June 28, 2013

The Wisdom of Robert Duncan

Two days ago, I wrote about the arrogance of Roman Catholic bishops in their commentary on this week’s Supreme Court decisions involving same-sex marriage. (See “Catholic Bishops Offer Their Wisdom.”) Under the circumstances, I can hardly ignore the June 26 statement made by Archbishop Robert Duncan of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). (Curiously, the statement was posted as a PDF file and does not seem to be anywhere on the ACNA Web site.)

For convenience, I will reproduce the brief “Archbishop’s Statement on the Supreme Court Decision on the Definition of Marriage” here:
An extremely divided court reflects an extremely divided nation. Equal rights under the law is a bedrock commitment of the United States of America and can often be accomplished by creative legislation. Nevertheless, the definition of marriage long pre-dates the United States and is a given of the created order. The motto of the United States is “One Nation under God.” The Christian Church has followed a Lord who meets people where they are, and who loves them regardless of their challenges. The Church has countered the culture throughout most of its history. We find ourselves, both sadly and increasingly, in this position in a nation once seen as a “light upon a hill,” and a “hope of all the earth.”
I want to comment on this statement line-by-line.
An extremely divided court reflects an extremely divided nation.
The nation is indeed divided on the matter of same-sex marriage, but it is rapidly becoming less so. The trend is toward greater acceptance of same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court is divided, with the majority on the court generally representing minority opinion in the country at large. The 5–4 opinion in United States v. Windsor is about par for the course these days.
Equal rights under the law is a bedrock commitment of the United States of America and can often be accomplished by creative legislation.
This odd statement is a transition to a justification for unequal rights. Presumably, the archbishop thought DOMA creative and proper, not discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional.
 Nevertheless, the definition of marriage long pre-dates the United States and is a given of the created order.
As did the Roman Catholic bishops, Duncan appeals to the view that marriage has been defined by God and cannot legitimately be altered by humans. He alludes to this argument without actually making it because he is writing for his committed followers, not for the world at large.
The motto of the United States is “One Nation under God.”
This is another allusion, rather than an argument. Moreover, it is a non sequitur disconnected from what came before and what follows. Duncan refers to the belief that the United States of America was founded as a “Christian nation.” Not only is this not true, but it is not even plausible. The founders wanted nothing to do with a king, and they surely were unsympathetic to an established church that was an extension of the crown. The motto of the United States, by the way, is “In God we trust,” which was adopted in 1956, at the height of the Cold War. A better motto in every way is “E pluribus unum,” which is found on the Great Seal of the United States but which was never officially declared our national motto. (See “A Matter of Mottos.”)
The Christian Church has followed a Lord who meets people where they are, and who loves them regardless of their challenges.
This is a kind of love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin statement that, in any case, seems to be moving far afield from comment on the decision of the Supreme Court. The first part of the sentence is fair enough, but the notion of  “a Lord … who loves [people] regardless of their challenges” is very odd. Jesus did make a point of loving people dealing with illness, possession (mental illness?), or even death. One might call such problems challenges, but that is unconventional usage. Duncan seems reluctant to suggest that gay people are sinful and therefore refers to them as “challenged.” Mostly, of course, they are challenged by the malice of Christian bigots.
The Church has countered the culture throughout most of its history
Lacking any real criticism of the Supreme Court—did any clear-thinking American believe DOMA was constitutional?—Duncan asserts the Church’s virtue. The Church’s mission is not to “counter” culture, however, but to represent justice and mercy as best it understands it. Culture is not always wrong, and the Church is not always right. Duncan’s sentence here is not transparently true, and I suspect that many historians would consider it false.
We find ourselves, both sadly and increasingly, in this position in a nation once seen as a “light upon a hill,” and a “hope of all the earth.”
I’m not sure exactly what Duncan means by “countering” the culture—I thought that was what the sixties hippies did—but I suppose he means holding a different view from the generally accepted one and making that view known. As long as ACNA’s doctrine is considered to be unchanging truth, it is indeed likely to be progressively more out-of-step with modern society, with the most enlightened aspects of it, in any case. The suggestion that the nation was “once  seen as a ‘light upon a hill,’ and a ‘hope of all the earth’” suggests that Duncan, at one time, didn’t feel quite so much need for countering. The “light upon a hill” alludes to John Winthrop’s famous sermon and has become a common assertion of American exceptionalism. “Hope of all the earth”, however, is very curious. Duncan uses it to refer to the United States, but I have always seen it applied to Jesus. Perhaps this causes no cognitive dissidence if one buys into the America-founded-as-a-Christian-country myth.

On reflection, the Duncan statement may not be on the ACNA Web site because it does not even rise to ACNA’s standard of coherence. Certainly, the archbishop succeeds in making the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops look good by comparison.

More on the (Partial) Demise of DOMA

There was much celebration Wednesday, when the Supreme Court struck down the federal government’s denial of marital benefits to validly married same-sex couples. Unfortunately, Section 2 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was not directly at issue before the court and still stands. That section absolves states from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states, a provision that might be construed as conflicting with the Full Faith and Credit Clause (Article IV, Section 1) of the Constitution. Section 2 can lead to a host of strange anomalies, as I suggested in an earlier post.

Almost certainly, at some future time, being able to marry the person of one’s choice, irrespective of sex, will be recognized as a constitutional right. Although the Supreme Court could have used the DOMA case to make that determination in 2013, the case was not the ideal vehicle to support such a finding, and this particular court is probably not philosophically inclined to make it anyway, however compelling the logic. It is difficult to see a substantial distinction between laws against same-sex marriage and laws against interracial marriage. Alas, same-sex couples must continue to wait for their Loving v. Virginia (the case in which the Supreme Court struck down all anti-miscegenation statutes in a unanimous 1967 decision).

Conservatives are fond of asserting that marriage is an important pillar of society. If that is true, it is important to strengthen marriage by eliminating the uncertainties introduced by Section 2 of DOMA and by encouraging more marriages by establishing a constitutional right to marry whom ever one likes. Those same conservatives, of course, do not recognize same-sex unions as real marriage and would therefore reject my assertion. The reality, however, is that homosexual and heterosexual marriages function in society in virtually identical ways. If one is beneficial to society, then so is the other.

Conservative opposition to same-sex marriage is, in almost all cases, based either on naked prejudice or on a religious view that sees marriage as necessarily between a man and a woman. As sexual minorities become more conspicuous in society and are known personally by more and more heterosexuals, prejudice, as a factor in opposing marriage equality, is diminishing and will continue to do so. It will be difficult to convince conservative Christians who believe that marriage, as we know it, was established by God in its only acceptable form in the Garden of Eden. (But where did all those people in the Bible come from if there was no incest in those early days?)

Progressives should argue that marriage is a social and legal construct that, for some people, has religious implications. It is not a religious state that Christians impose on society, including non-Christians and Christians who hold a different view of marriage. The fundamentalist Christian view of marriage becomes less compelling as a reason to oppose same-sex marriage when the distinction between civil and religious marriage is understood. (It is unfortunate that the two ever became entangled. Within The Episcopal Church there has been serious discussion of having clergy get out of the business of creating a civil marriage and having them confine their duties to blessing people who have already been married in the eyes of the state.) This strategy may not work on Christians who assert, improbably, that the United States of America was founded as a “Christian nation.”
 ___________

On a vaguely related topic, NPR asked the question “Is There Bias in Media’s Coverage of Gay Marriage Fight?” The story suggested that there might be, as there seem to be more stories about proponents of gay marriage than about opponents. A factor not mentioned by NPR is the fact that homosexual proponents of same-sex marriage have their lives and fortunes at stake in the fight. Opponents merely seek to limit the freedom of others and, despite their protestations, will suffer no substantive loss if their position loses. This distinction would surely justify greater coverage of those celebrating the Supreme Court opinions Wednesday than those dismayed by them.

A real and destructive media bias—one perhaps more a product of ignorance than prejudice—is the use of conservative Christians and Christian organizations to represent the religious view of same-sex marriage. In fact, there is no single religious view of same-sex marriage. From media coverage, I have no idea what Jews or Muslims or Sikhs think of the matter. I know that there is a liberal Christian view, but, from most media coverage, it would be hard even to discover that there are such people as liberal Christians.

June 26, 2013

Catholic Bishops Offer Their Wisdom

Not surprisingly, U.S. Catholic bishops were unhappy with today’s Supreme Court decision regarding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In fact, the press release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops makes it clear why public policy should take no notice of their opinions. The bishops’ statement says, in part,
The federal government ought to respect the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, even where states fail to do so. The preservation of liberty and justice requires that all laws, federal and state, respect the truth, including the truth about marriage.
The word truth occurs seven times in the bishops’ five-paragraph statement. The Roman Catholic bishops believe that they are in possession of the truth, and it is the duty of everyone in the United States to defer to their wisdom. Not all Christians see the “truth” the bishops see, however, and why should Muslims or Hindus or atheists, much less Episcopalians or Lutherans or Jews defer to the views of Roman Catholic bishops anyway, whose first-hand experience with marriage is, shall we say, limited?

The Roman Catholic Church is free to define marriage however it chooses. If it views a couple married in an Episcopal church or by a justice of the peace as not validly married, the church is free to do so. Frankly, my dear bishops, most couples don’t give a damn. What they care about is the recognition of their union by society at large and the privileges conferred on married couples by the state and federal government. For all the religiosity that conservative Christians wrap around marriage, being married or not has little to do with the day-by-day relationship of a person to his or her church, unless, of course, you want to be a Roman Catholic priest.

The bishops go on to emphasize that children need a mother and a father. There is perhaps a case to be made here, but the bishops do not offer a logical argument, merely their own arrogant assertion of the way things are. The implication is that raising children is the essential object of marriage. For many couples, perhaps even for most couples, this is not true—companionship, sex, and the financial advantages of marriage are more compelling reasons for getting married than is having children. This seems especially true now, when so many couples do not see getting married as even necessary for having and rearing children. (I don’t endorse this view, but the point is that what is obvious to the bishops is not equally apparent to everyone else.) In any case, the belief that two moms or two dads are bad for children is not an argument against same-sex marriage, though it might be one against adoption by same-sex couples.

As usual, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops looks silly, self-important, and out-of-touch. Is anyone really paying any attention?

On Today’s Supreme Court Decisions

Today was a good, if not perfect, day for marriage equality. On the basis of equal protection, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) provision preventing the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states that allow them. In the California Proposition 8 case, the court ruled that the advocates of Proposition 8 who sought a reversal of the lower court finding that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional did not have standing to bring an appeal. (The state of California refused to defend the proposition.)

The immediate effect of these opinions is that legally married same-sex couples will enjoy the same federal benefits as mixed-sex couples. Also, same-sex marriage will be legal in California. Neither decision establishes a constitutional right to marry the person of one’s choice. Same-sex marriage is still impermissible in more states than not. Nevertheless, these decisions surely advance the cause of marriage equality.

What was not at issue in the DOMA case is the provision that states do not have to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.  This is surely a peculiar and anomalous situation that must not be allowed to stand. What happens, for example, if a lesbian couple married in, say, Massachusetts, while on vacation driving through Pennsylvania, get into an automobile accident and one spouse needs to make medical decisions for the other but does not have an explicit medical power of attorney? Or what if the same couple moves to Pennsylvania and eventually wants to divorce? Pennsylvania does not even consider them married, but Massachusetts and the federal government do. Who can or will grant a divorce?

June 23, 2013

Hockenberry Leaves Diocese

For whatever reason, news from the diocese has been in short supply of late. The most recent news item on the Diocese of Pittsburgh Web site was posted prior to May 19. It announced a May 19 event, but was itself undated. The last issue of “Grace Happens” was sent out on May 31.

I am not in possession of a lot of secret diocesan news, but I do know one thing that we might have expected to be announced by now. Carl Hockenberry, the CPA who has been the diocesan treasurer and director of administration has resigned, apparently to work on his own. As far as I know, this was a personal decision that has nothing to do with the diocese. In light of rumors that the 2014 budget will be a different one, Carl’s departure may not be the best of news.

June 22, 2013

Back Together

A few months ago, I completed an on-line songwriting course. The last course assignment involved doing final edits on a song I had written for an earlier assignment. My tune was a little weird, and my performance of the song was far short of professional standards. You’ll therefore find no audio here. I thought I should post the lyrics of my song, however, and you can read it below. In case the thought occurs to any readers, I need to say that this song is in no way autobiographical.

Back Together
by Lionel Deimel

I don’t know why I strayed from you;
I didn’t seek a love affair;
She gave her warmth and gave me hope;
I don’t know why I felt despair.

Can you and I get back together?
I hope we can.

I didn’t know you had betrayed
The love that you and I once shared;
Perhaps I knew things were not right,
Yet cheating caught me unprepared.

Can you and I get back together?
I hope we can.

That Mary had a knowing look
I took to be a sign of grace;
I didn’t know—could not believe—
You, too, had been in her embrace.

Can you and I get back together?
I hope we can.
I really, truly hope we can.

June 20, 2013

RIP Exodus International

Exodus Internation logo

Exodus International, the nearly 40-year-old Christian organization that claimed that same-sex attraction could be mitigated through “reparative therapy” is shutting down. The extraordinary announcement came last night at the Exodus Freedom Conference, the 38th such conference that is running from June 19 to June 22.

The demise of the group has the unanimous approval of the board of Exodus and was announced in a press release and in the opening address of the conference by Exodus president Alan Chambers. Chambers has also posted an essay on the Exodus Web site titled “I Am Sorry.”

No doubt, there are many LGBT people and many straight progressives who will have a hard time getting their minds around the announcement from Exodus. What, after nearly four decades, caused such a dramatic corporate turnaround?

Two major themes factored into the turnaround. The first is the realization—a realization that came to many long ago—that turning homosexuals into heterosexuals through reparative therapy (or virtually anything else) does not work. In his opening address, Chambers said,
… 99% of the people I’ve met, myself included, continue to struggle with or have same-sex attractions; that for the majority of people who deal with this issue, those things don’t go away.
The other theme involves the hurt that Exodus has caused over the years. That hurt came both from raising unrealistic hopes for a “cure” for same-sex attraction and from a misguided Christian judgmentalism visited by Exodus on LGBT people. The press release contains this quotation from Chambers, employing an image he incorporated into his opening address as well:
From a Judeo-Christian perspective, gay, straight or otherwise, we’re all prodigal sons and daughters. Exodus International is the prodigal’s older brother, trying to impose its will on God’s promises, and make judgments on who’s worthy of His Kingdom. God is calling us to be the Father—to welcome everyone, to love unhindered.
Churches have used fear to intimidate people into “right” behavior. As Exodus shuts down, therefore, a new ministry will be started that seeks to reduce that fear and to and encourage “churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.”

Kimberly Knight, writing about the Exodus International turnaround, identifies grace as its cause. She may be on target. In his mea culpa, Chambers wrote this:
My wife Leslie and my beliefs center around grace, the finished work of Christ on the cross and his offer of eternal relationship to any and all that believe. Our beliefs do not center on “sin” because “sin” isn’t at the center of our faith. Our journey hasn’t been about denying the power of Christ to do anything—obviously he is God and can do anything.
At 10 PM EDT tonight on the Oprah Winfrey Network, Chambers will appear on Our America in a special report on “God & Gays.” Don’t miss it.

June 19, 2013

Cathy Brall to Leave Trinity Cathedral

The rumors I had heard that Cathy Brall will be leaving Trinity Cathedral were confirmed in a letter I received today in the mail.

The Rev. Canon Dr. Catherine M. Brall, Provost of Trinity Cathedral—Trinity has not had a dean for many years—has spent nearly ten years at the downtown Pittsburgh cathedral. Those years have been turbulent ones during which Bishop Robert Duncan consolidated his control of the diocese and prepared to remove it from the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and The Episcopal Church. Under Cathy’s leadership, the cathedral sought to avoid taking sides in the 2008 schism, serving courageously, if improbably, as cathedral for both the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. Also under Cathy, the cathedral later returned to its formal legal status as the Episcopal cathedral, an equally courageous move that cheered Episcopalians while it seriously depleted Trinity worshipers. Cathy leaves the cathedral’s physical plant in better shape than she found it, but, as a parish church, Trinity is struggling, and its future is uncertain.

So, where is Cathy going? The answer is: not very far. She will become Canon Missioner for the diocese, beginning July 1. The Rev. Timothy Hushion, who is currently Priest-in-Residence at Trinity, will assume leadership of the cathedral as Priest-in-Charge.

What is a canon missioner? I have no idea. Presumably, it involves the mission of the diocese somehow. It will be up to Bishop Dorsey McConnell to determine exactly what he wants his canon missioner to do and where she will have an office.

Cathy’s letter, addressed to “Members and Friends of Trinity Cathedral,” can be read here.

June 18, 2013

Duncan on the State of ACNA

Archbishop Robert Duncan delivered his State of the Church address to the Provincial Council of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) today at Nashotah House. (You can read the address here on the ACNA Web site.) I don’t intend to analyze the entire speech, which was mostly not very interesting to Episcopalians, but a few items did catch my attention.

Under the heading of “Things to Celebrate,” we find this:
In a different way, as a GAFCON/GFCA Province we are full partners with a majority of the world’s Anglicans.  Twice a year I participate in the GAFCON/GFCA Primates Council.  An even larger constellation of Anglican Provinces – the so-called Global South – also always includes our leadership in their global gatherings.  The Church of England continues to follow-through on the General Synod motion of 2010, a follow-through that, I am convinced, will lead to the recognition of our orders within another year or so.  Recently I spent four and a half hours with the Archbishop of Canterbury, at his invitation.
Duncan loves to associate himself with his Global South friends, but those friends increasingly isolate themselves from the larger Anglican Communion, of which they are nominally members. It is not at all clear that ACNA friendships with the likes of Uganda and Nigeria will ingratiate ACNA with the mainstream Anglican Communion, which surely includes the Church of England.

The reference to the 2010 General Synod resolution of the Church of England is ironic. ACNA has interpreted the resolution as supportive. In its original form, it surely was. As amended and passed, however, it did little more than acknowledge that ACNA wanted into the Communion. (See the Guardian story here and Mark Harris’s post here.) It is hard to invest much credibility in Duncan’s prediction that the Church of England will recognize ACNA orders—whatever that means—“within another year or so.” Certainly, the Church of England has bigger issues to deal with, in any case.

More disturbing is the revelation that Duncan recently met with Justin Welby at his invitation for “four and a half hours.” What does the Archbishop of Canterbury think he’s doing? I certainly have no idea, but it is difficult not to see meeting with Duncan as a hostile act from an Episcopal Church perspective.

Under the heading “Final Questions and Exhortation,” Duncan noted that the breakaway South Carolina group led by Mark Lawrence was attending the ACNA meeting, as was the Jubilee Pentecostal Fellowship of Churches. Both of them were, apparently, considering aligning themselves with ACNA. The presence of the Mark Lawrence faction is hardly a surprise, of course. I have not been able to determine just what the “Jubilee Pentecostal Fellowship of Churches” is, but it certainly doesn’t sound very Anglican, however one chooses to define “Anglican.”

In his final paragraph, Duncan declares, “As it turned out, few of us got to take any gold or silver or copper.” Surely, this is disingenuous. Duncan and his minions tried to steal the entire Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh from The Episcopal Church. At least for the moment he has succeeded in “liberating” the diocesan office and much of the real and personal property that rightly belongs to The Episcopal Church. Perhaps other elements of ACNA have been less successful thieves.

Finally, I have to point out the peculiarity of an ACNA event taking place at what is nominally an Episcopal seminary. In fact, Nashotah House was hijacked by forces hostile to The Episcopal Church two decades ago, and the seminary’s board now includes Duncan and others whose antipathy to The Episcopal Church is well documented. Nashotah House has become the Anglo-Catholic analogue of the Evangelical Trinity School for Ministry, a sort of Trinity of the North. The Episcopal Church should repudiate both seminaries as Episcopal institutions and acknowledge that they have been instrumental in undermining, rather than supporting, The Episcopal Church.

State of the Diocese of Pittsburgh

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh met last night at Calvary Church.The program promised A Panel Discussion on the State of the Diocese, which may have been an overreach, but, if not comprehensive, the program was at least informative.

Chancellor Andy Roman spoke mainly on the work of the Committee on Constitution and Canons, since his more interesting work of negotiating (or, at some point, suing) congregations that left the diocese is conducted in secret.

The chancellor indicated that the Committee on Constitution and Canons has been looking at “cleaning up” diocesan canons, and he cited a bad cross-reference in Canon XII and an out-of-date identification in Canon XXIX. It was not clear how the committee intends to fix these minor problems, but it is apparently unlikely that any major proposals will be offered to the 2013 annual convention.

The proposed revision to Canon II, which would have changed the allocation of deputies to parishes, remains in limbo after being summarily returned to the committee at the last convention. Roman made a plea for interested parties to come forth in its support.

Perhaps the most interesting idea the committee has been considering is an addition to the canons concerning the use of technology. The chancellor cited the use of the Internet for meetings and electronic records as issues to be dealt with.

Next on the program was the Rev. Nancy Chalfant-Walker, who represented the team that is administering the diocese’s sexuality dialogue. (See my April 2 post “Whither the Sexuality Dialogue.”) Although the early hope was that 500 people would participate in the program, just over 100 have volunteered so far, and there doesn’t seem to be much hope that that number will get much larger. The plan is to hold all-day Saturday sessions during the summer, beginning June 29. (Audience members raised the question of whether people who work on Saturday can be accommodated and whether participants can attend a session convenient to transportation.)

The sexuality dialogue team is facing a serious, though predictable problem. Of the people who have volunteered to participate, only about one-fifth self-identified as conservative. The rest declared themselves to be progressives. (If some did not choose a side, Chalfant-Walker did not mention it.) The structure of the dialogues requires participation by equal numbers of conservatives and progressives. The team hasn’t decided how to deal with this problem, which would appear to leave 3/5 of the volunteers with no one to talk to.

Chalfant-Walker suggested that there is anxiety about the dialogue among conservatives, resulting in a reluctance to sign up. Someone suggested that anxiety could simply be a product of uncertainty, whether about the dialogue itself or about the decisions to be made concerning the role of homosexuals in the diocese. From this viewpoint, of course, progressives should also be anxious. Someone else raised the possibility that there are simply more progressives than conservatives in the diocese, an interesting suggestion for which we have insufficient data to validate. (Personally, I believe that conservatives know they are on the wrong side of history and that their behavior is passive-aggressive.)

Next on the program was the Rev. Kris McInnes, a member of the Commission on Ministry and one of the priests working at St. David’s, Peters Twp. St. David’s’ property was returned to the diocese over a year ago. Although most of the congregation left to form a new church of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh in Canonsburg, some parishioners remained to become the nucleus of a reconstituted Episcopal congregation.

After the 2008 split of the diocese, McInnes explained, no one was eager to enter into the process leading to ordination. That has changed, and 7 people have been ordained in the last year or so. There are 11 people in the process now, 5 postulants, and 2 nominees. Another half dozen people are potentially interested in entering the process. Of the postulants, 3 seek the vocational diaconate. (The diocese’s deacons largely left the diocese with Bob Duncan, which, given the relationship of deacons to their bishop, is perhaps unsurprising.) In response to a question, McInnes indicated that minorities are very much underrepresented, with women somewhat less so.

The Commission on Ministry is beginning to ordain deacons earlier, in the last year of seminary rather than upon graduation. This is an experiment, and the advantages and disadvantages were not made clear. McInnes spoke of his own experience of becoming a deacon and beginning his ministry at St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon. Although he was a deacon, he felt he was being expected to act as a priest. I cannot say how common this experience is.

I asked if there were any partnered homosexuals currently in the process. McInnes replied that there are but that he didn’t think that was a problem. Given the uncertainty concerning the attitude of Bishop McConnell about ordaining such people, I suggested that it certainly seemed to be a problem, but I did not press the point.

Although McInnes was not able to address the state of returning or restarted congregations generally, he had a lot to say about St. David’s, where he shares duties with other priests from St. Paul’s. Unlike many properties that have been returned to the Episcopal diocese, a small number of parishioners of St. David’s returned with the building. From that initial group of 20 or so, St. David’s now attracts 50–60 people on a Sunday, about half the pre-split attendance. Moreover, volunteers have been forthcoming for all functions needed by the parish. (When the church first returned to the diocese, St. Paul’s supplied altar guild members and other volunteers.)

Joan Gundersen, who administers property for the diocese, reported primarily on the 23 churches of congregations that left the diocese in 2008 but whose property is owned by the Board of Trustees. She noted that 3 properties were returned immediately. Subsequently, 9 buildings have been returned, 2 of which came with small remnant congregations. (St. David’s is one of the latter.) Two congregations returned with their properties, one of which held property in its own name. The diocese has not attempted to evict any congregations, which would require court approval.

In most of the returned churches, we have no Episcopal congregation. (We have had difficulty establishing a congregation at St. James, Penn Hills.) Nonetheless, all except one of these buildings, we were told, are occupied, largely by groups paying rent. Tenants include churches, daycare centers, and the like. As a result, the net cost of maintaining these buildings is only $25,000 or $30,000 per year. One building—it was not clear if this was counted as the unoccupied building—St. Christopher’s, Cranberry Twp., which is surrounded by hotels, is being sold.

The buildings to which the diocese holds title but which currently house congregations of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh are being carefully monitored to assure their maintenance. We are encouraging the congregations to be good stewards of our property.

Gundersen also noted that settlements have been reached with three churches (St. Philip’s, Moon Twp., Somerset Anglican Fellowship, and Shepherd’s Heart Fellowship), each of which involved unique circumstances.

Finally, Linda Getts said a few words about the 2014 budget, which is still being developed. Without some drastic measures, it seems, the diocese faces a significant shortfall next year. Legal expenses are responsible for much of the deficit, but an end to the problems caused by the 2008 schism is nowhere in sight. As far as anyone not involved in legal strategy knows, there is no plan to press our Dennis Canon claim to property not owned by the diocese anytime soon, for example. I asked if any consideration had been given to increasing assessments to make up some or all of the deficit. I was told that the subject had not been raised.

I came away from the PEP meeting feeling better informed, having had a number of rumors confirmed and having been given more specific information about certain issues. (Joan Gundersen’s report was very helpful, although I would like to see a table indicating the current status of all properties of the pre-schism diocese.)

I have begun to wonder whether the sexuality dialogue is not only failing to achieve its objectives but is also casting a pall of uncertainty over the diocese. Already, sessions are being planned with less than the full complement of 12 participants, and the lack of conservative volunteers promises to exclude from the dialogue many of the people who have volunteered. The willingness of progressives to discuss issues and the unwillingness of conservatives to do so feels distressingly familiar. The feedback that the dialogue provides to the bishop seems, at least from my experience, poorly structured, and the collective meaning of it all may be difficult to discern.

No doubt, both progressives and conservatives are uncomfortable with the uncertainty regarding the status of homosexuals in Pittsburgh, and the resulting anxiety is greatest in parishes searching for new, progressive rectors. Conservatives are likely expecting the worst and might even prefer to get the decisions over with. Progressives, on the other hand, consider anything but permissive decisions on the part of the bishop unthinkable, and they worry that the unthinkable might result from an attempt to mollify reactionary elements of the diocese or, worse still, as a result of hitherto undisclosed belief of Bishop McConnell himself.

So, how healthy is the diocese? It is better than it might have been, given the depredations of Bob Duncan and his supporters. (The Calvary lawsuit and the work of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh are largely responsible for that.) It is significantly less healthy than it needs to be, however. Keep the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh in your prayers.

June 15, 2013

A New Web Site for the Anglican Communion

Graphic from Web site banner
Branding from new ACNS site
Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS), which hitherto shared space on the Anglican Communion Web site, has just occupied its very own piece of World Wide Web real estate. Replacing a collection of rather dreary pages rooted at http://www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/ is a graphically more interesting and content-richer site at http://www.anglicannews.org/. Visitors to the old URL are automatically redirected to the new ACNS home page. (ACNS’s own story about the new site is here.)

Whereas the old ACNS site offered a single chronological stream of news stories, the new site classifies stories by geography—Africa, Asia, Americas, etc. The menu also includes links to Other News, Features, Comment, Multimedia, and Picture Galleries. The Comment section, a sort of op-ed page for the site, invites reader comments, a feature not offered elsewhere.

An About Us page explains that, due to limited resources, the site is an English-only one. There is also this caveat:
We balance our duty to act as a communication channel of the whole Anglican Communion with our responsibility to protect the vulnerable from harm and avoid unjustifiable offence. While we endeavour to publish any relevant content sent by Member Churches, we reserve the right not to post anything that would put people at risk or that would reduce ACNS to a vehicle for maliciously criticising individuals, dioceses, Provinces or the Instruments of Communion.
Don’t expect to see too much controversy on ACNS pages.

A mechanism is provided to search the ACNS archive by month and year or by particular words. Search results can be filtered by clicking on terms listed at the left (Africa, Asia, Americas, etc.), a very helpful feature. On the other hand, searching by user-specified terms is less effective than one might like. Searches for New Westminster and "New Westminster" return the same results, including stories mentioning the Diocese of New Westminster but also stories that do not (e.g., a story titled “Dramatic chapel for Holy Trinity” about a New Zealand cathedral, one that happens to include the words new and Westminster, but not the two words juxtaposed).

The archive itself may have its limitations as well. Searching for information about Gene Robinson led me to a story from Episcopal News Service titled “Bishop Robinson invested in New Hampshire” from March 10, 2004. Only four lines of the story were offered, along with a link to http://www.episcopalchurch.org/ens/, where the visitor is expected to find the rest of the story, but doing so requires a search of the ENS site. This turns out to be harder than it looks. (Try it!)

The ACNS site offers other features, not all of which I will mention here. I do appreciate the provision of simple code to add an attractive ACNS news feed to a Web site. (The containing page is here.) ENS once provided similar code for its own news feed, but that code no longer works, and ENS now apparently expects Webmasters to figure out on their own how to generate such a listing.

Zebedee Creations is to be thanked for managing to build the new site without breaking too many existing links. For example, a story on the first day of the Standing Committee meeting in July 2010 used to reside at http://www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/news.cfm/2010/7/24/ACNS4716. The story can now be found at http://www.anglicannews.org/news/2010/07/the-standing-committee-daily-bulletin-day-1.aspx, but the old URL automatically redirects to the new one. (Try this one.) Not every old URL is properly redirected, however. For example, http://www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/digest/index.cfm/2010/4/12/SAMS-Goes-Global-Announces-New-Name-and-Vision simply redirects to the new ACNS home page, and this example is not unique. (The old page can be viewed in the Internet Archive. The story can be found on the new site at http://www.anglicannews.org/news/2010/04/sams-goes-global-announces-new-name-and-vision.aspx.) Another old URL sent me to this unrelated story in Portuguese!

The new site is very attractive, and efforts are being made to include pictures or video wherever possible. That content is now scattered across categories could be considered a problem for visitors checking for the latest news, but one can always search the current month for a single list of stories in chronological order.

On the whole, the new ACNS site is a welcome addition to the Anglican region of the Web. Zebedee Creations seems to have been especially diligent in its development, particular for its sensitivity to the needs of long-time ACNS users. The new site isn’t perfect, of course—these things never are—but I expect that visitors will have few reasons for voicing serious complaints.

An Opportunity for the USPS

Many people—far too few, I’m afraid—are disturbed that the government is tracking their e-mail messages and telephone calls. Even if, as we are being told, NSA isn’t actually reading or listening to our communications, it is collecting information that betrays much about our daily behavior. And this information is being stored, possible forever. (Would that the government had the same policy regarding gun sales. But I digress.)

There is perhaps an opportunity for the United States Postal Service here. USPS can credibly advertise that it neither reads your mail nor keeps tabs on where it comes from or where it goes. This is true for first class mail, at any rate. Perhaps the Postal Service, which needs more business, could run an ad along the lines of this one (click on images for a larger one):

Imagined USPS advertisement

June 10, 2013

Pope Girl Update

The “Pope girl” incident at Carnegie Mellon University reached something of a conclusion today, as indecent exposure misdemeanor charges were dropped against Katherine B. O’Connor, 19, and Robb Godshaw, 22. (See my post, “Letter to the Editor about Pope Girl.”) The two CMU students agreed to accept a penalty of completing 80 hours of community service. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported the story here, but a more insightful story was posted by public radio station WESA-FM on its Web site.

Pope Girl (composite)
Ms. O’Connor in Pope Girl attire
(composite photo)
WESA noted that the Anti-Gravity Downhill Derby, the CMU event that included Ms. O’Connor and Mr. Godshaw in various states of undress, has, for the past three years—as long as the event has been held, apparently—involved art students in various states of nudity. Moreover, according to WESA, “O’Connor’s performance was approved by her advisor prior to the parade.”

As I noted in my earlier post, Ms. O’Connor and Mr. Godshaw only got into trouble because the Roman Catholic Bishop of Pittsburgh, David Zubik, learned about the nude costuming in the CMU event and complained about it. According to the Post-Gazette story about Zubik’s complaint, the bishop was only concerned about Ms. O’Connor, whose costume, the bishop said, was “offensive to me and the church that I represent.”

Essentially, Bishop Zubik bullied the CMU administration into bringing criminal charges against two student not really because of their nudity, but because one of them offended a prince of the Roman Catholic Church, an institution that apparently carries a lot of clout in Pittsburgh.

I have no idea what Mr. Godshaw was trying to say with his performance, but Ms. O’Connor was calling attention to the appalling prevalence of child rape by Roman Catholic clergy, something that Pope Benedict XVI was less that diligent in rooting out. Bishop Zubik, in true Roman Catholic fashion, holds his church in higher regard than Jesus, the Bible, or ordinary human beings. Surely the rape of a few hundred (or a few thousand) children is nothing compared to a 19-year-old girl’s suggesting that the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, is anything less than a perfect steward of Christ’s church.

I’m not sure that Katherine O’Connor’s costume was brilliant, but, as a piece of political theater, it clearly succeeded. She is certainly the heroine of this story. Bishop Zubik, on the other hand, is, as I said, a bully, and someone who completely misunderstands (or has disdain for) the First Amendment. He is the prime villain of this sordid tale. And CMU president Jared Cohon is a pathetic coward who allowed himself to be bullied by the Catholic bishop and was willing to throw two of his own students under the bus to avoid taking a stand in favor of free speech.

Update, 6/11/2013: The Post-Gazette story referred to above has been updated and expanded, making it rather more helpful than was the original version.

June 6, 2013

Let’s Get Real about Same-sex Marriage

Some time ago, I began writing an essay titled “Christianity and Gay Marriage” in which I intended to take on opposition to same-sex marriage by Christians. I began by enumerating the benefits of marriage and intended to argue that marriage could benefit both same-sex couples and society as a whole. As my list lengthened, I began to worry that my essay would do so as well, and I put the project aside to be taken up later.

I was thinking about that essay today, perhaps inspired by the fact that the religious forces in the U.K. seem to have given up on derailing the same-sex marriage bill making its way through Parliament in favor of trying to amend the bill to make it more to their liking. It occurred to me that the question is not really why people should be allowed to marry someone of the same sex but why they should be prevented from doing so.

The basic answer as to why same-sex marriage should be allowed is that there are people who want to marry someone of the same sex. This is not as silly as it might sound. In the past, there was virtually no demand for this right, and the largely unexamined tradition of allowing marriage only between men and women went unchallenged. Once the demand for the right to marry someone of the same sex is made in what claims to be a free society, the question that has to be asked is: why not?

Once consciousnesses has been raised, right-thinking people find it difficult to support the status quo absent strong reasons for doing so. Many examples of this phenomenon could be cited from the civil rights movement or the women’s movement. Let me suggest an example that is not too fraught with emotion.

I once found it natural and acceptable to use masculine pronouns where the sex of the referent is indefinite. (“Everyone picked up his books and left the classroom.”) When feminists objected to this convention as sexist, I had to change my practice in speech and writing. The old convention seemed perfectly serviceable, and I did not mean to offend anyone by employing it. When I discovered that some people did take offense (even if they had been taught to take offense), however, I had to change my practice because the objection was logical and the hurt inflicted by the longstanding convention was real. (Alas, we still haven’t found a good grammatical solution to the problem of lacking a sufficiently diverse set of personal pronouns.)

For most of my life, I never though about allowing people of the same sex to marry, but I cannot not think about it now. And when forced to think about it, there seems little reason two people of the same sex cannot live together, sharing their lives and possessions, providing mutual support, and even raising children. Nonetheless, certain religious people, invariably Christians, it seems, are unmoved by the obvious logic. They have reasons to object to allowing same-sex marriage. I want to consider the arguments most often raised by such folks against extending society’s concept of marriage.

Perhaps the most common argument one hears is that gay marriage will somehow damage conventional marriage. It is difficult to take this argument seriously, as a mechanism for such damage is never identified. How is one’s marriage diminished by allowing another couple of whatever sort to marry? In fact, there is only one substantive and objective disadvantage that would be visited on heterosexual married couples by allowing people of the same sex to marry. That disadvantage is financial. Since there are financial benefits to being married—being able to file joint tax returns, for example—the societal cost of those benefits would be borne by everyone. I suspect that most people who say that same-sex marriage will damage conventional marriage are not thinking of this and, if they are, they are reluctant to say so, as to do so would seem (and would be) selfish and uncharitable. I believe this argument is a smokescreen for some deeper misgivings, most likely for simple homophobia.

Many claim that a mother and a father are necessary to raise children and that, for the sake of children, we should not encourage the formation of same-sex families. I hardly know where to start discussing this argument, as there is so much wrong with it. To begin with, not everyone who marries will rear or even want to rear children. Even if one grants that a mother and father are necessary to rear children, society does not demand that married people do so. Children are being reared successfully, if not ideally, by single parents and even by same-sex couples. Allowing same-sex marriage might at least increase the number of children in two-parent households, which is almost assuredly more desirable than having them grow up in single-parent households. In fact, the insistence on the need for a mother and a father relies on stereotyped gender roles and the idea that it is helpful for children to be exposed to different personality types. However, a couple, whether heterosexual or homosexual, may be composed of people of very similar or very different personalities. Many homosexual couples surely exhibit more psychological and behavioral diversity than do many heterosexual couples. A similar statement could be made about heterosexual couples. Significantly, we do not test potential mates for diversity before allowing them to marry. The argument about children may be more sincere than the damage-to-conventional-marriage argument, but it is no more compelling.

Then there is the complementarianism argument, the notion that men and women are, in some abstract sense, equal, but have different God-given roles. Those roles do not include marrying someone of the same sex, a view for which Genesis 1–2 is usually cited. Taken to its logical conclusion, this argument suggests that a marriage of people of the same sex is intrinsically disordered and, probably, doomed. To the degree that this argument is the result of sincere religious belief, it is difficult to counter. One suspects, however, that, at its heart, this argument is one of certain body parts fitting into certain other body parts. This represents a narrow view of what marriage is all about. (No doubt there would be more happy marriages if marriage was only about having sex and not about supporting one another, reaching compromises, taking out the garbage, and facing life’s difficulties together.) As an empirical matter, as I suggested above, differences between people are not simply determined by sex. Moreover, in modern industrial (or post-industrial) society, most roles are or could be filled by either males or females. (We may never see female Navy SEALs, but this role is an exception.) The notion that each sex has its own God-defined role is no less offensive than the notion that I heard expressed so often in the South when I was growing up, namely that—excuse the language—niggers should know their place. There are many same-sex couples who have lived for decades in happy circumstances, thereby providing ample counterexamples to this argument. To the degree that it is not simply an article of faith, it is bogus.

Another argument that is frequently articulated is that marriage has always been what the church says it is now, and the church is disinclined to change. This, too, is nonsense, but many people who should know better espouse it, whether or not they actually believe it. No less a churchman than the current Archbishop of Canterbury seems to be saying “this is what the Church of England has always said, and we’re sticking with it.” What can one say to that?

For some people, perhaps for many people who offer one of the foregoing arguments, the real issue is either that they believe homosexuality is a sin that should not be tolerated, or they simply have an aversion to the idea of homosexuality, i.e., they are pure homophobes. Such people are not easily dissuaded from their view.

An argument that can be deployed to counter religious opposition to same-sex marriage is that, in a democratic, pluralistic society, laws should not be determined by religious ideas of right and wrong unless those views are very—and I emphasize very—widely accepted. Thus, homicide is outlawed, but working on the Sabbath isn’t. Of course, this argument doesn’t work on those who insist that the United States is and has always been meant to be a “Christian country.” Such people think they want to live in a theocracy, but they might have second thoughts were they actually to find themselves living in one.

All the arguments against allowing same-sex marriage are weak, at best. Perhaps the most compelling answer to them, however, should be informed by the fact that both the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church in the U.K. have concluded that legislation allowing same-sex marriage is inevitable because the populace, including their politicians, seems to be in favor of it. In fact, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press has just today released a report showing that a majority of both proponents and opponents of legal same-sex unions believe that legalization is inevitable. Why don’t we accept the inevitable and move on to discussion of more urgent issues, such as unemployment, our failed banking regulation, or our corrupt system of financing elections?

June 4, 2013

Heavens and Earth, All of Creation (Revised)

In my last post, I indicated that my replacement text for “Earth and All Stars” was probably not in its final form. As a result of personal reflection and helpful feedback from readers, I am now ready to offer a revised (and, I hope, improved) version of “Heavens and Earth, All of Creation.”

I must first say that I continue to be amazed by the intense emotions evoked by “Earth and All Stars,” particularly since the text is light on theology. Many people either love or hate this hymn, and I have heard from members of both group. (I am more perplexed by the devotees, though.)

In my own replacement text, “Heavens and Earth, All of Creation,” I identified several problems. I was happy with neither the third nor the fourth verses:

Flowers and grains, pine woods and oak trees,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
Apples and pears, berries and sweet peas,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too, will praise him singing along!

Shrew, fox, and snake, bird, fish, and rabbit,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
Nest, den, and hole that they inhabit,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too, will praise him singing along!

To begin with, “oak trees”/“sweet peas” is not a perfect rhyme. Moreover, “sweet peas” seems to lack, well, gravity.

I received several objections to verse 4. I was told that my choice of “shrew” was odd, as shrews are not often cited when people are asked to name animals. (Wikipedia, however, does report that there are 385 species of shrew in 26 genera.) The rhyme of “rabbit” and “inhabit” wasn’t too popular, either. I think “rabbit” is the problem here; Bugs Bunny somehow makes it hard to take rabbits seriously. I myself had qualms about the image of a hole singing, which seems no more logical than the “loud sounding wisdom” of the Brokering text.

Although I was particularly fond of the last verse, I was unhappy with the phrase “fathers and moms,” since the nouns exhibit different degrees of formality. Achieving greater parallelism here seemed impossible, however, since there are only four syllables to work with. I decided, however, that “mothers and dads” seems more natural than “fathers and moms,” so I decided to make that substitution.

It took a good deal of experimentation, but I finally wrote replacements for the problematic verses. I also decided that the final line needed another comma. The revised text, then, is the following:

Heavens and Earth, All of Creation

Heavens and earth, all of creation,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
All living things, join the elation,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too, will praise him, singing along!

Valley and hill, river and ocean,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
Pond, lake, and sea, water in motion,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too, will praise him, singing along!

Flowers and trees, cacti and hedges,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
Acres of grain, scrub brush on ledges,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too, will praise him, singing along!

Creatures that swim, fly, crawl, or gallop,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
Fish, bird, and snake, horse, shrimp, and scallop,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too, will praise him, singing along!

Nations and tribes, drawn from all races,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
Cities and towns, differing faces,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too, will praise him, singing along!

Young ones and old, blissful or mourning,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
Mothers and dads, babies aborning,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too, will praise him, singing along!

Unfortunately, the third verse seems to echo “My Favorite Things,” but I do think it an improvement. I like the parallelism in the fourth verse, though not everyone may appreciate the “gallop”/“scallop” rhyme. I also believe that the meaning of the last line is greatly clarified by the final comma.

So, do you think my hymn is ready for prime time?

Update, 6/5/2013: I think the time for second thoughts on this hymn text is past, so I've installed it on my Web site. You can find it here, unchanged from what is shown above. 


Earth from space

June 2, 2013

Heavens and Earth, All of Creation

Three years ago, I wrote a blog post about the hymn “Earth and All Stars.” The post was “New Verses for a Bad Hymn.” (Read that post for some background on the hymn.) I probably should have called my essay “Even Worse Verses for a Bad Hymn,” since I was really making fun of the hymn, not trying to improve it.

We sang the hymn (#412 in The Hymnal 1982) in church today, probably because Psalm 96 was appointed for the Second Sunday after Pentecost. The psalm begins “Sing to the Lord a new song,” a line that occurs twice in each stanza of “Earth and All Stars.” Several members of the choir grumbled about the hymn when we practiced it before today’s service. No one defended the text by Herbert F. Brokering, but several people expressed approval of the tune by David N. Johnson. This made me think that it might be possible to achieve a more felicitous (and not embarrassing) pairing of words and music.

For those not familiar with the hymn or those who need to be reminded of it, here is a nice rendition of “Earth and All Stars.” It includes a seventh verse not in the Episcopal hymnal:


Let me enumerate some of what I dislike about the Brokering text:
  1. Nothing rhymes. Rhymes are not essential to a hymn, but rhyme often enhances a text significantly.
  2. The text is repetitive. One can excuse the repetition of the refrain, but the repetition noted above and the occurrence of “loud” twice in each stanza is a bit much.
  3. The use of “loud” often makes little sense. What is one to make of “loud rushing planets,” for example. Planets moving through the vacuum of space make no noise! Perhaps even less reasonable is “loud sounding wisdom.”
  4. Some references just don’t seem appropriate for a Christian hymn in the 21st century. Most notable in this regards is “O victory, loud shouting army.”
  5. The text seems to be trying too hard to be contemporary. Examples of this are “athlete and band” and “limestone and beams, loud building workers.”
Writing new verses that don’t rhyme is easy. One simply fills in the blanks in this template:

__________,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
__________,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too will praise him with a new song!

I began writing stanzas this way, avoiding “loud” and being guided by the image of all creation praising God. I discovered, however, that without too much effort, I could introduce rhyme into the two blanks in my template. This inspired me to try rhyming lines 1 and 3 systematically. It also occurred to me that I might be able to change the last line to rhyme with the antepenultimate one.

With some effort and with help from a friend, I produced the text below. I don’t know that I want this to be my final effort, but I am not dissatisfied with it. I freely admit that some stanzas are better than others. Perhaps readers can validate my efforts or suggest improvements. In any case, I will boldly assert that “Heavens and Earth, All of Creation” is better than “Earth and All Stars.” See if you don’t agree.

Heavens and Earth, All of Creation

Heavens and earth, all of creation,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
All living things, join the elation,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too, will praise him singing along!

Valley and hill, river and ocean,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
Pond, lake, and sea, water in motion,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too, will praise him singing along!

Flowers and grains, pine woods and oak trees,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
Apples and pears, berries and sweet peas,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too, will praise him singing along!

Shrew, fox, and snake, bird, fish, and rabbit,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
Nest, den, and hole that they inhabit,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too, will praise him singing along!

Nations and tribes, drawn from all races,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
Cities and towns, differing faces,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too, will praise him singing along!

Young ones and old, blissful or mourning,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
Fathers and moms, babies aborning,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too, will praise him singing along!

Update, 6/4/2013: I have now published a revised version of this hymn, which I believe to be much improved. (Well, somewhat improved, anyway.) You can find it here.


Earth from space

June 1, 2013

A St. Andrew’s Singalong

The organist/choirmaster at St. Andrew’s, Highland Park, Peter Luley, put this post on Facebook on Thursday:
It’s officially on: A brief sing tomorrow (Friday) at 8:00. A few hymns and familiar anthems, and a champaign [sic] toast. Come and pop in for five min or a half hour, and then on to your evening. I've labored twenty plus years for this night!
St. Andrew’s is making some major improvements to its physical plant this summer. What Peter has been most excited about has been the removal of the carpet in the church. Aisles are to be covered in quarry tile, and a wood floor will be installed under the pews. On Friday night, both carpeting and pews had been removed. (I neglected to ask where the pews had gone. You can’t simply stuff them in a closet!) Peter wanted to enjoy the changed acoustics of the church.

The photos below show how St. Andrew’s looked last night. Needless to say, services will be held elsewhere for a while.

View from the nave looking east


View from the nave looking west

Peter reports that about 20 people responded to his invitation. (I didn’t take a count myself) Most of them were choir folks from St. Andrew’s, but a few singers came from elsewhere. I may have been the visitor who traveled farthest for the event. As promised, we sang a few hymns and a few Tudor anthems, and we enjoyed wine and champagne. (Well, domestic sparkling wine, anyway.) I apologize for not having taken any good pictures of the singing, but I was too busy singing at the time. Mostly, I was singing familiar music, but I also did my share of sight-reading. It was all great fun.

The acoustics of the room are nice, but they may be even better when the new floor is installed. They will be somewhat diminished when people are present, but that can’t be helped, of course.


Update, 6/2/2013. St. Andrew’s parishioner Bill Ghrist helpfully explained where the parish’s pews have gone. Many are in the parish hall:


Others are in the chapel:


Still others are in the chancel:

Pews in chancel
 
There are some usable rooms at St. Andrew’s, but holding regular Sunday services there is not possible. Worship services are being held at nearby Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

Calvary Church Releases Parish Profile

Calvary Episcopal Church, one of the largest and wealthiest parishes in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, is looking for a new rector, following the retirement of the Rev. Dr. Harold T. Lewis. Calvary has just released its parish profile, which requests names of potential rector candidates by June 30.

Cover of Calvary Church parish profile
Calvary has a long and storied history. It is known to many people, however, for the litigation it initiated against the now deposed Bishop Robert Duncan, an action that was ultimately responsible for the repatriation of a good deal of real and personal property to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh following the schism of 2008 engineered by Duncan and his supporters. The profile acknowledges somewhat obliquely what the former rector often referred to as “the recent unpleasantness,” and it does so without comment as to Calvary’s role in surviving that unpleasantness in better shape than other dioceses that have experienced schism recently.

Harold Lewis will be a hard act to follow, but Pittsburgh’s progressive Episcopalians are hoping that Calvary will find a charismatic, liberal priest who will become a dynamic leader within the parish, the diocese, and the wider church. The parish profile declares, among other things, that “Our next rector will be a collaborative, inspirational leader and an effective administrator of a large, vibrant, progressive, urban parish.” That would represent a happy outcome.

As one might expect of a parish such as Calvary, the parish profile is both informative and attractive. Generally, it appears to be factual. (There is little incentive for a profile to be other than factual.) I do have one reservation, however. On page 4, in a section titled “Our History,” we find this paragraph:
Calvary’s growth was not limited to the bounds of its parish. Calvary was the mother church of a number of missions, which became flourishing parishes in their own right. They include such churches as St. Stephen’s in Wilkinsburg, St. Michael’s of-the-Valley in Ligonier, Fox Chapel Episcopal Church in Fox Chapel, Church of the Ascension in Oakland, and St. Paul’s in Mount Lebanon, among others.
I’m not particularly knowledgeable about Calvary’s history, much less that of younger, smaller parishes in the diocese. I am a parishioner of St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon, however, and my parish celebrated both its 150th and 175th anniversary during my tenure there. The history of our parish, as it has been passed down to us, does not include any help from Calvary, particular since we date our parish from 1836, nearly two decades before Calvary claims it was founded. I find it difficult to imagine how Calvary could be considered the “mother church” of St. Paul’s. But perhaps the Calvary folks know something that the people and clergy of St. Paul’s do not, though I doubt it.

Anyway, Calvary has created a Web site where one can recommend a candidate for its new rector. The site includes a link to the parish profile, which you can also view here.