The Intellectual Shell Game of Critical Race Theory in the Anglican/Episcopal World

Matt Kennedy’s thoughtful piece on critical race theory lays out many things very succinctly.  My purpose here is to take a look at this from another point of view.  The way Matt links current critical race theory with the class theory of Marxism connects many dots, dots which have driven many of my life decisions, especially regarding choice of church.

Let’s start with the Marxism.  Marxism teaches class warfare, and that when the proletariat achieves their revolutionary destiny we will have their dictatorship, equality, and the end of the state.  (My time in both Russia and China showed that the last is a mirage.)  In the meanwhile the aristocrats and the bourgeoisie are the exploiters of the proletariat’s surplus value, and are thus evil and worthy of overthrow.  (My time in especially Russia showed me that an economic system that doesn’t produce surplus value runs down, as theirs did.)

Before all of this informative travel, there was life in Palm Beach and the Episcopal Church.  I looked around me and realized two things.  The first is that the people around me were, in Marxist terms (and remember that the Marxists had nuclear weapons pointed at us) part of the problem.  The second is that Our Lord’s solution to this problem was for the rich young ruler to sell all and follow him.

The Episcopal Church’s answer to all of this fell seriously flat.  First, I was confronted with the “do-gooder approach” by my Episcopal prep school chaplain, which seemed inadequate.  Second, the Episcopal Church was in the throes of 1960’s social justice, where the church and its parishioners were exhorted to get into political action to change things.  Neither of these seemed much a response to either Marx or Jesus; the political action in particular was an attempt to get someone else (in this case the state) to do the work that Our Lord called us to do.  The Episcopalians remained at the “top of the heap,” which meant that the Marxist challenge went unanswered.  All of this was part but not all of the reason why I left.

Fast forward to the days of critical race theory.  Critical race theory does for Marx what Marx did for Hegel; it turns the older concept on its head.  Marx was all about economics.  Critical race theory is first an American attempt to create an oppression dialectic without having to deal with the reality of economic and class differences.  That’s because Americans have a serious blind spot to both and are too ashamed to admit that they’re on the wrong side of the divide (and it doesn’t matter which side you’re on.)

In any case, the Anglican/Episcopal world in North America is just about as unprepared to deal with critical race theory now as it was with social justice fifty years ago.  That’s because the Episcopal Church (and the ACNA isn’t much better) are overwhelmingly white, in TEC’s case more so than the Southern Baptists.  It’s really stupid to bring up “white privilege” in churches with the ethnic makeup that most Anglican/Episcopal churches in this country have.  If you want to deal with your privilege, whether it be racial, social or economic, you need to first join up with people where your privilege doesn’t mean as much.  That doesn’t happen very often.

All of this duplicity has convinced me that critical race theory is a shell game.  Like past and present social justice, it gives its adherents an opportunity to virtue signal/feel better about themselves without significantly disturbing the reality they’re in, a reality about which they’re seriously guilty.  Just because people virtue signal about something doesn’t mean they’re serious: just look at the college admissions scandal we just went through.  That too was an attempt by what we used to call the “beautiful people” to perpetuate their own white privilege by getting their unqualified children into elite institutions.

We need to stop playing games with ourselves on this subject.  The change we really need comes from God through Jesus Christ.  Once that’s really happened we become a new race with a new blood line; our world and the way we see it and deal with it becomes different.  Anything else is a shell game which either seeks to deflect attention away from ourselves and to assuage our guilt for what we are.  We don’t need guilt reduction: we need redemption and forgiveness.

Francis Chan Bails on Bill Clinton’s Eucharistic Theology

As you see here:

“Bill Clinton’s Eucharistic Theology” is my catty description of Zwinglian theology, which posits that the Holy Communion is a mere symbol.  As I noted in my piece entitled Bill Clinton’s Eucharistic Theology: It Depends Upon What Is Is:

Until the Reformation Christianity uniformly confessed that, when Our Lord said “is” he meant “is”, up to and including the concept of transubstantiation, which Aquinas details in the Summa.

With the breakage of the Reformers we start seeing a variety of explanations of how this “is”, something that Bossuet has more fun than a human being ought to have in his History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches.  But the biggest variation, one that started with Huldreich Zwingli, basically stated that “is isn’t”; that it’s just bread from start to finish and that the Lord’s Supper is purely symbolic.  That “theology” made its way into many Evangelical churches, including the Southern Baptist Convention.

Welcome, Francis Chan.

On the Prayer Book as Constitution — Ad Orientem

The prayer book controversies, however, are an illustration of one of the banes of the English speaking world: debating substantive issues by arguing over documents. Today in the U.S. we debate many issues in our society, not on their merits, but by their constitutionality. The basic problem with the newer prayer book is that many […]

via On the Prayer Book as Constitution — Ad Orientem

The Year the 1928 Book of Common Prayer Ran Out of Gas

The release of the ACNA’s new prayer book this past year doesn’t change the fact that not everyone is happy with it, even in the ACNA.  One competitor in the field–especially amongst churches that most would classify as High Church in one form or another–is the venerable 1928 Book of Common Prayer, kept in front of everyone with the help of the 1928 Prayer Book Alliance.

As mellifluous and delightful as this book is, I think we need to admit that, in one respect at least, it ran out of gas a few years ago.  Let’s start by looking at the front matter, pp. lii-liii, reproduced below.

Pages-from-bcp-1928_lii-liii

On the left is a method of finding Easter Day.  The compilers of the Prayer Book were mindful that most parishioners–to say nothing of the clergy–would not delve into the complexities of computing Easter every year.  (Today computer languages such as PHP will do the job for you, the basis of much of the Anglican Calendar Script.)  So on the right were Easter days from 1786 (just before our Constitution was ratified and the Episcopal Church was founded) to 1899, when my great-grandfather sailed Lake Michigan.

They continued the table, and added an other one to find the other Holy Days.

Pages-from-bcp-1928_liv-lv

Note carefully in this table and the last that 1800 and 1900, although divisible by four, were not leap years, but 2000 was, another unusual aspect of the beginning of this millennium.

Alas, however, all things must come to an end, and the table ends in 2013.  That’s the year that the 1928 BCP, so to speak, runs out of gas.

I doubt seriously that the compilers of the 1928 BCP saw the tumult that was to flow through the years listed on this page, much of which is documented on this site.  I also would have been amazed if you had told me when I was growing up on this that I would be working on my PhD in 2013, let alone pursuing a PhD at all!

While were on the subject of this book, let’s consider a couple of covers, at least for this site.

No matter which prayer book you’re using–and I know, Pentecostals, that you’re sneaking to Episcopal and Anglican churches to see what it’s all about–I would like to end with the closing benediction (based on 2 Cor. 13:14) from Morning Prayer:

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all evermore. Amen.

Dodging the Important Questions on Priests and the Holy Communion

Chris Findley’s piece (Why) Are Priests and the Liturgy Necessary for Holy Communion? is an interesting exploration of the topic, but it’s also (for me at least) an illustration of some of the weaknesses of the way Anglicans “do theology.”  Perhaps it’s too much to ask in one internet piece (which need to be brief and to the point) but I’d like to point out some of the things that Findley manages to dodge in his presentation.

Why are Priests Really Necessary?

We’ll start with the central question of the piece.  He responds as follows:

The short answer is because the charge of conducting the sacraments is an apostolic charge for the care of the Church.

That leaves the serious questions unanswered.  We know that Our Lord himself instituted the Holy Communion and Paul is a witness that this was continued in the New Testament church, and Findley underscores that.  Although, as Findley notes, the institution was done with the disciples (soon to be apostles, Judas excepted,) does this really restrict its celebration to the priests? Citing the 2019 Book of Common Prayer expresses the way Anglicans are supposed to understand the role without really justifying it.

The problem is that there isn’t a unity in Anglicanism either on whether their bishops are successors to the Apostles or whether their priestly role in the Eucharist is a sacrificing one.  You can get Anglicans to blow their stack (and I have) for suggesting that Anglican bishops are successors to the Apostles, and my guess is that Findley would rather avoid that kind of unpleasantness.  Those who object to the successor idea generally tie the issue of successors to the issue of the role of the priest.  But there’s no reason to do this.  In fact, the whole idea of a sacrificing priesthood–one which is borrowed from Roman Catholicism–is patently unBiblical, as I noted here.  But again you can get into trouble in some circles for saying that.

Why Do We Have a Liturgy?

One would think that anyone who would “join up” with an Anglican church would accept the liturgy as a given, but that’s not always the case these days.  I think the simple answer to this question is “why not?”  In other words, why is it superior for some person in skinny jeans (to say nothing of the cheap polyester suits we had to endure in the 1970’s) to get up and ad-lib it to celebrate the sacred mysteries?  The advantage of the liturgy is that it insures (if the liturgy is properly constructed) that all of the theological and penitential bases are covered.  The liturgy should express what the Holy Communion is all about and how one should prepare oneself to receive it.  Some emphasize the aesthetic superiority of liturgical worship, but focusing on that at the expense of theological integrity is a big reason the Anglican/Episcopal world is in the mess it’s in these days.

Why Is It a Sacrament?

In the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, a sacrament is defined as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.”  The whole concept of sacramental theology is controversial in some circles, who believe that grace is infused (if they use that terminology) only when someone received Christ by faith.  The Baptists and others like them have traditionally referred to those things that Anglicans call sacraments as ordinances, just to underscore the difference.  (Why, in a Reformed context, people who are absolutely elected and persevere need any kind of additional grace is another issue.)  However, I think that sacramental theology is justified provided that the necessary preparatory prerequisites are fulfilled, and I’ve discussed this both relating to Baptism and the Holy Communion.  Whether the church has the authority to dispense this is another subject that Findley asserts without really showing whether it’s true or not, but that again is tied up with the nature of the church and the apostolic succession.

What is the Holy Communion?

This is the biggest dodge of all; Findley concentrates on the effect of the Eucharist at the expense of its nature.  I’ll not bore everyone with my thoughts on this subject; Anglicanism has been all over the map on this subject, it is still the subject of extensive (and sometimes heated) debate.  Like the apostolic succession, the nature of the Eucharist brings up too much unpleasantness.  Another interesting topic which, Lord willing, I plan to take up down the road is the relationship of the faith of the church to the nature of the Eucharist.  But that, people, is another post.

 

 

 

The ANCA’s Liturgical Calendar for 2019-20

The ANCA’s 2019 Book of Common Prayer is just starting its first full liturgical year, and the ACNA has thoughtfully put out this guide to same for this year.  You can download the Sunday, Holy Day, and Commemoration Lectionary, Year A ~ 2019–2020: The Anglican Church in North America, The Book of Common Prayer (2019) here.

ACNA+Liturgical+Calendar+for+Year+A+-+2019-2020-1

A few comments are in order:

  • The ANCA opted for a three-year lectionary, denoted “A,” “B” and “C” in the same manner as the Roman Catholics do.  It’s also worth nothing that the ACNA’s “Year A” and the RCC’s “Year A” are the same, even though the readings are different.
  • I always loved Anglican/Episcopal calendars with the vestment colours in them, but I wish that the ACNA would lose the use of blue during Advent in place of purple.  Blue is the colour of the Lodge; purple did fine for Advent until recently.
  • They have included readings from “The Apocrypha,” which should raise some eyebrows here and there.
  • I’ll save my cranky thoughts on the period between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday for a later post.  I think that RCC, TEC and ACNA have botched this.

Gavin Ashenden Swims the Tiber

Yes, he does:

An internationally renowned Anglican bishop and former chaplain to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is leaving the Anglican Church to become a Catholic.

Bishop Gavin Ashenden will be received into full communion by Shrewsbury’s Bp. Mark Davies on the fourth Sunday of Advent at Shrewsbury Cathedral, England.

From the standpoint of the online Anglican-Episcopal world, this is probably the most significant “Tiber swimming” since Greg Griffith did so five years ago.  That led in part to Stand Firm in Faith’s disappearance from the internet, something that is only now coming back.  What George Conger and Kevin Kallsen plan to do with their Anglicans Unscripted series now that Gavin has left the Anglican world remains to be seen.

My own opinion–and it comes from someone who did the same thing many years ago–is that I can’t think of a worse time to do this than now, with the current Occupant in Rome.  Although Gavin’s sentiment that “I came to realize that only the Catholic Church, with the weight of the Magisterium, had the ecclesial integrity, theological maturity and spiritual potency to defend the Faith, renew society and save souls in the fullness of faith” resonates, the actualities of the Church–especially in the West–have made each Papal transition a nail-biter, and now we’re at the point where at least a good part of Roman Catholicism is entering a wilderness all too familiar to those of us who started out in a Main Line denomination.

No matter what, my prayers are with him and his family.

Update: now we have some of the answer re Anglicans Unscripted:

Tory Baucum: Another Loose Cannon Goes Overboard

It seems that I gravitate towards following the “loose cannons” on the Anglican warship.  In the past those included David Moyer (who ultimately did the right thing,) John Hepworth, Chuck Murphy, and later Tory Baucum, Truro Anglican’s rector until this happened:

The Rev. Dr. Tory Baucum, rector of Truro Anglican Church since 2007 has resigned, renouncing his orders in the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). He will be received into the Roman Catholic Church in 2020.

A fact-finding investigation will examine a number of grievances alleged in the treatment of Truro staff and congregants by Baucum.

“In the ‘me-too’ environment we find ourselves in, we want to be clear that none of the grievances alleged are sexual in nature. The grievances presented include numerous and broad complaints from staff about workplace mistreatment, and questionable treatment of congregants,” said a church spokesman.

I think we’ve got another case of “ego inflatable to any size,” but I think I should explain my interest in this subject.  It comes primarily from working at the denominational level.

Like so many Christian “traditions,” people in the church I’m a part of now were taught to reverence their clergy, and in many cases ascribe qualities to them which are the stuff of hagiography but not reality.  Don’t get me wrong, we had and have many fine men and women in ministry who work sacrificially to pastor their flocks or conduct other ministries.  But we also have those who, leaving behind Our Lord’s call to servant leadership, prefer to lord over the Gentiles.  This is flatly contrary to what Jesus came to teach and charge his ministers–and laity–to live.

Unfortunately–and this is especially true in times of ecclesiastical upheaval–it’s easy for those who do lord over the Gentiles to rise to prominence.  That tendency is true across the liberal/conservative divide and in the many “traditions” we have.  It’s at the core of many of the falls we see in ministry these days.  The Anglican/Episcopal world is not immune to this, much of its own past propaganda notwithstanding.

At this point I am not sure whether Baucum will enter the Ordinariate or be laicized like David Moyer.  Either way, that brings up something else: the main attraction of Roman Catholicism these days is that of authority, although the current Occupant of St. Peter’s see is the loosest cannon of all!  It makes sense that one who wants to “lord over the Gentiles” would gravitate towards the RCC, although unless you are much higher up than Baucum will be you’ll learn humility pretty quickly.

The best system is one where the laity, the people of God and the church themselves, are able to counterweight their clergy in a reasonable fashion.  It looks like that’s what happened at Truro and now Baucum will have to find a place–if it’s out there–to exercise his lordship somewhere else.

Here’s a Bookmarked, Easy-to-Navigate PDF of the ACNA’s New Catechism — Anglican Pastor

As the Anglican Church in North America just recently announced, the PDF of the new “Approved” edition of the Catechism is now available. Crossway will be publishing this edition of To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism in early 2020. You can pre-order a copy on Amazon here (affiliate link). I’ve added bookmarks to the…

via Here’s a Bookmarked, Easy-to-Navigate PDF of the ACNA’s New Catechism — Anglican Pastor

The General Thanksgiving — Chet Aero Marine

Of all the prayers we used to pray from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer at Bethesda, probably my favourite was what the Prayer Book called “A General Thanksgiving,” but I normally attached the definite article to it. It’s especially appropriate now and here it is: Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we, thine unworthy […]

via The General Thanksgiving — Chet Aero Marine