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.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Front Porch Ministries at Pusey House

At the Reformed Episcopal Church’s past General Council, our Presiding Bishop Ray Sutton encouraged us to do “front porch ministries” – ministries, low pressure events, groups, and just good fun that attracts people through the church doors that normally would not come.  The hope, of course, is that people, once in and making new friends, would feel more comfortable coming to church and that some would end up getting more involved.  (At the same time, one should provide ministries and opportunities to people for the love of God and of them. Invitations to get more involved should be timely and low pressure, not suffocating.)
In my term here, now coming to an end, at Oxford, I’ve seen front porch ministries work very well at Pusey House.  Just one example is their Scriptorium.
Begun earlier this year, the Scriptorium is very simple.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays (now expanding to Wednesdays as well by popular demand), people may come to the Pusey House library for a structured time of study and work.  We begin at 9:25am with a very brief time of prayer and reflection, then for as much of the day as they like until 5:15 or so, students may write or study quietly together at tables or separately elsewhere in the library. There are tea breaks at 11pm and 3pm and a (free) sandwich lunch break at 1pm.
And that is pretty much it. I know that may not sound terribly exciting.  But many like the combination of structure, quiet company, and social breaks in studying.  The numbers coming have grown markedly - which pleases the Librarian.  And some of those end up getting involved in other ways at Pusey House.
We had a notable example of that last night.  David Bennett first came to Pusey House through Scriptorium.  He ended up liking the place so much that he asked if he could do the book release at Pusey House for his book A War of Loves: The Unexpected Story of a Gay Activist Discovering Jesus.  To their credit, the House chapter decided to take the risk of controversy and said yes; and the release event last night went very well bringing in around eighty people.  That included some who disagreed with Bennett’s thinking during the Q and A, but all disagreement was civil and respectful and contributed to the discussion.
And that is just one example and far from the only time this term that Pusey House has been darn right crowded.  Movie nights with discussion following have brought in people, including two young women that came back a week later for our Advent service.  Lectures have brought in an interesting variety. And there’s more.  (And it does not hurt that Pusey House is often generous in serving food and sometimes serves a drink or two as well.)
By the way, if you are in or will be in or near Oxford, I recommend getting on the Sacristan’s e-mail list to be informed of events.  For that, e-mail pusey dot sacristan at stx dot ox dot ac dot uk .
So I’ve been impressed beyond expectations during my term at Pusey House.  One reason is the variety of events that the house has going on and all the different people that attracts.  I’ve long loved Pusey House, but now it has become a very busy and often crowded place, even noisy at times.  Good! I suspect the Lord is using that to make His Kingdom just a bit more crowded, too.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

On Christ the King Morning

After eleven years, I again find myself in Oxford on Christ the King Sunday.  And, yes, I will celebrate it again at Pusey House.
As I woke up, I thought of how Christ is King and is high and lifted up.  Yet he is very present, a very present help by His Holy Spirit and by the Sacrament among any number of other gracious ways.
I can never get over how wonderful that is.  It is too wonderful for me.   

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Dante in Paradise – Sublime . . . and Petty

Just a brief note that in my study of Dante’s Divine Comedy, I am struck by how sublime and profound he was . . . and by how petty he could be at the same time, particularly in how he just could not let go of factional politics in his home city of Florence. Of course, he was exiled from Florence so one can hardly blame him.
But just one example from Paradiso, Canto XXXI.  Dante writes of how amazed he was to see Heaven, and he makes a profound statement about time, or the lack of it, there:

I, who had come to things divine from man’s estate,
to eternity from time . . .
This is a brilliant observation on a topic I have begun thinking about: God and the eternal state in which He lives and into which He brings His people is not bound by time, but is instead timeless.  Thus eternity is not so much a very long time or infinite time as it is a departure “from time” and from its bounds.
But then look at the very next line:

...from Florence to a people just and sane,…
The man just could not let go of Florence and its politics that had driven him out!  Even in his magnum opus, as soon as he expounds something so deep and profound as the timelessness of the eternity of God’s kingdom, he just could not resist immediately taking one of his many pot shots at Florence.  It is funny really.
But such humanity is part of the fun, if you will, of Dante and part of why I keep returning to him.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

A Hat Tip to Oxford Orthodox and St. Theosevia House

Today, I attended an excellent Study Day at St. Theosevia House here in Oxford.  The topic was Non-Jurors and their discussions about communion with the Eastern Orthodox (discussions which ended in failure in 1725). By the way, Theosevia House does not advertise it much on their site, but after attending, it is clear it is run mainly by Orthodox, and it is next door to an Orthodox church.  So hats off to them.
The three lectures, including the final one by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware himself, were all very interesting and informative.  That they held my attention well is saying something as my attention span rarely can handle that many talks in one day.  (Now there were two questioners in the audience that did test my patience, but I can’t blame St. Theosevia House for that.)  I notice the lectures were being filmed, so perhaps they may be posted online later, but I am unsure.
So if you do find yourself in the Oxford area, checking out what the St. Theosevia Centre for Christian Sprituality has going on may be worth your while.  It certainly was mine and more.