This is the BEST explanation i've ever found....
This is the BEST explanation i've ever found....
One of the issues facing the bishops and deputies at General Convention next week are two resolutions that seek to change the relationship of baptism and holy communion. One example, Resolution C040 from the Diocese of Eastern Oregon reads:
1 Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, That The Episcopal Church ratify
2 the rubrics and practice of The Book of Common Prayer to invite all, regardless
3 of age, denomination, or baptism to the altar for Holy Communion; and be it
5 Resolved, That Canon 1.17.7: be deleted: Sec. 7 No unbaptized person shall be
6 eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church. and Canon 1.17.8 be
7 renumbered Canon 1.17.7.
This removal of baptism as a prerequisite to communion echoes a practice that is already (non-canonically) widespread in some parts of the Episcopal Church and is common practice in some other denominations. The theology behind it is that in the name of inclusivity, we should extend open table fellowship to all, regardless of baptismal status. Without getting too much into the theology here, I wish to raise an issue that does not seem to be addressed widely, namely the ecumenical implications of such a change.
In 1982, the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches issued the document Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (BEM). Edited by Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant membership, it can be claimed to be the document with the widest ecumenical consensus in the world. In defining baptism, it states,
“Administered in obedience to our Lord, baptism is a sign and seal of our common discipleship. Through baptism, Christians are brought into union with Christ, with each other and with the Church of every time and place. Our common baptism, which unites us to Christ in faith, is thus a basic bond of unity. We are one people and are called to confess and serve one Lord in each place and in all the world. ” (BEM, Baptism, II.D.6)
In defining Eucharist, it states,
“The eucharist is essentially the sacrament of the gift which God makes to us in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Every Christian receives this gift of salvation through communion in the body and blood of Christ. In the eucharistic meal, in the eating and drinking of the bread and wine, Christ grants communion with himself. God himself acts, giving life to the body of Christ and renewing each member. In accordance with Christ’s promise, each baptized member of the body of Christ receives in the eucharist the assurance of the forgiveness of sins (Matt. 26:28) and the pledge of eternal life (John 6:51- 58). ” (BEM, Eucharist, II.2)
BEM assumes that Baptism is the rite of entry into the Christian community, and that Eucharist is a sacrament of the community of Christ, defined as those who have been baptized. BEM is the root document of all ecumenical bi and multi lateral agreements reached over the last several decades. Our current full-communion agreements with the ELCA and Moravian churches, as well as our dialogues with Roman Catholic, Orthodox and other Protestant bodies pre-suppose this relationship between baptism and communion as set out in BEM. The reception of this document has meant that recognition of baptism, as long as it is administered with water in the name of the Trinity, is a reality between most denominations and is rapidly approaching between others.
While many may believe there are good reasons to remove baptism as a pre-requisite for communion, I think it’s important to note that such an action could potentially cause issues in our ecumenical dialogues. Another resolution at General Convention calls on our church to re-open dialogue with the ELCA over some theological issues we are concerned about, such as some hold-outs over presbyterial ordination and lay presidency, both of which are issues that BEM notes are in dispute. Were we to pass the resolution on “Open Table,” we ourselves could be criticized for ignoring a centrally understood and settled principle of BEM.
Therefore, any approach to removal of baptism as a requirement for communion should be considered carefully. It should be recognized that a change in this principle would put us out of step with most of what we recognize as our brother and sister Christians in a more fundamental theological way than even the proposed same-gendered blessings might. It is not simply a change in praxis for the sake of hospitality, it is a fundamental alteration of how we think about the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist.
This is an article that has been published in the June edition of Julian's Window, a publication of the Order of Julian of Norwich.
We are in a new age of connectivity. The technologies that have given us the personal computer and the internet are creating as large a sea change in our society as the Gutenberg press did. While the Protestant and Roman Catholic Reformations formed and were formed by the new technologies of the printing press, whatever the church is heading into at the end of this emergent “Rummage sale” (as Bp. Mark Dyer puts it) is being fundamentally shaped by these new communications technologies that were unthinkable just a few decades ago. One person recently pointed out that if a modern teenager were to be handed one of Captain Kirk’s communicators, they would play with it for a minute and then ask, “Is that ALL it does?”
The amount of communication that is enabled by the new social media technologies is simply astounding. An average person can be in instant communication with anyone else anywhere in the world. Geologists have noted that Twitter is a better early warning system for earthquakes than seismographs. Employment is applied for and found on LinkedIn. We are able to be in touch with old friends we haven’t seen in years on Facebook, and all it takes is a few clicks of a mouse. The profound effects of social media on politics is being shown again and again in Egypt, Syria, and other places. We are all in touch with a burgeoning percentage of the world population.
There are those that decry this revolution in communication as the death of community, but I’ve not experienced it that way. If we want to blame technologies for destroying community we need to start with air conditioning. That invention, which is life-saving for many during summer months, also changed the ways we interacted with each other, moving summer social contact inside and making it much less public. The second negative technological impact to community in the last century was television, which set up a one-way tap of information that kept us isolated in our (air-conditioned) living rooms. While people sitting in front of their computer screens using social media might not be as desirable for society as evening strolls in the 1800s were, it sure beats the growing isolation of recent decades. Whatever we want to say about social media, we need to remember that it is SOCIAL. At its best, it keeps connections alive that might otherwise be dead and enhances rather than replaces community in the real world. Social scientist James Fowler has shown evidence in his studies that those that are more “connected,” either in the real world or in cyberspace, are happier and less prone to depression. My experience with younger people is that they are less glued to their screens than my generation (Gen-X), as they are more apt to use social media on smart phones and tablets while they move from one real-world meetup to another.
But what does such a communications medium mean for people of contemplation? The need to clear our minds of outward distraction during prayer is a part of all contemplative praxis. The “Monkey Mind” is a common foe we all face, and was an issue for thousands of years before the multiplication of distraction that social media offers. In our everyday lives, as we try to be more centered, social media can pull us away from that center if we let it have control. It is not too uncommon these days to see people ultimately distracted - grabbing for their smartphone the instant it beeps or purrs. How should we approach these new communications tools as we strive for balance?
As Members Regular and Affiliates of the Order of Julian of Norwich, we seek to live our lives according to a modified Benedictine rule in the spirit of our patroness. While we spend much time reading and reflecting on the Shewings, it is sometimes helpful to reflect on her manner of life, or at least what we imagine it to be. We often think of Julian as isolated, as the band Bombadil sings in their track “Julian of Norwich”
Julian of Norwich, why did you go away?
Don't you know your family thinks of you every day?
And though your faith is strong it has to be said,
to your own family you may as well be dead.
But we know from historical accounts that this is an incorrect interpretation of her condition. While Julian spent her life as an anchoress in her cell, she was anything but isolated - her window was her interface to the world. She was one of the most sought-after spiritual directors of her age. People came from all over England to speak to her. Julian’s window and Twitter share some aspects - they both give a view onto a different world and they are both limited in their scope. In addition, they both share a feature - one that is obvious in the case of the window but may not be so obvious in the case of social media - they can be closed down.
The perceived problems with social media generally don’t have to do with their reach or their scope - they have to do with their distraction factor. Julian did not keep her window open 24/7. It would have been death to the contemplative life that was the core of her vocation. Just as it was important for her to shut her window, it’s important for us to be able to shut down the distractions that social media can interject into our lives. When I’m praying, my phone goes into “Airplane mode.” Yes, I need to be in contact with people, but is anything really so immediate that I can’t be “off the grid” for half an hour? Does the need to be in constant touch really trump the primary need to be still in the presence of God for a short fraction of the day? Likewise, if I’m in a conversation and my phone chirps, do I really need to answer it just this second, or can I finish the conversation and give due attention to the person in my immediate presence? The message will still be there later. Do I really need to know every time a new email appears, or should I check it on my schedule so I am the one in control rather than the device? No one can serve two masters.
While some decry the social media revolution, I’m a firm believer in its positive aspects. Every new technology has its challenges to society, and this one is no different. We can celebrate the gifts it brings while still being wary about its drawbacks. And when push comes to shove, we can put the phone on silent so we can find silence within ourselves.
The inklings at the gaming table...
There have been several blog posts over the last few days (Good links here) talking about “Representative Democracy” and General Convention, discussing the (IMHO) broken way in which our denomination makes all of it’s decisions by up and down votes. While I am generally in support of a major restructuring of our decision-making bodies, being a henchman of the Crusty Old Dean, I wonder if the problem is not how we are structured, but how we think those structures are supposed to work.
The problem lies in the language of power. While there is undoubtedly power in governance in the Episcopal Church, the trend I see that worries me is the perception of ALL governance as a struggle for power. It’s a full buy-in to Marxist philosophy. Now, don’t get me wrong. I think Marx was a genius, and we have a pro-union bumper sticker on one of our cars which makes me an extreme pinko Marxist to many in Wisconsin right now, but the flaw with his philosophy is that Marx saw EVERYTHING as a power struggle. All things can be seen only in the dialectical struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeois. Most of us would admit that not everything in life is a power struggle, and that much of what’s worthwhile in life is not, but Marx was around in that time when broad sweeping claims were being made for philosophical systems. See Sigmund Freud. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
Much of the rhetoric I read and hear about our church governance seems to buy into this language of power. For instance, sometimes I hear someone whispering (or more likely screeching) that the House of Bishops (HOB) meets six times in between General Convention. Can you believe that? The HOB meets outside of General Convention? It’s all about the dialectic, so they must be sitting around drafting legislation, probably to disenfranchise the laity, which, of course, is every bishop’s secret ambition! What this ignores is that the HOB is not only a legislative body, but functions on two other levels. First of all, its our college of bishops. Bishops don’t see their colleagues locally like clergy and laity do, being geographically dispersed. The most important thing the HOB does in these meetings is form a support group for men and women in a very demanding and isolated position in the church. The second level is as a meeting of executives. Whether or not we like it, bishops function as executives in their dioceses. Bringing them together regularly is no crazier than bringing together governors or mayors or corporate executives. Bishops function at several different levels, and the HOB functions at several different levels with the legislative function being possibly the one least exercised.
The argument then generally continues. If the HOB meets in between General Conventions, then the House of Deputies (HoD) should as well. Why? Um, well, if the HOB meets regularly then so should the HOD? No, but why? What would they do? Why should we pay for that? Well, they could work on things like Same-Sex Blessings…. Oh yeah, you mean craft legislation? That’s the point - the HOD is SOLELY a legislative body. They have no other function.
So, to recap. When the HOB meets, it SOMETIMES is a legislative body. When the HOD meets, it ALWAYS is a legislative body. There’s no reason to have a purely legislative body meet in between General Conventions. That’s what Executive Council and our CCABs are for (whether or not those organizations work or not is a different post.) If you want them to meet more often, have General Convention meet more often. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
But the dialectic doesn’t stop there. As mentioned in passing above, there is a conspiracy in the church. Oh yeah? Yeah! The bishops, and especially the Presiding Bishop (Read Bourgeois), want to seize control and disenfranchise the laity (read Proletariat). The entire idea of restructuring the church is all about putting more power in the hands of the bishops!
I once had a correspondent from the Anglican Church of Canada ask me bemusedly, “Why do you Americans hate your bishops so much?” That’s a good question, and a lot of it has to do with colonial history and American suspicion of authority. But other than the history factor, why are we so suspicious? After all - aren’t a lot of them second-career clergy who spent decades as dedicated lay ministers? And they’re not appointed by the crown - we elect them, right? So why do we see them any different from the elected clergy in the HOD? In fact, don’t they have a GREATER stake in making sure things are done right, considering they are the ones that have to live every day with the decisions of General Convention? If Title IV gets messed up, the average lay deputy is never going to have to deal with it, but it’s going to mess with the bishops every single day.
This screeching about Episcopal power is ridiculous. After all, we are the EPISCOPAL church. If you are uncomfortable with the idea of our freely-elected bishops being a major part of governance, why not go congregational? While there may be some members of the HOB that are authoritarian, my experience with most bishops I have encountered is that they understand and value lay ministry and input. I doubt many of them would support a governance structure that does not give a balanced voice to the laity. While any re-structuring should be carefully inspected for balance, why should we assume the bishops would want to disenfranchise the laity? Why would that be a default position? I often wonder if these loud voices are playing “old tapes,” recorded several decades ago.
In any case, while I certainly am in support of using democratic processes to govern the church, do we have to buy into the neo-marxist philosophy that seems to grip American right now? (Interesting that the right often uses the term “Class Warfare,” which is lifted directly from Marx. By doing so, they implicitly support Marx’s definitions of class.) Even if we use yes or no votes to govern, do we still necessarily have to see everything as a power struggle? Is it not possible that bishops and deputies might be envisioned as a group that works together for the furtherance of Christ’s kingdom, rather than two opposing forces in a dialectic of struggle?