John Shelby Spong: Calling the Bluff of a White Supremacist

Gary L’Hommedieu‘s article The ‘Honesty’ of John Shelby Spong” is an interesting analysis, but there’s one point he might want to carry further with a little information.  The point is this:

According to Bishop Spong, Rowan Williams was “appointed to lead”, by which Spong means to manipulate the political process of the Anglican Communion. Such after all is the birthright of Westerners. They lead; others follow. His attitude toward the majority of Anglicans, and thus toward the majority of people on earth, is one of monumental condescension. This is one of the things that couldn’t have been made up, except perhaps by a White Supremacist in another era: by virtue of their inferior nonwestern socialization the majority of the Anglican primates are inferior nonetheless, and they ought to be treated so by their betters. That their pre-scientific animist “prejudices” should be given credence in the councils of the Church is indecent and shows a failure of moral leadership.

Spong’s attitude became all too apparent at the 1998 Lambeth Conference, when he actually got into a near shouting match with the Africans.

Spong, as he likes to remind us, is a Southerner, and thus is a descendant of white supremacists of another era.  (This is not an uncharitable generalisation; white supremacy was simply assumed by most people raised on that side of the racial divide in the South from the days of slavery to the 1960’s.) His transformation from that to radical is, in part, an attempt to achieve upward intellectual (and perhaps social) mobility.  Unfortunately his attitude towards the Africans shows that he is all too willing to take a leaf from his ancestors’ playbook when it suits his purpose.

The problem with racial supremacists of any kind is that most theories of racial supremacy are propagated by races working from a position of weakness relative to their neighbours.  That weakness stems from one of two sources.  The first is that the race is seriously outnumbered and surrounded by the neighbours; the best examples of this are the Germans (World Wars I and II) and the Afrikaners (apartheid.)  The second is that the race has internal problems that are most easily papered over by creating a myth of superiority, and Spong’s ancestors fall into this category, as documented in Evangelicals and Politics: Somebody Finally Gets It.

But perhaps, if we get beyond Spong and look at TEC in general, we see signs that both of the causes may be at work, thus a need to fabricate superiority.  The result is predictable:

The bitter irony of the Episcopal Church, even if it is not yet recognized by the majority, is that it has become the quintessential Ugly American. There is an instinctive sense of cultural, if not racial, superiority that is unobscured by fashionable rhetoric and staged moral confrontations. Everyone else can see it. Americans cannot. The Asian and African Primates clearly see the Western Primates as the latest expression of the White Man’s Burden voicing its indignation that its genius and good intentions are being questioned. This is the hubris of the present Episcopal Church which the retired Bishop of Newark has spread out on the world’s table.

The Old British Car and the Anglican Communion

The whole back and forth about  Who can expel The Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion reminds me of the old British car, i.e., those products of that rickety chandelier called British Leyland (MG, Triumph, Rover, Jaguar, Austin, Morris and Wolseley) in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  When these cars ran, they were the best, but when you needed them the most, they broke down.

As I understand it, the Anglican Communion has four instruments of unity:

  • Archbishop of Canterbury
  • Lambeth Conferences
  • Primates’ Meeting
  • Anglican Consultative Council

There are two logical conclusions from this:

  1. To be a member of the Anglican Communion, one must be a part of all four of these.
  2. If a province is expelled from one of these by any means, it’s out of the Anglican Communion.

Canon Brooks’ contention only makes sense if one assumes that expulsion from the ACC reduces a province’s affiliation from four to three.  But this would also work if, for example, the CofE decided to formally break communion with one of the provinces.  Given the current leadership of the CofE, this is unlikely.

Is this any way to run a Communion?  It’s almost as silly as the old Polish parliament, which required unanimous vote to do anything.  But the Anglican Communion again is like the old British car, designed for the cool climes of Albion but overheats when sent to places like Texas and Florida.

One thing’s for sure: the Anglican Communion is the ricketiest chandelier in Christianity right at the moment.

Sober Leadership Retreat Considers Future of Diocese

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh conducted a sober leadership retreat to consider the future of the diocese.

Now we know for sure that some Episcopalians are very serious about their current situation.  To sober up for any reason is a major event for Episcopalians.  My second year Latin teacher–an Episcopal priest in an Episcopal school–was the first to inform me that "when there are four Whiskeypalians, there’s always a fifth."

If the current situation of TEC isn’t enough to sober many drinkers up, then only divine intervention is left for them.  And the TEC.

TEC Considers Its Legal Options

David Trimble’s analysis of Bishop/Attorney Stacy Sauls’ role and possible analysis in the Episcopal Church’s legal options re its property is a very sensible one.

Much of what’s written about this reflects spiritual angst and a naive view of the legal system.  While spiritual angst is understandable, when the legal system gets involved it’s necessary to take a more calculating view, otherwise the pain is increased, frequently without improvement of the results.

It’s also interesting to see how TEC will use the long arm of the law to effectively enforce its liberal theology.  It still boggles me that an American church can get away with that in the 21st century, especially one with an upscale demographic like the TEC.

Note: the David Trimble who wrote this is a Kentucky attorney and not the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize winner and former First Minister of Northern Ireland.  They are doubtless cousins; some of Lord Trimble’s relatives came across the water, as did many from Ulster.  The Trimbles are well established in places such as Kentucky and Tennessee (I’ve gone to church with a few) and I think that, in the mess that Northern Ireland has been, Lord Trimble sometimes wished that his own ancestors had joined the rest of the Trimbles in the New World.

To Mind a Generation Gap You Have to Find It

Brad Drell has opened an interesting topic of discussion in Minding The Generation Gap In The Anglican Blogosphere.  But two comments are in order.

  1. I’ve always thought that the break between the Boomers and Generation X was in 1965.  But dividing lines like this are a tricky business, and there are "variations on a theme" within generations, as is certainly the case with the Boomers.
  2. If there are more liberal Anglican/Episcopal bloggers amongst the Boomers, it’s probably due to the fact that many of those who would have been conservative ones bailed out on the Episcopal Church in the membership contraction of the 1970’s, as is the case with me.  That may explain many things that has happened in TEC in the last three decades.

All journeys must end someday

Peter Akinola’s recapitulation of the running battle in the Anglican Communion (A Most Agonizing Journey towards Lambeth 2008, also here) is as good of a summary as one could want.

One of the titles, however, is intriguing: "All journeys must end someday."  We’ve been conditioned to think that the journey itself is the central experience of life.  But the reality is that the objective is what’s most important.  When the journey is at an end, the goal (hopefully) is reached.

It’s obvious that the journey that Akinola speaks of is coming to an end.  But there is a more important one, and it’s the journey that’s behind all of the efforts.  It’s the journey into eternity.  This life’s journey will end someday.  What is your objective?

The Anglican Calendar Script and Feast Days

Recently I received the following email from one of our visitors:

I am writing about the Anglican Calendar php program on this website. Firstly, thank you so much for creating it and sharing it! It is fantastic!

I am developing a website for my 1928 bcp church, and wanted something to put a bit of info about the current day. Your program works perfectly. However, I noticed at least one thing that I had a question about.

In checking for feast days, your program simply looks at the day of the month. But I know that sometimes the feast days are moved if they overlap with other holidays. For example, the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary normally occurs on March 25th. But in 2007, March 25th is Palm Sunday, and in 2008, March 25th is the 1st Sunday after Easter.

The calendar at commonprayer.org moves the Annunciation for both those years.

So here is my question: do you know how to tell when overlapping holidays need to be separated, how to know which takes precedence, and how far you need to push the lesser holiday (and in which direction!)?

It would be awesome if you updated your code, but if you have access to the info, I will use it to update the code myself, since the website will be going up soon.

Again, thanks for all the resources on your site, keep it up!

My response was on this wise:

As you may have noted, the calendar as it exists attempts to cover both the 1662 and 1928 BCP.  As a consequence, I had to generalise the output, and that’s why it puts out the Sundays and feasts simultaneously.

As far as the precedence issue you mentioned, I think part of the problem is that a lot of what’s actually done isn’t strictly speaking "by the book."  Part of the problem is with the book itself.

Let’s consider the example you gave, the Annunciation.  I’m looking at my 1928 BCP.  Page l of course lists the Annunciation as a feast.  But on the following page it tells us that all of the Sundays in Lent (and that includes Palm Sunday) take precedence over "any other Sunday or Holy Day," but that doesn’t apply to the First Sunday after Easter (Low Sunday.)  And it doesn’t give moving the feast as an option.

It also lists Holy Days "which have precedence of days" over certain Sundays (such as those in Lent,) but the Annunciation isn’t one of them.

Faced with this situation, I "punted" and simply had the days come up as they appeared on the calendar.

The source code of the script can be modified, as is the case with the Catholic Calendar Script. But that doesn’t solve the problem of precedence.  I’m open to comments and suggestions as to the proper method of dealing with this problem.

Spengler’s West Coast Competition

Those of you who follow "Spengler" on Asia Times Online are familiar with his argument coupling the birthrate with religious belief and the survival of a society.  (An interesting correlation of this from an Episcopalian standpoint can be found here.

It looks like he’s got some competition from the West Coast in the form of the Hoover Institute’s Mary Tedeschi Eberstadt in her recent article How the West Really Lost God.  She’s not quite as entertaining as he is, but her research is of greater depth.

This line of thinking has some interesting implications for Evangelical churches, but some are putting it into practice.

Why is The 1662 Book of Common Prayer so popular all of a sudden

Peter Toon’s piece on Why is The 1662 Book of Common Prayer so popular all of a sudden (especially relative to its American 1928 counterpart) agrees with the statistics we get on this site.

Positive Infinity offers both the 1662 and 1928 books for free download.  The inclusion of the 1662 book in 2004 (in part a by-product of the Island Chronicles research) literally brought the site’s visitation rate to a new level.  The 1928 book was added not too long after that, but has never matched its English counterpart in downloads.

Part of the novelty of our online edition of both of these books was that they were each presented as one pdf file, as opposed to multiple pdf files or an html/php file.  Other Anglican sites were concerned with the large file size, but of course the definition of a "small file" keeps expanding with higher speed connections.

Looking at the year to date statistics, the 1662 book remains the single most downloaded document on the site.  (A "downloaded" document is one that isn’t an html/php file, like a pdf, exe, mov or other executable/archive file.)  Its downloads are triple those of its 1928 counterpart.