3/30/2015

Dance, dance, wherever you may be...

 If we Christians of a liturgical bent get through the three days - Maundy Thursday to The Vigil of Easter - we take part in a holy event unlike any other in the Christian year. 

In a wonderful meditation on the meaning of the Triduum Jim Friedirch writes
 
"To treat the Triduum as a la carte, or to skip it altogether, would be to miss the richness of the interrelated whole. Imagine only seeing one act of Hamlet, or skipping the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth. There are things we can only find out by entering into them fully. The journey is how we know."


Read the whole thing HERE. 

The journey is how we know. It is true, often true, that the only way to know is to walk, to journey, to go from here (messy meals with friends and disaster following to absolute devastation in execution), to there, ( the stunning and strange emptiness that points to fullness of life, and joy.)  Sometimes the only way to know is to take a journey. And the liturgy of this journey can be powerful.

I remember one year at St. Thomas' Newark, where I was interim, we paid considerable attention to Holy Week, and in particular the Triduum (although I didn't call it that at the time). We did indeed see and experience it as a whole. One of those who came for every part of this liturgical cycle said, "Thank you for making Holy Week holy."

It solidified my sense that we ought to look at the whole of that time (including the "intermissions" between services) as a time of meditation on last and then first things, on weeping and then dance.

At the close of Jim's meditation he says, 
 
"In the apocryphal Acts of John, Jesus leads his disciples in a dance. Some are resistant, but he tells them, “Those who do not dance do not know what happens.” By the time we reach the Vigil finale Saturday night, dancing around the altar to “Jesus Christ is Risen Today,” we will all know what happens."  

Here at the church by the bay and the big water in Lewes, Delaware, people are not much given to dance in the physical space that is our church, but perhaps, just perhaps, we will have been on the same journey, and the dance will be by the heavenly beings that hover 'round us when we sing with delight that indeed "Jesus Christ is Risen Today."  And who knows, maybe there will be dancing in the aisles.

3/27/2015

Bishop Ogé Beauvoir leaves Diocese of Haiti for Haiti Office of Food for the Poor. (corrected)

Bishop Ogé Beauvoir is leaving his appointment as suffragan bishop of Haiti to work for Food for the Poor, an interdenominational relief and development agency working primarily in Latin America and the Caribbean. In a news release on 3/26/15 posted on the  Food for the Poor website, 

"The Board of Directors for Food For The Poor-Haiti has named Bishop Ogé Beauvoir as Executive Director/FFP Haiti Office. He will be responsible for the charity’s operations within the country and provide a vital link to the organization in the United States. The appointment is effective on May 1. 
...
He is currently Bishop-in-charge of the Northern Region of the Episcopal diocese of Haiti, a role he will relinquish when he begins work with Food For The Poor."


Bishop Beauvoir was ordained bishop in Haiti May 22, 2012. 

The Episcopal Church of Haiti, which currently consists of a single diocese, has grown so large that it may soon request to become two dioceses.




3/26/2015

Learning a new language, the language of Calculus

Here in Preludium land an experiment is underway.  Blogger me (Mark Harris) is attempting to learn the language of calculus.  I'm very bad at it, just as I am with Spanish, French and Creole. So why in the world try?

Well, three reasons:

(i) as the text "Calculus, from Graphical, Numerical and Symbolic Points of View" (by Ostebee and Zorn) states, "Here is another reason to study calculus" because calculus is among our species' deepest, richest, farthest-reaching, and most beautiful intellectual achievements." It begins to see the abstract mathematical language as a language that tries to make sense of change, variables, in a context where change itself is understood as a function of a world view. And the beauty of it is that if I can grasp even a bit of it, I grasp an idea that permeates my thinking and talking about a whole range of complex ideas.  Well, at least I hope so! deep, rich, far reaching and beautiful... sounds good to me.

(ii) as a bona fide ol' fart, I need to exercise the grey cells with some depth or lose them entirely. This stuff is exercise indeed. The problem is, as an ol fart it is also hard as hell, but there it is. It's supposed to be hard.

(iii) I have a sense that beauty in mathematics is linked to beauty in other realms, and I am in other realms - spiritual life, liturgy, poetry and printmaking, walking with beauty all the time. So the guess is that doing this work, as much as I am able, is another window into the world where the mind and the world are one, because beauty in the last instance is one.

What does this have to do with Anglican futures?  Well who knows. Maybe not much, but I think otherwise. Just as I think making art is a factor (dare I say a function) related to Anglican futures. Not directly of course, but in that round about way that living in community, with all its various spiritual, mental and even mundane ways, is a complex variable system in which beauty often escapes our notice, caught up as we are in the flow, the change, the flux, of things. 


by Mark Harris, woodblock
Being Anglican is a difficult way to be Christian, for the assertion of faithful being is, for us, not a settled thing, but rather made up of constants and variables interlaced and unsettling. Being Anglican means keeping mind and heart and soul in constant relation such that the faith is expressed every day in ways that surprise and renew.



From Rocky Horror Picture Show

More, I am convinced that living biblically (as Stringfellow would say it) is about living in a world of constant engagement with life and language and meaning, such that The Word of God lives creatively in us. There is a strange calculus of engagement with the biblical world that requires grasping the reality of God in words that always fail, in deeds that always fall short, in live that always are too short for wisdom's maturation. Perhaps a bit of training in calculus is a reminder that the grammar of theology is filled with variables within functions that name at least part of the range of our experience of God's presence.
by Mark Harris, etching

And, of course I am stating it badly.

Suffice to say, the experiment may fail completely, for mental agility is sometimes a younger mind. But, maybe Dylan is right, and we can be forever young. I also have a lot of help from a mathematician in the family, Jo Ellen, who is putting up with petite problems (although large to me) along the way.

Meanwhile, Preludium will also be scoping out the vineyards where the grapes of wrath (and otherwise) are found.  Not giving up my night job just yet!




3/25/2015

Communion Partner Bishops doing the Anglican Covenant two-step. (reformatted)

Bishop Dan Martins, of Springfield, a fine man and great blogger, wrote this in his comments on day four of the House of Bishops Spring Meeting:

"The time slot after dinner was dedicated to various interest groups, so I hung out, naturally, with my Communion Partner colleagues. CP is dedicated to fostering the highest degree of fellowship possible between TEC and the other Anglican Communion provinces, especially those in the Global South, and advocating continuously on behalf of the Anglican Covenant. We had some strategizing to do as we look toward General Convention."

Well, there it is: the Communion Partner Bishops had a chat up at the House of Bishops Meeting and worked on strategies related to General Convention. 

What might they have been strategizing about? Certainly strategies concerning the "highest degree of fellowship possible between TEC and the other Anglican Communion provinces" are in order. I would think most of those strategies would be of great interest to the World Mission Legislative Committee. Some of the critique of the Continuing Indaba thingy of the Anglican Communion office will surely come up. Certainly there will be issues concerning relations the Global South provinces and relations with GAFCON (they are not the same). And of course there will be the concerns of missionary action in a hostile world and the relation with Islam in its many forms.

But sure as the sun comes up, the strategies will indeed include "advocating continuously on behalf of the Anglican Covenant."

Last time around, when asked if TEC would assent to, sign on to, approve, or adopt the Anglican Covenant, the General Convention responded with "not now."

There is already a resolution being suggested for this Convention regarding the Anglican Covenant, coming from the Task Force on the Anglican Covenant. I am sure that there will be from one source or another a simple resolution, reading something like this:"Resolved the House of ________ concurring, that the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, meeting in Salt Lake, Utah, June 23-July 3, 2015, adopts the Anglican Covenant." Likely there will be one resolving that GC reject the Covenant.

There was some passion last General Convention for and against the Covenant, many supposing that because we were asked we were under some constraint to answer at Convention.  Those advocating for the Covenant and those advocating against the Covenant wanted to put the General Convention on record. None of the passionate were pleased with the result, which rejected both positions.

This time around, I detect little passion. Time has passed the Covenant thingy by. The big items on the agenda this round are about marriage, the budget, re-imaging the church, electing a presiding bishop, and maybe doing something about theological education. 

The Anglican Covenant will not draw much careful interest.

That is both a curse and a blessing. I believe it should get no attention at all. That is, the Task Force should note that there is little new action out there on the Covenant and have done with it for the moment, recommending that we continue to monitor the developments regarding the Covenant and make recommendations as necessary in the future.

 
But if it gets some attention from the Communion Partners, and little attention by those opposed or wanting to kick the can further down the road, we could end up having a up or down vote get to the floor, where in the rush of legislation it might slide on by with a tepid yes vote.  

So it becomes important to know just what the Communion Partner bishops are thinking about doing, and to know just what sorts of resolutions are coming forward and from where. And it becomes important to have witness at the hearings who speak against the Covenant, or for continued non-engagement. 

The counter to advocating for the Anglican Covenant by adopting it is still not necessarily advocating against adoption ever. It might still be to advocate not adopting it now.

We might remember that there is no definitive "no" vote. A "no" vote now could be changed in three years to a "yes."  The Anglican Covenant managers in the higher realms of Anglican land are not (I believe) interested in the "no's"... those can change over time. It is the "yes" votes that count.

Of course "yes" can be reversed as well, but saying "yes" and later saying "no" is a bit more difficult to pull off with grace.The value to the yes vote is that it is evidence that things are moving along and all will be well in Anglican land lead by the Anglican Communion Office.

At the moment I can think of no reason to say "yes" and buy onto the Anglican Covenant. I believe it to be a seriously flawed document. The arguments against it are increasingly persuasive, particular the arguments that draw on decision making in the Church of England - decisions which would have been much more difficult had the CofE adopted the Covenant. See Lionel Deimel on this HERE.

If it came to a yes or no vote, I'd advocate for the "no."
But I don't think it needs to come to that.

Those who think TEC is going down the wrong path on many fronts would perhaps love it if we voted "no."  It would simply prove their case once again.


Why give them the satisfaction?  

And of course, should they prevail, we would all be in deeper than we want. Suddenly those who believe TEC is the terrible thing GAFCON believes it is would have many cases to prove their point. And bishops (and others) in TEC would have grounds to bring the wayward into line on the grounds that their actions ran counter to world wide Anglican norms. 

The whole trouble with this Anglican Covenant thingy is that it is the prelude to a world wide Anglican Church - it is the prelude to the Anglican Communion as yet another branch acting like a tree. There are too many branches acting like trees out there already, and too much of that wood has been used to burn out the heretics and malcontents. Do we really need a world wide Anglican Church, whose purpose is to keep the party line pure and the local franchise undefiled? 




Not now, not ever.

3/18/2015

A House of Prayer for All People, yes or no?

Isaiah 56:7  "My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples." Isaiah said it, Jesus quoted it, and there it is.  The question is, just what does that mean in practice? What did Isaiah mean by that, better yet, what did God mean by that?

This past week has seen a good bit of internet noise about the Vicar of St. John, Waterloo, who allowed an "Inclusive Mosque Event" at his parish. It was a case of taking Isaiah seriously. 

The event was I suspect controversial from all sides. "Inclusive" raises hackles, I am sure, among some Muslims as it does among some Christians. That the event had to be held elsewhere than in a Mosque is interesting. 

Well, the Vicar welcomed them, and caught a lot of flack.  It would seem that the Church of England does not believe that being a house of prayer for all peoples includes holding public worship that involves religious practice other than that of the C of E.  He has apologized and life, as they say, goes on. Sort of.

Several outraged purists have vented on the matter. Perhaps the most demanding of those is the essay by Peter Ould, found HERE.  He asks, " Can Muslims worship Allah in an Anglican church?"

Not surprisingly his answer is, "No."  Concerning the actions of Canon Giles Goddard, he writes,


"When Giles Goddard describes hosting an Islamic Worship Service as a matter of “framework and guidelines” he attacks the fundamental constitution of the Church of England. The subject of who should be worshipped in a Church of England consecrated building and what form that worship should take is a matter not of framework and guidelines but of doctrine and canon law. To relegate the worship of a non-Triune God to just being the subject of “framework and guidelines” is to undermine (if not deny) the first five Articles of Faith of the Church of England. To argue that the decision as to whether an explicitly anti-Trinitarian worship service where the most basic of Christian symbols were deliberately and specifically covered up or removed is valid or not is merely a matter of “framework and guidelines” is to tear numerous entries out of the Canons of the Church of England.

This apology is not acceptable."


Of course the apology was not made to Peter Ould. But nice of him to slam Canon Goddard with such force anyway.  What's going on here?

Well in the next paragraph Ould swings wider first at the Bishop of Southward, with whom the righteous right have had some difficulties, and then at the Archbishop of Canterbury. He closes by writing, 
When Giles Goddard describes hosting an Islamic Worship Service as a matter of “framework and guidelines” he attacks the fundamental constitution of the Church of England. The subject of who should be worshipped in a Church of England consecrated building and what form that worship should take is a matter not of framework and guidelines but of doctrine and canon law. To relegate the worship of a non-Triune God to just being the subject of “framework and guidelines” is to undermine (if not deny) the first five Articles of Faith of the Church of England. To argue that the decision as to whether an explicitly anti-Trinitarian worship service where the most basic of Christian symbols were deliberately and specifically covered up or removed is valid or not is merely a matter of “framework and guidelines” is to tear numerous entries out of the Canons of the Church of England.
This apology is not acceptable.
- See more at: http://anglicanink.com/article/can-muslims-worship-allah-anglican-church#sthash.kTkzbzGk.dpuf
Can Muslims worship Allah in an Anglican church?
Can Muslims worship Allah in an Anglican church?
 


"Most serious of all, if Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and patron of the parish of St John’s Waterloo, believes that at a time when our Christian brothers and sisters across the Middle East and Africa are dying as martyrs for publicly claiming Christ as saviour, that our international Anglican and wider ecumenical partners will accept this fundamental denial of the Christian faith, then the very role of Archbishop of Canterbury as the primus inter pares of episcopacy across the Anglican Communion will be jeopardised.

This is now a crisis engulfing not just a single parish in London, not just a single Diocese, but the whole Church of England. Every time that some form of excuse for the events of the 6th of March is published the situation simply exacerbates."

Ah! This is all a chance to slam the wicked Church of England, in favor of a world wide Anglican community ordered by the Global South, or GAFCON folk, or whatever.

Well, good luck with that.

Meanwhile, what did God, Isaiah and Jesus have in mind by saying "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples?" Offering hospitality to what appears to be fairly progressive Muslim group wanting to have men and women worship together seems to have gone too far.

But do these words apply to churches as houses of God?  If so, are there any guidelines, of a practical sort, for what is and is not meant by being a "house of prayer for all people?" Because the CofE is a state church all sorts of matters, including this one, get made more complex. But still... what does it mean for a place to be a house of prayer for all peoples?

I've got some ideas about what it might mean:

(i) Individuals are welcome to enter the house and pray to God privately. How they pray may be limited in one way or another, using the rule of distraction (don't do things that distract community users from their own devotional life.) But in general, private prayer in a public place of worship is welcomed.

(ii) I would hope that houses of prayer would be open to others for public worship in other traditions when catastrophe happens.  If a masque or a synagogue or temple were to burn down and that faith community had no place to meet for public prayer, it would seem right and good to offer them space for worship. If the only practical space was the "house" - the "sacred space," so be it. This comes under the heading, "my house is your house." 

No doubt there are problems to be overcome. If Muslims or Jews or others find the visible signs of this place being a Christian house (crosses, altars) offensive what ought be done? 

I am opposed generally to removing signs of Christian faith. At the same time there could be creative interchange in living with others in our midst. For the altar to become a bimah on which the Scrolls might be opened and read might be an eye-opening way of relating Torah and Sacrament. What would a discussion of the presence of a crucifix lead to, between Christians and Jews, as they prayed and talked together about the Jewish experience of Christians as persecutors?  Could there be place of mutual care born of the necessities of the moment?  A marker directing the worshiping community of Islam toward Mecca would seems reasonable. Bells to call Buddhist meditation to begin or close would be fine.  I am less sure about incense, offerings of foods, removing pews, ridding the place of books of worship.  It would seem that some devotional practices are more intrusive than others. The practice of hospitality works both ways: guest and host alike need to work at what is intrusive, what constitutes good manners, and what the occasion requires. But mostly this sort of thing would require honest engagement.

Still, I would hope that other faith communities would be welcomed into the church as a "house of prayer,"  not only for individuals but for "peoples."

(iii) What about hosting a special event which would not otherwise by condoned by the guest's own religious community?  Suppose there was to be a prayer service for the life of the nation, for those in service to the nation, and that that service was to be ecumenical and interfaith both? Is a Muslim prayer acceptable in such a service if it were held in a CofE church?  How about a Jewish prayer, a Hindu prayer? Again, there would be considerable work to be done to make sure people could worship with grace and in good conscience, but at the same time to make sure that the host congregation's own witness is not compromised. Can it be done?  Of course. It is done all the time. 

Perhaps the question is not "Can Muslims worship Allah in an Anglican Church," but "Should Muslims be allowed to worship Allah in an Anglican Church?"  I have no notion if a Muslim believer CAN worship Allah in an Anglican Church. Perhaps covering crosses and such makes it easier to use the space, but that also makes the space less than what it is - a house of prayer.  My hope is that God, however developed the idea of God,  can be worshiped everywhere. 

The question might better be, "Should Muslims be allowed to worship Allah in an Anglican Church."  Perhaps a beginning answer might be, "Yes if for reasons of hospitality a Muslim community is given or seeks refuge in the Church for a variety of reasons." "No, if the nature of the service, the intent of the praying community, or the purpose of worship is to deny the validity of the faith of the Christian community in place.

Does the worship of God as Allah deny the reality or validity of the Triune God, worshipped by Christians?  Who knows? Muslim believers (as I understand it) don't worship a Triune God.  Christians work hard at making the three One, and if One, then the One is like but not the same as the One the Muslim believer worships. 

But here's the rub: The mystery of the fullness of the person of God is just that, a mystery. That means dear friends, that if the God that Isaiah spoke for, who made extensive claims to being the One, says "My house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples," we need to find ways to be hospitable to people who don't share in the mystery of the Trinity, or have other mysteries of their own. Or, we can simply say the invitation that God made through Isaiah was wrong.


Meanwhile I suggest whacking people on the head with canons and doctrine who offer hospitality into the house, as if it were a house of prayer for all people is, to put it bluntly, scary.