Friday, November 30, 2012

Toward Advent, 2012

For the past several years I've posted this poem by Jude Simpson as an introduction to Advent.  I hope it will be meaningful to you, as it certainly is for me, and as we would wish one another the blessings of healing and peace in this holy season.


Phil Wainwright on the Anglican Episcopate

The Anglican Episcopate, Past Present and Future
A Presentation by the Rev. Dr. Philip Wainwright, Priest Associate
 St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Highland Park, Pittsburgh
Sunday, November 4, 2012

Last time I talked about history at St A's, we looked at the DNA of Anglicanism, particularly in relationship to the culture in which it lives and works; today and next week we’ll be looking at one particular element of that DNA, the episcopate. A few years ago I did a lot of work on the various attempts to reform the episcopate in the Church of England in the second half of the 17th century, and more recently I’ve been looking at the same subject in the 16th and early 17th centuries, which means I’ve done a bit of what’s necessary if the contemporary church is going to think about the episcopate.

We in this diocese have agonised endlessly over our most recent experience of the episcopate, but if we ever want to get beyond that, we need to need to think outside that particular box. We have a new bishop now, and he deserves a diocese that isn’t stuck in a perception of the episcopate that goes back no further than the last fifteen years, and that will take a bit of effort on our part as well as his. As he and we jostle our way to a working relationship we are bound to do a bit of thinking among all the emoting that we will also no doubt do, and it is very clear from the recent General Convention that the wider church is doing some thinking about the subject, so it seems like a good moment to look back over the whole course of the episcopate in the Anglican tradition, on the grounds that those who are ignorant of their history are doomed to relive it.

This week I’ll be talking about the episcopate as it existed in the church before the Episcopal Church was founded; next week I’ll talk about how the first Episcopalians took all that into account when they established an episcopate of their own. Most of you have heard that there was no bishop in America prior to the establishment of the Episcopal Church, and you may have heard that no bishop could be sent here from England during the colonial period, because the colonists didn’t want one. You may even have heard the stories, which are true, about how riots sometimes broke out in some American cities when there seemed like a serious prospect of an American episcopate. I’ve heard people comment on that with amusement, as though it was because those poor colonials were so ignorant that they were bound to react that way. The truth is that they weren’t ignorant at all, they knew only too well what the episcopate was, and if you’d been a native here in those days, you’d have rioted too. So I think our first task is to understand why that was the case, and then next week the story of the arguments caused in the Episcopal Church by the prospect of an episcopate will make a lot more sense.

The word ‘bishop’ is a rather pathetic attempt by people living in England in the dark ages to pronounce the Greek word ‘episcopos’, which is used in several places in the New Testament when referring to people in leadership in the early Christian church. It is a compound of the Greek words for ‘watch’ and ‘over’, and its Latin equivalent is therefore ‘supervisor’ and its English equivalent ‘overseer’. It is clearly a position of responsibility in the church, but the exact nature of that responsibility in the New Testament church has been and remains not only a matter of dispute, but a cause of division in the visible church. Firstly because it’s not the only word the New Testament uses for leadership in the church. The other word the NT uses is ‘presbyter’, which means an older person, an elder. Our word ‘priest’, is actually another pathetic attempt by dark age Englishmen to pronounce a Greek word, presbyter!

In fact the New Testament rarely uses the word bishop and when it does the two words priest and bishop are used interchangeably—they mean the same thing, and you can call either of them by either word. There isn’t time to demonstrate this, but there isn’t a lot of disagreement about it, at least not among historians and New Testament scholars. The point being that in Scripture bishops have no intrinsic authority over presbyters, only that authority that people give to the one they have chosen to preside—an authority that can always be withdrawn as well as conferred.

Today, of course, a bishop is defined as something quite different from a priest, at least in Anglicanism. We have what is called the ‘monarchical episcopate’. A single person who is head over a substantial chunk of the church, who in practice cannot be called to account by those who created him. How the New Testament model developed into the model we have is also something we don’t have time to go into; we inherited them from the mediæval church, and the question for us is how Anglicans have handled that inheritance. So I have to cover over 200 years of history in the next half an hour; my challenge will be not to spend too long on the period I know best!

We begin by turning our minds back to the golden years of Henry VIII. It was during his reign that the work of reforming the church, begun by John Wyclif in the 14th century, ended up once again on the agenda of the Church of England. The reformation in England began with a single principle: the King of England, and not the Pope, would run the Church of England. All the reforms that took place in England during Henry’s time did so because he either wanted them, or didn’t care one way or the other and allowed others to put them in place. The Act of Supremacy of 1534 put the church completely under Henry’s control. The supremacy of a single person over the entire church was not a new or controversial idea; until Henry, this was the Pope’s place in the church. Henry became the Church of England's Pope. What this meant for the episcopate was expressed in a law of 1533, the Appointment of Bishops Act, which gave the king the right to tell Cathedral Chapters whom to elect as bishop, and the Chapters twelve days to elect that person. If they failed to elect the desired person, the Act gave the king the power to appoint the person directly. Before the break with Rome, the Pope appointed all bishops, and their authority was derived from him, even when he was appointing the person desired by the crown.

Once Henry became supreme head of the church, he became the source of episcopal authority. His assumption of the papal rôle was symbolised by his confiscation of the papal bulls confirming the episcopal rôle from those who had already received one from the Pope, and his issuing of pallia, the traditional symbol of delegated papal authority, at least to archbishops. All the bishops were reappointed to their office directly by the king, the way assistant clergy have to be reappointed to their office when a new rector arrives. This wasn’t just for Henry; the Act provided for episcopal appointments to lapse at the death of the king, and his successor could reappoint or not as he desired.

Bishops conducted a ‘visitation’ of their diocese every three years, to make sure all was in order; Henry, as though he were an Archbishop, conducted his own visitation in 1535, or at least sent his own commissioners, who were lay people, to conduct one, and while it was on the bishops were suspended from their office. A bishop could not even preach without his express permission.'

So complete was their junior status that there was even question of whether an ecclesiastical ceremony was necessary for the exercise of the episcopal rôle, with some believing a form of consecration should be continued, others (including Cranmer) arguing that the royal appointment was sufficient. So bishops were for Henry exactly what they had been for the Popes. They were his personal officers, whose only job was to make sure that the church did what Henry wanted and nothing else.

Under Henry, what we think of as the Protestant reformation was a pretty spotty affair in England. When he died people were still using the word ‘mass’, it was still in Latin, most of mediæval theology was still taught and believed, there were crucifixes and rosaries all over the place, and even the bibles Henry had allowed his Protestant archbishop to install in the parish churches had gone missing in many places. It was during the reign of Henry’s son, Edward VI, that the Church of England became a truly Protestant church, with a Prayer Book in English, a reformed theological statement in the Articles of Religion (read them in our current Prayer Book) which put the authority of the Bible higher than the authority of tradition or reason, and everything else we associate with a Protestant church.

The protestant churches in other countries had mostly dispensed with the episcopate. It was kept in England, but under Edward was even further subordinated to the state. The play-acting of an election by the Cathedral chapter was set aside; the royal nod led immediately to consecration. Henry had appointed some enthusiastic Protestants as bishops, but Edward appointed nothing else, and preaching and teaching quickly became their chief work.

Ordination was seen as an administrative rather than a spiritual duty, and confirmation was generally not bothered with, even though a service for it had been provided in the Prayer Book. Edward’s successor, Bloody Mary, need not detain us, since she was only concerned with undoing the changes that had been made, and had an even shorter reign than Edward, and the only lasting difference she made was to bring catholicism into further disrepute by burning so many people, including a few bishops, who remained committed to the Protestant cause.

Mary was followed by Elizabeth. Modern Anglicans like to talk about the Elizabethan settlement, as though something was actually settled, but that hardly does justice to the reality. It’s true to say that by the end of Elizabeth’s reign, the Church of England had achieved its present condition of comprising Anglo-Catholics, Evangelicals, and a group who thought both the other two groups were slightly nuts, but anyone who would describe that as a ‘settlement’ must have been asleep for the past thirty years. We do see, however, in the forty years of the Elizabethan episcopate, pretty much the whole range of views on episcopacy, at least in embryo, that have been in tension with each other ever since.

Elizabeth herself wanted an episcopate just like Daddy’s: state officials who would carry out her wishes. The trouble was that for the longest time she couldn’t find any willing to do that. All but one of the bishops Mary had appointed refused to accept her supremacy, so she had to deprive them. She took her time over this, because she didn’t care much for most of those she would have to appoint as bishops in their place, but after about a year all but one of the bishops were new appointments. This meant that the Protestant evangelical episcopate was first on the Elizabethan scene. These were people who had learned the basics of Protestantism in England during Edward’s reign, but had left the country rather than be burned, and spent the years of Mary’s reign in cities like Zurich and Geneva, where Protestantism had advanced far beyond Luther. There were a few protestants, like her Archbishop of Canterbury, Parker, who had like Elizabeth herself laid low during Mary’s reign, and could be thought of as moderately Protestant, if that’s possible, but only a few; most of her bishops were by necessity drawn from the ranks of those who hadn’t figured out how to be moderately biblical. This meant they had a very different view of the episcopate than Elizabeth did.

The episcopate had not survived in most Protestant countries on the continent, mostly, I suspect, because those countries were a great deal smaller than England. Neither Germany nor Switzerland were nations as we think of them today, but regions where there was no central government at all, and clergy were pretty much free to re-fashion the church however they wanted to. Protestants felt no theological pressure to preserve the episcopate, because in the bible bishops were no different from presbyters, and since presbyters was the word most often used in the Bible it was simpler to just stick to that. There were some Protestants who thought it was important to keep the traditions of the first few centuries of the church as well as those of the Bible, which would include the monarchical episcopate, but if there had ever been such a thing, it had been destroyed by papal catholicism. Papal government had reduced bishops to nothing more than stand-ins for the pope. According to this view, only the pope could really claim to be a bishop in the patristic sense. And even that authenticity was questionable, because he did not hold the apostolic faith. Only those who taught what the apostles taught, and lived as they had lived, could be thought of as successors to the apostles.

Roman bishops on the continent who became Protestants became presbyters, not Protestant bishops, because it was the Protestant view that they had never been bishops in the apostolic sense.

Elizabeth’s first bishops contained a substantial number of Protestants who considered themselves presiding presbyters, and actively sought the advice and consent of their fellow presbyters. They encouraged gatherings of clergy with the bishop through which the diocese was governed by general consent of the clergy rather than by orders from above. They spent more energy protecting their clergy from Elizabeth’s attempts to get them to wear vestments and use the Prayer Book than enforcing those things on Elizabeth’s behalf.

Elizabeth’s first ABC did his best to protect those bishops while also trying to appease Elizabeth, who deeply distrusted the reform-minded clergy because their approach encouraged independence of thought among the lower classes, from whom she wanted only obedience. Her second ABC, Edmund Grindal, did not try to appease her, but bluntly told her she needed to stop interfering with the clergy in their work. That was the wrong thing to say to the supreme governor, especially when she was the daughter of Henry VIII, and she put him under house arrest and began to issue instructions directly to the bishops until he died and she could appoint Whitgift as her ABC, who was happy to change his mind about reform and enforce her orders. For the first 25 years of her reign, the Church of England was a Protestant Evangelical church, differing from the continental churches only in using the word ‘bishop’ for some of its clergy.

But not all bishops were good Protestants. There were some who didn’t really care whether the church was Protestant or Catholic as long as they were well paid and had a seat in the House of Lords. And Elizabeth did not seem bothered by this. As a result, there were proposals to reform the episcopate by law, or by Elizabeth’s decree as supreme governor, from the very beginning of Elizabeth’s reign. One of these was sent to England from Geneva by John Knox, former chaplain to Edward VI, even before he could arrive in person, arguing that each bishopric should be divided into ten smaller ones, with none of their bishops exercising civil office, ie sitting in the House of Lords. Knox, of course, was not allowed back in England, not because of his views on episcopacy but because of his views on women in royal office, and went on to become the great reformer of Scotland, where he had grown up.

His views remained influential in England, however. Another former exile, John Aylmer, argued for reform of episcopal salaries and perks: ‘You Bishoppes, away with your superfluities, yeld vp your thousands, be content with hundreds, as they be in other reformed Churches, where be as great learned men as you are… that euery parishe church may haue his preacher, euery City his superintendent to live honestly and not pompously’. The ‘every city its superintendent’ principle would also lead to more and smaller dioceses.

After returning to England, incidentally, Aylmer became Bishop of London, which seems to have modified his enthusiasm for the hundreds. The new Queen’s secretary, William Cecil, came up with a plan to reform the episcopate by reducing the independent wealth of the dioceses, leaving the bishops dependent on the crown for their income. Convocation recommended limits to the power of bishops to ordain whoever they like: ‘six learned ministers’ must ‘consent’ to and participate in the laying of hands on all to be ordained. Elizabeth vetoed all these recommendations, after which proposals for reform were submitted to Parliament rather than to her. This was more than Elizabeth could stand; while she had, like Henry, wanted Parliament’s support for her Act of Supremacy, once it was passed she saw no further rôle for Parliament. She and she alone ran the church. In the episcopate as in everything else Elizabeth’s policy was ‘to alter nothing which she had once setled’.

Proposals for reform of the episcopate continued to be made, of course, but it would become boring to continue to describe them, because there wasn’t a lot of difference between them. The basic complaints were that bishops had too much power, used too large a share of the church’s resources, did not take the opinions of either laity or the rest of the clergy into account in their decision making, and were not accountable to the people they served.

It was noticed even in Elizabeth’s time, by the way, that ‘the places changed the men’, and that the power of the office provided too many examples of Lord Acton’s famous observation. Their rôle as state officials was for most Anglicans not the problem, although as they continued to resist reform an increasing number of people began to question the concept of a state church, and separatist congregations emerged in some places. But the pressure for reform did have an effect; the majority of bishops continued to be basically sympathetic to, or at least tolerant of the reform idea, and ran their dioceses in ways that gave the clergy the freedom they wanted, and even a share in the government of the church, as long as they weren’t too public about it.

When Elizabeth died and James I became supreme governor of the church, a slew of new proposals was put forth, but with little more success than with Elizabeth. There were a few minor improvements; clergy were allowed to meet in local deaneries for mutual encouragement, but not to discuss any of the business of the church. James had not had a happy experience with the system in Scotland, where bishops did have to govern with the priests, and he rather liked the idea of being able to govern the church directly through people of his own class accountable only to him. Proposals for reform of the episcopate continued to be made sporadically during James’ reign, but none of them got any traction with the king, and as long as the king took his rôle as supreme governor of the church seriously, there was no other way to get reform.

But big changes were on the way. Elizabeth’s attitude towards the episcopate had been based mostly on her needs as governor of the nation; if people, even minor officials like parish priests, were allowed to think for themselves in ecclesiastical matters, before you knew where you were they would want to do the same in the affairs of government, and that idea had no appeal for her. But towards the end of her reign, a group began to emerge, or re-emerge, in the church which had the same view of the episcopate as a higher office than the priesthood, but for theological rather than practical reasons, and during the reign of James they became fairly numerous in the church.

The easiest way to understand them is to describe them as the Anglo-Catholic or High Church movement, although neither of those terms were used until much later. They were against any reform of the episcopate, and in some ways wanted bishops to have even more power. They considered that bishops should have the power they had not because they were representatives of the king but because they were in some way the successors of the apostles. That in itself wouldn’t have been much of a problem, but many of them also believed that this was an article of faith, like Christ’s divinity or salvation by faith alone. In other words, those who didn’t share their view of the episcopate were not just people who saw things differently, but people who weren’t true Christians. The Evangelicals under Elizabeth were told they must put up with the various things that they objected to because the Supreme Governor said so, and most of them were able to live with that, because she wouldn’t be Supreme Governor for ever, and might even change her mind if you could just give her a good reason. That’s very different from being told that you must not just put up with these things, but embrace them, because they weren’t just the wishes of the powers that be, but the will of God, and that if your wishes were different, you were doing the devil’s work.

James liked this development up to a point, but was smart enough not to take sides. He kept the two parties balanced by appointing roughly equal numbers of evangelical and High Church bishops, but when he died in 1625 and his son became Charles I, things began to go pear-shaped pretty rapidly. Charles I was an enthusiastic fan of the High Church party, and took sides with a vengeance; almost all his episcopal appointments were from that party. Worse still, he appointed an ABC who could only be described as filled with hatred for Evangelicals, and who began systematically to try and convert them or at least shut them up by force, even reviving mediæval punishments which were still legal like clipping people’s ears. Worst of all was the fact that Charles believed in absolute monarchy, that kings governed by decree rather than law. When Parliament refused to go along with him, he governed without it, and the people lost what little voice in government which they had had.

This drove some out of the church and to new life in America, and many more into a deep resentment against the bishops, believing, with some justification, that the bishops were supporting and encouraging the king in his arbitrary government. Elizabeth had been right: once people believed they had a right to a say in the government of the church, they soon concluded that they had a right to a say in the government of the state as well. The reformation is without doubt the origin of modern democracy. Those who didn’t leave for America eventually went into open rebellion against the ABC and the king, with Parliament as their champion. Now not every bishop, even under Charles, was a High Churchman, but the episcopate as a whole was blamed for the trouble Charles caused. When Charles had the Prayer Book revised in a High Church direction, he decided to try it out in Scotland first, and people there hated it so much they burned every copy they could get their hands on. Charles sent an army to Scotland to force them to use it, the Scots took up arms to prevent that, and the resulting war was immediately given the name by which it is still known, the Bishops’ War.

Before long there was war in England too, and the upshot was that the king was beheaded, the ABC was beheaded, and Parliament voted both monarchy and episcopate out of existence. For about twenty years England was a republic and the Church of England had no bishops.

Both monarchy and episcopate were restored, still unreformed, in 1660, and in 1662 we got a Prayer Book that for the first time made episcopal ordination a denominational issue; prior to this people ordained in the English church were ordained by bishops, but those ordained in other churches in other ways who transferred to the Church of England were accepted as they were; after 1662 they had to be re-ordained, or, as the High Church types would put it, ordained. The 1662 Act of Uniformity even forbade people to speak or write publicly about reform of the episcopate.

The two sons of the beheaded Charles took different approaches to church matters; Charles II began by appointing bishops who would exercise their episcopate moderately, but during the second half of his reign began to favor the High Church types, so about half of the restored episcopate had learned the lesson that it was better to give people a voice in the church, while the other half continued to uphold an absolutist episcopate, and an absolutist monarchy. Charles resisted the temptation; James, his brother, who became king in 1685, did not, and within three years of becoming king aroused so much opposition there was what is still called the Glorious Revolution, in which not a drop of blood was shed because when the people rose up and invited a new king to take over, and the new king arrived with an army of 50,000, James ran away instead of rallying his supporters. From that point on, the monarchy began to be reformed, until we have the limited, constitutional monarchy that England enjoys today. The absolutist bishops refused to accept the new king and were deprived, becoming what was called the non-juror movement, which left the episcopate open to the appointment of the mix of moderates and reformers which characterised the constitutional monarchy’s governorship of the church for quite some time.

We don’t have to take the history of the Church of England any further; by this time tens if not hundreds of thousands of its members had gone to America, and taken their memories of the episcopate with them, hence the continued opposition to any American episcopate right up to the American revolution. And hence the extremely delicate situation in which people who wanted to keep some sort of Anglican church alive after 1776!

Phil Wainwright on the Anglican Episcopate, II

The Anglican Episcopate, Past Present and Future, Part Two
A Presentation by the Rev. Dr. Philip Wainwright, Priest Associate
 St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Highland Park, Pittsburgh
Sunday, November 11, 2012

Last week I described the emergence of three approaches to the episcopate:

the Erastian (I didn’t use the word last week, but hopefully the concept was clear), which sees the bishop as one of the earthly powers, a royal official in the case of the Church of England; the evangelical, which sees the bishop as a presiding presbyter with only such authority over others as those others give him and only for as long as he exercises it to their satisfaction; and the Anglo-Catholic, which sees the bishop as a totally different sort of minister than a presbyter, someone who has the same power the apostles had to impart the Holy Spirit and so on. Anglo-Catholics believed that episcopacy was essential to being Christian, that those who denied this kind of episcopal authority were disobeying God. I should point out that there are, of course, people who believe that the Evangelical approach is essential to being a Christian, but most of those left the church once the Act of Toleration was passed in 1689. Those who stayed, the Anglican Evangelicals, thought their view was closer to the Bible’s teaching, but did not dismiss other views (even the Erastian) as un-Christian.

Anyway, all three of these approaches to the episcopate were available when the Anglicans in the colonies became Anglicans in the United States and reorganised their church. (The word ‘Anglican’ was not used at that time, of course; it was known, but its use was extremely rare.) The Erastian view can be dismissed fairly quickly because for the bishop to be a state official, the state has to want him to be, and the people trying to revive the Anglican Church after the revolution believed that the new nation didn’t want to go there. The Evangelical approach was urged on the church by William White, the Rector of Christ Church Philadelphia who had been chaplain to the Continental Congress. He wrote a pamphlet in 1782, The Case of the Episcopal Churches in the United States Considered, in which he discussed all the issues involved in keeping an Anglican Church going here, and for most of the surviving Anglicans, his pamphlet was the starting point for the discussion.

At the time he wrote, the surviving parishes in Maryland had already begun to organise themselves into the Protestant Episcopal Church in Maryland, but they were proceeding as though what they were doing was of no interest to anyone else. This was a very reasonable thing to do; the various colonial churches were as independent of each other as the colonies themselves, and it did not immediately occur to everyone that their churches wouldn’t continue that way. White referred to ‘the Episcopal Churches’, plural, in his title and throughout his pamphlet. But he saw an opportunity for a single church, a national church for the new nation, and one of the goals of his pamphlet was to suggest a national as well as a state-by-state character for American Anglicans.

His opening sentence said ‘It may be presumed, that the members of the Episcopal Churches… entertain a preference for their own communion; and that accordingly they are not a little anxious, to see some speedy and decisive measures adopted for its continuance’. He defines ‘episcopal churches’ as ‘the churches professing the religious principles of the Church of England.’
Strictly speaking, the word ‘episcopal’ means ‘having bishops’. White uses it for the whole range of things that are distinctive of the Church of England, forgetting that between 1640 and 1660 episcopacy was not one of those distinctives, but White’s not the only one to have ignored that.

But back to the ‘national’ part of White’s concern. Anglicans up to this point had been happy to be under the authority of the Bishop of London, even though he was the king’s officer, because he didn’t do more than ordain and license ministers; but the new nation does not want such officers. Nor should the state governments who ran the church do so even in the places where they did it before the revolution; ‘it would ill become those bodies, composed of men of various denominations (however respectable collectively and as individuals) to enact laws for the Episcopal Churches, which will no doubt… claim and exercise the privilege of governing themselves.’ So national won’t mean ‘established by law’, but it will mean a single church for the whole nation.

It will also be a national church in the other sense crucial to the identity of the Church of England, which began when Henry declared that no foreigner, even the Pope, was going to run the English Church. In the same way, the American Church will be completely independent. ‘A church government that would contain the constituent principles of the Church of England, and yet be independent of foreign jurisdiction or influence, would remove [the] anxiety which at present hangs heavy on the minds of many sincere persons.’
‘Subjection to any spiritual jurisdiction connected with the temporal authority of a foreign state,’ he wrote, would be ‘inconsistent with the duties resulting from [their new] allegiance.’

Even if the Bishop of London were willing and able to continue running the American church, ‘a dependence on his lordship and his successors… would be liable to the reproach of foreign influence, and render Episcopalians less qualified than those of other communions, to be entrusted by their country.’ We must consider our selves a national church and govern ourselves. ‘Though the Episcopal Churches in these states will not be national or legal establishments, the… principle applies, being the danger of foreign jurisdiction.’

He then deals with the question of whether the new church will need bishops.

He doesn’t actually say they’ll be necessary, but he does say that people will want them. ‘They have depended on the English bishops for ordination of their clergy, and on no occasion expressed a dissatisfaction with Episcopacy. This, considering the liberty they enjoyed… of forming their churches on whatever plan they liked best, is a presumptive proof of their preferring the Episcopal government.’ But, he adds, ‘On the other hand, there cannot be produced an instance of laymen in America… soliciting the introduction of a bishop; it was probably by a great majority of them thought an hazardous experiment.’

Food for thought there. Nevertheless, he says, ‘it may fairly be inferred, that the Episcopalians on this continent will wish to institute among themselves an Episcopal government.’ Indeed, ‘to depart from Episcopacy, would be giving up a leading characteristic of the communion; which, however indifferently considered as to divine appointment, might be productive of all the evils generally attending changes of this sort.’ In other words, bishops may not be necessary, but it makes sense to continue what we’re used to. However, we’ll see that not everyone agreed with White about that.

He acknowledged the relationship between episcopacy and tyranny that we saw so clearly last week: ‘In the minds of some, the idea of Episcopacy will be connected with that of immoderate power; to which it may be answered, that power becomes dangerous, not from the precedency of one man, but from his being independent.' So if our bishops aren’t allowed to be independent of the rest of the church, the ‘hazardous experiment’ is worth trying.

One of the simplest ways of preventing bishops being too independent is to keep the area over which the bishop has authority small; we saw last week how often English churchmen tried and failed to reduce the size of their dioceses. White proposed that ‘the duty assigned to that order [the episcopate] ought not materially to interfere with their employments, in the station of parochial clergy; the superintendence of each will therefore be confined to a small district.’ Bishops with small dioceses, he said, was ‘a favorite idea with all moderate Episcopalians.’ But not only will his diocese be small; the bishop will have a parish of his own—another key element in the attempts to reform the English episcopate in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Another well known reform would be introduced: bishops would be elected:
‘The power of electing a superior order of ministers ought to be in the clergy and laity together, they being both interested in the choice.’ In the early church, all the people of the diocese gathered to elect the bishop, which ‘occasioned great disorders’; so White proposed that representatives of the laity and clergy, rather than all of them, choose the bishop. Some of the most radical English reformers had proposed that the bishop be elected by the clergy, but I know of only one person, prior to White, who had proposed this for the Church of England.

He then proposed a system of government for the church that reproduced the essentials of the English system, but in a way that fit the new situation.
In England lay participation was provided for by Parliament (although Parliament had no role at all in the appointment of bishops), but that wouldn’t work here. So the the lay representatives and clerical representatives will meet in one body. He’s aware that the clergy might not like this, but comments that they ‘will no doubt have an influence proportioned to the opinion entertained of their piety and learning; but will never (it is presumed) wish to usurp an exclusive right of regulation.’

Ha! And the body that elects bishops, should also be the body that deprives them of their office. ‘It is well known, that the interference of the civil authority in such instances … has been considered by many as inconsistent with ecclesiastical principles; an objection which will be avoided, when deprivation can only be under regulations enacted by a fair representation of the churches, and by an authority entirely ecclesiastical. It is presumed, that none will so far mistake the principles of the church of England, as to talk of the impossibility of depriving a bishop.’ Ha, again!

White thought it would take some time to organise all this, and acknowledged that we might have to do without the episcopate for a while, but pointed out that even this is justified by the principles of the Church of England. ‘It will not be difficult to prove, that a temporary departure from Episcopacy in the present instance would be warranted by [the C of E’s] doctrines, by her practice, and by the principles on which Episcopal government is asserted.’ I don’t think we have time to discuss the evidence for that, but I’d be glad to pass it on to anyone interested. So, to sum up White’s proposal: a church government composed of laity and clergy, including elected Bishops with small dioceses, held accountable to those dioceses, who would be parish pastors, and consecrated not by other Bishops, since there weren’t any in the new country, but by the clergy.

White represents the Low Church reformed evangelical episcopate, but the High Church unreformed absolutist episcopate did have American Anglican supporters. The High Church end of the spectrum, oddly enough, had its headquarters in Connecticut, where such ideas had been planted by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, which had for a couple of generations sent out clergy to the colonies, mostly to New England. High Church ideas had taken deep root there, and the Connecticut clergy condemned the whole idea of lay participation in church government, and frothed at the mouth at the idea of Bishops consecrated by priests: ‘such Episcopalians as consent even to a temporary departure [from the tradition], and set aside this ordinance of Christ for conveniency, can scarcely deserve the name of Christians’, said one—the tendency to make this view of the episcopate a matter of faith, necessary for salvation, was alive and well in America then, as it is today.

When the Connecticut clergy read White’s pamphlet, they immediately elected one of their number, Samuel Seabury, and sent him to England to get himself consecrated by bishops there before these radical ideas of White’s could take hold, hoping to establish an absolutist episcopate as a fait accompli. Such clergy, were, as you would expect, fans of the monarchy, and most of them were loyal to the king during the Revolution. Seabury himself was not only a supporter of the British, but served as chaplain to one of the British regiments, and after the war was over was given a lifetime pension by the British government.

Unfortunately for the fait accompli strategy, it took Seabury over a year to get consecrated, because the oath of allegiance to the king was required of all English clergy. He ended up being consecrated in Scotland by the descendants of the non-jurors I mentioned last week. Being a High Churchman, he returned to Connecticut with a mitre so he could look the part. It did not meet with universal approval back in New England: one observer wrote that ‘he appears in a black satin gown; white satin sleeves, white belly band, with a scarlet knapsack on his back, and something resembling a pyramid on his head.’

By the time Seabury got back White’s plan had won a lot of support. Only the New England states had not joined in, and the first General Convention was to be held in a few months. Seabury refused to attend it, saying ‘It will bring the Clergy into abject bondage to the Laity… a bishop, it seems, is to have no more power in the Convention than a Lay member. Doctrine, Disciplines, Liturgies, are all to be under lay control… I have always feared… the lax principles of the Southern Clergy,’ by which he meant everything south of New England, apparently. The Massachusetts church shared these views, and decided to join Seabury’s church rather than the church being formed by the General Convention. Seabury was already ordaining clergy, not just for Connecticut but for ministry anywhere in the country.

He was also making them take vows of obedience to him. He had also prepared his own Communion Service without consulting the rest of the church, as the Scottish bishops had asked him to—the very service that had started riots in Scotland, by the way. His clergy even elected a second bishop to seek consecration from the non-jurors. For a year or so there was a real possibility of two Anglican churches in America, one Anglo-Catholic and one at least moderately Evangelical.

The first General Convention, more or less along the lines proposed in White’s pamphlet, was held in September 1785. Seabury had been consecrated in 1784 and had already had his first Convocation, a purely clerical governing body, in August 1785, and was making his dissatisfaction with White’s approach widely known. No one from Connecticut or Massachusetts attended the first General Convention because it wouldn’t be called and presided over by a bishop. White was elected president, and committees were formed to draw up a constitution, a new Prayer Book, and discuss how best to obtain an episcopate, since Seabury’s version of it was not what they wanted. Each state represented was urged to elect a bishop while discussions with the English bishops were going on. White did manage to prevent the convention passing resolutions critical of Seabury and his association with the non-jurors, in the hope that some sort of accommodation could be worked out eventually. Another convention was planned for June 1786 to hear what progress had been made in all three areas.

The June 1786 Convention had no news on the episcopate, but passed resolutions preventing any of Seabury’s clergy serving in any of the dioceses represented. Since a reply from England was expected soon, the convention adjourned till October. By October, Parliament had cleared the way for consecrations to take place without the oath of allegiance in such cases, and the English bishops were willing to ordain three and only three bishops—provided that they did not join with Seabury in consecrating more.

The English bishops wanted nothing to do with the non-jurors. Three state conventions had elected bishops by this time, but Convention only approved two of them—the one elected by Maryland had been drunk during the previous convention and was not approved. The other two sailed for England with testimonials from the convention and were consecrated. On their return, Seabury offered to discuss with them (and them alone) the possibility of a church that included all of them. In the discussions that followed White agreed to allow GC to consider a separate house for bishops, and the 1789 convention approved that, and also affirmed that Seabury’s consecration was valid. Following these actions, Seabury and the New England delegations joined the convention, with White and Seabury meeting by themselves as the House of Bishops! Seabury also got the veto power that he was so keen on.

Two years later, Virginia elected Madison and sent him to England, where he was consecrated as the last of the three bishops promised. By 1792 Maryland had elected another bishop, and all four American bishops joined in consecrating him.

If you look at those dates, you can see that many dioceses were in no hurry about this; ten years since White’s pamphlet, seven years since the first General Convention, and still only five states had decided to adopt the episcopate. There was no requirement for them to do so; as long as each state was represented at Convention by someone, it didn’t matter whether it was lay or clergy (Connecticut refused to send lay delegates), and if clergy whether it was priest or bishop.

This reluctance to accept an episcopate at all could be seen in many quarters of the Episcopal Church. One of the reasons there had not been more vigorous attempts to send a bishop in colonial times was because so many members even of Anglican Churches in the colonies showed no enthusiasm for the idea. The election of Griffith as Bishop of Virginia, for instance, was a highly controversial thing. Griffith himself was a former SPG missionary from New York, and without his own enthusiasm for the episcopate, it’s arguable that Virginia would not have elected a Bishop at all. ‘I profess myself a sincere son of the Established church,’ wrote Colonel Richard Bland, a leading Virginia layman, ‘but I can embrace her doctrines without approving of her Hierarchy, which I know to be a Relick of the Papal Incroachments upon the Common Law.’ Hear, hear.

But because Maryland, Pennyslvania and New York had elected Bishops, the possibility was raised that Virginia should do the same. A committee was asked to consider the matter and report back the following year. The Virginia convention also enacted the first diocesan canons, and Seabury called it an unheard of thing that any church should dare to enact canon law without a Bishop’s involvement. It’s actually an unheard of thing for a diocese to enact canons at all; as far as I know, PECUSA is the only church in the Anglican Communion in which dioceses have a constitution and canons of their own. Anyway, the Committee recommended the election of a Bishop, despite the opposition of some on the committee, and Griffith was chosen. Griffith could not sail for England to be consecrated, however, because not enough people in the Diocese would contribute to the expenses for the trip.

After White and Provoost returned from England as Bishops, they were asked to consecrate Griffith, ignoring the tradition that three Bishops at least are required to consecrate a fourth. But White and Provoost had promised to wait until there were three of English consecration before consecrating more. Griffith was so discouraged that he declared himself ready to decline to be consecrated, except that there was no one else electable who would oppose the Evangelical element in the church. Which shows you what he thought of Madison, the other possibility for bishop! Eventually Griffith did decline, being convinced that his diocese would never co-operate in his consecration. No replacement was suggested until after he died, which took place within a year, when Madison, a man much more congenial to Anglicans of reformist leanings, was elected, and his expenses were paid and he became the third Bishop consecrated in England. If Virginia was reluctant to have a bishop, South Carolina was more so: she made it a condition of joining the new church that she would not have to have a Bishop, and although she did eventually elect one some years later, after he died she went without one for another eleven years.

The duties of the first bishops of the Episcopal Church were to confirm and to ordain, which as already mentioned required the consent of two presbyters according to the constitution. General Convention had also enacted a canon that required the consent of a standing committee before a bishop could ordain anyone—note ‘a’ not ‘the’. The first standing committees seem to have been appointed by the bishop rather than elected by the diocese, and also seem to have been composed only of clergy, since their original rôle was exclusively concerned with clergy. They recommended candidates for ordination; the bishop did not have to ordain those recommended, although this was proposed in some quarters, but could not ordain any without that recommendation. So despite the contrary opinion of White and Dykman, I think they were the American equivalent of the cathedral chapter, whose members performed the same rôle in England. Since the American church had no plans for cathedrals or chapters, the standing committees really were the presbytery that so many attempts at reform in England had proposed. This possibility is supported by the fact that the standing committee did not depend on the bishop’s authority, even though they appear to have been appointed by him; they chose their own officers, set their own rules, could meet whether he wanted them to or not, and they could and did advise him whether he wanted advice or not. The right to do these things had been often requested by presbyters in England during the 17th and 18th centuries.

The bishop was also expected to visit and inspect the parishes and clergy, and keep a record of his ‘proceedings’ in doing so. The bishop was paid by the parish he served as rector, and the expenses of his visitation of other parishes was paid by the parishes visited. It was the duty of the other clergy to cover the bishop’s absences from his own parish when they were for the purpose of visitation. This system appears to have persisted for a while; provision for supplying the bishop’s own parish when he was off bishopping was kept when the canons were revised in 1832, modified slightly in 1850, but not finally dropped until 1904.

I’ve been unable to discover who was the first bishop not to have a parish of his own. It's easy to see how having the bishop lose any parish role separated him from the rest of the people of the diocese. It gave the him a whole new task, merely out of job-preservation: his interest now would be as much in an independent diocesan establishment that could give him a living, as in the clergy and parishes of the diocese. And what a huge amount of a bishop’s work is still devoted to that in one sense or other. How much better it would have been to have coped with the growth of the church by subdividing the diocese and keeping the original arrangement than turning the bishop into a minister without cure who needed an alternative source of income.

The question of removing a bishop from office is very complicated, and I can't speak with authority here, but the evidence in White and Dykman seems to suggest that there was no canonical procedure for disciplining a bishop till 1841, when it was his fellow bishops who would hear any charge and impose any punishment. The charge would have to be made by the convention of the diocese he served, two thirds majority in each order, or any three bishops. Prior to this all discipline seems to have been local, and exercised by the standing committee. I’ve found no record of a bishop being disciplined, but if it were to have happened, there was no mechanism apart from the standing committee by which it could be done. Perhaps the ease with which it could be done under that system is why it was never necessary; bishops simply did not act in the high-handed ways that have become a feature of the Episcopal Church's history since.

The change of system seems to have been brought about by the fact that for the first time there was a bishop who needed to be disciplined, although not because of complaints in his diocese, but because the other bishops didn’t like his theology. They changed the canons for the sole purpose of removing him. Unfortunately, at the same time, it seems, they removed the possibility that a Standing Committee could remove a bishop. One commentator says this was an application of the principle that everyone has a right to be tried by his peers, which is not only insulting to presbyters and laity, suggesting that we’re not the peers of someone who owes his job to our choice, but is also incoherent: imagine saying a plumber must have a jury only of plumbers.

There has always been a list of offences for which bishops and priests can be tried, but since 1804 priests can also be removed even if they have done nothing that can be called an offence, but are simply no longer effective or useful--referred to in the canons as the pastoral relationship breaking down. There has never been an equivalent for bishops—until this year. A canon was passed by this year’s GC allowing a diocese to remove a bishop because the pastoral relationship between bishop and diocese has broken down, just as in a parish.

The possibility that the bishop might not have the support of the diocese has now been recognised, and provision made for doing something about that, although since the bishops still have Seabury's veto, the canon has considerably more protection than a priest has in the same situation. First, the PB is to try and resolve the situation; if that fails, a committee of one lay person, one priest and one bishop not in the affected diocese (bishop appointed by the PB and the others by chair of HOD) examines the matter and holds hearings; if they recommend that the bishop go, a two thirds majority of the house of bishops has to agree. Perhaps one day two thirds of the presbyters of a diocese will need to consent to the ejection of a priest! but any accountability for a bishop is a tiny step in the right direction—and since it's the most recent development in this history, it's also a good place to stop, and give you the opportunity to ask questions or make comments.

Andrew, Apostle

Patron of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, 
Highland Park, Pittsburgh

(Greek: Ανδρέας, Andreas), called in the Orthodox tradition Protocletos, or the First-called, is a Christian Apostle and the elder brother of Saint Peter. 

The name "Andrew" (from Greek : ανδρεία, manhood, or valour), like other Greek names, appears to have been common among the Jews from the second or third century B.C. No Hebrew or Aramaic name is recorded for him.

The Bible records that St Andrew was a son of Jonah, or John, (Matthew 16:17; John 1:42). He was born in Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee (John 1:44). Both he and his brother Peter were fishermen by trade, hence the tradition that Jesus called them to be his disciples by saying that He will make them "fishers of men" (Greek: ἁλιείς ἀνθρώπων, halieis anthropon). At the beginning of Jesus' public life they occupied the same house at Capernaum (Mark 1:21, 29).

From the Gospel of John we learn that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist, whose testimony first led him and John the Evangelist to follow Jesus (John 1:35-40). Andrew at once recognized Jesus as the Messiah, and hastened to introduce Him to his brother(John 1:41). Thenceforth the two brothers were disciples of Christ. On a subsequent occasion, prior to the final call to the apostolate, they were called to a closer companionship, and then they left all things to follow Jesus (Luke 5:11; Matthew 4:19-20; Mark 1:17-18).

ALMIGHTY God, who didst give such grace unto thy holy Apostle Saint Andrew, that he readily obeyed the calling of thy Son Jesus Christ, and followed him without delay; Grant unto us all, that we, being called by thy holy Word, may forthwith give up ourselves obediently to fulfill thy holy commandments; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

When the Apostles went forth to preach to the Nations, Andrew seems to have taken an important part, but unfortunately we have no certainty as to the extent or place of his labours. Eusebius (Church History III.1), relying, apparently, upon Origen, assigns Scythia as his mission field: Andras de [eilechenten Skythian; while St. Gregory of Nazianzus (Oration 33) mentions Epirus; St. Jerome (Ep. ad Marcell.) Achaia; and Theodoret (on Ps. cxvi) Hellas. Probably these various accounts are correct, for Nicephorus (H.E. II:39), relying upon early writers, states that Andrew preached in Cappadocia, Galatia, and Bithynia, then in the land of the anthropophagi and the Scythian deserts, afterwards in Byzantium itself, where he appointed St. Stachys as its first bishop, and finally in Thrace, Macedonia, Thessaly, and Achaia. It is generally agreed that he was crucified by order of the Roman Governor, Aegeas or Aegeates, at Patrae in Achaia, and that he was bound, not nailed, to the cross, in order to prolong his sufferings. The cross on which he suffered is commonly held to have been the decussate cross, now known as St. Andrew's, though the evidence for this view seems to be no older than the fourteenth century. His martyrdom took place during the reign of Nero, on 30 November, A.D. 60); and both the Latin and Greek Churches keep 30 November as his feast.

El Greco, St. Andrew, 1606

St. Andrew's relics were translated from Patrae to Constantinople, and deposited in the church of the Apostles there, about A.D. 357. When Constantinople was taken by the French, in the beginning of the thirteenth century, Cardinal Peter of Capua brought the relics to Italy and placed them in the cathedral of Amalfi, where most of them still remain. St. Andrew is honoured as their chief patron by Russia and Scotland.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"Stir Up" Sunday

 Last after Pentecost: Christ the King
Baptism of Phillipa Sproles Marmorstein

Good morning, and grace and peace.  This morning the last Sunday of the Church Year, and in our 1979 Episcopal Church Prayer Book collect and lectionary readings we observe what is popularly known as the Feast of Christ the King, which is a new observance as these things go,  first introduced in the Roman Catholic calendar of the Church Year in 1925, and which has gradually been adopted formally or informally by some other branches of the Christian family.  Officially on our 1979 calendar this is simply the "Last Sunday after Pentecost, but the Altar Guild calendar indicates white or gold, which would suggest a major feast.

On the traditional calendar in most of the Anglican world the day is more as a prelude to the new rather than a conclusion of the old year--officially called the Twenty-fifth Sunday after Trinity, and the Sunday next before Advent,  and by custom with the wonderful popular name, Stir Up Sunday, taken from the Collect appointed for the day in Prayer Books from 1549 on, and still in most parts of the Anglican world, Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  A prayer that God will move in us with what we would call his “prevenient grace,” to give us ears to hear and hearts to love and hands to serve as we would take our place among the followers and friends and servants of Jesus.  Before we call, he answers.  Before we turn to him, he opens his arms to us.

The Epistle appointed in the old Prayer Books for “Stir Up Sunday” very much an anticipation of Advent and Christmas and the new year just ahead, and I think also worth recalling even as we have “Christ the King” today—from Jeremiah 23, with royal language indeed: “Behold, the day shall come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” 

“Come, thou long-expected Jesus,” indeed, as we can hear it echoing out in the distance of the new year, next Sunday, Advent Sunday. “Come, thou long-expected Jesus, born to set thy people free.”    And so the Old Testament appointed for this Christ the King morning in our new lectionary, the vision of Daniel, in the seventh chapter, “and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.  And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”

“Hark! The glad sound! The Savior comes, the Savior promised long; let every heart prepare a throne, and every voice a song.”

Quite a day for a baptism, Pippa!  In case there was any wondering what this is all about—a prayer, a splash of water, a touch of holy oil on your forehead. 

"The King shall come when morning dawns, and light triumphant breaks; when beauty gilds the eastern hills, and life to joy awakes."

A transformation and a renewal of your life as a citizen of this world, as you bow your head now and become subject to a new Sovereign.  Born in that quiet midnight in the Bethlehem Stable, just a baby cradled in Mary’s arms, and small enough to rest in the Manger.  But we aren't to be misled by the fact that this is all happening out on the margin of the world.  So silently, so silently, the wondrous gift is given.   For unto us a child is born, to us a son his given; and government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for ever.

Quite a day for a baptism—for you, Pippa, and for all of us, as we share this today with you and as we are renewed in our baptismal life all of us, each of us individually and the whole church together.  The Sunday next before Advent.  Christ the King! 

When you had your accident last year, Pippa, you became in a very special and tender way a part of our prayer life here at St. Andrew’s, as with your mom and your sister our hearts and our minds lifted you up to our Father in Heaven with prayers for your healing and recovery.  And so this is very special and joyful for us today.

Standing at the font with you at this turning of the year, dying in reference to the old life of sin and death and rising with Jesus to the new life of his Kingdom—which is now and will be forever.

He was born in Bethlehem to bless you, Pippa.  For your healing and renewal.  To be your forgiveness, with mercy and love, and to lift you up to a new life in his grace and his peace.  In this water of the baptismal font, it is all Advent and Christmas, and a New Year.  A New Year begins!  He loves you, and he has great things in mind for you—as he has great things in mind for each of us and for all of us this morning as we stand here with you before his Throne, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving, 2012

November 21, 2012  The Eve of Thanksgiving Day  
I Timothy 2: 1-7; Matthew 6: 25-33

Good evening and a word of welcome as we gather for worship at the beginning of the Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend. 

It is something of a complicated holiday.  There is of course the very ancient tradition of a time each Fall to celebrate the end of the harvest, with themes of gratitude for those who labor in the harvest and for the abundance of God’s provision for his people, and with related themes of the good stewardship of the earth and of all the good gifts we receive and enjoy—and of course with  prayers of care for those whose harvest has not been abundant, and whose lives are marked by special need.

This the pattern behind the story of the Pilgrims.  A story with a bit of special resonance in our family because of Susy’s ancestor Peter Brown, one of those who arrived on the Mayflower and who would have been at the table on what we call “the First Thanksgiving.” 

I like to tell the story as well of a time when I was in seminary and when one of my seminarian colleagues was doing his field education in a parish in downtown Oakland, California, that was in those years of the early 1980’s involved with the resettlement of Cambodian Hmong refugees.  They had an after-school program in the church, and one day in mid-November I went down to pick my friend up while that program was going on, and I stepped into the parish hall, where a group of these young children, perhaps just a year or so separated from the refugee camps, were putting on a pageant of the “First Thanksgiving,” all of them dressed up as Pilgrims and Indians and practicing their lines.  This old story now becoming a part of their story.

So complicated.  The big news this year seems to focus on the Thanksgiving holiday as the beginning of what is called the “Christmas Shopping Season,” with all kinds of controversy this year about stores opening early Thursday evening to get the jump on the Black Friday sales extravaganza—and with all the stresses this is placing inevitably on those who work in the retail industry, who now will be joining restaurant workers and other hospitality folks in needing to spend this traditional time away from their families. 

And of course there’s the weekend as a time for football games, movie openings, concerts and theatrical events.  To spend in front of the television or out on the town.

And with it all, the complications of memory, the pain of loss.  A weekend when the parent who can’t provide much for his or her children feels that distress even more sharply.  And for those who are alone, who have experienced the loss of a parent, a husband or a wife, a child, will find the silence of the holiday table to be indeed a deafening silence.

Wherever we find ourselves on this weekend of Thanksgiving, and perhaps all of us at several points along the spectrum at the same time: thankful, concerned, stressed, and distressed, altogether: wherever we find ourselves,  as we are here this evening, that we would hear in the midst of it all a word from Jesus in this reading from the gospel, that we would not be so swept up in our joys and sorrows and busyness, that we would forget who we are.  And whose we are.  And that if anything even as we live right here and right now, that we would remember that we are citizens of another kingdom, subjects of another King.  With all the powers and principalities of this world competing for our time and attention, competing for our time, talent, and treasure.  Just this word: Seek ye first God’s kingdom, and his righteousness. 

As they say in the Twelve Step movement: Remember to keep the main thing, the main thing.

So my prayer for us all this weekend, that we would recall in our thoughts and prayers, in our minds and hearts, that we would be nourished in all things to live lives of holiness and righteousness, and to give thanks in every circumstance to the one who is the giver of all good. 

And in all that, a happy Thanksgiving to all.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

St. Andrew's Day @ St. Andrew's, Highland Park

Grace and peace to you, a word of welcome on this always-wonderful Sunday, as we observe the festival of our patron saint, Andrew the Apostle.  

A little like a birthday party, or a homecoming weekend, an anniversary, and certainly a time to pause for a moment to think about how the spirit of this great place, St. Andrew’s--175 years old this year, to talk about anniversaries—about how the spirit of this great place is and has become a part of who we are.  I’ve seen a number of constructions.  St. Andreans is what I prefer, since the name in Greek is “Andreas”-- though there were a few around here for a while who preferred “St. Andrewsians.”  For some reason I remember Ruth Cover always preferring that one.  And I occasionally hear from the direction of the Star Trek section of the Choir, “St. Androids.”  

But in any event, a particular and distinctive and peculiar species, DNA passed down in some mystical invisible way generation by generation, despite all kinds of differences of background, perspective, life experience.  “Every breed of cat,” as I like to say about the parish by the zoo.  Democrats and Republicans, vegetarians and omnivores, people who love baseball and, hard as this is to believe, people who don’t.  Chamber music and country, Handel and Hendrix.  People who will describe their lives and families and communities and interests and even to say their Christian faith in a multitude of vocabularies.  But in the midst of those differences, something shared.  An inclination to be here, to be together, prompted by our Better Angels, I think.  Whispers of encouragement.  Stirrings of the heart that take place in such quiet ways that we don’t even notice them at first.

Grace and peace then, St. Andreans, St. Andrewsians, St. Androids.  As Dickens’s Tiny Tim will solemnly pronounce again this year, “God bless us, every one.”  And welcome old friends and new, with a special greeting and appreciation again this year to our friends of the Syria Highlanders.  Thank you for the gift you bring us in stirring up these ancestral memories on this St. Andrew’s Day, and thank you for the opportunity you share with us in support of the wonderful work of the Shriners’ Hospital.   Certainly the pioneers of this place back in 1837 were aware of St. Andrew’s role as patron saint of Scotland.  Perhaps they were recognizing and honoring in those days the large Scotch-Irish population that had been such a large part of the first European settlers in this region.  And so to hear the pipes again across the neighborhood and ringing through the church—it is for us an old and familiar song.

Andrew is the patron saint indeed of Barbados, Scotland, the Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Patras in Greece, Amalfi in Italy, Luqa in Malta, Esgueira in Portugal.  Patron saint of Prussia, and of the Order of the Golden Fleece (I looked that up in Wikipedia—an order dating from the 15th century comprising members of the royal families and high nobility of old Europe). And the emblematic St. Andrew’s Cross appears on the flags as well of Scotland, and so on the British "Union Jack," and then Australia, New Zealand, Nova Scotia, Tenerife, Galicia, and the state flags of Florida and Alabama, among others.  Andrew is also, to note this one week after our observance of Veterans Day, the patron saint of the U.S. Army Rangers.

So he got around, apparently.  This St. Andrew of ours.  How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!—as St. Paul writes in Romans 10.

We’ve heard one story about the calling of Andrew and Peter, here in St. Matthew this morning.  Leave your nets and come, fish for people . . . .  The story in St. John has Andrew as a disciple of John the Baptist, who with another John the Baptist follower hears John speak about Jesus and follows after him to see what he’s all about, and who then goes and finds his brother Peter to say, “come and meet the person we've been waiting for all our lives.”  Then again in St. John, when the multitudes have followed Jesus into the countryside to hear his teaching, and when evening has come and the people are beginning to get hungry, and nobody seems quite sure what to do, Andrew brings to Jesus a little boy who has brought his lunch from home, five loaves of bread, and two fish.  And later still, at a moment of crisis on the journey toward the cross, some Greeks come, seeking Jesus, and it is Andrew to whom they speak first, and he brings them to him.

All we know about what happened for Andrew after Pentecost Sunday is pious tradition, but certainly it must have followed along the same pattern. Meeting people where they are, and leading them to Jesus.  A ministry, we might say, of introduction and evangelism.  Commending Jesus.  Inviting others who haven’t met him yet to come into his presence, to experience for themselves his tender mercy, his forgiveness, and the healing and new life and real and substantial hope that flow from the knowledge of his resurrection.  Andrew, always ready to say a good word about Jesus.  How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

For 175 years under his banner as this community of Christian people.  Pilgrims.  Men and women, boys and girls.  All sorts and conditions.  And somehow here good Andrew keeps doing his work, his team, fishing for people, taking them by the hand and bringing them to his friend.  "Come, let me introduce you to the person you’ve been waiting all your life to meet."  Inspiring us, at this font and at this Table, sustaining us, equipping us,  as the Word is proclaimed and studied, as we meet Jesus here, and as we continue to meet him and to walk with him then from this great place to all corners of the neighborhood and city and region around.

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!  Blessings on this St. Andrew’s Day, friends, for those of us who are here today, and for those whose first Sunday in this great place will be next Sunday, or the Sunday after that.  Perhaps the neighbor who slips in by the side door a few weeks from now to watch and listen as our children tell in their pageant the story of the Savior’s birth.  Perhaps the friend who accepts our invitation to attend the beautiful offering of Lessons and Carols.  Perhaps the one who decides after years of frustration and resistance and sadness and hurt to give the Christian message and that Bethlehem Baby another hearing at midnight on Christmas Eve.  Perhaps a neighbor in Lima Peru, in a conversation with John and Susan Park, or in a time of prayer with a community Five Talents solidarity circle.  Perhaps a neighbor right around the corner, whose hard road to recovery is made a little easier by the friendship and helping hand of one of our Off the Floor Pittsburgh Saturday mornings.

How beautiful indeed are the feet of those who bring good news—and the news that Andrew had to share, the news that we have to share, the best news ever.  Come and meet him.  He is the one we have been waiting for.   May the next 175 years of our life together continue the story and announce the good news in great and new ways, always to bring honor, glory, and praise, through Christ our Lord.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

November 11

John Christopherson, my grandmother's older brother, died in the Great War and is buried in England. His photograph in uniform, taken at the drug store in Stanley, Wisconsin, shortly before he departed, always had a place of honor on my grandmother's bedroom bureau. On this Veterans' Day, with deepest thanksgiving.

From the Office of the Suffragan Bishop for Chaplaincies of the Episcopal Church

A Prayer for Veterans Day

Governor of Nations, our Strength and Shield:
we give you thanks for the devotion and courage
of all those who have offered military service for this country:

For those who have fought for freedom; for those who laid down their lives for others;
for those who have borne suffering of mind or of body;
for those who have brought their best gifts to times of need.

On our behalf they have entered into danger,
endured separation from those they love,
labored long hours, and borne hardship in war and in peacetime.

Lift up by your mighty Presence those who are now at war;
encourage and heal those in hospitals
or mending their wounds at home;
guard those in any need or trouble;
hold safely in your hands all military families;
and bring the returning troops to joyful reunion
and tranquil life at home;

Give to us, your people, grateful hearts
and a united will to honor these men and women
and hold them always in our love and our prayers;
until your world is perfected in peace

through Jesus Christ our Savior.

This prayer may be used as a congregational litany with the following responses to each stanza:

1. We thank you and praise you, our Strength and Shield!

2. We thank you and praise you, our Strength and Shield!

3. We than you and praise you, our Strength and Shield!

4. Watch over and keep them, Blessed Savior.

5. Hear our prayer in His Name. Amen.

Compiled by the Rev. Jennifer Phillips, Vicar, St. Augustine’s Chapel, University of Rhode Island campus. Her prayers appear in supplemental liturgical materials for the Episcopal Church and in her books of prayers including “Simple Prayers for Complicated Lives.”

With thanksgiving and continued prayers for all those in our extended St. Andrew's parish family who have served in the uniform of our country, and for those who serve now.

Bruce Robison

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Sunday after All Saints

 (Year B) Isaiah 25: 6-9, Rev. 21: 1-6; John 11: 32-44

Grace and peace to you on this morning, one of the great festivals of the Church Year, and certainly for many years now around St. Andrew’s the centerpiece of a high season of worship and music—and with thanks to Tom Octave and all our choir and our orchestral musicians this morning  for such exceptional and graceful offerings. The weekend beginning this past Thursday evening with our own I think unique service of All Saints Lessons and Carols and then last night with the spectacular organ recital of our guest organist Joseph Nolan, who is Organist and Master of the Choristers at St. George’s Cathedral in Perth, Australia, and who before taking that position was Organist to Her Majesty’s Chapels Royal of St. James’s  Palace, in London.  The position he held the last time he played here at St. Andrew’s.  And Pete Luley, who pulls this all together somehow every year, Carrie Smith and our friends of the Music Guild, Jen Palmer, George Knight,  Joan Soulliere, Jinny Fiske and the hospitality crew, Becky Usner.  As always, the list just goes on and on. 

Abundant thanks, as we are truly surrounded by a Great Cloud of Witnesses, Christian friends in this moment of our lives, loved ones, family and friends, mentors, neighbors and heroes,  who have gone on into Greater Life before us, and I think always as well with an awareness of those who will come after us, in this place, and in the life of the wider Church as it is called together generation by generation by our Lord Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.

They lived not only in ages past, there are hundreds of thousands still, the world is bright with the joyous saints who love to do Jesus’ will.  And one was a doctor and one was a queen, and one was a shepherdess on the green: they were all of them saints of God—and I mean, God helping, to be one too.

It is for us this morning when you get right down to it, when you see right through this moment to its deepest meaning and message, the heart of things,  all about the Cross on Friday and the Empty Tomb on Easter Sunday morning and then the great crescendo and climax at the Mount of the Ascension, as our Risen Lord and Savior is exalted to his eternal place at the Right Hand of the Father to judge and to rule from henceforth and for all time past, present, and future with his perfect gentleness and his perfect justice, his grace and peace.  Cosmic.   It is for us this morning all about his great and final Victory over Death and the Grave, the forces of Evil, the dark power of corruption and decay that would turn us and all the created order against God.  All about his Victory, both for us each of us in our individual personhood, as we experience that victory personally in the hope now of resurrection, in the courage and faith that give us strength to live our lives in the comfort of a reasonable and holy hope, in the joyful expectation of eternal life with those we love.

 For us personally, but not only for us personally, but in the assurance of the great victory and transformation in Christ of the whole of creation.  That the miracle of that midnight in Bethlehem and all the songs of the angels echo to the farthest corners of the most distant corner of creation.  The hopes and fears of all the years.  The incarnation that points us to the great morning of St. John’s vision, in the 21st chapter of his Revelation, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away . . . .  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a voice out of heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them, and be their God.’”

That is something to sing  about!  All the music that can be offered up in the story of our lives.  The Victory of Jesus, his triumph, his continuing presence.  In our lives.  In his Church.  Reaching out through us to the wide world in the power of the Spirit.  What it is that every saint and hero does for us, tells us about. The sermon every one of them preaches from start to finish, not only with their lips, but in their lives.  Talking the talk and walking the walk.

And  filling our hearts with the truest of hopes, as we pray “thy Kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven.”  For that day, as the Prophet said, when “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”

The saints remind us of that, as they inspire in us a desire to live holy lives.  Hints and clues and anticipations of the Kingdom coming in Christ Jesus.  Our one true hope.  When you hear about them, read about them, meet them, to say, “Boy, I want some of that.”  Who are the saints like that for you?  Again, famous heroes of the faith, or a father or mother, a grandmother, a neighbor, a friend.

All about the Victory of his love. The saints of the Red Letter Days on the calendar, and even more, actually, the saints you meet in school, or in lanes, or at sea, in church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea.  As the song goes.  One was a soldier, and one was a priest, and one was slain by a fierce wild beast, and there’s not any reason, no not the least, why I shouldn't be one too.

This dramatic confrontation.  High noon.  All the powers of sin and death in their vast numbers and pervasive presence.  And Jesus.  And the three words that echo against the sky and for all eternity: Lazarus, come out.  And the enemy takes flight.  His power disappears, as when the sun begins to shine over the morning fog.  In Jesus, God’s victory, and our victory.

His Body is Bread for the whole world.  His blood a new promise of God’s faithfulness and love, poured out not for the few but for the many.  A great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues.

My prayer is that we will each one of us know that this morning.  That this will be a blessing for you.  A sign of our citizenship in the new Jerusalem of God.  The healing and forgiveness, mercy and grace, of our Lord Jesus Christ.  A spirit of joy and wonder.  For us.  You and me.   His Holy Spirit.  We would kneel this morning alongside the apostles and prophets and martyrs of every age, past, present, and those of years and generations to come, known only to God.

  They were all of them saints of God and I mean, God helping, to be one too.