7/10/2007

Rumblings, belches and several wonderful essays.


The weekend in Anglican-land has produced the passing of gas, various stomach rumblings, a belch or two and several fine essays.

There were all sorts of noise that accompanied an essay on feminism by Elizabeth Kaeton over on her blog Telling Secrets. Folks over at Stand Firm took considerable umbrage at the essay, which in a early incarnation had a nightmare sort of dream about a woman with too many children finally going nuts. 'Lizabeth (as the Mad Priest calls her) removed the offensive dream and the name reference, but the damage was done. Part of the damage was that Elizabeth is a damn fine writer and a zingo progressive and all that and therefore game for those who wish to pounce. The Mad Priest spoke right to the point on this. Read his
comments HERE. Of course, aside from the bad dream and the questionable taste in telling it, the real reason for not liking her essay is that she is mostly right. For example, in the use of this graphic statement:

Well, it was more or less all water under the bridge, but it gave rise to a rather fine essay by none other than Baby Blue, whose tone these past few days has been snippy at best. She wrote this essay, The Alabaster Jar
and although she was given to using the word "meek" as in "the meek shall inherit the earth," she drew from that a wonderful argument for humility. I do not very much like the word "meek." It is too easy to make that a matter of compliance. And I cannot see BabyBlue or Elizabeth being compliant (not with the Windsor Report, guys, but with you know... us) when it comes to ideas, theology, and speaking one's mind. The essay does, however, reveal a writer of considerable depth - something we already know if we see some of BabyBlue's artistic sensibilities in the whole of her blog. Elizabeth is off with a pile of other people in Belize and not available for much comment back, so I will just have to do with whatever comments BB might make. Elizabeth writes well, and sometimes outrageously. These are outrageous times. BabyBlue does the same. (I thought for example that her recent essay on the Presiding Bishop was so thick with scorn that it could not possibly be by the same writer as
The Alabaster Jar, but it is.) Perhaps there is something instructive in all this, namely that when strong women write about matters close to the center of their lives, the rest of us need to stand back.

Meanwhile, under the heading of great writing: Fr. Jake continues to amaze. He has written several pieces that are evocative and helpeful all at once. Accepting Responsibility beyond our Borders fills out the argument about why, even if it is difficult, we need to pay attention to belonging to the Anglican Communion. It is not about US (us as the United States). It is about all of us, namely Christians who in one way or another are informed by a reformed catholic faith. If we stand back from engagement with Nigeria, Kenya, the rest of the core Global South crowd, etc, then we make life even more difficult for people there seeking a church community in which they can be who they are with integrity. We do need to argue these things out in public. I cannot do justice to Fr. Jake's notes, so simply encourage you to read them there.

Under the heading of giving credit where credit is due: The web pages of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) have carried two very different postings: one the remarks of the Archbishop of Nigeria on an APPEAL TO CHRISTIAN YOUTHS IN THE NIGER DELTA AREA AGAINST THE CURRENT SPATE OF KIDNAPPING. Archbishop Akinola makes a strong plea for these young people to stop. While I am not up on the matter, the fact is that kidnapping has become more and more an acceptable form of economic enterprise and terrorism in many parts of the world. Standing up against the practice is both courageous and potentially dangerous.

CofN's webpages also posted a speach given by Bishop Kowashi titled, "THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION: AN AFRICAN PERSPECTIVE." This speach was given at the "Anglican Mainstream Fringe Meeting" at the time of the General Syond of the Church of England. This, I take it, is like speaking to The Witness dinner (although across the theological divide.) It was not a meeting of Synod, but in the general vicinity of Synod. I am sure that if I got this wrong someone will tell me.

The speech is a very fine telling of what it means to be Anglican from a users' viewpoint - that is to say from the standpoint of the history of a place that received the gospel from the Church of England and outside Anglicans and made it new in place. In the mid 1990's I wrote The Challenge of Change (Church Publishing) and in it I expressed the hope that we might begin to get a user's history. This speech is part of such a history.

He said this, among other things: "
Whereas in the West the dawn of Christianity has almost been lost in the mists of time in Nigeria the arrival of Christianity is a recent event which is still very sharp in our memories. In Plateau State where I was born and where I now live and work as Bishop, we are this decade celebrating the centenary of the first arrivals of the various Missions: SUM (now Action Partners) 1904, RCM 1907, CMS 1907. Our grandparents were amongst the first Christians in their towns and villages. One of my own grandfathers chose to follow Christ and therefore left his throne with its pagan, cultic practices. My father was converted and left his pagan house. This difference in time scale makes a huge difference to our perception of the Christian faith and thus to our vision, expectations, hopes and longings for the Anglican Communion."

This is a very important point, and one we miss at our peril. At the same time some of us (myself included) are very aware that our own pre-Christian history is closer than we imagine. We have only to look behind the Christmas tree and there in the corner there is my ancestor who painted himself blue and worshiped trees and perhaps others of my ancesters who came first to attack and rape and later to settle on England's good soil. The Druid and the Northern gods are not too far out there in the wings. One of the differences is that we can conveniently ignore much of that and Bishop Kowashi cannot.

Toward the end of his speech the Bishop made reference to the Anglican Communion as missionary minded and opined that, "

The burning concern for mission is at the heart of what it means for us to be Anglican. We are therefore training and sending missionaries further and further afield, for example reaching into the nooks and crannies of the north of Nigeria and from there over the border into Liger, Cameroun, and even Kazakistan, with some missionaries working from their diocese, some through the Church of Nigeria Missionary Society. CNMS is the heart-beat of Anglican work in Nigeria and beyond. For many years we have had a Nigerian chaplain working with students in London: Cyril Okorocha, Ken Okeke, Jacob Ajetinobe and now Ben Enwuchola.

The Rt Rev Abiodun Olaoye is a missionary Bishop working in Congo; the Rt Rev Simon Mutum is working with the nomadic mission in the North of Nigeria; the Rt Rev Martyn Minns is in America.

What the good Bishop does NOT say is that the missionaries that came to Nigeria did not come to a place where there was an Anglican episcopal presence already in place. He says, "These bishops are all bishops of the Church of Nigeria, consecrated along with others in Nigeria, but sent by the church to work in other areas or countries, just as in earlier years, English bishops came to work alongside us here." One presumes the English bishops, colonial though they were, were more or less welcomed, or if not welcomed it did not matter because they were imposed by colonial control. I gather Bishop Olaoye is welcomed in the Congo by the Church in place there. Bishop Mutum is probably in need of welcome from the tribes, but there is no other Anglican body in place. But Bishop Minns is not welcomed by the Anglican church, in the form of The Episcopal Church, here.

Bishop Kwashi skips over that. He then says, "We in our turn are glad to welcome long term mission partners as well as short term visitors to live and work in Nigeria." I am sure Nigeria does indeed welcome partners. But we must be clear that it does not welcome partners who are part of the unreconstructed Episcopal Church - that is the Church that works within the context of General Convention governance.

At the end of the essay Bishop Kwashi makes a devout plea that in some ways I find very challenging:

"It is therefore a deep worry and concern to us today when we see energy, effort, gifts and time being spent on rancour, argument, abuse and division. It pains us when the essential truth of the gospel appears to be compromised in any way. In the nineteenth century in England there was the Oxford movement in some areas which eventually led to argument and controversies over elaborate vestments and ceremonies. Even without TV and the internet, news of this reached Crowther in Nigeria. In his charge to his clergy in Lokoja in 1869 Crowther said:

“Not only in the missionary fields do we witness…[the] attempts of Satan to gain back those who had forsaken his service… but he makes his approach in more subtle form, in a mask, to corrupt vital religion under the revival of rituals. “ (Duke Akamisoko, (Samuel Ajayi Crowther in the Lokoja Area, Ibadan, Sefer, 2002, p. 33)."

I believe we ought all share that sense, that we keep our eye on the prize, the "essential truth of the Gospel." It turns out we are in vast disagreement as to just how to lay out the implications of that "essential truth."

What the good bishop does not explain is his part in the "rancour, argument, abuse and division" brought about by his engagement with CANA. But that will wait for another day. For the moment, I recommend reading the speech. It is worth the chew.

Sometimes it is interesting to see what develops in a posting: Here I was able to put Elizabeth Kaeton, BabyBlue, Fr. Jake, Archbishop Akinola and Bishop Kwashi all in in one post.

Is the Anglican Communion worth the effort...you bet it is. A covenant won't help. It takes more or less open hearts to keep this mass alive.

22 comments:

  1. All I can think is that perhaps you misunderstood +Keaton's claim that +Kennedy was likely to murder her children, and her ugly description of how she would do it. I cannot and still do not believe you would defend something like this. Please re-read the material.

    Or is the polarization between the two sides in the Episcopal Church so great now that any outrage against people in the opposing camp is now acceptable (which is a perfect description of hatred)?

    I think +Kaeton's only justification is that she realized herself that this was unacceptable and revised it before StandFirm publicized it.

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  2. RB,

    One can very easily argue that the evidence shows she did not realize it herself, as she revised it after her first commenter (a friend of hers, presumably) begged her to revise it.

    The material was indefensible, but I do not think that +Harris has defended it. He has not condemned it fully, but that is different than a defense.

    And some of the posters at MadPriest's are out of their minds (appropriate for the name of the site) if they think Elizabeth apologized voluntarily, or that her apology (especially first 2 versions) was gracious. THAT threw oil onto the fire as much as the original post.

    Still, I am glad it was addressed here, as Jake and others wanted it buried in the sand.

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  3. rb - have you read undercurrent of hostility? Might give you some idea of why Elizabeth is concerned.

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  4. A fringe meeting, in the British usage, is an unofficial meeting which is connected to but not a part of some other conference or meeting, generally sponsored by some group affiliated in some way with the organization holding the main conference. You will also find fringe meetings at the annual conferences of the major political parties in the UK.

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  5. ann,

    do you think readers of Erma Bombeck should have called Child Protective Services? Does every mother who is honest that some days are better than others, especially when fighting morning sickness, need to be suspected of being ready to commit infanticide?

    Your insinuations that +Anne is indeed troubled are an effort to justify heinous thoughts exposed for what they were. If you honestly read +Anne's blog in any light other than trying to apologize for Elizabeth, you will find no such troubling tone.

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  6. The fact of the matter, Ann, is that considering what must be a strong friendship with Elizabeth, and your vocal opposition to the views of people like +Anne and +Matt, you must be seen as attempting to carry the water for Elizabeth, and nothing else.

    Just as the friends of +Anne- who, oh, actually, probably know her- are much more in a position to mount a valid and vigorous charge of slander to the original posting.

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  7. Yes, I've read it. She sounds like an exhausted pregnant woman with young children, in an insufficiently-cooled home, in the middle of summer.

    My wife has chronic fatigue syndrome, and so was also usually exhausted. We also managed on a low income, and lived with window-unit air conditioning. However, she didn't kill my children; in fact, they are wonderfully well-adjusted, beautiful, intelligent children. You wouldn't have approved of us -- my wife insisted on homeschooling our children despite my concerns (and did very well at it, I have to say). But you would approve of our articulate and expressive daughters.

    Frankly, considering how she responded to +Kaeton, I find +Kennedy rather remarkable. No expression of anger, no threats; just asked her to leave her children out of it. It it was me or my wife, I would have responded as Greg Griffith did and more. +Kennedy is a better Christian than I, and I acknowledge it.

    If you wish to express concern for the Kennedys, might I suggest starting a fund to get them decent central air conditioning? I think it would be a much better way to express concern than the way it was done.

    I know, of course, that's not going to happen. But one wonders what would happen if reappraisers showed reasserters true love and compassion, and vice versa. Something terrible would happen, no doubt -- peace breaking out all over the place or something even worse.

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  8. My taste in blogs is quite catholic. I read 'em all. Ann the post in question (sorry don't know how to do links here....) was meant to be humor. Many of "Undercurrent of Hostility" posts use tongue-in-cheek, irony and hyperbole. This tone is quite common in blogs written by mothers of young children, and seems to be +Kennedy's writing style. I don't agree with much of what she writes but I enjoy her very dry wit.

    +Keaton's original essay and subsequent apology was way over the top. If she was truly "concerned" why not pick up the phone? Unfortunately StandFirm is milking it for all it's worth. And the comments over at MadPriest are equally vile.

    I'm on the left side of these "opposing camps" but creeping ever so carefully to the center. I am appalled by both sides. Not TEC at it's best.....

    Lord, have mercy on us all.
    C-

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  9. Not to overly nitpick, but the + sign goes after a priest's name. That is, of course, unless I missed something and Keaton+, Kennedy+ and Harris+ have all been elevated to the episcopate.

    (What with all the new guys in purple shirts, I suppose that's a possibility)

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  10. My bad. I started it.

    I congratulate the recent elevations of Mark, Elizabeth, and Anne. May they be wise and gracious bishops.

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  11. Oh those %!@#$) + 's

    :)

    C

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  12. '...Elizabeth is a damn fine writer and a zingo progressive...' -- BUT she's really not. It's the emperor's new clothes -- and just because she writes such provocative things, and she's an older woman priest. She's predictably and embarrassingly '70's or something back in time. She's a caricature of herself -- which means I can't take her seriously. And she seems, in a way, naive to the point of foolishness.

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  13. I see that SFiF has posted yet another article on...wait for it...

    How awful that Kaeton woman is (again).

    Must be a slow news day over there, so Greg decided that it was time to whip the faithful into an enraged froth (again).

    I'm with Tobias Haller+ - there just seem to be some folks who live in anticipation of insult (real or imaginary) so they can get angry about it.

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  14. Really, has SFiF no shame? Another post. This with the previous one rack up of total of over 500 comments. All this with Elizabeth out of the country since Tuesday Morning no less! This has nothing to do with a slow news day. This is exploitation. Desperate. Desperate.

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  15. I thought the issues Greg raised in his 2nd posting at SFiF were entirely appropriate - how about starting to respond to the issues than simply having a go at him for raising them?

    I can't see how Elizabeth Keaton has glorified God or edified us one bit by her original post or by the manner of her retraction of what she wrote.

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  16. Many of "Undercurrent of Hostility" posts use tongue-in-cheek, irony and hyperbole. This tone is quite common in blogs written by mothers of young children, and seems to be +Kennedy's writing style. I don't agree with much of what she writes but I enjoy her very dry wit.

    OK, now I'm officially gob-smacked, to see the above followed by

    And the comments over at MadPriest are equally vile.

    MadPriest's---where EVERY post & comment use "use tongue-in-cheek, irony and hyperbole"?

    Besides wondering if *I* am considered "vile", I'm half-interested whether, on the (gratuitous) SF link, I'm among the "they" in The Kaeton Limbo; or, How Low Can They Go?...

    ...but then I remember my blood-pressure. I'm not THAT interested! ;-p

    [C, I will gladly join you, however, in a heart-felt "Lord, have mercy on us all."]

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  17. She's predictably and embarrassingly '70's or something back in time. She's a caricature of herself -- which means I can't take her seriously. And she seems, in a way, naive to the point of foolishness.

    So, I'm sure this means we can expect a public, abject and believable apology from you for saying this. Right?

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  18. brian f- I for one don't see the "issues" as you call them, in the same way that Greg has "framed" them. Consequently, there is nothing to respond to, except that Greg has once again successfully exploited the fears of reasserters. Who seem to delight in such things.

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  19. Yes, yes. And no doubt, if Keaton+ made good on her threats to send in child welfare professionals and cart off Kennedy+'s children, you would still accuse them of over-reacting when they speak up. Thank God, someone will speak up anyway.

    If feminism is the radical notion that women are people, Christianity is the radical notion that one's opponents are people. I once thought the same characterized the Episcopal Church.

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  20. "Christianity is the radical notion that one's opponents are people."

    Well said. Now, please remember that every time you utter something about the lifestyles of gays and we may well be on the way to reconciliation

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  21. Ah, whoa there JCF.

    The "equally vile" remark was referencing "comments" not people. Of course you are not "vile" and since I don't know you I'm happy to give you the benefit of the doubt :) And yes, I get Mad Priest is hyperbole, irony, satire, etc.

    I wasn’t thinking of individuals, frankly I skimmed Mad Priest, just like I skimmed Stand Firm. And perhaps that’s the danger of this kind of interaction; our presence becomes only words on a page. Easy to forget, no matter what anyone writes that there is a real person who wrote it. And real people who read it. What was disturbing on each website, was the slide into mob mentality; how quick we all are to judge one another, and find the “other” or the “they” to be worthy of our scorn and hatred.

    I always forget that part about respecting the dignity of every human being, not just the ones we agree with.

    C-

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  22. Well said. Now, please remember that every time you utter something about the lifestyles of gays and we may well be on the way to reconciliation.

    I really can't comment and don't comment about all the lifestyles of all the gays -- which range from promiscuous, to monogamous, to celibate, like heterosexuals. I'm not in favor of threatening to send in child welfare professionals to cart off their children either. But even if I was, that hardly makes Kaeton+'s threat okay. Two wrongs do not make a right.

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OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with comment moderation but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.
Rule: PLEASE DO NOT SIGN OFF AS ANONYMOUS: BEGIN OR END THE MESSAGE WITH A NAME - ANY NAME. ANONYMOUS commentary will be cut.