Musings of an Anglican/Episcopal Priest

Month: September 2005

Samuel Taylor Coleridge: My Baptismal Birth-Day

God’s Child in Christ adopted,–Christ my all,–
What that earth boasts were not lost cheaply, rather
Than forfiet that blest name, by which I call
The Holy One, the Almighty God, my Fahter?–
Father! in Christ we live, and Christ in Thee–
Eternal Thou, and everlasting we.
The heir of heaven, henceforth I fear not death:
In Christ I live! in Christ I draw the breath
Of true life!–Let then earth, sea, and sky
Make war against me! On my front I show
Their mighty master’s seal. In vain they try
To end my life, that can but end its woe.–
Is that a death-bed where a Chrsitian lies?–
Yes! but not his–’tis Death itself there dies

the New Pantagruel: No Small World

the New Pantagruel: Hymns in the Whorehouse: “After talking for a while she got around to repeating one of the most tired of mantras of the global economy, “Well, it is a small world after all.” I would not deny that her world was small. She could just as well live in France as in England, the U.S. as in China. Her day to day life would change little from place to place. There are generally the same sorts of people in each city, doing the same sorts of business, with the same sorts of shopping, even the exact same restaurants. You can go to Starbucks in London, order a caramel macchiato, and forget that it isn’t in Chicago except for the coins one gets in change. But to imagine that this facade of consumption is somehow the reality of a place is to miss something fundamental.”

the New Pantagruel: The problem with sexy Evangelicals

the New Pantagruel: Hymns in the Whorehouse: “Winner comments briefly on the problem of taking this “sexy” model of sex into marriage. Unfortunately she fails to realize that–married or not–it is a problem not chiefly because it creates false expectations or works against the stability of marriage by inclining people toward adultery with the idea that unstable, extramarital sex is the most gratifying. The most common and most damaging consequence of the “sexy-unstable” model among married and committed, monogamous couples is that their efforts to sustain it will induce in them the behavior of addicts. C. S. Lewis wrote about “the itch for repetition” on several occasions. When you become obsessed with controlling an experience ”doing X to get Y result” over and over again, it turns sex, chocolate, alcohol, or any other thing into pornography. With regard to relational experiences like sex, the addict destroys the relational aspect and engages in narcissistic autoeroticism. The prevalence of this practice and notion of sex is bound up with the idea that marriage is primarily founded in mutual affection stripped of any tie to fecundity and a logical, normative end in childrearing and family life. Oddly this same sexual ethic unites gay marriage proponents and many, if not most, of their staunchest opponents.

Here Winner makes a serious mistake by assuming, like most Christians today, that the source of the instability ingredient in the very Dionysian “sexiest sex” is the lack of an established, permanent relationship. She is also wrong to imply that there is something intrinsically morally compromising about this “Dionysian” element and that it doesn’t belong in marriage, which has a highly “Apollonian” character.”

“Farewell Church of England”

By Peter Mullen

“As we prepare for our Harvest Festival Services, we see that what’s left of the English Church is indistinguishable from a lunatic asylum. Everywhere you peer inside this once refined and educated, lovely and lovable national institution, there is only a mania for self-destruction. How else can you account for church services that compete with pantomime for dramatized idiocy? For example, I recently attended a conference for clergy at a beautiful medieval church in Oxford. It was supposed to be a choral Eucharist but there was no organ music, only some plinky-plonky stuff on an out-of-tune piano and mindless choruses in the Jesus Goes to Toytown fashion: interminable glum repetition of what was not worth singing once.”

Why I will not Swim the Tiber: Theological reflections

The Chair of Saint Augustine

In my last post I mentioned that I have great respect for Roman Catholicism’s firm stance against much of the fashionable and mindless liberalism of our day. That said I still harbor many doubts and concerns about (what I would term) the innovations of the Roman Church, and in this, I am firmly within the Anglican tradtion. That doctrine can develop is beyond question–the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church is a sure guide if we submit ourselves to its authority. Such submission however, must also be undertaken with the understanding that iron sharpens iron and it may take many years of discussion and debate for the Church to resolve where the Spirit is leading. Despite the fact that Rome is famed for the length of her deliberations, in some instances they have pronounced as dogma to be believed by all innovations which, while not necessarily against Scripture, is an expanstion upon it which has no warrant as a doctrine of salvation. The promulgation of the Marian doctrines of the perpetual virginity and the assumption are examples: they may be believed, but they should not be incumbent upon all on pain of salvation.

The primary place where I find myself disagreeing with the Roman church, and agreeing more and more with the reformers, is in the basics of their anthropology. While the majority of Roman theology seems to begin from the assumption that before the fall humanity was by nature in perfect communion with the father, Protestants argue that even before the Fall grace was a necessary ingredient for human communion with God… i.e. we were not able even then… in a way then, the incarnation can be seen not simply as a remedy against the fall, but also as the means through which God continues to perfect and create. If this latter proposition sounds “catholic” in some respects, that is because it bears a resemblance to the “incarnation anyway” position of people such as St. Bonaventure. What in fact makes it a “protestant” view is its anthropology: we were never, by nature, holy or good enough to achive communion with God, and it is only by God entering human history in human form that this communion can be achieved. The Crucifixion and the Resurrection were necessitated by the Fall and the need for restoration… the incarnation opens the door to full communion with God, and this would have occured whether we lived in a fallen world or not.

Another aspect of theology that is affected by these differing anthropologies is in fact ecclesiology. I am in firm agreement with Article XXI of the 39 articles of Religion, which states:

“And when [councils] be gathered together (forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and Word of God), they may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining to God. Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of Holy Scripture.”

The dissonance between my own view of the Church, which I felt was fairly High, and that of many convinced Roman Catholics became apparent to me this summer when I engaged in some discussions with several impressive RC seminarians and graduate students at the Acton Institute conference I mentioned in my previous post. During some of our conversations between class sections, it became apparent that our views of the Church were not as close as I had imagined. The primary point of contention was over whether the Chuch can make mistakes. Now, as a member of the Episcopal Church who is in conflict with the decisions of our General Convention, and because I do believe that this body does in fact constitute a portion of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, I must believe that the Church can in fact err and make mistakes–at least in the short run. The Roman Catholics I discussed with adamantly refused to admit that the Church could, would or had made any mistakes in its past. The interesting thing about our discussions was that it seemed that we were each taking the term Church to mean something literal, but in different ways.

For my part, I don’t believe that the Body of Christ as an eschatological reality can err or be sinful–indeed, when we confess the Creed on Sunday and say that we believe in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, we are indicated that we believe the Church to be Holy. Yet, we also state that we believe the Church to be one, which on one level it fundamentally is not at this time… it is at this level that I believe that the Church can indeed be sinful or err. For my Catholic friends, they were clear to make a distinction between the Church and people within the Church, whom they did admit to be sinful. Yet, their rigorous defense of the institutional Church as one and the same as the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church gave me pause.

The reason for my concern with thier defense of the Church was that I believe that each Church institution–whether it be Roman, Antiochian, Anglican, Methodist, Lutheran etc… is merely a cell within the wider organism of the Church Catholic (any definition of the “catholic” church that embraces less is well… not catholic). Each of these cells exists as hermenutic through which to interpret the Gospel. At one point in time, prior to the Reformation, each of these hermenuetics or their predecessors, existed within the Western Church. Post Reformation, they exist in distinct organizational bodies, but they are no less valid for thier fragmentation. Each of these cells however, exists for the furtherence of the Gospel, and when they cease to further the Gospel they can die without remorse on the part of the Godly. Their function betrayed, God will cease to bless their cause and they will be merely shells of what they once were, if they exist at all (look at the mainline these days). Yet I feel that those of us who are faithful and remain in the rotting carcasses of the mainline churches, are called to be faithful to Christ, not to the institution… nor are we called to replace one institution with another for “ease of use.” Rather, we are called to live in the interim state until Christ calls the faithful remnant of these bodies together and reconstitutes an organization from which his Gospel can be proclaimed. In other words, the institution and the Church are separate… institutions may die, evolve, migrate, but the Church is always there, waiting in the saeculum for the return of her Lord.

Why I won’t swim the Tiber: preliminary thoughts

Over the past several years, as conflict has increased–not just in the Episcopal Church, but in every denomination (and no, I don’t think its just the mainline…)–many people I have known through their theological writings have left their denominations and joined the Roman Catholic Church. All of these people, some of whom I’ve had personal contact with, are faithful Christians who, looking at the discord within Protestantism whether that manifests itself as ongoing schism or moral laxity, became disgusted.

From that perspective, the allure of Rome, the “Eternal City” is very compelling. When one sees the moral confusion of the Protestant Churches, the moral clarity of Roman doctrinal statements comes as a breath of fresh air. But this allure can be deceptive–while the official documents of the Roman Church in regards to morality, may be supremely admirable, as is its defense of Christian society from the onslaught of secularism, the disease that has infected the public statements and now practices of many Protestant Churches has also infected Rome… indeed, its manifestation may be even more insidious.

I want to be clear, I think there is a great deal to respect about Rome. As I have been put the question by many–from seminarian classmates to one professor–as to why I am not Roman Catholic (I should point out, one fellow seminarian also asked me why I wasn’t a Missouri Synod Lutheran) I went through a period of reflection as to why exactly I am not, and do not feel called to be a Roman Catholic. Additionally, I was exposed to a number of wonderful and faithful Roman Catholics at the Acton Institute’s Toward a Free and Virtuous Society Confernece in Grand Rapids, who helped me to see during our discussions where our perceptions were still quite far apart on some issues.

My hope, in the next series of posts, is to examine from a theological perspective and then a practical perspective why I will not be swimming the Tiber (to the chagrin of some liberal protestants who would love to see me and others go). Later, I will examine what is keeping me from swimming that other body of water, the Bosphorus, which I am probably closer to theologically than I am to Rome.

I want to thank Ithilien for his reflections on The Breakdown of Protestanism and The Case for Protestantism, as they provided much food for thought and inspiration.

What’s your theological worldview?

You scored as Neo orthodox. You are neo-orthodox. You reject the human-centredness and scepticism of liberal theology, but neither do you go to the other extreme and make the Bible the central issue for faith. You believe that Christ is God’s most important revelation to humanity, and the Trinity is hugely important in your theology. The Bible is also important because it points us to the revelation of Christ. You are influenced by Karl Barth and P T Forsyth.

Neo orthodox


Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Roman Catholic






Classical Liberal


Reformed Evangelical




Modern Liberal


What's your theological worldview?
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The New Pantagruel: Alternatives to the Liberal tradition

the New Pantagruel: Hymns in the Whorehouse:

“More than anything else, the New Pantagruel was fashioned out of this tradition and has sustained an anti-liberal argument against not just the usual suspects of the left, but also against much of what has passed for conservatism in the late modern age. We agree with Alasdair MacIntyre and David Schindler that most of the political and cultural, and even religious arguments today are between liberals: conservative liberals, liberal liberals, and radical liberals. In the wake of such a thoroughgoing critique of liberalism, the complaint we have heard most often, and most loudly, is “if not this, then what?” We hope that the following entries from American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia on “Community,” “Agrarianism,” “Anarchism,” and “Localism” will provide at least a taste of the possibilities and alternatives available from within the rich tradition of authentically conservative thought. –Eds.”

Now playing: [Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand~Robinella and the CCstringband~Robinella and the CC Stringband~2:42]

Paul Zahl – Turning Romeward? Not an Option

But it is not enough to make me wish to swim the Tiber! Many of my orthodox colleagues in the Episcopal Church are going over to Rome these days. Even if they are married clergy, if they are anywhere near to retirement — especially, believe it or not, if they are bishops– the pull of Rome is strong. It is like the tractor beam in Star Wars. Rome looks so good, for conservative Christian people, that it becomes so good. It has a powerful pull. For several of my colleagues, Benedict’s election was the final “double plus good” (George Orwell), sealing the deal on the finality and authority of Rome’s position. My friends have “poped.”

I do not blame them. But I cannot agree with them.”

Ravenscroft: Baptism

Ravenscroft: Baptism:

“Thirdly–as the covenant is an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure, no change, in any thing that relates to its essence, can be made, from the very nature of the parties to it, Almightly God, and mortal man. As therefore, the benefits of this covenant were once extended to infants by divine appointment, and no notice of any repeal of this privilege is either known or pleaded, as a minister of Christ I dare not take upon me to narrow or curtail the grace of God, by refusing its seal now, to those who were once clearly entitled to it, upon any presumed inconsistency, or specious reasonings of an incapacity of which I cannot judge. I therefore baptize them.”

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