February 28, 2013

Haiku for Today

I have written a number of poems in haiku form. (See “Haiku Meditations on the Church Year,” “More Haiku,” “Columbia Homecoming,” and “Meta-haiku.”) I like the challenge of making a point in only 17 syllables. Yesterday, I was thinking about today’s retirement of Pope Benedict XVI and wrote this somewhat ironic haiku for the occasion.

Papal Retirement

Benedict retires,
And another takes his job,
Just like you or me.

Note: This poem is also available on my Web site here.

February 27, 2013

Another Shrinking Container

I was running out of ketchup the other day, so I picked up a bottle while I was at the super market. When I got home, I discovered that the bottle I bought was slightly different from my last bottle. It didn’t take long to notice that not only was the shape of the bottle different, but that it contained 2 ounces less ketchup. Alas, this is not unusual. Rather than raising the price of a product, the price will be kept the same, but the container will hold less product. Since the container has to be modified anyway—the reduced product quantity must be changed—the container often receives a major new design. The casual consumer will be struck by the new container and may not even notice that he or she is buying less.

Thus was I lured by Heinz into buying the new 38-ounce ketchup bottle thinking I was buying the same quantity I had purchased last time, namely 40 ounces. In the picture below, you can see the old 40-ounce bottle on the left and the new 38-ounce bottle on the right. (Click on the pictures for larger images.) The new bottle has a more pleasing shape, but it is harder to hold than the 40-ounce bottle. It also has a larger label printed on an attractive textured paper. Notice that the “40 OZ SIZE” neck band has been replaced with a “HEINZ 57 VARIETIES” neck band. There is no need to advertise the reduced container size.

Old 40-oz Ketchup (left) and new 38-oz Ketchup (right)

Only at the bottom of the label do we learn that the new bottle contains less ketchup.

Heinz was the culprit this time, but I’m sure all readers can cite a product that experienced similar shrinkage.

February 25, 2013

“Episcopal” vs. “Episcopalian”

I recently put a note on my Facebook page referring readers to a Grammarist blog post on the words “preventive” and “preventative.” I had thought of writing such a post myself, but I decided I couldn’t do a better job than had already been done.

In response to my Facebook remark, however, a friend recommend that I write about the words “Episcopal” and “Episcopalian.” Such a post is probably not needed for Episcopalians themselves, but I have seen reporters making such mistakes as referring to members of an Episcopal Church parish as “Episcopals.” That is pretty jarring.

A quick Google search finds many Web pages that offer a straightforward rule to follow: “Episcopal” is an adjective, and “Episcopalian” is a noun. This works most of the time. We speak of an Episcopal church, an Episcopal bishop, or an episcopal election. Moreover, we speak of a gathering of Episcopalians.

The root meaning of “episcopal” is “relating to a bishop.” Thus, an episcopal election is an election of a person to be a bishop and an episcopal church would be a church in which bishops play a significant role in governance. The word is capitalized when it relates to the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America (The Episcopal Church) or, possibly, to a similarly named church (e.g., the Scottish Episcopal Church). Thus, at least in the United States, an Episcopal bishop is a bishop of The Episcopal Church. (If you think about it too much, “Episcopal bishop” seems redundant, but, of course, it really isn’t.) Occasionally, the word “episcopally” shows up, as in the phrase “episcopally led.” I cannot imagine a proper use of “episcopal,” capitalized or not, as a noun.

“Episcopalian,” on the other hand, is almost always a noun, usually meaning “one who is a member of The Episcopal Church” In its lowercase form, the word can refer to someone who favors an episcopal form of church governance. “Episcopalian” can also be an adjective, however. A singer who is an Episcopalian might be called an Episcopalian soprano, though, depending on context, she could be an Episcopal soprano. She could not be an episcopal soprano unless she is a bishop. “Episcopalian” as an adjective is more likely to be used in speech. A meeting of Episcopalian laypeople might be described as an Episcopalian gathering, since, in speech, we cannot distinguish between “Episcopal gathering” and “episcopal gathering,” the latter being a meeting of bishops, something quite different.

February 24, 2013

A Challenge to Organist/Composers

Cross with lilies
As many of my friends know, I am a big fan of the Great Vigil of Easter. (See “An Easter Vigil Memoir” on my Web site.) The Easter Vigil, which takes place on the evening before Easter Sunday, is the liturgical highlight of the church year. In the 1979 Book of Common Prayer of The Episcopal Church, the service includes between two and nine Old Testament readings recounting God’s dealings with his people. (The service itself can be found here. The prayer book offers some explanatory notes, which can be found here.) A rubric concerning the Old Testament readings says, in part
After each Lesson, the Psalm or Canticle listed, or some other suitable psalm, canticle, or hymn may be sung. A period of  silence may be kept; and the Collect provided, or some other suitable Collect, may be said.
When I was a member of the worship commission at my church, I always argued for more, rather than fewer readings, ideally, for all nine of them. In fact, I think we never included more than four. The service is long in any case, and each additional reading would seem to add an additional psalm, canticle, or hymn, in addition to a collect and period of silence. The length of the service expands quickly as scripture readings are multiplied.

At a minimum, a period of silence and a collect seem essential. Some music, as well, enriches the service, but adding, say, a hymn after each reading, is very time-consuming and, possibly, even mood-shattering. It would be nice to have the option of adding music that covers necessary movement, acts as a reflection on the reading, and contributes only a little to the overall length of the service.

The nine readings carry the following titles:
  1. The story of Creation
  2. The Flood
  3. Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac
  4. Israel’s deliverance at the Red Sea
  5. God’s Presence in a renewed Israel
  6. Salvation offered freely to all
  7. A new heart and a new spirit
  8. The valley of dry bones
  9. The gathering of God’s people
There is a lot of drama here, and it would be possible to write brief organ meditations to punctuate the periods after the readings and before the collect and the silence. Such brief interludes could be used after each reading or only after some of them, with psalms, hymns, or canticles used after others.

So, here is my challenge to organist/composers: Compose a suite of nine brief interludes for the Easter Vigil, each of which is inspired by and constitutes a meditation on one of the nine readings. As far as I know, no one has ever done this. Such a suite would encourage churches to include more readings in their Vigils, as the musical interludes would not contribute over much to the length of the service.

Any takers?

February 20, 2013

Understanding the Links

No doubt, most people reading this blog pay little attention to the text and graphics to the right of actual posts. I thought it might be helpful, however, to point out what’s in that right column, as visitors who have been ignoring it may find some of it interesting.

About Me

 A sentence about me, with links to more information kept by Blogger.

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 I am the founder of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, which opposes adoption of the proposed Anglican Covenant. Clicking on the No Anglican Covenant logo takes you to the home page of the Coalition. Clicking on the link below the logo takes you to the Farrago Gift Shop. Here, you can find merchandise with the No Anglican Covenant logo or with one of my curve-stitch designs.

Christian Diversity

The Christian Diversity logo was devised by the Rev. Bosco Peters. Clicking on the logo takes you to my own essay on Christian diversity.

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Here are links to to various pages, specifically
  • Blog Home: The home page of this blog.
  • Blog Table of Contents: A table of contents of posts on this blog. The TOC is maintained on the Site Map page of my Web site (see next entry). The TOC includes dates, titles with links, and brief descriptions of the posts. I do my best to keep the TOC up-to-date. Both the TOC and the Blogger search box in the toolbar at the top of blog pages can be useful in finding specific content on this blog.
  • Lionel Deimel’s Weg Site: The home page of my Web site.
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  • St. Paul’s Epistle: My unauthorized comments about my local church, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Mt. Lebanon, Pa.
  • Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh on Facebook. The Facebook page of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh, a group that advocates for diversity in the Pittsburgh diocese and strong connections to The Episcopal Church.
  • Pittsburgh Update: A blog on which posts are made each Monday of news items of interest to Pittsburgh Episcopalians. The blog is a project of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh. Posts are mostly about hot-button issues in the Anglican world and about property disputes within The Episcopal Church.
  • Our Pittsburgh Diocese: A blog created for discussion as the diocese was beginning to search for its first diocesan bishop after the departure of Robert Duncan. It was never very active and is dormant now.
  • No Anglican Covenant: Another link to the No Anglican Covenant Coalition’s Web site.
  • Comprehensive Unity: The No Anglican Covenant Blog: The blog of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition.
  • No Anglican Covenant Coalition on Facebook. The Facebook page of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition.
  • Contact Me: The Contact page on my Web site.

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February 17, 2013

Persons of the Trinity

I suggested in my recent post “God and Gender/Sex,” that conservatives do not like referring to the persons of the Trinity as “Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier,” presumably because they see it as a non-traditional, gender-neutral rendering of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (or Ghost).”

In church today, we sang the Great Litany, which begins
O God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth,
Have mercy upon us.

O God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy upon us.

O God the Holy Ghost, Sanctifier of the faithful,
Have mercy upon us.

O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, one God,
Have mercy upon us.
On the printed copies of the Great Litany from which the choir was singing, an introduction stated that the Litany can be traced back to Cranmer’s first prayer book. In fact, it can be traced back to 1544, five years before the first English Book of Common Prayer. It began (with archaic spelling cleaned up a bit)
O god, the father of heaven, have mercie upon us miserable synners.

O God the sonne, redemer of the worlde: have mercie upon us myserable synners.
O God the sonne, redemer of the worlde: have mercie upon us miserable synners.

O god the holy ghoste, procedyng from the father and the sonne: have mercy upon us myserable synners.
O god the holy ghoste, procedyng from the father and the sonne: have mercie upon us miserable synners.
O holy, blessed, and glorious trinitie, iii. persons and one God: have mercye upon us myserable synners.

O holy, blessed, and glorious trinitie, thre persons and one god: have mercie upon us miserable synners.
Clearly the “Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier” formula does not go back that far. In fact, it appears in no English prayer book at all! It does, however, show up in the proposed Book of Common Prayer of 1689, which was never ratified. The Litany in that book begins
O GOD the Father, Creator of heaven and earth : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.
O God the Father Creator of heaven and earth : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.

O God the Son, Redeemer of the world : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.
O God the Son, Redeemer of the world : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.

O God the Holy Ghost, our Sanctifier and Comforter : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.
O God the Holy Ghost, our Sanctifier and Comforter : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.

O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three Persons and one God : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.
O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three Persons and one God : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.
The first American prayer book does not use “Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier” language, but the 1928 book does. It is identical to the 1979 version, except for punctuation:
O GOD the Father, Creator of heaven and earth;
Have mercy upon us.

O God the Son, Redeemer of the world;
Have mercy upon us.

O God the Holy Ghost, Sanctifier of the faithful;
Have mercy upon us.

O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, one God;
Have mercy upon us.
The bottom line is that the “Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier” formulation, while not used as a standalone locution for the persons of the Trinity, is more than 300 years old and was certainly not devised out of any concern for “inclusive language.”

February 15, 2013

The Peaceable Kingdom

Edward Hicks: Peaceable Kingdom
Episcopal Relief & Development has again published a booklet of Lenten meditations this year. The meditation for Ash Wednesday is from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, and it offers what I found to be a startling observation. The scripture on which the meditation is based in Genesis 1:27–31, but Genesis 1:29–30 is what I want to highlight here:
God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.”
Jefferts Schori observes, “It’s not often noticed, but all the animals, including human beings, are here intended to be vegetarians.”

Apparently, God’s intended “state of nature” is so peaceful that it lacks not only war, but even the violence attendant to one creature’s eating another. (Plants fare less well.) This notion reappears in the well-known passage, Isaiah 11:6–8, the inspiration for the many paintings titled “The Peaceable Kingdom” (see example above) by Edward Hicks (1780–1849):
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
   the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
   and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze,
   their young shall lie down together;
   and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
   and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
Less familiar is next verse:
They will not hurt or destroy
   on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
   as the waters cover the sea.
The same idea reappears in Isaiah 65:25:
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
   the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
   but the serpent—its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy
   on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.
All this is very poetic, if evolutionarily unlikely. And the “state of nature” in Genesis is simply unhistorical. Nonetheless, one can appreciate the attractiveness of the Isaiah vision to Quaker Hicks.

February 12, 2013

Good for Benedict!

I have never been a fan of Pope Benedict XVI. Before he was elected, I considered the election of Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger as the next Pope my worst nightmare. He had already interfered in Anglican affairs, a practice he did not abandon once he became the supreme authority in the Roman Catholic Church. Benedict has been a reactionary, and his successor will likely be in the same mold.

I must applaud Benedict, however, for stepping down from the papacy because he feels he does not have the strength to carry on. His decision is a good one for him and for his church. We should hope that this courageous action—a radical action in its context—sets a precedent for his successors.

Lifetime appointments are intended to insulate office holders from undue influence, but they become dysfunctional if retirement based on reduced competency is prohibited or severely discouraged. Federal judges, and particularly Supreme Court justices, have lifetime tenure, but they sensibly retire when interest in their job flags or they believe themselves incapable of performing adequately. This is a good practice.

Even the Roman Catholic Church exhibits some suspicion of advanced age. The convocation that will elect the next pope limits the electorate to cardinals no older than 80 years. In light of Benedict’s retirement decision, perhaps the next pope will be younger and more vigorous, and perhaps he, too, will consider retirement rather than working, however poorly, to his dying day.

February 10, 2013

If Not “Pro-choice,” Then What?

I learned today from the radio program On the Media that Planned Parenthood has decided to drop the term “pro-choice,” but the organization seems not to have devised a replacement for the label.

I have written previously about how “pro-choice” lacks the power of “pro-life,” and Planned Parenthood has apparently come to the same conclusion. On hearing the On the Media piece, I immediately thought that “pro-freedom” would be a good alternative. Conservatives love “freedom,” so they would find this term more compelling.

A quick Google search revealed that I am not the first to propose the “pro-freedom” description. Katie Roiphe proposes it in the essay “Good Riddance, ‘Pro-Choice’” at Slate. She writes
“Freedom” is at least a more expansive word than “choice,” with glimmers of promise, of possibility, of amber waves of grain; it has a patriotic undertone that might appeal to those confused people who do believe in at least a limited right to abortion but won’t call themselves “pro-choice,” because “choice” seems to belong to a pampered elite.
I recommend her essay and won’t try to recapitulate her ideas here.

Whatever the deficiencies of “pro-choice,” it is firmly associated with choices in a particular context. Any neologism that isn’t explicit as to context will need some time to become established; “Pro-choice” will be hard to displace.

For whatever it’s worth, I’ll suggest one other possible choice—“pro-woman.” This may actually be a more honest term and counters the pro-life position, which might be characterized as pro-baby and anti-woman.

Does Barnes & Noble Have Its Nook Support Together?

 I used to own a Nook Color tablet. It was not my favorite piece of technology, but the price was right and I really liked reading books and magazines on it. I purchased several pieces of software for the device and a few books. Additionally, because I was a subscriber to the print editions of Time and The New Yorker, I had free subscriptions to these magazines on my Nook. I found myself throwing away the paper magazines and reading the electronic versions.

Nook logo
I was using my Nook one day as I waited for my car to be serviced. Somehow—I never did figure out what happened—I apparently left the device in the waiting room and never saw it again. I’m sure someone picked it up and used it, as some small purchases were made using my Barnes & Noble account. It was only later, when I was in a Barnes & Noble store considering the purchase of a Nook HD+, that I was told that I could cancel my subscriptions and de-certify—I think that was the word that was used—my Nook Color. I did, in fact, buy a Nook HD+ and was delighted that I was able to load all the books and software I had purchased on the new device.

At this point, however, I hit a snag. To obtain a free magazine subscription on the Nook based on being a print subscriber, one signs up for a paid electronic subscription, which begins with a free two-week trial period. During that time, one needs to follow a link to a Web page that requests name, address, and print subscription number. I followed that procedure for both Time and The New Yorker. When I did so, however, in each case, I received this message:

Your Print Subscription Account information has already been used to activate a discount for another NOOK subscription.

Each active print subscription is entitled to receive a discount on one NOOK subscription. If you believe that your account information has been applied incorrectly to another account, please contact us at:

The prior subscriptions, of course, were those on my Nook Color, which had been cancelled. What I really wanted to do was to transfer my subscriptions from one device to another. Simple, no? Barnes & Noble must need to do this all the time.

At this point, I began working with Barnes & Noble’s Nook support people trying to resolve my problem over the telephone. This went on for a while, which led me to send the following e-mail message to bnmanagementdigital@book.com, which will stand in for a narrative of what happened next:
I am writing to you about a problem I have been trying to resolve for weeks. I have written to authorizations@barnesandnoble.com, made untold calls to Nook support, and have been repeatedly promised that my problem would be resolved within 72 hours. That last promise was made to me four days ago. I was just told that the issue is still open, which probably means that no one has paid it any serious attention yet.

Everything you need to know should be in your records associated with my account ([e-mail address 1]). I will give you a quick description of the problem, however.

I previously owned a Nook Color. My B&N account associated with that device was [e-mail address 2]. Because I am a print subscriber to both The New Yorker and Time Magazine, I had free subscriptions to those magazines on my Nook Color. Being able to read my magazine subscriptions on my Nook was my favorite use of the device. Unfortunately, my Nook Color was stolen. We cancelled the subscriptions and decertified the device.
In December, I purchased a Nook HD+ to replace my Nook Color. I was delighted that I was able to retrieve the books and applications I had purchased for my Nook Color for use on my Nook HD+. Unfortunately, I have not been able to get my free subscriptions to The New Yorker or Time Magazine. I was told by Nook support repeatedly to cancel my subscriptions and re-subscribe, which I have done repeatedly. Every time, when I tried to obtain my free subscription, I received the message (in red lettering) “Sorry. Your Print Subscription Account information has already been used to activate a discount for another Nook subscription.” (You can see a screen shot of this message at [URL removed].)

All I want to do, of course, is to transfer the subscriptions I had to my new tablet. It is clear that my Time and New Yorker subscription numbers are incorrectly flagged as being associated with an active subscription. When the subscriptions were cancelled, those flags should have been cleared.

By the way, even though I have signed up for the trial subscriptions, I am not receiving copies of either magazine on my Nook HD+. [This turned out to be an unrelated issue that was easily solved.]

It was suggested that I call the publishers to get new subscription numbers, something I did not expect the publishers to do. In fact, I did call Time. I was told that if I had a generic Android tablet or an iPad, Time could have helped me. I was also told that B&N is completely responsible for Nook subscriptions and Time had no way to make any adjustments. I assume I would have received a similar message from The New Yorker.

As if the frustration of not receiving what I am paying for were not enough, dealing with Nook support on the telephone has been maddening. For one thing, I have had to explain my plight repeatedly. Often, the details have not been understood. After speaking to a second-level support person on Saturday, I was again told that I would hear from B&N within 72 hours. When this did not happen, I called back today, asking immediately for a second-level support person, as I was told I should do. Trying to get past the person who answered my call was a bit like trying to get a visa to visit the U.S. from Yemen. I gave my e-mail address; then I was asked for my mailing address. When I was asked for the last four digits of my Social Security number, I had had enough and insisted about being put through. The person I then talked to put me on hold. After five minutes or so, the call was disconnected. I called back, went through the same sort of gatekeeping, and was finally told that the matter was still under consideration, and there was no higher-level person I could talk to. I was, however, given your e-mail address.

I really don’t care about your fixing your defective subscription software. Work on that later. All I want now is my free subscriptions to my magazines. Work around the software and give me my subscriptions. An apology would also be appreciated.

Failing resolution of my problem, I plan to write about my experience on my blog and elsewhere and perhaps request a refund for my Nook HD+. As a computer consultant, I am frequently asked about computer hardware. Perhaps you might be able imagine what I am inclined to say about buying a Nook.

Please, please, end my frustration and resolve my problem quickly.

Thanks for your help.

Best regards,
Lionel Deimel
One might have thought that such a letter would light a fire under someone who could fix the problem.Wrong! Several more weeks of frustrating telephone calls were in my future. I spoke to second-level support people and supervisors of second-level support people. No one could personally resolve the issue or tell me how to do so.

Several aspects of Nook support were particularly irritating. More than once, my call was placed on hold and was disconnected before anyone got back to me. When I tried to give my telephone number on a subsequent call so I could be called back if I got disconnected—this is common practice in many tech support shops—I was told that the Nook support people cannot make outside calls. When I tried to illustrate my problem with a screen shot, I was told that Nook support people cannot view external Web sites, either. Twice, after being told the standard tale that Barnes & Noble would get back to me within 72 hours, I received this e-mail  from bnmanagementdigital@book.com:
Dear Lionel Deimel,

Thank you for contacting us. 

We are happy to work with you, and your reference number for today’s contact is Service Request # [number removed].

Based on our discussion and the action we agreed upon, we feel that this issue was resolved.  However, if you feel that you need further assistance, we invite you to chat with one of our agents by clicking on this link:

Our Chat Team is available Monday through Friday 8:00 AM to 11:00 PM ET, Saturday and Sunday 9:00 AM to 11:00 PM ET.  If you do decide to get in touch with us, just make sure you have your Service Request Number handy for the fastest service.  
We also encourage you to use our Chat Team for any assistance you may require in the future.

Your satisfaction is our #1 priority and we look forward to your next visit!

[various signatures]
A couple of thing are notable about these messages. First, except for the greeting, the messages are complete boilerplate. They declare: “Based on our discussion and the action we agreed upon, we feel that this issue was resolved.” The messages don’t identify the issue or the resolution. Moreover, “we” didn’t agree on anything. Nothing was different following these messages; I still didn’t have my free subscriptions. I didn’t seriously believe that using chat, rather than a telephone, would be any more helpful, but, whenever I followed the link for Nook chat, I received various error messages. (Give it a try yourself.)

Twice, a second-level Nook support person promised resolution, which seemingly had to come from software people. One of these offered me a $10 gift card for my trouble. I appreciated the gift card, but the problem remained unsolved. Finally, someone else promised a resolution in 72 hours. Four or five days later, I had received no e-mail from Barnes & Noble, but, when I tried to sign up for my free subscriptions, I actually got them. By this time, I had disputed the charges on my credit card bill for my paid Barnes & Noble subscriptions. That matter has not yet been resolved.

I cannot believe that I am the only person to have lost a Nook and wanted to transfer subscriptions to a new device. Barnes & Noble, however, seems to have had no clue as to how to handle such an issue. I am unimpressed.

February 8, 2013

Resolution 1 Again

In two recent posts, “God and Gender/Sex” and “Seeing the Future Clearly,” I mentioned Resolution 1 that was passed by the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh at its 2002 annual convention. That resolution was a kind of first shot in the war for the diocese, an ecclesiastical conflict whose end still is not in sight. It is because of its importance that I mention Resolution 1 yet again. In particular, I direct your attention to an Episcopal News Service story of November 5, 2002, “‘Firewall’ Resolution Passes in Pittsburgh.” After the vote was taken, a group of people who opposed the resolution were allowed to “demonstrate”—this was a respectful  affair, as befitting Episcopalians, of course—at the front of St. David’s, Peters Township, the church where the convention was held.

Opposition to Resolution 1 was organized under the acronym TORO, Those Opposed to Resolution One. The demonstration was the final public act of TORO, which would later morph into Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh. TORO’s spokesperson at the convention was the rector of Church of the Redeemer, Squirrel Hill, the Rev. Cynthia Bronson-Sweigart. I was proud to stand with Cynthia and others as she read a statement from TORO. Here is how ENS reported her statement:
‘We are in profound pain over the positions stated in this resolution and concerned about the consequences its adoption will have on the already fragile common life of this diocese,’ the statement said. ‘We believe this unyielding document further divides our people, rendering some of us invisible. Some priests and parishes will bear allegiance to the dictates of this document and the diocese, and some will bear allegiance to the dictates of the national church. In a diocese where the fabric of unity is increasingly threadbare, passage of this resolution creates a tear which is almost impossible to mend.’
That statement was prescient.

February 7, 2013

Calvary Wonderland

I just added a new poem to Lionel Deimel’s Farrago. The words were sung to the tune of “Winter Wonderland,” and they were inspired by a cold snap at a summer camp. A detailed explanation can be found on my Web site, but I reproduce the poem below.

Calvary Wonderland
by the Deimels

Sleigh bells ring; are you listenin’?
In the lane, snow is glistenin’—
A beautiful sight;
We’re happy tonight,
Campin’ in a Calvary wonderland.

Gone away are the bluebirds;
Have to stay are some new birds;
They sing a cold song
As we shiver along,
Campin’ in a Calvary wonderland.

In the KYBO we can build a snowman
And pretend that he is Father John;
He’ll say, “Are you warm” and we’ll say, “No, man”;
How d’ya turn the silly heater on?”

When it snows, ain’t it thrillin’,
Though your nose gets a chillin’?
We’ll frolic and play
The Episcopal way,
Campin’ in a Calvary wonderland.

In the morning you can be a Penguin
Even if you don’t go in the pool;
From the Rec to the Hen House to the cabins,
Everyone in camp is really cool!

Later on, we’ll retire
By the old campfire;
We’ll face unafraid
Frostbite and first-aid,
Campin’ in a Calvary wonderland.

February 6, 2013


I’ve been sorting through old papers and occasionally uncovering hidden treasures and curiosities. Today, I ran into a page that came off my printer that has this heading:

by Lionel E. Deimel

What follows is the beginning of a poem, but the poem ends in the middle of a stanza and trails off into handwritten notes. When I discovered this piece of paper, my eyes went first to the poem itself, not to the title or author’s name. I asked myself, “What is this?” Then I asked, with incredulity, “Did I write this?” I don’t remember writing the poem, which is unlike any of my other poems.

The piece is perhaps worth finishing, but the problem is that I have no idea where I wanted to go with it. Here is the part of the poem I apparently found reasonably satisfactory:

by Lionel E. Deimel

While I was walking down the road
I met a maiden fair,
With eyes cast down and visage drear,
And tattered ribbons in her hair.

“What ho, fair lass, is life amiss?
“What hath befallen thee?”
“Methinks I must not tell, good sir.
“Forsooth, I am undone,” said she.

She hurried past but said no more,
So I my trip resumed

Can anyone suggest how this poem should continue? What do you suppose I was trying to say?

Unity vs. Justice

I have watched with great interest the attempt in the Church of England to remove the present bar to female bishops. Last November, the General Synod turned back legislation that would have allowed for women bishops while making it possible for those opposed to women bishop (or women clergy generally) to isolate themselves from bishops who have had any truck with women clergy. (See my earlier posts “Thoughts on the Struggle to Allow Women Bishops in England,” “Church of England Rejects Women Bishops Legislation,” and “Further Thoughts on the Church of England’s Failure to Authorize Women Bishops.”)

I had mixed feelings about the legislation offered in November. Although it provided for women to enter the episcopate, it would have made women second-class bishops, possibly forever. Women in the Church of England were, predictably, torn between getting half a loaf now or, at least for the present, getting no loaf at all. The proper thing to do, I think now and thought then, is to adopt a so-called single clause measure that simply states that both men and women are eligible to be made bishops.

As I write this, discussions are taking place that are intended to lead to a proposal for new legislation providing for women bishops. It is unclear what will come of this, but a single clause measure might be proposed.

Women in the Church (WATCH) has published an insightful essay on the women bishops question on its Web site. It is by the Rev. Canon Jane Charman, and I recommend reading the whole piece. What Canon Charman has to say has implications for the way churches conduct their business generally. She writes
Within the Church of England defending the rights of some individuals and groups to discriminate against women currently has a high priority and is connected in many minds with upholding freedom and diversity. By contrast witnessing to the equal dignity and worth of women in society has a low priority. It is not a moral imperative for us. Opponents of women’s ministry have worked hard to alter our perceptions in this way, to present gender discrimination as a respectable alternative position within the life of the Church and themselves as victims of intolerance. This reversal of values seems perverse and incomprehensible, even morally repugnant, to those outside the Church.
Charman admits that she voted in favor of the measure before the General Synod last year but now regrets that vote. Only a single clause measure, she declares, is acceptable. She concludes
Standing out against gender discrimination is not a task for another day, it is a task for today, and it is urgent. It is far and away more important than giving a few women the opportunity to become bishops, vital though that is for the Church and greatly though we long for it to happen. The challenge for the Church of England is not ‘to find a formula by which discrimination can be tolerated so that the Church can have women bishops’. It is to ‘find a way of modelling in our common life the values we proclaim’. If we cannot grasp this nettle we will sacrifice our privileged position as the spiritual guardian of our national life and fatally undermine our ability to preach the gospel in our generation.
These are strong but inspiring words. Like the Church of England, The Episcopal Church often seems to value unity (or peace) above truth and justice. We have seen this in our painfully slow steps toward a general adoption of same-sex blessings and in our failure to reject definitively the Anglican Covenant.

It is to be hoped that the Church of England may yet surprise and inspire us all by simply declaring that women can be bishops and leaving it to opponents of the change to choose their own personal response thereto.

February 5, 2013

Seeing the Future Clearly

A discussion with a friend of my post of two days ago, “God and Gender/Sex,” led me to recount the early days of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP). In the process of illustrating my narrative,  I retrieved from the PEP archive the original version of Resolution 1, which was submitted for consideration at Pittsburgh’s 2002 annual convention. Rereading that document, I realized that it did not use the term “inclusive language,” as I had said, but it did address “gender-neutral titles.” I have now revised that original post.

PEP logo
The formation of PEP grew out of the effort to derail Resolution 1, but PEP was not actually formed until early in 2003. By the fall of that year, however, the organization was vigorously opposing the plans of Bishop Robert Duncan. In the further support of my storytelling, I read the press release I had written for PEP in the wake of the 2003 annual convention.

In consulting these two documents, I was struck by two realizations. First, PEP had a clear idea of where Bob Duncan was taking the diocese, despite his repeated assurances that he would not leave The Episcopal Church. He did so, of course, five years later, taking with him as many people and assets of the diocese as he could manage. Second, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina were more or less on the same track. Both dioceses would change their constitutions to remove unqualified accession to the constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church, and both dioceses would attempt to circumvent the Dennis Canon. South Carolina took longer to pull the trigger on schism, but its leaders learned from the experiences of San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, and Quincy, and they played their legal cards more carefully.

I offer here a sample of what I wrote in that November 8, 2003, press release, but I encourage readers to read the entire document:
The convention did not heed the warnings of those present who argued that the first change was illegal and negated a precondition for being a diocese of the Episcopal Church, namely, “unqualified accession” to rules and decisions of the national church. Proponents were also heedless of admonitions that voting for the amendment would be contrary to the vows taken by every ordained person, though they did succeed in assuring that votes of individual members of the clergy would not be recorded. Support by Bishop Duncan belied his promise, repeated the day before, that he would not leave the Episcopal Church. Diocesan Vice Chancellor Robert Devlin advanced the novel theory that the Episcopal Church is a confederacy of dioceses. According to him, the Pittsburgh diocese never acceded to the authority of the national church. Dr. Joan Gundersen, a historian of the church, however, raising a point of order, exhibited the 1865 minutes of the House of Bishops in which such accession was certified. Nonetheless, the schismatic amendment was passed by a vote by orders (clergy and laity voting separately) after approximately 20 minutes of discussion.

PEP believes that submission to the authority of the ECUSA is the glue that connects the dioceses of the church and makes a national church a reality. Dioceses are the creatures of the ECUSA, rather than the reverse. It is through the national church that the diocese is recognized as a component of the Anglican Communion. In a hierarchical institution such as the Episcopal Church, it is through the relationship of the diocese to the national church that all legitimacy, authority, responsibility and benefits flow.
PEP saw clearly where the diocese was going in 2003, but it received little help from the general church in heading off the coming schism. After the disasters in San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, and Quincy, one might have thought that the church leadership would be more aggressive about trying to head off what might prove to be an even bigger tragedy in South Carolina. (The Diocese of South Carolina has its own Via Media USA group, Episcopal Forum of South Carolina, whose vision of the future was no less clear than that of PEP.)  Of course, you would be wrong in thinking that. The Episcopal Church not only failed to take action before the Diocese of South Carolina implemented its plan to leave the church, but it also failed to file suit before the breakaway group did so. The calamity in South Carolina will haunt The Episcopal Church for a long, long time.

February 4, 2013

Gun Registration

The NRA's Wayne LaPierre said on “Fox News Sunday” that background checks for all gun purchases would lead to a national registry of gun owners. Critics say such a registry could lead to taxes on guns or to confiscation.
—The Associated Press
When I heard about LaPierre’s interview, I immediately thought about how we register vehicles and drivers. True, such registration facilitates certain actions by the government, but most reasonable people would argue that any “freedom” we surrender through registration is more than offset by the advantages gained through government action. Of course, the NRA cares nothing about benefits to the community but only about the individual unfettered by external constraints. The NRA’s ideal citizen is a paranoid sociopath.

These thoughts led me to create a graphic that I posted on Facebook. That graphic was widely shared—apparently many people share my view of the NRA position—so I thought it was worth posting here as well. You can click on the image for a larger view. Feel free to use it, unchanged except for size, for any non-commercial purpose.

February 3, 2013

God and Gender/Sex

So-called inclusive language has long been an issue within The Episcopal Church. Although it is a topic of indifference to many, others are passionately devoted or opposed to purging liturgical material of “unnecessary” gender references.

The issue of inclusive language is really two issues. The less incendiary matter is the one raised by twentieth-century feminists about language generally. No longer is a sentence like “Everyone ate his meal” socially acceptable when the diners may be either male or female. Non-inclusive liturgical references of this sort are disappearing, but only gradually. What many would consider sexist references are not to be found in the Rite II Holy Eucharist in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. Nevertheless, the phrase “all men” appears in the Rite I versions of Daily Morning and Evening Prayer, occurs three times in the Rite I Holy Eucharist, and appears in the Form Two version of The Reconciliation of a Penitent. (It also occurs in the Historical Documents section of the prayer book, but those occurrences are, well, historical.) I suspect that such occurrences will not make it into the next prayer book whenever it makes its appearance.

A good deal of effort went into scrubbing The Hymnal 1982 of sexist language, but the effort was less than thoroughgoing, and the results are mixed. For example “Rise up, O men of God!” has become “Rise up, ye saints of God!” (#551). This works at one level, though I’m sure some consider the revised hymn wimpier than the original. Other changes are a less likely to be lamented. In “Stand up, stand up, for Jesus” (#561),  “ye that are men now serve him” has become “ye that are his now serve him,” which actually makes more sense. “God rest you merry, Gentlemen” (#105) was, sensibly, left alone. (Do read the Wikipedia entry for this popular carol, which provides useful clarification of the song’s first line.) But, inexplicably, “He who would valiant be” (# 565) is unchanged from The Hymnal of 1940. (Actually, if one substitutes feminine for masculine pronouns and substitutes “they” for “men,” the hymn becomes a kind of muscular feminist Christian hymn. Making the text gender-inclusive, however, might be hard.)

The inclusive-language crowd is well on its way to winning the battle to assure that men and women are treated as having equal standing in liturgical materials of The Episcopal Church. This is the direction in which the language is going, and the church is hardly in a position to buck the trend, even if Episcopalians wanted to do so.

The second type of inclusive language—the term doesn’t really fit well—has to do with the persons of the Trinity. This is where people can get very worked up, particularly conservatives, who seldom like any departure from the traditional. This area is a minefield, even for those who are neither far-right conservatives nor radical feminists.

Most Christians are probably willing to concede that God is not, in any usual sense, either male or female, that is, God does not really have a sex. Yet we traditionally refer to God as Father—as did Jesus—and refer to God as “him.” (Even the traditional usage is problematic when we think deeply about it. God has a son, but who is that son’s mother? If the Son and Father always existed, maybe “Son” is an unhelpful designation. I have more to say about this below.) If we take the sexless thing seriously, then, following the usual linguistic rules, we should refer to God as “It.” That’s never going to catch on, however, as it is too impersonal to capture our conception of God.

Liberal Episcopalians reluctant to attribute maleness to God, frequently make personal substitutions in the liturgy, saying, for instance, “It is right to give God thanks and praise” instead of “It is right to give him thanks and praise.” Coming in response to the celebrant’s “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God,” the repetition of “God” seems stilted. When the substitution appears in a printed liturgy, it is, as I read the canons, anyway, a canonical violation, and the sort of thing that encourages other local liturgy changes, which undermines the very notion of common prayer. These sorts of “problems” are already being eliminated from newer liturgies. For example, Enriching Our Worship 1, published in 1997, in many cases renders the aforementioned line as “It is right to give our thanks and praise,” which is a rather clever dodge. Cleverness takes us only so far. In fact, this post was inspired by what I read on a blog today: “God is working God’s purpose out.” This is not only not idiomatic, but the strange locution even suggests that the second “God” has a different referent than the first.

Conservatives are not just upset over pronouns. They resist all but the traditional characterizations of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (or Ghost). Referring to the Trinity as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer drives some people crazy, though I personally don’t understand why. Maintenance of  traditional language was one of the issues cited in Resolution 1, passed in Pittsburgh in 2002, that declared to the General Convention what the diocese would not tolerate. Traditional understanding of the Trinity—the original wording decried “[l]iturgies that substitute gender-neutral titles for the persons of the Holy Trinity”—got equal billing with the blessing of same-sex unions. (You can read the ENS story on Resolution 1 here and the complete resolution here.) Presumably, conservatives get hot under the collar when the Holy Spirit is referred to as “she,” which has become commonplace in some circles.

In the end, I am dubious about the prospects for or the usefulness of “inclusive language” respecting the Trinity. The nominal maleness of God has thousands of years of tradition behind it. Even “god”—in contrast to “goddess”—is construed as male, as are “Lord” and “Father.” I have heard God referred to as “Mother” or “Parent,” but both seem forced and inconsistent with God’s apparent relationship to Jesus.

Interestingly, there seems not to have been any movement to challenge the maleness of Jesus. But if the Son is an eternal member of the Trinity, does it make any more sense to construe that Son as male than it does to so construe God? Is the Son truly male, or did the Son, as Jesus, take on a male body as a temporary expedient? There is less tradition providing ammunition in the fight over the “sex” of the Holy Spirit, but, as in the case of God, sex or gender simply seem to be inappropriate categories.

The reality is that much of our language about God is metaphor, and, if we understand that—if we understand that our metaphor labels an underlying reality without truly explicating it—then the words we use are merely a convenience. It is helpful if our metaphors exhibit as much consistency as possible, but only to spare ourselves unnecessary cognitive dissonance. Liberals need to exhibit greater humility, and conservatives need exhibit greater tolerance regarding the way we speak about God. Honest conversation, rather than holy warfare might increase the wisdom and understanding of all concerned.

Update, 2/5/2013: I have corrected several typographical errors in the above essay. Also, I discovered, contrary to what I wrote, that the version of Resolution 1 originally submitted for consideration at the 2003 diocesan convention did not use the phrase “inclusive language.” Instead, it spoke of “gender-neutral titles.” I have corrected the reference and added a link to that original submission. Initially, the resolution was referred to as the “South Carolina Resolution,” as it was adapted from a resolution the Diocese of South Carolina adopted at its convention earlier that same year.

February 2, 2013

Changes to Lionel Deimel’s Farrago

Due to a serious computer problem, I have not been able to perform substantial updates to my Web site, Lionel Deimel’s Farrago for some time. I have now begun maintaining the site from another computer. Problems have been fixed and content has been updated. Most notably, some introductory pages have been rewritten, poems that previously were available only on this blog have been added to the Poetry section, and the search function and table of contents have been replaced.

Lionel Deimel’s Farrago banner

If you are unfamiliar with my Web site, I invite you to visit and look around. True to its name, it is rather eclectic, consisting of the following sections:
  • Biography: Résumé, etc., and a description of consulting services I can perform
  • Church Resources: Liturgical materials, commentary on church politics, and poems on spiritual and ecclesiastical topics
  • Commentary: Essays on topics both trivial and important
  • Computer Science: A random, incomplete collections of papers on computer science and software engineering
  • Fiction: Stories (a rather short section of the Web site)
  • Language Notes: Observations about American English
  • Poetry: Poems on a variety of subjects
  • Recreational Math: Amusing material from obscure corners of the world of mathematics
There is also a search page, contact page, site map, and a link to the Farrago Gift Shop.

A few specific items deserve special note. In the Computer Science, I have a helpful article on converting number from one base to another. “Conversion of Number Representations” clarifies some often confusing issues. My presentation on digital invariants is perhaps the most complete presentation on the subject on the Web, though I don’t claim that the topic is on the cutting edge of mathematics. (Did you know that

371 = 33 + 73 + 13   ?

I believe that my pages on curve-stitch designs may be interesting even to those who are not mathematically inclined, since they contain a lot of pretty pictures.

Finally, I’d like to put in a good word for the Poetry section of Lionel Deimel’s Farrago. My verse is probably out of the mainstream of modern poetry, but that may be a good thing. I would especially like to direct your attention to my “Hooker hymn,” “Authorities,” which I believe fills an empty niche in Anglican hymnody that needs to be occupied.

Comments and suggestions related to Lionel Deimel’s Farrago are always welcome.