Thursday, February 13, 2014

On the Making and Unmaking of Saints

For several years, the Episcopal Church--through the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music at the behest of the General Convention at the behest of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (yes, you read that right)--has been working on revising its calendar of "saints" (with no coherent articulation of just who a "saint" is). The standard sanctoral calendar is found in the volume Lesser Feasts and Fasts (last revised in 2006), but the current trial use volume is styled Holy Women, Holy Men, and has been the subject of a great deal of heated debate.

The SCLM has produced a draft proposal, now called A Great Cloud of Witnesses, and has solicited comments from the whole church. You can see my comment below, but I suggest you look here to get a sense of the context; otherwise what I say will seem a little opaque.

This proposal is certainly a step in a good direction when set alongside HWHM. I would echo much of what has been said upstream: 1) do not include non-Christians or Christians whose ecclesial tradition rejects or knows nothing of the idea of a sanctoral calendar; 2) hold fast to the local observance criterion; 3) reinstate and strictly observe the 50-year post-mortem criterion; 4) simply call the volume what it is--"Propers for Optional Observances" is fine, though I personally prefer just keeping LF&F; 5) eliminate "category satisfying" nominations for inclusion--this is not a "Who's Who."  
All this said, I find myself disappointed that the process has become so politicized, and that there is not sufficient consensus around a sane and tradition-rooted approach to the recognition of heroic and exemplary discipleship and holiness. If I were more confident that the list that will be finally approved would be consistent with the enunciated criteria, I would join my voice with those calling for the retention of proper collects. But that not being the case, the "commons" approach is probably best. But this is a settlement, a compromise, and represents, in my view, a systemic failure. 
I really liked Derek's original proposal. What "Cloud..." does is retain its basic two-tiered concept, but move the bar between Tier 1 and Tier 2 such that only the category of "major holy days" is included in Tier 1. If the question were not so fraught with other agendas, we could expand Tier 1 to include bona fide heroes and exemplars, each with proper lessons and collect, and adopt Tier 2 ("people we should all be aware of"), and appoint common readings and collects. 
Anyway, as I said, a step in the right direction, and probably the best we can do.

I don't know whether I will be reappointed to the General Convention committee that will take on this work, but, in any case, I am probably not finished engaging this subject.


Tom Sramek, Jr. said...

The only problem with "Propers for Optional Observances" is the initials that result. POO :-)

Anonymous said...

About your rule "do not include non-Christians or Christians whose ecclesial tradition rejects or knows nothing of the idea of a sanctoral calendar". Amen to the first part - those who are without, God judges. But as to the second half, where the ecclesial tradition knows nothing of a sanctoral calendar - it seems one has a chicken-and-egg problem then. For the sanctoral calendar is obviously not as old as the apostolic era (even considering those notable figures who died soonest, such as Stephen). Such a rule, then, would exclude too much.

Dale Matson said...

Bishop Dan,
Does that mean that Elizabeth Cady Stanton should be removed?

Anonymous said...

It seems that, as in a number of other matters in recent years, the Episcopal Church is having to fall back on procedures and structural approaches to compensate for a lack of theological agreement. If you had a group of orthodox Christians making the decisions, it wouldn't be that hard to decide who should be included and who shouldn't. But, since the Church has become so heterodox, it is now necessary to have a set of criteria; and, even then, you have to worry that the final list that is approved will be consistent with the enunciated criteria. And, in the process, the Church ends up losing the cherished tradition of proper collects. My parish has continued using the 2003 edition of LF&F even after the 2006 LF&F and HWHM came out, because we clearly could not go along with all the inclusions in HWHM. Even the addtions to the 2006 LF&F seems to have a PC agenda behind them.