Thursday, July 14, 2016

Whites and our Unwillingness to Give up Racism

I have been back in the South for three years. I am deeply disturbed by the plight of many of my black brothers and sisters, who seem worse off in general. The thing that disturbs me most is the behavior of far too many of my fellow white Southerners, not all, but enough to be decisive for the culture: These, particularly those who are well off, are willing to do anything to maintain their white privilege. They will become ostensibly Liberal and Progressive Democrats. They will make a brave pretence of being inclusive. They will happily give up every aspect but one of their Southern heritage and culture. They will even attack that heritage and culture—a heritage and culture that we share with Southern blacks, and which might help bring us closer. They will attack and scapegoat poor Southern Whites. And they congratulate themselves on all this, and feel justified in their own minds at how enlightened they are. But the one inheritance that really matters to them, the one aspect that they ought to have surrendered, conserving the good in the rest, the things that they will do anything—anything—to avoid actually surrendering, are their racism and privilege.

And they are not alone in this, for I have seen this same refusal in the North, among those who feel self-righteous in condemning the South, but who will not treat with human dignity their black neighbors, who will indeed go to any lengths to avoid them or acknowledge their existence.

We are sowing dragon's teeth.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Bp. Mandell Creighton on Keeping the Church Open for Prayer, and the Public Celebration of the Daiky Office

"If the Church itself be a perpetual sermon, you must do all that you can to give it point and to enforce its application. There are two ways in which this can be done, two plain methods which I would like to think were universally adopted.

The Church must not only be cared for, but must be used. People must be exhorted to feel that it is their Church, open always for their use, ready with its suggestiveness at every crisis of their life, having a message for all their needs. We are maiming the meaning and usefulness of our Churches, if they are kept closed from one Sunday night till the next Sunday morning.

We are directly teaching that religion is a matter for Sunday services, and is not vitally connected with our weekday life. I am very strongly of opinion that every Church should be open and accessible to all at all times of every day. I know all that can be said against this suggestion. I know that people rarely use the Church when it is open. Can it be expected that the habit will grow up at once? I know all that is said about inconveniences, and dangers of loss, or of irreverence. My only answer is: You may have some cases of foolish conduct sometimes; but then they give you an opportunity of speaking on the subject directly, which may be of incalculable use.

There is perhaps no point on which you would be so sure of carrying everybody's sympathy with you: and to fan men's latent feeling of reverence into conscious expression is a most real advance. But I do not think that there is any real danger to be apprehended,—and I speak with some knowledge. For many years past I have been in the habit of examining parish Churches in various parts of England. I have 'gained considerable knowledge of the way in which they are cared for, and used.

In my experience I should say roughly that about half the parish Churches stand open; that those which stand open are much better cared for than those which do not; that they are as a rule more highly decorated, and might be supposed to have more to fear from mischief; that I can discover no peculiarities of position or of local conditions which determines the matter, but apparently only the feeling of the clergyman; that where the Church is open, there is generally affixed to the door a notice to that effect, with a request that any one entering the Church would pray for himself and for the parish. I think that a mere notice on the Church door, " This Church is open for prayer and meditation," is of inestimable value as asserting the place which these two things ought to hold in the life of every Christian.

Let me repeat; the Church itself is the first and most visible instrument of Christian teaching: it ought to be used to the full, and its meaning emphasised with all distinctness: let it be open at all times to all men.

But if the people are to be taught to use their Church, the clergyman must not only afford them opportunities, but must set them an example. The daily saying of Morning and Evening Prayer in Church is of great importance. Again, I know all that can be said by one who prefers to say them privately, because he is hopeless of being joined by any of his parishioners in Church.

But the fact remains that you are directed to say them in Church, unless you are reasonably let or hindered: and the absence of others is certainly no hindrance to you.

But I would call your attention to some definite points of practical value. You are trying to teach your people to pray: can you be doing your best if you do not bring it before them as a privilege, which you yourself enjoy to exercise? You may go about your parish and exhort to prayer: you may pray with the sick and those in calamity; but you will best enforce your lessons by your example.

The sound of the bell, especially when the listener knows that it is being rung by your own hands, if it does not operate as a summons, is yet a reminder, and brings a message of consolation and encouragement. It is well that you should pray with your people; it is well that they should know that you also pray for them. And I think there are few cases in which daily prayers are said in Church where a few pious souls do not gather occasionally after a time.

There are also other reasons of much importance for daily services—reasons which affect the usefulness of a country clergyman. It is of great service to himself that he should have some regular and fixed points in his daily work in his parish. It is inevitable from the nature of a clergyman's duties that they should be left to his own discretion, and that the times of their performance should be at his own choice.

The first thing that every man ought to strive to do is to be a law unto himself, and to economise his time by the formation of habits for its allotment. The existence of fixed times for daily Morning and Evening Prayer is a great help, and enables him to adjust other things accordingly. A regular hour for Church leads to a regular visit to the school. For the same reason it is a great help to his people. It vastly increases his accessibility, which is a matter of no little importance. Villagers are often shy; and many, who wish to see you, will not go so far as call upon you through a dread of clothing their question with undue importance in the eyes of others; but if they know that you are almost always at Church atfixed hours twice a day, they know where and when you can easily be found, and have a means of familiar intercourse which nothing else can give.

Again, the fact that you show yourself to have definite duties at definite hours assimilates your life to theirs, and makes the nature and aim of your work much more comprehensible to their minds. They can understand that a man is caring for them in very deed when they see him daily going regularly to the Church and the school, so setting before them the unmistakable outlines of a life devoted to prayer and teaching."

From Bp. Mandell Creighton, The Church and the Nation

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A Summary of the Errors of Biblical Fundamentalism, Papalism, Traditionalism, and Religious Liberalism

Re-reading Abp. Michael Ramsey and others, it becomes clearer how the appeal to Scripture, as lived out in the Church's life, i.e., Tradition, and as interpreted by Reason provides the best basis for resolving the problems Christians face.  Let us first examine how the various partial or unbalanced approaches fail to do this.

Scripture, without Church, Tradition, or Reason leads to the kind of Biblical Fundamentalism which is so common in this country.  The result is that the very tools which allow us to understand Scripture are cast aside.  Because of this the meaning of Scripture in itself and for us is lost. Included in this is the theological meaning of Scripture, which is why we have it, that is, we lose the ability to understand the encounter of others with God, and to have our own encounter with God.

An overemphasis on "Church", such as found in the Roman Communion, leads to an inability to critique effectively the pronouncements of those in position of presumed ecclesiastical authority, especially the Pope and the organs of the Vatican.  It means that the this-worldly organization is emphasized to the exclusion of all else, and the real Church, (which exists not just now and in the past on earth, but is ever present in heaven in Christ before the throne of grace) becomes merely a justification for the power of a this-worldly organization.  Ultimately even God becomes just a justification, as is evident in some versions of the theology of the people of God, as espoused, for instance, by the current Roman Pontiff.  This problem is not unique to Rome: The General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the USA suffers the same temptation.

An emphasis on Tradition without the other tools leads to an inability to distinguish between the traditions of men, and the authentic living out of the Christian experience of God.  This is an error most common in Eastern Orthodoxy.  Thus Scripture cannot be used to make this distinction and correct human error that has crept in, nor can reason be used to clarify truths and their relation to each other.  The result is an inability to discern and appropriate authentic Tradition.  An interesting example of this is Traditionalist Roman Catholics, who combine a primary loyalty to the historic organization of the Roman Church with this kind of false traditionalism in such a way that makes it difficult for them to actually critique the mistakes of the current papacy: Having accepted most of the presuppositions of papal absolutism, especially the need for submission to the Roman Pontiff, they nonetheless struggle to justify disobedience to him in areas where they think him wrong.

Finally, the exaltation by Liberal Christians of Reason at the expense of Scripture, Church, and Tradition means that the Christian experience of God is not taken into rational account.  The result of this a priori exclusion of the theological data is itself irrational, and results in the replacement of Reason by secular ideology.  The triumph of the Broad Church party in Anglicanism, to the increasing exclusion of other points of view, has sadly led to the abandonment by very many Anglicans of their classic approach to the question of authority, and made the public face of Anglican churches in the West just another brand of Liberal Christianity.  The loss of doctrine, however, has, as Fr. Eric Mascall pointed out a half century ago, undermined the emphasis on social justice of the Liberal churches, and made them merely apparatchiks of the Governmental-Capitalist globalist establishment, with their concern for the poor and oppressed being revealed more and more as a front for exclusivity and clubbiness.

Thus we see how each of these unbalanced approaches ends up undermining the very things it seeks to preserve.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Clergy, and our Ordination Promise of Diligence in Public Prayer

Clergy, and our Ordination Promise of Diligence in Public Prayer

This morning I celebrated Morning Prayer, as I do every day (publicly most days), and I also celebrated a private eucharist for a small congregation for Independence Day, a major feast in the U.S.A. according to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.  Indeed both of these services were celebrated according to the 1979 Prayer Book, all in accordance with my ordination oath to uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church.

At ordination I promised to "be diligent in prayer, both public and private."  The most important duty of a "cleric" (i.e., all members of the ordained clergy, and those in some places called "lay clarks" or the like) is the public worship of the Church.  In the Anglican churches, the public worship, or services appointed for divine worship are Morning and Evening Prayer every day, and the service of Holy Eucharist, a.k.a., "Mass" or "The Service of Holy Communion", on Sundays and major feasts.  If there are none prepared and present to communicate, then Ante-Communion, a "Liturgy of the Word" in the language of the 1979 BCP", is to be offered.  This obligation of daily public prayer goes back long before the Prayer Book, to the founding of the Church of England by St. Augustine, and before that, to the earliest days of Christianity, and even back to ancient Judaism.

I was taught that when I as an ordinand in the Episcopal Church promised to "be diligent in prayer, both public and private" I was promising to celebrate and keep these services, to offer them in the place where I was assigned the cure of souls, to join in their public celebration otherwise whenever they were offered, or if there was no public offering, to celebrate them privately, with others if possible.  I was also taught, as a member of the clergy, to wear my cassock, or, in circumstances where that was impractical, like travelling, then to wear black clothing and my collar as much as I could.  It was in this way, by celebrating the public services of the Church, and in presenting myself as a cleric, especially as a priest, that I was to make my public witness to the faith, make myself available to those in spiritual need, as well as offering my life prayerfully for the salvation of souls.

The problem that I see is that this foundation stone of our common life as Anglicans has been forgotten.  It is not my purpose to lay blame in raising this problem.  All of us have short-comings, all have sinned according to St. Paul, and none of us have grounds for boasting.  I know very well that the lack of diligence in daily public prayer was a problem long before I came along, and that most of us were raised in an environment where this obligation was ignored or set aside.  The Roman Church had even dropped the legal obligation for its secular clergy to do so about the time of the French Revolution (following the example of the Jesuits). However, I think it is time for us Anglicans to take stock of the fact that the Daily Office and the Eucharist are essential to the Anglican Way as set forth in the formularies and the Prayer Book.  We find ourselves, in fact, in a time of crisis, of judgement for our failings—and our churches, by and large, are shrinking.   God's judgement is usually a matter of letting us experience the consequences of our sins.  Might not the failing state of our churches be God's judgement upon us, for, among other matters, our lack of faithfulness in public prayer?

For my part, I cannot see any authentic way forward in terms of the renewal and mission of the Church than for us to get back to the disciplines of daily public prayer , and to promote them.  Here, with the in-course public reading of Scripture, including the Psalter, with the daily sacrifice of praise to God and prayer for our people, here lies the foundation for our spiritual renewal, for this public and objective prayer also provides the basis for a renewal of private prayer.  When our people know that their priests are on their knees, praying for them publicly every day, and inviting them to join in, either bodily present or only in spirit, then I think we may see signs of renewal among our people, and a willingness in them to be witnesses to the Gospel.  Without such a sound spiritual basis, I fear that all we have are marketing and gimmicks, without substance, and without that authenticity which alone can truly win souls to Christ.  Without such a sound spiritual basis, our witness to seek and serve Christ in all people seems false, and becomes at best an exercise is second-rate social work, or at worst one in accrual of secular political power for ourselves or those to whom we give our support.  Our striving for inclusion and to show the love of God for all easily becomes self-serving and, in fact, exclusive, unless it is firmly grounded in the that objective love of God which we contemplate in a disciplined life of prayer.

For these reasons I recommit myself to these disciplines of the Anglican Way, and I strongly urge my fellow clergy to do likewise.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Patriotism vs. Nationalism

Patriotism is love of my country because it is my country.  It is an aspect of piety, and considered a virtue.  It does not gloss over wrongs, but is sorry for them, seeks to learn from them and correct them, just as it rejoices over the good in my country, and seeks to emulate it.  Patriotism is to love my country not because it is objectively better than others, but because it is best for me, being my own. There is nothing wrong, indeed it is a virtue, to cherish and seek to preserve my country's culture, traditions, history, etc., because they make my country what it is.  

Nationalism (e.g., Americanism) thinks one's own country superior and others inferior, sometimes because of ideology, or because of racism or other forms of bigotry.  It overlooks one's own wrongs, and seeks to destroy the distinctiveness of others as a threat to one's own.  It can express itself in a fortress mentality, or in a desire for military, economic, political, or cultural conquest.