FrJody.com

Musings of an Anglican/Episcopal Priest

Tag: Christianity (page 2 of 7)

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.

Rowan's Rule

Archbishop Williams

Archbishop Williams

Since taking office, Archbishop Rowan Williams has been faced with near constant criticism from every direction.  For liberals he seemed a traitor to their cause, while conservatives viewed him with suspicion or down-right disdain.  Not much has changed in this, though in a best case scenerio his leadership could be seen as providing space for the formation of a moderate coalition within world-wide Anglicanism which has a chance of making it through the current conflicts and affirming the Anglican Covenant while shedding the folks on the extremes of left and right.  While many have hammered Williams for not leading at all, I’ve come to the conclusion that he is, in fact, leading and leading in a manner that is consistent with his theology–not an easy thing for anyone to do, let alone an Archbishop in an established Church and head of a conflicted Communion. What is clear is that Archbishop Williams has inhabited Lambeth Palace in a time of definite change, challenge and transition.  It has been a period of setting course into the future, even if the destination will remain murky for years to come.

In his new book, Rowan’s Rule Rupert Shortt begins the long process of reflecting upon Williams’ tenure on the Throne of St. Augustine and while this process will certainly continue, and perhaps won’t begin in earnest until his retirement, Schortt lays a solid foundation to build upon.  Jordan Hylden of First Things provides the following insightful review, stating that while there ha been a tendency among the less well-versed on both the left and right to consider Williams a run of the mill theological liberal,:

In fact, Williams is best viewed as part of the rebellion against the rebellion of the 1970s, working alongside his colleagues Oliver O’Donovan and N.T. Wright to bring the Church of England away from the arid liberalism of Honest to God and Don Cupitt and back to its roots in Word and sacrament, prayer and worship, tradition and Nicene-Chalcedonian orthodoxy. While many of his professors busied themselves with demythologizing the gospels and re-presenting Christian doctrine as anthropology, Williams insisted that Christianity at its core is answerable to God’s initiative, and most particularly so in the unique revelation of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Very much against the grain of British academic theology of the day, Williams’ first book, The Wound of Knowledge, showed through relating the history of Christian spirituality that “the theologian,” as the fourth-century monk Evagrius said, “is the one who prays”—which is to say that theology must always grow out of the encounter in worship and prayer with the surprising and extra nos Word of Christ, rather than taking its agenda from modernity. And in his second book, Resurrection, Williams showed that the church’s message of forgiveness and new life rests entirely on its real encounter with the risen Christ, who unexpectedly returned to his disciples from beyond the grave.

Likewise, although critics have pointed justly to a certain degree of fuzziness on the sources of authority (Scripture, but not quite? Or the church’s tradition and language, but what parts from which church?), Williams has always been forthright that the church’s authority is God in Christ, who speaks through Scripture, sacrament, and our ongoing reception of the same.

Arguably, it is just here where Williams parts company most with theological liberals—he insists that the first task of theology is to listen to God’s revealed and redeeming voice, and he truly has sought to hear this voice in Scripture and tradition. By thus placing Williams in his proper theological context, Shortt has performed a genuine service to those who would prematurely write off Williams as just another Anglican liberal. While Williams does not always line up with traditional positions, Shortt shows that it is simply misleading to view him as of a piece with the standard liberalism represented by Gene Robinson and Katherine Jefferts Schori.

All that is not to say, of course, that Williams is beyond criticism. Shortt certainly does not regard him as such, and points in particular to Williams’ views on politics and economics. One friend of Rowan’s, according to Shortt, averred that Williams’ politics “have always come out of a different and less sophisticated part of him.” The chief trouble, as Shortt sees it, is that Williams has not shown himself to possess a particularly subtle voice on the right use of state power, or a very helpful understanding of the genuine benefits of free-market economics for the welfare of the world’s poor. More often than not, Williams is prone to broad condemnations of war and globalization.

Shortt also notes, however, that Williams has elsewhere been quite critical of the “childishness” of utopian politics, which wrongly supposes that hard choices do not have to be made about the distribution of scarce goods, and that peace will simply break out when social constraints are removed. The puzzle, for Shortt and many other observers, is why Williams has not followed through on his own best insights.

Williams has also been criticized for lack of emphasis on the central truths of the Christian faith, and for pointing too much to how the gospel unsettles our judgment and not enough to the blessed assurance given to the saints. Shortt quotes Eamon Duffy, who argues that Rowan’s version of the Christian tradition at times “can seem like a never-endingly argumentative seminar, constant upheaval without any point of rest or leverage.” The judgment is, to a certain extent, sound. Particularly before his enthronement as archbishop, Williams’ work gave great weight to the apophatic moment in theology—to the need for our words about God to be open to judgment and the possibility of saying more.

But in his new role as the most visible Christian bishop in a very secular and uncomprehending England, Williams appears to have taken this criticism to heart. As Shortt points out, his recent book Tokens of Trust is a clear and winsome introduction to the basics of Christian faith; his short guide to the desert fathers, Where God Happens, was very well received; and his most recent book on Dostoyevsky’s fiction is (viewed from one angle) a profound apologetic for the Christian faith in response to the shallow and naively optimistic atheism of Richard Dawkins. Williams the archbishop, it appears, is not the same man as Williams the professor.

This has also shown itself to be true in Rowan’s conduct during the ongoing Anglican struggles about homosexuality. It is well known that as a professor Williams had been quite forthright in his support of same-sex relations, but he changed his tune after becoming archbishop. Many liberals have seen this as Williams’ great betrayal of their cause, charging him with giving in to conservative bullies or of sacrificing truth and justice for unity. Shortt, for his part, makes it clear that he believes Williams ought to have taken a firmer line on the advancement of same-sex unions. But all the same, he does step back and allow Williams to make his defense.

As a bishop, Williams believes that it is his responsibility to teach what the church teaches. “The bishop,” Rowan argues, “does not make decisions, doctrinal or disciplinary, alone: The church decides, and the bishop’s unique role is to guarantee all that the church decides.”

{Read it all}

Rowan's Rule

More Rowan Williams Books:
Continue reading

Join the Advent Conspiracy

Check it out:
Continue reading

Joseph Bottom: The End of Advent

Christmas has devoured Advent, gobbled it up with the turkey giblets and the goblets of seasonal ale. Every secularized holiday, of course, tends to lose the context it had in the liturgical year. Across the nation, even in many churches, Easter has hopped across Lent, Halloween has frightened away All Saints, and New Year’s has drunk up Epiphany.

Still, the disappearance of Advent seems especially disturbing—for it’s injured even the secular Christmas season: opening a hole, from Thanksgiving on, that can be filled only with fiercer, madder, and wilder attempts to anticipate Christmas.

More Christmas trees. More Christmas lights. More tinsel, more tassels, more glitter, more glee—until the glut of candies and carols, ornaments and trimmings, has left almost nothing for Christmas Day. For much of America, Christmas itself arrives nearly as an afterthought: not the fulfillment, but only the end, of the long Yule season that has burned without stop since the stores began their Christmas sales.

{Read it all}

H/T: Internet Monk

The next time I hear a fellow clergy person complain…

Or feel tempted to do so myself, I’m going to re-read this article:

India’s anti-Christian pogrom has caused 20 clergy and over four dozen lay catechists to flee for their lives from the Kandamal district in Orissa, the Bishop of Phulbani told the Church of North India’s General Synod last month.

Meeting in Pathankot in the Punjab from Oct 17-21, Bishop Bijay Kumar Nayak told the 400 delegates to the CNI’s General Synod that Hindu militants had been targeting the clergy so as to “strike at the foundations of Christian life” in the Eastern Indian state.

Almost all of the CNI’s churches in Kandamal had been destroyed the bishop said, while the dead included one member of the diocese’s executive committee. Bishop Nayak reported that Thomas Nayak, the superintendent of the CNI school in Gudrikia was murdered by a mob on Aug 27. The bishop urged the synod to pray for the Christians of Orissa and to champion their cause with the Indian union government and the outside world.

India’s recent outbreak of anti-Christian violence commanded centre stage at the General Synod, with several survivors of the mob violence sharing their stories with the delegates. The CNI’s General Secretary the Rev. Enos Das Pradhan denounced government inaction in the fact of the violence, and condemned the decision by several Indian states to enact anti-conversion laws, ostensively in the name of “religious freedom.”

{Read it all}

how the world goes | Politics | The American Scene

Amen to Mr. Jacobs:

I don’t understand my fellow Christians who are enthusiastic Republicans; I don’t understand the ones who are enthusiastic Democrats either. When I try to talk to either group about the ways their preferred party upholds — indeed, even celebrates — policies that simply cannot be reconciled with Christian teaching, I get the same shrug. Yes, they are certainly more “realistic” than I am; they may have a better understanding of what it means to live in a fallen and broken world. But they are all too sanguine for me. They aren’t sad enough. There aren’t enough — I recently taught the Aeneid, which brings this line to mind — there aren’t enough lachrimae rerum, tears for how the world goes.

how the world goes | Politics | The American Scene.

Invitation to reflection on abortion and the election | Covenant

Dear readers,

Following on Fr Matthew Olver’s piece posted here last night, I am pleased to present a thoughtful exchange–intended to be a conversation starter and an aid to reflection–between Neil Dhingra and Fr Will Brown on the thorny question of how Christians in the U.S. committed to “life” should approach the question of voting in the presidential election next Tuesday. Neil and Will are inclined to different answers to this question–the former believing that a case can be made out for “pro-life” support of Obama’s candidacy, the latter believing that this is not possible (leaving aside the question of whether or not a case for McCain can be made). But much common ground is shared by both writers, as well.

What else can and perhaps should be said? We invite your comments, and wrestling along with Neil and Will and others of us. How to move along the conversation? Is the strategic question of how to vote something about which we can reasonably disagree as Christians who do not disagree about the blight visited upon American democracy and order by the contradiction of abortion tolerated in our midst?

Lord, give us your mind and your heart, to the end of justice in our country, especially for these voiceless and silenced ones, callously killed in the name of “freedom” and “choice.” Forgive us, Lord, for our own complicity in this culture of death. And give us the grace, individually and as a Community of counter-witness, to model for our nation a spirit of repentance, joined to a willingness to make amends for our sins. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Invitation to reflection on abortion and the election | Covenant

From: Abortion, Theologicaly Understood, by Stanley Hauerwas

Hauerwas at Luther College

Hauerwas at Luther College

When I taught the marriage course at Notre Dame, the parents of my students wanted me to teach their kids what the parents did not want them to do. The kids, on the other hand, approached the course from the perspective of whether or not they should feel guilty for what they had already done. Not wanting to privilege either approach, I started the course with the question, What reason would you give for you or someone else wanting to have a child?” And you would get answers like, “Well, children are fun.” In that case I would ask them to think about their brothers and/or sisters. Another answer was, Children are a hedge against loneliness Then I recommended getting a dog. Also I would note that if they really wanted to feel lonely, they should think about someone they raised turning out to be a stranger. Another student reply was, Kids are a manifestation of our love.” “Well,” I responded, “what happens when your love changes and you are still stuck with them” I would get all kinds of answers like these from my students. But, in effect, these answers show that people today do not know why they are having children.

It happened three or four times that someone in the class, usually a young woman, would raise her hand and say, “I do not want to talk about this anymore.” What this means is that they know that they are going to have children, and yet they do not have the slightest idea why. And they do not want it examined. You can talk in your classes about whether God exists all semester and no one cares, because it does not seem to make any difference. But having children makes a difference, and the students are frightened that they do not know about these matters.

Then they would come up with that one big answer that sounds good. They would say, “We want to have children in order to make the world a better place.” And by that, they think that they ought to have a perfect child. And then you get into the notion that you can have a child only if you have everything set–that is, if you are in a good “relationship,” if you have your finances in good shape, the house, and so on. As a result, of course, we absolutely destroy our children, so to speak, because we do not know how to appreciate their differences.

Now who knows what we could possibly want when we “want a child”? The idea of want in that context is about as silly as the idea that we can marry the right person. That just does not happen. Wanting a child is particularly troubling as it finally results in a deep distrust of mentally and physically handicapped children. The crucial question for us as Christians is what kind of people we need to be to be capable of welcoming children into this world, some of whom may be born disabled and even die.

{read it all}

R.R. Reno interviews Joseph Bottom on "The Death of Protestant America"

HT: First Things

First things has posted a link to the video below, of an interview conducted by R.R. Reno of Joseph Bottom on his essay “The Death of Protestant America: a Political Theory of the Protestant Mainline” (still available on their site to non-subscribers.)

Continue reading

That a child might live…

Theotokos: Life-giving Spring

Theotokos: Life-giving Spring

As if the world of medical ethics were not convoluted and strained enough, our technology allows us to continue pushing boundaries while raising moral questions that were not even on the radar screen 100, 50 or even 25 years ago. Thankfully there are those who still ask the questions begged by various procedures–but such voices seem to be crying alone in the wilderness at times.

For example, I checking my RSS feeds today and came across this piece via Touchstone’s “Mere Comments” blog.  It seems that California courts have determined that it is illegal for doctors who perform in vitro fertilization procedures to refuse their services to homosexuals.  Don’t import your (private) ethics into your (public) work, the message goes.  Of course, the real question is, as James Kushiner rightly notes, why these Christian doctors (and evidently those protesting universal access to fertility and conception services are Christians of some variety or other) are performing such procedures in the first place, “Artificial insemination should never been accepted by Christians doctors in the first place,” he says “so the moral issue here lies further downstream.  On the face of it, the court decision might force Christian doctors to reeducate their consciences by learning what real Christian medical practice is.” (read his complete comment here)

But this wasn’t the only ethical quandary lurking in my blog-reader today and the second issue hits somewhat closer to home.  It seems that some doctors up in Denver have just released the findings of their government funded research in which they experimented with removing the hearts of severely brain-damaged babies shortly after their hearts stopped beating, but before total brain-death was pronounced.  As the article puts it:

Surgeons in Denver are publishing their first account of a procedure in which they remove the hearts of severely brain-damaged newborns less than two minutes after the babies are disconnected from life support, and their hearts stop beating, so the organs can be transplanted into infants who would otherwise die.

It just so happens that a family with close ties to St. Francis Church has a child who is in the hospital as we speak awaiting a viable heart transplant match.  What is one to say to this family, hoping against hope that prayer and modern medicine work together to bring their child a long and happy life.  The task to even think about this topic almost becomes too heavy a burden when one has not been in their situation, praying for one’s own child.  But is it their hope that puts this situation into a moral gray area, or is it the eagerness of doctors who, in their desire to save some may be depriving others of their lives (and it is murder to take life, even a life that would otherwise have ended minutes or seconds later without interference).  Again, from the Washington Post article:

Critics, however, are questioning the propriety of removing hearts from patients, especially babies, who are not brain-dead and are asking whether the Denver doctors wait long enough to make sure the infants met either of the long-accepted definitions of death — complete, irreversible cessation of brain function or of heart and lung function. Some even said the operations are tantamount to murder.

I don’t have an answer to every question, but I do wonder sometimes why we as Christians avoid such important issues and instead find ouselves locked in heated battle over what color the carpet in the foyer should be.  I’m not certain Christians would be as divided as we are on moral and ethical issues if we actually talked, as Christians, about them.  As it is, we are divided about large issues because we focus on and become defined by much smaller differences of opinion, so that we are no longer schooled in the Christian tradition that is meant to form us as followers of Christ.  As Kushiner says “Isn’t it time to establish an alternative, and moral, traditional Christian medical practice around the country? The fault line is already there, but we’ve got Christian doctors standing on both sides of it.”  That pretty much describes the relationship of Christians to every moral issue out there.  There is no unanimity among Christians on these topics.  And without a willingness to approach them, there never will be.

So here’s the hard question for us: what lengths are available to us from a Christian perspective in the creation of life, or in the preservation of life.  What are the legitimate actions to take so that a child might live.  Are we prepared to say that another must die–even if only a bit sooner than otherwise.

Older posts Newer posts

© 2017 FrJody.com

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: