Monday, December 31, 2018

A New Year, Time, Academics, and me

2018 was an auspicious one for me, particularly for my studies.  I finally converted my efforts into a post-graduate piece of paper, a Certificate of Anglican Studies from Cranmer House – a demanding program I highly recommend. And I spent the Michaelmas Term independently studying in Oxford, using Pusey House as a base – and what an excellent base it was.  Being a part of the life of Pusey House really made my time in Oxford.  (And, yes, preaching a sermon there was a highlight of my year.)  I cannot recommend Pusey House enough as community of faith, fellowship, and scholarship.
Now I have embarked on applying my studies, not that I have not applied them already and not that my studies won’t continue.  But I am not seeking further certificates or degrees.  While at Pusey House, conversing with different students and their plans, I inwardly regretted not getting a handle on what I wanted to do academically sooner.  I heard a plan or two that sounded like a good fit for me years ago.  But now I am at an age where I realize my earthly time and energy is very limited.  And I think spending further years earning degrees would be unwise – how much time and energy would I have left once I spent years earning another degree or two?
Thus 2019 will more or less be the first full year of applying my studies.  I will venture to see if this man of some learning can make good use of his learning without prestigious degrees to back it up.  Many have done just that, particularly in the 19thcentury and before, but how well can it done now?

If there is a bright side to the decline of most universities today, it is that their pieces of paper are not as well regarded, not as credible as in the recent past.  Therefore, I expect what one actually produces with one’s learning will become more examined.  Men and women of learning will be judged more by that.  I am going to find out anyway.
Not that I will necessarily write for an academic audience although I might.  I intend to speak and write to a broader audience, particularly to further the education and edification of the church.  On a small scale, I have a few sermons and lectures coming up along those lines already.
Yes, given that I do not have the usual degrees (although I have studied more than many who do have them), my ambition is a bit bold.  But even if you think me slightly foolish, do pray for wisdom, creativity, and energy in putting my past and continuing studies to good use to the glory of God and for the good of His Holy Church.

Thank you.

P. S. Although I am not a New Year’s Resolution kind of guy, I do have one – to post legitimate comments faster.  Sorry for my recent negligence.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

A New Year’s Word for Evangelical Anglicans

I never have been much into New Year’s resolutions.  I tend to make my resolutions scattered throughout the year, especially at Lent and Advent as the Lord intends.  But I just came across a word that resonates so and that I think a number of Anglican jurisdictions (I will restrain myself and not name names here.) need to take to heart that I have to publish it myself as a suggested resolution.
It comes from Gerald McDermott via Duane W H Arnold, who prefaces it as “a word to my Anglican friends who wish to be missional and contextual at the expense of the Tradition...”
Anglicanism without the beauty and power of liturgy and sacraments would become just another evangelical alternative. It might continue to use the "Anglican" moniker, but it will be indistinguishable from many nondenominational networks that are now denominations by another name. It will not be able to compete with its flashy competitors on the other side of town with more exciting youth programs, and sermons tied more directly to the latest cultural trends. People will wonder why they should be Anglican when they can get pretty much the same thing elsewhere without the name. But if Anglicans retrieve their ancient heritage of liturgy and sacrament they will have something unique to offer this new century when the beauty of holiness (Ps 96:9) is resonant in ways it has not been for centuries.
Amen!  And Happy New Year.

Friday, December 28, 2018

About that Mary Queen of Scots Movie…

I’ve noticed – it is hard not to notice thanks to bombardment of silly social media ads – that there is a new Mary Queen of Scots movie that portrays Queen Elizabeth I as a very mean and naughty villain who scowls a lot at Mary the heroine.  Never mind that in actual history Mary was a fool caught plotting against Elizabeth and thereby gave her little choice but to lop off Mary’s regicidal head.  And even then Elizabeth was reluctant to do so.
But during this Christmas season I wish to be full of peace and good will.  So I recommend the following presentation which I find to be more enlightening and historically accurate.  You’re welcome.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Christmas in England 100 Years Ago

One of my alter egos gave an informal talk this week on Christmas in England 100 years ago just after the end of World War I.
Those interested in the Great War, in J. R. Tolkien, or in the Nine Lessons and Carols Christmas Eve service at King’s College Cambridge may want to listen. 
By the way the Tolkien books recommended in the talk are Tolkien: Maker of Middle Earthby Catherine McIlwaine, which is the book for the exhibition in Oxford this year and Tolkien and the Great Warby John Garth.  Both are excellent and reasonably priced.  Much pricier is King’s College Chapel 1515-2015, but it is close to a must have for those interested in that august institution. 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

100 Years of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College

A reminder that this Christmas Eve will be the 100thanniversary of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College Cambridge.  It will also be the last one directed by Stephen Cleobury.

It is hard to imagine anything good coming out of World War I, but the Nine Lessons service was in large part a response to that bittersweet Christmas of 1918 being just six weeks after the Armistice.  The Dean of King’s, Eric Milner-White, was convinced the usual Christmas Eve service would not do, and his response was Nine Lessons and Carols.
Readers know what I normally think of liturgical innovations, but this was a godly innovation indeed, and one I listen to every year.
More information may be found here, including this year’s program, and a more detailed history of this service. An even more detailed history of the service may be found in a chapter of King’s College Chapel 1515-2015.  And the program of the 1918 Nine Lessons service may be viewed here.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

About the A. M. E. N. Minority Leaders Conference

The Anglican Multi-Ethnic Network (AMEN) plans to hold a Minority Leaders Conference in Plano, Texas this summer just before the ACNA Provincial Assembly.  It will be “a gathering of Anglican clergy and laypersons of color.”  But “there is also some space for people who are not ethnic minorities, but minister to them.”
Well, that's nice.  I certainly minister to “ethnic minorities” so maybe I should crash this.  But I probably will not because I question whether this is an appropriate conference at all.  To define a conference around ethnic identities, to make it specifically for people “of color” belongs more on a “woke” college campus than it does in the church in which we are supposed to be one body.  To flip it, what if someone held an Anglican conference specifically for people of non-color, for people of paleness? 
Their justification – “Because ethnic minorities in the ACNA may feel isolated in their dioceses or churches” – is ironic. Does not such a conference increase separation and isolation from the church as a whole?  Does it not divide us by ethnic identity?  I thought we were supposed to be “neither Jew nor Greek” for we “are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
I also wonder about one of the stated purposes of this conference – “equip attendees in their mission to assist the Church in embodying the universal saving power of the gospel through multi-ethnic ministry.” 
On its face, that sounds great.  And I do not want to read minds or assume motives or agendas.  But from their own website, it appears that their “multi-ethnic ministry” includes browbeating about white privilege and about not being concerned enough about race. Does AMEN intend to use this conference as a staging ground to obsess so about race at the ACNA Provincial Assembly?
For the sake of Anglican unity, I hope not. The Anglican Church in North American has enough problems sticking together without identity politics being injected into our gatherings.  And we desperately need the Provincial Assembly next year to unite us across varieties of churchmanship, politics, and ethnicity, not divide us.  May the Minority Leaders Conference further such unity, not division.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Understanding Scripture and Righteous Living – a Two-Way Street

With this being the week of Bible Sunday in Advent, I think it a good time to mention something of import I noticed while studying in Oxford this past Michaelmas Term.  Dr. George Westhaver, Principal of Pusey House, in his thesis on Pusey’s lectures on “Types and Prophecies of the Old Testament,” notes at length that Pusey considered righteous living and right interpretation of scripture to be inseparable.  And not just that faithfully studying scripture aids righteousness, but that righteousness is necessary to the study and interpretation of scripture.
Yes, Pusey clearly thought this applied to the scholarly sphere.  He was at times frank in attributing immorality as one of the causes of the rise of rationalism in the scholarly study of the Bible.  He would even name names as he did in the case of Johann David Michaelis: “Deep insight into religion were indeed inconsistent with the intemperate habits and low moral character of Michaelis.”
I had not thought much about unrighteousness clouding one’s ability to understand scripture.  But now that Dr. Westhaver has brought Pusey’s contentions to my attention, I am now seeing that scripture contends that time and again.  Of course, a classic passage is Romans 1:18ff.  Right of the beginning of St. Paul’s withering indictment of mankind he states men “by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”  And because they reject God and his righteousness, they become “futile in their thinking” as God gives “them up to a debased mind.”
If my mind were not debased by jetlag at the moment, I could surely post any number of other scriptures along these lines.  I know I keep coming across them in my Bible study now that I am more alert to them.  But to those who wish to study and even teach scripture and its interpretation, this is all the more incentive to live right, is it not?  Even if only God knows our unrighteous thoughts and dealings, others will be affected as our study and teaching become a cloudy and polluted stream.
I have not seen this for some years, but some Bibles, particularly King James Bibles, used to state at the front, “This Book will keep you from sin, and sin will keep you from this Book.” I used to laugh at that as old fashioned, but I now see there is a lot of truth in that. Dr. Pusey and scripture itself contend that prevalent sin can keep us from rightly understanding that Book as well.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

The Prayer of King Henry VI

During this stay in England, I was not expecting to attend a service remembering King Henry VI as I have on previous trips.  (And Henry VI is a saint and martyr whether the Bishop of Rome thinks so or not, and don’t you forget it!) But I had let it sneak up on me that tomorrow, St. Nicholas Day, is also the day Henry was born in Windsor Castle in 1421 . . . right across the street from me.
So at the choral obit service I attended last night in St. George’s Chapel, white roses and lilies were laid on his tomb by representatives of Eton and King’s Colleges.  And the service ended with the moving singing of the Prayer of King Henry VI by Henry Ley. Here is the Choir of King’s College Cambridge singing that composition:
Eton College has helpfully posted the Latin and English texts of this prayer of its founder:

Domine, Jesu Christe, qui me creasti, redemisti, et preordinasti ad hoc quod sum; tu scis quæ de me facere vis; fac de me secundum voluntatem tuam cum misericordia. Amen.
[O Lord Jesus Christ, who hast created and redeemed me and hast foreordained me unto that which now I am; thou knowest what thou wouldst do with me; do with me according to thy will, in thy mercy. Amen.]
What a beautiful, meet, and humble prayer of deep trust in God.  I have prayed it before, but now intend to increase its use in my personal times at least.