Sunday, December 24, 2006



“O happy fault!” they could cry.
“If we weren’t sinners
and didn’t need pardon more than bread,
we’d have no way of knowing
how deep God’s love is.”

- Louis Evely
(read the rest)

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

More on "catholicity"

John of the Cross

Father Alan writes below:
"catholicity" is sort of a term with a definition - unlike "emerging" - not quite up for debate I don't think. It's about being a universal Christian - one who accepts the whole Church, the whole Faith. That's what I think of, and generally, that's what it means.

Now, for Protestants who have never seen anything past 500 years ago as far as the Church and its teaching goes, that may well mean catholicity means a lot of dipping back into what came before. That might look like some Protestants are just "gussying up" to some. And it may be the case for some of them.

I do think, though, that there is something else going on, and a good bit of it in some circles of the "emerging church." People are actually beginning to see some things in some arenas, which have been hidden or "lost" for a long time. And that is a good thing. If it's just about playing dress-up, then it won't go very far, but it's not all about that everywhere we see Catholic-y stuff going on in non-Catholic churches.

So, we're not talking about "C"atholicity - which might mean, trying to be like Catholics. We're talking about catholicity, which seems to be about honestly trying to tap into the Truth of the whole Church - not just trying to imitate externals that may be attractive.

Now, there is the matter of some in the Roman Catholic arena who will say that it's impossible to BE catholic without being Catholic. I would say, I agree that it's not possible to be catholic without recognizing the Roman Catholic Church and the rich Truth contained within its borders. But I obviously wouldn't think that saying there's only one ecclesiastical "place" one can be catholic is altogether accurate.
This is what I hope the move to "catholicity" is all about - not changing around our aesthetics, but learning to drink deeply of the deeper and wider Christian stream rather than picking a particular sectarian tradition or even confining oneself to the Roman Catholic Church (which I don't mean in a negative sense). I think of something a chaplain friend told me once (I wonder who said it?), that "all theology done in schism is heretical." Kind of like, "only the whole Church can know the whole Truth." I believe that, and that's why I appreciate it when I know that Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox read and appreciate (and criticize!) one another's writings and dialog with one another.

It's also one of the major reasons I identify with Anglicanism: I believe that stance is kind of built in. Not the mainline, "liberal Christian" version, and not really the straight-up evangelical version. But it's in there. (But that's a whole 'nother discussion...!)

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

House Church: Misconceptions

Ambrose of Milan

Lots of people think that "house church" automatically means "a bunch of people prancing around like hippies and doing whatever the heck they want." I've been doing a little reading (and the Abbot has been explaining some things to me very slowly) and have discovered, much to my chagrin, that in many, many cases, those folks are right.

I had no understanding that when I say, "I'm a part of the Vine and Branches Christian Community, and we also happen to meet in a house," we are hyper-protestant, and think that each one of us is fully qualified and called by God to throw off all ecclesiastical "authority" and interpret the Bible, our only text, in the way that seems "right to the Holy Spirit and to us," and that, generally speaking, we believe the same things, like the same things, are the same ages, and do all the same stuff - a completely homogeneous group. (Check out a recent post by a friend of this blog, Darrell Pursiful, which opened my eyes to this: "When is a House Church Not a House Church?")

Holy cow! I had no idea!

Vine and Branches is quite probably the most "structured" house church you're going to find. We pray the Psalms together, discuss the lectionary text appointed for the day, make intercession for the Church and the world, and celebrate the Holy Eucharist at a small altar. We do this three weeks out of four; the other week we invite our friends for a party. See more details on Alan's blog, where he discusses "the liturgy of a small catholic church."

I'll let the Abbot speak for himself (oh, and he will!), but for my part, not having a church building has nothing to do with either throwing of the vestiges of an "institutionalized" church (that's not a dirty word to me), and certainly nothing to do with believing the ownership of a church building to be an intrinsic evil. It's about mission: in my considered judgment regarding this cultural moment (the time and place of the post-Christendom American South), having a "church building" makes us too reliant on a model of mission in which we try to get non-Christian people to come to the Church to receive religious goods and services that can make their existing lives as they already understand them to be more pleasant and happy. It's a bloody Jesus vaccine. It doesn't have to be that way, but it's very tempting for the church in this culture to do, and we gotta break out of that and instead go out and take Jesus into the world and be salt and light, not some kind of deranged religious version of a public utility.

Instead of focusing on programs or getting people to "come to church" to hear the good news, we see our mission and ministry and way of evangelism as going out to be with people who aren't believers (or apostate Christians, but that's another story) and taking the presence of Christ with us. We believe our greatest tool for spiritual growth, a gift of Christ to the Church, is learning to live together as the Church with a mission in God's world for it's redemption and recreation. We are agents of redemption and change in one another's lives, and unless we live close to one another, on purpose, in regular ways, our Christian growth is terrifically stunted. Full stop.

Can you have a building, and do that, and be about those things? Yeah, I think it's possible, but I'm not sure many pre-existing churches/congregations are really trying to do that or know how to invest the theological and relational capital. I think that Saint Patrick's Church does it, and work to do it. That's a big part of why I hang out with them. They rock. And so do we. I'm sure there are some other communities out there (and around here) that are like that as well, but these are the ones I know.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Monday Links

I heart Georgetown College:
Georgetown College is making a promise to five Leestown Middle School students:

Participate in a Baptist church's academic excellence program, get good grades, attend school faithfully and there will be a $40,000 scholarship waiting for each of you when you graduate from high school.

The historically white Baptist school is partnering with a predominantly black Lexington congregation, agreeing to award the scholarships to five top graduates of the First Baptist Church Bracktown's tutoring and mentoring program.

College President William Crouch will officially unveil the scholarships at Sunday morning's worship service.
Read the rest at the Herald-Leader.

Katie on criticism: "Obvious."

Richard Collins offered a great illustration of the importance of the Christian sacraments a while back.

Rowan Williams had a nice interview with the Church Times just before his visit with Pope Benedict XVI. Some highlights:
... if the Pope asked you why you persisted in remaining an Anglican, what would you say to him?

I’d say that I don’t believe the essential theological structure of the Church is pyramidal: that it has one absolute touchstone embodied in a single office. I’m certainly prepared to believe that there’s a role for the Petrine ministry of conciliation, interpretation, and mediation in the Church. I don’t see that as an executive centre; so I’d start from what would historically be called a conciliarist position.

And the thing that always held me back from becoming a Roman Catholic at the points when I thought about it is that I can’t quite swallow papal infallibility. I have visions of saying to Pope Benedict: “I don’t believe you’re infallible” — I hope it doesn’t come to that. [Laughs]

That’s how I’d answer, I think: that I’m wary of loading too much on to an individual office.

That’s why you’re not a Roman Catholic. Why are you an Anglican?

I’m an Anglican because this is — it’s what I learnt in Sunday school, really — this is the Church Catholic in this place, gathered around the word and the sacrament, exercising a canonically continuous, recognisable form of the threefold ministry, structurally slotting in with how Catholic Christianity works.

If you were starting from scratch, do you think the Anglican model works better than the Roman one?

Pwff! — by what imaginable standards would you answer that, I wonder? I don’t know, but the argument I’d give, I think, is not unrelated to what Vincent Donovan says in his book Christianity Rediscovered, responding to mission in East Africa, where he says, in a sense, you’ve got to let Churches grow out of their local setting, discover the need for recognisability, and build outwards from that. He describes the process by which some of his converts in East Africa almost invented the idea of Catholic ministry for themselves, the idea that if this is the kind of community that we are, if this is what the eucharist means, then we need that to be recognisable, and we need to know that, when we travel, it’s the same Church that we belong to, gradually accumulating like that. I think that’s a bit more Anglican than someone saying, “We’ll decide from the centre what the shape will be.”
And on the Eucharist (of course)...
I went a few months ago to give at talk at the Roman Catholic cathedral in Southwark, just down the road. And, interestingly, I was asked what I believed about the eucharist. I think my questioner was a bit surprised when I said: “Of course I believe in the real presence. I believe that Christ is active in the sacrament, and that it’s not something we do, as an act of mental remembrance. And I think he rather had the impression that that was all Anglicans ever believed. I suspect a number of Roman Catholics do think that.

... What the celebrant thinks is neither here nor there, in one way. What’s done is done. And I’m tempted sometimes to say, however much a celebrant might want to keep the real presence out, it’s still capable of coming in.
Ha! That's something Hauerwas says, too...

Ken Collins teaches us to make and use an Advent wreath.

Phil the CatholicGeek offers us some words from Chrysostom.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


The First Sunday of Advent

Simply put, during the season of Advent, the Church prepares for the commemoration of the Incarnation (Christmas) by anticipating the Second Coming of the Christ as Judge.

Before I go too far with that word, "judgment" or "judge," let's clarify what that means. Metaphors from human legal systems start to break down pretty quickly when dealing with Yahweh and his creation. His justice is restorative. The anticipation of judgment is not a simple picture of faithful people being rewarded while the unfaithful and faithless recieve punishment (most of us have a very thin, medieval idea of this, anyway) but one of the Judge of all the earth showing up on center state to "put things to rights."

In his return, God's Viceroy will consummate the restoration of humanity that was begun at the Incarnation and continues now in his Church.

Living in anticipation of this is not a matter of simple excitement or holy dread, but continuing to cooperate and welcome his healing as it flows from the future into the present. It means naming the dark places of our live in the fellowship of the Church, and allowing our confessions of brokenness to be taken up into our sacramental life while the Spirit rushes in to fill the voids and re-create what has been destroyed.

This is the whole point, dear friends; this is what justice of God means. It is the complete restoration of all human life, in all aspects, to its fullness.

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