Easter 2024

30 July 2012
do something - it's time to
A simple question:

Why does the National Cathedral flout the canons of the Episcopal Church without repercussion?

If you worship at the National Cathedral, you read this invitation to Communion: "All who seek God and a deeper life in Christ are welcome to receive Holy Eucharist."

These are admirable sentiments, but they are in conflict with Canon I.17.7: "No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church."

There is no mention of Baptism in the invitation to Communion given at the National Cathedral. But earlier this month General Convention stated that "The Episcopal Church reaffirms that baptism is the ancient and normative entry point to receiving Holy Communion". (Resolution C029).

It seems like a place calling itself the "National Cathedral" would, in particular, want to be normative in regard to the customs of the church as a whole.

I'm picking on the National Cathedral here, but the service leaflets of many other Episcopal churches have similar statements. And yes, I do believe this and other similarly-worded invitations are designed to subvert the intent of Canon I.17.7.

Meanwhile, the Diocese of New York has decided to go ahead with the liturgical blessing of Same-sex relationships and not wait for the Advent, 2012 start date prescribed by Resolution A049 (lines 46 & 47).

These are two instances of open disobedience and disregard for the particulars of our governing legislation that I'm aware of. I'm not trying to be overly-legalistic here, I just honestly wonder what the point of having General Convention is if the results don't really matter on the local level. Why include an Advent start date if some bishops will authorize same-sex blessings before then? Why require Baptism for Holy Communion if churches consistently offer invitations to those who are not baptized?

To be crystal clear, I am not advocating any kind of Baptism ID card check at the Communion rail -- nor, I believe, is anyone else -- but I do think it's irresponsible to issue an invitation to Communion without mentioning that it is baptized people who are eligible to receive in this church.

Our current Prayer Book references the centrality of Baptism at every opportunity. I think that 30+ years after its publication this should be clear in our liturgical behavior as well (and our liturgical spaces too, but that's another rant). Yes! Let's Baptize people, just like Jesus commanded, and let's make it a Big Deal.

I often listen to the webcasts of services of Holy Eucharist from St. Thomas, New York (it's an occupational hazard), and their invitation to Communion on Easter Day is very clear: all baptized Christians are welcome. In this situation, I've heard the rector immediately go on to say something to the effect of "if you're not baptized and would like to be, please let me know after the service. I would be happy to arrange that for you."

Baptism is freely available to all who desire it. By extension, and normally following the sacrament of Holy Baptism, Holy Communion is also.

If there is any point to keeping this distinction in our Canons, it seems that it's time to do something about non-canonical Communion invitations. I would suggest that diocesan bishops should make contact with those parishes who issue irresponsible invitations to Communion, whether in print or in person.

From what I understand, the Congregational Church (UCC) is one in which pastors and congregations can make these kinds of on the local level. In the Episcopal Church my understanding is that the authority to make these decisions lies with the triennal General Convention and the decisions are carried out by the bishops and everyone under their authority.

As our Presiding Bishop recently said, "If we're aware that there are people coming to the table who have not been baptized, it's time to do something."

I agree.

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21 July 2012
lectionary - 1979
I find myself thinking in earnest about the provision that General Convention has allowed for the 1979 lectionary to be used in churches again (at the discretion of the diocesan bishop).

The ever-alert Sed Angli points us to these Liturgical Thoughts and Notes by the rector of St. Mary the Virgin, in New York City:

My reason for the return is very straightforward: the 1979 lectionary was developed for use with the Eucharistic Rite of the new Prayer Book; the new Episcopal edition of the Revised Common Lectionary was not—and it shows in many ways. The 1979 lectionary is not perfect by any means, but it was shaped by and for Episcopal Church worship. We have the opportunity to use it and I think we should.

I will not have the resources or background knowledge to study these issues adequately, but even an organist notices that the excision in the middle of this week's Gospel lesson is a bit odd.

The Revised Common Lectionary has:

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. [here the lection omits v. 35-52]

When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

While the 1979 prayer book lectionary contains the whole story of the feeding of the 5,000:

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, "This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat." But he answered them, "You give them something to eat." They said to him, "Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?" And he said to them, "How many loaves have you? Go and see." When they had found out, they said, "Five, and two fish." Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.

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18 July 2012
news - Episcopalians in the

In the wake of the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church two opinion pieces in major papers have generated a lot of good writing about our life together as a church. Not having any major drama to report (the approval of a provisional liturgy for the blessing of a same-sex relationship was largely expected), The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times ran opinion pieces that take issue with the Episcopal Church for being what it is: a largely progressive, "main line" denomination whose adherents are diminishing in number.

Here's the chronology of what you've missed in the last week or so. (You have a lot of reading to do).

Thursday 12 July

“What ails the Episcopalians”, Jay Akasie, Wall Street Journal

Friday 13 July

“Wrong on Every Count”, Arizona Bishop, the aptly named blog of the Bishop of Arizona, Kirk Smith.

“What ails the Wall Street Journal: Error-laden opinion on Episcopalians”, Seven Whole Days, the blog of the Rev. Scott Gunn, director of Forward Movement. Seven Whole Days is perhaps my newest favorite EpiscoBlog.

Saturday 14 July

“Can Liberal Christianity be Saved?”, Ross Douthat, New York Times, an opinion piece that opens by invoking the name of John Shelby Spong, accompanied by a photo of the Choir of Men & Girls at the National Cathedral.

Sunday 15 July

"Can Christianity Be Saved? A Response to Ross Douthat", Diana Butler Bass, Huffington Post

Monday 16 July

"Once more dear friends", a good summary of the many rebuttals to Douthat from Episcopal Café. Note that Jon Meacham is awesome. Also the Rev. Winnie Varghese was the voting secretary in the House of Deputies.

Tuesday 17 July

"Saving Christianity" James Kowalski, Dean of the Cathedral St. John the Divine, Huffington Post

Wednesday 18 July

"Episcopal churches: Short on politics, sexuality debates and long on Jesus", The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, newly elected president of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church, Huffington Post

I'm sure there will be much more to come.

Update: Thursday 19 July

"Episcopal Church is Radically Faithful to Its Tradition", The Rt. Rev. Stacy Sauls, Chief Operating Officer of the Episcopal Church, letter to the Wall Street Journal

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