Anglo-Catholicism and the Role of the Church

As the orthodox Anglican alternatives to the TEC grow in strength, it has become pretty clear that the #1 division–in addition to the proliferation of purple shirts–that looms is the Anglo/Catholic vs. Evangelical divide.  A little history needs to be told to put this in perspective.

When Parliament passed the Act of Supremacy, the control of the Roman Catholic church in England and Wales passed from the Pope to the Crown.  As long as Henry VIII was alive, that was the biggest change (other than the dissolution of the monasteries) that took place.  It was under Edward VI that the move towards a more “Protestant” church began and, following the last attempt to reverse the Act under Mary, was completed by Elizabeth I.  (There’s that female headship again!)

As we documented in Taming the Rowdies, the question for the next century and a half was just how Protestant the church would be.  After the unpleasant adventure that was Oliver Cromwell, the country decided that it had had enough of such questions and the Church of England slept through most of the eighteenth century, shaken only by Wesley and his friends who were taking Protestant Christianity away from its Augustinian obsession and into a new era of revival.

The nineteenth century saw things go in two different directions.

The first was towards Evangelicalism, with laymen such as Wilberforce and prelates such as J.C. Ryle.  Under these the Church of England was seen as a church with an outreach to lost souls, along with social action such as the abolition of slavery.  In many ways the Global South provinces were born in this movement, which explains why many of them tend towards the “Protestant” side of Anglicanism.

The second was the Oxford Movement, with men such as Newman and Manning.  The appeal of this was a combination of aesthetic (a strong component in the TEC’s growth after World War II and its ability to hold on as well as it has) and a desire for unity.  One of the great weaknesses of Anglicanism is that its status as a creature of the English monarchy has pretty much restricted it to the Anglophone world, which has limited it culturally and spiritually.  Reaching across the English Channel broadens this, but most of its leaders were forced to “swim the Tiber” as many Anglo-Catholics have since.

Both of these streams have flowed into the Anglican/Episcopal river ever since.  Liberalism is a rude interruption in this “discussion” (a favourite liberal term) but without the liberals resolving this question becomes more earnest.

The strongest argument for Anglo-Catholicism is that the objective is to repair the breach caused by the Act of Supremacy and contribute towards the reuniting of the church.  But we need to answer one crucial question: what kind of church are we moving towards?

Anglo-Catholics will point out that they are simply moving from one liturgical church to another.  They will also point out that many distinctively “Catholic” practices such as devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary and of course the transubstantiated Eucharist (the “sacred pledge,” as Bossuet put it) have long roots in Christian practice.  What they will not point out is that Roman Catholicism’s concept of the church changes the entire nature of Christianity.

As we saw in We May Not Be a Church After All, Roman Catholicism makes two key claims.  The first is that it is the true church.  The second is that it, as the church, it is a formal intermediary between man and God.  To go to heaven, therefore, one must not only have a relationship with the Saviour, but with the only church he allegedly founded.  Although Roman Catholic teaching allows for ignorance to factor into whether a person outside of the Catholic church is barred from eternal life, basically the church teaches that, if a person has any reason to believe that the Roman Catholic church is the true church, it will cost them their eternity if they do not join it.

This has several important implications that need to be understood.

The first is that the church can basically decide who enters into eternal life and who doesn’t.  Fortunately the Catholic church has a great deal of canon law which restricts the ability of its priests and bishops to excercise that authority, but the basic power remains.

The second is that, just as the church can define the eternal destiny of its adherents, it can also redefine the means by which they get there.  Anglo-Catholics point with pride with the conservative direction the Vatican has taken since 1978, but, like the Cold War, it could have gone another way.  (Another example of Boomer triumphalism that needs to be muted!)

The third is that the strength of the Roman Catholic liturgy depends upon the strength of the church, and not the other way around.  In Anglo-Catholic and Orthodox settings, the “smells and bells” and correct performance of the liturgy are central to projecting the strength of the church, which is why changes in same are a real disaster.  Roman Catholic Mass can be a very breezy, informal (and rushed) production, complete with rotten music, but the “sacred mystery” is the same as it would be at the Vatican because the church said it was so.

We find it hard to believe that most Anglo-Catholics would seriously consider union with Rome under these conditions.  It would have certainly sidetracked my own “swim of the Tiber” many years ago if I had fully grasped it, but then again Catholicism under Paul VI was a “wild West” kind of affair; that has certainly changed in the intervening years.

So this is something that Anglo-Catholics needs to consider.  It is a topic we have reviewed before.  But the Evangelicals have issues of their own, and we will discuss these in a future post.

Nothing New Under the Sun: A Look at Current Events From the Past

There’s a good deal going on these days, and we’re tempted to comment on a lot of it.  Problem is, we already have in many cases.  So, just to make sure you know we haven’t fallen asleep at the switch–or for those who didn’t read it the first time–our idea is as follows:

  • Barack Obama’s running agony with his racial identity would be a lot easier on him and the rest of us if identity politics could be pulled off of the stage of post-modern politics, as we envisioned in The Best Seat on the Bus.
  • The secularists’ agressive stance is a front for their present state of panic (Circling the Wagons Around Evolution)
  • The Libby trial is a farce (Scooting on Down the Road)
  • All of the hot air about global warming (the CO2 we put out when we talk) is just that without a solution, but no one has the nerve to go through with it, although the conservatives are at least waking up to the fact that we need to stop funding Islamicists by our oil dependency (The Obvious Solution)
  • Hillary Clinton’s campaign is the most serious problem we’re facing right at the monent for reasons few are talking about (Finishing the Job: A Watergate Reflection)
  • The chief objective of all of the radical leaders in the Middle East–both Sunni (bin Laden) and Shi’ite (Ahmadinejad) is to take the oil wealth and Islamic seat that is Saudi Arabia (They’d Rather Take Riyadh, Osama’s Real Objective).  And the best way to fix the problem is to keep them at each other’s throats.
  • The Roman Catholic church in the UK (and the CofE as well) are finding out that It’s Not About Freedom Any More, especially when the homosexuals are involved, in the whole row over gay adoptions.
  • We predicted in A Punch in the Face for Capitalism that more and more American capital would flow into private corporations rather than risk the liabilities imposed by the Sarbanes-Oxley law.  Although this is doubtless going on, the greater reality is actually worse: capital for new ventures is moving to London and Hong Kong, weakening New York’s status as the financial centre of the world.  This has induced panic in left wingers by Chuck Schumer, but they should have thought of this before they passed such legislation.  This trend may be the greatest threat to the status of the U.S. as the world’s superpower that is out there, at least in the short term.

At the Inlet: Introduction and Synopsis to Paludavia


At The Inlet is the immediate sequel to Paludavia, “the swamp road,” which takes place on the semi-tropical Island.  It is a sequel to that adventure only in the broadest sense of the word.  In the previous work, we saw royalty and their ministers drawn into a life or death struggle for the survival of not only their way of life but also the way of life of the entire Island.  The result of this was the war that changed everything, and not only those nations that were directly involved.

With the war over, those who were the direct participants in this adventure (which they blithely referred to as “the trip”) had other matters to deal with, matters of home and family, matters of romance, and the matter of their relationships with God.  Although the Island’s (and in particular Serelia’s) very specific situation always puts things in its own mould, we turn from wars and conquests of nations to the interaction of individuals, a realm we all must live with from day to day.

For those who have not read Paludavia, which is prologue to this work, we present a brief summary of that adventure, and how it connects with the present narrative.

Synopsis of Paludavia

The story begins on 28 February.  After a long and agonising conflict, the Serelian Kingdom acknowledged the inevitable and gave its southern half independence as the Drahlan Kingdom.  To formalise the process after a three-year cease-fire, they sent Crown Prince George, last surviving son of Serelian King Adam, to the Drahlan capital of Barlin for the formal ceremony of independence.  George had suspicions about the recent activities of Serelian ally Verecunda, and he arranged a meeting with Drahla’s head of government and Royal Counsellor, Terry Marlowe, who years ago had fled the left-wing regime in Verecunda and who was also a Pentecostal minister.  He presented his suspicions about the place.  Terry responded that she would consult Drahlan King Henry, which she did, along with Crown Prince William and Prince Dennis.  After a tense session, Henry decided to send Terry and William to Serelia to pursue the matter further.

They went to Serelia via Drago and Fort Albert, Drahla’s most prosperous cities, which were chafing under both the tax load and the lack of representative government.  When they reached Serelia in the afternoon of 3 March, they had a formal audience with King Adam and attended a reception in their honour.  While there Terry was confronted by her brother, Richard Marlowe, a Verecundan Special Envoy, who drug up Terry’s past in font of everyone, including her date rape at her prep school prom, her problems with drugs and prostitution, and her flight into the eastern part of the Island after her encounter with Jesus Christ.

After this they met with King Adam, who proposed that Terry, George and George’s wife Darlene travel on the Serelian royal yacht to Verecunda and places in between to attempt to determine just what the Verecundans were doing.  The next day Terry and William attended church at the Cathedral in Serelia, which was a part of Serelia’s Anglican state church.  William returned to Barlin and Terry spent the afternoon with Canon Desmond Lewis of the Cathedral and his family, where she described her dramatic conversion experience and fielded a large number of questions about her activity as a Pentecostal minister.

Terry, George and Darlene left Serelia the next day (6 March) on the royal yacht. They travelled until they reached the Avalon Retreat, located on a small island off of Alemara.  Started by a Catholic priest named James Avalon and other refugees from Verecunda twenty years before, it was Terry’s home from the time it was started until she left as a lay missionary in Cresca.  Her mission had ended in disaster for Avalon, as she left the Catholic Church and became a Pentecostal minister while in Cresca.  This made her welcome less than wholehearted on Avalon’s part; however, she was able to visit those in the retreat while George got a summary of the grim record of religious persecution on the part of the Verecundan government, including their requirements that all religious groups adhere to their Six Statements, a manifesto that required humanistic or New Age beliefs to be adopted.

They spent two days at the Retreat before crossing the sound on 9 March to Alemara, which with Verecunda’s problems had become the commercial centre of the Island.  George and Darlene were whisked away to a meeting with the government, leaving Terry stranded at the dock.  This was not entirely a snub, because she was met by and had a long French lunch with Pierre des Cieux, a former automotive components sales representative and general “man about the Island.”  Des Cieux told her many things about current Island affairs, but the most significant thing he revealed to her was that Darlene was in fact the kid sister of Ronald Amherst, the great Serelian general who had killed Terry’s husband Max Serlin in battle and personally shot her infant son David during the war before dying at the Battle of South Barlin.

This revelation was a shock to Terry; she went to the Alemaran guesthouse and sulked for several hours.  This pity party came to an abrupt halt that evening when a Verecundan embassy official attempted to kidnap her for bounty, an attempt that ended with Terry flushing his head down the commode prior to his arrest by Alemaran authorities.

Terry herself met with the Alemaran government the following day.  That evening the three went to an expatriate party at the Aloxan embassy, the diplomatic mission of the Island’s only predominantly black nation.  After this Terry went to sit at the dock, but was joined by Darlene. George had forced his wife to go there in order to save the mission.  The two women decided to try reconciliation, which they attempted to carry out on a shopping trip the next day while they and George attempted to secure an invitation to Vidamera and to insure they all had diplomatic immunity to go to Verecunda.

The following Monday (13 March) they went to Vidamera city to see the irresponsible Vidameran King Francis.  He was in usual form; George and Darlene found themselves on a deep sea fishing expedition while Terry went to the local Catholic church to see Pierre’s son, Monsignor Raymond des Cieux.  They had a discussion about why they ended up having to leave Verecunda.  When she stepped out of the church, she was confronted with a group of armed men who took her to their boss’ “hideout.”  Their boss turned out to be Count Michael of West Vidamera, who was supposed to be a Verecundan ally but had actually soured on his “ally” because of his father’s assassination and other problems.  They went skeet and trap shooting and he returned her to the palace for another uneventful reception.

The trio’s audience with Francis was unproductive.  As they left town, they were ambushed by bounty hunters; they were rescued by Count Michael’s men, who helped them get safe passage back to Alemara.  When they returned, they found that the Verecundan government had given in to their demands and issued letters of immunity to all three of them.

The next day (15 March) they took the yacht to Verecunda.  They were greeted in Druid style by Seamus Gallen, Verecunda’s Foreign Minister.  They were taken to the Elaron Beach Hotel, which Terry’s grandfather and uncle had built.  It was here that the import of Terry ancestry—her grandfather, Lucian Gerland, had been in his day the wealthiest man on the Island—started to sink into the royals and especially Darlene.  That evening they were given a reception by the Finance and Foreign Ministries, and it was there that Terry ran into a childhood friend, Cathy Arnold, who was an officer with the Verecundan Central Bank.

The next day they were taken to a “model school” by Patricia Langley-Cox, Terry’s cousin and the Minister of Education.  The program at the school was shattered by an invasion of left wing rioters, who forced the entire school—children, guests and all—into buses so they could leave.  They ended up at the Presidential Palace, where they wasted the afternoon in a verbal sparring match with President Lillith Connolly and her advisors.

That evening George and Darlene attended a “cultural” event, but Terry had dinner with Cathy Arnold.  It was only here that Terry learned the truth: the Verecundans had concluded an “economic development package” with the Claudian Kingdom that essentially involved the takeover of virtually every institution in the country by one Verecundan ministry or another.  Terry now knew the peril they were in; even in its weakened state, Verecunda would be able to take over a divided Island one loan at a time.

The next morning Terry and Darlene went to the beach to go over what they knew.  When they were done they realised they would have to leave.  George came back from the Serelian embassy to announce that the yacht had been seized and that he was ready to get out, but their exit was blocked by an official from the Ministry of the Environment, who attempted to arrest them.  Her arrest was foiled by Darlene, who exploded at the official with such authority that they were able to take her car right in front of her and flee, first to Point Collina and then into occupied Collina proper.

They were eventually captured by Collinan rebels, lead by Andy Dell.  After some time of eluding capture and a late night meeting, they decided to go to Aloxa to secure help.  They left early Sunday morning (19 March) in a boat that headed up the coast past Collina town and into Aloxan waters, arriving at Beran in time for Sunday morning church at the Beran Pentecostal Church.  Terry preached and afterwards the trio had dinner at the parsonage, but they had arranged with the provincial governor to meet with Aloxan King Leslie later that afternoon.

On the way to Aloxa town, Darlene drilled Terry with many questions about Terry’s faith.  When they arrived at the Aloxan palace, they were awed at the size and beauty of the place.  Leslie received them; upon hearing about the seizure of the yacht and the deal with the Claudians, he called his advisors together and had an extended meeting to discuss what might be done.

The next day Leslie took the three back to a large mansion to the west of the palace, which he announced was the old Amherst estate, which were Darlene’s ancestors.  He also revealed a secret that very few remembered: that Darlene’s great-grandfather Theodore had married a daughter of the last King of Beran, making Darlene a direct descendant of that monarchy.  Leslie then explained his “vision” with the three “cords” of the Island: Beran, represented by George and Darlene; Verecunda and the commercial states, represented by Terry, and the black Aloxans, represented by Leslie.  He stated that the Island would only have peace and prosperity if the three cords could be put back together, which was being done in their presence.  He also announced that Aloxa was going to war against Verecunda, and already mobilising.

That evening Terry spent time with Leslie and Queen Arlene where she presented the case for Christianity to Leslie.  Early the next morning Terry’s prayer time was interrupted by Darlene, who was frantic about taking a direct invasion approach as opposed to a more indirect one some of the Aloxans were advocating.  The three eventually presented this to the Aloxans and they agreed.  George and Darlene left Aloxa town that afternoon for the main front; Terry stayed behind with the North Army Group, which would come in behind the main unit.

The invasion started on 22 March.  Terry—with backup from Christian Queen Arlene—prayed over the troops in Aloxa, after which the whole army moved out.  The main group in the south wiped out the border post and raced to Uranus town, only to find that they could not get there fast enough to get suitable field position south of town against the Verecundans.  Taking a plan from a field commander, they partially evacuated the town and lured the Verecundans into Uranus, where the Aloxans cut the Verecundan armour to pieces.  With that the infantry resistance collapsed, and the rest of the Verecundans fled south, the Aloxans in pursuit.

Army Group North came in behind but went to Jersey Heights, where they defeated the Sacred Band of the Inland Police.  From there they made a dash to the crossroads with the main road, where they captured the field command of the Verecundan army.  They were eventually able to trap and receive the surrender of the rest of the Verecundan army.  The Aloxans then went forward to capture Fort Stevenson, the airport and its environs in preparation for invading the city proper.

Established in Fort Stevenson, all of the dignitaries were in the Officers’ Club when they noticed Prince Peter, Leslie’s youngest son, with a Verecundan army officer.  With the help of Darlene’s nosiness, they found her to be Julia Stanley, a Christian whose parents had died in prison for their faith.  They also found out that Peter had decided to take Julia as his wife, as a spoil of war.  Julia spent the night with Terry, who spent time in prayer with her as Julia set out on her new life.

Peter and Julia were taken back to Aloxa early the next morning. After overcoming shortages of just about everything, the Aloxans proceeded down Central Avenue to take the city.  Their advance was delayed by another protest, which they broke up by shooting into the crowd.  They then went to the Presidential Palace, where the surrender was interrupted by Richard Marlowe.  He launched into a monologue about the reasons for Verecunda’s left-wing regime, which so angered one of Leslie’s guards that he shot Richard dead in front of everyone.  At this Terry went into hysterics and had to be taken to an office, where Darlene helped calm Terry down with herbs provided with the help of Maeve Martin, an herbalist with the Verecundan Ministry of Health.

Leaving his brother Desmond with the task of controlling Verecunda, Leslie took George to the port, where they reviewed the marines there and reflected on the cost and the worth of the whole adventure.

The next day (24 March) Terry went to Point Collina to see her mother, who was in a care facility.  She found her mother unable to communicate or move as a result of a stroke; she also found her Uncle Ernie, who berated her for her “betrayal” of her family and country.  Terry went to the Point, where Pierre des Cieux tried to put the whole thing in a greater perspective.  After that Terry went to the Yacht Club with Andy Dell for lunch; while leaving, she met a frantic Cathy Arnold, who begged her to take her away from Verecunda altogether, which she agreed to.

The evening was taken up by the Golden Light ceremony for Richard Marlowe, which was done in pagan style by Seamus Gallen and the Druids.  The end of the ceremony was the lighting of the funeral boat with Richard’s body on it.  It was also visible across the bay as well at the care facility.

Having recovered the yacht, next day the three left for Alemara with Cathy Arnold.  While under way Terry laid out the plan of salvation to both Cathy and Darlene, and both became Christians as a result of this.

Cathy and Terry returned to Barlin on 27 March; Terry baptised Cathy on Easter Sunday (16 April) with a challenge to evangelise the whole Island. This is the actual end of Paludavia.  George and Darlene returned to Serelia on 29 March. Just before Easter Darlene’s first pregnancy was announced.

Transition to At The Inlet

The six weeks between the end of one work and the beginning of the next one are not very long in time but contain some important events, some of which are explained in the narrative and some of which are not.

Peter and Julia were married on 1 April; they started their honeymoon in a remote area of Serelia but after Easter joined George, Darlene and Prince Dennis and Princess Andrea of Drahla on a hunting expedition.  This had three important outcomes: it bonded the diverse royals together in general, it was an important time of discipleship for Darlene with the two other Christian princesses, and the six put forth the “New Beran Initiative,” a manifesto of cooperation between the three countries which at one time had been part of Beran’s empire.  This manifesto was accepted by all three countries, but events would overshadow this very progressive step.  Peter and Julia went on to Barlin and Drago on 25 April for the remainder of their honeymoon, where they saw the country and attended Pentecostal church in Barlin.  The two honeymooners returned to Uranus on 4 May to the mess that is described in the narrative.

The Aloxan occupation of Uranus and Verecunda got off to a rocky start.  Uranus’ situation is alluded to in the narrative.  Verecunda’s was a constant uproar, with problems posed by a resurgent CPL. Prince Desmond was also forced to deal with external problems as well; he ended up in a pattern of playing off Verecunda’s creditors against human rights activists, which stalled either group from taking action against him.

Darlene’s salvation brought important changes to her life and the life of those around her at a time when her pregnancy induced changes enough.  Her difficult relationship with Queen Annette began to improve.  Unfortunately the Church of Serelia ministers around her—especially Bishop Weston Collingswood and Canon Desmond Lewis—were either unable or unwilling to adequately deal with her questions and her need for discipleship, and so her whole Christian journey was placed in jeopardy from the very start.

Terry’s situation in Barlin was becoming difficult but for an entirely different reason.  Drahla was a “composite” state, made up partly of chartered “free” cities such as Drago and Cresca and partly old Serelian royal estates such as around Barlin and in the northwest.  The details of how to properly govern such a country were extensively delayed, first by the war of independence and then by the “limbo” of the cease-fire.  After formal independence, though, the chartered cities pushed for a more democratic system, while King Henry tried to go on with an absolute monarchy modified by the existing charters, a course that Terry, as Royal Counsellor, favoured both out of principle and as a practical matter.  By the middle of May the cities—especially Drago—had decided to “call the King’s bluff” on the issue and press for representative government.  This meeting took place on 2 June; it is the aftermath of this meeting that begins At The Inlet.

Eternity is Still What Matters

In our posting on the “contract on the Episcopalians,” we referenced a comment by the new Presiding Bishop about her disparagement of the importance of eternal life.  It’s probably worthwhile to reproduce that particular dialogue (ADG is the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; KJS is of course Katherine Jefferts-Schori):

ADG: That reminds me of something else you said. This was a CNN interview when Kyra Phillips asked you what happens when we die. You had an interesting answer that got some Southern Baptists riled up.

KJS: OK. I didn’t hear their reaction.

ADG: Al Mohler – I don’t know whether you’re familiar with him –

KJS: I’m not.

ADG: He’s a seminary president [at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville] and has a blog and a radio show. [Mohler posted the exchange on his Web site]. It seemed to some people that you were saying there isn’t an afterlife.

KJS: I don’t think Jesus was focused on that. I think Jesus was focused on heaven in this life, primarily. The Judeo-Christian tradition has always said yes, there is resurrection. There is life after death. But I think Jesus was not so worried about that. I think he’s worried about what we’re doing to treat our fellow human beings as children of God. He says the kingdom of heaven is among you, and within you, and around you.

ADG: So does that mean that in your view there is no afterlife?

KJS: That’s not what I said. I said what I think Jesus is more concerned about is heavenly existence, eternal life, in this life.

ADG: So there again, that’s partly why the Millennium Development Goals are important to you? To improve people’s lives now?

KJS: Absolutely. The Anglican tradition of Christianity is world-affirming, it is focused on incarnation, and it insists that we’re not meant to shut ourselves off from the world in a pietistic sense or in a sectarian sense. That we’re meant to be in the world, and transforming the world into something that looks more like the reign of God.

ADG: Do you think there’s any part of us that lives on somewhere after we die?

KJS: Absolutely. But that’s not a question that concerns me day in and day out. I think I’m meant to use the gifts I have to transform the world in this life.

In our own introduction to this site*, we quote the following from Antoine Arnauld and Pierre Nicole’s  Logic, or the Art of Thinking:

Only infinite things, such as eternity and salvation, cannot be equalled by any temporal advantage: and as such one cannot compare them with the things of this world. This is why the least degree of means to be saved is worth more than all of the goods of this world put together; and the least peril of being lost is more considerable than all of the temporal evils considered only as evils.

This is enough for all reasonable persons to make them come to this conclusion, by which we end this Logic: the greatest of all unwise things is to use one’s time and life for something else than to work towards and acquire something that never ends, since all of the good things and all of the evils of this life are nothing in comparison to those of the other, and that the danger of falling into these evils is very great, as well as the difficulty of obtaining the good things.

Those that come to this conclusion, and who follow them in the conduct of their life, are prudent and wise, whether they be little correct in all of the reasonings concerning matters of science; and those who do not, whether they be correct in all of the rest…make a bad usage of Logic, of reason, and of life.

Christians aren’t the only ones interested in eternity.  When Muhammad led his followers in their first war against a neighbouring state in the name of Allah, he exhorted them as follows:

O ye who believe; what is the matter with you that, when it is said to you, go forth in the way of ALLAH, you sink down heavily towards the earth?  Are you contented with the present life in the preference to the Hereafter?  But the enjoyment of the present life is but little compared to the Hereafter.  If you will not go forth to fight in the cause of ALLAH, HE will punish you with a painful punishment, and will chose in your stead a people other than you, and you shall do HIM no harm at all. And ALLAH has full power over all things. (Sura 9:38-39)

Such words have inspired jihadis for fourteen hundred years, and certainly do so today.  Although we believe that these jihadis are in for a rude awakening when they blow themselves into eternity, nevertheless both Muhammad on the one hand and Arnauld and Nicole on the other recognise one thing: nothing in this finite life compares with the infinity that is eternity.

Based on the relation between the finite and the infinite (a subject we beat to death in My Lord and My God,) the Presiding Bishop’s contention cannot stand.  But there are other reasons as well.

First, her idea that “Jesus is more concerned about is heavenly existence, eternal life, in this life” doesn’t square with what he said in the Gospels, starting with John 3:16 and moving forward.  What the Positive Infinity New Testament calls “Immortal life” is the centre of the cosmic game plan in the New Testament.  She (and you) might also consider the following:

“For, if the dead do not rise, then even Christ himself has not been raised, And, if Christ has not been raised, your faith is folly-your sins are on you still! Yes, and they, who have passed to their rest in union with Christ, perished! If all that we have done has been to place our hope in Christ for this life, then we of all men are the most to be pitied. But, in truth, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who are at rest. For, since through a man there is death, so, too, through a man there is a resurrection of the dead. For, as through union with Adam all men die, so through union with the Christ will all be made to live.” (1 Corinthians 15:16-22)

Second, her idea that this worldly/other worldly goals are mutually exclusive are the musings of someone who has wasted too much time in the upper reaches of our society.

Third, as a liberal she may be a univeralist.  In this case, what you do in this life and what happens afterwards have no relationship one with another.  There are many excellent demonstrations that the Scriptures teach that there is more than possible result in eternity, and we will allow these to speak for themselves.  For our part, we continue to contend, as we did in The Three That Grows in Heaven, that life in the palms teaches that, if there is a “default option” for eternity, it isn’t heaven.

And that leads us to what is in our view the most compelling argument against the Presiding Bishop.  In the novel At the Inlet, the heroine, having just been ordained as her Anglican province’s first woman minister, ends her first sermon at her first Holy Communion as follows:

When I came here, your dear Chancellor wished me long life here, for which I am grateful. But this life is too painful to love it so much. ‘Jesus, in the days of his earthly life, offered prayers and supplications, with earnest cries and with tears, to him who was able to save him from death; and he was heard because of his devout submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from his sufferings; and, being made perfect, he became to all those who obey him the source of eternal Salvation.’ ‘And so Jesus, also, to purify the People by his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go out to him ‘outside the camp,’ bearing the same reproaches as he; for here we have no permanent city, but are looking for the City that is to come.’

This life is too painful to put the stock in it that Katherine Jefferts-Schori does, and her responses to those who don’t agree with her–like those in Northern Virginia–only make it more so.

If you want a life that transcends the pain of this life, click here

*The introduction to the site has been subsequently changed.

Racial Attitudes: They Just Don’t Happen

The decidedly trashy outbursts–and frankly I can’t think of another word to describe them–that some Brits have blurted out on their reality shows about non-white people are illuminating in two respects.

First, it should put paid to the idea that Europeans are innately more "enlightened" on issues of race or any of the other politically correct indices than their American counterparts.  Although the UK has always been something of a world apart from their Continental counterparts, they still have an idea of their own superiority relative to the "colonies," especially during the present administration.

Second, the racial outbursts we’ve seen remind us that many of the problems we’ve agonised over in the U.S. both started in the British Isles and can be replicated there when the circumstances are right.

Two years ago, we showed that the nature of American evangelical Christianity had its roots in the struggles of the "old country" in Taming the Rowdies.  The problem of racism in the U.S.–especially in the South–did too, as we showed last year in To Do the Work.  The basic problem the UK is facing is that the cousins of the same people who left to find freedom rather than just "the work" are themselves facing a major immigrant wave, and not just from the Muslim countries.  This new immigrant wave is creating the same problems the imporation of slaves to the New World did–economic competition between the immigrants and the natives at the bottom of the social scale.  The result is pretty much the same–racism at its rawest.

Trashy as it is, the UK (along with the rest of Europe) is in an unenviable position, one the "colonies" have wrestled with for a long time.  The Europeans have complicated the problem by jettisoning Christianity, which teaches people that all have sinned and fallen short, and that all need the same redemption the Saviour offers, which forces people to look at their fellow human beings in a different light.  Left-wing people always tell us that adopting their secularism will advance us, but things aren’t looking too promising in the "old country" these days.

The Baptismal Covenant: The Contract on the Episcopalians

In the agony that the slow separation of the Anglican Communion has become, one issue that has come up has been the business of the “baptismal covenant” that appears in TEC’s 1979 prayer book.  This problem was discussed in an excellent article by Peter Toon, but it seems that there are broader issues here to consider.

The first  Services for Trial Use that GC 1970 approved made no mention of this kind of covenant, but it appeared in the final prayer book.  The covenant (BCP 1979, pp. 304-5) is as follows:

Celebrant Do you believe in God the Father?

People I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

Celebrant Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?

People I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Celebrant Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?

People I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

Celebrant Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?

People I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?

People I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?

People I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

People I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human

People I will, with God’s help.

Toon has rightly observed that such a covenant is absent from previous Anglican prayer books such as the 1662 and 1928 books which appear on this site. Toon has also observed that the earlier books assume that the covenant between God and man has already been made.  This is best illustrated by what the “priest” says during one of the earlier baptismal rites (1662, for those of “riper years”):

WELL-BELOVED, who are come hither desiring to receive holy Baptism, ye have heard how the congregation hath prayed, that our Lord Jesus Christ would vouchsafe to receive you and bless you, to release you of your sins, to give you the kingdom of heaven, and everlasting life. Ye have heard also, that our Lord Jesus Christ hath promised in his holy Word to grant all those things that we have prayed for; which promise he, for his part, will most surely keep and perform. Wherefore, after this promise made by Christ, ye must also faithfully, for your part, promise in the presence of these your Witnesses, and this whole congregation, that ye will renounce the devil and all his works, and constantly believe God’s holy Word, and obediently keep his commandments. (BCP 1662)

The covenant–or alliance, between God and man–is really a “done deal.”  (For our own presentation of that, click here.)  Not only that, God has made several promises to us, which he is faithful to keep.  From there we make some promises in response to God’s initiative and our acceptance of it.

Jesus Christ’s work on the cross is finished.  There is nothing we can add to it.  Those who participated in earlier versions of the Holy Communion (and readers of The Final Decision) well remember the following:

ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, who of thy tender mercy didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption; who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world…

Given all of this, let’s make some observations about the BCP 1979’s “Baptismal Covenant.”

First, it is a one-way street.  God (or the church for that matter, it’s not clear who is the other party of this covenant) makes all of the demands and makes no promises in return.  And this is an improvement?  What this reflects is a very dimmed concept of what God can do.

Second, liberals make the most out of the last commitment in the covenant.  Unfortunately, the “dignity of every human being” in post-modern parlance generally bars sharing the Gospel with them, or pointing out deficiencies in their life.  This annuls the whole idea of “proclaim(ing) by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.”  So the covenant is in reality self-contradictory.  (Note: we strongly suspect that the last covenant was inspired by Peter Scholtes’ 1966 song “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love,” which sings of “And we ‘ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride.”  For our part we prefer Roger Smith’s “As the Rain,” which speaks of “Breaking our pride/And making us whole.”)

Third, it represents a drift towards works salvation, if any kind of salvation is being hoped for.  (Given the PB’s recent comments along those lines, we doubt eternity is on their minds.)

Finally, it frankly “sticks in our craw” that any liberal church be so nonchalant about making demands of its members.  Wasn’t the whole idea of liberalism to free us?  But liberalism is a lie in that regard.

Towards the end of the novel Two Paths, a Frenchman has just rescued a government official in a liberal country. Debating with her about Christianity, he makes the following statement:

There are endless laws.  Everybody is guilty of something.  And, being Anglo-Saxons, they have the idea that all of these laws should be enforced…Everybody is a criminal, everybody is a suspect, because it is impossible to live there and not violate the law.  It would be great if one person could come along and take the punishment for everybody.  That, in a celestial sense, is what Jesus Christ did for us.  He came into a world where everyone was guilty and gave them the chance to be innocent…(liberals) came into an innocent world and gave everybody a chance to be guilty.

The covenant  changes the free work of God into a church life of “perpetual responsibility.”  It is in reality a “contract on the Episcopalians” and needs to be seen in that light.

Forget About the Guilt March. Just Give Them the Communion.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York participated in a much publicised “guilt march” across the UK about the evil of slavery.

But there’s an easier and more substantial way to even the score: just let the Africans and their allies, including the descendants of slaves in the West Indies, take the lead in the Communion.

We find, however, that, Western church leaders–liberal and conservative alike–are reluctant to bow to the obvious and allow the centre of power of Christianity to shift where its people are.  The liberals are especially adverse to this process, as they are further from the Africans’ idea than their conservative counterparts.

The desperation of conservative parishes in TEC, however, has them affiliating with provinces such as Uganda and Nigeria, along with others.  They have gone past guilt.  It is time that the rest of us follow suit.

Campaign 2008: Where It Ends Depends on Where the Candidates Started

The 2008 Presidential campaign has been underway since 2004, but only now has the list of candiates begun to congeal.  So how to winnow things down?  We’ve griped about the fact that Ronald Reagan was the last President that wasn’t a product of an Ivy League school, either as an undergraduate, a graduate, or both.  So it makes sense that candidates that are have a significant advantage.  Let’s see who these might be.

The Republicans start off at a disadvantage; of the major candidates, only Mitt Romney fits the bill (as one would expect a Governor of Massachusetts to.)  Although we have grave reservations about nominating him, doing otherwise will put the party at a handicap. That includes a "ring knocker" like John McCain.

The Democrats are in a better position with Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Kerry.  (So much for the "Breck Girl!")

We need to ask why, in a country as diverse as ours it, this is so.  We believe there are two reasons for this.

The first is that the selective admission process–bolstered by the long line of people to get in–will inevitably include a disproportionate portion of high-achieving people.

The second is that the Ivy League presents to its students–especially those in law and business–a view of the world that is decidedly closed and orderly, and on top of that gives them a chance to view that world from a high perch.  Reprojecting this to the American people is actually comforting to the latter, especially with the daily uncertainties they face.

The problem with this is that the U.S.’ main power challengers–the Muslim Arabs, a "closed circle" of their own–are people who play by an entirely different set of rules.  The Cold War, a relatively set-piece business, for the most part could be managed by people with an Ivy League mentality.  This one can’t, which is why we’re stuck with two unworkable alternatives to solve our problem in Iraq and no Plan C.

Electing Ivy Leaguers is like eating "comfort food:" it tastes good and fills us up, but our health goes downhill all the same.

We hope that Ann Coulter is happy with this state of affairs.  (For a different perspective, click here.)

It’s Not About Freedom Any More

The rather plaintive letter from the Rev. Mark Lawrence trying to explain why his departure from California to take his post as the new Bishop of South Carolina is being delayed is a sad commentary both on TEC and the left-wing boomers that presently dominate its leadership.

His explanation of the process is about as clear as one could want, even for those outside of the Episcopal/Anglican world.  But there’s one remark he made that I find the most disturbing of all:

Frankly, I find it ironic that those of my generation who were so quick to trumpet the need for non-conformity when they were opposed to the "establishment" are most ungracious towards those whom they think do not conform now that they are holding the reigns of power.

That’s boomer absolutism for you.  We live in a political (and evidently ecclesiastical) environment where we think that freedom for ourselves can only be achieved when others are controlled.  For those of us (like Rev. Lawrence) who saw sixties radicals up close at the start, the hypocrisy is frankly galling.