Musings of an Anglican/Episcopal Priest

Month: April 2006

I am not, in fact, dead…

large crucifix Just a quick post to let everyone know I am still alive. I’m scrambling to get everything done over these last few days of school. I’m finishing up my honors thesis (on what the conflict over Gene Robinson reveals about Anglican identity) trying to get all the addresses I need for the wedding invites rounded up finally, and this weekend I’m stuck at the seminary doing EFM training (a requirement before we graduate). Additionally, it’s been an “interesting” time with the family. BUT, things are winding down, and for that I’m grateful. Anna told me last night that a directory came from the Diocese to me at Church and was addressed to “The Rev. Joseph Howard..” I don’t think mailing labels trump episcopal ordination, but it’s cool to see something like that in writing already. Just to remind ya’ll, graduation is May 12th at 10:00 in All Saint’s Chapel, the wedding is June 3rd (35 DAYS!!!), my ordination to the diaconate is June 10th at Christ Church Cathedral in Nashville.

More later…

The Blower’s Daughter from the album “O” by Damien Rice

Rowan Williams: What is Anglicanism

The following is a selection from Rowan Williams’ book Anglican Identities and is his definition of what Anglicanism refers to:

The word ‘Anglican’ begs a question at once. I have simply taken it as referring to the sort of Reformed Christian thinking that was done by those (in Britain at first, then far more widely) who were content to settle with a church order grounded in the historic ministry of bishops, priest and deacons, and with the classical early Christian formularies of doctrine about God and Jesus Christ–the Nicene Creed and the Definition of Chalcedon. It is certainly Reformed thinking, and we should not let the deep and pervasive echoes of the Middle Ages mislead us: it assumes the governing authority of the Bible, made available in the vernacular, and repudiates the necessity of a central executive authority in the Church’s hierarchy. It is committed to a radical criticism of any theology that sanctions the hope that human activity can contribute to the winning of God’s favour, and so is suspicious of organized asceticism (as opposed to the free expression of devotion to god which may indeed be profoundly ascetic in its form) and of a theology of the sacraments which appears to bind God too closely to material transactions (as opposed to seeing the free activity of God sustaining and transforming certain human actions done in Christ’s name).(p2)

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An interesting development from the Church of Pakistan

I have no clue what to make of this, but it is very interesting…

[update: Kendall has now picked up the story, so maybe there will be more light shed on it.]

Church of Pakistan demands representation in Anglican Consultative Council.

Karachi; April 10, 2006. The Church of Pakistan (United) have demanded representation in Anglican Consultative Council in a letter to Dr. Rowan D. Williams, President, Anglican Consultative Council, Right Reverend John Paterson, Chairman, Anglican Consultative Council & Bishop of Auckland, New Zealand and The Reverend Canon Kenneth Kearon, Secretary, Anglican Consultative Council, Anglican Communion Office, 16 Tavistock Crescent , London .

It is submitted that Church of Pakistan ( United) is one of the churches/members of the Anglican Consultative Council according to the schedule of membership prescribed in Article 3(a) of the Constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council.

That the Church of Pakistan (United) is presently been represented in the Anglican Consultative Council by Rt. Rev. Dr. Alexander John Malik of `The Church of Pakistan Lahore Diocesan Council` in utter disregard to the Constitutions of the Anglican Consultative Council and that of the Church of Pakistan (United).

It may please be clarified that `The Church of Pakistan Lahore Diocesan Council` and `The Church of Pakistan` are two different churches/bodies/organizations and `The Church of Pakistan` is a United Church and a member of the ACC. Whereas `The Church of Pakistan Lahore Diocesan Council` is an independent and parallel Church, free from any control, legal or legislative or administrative or otherwise of any CHURCH or COUNCIL or SYNOD or SOCIETY external to itself and has not been privileged to be a member of the Anglican Consultative Council.

Please note that the Constitution of the ACC in its Article 3(b) clearly states that:-

“Members shall be appointed as provincial, national or regional machinery provides. Alternate members shall be appointed in a similar manner and shall be invited to attend a meeting if the ordinary member is unable to be present for a whole session of the council. Any appointment of a member or alternate member may be revoked by the body that made the appointment.”

While the Article 4(a) of the Constitution of ACC says that:-

“Each of the appointing bodies shall have regard to the desirability of ensuring that any member appointed to represent it on the council shall be a member of its own representative structures and that such person shall be given appropriate opportunity to report the proceedings of the council to its own decision-making bodies and to convey the views of such decision-making bodies to the council.”

It may also be noted that the Constitution of `The Church of Pakistan Lahore Diocesan Council` in its Section – I, Article – 10 states that:-

“The Church of Pakistan Lahore Diocesan Council is an autonomous Church and free from any control, legal or legislative or administrative or otherwise of any Church or Council or SYNOD or Society external to itself.”

{read it all}

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Ok, I admit it–I'm a nerd

Wheel of Time

For those of you who didn’t know this already, I’m a nerd. Not just any breed of nerd, but a History/Theology/Sci Fi/Fantasy nerd. And in addition to the history and theology that I read, I’ve always loved fantasy and science fiction. I’ve read Lewis and Tolkien of course, as all living people should, but in addition to these giants, I’ve been a fan of Robert Jordan (the pseudonym of James O. Rigney) and his Wheel of Time series since I was in the 6th grade and picked up the first book The Eye of the World. Jordan, like Lewis and Tolkien before him, has succeeded in creating a fantastic world alive with color and drama, with characters that seem more friend than fiction. In many ways I’ve grown up with these books, reading them voraciously as a dumpy and awkward middle-schooler and beyond through high school and college and finally, this past year, reading his latest, Knife of Dreams, in seminary.

I learned tonight, while galavanting around the internet, that Mr. Jordan has been diagnosed with a disease called Amyloidosis, evidently this refers to the harmful buildup of proteins in various organs of the body (the exact nature of the disease varies). At any rate, Mr. Jordan is undergoing treatment at the Mayo Clinic for this issue and I’m sure he would appreciate any prayers you might offer. As one of his fans, I know I look forward to reading his writing for years to come.

you can read more about Mr. Jordan’s sickness and treatment at his personal blog.

View From Heaven from the album “Ocean Avenue” by Yellowcard

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Radix Magazine: The Da Vinci Code, Harmless thriller or dangerous hoax

the Last Supper

Last year I was asked to do a adult Sunday School class on the Da Vinci Code inspired in part by the Rector’s observation that some people within the parish, in particular a High School student, were really eating it up. I read the book and admit that I found it to be the sort of enjoyable brain-candy one wants to read after a long day or messing with a lot of technical stuff. But I will say that I really had to work at suspending disbelief for this book. For one thing, my BA is in history with a minor in religious studies… I took several classes specifically related to the origins of Christianity, the Medieval Church etc.. and have read countless books besides and have continued my education in this area in seminary. While this doesn’t make me a definitive expert on all things, I was certainly able to discount the great majority if not all of Brown’s claims to historicity and cite precise historical details to discount them to others. Additionally, I had the benefit (if you want to call it that) of having read Holy Blood, Holy Grail prior to reading Brown’s work, so I knew his sources (and their own tendency to not allow facts to get in their way.)

All this is to say that I had a hard time taking the book seriously as a threat to people’s faith. But in preparing for that adult Sunday School class, I found multiple examples–some online and at least one in the parish–of people having their already extant bias against Christianity (or “institutional religion” as some might say) affirmed and fed, some to the extent of discounting Christianity and Christ alltogether. So I can now say that while I wouldn’t advocate banning the book as some places are doing, i certainly believe it should be challenged in the realm where it is doing damage, i.e. from the historical and theological perspective. As a book, as a work of fiction, when appreciated as such, I don’t imagine it is particularly demonic, at least in the sense that Brown was motivated by anything other than the general modern love of mammon; but because people are taking it seriously, it has to be dealt with seriously. Below is an interesting article from Radix magazine (which I admit to being ignorant of until Kendall posted another portion of this commentary) about the Da Vinci Code. Enjoy, and I encourage you to read more of it.


Finally, 11 months after its release, Laura Miller wrote an article for the New York Times Book Review entitled “The Da Vinci Con,” in which she pointed out the author’s dependence on the notorious Holy Blood, Holy Grail and that the so-called Priory of Sion, was a hoax invented by a man who had pretensions to the French throne. Since Laura Miller’s essay we have seen a spate of new books critiquing DVC (see below).

Why should Christians be concerned with a book like The Da Vinci Code, which has no credibility with scholars?

(1) The book has been read by millions of individuals, many of whom have been duped by its fraudulent historical pretensions. It is likely to be read by many, many more during the next couple of years and perhaps for a decade to come. It’s only fiction, of course, even though the author’s prologue and his interviews with the media claim that the book’s historical allusions are accurate. To a historian, the claims are ludicrous. But to many people they seem as credible as any other claims they are exposed to on soap operas or talk radio.

(2) DVC reflects the Zeitgeist of the time in which we live. The part of the USA that stretches from the northwest Canadian border down to a hundred miles or so south of where Radix is published is the part of North America where people are least likely to be regular churchgoers. It is also a region where neo-paganism and new age spiritualities are flourishing, That’s why our unchurched friends are enthusiastic about DVC: it rings true to what they already believe. If we are to be effective in sharing the Good News with our neighbors, we need to know the culture in which they live and breathe.

(3) Dan Brown’s pretensions to careful research and the historical claims he makes are easily answered by historians:

—Contrary to what is suggested by DVC, the church from the earliest days nearly universally recognized Jesus’ divinity, as the New Testament bears witness. It was his humanity that was more frequently questioned. The Council of Nicaea was concerned about clarifying exactly what that implied.

—No one prior to the mid-20th century (Kazantzákis’s Last Temptation of Christ , 1955 and William Phipps, Was Jesus Married? , 1970) ever suggested that Jesus may have had a sexual relationship with or been married to Mary Magdalene. Neither the traditions and legends about Mary Magdalene in Ephesus (the earliest) or France (medieval) nor the Gnostic texts quoted in DVC say such a thing.

—Brown repeats the familiar factoid that during the Inquisition “the Church burned at the stake an astounding five million women.” Historians would put the number closer to 25 to 50 thousand women and men, most of whom were tried and executed by the state rather than the church. In some countries (e.g., Switzerland ) more men than women were condemned. There is also a lot of evidence that in some countries both church and state resisted such attacks. (See Ronald Hatton, The Triumph of the Moon: The History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft, 2000.) It’s also worth noting that the neo-pagan assumption of a historical link between ancient and modern paganisms is also without basis in fact.

—Some feminist scholars claim that both pagan and Gnostic Christian traditions held women in higher esteem than did/or does orthodox Christianity, but that is questionable. Evidence suggests that ancient and modern non-Christian religions, particularly those dominated by a mother goddess figure (often served by thousands of temple prostitutes), have been much less liberating for women than virtually any form of Christianity.

{Read it all} Hat tip to Kendall

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Blog Break…



I will be taking a break from the blogging over the next few weeks as I hammer out my honors thesis as well as other assignments coming up on the end of my final semester in seminary. I hope you’ll understand, and I’ll see you in a few weeks (though I may post a few short things between now and then.) At any rate, many blessings.

Give us this day our daily bread…

120348 7914This past Wednesday I filled in at my former field education site, Holy Cross Church in Murfreesboro TN and taught one of the lenten series sessions on a section of the Lord’s Prayer. My section was on “Give us this day our daily bread.” Several events conspired to make the night very interesting indeed, even as they fragmented (from my perspective) my thought process.


One thing that happened to make it an interesting night was that the parishioner who the priest thought would be there to let us into the Parish hall for the class wasn’t able to be there that night and instead we had to meet in the parish, which would have been fine in itself, except that I wasn’t able to copy the handout I had prepared for the occasion. The numbers in attendance were also pretty low (I think some people heard their priest was going out of town :-p ), about 6 people. Nonetheless we had a fruitful discussion of this section of the Lord’s prayer and the biblical understanding of sufficiency, God’s sense of fairness/justice/proportion etc… based upon a reading not only of The Lord’s Prayer, but also on selections of scripture that illustrated certain points, such as Exodus 16, John 6:30-38, Proverbs 30:8-9, Luke 12:16b-21, Matt. 6:25-33 etc…

During the midst of our discussion I noticed a young girl dancing from the narthex into the nave and back again. I then heard whispers coming from the narthex; thinking that this was a case of members, perhaps new, being late and embarrassed about interrupting, I raised my voice and said “you can come on in…”. Of course, the people didn’t. One of the ladies said she would go see what was happening, and in a few moments she came back and asked that I come speak to the people with her. There in the narthex was a mother, father and two (of 8) children asking for groceries so they could make it through Friday. Now, while I did my field education at this church I didn’t know if the priest had any sort of deal worked out with a local food bank or any other arrangement, so I was at a loss in that category…there were some canned goods being collected in the church for the food bank, but nothing that a family of 10 could subsist on for a week. The members of the church there for the lenten series however, decided to take up a collection for the family and gathered approximately $80 among the 6 of them.


I know some people are reading this and thinking that it was foolish to give to these people, that it will make the church a target of vagrants etc… but isn’t that the point? Shouldn’t Christians be known for generosity so great that it appears to be foolishness to the world? And what a testament it is that people actually think to come to a church–to Christians–when they need help…that should give us hope because at least some people are getting the message that Christians are a people who will share God’s love and bounty. And in sharing our blessings by blessing others we have the opportunity to glorify God not only by what we do, but through sharing why we do it at all, sharing our testimony of the saving love of Jesus Christ.

I have no way of knowing how well or poorly the family was managing their money, whether they were lazy or hard workers, but I do know that they needed help, they hadn’t asked for money, but for groceries, and the people of Holy Cross that night were truly blessed in the giving–I believe this family was blessed in the receiving as well…the mother was moved to tears. This probably would not have been the case had we been able to meet in the parish hall as we’d originally planned–the parish hall being a retro-fitted house and not appearing, especially at night, to have anything necessarily to do with the church. So, on a Wednesday night, the lights of a church with people gathered to discuss the word of God attracted a family in need, So on a night we we were talking about the affirmation and petition in the Lord’s prayer “give us this day our daily bread” we were able to provide the same for others.

Doubting Thomas from the album “Why Should The Fire Die?” by Nickel Creek

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Words from Trinity: On LL Cool J and the Diocese of Tennessee

004 Cathedral Ruins

Trinity Episcopal School for ministry’s State of the Church blog had this to say about the Bishop elections in the diocese of Tennessee:

LL Cool J and the Diocese of Tennessee

There is an amazing line at the end of LL Cool J’s song “We’re gonna make it.” This song can be found on the CD for Madea’s Family Reunion, which was the top-ranking movie in the USA for two weeks recently.

The line, from this once (and future) king of rap, is as follows:

“We need less fake rappers

And more real pastors.”

What a thing to say on a record, a record, incidentally, that is a best seller. (Just go to Best Buy and ask…).

This line burned into me when I first heard it. It burned into me this morning, as I thought about the election in the Diocese of Tennessee last weekend. Or rather, that first round of an election.

The clergy voted a clear majority in the direction of “revisionism,” while the laity voted a clear majority in the direction of “reassertion.” And the laity wouldn’t give an inch. The lay delegates were like General Jackson, “standing like a stone wall.” And now the clergy are angry with the laity for being stubborn.

The problem here is that our seminaries have been turning out hundreds of men and women who are touched with the Zeitgeist more than they are with the Bible. I am not speaking without experience, 35 years of it. Mary and I had to flee to England in order to receive Bible based ordination training in the early 1970s. And we could not send our beloved friends and students to an ECUSA seminary without fearing for their theological and hence pastoral future, until Trinity was founded. And even then, nothing is perfect. But at least there was a safe haven.

{Read it all}

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