"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Paul to the persecuted at Philippi (2:5-11)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Taking one for the team

My son plays flag football. He's fourteen, fast and agile. Not much of a real football player type, but he's a good flag puller. The top six teams are in the play-offs tomorrow, and fifth place Allison Park is on the field bright and early.

And in the last few minutes of the last practice, guess who got smacked in the face, hard, against another player's shoulder. He's being good natured about it, but he's got a good sized knot and is guaranteed a bruise to match by morning. He does not want to play tomorrow morning.

But he's going.
He's going so his teammates can see that he's okay. He got hit hard and an injured teammate is bad for morale. They need to know he's fine.
He is going so that he can be there for his team. If he'd broken both legs, he'd still be going. They need to know he's there for them.
He is going so that the teammate he collided with can see that there are no hard feelings. They'll see each other in class on Monday, but sooner is always better for such things.
He's going, hopefully, to play in the tournament. He needs to know that he's not as injured as he feels and that he can shake it off with the best of them.

So my young'un is going to play football tomorrow, with a bruised up face, and hopefullly a black belt attitude. He's probably still going to have that bruise a week later when he competes in a martial arts tournament.

And whether he brings home a trophy or not, once that bruise fades, he'll have lasting reminders in who he is becoming, how he handles crisis, and how he remembers to put a team first.

And it seems that is a good lesson for the adults around him, too. In crisis, turmoil, on the rough waters the church is sailing, every man for himself is a doomed philosophy. But catholicity, unity, the things the church is to be, will make us better through and in response to the adversity, once all is said and done.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fifteen authors, for good or ill

There's this thing going around on Facebook... its been there for ages, where you are supposed to take no more than fifteen minutes to list the fifteen authors you find most influential. I thought I'd bring this over here, though, because I like the question and want to spend a little more time with the idea, not just making a list but thinking about why. So here's my list:

1. John the Evangelist-- I think it would be cheating to say "the Bible" or to list other biblical writers in the next fourteen spaces, so I'm boiling down the expected Bible entry to just this one. Why John? Well, because with John (who I firmly believe is the writer of not only the Gospel, but also the Epistles and Revelation, modern scholars can say what they like to the contrary, but I don't buy it) its not just about his content but about the way the mind is shaped to soar to new heights in theologically shaped devotion. The language of John is rich and lush and vibrant, just like the whole incarnation and resurrection, kingdom and creation that John spreads out at our feet.
2. Ephrem the Syrian-- his poem "On the Death of a Deacon" defines the order of deacons, a fourth century voice every deacon should hear. I know, that's the least of Ephrem's wonderous written works, but for me, its everything.
3. Victor Hugo-- unabridged, thank you. Les Miserables is almost cliche, but the full version of Hunchback of Notre Dame is hautning and deep and, well, miserable. I was so offended when Disney sank their claws into Hugo's work.
4. Thomas Hardy-- Similar reasons, only the Jude the Obscure, Mayor of Casterbridge... Hardy plumbs the depth of human desperation
5. Gustav Flaubert-- because Madame Bovary taught me, when I was only seventeen, that our own problems always seem huge in our own eyes and maybe it is a bad plan to idealize what we think other people have.
6. Elisabeth Fiorenza-- Because the overly verbose waste of time that is entitled In Memory of Her that so awed my classmates, taught me to question people with PhD's and that maybe, just maybe, the biggest windbag in the room wasn't the smartest and a twenty year old undergraduate might just be able to shoot holes in the writer's argument.
7. Thomas Aquinas-- Summa Theologica, nice and all, but for me its about the hymnody.
8. Linda Sue Park-- a peek into the history and people of Korea, in story and suitable for children.
9. Cranmer-- Book of Common Prayer... 'nuff said
10. Arthur Miller-- the Crucible. My first introduction, as a high school freshman, to the meaning of the word witch hunt, the importance of going against the tide, and the possibility of mass hysteria, and how the good guys are really never all good and the bad guys never all bad.
11. Douglas Wilson-- Angels in the Architecture and a lot of good stuff on homeschooling and culture and the tools of classical education. But he also makes me scream for his uberpresbyterianism. But the word is influential, not necessarily favorite. Althought Angels in the Architecture is definitely a favorite. Everyone should read that.
12. Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise-- because I bought into the classical education model. And because I've used their stuff to teach my kids. And because I wonder how or if Bauer really does have the life I dream of or if she fakes it.
13. Allen Ross- Because exegesis is beautiful, like music or painting and literal doesn't mean closed minded or ignorant and serious scholarship can be joyful.
14. Abraham Joshua Heschel and Chaiam Potok-- they share this spot because, between the two of them, Hasidism captured my imagination. And suddenly Christianity didn't have to exist in a vacuum.
15. Jodi Picoult-- I disagree vehemently with her politics, with which she infuses every single book, but she's not afraid of controversy and she sure can weave a story. I read her when my brain wants to take a little vacation.

There you have it... I wonder what this says about me. I have a few honorable mentions too:
David Mills, Saints' Guide to Knowing the Real Jesus
Simon Winchester, Korea, a Walk through the Land of Miracles
Matthew Polly, American Shaolin
Sharon Shinn's Archangel series
Heilie Lee, Still Life with Rice
Simon Weisenthal, The Sunflower

These didn't change so much how I think, but they made me think a little bigger somehow. And isn't the mark of a good book the captivity of the imagination?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

PA Supreme Court, Adult Supervision, and other things that are obviously not so obvious

My nine year old was reading the intstructions on his new remote controlled helicopter yesterday. He's been through a million of these little "pocket copters" as he calls them, and when they inevitably break they become electronics projects. So he's reading the directions and warnings out loud, some of which are a bit amusing. Finally he comes to "Adult Supervision Required" and he adds in his cynical nine year old voice "ha ha."

I'm really not sure why adult supervision is required for a pocket copter, except that my nine year old is inherently dangerous anyway.

But kind of like the "contents may be hot" labels on disposable coffee cups, the courts sometimes require us to state the obvious to cover our butts. And if we fail to do so, we have legal precedent that on our own heads be it. Heck, you can probably sue in this day and age if the weatherman predicts clouds and you neglect sunscreen and get burned. Look up, figure it out.

Adult supervision required.

So the PA Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of the Pittsburgh church property case. This is a clear case of failed butt covering on our part. The strict interpretation of the Pittsburgh stipulation seems, to me, to sign over pretty much everything. And the courts seem to be agreeing with that. The property ownership is as clear as looking up reveals a cloudless sky. Its obvious that churches don't 'belong' either to individuals or denominations but to God. It is just as obvious that the fair and kind response is to let worshiping communities have the buildings they've maintained and sustained for generations. But the stipulation says you have to put "contents may be hot" on your coffee cups, "buildings may be taken" on your cornerstones. The stipulation signs away all logical and compassionate answers to the questions that ordinary circumstances would consider too mundane to bother asking.

So we lost. I hope its over. Like every other petty, greedy lawsuit out there, the victors can count their ill-gotten gains, legally gained sure, but legal abuse. And the losers can move forward, do mission, love Jesus.

And hopefully we won't have to remind normal parents to pay attention to their kids.
or coffee drinkers that their beverage is hot.
or Christians that its wrong to sue one another.
or churches that their churches, their lives, their sacred honor is not their own.
or dioceses that those things don't belong to them either.

Monday, October 17, 2011

TEC-Pittsburgh and Mark Lawrence

My friend the Anglican Yinzer has posted some entries which made me wonder a few things. I posted my initial remarks on his site, but I thought I'd expound here, because its still rattling around in my mind.

Way back, (a long time ago, children, before there was an ACNA... amazing, I know) when we were all one diocese here in Pittsburgh, the conservative clergy (or so called) gathered together to try to figure out what we should do about the problems we were facing. We had already pubically declared that we would stand for the Gospel "whatever the cost" and had begun to calculate that cost.

There were three major groups of opinions, all firmly held and boldly proclaimed, but the minority opinion was that we should "Stay in TEC and build a firewall" against the influence of the national church. The main proponent of that idea was Jim Simons, of subsequent TEC/PGH fame. Jim assured us that we could remain faithful and remain within TEC and protect our people from what the national church was doing. This was the start of the twelve conservative clergy who then broke ranks with the rest of us to attempt to maintain relationship with TEC.

Maybe I'm naive, but when the real split happened and those twelve stayed behind in TEC, I figured that would really be their strategy, made more difficult for the fact that the voting majority had just left (I can sympathize with that). I was a little shocked when it seemed that they were no longer trying to build that firewall and were in fact welcoming TEC into the diocese. Had something changed?

But now I really wonder. Over in South Carolina, Mark Lawrence has publically proposed exactly what the Pittsburgh Twelve once believed so strongly in that they were willing to be seen as betraying their bishop and friends, to stay in TEC and build a firewall. Bishop Lawrence has never made a move to leave TEC and it looks for all the world that he has no intention of leaving. All he's done is to attempt to make a firewall.

I understand why TEC is a little paranoid. There was a time after all when Bishop Duncan thought he could stay and work within the system, too. From the TEC point of view, that didn't work out so well for them. But what I don't understand is why the people who know best the strategy of working from within haven't made a peep in Bishop Lawrence's defense. Have they abandoned completely the idea of building a firewall? Is TEC-PGH now welcoming the alien overloards? Or are they just afraid for their own hides (understandable)?

Likewise where is the support from the other bishops who claim a conservative position but also plan to remain within TEC? Or has this become an all out witch hunt, wherein to even associate with the suspected is to bring suspicion on oneself.

Has no one here ever read the Crucible? And for those who have, need I remind you that the events of the book were no mere fiction? I'm too young to personally remember the McCarthy era (against which Miller wrote the Crucible, based on the true events of the Salem Witch Trials) but surely the current situation should ring some alarm bells for many who are watching these events unfold. Or have we failed to learn from history and damned ourselves to repeat it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Reminders of what interesting times looked like

Re-posting from Kendall Harmon.... just go read it, ye watchers of Anglicanism.

Pre-Convention Hearings

Well, it promises to be a boring convention. Most of the resolutions are simple procedural matters to clean up the details where the canons and day to day practice differ. Nothing here is a matter of salvation, ultimate importance, or the lowest level of intrigue. If last year's convention was described as "boring" this one promises to induce coma.

For one ordained into an active battlefield, where every vote in every convention would lead us further down one path or another, a pivotal moment, a weighty matter, this era of conventions is a bit lackluster. Its a rough but necessary lesson that the Church does not exist to feed my sense of self-importance and entertainment. While I'm not one of the major combatants (to whom we owe a great debt in many cases), or a political animal (like my friend over at anglicanyinzer.blogspot.com), I am rather fond of friendly debate. A diocesan convention where there is no disagreement seems to be a waste of time and money. I'm not sure why we can't just show up to dinner on Friday night, and afterwards take ten minutes to a-okay the resolutions and go home.

But I'm aware that that's a sign of a need to grow up and pay attention to the details (that I'd prefer to ignore) and get on with the work of the church, even its minutae. I doubt I'm the only one suffering from that need... most of us are ready to launch into The Next Great Thing (tm) and want to not have time for boring little things... but God is still in the details, too.

So I guess we have some growing up to do, or at least I do (surprise, surprise), but it was nice to spend more time in the post-hearing beer session than in the hearings themselves.

And members of the press, if you're looking for anything intersting happening in the diocese next month... well, let me know if you find anything. For now the interesting things are far from newsworthy, just building relationships and doing day to day ministry, and the occasionally utterly non-exciting entertainmentless resolution on the Convention floor.