Wednesday, July 04, 2018

2018 General Convention, Day 2

The most intense and substantive portion of my day was devoted to the work of Committee 12: Prayer Book, Liturgy, & Music. We met from 0800 until noon--partly in plenary hearing testimony (only about 45 minutes), partly in plenary talking amongst ourselves, and partly in subcommittees. 

The two major items in front of Committee 12 are draft proposed revisions of the Book of Occasional Services and Lesser Feasts & Fasts. I serve on the subcommittee for the latter. The first obvious issue is that there are within the Episcopal Church quite divergent attitudes toward what a liturgical calendar even is and just what it means to include or omit someone. We experienced this divergence even within our subcommittee. What might be called the "low church" position is that those whom we include on a sanctoral calendar are exemplary witnesses to the gospel, whom all the faithful should endeavor to emulate. 

The counterpart "high church" position relies on a three-layer taxonomy: the Church Militant on earth, the Church Expectant in paradise, and the Church Triumphant in heaven. This the traditional Catholic vision. Those who depart this life are presumed to join the Church Expectant, a condition of purgation and sanctification--ongoing growth and refinement in holiness. It feels right for the Church Militant to persistently pray for members of the Church Expectant, that they will have the grace to continually yield themselves to the healing touch of the Great Physician, the "Shepherd and Bishop of [their] souls." (I Peter 2:25) The members of the Church Triumphant are those in whom the process of sanctification has been brought to completion, who can look in a mirror and see Jesus, who can behold the unfiltered presence of God and not be turned to dust. They do not need our prayers on their behalf, as they have attained perfection. But we can certainly benefit from their prayers for us. These are the ones whom the Church discerns to be capital-S Saints. 

As you might imagine, I advocate the high church viewpoint on this. My immediate subjective filter when I hear about someone proposed for the liturgical calendar is, would I be comfortable saying, "Blessed N. pray for us"? Not everyone sees it this way, however. They're more comfortable with a standard of "exemplary Christian (and the occasional exceptional non-Christian) who did great things, or is at least worth knowing about." So, it's with some surprise that I can report a possible way forward brewing that might address the substance of both notions of the calendar. Stay tuned.

Of course, while doing my own committee work, my ear is constantly to the ground about the work of a committee I am not on, but is dealing with matters that are of critical importance to me--namely, how the Episcopal Church's theology of marriage intersects with the process of Prayer Book revision. Procedurallly and politically, this is very complex, with multiple balls in play, and several different ways each of them can bounce. For my Communion Partner colleagues and me, the bottom line is to find a way, in the midst of a church that tolerates and encourages practices that we find questionable at best, the official teaching, even if it is widely flouted or ignored, remains orthodox. We're willing to live and let live. But we want to be an object of the "letting," and not just the subject. Our opponents seem determined to deprive us of any amount of wiggle room. Is it pathetic that we're here desperate just for "wiggle room." Well ... yeah. It is. But here we are, just the same. We need at least a toehold.

1 comment:

Michael Clark said...

I don't think the marriage revisions are questionable, but I do admit more than most that we are moving in a direction that cannot easily aspire to conciliar authority, since it is out of step with so much of the Anglican Communion and historic faith. That doesn't make it wrong, just as the early Church's inclusion of Gentiles against 1000+ years of Jewish history was not wrong just because it was new. But nonetheless we need to be modest and humble in making this change, and I especially would like to see that "wiggle room" for exceptional bishops like yourself. I hope that whatever resolution is chosen, you will discern a path in which LGBT persons can attain the full rights of their baptismal covenant, while nonetheless allowing you to preach the Good News of Jesus faithfully and clearly as one of our bishops. Thank +Dan for your service to the Body of Christ. May it continue for years to come.