Anglicanism: Reformed Catholicism, Protestant and Catholic

The question that continues to vex Anglicanism (perhaps since the time of the Reformation but even more so over the last 200 years) is whether she is…

Anglicanism: Reformed Catholicism, Protestant and Catholic

This is one of the more intelligent treatments of this complicated subject. I think there are two core problems here.

On the Protestant side, I think the tendency now is to equate “Protestant” with “Reformed,” which is certainly not the case. It marginalises some post-Reformation theological threads such as the Wesleyan one, which has its roots in Anglicanism. (It even marginalises Lutheranism!) The episcopacy and Article XVI (if nothing else) put paid to Anglicanism being a truly “Reformed” church. If you want a Reformed church, the Church of Scotland and its progeny are the place for you. I tried to explain this to Robin Jordan but to no avail.

As far as the Catholics are concerned, most who veer in that direction believe that the ultimate goal is union with Rome. They haven’t figured out that churches which have valid apostolic succession but are not in union with Rome (and in no hurry to get there) are still valid. Some Anglo-Catholic people are aware of this but even the current Occupant of the See of St. Peter can’t dissuade them from their idea.

The Fact that Kristin du Mez Won’t Explain Anything Explains Everything

And she takes her time about doing it too, I’ll reproduce just a snippet:

Do I personally affirm “the church’s teaching that homosexuality is sinful?” Which church? My own church (local & denomination) is actively reexamining this issue in light of tradition, interpretation, history, & science. I’m participating, but as a historian, not a theologian.

This reminds me of a line from the British television show The Prisoner, where #2 can’t get a straight answer about whether there was a plot to kill him. He finally realises the truth and says, “The fact that you won’t explain anything explains everything.”

To start, her church, like every other Evangelical church (and most non-Evangelical ones too) isn’t in a position to come to an authoritative position on anything. I explain this problem in my post Authority and Evangelical Churches. If she had the wit to take this position, a lot of the authoritarianism, patriarchy, etc. she dislikes would be sent to the bottom. But getting rid of authority isn’t the game here; it’s transferring it from one place to another.

Second, the position of Scripture on the issue at hand isn’t difficult to state, adhere to or break away from. The fact that she isn’t doing any of the above is either duplicitous or indecisive, and my quote from The Prisoner should tell you what I think is most likely.

Third, ambiguous responses like this were the main reasons why I left the Episcopal Church. It wasn’t that their answers were right or wrong, but that they didn’t really say anything or mean anything. You can’t build a life with real meaning from that kind of ambiguity. The whole recent history of the Anglican/Episcopal world, complete with “Anglican fudge,” is a testament to the results of trying to make that work.

As the French would say, plus de change, plus la même chose…

Pentecostal Pioneer Katherine Voronaev Escaped USSR 61 Years Ago, Revealed Horrors of Persecution

Mugshot of Katherine Voronaev during her imprisonment in Soviet slave labor camps, circa 1930s This Week in AG History —November 27, 1960 By Darrin J. RodgersOriginally published on AG-News, 24 November 2021 Ivan and Katherine Voronaev, pioneer Assemblies of God missionaries to the Soviet Union, were exiled to Siberian prison camps in the 1930s and […]

Pentecostal Pioneer Katherine Voronaev Escaped USSR 61 Years Ago, Revealed Horrors of Persecution

Don’t Tell People to “Come to the Table” Unless They Really Do–Or Should

Today is the Sunday of Christ the King, or the Sunday Before Advent, depending on which liturgical calendar you’re using. (So let’s dispense with the term “the liturgical calendar” as if there is only one.) It’s the last Sunday of the liturgical year, and as was the case with 2019-20 it’s been a long one, glad we’ve made it to the end. Hope the next one is better.

So much for one pet peeve. If we’re going to discuss pet peeves in this liturgical year, it’s now or never. So let me bring up a phrase that is a leitmotif among Affirming Catholics: “Come to the Table,” presumably meaning the table of the Lord (as the opening track in The 10:15: Making Tracks sings about.) There’s a lot of sentiment loaded into this phrase, some of which implies that most of the rest of us aren’t really coming to the table, or are not doing so in a meaningful manner.

I’ll start by mentioning the devotees of Bill Clinton’s Eucharistic Theology: It Depends on What ‘Is’ Is, namely the Evangelicals in general and the Baptists in particular. When they get out the big trays, they also obviate the need to come to the table: communion is served to them, they don’t come or go anywhere. With their Eucharistic theology, it probably doesn’t make any difference whether they come to a table or not, which is one reason why places like C4SO are getting refugees from this kind of church.

As I keep reminding people, I grew up in the Old High Church, and we had an altar rail where people came to kneel and receive Communion. Since a permanent altar rail would render the area around the altar inaccessible, part of the altar rail was a gate, which before the actual Communion I might find myself as an acolyte closing, and opening thereafter.

The late ACNA troublemaker Thomas McKenzie made the observation that the altar rail is in reality a table that we come to. If he’s right it’s the closest thing to people “coming to the table” out there. Coming to a table implies the intimacy of a shared meal, and for that to happen everyone (or as many as possible) must be at the table at which the meal is served. So that’s an interesting defence of the use of an altar rail.

Unfortunately those who implemented the changes following Vatican II had a completely different idea about the altar rail and the table. The altar rail, they said, was exclusionary: it was a barrier to keep people from “the table,” which in turn was torn out from its pride of place at the wall and set at the centre of the altar area so that the priest could celebrate the Mass ad populum. This was the state of affairs I found when switching from the Old High Church to the Novus Ordo Missae one.

The problem with this is that, with all of the changes, people really don’t “come to the table” in Roman Catholicism either. The priest certainly does; so do the deacons and the extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, and depending upon the parish other interlopers might do the same. But most people don’t: they line up in front of the altar area and receive the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ one by one. My own church’s attempt to improve on that didn’t have a better result.

The only place that came close to that in my years as a Roman Catholic was my experience in the Newman Association, where we had a relatively small, intimate group. That size of a group echoes the ultimate “coming to the table,” namely the Last Supper. But it’s worth noting that, even in a group like that, there were those whose major fault was not when they came to the table but when, how and why they left.

In an attempt to get to a better place, I’ll start in a crude way. When my father wasn’t exhorting his children to “get with the program,” he would tell us to “come to the party.” Coming to parties is an obsession with Americans these days, but that’s not what he had in mind. What he was trying to say is that we should align our attitude with what was right. In Biblical terms it meant the following:

Therefore, whoever eats the bread, or drinks the Lord’s cup, in an irreverent spirit, will have to answer for an offence against the Lord’s body and blood. Let each man look into his own heart, and only then eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For the man who eats and drinks brings a judgment upon himself by his eating and drinking, when he does not discern the body. That is why so many among you are weak and ill, and why some are sleeping. But, if we judged ourselves rightly, we should not be judged.

1 Corinthians 11:27-31 TCNT

If we consider the aforementioned “coming to the table” at the Last Supper, we see the consequences of not having “come to the party” in the first place. And that’s my pet peeve with the “coming to the table” crowd: they more often than not short the need for prior regeneration and repentance. It’s an observation I made in my piece Book Review: William Palmer Ladd’s Prayer Book Interleaves, and I won’t repeat it here. All of my observations about the inconsistencies in the way we receive Communion, and how even with all the liturgical changes we really don’t “come to the table,” are only ways of showing that our outward formalities cannot “close the loop” and obviate the need for inward transformation.

So now I’ve said it. IMHO the “come to the table” people have not only failed to grasp the difficulties of how it’s done at the present; they have also put the cart before the horse by not putting the emphasis on repentance and preparation before receiving the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Who knows, perhaps this liturgical year will be one where some churches at least will set things aright, in which case “coming to the table”–no matter how it is done–will be something of real celebration.

Today’s Goat is Tomorrow’s Goat Too

In this case Jon Meacham:

Samford University has uninvited Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham from inauguration ceremonies for the school’s new president after student protest…

However, in a letter Wednesday, Beck Taylor, who became university president in July, wrote that due to objections, including from “elements of Samford’s Student Government Association,” the university had decided to reschedule the talk, as first reported by Baptist News Global.

I’ve written disparagingly about Jon Meacham before, and my opinion has not changed. I’m inclined to think that sleeping through his address would have been the best form of protest, but conservative activists, like their liberal counterparts, thought differently. Obviously the administration thought that a speaker like Meacham would not be a triggering event, but everyone gets triggered these days.

This is where we’re at: the only way conservatives think they can fight back against leftist cancel culture is to do some cancellation themselves. It’s really not a pretty picture, certainly not for free speech, but it’s where we’re at now.

Meacham’s 2010 piece on Easter prompted the following observation:

Pieces like this weren’t so much a challenge to traditionally religious readers as a declaration of war. Why not just put a bullet in the Easter Bunny while you’re at it?

Looks like his opponents have shot back.

A note about the title: today the “GOAT” is the “Greatest of All Time,” but my Arkansas native mother used the term “goat” for someone like the barnyard animal who wasn’t very popular. Meacham can now claim he’s gone from one to the other.

Maybe Our Ministers Are Really a Trade Union After All

In Iceland, this is literally the case:

A proposal to ban clergy from charging or accepting fees for funerals, weddings and baptisms has prompted threats of industrial action by the clergy union of the Church of Iceland (Þjóðkirkjan).

A little while back I lamented the following:

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.

As George Conger points out, the Church of Iceland is a state (Lutheran) church and its ministers employees of the government. They have a trade union with a collective bargaining agreement. One of the things that agreement permits is for same ministers to collect honoraria on things such as baptisms, weddings, funerals, etc. The church wants to revoke this right unilaterally, thus the threat of the ministers to strike. In the trade union setting I’m familiar with, the union would file a grievance for this kind of thing, but different contracts stipulate different responses.

My experience with ministers in the Church of God tells me that, if our church were to do the same thing, the reaction of the union (er, ministers) would make the threat of a strike look tame. Honoraria are a time-honoured practice from the lowliest exhorter right up to the Executive Committee. Our ministers may have different classifications but they are, ultimately, one bargaining unit.

But I also suspect that the reaction of ministers in the more “refined” churches I routinely cover on this site wouldn’t take such a revocation with more equanimity than their counterparts across the tracks, and the situation in Iceland demonstrates what I’m talking about.

That Pesky Johnson Amendment Strikes Again

This time for the Democrats, with Vice President Kamala Harris’ video for African-American churches:

Democratic leaders have pulled out the stops to try to help Terry McAuliffe in his struggling campaign for governor in Virginia. Figures from Barack Obama to Stacey Abrams have stumped for McAuliffe who is in a tight race with businessman Glenn Youngkin. The key for McAuliffe is black voters, and to spur turnout Vice President Kamala Harris has taped an endorsement of McAuliffe that is reportedly being played at hundreds of African American churches around the state. The problem is the “Johnson Amendment” makes such political pitches in churches a violation of federal law.

I was (and am) unenthusiastic about repealing the Johnson Amendment, as was the hue and cry from many white evangelicals during the Trump years:

I think that political activity needs to be the province of the laity.  And I’ve heard Christian politicians show a stronger grasp on what the Gospel is all about than ministers about political issues.  To put our ministers in the “driver’s seat” of political activity is to cede yet another function of the laity, reducing the latter to passive consumers of the church’s product.  And we have enough of that unBiblical kind of thing going on as it is.

As I said at the start, freedom is something that needs to be used wisely.  If you get it, be careful: you may end up losing it all if you blow it.

Although I am aware of the role that African-American churches have played in the civil rights movement, if things like this make political activity in churches de facto or de jure acceptable, it may have this effect for everyone:

The danger of the right is the same as Harry Reid’s doing away with the super-majority filibuster for nominees: if the political wind reverses, you’ve given yourself the shaft. In both cases the reality of the Gospel is obscured by our desires of the moment.

The Unsaid Lesson of Francis Collins

He gets is both barrels from Nate Fisher at the American Reformer:

Collins has long been celebrated by evangelical influencers, and upon his departure those praising him included Russell Moore, Tim Keller, and David French. The well-credentialed  evangelicals who populate urban churches like Keller’s have been taught to aspire to a “faithful presence” in elite institutions, and Collins is often viewed as epitomizing this. He succeeded not just at an elite level, but in the scientific world, a domain where Christians have a particularly hard time gaining respect.

Yet Collins’s record over his 12 years atop the NIH shows serious and repeated moral compromises. That he continues to be praised as a model by elite-adjacent evangelicals suggests that what matters is the “presence” in elite circles far more than faithfulness to any clear Christian moral standard.

If there’s one thing shocking about American Evangelicalism, it’s its blindness to the moral hazard of getting into the upper reaches of a society. Having been brought up in the upper reaches of this one, that moral hazard was definitely apparent.

And yet, with the “have it all” and “move up” mentality that permeates American Evangelicalism, there is a general blindness to that moral hazard. I’d be the first to admit that Francis Collins’ rise is amazingand objected to by secular types–but the things which Fisher lays out should be expected in an era when moral corners are to be cut, especially in the biomedical field.

I think Evangelicals should be more careful about the way they lionise people who move up the way Collins has, and more importantly quit encouraging people to constantly push themselves into positions where they have to make decisions and compromises such as Collins has had to do. Do we really need to push our children into elite schools? Did we think about the compromises we would have to make in a major political movement? Questions like these and many others go unasked and unanswered in the Evangelical world, which is a major reason we ended up with Donald Trump. Many of the same elite-adjacent evangelicals (such as those listed above) who have blubbered about the support for Trump have pushed people into aspiring for high positions and secular success, which in turn encourages successful political action, which in turn…

You can’t have it both ways; make up your minds.

Our Goal in Life is Really, Truly to be Happy

Barna’s people find such a statement depressing:

While focusing on career data and a shifting workforce, Barna’s vocation project found something troubling in the church, Christians are pursuing happiness instead of Christ.

“It’s not a sustaining framework to just chase after happiness, that’s so circumstantial,” said Dr. Stephanie Shackelford, author of You on Purpose.

“I think what is interesting is practicing Christians are even more likely to chase after happiness [than non-Christians] as their primary aim.”

I find it disturbing that many Christians are offended by the idea that people want to be happy. These people make it an “either/or” proposition: you pursue Jesus Christ or you pursue happiness. But the great Bossuet, living in a century of war, disease and famine, knew that this is a false dichotomy:

Man’s chief aim in life is to be happy. Our Lord Jesus Christ came into this world in order to give us the means of attaining this happiness. To find happiness where it should be found is the source of all good, and the source of all evil is to find it where it should not be found. Let us say then, “I wish to be happy.” Let us also see the goal where happiness is found, and the means to attain it.

Bossuet, Meditations on the Gospel

Our true happiness is to be found in Jesus Christ. Churches and “traditions” that emphasise that we can be happy when we find Jesus Christ, and whose church life is organised to make that fulfilment tangible, will do better in meeting people’s needs. As I look around, the only churches really oriented to make that a reality are those in modern Pentecost. As long as that is the case, they will continue to grow.