Wednesday, June 06, 2007

While I'm Sharing Poetry

The Pleasing Boy

The pleasing boy
who played by the rules
earned the smug toleration
of the unimaginative—
not affection, respect, or love
(perhaps a quiet admiration
for his ability
to tolerate crap)

It’s not enough,
he concluded tardily,
and decided to take his soul back,
to color outside the lines
and follow his imagination,
to take risks and live
with the consequent failures
as well as exhilarating successes,
to let fly the snarky comment
and show disapproval
as well as bestow
the wonted compliments

He’s gone back to dancing
in streets and hallways,
singing out loud,
drawing on sidewalks with chalk,
naming bullshit,
laughing too loudly,
playing with children and elders—
and even the occasional midlifer
who has begun to wake up
and wants to play too

17 October 2003
(c) 2003 by PES

--the BB

Claire's Blessing

"Reflections" (c) 2001 by PES
This photo was one of those chance shots you get once in a while. It is looking at a print titled "Orchard" by David Smith Harrison. In the reflection one can glimpse oranges on a counter in front of blue tiles and in the distance a eucalyptus grove between the fir framing of the picture windows. The layers of reality and perception fascinated me and the camera was close at hand.

This experience and the resultant photograph shape the acrostic poem based on a birthday card from my friend Claire in 2002. She had written: “Paul, Stitcher Sower Maker Dancer of Life” (signed) C.

Blessed are those friends who evoke the better sides of us and blest are we to have them as friends.

Claire’s Blessing
Sunlight angles down the building faces,
Thin clouds dissolve in the summer morning.
I sit after late breakfast, observing strangers peopling
The avenue, thinking of friends old and new. A
Chained bicycle and I, motions paused—what roads
Have my wild, worn treads touched, what winds felt?
Each day a new stage of unpredictable journey,
Rife with detours, delights, disasters, discoveries.

Sound, sight, smell all pattern each moment—
Oh, the syrup scent in the Red Tractor! Traffic, voices,
Wind-rippled bottlebrush—the other faces
Eyes cannot see but projected in my mind, layering
Realities together. That time I looked at the false C├ęzanne

Mirrored in the glass of the “Orchard” print, citrus
Arranged casually on the counter, and securely
Kept at a distance, the unruly eucalyptus—
Energies, solid things, representations all at once
Reflecting light—sun, earth, the soul in interchange.

Dappled vision of shifting stuff, what depths and heights
And far-flung reaches penetrate my narrow moments!
Now I sit, poised amid these layered forces, wondering.
Chance and choice and universes will go into my next moment.
Entry to paradise: this moment, each moment—
Raw matter woven into eternal now and boundless bliss.

Oranges and cookie jars, walnut trees, blue tiles,
Farnesi windows, gum trees, fir window frames—all

Laced within each other, lover’s knot—place and
Infinity—sweet, sad singers of life’s song—
Fresh hopes, old aches—all this and
Everything reflected, held, expressed in my heart, and God’s.

August 16, 2002
--(c) 2002 by the BB, of course

Memories of Roses Past

Now that I am growing roses on my own for the very first time and enjoying the little thrills of excitement that come when each bare root bundle of twigs firsts puts out green shoots and then when I see buds forming and, finally, when a rose opens.... Well, it's time to toss a bit of joy and color in here - after all that deadly dull theology and ecclesiastical obsessions.

So here, with a tip of the hat to my beloved ex whose labors made these possible, are some garden shots from May of 2003.

This is Seraphim, the great bell of the garden. How I loved to take that rubber mallet and ring the Angelus for all the neighborhood to hear!

Fragrance to lift the soul!

And a nice gaudy flower to round it all out and cheer us up!

Praise the Creator for all growing things!
--the BB

Monday, June 04, 2007

Responses to the Draft Anglican Covenant

Unity, Vocation, Mission, Covenant
Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one. (John 17:11b)

Part of the glory, and certainly part of the frustration, of life in Christ is living in the tension between “already” and “not yet.”

We are blessed not only with promises but also with the realities of what God has done and is doing in and for and through us. The “realized eschatology” of Johannine thought is part of Christian experience. We proclaim as much in our eucharistic prayer when we say: “[in Christ] you have brought us out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life.” God has already done all this and this is now part of the deepest truth of who we are.

We also struggle because though we have not yet attained the fullness of truth, righteousness, or life. We live “this side of glory” and know too well that we are “simul justus et peccator,” at once righteous and sinful. Like Abram and Sarai we have set out on a journey and the destination lies far ahead. In the meantime we journey by faith, stumbling often along the way, trusting not in our own devices but in the One who has called us to this adventure.

God had set us within the mystery of the divine life, a mystery into which we must live. That mystery is the life of the Holy Trinity, a life of immeasurably rich relationship. The eternal union of the Source of life, the Word of truth, and the Spirit of power lies at the heart of all our being and becoming, our identity and vocation, our mission and goal.

One aspect of the Trinity that has fascinated me is the topic of submission. We know that the Son submits to the will of the Father, yet we reject the idea of subordinationism. What do we mean?

I take it to mean that the Persons of the Trinity submit to each other as equals, yielding to each other not by fear or force but out of freedom, power, equality, mutuality, and love. There is nothing to prove because mutual love is a constant. Our human models of domination systems fail to grasp this kind of mutual yielding because they are not grounded in equality and mutuality. For one to have power means the other lacks it. Such is not the case with God.

If, then, we are to be one as Jesus and the Father are one, this is the model of our unity. This what we are called to: mutual submission out of freedom, power, equality, and love. It is not only our model and our calling, it is the deepest reality of our very being.

I affirm this on multiple grounds. Our understanding of creation proclaims God as creator of heaven and earth, a phrase that is meant to express all things. Whatever is exists by God’s creative and sustaining action. Furthermore, we join the courts of heaven to proclaim that heaven and earth are full of God’s glory. Everything. This proclamation considers no exceptions and we would be horrified if the liturgy were interrupted to enumerate where we deemed God’s glory to be absent.

Modern physics affirms what most ancient wisdom traditions have always known: that all things are intimately interrelated. Nothing in the physical universe as we know it is unrelated to everything else. Given our faith stance that the Trinity is the source and goal of all things and the Trinity is nothing if not Relationship Itself, the relatedness of the physical world makes perfect sense.

Marc Handley Andrus, Bishop of California, speaks to this reality and its import for our life together when he writes that, “our task in the Church is not actually to include or exclude anyone, but to show forth an intrinsic co-inherence that simply is, created and sustained by God." Co-inherence is a phrase we use to speak of the Trinity, a term coined to help us talk about the dynamic interplay of the Three Persons, so interrelated that one cannot speak of any one without the others. Andrus applies this to God’s creation, indeed, to human community. Whatever categories we apply to define, separate, or exclude, none of this changes the abiding reality of relatedness.

We are united not only by God’s creative action but also in God’s redemptive and sanctifying work, adopting us a children that we might share in Christ’s eternal sonship, sealing us by the Spirit and making us temples in which God dwells, thus taking us into the divine life on a deeper level.

United to God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, we are also united to one another, first in creation and then by the further grace or redemption. God calls a people and creates a community to further God’s purposes for creation. It is all about relationship. It is all about the divine love. All this is our reality, our given. We have been made one with Christ and one another.

Thus the “already.” Now we face the “not yet.” United to each other we must now journey together into God’s future (and ours). This is where it gets messy.

I write all this as preface to my reflection on the Anglican Communion and the issue of a Covenant because nothing I or anyone has to say about communion has any meaning outside the context of the lifegiving mystery of the Trinity and what God has done and is doing in and for and through us.

By varying combinations of historical accident, personal preference, and grace some of us find ourselves identifying with the Anglican tradition as the way we live out our calling, our mission, and our life in Christ.

The Anglican Communion and Anglican tradition are currently being tested and questioned. The unity given us by God is often distorted and denied in inter-Anglican quarrels and what is clearly a lessened and partially ruptured state of communion.

Vocation and Mission
Many have asserted that we risk losing sight of our vocation and mission while arguing over certain aspects of faith and practice. Most Anglicans yearn for the grace to move beyond our current pain and anxiety in order to refocus our efforts on proclaiming Good News and serving the world God loves. I am among them.

There is hope that looking through the lens of our call to serve might provide perspective to our quarrels and point a way forward. I would like to think so, though I am not particularly sanguine, given the passions that have been unleashed. I do not think I need to rehearse our calling as Christians beyond pointing to Christ’s solemn statement that “as the Father has sent me, so send I you.” We know what we need to be about.

What might our vocation and mission be as Anglicans? The introduction to the Draft Covenant speaks of “a special charism and identity among the many followers and servants of Jesus” without specifying what that charism and identity might be. My own perception is that the particular history of Christianity in the British Isles has gifted us with an emphasis on the incarnational and the pastoral. What has emerged over the ages is a church of pastors and poets, a broad church that is messy and meets almost nobody’s criteria, yet still feeds multitudes with the riches of Christ’s grace. We have, historically, been damned by Catholics and Puritans alike while preserving in our character elements of both. We have defined ourselves in terms of worship. If you would know what we believe, worship with us. In spite of globalization and local adaptations, the structure and character of Christian worship that hears the Scriptures, offers prayers, baptizes into Christ and makes Eucharist—all this is shared. Our essential faith is proclaimed in the Creeds and we find the Scriptures to contain what is necessary for salvation. The historic episcopate links us in time and space to the larger Body of Christ. We have found this sufficient.

I find being part of that larger body known as the Anglican Communion to be a wonderful experience—to worship in an Anglican manner, to be rooted in history and in grace, to have a style that proclaims God’s love without claiming to know everything, to invite rather than coerce, to be Catholic and Reformed, to have a tentative and respectful approach to everything. I think a certain humility and gentleness is part of our heritage, along with great passion and devotion. OK, maybe that’s just me.

One thing I am certain of: the Church exists for the sake of the world. “The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” We serve God’s purpose of embracing all in the divine life and love.

It is the nature of love not to exist for itself. The Church cannot and must not proclaim itself but Christ. So then, if the Anglican Communion seeks to save its own life, it will surely lose it. The Communion is to be an instrument of God’s grace, not an idol. Whether the Anglican Communion survives may matter to us but it is really of minor consequence next to the question of whether the Gospel continues to be lived and proclaimed.

Can we, as a communion, serve the mission to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ? At the moment we are not doing a very good job of unity with each other. Will a Covenant help?

(1) Do you think an Anglican Covenant is necessary and/or will help to strengthen the interdependent life of the Anglican Communion? Why or why not?

The Anglican Communion has existed for some time without a Covenant and I cannot see its necessity. It would not convincingly help proclaim the Gospel more effectively, offer God’s love to the world, or help us grow more Christ-like. It might play a role in maintaining unity and peace, though this is open to question. Given the purposes of the Covenant as expressed in its Preamble, it appears mostly as a superfluity. Its emphasis on the role of bishops—to the virtual negligence of deacons, priests, and, most importantly, the laity—suggests a form of hierarchicalism that is most unwelcome. If the Holy Trinity is not only our ground and goal but also our model of relationship, then distinctive roles must be balanced with mutuality and equality. There is something about the document as a whole that speaks more of instruments and less of charity. I do not see it fostering greater trust.

(2) How closely does this view of communion accord with your understanding of the development and vocation of the Anglican Communion?

It smacks of cherishing the Church more than the world God loves. I believe our vocation as Christians and Anglicans is to lose our life for the sake of Christ and his Good News, not to save it. What comes across in the details is too great an obsession with how we are with one another and not enough focus on how we are with God and God’s world. It does not appear to come from a spirit of prayer and deep listening. I think it misses our vocation by a wide mark.

(3) Is this a sufficient rationale for entering into a Covenant? Why or why not?

See comments on #1 above.

(4) Do these six affirmations adequately describe The Episcopal Church’s understanding of “common catholicity, apostolicity, and confession of faith”? Why or why not?

Section 2 (The Life We Share) reaffirms the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral then makes some additions. In item (5) it says that “led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-nine Article of Religion, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.” We are informed in a footnote that: “This is not meant to exclude other Books of Common Prayer and Ordinals … but acknowledges the foundational nature of the [BCP] 1662 in the life of the Communion.”

This is a rather puzzling item. Why would it be added to the articles of the Quadrilateral? The 39 Articles, while not creedal, played a role in 16th century disputation. Even in England, subscription to them has been attenuated over time. That they are part of Anglican theological history is undeniable but why would they be elevated for mention in a covenant? They cannot at this time be considered foundational so I cannot see them belonging in a covenant.

The 1662 BCP was the historic starting point for the diverse provinces of the Communion, yet special care was taken by the first province to separate from England, The Episcopal Church, in adopting a Eucharistic prayer based on the Scottish model. The Scottish rite was used for political reasons yet it could legitimately claim to rectify a defect in orthodoxy, the omission of an epiclesis in the 1662 BCP. Again, why should this particular edition of the BCP be so privileged as to be mentioned on a par with the points of the Quadrilateral.

What is being added? And why? Is this an attempt to bring contemporary theology in line with the Articles, constraining thought to issues of an earlier era? Or to pressure current liturgies to conform more to a theology and practice that retains the medieval emphasis on atonement while ignoring the past two centuries of liturgical scholarship and the restoration of Paschal, baptismal, and missional emphases from the early Church? Is it an attempt to privilege one approach to understanding atonement? Or to curb the involvement of the whole People of God in favor or returning to the clericalism of an earlier era? Or is it merely a fond tribute? I cannot tell but I see no reason to include it. Again, no matter how influential, a single edition of the BCP cannot be foundational in the way that our principles of worship are and for that I would refer us all to the Preface of the 1549 BCP rather than to any one embodiment of those principles.

(5) The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (of the Church of England) are not currently authoritative documents for The Episcopal Church. Do you think they should be? Why or why not?

See response (4) above.

(6) Is each of these commitments clear and understandable with respect to what is being asked of the member churches and are they consistent with statements and actions made by the Episcopal Church in the General Convention? Why or why not?

These items completely bypass the issue of hermeneutics.

In the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Presidential Address at General Synod on February 26, 2007, he noted: “the proposal has been made – partly stimulated by the very successful international consultations held at Coventry Cathedral in the last twelve months – of a serious and sustained piece of work for the Communion on hermeneutics, the theory and practice of biblical interpretation. Combined with the ongoing and very creative programme of the working group on Theological Education in the Communion, it has the potential to take us beyond what I called the non-labour-intensive theologies we see too much of at the moment.”

Until we do our homework and find a common vocabulary for interpreting Scripture (especially, but tradition as well), it will be impossible to mean and understand the same things when discussing what is continuous and consistent or what is biblically derived.
While I can grasp the concept of “a vision of humanity,” I have no idea what that means when modified by the phrase “received by and developed in the communion of member Churches.” Anthropological and sociological studies will demonstrate the historical and cultural colorations of our understandings of what it means to be a human being. As Christians, we inform our various understandings of humanity by seeing Christ as the fullness of humanity toward which we tend. Still, what does “received and developed in the communion of the member churches” mean? Amplitude and some vagueness or ambiguity in agreements can provide room for interpretation and application and this can often be desirable. But vagueness to the point of incomprehensibility is not helpful.

Section 3.(3) speaks of biblical texts handled “primarily through the teaching and initiative of bishops and synods.” In a world where bishops are chosen for their theological abilities among other criteria this might be a good idea. Though we all look for theological gifts in potential bishops, this usually falls rather low in the laundry lists of what people expect nowadays. If one wishes to invoke the 39 Articles, Article XXI has something to say about councils. I definitely wish to see laity and non-episcopal clergy participating in issues of interpretation, including those skilled in theology and biblical interpretation who might not be bishops. Put simply, I cannot entrust the faith to one order.

Without any criteria for discernment, how are we to “nurture and respond to prophetic and faithful leadership and ministry”? Who says what those are? This is either meaningless or deceptive. The concepts are wonderful but without more context it is pious blather.

(7) Is the mission vision offered here helpful in advancing a common life of the Anglican Communion and does this need to be a part of the Draft Covenant? Why or why not?

More platitudes, rather self-congratulatory, mostly superfluous verbiage. The final five-point sense of mission is great. You could cut all that precedes “we commit ourselves 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.” THIS is where our energy should be directed!

What does “with mutual accountability” mean? This seems to be the whole purpose of a Covenant for the Communion but it’s tossed in here without anything to make it meaningful. As above: more platitudes.

(8) Does this section adequately describe your understanding of the history and respective roles of the “Four Instruments of Communion”? Why or why not?

If, as the document affirms, we are “bound together, not juridically by a central legislative or executive authority, but by the Holy Spirit who calls and enables us to live in mutual loyalty and service,” then I would allow that to govern the rest. Well, first I would amend it to “mutual affection and service.” I would prefer to keep my loyalty focused on God, for whose sake I love the Church.

Let the Lambeth Conference gather “bishops for common counsel, consultation and encouragement.” For heaven’s sake can we add “study and prayer” to the list? Now, what does it mean to call it “an instrument in guarding the faith and unity of the Communion”? Bishops consult—and shout and denounce each other and act hatefully too, because they did all of that in 1998—on matters of faith and practice. Carefully worked out documents get dropped at the last minute and replaced with hastily crafted substitutes. Until the bishops can behave better than this I am not likely to recognize what they produce as of the Spirit or worthy of more consideration than any comment I come across on the internet. Take it for what it’s worth, no more, no less.

The Primate’s Meeting, the most recent “instrument,” is here described quite vaguely. Mutual support and counsel are quite understandable. Monitoring global developments makes sense. What does it mean that it “works in full collaboration in doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters that have Communion-wide implications”? Full collaboration with whom? Each other? Questionable at the moment. We have never been an especially doctrinal branch of Christendom. Unless someone is jettisoning the Creed do we really want a group of primates producing a new set of Articles defining what must or must not be believed? What ever happened to adiaphora?

Since the Primates are a narrower slice of one order than Lambeth, why should they have more influence than Lambeth? And how much influence does/should Lambeth have? We must remember that authority, in this Communion, has traditionally been recognized by honor and influence, never by legislation of fiat. We take what Cantuar says seriously, but he has no jurisdiction outside England beyond a few extra-provincial dioceses. Assent and reception are our methods, not imposition.

No matter what has been said disclaiming intentions to set up a Roman-style curia, the actions and attitudes of the Primates reeks of curialism and it is not a sweet savor. That they should presume to deliver an ultimatum and deadline to the bishops of a province is clearly a coercive action, especially when they know full well that said bishops cannot, on their own, speak for their province.

Power and control are not Christ’s methods. What kind of mutuality are we truly seeking?

The ACC is the most representative body, and the one with the most authorization, and all that is said of it is that it “co-ordinates aspects of international Anglican ecumenical and mission work.”

(9) Do you think there needs to be an executive or judicial body for resolving disagreements or disputes in the Anglican Communion? If so, do you think it should be the Primates Meeting as recommended by the Draft Covenant? Explain.

Back to hermeneutics. 6.(3) How are we defining “the Church’s shared councils” and what constitutes “matters of essential concern?” Until we get our hermeneutics straightened out we are talking past each other with words that do not have shared understandings.
The Primates Meeting is the last place to send these matters. It is not sufficiently representative, it centralizes power, it has NO checks and balances, and there is no appeal.

(10) What does the phrase “a common mind about matters of essential concern. . .”
mean to you?

Our way of the highway.
Without guidelines for discerning what is essential, it is meaningless.

(11) Can you affirm the “fundamental shape” of the Draft Covenant? Why or why not?

This is a secular structure that lacks the spirit of Christ and the air of God’s reign. It appears to seek uniformity disguised as unity. There is nothing about it that evokes a sense of life, liberation, servanthood, or joy. It smacks of desperation and haste.
I would propose that at the next Lambeth the bishops spend all their time in prayer, study, conversation, and silence. No votes could be taken on anything. At the end they could articulate what they learned from each other. This applies, a fortiori, to the Primates. We could all use some quiet.

(12) What do you think are the consequences of signing such a Covenant as proposed in the Draft?

I do not see it as an organic development of Anglican theology, polity, or style; nor as a particularly Christian document (Bible references notwithstanding) but more as a tool of governance. I could never sign it as an individual, even with the good things it does include (which I have sometimes referred to above as platitudes because they seem either irrelevant to the document or are devoid of context to give them practical meaning).

(13) Having read the Draft Covenant as a whole do you agree with the CDG’s assertion that “nothing which is commended in the draft text of the Covenant can be said to be ‘new’”? Why or why not?

Asserting any authority of Primates beyond their provinces seems an unwarranted and undesirable innovation to me, and one that ignores the Articles. Holding up the 1662 BCP for the whole Communion seems bizarre and unhelpful. The shift to a global church from a “federation” of autonomous provinces is clearly a reversal of the whole trajectory of freedom from ecclesial colonialism to independent national churches. The whole document implies, to me, a lack of trust in the Spirit and fellow Christians, and that would be an innovation on the Gospel.

(14) In general, what is your response to the Draft Covenant taken as a whole? What is helpful in the draft? What is not-helpful? What is missing? Additional comments?

I heartily second the comments on this made by the New York GC Deputation on the Draft Covenant. They have said it all better than I could possibly do.

I also agree with Bishop David Russell, Bishop of Grahamstown, South Africa (Retired) when he says the covenant process is skipping over prior questions.

[If you read this to the end, may future generations rise up and call you blessed. Or dogged.]