Monday, November 20, 2006

Doctrine, Discipline, and +John David

While serving as an Associate Priest in the U.S., an Epsicopalian layperson asked me if the Episcopal Church needed the Anglican Communion. My answer was simple: if there was no Anglican Communion, I would not be able to field the question, because I could not serve at her parish. I was a priest of the Anglican Church of Canada, only licensed to serve in the Episcopal Church. No Anglican Communion would mean no recognition of my orders in the U.S.

This made a recent letter to the diocese of San Joaquin, from the Presiding Bishop, pique my interest. The Presiding Bishop is unhappy with what is happening in the diocese. ++Katherine writes:
I have seen reports of your letter to parishes in the Diocese of San Joaquin, which apparently urges delegates to your upcoming Diocesan Convention to take action to leave the Episcopal Church. I would ask you to confirm the accuracy of those reports. If true, you must be aware that such action would likely be seen as a violation of your ordination vows to "uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them." I must strongly urge you to consider the consequences of such action, not only for yourself but especially for all of the Episcopalians under your pastoral charge and care. (Italics mine.)
This is hugely inconsistent with the existing practice within her Church. When I was ordained a deacon, and then a priest, I took similiar ordination vows, except that I was ordained according to the Canadian ordination rite of the Book of Alternative Services. So when I made my vows to uphold the doctrine and discipline of the Church, the Church referred to is the Anglican Church of Canada. As if to undermine any attempt to universalise this doctrine and discipline, I twice signed the Solemn Declaration of 1893 at my ordinations, a uniquely Canadian document specifically about doctrine and discipline.

My ordination vows were Canadian ordination vows. But to limit my priestly ministry to the Canadian church would be to undermine the tacit catholicity of the Anglican Comunion. So, when I applied for licenses to preside in the dioceses of California and Northern California, I was not re-ordained. My orders were considered valid, despite the fact that my vows were certainly Canadian ordination vows, circumscribed as they were by the Solemn Declaration and the Canadian ordination rite.

The reception of local ordination vows by other Churches in the Anglican Communion is a practice that points to the fact that, despite all of the local circumscription of our ordination vows, there is no fundamental incoherence between them. Canadian ordination vows, in practice, cohere with American ordination vows. The doctrines and disciplines of disparate Anglican Provinces are not seen to be, at least on the ground, in any kind of conflict. Our vows are catholic in practice, even when they are not catholic in appearance.

While I have some reservations about where +John David of San Joaquin is going with his diocese, to say that he is rejecting the doctrine and dicipline of the Church is simply to bark up the wrong tree. Our existing practice of interpreting ordination vows, despite their apparently local character, assumes their catholicity. In this sense, +John David's attempt to get a new primate does not jeapardise his ordination vows. Unless we wish to change our practice of mutual recognition of ordinations, which I certainly hope we do not, the doctrine and discipline of the Episcopal Church cannot be seen to be in conflict with the doctrine and discipline of any other Anglican Province. Our actions simply show otherwise.

Thanks to Thinking Anglicans for pointing me towards the article.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Winnipeg Anglican Theologian Writes About Mary

Tim Perry, a theologian teaching near Winnipeg at Providence College and Seminary, has just released Mary For Evangelicals: Toward An Understanding Of The Mother Of Our Lord. Tim worships and lay-reads with the good folk over at St. Margaret's Anglican Church, in Wolseley.

"With its sophisticated historical and exegetical grounding, its careful subjection of church tradition to the witness of Scripture, and its ambitious attempt to integrate Mariology into the whole structure of Protestant dogmatics, this book offers an important and challenging contribution to the contemporary ecumenical conversation."

From Ben Myers' review, found here.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Proper 27 (32) 2006, Remembrance Day Observed

I've begun a sermon blog, mostly for parish members who would like to take a moment to read my sermons after I've preached them, but I thought readers of Baby Priest might like to read them occasionally as well. Here's part of the first sermon to be posted.
I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to draw some parallels between this passage and the wars we know and remember. The soldier, just like the widow, embodies many things that we could point to as Christian virtue; we can point specifically to the soldier’s willingness to give all they have to what they believe in. The soldier offers all he or she has, including the very laying down of their life for their friend.

And the scribes, at least some of them, the ones willing to devour widows houses for the sake of their own profit, are a lot like the men and women sending soldiers to war for their own profit. Not all wars are simply for profit; some wars are motivated by genuine concern for justice, or concern for the oppressed neighbour. But anyone who justifies war simply for profit, a profit hidden by lies, is no better than the scribe who devours the houses of widows.

But the scribe who may very well devour the houses of widows, and the mechanisms that may send soldiers to war for the profit of others, do not erode the dignity of the widow or of the soldier. Just as the widow has a degree of dignity apart from the scribes that will devour her house, so also the soldier has a dignity apart from the mechanisms of the state that puts them on the battlefield.

Their dignity, and our dignity, is in the self offering of our whole selves, not to the state, or even to the Jerusalem temple, but our whole self-offering, our very lives, to our Lord.
Read the rest.


Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Quotable Hauerwas

"Wounded Healer, blah blah blah blah blah . . . "

November 6th, 2006, during a public lecture titled "Why North Americans Are Afraid to Die."

Hauerwas was making a point about the willingness of medical schools to intentionally form future doctors, and the willingness of seminaries to let their students make up their own curricula. Hauerwas says it best himself:
In our time it is not unusual for students in divinity school to say something like: "I'm not into Christology this year. I really am into relating." In response they are told: "Well, then, you ought to take some more courses in Clinical Pastoral Education. After all, that is what the ministry is really about today [i.e., relating]. So take some courses that will teach you better how to relate."
It is interesting to contrast that kind of response to someone who might enter medical school thinking, "I'm not really into anatomy this year. I'm into relating. I'd like to take some more courses in psychology." The response in medical schools is radically different from that in divinity schools. Such a student is usually told: "We're not really interested in what you're interested in. You either take anatomy or you can simply ship out!"

From Dispatches From the Front: Theological Engagements with the Secular, page 156.
Two excellent questions arise here. Firstly, why are medical schools so willing to form their students into particular moral agents, while seminaries are willing to buy into the idea that we are able, with very little experience, to decide how to best form ourselves into a particular kind of moral agent? I have no answer to this question, though I know the result. What the seminary is unwilling to take, the world is willing to keep, and our existing formation as makers of our own destiny keep consumer spirituality and syncretism alive.

Secondly, what does Christology have to do with moral formation? The answer to this question is easy: Christology has everything to do with moral formation. Further, our formation by Christological narrative has everything to do with our ability to be good pastors. Without knowing who Christ is, and what work Christ has done on our behalf, we will be formed according to the values of a world that values choice without formation. Further, without Christology and the proclamation inherent in Christian living, all we will have left is "relating." But relating to what end? Relating, without proclamation, is the tacit support of a personal truth. This personally derived destiny, without the interrogation of a narrative that tells the story of the whole world and our place in it, will fill the vacuum left by the absence of this particular proclamation, that of the living Christ in our lives.

Hauerwas' visit has made for some good blogging. Check back with Elliot, who has posted this and this. Paul has posted this and this. Catherine has responded to this post of mine. I also need to point you here; Hauerwas' visit meant I got a free gift from the generous folk at Sub Ratione Dei.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Go see Borat!: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Yes, it is without a doubt offensive, but probably not in the way you might think.

Sacha Baron Cohen plays Borat, a man from Kazahkstan. Borat is a mysogynist, racist, and anti-semite. But what will offend you in the end is not Borat and the fictional portrayal of Kazhakstanis, but the real Americans who turn out to be misogynist and racist, but for real.

All of us in the theatre cringed and laughed with great discomfort at many of the politically incorrect scenes in this film. But we were dead silent when the point of this movie hit home: Borat was fictional, but the real Americans were not. And the real Americans were just as bad as Borat, if not worse.

This movie is genuine satire, revealing nothing at all about Kazahkstan, but a whole lot about America. And what it reveals about America is not all that pretty.

I highly recommend it.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Perogys with Hauerwas

Stanley Hauerwas has been here in Winnipeg for a couple of days, to preach and to give a lecture titled "Why North Americans are Afraid to Die." I went to both, but by far the highlight for me was the opportunity to sit down with him, and four other people, for perogys at a local Ukrainian restaurant.

I'd been reading a fair amount of his writing in preparation for his visit, so I knew we were all in for a treat. Hauerwas is wonderfully cantankerous, outspoken, and a man who loves the church. This all comes through in his writing. And in person, he did not disappoint.

The conversation was all over the map. We started with homosexuality in the church and the mistake to bring rights language into the debate, as ordination is always a privilege; we then moved to the difficulty of ministering to people outside the church because of the lack of any shared narrative, and the subsequent tacit support of personal religious syncretism, at least in contexts where genuine sharing of faith is supressed (like in chaplaincy); following that we spoke about abortion, virginity and promiscuity; and then, to my surprise, we had at least nominal agreement that Christians can talk about just war, but that the best place to start was always local policing. More interesting was the thought that Christians might make the best police force, because our willingness to lay down our lives for our friends would mean that we would be willing to police without weapons or the threat of the violence needed to protect ourselves.

But what impressed me most about Hauerwas, besides his intellect, was his willingness to be truthful. I'm afraid this was not something I learned in seminary. I've probably bought into the idea that to be truthful is to not be pastoral. But Dr. Hauerwas was friendly, laughed a lot, joked, and truthfully told us what he thought about some very touchy subjects. His friendliness and truthfullness were not at odds with each other, at least around the lunch table.

Our conversation that day is leading me to think that not being truthful may actually betray a lack of respect and dignity in relationships, including pastoral ones. There is more dignity in a relationship that is truthful because we are not afraid to reveal ourselves to each other, while silence is to be content in being misunderstood. Speaking truthfully may be, in the end, far more pastoral than silence or evasion, because to be truthful is to bring what is in darkness into the light, and reveals faithfullness through the hope of reconciliation.

I'll write a little more on the lecture tomorrow, but for now you might want to visit Elliot at Claw of the Conciliator. He was at the lectures and another event that I didn't get to, and he has some interesting things to say about the Jehovah's Witnesses.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Some Housekeeping

In the next few days the blog will change a little. I have no pretense that this a highly frequented blog by any stretch, so the upcoming changes are not intended for me to cash in. I'm just not going to cash in!

But I do occasionally write on theological topics, and I do quote from the books of my favourite theologians. If any of these books become of any interest because you read about them here, please click on the link provided. If you buy the book through my link, a little bit of money will end up in "Baby Priest's Book Fund." You will, by doing this, support my reading habit, so be forewarned.

I have been requested to post a gift page link as well, for all those people thinking about a gift for me. So, friends and family, don't be shy. Click away!

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Friday, November 03, 2006

I Might Be a Proverbs 31 Man, Too

Check this out, at

'I'm a Proverbs 31 husband all right,' says Jack, then quotes Proverbs 31:6-7: 'Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.'

'That's my permission to crack open a cold one,' Jack says, having a Coors after dinner.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

Pictures of Our New House

From the outside.

The living room.

The dining room from the living room, showing one of the oak pocket doors.

The dining froom from the kitchen.

These are pictures from when Karen visited before we bought the house, so none of the furniture is ours. Our architect, Herb Enns, has begun to put together some drawings of our new kitchen, family room, attached garage, elevator, and upstairs bathrooms. We are excited, but trying not to be, because the renovations will take a while.

We'll post some pictures of the construction when that begins.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Our House

We got the house!

I will post pictures soon, but I keep forgetting them on my other computer. It's beautiful, we love it, but we can't move into it as it will need some significant modifications.

Stay tuned . . .

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