Musings of an Anglican/Episcopal Priest

Month: February 2009

Ash Wednesday 2009

From the Psalms appointed for this morning in the daily office.

Psalm 32:1-7
beati quorum

  1. happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven, *
    and to sin is put away!
  2. Happy are they to whom the Lord imputes no guilt,*
    and in whose spirit there is no guile!
  3. well I held my tone, my bones withered away,*
    because of my groaning all day long.
  4. For your hand was heavy upon me day and night;*
    my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.
  5. Then I acknowledge my sin to you,*
    and did not conceal my guilt.
  6. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.”*
    Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.
  7. Therefore all the faithful will make their prayer to you in
    time of trouble;*
    when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them.

Thoughts from William Law (A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life) on confession:

This examination, therefore, of ourselves every evening is not only to be considered as a commendable rule and fit for a wise man to observe, but as something that is as necessary as a daily confession and repentance of our sins, because this daily  repentance is of very little significancy and loses all its chief benefit unless it be a particular confession and repentance of the sins of that day.  This examination is necessary to repentance in the same manner as time is necessary.   You cannot repent or express your sorrow unless you allow some time for it, nor can you repent but so far as you know what it is that you are repenting of. So that when it is said that it is necessary to examine and call your actions to account, it is only saying that is necessary to know why, and how many things you are to repent of.

Are Mixed-Race Children Better Adjusted? – TIME

This is interesting.  I’m sure folks remember all the flack that Tiger Woods caught when he mentioned in an interview that, as a child, he had constructed the term “Cablinasian” to describe his heritage of [Ca]ucasian, [Bl]ack, American-[In]dian, and [Asian].  This of course demonstrated the internalization of the old “one-drop” rule.  It makes since that there would be pressures in a community where some folks chose to escape prejudice by “passing” as white, that there would be a stigma attached to denying one’s African-American heritage.  But as much historical and sociological sense it makes for that attitude to exist, that is not a justification for its continued currency.  Some folks (Barak Obama seems to be an example) may find it helpful to identify solely with one aspect of their ethnic heritage.  But, it seems like common sense to me that it is generally more healthy for folks to accept the totality of who they are.  I’m surrprised it took Psychologists this long to figure it out.  Then again, maybe I’m not.  Any thoughts?

[Note: I think the headline is misleading.  The question is not really whether children of mixed ethnicities are more well adjusted than children of one, but rather, whether those who eschew an aspect of their heritage are less healthy than those who embrace the entirety of who they are.]

Americans like answers in black and white, a cultural trait we confirmed last year when the biracial man running for President was routinely called “black”.

The flattening of Barack Obama’s complex racial background shouldn’t have been surprising. Many multiracial historical figures in the U.S. have been reduced (or have reduced themselves) to a single aspect of their racial identities: Booker T. Washington, Tina Turner, and Greg Louganis are three examples. This phenomenon isn’t entirely pernicious; it is at least partly rooted in our concern that growing up with a fractured identity is hard on kids. The psychologist J.D. Teicher summarized this view in a 1968 paper: “Although the burden of the Negro child is recognized as a heavy one, that of the Negro-White child is seen to be even heavier.”

But new research says this old, problematized view of multiracial identity is outdated. In fact, a new paper in the Journal of Social Issues shows that multiracial adolescents who identify proudly as multiracial fare as well as — and, in many cases, better than — kids who identify with a single group, even if that group is considered high-status (like, say, Asians or whites). This finding was surprising because psychologists have argued for years that mixed-race kids will be better adjusted if they pick a single race as their own.

Read it all via Are Mixed-Race Children Better Adjusted? – TIME.

By the way: I use the term ethnicity rather than race, because the use of the term Race has a checkered history.   People used to talk about the “German Race” or “Jewish Race” or “Anglo-Saxon Race” and ascribe various traits to each group.  I see very little difference between that and contemporary uses of the term “race” to indicate Caucasian, African/African American, Asian, American Indian etc… It may sound cliche, but I believe it is a much more helpful view, to say that “there is only one race and that’s the human race,” and to instead talk about various ethnicities.

The Protestant Guns?

Most people have probably heard the story of the “Protestant wind” and how a storm helped defeat the Spanish Armada in King Philip’s attempt to invade England.  But it appears the storm may not have been the only thing that sent England’s enemies packing:

The English navy at around the time of the Armada was evolving revolutionary new tactics, according to new research.

Tests on cannon recovered from an Elizabethan warship suggest she carried powerful cast iron guns, of uniform size, firing standard ammunition.

“This marked the beginning of a kind of mechanisation of war,” says naval historian Professor Eric Grove of Salford University.

“The ship is now a gun platform in a way that it wasn’t before.”

Marine archaeologist Mensun Bound from Oxford University adds: “Elizabeth’s navy created the first ever set of uniform cannons, capable of firing the same size shot in a deadly barrage.

“[Her] navy made a giant leap forward in the way men fought at sea, years ahead of England’s enemies, and which was still being used to devastating effect by Nelson 200 years later.”

Read it all via BBC NEWS | Science & Environment | ‘Superguns’ of Elizabeth I’s navy.

C.S. Lewis the sexually stunted misogynist? Not Quite…

Matthew Alderman provides a good reminder of why it is important to actually read and understand what someone writes rather than to assume the worst based upon a shallow and culturally captive reading.  I’ve often wondered how, if they get to it, the Narnia films will deal with this?

It’s one of childhood’s great narrative shocks. Susan Pevensie is no longer a friend of Narnia. The bad news comes, almost offhandedly, as the series ends amid the cheerfully eschatological curtain-calls of The Last Battle. How could he—C.S. Lewis, Aslan, maybe God—do that to dear old Su? To Queen Susan the Gentle, Susan the sure-sighted archeress?

Surely you remember her. She is the second-eldest of the Pevensie children, the pretty one in the family, dark-haired, tender-hearted, and occasionally cautious to the point of being a bit of a wet blanket. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, she is given the representative gifts of a bow, arrows, and a magic horn that summons help wherever you might be. These gifts signify her strength, femininity, and prudence.

Yet she is conspicuously absent from the roll call of Narnian heroes we encounter in Aslan’s heavenly country. She is, Aslan says, “no longer a friend of Narnia.” Susan, we remember, is excluded from heaven for growing up, for liking lipstick, nylons, and parties.

Read it all via FIRST THINGS: On the Square » Blog Archive » Whatever Happened to Susan Pevensie?.

The Puzzling Faith of Abraham Lincoln | Christian History

Given the history of nations that believe God to be on their side in all things, it is helpful to realize that God holds no citizenship–a lesson Abraham Lincoln evidently understood.

Ministers and theologians, who day and night studied the Scriptures, knew very well where God stood on the war (though, of course, they differed among themselves). We would expect Lincoln, as the Union’s president, to be just as partisan as Beecher. We would assume Lincoln to be just as vituperative about Southern leaders as Dabney was about the North’s. Yet Lincoln, though he pondered the ways of God almost as steadily as the professionals of religion, was not so sure.

Admittedly, in his first inaugural address, in March 1861, Lincoln had presented a fairly conventional view of God and the American nation. The “ultimate justice of the people,” he said, would prevail, for there was no “better, or equal, hope in the world.” Lincoln saw a solution to the national crisis in terms of civil religion: “Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him, who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulty.” God, in other words, would stick with the Americans, whose own virtues would lead them out of trouble.

Soon, however, the vicious realities of war began to stir something else in the Northern president. As early as 1862 Lincoln began to think the unthinkable: Perhaps the will of God could not simply be identified with American ideals and the effort to preserve the Union.

via The Puzzling Faith of Abraham Lincoln | Christian History.

All things are clean to the clean…

I just saw this in my RSS reader.  Since the Gospel reading for yesterday was Jesus’ healing of the leper in Mark 1:40-45, this fits in nicely with the message of yesterday’s sermon:

Daily Reading for February 16

And why did Jesus touch the leper, since the law forbade the touching of a leper? He touched him to show that “all things are clean to the clean.” Because the filth that is in one person does not adhere to others, nor does external uncleanness defile the clean of heart. So he touches him in his untouchability, that he might instruct us in humility; that he might teach us that we should despise no one, or abhor them, or regard them as pitiable, because of some wound of their body or some blemish for which they might be called to render an account. . . . So, stretching forth his hand to touch, the leprosy immediately departs. The hand of the Lord is found to have touched not a leper, but a body made clean! Let us consider here, beloved, if there be anyone here that has the taint of leprosy in his soul, or the contamination of guilt in his heart? If he has, instantly adoring God, let him say: “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”

From Origen’s Fragments on Matthew, quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament II, Mark, edited by Thomas C. Oden and Christopher A. Hall (Downer’s Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1998).

HT to: Episcopal Cafe

via Speaking to the Soul.

Every Man Needs a Man Mentor | The Art of Manliness

Anna and I have often reflected on how strange it is that the Church/Christians have to relearn the basic habits of community that seem to come naturally in other walks of life.  Of course, the more I think about it, the more I believe that our whole society has forgotten these habits and that when and where they emerge is often an accident.  When true community forms, whether it be around a shared interest, in a voluntary association, school, athletics or Church, we should count ourselves blessed to have experienced it.

All that is to say, things like mentoring are important.  I came across this reflection on why every man needs a man mentor on–where else–the Art of Manliness.  Notice where Brett McKay, who wrote this reflection, was when he met his mentor.  Notice what he’d been asked to do.  This is an example we should take to heart in our congregations.

When I was 15, I met a man who would have a profound impact on my life. His name was Andrew Lester. I first encountered Mr. Lester at church. He was the fun old guy that everyone liked being around. Despite being in his 8os, he had this boyish, mischievous look to him. He also made wearing a Breath-right nasal strip look cool. He wore them all the time. Mr. Lester was an artist by trade. His mother was a Cheyenne Indian, so his art focused on Native American motifs. A tribe called him the White Buffalo, and he made a really beautiful painting representing the name bestowed on him. I have print of it hanging up in my office.

While Mr. Lester dabbled in painting, his real skill was in sculpting clay. He sculpted mammoth busts of great people from history like Martin Luther King Jr., Jim Thorpe, and Western movie star Tom Mixx. When he wasn’t working in his studio, he volunteered in various community organizations aimed at helping underprivileged Native and African Americans. Mr. Lester was very active in the African-American community in Oklahoma and founded the Oklahoma African-American Museum Hall of Fame.

When I first saw Mr. Lester at church, I never thought he would become a mentor and good friend to me. But by chance, I was asked to regularly visit him and his wife to help them out around their home. Little did I know the impact this man would have on my passage into manhood.

via Every Man Needs a Man Mentor | The Art of Manliness.

Graham Kings>> Formed by God through Scripture in the Daily Office

Recently at St. Francis we have reemphasized the Daily Office.  As part of this reemphasis, I want to commend Graham Kings’ reflection on the Office to you.  This was delivered at the Covenant Conference in Dallas in early Decemeber.  Unfortunately, due to flight schedules I was unable to hear this reflection in person, but thankfully–and to your benefit as well–the recording is available at the Covenant site.  Enjoy!


Apart from ‘Daily Prayer’, ‘The Office’ reminds me of two things: firstly, the popular English comedy series, which was recontexualised in Pennsylvania; and secondly an excellent name for a pub. If I ever owned a pub – which I am very unlikely to do – I would consider calling it ‘The Office’. Then, if relatives or friends wondered where you were, you could phone and say, ‘I’m still at The Office’.

In the wonderful collect for Bible Sunday, we pray ‘help us to hear [all holy Scriptures], to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them…’. As we say the Daily Office, we are formed by God through his Scriptures.

Officium is the Latin word for ‘duty’. Whenever we think of ‘duty’ in the Anglican Communion we also think of ‘joy’: ‘It is our duty and our joy at all times and places…’. So, at Morning Prayer, you report for duty and get your orders. At Evening Prayer you clock off, if you like, and you salute. That is one way of looking at the Office. It has got to be done. As we shall see, it is enjoined upon clergy, but also with the ‘tolling of the bell’, it involves lay people as well.

{Read/listen to it all}

Some of that Old-Time Reformed Thinking…

Recently I have been cleaning out some old files and papers to free our new house from an invasion of useless clutter.  During this process I’ve discovered once again what an amazing benefit modern technology is for those of us who hate to get rid of anything we’ve read or written.  Rather than simply chunking all my old papers and research, I’ve been scanning them in as PDF documents and using Google’s storage in Gmail to store and sort them.  That way, they take up no space in the house, are infinitely reproducable (if I ever see a reason to reproduce any of it) and are available for random things like this blog post.

Which brings me to my example of “Old-Time Reformed Thinking.”  When I was writing my senior thesis in college, one of the figures I cam across was the Rev. Arnold DeWelles Miller, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Charlotte NC in the late 19th century, and a man who was instrumental in the establishment of Presbyterian missions in Western North Carolina.  Miller is a very good example of the scholarly sort of pastor that was (and is still in some cases) the Presbyterian ideal.  During his ministry he corresponded with numerous people on various issues, addressing their questions and concerns about the faith.  On one such occasion he responded in a note to a lady from Asheville (my home town), who’d evidently asked him about the legitimacy of Easter.  Here’s Miller’s response:


(Written for a Lady in Asheville, in 1879)

The Popish festival of Easter, designed as a continuance of the abrogated Jewish festival of the Passover, recieved in English name from a Pagan Festival in honour of the Goddess Eostre which, having been celebrated at the same season, was eventually merged into the other.

This, then, is its geneology: Jewish, Pagan, Popish.  And what place has this ecclesiastical illegitimate in a Presbyterian Church?  The Apostle forbids us to “observe days and months, and times and years”, and says of those who do, that “he fears he has bestowed labour upon them in vain”, (Gal. 4:9-11) and bids us resist the observance of “holydays”, as a mere shadow which has now passed away. (Col. 2:16,17.)  And yet, thre are so called “Presbyterians” whio pride themselves upon being the Ape-ists of Ape-ists of Papists!

From all such, “Good Lord, deliver us!”

A.W.M. (a.w. miller)

Charlotte, N.C.

Now that, my friends, is some impressive polemic.  And I say that as an Ape-ist of Papists (I’m sure he had Episcopalians/Anglicans in mind).

The Anglican Communion Institute, Inc. » Is The Renunciation of Orders Routine?

As if things weren’t already bizarre enough, the choice of the Presiding Bishop to claim that Bishop Scriven (formerly assitant Bishop of Pittsburgh) has voluntarily renounced his orders has taken things to a new level.  Bishop Scriven has accepted an appointment to head the South American Mission Society which is now merging with the Church Mission Society.  On top of this, he was accepted into the Diocese of Oxford.  The last time I checked, the Episcopal Church was in Communion with the Church of England, and one of the basic elements of Communion is the interchangability of orders–something that was foundational as the Anglican Communion emerged as an international body, and which is one of the first steps in any process of unity with other Christian bodies (consider “Called to Common Mission”, the agreement between the ELCA and TEC which allows the interchangability of orders.)  While, given the nature of our conflict, it is easy to assign nefarious intent to actions such as these, I can’t see any rhyme or reason to doing something that makes you look so foolish.  So is it intentional vindictiveness or simply ineptitude?  I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Defenders of the Presiding Bishop are scrambling to re-interpret her extraordinary action of depriving a bishop of the Church of England of the gifts and authority conferred in his ordination and removing him from the ordained ministry of The Episcopal Church.  For example, the group supporting the Presiding Bishop in Pittsburgh stated that “[t]his is a routine way of permitting Bishop Scriven to continue his ministry.”  In the strange world of TEC, renunciation of orders has become a routine way of continuing one’s ministry.

But it is not routine.  Indeed, it has not been used for those transferring from TEC to another province in the Anglican Communion until the Presiding Bishop began what resembles a scorched-earth approach to her opponents within TEC.  Not surprisingly, in the past such matters have been handled by letter.  One can see the evolution of the Presiding Bishop’s “routine” policy in the treatment of Bishop David Bena, who was transferred by letter by his diocesan bishop to the Church of Nigeria in February 2007.  A month later, the Presiding Bishop wrote Bishop Bena and informed him that “by this action you are no longer a member of the House of Bishops” and that she had informed the Secretary of the House to remove him from the list of members.  That was all that needed to be done.  A year later, however, as her current strategy emerged, she suddenly declared in January 2008 that she had accepted Bishop Bena’s renunciation of orders using the canon she now uses against Bishop Scriven.  In other words, if this is now sadly routine, it has only become routine in the past year.

Not only is this not routine, it was not necessary.  As we pointed out in our original statement, Bishop Scriven ceased to be an Assistant Bishop in TEC and thereby ceased to be a member of TEC’s House of Bishops the moment Bishop Duncan was deposed.  This was a constitutional disqualification imposed on Bishop Scriven by Article I.2 of TEC’s constitution.  Canonically speaking, he ceased to be a bishop in TEC at that point. His original status as a bishop of the Church of England was not thereby affected, of course, and upon requesting and receiving an honorary role in the Diocese of Oxford that became his formal diocesan home.  All that was necessary in January 2009 was for TEC to conform its records to this fact.

{read it all}

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