Friday, February 24, 2012

A Lutheran Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday: Vespers at Christ Lutheran Church.
Begins: 7:02 P.M. (two minutes late)
Attendance: about 45.
Lutheranism has a set of practices that don’t fit together like those of other Protestant denominations because it combines an insistence on the evangelical doctrine of justification by faith alone with a liturgical form of worship that includes elements that Protestants would associate with Catholicism. The priest celebrates facing the altar, back to the congregation. After the confession, no namby-pamby assurance of God’s forgiveness of our sins -- the priest forgives them himself, straight up. 
Christ Lutheran Church is associated with the Lutheran Church of Canada, the section of the church associated with the Missouri Synod in the United States, not the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the branch which is racing the Anglican Church of Canada into perdition.
I associate the Lutherans with Germans. I wonder how much fact there is to this association in this day and age.  The pastor preaching speaks to my question, mentioning in his sermon that people ask him how he became a Lutheran minister with an English last name like “Duke”-- shouldn’t he be an Anglican or Methodist or something?
The Lutherans combine their prayer book and hymnal into one book.  Smart move -- prevents congregations from wandering off the reservation and selecting a hymnbook according to their own preferences. I don’t know that I’ve ever been to a Vespers service before. There is no Bible on the pews, nor are the texts of the lessons shown on the overhead, so you have to actually listen to the reader. Lutherans don’t seem to be big on lay participation -- priests read the lessons, no lay-led prayers for the people.
I would receive communion, but although I would consider myself enough in communion with the Lutherans,they don’t feel the same way about me.
I don’t approve of preachers giving personal stories from the pulpit, but Pastor David Duke (wonder if he’s thought of changing his name) has a long one that’s worth the time. It’s about his grandfather, who was sent to SMU to be trained to be a minister but discovered there that he wasn’t Christian, went to Europe in World war I, was shot in the back and told that he would never have children, developed an addiction to morphine, came home and found his wife taking up with another man. he refused to grant a divorce,and his wife attempted to poison him, to murder him. they divorced. He married an indian woman (not sure whether Creek or Cherokee) and fathered four children. His family disinherited him, not approving of his Indian wife. Now we’re into the Depression, and his humanities-type skills and interests are of no help finding a job. He becomes a dirt farmer. Granddad is a hard drinker and beats his children. The Methodist and Baptist preachers come by once in a while to tell him he’s going to Hell. He thoroughly prepares himself for these visits with substantial anointing with hard whiskey and enjoys inviting them and confuting everything they say, with Scriptural support as required.(remember, he was going to be a pastor himself).  The Lutheran preacher comes by...and unlike the others, when Granddad offers him to take something from the whiskey jug himself the Lutheran accepts, and their conversation is, if not exactly friendly, civil.  (This would also be a fine anti-temperance story.) The wife ends up coming to Church, converts, and is allowed to join the Church despite their officialwhites-onlypolicy. Their children are thus raised as Christians. At the very end of this life, after a stroke and in serious agony, Granddad eventually goes down on hsi knees, makes a confession and avowal of faith,and becomes a Christian.
The lesson from the story is that Granddad is just as much a Christian,  just as “good as”, other Christians, despite his late conversion; the foil is an unnamed woman leader within the congregation (presumably not this one) who looks down on Granddad, his being a drunkard and child-beater and all, and scoffs at his deathbed conversion. It’s a good lesson, but after the boffo opening, it’s a bit of an anticlimax.
At this Ash Wednesday service there is no Imposition of Ashes. I know from being here on Sundays that there is no coffee hour, so I don’t expect to find anything available after the service with which to end my (supposed) fast. Nor are they into the modern practice of training members to gravitate towards visitors and impress upon them how welcome they are. But I felt welcome anyway.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Xmas Only 344 Days Away

Although it seems increasingly likely that I will never be able to take advantage of its precepts, no request for an engagement of lay preaching having been received by me, D. Martyn Lloyd Jones’ book Preachers and Preaching has been for me a greater blessing than any of his publications except Spiritual Depression, and is one of the great Christian books of the Twentieth Century. By seeing what a preacher should be trying to accomplish in the pulpit, the layman learns how to hear and understand that which is being done.

I have sometimes wondered how one would give this book to a minister as a gift without giving offence. Would it not be like giving him a book entitled How to Start Giving Good Sermons, And The Sooner The Better?

Well, now there is a way. Zondervan has just published a 40th anniversary edition of Preaching & Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. This classic book on containing the original text along with reflections by six well known American preachers, John Piper being the one most familiar to me. It is available at a price very reasonable for a Christian book these days, $13.79, from Westminster Books, which advises us by way of a bright red banner that it is “Now Shipping to Canada”. Sample pages from the book may be found
. You can explain to your pastor that you're sure that his copy of the book must be worn and dog-eared and that you thought he might appreciate having this anniversary edition, little though he himself might need it.

I. Packer said of Lloyd Jones that he had "never heard such preaching”; it came to him "with the force of electric shock, bringing to at least one of his listeners more of a sense of God than any other man."

(h/t Desiring God)

An aside: ignore what Lloyd-Jones has to say about Stanley Baldwin in the sample pages linked to. Lloyd-Jones was a Welshman and never lost his disdain for English politics and political figures, despite his long ministry in London. Baldwin was in fact the first English politician to master the medium of radio, giving popular fireside chats well before Franklin Roosevelt gave his more famous ones.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Abhorring a Vacuum

The U. S. National Conference of Catholic Bishops has sponsored a
promoting traditional marriage and warning of the growing threat to religious freedom created by the state’s insistence that same-sex marriage be treated as equivalent to traditional marriage for all purposes. The letter itself is sensible in downplaying the possibility that ministers will be forced to perform same-sex marriages. That is not a realistic possibility. The real threat is interference through so-called “civil rights” laws with churches’ secular activities of all kinds:
Religious marriage counselors would be denied their professional accreditation for refusing to provide counseling in support of same-sex "married" relationships. Religious employers who provide special health benefits to married employees would be required by law to extend those benefits to same-sex "spouses. "Religious employers would also face lawsuits for taking any adverse employment action—no matter how modest—against an employee for the public act of obtaining a civil "marriage" with a member of the same sex. This is not idle speculation, as these sorts of situations have already come to pass.
It’s good to see churches being able to come together across denominational lines for joint actions such as this. The UCCB press release says:
Signatories include leaders from Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish, Lutheran, Mormon, and Pentecostal communities in the United States. Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, was one of the four signing Catholic bishops.
Anglican? What are the Anglicans doing signing this? Everyone knows that the Episcopal Church doesn’t support anything that isn’t endorsed by the New York Times editorial board, the Socialist Party of America, or preferably both. At the moment they still officially believe in traditional marriage, but that’s with a nudge and a wink.

Looks like the Catholics didn’t bother with TEC. The “Anglican” signature on the letter is that of the Most Rev. Robert Duncan, Archbishop of the Anglican Church of North America.

This should not be taken as tantamount to “recognition”by the Roman Catholic Church or anything like that, but is a promising development nonetheless. Because there’s a vacancy in the Orthodox Christian team. There’s only 8 players in place on the diamond, only 10 defenders on the gridiron, only 4 cagers on the parquet floor; nobody is occupying the position of “Anglicanism”. There’s no official voice emanating from TEC speaking for orthodox Christianity as it has been understood, well, forever. So long as ACNA can stay united it can be sucked up by that vacuum -- which is good, because that can make it, for orthodox Christians, the true voice of Anglicanism in North America.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

On The Phrase "Protestant Reformed Church"

Lord Hugh Cecil was one of the leading laymen of the Church of England in his time, ative in all matters legal whether in Parliament or Synod. A bill was introduced in Parliament, one not important in itself, which repeatedly refered to the Church of England as the "Protestant Reformed Church". Lord Halifax like his famous layman father was an Anglo-Catholic and of course did not like such a wording, and proposed to Lord Hugh that the phrase be changed to "the Church of England by law established". Lord Hugh answered that he could "agree that is a jejune description of your religious society to announce that you disagree with someone else, and were once worse than you are now."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Armistice in Ottawa

The first Canadian settlement between ACoC and ANiC has been approved, as the two Ottawa ANiC parishes have ratified the agreed settlement with the diocese. ANiC's press release is here; the diocese's news release is here

The settlement conforms to the template that I have been saying for some time would work in a diocese in which more than one parish has left. One ANiC parish keeps its building; the other one leaves it. The one that keeps its building pays the diocese "a substantial sum of money". Meanwhile ANiC states that "By agreement, precise details of the division of assets between the parishes and diocese are to remain confidential." What that means, we may infer, is that the diocese will pay out some money to St. Alban's, which will provide a nice start to their building fund. The diocese's insistence on a confidentiality agreement conforms with what has been suggested to me by a lawyer friend with reason to know how a rational diocese might approach a situation like this. A diocese would not want it to be known that it is paying out money to a departing parish, so it would insist on a confidentiality agreement, so that the settlement may be described in a way that obscures the fact of such a payment. That is why a multi-parish settlement can be easier than a single-parish ones; the financial implications can be blurred so that ACoC is not seen to be doing anything that might amount to a significant concession to ANiC.

A fillip I didn't think of is that the departing congregations have been required to change their names. This might seem to be rather unnecessarily ruthless of the diocese, but it allows the diocese to maintain its formal position. The parish of St. George's has not left the diocese; rather it has been disestablished, and its building sold to a worshipping group with a different name. St Alban's parish has not left; rather its clergy have left, apparently starting some sectarian congregation with a different name, worshipping in a different building. Anglican worship carries on in the same building, with all present St. Alban's members invited to continue worshipping there. (Where they will find a congregation for the "continuing" ACoC St. Alban's is another question, but one to worry about another day.) By returning Anglican Social Services to the building, the diocese maintains the pretext that it wants it because it has use of it.

It's important that things are set up so that both sides may maintain their formal position about the dispute, to validate their narrative. Most of us normal people, upon finalizing such a settlement, would thank God and move on. But there are always some ditchers, particularly in a group of people with strong beliefs like ANiC, who are insistent on carrying on the fighting and demonstrating to all that they won the settlement. Thus Kate Sanderson, at the always-irresponsible Anglican Essentials blog, insists that the by settling the diocese acknowledged that St. Alban's had the right to their building, which it does not, as if anyone with any sense cares now. (She also risks breaking the confidentiality agreement by claiming that the percentage asset division in the settlement: 40/60 ANiC/ACoC if you want to know. So much for an agreement about confidentiality with ANiC!)

Even without knowing the amounts of the monies being exchanged, it may safely be judged that both sides are better off than if they had been engaged in a lawsuit since the time the congregations left. +Chapman deserves credit for acting as a faithful steward of that which was entrusted to him, avoiding the needless squandering of hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

Could others follow the example of this settlement? The problem is finding a rational ACoC diocese. In New Westminster it's rather late, and neither side would seem likely to surrender possession of St. John's Shaughnessy voluntarily in any case, while a sensible settlement would involve selling it and splitting the proceeds. In Niagara the sensible thing would be to sell Good Shepherd (which would be a prudent move anyway) and divide the spoils, and then split ownership of the other two properties . But +Niagara does not seem to view the situation rationally anyway; the lawsuit is already well under way so hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees have already been squandered; and the provocative presence of Charlie Masters+ in the diocese inhibits any settlement -- particularly one in which he retains his building.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Legion of Decency -- The Ascent

A question that consumes me: how much influence did Christian values, in either a genuine or secularized form, have over mass media in, say, the period between 1910-1960, and when, why, where and how did they lose it?
One estimable organization that I knew very little about is the Legion of Decency , the Roman Catholic organization that policed Hollywood through its classification system, its ultimate weapon being the "C" rating, C standing for "Condemned".
Like most everyone else brought up in this culture, I grew up sneering at the film industry's voluntary self-policing through the Hays code. It does seem rather harsh in retrospect that until 1961, a female navel had never been seen in a major-studio American picture (the groundbreaker being Christine Kauffman in Town Without Pity.) But the briefest glance at the culture today reveals that something has gone horribly wrong; perhaps we should have a little more respect for the work of those who acted as salt, delaying the putrefaction of the culture by some decades.
I've been reading James M, Skinner's The Cross and the Cinema (London: Praeger, 1993) on the L of D. I never realized how much influence the Legion had on film content. In the early 1930s Catholics began to come to the judgment that Joe Breen's administration of the Production Code was insufficient to protect American morals. Example: in 1934 Cardinal Dougherty of Philadelphia told Catholics to stay away from all theatres in the city entirely "not merely as a counsel but a positive command, binding all in conscience under pain of sin." (35) Box office receipts fell by 40%. Catholics began to think of forming a national policing organization with the full weight of the hierarchy behind it. By adopting a uniform stance across the country, the Church could wield more influence on the studios. Then an organization could go beyond merely classifying and condemning to encouraging studios to make changes to films to avoid full condemnation, thereby achieving actual improvement in the moral quality of films. (In addition, overuse of outright condemnation raised the possibility of Catholics ceasing to follow the Legion's lead, a deadly danger always kept in mind).
The early Legion was not interested in the quality of entertainment, but in morality pure and simple. Seduction and adultery were never be depicted favourably, and ideally not depicted at all. Divorce was never to be depicted as the best solution. The Legion was also on the lookout for more dubious targets such as wise-cracking career girls refusing to display feminine decorum.
I will pass over discussing the Legion's effectiveness by deeming it very effective. When a bishop directed all his parish priests to declare from the pulpit that anyone viewing a film committed a mortal sin, or threatened that any theatre showing a condemned film would be boycotted for one year after its exhibition, results followed.
The question of interest is -- why did the Legion fail in its task so dramatically in the 1960s?? Did Catholics stop following its dictates? Did post-Vatican II liberalism subvert the Church's purpose and will? Did the force of the sexual revolution simply overwhelm the Legion -- it would be hard, after all, to persuade the faithful to avoid 90% of the films Hollywood makes?
As we will see, the Legion was undermined in the 50s by authoritative pronouncements by two very powerful bodies. One, unsurprisingly, was the United States Supreme Court. The other, very surprisingly, was none other than Pope Pius XII.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Calvin and Baillie Circus

It appears that the Anglicans and Roman Catholics have nothing on the Presbyterians when it comes to liturgical ridiculity, paganism...and most important of all, liturgical puppets. And this isn't from some backwater church or a gathering of the church's Green gay-friendly feminist faction. This is from the opening ceremony of their General Assembly:
Perhaps YouTube commenter Throbert McGee said it all on this one:
"Pretty cool video, except it cuts off before the gory climax where they pour live bees on Nicholas Cage's face and then set him on fire... "
Lots of highlights in this one...the swirling "liturgical dance" straight out of the seventies, the giant Idol God with the mutant arms, the guy with a red T-shirt symbolizing nothing in particular tiredly waving his pennant, the skunks (Presbyterianism's answer to incense?), the embarrased looking adults leaders looking like delegates at some 4th-rate international conference, the dazed and imbecilic expressions on the faces of the kids....
Even beyond the offensive paganism of the display, I am impressed by its pure stupidity: can there be even one person with a triple-digit IQ, even one person of any aesthetic sense, who can find this, taken seriously, as anything but an abomination. Modern Liberal protestantism, despite its egotistical claims to be so much smarter than those snake-handling fundamentalists, is a stupid religion, pure and symbol, and does not appeal to intelligent people, as you can determine for yourself by reading anything written by its leaders.