Musings of an Anglican/Episcopal Priest

Month: June 2007

I have a new position…

San Damiano Crucifix For those who haven’t yet heard, Bishop Bauerschmidt has appointed me vicar of St. Francis Church in Goodlettsville TN. Anna and I have moved our necessities up to our new apartment, and the remainder of our things will follow on the 3rd. I’m excited by this and I am really looking forward to getting to know the people of St. Francis. My first Sunday with them will be July 1st. The crucifix at left is the San Damiano Crucifix and one often finds it associated with things Franciscan. This is the cross St. Francis was praying in front of when he had his vision of it coming to life, and heard Christ tell him to rebuild his church which had fallen into ruin. Francis was evidently a literalist and he started to rebuild the little church where he was praying, which was falling down. Later he realized that Christ meant this in a broader and more figurative sense. What better example of faithfulness, and what better task at this time in the life of Christ’s Church?

You can find St. Francis Church’s web site here. I hope some of you will come and worship with us soon!

Random thoughts on immigration and pets…

The two of which are unrelated except for the way they both demonstrate the uncanny ability of well-meaning people to do and say stupid things.

The other day Anna and I happened to be watching the news when a story came on about the wife of one of the US servicemen missing in Iraq. Turns out this lady is in the US illegally, but the INS says they have no plans to deport her, or at least such plans are on hold. So on the news show they put two talking heads up against one another to “debate” the issue, one belonging to a hispanic political organization, the other Michael Gallagher, a conservative radio personality. Now here’s the thing: one shouldn’t expect any real debate or constructive dialogue on these shows…the segments are too short and they normally only let people on who will throw the audience the red meat that (supposedly) keeps them tuning in.

That being said, I was still somewhat surprised by the sort of rhetoric employed by Gallagher to get his point across. At one point he countered the assertion that illegal immigration is a misdemeanor with a comment that supplying false ID or false Social Security numbers is a felony. Now, while these things may follow in Gallagher’s head, it is a non-sequitor to skip, without comment, from the assertion that illegal immigration is a misdemeanor to iterating separate crimes that are felonious. There may be a logical sequence in some–maybe a majority of cases–but a strict one to one correlation cannot be claimed since many illegal immigrants have always worked menial jobs for cash without the need to file social security withholding etc, and many sub-contractors employ illegals on a cash basis while contractors simply don’t ask too many questions. Not to mention the large number of maids and nannies who work for cash without any social security withholding. All one has to do is look as far back as the President’s first choice for the head of Homeland Security, Bernard Kerik to see how easy it is to employ someone illegally, and how many well-meaning citizen’s do it. Who cleans your house, or the day care where you send your children? Who tends your garden or the one at your country club? Do you know that they are all legal immigrants and proper taxes are being withheld and benefits extended to them? Would you stop associating with establishments that you knew employed illegal immigrants? Just a few questions to ponder.

Another thing that Gallagher’s comments missed: while the soldier’s wife may have been in the US illegally, her husband had to be a legal permanent resident in order to join the US military, which offers a faster route to citizenship (three years) than others. So, here’s a man who is serving his adopted country in a foreign battlefield, who had evidently applied for a green card for his wife and had it denied (what’s up with that?), who is on a route to citizenship but who conservatives say should have his wife shipped out because she’s here without filing the proper paperwork. What’s patriotic about that?

On the unrelated topic of pets, I recently read about two events that speak to how unhelpful people’s helpfulness can be. In the most recent edition of Southern Cultures there was a photo essay about the aftermath of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. One of the photos was of a man who had stayed behind to care for his two pit bulls and their puppies, which he couldn’t transport. One day when he was gone to get food for his dogs–having left a note on his door explaining his whereabouts–some “helpful” neighbors heard the puppies yelping and decided to break in to “help” them. Well, the mother and the aggressive male wouldn’t let the “rescuers” near the puppies, so they ended up killing the adults and taking the puppies, so this guy who’d weathered Katrina comes home to find blood all over his floor, his dogs dead and puppies gone, and the whole reason he’d staid to begin with completely undone.

The second pet story is one recently posted by one of my seminary classmates. She had a 17-year-old cat that she loved that had cancer in it’s paw. She had to get the cat surgery to remove the tumor. The cat wasn’t fully healed when it wandered into her neighbor’s yard. Her neighbor saw the cat limping, took it to the pound, had it put to sleep and filed a complaint with animal control saying my classmate was being cruel to her cats. the claim was investigated (and found to be false), but here’s my classmate with a dead cat and an understandable amount of embarrassment and feelings of violation after this uncalled for investigation. So here’s my question: why are people so stupid? Why can’t we just wait to talk to one another and get the whole story before taking actions from which we can’t turn back?

Just a few thoughts on nothing in particular….

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From Holy Bishops in Late Antiquity

Anna and I had a conversation once, several months ago, about how some pastors of mega-churches are really functioning as Bishops without the title. We were talking about one of Anna’s former pastors, Jack Hayford, and his reputation for holiness as an example. Well, recently I’ve been reading the very interesting book Holy Bishops in Late Antiquity: The Nature of Christian Leadership in an Age of Transition by Claudia Rapp. Dr. Rapp writes a lot about the acquisition of various kinds of authority by the Episcopal office. One of these is what she calls ascetical authority–basically authority through holiness of life–and it is the sort of authority on which other forms depended. Tonight I was flipping through the book and this section caught my eye. I think it might have some application to our current difficulties…and since I’ve always liked Origen, and Pope Benedict has recently given him something of a rehabilitation, I don’t feel that bad about quoting him… 🙂

Origen, in the late third century, oscillates between the generalizing application of Paul’s passage [1 Tim. 3:1-7] that had been typical of the earlier period and the assumption that certain men, because they possess the virtues catalogued by Paul, are identified as episkopoi before God. Origen addresses this issue in two passages in his Commentary on Matthew. In the first passage, he explains that those who conform to the virtues set out by Paul for bishops rightfully exercise the power to bind and loose. In other words, the possession of virtues precedes and indeed is the precondition for the exercise of penitential authority that is largely the prerogative of bishops. In the second passage, Origen says that Jewish Rabbis receive recognition in the eyes of the people because of the external markers of their position, such as the most prominent seat at banquets or in the synagogue. Bishops, by contrast, are recognized in the eyes of God because of their virtues: “For he who has in him the virtues that Paul lists about the bishop, even if he is not a bishop among men, is a bishop before God, even if the [episcopal] rank has not been bestowed on him through the ordination by men.” To illustrate his point, Origen invokes the example of the physician and the pilot of a ship. These men retain their skill and ability, even if they lack the opportunity to exercise them. the physician remains a physician even if he has no patients, and the pilot remains a pilot even if he has no ship to navigate. Taken to its logical conclusion, Origen’s reasoning allows that there may be many more “bishops before God” than there are bishops among men. Moreover, it opens the door to the possibility that men who do not quallify as “bishops before God” are nonetheless ordained to the episcopate. This is in tune with Origen’s general tendency to expose the worldliness of the church as an institution. Criticism of this nature would become even more pronounced in the post-Constantinian era. (p35)

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