Monday, October 31, 2005

4th Week

The term is nearly half over! Who saw that one coming?

Today I get to start sorting out what my essay titles might be for Mission and for Doctrine of God. I only have a few vague ideas at the moment, but perhaps I'll have something more intelligent to say about it after I've read a bit more and brainstormed with my advisor.

I took most of the weekend off. Friday of course was Formal Hall, and the partying was completely off the chain: after dinner I joined the other graduates and tutors for tea in the SCR, then wandered off with some ministry students to the Royal Oak to talk for a bit. Somehow I ended up sitting in McDonalds (you heard me) with some undergraduate friends in the later part of the evening. We felt like cool kids.

One of our seminar hours consisted of a discussion group on feminist theology. At one point the discussion degenerated into something more silly than even I would have thought of: after we discussed hierarchy and the Trinity for a bit, and what "inclusion" in the Trinity might mean, we stopped to consider, "So why couldn't Jesus have been a hermaphrodite?"

"What?" someone asked.

"What?" thought the rest of us.

It got a little... intense.

It wasn't quite, "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin," but it was the next best thing at that moment. Crazy modernists.

I should also note that the little exchange is not representative of the course or the seminars as a whole, or really at all. I'd have been driven batty by now were that the case.

On Saturday I went out to see and support the Regent's football game against Somerville; I was recruited as a sub, but unfortunately didn't get the opportunity to play. That's just as well at the moment, since I can't actually remember how to play football. Casually asking other college members, "Soooo... Remind me, what's the off-sides rule?" doesn't instill confidence, by any means.

Next time: What if I told you that I'm discerning a vocation... to be a megachurch pastor? Hahaha, I slay me. And so will Josh.

Reformation Day

Given that living in England is more expensive than I thought and that various incidental expenses have put the crunch on my wallet, I've decided to sell indulgences.

That's five pounds for venial sins (naughty things you did but you really didn't mean to be naughty), and ten pounds for mortal sins (things you did deliberately to upset God).

Or you could be a bit more precise about it, and pay me one pound for every century you want taken off your time in purgatory. Why centuries? C'mon now, have you met you?

For my generous (though mildly sinful) American friends, you can of course send checks. E-mail me and I'll give you details. I will also offer my prayers for those of you kind enough to link this post in your blog and support my ministry of religious quackery ... I mean, soul saving.

much love,

+ Kyle Georgetowniensis

Bishop of Georgetown (in exile)

Sunday, October 30, 2005

"The church does not exist for the sake of creating nuclear families"

Thanks to Alan for pointing us to this article last week. If you're interested in branching out on our previous discussion, have a read.
This is a key point for the church today. Until we recover the proper teaching about singleness, and its goodness in Christ, and stop pressuring anyone and everyone in the church to get married, we have no business pontificating about marriage and its blessings. Too often, single persons in the church are simply viewed as 'candidates for dating and marriage' (never mind that the Bible says nothing at all about dating, or late Western notions about romance and courting). This is a trainwreck waiting to happen, and the result is many persons are pressured into marriage who are neither ready, nor have the grace gift to be in a marriage relationship. This in turn leads to numerous divorces-- and the endless cycle of matrimony, acrimony, and alimony receives another push.

- Ben Witherington

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Benediction

This Cathedral holds many treasures
strange ornaments and instruments,
useful for things that no one remembers

What were they for? Their uses as diverse
as their appearance: oft the victim, oft the perpetrator
and usually
somewhere in between

This monstrance
tarnished by affluence
dimmed by frustrated hopes
cradles the corpse of a dead god
Who keeps company with all who have
finally failed

This life so full of compromise
this will to love so fierce
but so stunted
these immobile feet so
desperate to move

bears the presence of a dead god
in the world that
also died
but forgot

Those with eyes to see
kneel down to adore
the brokenness and the pain
the failure and the compromise
the unclarity and confusion

"this is the way he made me, and I don't dispute 'hit."

Faith for all defects supplying
where the feeble senses fail

I am a temple of the Holy Ghost
I am a temple of the Holy Ghost
I am a temple of the Holy Ghost

You are

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Politics

"In the church's view, the political left is not noticeably more interesting than the political right; both sides tend toward solutions that act as if the world has not ended and begun in Jesus. These 'solutions' are only mirror images of the status quo."
- Hauerwas and Willimon, Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony, 1989

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Evangelical Churches: Homosexuality and Good News?

Part III

The Resurrection

Finally, if we are going to call ourselves evangelicals, we must remember that it’s all about the good news that God has reconciled the world to himself through Christ, and that Jesus is indeed Lord of the world. That mastery is working itself out slowly and surely in our lives, for our restoration and our good, and the consummation of it will be the complete renewal of the whole creation. This kingdom movement is indeed good news.

Unfortunately, the good news about Jesus is talked about in terms of bad news about hell, or that all kinds of people shouldn’t have sex – or partners – ever. I find that more than a little confusing, and I promise you that the rest of the world “out there” finds it plainly ridiculous.

So what is the good news we have for homosexual men and women?
I imagine it would have to be that Jesus offers a positive, livable alternative to… everything. But in order to say that to someone with any credibility at all, one must ask, “Do I really believe that life with Jesus is better than any other thing I could want or hope for?”

I leave this open for debate now, but one more point, relevant to anybody of whatever faith commitment or whatever flavor of personal brokenness: if anyone can be called away from the things to which they look for security, and to let go of happiness and fulfillment as they understand it, it’s going to be out of sheer love for and devotion to Jesus.

Now how are you going to get close enough to people in order for them to know him that well?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Evangelical Churches: Homosexuality and Celibacy

Part Two.
The Holy Trinity

Further, let’s keep in mind just what it is we are calling homosexual men and women to do: live a life of celibacy for Jesus. It must be remembered that celibacy is not a death sentence, but we should consider what this looks like in real life, and not just as a theoretical solution.

How much support for single/celibate people do our congregations offer? I have met few Protestants who have any notion of celibacy as a legitimate vocation, a way of living for Jesus in response to his call. Indeed, marriage is considered the norm, and singleness (rather than the cultivation of celibacy) is a de facto state, seen as second-best or even a curse. I don’t think that’s valid, and frankly neither should you.

If you’re going to prescribe it, get a theology for it.

In addition, the responsible community must in turn build a life together in which in which a vocation to celibacy (for hetrosexuals or homosexuals) can be seen as a normal and healthy way of life for Christian disciples, with its own gifts and insights to offer the community just as the married life does.

If in the context of your own community, a vocation to celibacy for heterosexuals is considered a life of loneliness, isolation and the absence of meaningful family ties, how in the world can you offer it to people out there in the world as part of your Good News? I think most churches know this to be the case, which is precisely why they would never insist that heterosexual divorcees pursue it.

If you’re going to prescribe it, take some responsibility for the consequences.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Evangelical Churches: Homosexuality, Hypocrisy and Heterosexism

Aaron Van Luven’s talking about a recent Time Magazine article, “The Battle Over Gay Teens.” From an evangelical perspective he asks,

How are we dealing with it? What are your individual responses to homosexuals? What do you see the church doing right/wrong? What can we do better? Why is it such an easy issue to sweep under the rug? Is our current method of "reaching out" to those [with a] homosexual bent really accomplishing a furthered righteousness and the kingdom of God or rather [alienating a] disenfranchised and lost people who will find acceptance and worth from another source?
This is an excellent question. I’ve been feeling like a rumble myself, so I’ve decided to take it on in this space as well.

In regard to the usual evangelical stance on the issue, I have three major questions that I believe present considerable challenges to the way churches see and speak to persons of a homosexual persuasion.

The Rules

Like Aaron, I will not countenance at this moment a discussion about what the Scriptures say and just what we are to do with that. For the sake of a more limited scope to the argument, I think we would do better to stand in the conservative evangelical perspective for this one. Please stay on topic. I will offer three installments over the course of this week, in which I discuss three major problems with the positive witness of evangelicals in this area. I will participate in debate in the comments section. Sometime next week I’ll offer my own ideas on how evangelical churches should deal with the issue, and a week after that, I’ll write an entry on how my own viewpoints have been challenged, changed or affirmed by the discussion.


First, if you know me and perhaps if you’ve been reading my writings for awhile, you know that I love the Church: Jesus and the People who comprise his Body, the new community of God. These will all be questions that I’ve asked myself before asking other Christians. This is not a rant or a finger pointing session. I would find that boring, besides.

Second, let’s remember who we are: the Church of Jesus Christ is a broken, sinful people who are being raised up and redeemed through mystical and sacramental union with the Lord and one another. However, moral perfection is not a prerequisite to offering challenge and a prophetic voice to the world at large. It is the place of those who bear the continuing Incarnation of God into the world to bear witness to his healing and resurrecting power in the midst of entropy and death. We bear witness and heal. We have no place condemning anybody, because nobody has a claim on God because of their faith or morality or any other stupid, supposed qualification.

With these things in mind, I maintain that a people who cannot call themselves to a “traditional Christian sexual ethic” don’t yet have any business preaching on it to other people. If they do, they are hypocrites in the plain sense, holding one set of standards for themselves, and a stricter one for other people. Mind you, people sin, people fall. Living one’s life in a sinful posture is another matter. According to that aforementioned traditional line of Christian thought (and sadly, a popular bumper sticker), marriage is God’s plan for one man and one woman for a lifetime. The earliest sources in the Scriptures seem to indicate that Jesus did not consider divorce to be an option for any reason. The Matthean version allows it for adultery – the work of an editor.

Strangely, to be divorced and remarried while remaining in the fellowship of an evangelical church is fairly commonplace. How can this be? Lots of folks offer the apologia that people must be allowed to repent of the things that had destroyed previous relationships and move on. I agree, but if they aren’t moving on in celibacy, they’re violating God’s clear intent for marriage as expressed in the Bible.

If we will be so much more liberal than Jesus on these matters, claiming that an invalid marriage (at least in biblical terms) can be blessed by God and operate within his redemptive action in peoples’ lives, why in the world do we not apply the same logic to homosexual unions?

It sounds thoughtlessly heterosexist at best, and hypocritical at worst.

The Pantocrator

Tuesday: Making Sense of Celibacy


Homosexuality and the Evangelical Churches

Check out the series through the links below:

I. Evangelical Churches: Homosexuality, Hypocrisy and Heterosexism

II. Evangelical Churches: Homosexuality and Celibacy

III. Evangelical Churches: Homosexuality and Good News?

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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Theology is Hard

So I go to the Theology Faculty (library) and I'm all like, "All these lecturers in my course are talking about this book called Q. I'm not really sure who wrote it, and I can't find it in my college library. Do you have it here?

They just frowned at me and didn't say anything. I hope there's not a test over it.

P.S. It's not appropriate to post, but if you e-mail me, I'll tell you about an awkward incident regarding the ordination of certain persons whose gender is not male.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Lazy Sunday

It's been a good weekend. I stayed in yesterday to do laundry, get some groceries and do a few errands. The Christian Union at Regent's served a breakfast yesterday morning which was well attended. They seemed like a lot of nice folks.

I visited the hOME congregation last night to meet some of those folks. (They keep a podcast on their website now.) One of the great things about Oxford is that there's no shortage of good congregations, whether in the C of E or outside of it. I don't want to spend the whole term trying to figure out where I belong in terms of theology and ministry, however. I want to continue my formation as a presbyter, so I can't be stuck in my books quite the whole time.

"Will absolve sins for food"

Hmm, maybe not.

I bought light bulbs, a bin, and a new SIM card for the mobile phone I found in the basement. Pretty sweet. On Sunday afternoons we have the proper brew, at which time a number of the students gather in the JCR for some nicer snacks and cakes and just hang out. There's another party tonight, but I just can't handle it. I like to go to bed at 10pm, what can I say?

I rode my bike up the high street yesterday, feeling pretty good about that one. Rode it in from the Exam Schools this morning, caught my shoelace in the pedal and crashed. Happily, only my pride was wounded.

I'm not really having any adventures as such, so I'm going to start posting pictures of interesting things around college. I'll show you what I come up with.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Pig Blesser


Did I ever post this one? It was in Dallas at the Feast of St. Francis. It was about thirty pounds ago, too. I think that's why I like the cassock and assorted garb: I don't look so fluffy.

To clarify: I weigh thirty pounds less than I did then, in October 2004.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Friday, October 07, 2005

Oxford. Friday, 0th Michaelmas

I don't have anything theological to write about at the moment, so I'll just tell you about some of the things I'm doing.

The first formal hall of term is being held this evening. Everyone is required to attend in smart dress and the appropriate university gown. In my case that will be the post-graduate gown, which is more poncey than the "commoners" or undergraduate gown, and the doctoral gown is still more poncey than either. Do you see the pattern?

The principal and tutors sit at high table (which is just what it sounds like) and the remainder sit further down. After dinner we're formally opening the new MCR (Middle Common Room, refers both to the new post-graduate lounge and the body of students) while the JCR (again, there's a pattern) have their first "bop" of the term. I'm fairly certain that means party.

As you might suppose, I've spent much of my first two weeks learning the language.

I rode a mechanical bull this week and played laser quest with the JCR. 17.2 seconds. You'd be surprised how far a 170 pound American can fly.

Few things are as nice as walking 2 miles home at 2 in the morning with a basket of chips and cheese in hand.

I took my bicycle on a daring journey two miles north on St. Giles today, and discovered the Centre for Mission Studies. It looked mildly forbidding.

The two directors of the University M.Th. program are a Baptist and a Jesuit. I feel throughly ecumenical. I think I'm going to come out of here with an even deeper appreciation for Baptist life and the free church tradition, especially in light of my recent ecclesial involvement. Somewhere a certain R. J. is smiling...

This term I'm taking the paper on Theology of Christian Mission and Christian Doctrine in Context. I'm pretty excited; the course is wide open for me to be reading and writing the things I want, and the things in which I'm interested. I need to figure something out for an experiential ministry project, though; I've been thinking about visiting some of the "mission-shaped" critters around these parts, or maybe taking a look at models for campus ministry.

I can do whatever I want. I'm just starting to get my mind around that. I can meet some of the people who are doing the urban or suburban thing who are being empowered to take risks and be a little different in their committment to Christian orthdoxy and mission. In those respects, some people here have been doing for over a decade what folks in the United States have been thinking about only for a few years.

We'll see.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

On "Having Church"

I have a brief comment on the way language shapes our values. If you want to consider differently your life as the Church, and as the Community of God on mission, talk about it accordingly. The Church is the Body of Christ. It is not a package of religious goods and services intended for your consumption.

I know it's the common, easy thing in our culture to "have church." But it's conveys and reinforces some pretty bad ideas when it gets right down to it.

One may "have" dinner. One may "have" a whore. But you may not "have" the Body of Christ.

Unless, perhaps, you are using it as a harlot?

If I am asked if I "liked a worship service" I typically answer that it is none of my business. It would be presumptuous to assume that it was for me, and if it was for me, some people have faulty values. It is God and God alone who may appropriately and unpresumptuously "like" a worship service. Whether I find a particular liturgy helpful in my devotion and worship of God is a separate question, and a valid one. But let's not think that it's a performance for us. If we can call a liturgy a performance, it is for God alone. It is formative to us, and makes us as a people "for God," but it's not for us to enjoy or not.

It's not a question of mere semantics. The language we use derives from and contributes to particular values. So let's stop having Church. Let's stop going to Church. Let's be the Church, the People of God. Worship is a verb, not a noun. It's sure as hell not a commodity.

I prefer to use worship as a verb at all costs. Maybe the phrase "gather with my community" or "pray the liturgy" or "celebrate the Eucharist together." They might sound awkward, but they certainly aren't more mystifying to the people out there than any of the other things Christian folks say. Admittedly, I do talk about "attending services at St. Aldates," or even as shorthand, "attending Aldates" (or whatever) but we need to be teaching ourselves to think in terms of being part of a community and worshipping with that community and sharing our lives with it, rather than consuming religious goods and services.

As a disclaimer, some of my closest friends use that language, and again, I do sometimes as well. We're not bad for doing it. I know that they and I don't think about the Body of Christ in those ways. Some people do. It's not awful and terrible that we talk that way, but I do think it's time we moved on to something healthier that will reinforce a better way of thinking about ourselves as the Church. I think it's something worth thinking about, and perhaps something worth discussing.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Regarding the "Why Anglicanism" Series


+ Augustine of Canterbury

So what on earth did that have to do with Anglicanism?

Surprisingly little. I just didn't know that three years ago. Oh well, live and learn.

But seriously, when it comes right down to it, I found elements of those things in the Church of England when I was in Confirmation class at St. Aldates. I was hoping that the same would be true in ECUSA. I found it here and there -- or rather, "there" but not "here." I found these values to be held by various clergy and churches in the Diocese of Dallas, but not locally. I was pleased to discover this sooner rather than later, which is why I ended my time as an aspirant for Holy Orders in Lexington and considered my discernment time to be a success.

Does Anglicanism really exist? Does it really have a theology of its own? I'm really not certain, and I've not been thinking about it lately. There are Anglican theologians, but there is little "official" (read: binding) Anglican theology. The Communion as a whole seems to run on "instruments of unity" and warm feelings, and all of these things have been at the breaking point for a couple of years now.

I liked the Windsor Report, as far as that goes. Will I call myself an Anglican? Sure. Would other people call me that? Some would, some not. Do I care? Not a bit. Is there a future for Anglicanism in North America? We'll have to wait and see. I might be part of it. I'm not going to sit at the edge of my seat and fail to participate in the Kingdom while I'm waiting. Will I continue to write and answer my own rhetorical questions regardless of what happens? You betcha.