A Bishop Chants at the close of a Sermon: Snit follows.

Bishop Duleep de Chickera, of Colombo, Sri Lanka, preached on Sunday at Canterbury. I preached in Lewes, Delaware. It appears we took mostly the same text and thought similar thoughts. I didn't chant a Buddhist chant at the end, he did. It would appear that the good Bishop had less forgiving members of his congregation.

There has been a mighty roar of aghast protest about the Bishop using a Buddhist chant in some quarters. The most priceless frump is a quote attributed to Bishop Robert Duncan by the Guardian "To have a Buddhist chant at an Anglican sermon does not reflect the God we believe in."

I am interested that no one seems to have translated the chant. I would be most interested if a Buddhist chant mentions God at all. And surely there are Jewish chants that might not make the charts as really really fine Anglican sentiments about reflecting the God we believe in. (I am thinking of dashing the children's heads against the wall.)

Perhaps it is the fact that it is a Buddhist chant that is the trouble, no matter its meaning, source or even purpose in the sermon.

But of course none of that makes the press, and no one seems to have bothered to ask just what the Bishop was saying.

And of course no one bothered to ask Bishop Duncan if he had any sense of what the Preacher was chanting.

The text of the sermon has been published and can be read HERE. (Thanks to Thinking Anglicans again and again.)

There is no chant mentioned in the text. It was, it appears a liturgical or improvisational add on.

If looking for things to be mad about in sermons was the order of the day, I cannot imagine preaching. Preachers do what they can, hearers do what they can, God is never far away and who knows if a particular Buddhist chant reflects the God we believe in.


  1. Exotic is in the eye of the beholder. For the Sri Lankan bishop, the Buddhists are the neighbors (and most of the neighbors at that). I would imagine that the chants and rituals of Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhism are part of the furniture as far as he is concerned. In the Far East, there is a lot less tidiness about the observance of sectarian boundaries. It is common for the Japanese to marry in Shinto ceremonies, celebrate Christmas with the Christians, and then have Buddhist funerals upon their deaths. In Southern India, Hindus, who revere Jesus as an Avatar of Vishnu, perform pujas and say Hindu prayers to Christ and the saints in Catholic churches. Unlike the "Turn or Burn" Calvinists (who once regarded the native Americans as part of the wilderness to be cleared), the Catholic Jesuits learned centuries ago to wink at all this. It appears Bishop de Chickera learned to do likewise when confronted with the choice between doctrinal purity and offending the very people he was sent to serve.

  2. I think that the chant was planned because ENS's report about the service says that the cathedral's bells tolled during the chant.

    They also have an interesting foto of +Pittsburg processing in with his random proccessional partner,,,
    ...+Los Angeles! God has such a sense of humor!!

    I found this quote here, but I know not who said it;
    "He concluded his sermon with a Buddhist chant, but one which offered the Archbishop and the Conference to the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."

  3. 2000 years of Christian tradition.....surely the guy could have used a Christian chant?

  4. Early on, I'd heard it quoted (by Ruth?) that Bp Duncan actually said "the God we know" which claim blew me away. I hope your quote is correct.

    Regarding bashing on rocks: that is a good, solidly Orthodox Chant, used every Sunday in Pre-Lent and into Lent, with the Patristic Caveat that the "children of Babylon" are our sins. I'm not aware it's used in Jewish liturgy.

  5. As it turns out, the text of the chant was Christian, Trinitarian, if fact--a kind of doxology, or so the press was told at this morning's briefing. The melody was from the Buddhist tradition.

  6. Jesus! I mean come on.. the guy was praying a prayer for the thousands who died in the tsunami disaster, and most of them were decidedly buddhist. I thought that a bishop was responsible for all the souls in his or her jurisdiction. This seems like a reasonable and most Christian of gestures of respect and comfort. Didn't Our Lord have mercy on those outside of the community of the righteous in his ministry?

  7. Mr. Duncan's ethnocentrism and seeming lack of awareness of the Sri Lankan situation is more than apparent. Anyone who knows anything about recent history in Sri Lanka knows that there has been a great deal of hostility between Buddhists and Christians there for a while now, initiated mostly by the Buddhists. I think that the good bishop's chant was a perfectly Christian gesture and offering of peace. Oh, sorry Mr. Duncan... we Christians aren't supposed to be peacemakers are we?

  8. Jumping to conclusions and finding fault, as Bp. Duncan did, is directly contrary to the teachings of the Lord he believes in and seeks to follow: Matt. 7:1-5; Luke 6:37.

  9. Thank you David for the link to the photograph of the two bishops. A "keeper" for those of us who treasure facial expression.

  10. The few Buddhists I have met have held that Buddhism is more a philosophy than a religion. In particular, it doesn't seem to preach any specific concept of God. What I've seen of Buddhist teachings tends to support this position. Assuming this chant similarly refrains from talking about God, saying it doesn't reflect the God Bishop Duncan knows/believes seems like a silly point. It certainly doesn't reflect a different God, either.

    One might question whether the chant espouses a philosophy that is incompatible with Christian principles, but answering that question would actually require one to consider the actual philosophy being expressed by the chant rather than jumping to conclusions.

    It seems that instead of doing so, Bishop Duncan has chosen a knee-jerk "it's not Christian, so it must be bad" reaction. I think thats unfortunate.

  11. Two things:

    1. Consider the source of the comment. Speaks for itself.

    2. If he researches other things as, eh hem, "well" as he did this, then I suppose it says much about all his other comments?

    Other than proving an embarrassment to Duncan, in the end, it would be exceptional if any mainstream news media outlet got even half of their story details right. News is no longer about news, it is about selling papers with little research done. Sigh.

  12. Jim Naughton, from the Lead, put it this way: "With so little happening, the media is parsing trivialities. It turns out that the purportedly Buddhist chant with which the Right Reverend Duleep de Chickera, the Bishop of Colombo, concluded his sermon at yesterday's opening Eucharist was actually a profession of faith in the Trinity chanted in what struck many listeners as a Buddhist fashion."

    I honestly can only feel sorry for Bsp Duncan.

  13. I believe in a God who created all peoples and all lands, including the Buddhists and Asia. As such, Asian traditions are just as reflective of the God I believe in as are Australian traditions, Latino traditions, and Pittsburgh steel worker traditions. Maybe Bp Duncan isn't worshipping the God most Anglicans look to, but the Bishop of Colombo sure is.

  14. What a twit The Bishop is! This is the only thing he could find to say about what seems to me to be a lovely service?!! Did he take communion? I think I saw something somewhere that said some did not! Folks like this cheat themselves out of so much...

  15. In defense of Bp. Duncan:

    If the chant was ad-libbed and not part of the program, then no one can blame Bp Duncan for reacting as he did.

    If the chant WAS planned, and a) had not been publicized and b) a translation had not been provided, again Bp Duncan was justified.

    It sounds like the translation is ONLY now coming out, much after the fact, which again, leads one to conclude Bp Duncan was justified in his wariness over the use of a Buddhist-style chant.

    Jim <><

  16. Wariness is one thing, Jim.

    Leaping to concclusions and passing judgements without any information is quite another.

  17. Right, Malcolm. We should be careful about leaping to conclusions. Unfortunately, Bob Duncan is so much in the habit of accusing people of heresy that the words just drop from his lips all by themselves.

    All those verses about the Pharisees wagging their heads come to mind here.

  18. If as I think he expects, Bp. Duncan is deposed at the next HoB meeting, the church will be a better institution.



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