Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Out of the Closet" Meme

That's pretty funny. Anyway, Rob has tagged me for Ben Myer's new meme. Sigh. I'm going to take the opportunity to say some potentially argumentative things. I'm tired and cranky, what do you want?

So these are 10 confessions: some things that you may or may not know about me, and stances that may or may not be defensible.

I confess the following...
  1. I don't have an opinion about the ordination of women.

  2. I once turned my hair orange, and that I might do it again.

  3. I would break or avoid fellowship with other Christians on the issue of Eucharistic practice before I would on matters of doctrine, theology, or morals.

  4. The reason I am not an Episcopalian has very little to do with the current controversies over the blessing of same-sex unions or the consecration of Gene Robinson.

  5. I have for a long time believed that it is anti-gospel to jettison non-reciprocal friendships. I no longer believe this.

  6. I confess that I have a strong prejudice against Christians who are teetotalers out of alleged conviction rather than any sense of propriety. I usually believe them to be prideful and arrogant, and it takes time for me to become convinced otherwise. If it really weren't a matter of pride, I wouldn't know they're teetotalers...

  7. I believe that people who get upset and angry about the English speaking-abilities of Hispanic immigrants are racists.

  8. I would be perfectly happy to never hear a "relevant" sermon again.

  9. I have long since decided that if I were to visit a church but no one there cared to learn my name or engage me in conversation for at least 3 minutes, I would never return. And then I would talk about them.

  10. If I had to look at an American flag during Mass, it would be really hard for me to concentrate on anything else.
I thought Kim Fabricus' contribution was fun.


Anonymous said...

Your number 9 is challenging to me as I encounter new people in my church. Thanks for these.

Anonymous said...

You're an interesting bloke, there's no question. I find several items on this quite fascinating, and were we able to sit down over a cup of tea (Ha!) I'm sure I would ply you with questions about, probably making you even crankier than you already are. :)

#5 struck me especially. I would be interested to hear/read how that item in your thought changed, and why.


Anonymous said...

I think the Episcopal Church (people on all sides of "the issue(s)") has to look seriously at #4... I'd be curious what the reasons are... not because I would disagree, but because I would likely agree.

There are many of us still in the Church who are struggling and the struggles have little or nothing to do with "the issue" per se. I have gut feelings at odds with my own theological reasoning and would love to see the Church REALLY grappling with the experience of gay and lesbian Christians in the Church's terms (by which I don't mean simply applying traditional Church standards of sexuality and calling it a day... I mean looking more deeply into the Church's teaching and theology on life together, sexuality, marriage, difference, the Trinity, Bride and Bridegroom imagery... etc.) I think we've largely lost or trivialized the tools--the skills and practices--we need to have the kind of sustained theological dialogue that we need to address the issues that Anglicanism is faced with today.

The current controversy (that seems like such a small word for what's REALLY happening to the Communion) is but a symptom of a much more serious and longer standing problem, I think, related to ecclesiology, authority, theology, etc. I'm guessing it's related to the fact that we still don't even know whether we're Catholic or Protestant.

The Christian Ed. director at the last parish I served (I was a curate) was constantly turned in knots because each of the three priests would give her different answers about things like Christ's Real Presence in the Eucharist, praying for the dead, the communion of saints, invocation of saints, Mary (you name it), angels and on and on.

She was also rightly frustrated with official curricula that seemed uninterested not only in these issues, but even in fundamental things like the Trinity and the Incarnation and concentrated more on great moral issues that could be boiled down to being "nice." And yet she couldn't get much agreement on anything much beyond the Trinity and the Incarnation (and even there, well... I'll just stop now).

Now I think this isn't surprising in a Church organized like the Episcopal Church is organized... where a vote or two seems to be the only way of deciding anything. I don't know the limits of what General Convention can decide, but I wonder, could the Constitution of the Church be changed to redefine the Anglican Communion? To decide that Scripture, for example, was not any sort of standard... (this may seem silly, but if we Anglicans encounter scripture primarily through liturgy and our liturgy can be changed, even drastically, over two successive conventions, I wouldn't laugh too soon).

I say that, BTW, NOT as one of those people who have major problems with the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. I have some quibbles, but they are just that. In fact, I see it as a minor miracle in many ways. That Book, perhaps more than any other Prayer Book before it, makes the substance of the Catholic Faith a living, breathing possibility (in more places than one might guess, a reality) for Episcopalians who live into its deep structure.

But I wonder what comes next liturgically... again, by a vote (granted more than a majority and more than one... but I have seen the drift of the newer liturgical material). Even for those who think the 1979 Book is a good thing, I don't think we should count on two miracles in a row(though the Holy Spirit has done greater things than this).

I was talking to a priest about "vision" for a parish at which she served and I offered that if I were to use that language I would like to see her parish (and any other) allow itself to be formed by the Paschal Mystery... to take on the shape of the Paschal Mystery... as we come to know and live it particularly in the liturgies of the Triduum. She asked what I meant, and I said something quick and breezy about allowing ourselves to be inhabited by the Holy Spirit in such a way that we begin to live the life of Christ, who gave himself away... without fear... trusting in his Father (which is not the same thing as not suffering, not being afraid, not being frustrated, not dealing with all that stuff we have to deal with)... even to death... and who, in doing that, revealed that cross shaped life to be "none other than the way of life and peace." She said she wasn't comfortable with that... that she didn't think it was right now and probably never was...

This is someone I like and trust on many different levels, but what could I say?

More examples and explanation could be given, but I guess I'm saying that there is a crisis in Christian Formation that extends from the seminaries to pre-K Sunday School in the Episcopal Church and that that is going to have a drastic (and devastating) effect on any church that relies on something like a General Convention (even if we are willing to grant that such a system of governance even makes theological sense--for many reasons, following people like Hauerwas and Milbank and others, I have grave reservations). As another priest friend of mine said, "If the Israelites had taken a vote they'd have gone back to Egypt." Our fear of infallibility of either the Papal or the Scriptural variety (a healthy fear) has cost us too much... pushing us, I fear, to abandon the notion of authority and truth altogether.

And there are other issues the Episcopal Church needs to get serious about... 'A theologian is one who truly prays and one who truly prays is a theologian' (more or less--thanks, Evagrius)... I think that the crisis in formation that I describe so feebly is at the same time a theological and a spiritual crisis... I should probably add to this, but this is already too long...

The clearest picture I can give... if you want to really get where I'm going, I recommend watching the Bob Dylan documentary "No direction home..." My sense is that we've gone too Joan Baez when she should have gone Bob Dylan...

So why am I still a priest of the Episcopal Church? Where else would I go? As far as I can tell, those who are breaking away aren't really addressing the deeper issues... They are too focused on symptoms... If I were to go, it'd probably be Eastward...

Speaking of which (symptoms, I mean), I agree completely with #10 (and think it's related to everything I've written above)... but have inherited one (an American Flag that is)... Any suggestions? Anyone?

Thanks for the forum, Kyle. It's not easy to approach these issues in the parish without being forced into one camp or the other... I refuse to qualify my Christianity with any modifier (like 'orthodox', 'progressive', 'liberal,' 'conservative,' whatever) other than Catholic (and frankly I think THAT ought to be a given).

Father Rhodes

byron smith said...

I'd also love to hear more about #5. Perhaps this deserves a post?

SaintSimon said...

re #9 - I once visited a church where the opnly person that spoke to me was another visitor who I already knew from somewhere else. Note: I ONCE visited...