5/27/2009

Blue Book Rummaging #2: "Holy Women, Holy Men" Holy Smoke!

Rummaging in the Blue Book #2, on the resolution of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music re "Holy Women, Holy Men." I read this amazing undertaking of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM), but I must confess it was a scan.

My primary questions of this work had to do with the spirit of the thing - whether or not it was particularly useful or helpful to have expansions of the calendar related to the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) in a book outside the BCP. This seems to run counter to the hope that in the BCP, one book, could be found all that was necessary for worship in the Church. Supplemental materials, such as those offered by other resolutions of the SCLM, seem to me to be sufficient for local variation, use, etc. But changes in the calendar and the additions of saints and remembrances flow over into the "regular" services of the BCP. So now worship seems to require the BCP, Hymnal, perhaps additional Hymnals (Lift Every Voice and Sing / Wonder, Love and Praise), and now HWHM.


It can be argued that HWHM is supplemental in that it is not necessary to commemorate all these folk - they are, after all, lesser feasts and fasts still. And in the regular round of daily prayer there is no need to use the lessons indicated (they are sometimes a strech) particularly if one is reading for serial content.

I was very pleased to see that Dan Martin over on Confessions of a Carioca has written on HWHM. His essay is quite detailed and mostly challenging in the right sort of way. Go read it HERE. After reading it, come back here and let us know what you think.

I have one particular issue with Dan. It concerns what Dan calls a Trojan Horse. He believes the SCLM is sneaking in a change in theology away from the claim that Jesus is Lord by not using "in Jesus Christ our Lord" in closing the collects that are being written. He says,

"The fundamental (and earliest) Christian creed consists simply of two Greek words which take three English words to translate: Jesus is Lord. It's not an option, one alternative among many. It's not a metaphor, one image among many. It is a basic Christian confession. If you can't make that confession, full-throatedly and with uncrossed fingers, you can't be a Christian. So there's nothing particularly wrong on this account with any single given collect of the 112 proposed additional observances. It's the trend that is cause for alarm. It bespeaks a church that talks a good talk about its theological moorings in Catholic Christianity, but is in the process of weighing anchor, throwing the rope back on the dock, and drifting out on the tide of distorted perceptions of oppressive language.

Moreover, the SCLM needs to be called on their subversive tactics. For decades now they've just been sneaking in this Trojan Horse under the guise of other agendas--this time the calendar (as well as pastoral rites for issues surrounding pregnancy and childbirth, which I'm not dealing with in this post). People are naturally curious about the "presented" topic, and the "akyrial" (did I just coin a Greek word?) theology in the proposed prayers doesn't register on their screens. It would be much healthier to have the discussion about liturgical language out in the open, as its own topic, rather than just sneak it in covertly.

Those who have the ability to rake muck, now's the time." Well, I'm not up for raking muck, or mucking about too much. I kind of agree with Dan. The phrase, "Jesus Christ our Lord" is just fine with me. Jesus is Lord. But "Lord" is not a divine word. It is a word that crosses over and is used quite often of regular paid up mortal scoundrels.

That of course is part of its power. To say Jesus is Lord is also to say that Lord Foggybottom of Shropshire is not, or if he is, he is a decidedly lesser lord. Or alternatively Lord Foggybottom is your lord, Lord Snotdriven is my, but OUR Lord is Jesus Christ. There are lots of way to cut to the chase, but the point is there - our allegiance is finally to Our Lord, to Jesus as Lord.

Other words having to do with allegiance come in of course and they serve well in places where there are not now lords and never have been. The Lord language works best where we have such regular paid up human beings with the title.
But I do not agree that the particulars of the phrase, "Jesus is Lord," or the prayer version, "in Jesus Christ our Lord" are a requirement of good theology, adequate faith expression, or such. There are other ways to say it, mean it and be faithful to Jesus and follow him.

At the same time I share Dan's suspicion of the politically correct. Moving from Jesus is Lord to something else because we don't have or don't like lords is not enough.
My son and his friend at age six were once arguing about God and one of them said, "God is the boss of everything." One might suggest that Jesus is the incarnation of the boss of everything. So, perhaps Jesus is Boss would work. No...wait, perhaps God is the real organizer of everything and thus Jesus is THE Organizer (dare we say the Community Organizer.) The mind boggles.

If there is a Trojan Horse here it will go the way of the phrase "The Commonwealth of God" popular for a while in England wishing to move beyond having a King. If the new phrasing is meant to accent faith matters that are of particular importance to the moment, perhaps it will rise as a new title of value. I am, by the way, not particularly infatuated with "Jesus Christ our Saviour," not because I don't believe Jesus saves, but because I don't think that is as central as the reality that Jesus leads, we follow.

So, do we say yes to this massive work? I'm inclined to do so.


14 comments:

  1. I'm not all that upset about "Jesus is Lord" not being present in the new collects. I haven't read any of them, so I can't comment on specifics; but I would be more interested to see if the new collects held to a Trinitarian theology. I think that ignoring the "Jesus is Lord" phrasing is equally as bad as elevating Jesus to a position over and above the rest of the Godhead.

    I also have to agree with Dan in that it seems the SCLM has drunk to much from the wine of inclusivity. Are we honoring people because they are famous, or are we honoring Christian people who exhibited faithful lives from which we can draw inspiration?

    His comment, "It bespeaks a church that talks a good talk about its theological moorings in Catholic Christianity, but is in the process of weighing anchor, throwing the rope back on the dock, and drifting out on the tide of distorted perceptions of oppressive language," is less worrisome to me than the apparent desire to "include everybody."

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  2. It is a massive piece of commendable work which I trust will pass. It does not, however, include Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Although he's not been dead for long enough, his signature accomplishment, Brown vs. Board of Education is now more than 50 years old, and his legal success represents the decision to work for the end of segregation through the courts rather than through violence. In this time and age, that should be celebrated. I understand that several groups are going to propose his addition to this excellent work.

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  3. Thank you Mark for posting this. What interesting additions to the calendar. I hope in final form HWHM LFF will have extended biographies as our current LFF does.

    In addition, I look forward to an updated edition of "They Still Speak" by J. Robert Wright, and I pray Sam Portaro updates "Brightest and Best."

    I do have a gripe or two. One, I do hope that future editions will add a few more home grown saints (perhaps more laity, too?) In addition, it seems absurd to me to celebrate Barth and omit Rahner.

    Thank you again!

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  4. I have mixed feelings verging on the ambivelant about HWHM.
    For example, Muir abandoned the Christian faith and seems to have openly professed a form of atheism. Why then are we commemorating him as an example to the faithful? Newman and Chesterton are on the list no doubt because of Anglican feelings of inferiority. John of the Cross is on the wrong date and the prayer provided is a little trite. Those are just a few of my reservations.

    And of course, we couldn't add Charles the Martyr, oh no.

    That said, I think that the additional propers and many of the other additions and alterations are very good, but the sheer number of additions is overwhelming.

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  5. 4 May 1535+27/5/09 2:08 PM

    Mark+,

    Not that it does anything to change the connotations of the word "lord" (or of kyrios or dominus) but I would have thought that "Jesus is Lord" is a fundamentally a reverent periphrasis for "Jesus is YHWH". Constructions like Jesus Christ our Lord would reflect a loss of awareness of that sense and consequent taking of kyrios or dominus at face value (so also "kyrie, eleison," which, iirc, had a secular use before being taken over by Christians; Domitian's desire to be called "dominus et deus" would fit in there somewhere as well, I suppose). In any case, though there have been volumes written about the "lordship" of Christ, I think the original confession was of his divinity--that this man was not merely the divinely anointed king from the house of David, but was in fact the true king of Israel, the God of Sinai himself.

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  6. It makes me so happy I do not have a vote.

    FWIW
    jimB

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  7. Rev. Ref: "...is equally as bad as elevating Jesus to a position over and above the rest of the Godhead."

    I think many of our conservative, biblical literalists actually do elevate Jesus to a position over and above the rest of the Godhead. Including our friend 1535+ - "Jesus is YHWH" and "the God of Sinai himself." I hope I have misinterpreted you, 1535+, and I don't think Dan is advocating that viewpoint. The Collects are addressed to the Father, and include our declaration that the Son lives and reigns WITH Him and the Holy Spirit.* We declare an equilateral triangle in the Trinity, do we not? Refusing to skew the triangle in favor of the Son is not denying the divinity of Christ.

    And I agree with Mark, * "..there are other ways to say it, mean it and be faithful to Jesus and follow him."

    Do forgive me for arguing this point, admittedly one of great importance to me. Mark and Dan are telling us there are several issues involved, and I think we shouldn't be sidetracked (as I was, of course).

    In the end, I probably agree most with JimB. My sincere thanks to all who are slugging through the materials for Convention.

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  8. Okay, we have some bad trinitarian theology going on here. When Jesus' Name is prayed, we cannot help but be trinitarian whether or not the Collect ends in the Name of Jesus only as some do or to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit as most do. Wherever any One of the Three are Named, all are honored. So, there is no elevating of Jesus above the other members of the Godhead if only he is mentioned because to say His Name honors All.

    "Jesus is Lord" is indeed one of the earliest Creeds and has implications in the political and social realms. But 1535+ is also correct, it carries divine implications. There is nothing theologically incorrect about saying "Jesus is YHWH." Other equivalents to Lord there may be, but this one carries powerful biblical, patristic, and historical resonances that we shouldn't ignore. +Tutu stood up to Apartheid because Jesus is Lord. King stood up to Jim Crowe because Jesus is Lord.

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  9. Admittedly I am just a person in a pew with no training in such things, but what Dan's "Trojan Horse" idea reminded me of was the Presbyterian attempt to find alternatives to the "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" trinity and replace it with things like "Mother,Child,Womb". As I read his post the taking out of the "Jesus is Lord" could be seen as a precursor to introducing new alternatives. First get rid of the old way of saying things and then you have a chance to bring in the new with less trouble--And that could be a Trojan horse, couldn't it? Maybe that isn't what Dan meant, but that's what struck me.

    Chris H.

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  10. Frair John,

    Ah, Charles. I jokingly asked about that at the Anglican/Episcopal meeting at the North American Academy of Liturgy. Let's just say that was an entertaining can of worms.

    Kevin

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  11. "Including everybody" is worrisome? Really? And using anachronistic honorifics is essential to the faith? Really?

    I wonder how much this has to do with the drift away from organized Christianity as a meaningful spiritual path in today's world.

    Is there truly a resonance of any kind using royal titles and court courtesies to invoke the Godhead in today's democratic, pluralistic world?

    Once again, to my feeble mind, this seems to be more movement towards enshrining the past and constraining God in traditional containers that keep fearful believers comfortable and keep the scary other out of "our" churches. Seems to be working quite well. OCICBW. . . .

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  12. Keven,

    I would be interested in hearing what that can of worms was/is.

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  13. Male Like Jesus30/5/09 7:39 AM

    I think that the offense people pretend to take to the word "Lord" is a cheap, low form of faux-feminism. No woman secure in her own identity should have any trouble with it at all.

    To perpetuate the shenanigans of the 1970's so far into a new millennium is ridiculous.

    Affirm the masculine, monarchical, dogmatic, antique, Hellenistic language in our worship--man!

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  14. I think the whole "lord" debate is a waste of time, political correctnesss, and anti-PC run amok.

    The bigger concern, at least in my mind, is some of the commemorations included. John Muir has already been mentioned here. Dan gives a lengthy list of people who seem to be included for their fame and (worldly) achievements, rather than for their FAITHFUL service to God.

    I'm not against commemorating Christians of other traditions (Dan mentions John XXIII and Francis Asbury as two he finds of dubious merit). We need to recognize the action of God in persons whether or not they belong to the Anglican/Episcopal tradition, and especially so as we seek to heal the divisions in Christendom.

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