Musings of an Anglican/Episcopal Priest

Category: History (Page 1 of 2)

The Twilight of the Greatest Generation & the loss of Memory

As we grow further removed in history from World War II and D Day, especially as that generation dies and fewer people have even heard first-hand accounts from family members and others they know, people will need more reminders of the significance. The map below is one reminder. 50% of deaths from allied civilians. A trial everywhere, but in some cases completely staggering–a 25% death toll in Belarus for example.

And while a lot of folks may not realize it, for the reasons given above–the postwar pursuit of economic integration, free trade, and the emergence of the European Union (with the UK as an important ballast to prevent domination by Germany or France)–were integral to the peace that emerged and the fact that there hasn’t been another conflagration in Europe.

Cordell Hull

Tennessean Cordell Hull (there’s a building named after him on the square in Gallatin, and he was a graduate of the Normal School at Bowling Green KY, which I’m guessing was a predecessor to Western Kentucky University) was a major architect of this and champion of the insight that economic integration fosters peace. Not without flaws–he opposed admitting Jewish refugees fleeing from the Nazis and thus did not rise above the lesser instincts of his day on that front–he nonetheless advocated for a perspective on international trade and peace that has proven insightful, durable, and mostly accurate.

The breakdown of the postwar consensus, the likely departure of the UK from the EU, and greater moves toward nationalism and economic protectionism, especially when the advocates display very little awareness of the broader implications of those changes, when the broader implications–political and social–of the postwar policies were arguably the major point, with base level economics being secondary. This latter issue was also in play with the short-sighted rejection of the Trans-pacific Partnership trade agreement by both candidate Hillary Clinton and now-President Trump. Trump’s issues with China can be read in part as a result of the fact that the multilateral economic agreement meant to bind Pacific rim powers more closely to the United States and hem in Chinese influence, was rejected in favor of his arrogant attempts at bilateral agreements.

Hull was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1945 for his instrumental work in founding the United Nations. Funny that the apocalyptic preachers of my youth who so often used the UN as a Boogieman, never mentioned that a Southerner–a Tennessean!–was integral to its founding. If they had, regional loyalties are such that it might have limited the effectiveness of their message.

As one essay about Hull and his work prior to WWII put it, “Mark Twain said, ‘you can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.’ Secretary Hull and the commercial policy planners foresaw an integrated world economy where peace would be built on trade liberalization. But most Americans could not yet picture that world” (Available here–requires registration). Now, the problem seems to be we’ve seen only that world for long enough, that we’ve forgotten how bleak the alternative of nationalistic factionalism is.

The Law of Prayer, #1

I have started a new Priest’s Forum at St. Joseph of Arimathea which will involve delving into the theology and doctrines behind the collects and other prayers of The Book of Common Prayer. We often say that the Prayer Book contains our theology, it makes sense that we would take the time to plumb the depths of the central texts of the Prayer Book–the prayers.

The title of the series is “The Law of Prayer,” which comes from a well known–though sometimes misunderstood–phrase “The law of prayer is the law of belief,” (in Latin, Lex orandi, lex credendi, or as Prosper of Aquitaine originally wrote, ut legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi, the Law of Prayer establishes the law of belief).

Last week we spent out time looking at the different types of prayer and especially the parts of a collect. I thought I would share those for those who are interested.

I hope to post something after each lesson for those who might to follow along from a distance, or who can’t make it on Sunday morning.

The Five Traditional Forms of Prayer

There are five traditional forms of prayer:

  1. Blessing & Adoration
  2. Prayer of Petition
  3. Prayer of Intercession
  4. Prayer of Thanksgiving
  5. Prayer of Praise

Sometimes these are grouped differently, but you can see the formulations are thematically similar: Adoration, worship, praise, thanksgiving, blessing, confession, petition, supplication, intercession, aspiration, consecration, lament (Brazos Introduction to Christian Spirituality, Evan B. Howard, p. 301).

The most common prayer among Christians is probably the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). The petitions of the Lord’s Prayer fall into several categories:

Hallowed be thy name (worship)
Thy kingdom come (aspiration)
Thy will be done (surrender)
Give us this day, our daily bread (supplication)
Forgive us (Confession)
Deliver us (Warfare Prayer)

The prayers recorded in early Christian literature can be categorized into six type: petition (including intercession), thanksgiving, blessing (or benediction), praise, confession and finally a small number of lamentations. The first five of these types have persisted throughout the centuries and been expressed in a large number of Christian prayers. However some prayers may combine some of these forms, e.g. praise and thanksgiving, etc.

Modes of prayer

  • Vocal Prayer
  • Meditation
  • Contemplation


  • Centering prayer: Centering Prayer is a receptive method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God’s presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself. This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship.
  • Lectio Divina, literally meaning “divine reading,” is an ancient practice of praying the Scriptures. During Lectio Divina, the practitioner listens to the text of the Bible with the “ear of the heart,” as if he or she is in conversation with God, and God is suggesting the topics for discussion. The method of Lectio Divina includes moments of reading (lectio), reflecting on (meditatio), responding to (oratio) and resting in (contemplatio) the Word of God with the aim of nourishing and deepening one’s relationship with the Divine. have divided prayer into the three simple categories:
  • Spoken prayer ordained by God and the holy church (“common” or “public” prayer).
  • Spoken prayer expressing the stirrings of those who are in a state of devotion (“conversational” prayer)
  • Prayer in the heart alone and without speaking (“contemplative” contemplative prayer, broadly understood).
  • I would add Written Prayer as an area to consider: Liturgical texts, such as collects

A collect generally has five parts:

  1. An address to God.
  2. A relative or participle clause referring to some attribute of God, or to one of his saving acts.
  3. The petition
  4. The reason for which we ask
  5. The conclusion

Here’s an example from the Book of Common Prayer:

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

It may be broken down as follows:

  1. Address: Almighty and everlasting God,
  2. Attribute: You are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve;
  3. The Petition: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things
  4. The Reason:for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of
  5. Conclusion: Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

There are some prayers recorded in scripture that follow a similar pattern. That’s not to say they are collects (they’re not), or that collects consciously used the same pattern (they didn’t), but rather to point out that the language of prayer follows certain patterns, and contains variations within a tradition.

Acts 1:24-25, when the Apostles prayed before the election of Matthias, contains 4 of the traditional 5 sections of a collect:

“Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”

Similar prayers in the Apocrypha can be found at 2 Maccabees 1:24-29 and 1 Maccabees 4:30-33.

The Return of Clandestine Marriage?

A version of this post was also posted at The Living Church’s Covenant Blog.

An initial “C” in a medieval manuscript discussing clandestine marriage. The British Library.

The seventeenth century Anglican Priest and historian Thomas Fuller once wrote, “It is the worst clandestine marriage when God is not invited to it. Wherefore, beforehand beg his gracious assistance“ (Fuller, The Holy State, 172 ). While Fuller called those marriages that are not undertaken before God to be the worst form of clandestine marriage, his comment may strike many modern readers as odd, given that we are so far removed from the question of clandestine marriages. But it was not always so.

Indeed, at various points in the medieval period, the Church and society struggled with the question of what constituted marriage. The two main schools of thought were consent—favored by many scholastic theologians—and consummation, favored by many laity. Because the Church emphasized consent, and—at least in the West—upheld the fact that the couple are themselves the ministers of the marriage, there arose a problem with what were called “clandestine” or secret marriages. Marriages that were not witnessed by anyone (other than a priest). Indeed, such marriages were so problematic, and continued to be performed in England up through the 1700s that they became known as “Fleet Marriages” because they were so often performed by unscrupulous priests serving time at Fleet Prison, who would perform a wedding for the right price.

While there were times when clandestine marriages were pursued for reasons that a conscientious observer might have found ethical, they were a source of abuse wherein people could be married secretly, have sex, and then one party—the man, let’s be honest—could then deny the marriage had ever taken place after having taken advantage of a woman, often of a lower social or economic class.

While the reading of the banns of marriage—not often done in the United States at all, but still, I understand, done occasionally in England—may seem no more than a quaint custom, and the charge in our wedding rite that “if any of you can show just cause why they may not lawfully be married, speak now; or else for ever hold your peace” (BCP 424) may be more confusing than not (mostly because clergy don’t explain it), they stem from the same concern that gives us our double consent formula: a desire to avoid abuse. In the case of the banns, the concern was to avoid bigamy. In the case of the double consent, it was to avoid forced marriages. In both cases, the desire was to avoid the strong imposing their will on those with less power or a lower social standing.

What does any of this have to do with us today, in our culture of falling marriage rates, widespread cohabitation, and changing sexual mores? I submit it may be of interest because we in the Episcopal Church may have an opportunity to at General Convention next year to approve a supplemental liturgy that enshrines something very much like Clandestine Marriage.

The Task Force for the Study of Marriage recently offered its report from its last meeting. In it, they discuss all hot button issues related to a gender neutral marriage rite, whether or not to amend the Book of Common Prayer’s wedding service prior to a full revision of the Prayer Book etc. In addition, however, they indicate they will be putting forward a resolution to authorize two supplemental liturgical blessing rites. One, The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant, is intended for use in dioceses and parishes of The Episcopal Church that exist in places where the legal jurisdiction does not have legal same-sex marriage. But it is the second of these proposed supplemental rites to which i want to turn our attention, “The Blessing of a Lifelong Relationship.” It is this rite that I believe entails a revival of Clandestine Marriage, and with it, possible abuses.

The Task force states in their report that The Blessing of a Lifelong Relationship is proposed for use under two circumstances:

  • By mature couples who seek to form and formalize a special relationship with one another that is unconditional and lifelong, but is nevertheless something different than a marriage in that it does not include the merging of property, finances, or other civil legal encumbrances, in order to protect against personal and familial hardship.
  • By couples for whom the requirement to furnish identification to obtain a marriage license could result in civil or criminal legal penalties, including deportation, because of their immigration status.

They state that the use of both supplemental rites will contain conditions for use that reflect the conditions for use of the marriage rites, by which I assume they mean that one party must be a baptized Christian. I don’t think they could mean that the couple would need to sign the Declaration of Intention, since the very design the second supplemental rite would negate what is intended by the declaration.

I will leave it to others to hash out those liturgies referred to in the report of the task force that have already received, and will doubtless continue to receive much attention. My purpose here is to sound what I believe to be a necessary alarm bell about this supplemental liturgy. I do so for a few reasons:

First, it would enshrine in our liturgy the blessing of a union that is not marriage, but which nevertheless intends what marriage intends, save for the condition that it is not marriage. If our debate about same-sex marriage in the Episcopal Church over the past few decades has taught us anything, it’s that the terms of the debate hinge on what marriage is, and whether it can and should rightly be expanded to include same-sex couples.1 Those who have argued for some other union for same-sex couples have always been a minority, and in the terms of the unfolding life of the Episcopal Church, I think even those who hold that position would have to admit that the debate has passed them by. In other words, if something looks like marriage, and functions like marriage, we are best off conceiving of it and discerning it in terms of whether or not it does in fact constitute marriage.

It is more than a little strange that at a time when the bulk of the Episcopal Church has accepted same-sex marriage, we would consider authorizing a rite that, even though it claims to be blessing a union that is “unconditional and lifelong” is precisely predicated on the condition that the couple avoid the obligations and duties of marriage, and likewise are deprived of the legal protections due them within their relationship. The very justification from the task force is self-refuting: claiming something as unconditional while starting the precise conditions. The authorization of such a rite is a revival of clandestine marriage precisely because it is a revival of a relationship that looks like marriage that is invisible to the community, embodied by the state, when the state is the only entity that can provide appropriate protection to the parties of the relationship.

It’s difficult to know precisely what sort of situation is envisioned by the Task Force when they write that about avoiding the “merging of property, finances, or other civil legal encumbrances, in order to protect against personal and familial hardship.” I recall a number of years ago that there were some bishops who sought permission to have their clergy officiate at marriages using the BCP rite, but without a civil marriage license. The stated reason then was so that couples would not be required to give up their Social Security upon marrying.

Honestly, discussing whether or not Social Security requirements might not actually be as burdensome as some think, or pointing out that adults can perfectly well protect their assets legally when they decide to wed without avoiding marriage, might be begging the question. Assumed in a discussion that does that direction is this: It must be ok for the church to salve peoples consciences as they seek to circumvent laws intended to apply to people living in particular relationships. In other words, I would question whether the prior assumptions that make such a rite conceivable are even ethical for Christians.

That question of ethics is one of communal or social ethics. On the side of personal ethics and morality: should the church bless something that is not marriage, but which all parties conceive on the personal level to be like marriage, avoiding only the social cost, which could therefore entail a sexual relationship outside the bounds of marriage.

Let’s be real: It’s not only the elderly who are discriminated against by our governmental policies when it comes to marriage. Look around your own family or community and I bet you can find examples of couples who have postponed marriage so that their children wouldn’t lose medicaid (or whatever local equivalent) coverage. I suppose it makes sense that we would be thinking about the elderly, given the makeup of The Episcopal Church, but this solution is not a solution at all. To use the meme inspired parlance of our day, this is weak sauce.

If you sense some sarcasm, it’s because this proposal does nothing to deal with the inequities of the system, and instead doing what comes easy to Episcopalians and crafting a liturgy to make us feel good in the midst of injustice. At least, we must think it’s an injustice, or else it really is completely unethical to offer such a liturgy.

Which brings me to the second scenario envisioned: that of undocumented immigrants who are uncomfortable—for obvious reasons—with applying for marriage licenses. These two scenarios really are an odd pairing. In the first, pains are taken to say that the couple does not want marriage. In the second scenario, I imagine the couples would say unequivocally  that they do. Unless one assumes, as I do, that they actually do want marriage in both cases, but are avoiding real or perceived penalties.

My pastoral response to the two situation would be quite different. In the one, I’d say something like “it’s a hard decision whether to marry, and whether to bear the cost of that. I’d be happy to talk with you through the process, and recommend attorneys who could help you arrange things so that your families are reassured.” But I would not offer them “marriage-lite.” Nor would I want to officiate at a service for them without a marriage license.

In the later case, I would like to see some provisional authority granted to priests to officiate at weddings—again, not marriage-lite—for couples where one party is at risk of deportation. But I think we really should only see this as provisional and it should chafe to the point that we actively work to see that undocumented immigrants can legally marry. Why would I say this?

I understand that it has become popular in some circles to argue that marriage in the church and marriage in the eyes of the state should be divorced from one another. Often this is accompanied with a criticism of the clergy “acting as agents of the state.” But I think this understanding has things exactly backwards.

The state doesn’t recognize a marriage I officiate because I’m an agent of the state (arguably, they recognize it because a license fee was paid, but let’s put that to the side for the moment). They recognize it because the State recognizes that marriage is an institution prior to and independent of the state, but which must nevertheless be managed by the state because the law is nothing if not the way our community has provided for us to work together.

Because marriage is therefore prior to the state (as is the family unit), the state recognizes that the traditional marriages as envisioned and contracted in numerous religious communities, regardless of their particularity, fits the minimum definition of what the state considers marriage to be, and it therefore recognizes them. It’s not that priests and rabbis or imams or brahmans thereby become agents of the state, it’s that the state recognizes these communities as constituent bodies within a broader society, and marriage as a constitutive element of society as a whole. This is why I am thankful that I have never said, and will never say “by the power invested in me by the state of _____, I now pronounce you man and wife.” I will instead say, with the Book of Common Prayer “No that N. and N. have given themselves to each other by solemn vows, with the joining of hands and the giving and receiving of a ring, I pronounce that they are husband and wife, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Those whom God has joined together let no one put asunder” (BCP 428).

All of that said, the role of the state is important and significant: the state ensures the rights of all parties in the marriage, both each member of the couple, and any children they have. Blessing marriages without civil marriage licenses, and thereby creating legally invisible unions, means that the state doesn’t easily know how to adjudicate between the couple when their union dissolves, when one party abandons the other, etc. This is especially true when there is common property. Marriage—civil, legal marriage—is a protection against the abuse of the less powerful by the more powerful. In heterosexual marriage, the less powerful are often women and children. Unless we are going to revive ecclesiastical courts, I don’t see how we can responsibly bless unions without the legal element.

If we had common law marriage in the United States, perhaps it could work.2 If we were a sectarian tradition that claimed unfettered loyalty from our membership, maybe it wold have a shot (but who among us would really want that?). But neither of those is a reality. The states are all too diverse in their marriage laws and less than a handful have anything like Common Law marriage. And if we have some people entering these relationships with the express desire not to be married, then even the laws in places like North Carolina that provide for marriage by reputation wouldn’t be a protection.

We are a church that has worked in and through culture. We cannot so easily shirk our responsibilities now. Rather than crafting liturgies for these situations, perhaps we should be crafting legislation that calls out the injustice to which we really ought to respond, and put the Episcopal Public Policy office to work lobbying for specific legislation.

Maybe, even more importantly, we should teach about these issues in our parishes, and get Episcopalians and other Christians involved in challenging systemic injustices that harm people in our society, that militate against the formation of stable families, and that prevent people from getting the support they need, whatever their age, stage of life, economic or immigration status.

I think that’s a much better idea than reviving legally clandestine unions. If we really believe these to be issues of injustice, we are obligated to challenge the status quo. If it’s just a matter of being inconvenienced, then perhaps what we really want is a marriage of convenience, even if we call it a “Blessing of a Lifelong Relationship.”

  1. There was a good back and forth about this in The Living Church before General Convention 2015, between my former Professor Dr. Bill Carroll, and my bishop, John Bauerschmidt. I haven’t been able to find the exchange online, but if and when I do, I will link to it here. []
  2. I’m actually in favor of restoring a form of Common Law Marriage, much like I read described several years ago in a reform of marriage law in British Columbia. The one thing–considered radical by some, I’m sure–that I would add, would be to include same-sex couples if there were children present. Since part of the point is to encourage stability and to protect the less-powerful parties in relationships/families, it makes sense to include them, regardless of one’s theological perspective on same-sex marriage. See: []

A different kind of Monument

There has been a lot of talk about the rights and wrongs of various Civil War monuments in recent weeks. Most of the ones garnering attention were erected or have become artifacts and idols of what historians sometimes refer to as “The Religion of the Lost Cause.” The thing about this religion is that it has as one of its primary functions the sanitizing of the brutality inherent in the slave system of the South, the centrality that slavery had as an impetus for war, and even–oddly since it glorifies the suffering of the South on the one hand–the sanitization of the suffering endured during and after the war. Even as it lifts up the idea of the suffering south, the Lost Cause mythos has a tendency to knock off the rough edges, and make everything seem soft around the edges like the scenery of Gone with the Wind.

This is a reflection on a different sort of monument, the sort that highlight the rough edges and brutality of that suffering.

In 1996, when we buried my maternal grandma in the cemetery at North Fork Baptist Church in Big Pine, Madison County NC, I went looking through the grave stones. One stood out to me as having a deeper story:

The epitaph on the grave stone of Emeline McFeatures Bucker reads “Wife of Chrys & Ephram Buckner: Gone but not forgotten”

How, I wondered, had Emeline been married to two different men? I thought it was likely that she had been widowed, but it still seemed noteworthy that she had married two men with the same family name. Later, as I was doing genealogy research, I learned a bit more of the history.

Christopher S. and Ephraim H. Buckner were both sons of Absalom Buckner, who was something of a patriarch of the Buckner family in the mountains. Born in 1800, it seems that he was the first Buckner to make his home and raise his family in this part of the mountains. He and his wife Elizabeth had eight children:

Rebecca (1830-1872)
Joseph Hardy (1834-1864)
Caroline (1835-unknown)
Christopher S. (1841-1864)
Noah (1842-1864)
Lydia (184?-1932)
Ephraim H. (1846-unknown)
Nancy (1851-unknown)

You might notice a common death year among several of the sons: 1864. Absalom–even though he was in his 60s by the time the war came–along with Joseph Hardy, Christopher S, and Noah enlisted in the Confederate Army. Joseph Hardy and Noah were captured at the Cumberland Gap and both died at Camp Douglas in Chicago Il. Their names are memorialized in another monument, marking a mass grave at Chicago’s Oak Wood Cemetery where the remains of the more than 4,000 Confederate soldiers who died at Camp Douglas–sometimes called the “North’s Andersonville,”–were removed to after the war.

The monument at Oak Wood Cemetery

Though I’ve not yet been able to visit Oak Wood Cemetery, I’m thankful for the ability to see the plaques up close. Because of that, as well as register of deaths from Camp Douglas available at, I was able to confirm that Joseph Hardy Buckner and Noah Buckner rest here:

Noah, 14th from the bottom on the second column, Joseph Hardy (J.H.) 17th.

But this doesn’t explain what happened to Christopher. Unfortunately, this may not be an answerable question. His name isn’t on the death records at Camp Douglas, and there’s no death record anywhere that I have yet found. An old family bible simply has a note next to his name: “Never came home from war.” A few years after the war Emeline married his younger brother Ephraim.

I’ve always wondered what it must’ve been like for those words to be someone’s epitaph: never came home from war. What did his wife, mother, brother, and father think? I once read an article about another family that had lost a son in the war–the mother set a place at the table for him every night until she died.

Since Joseph Hardy and Noah didn’t have similar notations, I assume the place of their deaths were known, if not their final resting place (I’m not sure if anyone would’ve had the responsibility of letting the family know, especially once the bodies were moved after the war).

These monuments show a deeper truth of the war: the suffering and loss it brought. The most recent figures, released in 2012, revise the number of combined war dead upward to approximately 750,000, or the equivalent of about 7 million (a little over 2% of the population) today.  But war dead tell only a partial story. The National Park service estimates that the Union sustained a total of 642,427 casualties have been divided accordingly:

  • 110,100 killed in battle
  • 224,580 diseases
  • 275,174 wounded in action
  • 30,192 prisoners of war

The Confederacy is estimated to have sustained 483,026 total casualties, including:

  • 94,000 killed in battle
  • 164,000 diseases
  • 194,026 wounded in action
  • 31,000 prisoners of war

That’s a whopping 1,125,453 total combined casualties of the war–when the total population is only estimated to have been about 25 Million–at about 4.5%.

All of this demonstrates the depth of the effect the war had to have had on local communities. one story that demonstrates this has stuck in my mind for years.

I came across one story during my college career that highlights the brutality and deep woundedness of many communities following the war. It struck me then because it concerns the very county my ancestors above were from, Madison County NC. Madison county went by the nickname “bloody Madison” for a while after the war, a name it unfortunately earned. In his book “Victims: A True Story of the Civil War” Phillip Shaw Paludan retells this story (I first read it in Welman’s The Kingdom of Madison, but the testimony of the mother concerned was enough to bring it up in this newer book in a Google book search):

This personal sense of righteousness spanned the Civil War era and frequently overwhelmed whatever regular due process might have required. During the war a group of soldiers moved into Shelton Laurel and surrounded Nance “Granny” Franklin’s home. The widowed mother of four sons, she had to watch as the troops opened fire and killed three of her boys. She tried to stop the killings but only succeeded in just missing death herself when a bullet clipped off a lock of her hair. The soldiers left, but revenge lurked awaiting its chance.

After the war it came. A few miles away from Shelton Laurel, men were trying to rebuild Mars Hill College, and masons and carpenters from the region came to help. One day one of the bricklayers got to telling war stories to some students. He told of being in on the Franklin killings and recalled something sort of amusing: “Usually I can knock a squirrel out of a tree at seventy-five yards, but I took aim at that woman, almost close enough to touch her, and all I did was shoot off a piece of her hair.”

One of the students took this story with him when he went back home that weekend to Shelton Laurel. He told it to James Norton, who was Nance Franklin’s brother, and Norton offered the student a five-dollar gold piece if he would point out the bricklayer. The student identified the unsuspecting veteran, who retold his story. When he finished, Norton announced, “That was my sister you shot the hair off of, and one of her boys you murdered was named James after me.” He pulled a revolver from under his coat, shot the bricklayer in the stomach, and ran away. He was soon arrested, and trial was held in the neighboring county.

Nance Franklin rode through the mountains to testify on behalf of her brother. her descendants remember the testimony vividly, and the jury and spectators at the time were moved, too. Especially memorable was her answer when the judge asked, “Madam, you tell us that you sent your young sons out to fight and kill and be killed. Did you bring them up for that sort of thing?”

“I brought them up as Christians,” she answered. “I told them always be good boys, tell the truth, and be honest. But I told them something else. If you’ve got to die, die like a damned dog with your teeth in a throat.” The jury decided that the victim deserved killing. James Norton went free (Paludan, 21-22).

The Home Guard had killed her sons, her brother killed a veteran of the Home Guard after the war. Blood paid for blood. And so it went after the war to such an extent that it shaped the politics of the county for decades after. My mother can remember when people carried guns with them to vote because tensions were so thick. The short hand I was once told is that, generally, the old Republican families in the mountains had been Unionist, while the old Democratic families had been Confederates. And yet, it can’t be that simple. My mother’s family were Republicans from a long way back, but there were four men in one family who fought for the South and three didn’t make it back home.

Two of those men are my direct ancestors. My great grandfather Elbert was the grandson of Christopher S. Buckner, who never came home from the war, and his wife Julina, was the granddaughter of Joseph Hardy Buckner, who died at Camp Douglas.

At any rate, when I think about monuments that speak some truth about the Civil War, I think about that monument at Camp Douglas, with those names inscribed on it, and that grave stone, with the names of two husbands: one who never came home, and one who picked up and raised his brother’s children as well as his own.

To those monuments, we would be well served to add monuments to the experience of the Black Americans who endured slavery and nonetheless made this nation their home–out of necessity yes, and with great burdens–but to the benefit and enrichment of us all. As I read recently, we Southerners are a big mixed up family, with white and black cousins and neighbors afraid to see themselves in each other because of a shared history that too often has divided and continues to divide us. It’s time to put up some new monuments that help to highlight those truths, and that help to bring us together rather than glorifying the things that separate us. As Michael Twitty writes:

“I dare to believe all Southerners are a family. We are not merely Native, European, and African. We are Middle Eastern and South Asian and East Asian and Latin American, now. We are a dysfunctional family but we are a family. We are unwilling inheritors of a story with many sins that bears the fruit of the possibility of ten times the redemption” (The Cooking Gene, xvii).



About King Charles the Martyr

King Charles the Martyr

King Charles the Martyr

Wednesday, January 30th, is the feast of King Charles the Martyr.  This is not a feast in the Episcopal Church Calendar, but it is observed in other parts of the Anglican Communion.  There is a chapter of the Society of King Charles the Martyr in the Diocese of Tennessee, a group that advocates for observance of this feast by Episcopalians.

Historically, the puritan leanings of the US, as well as the republican triumph of the Revolutionary War, mean that Americans have been at the least ambivalent about the commemoration. That said, I believe that if some among us can hod their nose and accept the inclusion of Archbishop William Laud in the calendar, then we can certainly look again at King Charles the Martyr. Below are some articles and blog posts on the topic.

The Case for Charles, by J. Robert Wright

“Be ready always to give account to anyone who asks of you a reason for the hope that is within you, but do it with gentleness and reverence.” I Peter 3:15.The Commemoration in which we are engaged this morning is part of an international movement for the recovery of Anglican identity. King Charles the Martyr d. 1649 was commemorated in the Prayer Book of the Church of England from 1662 to 1859, then he was dropped. He never quite made it to the first American Prayer Book of 1789-90 because of our country’s need for distance from monarchy at that time. Whether or not the Queen’s Printers had statutory authority to remove his name from the English Kalendar in 1859 when the State Services were terminated [I think they did not], he did finally re-enter an official English liturgical calendar in 1980 with the publication of the Alternative Service Book of the Church of England in that year. Of course he has also entered the calendars of some other Anglican churches throughout the world, such as Canada. But most remarkable of all is the fact in this 21st-century post-deconstructionism world of searches for identity, that Charles as “King and Martyr” has been clearly and explicitly retained in the new calendar of the very modern Common Worship volume of the Church of England, just published in the year 2000. Whatever the word “martyr” may mean, and there are various acceptable definitions, the modern-day Church of England clearly recognizes him as a “martyr.” The Commemoration of King Charles the Martyr is on the rise, even in official circles, in liturgical calendars, in special services, in shrines and memorials, and in other ways. There is a growing realization that he is part of who we are as Anglicans, and even in the Episcopal Church, in addition to the long-standing witness of the Society of King Charles the Martyr and other groups, The Anglican Society, which I serve as President, has by official action of its Executive Committee resolved to work for the addition of his name to the calendar of the Episcopal Church.Charles could have avoided martyrdom if he had agreed to give up his witness to the catholic faith and order that is an essential ingredient of classical Anglicanism, in particular if he had agreed to settle for a church without bishops.

via The Case for Charles, by J. Robert Wright.

Re-thinking Charles the Martyr, by Fr. Sam Keyes

This Saturday past I took the rare opportunity to attend the Annual Mass of the Society of King Charles the Martyr, held at All Saints, Ashmont. (All Saints is, by the way, a delightful Anglo-Catholic parish with a wonderful choir ministry with boys from the neighborhood.) I’ve never had any particular devotion to Charles. I confess that I went — and I probably wasn’t the only one — for the spectacle of it all. Strange as they can be (and SKCM is probably the strangest, from most perspectives), there is something deeply appealing about these old Catholic societies in Anglicanism. It thrills me that they exist at all, and that they continue to exist.

via Re-thinking Charles the Martyr, by Fr. Sam Keyes.

For a longer treatment, check out this article from The Living Church archive.

Obligatory Election Post

I originally posted this in 2008 and indicated that it was more fitting for the 2000 election.  It may be applicable again come Tuesday:

While it was certainly much more applicable in 2000, I always like to share this selection from my fellow Ashevillan Thomas Wolfe‘s O Lost (the original, longer version of Look Homeward Angel) during election season:

“Oliver Gant had cast his first vote in Baltimore.  It was for Ulysses Grant.  Now he rode southward under the threatening mutter of a new civil war.  Two men named Hayes and Tilden had contested the Presidency with a spirited exchange of vitriol.  Mr. Tilden had been given the most votes, but Mr. Hayes had been given the Presidency.  And the rabble whose large intelligence had ordained this miracle now stood shirtily around with opened mouths, or went bawling through the streets by torch light in pursuit of the lucid simplicities of democratic government.” (O Lost, p27 )

O Lost: A Story of the Buried Life – Google Book Search.

O Lost

Look Homward Angel


Baathism: An Obituary / The End Of An Ideology | The New Republic

IT IS CHEERING to reflect that, when Bashar Al Assad’s government finally collapses in Syria, the governing ideology known as Baathism will likewise undergo a massive setback—though whether Baathism will fade away without a trace is something we can doubt. Baathism is one of the last of the grandiose revolutionary ideologies of the mid-twentieth century—an ideology like communism and fascism in Europe (both of which exercised a large influence on Baathist thinking), except in an Arab version suitable for the age of decolonization. Its champions came to power not only in Syria but in Iraq, in both cases in the 1960s; and the consequences were not of the sort that leave people unchanged.

via Baathism: An Obituary / The End Of An Ideology | The New Republic.

Hat tip to: @socialtrinity for directing me to this.

William Porcher DuBose

August 18th is the commemoration of William Porcher DuBose in the Episcopal Church Calendar. As a graduate of the University of the South School of Theology, I have a particular affection for DuBose. I’ve particularly been enjoying his book The Gospel in the Gospels recently.  Below is the collect, as well as the background piece from Holy Women, Holy Men, followed by a quotation from The Gospel in the Gospels.


Almighty God, you gave to your servant William Porcher DuBose special gifts of grace to understand the Scriptures and to teach the truth that is in Christ Jesus: Grant that by this teaching we may know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

William Porcher DuBose, probably the most original and creative thinker the American Episcopal Church has ever produced, spent most of his life as a professor at the University of the South, in Sewanee, Tennessee. He was not widely traveled, and not widely known, until, at the age of 56, he published the first of several books on theology that made him respected, not only in his own country, but also in England and France.

DuBose was born in 1836 in South Carolina, into a wealthy and cultured Huguenot family. At the University of Virginia, he acquired a fluent knowledge of Greek and other languages, which helped him lay the foundation for a profound understanding of the New Testament. His theological studies were begun at the Episcopal seminary in Camden, South Carolina. He was ordained in 1861, and became an officer and chaplain in the Confederate Army.

Doctrine and life were always in close relationship for DuBose. In a series of books he probed the inner meaning of the Gospels, the Epistles of Paul, and the Epistle to the Hebrews. He treated life and doctrine as a dramatic dialogue, fusing the best of contemporary thought and criticism with his own strong inner faith. The result was both a personal and scriptural catholic theology. He reflected, as he acknowledged, the great religious movements of the nineteenth century: the tractarianism of Oxford; the liberalism of F.D. Maurice; the scholarship of the Germans; and the evangelical spirit that was so pervasive at the time.

The richness and complexity of DuBose’s thought are not easily captured in a few words, but the following passage written, shortly before his death in 1918, is a characteristic sample of his theology: “God has placed forever before our eyes, not the image but the Very Person of the Spiritual Man. We have not to ascend into Heaven to bring Him down, nor to descend into the abyss to bring Him up, for He is with us, and near us, and in us. We have only to confess with our mouths that He is Lord, and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead — and raised us in Him — and we shall live.”

From The Gospel in the Gospels:

The one great lesson that must forerun and make ready the Christian unity of the future is this: that contraries do not necessarily contradict, nor need opposites always oppose. What we want is not to surrender or abolish our differences, but to unite and compose them. We need the truth of every variant opinion and the light from every opposite point of view. The least fragment is right in so far as it stands for a part of the truth. It is wrong only when, as so often, it elevates into a ground of division from the other fragments just that which in reality fits it to unite with and supplement them.


The gospel in the Gospels (Dubose, William Porcher, 1836-1918)

About the New Historicism

[Incedentally, the New Historicism isn’t all that “new” anymore.]

I recently ran across this interesting post on the New Historicism on the Religiosity blog.  Below are some of my thoughts in response:

Michel Foucault. One of the major influences on New Historicism

I was trained in New Historicism as an undergraduate, as that was the dominant school of thought in my history department. However, the primary take away that was emphasized there, was that “history is everything,” i.e. a historian shouldn’t limit oneself only to evidence that has traditionally been the realm of historians. Instead, it’s perfectly alright, even imperative, that historians look at, for example, the music of an era, or its popular literature. While it’s true that the New Historicism tends to reject meta-narratives, following the general postmodern drift away from them, the corollary of that–which I take as a very positive thing–is that the New Historicism takes the particular much more seriously, and appropriately so, in my opinion. It’s interesting that he links this tendency against universalizing to conservatism… as a traditionalist conservative (but fundamentally *not* a modern tea party type conservative), that may be one reason I like it.  I don’t think it negates the ability to draw conclusions about trends, etc… it just means that those theories are taken with a grain of salt, and the weight is toward viewing a particular time as largely peculiar in itself.

“The past is a foreign country.” –L. P. Hartley

Thoughts on the Ordination of Women on the Occasion of the Church of England opening the Episcopal Office to them

Recently the Church of England, the mother church of the world wide Anglican Communion, became the latest province to open ordination/consecration to the Episcopate to women.1 This decision was not without deliberation, and it will not be without some consequence from and for those opposed to the ordination of women.

I personally believe that this is something to celebrate, though not without recognition that it is one among a number of issues–theological, cultural, and institutional–that will ensure continued separation and divergence among the various segments of the Body of Christ.

That said, this occasion is one that should inspire us to look at the history of the process that has led twenty-nine provinces of the Communion to ordain women to the presbyterate, many of which have now opened the office of Bishop to women as well.2

This issue is also important as the issue of women’s ordination will be one of the primary focal points of the next Anglican-Orthodox dialogue. During the last round of dialogues, which resulted in the agreed statement Church of the Triune God (a wonderful document, especially as it concerns ecclesiology and the office of Bishop), Orthodox members of the dialogue evidently agreed that the ordination of women was theoretically possible, but indicated they had reservations because of tradition–particularly over the question of whether the condemnation of Montanism appropriately included a condemnation of women’s ordination.

With all this in mind, we should consider the driving forces behind the ordination of women in the Anglican Communion. In talking with opponents of women’s ordination about this–specifically thinking of those within the Episcopal Church–the issues that, more than any others, seem to turn them against the idea is that 1) the ordination of women in the Episcopal Church was initially framed as a rights issue and was political in nature and 2) that it serves as a step down a slippery slope that leads to the acceptance of homosexuality as compatible with Christian morality.

Leaving aside the lengthy discussion of Christian sexual mores for the moment, I will just say that I’ve often pointed out that there are a number of denominations that have ordained women that have not subsequently drifted down a more liberal path. One might consider churches such as the Free Methodists, Cumberland Presbyterians, Assemblies of God (among other Pentecostal and Charismatic denominations that ordain women–and there are several that once did, but no longer do), Church of the Foursquare Gospel etc… The point is, of course, that one may have legitimate reasons for opposing the ordination of women, but considering it within the limited frame work of what is considered liberal or conservative at this moment in the United States–or even in a particular region of the United States–can only be seen as parochial and limited. Instead, it is far more helpful to look at the traditions that have ordained women, why they did so, and when.

The point of looking at the various denominations that were the first to ordain women, is to highlight the fact that the bulk of them were what we would call frontier churches. These were the bodies that grew on the fringes and were involved in dramatic missionary growth. Why is this important? Because we need to recognize that the actual origins of the ordination of women in the Anglican Communion were likewise in the mission field.

I’ve recently been reading a wonderful book by Lamin Sanneh entitled Disciples of All Nations: Pillars of World Christianity (Studies in World Christianity). In it he has a fantastic section on Christianity in China, a portion of which bears on the discussion of women’s ordination in the Anglican Communion. I am going to quote this section at length:

The Role of Women in the Church: New Wind of Change

Meanwhile, the Anglican Church was involved in a project of genuine indigenization quite independent of political events, though it coincided with them. Showing frontier Christianity at one of its critical and creative turning points, the project assumed the form of an initiative for a fundamental reform of the clerical office. Accordingly, a movement was launched, unprecedented in the Anglican Communion, to advance the cause of women’s ordination. It came to a head with the ordination of the first women, Florence Lei [Li Tim Oi], in 1944, which sparked a revolt in the Church of England. It was the kind of smoking gun the standard bearers of the West needed to confirm their worst fears about the hazards of an unsupervised, immature post-Western Christianity. In spite of pleas from China and at home, Rev. Lei was pressured to repudiate her ordination and to resign. She did so [NB: she resigned her license to officiate, but never renounced her orders], she said, for the sake of the greater good of the church. Her supporters, on the other hand, had every reason to wonder if that cause was not already hers.


The resolution tabled at Lambeth was submitted by the Diocesan Synod of Kong Yuet and circulated by it to all the other Diocesan Synods. The document urged the ordination of women on the grounds “that God is using China’s age-long respect for women, and her traditional confidence in women’s gifts for administration and counsel, to open a new chapter in the history of the Church.” The Memorandum noted that the request of the church in China for the ordination of women had local reasons and support but that “the principles and considerations involved are of importance for the whole Anglican Communion.” The implicit challenge of the Memorandum was for the West to accept the consequences that Christianity was a world religion. “A conservative adherence to traditions which are not of the essence of the Gospel may be proclaimed as loyalty to the Faith and yet, in reality, involve a misunderstanding and a denial of its essential meaning,” which in this regard meant extending full equality to women Only then could the church we recognized as true to the gospel.


There was a paramount, unavoidable, and compelling moral obligation for the church to repudiate what was patently unjust and to take the action that alone could restore it to the place God appointed for it. The “Memorial” concluded: “If men and women were considered first and foremost in respect of their COMMON REDEEMED HUMANITY; that is, the things they have, as Christians, in common and not in difference, if they were considered, in short, as human beings, not as sexes, they could come forward freely, and fall naturally into their place in one common diaconate, one common priesthood, even as they do already in one common laity. There is no other way. ‘All are one in Christ Jesus’ means what it says” (p.9). For all their prophetic passion and compelling logic, the Memorandum and the “Memorial” failed to sway the 1948 Lambeth Conference.

Yet those eloquent views show a remarkable ripening of the thought emerging between progressive voices in the West and the church leaders on the missionary frontier, and may be a helpful correction to the standard depiction of post-Western Christianity as a reactionary phenomenon.3

The texts mentioned above, both the Memorandum of the Chung Hua Sheng Kung Huiand the Memorial of the working group to the 1948 Lambeth Conference can be found here on Project Canterbury. They make for very interesting reading, especially in light of these events regarding the ordination of women in 2012.

  1. The Church of England first approved the ordination of women in 1992 and ordained their first female priests in 1994 []
  2. Currently six provinces of the Anglican Communion do not ordain women (Central Africa, Melanesia, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, South East Asia, Tanzania), three provinces ordain women as deacons only (Southern Cone, Congo, Pakistan), ten provinces ordain women as deacons and priests, but not as bishops (Burundi, Indian Ocean, Jerusalem and the Middle East, Kenya, Korea, Rwanda, South India, Wales, West Indies, West Africa) and seventeen have approved–at least in theory–the ordination of women as Bishops as well (Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia; Australia; Canada; United States, Bangladesh, Brazil, Central America, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, North India, Philippines, Scotland, Southern Africa, Sudan, Uganda) []
  3. Disciples of All Nations, p 260-262 []
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