Thursday, December 31, 2009


This is a time of year to look back (yech! skip that) and ahead. For the Episcopal Church, there are many challenges before us, many of which have been discussed on this site – because they aren’t new challenges – but one that we must not ignore are empty pews at too many services in too many Episcopal churches.

We can’t keep the pews filled with “cradle Episcopalians” unless we start breeding a lot faster. We need converts from other denominations, other religions, or from no religion.

Here’s a story about how one Episcopal priest responded to an opportunity to rope in a potential convert:

Given my spiritual longing, I decided it was time to explore places of worship. Being a secular Jew, my first step should have been a temple. However, the synagogues around here are practically recruitment stations for Obama (aside from the Orthodox ones, but I don't speak a word of Hebrew). So I decided to experience church on Christmas Eve.

Checking out churches online, I found almost none that offered political neutrality. Most heralded their progressive credentials, welcoming the transgendered, but not conservatives.

I was pleased to find an Episcopal church whose website focused on religion, not ObamaCare. I left a message for the priest that I was looking for a church that didn't press a political agenda because I wasn't a liberal.

I received an icy reply from the priest, the Reverend Lucy, who said with barely-contained disgust, "I don't think you should check us out."

You can read the whole article here.

There is a happy ending (of sorts) to this story. The writer did find a church where she felt welcomed:

Beyond the music and pageantry, what moved me the most was being with hundreds of people who loved God. Maybe some were questioning his presence or feeling abandoned. But they showed up, and that's half of life.

It was a stirring night for this wandering Jew who has traveled from east to west, from Left to Right. As the Sufi poet Hafiz wrote, "This moment in time God has carved a place for you," and sitting in the sanctuary, I felt that place.

Even though I didn't know the right words, or the hymns, or how to pray, it didn't matter. All the differences among people -- race, class, politics, even religion -- vanished. Faith, I realized, is the ultimate uniter.

And in a heartbeat, I understood why leaders from Marx to Mao try to keep people away from God, and why they will always fail. I flashed to an image of those mothers who somehow find the superhuman strength to lift up a car and free their children.

On Christmas Eve, I learned that this same unstoppable power exists inside all of us, especially when we stand together. As Jesus himself taught, faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain.

The whole article is here.

I’m saddened a little that she found this welcome in a Roman Catholic church, not an Episcopal one. Aren’t you?

Happy New Year from the Godfather.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bill Carroll Response to N Michigan

The comment from Fr. Bill Carroll in the previous posting is just so strong, I thought I'd put it front and center. This is in response to a letter posted by the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Northern Michigan, composed in April of 2007, itself a response to the primates communique of that year. I bring this up not to bash the Northern Michigan folk but rather to point out a vision of the Gospel which simply must be spoken against. Bill does an incredibly sound job of it.

And please note -- this is not a question of 'conservative' vs. 'liberal.' Not at all. Neither is it one of 'progressive' vs. 'traditionalist.' No, this is a question of creedal/catholic Christianity vs. something altogether else.

Bill Carroll writes:

I'll respond in terms close to Karl Rahner's theology, because I think that Fr. Forrester's theology often is a distortion of Rahner (and Eckhart). At the same time, there are certain tendencies in Rahner that I would not want to endorse, because they might plausibly lead in KTF's direction.

With regard to 1, I could affirm it provided that "all is of God" were glossed "every creature as such is of God." Human creatures of course can turn away from their own true being in sin, and sin is not of God. As privatio boni, sin doesn't properly speaking exist, but a clearer subject is needed for the sentence than "all."

With regard to 2, I would want to insist with Rahner that the human creature as such is the possibility of incarnation and that the Holy Spirit is always, already present as prevenient grace and charity. Nevertheless, even the most radical permissible doctrine of the totus Christus better preserves the distinction between head and members. Moreover, whatever the merits of the theory of anonymous Christianity, the strong identification of someone as a member of Christ in the NT, depends upon his or her Christianity taking on a tangible, categorial ecclesial form.

With regard to 3, every creature as such is certainly a reflection of the uncreated Word and hence related to Christ, the incarnate Word, who sums up in his person all that is good in the created order. It is also true that the Holy Spirit is present in every human creature as actual grace (gratia gratis data) and therefore, in a sense, that Christ is present. But to have Christ living in oneself (as wrt #2) in the Pauline sense implies specific commitment to visible, tangible ecclesial communion through baptism and Eucharist, confession of articles of faith, and acceptance of the discipline of life in Christ.

With respect to 4, this is the root of the problem, ignoring the distinction between the only begotten Son, the second person of the Trinity, who becomes incarnate in our Lord Jesus Christ, and God's adopted children by grace, on the one hand, and between the vestiges of the Creator in every creature and the human being as God's image and likeness, on the other. A pet peeve of mine is that you don't get to call someone a child of God until they are a brother or sister in Christ. It doesn't mean that other people aren't in the image of God and therefore of infinite dignity. The grammar of the NT requires that child of God be restricted to an ecclesial sense.