas rather than the communal living of embodied beliefs bothers me. Disconnecting the sacraments from a life of discipleship bothers me. The Eucharist is a sacrificial meal of reconciliation that draws us deeper into our baptismal vows and commitments. It is a sign of and for the baptized community and those who wish to receive it should be invited into the community through the font. Concerns about Christology have real, practical, pastoral implications; sacramental theology matters in how we see God at work in the world around us. This isn’t a “superior version of the faith”—it’s the faith as we’ve been taught it. I have a duty to teach it to my children and, by extension, to have confidence that the other members of the church who are teaching my children hold it too.

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Anglo-Catholic Future in the Episcopal Church

The news appeared in my Twitter feed yesterday that St. Paul’s K Street has gone through a process of discernment and is welcoming women clergy to their altar as well as same-sex blessings. I know with regard to the first that this was a move that had been in process for a while. There had been some discussions a bit ago about M being in residence there, but those did not come through at that time.

Serving on the SCLM has been a good experience in many ways; one is the opportunity to get more involved in church discussions at the broadest level. I get to see and hear things from a different perspective than what I just see in the life of one or two parishes. In particular, I have come away with two strong convictions.

First, the Episcopal Church needs a strong voice within its deliberations that will continue to champion a classical understanding of doctrine and a disciplined approach to the alteration of the church’s discipline. That is, we need advocates who are willing and able to teach the doctrines of the creeds and to champion authentic Christian discipleship rooted in the sacraments and spirituality that have been handed over to us. The church’s discipline—those things that are not doctrine but around which the church orders its common life—needs to be carefully thought through and alterations to it should be backed by solid theology and connections into our core doctrine. A catholic movement within the Episcopal Church ought to be able to make this case with credibility and conviction. It shoud have a clear sense of why we do what we do and be able to speak sensible with those who disagree and those who are undecided.

Second, there are many in the councils of the church who are quick to dismiss anything coming from an “Anglo-Catholic” source as inherently problematic because of an assumption of bias and irrelevance. Almost every time I opened my mouth in meetings or offered a proposal, there were those on my committee who would immediately suggest that my recommendation was somehow anti-women and anti-lay. As a layman married to a female priest, I found this bizarre! Or, alternatively, that what I proposed was of no interest to the broader church because it only addressed the needs of a shrinking “boutique” spirituality that had no connection or application to modern church life. They had slotted me into a mental pigeonhole and, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, were ready to dismiss me beause of biases they assumed I held (but didn’t).

If the catholic movement wants to be a relevant force in the church, if it wants to be listened to, to have its arguments taken seriously, and actually have an impact upon the decisions made by the Episcopal Church going forward, I believe that we need to both enact and communicate broadly three basic principles in our local parishes and beyond:

1) that openly gay and lesbian people are full and welcome members of our communities and should exercise their ministries among us,

2) that women are full and welcome members of our communities and should exercise their ministries among us, and

3) that children are full and welcome members of our communities and should exercise their ministries among us.

Now—I’m well aware that there are those who identify as catholic Anglicans who will take issue with 1 and 2 in light of what has been said above and identify them as changes of doctrine rather than discipline. I disgree and have written about both explaining my reasons in the past. Rather than get stuck rehashing arguments about 1—as the church is wont to do—I’d rather focus on 2 and 3.

The irony, as I see it, is that many of the catholic parishes that I know personally that do the best with 1 fail on 2 and 3.

What specifically do I mean about point 3? Case in point: removing everyone under the age of fifteen from the sanctuary at the beginning of the service and giving them coloring sheets in another room is something very different from seeing them as full and welcome members who have ministries to exercise in our midst. I’ll go so far as to say that any church that holds Sunday School during Mass (catholic or not) is failing on 3. When we don’t allow our children to be in Mass or suggest that they be somewhere else, we have failed. Now—there is a range here. At the parish where we attend now, small children are invited out after the Gospel for a children’s time that extends through the end of the prayers. I have far less of an issue with this because 1) Sunday School happens at a different time—this isn’t the only child-focused education on offer, and 2) it’s quite optional. Many children don’t go out; my children have never felt any pressure to do so.

(This is quite different from one broad-church parish we visisted. They were almost anxious to remove my children from the service when we walked in and were taken aback when my girls refused to go. Then, after the service, a number of adults came up expressing their surprise and delight that the girls were “good” in church…)

I understand that some parishes, particularly those of a more solemn bent, want to minimize distractions and disruptions. I get that some people—particularly those who aren’t parents—don’t want to deal with noise from other people’s kids. Three things: 1) it’s a gathering of the Body of Christ, not a classical concert, 2) parents should have an awareness of when it’s a good idea to remove a noisy child from a congregational situation—shaming them doesn’t help, 3) if your solemnity is so fragile that it can be easily shattered by the mere presence of a child, it’s more likely to be pretence and pretentiousness rather than true solemnity. (If it were true solemnity, the kids would be caught up in it as well!)

My experience, though, is that the kids who are “good” in church are those who are most used to it. Kids who are in church learn—and are taught—how to behave properly in church. They are taught by seeing how others behave, and by being hissed at and prodded by their parents.  Trust me: I’ve done it. Communities teach children what is expected. Too—and more to the point—children tend to be far less squirmy when they’re engaged and assisting! My girls always choose to sit up front where they can see what’s going on, but they’d much rather sit in the chancel helping out.

I have no issue with nurseries. There was a certain age between 18 months and 3 when I would often put H in the nursery when I was juggling G, but once G could sit properly by herself and participate, I brought H back in. (Because M is usually in a chancel somewhere, I’m used to being a single pew-parent.) Too, there are some children who have genuine difficulties sitting still and being quiet for whom additional arrangements may be necessary—but these are few and far between.

The reason why this matters is because it ties into both relevance and catholic evangelism. Children are just as moved by deep ritual and sacramental experience as anyone else. If we are unable to preach the Gospel and serve the sacraments to our own children, then we’d be better off packing up the place and shuttering it now.

Another piece here is that when 3 is not done properly, when children are not fully incorporated into the worship and formational life of the community, it inevitably impacts 2 as well. When children are not in the service, those who give care to them—usually their mothers or grandmothers—get marginalized as well. I was once in a parish where the Senior Warden and several other vestry members did not attend Mass or a hear a sermon for months on end. Why? Because they were the women teaching Sunday School which took place during Mass.

How a self-described catholic parish treats female clergy is one thing—and an important thing. But don’t forget female laity either. Don’t congratulate yourself for the occasional woman in the pulpit if you’re keeping a whole lot of others out of their pews each week.

The other thing about parishes where Sunday School happens during the Mass is that Christian formation is usually seen as something just for the children. There is rarely a separate time for adult formation—and everyone is thereby impoverished. Whole community formation is necessary—formation for children, formation for adults, and formation for adults that happens at other times so that those who teach can be informed as well. (No, I don’t want someone who doesn’t grasp the basics of the faith trying to educate my children in it!)

I want to be part of a vibrant catholic community within the Episcopal Church. I want my wife and my children to be full and equal parts of it as well as our gay friends. I want our voices to be heard and taken seriously when the church gathers for councils and decisions. As long as the catholic movement is regarded as a haven for the extreme, regressive, and eccentric, we will neither be heard nor heeded.

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