December 27, 2009

Communion Transparency, Take 2

Dr. Joan Gundersen has offered insight into the apparent changes that have occurred in the rules governing the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). (See “Communion Transparency.”) In particular, she has pointed out that the ACC decided to change its legal status at its 2005 meeting. I don’t know what kind of entity the ACC had been within the British legal system, but it has now become (or is becoming—there’s that transparency issue again) a charitable company. Also, I don’t really understand the significance of the change, but I think it is a response to modifications of British law and to concerns about liability. In any case, the resolution below (#3) was passed in by ACC-13:
Constitutional Change (ACC to be a charitable company)
The Anglican Consultative Council:
  1. notes and approves the draft memorandum and articles proposed by the Standing Committee in order to reconstitute the work of the Council within the framework of a limited liability company as requested by ACC 11 and ACC 12
  2. authorises the Standing Committee to make such final amendments to the documentation as may be needed in the light of this Council’s discussions and the views of the Primates Meeting, and in accordance with legal advice and any further comments received from the Charity Commissioners
  3. requests the Standing Committee to establish such a body with charitable status in accordance with the such approved draft Memorandum and Articles as amended as a result of any such views, advice or comments
  4. resolves to transfer to the new charitable company all the Council’s assets and liabilities in due course and to wind up the affairs of the existing legal entity once the new arrangements are in
The ACC-11 resolution referred to above apparently is the following, from the ACC’s 1999 meeting (see item d):
Resolution 6: Constitutional Amendments
  1. That the amendments to the constitution set out in the constitutional documents be adopted and referred to the provinces for ratification in accordance with article 10.
  2. That the amendments to the bylaws set out in the constitutional documents be adopted with immediate effect.
  3. Resolved that the Guidelines for ACC Meetings set out in the constitutional documents be adopted with immediate effect.
  4. That the Standing Committee consider, and if it thinks fit, adopt an appropriate legal structure for the ongoing work of the council within the framework of a limited company in accordance with legal advice and any directions of the charity commissioners for England and Wales, but so far as possible in all other respects in accordance with the existing constitutional arrangements.
It is less clear what ACC-12 resolution or resolutions are referred to in the ACC-13 resolution. Perhaps it is this one:
Resolution 41: ACC Constitution
This Anglican Consultative Council:
  1. asks that the Standing Committee appoint a committee to review the Constitution and By-Laws of the ACC, and to report to the Standing Committee;
  2. asks that the Standing Committee circulate such proposals for amendment to the members of ACC in advance of ACC-13.
In any case, another ACC-12 resolution is interesting, as it suggests that, no matter how implemented, the Standing Committee, not the ACC itself, was destined to be the body adding new ACC members:

Resolution 37: Future Alterations to the Schedule of Membership

This Anglican Consultative Council:
Resolves to amend the Constitution as follows: In the third line of clause 3 (a) delete the word “Council”, and insert the words “Standing Committee”.
So it appears likely that the “Articles of Association of the Anglican Consultative Council” referred to by Canon Kenneth Kearon in his letter to the provinces refers to a new but undisclosed governing document of the ACC required by its new legal status. Does this mean that the ACC constitution is no longer in effect? Did the Standing Committee take advantage of the latitude granted it by Resolution 3 of ACC-13 to transfer additional powers from the ACC to itself? What are the rules for the ACC now? In an organization with a tradition of acting transparently and respecting the least of those affected by its actions, we would not have to ask such questions. This is the Anglican Communion, however.

No Anglican Covenant

December 24, 2009

Communion Transparency

The Anglican Communion Institute (ACI) posted an essay two days ago about the adoption process for the Anglican covenant. “Committing to the Anglican Covenant” pointed out something that had escaped my attention but that is only tangentially related to the adoption process proper, namely, the mechanism by which a church becomes a part of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC).

The ACC has a constitution that contains a schedule of ACC members and that specifies how many people (and of what orders) each church may send to ACC meetings. (The Episcopal Church gets one bishop, one priest, and one layperson.) Paragraph 3a of the constitution sets out how a church is added to the ACC:
The Council shall be constituted with a membership according to the schedule hereto. With the assent of two-thirds of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, the council may alter or add to the schedule. “Primates,” for the purposes of this article, shall mean the principle [sic] Archbishop, bishop, or Primates of each of the bodies listed in paragraphs b,c and d of the schedule of membership.
The ACI noted blandly that “these procedures have apparently changed recently, although they have not been announced publicly.” The evidence for such a change is the following paragraph from Canon Kenneth Kearon’s letter transmitting the final covenant draft to the Anglican provinces:
Section 4.1.5 of the Covenant refers to the ‘procedures as set out by the Anglican Consultative Council for the amendment of its schedule of membership’. These procedures are to be found in the Articles of Association of the Anglican Consultative Council 2.2, which state ‘..with the assent of two-thirds of the Primates of the Anglican Communion (which shall be deemed to have been received if not withheld in writing within four months from the date of notification) the Standing Committee may alter or add to the Schedule’.
I have never heard of the ACC’s Articles of Association, and, apparently, the ACI hasn’t either. If there has been a change in how the ACC operates, why have we not been told about it, particularly in light of the fact that the last meeting of the ACC was way back in May? (There appears to be no ACC Articles of Association on the Web.)

A little investigation has not shed much light on the situation. I contacted two members of the Episcopal News Service staff, who were as clueless about Canon Kearon’s letter as I was. I have made other inquiries, but, its being Christmas Eve, I’m not expecting immediate (if any) responses. I have, however, uncovered a few interesting facts:
  1. The creation of the ACC was recommended by the 1968 Lambeth Conference in its Resolution 69. The resolution mentions a constitution, but not Articles of Association.
  2. Among the published resolutions of ACC-14 (the most recent ACC meeting), there is no mention of ACC Articles of Association.
  3. Among the ACC-14 resolutions is, however, the following:

  4. Resolved, 12.05.09 [May 12, 2009]

    The Anglican Consultative Council

    1. notes that the former “Joint Standing Committee” is named as the “Standing Committee” under the new constitution;
    2. amends the resolutions of this Anglican Consultative Council meeting so that the title “Joint Standing Committee” is replaced with the title “Standing Committee” wherever appropriate.
  5. Nowhere else among the ACC-14 resolutions is “constitution” or “new constitution” mentioned.


Yesterday, Adrian Worsfold, writing at Daily Episcopalian, likened the new Standing Committee to the Soviet Politburo, in that it has (or is assuming) broad powers and meets in secret. Not only is the operation of the Standing Committee not transparent, however, but even the workings of the ACC, the most representative and accessible “Instrument,” may also be, in important respects, opaque. What is the “new constitution” referred to in the ACC-14 resolution? Is it the “Articles of Association?” And what is the significance of the mysterious “2.2” in Canon Kearon’s letter? It suggests that the Articles of Association of the ACC are not new at all! The big question, of course, is whether the very rules under which the ACC operates are secret.

Many were disconcerted when the Standing Committee first referred to itself as the “Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion,” suggesting an importance we did not think it had. The resolution renaming the “Joint Standing Committee” does not append “of the Anglican Communion” to the committee name. In fact, the committee had generally been known, rather helpfully, as the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting. In light of the resolution apparently passed by the ACC—I am beginning to doubt the literal truth of anything coming out of the Anglican Communion Office—perhaps the committee is now the “Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting.”

I cannot help noting something interesting about the creation of the ACC. Its advent was certainly an important milestone in the life of the Anglican Communion, though it would be hard credibly to argue that its long-term effect on the nature of the Communion is likely to be greater than that of the Anglican covenant, should the covenant be adopted. 1968 The Lambeth Conference resolution endorsing the ACC idea begins as follows:
The Conference accepts and endorses the appended proposals concerning the Anglican Consultative Council and its Constitution and submits them to the member Churches of the Anglican Communion for approval. Approval shall be by a two-thirds majority of the member Churches and shall be signified to the Secretary of the Lambeth Consultative Body not later than 31 October 1969.
Contrast this with the method by which the Anglican covenant (now referred to on the Anglican Communion Web site as “The Anglican Communion Covenant”) is to be adopted:
(4.1.6) This Covenant becomes active for a Church when that Church adopts the Covenant through the procedures of its own Constitution and Canons.
Rather an easier path to adoption, I should think. (The new way of adding members to the ACC also greases the path to approval, in that case by counting the absence of a vote against as a vote for, a notion contrary to Episcopal Church practice, except possibly in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.) It is also a path that is neither democratic nor sensible. What will it mean, for example, when only a single province adopts the covenant. (Someone has to be first.) Can that province bring complaints against other provinces and expect them to be adjudicated as specified in the covenant? The possibilities bear thinking about.

If I were not convinced before, I am surely convinced now that the covenant process (and perhaps the operation of the entire Anglican Communion bureaucracy) is opaque, manipulative, and disingenuous. It is past time to ask if we want to be party to the Anglican covenant. It is time to ask if we want to be part of the Anglican Communion itself.

No Anglican Covenant

December 21, 2009

European Bilocation

In a newscast earlier today, NPR reported on the problems Eurostar has had with its trains that run under the English Channel. Service has been suspended for three days, resulting in frustrated travelers. The NPR newscast, referring to travelers who have been unable to board a Eurostar train, spoke of the “many who remain stranded on both sides of the English Channel.”

Surely an NPR editor slipped up! The report should have referred to the “many who remain stranded on either side of the English Channel,” as it seems impossible that anyone was simultaneously stranded on both sides of the Channel. Alternatively, one could have spoken of the “many, on both sides of the English Channel, who remain stranded.” English is notable for its flexibility with respect to word order, but altering word order sometimes makes a big difference.

Screw the GOP

It is tiresome hearing Republican Senators complaining about the deals Democrats had to make to move the health care bill forward. I share the disgust of many Democratic Senators about that same issue. Whereas the Democrats have a right to complain, however, Republicans do not. The party of NO opted out of the legislative process. They, too, might have gotten deals had they been willing to vote for something, had they acted like statesman and -women instead of like petulant two-year-olds. It’s time the Grand Old Party were replaced by a responsible political party interested in governing, not merely in bitching because they are no longer in the majority. Does anyone want to step forward?


Until yesterday, I had never seen a 3D movie. I felt I needed an escape for a few hours, so I went to a theater to see James Cameron’s new movie Avatar. If you have not seen this movie in 3D, run, don’t walk, to your nearest theater showing it in all its full glory. You will probably pay a premium for the experience, but it will be worth it. I paid $9.75 at a matinee, which was about $3 more than I would have paid to see the conventional version of the movie. (I skipped the $7 bucket of popcorn, however, so the afternoon wasn’t all that expensive.)

As you may have heard, the plot of this movie is not extraordinary. Rapacious and heartless humans have come to the planet Pandora, where they plan to relocate the “primitive” Na’vi, a tribe of oversize humanoids who live at one with nature, so that corporate interests can mine a valuable mineral that, inconveniently, is buried beneath the Na’vi’s forest homeland. In the end, the Na’vi drive out the humans, and the human boy gets the Na’vi girl. Alas, many lives are lost on both sides in the process. The plot is a bit too magical for its own good, but magic is required to produce the movie’s happy ending.

The star of the movie is Pandora, a planet of enchanted forests inhabited by enormous trees, bioluminescent foliage, six-legged terrestrial beasts, giant pterodactyl-like creatures of the air, and levitating mountains. The richness of the world that Cameron has created is difficult to capture in mere words.

The images on the screen are enhanced when the movie is viewed in 3D, wearing the obligatory but unobtrusive polarized-lens glasses. Happily, Cameron has not chosen to exploit the 3D process to deliver cheap thrills. Flying through the air is more exciting in 3D, of course, but seldom does an object appear in front of your nose. (I did flinch once.) I was a bit surprised, however, that the effect of 3D is not quite to make the screen image appear completely natural, a phenomenon I have been thinking about since a few minutes into the film. (I assume that people will continue to talk about “films,” although I assume that Avatar exists only on computer hard drives.) Initially, the 3D images seemed to have a cartoonish character, as if the depth added by the 3D process were unnaturally exaggerated. This sense decreased as the movie progressed, but it never completely went away.

I am not an expert on human visual perception, but I think I have a few clues about why the 3D effect in Avatar was less than perfect and why 3D movies are likely to continue to be so until we can project a credible holographic image onto a theater stage. Two things are going on, I think. The less important one is the fact that the camera moves through the environment differently than a person does. A tracking shot that moves around a person, for example, may seem unnatural because people do not normally move as the camera does and, as a result, are not used to seeing what the camera sees. (The same shot seems perfectly natural in 2D because it is embodies a cinematic cliché we have grown used to.) More significantly, however, although the 3D camera may see what our eyes see, vision is, ultimately, created in our brain. What we “see” is both more and less than is captured by our eyes or by cameras standing in for our eyes.

Consider a scene in a large room with speaking characters in the foreground and other actors moving around in the background. In a 3D movie, the background is likely to seem clearer (hyper-real perhaps) than it would if we were standing where the camera has been positioned and were simply observing the action. This is because we attend to certainly elements in the environment and are only vaguely aware of ether elements in which we have little interest. The 3D movie shows us everything, however, with little discrimination, even if the background is slightly out-of-focus. Sitting in the theater, we can choose to look away from the focal point of the action on the screen, but the screen image does not change as would the image in our heads if we made the corresponding move on the actual movie set. (I would be interested in hearing how others react to 3D movies.)

All that said, the 3D process definitely enhances the verisimilitude of Cameron’s Pandora, but the world of the Na’vi would be engrossing even without that enhancement. Moreover, despite the rather predictable plot, I found myself in tears as I tried to read the credits at the end of the movie. This was less about the “happy” ending as it was about my anger at the insensitivity of most of the humans and my sadness at the wanton destruction and loss of life for which they were responsible. I have not cried that way over a movie since I saw The China Syndrome. I’m not sure it had anything to do with my tears, but leaving Cameron’s completely believable world of Pandora for the “real” world was also profoundly sad.

December 19, 2009

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

I'm sitting in front of my computer on the Saturday before Christmas and looking out my window at the snow that has been falling since about 10 o’clock last night. For now, I’m not going anywhere.

I heard a report on the radio that retailers are not at all happy with the snowstorm that has hit the eastern seaboard this weekend. The Saturday before Christmas is usually the biggest shopping day of the year, but it surely won’t be that in Pittsburgh in 2009.

The shopping that few are doing reminded me of a poem I wrote a few years ago. It is one of my least typical and probably one of my best. I offer it below as a Christmas gift of sorts. You can also read the poem on Lionel Deimel’s Farrago, where I offer background information about it.
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
by Lionel Deimel

The jingle bells are back,

Ringing jingle-jangle ding-dong-ding

On the street corners and at the mall,

Where the giant Damoclean snowflakes

Hang menacingly from the store ceilings

Over the heads of the make-up consultants,

Displaying their perfect faces, Santa Claus hats,

And belligerent helpfulness.

The colored outdoor lights are back,

Contending with high-pressure, sodium streetlamps

To banish night and veil the pallid twinkle of the stars,

Letting the phosphor-white icicles,

Dripping electrically from the eaves,

Highlight the unnatural landscape

Of rotund, glow-from-within snowmen

And teams of gene-damaged reindeer.

The entertainments are back—

The last-minute, Oscar-hopeful blockbusters

Playing beside cheap trifles luring the momentarily vulnerable;

Pick-up-choir, stumbling-through-the-notes Messiahs

Competing with earnest Amahls and Peanuts Specials;

The cute-but-clumsy, tiny ballerinas tripping through Nutcrackers

Sorely in need of crowd control;

And the latest made-for-TV, hanky-wrenching, feel-good melodrama.

The emotions are back,

With love-thy-neighbor, brotherhood-of-man yearnings

Schizophrenically vying with loathing for the driver ahead,

As we pursue our private quests

For perfect love-showing, obligation-meeting, or indifference-disguising gifts,

Our anticipating the giving-terror, receiving-embarrassment,

The disappointing joy, and the exhilarating letdown assuring us at last

That Christmas is upon us.


Big-screen TV
Have you noticed that some people are pronouncing “electronics” differently these days? The word crops up a lot in this season, as stores such as Best Buy and Walmart promote sales of high-definition televisions, GPS navigation units, and Blu-ray players.

I first noticed this phenomenon in a Walmart TV commercial, but I had to view the ad more than once to convince myself that my ears were not deceiving me. Instead of pronouncing “electronics” as i-lek-tron'-iks (or, less often, ee-lek-tron'-iks), the voiceover pronounces the word as el-ek-tron'-iks. Where did this pronunciation come from? “Electronics” is related to several other words. Do the people who say el-ek-tron'-iks also pronounce “electric” as el-ek'-trik, “electricity” as el-ek-tris'-i-tee, and “electron” as el-ek'-tron. No such pronunciations, I suggest, are standard.

The Walmark pronunciation of “electronics” may be gaining currency. The day I decided that I had heard the retailer’s ad correctly, I identified two other speakers on television saying el-ek-tron'-iks.

December 18, 2009

Changes to Section 4 of the Covenant Draft

The “Final Text”of the Anglican covenant was released today. It is, of course, a draft; there may never be an Anglican covenant, much less this one, but we shall see. The new version can be found here. Presumably, only Section 4 is changed from the Ridley Cambridge Draft. An explanation of why changes were made to Section 4 can be found here.

I haven’t really had time to read any of the new material, but it did strike me that it would be helpful to show the changes to Section 4 in a more perspicuous way. Therefore, I offer a PDF version of a Microsoft Word comparison between the Section 4 of the Ridley Cambridge Draft and that of the “Final Version.”

I apologize for not incorporating the comparison document into this post, but the required HTML simply got too complicated to fix in a hurry. I trust the formatting of the PDF file will be self-evident. (Black text is unchanged; red text is deleted; slate text is new.)

Not Again!

The following was just posted by Anglican Communion New Service:
From the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion

Posted On : December 18, 2009 1:33 PM | Posted By : Webmaster
Related Categories: ACO

The following resolution was passed by the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion meeting in London on 15-18 December, and approved for public distribution.

Resolved that, in the light of:
  1. The recent episcopal nomination in the Diocese of Los Angeles of a partnered lesbian candidate
  2. The decisions in a number of US and Canadian dioceses to proceed with formal ceremonies of same-sex blessings
  3. Continuing cross-jurisdictional activity within the Communion
The Standing Committee strongly reaffirm Resolution 14.09 of ACC 14 supporting the three moratoria proposed by the Windsor Report and the associated request for gracious restraint in respect of actions that endanger the unity of the Anglican Communion by going against the declared view of the Instruments of Communion.
How long, O Lord, do we have to endure this Anglican Communion Echo Chamber? The Anglican Communion has not had a new idea in six years, and probably a good deal longer than that. Isn’t it clear by now that Anglican provinces have both very divergent theologies and very divergent views of appropriate behavior within the Communion? The only effects of the “Windsor Process” have been delay, anger, and frustration; no minds or behaviors have been changed. The end game for this process is not going to be the big, happy, worldwide family so much desired by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Isn’t it time we admit that our current trajectory is destined to end badly and try, after six years of going along with the flow, to think of something else.

Why does The Episcopal Church want to be part of the Communion’s dysfunctional behavior? I certainly cannot think of a reason.

No Anglican Covenant

December 13, 2009

Archbishop Duncan and Uganda

It is gratifying that so many religious leaders have spoken out against the pending anti-homosexual legislation in Uganda. Yesterday, we even saw a statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury, albeit a somewhat unofficial one. In a George Pitcher interview in the Telegraph, we find this:
“Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades,” says Dr Williams. “Apart from invoking the death penalty, it makes pastoral care impossible – it seeks to turn pastors into informers.” He adds that the Anglican Church in Uganda opposes the death penalty but, tellingly, he notes that its archbishop, Henry Orombi, who boycotted the Lambeth Conference last year, “has not taken a position on this bill”.
In introducing Rowan William’s remarks on the Uganda legislation, Pitcher notes that “some American traditionalists have markedly failed to condemn the Ugandan proposals” Perhaps he is speaking of my former bishop, now archbishop, Robert Duncan, head of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).

Duncan, I suggest, has a greater moral obligation to speak out against the draconian Ugandan proposal because he and his diocese have had very close relationships with Uganda. In November 2004, the annual convention of the Diocese of Pittsburgh formally ended a five-year partnership with Rwanda and embarked on a partnership with Uganda Christian University, noting that Pittsburgh priest Stephen Noll was (and continues to be) associated with the institution. As reported by Episcopal News Service, Uganda primate Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi attended the Pittsburgh convention and delivered the keynote address at the convention banquet. It was not the last time he would visit Pittsburgh.

Another priest in Uganda with Pittsburgh connections is the Rev. Canon Dr. Alison Barfoot. Although Barfoot appears no longer to be canonically resident in Duncan’s diocese, the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh Web site nonetheless devotes a page to her ministry as “the international relations assistant for Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi of the Anglican Church of the Province of Uganda.” In this capacity, she often speaks for the archbishop, for example calling the recent election of the Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool “funny and unbiblical.”

When The Episcopal Church deposed Duncan for his subversion of the church, Orombi was quick to lend his unqualified support to the erstwhile Pittsburgh bishop. And, of course, the Ugandan church was equally eager to declare itself in full communion with Duncan’s Anglican Church in North America upon its official establishment.

If Rick Warren, who has his own connections to Uganda and who has supported Duncan’s Anglican Communion Network and individual congregations that have broken away from The Episcopal Church, can speak out against the proposed Ugandan legislation, why can’t Bob Duncan?

Well, don’t hold your breath. The Church of Uganda is too important an ally and Duncan is too indebted to Orombi to expect any kind of critical statement from the new American archbishop. Instead, we have this item from the December 11, 2009, communiqué of the first annual Provincial Council of ACNA explaining what the Council did:
And, mindful of the controversy surrounding a bill concerning homosexual behavior that is being considered by the Uganda parliament, restated our commitment to the sacredness of every human person as made in the image of God, from conception to natural death and without regard for religious convictions or manner of life. We also gave thanks for the faithful witness of the Anglican Church of Uganda and encouraged them to stand firm against all forms of sexual exploitation and in their publicly stated commitment that “the Church is a safe place” for all persons, especially “those struggling with sexual brokenness.”
(The Anglican Church of North America is a province of nothing, of course, but having a “Provincial Council” sounds impressive.)

Let’s look at this statement in detail. First, it is interesting that ACNA considers the Ugandan bill controversial. It is not controversial to the State Department, to The Episcopal Church, to the Vatican, to the Archbishop of Canterbury, to the many other Christian groups that have spoken out against it, not even to Rick Warren. All these people and groups consider the legislation irredeemably evil. But ACNA finds it only controversial. Apparently, some people in ACNA approve of the legislation or cannot bring themselves to criticize such an important supporter as the Church of Uganda.

The pious claptrap about respect for all persons rings hollow in light of the repeated calls for pastoral care of LGBT persons by Anglican Instruments of Communion and the requirement in the legislation for anyone in authority (including religious leaders) to turn in to the civil authorities anyone known to be guilty of homosexual activities. Not even attempts to “cure” homosexuals would be legal in Uganda if this law is passed.

Finally, ACNA reports that the Provincial Council “gave thanks for the faithful witness of the Anglican Church of Uganda.” Thanks for what, homophobia? And what is the sexual exploitation that that church is being urged to stand against? How can any truly consensual sex be exploitative? If homosexual acts are inherently exploitative, who is being exploited? The exploitation in Uganda, I suggest, is the scapegoating of homosexuals to distract Ugandans from the real problems of their society. And how can any church in Uganda be a “safe place” for homosexual persons if church leaders have to hand them over to prosecution once the nature of their “sexual brokenness” is known?

The ACNA statement is, of course, but a fig leaf over the fact that neither ACNA nor Archbishop Duncan can bring themselves to criticize the moral brokenness of the Church of Uganda. Although the Archbishop of Canterbury “can’t see how it [the proposed legislation] could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades,” perhaps Archbishop Robert Duncan can.

December 11, 2009


I did a double take while reading a small item in Time recently. The magazine declared the Nissan Leaf, an all-electric automobile, to be one of theLeaf “50 best inventions of 2009.” I had never heard of the Leaf and thought the name rather odd, but no matter. What caught my eye was this last sentence of the story: “Nissan will produce 50,000 Leafs each year at its Oppama plant, southwest of Tokyo, starting in the fall of 2010.”

“Leafs?” Really? Shouldn’t that be “50,000 Leaves?”

It is easy to be confused when we need to pluralize a word that occurs in an unfamiliar context. When the computer mouse was new technology, I heard people talk of “computer mouses” more than once. People now seem comfortable speaking of “computer mice,” but it took some time for people to recognize that there was no reason that the name of the input device and the rodent shouldn’t have identical plurals.

The first time I remember someone’s getting tripped up when using a word with an irregular plural in an unfamiliar context was in seventh grade. The class was learning about poetry, and a classmate was asked to indicate the stressed syllables in a stanza. Before answering, Bruce, who was exceedingly conscientious, asked,“Do you want me to give the foots, too?” The teacher gently pointed out that, even in the context of poetry, the plural of “foot” is still “feet.”

Perhaps not always, however. In some circumstances, either because of the nature of the referent or the proclivity of speakers, the irregular plural is replaced by a conventional plural. For example, footlights are sometimes called “foots,” never “feet.”

Assuming that Time is following Nissan’s conventions, it may be that the car maker views “Leaves” as not too obviously referring to their new brand name. “Leafs,” while jarring for now, does not share that deficiency. If the Leaf catches on, we will, no doubt, get used to talking about a showroom full of Leafs.

It really is a stupid name for a car.

December 7, 2009

Background Press Briefing Concerning L.A. Episcopal Elections

Many stories have appeared in the press regarding the election of two women to be bishops in the Diocese of Los Angeles this past weekend. Stories both the the U.S. and elsewhere (e.g., the U.K.) have tended to get two matters wrong. For the benefit of the press, I offer below some background information, taken from the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church.

Suffragan Bishops

First, the two candidates elected by the Los Angeles diocesan convention were not chosen to be assistant bishops, but suffragan bishops. This is not matter of simple nomenclature. Although the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church neither specify completely the roles of assistant and suffragan bishops nor clearly distinguish them from one another, the two types of bishops are chosen in different ways. A suffragan bishop is elected by a diocesan convention—note: elected, not appointed—much as a diocesan bishop is chosen in the American church. Generally one so chosen is a priest, although an existing bishop can also be elected a suffragan.

Assistant bishops, on the other hand, are appointed. The diocesan bishop, with the consent of the Standing Committee, asks the diocesan convention to authorize the designation of an assistant bishop. (Each diocese has a Standing Committee, comprising both clergy and laypeople, which acts as the bishop's council of advice and, in certain circumstances in which there is no diocesan bishop or the bishop cannot perform his or her duties, acts as the ecclesiastical authority in the diocese.) If the convention agrees to the hiring of an assistant bishop, the diocesan bishop appoints the assistant bishop with the consent of the Standing Committee. Someone so appointed must already be a bishop and is often one who is retired from another position.

The Consent Process

A number of reports and commentaries have indicated that the suffragan bishops–elect in Los Angeles must be approved by the individual dioceses of The Episcopal Church. The details of this process have usually not been made clear. A newly elected bishop must obtain the consent for his or her consecration from a majority of the bishops with jurisdiction (i.e., diocesan bishops) in the church, as well as from a majority of the diocesan Standing Committees.

Consents must be properly executed and must be received within 120 day of their being requested. The canons of the church do not specify criteria to be used by bishops with jurisdiction in giving or withholding consent for the consecration of the bishop-elect. Each Standing Committee, on the other hand, must certify that a majority of its members “testify that we know of no impediment on account of which the Reverend A.B. ought not to be ordained to that Holy Order [Bishop].” Possible impediments are not enumerated by canon. The likely upset of the Bishop of South Carolina, the Archbishop of Nigeria, or the Archbishop of Canterbury may or may not be seen as an impediment to consecration by one or another Standing Committee.


The foregoing omits certain details found in the church’s Constitution and Canons, but it includes all the rules likely to be relevant to the path to consecration for the Los Angeles suffragan bishops–elect. Other details sometimes do matter, however, as they did in the first attempt to achieve sufficient consents for Mark Lawrence to become bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina. For simplicity, I have omitted actual references to the governing documents of The Episcopal Church, but most of the information likely to be of interest can be found in Title III of the Canons.

The consent process, particularly for the Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool, will bear close watching. Bishops with jurisdiction who signed the Anaheim Statement pledging to uphold the three moratoria urged on The Episcopal Church can reasonably be expected to withhold their consent, and it is likely that most of the Standing Committees in their dioceses will do the same. (Standing Committees tend to be less independent than one might, in the abstract, wish.) The remaining bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees can hardly ignore the possible consequences of approving the consecration of another partnered gay bishop, but it is not clear whether such contemplation will work in Glasspool’s favor or against it.

Finally, however, we have the following provisions of Canon III.1:
Sec. 2. No person shall be denied access to the discernment process for any ministry, lay or ordained, in this Church because of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities or age, except as otherwise provided by these Canons. No right to licensing, ordination, or election is hereby established.

Sec. 3. The provisions of these Canons for the admission of Candidates for the Ordination to the three Orders: Bishops, Priests and Deacons shall be equally applicable to men and women.
This is the basis on which Bishop J. Jon Bruno has claimed that it is not proper to deny consent for Glasspool’s consecration. One can certainly quibble about this interpretation and, perhaps more to the point, one can question the enforceability of this interpretation, even if it is correct.

December 5, 2009

Joy and Challenge

With great joy I received the news that the Rev. Canon Mary Douglas Glasspool, a partnered lesbian—excuse my using this as my only characterization of Glasspool—was elected a suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles today. The election followed that of another female Episcopal priest, the Rev. Canon Diane Jardine Bruce, to be a suffragan bishop in the diocese, thereby becoming the first female bishop in Los Angeles. (Episcopal News Service covered the election of both Bruce and Glasspool. Stories about the Glasspool election have been posted by the diocese and by the Los Angeles Times.)

Partnered gay candidates have participated in several episcopal elections recently, but Glasspool is the first to be elected since Gene Robinson in 2003. Despite the Presiding Bishop’s reassurances in a recent WABE-FM interview that “the door has been open [for gay and lesbian bishops] for many years,” I had lingering concerns about any diocese’s having the courage to elect an openly gay bishop in the current climate.

Now, of course, the challenge is laid before bishops with jurisdiction and standing committees to give consent for Glasspool to be consecrated. I presume that those bishops who signed the Anaheim Statement (about 30 bishops) will withhold consent. The remaining bishops will have to vote to consent by about a 2–1 margin, not normally a high hurdle, but not a slam dunk given the anticipated upset that is sure to follow in the Anglican Communion.

What I have learned from being in a repressive and cynically-led diocese for many years anticipating an inevitable split is that there is much to be said for getting the unpleasantness over with. The departure of Robert Duncan and his dissident followers was indeed painful, but it was also liberating and energizing to Episcopalians left in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Likewise, everyone knows that The Episcopal Church cannot really turn back from its path to full inclusion of LGBT persons in the church. Demonstrating that Gene Robinson’s election was not a fluke will send the message to the Anglican Communion that our commitment to the Gospel, as we understand it, is more important than indulging the prejudices of the Nigerias and Ugandas of the Communion. Consenting to the consecration of Mary Glasspool, as we must do, will create facts on the ground that will make acceptance of a covenant like the one presented to the Anglican Consultative Council last spring impossible to accept.

If, God forbid, Episcopal bishops sabotage Glasspool’s consecration, the campaigns to accumulate the required consents for episcopal consecrations will become battlegrounds, and the worst fears of the conservatives may be realized, namely that the church might decide that the consecration of any conservative bishop is not worth the attendant risks to the integrity of the church.

The Episcopal Church has wasted too much time and energy placating foreign “Anglicans” whose theology is somewhere between ignorant and repulsive. It is high time to move on. Let’s vote to consecrate Mary Glasspool and let the rest of the Communion figure out what to do about it.

December 1, 2009

The There There

I may have left the impression in my recent post “Seat of Power?” that the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) does not actually have an office in the building at 1001 Merchant Street in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. When I wrote the post, all I knew was that, if there were an office there, it was neither conspicuous nor magnificent.

Lest I be accused of trafficking in innuendo, I thought I should check out the ACNA office for myself. Besides, I had never really been to Ambridge, though I once went to a birthday party that might have been within the borough limits.

And so, this morning, I set out with digital camera on the half-hour drive to Ambridge. I parked the car on Merchant Street and walked to the building at Merchant and 10th. My first stop was the set of mailboxes on the 10th Street side of the building. Three mailboxes were labeled, for Watchword Productions (Suite 100), for Janet Vaughn (Suite 104), and for ACNA. That last mailbox lacked a suite number.

ACNA mailboxThe ACNA mailbox label was quite attractive and designed to avoid having mail inadvertently returned to the sender; it offers three possible recipients:

The Anglican Church in North America
Anglican Communion Network
Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses & Parishes

Conservatives do love to create new organizations (or new names)!

I walked around the corner to the front door. Looking up, I could see some nice architectural details, but also flaking paint and boarded up dormer windows.

Looking up from main entranceUnsurprisingly, the front doors were locked. I pressed a button and a representative of ACNA showed me into the building. Yes, Virginia, there is an ACNA office at 1001 Merchant Street. It is small and unremarkable, and, as I suggested earlier, one can find it only by knowing where to look. The office is clearly not set up for greeting visitors or for hosting meetings.

I introduced myself to the two people I met in the office using my real name. Either my name was unfamiliar or these people were too polite to ask me to leave. We talked for a few minutes about the building—suffering from deferred maintenance, I was told—and about Ambridge. I did not tarry.

The deferred maintenance was apparent in many places. This photo below, for example, is of the back of the building.

Roof detailMany of the windows that are not boarded up are covered in clear or black plastic sheeting.

Window facing 10th StreetBefore my field trip, with a little help, I did more research on the ownership of the building. If I read the public records correctly, WatchWORD Productions (or Watchword Productions, or Watchword International, or Watchword Ministries, depending on what document you’re reading) owns and is trying to sell the building. WatchWORD appears to have been given the building by GDT CG1, LLC, and to have subsequently obtained a $150,000 mortgage on it. In the April–May 2009 issue of Trinity, Robert Duncan’s breakaway diocese wrote about a bible literacy project that WatchWORD is part of. (Read the story here.) Actually, The WatchWORD Bible, is an intriguing product, though I don’t know how it wears after many hours. Sample it for yourself.

Anyway, having discovered as much as I wanted to know about ACNA headquarters, I decided to see a bit of Ambridge. Merchant Street was unprepossessing,

Merchant Streetbut Trinity Seminary, which was just down the street, was more attractive than I expected.

Trinity Episcopal School for MinistryAlso impressive was the municipal complex that is the successor to 1001 Merchant Street.

Ambridge Borough Municipal ComplexThe municipal center is across the street from a reminder of Ambridge’s industrial past, however.

Demolition siteWalking back to my car somewhat indirectly, I encountered, the lovely downtown P.J. Carl Memorial Park

P.J. Carl Memorial Parkand the Laughlin Memorial Library, which actually seemed a bit grand for Ambridge.

Laughlin Memorial LibraryI could not pass up picture taking when I discovered the Ambridge-Woodlawn Bridge spanning the Ohio River. (I’m something of a bridge freak.) Appropriately, the bridge, completed in 1927, has a superstructure built by American Bridge Company.

Ambridge-Woodlawn BridgeFinally, I ended my Ambridge tour walking along residential streets. The housing was modest and a bit old fashioned, but it was pleasant and well maintained.

Ambridge residential streetI hope this post will help you plan your next vacation.

November 28, 2009


With the recent changes to the format of Lionel Deimel’s Web Log, some posts turned ugly. The column containing posts themselves is narrower than before, so some wide graphics no longer fit within that column. I have gone through all the posts on the blog and have replaced too-wide graphics with narrower ones. Note that, in most cases, you can click on a graphic and see it on a page by itself. In a few cases, when you do this, you will see a larger version, generally the original version that has now been replaced in the post itself.

While fixing images that were too big, I took the opportunity to correct a few other formatting glitches. Most of the changes were subtle and won’t be noticed.

The Link Problem

What I did not change were URLs that are no longer correct. It is difficult to know what to do with broken links on my blog. Several situations arise:
  1. A page may simply have disappeared from the Web.
  2. A page may no longer be at its former address.
  3. A page may be completely different from the one originally cited.
  4. Changed circumstances may have made it unclear what page should actually be linked to.
Let me discuss these situations in turn. In each case, it may be necessary or desirable to explain what has been done.

A page is no longer available. This is a difficult situation to deal with. Alternatives are
  • Retain the link with or without comment. More explanation may be needed to tell visitors what they’re missing.
  • Cite another page with the same information, if one exists. In some cases, it may be possible to create a local substitute page.
  • Cite an historical version of the page in the Internet Archive if one is available. (Check out the Archive if you aren’t familiar with it.)
  • Simply delete the link, with or without explanation.
A page has changed location. Often, the URL of a page has changed because its site has been reorganized, because its domain has changed, or both. The fix here is easy if one can discover the new URL and there are no complicating factors. An explanation may be necessary.

A page’s content has changed. Webmasters are sometimes not looking to the future when they select page addresses. A page of recent news may look completely different in July from how it looked in January. I try to link to pages whose content seems likely to be stable, but this is not always possible. If the page’s content has disappeared and the old content is unavailable, removing the link may be the only option.

A changed context may make it difficult to choose a proper link. A trickier situation to deal with is one where the context has changed. For example, a link to the home page of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh Web site created before the diocese split is problematic. Linking to the Web site of either resulting diocese would be misleading. The current Episcopal diocese is the legal successor to the pre-schism diocese, but the current Anglican diocese maintains the Web site that changed little when the schism occurred, whereas the Episcopal diocese created an entirely new Web site. This is a case where one might want simply to delete the link. Linking to an Archive page might be reasonable, but not without an explanation.

Choosing Links

We all understand references in a book. We know that we can go to a library, find a referenced book, and know exactly what the author was referring to. Hyperlinks on a Web page are neat because the going-to-the-library step is replaced by immediate transportation to the referenced material. Unfortunately, the material may have disappeared entirely, been changed in subtle ways, or otherwise might not tell us exactly what we think it should be communicating. In many circumstances, we would like a Web page and all its links to be frozen in time, so that anyone visiting the page could read it like a book, except that the references would be both stable and immediately accessible. But, sometimes, we want a link to go to a page we expect to change, as when we cite a blog qua blog, rather than as a place to find specific content. (Even a blog can completely disappear, of course, so stability is always an issue.)

As a general rule, Web sites that are somehow journalistic in nature (newspaper sites, opinion sites, blogs) are not regularly reviewed to keep their links up-to-date. As for me, I do get upset when my links, in whatever way, degrade. I try to link defensively, citing explicit or probable permalinks whenever I can. I have been known to copy content to my own site, either citing it there or keeping it in reserve against its possible disappearance from its original Web home. This can raise copyright questions, so I do not do it routinely. Sometimes I simply do not create a link because I think the content will disappear. I might describe the content or copy excerpts as an alternative.

Were it up to me, every Web page ever created and every one of its variants would be archived and time stamped and could be linked to. That will never happen, of course. Although the World Wide Web is a kind of huge library, it seems more like a library created by Lewis Carroll than one created by Melvil Dewey. Somehow, we have to live with that.

If I get ambitious, I may make another pass through my blog posts with an eye to fixing broken or misleading links. Suggestions as to how to go about this are welcome.

November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day is here again, and I’d like to offer a Thanksgiving gift to my readers. I wrote the poem “Thanksgiving” in 2002 for a family gathering, and I have reproduced it below. More information about the poem can be found on Lionel Deimel’s Farrago here.

by Lionel Deimel

So many holidays for this and that—
But most are just a time for recreation,
Not opportunities for celebration
Or contemplation of their origins.

Who gives a thought to Martin Luther King?
He’s on our minds his day like any other,
When seldom do we think who is our brother
Or bother reaching out to those in need.

We see a baseball game on 4 July—
We sing our anthem, watch the color guard;
But Revolutionary thoughts are hard
To mix with scorecard, chili dog, and beer.

The labor on our minds on Labor Day
Is but our own that we don’t have to do.
We must instead to summer bid adieu
With picnics for a special few, or bed.

Ah, Christmas is a special time of dread—
That deadline of the frantic shopping season
Through which we march for half-forgotten reason
That escapes us fully when the day has come.

Thanksgiving, though, is different from the rest—
We gather in our family and friends;
We stuff the turkey and each person who attends,
And, in the end, how can we not be thankful?

Turkey and trimmings

November 25, 2009

Seat of Power?

According to the Web site of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), its headquarters is located at 1001 Merchant Street, Ambridge, PA 15003. Ambridge, which might seem an unlikely place for a church claiming 100,000 members spread across the U.S. and Canada and headed by an archbishop, is the former home of American Bridge Company. It is a less-than-affluent community a few miles down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh. The Merchant Street address is about a two-block walk from the campus of Trinity School for Ministry, the Evangelical seminary that used to have “Episcopal” in its name. Ambridge is within the bounds of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, if, in fact, that entity can be said to have bounds.

Yesterday, I received e-mail from a friend who happened to be in the Ambridge area the other day and, for whatever reason, decided to see what the ACNA headquarters looked like. He sent me some photos of 1001 Merchant Street along with a note, which included the following:
What I found was surprising. There is no indication that ACNA is really there. There is no signage, and it would appear that there is only one tenant in what used to be the police/fire station, and that’s a biblical literacy group. The side door had ten lock mailboxes, so it seems as though the building can house that many tenants. It’s a pretty ratty looking place. As you can see from the photos, the third story is boarded up.
Here is a view of the building from the corner of Merchant Street and 10th Street. The main entrance of the building, which faces Merchant, has the narrower façade. Tenth street runs along the longer side of the building.

ACNA headquarters?The front entrance has nothing to suggest that the offices of a nascent Anglican province can be found inside.

Main entranceNeither does the 10th Street façade.

10th Street side of buildingWhat is obvious is that the building is for sale. The asking price for the 13,500 square foot building is $470,000.

Signs currently on buildingAs indicated in the e-mail, the only conspicuous tenant of the building is WatchWORD Productions, which markets a narrated version of the Bible (The WatchWORD Bible) on DVDs. The sign above the For Sale sign (which may be hard to read in the above photograph) proclaims:

we plan to stay in our present
location; this sale will help us
in our work to spread
"His Word"

Make of that what you will.

Another tenant, not identified by my correspondent, might be Zeta Design & Development, a software firm. But maybe not.

Anyway, the building has an interesting history. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, it was built by American Bridge Company in 1904 and housed various municipal agencies until 1996. The building was later purchased and renovated by one Thomas E. Throckmorton, who was eventually sent to prison for trucking Mexican marijuana from Arizona to Pennsylvania and storing it in the Ambridge building. He sold the building to GDT CG1, LLC—apparently erroneously reported as “GDT CGI” in the Post-Gazette story—which supposedly was to turn the building over to WatchWORD Productions. It is unclear who owns the building now, but WatchWORD clearly expects to be staying put after any sale.

GDT CG1, LLC, seems to invest in distressed properties and donate them eventually to conservative Christian organizations. (See, for example, the lead story in the February 25, 2003, issue of The Liberty Champion.) How can GDT CG1 afford to do this? Where is the money coming from? There is probably an interesting story here, but investigating it is above my pay grade.

Anyway, where is ACNA? I don’t know. I was surprised when Ambridge was first mentioned as the location of its headquarters; actually working in Ambridge would have been quite a comedown for Bob Duncan, who had become used to the downtown-Pittsburgh Oliver Building, a Daniel Burnham skyscraper completed in 1910. The headquarters of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh is in the process of moving across the Allegheny River to Allegheny Center, hardly a slum, but a place where the rents are cheaper than in Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle. My friend suggested that ACNA may be part of the move. Perhaps the ACNA headquarters is wherever Archbishop Duncan is, which as been in the diocesan office. Perhaps there simply is no there there.

I see that the Web site of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh is actually using that name now, rather than “The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (Anglican),” as I note in my November 1 post “Questions for the Anglican Diocese.”

November 24, 2009

Enough Already

I am Episcopalian,” a site containing videos of Episcopalians explaining why they are a members of The Episcopal Church, has been on the Web since Ash Wednesday last. In principle, it is lovely piece of PR, though I don’t know if Episcopalians or seekers view its videos more.

I doI am Episcopalian have some criticisms of the site, however—five of them, in fact. First, it is left to the visitor to figure out just what the site is all about. There is a good deal of text on the home page—the site is basically a one-page site, with pop-up Flash video windows—but none of that text explains what content is available or how to access it. It is left to the visitor to figure out that clicking on one of the pictures at the top of the page will display a video of an Episcopalian explaining why he or she is Episcopalian. Perhaps the site is meant as a test of one’s cleverness and is intended to discourage dullards from discovering our church. More likely, graphic design simply got in the way of clarity.

My second criticism is that there is no way to search the site. The videos display the name of the person talking, but the site provides no easy way to bookmark a particular video, find a video contributed by a friend, or find a video dealing with a particular issue. The site does provide HTML code to embed each video on a Web page, information which, to most visitors, is likely to seem inscrutable.

Next, the site contains a Give to the Episcopal Churchgraphic labeled “Give to the Episcopal Church,” which links to a page where you can contribute to various Episcopal funds. Is this really appropriate on a site that is—at least I assume it is intended to be—an evangelistic site? After telling the visitor why Episcopalians are Episcopalians, shouldn’t the next message be “join us,” rather than “give us money?”

Fourth, the site contains links cryptically labeled “upload,” “share,” and “continue.” These facilitate, respectively, uploading a video; sharing the site via Facebook, Digg, Delicious, or Reddit—one has to recognize the icons one sees upon mousing over “share”—or, amazingly, going to the home page of The Episcopal Church. The function of these links has to be discovered, as it is not made explicit.

This brings me to my fifth and final criticism of “I am Episcopalian,” which is the real reason for this post and the source of its title. One can get to the site using the URL This is the most likely method of arrival if one is actually looking for it. One is also redirected to the site from or (the URL I often use because doing so requires so few keystrokes). Is this really necessary? Cannot there be a link and promo for “I am Episcopalian” on the Episcopal Church’s home page? There used to be a clearer link to the home page of The Episcopal Church at, but now we only have the link “continue,” which is, I suggest, less than intuitive, particularly if you intended to go to “I am Episcopalian.” I suspect that some visitors looking for the Episcopal Church Web site never figure out how to get there. In particular, last week’s Episcopal Church ad in USA Today gave the Web address of the church as “” Is it not confusing that this will take people to “I am an Episcopalian?”

So, enough already. It’s time to allow people trying to get to the Episcopal Church Web site actually to get there directly. The church can promote “I am Episcopalian,” but it shouldn’t hijack unsuspecting surfers who are trying to go somewhere else.

November 18, 2009

Learning from the Roman Catholics

I don’t follow the Roman Catholic Church very closely, but I have found quite interesting two stories by Ann Rodgers in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette dealing with a new English translation of the Roman Mass. “Bishops split over Mass translation” appeared on November 16, 2009, and “Bishops advance new Mass translations despite reservations by some,” appeared today.

In their meeting this week in Baltimore, Catholic bishops, among other matters, have been dealing with a new English translation of the Roman Mass, a project that has been in the works for more than a decade. Monday’s story offers this context for the bishops’ work:
Rome requires one international committee to translate for each major language, and this text is intended to serve nations as diverse as Ireland and Pakistan. The bishops can propose amendments, but Vatican officials have final say over the text.

In 2001, the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments published Liturgiam Authenticam, new rules for translation. It stressed faithfulness to fourth-century Latin texts that were translations from Greek, Hebrew and other languages. It encouraged a special vocabulary for prayer that differed from everyday speech.
Much of the new translation has already been accepted; only the approval of the translation of antiphons was on the agenda of the Baltimore meeting.

Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, Pennsylvania, a past president of the bishops’ committees on doctrine and liturgy, was attempting—unsuccessfully, as it turned out—to convince the bishops to reject the antiphons. His real objection was not to the antiphons themselves, but to the emerging translation generally. According to Rodgers, Trautman views the new Mass “as a ‘slavish’ rendering of Latin into convoluted, ungrammatical English.” She quotes Trautman as saying, “American Catholics have every right to expect a translation of the new missal to follow the rules for English grammar. But this violates English syntax in the most egregious way.”

The issues in play were not simply literary ones, however. Tautman argued that Vatican II required that translations of the Mass be approved by bishops in jurisdictions where they will be used. In response to complaints from English-speaking jurisdictions outside the U.S., however, the Vatican had urged American approval of the antiphons before American bishops had had the opportunity to weigh in on their appropriateness, and the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George, obliged. Tautman argued that this was a violation of canon law. “I do not see how an unnamed Vatican official can trump a doctrinal statement of the second Vatican Council,” and he speculated on what other rights the bishops might surrender in the future.

Tautman wanted to insist on the approval of antiphons by the conference, a tactic intended to delay approval of the entire Mass and provide an opportunity to improve it. Instead, the bishops voted 194–20 to endorse Cardinal George’s ceding final approval to the Vatican.

Actually, what first caught my eye in these stories was the following in today’s report:
But some auxiliaries were vocal in the debate, including Bishop Richard Sklba [CQ} [sic] of Milwaukee.

He noted that Pope Benedict has recently announced plans to permit Episcopalians and other Anglicans to become Catholic but keep using their Book of Common Prayer. That means more Catholics will have exposure to that book.

“The language of the Book of Common Prayer is elegant … in its phraseology and cadence,” he said. “It has shaped our English language for almost 500 years. Our proposed text will be compared to that historical one, critically I’m afraid, and with less positive results. We need more time to prepare a text worthy of our church.”
Anglicans, particularly Episcopalians, can draw lessons from these stories of Roman Catholic decision making. First, it is gratifying that our prayer book is appreciated even among Roman Catholic bishops. It is worth noting, however, that the Book of Common Prayer has never been a literal translation of anything. From the beginning, it drew on many sources, was influenced by both Catholic and Protestant theology, and respected the population that was to use it in worship. The Roman Catholic approach to producing a new English Mass is very different.

That approach deserves more comment. The centralization of the Roman Catholic Church, even though it may formally require local buy-in, is cumbersome and unresponsive. Those inclined to accept an Anglican covenant should take note. Decision making by an institution that spans the globe and encompasses diverse popualtions with widely differing viewpoints is, at best, difficult. The necessary compromises often satisfy no one, and the tendency to circumvent perpetual discussion and gridlock by central-authority fiat can be difficult to resist.

Does the behavior of the Roman Catholic Church suggest what our Anglican future will be under a covenant? Part of the Anglican genius, I think, is the ability of individual churches to respond effectively to the pastoral needs of the people in their cultural context. The populations and Anglican churches of the U.S. and Nigeria are too different to expect that either church should dictate liturgical or doctrinal terms to the other, but that will be a part of our Anglican future under an Anglican covenant. This is a most fundamental argument against a covenant. Those who would have such a compact speak disparagingly of “culture.” Humans cannot exist without culture, however, and religion that is somehow independent of culture cannot but be irrelevant to people’s spiritual needs.

Those who would centralize power within Anglicanism are today concerned about morality and the nature of the clergy. If we adopt a covenant, it will, I predict send us down the road of increasing conformity. Soon, Anglicans will insist on a uniform prayer book, one as grammatical, lyrical, and relevant as the English Mass being produced by the Vatican. God save us!

No Anglican Covenant

November 16, 2009

Shall the ‘Orthodox’ Anglicans Win?

Harry Emerson Fosdick’s sermon “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” is well known. I had an opportunity to reread it the other day and was struck not only by its eloquence in opposing the Fundamentalism of the early twentieth century but also by its relevance to The Episcopal Church as today’s Episcopalians contemplate a possible Anglican covenant. As I read the sermon, I thought of writing a contemporary Anglican paraphrase of it, but, in the end, I realized that the unfiltered Fosdick delivers a clear message to our church: resist those who would bar the door of “Christian Fellowship” to any who do not subscribe to their own peculiar collection of Christian dogma. For this reason, and because most Anglicans have never read Fosdick’s most famous sermon, I have reproduced it below.

Harry Emerson Fosdick (5/24/1878 – 10/5/1969) was ordained a Baptist preacher and was pastor of New York City’s First Presbyterian Church when, on May 21, 1922, he preached “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?" a sermon that led to his resignation in 1924 to avoid disciplinary action against him by the not-so-liberal Presbyterian Church. Fosdick’s misfortune was soon reversed, however. Baptist John D. Rockefeller built the interdenominational Riverside Church in New York’s Morningside Heights and, when it opened in 1930, installed Fosdick as its pastor. Fosdick’s picture (see below) landed on the cover of Time.

Fundamentalism was a reaction both to scientific discoveries about nature and to discoveries and insights arising from biblical studies. The Fundamentalists sought to preserve Christian orthodoxy, or their imagined version of it. (In speaking of the Fundamentalist vision of the second coming as involving Christ’s returning on the clouds to set up his kingdom, Fosdick said, “I never heard that teaching in my youth at all.”) Of the conflicts of the time, Fosdick said:
The new knowledge and the old faith cannot be left antagonistic or even disparate, as though a man on Saturday could use one set of regulative ideas for his life and on Sunday could change gear to another altogether. We must be able to think our modern life clear through in Christian terms and to do that we also must be able to think our Christian life clear through in modern terms.
Perhaps the “orthodox” Anglicans are not strictly Fundamentalists, but they too want to preserve, in the formaldehyde of an Anglican covenant, the so-called “faith once delivered to the saints,” the fundamental essence of a Christianity whose historical existence can be found only in the individual minds of contemporary “orthodox” Anglican militants. Against such a static—if not always clearly delineated—body of Christian knowledge, Fosdick proposes a vision of continuing revelation, of the Bible leading us toward truth, the fullness of which is yet to be realized.

The Fundamentalists, argued Fosdick, cannot address legitimate concerns of upcoming generations. To do that, Fosdick offered a two-pronged alternative: proceed in “a spirit of tolerance and Christian liberty,” and keep matters in perspective. “So now, when from the terrific questions of this generation one is called away by the noise of this Fundamentalist controversy, [someone watching men argue about the ‘tiddeledywinks and peccadillos of religion’] thinks it almost unforgivable that men should tithe mint and anise and cummin, and quarrel over them, when the world is perishing for the lack of the weightier matters of law, justice, and mercy, and faith.” One could make a similar statement about gay bishops and same-sex partnership blessings in the face of war, disease, injustice, and global warming.

So, is not Fosdick’s program for Christians as relevant to Anglicans in 2009 as it was to Fosdick’s “evangelical Christians” of 1922? Subscribing to an Anglican covenant to assure some sort of “mutual recognizability” among Anglicans is nothing more than an attempt to hitch the Anglican wagon to the dead horse of a static faith, rather than to embrace the dynamic and exciting Christianity to which Fosdick called his flock. No formulation of the Christian faith is adequate for all time. As Fosdick put it:
There are many opinions in the field of modern controversy concerning which I am not sure whether they are right or wrong, but there is one thing I am sure of: courtesy and kindliness and tolerance and humility and fairness are right. Opinions may be mistaken; love never is.
Read “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” for yourself, and judge for yourself if Harry Emerson Fosdick isn’t speaking to us today.

Shall the Fundamentalists Win?*

A Sermon by Harry Emerson Fosdick
Preached May 21, 1922

This morning we are to think of the Fundamentalist controversy which threatens to divide the American churches, as though already they were not sufficiently split and riven. A scene, suggestive for our thought, is depicted in the fifth chapter of the Book of the Acts, where the Jewish leaders hale before them Peter and other of the apostles because they have been preaching Jesus as the Messiah. Moreover, the Jewish leaders propose to slay them, when in opposition Gamaliel speaks: “Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will be overthrown: but if it be of God, ye will not be able to overthrow them; lest haply ye be found even to be fighting against God.”

One could easily let his imagination play over this scene and could wonder how history would have come out if Gamaliel’s wise tolerance could have controlled the situation. For though the Jewish leaders seemed superficially to concur in Gamaliel’s judgment, they nevertheless kept up their bitter antagonism and shut the Christians from the Synagogue. We know now that they were mistaken. Christianity, starting within Judaism, was not an innovation to be dreaded; it was the finest flowering out that Judaism ever had. When the Master looked back across his heritage and said, “I came not to destroy, but to fulfill,” he perfectly described the situation. The Christian ideas of God, the Christian principles of life, the Christian hopes for the future, were all rooted in the Old Testament and grew up out of it, and the Master himself, who called the Jewish temple his Father’s house, rejoiced in the glorious heritage of his people’s prophets. Only, he did believe in a Harry Emerson Fosdickliving God. He did not think that God was dead, having finished his words and works with Malachi. He had not simply a historic, but a contemporary God, speaking now, working now, leading his people now from partial into fuller truth. Jesus believed in the progressiveness of revelation, and these Jewish leaders did not understand that. Was this new Gospel a real development which they might welcome or was it an enemy to be cast out? And they called it an enemy and excluded it. One does wonder what might have happened had Gamaliel’s wise tolerance been in control.

We, however, face to-day a situation too similar and too urgent and too much in need of Gamaliel’s attitude to spend any time making guesses at supposititious history. Already all of us must have heard about the people who call themselves the Fundamentalists. Their apparent intention is to drive out of the evangelical churches men and women of liberal opinions. I speak of them the more freely because there are no two denominations more affected by them than the Baptist and the Presbyterian. We should not identify the Fundamentalists with the conservatives. All Fundamentalists are conservatives, but not all conservatives are Fundamentalists. The best conservatives can often give lessons to the liberals in true liberality of spirit, but the Fundamentalist program is essentially illiberal and intolerant. The Fundamentalists see, and they see truly, that in this last generation there have been strange new movements in Christian thought. A great mass of new knowledge has come into man’s possession: new knowledge about the physical universe, its origin, its forces, its laws; new knowledge about human history and in particular about the ways in which the ancient peoples used to think in matters of religion and the methods by which they phrased and explained their spiritual experiences; and new knowledge, also, about other religions and the strangely similar ways in which men’s faiths and religious practices have developed everywhere. Now, there are multitudes of reverent Christians who have been unable to keep this new knowledge in one compartment of their minds and the Christian faith in another. They have been sure that all truth comes from the one God and is his revelation. Not, therefore, from irreverence or caprice or destructive zeal, but for the sake of intellectual and spiritual integrity, that they might really love the Lord their God not only with all their heart and soul and strength, but with all their mind, they have been trying to see this new knowledge in terms of the Christian faith and to see the Christian faith in terms of this new knowledge. Doubtless they have made many mistakes. Doubtless there have been among them reckless radicals gifted with intellectual ingenuity but lacking spiritual depth. Yet the enterprise itself seems to them indispensable to the Christian church. The new knowledge and the old faith cannot be left antagonistic or even disparate, as though a man on Saturday could use one set of regulative ideas for his life and on Sunday could change gear to another altogether. We must be able to think our modern life clear through in Christian terms and to do that we also must be able to think our Christian life clear through in modern terms.

There is nothing new about the situation. It has happened again and again in history, as, for example, when the stationary earth suddenly began to move and the universe that had been centered in this planet was centered in the sun around which the planets whirled. Whenever such a situation has arisen, there has been only one way out: the new knowledge and the old faith had to be blended in a new combination. Now the people in this generation who are trying to do this are the liberals, and the Fundamentalists are out on a campaign to shut against them the doors of the Christian fellowship. Shall they be allowed to succeed?

It is interesting to note where the Fundamentalists are driving in their stakes to mark out the deadline of doctrine around the church, across which no one is to pass except on terms of agreement. They insist that we must all believe in the historicity of certain special miracles, pre-eminently the virgin birth of our Lord; that we must believe in a special theory of inspiration—that the original documents of the Scripture, which of course we no longer possess, were inerrantly dictated to men a good deal as a man might dictate to a stenographer; that we must believe in a special theory of the atonement—that the blood of our Lord, shed in a substitutionary death, placates an alienated Deity and makes possible welcome for the returning sinner; and that we must believe in the second coming of our Lord upon the clouds of heaven to set up a millennium here, as the only way in which God can bring history to a worthy dénouement. Such are some of the stakes which are being driven, to mark a deadline of doctrine around the church.

If a man is a genuine liberal, his primary protest is not against holding these opinions, although he may well protest against their being considered the fundamentals of Christianity. This is a free country and anybody has a right to hold these opinions, or any others, if he is sincerely convinced of them. The question is: has anybody a right to deny the Christian name to those who differ with him on such points and to shut against them the doors of the Christian fellowship? The Fundamentalists say that this must be done. In this country and on the foreign field they are trying to do it. They have actually endeavored to put on the statute books of a whole state binding laws against teaching modern biology. If they had their way, within the church, they would set up in Protestantism a doctrinal tribunal more rigid than the pope’s. In such an hour, delicate and dangerous, when feelings are bound to run high, I plead this morning the cause of magnanimity and liberality and tolerance of spirit. I would, if I could reach their ears, say to the Fundamentalists about the liberals what Gamaliel said to the Jews, “Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God ye will not be able to overthrow them; lest haply ye be found even to be fighting against God.”

That we may be entirely candid and concrete and may not lose ourselves in any fog of generalities, let us this morning take two or three of these Fundamentalist items and see with reference to them what the situation is in the Christian churches. Too often we preachers have failed to talk frankly enough about the differences of opinion which exist among evangelical Christians, although everybody knows that they are there. Let us face this morning some of the differences of opinion with which somehow we must deal.

We may well begin with the vexed and mooted question of the virgin birth of our Lord. I know people in the Christian churches, ministers, missionaries, laymen, devoted lovers of the Lord and servants of the Gospel, who, alike as they are in their personal devotion to the Master, hold quite different points of view about a matter like the virgin birth. Here, for example, is one point of view: that the virgin birth is to be accepted as historical fact; it actually happened; there was no other way for a personality like the Master to come into this world except by a special biological miracle. That is one point of view, and many are the gracious and beautiful souls who hold it. But, side by side with them in the evangelical churches is a group of equally loyal and reverent people who would say that the virgin birth is not to be accepted as an historic fact. To believe in virgin birth as an explanation of great personality is one of the familiar ways in which the ancient world was accustomed to account for unusual superiority. Many people suppose that only once in history do we run across a record of supernatural birth. Upon the contrary, stories of miraculous generation are among the commonest traditions of antiquity. Especially is this true about the founders of great religions. According to the records of their faiths, Buddha and Zoroaster and Lao-Tzu and Mahavira were all supernaturally born. Moses, Confucius and Mohammed are the only great founders of religions in history to whom miraculous birth is not attributed. That is to say, when a personality arose so high that men adored him, the ancient world attributed his superiority to some special divine influence in his generation, and they commonly phrased their faith in terms of miraculous birth. So Pythagoras was called virgin born, and Plato, and Augustus Caesar, and many more. Knowing this, there are within the evangelical churches large groups of people whose opinion about our Lord’s coming would run as follows: those first disciples adored Jesus—as we do; when they thought about his coming they were sure that he came specially from God—as we are; this adoration and conviction they associated with God’s special influence and intention in his birth—as we do; but they phrased it in terms of a biological miracle that our modem minds cannot use. So far from thinking that they have given up anything vital in the New Testament’s attitude toward Jesus, these Christians remember that the two men who contributed most to the church’s thought of the divine meaning of the Christ were Paul and John, who never even distantly allude to the virgin birth.

Here in the Christian churches are these two groups of people and the question which the Fundamentalists raise is this: shall one of them throw the other out? Has intolerance any contribution to make to this situation? Will it persuade anybody of anything? Is not the Christian church large enough to hold within her hospitable fellowship people who differ on points like this and agree to differ until the fuller truth be manifested? The Fundamentalists say not. They say that the liberals must go. Well, if the Fundamentalists should succeed, then out of the Christian church would go some of the best Christian life and consecration of this generation— multitudes of men and women, devout and reverent Christians, who need the church and whom the church needs.

Consider another matter on which there is a sincere difference of opinion between evangelical Christians: the inspiration of the Bible. One point of view is that the original documents of the Scripture were inerrantly dictated by God to men. Whether we deal with the story of creation or the list of the dukes of Edom or the narratives of Solomon’s reign or the Sermon on the Mount or the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, they all came in the same way and they all came as no other book ever came. They were inerrantly dictated; everything there—scientific opinions, medical theories, historical judgments, as well as spiritual insight—is infallible. That is one idea of the Bible’s inspiration. But side by side with those who hold it, lovers of the Book as much as they, are multitudes of people who never think about the Bible so. Indeed, that static and mechanical theory of inspiration seems to them a positive peril to the spiritual life. The Koran similarly has been regarded by Mohammedans as having been infallibly written in heaven before it came to earth. But the Koran enshrines the theological and ethical ideas of Arabia at the time when it was written. God an Oriental monarch, fatalistic submission to his will as man’s chief duty, the use of force on unbelievers, polygamy, slavery—they are all in the Koran. The Koran was ahead of the day when it was written, but, petrified by an artificial idea of inspiration, it has become a millstone about the neck of Mohammedanism. When one turns from the Koran to the Bible, he finds this interesting situation. All of these ideas, which we dislike in the Koran, are somewhere in the Bible. Conceptions from which we now send missionaries to convert Mohammedans are to be found in the Book. There one can find God thought of as an Oriental monarch; there too, are patriarchal polygamy, and slave systems, and the use of force on unbelievers. Only in the Bible these elements are not final; they are always being superseded; revelation is progressive. The thought of God moves out from Oriental kingship to compassionate fatherhood; treatment of unbelievers moves out from the use of force to the appeals of love; polygamy gives way to monogamy; slavery, never explicitly condemned before the New Testament closes, is nevertheless being undermined by ideas that in the end, like dynamite, will blast its foundations to pieces. Repeatedly one runs on verses like this: “it was said to them of old time . . . but I say unto you”; “God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son”; “The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent”; and over the doorway of the New Testament into the Christian world stand the words of Jesus: “When he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth.” That is to say, finality in the Koran is behind; finality in the Bible is ahead. We have not reached it. We cannot yet compass all of it. God is leading us out toward it. There are multitudes of Christians, then, who think, and rejoice as they think, of the Bible as the record of the progressive unfolding of the character of God to his people from early primitive days until the great unveiling in Christ; to them the Book is more inspired and more inspiring than ever it was before; and to go back to a mechanical and static theory of inspiration would mean to them the loss of some of the most vital elements in their spiritual experience and in their appreciation of the Book.

Here in the Christian church to-day are these two groups, and the question which the Fundamentalists have raised is this: shall one of them drive the other out? Do we think the cause of Jesus Christ will be furthered by that? If he should walk through the ranks of this congregation this morning, can we imagine him claiming as his own those who hold one idea of inspiration and sending from him into outer darkness those who hold another? You cannot fit the Lord Christ into that Fundamentalist mold. The church would better judge his judgment. For in the Middle West the Fundamentalists have had their way in some communities and a Christian minister tells us the consequence. He says that the educated people are looking for their religion outside the churches.

Consider another matter upon which there is a serious and sincere difference of opinion between evangelical Christians: the second coming of our Lord. The second coming was the early Christian phrasing of hope. No one in the ancient world had ever thought, as we do, of development, progress, gradual change, as God’s way of working out his will in human life and institutions. They thought of human history as a series of ages succeeding one another with abrupt suddenness. The Greco-Roman world gave the names of metals to the ages—gold, silver, bronze, iron. The Hebrews had their ages too—the original Paradise in which man began, the cursed world in which man now lives, the blessed Messianic Kingdom some day suddenly to appear on the clouds of heaven. It was the Hebrew way of expressing hope for the victory of God and righteousness. When the Christians came they took over that phrasing of expectancy and the New Testament is aglow with it. The preaching of the apostles thrills with the glad announcement, “Christ is coming!”

In the evangelical churches to-day there are differing views of this matter. One view is that Christ is literally coming, externally on the clouds of heaven, to set up his kingdom here. I never heard that teaching in my youth at all. It has always had a new resurrection when desperate circumstances came and man’s only hope seemed to lie in divine intervention. It is not strange, then, that during these chaotic, catastrophic years there has been a fresh rebirth of this old phrasing of expectancy. “Christ is coming!” seems to many Christians the central message of the Gospel. In the strength of it some of them are doing great service for the world. But unhappily, many so overemphasize it that they outdo anything the ancient Hebrews or the ancient Christians ever did. They sit still and do nothing and expect the world to grow worse and worse until he comes.

Side by side with these to whom the second coming is a literal expectation, another group exists in the evangelical churches. They, too, say, “Christ is coming!” They say it with all their hearts; but they are not thinking of an external arrival on the clouds. They have assimilated as part of the divine revelation the exhilarating insight which these recent generations have given to us, that development is God’s way of working out his will. They see that the most desirable elements in human life have come through the method of development. Man’s music has developed from the rhythmic noise of beaten sticks until we have in melody and harmony possibilities once undreamed. Man’s painting has developed from the crude outlines of the cavemen until in line and color we have achieved unforeseen results and possess latent beauties yet unfolded. Man’s architecture has developed from the crude huts of primitive men until our cathedrals and business buildings reveal alike an incalculable advance and an unimaginable future. Development does seem to be the way in which God works. And these Christians, when they say that Christ is coming, mean that, slowly it may be, but surely, his will and principles will be worked out by God’s grace in human life and institutions, until “he shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied.”

These two groups exist in the Christian churches, and the question raised by the Fundamentalists is: shall one of them drive the other out? Will that get us anywhere? Multitudes of young men and women at this season of the year are graduating from our schools of learning, thousands of them Christians who may make us older ones ashamed by the sincerity of their devotion to God’s will on earth. They are not thinking in ancient terms that leave ideas of progress out. They cannot think in those terms. There could be no greater tragedy than that the Fundamentalists should shut the door of the Christian fellowship against such.

I do not believe for one moment that the Fundamentalists are going to succeed. Nobody’s intolerance can contribute anything to the solution of the situation which we have described. If, then, the Fundamentalists have no solution of the problem, where may we expect to find it? In two concluding comments let us consider our reply to that inquiry.

The first element that is necessary is a spirit of tolerance and Christian liberty. When will the world learn that intolerance solves no problems? This is not a lesson which the Fundamentalists alone need to learn; the liberals also need to learn it. Speaking, as I do, from the viewpoint of liberal opinions, let me say that if some young, fresh mind here this morning is holding new ideas, has fought his way through, it may be by intellectual and spiritual struggle, to novel positions, and is tempted to be intolerant about old opinions, offensively to condescend to those who hold them and to be harsh in judgment on them, he may well remember that people who held those old opinions have given the world some of the noblest character and the most rememberable service that it ever has been blessed with, and that we of the younger generation will prove our case best, not by controversial intolerance, but by producing, with our new opinions, something of the depth and strength, nobility and beauty of character that in other times were associated with other thoughts. It was a wise liberal, the most adventurous man of his day—Paul the Apostle—who said, “‘Knowledge’ puffeth up, but love buildeth up.”

Nevertheless, it is true that just now the Fundamentalists are giving us one of the worst exhibitions of bitter intolerance that the churches of this country have ever seen. As one watches them and listens to them, he remembers the remark of General Armstrong of Hampton Institute: “Cantankerousness is worse than heterodoxy.” There are many opinions in the field of modern controversy concerning which I am not sure whether they are right or wrong, but there is one thing I am sure of: courtesy and kindliness and tolerance and humility and fairness are right. Opinions may be mistaken; love never is.

As I plead thus for an intellectually hospitable, tolerant, liberty-loving church, I am of course thinking primarily about this new generation. We have boys and girls growing up in our homes and schools, and because we love them we may well wonder about the church which will be waiting to receive them. Now the worst kind of church that can possibly be offered to the allegiance of the new generation is an intolerant church. Ministers often bewail the fact that young people turn from religion to science for the regulative ideas of their lives. But this is easily explicable. Science treats a young man’s mind as though it were really important. A scientist says to a young man: “Here is the universe challenging our investigation. Here are the truths we have seen, so far. Come, study with us! See what we already have seen and then look further to see more, for science is an intellectual adventure for the truth.” Can you imagine any man who is worth while turning from that call to the church, if the church seems to him to say, “Come, and we will feed you opinions from a spoon. No thinking is allowed here except such as brings you to certain specified, predetermined conclusions. These prescribed opinions we will give you in advance of your thinking; now think, but only so as to reach these results.” My friends, nothing in all the world is so much worth thinking of as God, Christ, the Bible, sin and salvation, the divine purposes for humankind, life everlasting. But you cannot challenge the dedicated thinking of this generation to these sublime themes upon any such terms as are laid down by an intolerant church.

The second element which is needed if we are to reach a happy solution of this problem is a clear insight into the main issues of modern Christianity and a sense of penitent shame that the Christian church should be quarreling over little matters when the world is dying of great needs. If, during the war, when the nations were wrestling upon the very brink of hell and at times all seemed lost, you chanced to hear two men in an altercation about some minor matter of sectarian denominationalism, could you restrain your indignation? You said, “What can you do with folks like this who, in the face of colossal issues, play with the tiddledywinks and peccadillos of religion?” So now, when from the terrific questions of this generation one is called away by the noise of this Fundamentalist controversy, he thinks it almost unforgivable that men should tithe mint and anise and cummin, and quarrel over them, when the world is perishing for the lack of the weightier matters of the law, justice, and mercy, and faith. These last weeks, in the minister’s confessional, I have heard stories from the depths of human lives where men and women were wrestling with the elemental problems of misery and sin—stories that put upon a man’s heart a burden of vicarious sorrow, even though he does but listen to them. Here was real human need crying out after the living God revealed in Christ. Consider all the multitudes of men who so need God, and then think of Christian churches making of themselves a cockpit of controversy when there is not a single thing at stake in the controversy on which depends the salvation of human souls. That is the trouble with this whole business. So much of it does not matter! And there is one thing that does matter—more than anything else in all the world—that men in their personal lives and in their social relationships should know Jesus Christ.

Just a week ago I received a letter from a friend in Asia Minor. He says that they are killing the Armenians yet; that the Turkish deportations still are going on; that lately they crowded Christian men, women and children into a conventicle of worship and burned them together in the house where they had prayed to their Father and to ours. During the war, when it was good propaganda to stir up our bitter hatred against the enemy we heard of such atrocities, but not now! Two weeks ago, Great Britain, shocked and stirred by what is going on in Armenia, did ask the Government of the United States to join her in investigating the atrocities and trying to help. Our Government said that it was not any of our business at all. The present world situation smells to heaven! And now, in the presence of colossal problems, which must be solved in Christ’s name and for Christ’s sake, the Fundamentalists propose to drive out from the Christian churches all the consecrated souls who do not agree with their theory of inspiration. What immeasurable folly!

Well, they are not going to do it; certainly not in this vicinity. I do not even know in this congregation whether anybody has been tempted to be a Fundamentalist. Never in this church have I caught one accent of intolerance. God keep us always so and ever increasing areas of the Christian fellowship: intellectually hospitable, open-minded, liberty-loving, fair, tolerant, not with the tolerance of indifference as though we did not care about the faith, but because always our major emphasis is upon the weightier matters of the law.
* There are multiple versions of this sermon on the Web. The text shown here was ”stenographically reported by Margaret Renton.” The spelling and punctuation of that record has been retained here.


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