Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Can we hold truths lightly?

Grandmère Mimi left the following comment on my post "Still More Questions." I found my reply was getting so long that I wanted to bring it into a post of its own. Then as I was writing it, I decided to cut it way back.

Allen, I would ask Bishop Katharine which truths we are to hold lightly. Are we to hold lightly that it's not permissible to have a two-tiered membership in the church? Are we to hold lightly that it's not right that certain of the baptized members are not allowed full participation?

If I come to see full inclusion as a matter of justice, then how can I hold that belief lightly? I can regulate what actions I take, but I don't understand what she means by holding this sort of truth lightly..One of the reasons I began to write on my blog is that I did not want to be causing a stir in my church by talking about the subject often.

I use my blog as an outlet, or I would explode. Members of my church know who I am now, and a few read my blog. I'm sure some of them don't much care for what they read there, but they don't have to visit. It's not as though I'm standing next to them haranguing them constantly.

We can curb our words and our actions, but hold our truths lightly? I don't think so,

Dear Mimi,

I don’t know why I am so bent on defending Bishop Katharine – or maybe I do. She’s in an impossible situation. Well, not impossible, but very difficult. I can relate to that, for over the past twenty eight years I have served on the board of my housing co-op three times (five of those years as president) and I have had to preside and try to keep peace during some very contentious times.

I still think that you, Jonathan the MadPriest, the folks at Stand Firm, and lots of others are taking Bishop Katharine's words in too wide a sense and maybe also in too literal a sense.

I don’t think she is asking anyone to hold truths lightly in the sense you mean, at least I don’t want to believe that she is.

People on our side believe that we are called by the gospel to the truths you name – our hermeneutic is such that we are forced to interpret scriptural texts in a particular way. We read scripture through the lens of what we see as God’s desire for distributive justice. But there are sincere, faithful people in the church who don’t see it that way – they have a different hermeneutic.

Just as it is true for us that in Christ there is no distinction among persons (male nor female, straight nor gay, and more,) it is true for those on the other side that Scripture unequivocally condemns same-sex behavior.

How can those on either side hold their truths lightly, if “lightly” means something like saying “This is true, but it doesn’t matter much if you don’t agree “ For those on both sides, it matters a great deal.

Some of us hold our truths tightly and wield them like clubs. I think that is what Bishop Katharine is referring to when she speaks of holding truths more lightly.

There's a lot more I could say -- indeed I have it in draft form, but I'll leave it there.

Let me close with this thought. On Sunday we heard a reading from Jeremiah: 23 that started with these words: Woe to the shepherds who have destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! Says the Lord. ... It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them.

I think that Bishop Katharine is doing her best not the scatter the flock.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Still More Questions

For the past week I have been trying to put together a post about some statements by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori that I first saw mentioned at Susan Russell’s An Inch At A Time. The statements were reported in an article in the Los Angeles Times with the curious title “Episcopal leader seeks to mend church rift.”

I was struck by the strength of the responses in the blogs to one remark in particular: “Perhaps, if all sides in the current debate over sexuality and Scripture could hold their truths more lightly, they might yet find a way forward – together.” [In the article, only the words “hold their truths more lightly” are directly attributed to Bishop Katharine.] People on both sides were offended by that remark. MadPriest called it “stupid,” and several others were even more unkind.

I think Bishop Katharine is uttering the hope that we will all take to heart the advice given in James 1:19b-20a. Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger, for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. But Bishop Katharine is fully aware how difficult that advice is. “I think the center of the church has heard the message,” she said. “But it’s more of a struggle for people on the edge of the progressive part and the edge of the more conservative part. Both believe in utter faithfulness that they’re right ... and there’s less patience that God will work all things out in the end.”

At her blog Telling Secrets, Elizabeth Kaeton considers “the Great Divide” in our church “between Evangelical Episcopalians/Anglicans and the rest of us in North America.” She was particularly probing to find reasons that account for the “harsh, often violent rhetoric” coming from the “right” and she proposes that part of the answer may lie in class.

Referring both to her own experience growing up and to an essay called “Not My Father’s Religion” by Doug Muder, a Unitarian Universalist pastor, Elizabeth Kaeton points out that many working class people have no time for the luxuries of discernment and asking critical questions and in fact these particular luxuries can often be perceive as dangerous to survival. Life is harsh for many working class people – people who don’t have much room to make mistakes tend to see life in black and white terms. Elizabeth suggests that this may account for “Evangelical resistance – no, repulsion, actually – to ambiguity and paradox, which, for me, are two of the compelling parts which form the nexus of the Spirit of Anglicanism.”

I think both Doug Muder and Elizabeth Kaeton are on to something. Understanding class issues is important in trying to understand what is going on both in our church and in other churches.

Yet I find “harsh, often violent rhetoric” coming from people on the progressive side of this struggle as well as from people on the conservative side. It’s my experience that harsh and violent rhetoric and indeed actual violence usually comes from a place of pain (or remembered pain, or fear of pain.) Class issues can account for some of the pain, but there is also pain that stems from actual personal injuries. That means there are injured people in this struggle who are in need of healing.

So when Bishop Katharine says “it’s a struggle for those at the edges of both the progressive and the conservative parts of the church,” she’s absolutely correct, but when she continues “because both sets of people believe with utter faithfulness that they are right,” she’s only partly right. There’s a lot more to it besides believing we are right. Now I can speak only from the progressive side, and only from a small place on this side. From here I see faithful lesbian and gay sisters and brothers bearing witness to the truth that LGBT folk are God’s children just like everyone else and that no one chooses to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, or “queer.” Of course, “the current debate over sexuality and Scripture” is mostly about how LGBT people live, not about who we are. (The sad Jeffrey John episode in the Church of England indicates that it is not really as simple as that.)

I suggest that Bishop Katharine is speaking mostly to and about the “center”of the Episcopal Church. It is in relation to that center that she is suggesting that a way forward together might be found if all sides in the current debate over sexuality and Scripture could hold their truths more lightly. I see the “current debate over sexuality and Scripture” as mostly about authority – authority in the church, authority in the Anglican communion, and the authority of the Bible. But it is also about hermeneutics and about enculturation. Some on the right also see improper accommodation to secular society or even syncretism. It is a debate in which, to use Elizabeth Kaeton’s words, ambiguity and paradox play a major role. Or to use the formulation of John Dominic Crossan, it is a debate about choosing between the radicality of God’s distributive justice and the normalcy of civilization’s retributive justice.

The first chapter of James’s Epistle concludes: If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1: 26-27.

Paul, at end of chapter 12 of 1st Corinthians says “I will show you a still more excellent way.” That way is the way of love. Bridling our tongues, and holding our truths lightly are not the same as ceasing to bear witness to the truth, but are rather part of the way that we can beat witness in a loving manner.

I am not completely satisfied with what I have written here and I put it forward as a kind of thinking out loud, much as Elizabeth Kaeton did with her piece quoted above.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them.

The collect for yesterday (and indeed for most of the whole week) was composed for the second Sunday in Advent for first English Prayer Book in 1549:

Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience, and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. (Spelling and punctuation from the English Book of Common Prayer.)

At his sermon blog, Ekklesiastes, Tobias Haller posted a sermon for this Sunday last year. The lessons were different (it was year B: Daniel 12:1-4a[5-13]; Hebrews 10: 31 - 39; Mark 13: 14 - 23) but the sermon makes sense even without having heard (or read) the lessons. Tobias began with a reflection on the perception that Episcopalians don’t generally know the Bible as well as we might. He went on to explicate the famous phrase in this collect, often misstated as “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” but actually “hear ..., read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest.”

We Episcopalians do get to hear a good deal more Scripture in church than many of our Protestant brothers and sisters. But that is hearing. As for reading, Tobias commends “regular daily Bible reading, especially through the church’s Daily Office, which is laid out in the Book of Common Prayer starting on page 936 — a program of daily prayer and Scripture. The Daily Office will lead you through all the most important parts of the Bible over a two-year period — and not only you, but the thousands of people throughout the church who will be reading the same passages each day — as if we we’re all part of a huge church without walls — which, if you think of it, we are!”

This Collect was somewhat tendentious in its day. Massey H. Shepherd reminds us, in The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary, that the refeference to “all holy Scriptures” recalls Archbishop Cranmer’s criticism “in the Preface of the 1549 book that in the old medieval service books all the scriptures were not read.” That preface is reprinted on pages 866-867 of the 1979 American Prayer Book.

Shepherd also points out that “the Prayer Book set forth an orderly schedule for the reading of the entire Bible during the course of every year.” In his Commentary on the American Prayer Book, Marion J. Hatchett says more correctly that the first Prayer Book provided for the reading of “almost the whole of the Scriptures” in a year. In the word of the first Prayer Book itself:

The old Testament is appointed for the first Lesson, at Matins and Evensong, and shall be read through every year once, except certain books and chapters, which be least edifying, and might best be spared, and therefore are left unread.
the new Testament is appointed for the second Lesson, at Matins and Evensong, and shall be read over orderly every year thrice, beside the Epistles and Gospels: except the Apocalypse, out of which there be only certain Lessons appointed upon diverse proper feasts. (Everyman edition, spelling modernized.)

I have to admit that I have not kept up the discipline of reading the Daily Office in recent years. Oremus provides a Daily Office either online or by email and has links to other offices, including one that follows the Episcopal Church’s two year lectionary commended by Tobias.

Today is thirteen days before the start of the new liturgical year and I decided to try again to read the office regularly – particularly so as to read scripture. Perhaps I can keep it up.

I presented the collect above in its “traditional”form because of the phrase “by patience, and comfort of thy holy Word.” Both Massey Shepherd and Marion Hatchett remind us that this 16th century phrase means “by steadfastness and by the encouragement (or strengthening) of the Scriptures.”

Reading and understanding Scripture is hard work, But it is also rewarding work. Reading and understanding 16th century English is also hard work. So hard, in fact, that the talented people on the Standing Liturgical Commission in the 1970's were unable to find a euphonious modernisation of the words "by patience, and comfort of thy holy Word," so they left the phrase out.

In the hymn below, I take Coverdale’s words “comforted me” to mean something like “bucked me up” rather than “soothed me.”

I call on thee, Lord Jesus Christ,
I have none other help but thee.
My heart is never set at rest
till thy sweet word have comforted me.
And steadfast faith grant me therefore,
to hold by thy word evermore,
above all thing,
never resisting
but to increase in faith more and more.

Miles Coverdale
(Hymn 634 in The Hymnal 1982)

This hymn comes from Coverdale's "Ghostly Psalms and Spiritual Songs," published in the late 1530's and is the first verse of what appears to me to be in part a paraphrase of Johann Agricola's 1530 hymn which Bach set as the text of Cantata BWV 177.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

More Questions

Last Wednesday evening, Liz and I attended the inaugural Graymoor Lecture in a new series sponsored by the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute (GEII) here in New York. GEII is a ministry of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement. The Friary is located at Graymoor, in Garrison, NY, about 40 miles north of New York City, but the GEII is appropriately located in the Interchurch Center, a few blocks from where Liz and I live. For about ten years, Liz was an Associate Director of the Institute.

Wednesday’s lecture was by Paul Knitter, a distinguished lay Roman Catholic theologian who since last January has been the Paul Tillich Professor of Theology, World Religions, and Culture at Union Theological Seminary. His topic was The Religions Today: Their Challenge to the Ecumenical Movement. What follows are some of the points I took from Knitter’s talk – I have not done justice to the coherence of his presentation and I have almost certainly distorted some of his points. One thing I have certainly left out is the consciously tentative manner in which Knitter was putting these ideas and questions forward.

In the ecumenical movement today, Christians by and large focus on the things we in the different traditions have in common rather than the things that divide us. Using the metaphor of we Christians living in a large ecclesial apartment house in a neighborhood with other religions, Knitter set out the proposition that if we want to get along with the other religions in our neighborhood, we Christians need to work out some internal issues.

Knitter presents three questions that other religions might ask us. Each of the three questions raises additional questions for us Christians.

First, can we be fellow neighbors? To truly answer this as Christians we need to ask are the many religions God’s will? Is religious pluralism more than just a matter of fact? Is it that diversity will not go away because it is not supposed to go away?

Second, can we be fellow peacemakers?
Both the violence of 9/11 and the violence after 9/11 are connected to religion. Religion is the match or the fuel that feeds violence. Can we Christians renounce both physical and religious violence?

People use violence to exploit or to defend against exploitation. It helps both the President of the United States and the Ayatollah to have God on their side.

There seems to be a direct link between claims to religious superiority and religious violence. We have to ask does the incarnation of the Logos in Jesus exclude other incarnations. Knitter says that Aquinas does not exclude other incarnations, although he did not affirm that there were any other incarnations either. This is particularly important in our intraChristian dialogue with evangelicals. Any questioning of the absoluteness of the revelation in Jesus Christ must be done in a way that does not diminish our witness to the universality of Jesus

Third, can we be fellow spiritual pilgrims? Can we engage in a communication in sacredness with other religions?

Is there a religious reality that transcends our own religious tradition? When we take religious pluralism seriously we are being offered an opportunity to learn more about God than we can in our Christian tradition alone. Edward Schillebeeckx has said that there is more truth in all religions than in one (including Christianity.)

If the uniqueness of Christ does not exclude the uniqueness of (say) Buddha, how do we listen? A relevant book is John S. Dunne’s 1978 book The Way of All the Earth. Can a Christian (or indeed any person) draw spiritual water from two different religious wells? How do we do that without diluting our own identity?

Knitter thinks the Holy Spirit can be of help here and notes that the Orthodox, “not encumbered by the filioque,” seem to have an easier time with this. The Incarnation can be thought of as specific and local. Thus the kenosis [Jesus' emptying of himself] means that Jesus forewent the transcendent, that is, anything but the limited and finite. A kenosis of the transcendent leaves open the possibility of another kenosis. (We do need to use our judgement and distinguish between good and bad elements in religion.)

The point about the Orthodox was confirmed by Metropolitan Mykhayil of the Ukranian Autocephalous Orthodox Church of North and South America and the Diaspora (UAOC). Another account of the lecture can be found at the UAOC website. Here is a picture there of Liz and me listening to Dr. Knitter answering Metropolitan Mykhayil.

Now that I've gone personal, let me add that I had a chance to see some friends whom I haven't seen in a few years -- both Friars and Sisters of the Atonement.

Liz and I expect to hear Paul Knitter again in a couple of weeks when he addresses the Friends of the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, and then again in February at his installation.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Note: I began writing this on Sunday, November 11th, but I didn’t finish it until Monday. I decided not to change the time frame.

Yesterday I posted about John Dominic Crossan’s God & Empire and the question he poses, “How is it possible to be a faithful Christian in an American Empire facilitated by a violent Christian Bible?

I woke up before dawn this morning, and as is my wont I signed on to the internet. Generally while I compute I listen to BBC Radio 3. I wrote yesterday without consciously thinking that today would be Veteran’s Day, but this morning when I heard the bells of Big Ben on the BBC at 6 AM, I realized immediately that it was Remembrance Sunday at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

(And I didn’t have a white poppy or even a red one, but then we don’t do that very much here anymore and according to the Veterans Administration ”The wearing of poppies in honor of America's war dead is traditionally done on Memorial Day, not Veterans Day.“ So much for Flanders Field.

When Liz and I are at Heart Lake, we usually attend the Heart Lake United Methodist Church – in part because we can walk to church, in part because over the past 20 years we have become part of the church family, and in part because since the organist died early last year Liz plays the piano when she’s there, to the delight of all but especially of Judy, who is very musical but doesn’t really play the piano, though she tries – she’s a great guitar player, though.

The Heart Lake Church is quite small – this morning there were 15 of us. The ministers in the conference (or at least those we know of) moved around this past July, so the pastor has only been there about four months. Today, he was away, and one of the lay leaders conducted the service. There were also special speakers from the Gideons, both at Heart Lake and at the larger New Milford church which is part of the same UM charge.

Anyway, we walked to church – it’s about half a mile – and I was roped into sight singing the bass part of “We Gather Together.” By the third verse I almost had it right.

Andy, the lay leader, has a habit of reading sentimental poems about the faith to us, usually at the beginning of the service. But today Andy interpolated “The American's Creed” into the middle of the service:

"I believe in the United States of America as a Government of the people by the people, for the people, whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a Republic; a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect Union, one and inseparable; established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.

I therefore believe it is my duty to my Country to love it; to support its Constitution; to obey its laws; to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies."

When I first heard it this morning, I thought it blasphemous and jingoistic. It certainly has no place in Christian worship. Now that I have found it on the web and had a chance to read it again, I still think it has no place in Christian worship but I recognize that the first paragraph is a powerful statement of the belief American’s have about ourselves – I’ll call it the American mythos, using the Greek word to try to avoid the negative connotations attached to the word “myth.”
In August and September 2005, six of the 92 soldiers in the local National Guard unit were killed in two separate incidents in Iraq. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell was quoted by the Associated Press as saying "I've yet to meet a Pennsylvania soldier on a welcome-home ceremony who said, 'This is a waste of time, we're endangering our young people, we ought to get out now. Everyone believed we were making progress and believed we were there for the right reasons and that's what I try to tell the parents to offer them some consolation."

It’s hard and it’s painful for people to question the truth of the American mythos. Most of us still believe that we live in “the land of the free and the home of the brave” and it’s a wrenching thing to come to even suspect that we are wrong. It’s hard to suspect that the story we tell about ourselves is false. It’s painful to contemplate the possibility that the United States of America is not “a Government of the people by the people, for the people, whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed” nor “a democracy in a Republic;” but rather an Empire, both within and outside its borders.

In the 1979 Prayer Book of The Episcopal Church, several “new” canticles were provided for the Daily Office. (Of course, these were introduced just as Morning Prayer was disappearing from our regular liturgical life.) Canticle 11, from Isaiah, contains the line “Violence shall no more be heard in your land.” I pray that it may be so.

More to come.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Last Monday evening, I attended a talk by John Dominic (Dom) Crossan at Union Theological Seminary. The topic was Crossan’s recent book God & Empire and the evening was a preview to a consultation "New Testament and Roman Empire: Resistance and Reimagination," scheduled for April 2008. But it wasn’t that much of a preview of the more general scholarly conference upcoming in April – the evening belonged to Crossan. On the way in, I decided not to buy Crossan’s book, but after hearing him I decided to buy it.

In the epilogue to the book, Crossan has written:
I have spent the last thirty-five years thinking about earliest Christianity – from the historical Jesus, through the birth of Christianity, and on to the apostle Paul – and attempting to live within its visionary program for our world. Earliest Christianity arose within the Old Roman Empire, and America, we are told, is the New Roman Empire. Three questions are then obvious for anyone who is both Christian and American today:

How is it possible to be a faithful Christian in the American Empire?
But then another question appears beneath that one:
How is it possible to be a nonviolent Christian within a violent Christianity based on a violent Christian Bible?
Chapter 5 brought those two questions together into a third question:
How is it possible to be a faithful Christian in an American Empire facilitated by a violent Christian Bible?
In this book, I have attempted to answer that last question on the deepest level possible – on the level where the radicality of God‘s nonviolence constantly challenges the normalcy of civilization’s violence and where the normalcy of civilization constantly negates the radicality of God.

I have only barely begun to read God & Empire, but in his talk on Monday, Crossan pointed out that there are two strands in the Bible – the God of vengeance and the God of love, or to state it another way, the Gods of retributive justice and the God of distributive justice.. How do we choose between the two? Crossan provides a way forward through that thorny problem – a way that resonates with me.

In a recent comment on her blog, Wounded Bird, Grandmère Mimi wrote “In a sense, I think that I make my faith up as I go along. I am neither a theologian nor a Scripture scholar, therefore, I see mine as more of a simple faith.” I’m not a Bible scholar either nor am I a theologian except insofar as all of us are theologians if we think about God at all. But that’s a pretty significant exception – or maybe I mean we all have a theology, whether or not we consider ourselves theologians and especially whether or not we are members of the guild of theologians.

Our theology affects how we approach the world as well as how we approach the Bible. Mimi gives us an account of a faith journey from trying to achieve holiness – closeness to God – by pleasing God through “being good” to the recognition that holiness has nothing to do with “being good.” God’s presence in our lives in unconditional. There’s a good bit more to Mimi’s post and I recommend it.

Of course, not all “who profess and call themselves Christians” share the same vision of God. Mimi writes being “drawn more and more to reading the Gospels with closer attention to the words and actions of Jesus,” and of “another spiritual awakening that I believe has drawn me even closer to God, with a stronger desire to follow the way laid out by Our Lord Jesus Christ, sinner though I am.” I resonate strongly with that testimony.

To my mind, Dom Crossan, along with many other New Testament scholars, helps us to confirm that what we see in the words and actions of Jesus is really there – that this is a Way worth following. It is a Way that is profoundly counter-cultural – and if Dom Crossan is correct, it is counter to civilization. Crossan quotes Ronald Wright’s A Short History of Progress:

Civilizations are a specific kind of culture: large, complex societies based on the domestication of plants, animals, and human beings. Civilizations vary in their makeup but typically have towns, cities, governments, social classes, and specialized professions. All civilizations are cultures, or conglomerates of cultures, but not all cultures are civilizations.

Our culture is indeed a civilization – with domesticated plants, animals, and human beings and with towns, cities, governments, social classes and specialized professions. Our culture is institutionally both cruel and violent and our culture also sanctions cruelty and violence by individuals. I’m not going to expand on that – it’s obvious enough to me and I hope to you.


A few weeks back, on one of the comment threads at Father Jake’s, Luiz Coelho, The Wandering Christian, announced that he was taking a break in part because he was bothered by the tone of comments in recent threads there.

I think the rhetoric gets heated because of the pain of what we’re going through in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. As I write this, I am about forty five minutes away from the Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, New York, once the center of unabashed Anglo-Catholicism in my hometown, but now a center of neo-orthodoxy, pastored by Anne and Matt Kennedy. For those who don’t know, Matt Kennedy is a very talented blogger at Stand Firm – one of the websites of the self-styled reasserters. Matt Kennedy generally writes well, but I will say that he his writing seems to me to me to be too tendentious to be taken really seriously. I may expand on that last statement in a future post, and to be fair, I should say there are some on the “liberal” side who are also far too tendentious.

More on this later.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Eucharistic Theology

I took this test when I first saw it and didn't like the results. For now I'm experimenting with the answers to see if I can determine what the criteria are.

Eucharistic theology
created with QuizFarm.com
You scored as Orthodox

You are Orthodox, worshiping the mystery of the Holy Trinity in the great liturgy whereby Jesus is present through the Spirit in a real yet mysterious way, a meal that is also a sacrifice.













Saturday, October 27, 2007

Alfred the Great

Some people are delighted to discover they are descended from Charlemagne, but I was more thrilled when I discovered that King Alfred the Cakes was my 32nd great grandfather, or so it appears.

Anyhow, when I discovered this morning that today is King Alfred’s day, I decided I had to take the time to write another post. This one might well be titled “Random Thoughts from All Over.”

Now that Mimi’s back in town, and June is bustin’ out back in Thibodaux, all seems well in blogland. It’s really hard to keep up with all the blogs that I want to read, what with all the threads. Especially because I have a life to lead away from the computer screen.

Liz and I are in the process of closing our cottage for the season. A hard freeze is predicted for this Sunday evening, when we will back in New York, so I have to drain the water Sunday before we leave. We’re going to come back here one more time (in about two weeks) – before Liz starts radiation – in order to clean the gutters. We hope the leaves will have completely (or mostly) fallen by then. It will be cold and we will be without running water, but we’ll certainly be able to sleep here for one night.

I’m looking forward to being in New York more or less permanently from now until next spring – among other things, going back and forth means loss of momentum on things I want to do, including keeping up with blogs.

Well, I didn’t get this up on King Alfred’s day, but I’ll put it up now and start again.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Meanwhile the world goes on

I was sorry not to have gone to St James, Fordham, with the other bloggers this past Sunday, but it was important for Liz and me to be at St Mary’s and not just for the 8 AM service. The real locus of church is in the local congregation, and St Mary’s is my local congregation. St Mary’s is like home to me – the people are family and the buildings are truly homelike. Also, we are a small congregation – so our presence makes a difference. So, much as part of me would like to visit other churches on a Sunday morning, I go to St. Mary’s.

On Monday, the OCICBINY crew went to Solemn Evensong in the chapel at General Theological Seminary. Mimi and Liz and I were among the last of our group to be seated, because Liz had waited while Mimi changed a shoelace, and had waited for both of them. When we got inside, Liz and I sat with, I think, Shel, who had already scoped out the books we needed to go through the service. There was the GTS looseleaf binder, the GTS psalter, The Hymnal 1980 and the LEVAS hymnal. All of the Prayer Book stuff was in the GTS looseleaf or the printed service sheet we got on the way in. Others have commented about the service. I myslef enjoyed the service – part of the enjoyment I must confess was being able to keep up. But I do have to admit that in some ways it is simply good theater. In another way, it was the ritual of an in group, the GTS community (or part of it,) at which we were outsiders. The officiant was Bob Wright – Liz knows him moderately well and spoke to him after the service. The propers observed the Eve of St. James of Jerusalem.

Perhaps I should interject here that shortly after I first met Rex on election night in 1958, he took me to Evensong at the Cathedral of St John the Divine. It was my first experience of the Episcopal Church and it was very strange, for grafted on to the straight 1928 Evening Prayer was the annual service of the Knights of something or other, complete with a bagpipe procession in the enormous nave of the cathedral. Ever since, I have had an affection for the silly side of Anglican worship, and have even at times taken the silliness seriously. Anyway, before the month was out, I attending St Mary’s on Sunday mornings. We were fairly low church then – Morning Prayer first, third and fifth Sundays, Holy Communion second and fourth – sung canticles but spoken psalms, preces, etc, never incense (we still don’t own a censer,) cassock, surplice and stole, not eucharistic vestments, and so on. But I digress.

There has been a flurry of activity in the Anglican world in the past several days. On our side, a few dioceses in North America have adopted resolutions favoring same-sex blessings. On the other side, a few dioceses are preparing to declare their independence of The Episcopal Church and affiliate with another province. It remains to be seen how all this will play out.

It’s been obvious for months that will be more moves towards schism – the only thing being, no one knows exactly what they will be and exactly what the response will be. Meanwhile a lot of silly things are being said. If I ever get time, I’ll write about some of them.

Gotta go now – it’s a bright, sunny, Thursday morning at Heart Lake and we have some outdoor work to do to prepare the cottage for winter. More later.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

St James of Jerusalem

Last evening a group of us gathered in Chelsea for a little get together of bloggers, commenters and lurkers. Many of us fist met in cyberspace at MadPriest’s blog and I think I am correct that most of us frequent that blog regularly, which of course makes us quite mad too.

I was very happy to meet Mimi, Tobias, Jake and Elizabeth in person, as well as many others including Dennis the instigator, David (Dennis’ partner), Allie, Eileen, Shel (Pseudopiskie), Paul (A), Catherine (Paul’s wife), David (ReverendBoy), Dan, JohnieB, Doug (blame him) , PJ, Kathy (Klady), and Joan (Jersyjo). Also Gabe who graciously stood in for Terry (QueerforChrist). (I’m sure I’ve forgotten someone. Liz enjoyed being there too and meeting all of the folks.

This morning we drove back to Heart Lake for a final few days of the season. I hope to have more to say tomorrow, but I have to go to bed -- I'm tired.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

St Luke's Day

This afternoon and early evening our coop housing development Morningside Gardens will hold a party to celebrate our 50th anniversary. The party is at the Interchurch Center, just a few blocks from our apartments. Liz and I haven't been here 50 years -- she's been here a few years longer than I -- but we've been here together for just under 34 years which is a long time

Yesterday Liz and I were at the Interchurch Center twice -- at noon for a short service of dedication of a new organ and then at six for the inaugural organ recital. Liz is a member of the Interchurch Center Chorus and sang at the service. In between we went to Roosevelt Hospital where Liz had a simulation session in preparation for her upcoming radiation therapy.

Tomorrow I have two meetings in the morning -- at 8 AM a Bylaws Committee meeting here at Morningside Gardens and at 9 AM a Finance Committee meeting at St. Mary's. After that our granddaughter Amanda is coming to visit, along with her parents Jane and Scott. We haven't seen Amanda in almost two months, which is half of her life, so we are very eager to see her (and her parents, of course.)

On Sunday we'll go to St. Mary's for the first time since the end of August. (I'm tempted to go the St. Mary's at 8 and then make the trek up to Fordham Road to St. James at 11, but I may well not do that. Our main service at St. Mary's is at 10.)

Monday I have a dentist's appointment, and then the blog fans of MP will meet at GTS in the afternoon for a gathering, evensong and dinner. I'm really looking forward to that.

This past Sunday a cousin of Jane's father Bronson Dudley left a comment on my Palm Sunday post. I've responded to him and I'll have a chance to talk to Jane about this tomorrow. This comment also prompted me to put a link to my gmail address in my blogger profile. We'll see what kind of mail that brings me.

On Tuesday, after dinner the previous evening with a number of friends from cyberspace, Liz and I will go back to Heart Lake for our final stay of the season.

Sooner or later I'll find the time to post something reflective, but for now this will have to do.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

St. Francis Day

I’ve been doing a good deal more reading than writing recently and so I decided to post just a few brief remarks on a number of topics.

First and most significant to me.

The pathology report indicated that Liz’s lumpectomy was successful and that the cancer had not spread. Next week we find out what additional treatment she will have, including the schedule for a six week course of radiation.

Update on my Dunciad project.
For now, I’m concentrating on background reading, so visible progress will beslow.

Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion
Last week the House of Bishops(HOB) issued a response to the Primates’ request. I commented on more than one blog to the effect that the HOB’s response was predictable, nothing new, and not a cause for dismay. But mostly I don’t recall making the point that HOB missed an opportunity to acknowledge the cognitive dissonance between their reaffirmation of B033 and their pledge not to authorize rites for public same sex blessings on the one hand and on the other hand their professed proclamation of the Gospel that all persons including gay and lesbian persons are full and equal participants in Christ’s Church.

What I just called cognitive dissonance, others whom I respect have referred to in harsher terms.

This week the Joint Standing Committee (JSC) of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council reported to the Archbishop of Canterbury on the HOB’s response the Primates. The JSC reported that the HOB’s response was satisfactory. More important, to my mind, they made a remarkably strong statement against the recent consecrations by African Provinces of bishops for North America.
Is all of this simply Anglican fudge or is it a shrewd political move? Or neither (my vote.)

St Francis

It’s technically too late, but a happy St. Francis day to the Mad Priest of High Heaton.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Breast Cancer

Last Thursday Liz had a lumpectomy to remove two small tumors from one of her breasts, In addition, she had a “sentinel” lymph node removed for biopsy. One of the tumors had previously tested positive for cancer. The other was so small that it could not be tested. I am happy to report that the sentinel node was clean.

It has been more of a strain than we realized until the procedure was over – a strain on Liz of course but also a strain on me. Now there is an undercurrent of anxiety as we wait a week for the results of the biopsy on the removed tissue.

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
-- Psalm 46.

Liz and I thank all of you for your prayers and kind thoughts. I also especially thank the MadPriest of High Heaton for linking to this post.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Meeting KJS

For at least the past two weeks I have been trying to do a blog post. I won’t describe here the number of things in Liz’s and my life – some serious and some trivial – that have claimed my attention. For now I want to talk about an event we attended this past Wednesday – the 172nd Convocation of Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. We went primarily because the address was given by Katharine Jefferts Schori and I’ll say something about her in a moment.

There is an excellent four minute video clip of a few highlights of the service, including some of Bp. Katharine’s remarks, here.

My connection to Union is through Liz – she is an alum, as were her father, her uncle and her brother. I’m simply a spouse and a neighbor. Union is in our neighborhood and there were quite a few Morningside Gardens neighbors at the event – we were greeted at the door by Marie, who is on the steering committee of the new Metropolitan Friends of Union. Then we saw Kevin, who is on the staff at Union. Inside the chapel we saw Bob, who is both a neighbor and a retired professor at Union, Jim, who retired from the staff at Union last year, Sarah from our building and Tom who also has an apartment in our building but currently does not live there full time.

There were also a number of current and former St. Mary’s folks there – David Callard, the current chair of Union’s board attended St. Mary’s several years ago. Jim Morton is a trustee and a current member of St. Mary’s. We also saw Emily, whom we are sponsoring for ordination, and Charlotte, who used to be at St. Mary’s and is now at St. Michael’s (from which we spun off in 1823.) Earl, Elizabeth, and Sarah (our rector, his wife, and one of their daughters who happens to be a student at Union) were also there. We also saw Ethan, of FOR, a friend of but not a member of St. Mary’s. Finally, there was Miguel, who as a member of Bishop Katharine’s staff, was on duty.

As the video clip shows, the scripture reading was Isaiah 61: 1 - 9. After the recital of the passage by two students, Bishop Katharine told us that this was the text she chose when she had to select a passage for her first seminary course – one in methods of exegesis. She said she picked the passage because it sums up what God wants. It is, of course, the passage that Luke’s gospel tells us that Jesus read in the synagogue at Nazareth. To Bishop Katharine, the passage reminds us of “God’s overwhelming yearning for a healed world.” She said the dream of Isaiah is global, but also local. “We have to be both prophet and priest.” Our task is to look for woundedness, even within ourselves, and work to bind up the wounds of all the world.

Union is of course a “liberal” seminary, and I’m sure many on the conservative side would find Bishop Katharine’s address, indeed the whole Convocation, lacking and “not Christian.” On the other hand, I and many others found it inspiring. Although it was addressed in particular to seminary students and faculty, it spoke to all of us there. A United Methodist minister friend remarked afterwards, “Your Presiding Bishop could almost make me an Episcopalian.”

At the reception I had a chance to speak briefly with Bishop Katharine. I deliberately refrained from mentioning any of the things on her plate. Instead I told her I was a member of St. Mary’s and that Miguel, a member of her staff, is one of our parishioners. We also spoke about missing the wildness of the country while living in New York and I described a touch of country (although not wildness) that Liz and I had recently experienced on Morningside Drive, about three blocks away from where we were standing in Union’s Social Hall. On the sidewalk, just next to both the park and a school, we saw a chicken. We know there is a wild turkey in the park, but a chicken is an unusual sight in New York City. It was nice to chat with her about nothing.

To conclude, now that I’ve heard her in person and even spoken to her, I’m still glad that TEC has KJS for PB.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


Here’s a picture of me with my new granddaughter Amanda.

Here’s Liz and me with Amanda.

And here’s Jane and Scott with Amanda.

I never thought I’d be a grandfather.

Friday, July 27, 2007

An Update

What a spring and summer – there have been at least four big changes in my life.

First, since last December I have been on a trajectory towards getting dental implants for my upper teeth. The first major step in this process was the extraction of the remains of my upper teeth in April. The most recent step was the elevation a week ago of a sinus on my right side along with two implants. In a little more than a week, I’m scheduled to have the sinus elevated on the other side and three more implants. While all is healing, I cannot wear the denture, so that affects what I can eat.

Second, on April 26 my mother died at age 90. Because my brother Curtis died in September 2003, I am the sole executor. Liz and I have assumed the responsibility of emptying the house of my mother’s possessions and overseeing the distribution of the contents to her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. My nephew Brian and his wife Tina are buying the house and that simplifies the process of preparing for the formal sale. But it’s still a lot of work and we have spent more of our days this summer cleaning out the house than we have spent at our Heart Lake cottage.

Third, about May 18, which coincidentally was the 279th anniversary of the first publication of the Dunciad, I decided to publish my Master’s Essay on the Dunciad on the web. That project has grown into something larger that I initially anticipated, and it occupies a good deal of my time and intellectual energy. Still, the work on the house, the dental procedures, and the frequent trips back and forth between New York and Heart Lake have meant that I have less time to spend on that project than I wish I did.

Fourth, and most exciting, our daughter Jane and her husband Scott have just adopted a baby girl. Amanda Elizabeth was born a month ago in Texas. Jane and Scott went to Texas and picked her up when she was two weeks old. Five days later Liz and I met them at the airport in Hartford Connecticut and spent an hour with Amanda and her parents. Then Jane and Scott drove Amanda to their home in Vermont and we drove to Heart Lake.

I began this blog last October in part because of the interesting things that are going on in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion generally. At the time I had been reading blogs pretty regularly, following developments and occasionally commenting. I kept this up until I began the Dunciad project at which point I slacked off a little in my attention to the blogosphere. Then for about the past six weeks I’ve been thoroughly engaged and have had scant time for reading blogs and almost no time for blogging myself. This post for example, slight as it is, has taken me a week of snatched time to write.

But I sense that I’ll be getting back into the swing of things again as the days and weeks go on.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Flag Day

Here I am at our summer cottage in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, on June 14 and you would hardly know that it’s Flag Day. I haven’t seen a flag (at least to notice) all day. We’re here to get a small break from the city, but also to check in at my mother’s house so we don’t lose momentum in the cleanout.

When I’m not doing needed tasks, like mowing the lawn or burning brush, my main activity these days is editing the 1728 Dunciad. The other day I posted Book II and the notes (the notes are still in draft form) and now I am working on Book III.

When I was working on Book II, I noticed that Pope mentioned Bishop Benjamin Hoadley. A sermon Bishop Hoadley preached in 1717 before King George I prompted the Bangorian Controversy (Hoadley was Bishop of Bangor at the time) which was essentially about authority, doctrine, and polity in the Church of England and resulted in Convocation (the predecessor of General Synod) not meeting from 1717 to 1852 (because polity – the this case the royal prerogative – trumped.) Controversy among Anglicans has quite a history. I wish I knew more about the Bangorian Cntroversy.

While I am still wholly committed to my Dunciad project, as well as trying to keep up with Anglican and Episcopal developments, not to mention dealing with my mother’s estate, I am also tempted to get reinvolved as a beta tester for TMG (The Master Genealogist.) It was here at Heart Lake that I wrote the bulk of my two chapters of Getting the Most Out of The Master Genealogist. There is beta testing to do, but I don’t know whether I will be able to find the time to actually do any. Maybe I can be lightly involved for a while.


Next Tuesday, the singing group Howl (from Howl for vexation of spirit) is performing in the context of an evensong at St. Mary’s. We are doing two world premieres: A Blues Introit for Pentecost, by our director, Jonathan David, and God’s Grandeur by Ishmael Wallace, to a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. The Blues Introit is a setting of a short poem by David Craig:
Who is this Holy Spirit,
And what is He doing in the eggplant?

I haven’t practiced enough, but I expect to have a chance before the dress rehearsal Monday.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

June 6 Update

Well, today I finally published the first part of my Dunciad project on the web. A brief account of what I have done can be found at my Dunciad blog. So far I have published Book I of the 1728 Dunciad at my Dunciad page, part of my Geocities site.

It’s nearly two weeks since I last posted here. In these two weeks, Liz and I have spent two weekends at Heart Lake. The first one was Memorial Day weekend and, partly because we were exhausted, we missed church on Pentecost. This past weekend, we went to the Heart Lake United Methodist Church, which has become our summer church home. There were twelve regular attenders there this week – along with another summer couple, Liz and I swelled the attendance by a third to sixteen. Since their organist died last year, one of their faithful members has been playing the hymns on the piano, but even though she is very musical, she is not a very fluent pianist, and so she is always glad when Liz shows up. On Sunday, as she did all last summer, Liz played. The appreciation we (especially Liz) get for being there makes us want to be there as many Sundays as we can. We won’t be there this week, and next week (Father’s Day) we have a hard choice to make. The pastor, Joyce Allen, who has been there for five years will be moving on to nearby Windsor, NY, and the Heart Lake church is holding a special goodbye breakfast for her. Meanwhile, it is Father’s Day and as the senior man at St. Mary’s, I feel a call to be here in New York. I don’t know what we’re going to decide.

I almost forgot -- we also attended a talk at 815 Second Avenue at which the Rt Revd Christopher Epting, the Presiding Bishop's deputy for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, the Revd Canon Dr. J. Robert Wright of General Theological Seminary, and the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, Chairman of the Anglican Centre in Rome's Governors and Bishop of Wakefield, discussed some of the differences between the Church of England and the (US) Episcopal Church. I may later report on some of the interesting things I heard.


Two recent deaths caught my eye. John Macquarrie, the noted Anglican theologian, was a member of St. Mary’s when he was teaching at Union Theological Seminary up the hill from us. He was confirmed in the Episcopal Church at St. Mary’s and he served on the vestry until he was ordained deacon. He left St. Mary’s (and Union) to teach theology at Oxford.

The other was former New York State Senator Warren M. Anderson, of my home town, Binghamton, NY. He was very important in New York State politics for decades. Here is the obituary from the Binghamton Press and Sun Bulletin. (When I was a kid, there were the Binghamton Press in the afternoon, the Binghamton Sun in the morning, and the Endicott Bulletin.)

None of Warren Anderson’s obituaries noted that he was my mother's first boyfriend and she was his first girlfriend (when they were in Junior High School.)
“Andy” attended my mother’s funeral on May 5 and himself died four weeks later on June 1. This picture shows "Andy" (left) and my uncle Chuck Brink after the funeral.


The long march, first to September 30th and then on to Lambeth continues. I just followed a link at Father Jake's and signed a petition to Archbishop Rowan Williams at Soulforce asking the ABC to invite Gene Robinson to Lambeth. Meanwhile, the MadPriest of High Heaton reports on his flying trip to Rome and Grandmère Mimi tells us of going to the movies and of working in the movies, neither of which has much to do with Anglicanism.

I’m going back to my editing of the Dunciad.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


I cannot completely ignore the news this week that +Cantuar has sent out invitations to Lambeth and that Bp. Robinson is not invited, (although he may be invited as a guest) nor is Bp. Martyn Minns. I have said elsewhere (I forget where) that I thought the best course would be for both of them to be invited. (I am ignoring the boundary crossing issue.)

Tobias Haller has a characteristically wise post In a Godward direction: Invitations Sent and Withheld on the subject and I commented there, saying, in part:

The rebuke to +Abuja is palpable. But the snub to +New Hampshire is basically an unchristian act of scapegoating and wanton cruelty. If there was an offense to the wider communion, it was committed corporately by TEC and is not embodied in the person of V. Gene Robinson. (To be perfectly clear, in my not so humble opinion, the fact that many took offense does not mean that TEC gave offense, except insofar as prophetic actions may be said to give offense.)

Rick said It seems a sensible approach, in the absence of the will to call an assembly to simply decide the substantive issue.

It isn't a matter of will -- there is as yet no mechanism in the Anglican Communion to call an assembly that can decide any substantive issue except within a single province. The communion has been grappling with the question of authority for a long time now -- there have been lots of proposals but no resolution.
(I wish Blogger let me correct my typos in comments on other people's blogs. I corrected a typo when I quoted the comment here.)

And that's all I'll say for now on the "endgame. "

In the course of preparing my paper, I typed the complete 1728 text of the Dunciad in the summer of 1982 to use as a markup copy. Since I promised to post that text, I scanned the 35 pages yesterday, and began correcting the OCR interpretation of the scan. I have now finished correcting the scan of the 250 lines of Book I. I still need to make some formatting changes and it may be Tuesday before I can actually post the text of Book I. I expect I shall be posting it not on Blogger but at my Geocities site.

Why Tuesday
Well, tomorrow (that is, Friday) morning, Liz and I are going to our cottage at Heart Lake for the Memorial Day weekend and we will not have broadband until we come back on Tuesday. But since I can upload on dial up, anything is possible.l

Stay tuned.

Monday, May 21, 2007

So, what is this Dunciad and where can I find it?

Alexander Pope, according to Wikipedia the third most quoted author in the English language, was born May 21, 1688.

Last week I announced that I was returning to a project I have been engaged in for almost half a century – my paper on Alexander Pope’s Dunciad. I have not yet figured out exactly how to publish my paper on the web, but for a start I have made a separate blog – The Dunciad. This post is an extract of a post I have made there.

A blog is not the ideal medium for this kind of publication – primarily because, to quote Wikipedia, a blog is a website where entries are written in chronological order and displayed in reverse chronological order. But a blog provides an easy way for readers to give feedback, so for now that’s what I will use.

Many manuscripts of Pope’s poetry have survived, but there is no surviving manuscript of The Dunciad. We do have, however, what scholar Maynard Mack has called “collations” of manuscripts against the published text that a friend made for Pope in copies of two editions of The Dunciad. My Master’s Essay is about these "collations." At the time I wrote it my essay no complete transcription of the “collations” had been published.

In order to understand my essay, the reader should have at hand a copy of the text of The Dunciad as published.in 1728. Since this is not readily at hand, one of the things I am going to do is publish this text on the web, along with my essay.

To read more, see my blog The Dunciad.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Dunciad

On May 18, 1728, “The Dunciad. An Heroic Poem. In Three Books.” appeared. It bore the name of no author and contained misleading (that is, false) publication data: “Dublin, printed, London, reprinted for A. Dodd. 1728.” (The 1728 was true.)

Oddly enough, when I decided to post this today, I did not recall that the Dunciad appeared on May 18 (if I ever really knew) and this post is not inspired by the approaching anniversary. I’m getting tired of trying to say intelligent things about what Mark Harris refers to as the ”End Game” in the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion. I also find that I am spending far too much time reading blogs and especially too much time reading the comments on blogs.

For the past couple of years I have been returning to the topic of my Master’s Essay in English Literature at Columbia University. I began the essay in 1959 when I was a graduate student at Columbia and then left graduate school for twenty years working in the pension business (which did not give me a very good pension.) After I left the pension business to become a high school math teacher, I realized that the fastest way to hit the top salary level in the New York City schools was for me to finish that master’s degree at Columbia, so I returned to the essay and submitted it in April, 1983 and got the degree later that year. The title of the essay is “An Early Draft of The Dunciad” I got the top mark for it and it was suggested that I might wish to contact a journal about publication. Well, the piece is too long for the journal suggested, and I didn’t follow up then. I have recently decided to publish it on my own on the web. I did not pursue an academic career in English literature and I do not want to compete with scholars who are trying to make their own way. But this work is my own and I think it deserves the light of day.

I haven’t yet worked out exactly where I will post it – certainly not on this blog, but I may choose to blog here about my progress.

FWIW, my paper (as it stands) is a work of textual criticism and not of literary criticism.

I know I shall also continue to frequent the same blogs I do now and will continue to comment occasionally and to post here on Episcopal and Anglican topics. But I expect to be devoting a good deal of my attention to The Dunciad.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Black Waters

Last night we went to benefit concert held at St. Mary’s to Stop Mountain Top Removal, a form of “strip mining on steroids” that has devastated West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky and is now spreading into other parts of Appalachia . Most people who don’t live there have no idea that it is going on. We heard live mountain music and moving testimony from several people and the evening concluded with a stirring talk by Bobby Kennedy, Jr.

The musical star of the evening was Jean Ritchie , who is still going strong at 85. She played the dulcimer and sang, accompanied by hers sons, Jon and Peter Pickow. The first song she sang was Black Waters which she wrote in 1954, the year I graduated from high school. It was wonderful to hear her.

Cinco de Mayo (and beyond)

On Saturday, May 5, 2007, several important things happened but I want to focus on two church services.

In Woodbridge, Virginia, at a non-denominational “Christian Event Center” called Hylton Memorial Chapel, the Nigerian Anglican Primate installed the missionary bishop for CANA, the pretentiously named Convocation of Anglicans in North America. I find it odd that this schismatic service took place in a venue whose website proclaims “Dedicated to Reconciliation” (and in lighter, less prominent letters, ‘Unity, Reconciliation.” By all accounts it was a joyous service.

In Chenango Bridge, New York, at an Episcopal Church named St. Mark’s, a Celebration of the Life of Laura Louise Brink Mellen took place. It was a joyous Rite Two Burial Office and Eucharist, attended by about 60 persons, including all but four of her two dozen descendants and their spouses.
We sang “For All the Saints,” “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God,” and “The Strife is O’er,” and we heard scripture from Isaiah 61, 2 Corinthians, and John 11. The homily was given by my mother’s brother in law who is a retired Presbyterian minister. It was a fitting goodbye to my mother.

Liz and I came home (stopping briefly at our cottage at Heart Lake) after the funeral and it has taken me this long to get organized enough to post again. It's good to be back.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

First Gate of Heaven -- An Interlude

This is Yi Tian Men, the First Gate of Heaven, at the beginning of the long climb up Mount Tai (Tai Shan) in Taian, Shandong Province, China. Tai Shan is the first (Di Yi Shan) of the Five Sacred Mountains of China -- that is, the five original sacred mountains, often called Taoist -- when Buddhism came to China, the Buddhists selected another five mountains, so there are two sets of five sacred mountains. But Tai Shan is the only one that counts for me, because (a) the first time I was there, I climbed halfway up (to the Midway Gate of Heaven -- Zhong Tian Men) and took the cable car to the top, and (b) my father-in-law, his two brothers, and three of his four sisters were born in Tai An at the foot of the mountain.

Laura Mellen 1916-2007

My mother died from double pneumonia on Thursday, April 26. The picture above was taken at her 90th birthday party this past December. Here is a link to her obituary. I wrote a good deal of the obit, but it owes its good features to Liz. She found the picture and she composed the last few sentences, including the apt quotation from mother's tribute to her aunt Esther. We were working towards a deadline (which we missed.)

It is fortunate that we were in Binghamton when she was hospitalized -- in fact, we arrived at her room in the nursing home on Wednesday just as she was being taken to the ambulance. We spoke to her and then we got to the emergency room just behind the ambulance.

Liz just wrote this to a group of church friends: "Unlike many who are not quite so blessed, she had her wits about her all the way to the end, and was able to say to a beloved confidant just a couple of days before she went from nursing home--where she'd gone 3 weeks before for 24 hour supervised care--to hospital, that she was not as young as she was, was not herself, did not enjoy being in this weak state unable to function as she liked! and was ready to go. She was trying to say that to us, also, in the Emergency Room at the hospital Wednesday evening. Up until that time, she'd continued in good spirit albeit in a diminished way, to take on whatever was happening, to enjoy people and whatever life was offering. Pretty amazing."

After we spent a couple of hours with her in the emergency room, we went home to let down. (I was still in the third day of recovering from my dental ordeal.) According to what the doctor had told us before we left for the evening, I expected that mother would be admitted for a few days' stay and then return to the nursing home. She was admitted late Wednesday evening and died shortly before 8 a.m. Thursday. The nurse called us just about 7:30 and told us we should get there as fast as we could. By the time I got there, she was gone. Liz and I immediately went into high gear (actually it started with some calls I made on the cell phone on the way to the hospital.) Father Mark Giroux from St. Mark's got there shortly after we did and after we had some prayers, we went on in high gear until we were able to leave for home at about 11 on Friday morning.

To quote Liz again, "We are relieved for her now, and for ourselves as well. It has been a long watch."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

April 24

Well, although I am not in any notable pain or discomfort (except when I eat) I am still in recovery mode from my eight extractions yesterday. This morning my dentist told me that the denture I have is expected to replace about 30% of the natural function of teeth. Can that be? Does he mean all but thirty per cent? Oh well, it’s only until December – and in about a month or six weeks I’ll get the implants and have to go without the denture at all for a while.

I have a fairly full plate (of responsibilities – not, alas, of food.)
This evening is my last board meeting at Morningside Gardens. I’m lookingforward to being off the board, but, wonder of wonders, some of the very board members who worked hard to oust me as president are now saying they wished I had run for reelection and they will miss me on the board. Our Annual Meeting is next week, and again it looks like people are lining up to vote on ideological grounds – that is, based on positions that have very little to do with the candidates’ potential to be good board members. But perhaps I’ll be surprised.

Now that my mother has been in the nursing home for three weeks, it is time for a meeting to evaluate her progress and presumably reach the foregone conclusion that it is not safe for her to go home and live alone. At the same time, I have to provide information to determine her eligibility for Chronic Care medicaid. Much of the information requested I have already provided, so I have asked the examiner if she can find it in the computer system. In any case, it is possible that this coming weekend I will be involved in getting a lot of information together.

I'm still working on my comments on Rowan Williams Stuart Larkin Lecture in Toronto last week. meanwhile, I recommend Deirdre Good's comments.

Last evening I was channel flipping – something I rarely do – and came to National Velvet on TCM. Liz and I watched it - we missed the very beginning - and realized we had never actually watched it, even though our daughter Jane’s cousin Butch Jenkins was in it

Monday, April 23, 2007

April 23 -- Part II

Well, having all those teeth pulled took two hours, but it was not as hard to endure as I thought it might be. Now I have a denture which I have to get used to. Now that the anesthesia has worn off, I am surprised that the discomfort is not more. So I am able to pick up where I left off.

Yesterday Liz and I played a brief visit to the Antiquarian Book Fair held in the Seventh Regiment Armory on Park Avenue. It was the first time I had been on the drill floor since I left the regiment in 1966. (It was actually called the 1st Battalion 107th Infantry then.) Our time at the show was limited – we got there later than we had planned because, (a) after church was a follow up meeting to plan on implementing some of the ideas developed at last Sunday’s all day session and, (b) traffic was snarled because the Greek Independence Day parade was occupying Fifth Avenue. We left after being there only a short time because we were going to a concert by soprano Elizabeth Baber and our friend Ishmael Wallace at the Nicholas Roerich Museum. One of the pieces was a new song cycle of four Pre-Raphaelite poems set by Ishmael. The whole concert was a wonderful experience.

Father Christopher Hofer linked to my draft of an answer to the questions put forth in Executive Council’s study guide on the draft proposed Anglican Covenant. (That’s a complicated sentence – all those prepositonal phrases and links.) Christopher promised to post his own thoughts at a later date. I look forward to them. I know a lot of people want to “just say no” to the covenant and I sympathize, but I also believe it is important for as many of us as possible to participate in the process set out by Executive Council.

My next post will be on Rowan Williams’ recent talk on reading scripture.

April 23

Today is a big day for me. This morning I am going to have eight teeth pulled in preparation for implants. I have no idea how I will feel after the work is done -- whether I will be wiped out or not. As hard as I try, I cannot help feeling somewhat apprehensive.

I had hoped to write something more substantial, but it'll have to wait until I get home.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

To your holy Church peace and concord -- from the Good Friday liturgy

I don’t pretend to be a trained theologian, a biblical scholar, or a church historian. I don’t pretend to be an original thinker. However, for the past 50 years I have been a member of St. Mary’s, an Episcopal Church that has stood since 1823 on a site in the historic village of Manhattanville on a street that predates Alexander Hamilton’s rectangular grid plan for the streets and avenues of Manhattan. This past Sunday, Low Sunday, we at St. Mary’s spent a full day in reflecting together on the state and future of our parish. What I have to say in the rest of this post is informed by that experience.

There were three interesting developments on Monday that I want to respond to. One was a talk given by Archbishop Rowan Williams in Toronto on reading the bible. The second was a press conference in which the said archbishop announced he would be meeting with the US House of Bishops in September. The third was a study guide released by Executive Council on the draft Anglican Covenant. The study guide includes 14 questions. I am going to make a stab at answering them here.

N.B.: What follows is admittedly sketchy. For one thing, I am referring to but not quoting the Draft Covenant itself, nor have I provided any links. I expect to flesh this out in coming days.

“The Report of the Covenant Design Group”

(1) Do you think an Anglican Covenant is necessary and/or will help to strengthen the interdependent life of the Anglican Communion? Why or why not?

My immediate answer is that I do not think an Anglican Covenant is necessary nor would it help to strengthen the interdependent life of the Anglican Communion. The closing paragraph of the Report of the Covenant Design Group contains the giveaway statement, “What is to be offered in the Covenant is not the invention of a new way of being Anglican, but a fresh restatement of the faith which we as Anglicans have received.” Of course it’s an invention of a new way of being Anglican. For specifics, see the answers to questions 8, 9, and 10.

“An Introduction to a Draft Text for an Anglican Covenant”

How closely does this view of communion accord with your understanding of the development and vocation of the Anglican Communion?

Except for the reference to a “need for mutual discipline,” this section, although it does not reflect historical realities, presents a pretty good statement of where we are now, or at least where we ought to be. If there is to be a covenant at all, this statement should suffice.

“An Anglican Covenant Draft”
1. Preamble

(3) Is this a sufficient rationale for entering into a Covenant? Why or why not?

Perhaps it would be, except that we don't need a covenant of this kind.

2. The Life we Share

(4) Do these six affirmations adequately describe The Episcopal Church’s understanding of “common catholicity, apostolicity, and confession of faith”? Why or why not?

There are several tendentious words and phrases in these six points that should be omitted. For example in the first affirmation, the word “true” is unnecessary.

The second affirmation omits the role of tradition and traditional interpretation. The catholic creeds, for example, do not merely repeat what is set forth in scripture, but are the result of a long process of discernment. The word “uniquely” is tendentious and problematic. The expression “rule and ultimate standard of faith” is susceptible of an interpretation that I thought Richard Hooker had laid to rest for Anglicans long age.

The reference to the elements in the third affirmation is needlessly tendentious.

The references to the Thirty-nine Articles and the 1662 Prayer Book in the fifth affirmation are tendentious and unhistorical.

For these and perhaps other reasons, these six affirmations do not adequately describe the Episcopal Church’s understanding of “common catholicity, apostolicity and confession of faith.”

(5) The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (of the Church of England) are not currently authoritative documents for The Episcopal Church. Do you think they should be? Why or why not?

They should not be authoritative because they never have been. Massey Hamilton Shepherd, Jr. reports in The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary the judgement of Bishop William White who “reported the sentiments of the various members of the House of Bishops at the 1792 convention.” Bishop Seabury “considered that ‘all necessary doctrine should be comprehended in the Liturgy,’” and Bishop White “considered that ‘the doctrines of the Gospel may be expressed more satisfactorily' than they are in the Articles, and that there is no reason to ‘arrogate to them perpetuity.’” White concluded that the church needed to be “more stable and unified in its beliefs and in its reputation” before taking on the Articles or an attmpte to revise them.
But perhaps we could have a new version of Article XIX which explicitly acknowledges that Lambeth and Primates Meetings (and, of course, even General Convention) are as susceptible to error as the “Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch.”

3. Our Commitment to Confession of Faith

(6) Is each of these commitments clear and understandable with respect to what is being asked of the member churches and are they consistent with statements and actions made by the Episcopal Church in the General Convention? Why or why not?

As long as the expression “bishops and synods” is taken to include our General Convention, these commitments are consistent with statements and actions of the Episcopal Church.

4. The Life we Share with Others

(7) Is the mission vision offered here helpful in advancing a common life of the Anglican Communion and does this need to be a part of the Draft Covenant? Why or why not?

I have a feeling that the word “interdependent” is tendentious. The five commitments are on target.

5. Our Unity and Common Life

(8) Does this section adequately describe your understanding of the history and respective roles of the “Four Instruments of Communion”? Why or why not?

In paragraph one, the “central role of bishops as custodians of faith” seems tendentious.
In paragraph two, “described as automonous” should be simply “autonomous.”

The Lambeth Conference does not historically have the function of guarding the faith and unity of the communion. The whole notion of guarding begs the question of guarding against what threat and from whom.

The description of the Primates’ Meeting as working in “doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters” is innovative at best.

The restriction of the Anglican Consultative Council to “ecumenical and mission work” is a blatant power grab by the Primates.

6. Unity of the Communion

(9) Do you think there needs to be an executive or judicial body for resolving disagreements or disputes in the Anglican Communion? If so, do you think it should be the Primates Meeting as recommended by the Draft Covenant? Explain.

Reading the five commitments together, it is clear that the contemplated resolution of disagreements excludes the best possibility which is “agreeing to disagree.” There is no need for a judicial body to help reach that agreement.

(10) What does the phrase “a common mind about matters of essential concern. . .” mean to you?

It appears to me that there are four (or five and possibly six) major areas of concern in the Communion – and that to reach a common mind on all of them will take years.
First, the place of women in the ministry of the church, including Holy Orders.
Second, the matter of human sexuality, including but not limited to the place of LBGT persons in the ministry of the church, including Holy Orders and the blessing of same-sex unions.
Third, the authority and interpretation of scripture, especially in areas of disputed interpretations.
Fourth, the question of overlapping jurisdictions and boundary crossing.
Fifth, which of the four preceding areas of concern are “essential.”
Sixth, how to proceed when there is not agreement on these matters.

Uniformity of opinion is not historically a characteristic of Anglicanism,

7. Our Declaration

(11) Can you affirm the “fundamental shape” of the Draft Covenant? Why or why not?

No. The shape of the Draft Covenant is inextricably bound up with parts of it the are innovative and, to me at least, unAnglican.

(12) What do you think are the consequences of signing such a Covenant as proposed in the Draft?

We would be taking a step in the direction of setting up a world wide church with centralized authority along the lines of the Roman Catholic Church. It would be the end of Anglicanism as we know it.

Concluding Questions:
(13) Having read the Draft Covenant as a whole do you agree with the CDG’s assertion that “nothing which is commended in the draft text of the Covenant can be said to be ‘new’”? Why or why not?

No. I have pointed out many new things above. The two most important are the notion that a uniformity of interpretation should replace diversity and that there should be a centralized authority with disciplinary powers.

(14) In general, what is your response to the Draft Covenant taken as a whole? What is helpful in the draft? What is not-helpful? What is missing? Additional comments?

It is unAnglican, at least as I perceive Anglicanism. It is a step backwards from a diversity that is as old as 1690 when the Scottish Episcopal Church was differentiated from the Church of Scotland.
Some of the generalities might be helpful

2nd N.B. In the next part, I will deal with the Archbishop of Canterbury's talk on scripture and with his announced visit to TEC's House of Bishops.

Right now, I have to go to Binghamton again to see my mother. Well, I don't actually have to, but I would feel terrible if I didn't.

Monday, April 09, 2007


Rex and I developed an interest in paintings and we had two favorite painters, Michelangelo Merisi who died in 1610 and Jan Vermeer who was born in 1632. When I say they were favorite, I mean that we made an effort to see as many of their paintings as possible. Today, Mimi posted a version of the Supper At Emmaus by Merisi, showing a male waiter (possibly a butler?) In the picture at the right, the server is a woman. Too bad it's a forgery and not by Vermeer. I have seen almost all of the genuine Vermeers, and although I have absolutely no formal training in art, I still have a good eye and I cannot understand how Bredius was able to authenticate this painting as a Vermeer. Of course I have not seen the original, so I mustn't be too judgemental.

At MadPriest's (I won't even dignify his rabbity defacement of the Emmaus by more than mentioning it) there was a rabbity Venus which counterlight spotted as based on a Lotto in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I stopped haunting the Met in1975, so I didn't recognize this 1986 purchase. I note it is a gift of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, who also gave (with her husband,) this Vermeer,

which was on loan to the Met when Rex was alive) so he saw it. (Liz and I have seen at least two Vermeers that Rex never saw (although he saw some that Liz has not seen, but I digress.)

Several years ago I heard a sermon, I forget who was the preacher but I think I may have heard it at Riverside Church on an Easter afternoon, -- a sermon in which it pointed out that we do not know the genders of the two who were walking to Emmaus so possibly they were a man and wife. In paintings they are always portrayed as two men. Since one has a presumably male name, Cleopas, it is unlikely that they were two women.

I didn't mention in my earlier posts this weekend that during the past week (Holy Week, ) I have been reading Is the Bible True? by David Robert Ord and Robert B. Coote. One of the points the authors make is that the gospels are written largely in what now seems to be trendily called "tensive language," rather than "steno language." Simply put, what this means is that the truth of the stories in the Bible does not depend on whether they are factual but rather on their meaning. Thus, it doesn't really make sense to inquire into "what really happened" as if the story was a description of an event that could have been caught on camera.

I close with the suggestion that the forged Vermeer, because it is a forgery, offers a particular insight into the meaning of the Emmaus story and the knowledge of the Resurrection for us today. We can only tell the story as we have received it and filtered it through our own experience and interpretive biases.


I am writing this at the desk in my mother's apartment and I just looked up and saw a print of another Dutch painting, Rembrandt's 1640 Company of Frans Banning Cocq. The story of this painting and its name (to which I merely allude) goes to illustrate the poiunt I am trying to make.

Still Easter Monday

Today I drove up to Binghamton from New York to see my mother and take care of a few things at her apartment. I came back to the apartment after sitting with her for an hour after her supper. After I did the wash from her final two days here last week, I decided that I just had to let down and I began checking blogs and looking around her apartment.

I picked up a notebook I didn’t recognize and it fell open to this poem.


On Easter Day, dear Jesus Christ
Arose from out the grave.
He died upon the cross for us
Our sinful souls to save.

And so at Easter Time we go
To Sunday School to learn
About our loving Savior;
To be like Him we yearn.

And e’en when Easter’s over
We try to be like Him,
Because we know he’d have us
Be good and avoid sin.

Laura .... Written at age 12 - March 27, 1929