Monday, June 15, 2009

Postscript on HWHM

My upstream post on the proposed revision of Lesser Feasts & Fasts--styled Holy Women, Holy Men--has generated a fair amount of attention, especially on HoB/D, thanks to a boost from a member of that community. Initially, the comments were nearly unanimously in agreement with my assessment that the work is still immature and definitely not ready for prime time. I found it particularly intresting that these responses cut across the usual ideological lines; it's not just a "conservative" issue.

I will attempt not to repeat the points I made in my earlier post, as I think they still pertain. But one of the commenters hit a bullseye with her observation that the proposed additions represent not so much "holy women and holy men" as "decent people who tried to do good things." Another voice keeps raising the question of Henry Purcell: He was by any stretch an accomplished musician and a pivotal figure in the development of Anglican church music. But was he noted for the strength of his Christian piety or the heroism of his spiritual discipline? Does he have, to use the technical vocabuly of the sanctoral calender biz, a "cult"? If the answer is No, then why is he there, rather than any number of other important English musicians, such as, say, S.S. Wesley, or Stanford, or Parry, or Vaughan Williams or Howells? And this is not so much about who anyone's favortie Anglican composer is; it's about the disconnect between the SCLM's stated criteria for inclusion and many of the names they actually propose for inclusion.

More lately, a couple of SCLM members have weighed in, for which I am grateful. They point out that the wholesale revision of LF&F, as opposed to a continuing gradual tweaking, is a response to the request of General Convention itself in 2003, re-affirmed in 2006. Ah, yes, but it's not that simple. In both those years, the relevant resolutions were A-resolutions, which means the originated from one the bodies that pursues convention's work during the intervening three years. So what we did, in fact, in both cases, was simply ratify the SCLM's own agenda for reform. To say, "We only giving you what you asked for" seems a little disingenuous.

That said, I'm appreciative of the observation that HWHM presumes (and attempts to engender, I would suppose) a fundamental attitudinal change toward the place of any sanctoral calendar in the life of the church, stressing the "optional" in the label "days of optional observance," rather than "we all do all the days." Fine. This gets my attention, and gives me pause. I've always wanted to cherry-pick saints' days anyway. But more of a case needs to be made for this, and the Blue Book report doesn't make that case. In fact, the Blue Book report doesn't make much of any case. It just lays the 112 new ones out there, with a bare minimum of explanation, and no justification to speak of. If we're going to swallow this meal whole, we're going to need some stronger medicine than we've been given to help us digest it. Somebody needs to persuade me not merely that John Henry Newman and Fanny Crosby did some pretty impressive things as part of their Christian discipleship--I already think they're both pretty cool--but that we would not in fact be dishonoring them by including them in our calendar when Newman quite intentionally abandoned the Anglican fellowship and Crosby was in a tradition that would look askance, to say the least, at the very notion of the same. (Pretty clever to include "praising her Savior all the day long" in the collect, but how many Episcopalians even sing "Blessed Assurance"?) I guess what I'm saying is that we need to have the philosophical conversation about what a sanctoral calendar is before we start horse-trading on the particular names ("I'll live with Richard Baxter if you agree to get rid of John Calvin."). I realize the members of the SCLM feel like they've already had that conversation, but the rest of us weren't in the room to overhear. We need some more talkin' to.

1 comment:

Frair John said...

I have made a few remarks of my own on HWHM over at my place. I'm inclined to agree with you on many, many points.