Monday, December 31, 2007

Friday, December 28, 2007

Holy Innocents and the Dark Side of Christmas

Today, three days after Christmas, is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, those babies Herod murdered in order to murder the Christchild.

It is not a very Christmasy feast day, is it. Or is it?

For decades, American culture has told us we should be happy, happy, HAPPY!! at Christmas. Andy Williams singing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” and all that. But Christmas has a dark side. And one cannot fully get Christmas if one ignores that darkness.

We might consider it an awful thing if we spend Christmas in a place we do not want to be, whether that be away from family -- or with certain family. But Joseph and Mary spent that first Christmas in a place they would not be, far away from home because of the decree of a distant emperor. Then once at their destination, they were crowded out, to which many can also relate.

A dark side of Christmas I’ve come to notice for the first time in any significant way this Christmas season is the celebration of Adam’s Fall. Now the Fall doesn’t seem something to celebrate. But if there is no Fall, there is likely no Incarnation, no Christmas. For to save us from the Fall is why Jesus came. So traditional festivities include reading the Genesis account of the Fall during services of Nine Lessons and Carols and songs calling us to “Remember Adam’s Fall.” The Fall is virtually embraced.

Other songs remind us of the death the Christchild would eventually suffer for us. The Seven Joys of Mary contains this jarring verse:

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of six
To see her own son Jesus,
Upon the Crucifix.

That doesn’t sound like Christmas joy. But if one separates the Incarnation from the Crucifixion, one doesn’t fully get Christmas or Christianity for that matter.

And both the Incarnation of Bethlehem and the Redemption of Calvary were so world changing, the forces of evil did their worst to short-circuit God’s plan, to snuff out the Christchild before his work was complete. And in that evil, the Holy Innocents were slaughtered.

Yes, not very Christmasy. But what passes for Christmasy in our culture is hardly Christmas. To franticly ignore the dark side of Christmas in strenuous efforts to be happy (or else) is to miss out on what Christmas is about. To understand, and fully appreciate, the “tidings of great joy,” we must understand they were, and are, proclaimed in the darkness.

May you have a blessed Feast of the Holy Innocents.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Why I Won’t Become Roman Catholic 2: Tony Blair’s Lie Profession

The sordid occasion of Tony Blair being received into the Roman Catholic Church is good time to reveal another reason I won’t become a Roman Catholic.

To be received, Blair made the following profession:

I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.

I can’t say that about any church. I look askance at any church that would demand such a profession. And, unlike Tony Blair, I fear God enough that I think it exceedingly unwise that my first act in a church be one of dissembling.


While we’re talking about Tony Blair, I think less of the Romans for receiving him. As Prime Minister, he willfully committed grave public sins. His forcing the Roman Catholic Church either to adopt to gays or shut down its adoption agencies is only one of his outrages. Of course, we are all sinners in need of repentance and forgiveness. But with his sins being so grave and public, I think he should be required to repent of them in public by name before being received into a church. The Romans are making no such requirement.

If my parish gave a notorious sinner such a free pass, I would have trouble going to the communion rail.

But I agree with Cranmer that the Romans can have him:

It is ironic that 'the most devoutly Christian prime minister since Gladstone' has done more to undermine Christian liberties than any challenge to the faith on these islands in more than three centuries. He is a spiritual fraud . . . he can go, and good riddance . . . .

Good riddance indeed.

Monday, December 24, 2007


I began listening to the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College in 2002 or 2003. This year’s service just broadcast may be the best one yet I’ve heard.

It seemed to this experienced Lector that even the readings were better than ever. The chorister reading the first lesson certainly got that off to a good start. That boy can read!

One aspect of the service of which I’m usually critical are the newer carols selected by the Director of Music Stephen Cleobury. He is to be commended for giving new composers an opportunity to shine. But most years one or two of the modern carols seem, well, a bit too strange. But this year I liked the newer carols as well. Even the one that seemed a bit discordant to me ended very well and with drama. And I much liked Mr. Cleobury’s arrangement of a recently discovered Latvian carol.

This was the first year I didn’t tear up for some reason. But at the end of the service I spontaneously thrust my fist in the air in triumph. I don’t recommend doing that in the Chapel of King’s College itself, however.

If you missed it, BBC Radio 3 will be replaying the service tomorrow Christmas morning at 8am Dallas time. And it will be available for replay online for a week or so afterwards.

Tonight, my parish puts on a service of Nine Lessons and Carols, combined with a Christmas pageant and Holy Communion. It’s the first time we’ve combined those so it should be interesting and fun.

May your Christmas be at least as excellent as mine already is.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Black Death and Christmas?

With Christmas upon us, I thought I’d inflict treat you to the last tutorial essay I wrote in Oxford. Yes, it links the Black Death and Christmas if you can believe that. Fans of New College and King’s College and their choirs may find this especially interesting.

I have condensed the essay. Be nice about typos. In Oxford, I became eager to get my essays over with, so I’m sure there are imperfections.

This may be my last post until after Christmas. May the celebration of the Nativity of our Lord be a special one indeed for all of you.


Medieval Resiliency in the Face of the Black Death

Certainly, the most devastating event or series of events in the Middle Ages was the Black Death that struck in 1348-1351, then recurred again through the rest of the Middle Ages and beyond. How did Medieval English culture respond?

Among the most striking indications of medieval response is the architecture of the time. And the most important statement we can make about medieval architecture is: it did not stop.

Now that may at first seem rather unimportant, banal even. But let us reflect a little. When a society has less people, there is less need for buildings. Further, there are less workers to erect buildings. So one would think if a society suddenly lost roughly half of its people, that would bring building to an equally sudden halt.

But that halt did not happen.

Yes, there were buildings in which progress ceased or was delayed. Here and there still are oddly proportioned parish churches with missing aisles or ghost transepts that were suddenly finished in an unfinished state. Ashbourne Church, Derbyshire, the Delamere Church, Northborough, and Medbourne Church, Leicestershire are among the examples. Other churches, Patrington Church, Queen of Holderness being one, began in exuberant Decorated Gothic style pre-plague only to be finished in more austere early Perpendicular fashion post-plague after the available workers skilled enough for elaborate carving died.

But even the most cursory look at the architectural history of Britain reveals building as a whole most definitely did not stop. In the half-century after the plague already, there was building in the cathedrals of Winchester, Canterbury, and York. Richard II built his landmark Westminster Hall. In some places, building even boomed. Two such places were the Universities of Oxford and of Cambridge.

In Cambridge, the colleges of Gonville, Trinity Hall, Corpus Christi, and Clare Hall were founded from 1348 to 1362 in the wake of the plague. Geoffrey Tyack has described Corpus Christi College as “a monument to the Black Death.” It was founded in 1352 by a town guild – unique for either Cambridge or Oxford – as a collegiate chantry to pray for the souls of deceased guild members.

In Oxford, William of Wykeham founded his monumental New College, along with Winchester College in Winchester to in effect be a feeder school for New College. In founding the colleges, William specifically cited the shortage of clergy brought about by the plague as a chief reason for founding his colleges.

New College was innovative in a number of ways. It was the first college built from the beginning as a whole piece in Oxford, and the first to use the quad design. The design greatly influenced later Oxford building. All Souls and Magdalen even have their chapels and halls connected on the same side of their main quads, as at New College. Other innovations included the size of the choir, which the statutes specified would include sixteen boy choristers, more than was customary at the time. Further, this was the first choral foundation of the Oxbridge colleges. The statues were demanding in a number of other ways as well even in such details as Latin being the language of conversation at mealtimes. William of Wykeham’s answer to death and its ravages was innovation and excellence.

There was another reason William founded his colleges, that they would be chantries praying for his soul in perpetuity. Those who could afford it often made provision that their souls be prayed for. For most, this entailed making arrangements that a priest be paid to say masses for the benefactor’s soul. But some of the wealthier built more tangible chantries of stone within churches or in the form of new churches and chapels.

The practice of setting up chantries of various sorts, both in stone and simply by arrangement, was already popular before the plague. The Church’s official recognition of Purgatory was the great initial spur to this popularity. But suddenly being surrounded by the sudden death of the plague “concentrated minds,” as Colin Platt has noted, on making preparations.

They looked death in the eye and made serious preparations for it -- and that not with despair but with hope. For them, there was hope after death through faith in Christ and through the prayers of priests and of the community.

That is the most important way English and Northern European Christian culture responded to the Black Death – they did not give up. Nor did they look the other way from death in a sort of denial those in the modern West oft indulge in with their make up and cherry red sports cars. No, medievals looked at death very realistically, which the plague gave them much opportunity to do, and they got ready, often in very tangible ways, such as architecture, that enrich us to this day.

Again, that readiness was not that of despaired resignation. Death was not the end, but a transition, a transition in which one could hope in the living Christ and in the prayers of the living community one leaves behind.

Moreover, to the medieval, one doesn’t really leave the human community. Medieval culture didn’t see the divide between the living and the dead as the great gulf we often do. Graves were right by or in the church reminding friends to pray for you (unlike the ancient pagan practices requiring removal of the dead to outside city walls). The dead were a familiar part of everyday life. As well, the liturgy saw worship and prayer as something the whole church, living and dead, participated in together, “with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.” No, death wasn’t the end, nor did it divide one from the community of God and man. Should one trust in Christ and make preparations, there was hope, a great hope of being forever joined with God and with each other. That hope permeated the culture and architecture of the late Middle Ages.

But did the Black Death mark a turning point in medieval culture? That question has been much debated in recent decades. But we shouldn’t look so much at the question of the Black Death as turning point that we miss the more important point that, even in the face of a third, a half or even more of the population being wiped away, the religious culture did not respond to the plague with despair but with resolution, often a very creative and productive resolution as at Oxford and Cambridge. Instead of descending into dark ages, Christian Europe rose again with glory.

And that determination to deal with death and get ready has living echoes that enrich English and Western culture to this day. We will conclude with an example particularly meaningful to this student.

We mentioned the founding of New College and Winchester College. In the next century, pious young Henry VI founded Kings College, Cambridge and Eton College. He, too, sought to increase the numbers and learning of the clergy and to provide prayers for his soul while also extirpating heresies.

King Henry was frequently in Winchester on royal business. And he took the opportunities to visit Winchester College and examine the charters and statutes of it and New College. He was so impressed by what he saw, he changed the founding documents of Kings and Eton to be more like those of New and Winchester. He linked his two colleges as Wykeham had linked his. He expanded the number of scholars at King’s from twelve to Wykeham’s seventy. Henry’s founding documents even ended up having identical wording to those of New and Winchester Colleges for long stretches.

Henry sought even to excel William of Wykeham. The Chapel of King’s College is the great monument to that aspiration, though not even nearly completed in Henry’s life. Nor was his vision of a huge quad completed until centuries later in very much altered form. Fortunately for us, Henry’s devout conviction that death was not the end turned out to be very tangible reality at King’s College.

There’s one other aspect of Kings Henry’s founding of King’s influenced by New College – the choir. Again imitating William of Wykeham, it was the first choral foundation in Cambridge and was to have sixteen choristers as well. Those the least familiar with English choral music know to what glories the Choir of King’s College would ascend. Strange as it may seem, because of King Henry VI’s imitation of William of Wykeham in founding King’s College and its Choir, we can in part credit the Black Death and determined English response to it for the music from King’s we still enjoy today.

So when on Christmas Eve, we with millions around the world listen intently for the voice of a lone boy on the radio or perhaps in the Chapel of King’s College itself . . .

Once in Royal David’s city . . .

. . . Our thoughts probably do not turn to the Black Death, nor to the resolute response that created the Choirs of New College then of King’s College. More likely, we rejoice quietly in the joy and hope that the Child born in the City of David brings to us.

But we should not forget the resolution with which William of Wykeham, Henry VI, and late medieval England as a whole faced the devastation of the Black Death. Their joy and hope was in the Christ Child as well and in the life he brings even in the midst of death. To their hope, that blessed hope, we and our culture remain, even today, deeply in debt.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Chuck Collins nails it.

In his commentary on Rowan William’s Advent letter, Christ Church San Antonio rector Chuck Collins nails it:

The Archbishop told the Primates at Dar es Salaam that he would consult them on invitations to Lambeth, which he did not do. He could have upheld the Windsor Report by inviting those who uphold the traditional values endorsed in the Windsor Report, but he did not. He could have revised the invitation list in the Advent Letter to support Windsor, but he chose not to do so. And the end result is the Windsor Report is rendered virtually meaningless, and the Windsor process has been exposed as a ploy to buy time. There could be very detrimental results from this Letter, including the disintegration of one of the Instruments of Unity (Lambeth Conference) and the diminution of the authority of another Instrument, the Primates Meeting. It looks to me like the man behind the curtain has been exposed.

I, too, am convinced that the Windsor Report was a ploy for time that Rowan Williams is now casting aside (or interpreting beyond recognition) now that it no longer serves its deceptive purposes. Similarly, he’s practically ignoring the Primates’ Meetings. At the least, he has undermined the Primates’ Meetings time and again.

Now that Rowan is beginning to show his true colors, it’s becoming clear that he has been stringing along the Global South and orthodox North American Anglicans for four long years, only to sell them out.

The result will be an ugly 2008 for the Anglican Communion and perhaps the end of it as an effective orthodox body.

Collins is also right that Rowan Williams has missed an opportunity. In the past four years, when he still had credibility and esteem among most conservatives (including me), if he had really led, he could have strengthened the Anglican Communion. Any number of times in history, the church responded to unorthodoxy with a reassertion and strengthening of orthodoxy and of the church. Rowan had the opportunity to help bring that about again.

And he blew it.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mike Huckabee just won the Christmas War.

Mike Huckabee’s campaign has just pulled the most brilliant coup of the presidential campaign so far with his Christmas ad.

Let’s take a quick look at the issues his campaign faced going into the ad:

1. Suddenly, he’s a frontrunner now, if not the frontrunner. He is already becoming a target. How do you respond? “Puff piece” ads that build up what a wonderful guy he is are boring and get lost in the clutter. Ads debunking attacks on him can look defensive and even give credence to attacks. It’s not easy to be the frontrunner in a crowded race. Just ask Hillary about that.

2. He wants to motivate and bring in his evangelical base. Therefore, he wants to make a contrast with his opponents in the area of religion (an area in which they are rather weak), but without alienating potential supporters.

3. It’s Christmastime when the usual political ads would likely be ineffective at best or backfire at worse. Yet the Iowa caucus is January 3rd, so he can hardly take a break now.

The solution is the Christmas ad, and it is a brilliant (or at least very lucky) one. The ad elevates him above the political fray. It reminds his base of his faith and takes a nice stand for it in a way that only the easily offended -- who won’t be voting for him anyway – would object to.

And, perhaps most importantly, he takes a nice but firm stand in the annual Christmas War. That cheer you’ve been hearing is from all those who like “Merry Christmas” and pour scorn on “Happy Holidays.” Don’t underestimate the importance of that. Mike Huckabee just won the Christmas War.

In addition, the easily offended are helping Huckabee out by being . . . easily offended. This just draws more attention to the ad and provides him with wonderful foils. In politics, it can really help to have the right adversaries.

I got a prediction for you. Huckabee will now win big in Iowa and will pull well out in front of the presidential race. This ad is that important.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Common Cause Communique

It didn’t take long for Common Cause to issue a communiqué from their Orlando meeting yesterday. I don’t know quite what to make of it. I suspect it may be one of those statements where what is not said is more important than what is said.

Another development: the Anglican Province of America is divided over participation in Common Cause as freely acknowledged by Presiding Bishop Walter Grundorf:

This subject has generated much conversation and seems to dominate the thinking of so many in our Province. It has caused great division among us and has polarized those who support remaining as partners and those who wish to see us only as observers at the Partnership meetings.

For now, they are observers.

Hat tip to Stand Firm.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

About the Golden Compass . . .

I’ve been meaning to post about the Golden Compass, but time and lack of energy has kept me from doing so.

I knew this movie could be a problem as soon as I saw the preview months ago with their ominous use of “Magisterium.” I had never heard of Philip Pullman or his books, but even before the preview was over, I thought, “Oh boy, I know where this is heading.”

And guess what? *DING* Right again!

I’m good sometimes.

Anyway if you’d like slightly deeper analysis of the movie and the book series behind it, here and here are two good articles.

I will add two thoughts. First, when Hollywood engages in an anti-Christian agenda, they will do so without my dime. And I would discourage anyone from going to this movie, much less taking their kids to it. Even if the Christian bashing of Pullman is toned down in the movie, remember sequels are likely if this one succeeds. And Pullman’s series gets more blatantly anti-God (And I’m not using that term loosely.) as it goes along. The same can be expected of sequels.

So help this movie fail. Don’t go.

Second, and this is a bit of a tangent, Peter Hitchens struck a chord with me when he stated:

I really don't think this book would have had the Hollywood full-power treatment if Mr. Pullman were not a much-caressed darling of the liberal, anti-religious establishment in Britain. That has propelled him to book-world stardom, based on acclamation and approval as much as (if not more than) on the merit of the books. And it has put those books in that wonderful class, coveted by all authors, where they sell a lot because they have already sold a lot. This status often has nothing to do with the quality of the books, and more to do with capturing some moment or meeting some fashionable need.

A lot of very good fiction languishes at a level of sales way below this, and simply cannot hope for the window displays and other bookshop promotion which stars such as Mr. Pullman receive.

As an author who was not long ago knee-deep in the publishing industry, I heartily agree. For various reasons, money being the chief of them, the publishing and book retail industry often pushes crap while throwing excellent writing aside.

And, sadly, the “Christian” side of this industry isn’t at all exempt from this criticism. Just try browsing a Family Christian Store sometime.

Monday, December 17, 2007


Be sure to pray for the Common Cause Leadership Council meeting in Orlando tomorrow.

‘Nuff said.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Rowan Williams’ Advent Letter is Finally Out

Rowan Williams’ much awaited Advent letter is finally out. And once again Canterbury fails to address adequately the apostasy of the Episcopal Church and the need to defend the faithful from TEC wolves.

In places, he seems to understand the seriousness of TEC’s departure from the faith and practice of the Anglican Communion. But then he makes statements like this:

Successive Lambeth Conferences and Primates' Meetings have, however, cautioned very strongly against such provision [of overseas interventions]. It creates a seriously anomalous position. It does not appeal to a clear or universal principle by which it may be decided that a local church's ministry is completely defective.

Excuse me. Which “universal principles” of the church through the ages has the Episcopal Church not violated? By any number of canons of any number of historic church councils, the Episcopal Church is apostate.

And this:

A great deal of the language that is around in the Communion at present seems to presuppose that any change from our current deadlock is impossible, that division is unavoidable and that any such division represents so radical a difference in fundamental faith that no recognition and future co-operation can be imagined. I cannot accept these assumptions. . . .

Then I guess Rowan doesn’t accept the Windsor Report, which in grave language talked of the possibility of “walking apart” should the Episcopal Church continue on its course. In any case, if Rowan doesn’t see that the faith of TEC is radically and irreconcilably different from that of orthodox Anglicans, then he just doesn’t get it, to put it mildly.

Having gravely understated the divisions, he underestimates what is called for. In this letter, there are no calls for Primates Meetings, interventions, or discipline. Instead, he calls for more . . . “conversation.”

That prescription would be comical if Rowan Williams’ utter failure to lead wasn’t so sad and his betrayal of faithful North American Anglicans so great.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Marilyn McCord Adams – Showing Us the Future of The Episcopal Church?

Canon Marilyn McCord Adams has delivered a paper that is creating quite a stir. Although she is now ensconced at Christ Church, Oxford (where I’m told she is an excellent scholar), I suspect her paper gives more than a glimpse of the future of The Episcopal Church and other likeminded provinces. The following especially stands out:

Likewise, sex-and-gender liberals have no interest in excommunicating sex-and-gender conservatives or in denying them the institutional access that all members of TEC/CoE enjoy. But in the name of faithfulness to the Gospel, sex-and-gender liberals cannot extend toleration to allowing sex-and-gender conservatives to set institutional policy no matter what. Liberals should not be so desperately committed to inclusiveness as to let themselves be held hostage by conservative threats to leave unless they get their way. Nor should liberals barter conscientious content-commitments away in a panic to be included in the pan-Anglican polity that conservatives are constructing. Time to teeter-totter! Sex-and-gender liberals should repent of the ‘flying bishops’ scheme, of DEPO and EV. Liberals should also refuse to sign a Gomez-style (as opposed to a Lambeth-Quadrilateral-style) covenant. Liberals should work within the established polity of TEC/CoE and use their majority to uproot homophobia. The reason is straight-forward: homophobia is a sin, and its end-time is now!

Granted, Adams is rather far left. But her advocated policy of close to zero (or below zero?) accommodation of traditional conservatives already is the policy of several TEC dioceses. And I suspect it will soon be the policy of TEC as a whole. Take a good look. This is the real face of “inclusiveness.”


By the way, Canon Adams gave a Remembrance Day sermon at Christ Church I had the misfortune to hear. In it, she made an offensive comparison between Hiroshima and the Holocaust. Yes, you read correctly – it was a Remembrance Day sermon.

Christ Church nearly had its first spontaneous combustion in its long and hallowed history . . . with me as the combustee.

In a subsequent exchange of e-mails, she did eventually say that she felt Hiroshima and the Holocaust were different. Nevertheless, I challenged both her and the Dean either to apologize for the extremely inappropriate comparison or to publish the sermon so that others could judge for themselves.

As far as I can tell, they have done neither.

Hat tip to MCJ.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Vatican Rebukes Georgetown Theologian

After being a bit hard on the Roman Catholic Church yesterday, I’m glad to pass on something positive. At the direction of the Vatican, U. S. bishops have put heretical Georgetown theologian Peter Phan (*snicker*) in his place by rebuking him for his writings. He has written that Jesus isn’t the sole unique Saviour of the world, that non-Christian religions offer paths to salvation, you know -- Episcopal Church kind of theology.

And the fact that I really do not like Georgetown makes this even better.

As I alluded to yesterday, the RCC has a much better track record of holding to and defending the Faith than Protestants, particularly under John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Kudos to them.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

BREAKING: Anglican Communion Network on December 18th Common Cause Meeting

I just got this. The emphasis is mine.


Dear Network,

The next major milestone in the development of Common Cause is next week, when the Common Cause Leadership Council gathers in Orlando, Florida on December 18 for its inaugural meeting. The Council comprises the head bishop, a clergy representative, and a lay representative from each Partner. This body represents Common Cause in all its fullness, and has the authority to do the work of the Partnership.

This is the organizing meeting of Common Cause, at which the assembly will elect its first officers and establish its initial committees and task forces. As such, December 18, 2007 will mark the formal beginning of a "separate ecclesiastical structure" in North America. Following this meeting, Common Cause will be in a place to seek official recognition from the Primates of our Communion.

We at the Network are pleased to have been given the Kingdom assignment of building unity among the Common Cause Partners. Thank you for sharing with us in this task, and please pray for our work next week.

Yours in Christ,

The Rev. Canon Daryl Fenton
Chief Operating Officer
Anglican Communion Network


With everything else going on, this has snuck up on us, has it not? But I think this highly significant. I expect I will comment in due time.

Having let this sink in some, I now have some thoughts:

The Common Cause Partners aren’t wasting any time, are they? The Panel of Reference they’re not. I think they are engaging in deliberate speed for three main reasons:

1. They realize the urgent need to provide credible safe places for distressed Anglicans. North American Anglicanism is bleeding people to Rome and various other churches, including the church of the sacred pillow. Many determined to remain faithful Anglicans need a safe place and soon.

2. As much as they can and as quickly as they can, they want to end the scandalous joke of the Anglican “alphabet soup.” For those who claim to be catholic to be so splintered is not right. The current environment makes it all the more urgent to be much more united. (And, by the way, I’m proud that my once sectarian Reformed Episcopal Church has taken a significant role in this effort.)

3. They are responding to the call of at least some Primates for a “separate ecclesiastical structure.”

I don’t think forcing ++Rowan Williams’ hand is a motive, but it likely will be an effect. With dioceses leaving The Episcopal Church and fleeing to the shelter of ++Greg Venables and now with Common Cause getting ready “to seek official recognition from the Primates” perhaps by the New Year and perhaps as a province, I suspect ++Rowan will have to make decisions and take sides in the New Year whether he wants to or not.
Why I Won’t Become Roman Catholic

I begin this with some trepidation. I hate Catholic bashing and won’t engage in it. I have Catholic friends I greatly value and do not want to hurt or offend. And I respect the fact that the Roman Catholic Church has a better overall track record of holding to the Faith than Protestant bodies.

But so many Anglicans have been quite publicly crossing the Tiber to Rome, to the diminishment of Anglicanism, that I think it’s time for the other side to be heard. It’s time for orthodox Anglicans to speak up and say why becoming Roman Catholic is not an option for them.

One reason I won’t become Roman Catholic is I refuse to take myself out of communion with faithful brothers and sisters I greatly value. Roman Catholics practice a very restrictive form of closed communion -- you have to be Roman Catholic to receive at their masses. Further, Roman Catholics are not to receive communion at non-RC churches.

So if I were to become Roman Catholic, I would cut myself off from communion with wonderful brothers and sisters. I could never again take communion at my current parish or at Pusey House or at Smokey Matt’s. And I would belong to a church that refuses communion to them. I will not do that.

Further, the Church of Rome is flat wrong for doing that. A truly catholic church should not act in such a sectarian manner.

Now I oppose handing out communion like so much candy as too many protestant churches do. Churches should require that those that receive be baptized believers not engaged in scandalous conduct. But to be more restrictive in communion than that, to cut faithful Christians off from communion is wrong and sectarian. And I will not engage in that.

Well . . . I’m sure I stirred up a hornets nest, although that’s not my intent. My Catholic friends (And I hope they are still my friends.) are very welcome to comment and/or correct. I do hope I’m at least slightly mistaken about the Roman Catholic Church as I desire the whole church to be faithful to both truth and unity.

As the above is not the only reason I won’t join the Roman Catholic Church, there may be more to come, however.

Monday, December 10, 2007

San Joaquin and my parish

A lot happened over the weekend with the Diocese of San Joaquin leaving the Episcopal Church and CANA consecrating more bishops. (Lots of video on the latter may be found here.)

I don’t wish to test your endurance and mine by trying to get my arms around these developments, at least not this morning. But two relevant things happened at my REC parish yesterday.

First, we prayed for the Diocese of San Joaquin during both Morning Prayer and Holy Communion.

Second, as Lector of the day, I read the lessons yesterday. The Second Lesson during MP was 2 Timothy 3. The first five verses were very timely:

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: . . .

Does a lot of that sound familiar? I thought so.

And how does Paul say we should respond to such apostates?

. . . from such turn away.

The Diocese of San Joaquin is doing the right thing. God bless them.

Friday, December 07, 2007

You might be Anglo-Catholic if . . .

. . . when someone asks you what day it is, you answer, “St. Nicholas Day.”

(This actually happened yesterday when I was buying groceries. A gentleman was trying to figure out how fresh some bread was, so he asked me what date it was. I was nice and told him the numerical date first. He looked slightly disoriented when I then smilingly added the correct saint’s day as well.)

Thursday, December 06, 2007


Just a quick note to let you all know I got home last night after a fun day and half in London.

I tell you what: that avocado quesadilla at the Blue Mesa Grill in DFW Terminal D tasted gooooood.

And personal morning prayer at dawn today at my place isn’t morning mass at Pusey House, but hardly anything else can’t beat it.

It’s good to be back in Texas.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Kudos to Venezuelans

The defeat of the latest attempt of Hugo Chavez to grab even more power in Venezuela is a pleasant surprise.

I had thought he would steal the election if the real votes didn’t go his way. And if you read between the lines of his concession statements, it’s pretty clear he thought about it. Perhaps a pre-election demonstration of 100,000 or so convinced him that would have been too much of a gamble.

But he also made it clear that this won’t be the last time he tries to turn Venezuela into a Communist dictatorship.

But, at least this time, his power grab was defeated by the majority of Venezuelans. Kudos to them.

Monday, December 03, 2007


I’m almost out the door to head to London, but I wanted to bring this to your attention.

Russia is no longer a democracy. It’s back to the bad old days under KGB spy Putin.

It’s time we stop treating Russia like a legitimate democracy.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

All’s Well . . .

My last full day in Oxford, Advent Sunday, will soon come to a close. And it’s been a good one. The Mass at Pusey House was wonderful, topped off by Lo He Comes, the Helmsey version as the Lord intends, of course. No, I wasn’t able to sing it all the way through. The service was already emotional for me. Tears started flowing on the third verse. I made myself sing the last verse with vigor though. Yes, I’m a sop. Deal with it.

Oh, I mentioned it was rainy. But the sun came out and illuminated parts of the service through the incense in timely fashion. Like I said, wonderful.

Later, after my usual Sunday lunch at Shanghai 30’s (highly recommended), even though I was very far from the front of the line at New College Chapel, I got a great seat with wonderful views for their special Christmas service. The service wasn’t as emotional for me as mass this morning (which is a good thing actually given I was practically front and center), but it was excellent.

Then I rushed back and heard the end of the famous St. John’s Advent service (that I attended two years ago). In its own way, it was neat to hear it on the radio here in Britain.

As I’m about to leave tomorrow morning, I now have a very positive attitude toward my stay in Oxford. Oh, I haven’t forgotten how difficult much of it was. Nor do I have any illusions about my ability to handle academic stress. But the past week or two has been very nice. And even in the difficult periods were times very meaningful to me. So I’m leaving with a positive attitude, yet still very ready to leave. And that’s close to perfect, isn’t it?

Through the wind and rain, the bells of Christ Church are ringing in Advent Sunday. And I have a special one in store, my last full day in Oxford.

Advent actually began last night for me with an excellent last choral service of term at Magdalen. This morning I go to Pusey House for Sunday Mass. Yes, they will smoke the place up.

Then this afternoon I go to New College for their special Christmas Carol Service. Yes, that’s jumping the gun a bit. But, as I’ve mentioned, a lot of people are gone after this weekend.

But where is Rowan’s Advent letter?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Leaving Days

This morning it was quite clear today is leaving day for many students in Oxford. People were taking belongings out of the colleges onto sideroads crowded with parked cars. It reminds me of two years ago when I was also here at the end of Michaelmas term.

I’m glad I’m leaving Oxford Monday early. Not nearly as much happens around here when the students are gone. Most of my fellow CMRS students will still be here. CMRS is on a different semester schedule. But I got my academics done early and will go home early. Thanks be to God!

I haven’t done much myself today or yesterday. I’ve actually caught a small cold. It’s no big deal, and I’m feeling better already. But after staying well all through term in spite of the stress and exhaustion, it’s funny I get sick now once the pressure is off.

The timing is good though. I can use the rest. And it’s been rainy these two days anyway. When it was sunny Wednesday and Thursday, I got to be the tourist. So it’s all good.