SERMON PREACHED AT NASHOTAH HOUSE on Founder’s Day, 2018

Ever since i first came here over forty years ago, I have been envious of you who are able to claim this place as home; to belong here, and to have been nurtured in this thin place, saturated as it is by the prayers and aspirations of those who have prayed here, adored here and consecrated their lives here. To be of Nashotah is a great privilege and a great responsibility. I  don’t belittle those who have taught here, but learning about the Faith is slightly less vital than learning to pray as the Church. This place is about formation.

 

Now to my sermon. In 1840, a few years before I was born, the High Church Bishop, Jackson Kemper, visited the equally High Church General Theological Seminary and asked for a few young men to volunteer to go to the back end of beyond to open an institution dedicated to evangelism and the development of mission priests, who, after the example of St. Vincent de Sales, would convert Native Americans and settlers, those seeking a new life, or escaping the law, their families or failed businesses: typical Episcopalians. Kemper asked for a few. Seven responded. The bishop said something like, Sorry, too many. He selected the son of the famous and extraordinary Bishop of New York, John Henry Hobart Jr., William Adams and James Lloyd Breck. The generous Bishop offered the three $100 a year and a plot of land beside a lake. Breck, at least, had the backing of a wealthy uncle. Bishops like endowed ordinands. The three men were probably unmoved by the Tracts for the Times, at least not yet. Except in rare circles, the writings of what could be called the Hadleigh Fathers, named after the vicarage in which Newman, Pusey and friends began to gather ten years before, had as yet gained little traction when the three young me set off for what we now call Wisconsin.  After a couple of years, Breck was the only one of the three left. Adams left to join de Koven’s new college at Racine. He would become a fervent foe of Tractarianism. I have not been able to trace what happened to Hobart after he returned East.

 

From that unpromising beginning you are descended. Very shortly the first graduates went out to create or man new parishes and missions across the Midwest and further afield.  Note that the House began in the midst of an acrimonious and debilitating feud between old fashioned High Church adherents, heirs of the great Caroline Divines, and the newfangled Anglo-Catholics. In retrospect the controversy may be said to weaken both. Divisions do that.

 

Nashotah, to this day, advances Anglican Catholic faith and order, in a mercifully unfussy way. Lamentably, almost from the beginning, Nashotah priests and their followers abandoned an important adjunct to Catholic pastoral ministry. Indeed almost the entire Episcopal Church abandoned the context of Catholic ministry: the parochial system. The parochial system defines the area in which a priest and those who worship regularly practice holistic ministry. It defines the population among whom Jesus is to be made manifest.

 

In place of this system, the Episcopal Church, by default rather than intention, took on the structure advocated by the Puritans in the reign of Elizabeth 1. The Puritans despised the parochial system. They believed that the local church was to be a gathered community of the elect. It’s red door, if it had one, was open to those who became convinced that they belonged among the elect.  In modern times they would have developed a website aiming at those who may like their form of religion, or erect a church sign informing the world that the elect meet on Sunday -what they do then is conveniently obscured by jargon. The name of  a clerical personage is also emblazoned, as if anyone other than the elect cares that Hezekiah Plum is minister. The purpose of a gathered church is inward looking. The elect create the worship style and other programs suited to the sort of people who form the gathered church and perhaps is attractive to those who may desire to be numbered among them and who will fit in. You see, the elect are noted for their love, but it is an inward looking, exclusive and self-serving love.

 

For a century or more the system worked, Few noticed the irony, particularly among Catholic Anglicans, the irony of churches proclaiming a priestly vocation, while practicing a puritan structure. But today few know or care what the elect do in their Victorian gothic piles. The elect dwindle, however many twirls of the thurible they practice. Of course there are more fundamental causes of decline, as you all well know, but this introverted system enabled the rise of detached activism and neo-gnosticism which has become the norm. It is no accident that the evangelical schism of the 1870s was succeeded by the social gospel movement.  But for Catholics, what is lost is not merely evangelical purpose, a defined mission field, but also a fundamentally Catholic vision of the local church. Here’s a definition. A parish is where the priesthood of the church, ordained and lay, offer the surrounding community to God primarily in the offering of the Mass. The parish is a defined area in which the priestly people of God represent Christ to the defined surrounding community. For that is what priests do. They don’t look inward and place themselves at the heart of their priesthood. They represent. And so those who join with the priest in the church building and who are trained for ministry, offer worship and then go among the people who live within the sound of the church bells, and do what Jesus did, as they feed, teach, heal, console and convert, and suffer, and die.. The purpose of the parish is to create places from which ministry fans out into the world, not an undefined amorphous world, but a parochial world. That is exactly what Breck and the first trained Nashotah priests did. I dream of a new generation of called people whose ambition is to practice Catholic evangelism as parish priests, sacrificial parish priests to and for the geographical area surrounding the building. By the way, the Canons of the Episcopal Church define how a territorial parish is to be created. For if you are to be, as today’s  Gospel suggests, God’s horticulturist, you will do better if you define the area where you wish the plants to grow, and train your fellow gardeners to nurture the plants, and even wee mustard seeds in the area you have staked out for yourself.

 

You are here, in this House, this home, not to satisfy your predilection for this kind of religion, nor to go from here to pamper those who prefer the warmth and coziness of their kind of religion. You are here to lose yourself in the service of Christ. Taking up the Cross involves pain and a world of hurt. When priests refuse to go into their parishes, because they know they will  experience, rejection, scorn, pain, persecution it’s no wonder that their active parishioners avoid the cost of discipleship. We talk of enabling the laity to fulfill their distinct vocation, and then we attempt to clericalize them instead of preparing them to take the Cross into the workplace, the coffee house, even the bars and taverns down the street from the church building. We’ve failed to enable the laity to evangelize their children and thereby have lost at least two generations.

 

If you are going to respond to the call for a few good priests, you will discover that, in a manner we can’t explain, the offering and receiving that is at the heart of the Mass, the Offices you recite in union with the whole church for the people who live in your parish, our Lady and the saints whose fellowship becomes vital and the holy archangels and angels who guard and protect you and above all, Jesus, whose ministry you assume, are indeed means of grace. Jesus will enable you and your flock to endure rejection, scorn, derision and the death you experience in what the world calls failure. It will be Jesus who is there in those extraordinary resurrection moments as bodies are healed, lives transformed and death conquered. “I prefer a Church that is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.’ (from Evangelii Gaudium – The Joy of the Gospel)

 

Siren calls to center your vocation on churchy things, and even those excellent things like genuine spirituality and social activism, for their own sake, have been too long heeded by Episcopalians. Concentrating on drawing in and caring for an elect group has created the failing church. “Go”, Jesus said, “and be my life-givers to the ends of the earth. Go and plant seeds, even overlooked seeds as small as mustard seeds.

You are here to learn to divest yourself of your own way. And then, like Breck and his companions, to reach out into the territory God will give you and to spend yourself for Jesus. 

Growing a Church

 

 

For years now it’s been generally accepted that society is becoming so secularized that the only “memory’ left is one of clerical scandals or perhaps a Royal wedding or two. What does this mean? It means that there’s a generation out there that’s never heard of Abraham or Moses, David or Hosea, the Sermon on the Mount or the Ascension. If they do have an opinion about the Church it is that whatever it is, it has nothing to say about “real life.”

That further means that the advertisements placed in the newspaper, the website carefully crafted and the sign stating that Eucharist Rite 1 is at 8 am and Eucharist Rite 2 is at 10 am means nothing to those who “see” the sign. They may register that something mysterious is happening on Sunday mornings when all decent people are still in bed. A good number of those passing by “see” neither the sign nor the large faux gothic building with its bloody door. My former parish had a large stone Victorian gothic church building, with a large tower and the obligatory red doors. It was on a corner lot on a well travelled road. I was constantly amazed by the number of long time residents I met who had never noticed it. Thus those looking for a church might have been drawn in by the building, its sign, web site of Facebook page. A majority of Episcopal parishes are located in small communities with stagnant or dwindling congregations. Apart from new-comers, or people who are angry with their pastor or church -and who needs them? – no one is looking.

 

What does a group do when it becomes invisible? Our usual answer is to train more greeters to greet those who won’t enter, rearrange the pews for those who won’t use them, and tinker with the liturgy for those who know nothing of the God who is to be worshipped. We sign up for courses on church growth and learn eight astoundingly obvious methods to organize a growing parish. So many church growth organizations assume that congregations have spare cash to spend on projects designed to attract church shoppers. More and more small churches can’t even afford a full-time priest and spend most of their money on upkeep and paying to keep the lights on and the building heated or cooled.

 

Well, it’s not all bad. The elderly group responding from the back pews to an enthusiastic young priest are still offering worship to God for the neighborhood if they haven’t the foggiest idea how to offer God to the neighborhood. That in itself is powerful. Something remains to draw the world closer to God. The eucharistic offering, the prayers of the people actualize the love of God for human beings where they are. They work.

 

The Church in the West is in an Upper Room mode.  Jesus seems to have ascended elsewhere. We are still haunted by the call to talk about Jesus in our version of Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. We still hear Jesus ordering his followers to be life-givers for him. We hear the promise that God the Holy Spirit will possess the Church and give it power and authority to announce reconciliation and the forgiveness of sins.

 

There are haunting similarities between our church and the Church in the West and the pre-Pentecost Church. We continue to make up the number of the Apostles, busy ourselves with looking after each other, and stay indoors because we fear those outside. We don’t fear their anger. We fear their apathy.

 

The clue to St. Peter’s enormously successful first stab at talking about Jesus to those outside was twofold.  You can read his first speech in Acts 2. He related his love for his Master to the history and traditions of his listeners. It’s as if we started to draw lessons from American (or British) history and tradition to tell the story of the Living Messiah. Secondly Peter was heard by people whose first languages were diverse. Language is much more than defining or translating words. It carries with it culture and nuances, turns of speech and local flavor. Like St. Paul in Athens, Peter relates to the people he’s addressing. Above all, St. Peter and the women and men with him had been freed from fear because God has possessed them. They lived through their fears and waited until the promise that the Advocate, the defense attorney, would appear  accompanied by the signs a first Century Jew associated with the presence of God. Could one of our problems be that we are expecting signs associated with God two thousand years ago and so fail to recognize contemporary signs? We shouldn’t look for Pillars of Fire and mighty winds. We need to ask how a twenty-first century woman in Chicago would recognize God’s enabling Presence.

 

Witnessing in a manner which is associated with the life experiences and traditions of a Twenty-first Century Western human being, in a speech form readily understood isn’t a matter of learning a method, a series of bullet points. We aren’t selling detergent. It isn’t about talent or ability. If we think it is we will excuse ourselves. “That’s not my thing”, we conclude. Truth be told, we are frightened. Frightened Christians facing cultures possessed by fear, conspiracy theories and sheer terror debilitates the work and witness of the Church. As we wait in our Upper Room parish churches we need to stop organizing, stop planning; we need to be still. 

 

In the stillness, God will make his love for us, his love for the Church, obvious and effective. Perfect love casts out fear. Talking to our neighbors about Jesus and the church begins with taking an interest in them. I don’t mean by that taking an interest in what we assume is their spiritual lives. Without being frightfully nosey, we need to connect with the loves and fears, cares and challenges of our neighbors, whether they live next door or next door to the church building. Sharing connecting stories is a way to communicate how faith works in our lives. Note well: evangelism isn’t the priest’s job. It’s everyone’s job and it begins with sharing experiences, a shared history and an ability to overcome divisive language. So those of us who worship God in small congregations must pause and pray that God will drive out our fear of the people outside, fear that they will think we are strange, or fanatics, or different. Once we have admitted our fear, we begin by talking to our neighbors, establishing relationships. So begins what we call evangelism.

A CRUCIAL BAD HABIT

Ascensiontide thoughts

For years now it’s been generally accepted that society is becoming so secularized that the only religious “memory’ left is one of clerical scandals or perhaps a Royal wedding or two. What does this mean? It means that there’s a generation out there that’s never heard of Abraham or Moses, David or Hosea, the Sermon on the Mount or the Ascension. These people are probably not hostile to religion. They just don’t see how it has anything to do with the lives they live. That means that the advertisements placed in the newspaper, the website carefully crafted and the sign stating that Eucharist Rite 1 is at 8 and Eucharist Rite 2 is at 10 means nothing to those who “see” the sign. They may register that something mysterious is happening on Sunday mornings when all decent people are still in bed. A good number of those passing by “see” neither the sign nor the large faux gothic building with its bloody door.

 

What does a group do when it becomes invisible? Our usual answer is to train more greeters to meet those who won’t enter, rearrange the pews for those who won’t use them, and tinker with the liturgy for those who know nothing of the God who is to be worshipped. We sign up for courses on church growth and learn eight astoundingly obvious methods to organize a growing parish.

 

Well, it’s not all bad. The elderly group responding from the back pews to an enthusiastic young priest is still offering worship to God for the neighborhood if they haven’t the foggiest idea how to offer God to the neighborhood. That in itself is powerful. Something remains to draw the world closer to God. The eucharistic offering, the prayers of the people actualize the love of God for human beings where they are. They work.

 

The Church in the West is in an Upper Room mode. The days when Jesus was with us seem to have ascended elsewhere. We are still haunted by the call to talk about Jesus in our version of Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. We still hear Jesus ordering his followers to be life-givers for him. We hear the promise that God the Holy Spirit will possess the Church and give it power and authority to announce reconciliation and the forgiveness of sins.

 

There are haunting similarities between our church and the Church in the West and the pre Pentecost Church. We continue to make up the number of the Apostles, busy ourselves with looking after each other, and stay indoors because we fear those outside. We don’t fear their anger. We fear their apathy.

 

The clue to St. Peter’s enormously successful first stab at talking about Jesus to those outside was twofold. He related his love for his Master to the history and traditions of his listeners. It’s as if we started to draw lessons from American (or British) history and tradition to tell the story of the Living Messiah. Secondly Peter was heard by people whose first languages were diverse. Language is much more than defining or translating words. It carries with it culture and nuances, turns of speech and local flavor. Like St. Paul in Athens, Peter relates to the people he’s addressing. Above all, St. Peter and the women and men with him have been freed from fear because God has possessed them. They lived through their fears and waited until the promise that the Advocate, the defence attorney, would appear accompanied by the signs a first Century Jew associated with the presence of God. Could one of our problems be that we are expecting signs associated with God two thousand years ago and so fail to recognize contemporary signs? We shouldn’t look for Pillars of Fire and mighty winds. We need to ask how a twenty-first century woman in Chicago would recognize God’s enabling Presence.

 

Witnessing in a manner which is associated with the life experiences and traditions of a Twenty-first Century Western human being, in a speech form readily understood isn’t a matter of learning a method, a series of bullet points. I’m not speaking here about the language of worship. I speak of the language of what we used to call evangelism before the word sparked fear, particularly in Anglicans. We aren’t selling detergent. It isn’t about talent or ability. If we think it is we will excuse ourselves. “That’s not my thing”, we conclude. Truth be told, we are frightened, frightened Christians facing cultures possessed by fear, conspiracy theories and sheer terror debilitates the work and witness of the Church.

 

Two related points. Worship isn’t evangelism. The idea that we must make liturgy accessible is utterly wrong headed. We are nor putting on a performance to draw a crowd (or to satisfy our desire for an experience: God gives special moments as gifts. They are not rights.) If anything our attempts to offer the best language, music, ceremonial and vesture should be exclusive. Worship is for God.

 

Secondly catechesis, the art of teaching the Faith to those who respond to evangelism, to connection between the Church and non-believers, while tailored to levels of ability, should be demanding and lead to genuine commitment.

 

As we wait in our Upper Room parish churches we need to stop organizing, stop planning; we need to be still.
In the stillness, God will make his love for us, his love for the Church, obvious and effective. Perfect love casts out fear.

 

“I Said to the Man…”

I know that years are artificial constructs, convenient ways to plot the passing of time. The political events of the past year both in the United States and Great Britain could be construed as challenging another idea linked to time; that of progress. It’s not only liberals who subscribe to one of the fundamental planks of Liberalism. That is the doctrine that things are moving from darkness into light and if that progression doesn’t seem to move swiftly enough, it is our job to give it a push.

 

When the twenty first century began it was largely assumed that one sign of progress was that nationalism, a polite descriptor for tribalism, was now definitely one of those dark ideas which time, now armed by methods of instant communication, would finally eradicate. Mind you, America presented both a prototype of internationalism and a challenge to it. For over four hundred years, successive waves of immigrants largely supplanted the original inhabitants. The aboriginal population was derided as being primitive and “savage”, decimated by sword, musket and disease. Spaniards, Britons, the French, the Irish, Africans (themselves enslaved), Italians, Asians, Jews, Eastern Europeans and others, staked out land and neighborhoods, and delineated three nations.One of those nations in particular looks like an example of what globalization is intended to resemble. The United States looks like a United Nations. And yet, in the recent election, it opted for locality over globalization. Whether that decision is a temporary regression, or a re-establishment of nationalism, with its accompanying mantra of patriotism, remains to be seen. The “Brexit” vote in my own homeland, may point in the same direction. The sort of “liberalism” which inspired the Founders of the United States, it is suggested, is now up for challenge. This lengthy preamble may suggest to you that I’m about to opt for the future or the past, as projects. Not so.

 

I belong to a nation that has co-existed with liberalism, conservatism, autocracy, monarchy, republicanism, fascism, communism, theocracy to name the major political themes. My nation has managed to co-exist freely in areas and territories where one or another of these theories, or combinations of some of them, existed. In some my nation has been persecuted, even eradicated. At other times my nation has collaborated, even with regimes propounding philosophies in obvious conflict with the moral teachings of it Founder and founders. Not all of these regimes were or are overtly repressive. At times my nation has favored one political philosophy over another and even suggested that its citizens should follow suit. At times my nation has embraced fear, fear of the future, fear of the past, and even fear of success.

 

My nation is the Church, against which the gates of Hell, or of political theories, of progessivism or conservatism, shall not prevail. Unlike secularism, the Church’s greatest foe is ecclesiastical nationalism. That is a strange concept for an Anglican to propound. Anglicanism became a separate face of Christianity when, using fantasy as a prop, it invoked the idea that every Christian Empire has the right to its own “national” church, free to propound its own version of Christianity. So that tyrant Henry VIII encouraged his henchmen to unearth “histories” of a post-Roman Empire nation, ruled by merry old souls like Olde King Coel. So the ruler of part of an island, detached from continental Europe, claimed imperial status, and a church as part of his trinkets. And yet this tiny Imperial Church continued to chant the anthem of the whole church: we believe in “one holy catholic and apostolic church.” Indeed one version of the Creeds printed in the Imperial Church’s Liturgy affirmed not only belief in, but simple belief: “I believe one Catholic” etc.

 

Reliable history, as opposed to history as propaganda, informs me that my nation, the Church, can disappear from a nation or geographical area. Yet, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is numerically stronger now than it has ever been. Jesus warned against faith in statistics when he said “When the Son of Man returns shall he find faith on earth?” Henry VIII’s project of a discreet local church mercifully developed into a world-wide Communion committed to the reunion of the Church.

 

Let me try to be clear here. Of course local or “particular” churches should be free to govern their own affairs. They should not claim freedom to construct their own religion, their own creeds. The divisions which bedevil the Church, weaken and compromise its witness and make local area churches prone to cultural domination by national forms of secularism. Such a malady weakens the ability of the church in a nation or area to act as an effective conscience. At the same time, too much focus on universality makes it equally difficult for the local church to act as an effective conscience.

 

It is so hard for us to place our baptismal certificates on top of our birth certificates. And yet my hope, and the world’s future hope lies in Kingdom Come, when heaven and earth combine, and the kingdoms of this world becomes the Kingdom of our Lord Christ. My citizenship in that new world rests on my being born “from above” by baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. The water and oil mark on my forehead enables me to trust the man who stands at the gate of the year, as he exhorts me to step out into the darkness and put my hand into the hand of God.

 

 

 

A Traditionalist Contemplates the Jesus Movement.

Let me begin by saying how encouraged I am by the Presiding Bishop’s emphasis on Jesus and his saving works. It is not my purpose to pick apart aspects of the “Jesus Movement’ which might give someone of my persuasion pause. Rather I want to seek a way to contribute to Bishop Curry’s visionary call.

 

“So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” So wrote the author of the second Epistle to the Thessalonians. 

Paul, let’s call him the author of this short letter Paul, encourages his hearers and readers to stand firm in the faith communicated by the spoken and written word. He describes his teachings as “traditions.” We get here a glimpse of the earliest “Jesus Movement.” Across the Roman Empire, and perhaps beyond, groups of people drawn from different classes, regions, nationalities, religious backgrounds, male and female were uniting in the belief that Jesus is Lord. They prayed that the Kingdom of God would come and that God’s will and purpose established.

Before a decision had been made about the authority of a growing corpus of Christian writings  appended to the books of the Jewish Holy Books, these Christians sought to stand firm on a foundation made up of oral and written “tradition.” This tradition told of the life, death, resurrection and ascension of a man named Jesus, from Nazareth, a Jewish carpenter’s son whom they worshipped as God. Already, through their devotional lives and particularly their principle act of Christian worship, a fundamental if rudimentary Trinitarian awareness was becoming “traditional”. At least weekly, if not daily, and often at great risk, the followers of the Way, of the Christ, met together to break bread in prayer and to be instructed in the the teachings of the Apostles and those “Apostolic Men” set apart by the laying on of hands.

 

When 2 Thessalonians was written, a second generation of Christians was emerging. This was made possible by the evangelical zeal of those called to be “witnesses” Beginning with Jesus’s household, his family of followers, and gradually by a growing company of those who heard and received the “evangel” and submitted to an adapted Jewish purification rite, Baptism, the movement of Jesus followers spread far and wide, even into the household of the Roman Emperor, a potentate who soon found himself challenged by the imperial claims of the carpenter from Palestine. The Christian movement was thoroughly subversive. It eradicated even the differences of ethnicity, gender and status. Within the community slaves and aristocrats were equal. Christianity challenged the fundamental areas of human division, nationalism, class, gender and human rights. These causes of division and violence washed away in water poured and were thrust back down daily as all broke Bread and prayed. There was no magic fix to humanity’s ancient sins. They were to be confronted again and again, as we note in St. Paul’s and St. Clement’s letters to the Corinthian church, written decades apart but on the same subject, division.

 

Those of us who remain in the Episcopal Church, who some call “traditionalists” offer this tradition to the Jesus Movement. We seek to be “witnesses”, life-givers, armed with the “traditions” upon which we are grounded, “the Evangel” we have received. We believe ourselves called and sent people, of differing race, nationality, gender and social class, made one, forgiven our sins, made new, redeemed through baptism. We worship God through the perfect offering of Jesus on the Cross, in the power of the Holy Spirit. We believe that it is within the family or household of Christ that racism and all other sinful “isms” are vanquished and particularly in the offering and receiving of the Eucharist. We believe that the most vital program for justice is the project of passing on that which we have received in Word and Sacrament. Our firm foundation is built upon the received Scriptures, the Church’s Creeds, the writings of the Church’s teachers particularly in the first five centuries, the Councils of that period and their decisions and the traditions of every age which express what St. Vincent describes as the faith received “everywhere, always and by all.”

 

We hope that this offering equips us and qualifies us to be partners in the Jesus Movement.

 

 

 

 

POLITICS?

I was leaving for England when the election results were published. I thus spent three weeks away from the fray, although the BBC kept me up to date about affairs in the USA. It was fascinating to receive a preview of “Government by Twitter”.

 

In England progressives are still in shock about Brexit and its aftermath. On both sides of the Atlantic daily blog posts attempt to explain and analyze how the very people “liberals” claimed to support turned against the Left, the Labour Party in England and the Democrats in America. I grew up in post World War 2 England. The workers had rejected Winston Churchill for Clement Attlee and his socialists companions. Seventy years later the working class rejected the Establishment leaders of both major parties and opted out of Europe. Many supported Ukip, a party which makes Churchill look very liberal indeed. In America, the workers rejected both party Establishments and voted in an apolitical building magnate who promises to put the clock back and restore lost jobs.

 

These “working class” voters were convinced that the political elite had forgotten them, or, worse still, were contemptuous of their lifestyles and beliefs. Whether true or not, contempt works both ways. Goodness knows what happens if an independent Britain, or the paradise offered in America fails to help those whose incomes have decreased, life expectancy has decreased, jobs evaporated and in America, medical care has been denied.

 

My purpose in writing this is not to advance one political ideology against another. I write to raise the question, have the mainstream churches in America similarly failed the working class? Yes, there are many projects aimed at alleviating poverty and championing the underclass. However these worthy projects emanate in those parish churches and diocesan and denominational offices, far from the places where the “underclass” actually live. The Episcopal Church, for instance, is retreating from rural America. In urban areas, those churches which remain, are often venues to which the well-off, or at least not poor drive to make common cause with those of their own religious flavor or social beliefs.

In the 19th Century slum priests, mostly Anglo Catholics, went into places of enormous poverty, built churches, and lived among the under class. True many of these priests had independent wealth and could support themselves. Today “starter churches” survive if enough people are drawn in to pay the bills. No one even contemplates recruiting clergy and lay leaders who will support themselves by one means or another. The way we recruit ordinands often excludes pioneers and favors safe, bland men and women, who are capable of sustaining established congregations, often with skill and quiet heroism. But where are people of holy zeal, ready to move themselves and their families into deprived areas, places where violence may be normal, and the scourge of drug and alcohol abuse endemic? Where are the “denominations” (I hate that word) that would contemplate sending consecrated priests, deacons and lay leaders to live with and evangelize the workers?

 

And, anyway, working class people nowadays are rarely progressive.They have their own sort of denominations. Who needs them? Meanwhile we will continue to offer free meals once a week to the homeless and the poor, and champion them with resolution and check book.

 

 

CATHOLIC OR PROTESTANT?

http://livingchurch.org/covenant/2016/10/05/call-to-remembrance-our-catholic-and-reformed-past/?platform=hootsuite

 

It’s not at all clear when the question arose: Is Anglicanism Catholic or Protestant? I suspect that for the first 250 years of our separated history the answer would have been Protestant.

If the question was then extended to a reasonably well educated parson, ministering to a country parish in England in the second half of the 18th century (someone like Parson Woodforde of Weston Longville), we might have received a more nuanced answer.

The parson might have taken a sip of his wine and answered, “If by Protestant, you mean like those in Scotland or on the Continent, then no, we’re not quite like them, although some enthusiasts among us may think so. We have a liturgy, bishops, and territorial parishes.”

Move another hundred years on and plenty of parsons still taught that Anglicans — the word was now in use — were a unique sort of Protestants. Others would have affirmed the evangelical nature of the established church, and yet others taught that Anglicans were as Catholic as the Pope. The latter might have used arguments similar to Woodforde’s — I’m putting words in his mouth — when he stressed the uniqueness of the established church. (Mind you, claiming to be liturgical, episcopal, and territorial just as well described one as a Scandinavian Lutheran. Yet those identifiers were inherited from Catholicism.) Diarmaid MacCulloch described Elizabethan Anglicanism as “a Protestant Church which remained haunted by its Catholic past.”

In Woodforde’s day Anglicans may have differed about what Protestant meant as a descriptor, but the Church of England was remarkably united in the way it looked and the way it sounded. It was a verbal church. While a vestige of ceremonial religion might be discovered in cathedrals and the chapels royal, it was not to be discovered in parish churches. The parson wore the same clothes as he did in the street unless he was celebrating Holy Communion, for which he donned a surplice. True, he wore a distinctive clerical garb in the street (cassock, gown, and tippet), but so did Presbyterian ministers in Scotland. In the Episcopal Churches in Scotland and the American colonies even the surplice was abandoned.

The parson “read prayers and preached,” moving from prayer desk to pulpit to do the latter. He went to the Holy Table to celebrate Holy Communion perhaps four times a year. He went to the font at the back of the church to baptize, and to the church porch to marry. He put his hand over the paten and chalice when he read the Words of Institution during the Eucharist.

But the emphasis was on the written word spoken aloud, whether in leading the liturgy or preaching. Anglicanism was united. Even evangelicals were “churchmen.” They may have engaged in extra-liturgical preaching and praying, but on Sundays their worship looked and sounded much like any other Church of England worship.

Latitudinarians wrote and preached a moralistic religion, but on Sundays they kept to the script. High Church parsons laced their sermons with quotations from the Church Fathers, but at worship they remained verbal and immobile. The actual words of the liturgy had much more influence than passing theological fashion and described the form pastoral ministry took.

The Tractarian and Anglo-Catholic revival in the 19th century changed all that. Ceremonial of one sort or another became the added norm in all but very evangelical parishes. Church parties developed: Low, Broad, and High. They began to function like modern political lobbies. They created seminaries to perpetuate their brand of Anglicanism. As synodical government became popular in provinces across the world, the notion that such assemblies could formulate and propagate doctrine by majority vote became a given.

Are Anglicans Protestants who have taken on the trappings of Catholicism, while eschewing its discipline? Let us return to our imaginary conversation with Parson Woodforde. Both he and most of his colleagues believed in what might be described as the Church’s uniqueness. It was nothing like Roman Catholicism. It wasn’t much like other Protestant churches. Although anti-Catholicism was much muted by the end of the 18th century, it remained part of the inherited story.

When Parson Woodforde said he was a Protestant he meant that he remembered Bloody Mary, the burning of Reformed bishops, and Guy Fawkes’s gunpowder treason. Many popular Catholic devotions shocked him. At the same time, he eschewed a form of religion that made distinctions between the devout and the ordinary. His parishioners were not folk who had been converted, or who regarded themselves as elect. They were all the baptized who lived in the territory he oversaw as parish priest.

The parson ministered to this population in much the same way as had his predecessors back through the centuries, before and after the Reformation. He baptized, taught children the faith using a catechism, prepared them for confirmation, married and buried them using the rites and essential ceremonies of the Church. He received ordination at the hands of a bishop, the successors of others back through the centuries. He visited the sick and prayed for the dying.

In all these respects, the Protestant parson performed the ministry of a Catholic priest. He taught all the doctrines enumerated by the Catholic Creeds. Although the following had nothing to do with “catholicity,” the parson ministered from the ancient parish church around which were buried the ancestors of his parishioners. His bishop was enthroned in a cathedral built probably in several stages, almost all in medieval times. These buildings were the tangible relics of a Catholic past.

Anglicanism’s catholicism is to be discovered in the form and shape pastoral ministry took, and continues to take, in dioceses and parishes. It is when it seems to place undue emphasis on the status of its adherents that it veers away from catholicity. When it requires adherence to novel teachings and practices, rather than to sacramental identity, it endangers its authenticity.

By “novel teachings and practices,” I refer to ideological proposals over and above the core of the creedal faith. The form such novelties take changes. After the Reformation it was a proposal that baptism wasn’t enough. One had to believe oneself to be elect and separate. (Perhaps that remains the clue. Parson Woodforde would have called such people “enthusiasts.”)

Eschewing novelty doesn’t mean stagnation and obscurantism. It does mean a practiced humility that submits the will to the teachings and practices of the Church. For clergy it means the trivial task and common round of intentional pastoral ministry as the flock of Christ is nurtured by Word and Sacrament.