Monday, April 27, 2020

My First Theological Disagreement with My Parents


I was raised in a particular theological framework, which taught that all people above the “age of accountability” (not a specific age per se, but rather the age at which a child is aware of right and wrong and can be held responsible for sin – those who never develop the mental capacity for this being considered infants for theological purposes) have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, as it states in Romans 3:23, and have therefore merited eternal damnation in the literal fires of hell – or, more precisely, the lake of fire, which is worse than hell, hell being the jail before the white throne judgement at which the sentence to the eternal prison of the lake of fire is given. It was often taught and preached that all sins are equally bad, because every sin is an affront to God, and none is worse or less offensive than another. The only way to escape hell/the lake of fire is to be saved, to be born again, to ask and trust Jesus to forgive one’s sins, believing in his resurrection and publicly confessing him as lord and savior.

My father, having narcissistic personality disorder and getting into arguments with the board of deacons of his church when I was between the ages of 10 and 12, subconsciously got back at them by preaching publicly that many people – including some deacons and Sunday school teachers – thought they were saved/born again but really weren’t and, when they died, would “split hell wide open” – a favorite frequent phrase of my father’s. And he preached this on Sunday and Wednesday nights, the services that the devout attended. Those who only came on Sunday morning could easily be seen as lost (the term for the unsaved) – but that those who came on Sunday and Wednesday nights as well might go to hell was a testament to the seriousness of the sins churchgoers committed.

Of course, there was only one person who was “convicted” by such preaching and worried about his own salvation and who therefore came down the aisle during the invitation during one of the 57 verses of Just As I Am – and that was me. My father was clearly surprised, and you could tell I wasn’t the one he was trying to get down the aisle – my mother tried to convince me there was nothing to worry about, while my father encouraged my doubts and tearful prayers, but also said those who worried about their salvation were the ones who really were saved – it was the complacent who didn’t worry about it who were actually damned.

Sometime after that I came down the aisle again, at age 10 (we were in that particular congregation when I was between ages 10 and 12) – this time not in tears doubting my salvation, but “surrendering to the call to preach”, ready to dedicate myself to be a preacher and maybe a foreign missionary. An elderly deacon died not long after that, and as we were on the church steps waiting for the coffin to be taken out of the church, I remember telling my mother and another woman in the church that I knew how I wanted to die – my mother nervously said “you want to be raptured, right?” – but no, I wanted to martyred in a foreign land, killed for the faith of Christ as had been the Southern Baptist missionary Bill Wallace whose biography I had read from the church library for a foreign missions book challenge the church held. I have no idea what the other woman thought of this exchange.

Around this time, I got a Gideon New Testament with the plan of salvation – and I marked it up with the scriptures that one could use to lead someone to Christ – and began haranguing my classmates, er I mean witnessing to them about the necessity of salvation. (I was 11 by this point, as I remember being in sixth grade with a teacher who had been a football coach who dipped snuff in front of the class, spitting the tobacco juice into a coffee cup.) I think I convinced one classmate to go through the process – I doubt that it had any lasting effect, but some of the older boys in my Royal Ambassadors group (the youth group for boys in Southern Baptist churches) commended me for this “soulwinning” success.

So it is against this theological backdrop that I started thinking about the death penalty and how it was a horrifying injustice, because there might always be some hope, however slim, that a convicted murderer or the like might nonetheless find his way to repentance and be saved. Given that our whole life was devoted to the task of saving as many people as possible from the horrors of eternal conscious torment in hell/lake of fire, it made sense to me that the death penalty was completely at odds with the gospel (as I understood it from my parents) and that therefore Christians should want to abolish it. If God had mercy on us enough to send his Son Jesus Christ to die a horrible death on the cross as an atonement for our sins, then surely the least we could do is do everything in our power to bring everyone, including prisoners, to salvation.

I vividly remember being in the back seat of the car with my parents when we went shopping, and I told them this – and was shocked at the reaction. My father started railing about how horrible murderers and child molesters were and that if someone were to attack me he would absolutely kill them (oblivious to the difference between acting in self-defense and someone in prison for life). My mother agreed with my father. And they saw my views as an attack on the “biblical” mandate of capital punishment. I could not understand the absolute thwarting of any possibility of salvation that the death penalty would impose – and the cognitive dissonance between my parents’ teaching of the utter gratitude we, as miserable sinners, ought to feel at the salvation we received although utterly unworthy – and the rejection of giving that mercy to others. I also did not understand how, in one context, all sins were the same, yet in another context they were not. I don’t know that I made the connection at the time, but Jesus told the parable about a servant who was forgiven a large debt by his master who then refused to show mercy and forgive a much smaller debt owed the servant by another servant – when the master learned of this, he turned the servant over to the tormentors – we studied this parable in “Training Union”, a  Baptist Sunday evening version of Sunday school – we even acted it out, and a girl in the class wanted to be a “tormentor”, which made the teacher laugh because it was obvious she didn’t know what the word meant.

They did not convince me – and this was the beginning of my move away from their theology. That someone could be sent to hell, God’s hands completely tied because of the sinful behavior of his Christian followers, seemed to me to be utterly unjust – and ultimately this began my road to a universalist theology.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

My Response to Draft Dodger Trump's anti-Trans Tirade

The Independent Catholic Christian Church stands in solidarity with the trans community.  We baptize trans people, we welcome trans people to the table to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, we ordain trans people, we marry trans people.  Trans people baptize us, trans priests celebrate the Eucharist for us, trans bishops ordain us, trans priests absolve our sins and anoint us for the healing of our sickness.  We are enriched by the gifts of those who are trans.  We call on other parts of society to join us in this welcome, and call those who exclude trans people to repent of their sin of hatred and exclusion.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

My response to the Chicago Dyke March's Ugly Anti-Semitism

I am a gay man and a Christian clergyperson in a fully lgbt-accepting church. My church often has a table at Pride festivals. I wear a clerical collar to these events -- and a rainbow lei over it to make certain people know I am there in support and not in condemnation. We give out rosaries (with crosses on the end) and gospels of John. I can assure you that many lgbt people raised in antigay Christian homes find clerical collars, rosaries, and scriptures triggering. Yet I've never been asked to leave. I've been welcomed -- even by people who come by to say that have left the church and are never coming back, but are grateful there are those of us willing to work for change. If my clerical collar, rosaries, and scriptures can be welcome in this space, there is NO LEGITIMATE REASON OF ANY KIND for the Star of David to be rejected. The Central Conference of American Rabbis is the largest rabbinical organization in the world -- a couple of years back, they elected a lesbian rabbi as their president. That's sort of analagous to the Roman Catholic Church electing a lesbian pope. Even the Unitarian Universalists just elected their first female president this week, and have yet to elect an lgbt president. For the Dyke March to aggressively attack a religion that has done so much for the lgbt community is beyond repulsive. I hope the mainstream lgbt community will do our best to embrace the values of inclusion and diversity that the organizers of the Dyke March hold in contempt.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Proposal for a Flexible Form of the Office - Part I, Section B

Part I:  Psalter
Section B:  Weekly Psalter without repetition

For the weekly Psalter scheme that mostly eliminates repetition, this is what I propose.  I actually have two sub-options – one that would preserve the practice of eight offices a day, and one that would reduce the number to five, with one day office replacing Prime, Terce, Sext, and None (in the tradition of some Anglican orders, I will call this Diurnum). 

Since Matins and Vespers do not include repetition (other than the Invitatory Psalm 95), I have left these untouched.  For Lauds, I have used one of the repeating Psalms for each weekday, with the unique daily Psalm, using 51 for Fridays.  For Compline, I use the longest Psalm, 91, for Sunday, with the other three used successively on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and again on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

For the eight-office option, Prime has the daily Psalm (with 54 on Saturday, which has no daily Psalm) and 119 is distributed among Terce, Sext, and None.  For the five-office option, Psalm 119 is included with the Prime option for the one office of Diurnum. 

Here is the scheme in full:

MORNING:

Matins:
Daily:  Invitatory: 95
Sunday: First Nocturn:  1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9-10 (one Psalm in Septuagint/Vulgate), 11, 12, 13, 14, 15
Second Nocturn:  16, 17, 18
Third Nocturn:  19, 20, 21
Monday: 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38
Tuesday: 39, 40, 41, 42, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 52
Wednesday: 53, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 64, 66, 68
Thursday:  69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80
Friday: 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 94, 96, 97
Saturday: 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109

Lauds:
Sunday:  93, 100 – during Pre-Lent and Lent, 51 and 118 are recited instead
Monday: 5, 63
Tuesday: 43, 67
Wednesday: 65, 148
Thursday: 90, 149
Friday: 51, 143
Saturday: 92, 150

DAY OFFICE OPTION A:

Prime:
Sunday:  118 (except Pre-Lent and Lent, 93 & 100 recited instead), Athanasian Creed recited as last Psalm (this was superseded on certain Sundays – however, I would require it every Sunday as part of the weekly Psalter recitation)
Monday: 24
Tuesday: 25
Wednesday: 26
Thursday: 23
Friday: 22
Saturday: 54

Terce:
Sunday: 119:1-8
Monday:  119:33-40
Tuesday:  119:57-64
Wednesday:  119:81-88
Thursday:  119:105-112
Friday:  119:129-136
Saturday:  119:153-160

Sext:
Sunday:  119:9-16
Monday:  119:41-48
Tuesday:  119:65-72
Wednesday:  119:89-96
Thursday:  119:113-120
Friday:  119:137-144
Saturday:  119:161-168

None:
Sunday:  119:17-32 (two sections instead of the usual one)
Monday:  119:49-56
Tuesday:  119:73-80
Wednesday:  119:97-104
Thursday:  119:121-128
Friday:  119:145-152
Saturday:  119:169-176

DAY OFFICE OPTION B:

Diurnum (replaces Prime, Terce, Sext, None)
Sunday:  118 (except Pre-Lent and Lent, 93 & 100 recited instead), 119: 1-32, Athanasian Creed recited as last Psalm (this was superseded on certain Sundays – however, I would require it every Sunday as part of the weekly Psalter recitation)
Monday: 24, 119:33-56
Tuesday: 25, 119:57-80
Wednesday: 26, 119:81-104
Thursday: 23, 119:105-128
Friday: 22, 119:129-152
Saturday: 54, 119:153-176

EVENING:

Vespers:
Sunday:  110, 111, 112, 113, 114-115 (one psalm in Septuagint/Vulgate)
Monday: 116:1-9 (separate psalm in Septuagint/Vulgate, verse division as in Hebrew), 116:10-19 (separate psalm in Septuagint/Vulgate, verse division as in Hebrew), 117, 120, 121
Tuesday: 122, 123, 124, 125, 126
Wednesday:  127, 128, 129, 130, 131
Thursday: 132, 133, 135, 136, 137
Friday: 138, 139, 140, 141, 142
Saturday: 144, 145, 146, 147:1-11(separate psalm in Septuagint/Vulgate, verse division as in Hebrew), 147:12-20 (separate psalm in Septuagint/Vulgate, verse division as in Hebrew).

Compline:
Sunday:  91
Monday:  4
Tuesday:  31:2-6 (Hebrew verse numbers)
Wednesday:  134
Thursday:  4
Friday:  31:2-6 (Hebrew verse numbers)
Saturday:  134


Monday, August 15, 2016

Proposal for a Flexible Form of the Office - Part I, Section A

Part I:  Psalter
Section A:  The Psalter Scheme that serves as the Basis for all Psalter Scheme Options

The jurisdiction I serve has as one of its hallmarks "liturgical diversity", meaning that a wide variety of liturgical rites are in use.  The great thing about this is that people have the freedom to draw upon the vast and varied riches of liturgical tradition to find what is most meaningful for them. The disadvantage, as our seminarians have complained, is that different people will be praying different psalms in the Office on a given day, and in other ways the mythical "unity" (really uniformity, not unity) that the Office supposedly has had will not exist.  (I say this because there was always more diversity than realized – the monastic Office has a different Psalm scheme than the secular Office did, for example, although there were some commonalities.)

Another disadvantage is that not all versions of the Office are created equal.  Ideally, the Psalms should be prayed through regularly, Scripture read through regularly, and substantial prayer be offered.  Not all versions of the Office do these things equally well.

I have no intention of imposing one version of the Office, or allowing it to be imposed.  But if I were to come up with a common breviary, this is how I'd go about it.

First, the Psalms.  Ideally, these would be said weekly, keeping Psalms whole (with the exception of Psalm 119, the longest, which has 22 natural sections of 8 verses apiece, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which is distributed over the Prime, Terce, Sext, and None, and of the small portion of Psalm 31 recited at Compline, which doesn't really "count" since the complete Psalm 31 is recited at Matins on Mondays), and repeating some of the Psalms daily or near-daily.  The pre-1911 secular Roman breviary does this (with the caveat that the whole Psalms are according to the Septuagint/Vulgate division, not the Hebrew division).  The monastic Office eliminates the integrity of keeping Psalms whole, and splits Psalm 145 between Vespers on Friday and Saturday, as well as having a number of Psalms split within an Office, with multiple antiphons.  The 1911 Office eliminates all weekly repetition other than feast days, Psalm 95 as the Invitatory, and Psalm 51 in Lauds on penitential days.

Of course, living in the modern world with a full-time job and often a family makes the weekly Psalter all but impossible.  The Book of Common Prayer, beginning in 1549, has divided the Psalter into 60 sections, one for Morning and Evening Prayer for each day of the month.  (Unfortunately, recent BCP's have come up with new schemes that have even less recitation of the Psalms, such as the 1943 American lectionary option for the 1928 BCP that omits some Psalms entirely, and the seven-week scheme in the 1979 BCP.)  The Liturgy of the Hours produced by the Roman denomination after Vatican II has a four-week scheme that unfortunately omits 3 psalms entirely as well as verses of other Psalms.  And, unfortunately, many now say only Lauds and Vespers, thus leaving out many of the Psalms.  It does retain a nod to repetition with some weekly repetition of a few Psalms.

The Monastic psalter does have a lot of commonalities with the pre-1911 Secular scheme (many liturgical scholars believe the latter is older, and that the Monastic scheme was essentially a revision of it).  However, the 1911 scheme only retains a few similarities, particularly on Sundays and feast days, and the same could be said of the Liturgy of the Hours.  The BCP scheme has nothing in common with the Roman schemes.  Thus, those using these different Psalm schemes are not saying Psalms in common.

The idea of making a flexible Psalm scheme has been tried before, in at least one place.  Oxford University Press put out the Monastic Diurnal for the use of Anglican religious communities and edited by Canon Winfred Douglas.  This followed the Monastic use, but using the Book of Common Prayer and King James Bible translations.  It contained the texts for all of the offices except Matins. Canon Douglas later produced the Monastic Diurnal Noted, which contained plainchant melodies for the texts in the Monastic Diurnal, and an Anglican community of women put out Monastic Matins, containing Matins to complement the Diurnal.  All of these books have been reprinted by Lancelot Andrewes Press.  In the mid-1960's, another version of Monastic Matins was produced that divided the Matins psalms into a four-week scheme.  Each day's Matins traditionally has 12 psalms in the Monastic scheme, and this version put 3 psalms from each day for a particular week – so the first three sections of Monday's psalms would be for week 1, the second three for week 2, and so on.

I would propose doing something similar with the pre-1911 Secular scheme.  I would have four general options:  the scheme as it stands – weekly with quite a bit of repetition, a weekly scheme without repetition, a two-week version, and a four-week version.  Everyone doing the first three would automatically, as part of that, be doing the psalms done in the four-week version, thus ensuring that there would be common palms done on a daily basis by everyone.  Within the two- and four-week options, I would have further options to do two offices a day or more – the daily psalms in the general option would be done, but the number of offices they are distributed among would differ based on whether only two offices are recited or more.  (Even within the weekly non-repeating scheme, fewer than eight offices could be an option.)

In the pre-1911 and Monastic offices, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, and Compline have mostly fixed Psalms each day (with a little variation in Lauds and Prime, and in the Monastic Office, Terce, Sext, and None as well), while Matins and Vespers have a lot of variation, the majority of the Psalms being recited in these two offices.  Of course, on double feasts, the scheme is interrupted, and as time went on, more and more feasts became doubles, doing increasing violence to the weekly Psalter scheme.  One of the commendable reforms of 1911's Divino Afflatu was to direct that most doubles would use the weekday Psalter, with the exception of first- and second-class doubles and some greater doubles.  I would be tempted to suppress the use of feast day Psalter schemes (with the antiphons providing the needed material for celebrating the feast day), and would, at the very least, strictly limit their use.

More specifically, here is the pre-1911 scheme. (All Psalms are given in the Hebrew numbering.)

Matins:
Daily:  Invitatory: 95
Sunday: First Nocturn:  1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9-10 (one Psalm in Septuagint/Vulgate), 11, 12, 13, 14, 15
Second Nocturn:  16, 17, 18
Third Nocturn:  19, 20, 21
Monday: 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38
Tuesday: 39, 40, 41, 42, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 52
Wednesday: 53, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 64, 66, 68
Thursday:  69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80
Friday: 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 94, 96, 97
Saturday: 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109

Lauds:
Daily:  51 (except Sundays outside of Pre-Lent and Lent), daily psalm, 63, 67, daily Old Testament canticle, 148, 149, 150 (the last three are recited as one psalm under one Gloria and antiphon)
Daily Psalm:
Sunday:  93 (in place of 51), 100 – during Pre-Lent and Lent, 51 and 118 are recited instead
Monday: 5
Tuesday: 43
Wednesday: 65
Thursday: 90
Friday: 143
Saturday: 92

(I will address the daily Old Testament canticles in another post.)

Prime:
54, daily psalm, 119:1-16, 119:17-32
Daily Psalm:
Sunday:  118 (except Pre-Lent and Lent, 93 & 100 recited instead), Athanasian Creed recited as last Psalm (this was superseded on certain Sundays – however, I would require it every Sunday as part of the weekly Psalter recitation)
Monday: 24
Tuesday: 25
Wednesday: 26
Thursday: 23
Friday: 22
Saturday: none
Note:  some maintain that, prior to the post-Trent reform of the office, psalms 22 -26 were recited daily, rather than distributed through the week – if anyone were to prefer that option, that would be acceptable

Terce:
119:33-48, 119:49-64, 119:65-80

Sext:
119:81-96, 119:97-112, 119:113-128

None:
119:129-144, 119:145-160, 119:161-176

Vespers:
Sunday:  110, 111, 112, 113, 114-115 (one psalm in Septuagint/Vulgate)
Monday: 116:1-9 (separate psalm in Septuagint/Vulgate, verse division as in Hebrew), 116:10-19 (separate psalm in Septuagint/Vulgate, verse division as in Hebrew), 117, 120, 121
Tuesday: 122, 123, 124, 125, 126
Wednesday:  127, 128, 129, 130, 131
Thursday: 132, 133, 135, 136, 137
Friday: 138, 139, 140, 141, 142
Saturday: 144, 145, 146, 147:1-11(separate psalm in Septuagint/Vulgate, verse division as in Hebrew), 147:12-20 (separate psalm in Septuagint/Vulgate, verse division as in Hebrew).

Compline:

Daily: 4, 31:2-6 (Hebrew verse numbers), 91, 134

Note:  The next posts in this series will present the modified options for non-repeating weekly, biweekly, and four-week recitations of the Psalter, as well as the Scripture lectionary question and prayers.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Good Samaritan and the Good Independent Sacramental Christian

Sermon text:  Luke 10:25-37

The parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the best-known and most well-beloved stories in the Bible. The term "Good Samaritan" has entered our language to describe someone who helps others.  There are even a number of charitable organizations that have adopted "Good Samaritan" or just "Samaritan" as part of their name.

The Samaritans are a religious and ethnic group closely related to the Jews, considered a branch of the Jews by some.  They still exist today, living in two villages in Israel, although their numbers are much reduced from the time of Jesus – there are around 750 – 800 Samaritans today, while there may have been as many as a million in the time of Jesus.  The Samaritan story of origin is that they are descendants of the tribes of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Levi who remained true to the Israelite religion after the Kingdom of Israel came to an end, and that the mainstream Jewish people added to and altered the religion.  The rabbinic understanding is that the Israelites not taken into captivity intermarried with non-Israelites and were influenced by them.  There are a couple of significant differences between Samaritan and mainstream Jewish religious understandings – the Samaritans accept only the first five books of the Bible, the Torah, as canonical, rather than the entire Hebrew Bible accepted within mainstream Judaism.  There are a number of textual variants in the text of the Torah, most fairly minor.  Another major difference is that while mainstream Judaism regards Mount Zion in Jerusalem as the place chosen by God for the Temple, Samaritans believe it is Mount Gerizim, where they still to this day offer sacrifices.

In the time of Jesus, the Judaism centered around the Temple and the rabbis was the mainstream religion, while Samaritanism was an outsider, marginalized religion.  Jesus was clearly part of mainstream Judaism – he makes this clear in his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well.  But the compelling point he makes in the parable of the Good Samaritan is that it's not the particular form of the religion that is important – it's how one lives out that religion in one's daily life that is important, through acts of mercy and lovingkindness to one's neighbor.  Holding the highest religious offices in the "right religion" (in this case, the priest and the Levite) is less important than being in the "wrong" form of the religion but taking care of one's neighbor.

One form of the obsession with "right religion" that Christianity has unfortunately engaged in is supersessionism, the idea that the Christian church has replaced the Jewish people as the people in covenant with God, rather than the much more theologically accurate idea that we have an additional covenant with God while the eternal covenant made at Sinai between God and the Jewish people remains in effect.  It would be a mistake to read this story in an anti-Jewish light – indeed, retelling it with a Christian priest and Christian deacon passing by on the other side while a Jewish person stops to help the person robbed would make the identical point.

I think we can agree that we who are Independent Catholics, members of the Independent Sacramental Movement, are in no way part of "mainstream religion" – we are outsiders, much like the Samaritans were in Jesus's day.  The question we need to ask ourselves is whether we will take up Jesus's call to be like the Good Samaritan – without worrying so much about what the mainstream churches are doing (unless, of course, they are involved in works of mercy with which we can collaborate!).  I don't think we need to rehearse how our help is needed, or who we need to help – any look at the headlines will give us many ideas.  Just this past week, Alton Stirling and Philando Castile were killed by police because, as African-American men, they were perceived as dangerous.  Dismantling racism is one of the tasks to which we are called.  Certainly, there are many others.

Jesus, in telling the story of the Good Samaritan, gives us several principles to guide our works of mercy.

First, the Samaritan man, when he saw the man beaten by the robber, came near to investigate what had happened to him.  He did not just look at the situation from a distance – as the priest and Levite did – he got close and saw firsthand what had happened.  Next, the text says that when he saw him, he had compassion.  He was moved by what he saw.  He allowed himself to be affected by it emotionally.

Next, the text says "he went to him".  He did not stop at merely being affected by the sight, and moved by it – he went to the man to get personally involved in his situation, and help him.  He bound up his wounds.  He poured wine and oil in the wounds.  Wine and oil were not cheap -- he was willing to use his own precious resources, and share them, administering them in a way that would bring healing.  

He put the man on his own animal – further using his resources, in this case living resources, to help him.  He then brought him to an inn and took care of him.  It's significant that, from the interactions he had with the innkeeper, it seems that the Samaritan had some sort of ongoing relationship with him.  The innkeeper clearly trusts him, and is willing to be enlisted into the cause of helping the man beaten and robbed.

The Samaritan gives the innkeeper two denarii when he leaves, promising to pay anything additional upon his return.  It's significant that, as we known from another passage in the gospels, a denarius is a day's wages for many – so this is not an insignificant amount of money.  The Samaritan continues to be deeply involved, committing significant financial resources to the injured man.

Finally, by saying that he will come back, he is committing himself to an ongoing relationship.  This is not a one-time incident; rather, he commits to following up with the injured man to continue to help him return to health and wholeness.


So, as we strive to follow the teachings of Jesus, and be neighbors to those who need our help, let us follow the example of the Good Samaritan.  Rather than being obsessed with the right form of religion, let us be committed fully to helping our neighbor, committing our time, our resources, and our relationships to the task.  Let us enter into relationships with those we help.  Let us show mercy, like the Good Samaritan did, so that Jesus can point to our works, and say, "Go thou and do likewise".

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

In Memoriam – Bp. Peter Brennan

Twenty years ago yesterday, I entered the Atonement Friars, a Roman Catholic religious order. It was not a good fit -- and that is an understatement -- but I eventually found the ecclesiastical place where I belong, in the Independent Sacramental Movement (ISM). Interestingly enough, although the Graymoor Friars (as they are sometimes known, for their motherhouse in Putnam County, NY) have never been large -- perhaps 300 at their largest in the late 50's/early 60's, less than 100 now -- at least 7 former Atonement Friars, to my knowledge, are now ISM clergy.
One person who was an important figure in the ISM these last several decades, a gracious and peace-loving bishop who attempted to enter into good relations with all in our movement, was +Peter Brennan. Interestingly enough, he was also an Atonement Friar, although he left a quarter century before me. I met him at an ISM dinner that +Lynn Walker and I organized, and sat next to him -- once we found the Graymoor connection, we were fast friends. The day after my first weddings in New Paltz as part of the New Paltz Equality Initiative, an effort to give legal marriage to same-sex couples, I was at a consecration of three bishops at which Peter was the primary consecrator, and we, +John Plummer, and another bishop exchanged consecrations sub-conditionally. (That's how I got the Thuc line.) It felt like a blessing on that aspect of my ministry, one of its first non-eremitical expressions.
+Peter Brennan died yesterday. I am profoundly grateful to have known him, and to have had him lay hands on me in (re-)consecration. The fact that he died on the 20th anniversary of my becoming postulant at Graymoor will always remind me of how Graymoor was a waystation for so many of us on our way to this wonderful part of Christ's Church, the Independent Sacramental Movement, and of the profound impact for good that +Peter had on all who knew him, an example of that peace and grace we are called to express.

Requiescat in pacem.