[Radner] more explicitly takes up the arguments of liberals within the mainline church who suggest that conservative histrionics over the inclusion of homosexuals are no different from the resistance to racial or gender inclusiveness or to revision to the Book of Common Prayer (indeed, conservatives on the issue of homosexuality are in some regrettable company in recent history). The issue of homosexuality is different, Radner insists. He says that the Episcopal Church’s “revisionary teachings on sexual behavior is unique in our church’s development,” and that appeals to “justice” and “love” over the particular and defined words and actions of scripture suggest that a general principle has become more important than the lordship of Christ. He also laments liberals’ “chilling” indifference to the protests of more conservative Anglicans in the Third World.
But Radner has also developed an argument for why it is important to stay in what he sees as a deeply flawed church. “God has allowed us to come to faith and to practice our faith within divided Christian communities so that, forced to follow Jesus where we have been placed, we might learn repentance.” Radner offers a figural scriptural argument: though Israel was divided because of human sin and divine punishment, “No Jew . . . is ever asked by God to ‘choose’ between Israel and Judah.” Jewish writers of scripture did not even consider such a move—rather they stayed where they were and tried to help the people be more faithful to the law of the Lord.
Radner sharpens this argument with a christological coup de grace: in the face of infidelity, Jesus himself stays put and dies for his enemies. He does not flee for greener pastures. “It is facile and ultimately misleading for orthodox Christians to identify, face, and respond to their churches’ errors by saying ‘repudiate and separate’ . . . for the simple reason that this is not the shape of Israel’s history—which must ultimately be our own—because it is not the shape of Jesus’ own life. There is no other standard.”
“Nowadays, there are philosophy professors, but no philosophers.” -Thoreau, Walden
As usual, Thoreau is not far from the truth. If there are philosophers
today, and if Pierre Hadot is right, then surely they are priests, monks, nuns.
He is surely correct that, without the whole community of God’s people reading and grappling with Scripture on a day-in, day-out basis, we have little realistic hope to see God work powerfully among us in unity.
In fact, from everything I have studied and experienced, it seems to me that this is the primary difference between Anglicanism on the one hand, and evangelicalism and the Reformed tradition on the other, with respect to thinking about Scripture.
I have written here and elsewhere about how Anglicanism sees Scripture as having its primary context in the corporate worship of God. What I have realized more recently however is that the great vision of Anglicanism (to name three disparate examples: Thomas Cranmer, Philip Turner, and Andy Doyle) is to have the full people of God reading the Bible together in such a way that the narrative of Scripture — what is called the “rule of faith” as summarized by the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds — comes to saturate our lives.
Bishop Tom Wright provides a good example of this emphasis on narrative or story within the whole of the liturgy here (about half way through the video).
For Anglicanism, the least important mode of imbibing Scripture is what you might call “the library-based study of Scripture.” Important, yes, for scholars (doctors of the church, perhaps) or for someone who heard something in gathered worship who then wants a question answered or who wants to dig deeper, but secondary to the liturgical reading of God’s word, both in the mode of proclamation within the Eucharist, as well as in the more meditative, lectio divina mode of the Daily Office (whether in a community or in spatial isolation from the community).
As I (with my family) struggle and learn how to pray the Daily Office, it helps (it helps me, at least) to know where this service came from historically within the church.
Which is why I am so thankful for Marion Hatchett’s magisterial Commentary on the American Prayerbook, which would have to be on my “top ten list” of most interesting books I have ever read. (Hatchett served on the editorial board of the 1979 Prayer Book — a book shot through with historical insights from the liturgical renewal movement of the late 19th and 20th century — drafting committee.)
Hatchett explains in detail how and why Cranmer updated the medieval “liturgies of the hours” which he and other reformers — both “Catholic” (to speak anachronistically) and “protestant” — inherited from their medieval predecessors.
Cranmer prepared two drafts for a revised daily office some years before the publication of the 1549 Book: one of these depended on the work of Quinones, the other upon German church orders. Both contributed to the daily office of the first Prayer Book. The psalter was to be read monthly in the morning and evening offices of the book and there were to be two “lessons” at each office with “the most part” of the Old Testament and Apocrypha read yearly at the New Testament (except for the book of Revelation) three times each year. This “in course” reading was seldom to be interrupted [ie, by saints’ days or propers of the church year]….
Hatchett explains how, basically Cranmer simplified and collapsed three of the medieval / monastic offices (Matins, Lauds, and Prime) into Matins or Morning Prayer, and so also for Evenson, or Evening Prayer (Vespers and Compline being streamlined into this service). (All of these other services themselves, of which there are eight, are also described historically by Hatchett.)
It is interesting that in Anglicanism until recently, priests were required to pray the Daily Office daily with parishioners, a historical example of which I have blogged about here.
In Radical Orthodoxy: a New Theology the authors write:
The great Christian critics of the Enlightenment — Christopher Smart, Hamann, Jacobi, Kierkegaard, Peguy, Chesterton and others — in different ways saw that what secularity had most ruined and actually denied were the very things it apparently celebrated: embodied life, self-expression, sexuality, aesthetic experience, human political community. Their contention, taken up in this volume, was that only transcendence, whcih ‘suspends’ these things in the sense of interrupting them, ‘suspends’ them also in the other sense of upholding their relative worth over-against the void. (3)
In Praying Shapes Believing Lionel Mitchell employs this same (theo)logic when discussing how the liturgical year “saves” ordinary time by transcending it:
The Christian year is a mystery through which every moment and all the times and seasons of this life are transcended and fulfilled in that reality which is beyond time. (14)
Ahhh … just when I was starting to get really depressed about the state of global Anglicanism, I stumble across Bishop Tom (with whom I will be in one week in Toronto!), reminding me why I am doing so much of what(ever it is that) I am doing.
Watch this video and see a godly bishop engaging a post Christian world in the very same way he addresses the church. See him connect the crises within Anglicanism to the crises of our global village (no doubt thinking of Rom 8:18-27 all the while). Listen as he applies Christian political thought (tertium quid thinking; eschatology; two-cities; service to enemy; seeking the common good; ecclesiology) to the “secular” world.
There are so many theologians out there who encourage me on a regular basis, but I don’t think that any of them are up the unique challenges which this man is uniquely gifted to address.
This is all the more important in light of the ontological nature and purpose of the bishop (as the Windsor Report points out) to represent the local to the universal, and the universal to the local.
I blogged about the “Sharia row” here.
Anglican church planting along the Ethiopian-Sudanese border shows the power of the spirit to overcome what John Zizioulas calls our “biological hypostasis:” our need for security, our drive to oppress our enemies.
All of this is taking place under the episcopal oversight of Archbishop of the Southern Cone Mouneer Anis, a Windsor bishop and primate.
In modernity’s attempt to annihilate liturgical life and the liturgical worldview, it has along the way discarded with the ways which humanity has traditionally, going back to ancient and even pre-historic cultures and civilizations, marked and observed time. Milbank and Pickstock and Cavanaugh describe this phenomenon well, as I have blogged about before.
In trying to recapture and embody (corporately and individually) this premodern (and postmodern) way of life, a good place to start, for Christians at least, is with the feasts which the Jewish people, the Old Covenant people of God, celebrated and observed before (and after) the advent of Jesus.
In his magisterial _Commentary on the American Prayer Book_, Marion Hatchett correctly observes that, like Christians, the basic unit of time for Jews was (and is) the week, marked and adorned by the festivities connected to Sabbath practice.
However, the year also has a prominent role, just as it does in Christianity. There are three main feasts which were observed under the Old Covenant. I quote Hatchett (pp 36-37):
Basic to the Jewish year were three pilgrimage feasts, the origins of which may have been agricultural: Passover (probably associated with the arrival of the new flock), Pentecost (the wheat harvest), and Tabernacles (the new wine). The Passover commemorated the slaying of the first born, the exodus from Egypt, and the entry into the Promised Land. High points of the celebration were the slaying of the Passover lamb, the use of unleavened bread, and the special Passover cup. The offering of barley after the Passover inaugurated the seven weeks of harvest culminating in the feast of Pentecost, which commemorated the giving of the law and the covenant with Israel. The feast of Tabernacles celebrated the giving of new wine, the time of dwelling in huts or booths in the wilderness, the choice of the House of David, the choice of Jerusalem as God’s dwelling place, and the dedication of the Temple. Dancing and carrying the palm branches and torches were parts of the celebration.”