He Called Them a Rock and Said They Belonged: Bill Atwood Saves the ACNA Chaplaincy

In the recent kerfuffle over which Anglican province has oversight over the ACNA’s chaplaincy jurisdiction, Bishop Bill Atwood opined the following:

Sorting through the history of the relations between the Anglican Church in North America and the Church of Nigeria, we have discovered that a Canonical action remained unaddressed from several years back. Both the Anglican Church in North America and the Church of Nigeria have agreed on a way forward. There is no longer a question of the place of the Jurisdiction in the Anglican Church in North America. The Jurisdiction is fully integrated with the Anglican Church in North America, will continue to be, and we celebrate that.

So why, you ask, did I write the title the way I did? One thing that many Anglicans don’t know is that Bill Atwood is an accomplished musician, and his album 3:25 am (produced in the UK) is one of the gems of the “Jesus Music” era. My title is based on his opening track to the album, and you can listen to it (and the rest of the album too) below.

The Song of the Drunkards

My last formal, parish-bonding attempt to be a part of the Episcopal Church was in 1978, right after I moved to Chattanooga to work in the family business. I was discontented with Roman Catholicism, having crashed from the high of my college years and the problems surrounding the covenant community business. So the Episcopal Church seemed to be a good place to take a look. Although I had left in part over the liberalism, I was willing to give it a try again. My mother, in the last stages of her knock-down, drag-out divorce, passed up the opportunity to join a Continuing Church (she was too Baptistic for such an enterprise.)

The church I picked was St. Thaddeus Episcopal Church, at the intersection of Highway 153 and 58 Highway (how do you like the way we designate roads around here?) At the time its Rector was one John Livingston Janeway IV. There was one Sunday when the Psalm for the service contained the following verse:

They that sit in the gate speak against me: and the drunkards make songs upon me.

(Psalm 69:12)

In his sermon he expressed the sentiment that he had never been the “song of the drunkards,” and thought the whole idea silly. I sat there uninspired by such handling of the Word of God. Not only that, I had never been the “song of the drunkards” either, but my interaction with same had taught me being on the butt end of their negative sentiments wasn’t a good thing, whether they set it to music or not. It’s worth noting that people don’t “sit in the gate” any more either, not in this country at least. What the verse needed was some cultural explanation, and that’s the point of this post.

Drinking songs are as old as drinking and music. During the “Jesus Music” era, some of what was served up (especially by the Roman Catholics) struck me as having a “drinking song” feel to it, something the folk group could do over beer and pizza after a successful Sunday evening Mass. Probably the best example of a drinking song that achieved long-lasting fame (with changes in the lyrics) is our National Anthem. The laid, high or drunk crowd that’s kneeling these days needs to think about that.

I come from a long time of serious drinkers who followed the custom of people educated in the Victorian era of setting things to poetry. I wonder sometimes how many or these (some of which are on this site) were done “three sheets to the wind.” At least one of them was set to music. (This custom persisted in Evangelical churches; I can remember our Sunday School superintendent reciting these before church in the mid-1980’s.)

So what happened to the “song of the drunkards?” Doubtless the same thing that killed a great deal of people-performed, sometimes improvised singing and playing: recorded music. Before World War I, if you wanted music in your home, you needed to be able to perform it with played instruments and vocals, as was the case in the tavern. After that the way we interact with music changed dramatically, probably not for the better.

Being the song of the drunkards, however, isn’t the only way you can end up on the wrong end. It’s a hard road being on the receiving end of an abusive drunk, be that abuse verbal, physical or both. That, as much as anything, may have clicked in me when Janeway expressed his sentiment about the above verse. They may not have the wit to make up (or adapt) songs any more, but the drunks have other methods at their disposal, and they’re not pretty.

Janeway ended up leaving full-time ministry, being an Interim Rector from time to time. After my own years of church work, I really can’t blame him for his departure. As for myself the restless urge to find better made me leave St. Thaddeus behind, ending up in the brutally educational experience that was First Baptist Church.

Today hard drinking is back with a vengeance. It’s a way to kill the pain of life while at the same time commiserate with drinking buddies, although its practitioners will find it as destructive as those who went before them. So be forewarned: in some Millennial or Gen Z watering hole, you too could end up being the song–or the trash talk–of the drunkards.

The Main Obstacle to Religious Freedom

This past week my wife and I had the chance to attend the International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington, DC. It was an interesting conference on a subject that gets the short shrift these days. In attendance were representatives of several religions including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and many others. The fact that any kind of consensus is emerging on this topic on with this broad of an audience is encouraging.

One of those groups represented was Ahmadiyya Islam. I got to spend some time with these people. I have been intrigued with this group ever since I discovered that these people believe that the Qur’an teaches that Jesus really died on the Cross and was brought back to life. What happened to Jesus after that is where we part company, but to make this claim is a bold one in an Islamic context. Making the claim that Muhammad was not the final prophet is a bold one too, and one which has made them a stench in the nostrils of (particularly) Sunni Islam, with persecution following. Thus, their interest in religious freedom is more than academic, to say the least.

In the course of our conversation I brought up a question that should have gotten more interest at the conference: why are so many averse to the whole concept of religious freedom? My explanation of this follows.

All religion is concerned with going beyond this life. How this happens varies from one to another. In the case of Islam and Christianity, the choice is the same: it is the means that differs so sharply, and with that the results. But ultimately religious people look at life as transcending the limitations of our mortality.

Today we have an elite which is deeply corporatist and desirous to maintain control over the situation and to perpetuate their primacy. I’ve characterised their priorities as getting laid, high or drunk, and their desire is to limit those whom they feel are under them to do the same. If they succeed, then the people’s vision is limited to what they place in front of them: there is no beyond. It’s the mentality of “Imagine” imposed by this corporatist bunch, not just a bunch of superannuated hippies out for a good time.

Religious people throw a monkey wrench into all this by proclaiming that there is a beyond, there is a higher power of some kind that transcends this life. This is a threat to those who rule: it means that they are not the ones that ultimately make the rules or determine the final destiny over those whom they control. This they cannot stand. If they make an alliance with a religion, it means that they feel that its adherents and leadership can be controlled. In the old Soviet Union, the Communists did a pretty good job doing just that with Islam in Central Asia; they managed to keep a lid on things without forcing all of them to become atheists. But times have changed, which is why we’re seeing the brutal crackdown on the Uygurs in Xinjiang.

This is why religious freedom is in such a parlous state these days. Our elites do not want us to see beyond them, and as long as we do they will attempt to punish us.

Kicking the Trads to the Curb

I’ve been out of pocket most of this past week for reasons I’ll explain later, but coming back to the blog there’s one topic I’d like to comment on: the Occupant of St. Peter’s see’s downgrading of the celebration of what we used to call the Tridentine Mass, or now TLM. This has been coming for some time and now we are here.

I’m going to skip most of the back and forth as to who is “really Catholic” in this situation and make one observation: those who are devoted to this form of the Sacred Mysteries are almost to a person seriously dedicated to the Church. It’s also worth observing that many of those who oppose them are basically “box checkers” and prefer the box checker church to the exclusion of all others. Evidently the Occupant feels the same way. It isn’t the first time: his Jesuit predecessors (with the connivance of Louis XIV) beat down the Jansenists, and in nearer times the Charismatics have suffered the same fate.

The Roman Catholic Church is a large institution, ethnically and socio-economically diverse in a way that most non-Catholic churches can only envy. It’s hard to make a case that a few TLM preferring Catholics are a real threat to the unity and integrity of Roman Catholicism: indeed, as this article notes, “It is more like amputating a finger to treat a hangnail than it is anything else.” Nobody votes for the leadership in a meaningful way, so the threat of democracy, the inchoate fear of our own secular elites, is not on the table.

But the Occupant and those of like mind to him are threatened by enthusiasm that isn’t exactly their own. They prefer a church where, to use Cardinal Suenens’ quip, the laity know when to kneel, when to stand, and when to reach for their wallet, and that’s just about it. Such a church is sure to die, perhaps not in all places but in many. When institutional control is the main objective, however, institutional death is an assumed risk.

I am sure there are bishops out there who have enough sense to see this. But most, in North America at least, won’t, not in the long run and with the inevitable pressure from the Vatican and their own peers. The main beneficiaries of this will be the Society of St. Pius X (who is probably facing a rough ride of its own) and to a lesser extent the Anglo-Catholics.

Roman Catholicism’s distaste for serious enthusiasm amongst its faithful is the single most distasteful thing I find about the Church, and in my opinion has caused much of the bleed of parishioners the Church has experienced over the last half century. But any church who cannot channel the dedication of the faithful to its mission will find itself with no faithful and in the end with no church.

Some Advice for the ACNA on Sexual Scandal

The ACNA is in quite a pickle, especially it’s Diocese of the Upper Midwest, with its recent sexual assault scandal in Illinois. There have been many reactions to it; the one that has gotten most of the attention is the Diocese’s, where the bishop is now on leave.

Handling stuff like this isn’t for amateurs, and to show that I’d like to take a trip down memory lane on an other Anglican-Episcopal (in this case the latter) institution, the St. Andrew’s School in Boca Raton, Florida. It’s personal not only because I’m an alumnus but because I found myself a part of it. I’ve tried to cover it on this blog, so I’ll refer to stuff on this and another of my sites.

Let’s start in 2016, with this:

Although things really broke in the Spring–and Headmaster Peter Benedict resigned at the time–it’s still an ongoing business, as Interim Head of School Jim Byer discussed in an email to the alumni:

“At the same time, the start of this school year has been a difficult time for all of us at Saint Andrew’s, and I appreciate your interest and concern for what has happened here. Many of you are aware of the results of two independent investigations related to violations of faculty/student boundaries and inadequate policies and procedures to protect students, as well as the stories that have been reported in the local media.

“Please know that our school is committed to student safety, and I fully expect our community will be stronger and safer as the result of improvements in this regard. We have instituted mandatory child abuse annual training for all faculty and staff in accordance with Florida Department of Education training curriculum, we will hold accountable all who interact and engage with students on a daily basis, and we have engaged qualified, trained professionals to thoroughly examine and closely supervise the residential life program. I am also engaging an expert to oversee the restructuring of all aspects of risk in the school, to further safeguard the welfare of each and every student here.”

At the time I stated that the school’s decision to “lawyer up” was a tacit admission of guilt. That’s not all the story: law firms which specialise in this kind of thing have extensive resources to investigate this kind of thing and to properly interact with victim and perpetrator alike. My first advice to the ACNA and the diocese is to engage the services of one or more of these kinds of firms. That’s what happened with the Ravi Zacharias situation; it’s ironic that the firm they chose was the same firm the people who acquired my family business in 1996 used.

About a month later I noted the following about another Episcopal boarding school scandal that was tangentially related to St. Andrew’s:

It’s interesting to note that, according to this, “(Headmaster) Zane terminated White in 1974 after he said White admitted ‘sexually abusing a sophomore boy and attempting to sexually abuse at least two and likely three others.’”  The wheels of justice turn very slowly in this “enlightened” Episcopal Church, since someone was put on notice 42 years ago.  It puts Episcopal Bishop Porter Taylor’s statement that White “…had been identified by former students of St. George’s School in Rhode Island as having engaged in sexual misconduct in the early 1970s while he served on the staff at that school” in a different light.  He should have used the plaintiff attorney’s favourite phrase “by his own admission,” but he didn’t.

Back in Boca Raton, things ground on another two years, until this:

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…

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…

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.

With this the memory clicked, and I contacted Ms. Schorr, who in turn referred to me to Mr. Shepherd. The latter interviewed me re my incident with Mr. Meinecke. Both of them were professional and thorough in their interview and made the process as painless as could be possible. But at this point, as I noted in 2019:

I did manage to become SA’s first documented victim of sexual harassment at the hands (literally) of Evans “Dutch” Meinecke

My only complaint is that, after Mr. Shepherd’s interview, the school didn’t do a simple follow-up contact until after some pestering. That’s very important with people who have come forward. Other than that the school’s handing of the situation was good.

The ACNA is a relatively new organisation and has a lot to learn about many things, and this is one of them. It took some time for St. Andrew’s to figure it out. My advise to the ACNA is to follow St. Andrew’s lead and engage legal counsel (albeit expensive) to assess its risks, interact with victim, perpetrator and witness alike, and to present as clear a picture as possible to all parties and stakeholders. And don’t forget the follow-up, even if you need to deputise someone to do the job.

Those Unpatriotic Leftists

We’re “back to the future” on this one:

On July 4 this year, liberal media declared independence from America’s most treasured cultural symbols.

While media undermining of Independence Day itself is not new — Vox famously declared that “the American Revolution was a mistake” in 2019 — the hand-wringing reached a new pitch this year. 

Ever since the Vietnam War, when many of our veterans came home to be spat upon as “baby killers” (including a relative,) the conventional wisdom was simple: conservatives were patriotic and leftists weren’t. It seems, however that, like the Christian liberals who went from modernist rejection of Biblical truth to post-modern inversion of same, political ones did the same with patriotism:

Conservatives have pointed out that the Left despises America for a long time. Until recently, however, the Left has pleaded otherwise: liberals, they have argued, are the true patriots and the real patrons of America’s traditions. 

Discovery of “patriotic liberals” or leftists was one of the rude awakenings of online interaction and social media.

It looks like we’re back to the 1960’s with this one. How these people, who run the show on the one hand but hate the country on the other, plan to square the circle on this issue is a mystery. But another mystery looms: how can conservatives (and especially Christian conservatives) continue to offer uncritical support to a country whose levers of power are pulled by people who hate them?

I guess this is one more of those things that aims to end badly.

Is Meaningful Lay Involvement in the Church That Bad?

Every now and then I run across an article that has me saying to myself, “What is going on here?” One such piece is Ben Jeffries’ Abiding with Error in the ACNA. There’s a great deal to unpack here, but I’m going to try to focus on one thing: his idea that easing the laity out of the meaningful life of the church is a plus.

Let’s start with a liturgical issue, he notes the following:

1907 — General Convention loosed the ancient discipline that made ordination a required qualification for preaching a sermon in the midst of a liturgy.

Back in the Old Country, the 1662 BCP had provision for lay people to celebrate Morning Prayer. With that is the implication that the lay person doing this might say something outside of the liturgy. That never quite made it into the American prayer books, but since the 1662 book has a special place in the life of Anglicanism, that should not be discounted or classified as a “wound.”

Of course I’ll bet that Jeffries may be thinking that such a provision was the “camel’s nose in the tent” for something like lay presidency, which the ACNA’s allies in Sydney have advocated. In turn that assumes that the Holy Communion is the normative/only service on Sunday. He should be informed that it’s not just Anglo-Catholics who advocated for that: liturgical movement types such as William Palmer Ladd did the same thing. And I’m also sure that there are many in the more traditional parts of the ACNA who feel that the results of the liturgical movement are a wound in a league of their own.

There are some (wounds) that were inflicted while we were still a part of The Episcopal Church, which would have been fatal to us had they not been treated and healed at our founding, e.g. the consecration of women as bishops, the consecration of openly gay persons as bishops, or the laity having authoritative voice in council on matters of faith, etc.

Let’s look at the last one: easing the laity out of their “authoritative voice.” The first thing that statement assumes is that the laity were responsible for the rot that engulfed the Episcopal Church. I rather doubt that; the vast majority of lay people had neither the inclination nor the education to take on such a task. The rot in the Episcopal Church started in the seminaries with the introduction of Higher Criticism of the Bible, going back to the latter part of the nineteenth century. While that isn’t as significant as it is for, say, the Baptists, it’s a start. The Episcopal Church was led down the path of its own destruction by its own ministers, and Jeffries would do well to acknowledge that.

I’ve spent most of my life in churches where the ministers pretty much ruled the roost, and the lack of accountability that results from that can have some unpleasant results, such as we’ve seen in the Roman Catholic Church with Bishop Stika in Knoxville, to say nothing about my own church. Concerning the last, I’d like to repeat an observation I made:

The second is that (with exceptions) our ministers and academics alike have a “trade union” mentality, that thinking and speaking/preaching of the deeper things of God is “bargaining unit” work and that the laity (“scabs” in union terminology) don’t have any business delving into this kind of thing on any level. Sometimes it’s framed as a replication of Roman Catholicism’s view of the priesthood, but that’s too high of a view of what’s going on.

I definitely get a strong whiff of the trade union mentality in Jeffries’ piece.

As far as the other issues he deals with, I’d like to go back to a piece I did in 2008 when the ACNA was in the process of its formation:

There are several items that tell me that Anglicans better be in for the long haul on this one:

The difficult process of recognition, as Conger outlines.  That speaks for itself.

I don’t see any Archbishop of Canterbury, either the present occupant or any successor that a British Government might suffer, recognising this province.  They can talk about the ACC or the Primates all they want, but unless the Archbishop of Canterbury gives the high sign, real entry into the Anglican Communion is impossible.

The issue of women’s ordination (WO.)  There’s simply no consensus on this issue, irrespective of which side you take.  That goes to the heart of the apostolic succession issue, which is key for a proper Anglican church.

The resolution of the seceding dioceses, which will involve the U.S. court system.

The real possibility that our government, in its desire to be politically correct and its need for revenue, will begin revoking tax-exempt status for churches that do not embrace homosexuality.  That will doubtless be coupled with a legal assault based on anti-discrimination legislation and all of the other legal tools I outlined in my 2007 piece Waiting for the Cops to Show Up.

The many “wounds” that Jeffries describes were and are not bugs in the ACNA: they’re features, there from the start. That’s especially true with WO. Either he was and is naive about the reality of, say, WO in the ACNA or he and people like him went into it with the idea that they would be able to beat it into submission.

Either way, I think it’s safe to say that Jeffries would be better off in a Continuing church from a doctrinal and practical standpoint.

An Anniversary, An Announcement and Looking Ahead

Today is an anniversary I’ve commemorated before: it’s the anniversary this web site/blog (take your pick) got its start as the Wave Equation Page for Piling. It’s been twenty-four years since I put the first pages on GeoCities, and it’s been going (with spin-offs) ever since. It’s time for a little looking back, and some […]

An Anniversary, An Announcement and Looking Ahead