Thursday, June 09, 2005

Why post when I can reply?

This is a reply to Thunder's thoughtful comment on my posted comment on his post...you get the idea. Anyway, my comment turned out to be long enough (and perhaps generally applicable enough) to post on its own. I have kept the personal address, so the post might sound a bit like listening in to a conversation -- but eavesdrop away!

Two things which might be worth mentioning: The centrality of the Eucharist and Baptism which you assert and with which I agree are nevertheless fairly recent emphases in the Episcopal Church (and, I imagine, the Communion as a whole). These were re-emphasized in the liturgical renewal and ecumenical movements of the mid-20th century and formalized by the 1979 prayer book. Before this, morning prayer was the norm and baptism was a private act -- and preaching, in a word-centered service, was much more central to the act of worship, a much more Reformed pattern. In some ways, apart from intentionally Anglo-Catholic parishes, we looked like high church Presbyterians. (Side note: while I certainly don't want to return to this earlier pattern -- again, I'm much more catholic in my worship -- I do wish we would place greater emphasis on preaching than we do.) All of which is just to say, along with my comment about the puritans in my post, that we would do well to remember the complexities of our history even while we move in a definite direction today.

The second thing is this: about the TN Anglican Council -- yuck! We haven't seen anything on that scale in WMich, so I'm maybe out of touch with it. And I am continually dismayed at the abuse of "orthodoxy", a term I normally hold dear, to mean a large stick to beat others with. Excommunication or refusal to share communion might be appropriate at times -- but over support for +Gene? C'mon. As AKMA has sensibly put it (I paraphrase) is it true that through such disputes we cannot even recognize the other as Christian, and cannot share Eucharist?

I think I am willing to assert the correctness of certain things to the exclusion of others (what else would an assertion of the "correctness" of a position be?), but I am not so assured of my correctness. I can certainly be wrong -- and I have a track receord to back it up. Moreover, one of the things I assert that is correct is that I am bound to love those whom God loves, and so I care (or try to care) deeply for others, even those with whom I disagree, and that love seems to imply a genuine presence with them and careful listening to them. After listening, I can still think that I am (somehow) correct and they are flat out wrong -- but I still love them and still listen.
Of course, this can be quite a challenge sometime, but this shouldn't be surprising; and I'm sure that some (many?) find it a challenge with me, too.


Blogger Thunder Jones said...

Don't mistake me for descending into some kind of squishy relativism. I tend to sound that way as a corrective to the "large stick view" of orthodoxy, but that's not where I'm at. Yoder's essay "But We Do See Jesus" from The Priestly Kingdom is a good overview of the kind of nonfoundationalism I hope to represent.

What do you mean when you say you want a larger emphasis on preaching? One of the dangers of this kind of emphasis, I think, is that it distracts from the creed the Great Thanksgiving. I don't say that to dismiss preaching, but as a way of not undercutting other elements of the liturgy, which has historically been done in churches that have a high emphasis on preaching.

I think the heritage discussion is really crucial to your discussion. Do you think some of the conflicts between the ECUSA and other wings of the Anglican Communion is due to the emphasis we have on sacramental life in the ECUSA?

sidenote: When do you leave for jolly ol' England?

Thursday, June 09, 2005 8:14:00 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

No, I thought you were espousing the same sort of nonfoundationalism that I am comfortable with myself. I'll have to check out the Yoder essay, it sounds good.

I think "greater emphasis" on preaching was maybe the wrong phrase -- I mean "greater" than we have now, not "greater" than on the Eucharist, etc. What I meant but failed to convey in my hastiness was that I see no contradiction in having a high view of the sacrament and a high view of preaching.

Or, to say something slightly different but also a concern of mine: I see discouragingly often a correlation between high regard for the sacrament and disregard for preaching (and the converse, too: low regard for the sacrament and an inordinate stress on preaching). What I envision is good preaching (considered as baptismal speech, to use Willimon's term) and a well-done communion. I think that, well-done, each of the elements informs and reinforces the others -- and that when one or another is shabby or neglected, they distract from the overall act of worship.

The irony is that many of those who were fountainheads of these movements -- I think of John Henry Newman or John Keble, John Calvin or Lancelot Andrewes -- did just this: had a high view of both preaching and the sacrament, and strove for excellence in administration of each.

(Also, when I have had the pleasure visiting some of the citadels of Anglo-Catholicism such as Church of the Advent, Boston, and All Saints, Margaret Street, London, the preaching has been quite fine.)

(I realize that I have conflated having a "high view" of something and doing it well; although I think one implies the other, they aren't the same.)

I don't believe that I've made that connection before, that our sacramentalism may be part of the conflict in the Communion. I'm not sure that that is true, but I honestly don't know; it's an intriguing suggestion. No other part of the Communion has, for example, anything equivalent to our baptismal covenant. This will take some more thinking, but you might be on to something. (I don't think it is straightforward Catholic v. Protestant conflict.)

We're spreading our wings for the UK sometime in September.

Friday, June 10, 2005 1:16:00 AM  
Blogger Gaunilo said...

Man, the more I hear from Thunder the more I'm just jazzed to join the ECUSA in TN!

I felt bad about eavesdropping (and I'm still struggling to get back into the swing of things, blogwise), so I'll ask this (and this is an honest question): to what extent is the earlier emphasis on preaching that was modified by the C20 liturgical renewal a function of the Puritan reform of the Anglical church? Wouldn't the earliest stages of the Anglican church have had the eucharistic focus of the RCC Mass?

As a (self-imposed) exile of an exclusively Word-based form of Christianity, I came to Anglicanism for the centrality of the Eucharist; that said, I think it's helpful to try mediate between the two norms of an predominately eucharistic and a completely homiletic service.

Well said earlier about the interpenetrating of Scripture, tradition, and reason, btw. Doesn't the Christian way of knowing ultimately reduce to this form of the hermeneutical circle?

I also wonder how far we could get in a typology of Christian theologies by weighting those three categories differently for each paradigm (e.g. evangelicalism & Scripture, RCC & tradition, [classical] liberalism & reason).

Friday, June 10, 2005 10:29:00 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Welcome back, and as for eavesdropping -- is that even possible on a blog? (-:

If by the "earliest stages" of the Anglican Church you mean the Celtic Church, I suppose it may have been more Eucharistic -- although sometimes I worry that we are making the Celtic Church bear more historiographical weight than the evidence for it will bear.

The earliest stages of the Church of England under Henry VIII would have considered themselves reformed and might be thought of as "proto-puritan", albeit in a moderate sense -- it would have been moreso under Elizabeth II (which in many ways was the true beginning of the institution we know as Anglicanism). Under James I/VI, it would have also been moderately puritan, as well. I don't know how central the Eucharist would have been (frequency of communion, for example), but my sense is that, as people following in the Calvin/Bucer/etc. vein, they would have had a reasonably high view of the sacrament (although perhaps not so high a view of the ordained ministry), and would not have wanted to submerge it to the word. (Later word-centered churches obviously moved away from maintaining this tension, to their detriment in my view.)

If I were forced to choose -- at gunpoint, say -- I would choose a eucharist-focused service every time. I have spent enough time around exclusively word-centered Christians. But part of what I am driving at is that by forcing the either-or question we miss out on the mutually reinforcing nature of preaching and communion -- and we might slight effort in doing one well at the expense of the other.

The other bit that I am trying to get at, but may not have made crystal clear -- and I am not saying this about either Thunder or Gaunilo -- as Anglicans we simultaneously laud our history and easily forget it. We too easily set up a progression in one way or another -- "liberals" and "evangelicals" would have rather different stories to tell about the Anglican church -- and ignore the counter evidence. Perhaps part of that is just the nature of (hi-)story telling. But we end up denying the muddled, complex nature of our history and the mutable nature of the tradition. And we can write people out as not being "authentic" Anglicans, or not really "understanding the tradition" when they might in fact be taking their cues from a different part of the same tradition. (Thunder's earlier remark about the broadness of the tradition is well put.) This is, again, a way of setting someone aside and not taking them seriously -- and it is something I see in both conservative and liberal Anglicans.

I am glad to have you both as compatriots in the communion, and many other readers as well. We can try to keep each other honest as we also try to be faithful to God.

Sunday, June 12, 2005 9:34:00 PM  

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