Tuesday, November 23, 2004


We commonlife folks shared worship with Vine and Branches last week. We relaxed, shared a little brie, talked about our lives in Christ and engaged the liturgy.

It was good. It was good just to have that reminder that we are not the only ones doing what we do.

Something I’m trying to get my mind around – should being a presbyter be like any other profession? Is it really like being a professional counselor? Is that any more appropriate than the model of pastor as CEO?

We lit candles for significant (to us) saints at the All Saints Celebration over the weekend. I tried for a few minutes to think of a dead person whose faith and work had impacted me. I could only think of one: Geoffrey Anketel Studdert-Kennedy. I read quite a bit of his poetry while at Oxford, and was struck to find the candor with which his “rough rhymes” expressed and mourned the suffering of the post-WWI era, both of men and of God. He was called “Woodbine Willie” because he (against regulations) entered the trenches with the men on the front lines, handing out Woodbine cigarettes and saying the burial office while covered in muck. He was an early leader also of the Christian Industrial Fellowship – I’ll leave you to suppose what that was all about in 1920s England.

I was struck by something else. I read bits of theology and the history of the ancient Christian church, try to understand the stuff of the original gospel proclamation and how it first came to bear in particular cultural contexts and get excited about that work. I want to be involved in the conversation and do the needful and hard work of faithfully translating the ancient faith into contemporary practice. I want to do that as a presbyter and teacher, looking after people, offering the sacraments, helping them live into and practice God’s vision for their lives as the Body of Christ, and speak healing into dark and empty places.

I’m not sure I’ve yet seen a model of professional ministry that put those things at the top of the job description. I’ll keep giving “traditional church” the benefit of a doubt (I have been, really!), but that doubt is shrinking.

I want to be faithful, but I don’t know in which direction I ought to walk, at least in terms of professional clergydom and denominational polity.

From T.S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday:
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Tim LaHaye feels "disappointed," betrayed

A little bit of justice in the world: Tyndale's publishing a new fiction series founded on an honest and reasoned reading of Revelation, which hold that the book is symbolic of things that were happening in the first century.
Rev. Tim LaHaye, co-author of the Left Behind books, called the decision by his publisher "stunning and disappointing" and said he felt betrayed. "They are going to take the money we made for them and promote this nonsense," he said.
Still more:
"The Bible, in particular the Revelation of John, is open to many dramatic readings," said Harvey Cox, a professor at Harvard Divinity School. "Unfortunately, some are merely a paste-up of what the Bible actually says, a pulling from various passages to craft a theology that the bulk of New Testament scholars do not support. [Revelation] was a polemic against the corruption, debauchery and greed of the Roman Empire ... meant to be an encouragement for the people who were living under persecution. Christians were being fed to the lions. John was writing in exile, fearful for his life."

Dr. LaHaye said the viewpoint expressed in his books is backed by "300 years of church teaching." But Dr. Cox said dispensationalism was considered heresy in ancient times and suppressed. It re-emerged in the 19th century, thanks to "a New Age-y, mystical type sect in Scotland."

Read it all, courtesy of the Dallas Morning News

Thursday, November 18, 2004

christlife : not there yet

I attended the Renovare conference at Asbury with a couple of the guys two weekends ago. It helped me get my bearings on a few things, among them:

The point of discipleship is to become more like Jesus. Not prayer or good works in themselves, but to belong to him and be re-formed in his image. To show justice and mercy like him and effect healing like him, we must live like him.

The spiritual disciplines aren’t meant to be herculean demonstrations of spiritual strength. It’s not like a body building competition. It’s more like going to the gym to get in your cardio workout: it’s maintenance.

Contemplation, for example, is not done for its own sake. It’s a way of relating to Jesus. It’s good and right to go for slow, sustainable change. Fifteen minutes a day of quiet and meditating on something true and right isn’t second best to spending three hours a day. The latter may never be feasible. If it is, great. A balanced Christian life is more important.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Bozo: "The World's Only Mind Reading Dog"

And pretty much still the world's only mind-reading dog Posted by Hello

I found this being used as a bookmark in a 1933 bank ledger in the College Archives. See, I do neat things all day. More details on Bozo here.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Windsor Commentary II: Conservatives, Liberals and Gay Theology

As I read and listen to reactions to the Windsor Report given by the various voices on the 'Net (and a few I get to overhear) I am struck by a particular theme: the inability (refusal) to recognize that that not only do people on various sides of these issues have different perspectives, but entirely different worldviews.

Many on the left take for granted that a theology that will pronounce homoerotic relationships as part of God’s creative and redemptive intention for his image-bearers is ultimately an issue of gay liberation. The oppressed are finally being listened to, and that will change things. Let me clarify here that violence against others is always wrong, and that homophobia is wicked and evil. The problem is that the oppressed are being granted epistemological priority: their narrative is now to be super-imposed over everyone else’s, and it will be the overarching story into which every other story fits.

Beware the tyranny of the oppressed: forcing everyone to conform to the (felt, experiential) truth of the oppressed is not a reasonable corrective to the former practice of everyone conforming to the (felt, experiential) truth of the oppressors. What’s more, not everyone buys into the narrative of oppressor/oppressed. While you find elements of liberation in the Christian story, it must be said that classical recapitulation / Christus Victor (freeing the Creation from the principalities and powers and placing it under the headship of Christ) is not the same as post-modern liberation: God-empowered self-actualization over and against those who would keep you down.

I hear often that the decisions at ECUSA’s 2003 General Convention (encouraging the blessing of same-sex unions and confirming the election of Rev. Canon V. Gene Robinson to the see of New Hampshire) represent a step forward with the Holy Spirit, and that the Africans (and American conservatives) are asking “us” to step back. Not all steps are forward or backward. I think it’s a step down from the kind of life Christians are intended to live together.

It’s not about scriptural interpretation. It’s about worldview, and whether one considers New Testament sexual ethics to be normative and binding for the Christian Church. I don’t think anyone’s questioning what the NT norms are themselves.

Check out Oliver O’Donovan’s thoughts on the left/right extremes as well as the state of “gay theology” (and see here for the entirety of his essay on the Windsor report):
Nobody reading Resolution 1.10 of Lambeth 1998 – and I am among those who read it sympathetically and appreciatively – could seriously pretend that it was supposed to represent the last word about homosexuality or about the church’s pastoral practice in relation to its homosexual members. It simply set responsible bounds within which we could approve one another’s pastoral practice in good conscience to Scripture and tradition while continuing to explore together a phenomenon of extreme cultural and anthropological complexity. The difficulty the church faces with such an exploration is that left and right wings, in almost equal measure, seem to think that there is nothing to explore. Either Scripture and Tradition have Settled it Once and for All (though how well our phenomena match those that Scripture and tradition addressed is an open question until we have learned to describe our phenomena better); or else Science has Taught us Better, (though no one can quite remember what the scientific experiments were, or what they were supposed to have demonstrated). Our greatest difficulty is that we all follow faithfully the ironic advice of Hilaire Belloc: O let us never, never doubt What nobody is sure about!

If anyone thinks that a prolonged exploration would simply hand a victory to revisionists, let me recall that in 1997 a group of British theologians (“traditionalists” as the press would call them) put some questions, chiefly about theological anthropology, to advocates of the gay cause in the churches – hoping for a reply that would bring to clear expression gay thinking about the gay position and so provide something to discuss. I was among the authors of the so-called “St. Andrew’s Day Statement” – and to the best of my knowledge the questions I and my colleagues then asked have not received the first shred of an answer. The Christian gay movement is not, by and large, a self-theorising movement. For that reason the distinctive experience it wants to attest is often inarticulately expressed, and easily swamped by a well-meaning liberal social agenda of championing all minorities in sight, an agenda which is precisely uninterested in what makes the gay experience different. All this poses a problem for the church, since it means that any possibly helpful pastoral initiative risks signing up, unwittingly perhaps, to a dogmatic revolution. In a world where nothing is clearly explained, all cheques are blank.

(The above emphasis is mine) I’ve read some theology done by the Christian gay movement, and must point out (I don’t think many people know this) that there isn’t a consensus of those thinkers that civil unions, marriages, or “long-term relationships marked by full fidelity” is what homosexual men and women ought to be striving for in church and society. Such arrangements are considered by some to be a product of heterosexist norms and to strive for those is still a way of conforming to the desires of the “oppressor.”

All cheques are indeed blank: can any of these well-heeled, educated, guilty white liberals draw boundaries on what “liberation” ought to mean?

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

It’s Overcast Today: Elections and the Will of God

The actions and policies of President Bush are not “closer” to the will of God than those of John Kerry. Neither would the opposite be true. Neither of these men is concerned with embodying the reign of God in their decisions, and this is evidenced by the words and actions of both men. Whether or not, then, the reign of Bush or Kerry would be “more Christian,” is a dead question. Neither would be Christian, because only the Reign of YHWH is “Christian.” There is, however, room to discuss whether or not particular policies or actions follow charity and justice. But the role of government can never be seen as a building block or capstone for the mission of the Church.

Remember that the reign of George W. Bush is not the Reign of God. Nor would the Kerry administration have been. As soon as we start using language that allies the reign of any Caesar to that of YHWH, we are guilty of idolatry.

George W. Bush is not “God’s man,” no matter what election he wins. God’s man was and is Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, who came to put to rights everything that went wrong in the Fall of Creation. He, and by extension the Christian Church, are God’s preferred, primary, and quite possibly only means for the redemption of the world. Bush will not put things to rights, and neither would Kerry.