The Simple Solution for the Episcopalians’ BDS Problem

They’re certainly obsessed with it:

I intrude mention of the Episcopal Church here because of my presence at the late convention — where what could have been taken for the third, perhaps second, cousin of old-fashioned anti-Semitism prowled like a ramping and roaring lion, snarling at Israel, clapping its paws for the Palestinians.

Resolution after resolution targeted Israel for its apparently endless failures to bestow full rights on Palestinians in the so-called “occupied” territories. Resolution authors wanted the church, through its investments, to pressure Israeli acquiescence in a pro-Palestinian policy.

I’ve always marvelled at the fundamental contradiction of the Episcopal Church: ever since the 1960’s, it’s been a church obsessed with social justice issues, but at the same time it has an elevated demographic and, on top of that, is well endowed (literally) with trust funds (which it occasionally loots) too keep it going when that demographic disappears (which is it is doing.)  That’s one way they financed the USD40+ million litigation war to preserve their…property.

I don’t have any use for the BDS movement.  But it they want to move on from arguing about investments and be consistent about their “social justice” mission, they need to do what Jesus told them to do: sell all, give to the poor and follow him.

To put it another way, they need to sell all or shut up.

The Valuable Lesson Silicon Valley Needs to Learn from the Thai Rescue

Sometimes patience is required to solve a problem:

Instead of venting, Mr. Musk — indeed, Silicon Valley as a whole — can perhaps see the Thai operation as a lesson. This was a most improbable rescue against the longest odds. Safely navigating 12 kids and one adult, many of whom were not swimmers, through a dangerous cave relied on a model of innovation that Silicon Valley can and should learn from.

The Silicon Valley model for doing things is a mix of can-do optimism, a faith that expertise in one domain can be transferred seamlessly to another and a preference for rapid, flashy, high-profile action. But what got the kids and their coach out of the cave was a different model: a slower, more methodical, more narrowly specialized approach to problems, one that has turned many risky enterprises into safe endeavors — commercial airline travel, for example, or rock climbing, both of which have extensive protocols and safety procedures that have taken years to develop.

Self-proclaimed know-it-alls–even those with some record of success–are a nuisance and a menace, but these days the “Silicon Valley model” seems to be in the ascendant in American society and thinking, such as it is.  Having been in a field and a business where a model closer to the Thais’ is the rule, it’s easy to see the Silicon Valley model, while it’s done remarkable things, leaves many “loose ends” and unintended consequences (consider Facebook’s woes as a good example) in its wake.  Who knows, we just might make progress on our political mess if we took a more thoughtful and deliberate approach…

An Update on the St. Andrew’s School Sex Scandal

I’ve covered this matter here and here; it’s generated a fair amount of interest.  Today the school released the following, which I will reproduce in its entirety (with one minor correction):

In late March we shared with you information regarding Bruce Presley, a former board member (1994 – 2000) and part-time instructor at Saint Andrew’s. As we mentioned in that communication, Mr. Presley allegedly engaged in inappropriate behavior while he was at the Lawrenceville School (New Jersey) in the 1970s, prior to his time at our school and unbeknownst to us until earlier this year.

Although we had no record or reports that led us to believe that Mr. Presley engaged in inappropriate behavior while he was on our campus, we proactively shared information related to these past allegations out of caution and concern. We also encouraged members of our community to come forward with any knowledge or information related to his behavior or that of others while at our school. To date, we have no reports or evidence to suggest any inappropriate behavior or misconduct involving Mr. Presley while he was at Saint Andrew’s.

As part of this process, however, we received an allegation of past sexual misconduct involving a former member of our faculty, Evans “Dutch” Meinecke. Mr. Meinecke taught at Saint Andrew’s from 1971 – 1983. He passed away in 2006.

Upon learning of this information, we reported the past incident in question to the proper authorities and initiated an internal review in accordance with our policies and procedures. We also enlisted the support of William Shepherd, a partner at the law firm of Holland & Knight, to further investigate these allegations and any other claims that might surface during the course of his investigation. The investigation found that Mr. Meinecke sexually abused a student while he was employed by our school. We have shared this same information with the schools at which Mr. Meinecke previously taught.

We are grateful that this former student had the courage to come forward. We, the entire Board of Trustees and the school community, are deeply sorry for the harm Mr. Meinecke has caused. We know that nothing can erase the actions of Mr. Meinecke, but we are committed to doing all that we can to support survivors impacted by sexual abuse while at our school.

This is difficult news for our community to hear, but it is impossible for our school and our community to move forward without addressing the past. It is important that we address this openly and honestly. Part of this includes identifying historical incidents, as well as the circumstances that may have led to those incidents, so that we can do everything possible to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future.

As we have shared with you previously, we consistently review and update our handbooks, policies, and procedures to ensure they are in keeping with current independent and private school best practices. We are also dedicated to providing opportunities for our students, faculty, and staff to participate in educational programming and training sessions that promote health and well-being. Each of these steps continues to make Saint Andrew’s a stronger, safer, and more open community.

Most importantly, we want all of you to know that we are here to help. Please do not hesitate to communicate with us directly if you have any questions or concerns. We also encourage you to be in touch with Susan Schorr, an investigator with the law firm of McLane Middleton, if you have any information, past or present, that you think may be of interest. She can be reached via email at susan.schorr@mclane.com or by phone at 781.904.2715.

All of us here at Saint Andrew’s thank you for your continued support. Our greatest responsibility is and always will be the safety, security, and well-being of our entire school community.

Best regards,

Ethan Shapiro
Interim Head of School
Saint Andrew’s School

Steve Shapiro
Board Chair on Behalf Of
Saint Andrew’s School Board of Trustees

More on the Reformation and Anglicanism

My response to the Rev. Thomas Reeves’ ideas on this subject has in turn received a response from him.  That response is too extensive for a “comment box” type of response so I am devoting a post to the topic.  I’ll quote parts of his response, but for brevity’s sake they’ll be short, but you can read everything he has to say on the subject.

One thing that probably separates our perspective is that Reeves has never had the thrill of being Roman Catholic.  That will change your perspective on a wide variety of subjects; it certainly has in my case.  Any discussion of Patristic Christianity and its place in the faith will sooner or later involve the Roman Catholic Church; it’s too important of a topic to ignore.

So we proceed:

I would submit that those at the Council of Nicea 325 (and the later confirming Council of Constantinople of 387) actually had agreement on multiple CORE AREAS that had little to nothing to do with the later scholastic theologies or developments argued or thrown to the side by most following the Reformers.

I agree that the fourth century fathers and councils are a nice place to start.  That doesn’t address the “stopping point” issue.  We’re not talking about “scholastic theologies” but things such as the Nestorian and Monophysite controversies and councils such as Chalcedon.  The natures of Jesus Christ and his relationship with the creation he came to redeem may seem an arcane business, but the resurgence of Islam has brought the subject back into prominence.  It can be argued that Islam is Nestorianism brought to its logical conclusion.  Stopping at Constantinople I cuts these issues out of the loop.  And that, of course, doesn’t address the issue of the icons in Nicaea II…

Nor would they have understood the word “catholic” as “everyone across space and time” and/or “everyone across the world” who has asked Jesus into their heart and/or who has made up their own definition of what church and salvation is.

Anglicans have traditionally interpreted the Creed’s “holy Catholic church” as including themselves.  The RCC would disagree with that, many of the Orthodox would too.  Be careful how you draw boundaries; you might find yourself on the wrong side.

They also believed that salvation/conversion through Christ was Covenental, Sacramental, AND personal. These realities can NEVER be cleanly separated in Holy Scripture or in any of the early church fathers. Whatever mysteries and complexities there are in understanding these theologies, they most certainly inform the statement of the bishops for: “a baptism for the forgiveness of sins”.

That’s the tricky part: as currently structured, Christianity has made “sacramental and personal” “sacramental or personal.”  Most of the Apostolic churches have a built-in allergy for enthusiasm and a high-level of commitment among their parishioners.  The Roman Catholic Church is a prime example of this.  The RCC relies too heavily on its role as the dispenser of grace via the sacraments to bind the faithful to it, rather than developing its member’s spiritual lives individually or as a community.  You can see this in some of its Eucharistic theology (which is still the best out there) and especially in its view of baptism.  The result is that the RCC has bled members and opened the door for things such as covenant communities to fill the void.  This is sad for a church with a rich a spiritual heritage and some of the most Christlike people who have ever walked on the face of the earth, but for many parishes and parishioners that’s reality.

Pietism (and, thus, the Wesley brothers) walks away from these central Christian doctrines, negates the realities of us all having informing traditions, and turns salvation into a personal decision removed from a grounding and communal salvation…and thus, a coherence with the Historic Church of Christ.

Probably the best way to respond to this is to recount the story of one of my church members, the Rt. Rev. Brian Barnett.  His brother fought in the Battle of Britain (an awesome thing in itself) and he decided to follow his footsteps in the RAF.  Before he was shipped out, his future wife invited him to a meeting where he got saved. So when he arrived at his first duty post he went to the chaplain and, offering his services to help, said he had gotten saved recently.  The Anglican chaplain responded glumly, “You’ll get over it.”

Now I’m sure you would apply your extended speech on Wesleyanism to this situation.  But the truth is that the chaplain’s response was pastoral laziness.  It’s much easier to have people content to go through the motions every Sunday rather than to deal with the problems caused by enthusiasm.  Barnett for his part ended up first a pastor and official in the Elim Church in the UK, then an Administrative Bishop in the Church of God on this side of the Atlantic.  When we look at the bishops who are allowing the Church of England to fade away (lead by Justin Welby) it begs the question: what would be the case if the CoE encouraged more serious people?

Wesley never intended to leave the Church of England; that didn’t take place until after his death, and only after a lifetime of stonewalling.  Neither did Barnett (he actually started out in a very secular home, CoE could have picked him up) nor I intend to leave the Episcopal Church.  When I compared the lives of those around me with the challenge that came out of the Gospel read every Sunday, the question kept coming up: what difference is the Gospel making?  When they decided that same Gospel and Scriptures weren’t enough, I realised I had had all the fun I could stand.

A few years back I ran a series on the Catechetical Lectures of St. Cyril of Jerusalem.  I would encourage you to add him to your reading list.  If the Apostolic churches, who have institutional descent from the church of St. Cyril, were up to his level, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.  The real goal is to not to denigrate people but to rise to the occasion and for at least one of these churches to have this on a consistent basis and not just as a “special parish” or two.

When that takes place, we can have sacramental and personal at the same time, which is God’s intent.

 

My Dialogue with an ACNA Priest re the Reformation and Anglicanism

Not too long ago I reviewed a book entitled Was Jesus an Evangelical? by the Rev. Thomas Reeves, an ACNA priest in Roanoke, VA.  He’s come back with some interesting points (most of which are in his book, in more detail) and he’s given me the opportunity to post then and comment.  We’ll start here:

While it may sound reductionistic, this is one reason that I am convinced that an honest look a the Nicene Fathers and what they believed (in a shared, core way) about the church, the sacraments, conversion, etc. could help us to cut through the divisions that have occurred in Anglicanism since the Reformation.

One way of looking at Anglicanism is that it is an attempt to restore a Patristically based Christianity.  There are those who would object to this characterisation but I think there’s enough evidence that at least some important people in the early years of the Church of England desired to do just that.  The retention of the episcopacy and the liturgy make that desire evident.

The problem with this was pointed out by Bossuet in his History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches: where do you stop?  The Roman Catholic Church claims continuity both in its institution and in its carrying forth of tradition.  Protestants say that somewhere in there the church excessively erred from the Scriptures.  Bossuet’s question is valid: where do you draw the line?

Let’s take the example of Vigilantius, a priest in fourth-century Gaul.  The main thrust of his writings (as best as we can tell) was as follows:

  1. Devotions to the relics of martyrs is superstitious.  Also, offering prayers to saints and martyrs, was unnecessary since they were with God, and pagan.
  2. The observance of all-night vigils was unacceptable.
  3. The ascetic ideals of fasting, monastic withdrawal and virginity were not necessary for Christianity, and that included a celibate clergy.
  4. He proposed ending sending alms to Jerusalem and the monks who lived there.

Vigilantius was savaged for these ideas by Jerome in a fashion that anticipated the online abuse we see today.  For its part the Church of England pretty much went along with Vigilantius on all of these.  But Jerome was not only a Father of the Church but a Doctor.  So where do we stop?  We also have the case of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, which commended the veneration of icons and relics, and is held to be on par with the other six (including Nicaea.)

If the Reformation was truly only a response to the abuses of the Medieval Church (in ethics, practice, and theology), then the unity of the Patristic theology  behind the creeds should be a reasonable starting place for discussions among Anglican thinkers. However, I believe that the Reformation in the end became the wholesale rejection of Western Catholicity.  The Creeds just became historic documents that Protestants reinterpreted out of their original contexts.

I think you’re basically right about this.  One enduring problem in the Anglican/Episcopal world is that the creeds (Apostles’ or Nicene) are recited but many of the ministers–and laity too–who recite them don’t believe them!

Of course, my belief is that the Reformation had much more to do with societal and cultural changes desired by the populous who wanted more say and freedom and the Reformation was swallowed up very quickly by Pietism which then became rampant sectarianism. Thus, the Reformation quickly devolved into an over-reaction which essentially cherry-picked the theology of the creeds according to “whatever groups” Reformational,  limited, and desired theological assumptions.

The largest movement to come out of Pietism (with apologies to the Continentals) is Wesleyan Methodism and its progeny, and I don’t think that this has “swallowed up” the Reformation or Reformed Christianity.  In fact, one of the major challenges of Wesleyans (and that includes modern Pentecost) is to keep Reformed theology from making inroads.  The Baptists have the same problem for different reasons.

Some of the problem here is that the creeds don’t cover the issues that resulted in the fracturing you describe.  That includes the nature of the Eucharist, election and perseverance.  The creeds crystallised fairly early before these issues came to the forefront.  In the case of Eucharistic theology, problems came with the Reformation.  For the other two, Augustine’s theology (which anticipated but is not identical to Calvin’s) was accepted (after a fight) in the West but not the East.  The only creedal difference between the two is the filioque clause, which is far less important than Augustinian theology!

I submit Anglo-Catholicism, while important, is still caught up in propping up their own particular sectarianism as the ONLY WAY…

If one looks at the Oxford Movement at the start, one sees an admirable attempt to bring unity between Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism.  That ran into two large obstacles: the unwillingness of the Church of England to move in that direction, and the unwillingness of Roman Catholicism to move at all.  The latter ultimately inspired people like Newman and Manning to “swim the Tiber.”  Those two immovable objects have bedevilled Anglo-Catholicism ever since.

One the one side, the Anglo-Catholics have had more success outside of England than within.  Part of that may be because they weren’t saddled with “unEnglish and unManly” like they were in the old country, but that’s another post…the 1928 BCP was, in many ways, an Anglo-Catholic triumph.  And it’s not an accident that the first group to bolt the TEC and set up institutional alternatives were the Continuing (Anglo-Catholic) Episcopalians; their boldness inspired the Dennis Canon.  Other provinces (notably the West Indies) were deeply affected by this movement.

On the other hand, frankly I am surprised that the Ordinariate has gotten as far as it has.  I didn’t see that happening.  What I think happened is that the conservative Ordinariate served the purpose of Traditionalist Catholics (like Benedict XVI) in their struggle with the more liberal wing of the church.

That brings us to the greatest fault of Anglo-Catholicism, one they share with the Orthodox, St. Pius X and #straightouttairondale types: the idea that tight liturgical precision is the key to great churches and great church life.  On the Anglican side, we have the church Robin Jordan joined, with the 1928 BCP as the ne plus ultra of Anglican life.  On the Catholic side, the broadest-based liturgy, incorporation elements of Eastern and Western worship alike, is the Novus Ordo Missae, but don’t tell that to the trads, some of whom don’t believe the Mass it celebrates is sacramentally valid.

Anglo-Catholics’ ultimate goal is reunion with Rome, with Rome making concessions.  That’s about as realistic as the unrequited (and declining) desire of many in the ACNA for full communion with Canterbury.  Since both Rome and Canterbury are under shaky leadership these days, the best course for Anglo-Catholics would be to clean up the careerism in their ranks, unite institutionally, and act as a witness to the Gospel as they see it.  Who knows, they just might pick up a #straightouttairondale Catholic or two on the way.

I submit that a future for Anglicanism is not MY theology getting adhered to (or any other sectarian groups particular theology), but a return to OUR theology with clarity regarding what is essential to an Anglican definition or what is not. However, very few seemed interested this discussion.

I think getting agreement to the creeds is the easy part.  But the issues beyond the creeds is where things get tricky.  There are too many people involved whose agendas are driven by purism, nostalgia or both.  They’re justified in being wary of “innovations” (the TEC is enough to cure anyone of that) but they don’t have the theological framework to work through the problems.

This is what so few seem to understand: We don’t have the right to cherry pick the creeds, and it is a reason that the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church (with all of their own problems) in part has had fewer problems being shaped by the cultures around them in their core theological (and ethical) beliefs. The Patristics gave us a unified set of scriptures and the Creeds. Why do we think we don’t need their grounding as a starting place?

I think that Patristic theology is the best place to start, but you need to be aware of the issues that block that other than ignorance.

The first is the “stopping point” issue I mentioned above.

The second is that the Patristic method of allegorising Biblical interpretation is going to be a hard sell in seminaries, which are too centred on the German methods.  (Modern philosophies and theologies, I think, are an obstacle to progress in many ways.)  The ancients had good reason to go that route, and our butting heads with the atheists (who routinely shove back a literalistic interpretation) should tell us something.

The third is that the differences between Patristic and Charismatic views on the church and the move of the Spirit are different.  I don’t think this problem is insoluble; it’s one that has occupied my thoughts (and much space on this blog) for many years.  Frankly modern Pentecost’s greatest enemy is cessational Reformed theology, and Patristic thought goes a long way to address that.

I would love to hear another option to true Christian Unity than getting back to a generally unified theology of those attending Nicea.  With these “gogles” then, we could more clearly start evaluating our numerous mind-numbing amount of ever developing, sectarian, and individualistic streams. It isn’t that there is no place for such streams, but without a clarifying unity regarding core beliefs and practices,

One thing that would mitigate this is an understanding that differences in fundamental belief are more important than mode of worship.  But it’s simply too easy to turn lex orandi, lex credendi into a reductio ad absurdum.  Anglicanism is supposed to be “comprehensive,” but the divisions over the fundamentals has shattered that broad nature.  Putting it back together again–or at least the part which wants to stick with the basics–is a daunting task.

Anglicanism will just continue to be an every fragmenting, self-supporting, sectarian Protestantism. A Christianity that I submit that has little lasting future beyond this century.

And that would be a tragedy of the first magnitude.

A Pleasant Surprise from an old Anglican Commenter

In looking through the links on Anglican Curmudgeon (which have taken the place of StandFirm for an index of Anglican/Episcopal blogs) I noticed something I never thought I’d see: Robin Jordan’s Reshaping the 1928 Prayer Book Services for Mission, in four parts.  That’s because, for a long time, his position on the 1928 BCP ran like this:

From a Reformed perspective the 1928 Book of Common Prayer suffers from a number of serious theological defects. This rules out the use of the 1928 Prayer Book in public worship in an Anglican church that is Reformed in its doctrine. If prayers and liturgical material are used from the 1928 Prayer Book, great care should be taken to see that their doctrine conforms with the biblical-Reformation doctrine of the Thirty-Nine Articles, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the 1661 Ordinal.

Anglicans have long recognized how we pray reflects and shapes what we believe. What good does it do to preach one thing when the liturgy that we are using and the worship practices that we have adopted teach another? Both our preaching and our liturgy and worship practices need to convey the same message.

That Reformed stance of his doubtless detonated the long, acrimonious and unedifying exchange on this blog which we had several years back.

Some of the change, however, may be due to the following:

On November 1, 2017, on the Feast of All Saints, Bishop William Millsaps, licensed me as a lay reader in the Diocese of the South in the Episcopal Missionary Church (EMC) and placed me in temporary pastoral charge of St. Mark’s Anglican Church in Benton, Kentucky. I am pursuing a late life vocation in the EMC.

I have met Bishop Millsaps, know some of his congregation in Monteagle, and have stayed in contact with him over the years.  The Episcopal Missionary Church, although it doesn’t explicitly describe itself as Anglo-Catholic, states the following:

The Book of Common Prayer, 1928 Edition, is the basis for all of our worship. The Prayer Book is a document which is best described as being orthodox in its expressions of the Christian faith, using the liturgies which have been a part of catholic worship for centuries. There is no modern “innovation” in the Prayer Book; it calls upon us to conform ourselves to God’s word, rather than trying to change the church’s teachings to fit mankind’s “desires.

Given my own softening on the subject, I am sympathetic to Robin’s position.  And I am very heartened that the EMC has allowed him this opportunity for ministry.  It’s something that he’s obviously desired for many years, and we all know that “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” (Psalms 37:4-5 KJV)  I know the opportunity I had to serve 13 1/2 years in the Lay Ministries Department of the Church of God was a long-desired gift.  Given his long study and experience in church planting, he should do well, and my prayers are with him.

The Boomers (or at Least Some of Them) Really Did Tank This Country

An interesting exchange between Sean Illing of Vox and Steven Brill yields this:

Sean Illing

The story of decline you tell really begins about 50 years ago, so is this basically a story of how a subset of the baby boomer generation drove the country off a cliff?

Steven Brill

That may be too much of a generalization, but I wouldn’t knock it because it’s basically right.

I have been criticised for making this claim about my contemporaries, but it’s getting hard to deny.

And this observation is interesting, too:

In many cases, the people doing the most damage aren’t breaking any laws or consciously trying to hurt anyone else. They’re simply doing what they were told to do — go to prestigious law schools, get a job at a prestigious law firm, and make lots of money.

Those of us who chose a different course swam upstream in those days, but it’s better to have never been part of the problem.