We deny to claim "any Superiority to ourself
to defyne, decyde, or determyn any Article or Poynt
of the Christian Fayth and Relligion,
or to chang any Ancient Ceremony of the Church
from the Forme before received and observed
by the Catholick and Apostolick Church."

Norman Simplicity

Norman Simplicity
Click image for original | © Vitrearum (Allan Barton)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wrong mission:

From Sed Angli.

But there is a subtext here as well, and as always, we are wary of efforts to displace the Cross from the center of our common life, as the path away from the Cross is the way of death. Later in her remarks, the Presiding Bishop commented that, “We have a dream as well, of a church walking together, doing and living justice, a church equipped and equipping all its members to do justice. We have a duty to all the members of this body, and to those beyond it who need justice. We are asked for the highest and best gift we can offer, in loving our neighbors as ourselves.” We note in this whole central statement of mission that God is absent, that the second commandment is made greater than the first.

This is something one hears too often in church: that we follow the teachings of Jesus toward social justice and equality for all. True, but woefully incomplete. As Paul writes, “we preach Christ crucified.” To do less is to preach less than the faith. In our increasingly unchurched world, where fewer and fewer people have a working knowledge of scripture, theological education — for clergy and laity alike — is more important, not less ...

One doesn’t need a tenured chair in semiotics to preach the Gospel, but a working knowledge of scripture and of what N.T. Wright calls the “faithfulness of God” are absolutely essential. The church will be nowhere preaching the thin gruel of self-serving, intellectually vacant, theologically barren cant that has been the produce of too many pulpits lo these many years. The Gospel word itself, that Christ died for the ungodly, for the unworthy, that Christ died even for you, and even for me, has made us a “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people,” and why? “That you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” That is our first task — not the soup kitchen, not the quest for social justice, laudable as those things are. Without the word preached, or with the word confounded with the social goals at the heart of the Presiding Bishop’s dream, we are all just the Junior League, and not a very competent one at that. Those who have heard the word don’t need social justice preached to them: their very lives become living witness to social justice, flesh and blood sermons of a power to devastate the Presiding Bishop’s post-Christian lecturing.

Bad management:

From Tune: Kings Lynn

It is ironic that the one official seminary of a liberal church should be at the forefront of the move to reduce university faculty to peonage. Consider the direction that the TREC committee reports have taken, however, and contemplate their proposals to consolidate powers and reduce checks on those powers. This is how they want our seminaries to be run, and this is how they want the church to be run.

TREC's concern for getting things done is in plain conflict with the way church governance is set up to impede that. Voting by orders, consents to episcopal elections, the requirement to approve changes to the liturgy in successive general conventions: these are all mechanisms which slow change in the cause of greater review and consensus. Everything TREC has proposed about changing governance is in the cause of allowing action the face of objections. There's something almost Randian in their faith in forceful management, as though the Very Rev. Howard Roark and the Rt. Rev. John Galt are going to save the church once they have all those impediments to their free reign removed.

Those of us who still remember know this to be the antithesis of Anglican praxis, which of old tended indeed toward the anarchic, yet still grounded in a stubborn, charitable, practical center. We still have yet to see an ecclesiology or missiology expressed from TREC, whose language is rooted in business management. They seem to have no idea of what the business of the church might be, and indeed this amnesia seems to be a disease so widespread at the upper levels of the church as to nearly doom us. To me (and to my young adult children) it seems stupidly obvious that if the business of the church has no religious object, then there is no reason to be involved in its business, and no reason to attend to a pale non-worship of the oft-renamed god of the upper middle class intelligentsia.

No future.

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