The Polyepiscopacy of the Early Church

An intriguing (and sensible) suggestion from Trevor Gervase Jalland’s The Church and the Papacy:

Though there are, as we believe, adequate grounds for rejecting the view that Clement formally identifies episcopi with presbyters, yet in the face of this evidence it appears equally impossible to deny that he refers to the episcopate in a way that suggests that it was held by more than one person in a single community. It may be pointed out further that we are bound to infer from Clement’s description that the function of the episcopate at this time was purely and solely liturgical. Thus it may well be that his frequent use of liturgical language, to which commentators on this document repeatedly call attention, is due to his deep sense of the outrage which has been committed by unjustly depriving ministers of the liturgy of their peculiar office.

If it be asked how this plurality of the episcopate arose, it is impossible to offer more than conjecture in reply. It is probable from the evidence in Acts, I Corinthians and Romans that the primitive basis of Christian liturgical organization was the ‘house church’, such as that of Prisca at Rome. It is equally probable on the same evidence that in large centres of population such as Rome and Corinth, more than one such ‘house church’ would be acquired at an early date by rapidly expanding community. Now when an Apostle was present, to him would properly belong the privilege of ‘Breaking Bread’, as in Acts XIX. But to whom would it be assigned in the Apostle’s absence? The natural inference from Clement, who evidently refers to established and recognized custom, is that it would be given to an episcopus, and thus a plurality of house churches would at first naturally lead to a plurality of episcopi. (p. 80)

Jalland goes on to describe how this polyepiscopate morphed into the “monoepiscopate” normative in Anglicanism (well, sort of,) Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy.  But his concept solves many of the problems in sorting out the leadership offices described in the New Testament and shortly afterwards.

What Jalland is describing is what has come back as a kind of cell group system.  And, when I read this, I said to myself, “Score one for those in the Church of God who wanted to call the highest ministerial rank ‘bishop’ and not just those who supervise a region.”

Jalland also assumes that these bishops had liturgical duties from the beginning, and the whole idea of liturgical worship in the New Testament church is a complete freak-out for much of Evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity.

Elevations on the Mysteries VI: On Original Sin — The Bossuet Project

This is the sixth journey of Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, the elevations are as follows: All men in one man. First foundation of God’s justice in original sin. The father rewarded and punished in children, second foundation of God’s righteousness in original sin. The original justice of which Adam was deprived for himself and […]

via Elevations on the Mysteries VI: On Original Sin — The Bossuet Project

“I honestly wept when I listened to it.”

Received this comment on my YouTube posting of the Word of God’s New Life album:

I am so grateful that you put this up. I honestly wept when I listened to it. I was all of 10 years old when I first heard this. I make no comments about the excellence of the music (it’s not) nor of the style of worship, but it is very evocative of a time in many lives when this sort of thing represented a hope for great things from God. I only wish that all of these could be found still.

In spite of some of my reservations about the Word of God’s music style, there is no doubt this worship style was moving and spiritual, and there was a hope of great things from God.  The whole movement, however, and indeed the whole “Jesus Music” era of the 1960’s and 1970’s got derailed by two things: the effects of authoritarianism through the Shepherding Movement and covenant communities, and the commercialization of Christian music in general in the 1980’s and beyond.

It’s hard to describe to any side in the “music wars” these days what this style of worship meant to those of us who experienced it; we find ourselves alone on the sides.  Fortunately we are not alone, as this comment shows.  And with God we are never alone.

Book Review: Trevor Gervase Jalland’s The Church and the Papacy

One of Our Lord’s commands that we have difficulty fulfilling is this one:

But it is not only for them that I am interceding, but also for those who believe in me through their Message, That they all may be one–that as thou, Father, art in union with us–and so the world may believe that thou hast sent me as thy Messenger. (John 17:20-21 TCNT)

No where is that more apparent than the relationship between those who are under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome–the Roman Catholics–and those who are not, whether the latter be Protestant, Orthodox or otherwise.  Most Protestants have brushed off any idea of union with–or certainly under–Rome.  Unless you figure that Protestant and Orthodox churches will simply roll the Roman Catholics–and in some places like Latin America that’s a possibility–sooner or later some accommodation with the See of Peter needs to be considered, or at least the obstacles to that accommodation need to be dispassionately discussed.

A serious discussion of this is Trevor Gervase Jalland’s The Church and the Papacy.  Jalland, Vicar of St. Thomas the Martyr in Oxford and an Anglo-Catholic, delivered the Bampton Lectures at Oxford in 1942.  These lectures became the book.  As such it presupposes a fairly broad knowledge of the history of the church.  Jalland’s main objective is to examine the validity of the claim of the See of Rome to Petrine Primacy, and how that claim has been actualized over the centuries.

The focus of his interest is the period from the New Testament to the end of the sixth century, which takes up most of his narrative.  He brings out three important points which become leitmotifs in the history of the Roman Empire church in general and the Roman see in particular.

The first is that the assertion–and the acceptance–of Petrine primacy for the Roman see was relatively early in its history.  It should be understood that the church’s structure was “looser” at that time and this primacy didn’t mean then what it means now, but primacy it was all the same.

The second is that the principal objective in bishops of Rome exerting this primacy was to insure that the faith which was handed down by the apostles–the paradosis, to use the transliterated Greek term that Jalland employs frequently–was preserved and maintained.  That brought a conservatism to the way Rome responded to the many doctrinal crises that came from the East, a salutary one in most cases.

The third is that this primacy was set in opposition to the Caesero-papism that dominated Eastern church polity.  From Constantine I onward Eastern Roman emperors exerted enormous authority over the calling of and presiding over Church councils and the doctrine which they promulgated.  The See of Rome did not feel that the state really had any business doing this, although they frequently had to express this opinion very diplomatically.  That rivalry was exacerbated by the rise of the see of Constantinople, which had no antiquity (as opposed to that of Rome, Alexandria, Antioch or even Jerusalem) and that rivalry ultimately paved the way to the split between Roman Catholic and Orthodox in 1054.

It’s tempting to observe that, had Rome stuck to the program above, it could have avoided many of the problems that arose later.  Jalland doesn’t really come out and say this, but he does show that many of the changes in the nature of the Papacy in the Middle Ages were due to the increasingly politicized nature of the Papacy itself.  This manifested itself in two forms.  First, the Pope, having sent the Eastern Emperor packing so to speak, felt that he was over the monarchs of the West, and that headship involved political authority.  The second was that, by virtue of Papal territory in Central Italy, the Pope became a secular ruler in his own right, with the political role that accompanied that.  Both of these created conflict between the Pope and secular rulers, and that conflict helped to fuel the Reformation itself both on the Continent and in Great Britain.

Jalland describes two points in Papal history where a major turn of history took place at a point of weakness in Rome.  The first is the Reformation: Jalland describes a Papacy enmeshed in worldly considerations and taking a “deer in headlights” attitude to the oncoming storm in Germany.  The second is Vatican I, where Papal infallibility was proclaimed.  Jalland opined that the crisis occasioned by the reunification of the country and the progressive disappearance of the Papal States lead Pius IX to seek help from above, first in the proclamation of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin in 1854 (a doctrine not well supported in tradition) and his own infallibility in 1870, the promulgation of which provides the “book ends” for the lectures.

Jalland, unusual among Christian historians, has a good grasp on the relationship of doctrine with ecclesiology, and the impact of “church politics” (which includes both politics within the church and its interaction with the state.)  He avoids the kinds of artificial constructs and sweeping generalizations that plague debates within the church these days.  He has an Anglo-Catholic’s aversion to state control of the church, one seen also in Luckock.  That is an appropriate backdrop to one of the most interesting narratives in the book: how Pius VII outlasted Napoleon in spite of the latter’s attempt to use the Papacy for his own purposes, something that Stalin’s successors would have done well to remember.

So now that he has shown the antiquity of Petrine primacy, where did he think things were going with Rome?  In the last lecture he makes the following statement:

The latest tragedy of its history seems to lie in this, that the vain attempt to save what had long ceased to be valuable contributed its failure to appreciate the opportunity for fulfilling its world-wide mission as a centre of unity and order for Christian society as a whole under changed conditions, and led only to a comparatively sterile reassertion of its primatial status.

Jalland was unsure of where all of this was going, both for the Roman Catholics and for everyone else.  Three quarters of a century after Jalland gave these lectures, we really don’t have a clearer picture.  Vatican II had a great deal of promise but its own mandate for change was at once too broad and too narrow, and worse it became the tool of those with a sub-Christian agenda.  The current Occupant of the See of Peter, back to the usual agenda of protecting the Vatican’s turf, currying favor with the “gods of this world” and using the authority of an infallible successor to Peter to make this happen, has left many inside and outside the Church in the lurch.  As for the Protestant world, the Main Line churches, descendants (in the US) for the most part of the state churches (in Europe) that emerged from the Reformation, have lost center stage to the Evangelicals and Pentecostals, whose propensity to splinter makes putting the pieces back together difficult just by the sheer number of the pieces themselves.

What Christianity needs is leadership which is committed to transmitting the paradosis of the Apostles without expanding it.  If the See of Peter ever rediscovers that mission, it will fulfill the final charge which Our Lord gave to Peter:

When breakfast was over, Jesus said to Simon Peter: “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than the others?” “Yes, Master,” he answered, “you know that I am your friend.” “Feed my lambs,” said Jesus. Then, a second time, Jesus asked: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Master,” he answered, “you know that I am your friend.” “Tend my sheep,” said Jesus. The third time, Jesus said to him: “Simon, son of John, are you my friend?” Peter was hurt at his third question being ‘Are you my friend?’; and exclaimed: “Master, you know everything! You can tell that I am your friend.” “Feed my sheep,” said Jesus. “In truth I tell you,” he continued, “when you were young, you used to put on your own girdle, and walk wherever you wished; but, when you have grown old, you will have to stretch out your hands, while some one else puts on your girdle, and takes you where you do not wish.” (John 21:15-18 TCNT)

Communion in the Hand, and Those Pesky Easterners

This, brought to my attention, from Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechetical Lectures, toward the very end:

Approaching therefore, come not with thy wrists extended, or they fingers open; but make they left hand as if a throne for thy right, which is on the eve of receiving the King.  And having hallowed thy palm, receive the Body of Christ, saying after it, Amen.  Then after thou hast with carefulness hallowed thy eyes by the touch of the Holy Body, partake thereof; giving heed lest thou lose any of it; for what thou losest, is a loss to thee as it were from one of thine own members.  For tell me, if any one gave thee gold dust, wouldest thou not with all precaution keep it fast, being on thy guard against losing any of it, and suffering loss?  How much more cautiously then will thou observe that not a crumb falls from thee, of what is more precious than gold and precious stones?

Then after having partaken of the Body of Christ, approach also to the Cup of His Blood; not stretching forth thine hands, but bending and saying in the way of worship and reverence, Amen, be thou hallowed by partaking also of the blood of Christ.  And while the moisture is still upon thy lips, touching it with thy hands, hallow both thine eyes and brow and the other senses.  Then wait for the prayer, and give thanks unto God, who has accounted thee worthy of so great mysteries.  (Mystagogical Cathacheses, V, 21-22)

One of the hills the Trad Catholics die on is reception of the Host on the tongue.  But as is the case with many things, the Eastern churches, whose sacramental validity has never been challenged, do many things in liturgical practice that haven’t sat well with their Western counterparts.  This is one of them.  Many of the “novelties” that are decried by Anglican and Catholic Trad alike are in reality imports from these churches, and as such are a real nuisance to these trads.

I did a series a few years back on Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechetical Lectures.  For me, it was an interesting and informative journey, and I commend it again to my visitors.

Why I Prefer Ad Orientem

Since the release of the ANCA 2019 Book of Common Prayer has open the floodgates for consideration of all kinds of controversial topics, it’s time to consider one more: that of ad orientem, i.e., facing the altar during the Sacred Mysteries rather than the people.  That’s been the subject of a blog-to-blog volley between one Rev. Ben Jeffries, vicar at The Good Shepherd Anglican Church, Opelika, Alabama,  and Robin Jordan of Anglicans Ablaze fame.

Personal note: I’ve sparred with Robin before on the nature of Anglicanism and many other topics.  I noted that he opted to expand his own case on his own blog and not in the comments section of Jeffries’.  Evidently his encounter with me was educational; I wish he had done this when we went at it, we would have both been better off.

In any case, the topic is of interest because I’ve seen it both ways.  First, the altar of my home church, against the wall (and certainly facing east, which was easy to figure out in Palm Beach):

altar

As a Roman Catholic, however, the priest always faced the people with the altar from the wall, for reasons that both Jeffries and Jordan explain in detail.

With Latta Griswold’s rule of “The minister should face the altar when he addresses Almighty God, the congregation when he addresses or reads to them, and the opposite stall during other parts of the service” in mind, the reasons why I think ad orientem is better are threefold:

  1. It is a strong statement against Bill Clinton’s Eucharistic Theology and its variations.  While I am aware that Anglicanism, in common with Lutheranism, does not strictly adhere to this, the Scriptures are clear on this subject.
  2. It is the best justification for women ministering at the altar.  Now that you’ve picked yourself off of the floor, hear me out: true Catholics will tell you that the priest is in the place of Christ and represents him to the people, which is why we can never have women priests.  But that kind of priesthood has no real justification in the New Testament, as any true Anglican knows.  At the altar the minister represents the congregation to God, and when he or she celebrates the sacred mysteries facing God with the congregation at his or her back, that’s a powerful statement of the reality of the role of the minister.  Facing the people implies that the priest, in the place of Christ, is representing God to the people.
  3. It helps to restore the God-centred nature of our worship, and we need all of that we can get these days.

Now we know that trads and #straightouttairondale types inflexibly associate (or try to) ad orientem with the ornate High Mass.  But that wasn’t always the case, and a couple of examples from the days of wine and the Tridentine Mass will suffice.

Austrian-Field-Mass
The “field Mass,” a tradition in the Austrian military, being simply celebrated during World War I, in good ad orientem style.  It’s interesting to note that Eduard Habsburg, a descendant of the monarch these troops served, is the current Ambassador to the Vatican from Hungary.
mass_tyrolean_alps
On the Allies side, a priest celebrates Mass ad orientem (or whatever direction he can manage) to Italian Alpine troops during World War I. The Alpine troops were the best on both sides of the conflict; evidently they had the crack priests to go with them.

One common criticism of the ad orientem style is that its celebrants “mumble” their prayers.  That was certainly the case during pre-Vatican II times, but it doesn’t have to be now.  One good wireless microphone (which a celebrant should wear anyway, given all the movement during the Liturgy) should fix that.  For parishes with a larger budget, it wouldn’t hurt to set up a camera to the side of the altar and see what it looks like when the celebrant actually faces God.

While I’m at it, I’d like to address one more of Robin’s assertions:

Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI introduced a series of so-called reforms of the Roman Rite, which represent a retrograde movement in the Roman Catholic Church—a retreat from the reforms of Vatican II. Ratzinger, the writers on the New Liturgical Movement website, and Lang are a part of a movement in the Roman Catholic Church, which seeks to undo the reforms of Vatican II and to revive the Latin Mass and other pre-Vatican II practices. It blames the reforms of Vatican II for the decline in attendance at Mass in the West. Like the nineteenth century Anglo-Catholic movement in the Anglican Church it presents itself as a movement for the renewal of the church.

I was involved in a church plant that had lapsed Roman Catholics as one of ministry target groups. Our work with this ministry target group did not support the contentions of this movement. Among the reasons that the lapsed Roman Catholics with whom we worked gave for having stopped attending Mass was that they had undergone a divorce. They had been physically abused by the Roman Catholic nuns in parochial school as a child. They were concerned about the growing reports of sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests, the failure of the Roman Catholic hierarchy to protect these children, and the safety of their own children. The Roman Catholic Church had not met their pastoral and spiritual needs. They had been baptized, catechized, and confirmed, but had never heard the gospel or had been invited to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. How the Mass was celebrated was a non-issue.

I’ve discussed the impact of those retrograde innovations here and here.  Robin is right up to a point, but the main impact of the whole “trad” movement in Roman Catholicism is to create a core of committed people, something that the Church–with its gradualistic “box checker” mentality and weak pastoral system–has failed to do.  That isn’t enough to renew the church but without it Roman Catholicism will experience continual decline.  And, in a culture where Christianity is unpopular and its legal status rides from one election cycle to another, having that core is essential to its survival.

But that brings us to Anglicanism in North America and what it’s here to do.  As I see it Anglicanism has always been a “niche marketing” project, especially since American Christianity tends to be class stratified.  If you want many people, you’ll start a non-denominational or Pentecostal church (especially if you’re not targeting white people.)  If you want the “right” people, i.e., those with more education and resources, you’ll start an Anglican church.  Paul could claim the following:

To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men, so as at all costs to save some. And I do everything for the sake of the Good News, that with them I may share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:22-23 TCNT)

Most of our ministers these days can’t.  They should find out, among other things, whom God is calling them to be an apostle to and do it.

Jimmy Buffett and the Miserable Offenders of the Book of Common Prayer

It’s time to look at another bone that’s been picked with the ANCA’s 2019 Book of Common Prayer: the omission of the phrase “miserable offenders” to the General Confession for Morning and Evening Prayer.  Let’s start with the 2019 text:

BCP2019 MP Confession

And now from the 1928 BCP:

BCP1928 MP Confession

In addition to the modernization of the language, the phrase “miserable offenders” is conspicuously absent from the newer confession.

Modernizing the language is something that, although traditionalists find it offensive, is pretty much a necessity these days; the question is how to do it.  It’s the same fight that “King James Only” people have.

But the miserable offenders?  As was the case with the Creed, there’s a parallel with the Roman Catholic Novus Ordo Missae, and that’s the omission of the “mea culpa” (with breast beating accompanying) from the original English translation of that liturgy.  I did an entire piece on the subject when the “new” translation came out.  Note that there was pushback on it at the time from Roman Catholics.  My guess is that there’s been similar pushback from Anglicans and the 2019 BCP committees decided that keeping the phrase wasn’t worth it.

But in response to the NOM’s revived “starch in the shirt” about our sins, I invoked Jimmy Buffett:

As far as the sins are concerned, the Roman Catholic Church’s (the Jesuits of Pascal’s days notwithstanding) emphasis on the seriousness of our sins is well founded, and anyone with a Biblical understanding of the subject should know this. Even some whose Biblical understanding falls short know this too. In the same 1970’s when the “old” NOM translation was current in Catholic Churches, Jimmy Buffett, wasting away in Margaritaville, knew all too well whose fault it was. His lyrics, although liturgically inappropriate, were in their own way closer to the NOM Latin original than what was recited every Sunday.

The same observation can be made about omitting the “miserable offenders” from the Anglican General Confession, even though if Buffet’s sentiments were put into the BCP, as Latta Griswold would say, the philistines would blaspheme.

I grew up in Palm Beach reciting the 1928 General Confession.  Characterizing a bunch of bratty Palm Beachers as “miserable offenders” is charitable.  Right, Jeffrey Epstein?

The “I” and the “We” of the Creed

The issuance of the ACNA 2019 Book of Common Prayer has brought back to the forefront many issues that have been “out there” for a long time.  One of them is right up front in both the Apostles’ and Nicene Creed: whether either or both should start with “I believe” or “We believe.”  This post will attempt to shed a little light on the subject, because this change came from outside the Anglican/Episcopal world in a way that may surprise some people.

It’s certain that the 1662 and 1928 Books of Common Prayer started the creeds with the first person singular “I”.  The 1979 BCP changed it to “We” and that’s stuck in the craw of many ever since.   For me personally, the change came sooner.  When I “swam the Tiber” in 1972, I walked into a church which had instituted the Novus Ordo Missae two years earlier.  It was not only in the vernacular but started the Nicene Creed with “We believe.”

As an aside, I had been raised with the Apostles’ Creed being used in Morning Prayer and the Nicene in the Holy Communion.  The latter creed was pretty much a fixture at Mass.  The first time I heard the Apostles’ Creed used with Mass of any kind was John Michael Talbot’s The Lord’s Supper in 1979, and it finds its way there in situations where time is of the essence.

But I digress.  The reasoning given at the time was that the Mass after Vatican II was supposed to be more participatory and community oriented, thus the plural declaration of faith.  I think it’s reasonable to say that the Episcopal Church followed the RCC’s lead on this (and many other) liturgical subjects for the 1979 book.

But did the Roman Catholic Church actually change the Creed?  The answer is “no.”  Unlike the Anglicans, whose primary liturgical language is English (wonder why?) the Novus Ordo Missae, like those that went before it, was promulgated in Latin and translated into the various vernaculars that Roman Catholics find themselves in.  The decision to use “We” was that of those who made the original official translation of the NOM into English.  You can see this in this little except from a Latin-English missal I picked up in the UK, where “Credo — I believe” clearly appears in the Latin version of the Creed.

Creed Latin English

Additionally, towards the end of the Creed, “Confiteor una baptisma” (I confess one baptism,) where the first person singular persists, as is also the case with “expecto resurrectionem” (look forward to the resurrection.)

This decidedly unilingual change was done away with when the NOM’s current translation was made official and began use in Advent 2011, a change instituted by Benedict XVI, who is sadly Emeritus.  There are many clumsy, Latinate phrases used in this translation, but in this case it was an improvement.  (The same criticism can be made of the Authorised Version vs. Tyndale, but I digress again…)

The ACNA, evidently bowing to two score of 1979 habit, opted to use “We.”  Personally I think the first person singular is better; it attempts to force people to make a commitment to their belief, which is lacking these days.  The major problem churches such as the RCC and ACNA (TEC gave up a long time go) have is not getting their people to recite the Creed properly but to believe it.  There are several variations of this: the modern (“The Creed is just a historical statement which is mostly a fable,”) the post-modern (“The Creed is correct but it doesn’t really mean what it says”) and the sub-modern (“We really don’t care what the Creed says, we’ll believe what we want to.”)

And as for the “filoque” clause, this is my answer and I’m sticking to it.

Renunciation is Central to Christianity, But You’d Never Know It

I recently had an interesting back and forth with a guy I went to prep school with on “Renouncing Privilege.”  Evidently he and I have a different take on what that means, as evidenced by his comment:

Many of the students were, and probably still are wealthy, still privileged. I would not try to make the point that the young men became followers of Gandhi, just that they recognized an abusive power that they had the means to abolish and voted accordingly.

Some of my idea comes from the current assault on “white privilege,” the only logical solution being that white people just step aside and let everyone else run things.  (I document here how some well-heeled and bi-coastal white people have tried to get around that obvious conclusion for their children’s’ benefit.)  But much of my view on the subject is conditioned by the New Testament itself:

“I tell you,” answered Jesus, “that at the New Creation, ‘when the Son of Man takes his seat on his throne of glory,’ you who followed me shall be seated upon twelve thrones, as judges of the twelve tribes of Israel. Every one who has left houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or land, on account of my Name, will receive many times as much, and will ‘gain Immortal Life.’ But many who are first now will then be last, and those who are last will be first.  (Matthew 19:28-30 TCNT)

Calling the people and his disciples to him, Jesus said: “If any man wishes to walk in my steps, let him renounce self, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, and whoever, for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, will lose his life shall save it. (Mark 8:34-35 TCNT)

I’ve spent time on the rich young ruler elsewhere.

In the past Christians have understood what this meant.  Consider this from J.N.D. Kelly’s Jerome:

In the fourth century it was common for really serious Christians, at their baptism or when they experienced a deeper conversion, to break with the world, abandoning career, marriage and material possessions in order (in the expressive phrase of Cyprian of Carthage) ‘to hold themselves free for God and for Christ.’  The ascetic strain which had been present in Christianity from the start, and which in the west tended to set a premium on virginity, inevitably received a powerful practical impulse with the disappearance of persecution and the emergence of a predominantly Christian society where much of the Christian colouring was skin-deep.

That’s something that advocates of the “Benedict Option” should keep in mind.

In any case such is virtually unknown in American Christianity, which is too hog-tied to upward mobility (and that link is a big reason why American Christians do what they do politically, on both sides of the spectrum.)

Since straight-up renunciation doesn’t go down well, is there another way to meet the challenge of the Gospel?  One comes from the Anglican/Episcopal George Conger, who has tried to deal with this by putting this verse into practice:

The servant who knows his master’s wishes and yet does not prepare and act accordingly will receive many lashes; while one who does not know his master’s wishes, but acts so as to deserve a flogging, will receive but few. From every one to whom much has been given much will be expected, and from the man to whom much has been entrusted the more will be demanded.  (Luke 12:47-48 TCNT)

He explains the “critical moment” for his commitment to “givebacks” here, in an encounter with then candidate George H.W. Bush:

I commented on that idea years ago:

If one were to name the Episcopal Church’s strongest point from a practical standpoint, it was this: the emphasis on the importance of “give back”. It’s something I miss in a Pentecostal church. This isn’t to say that Pentecostals are not willing to help others–they certainly are, and are for many reasons better positioned to do so than Episcopalians–but the context is entirely different, and it doesn’t percolate to the upper reaches of the organisation the way one would like it to. But that’s also generational: baby boomers, for all the talk and their self-righteous insistence of making the next generation volunteer, are mostly too self-centred to know what true give-back is.

That said, I think that the road to that needs to run through some kind of renunciation.

Although there are many people who don’t have a lot to renounce (that’s another lesson that comes from many years in a Pentecostal church) American Christianity would do well to learn from Our Lord on renunciation, if for no other reason than that, if things go south, renunciation will be a lot easier than having it taken away from you.