Al Kimel

Where’s Al, they have all been asking.

So what a relief to find Al Kimel’s Pontifications again. Pontifications was the place where all theological blogs met, and we all learned a wider churchmanship. I owe him a colossal debt. But clearly it is tough-going – ‘in some way the sorrows have intensified’. Now he’s in dark new format, with some archives but without any links. (Hint – amend links)

Here he is on Renewing the renewed liturgy

What is the way forward? By all means, let us reread and reappropriate Sacrosanctum Concilium, and in light of this document let us critically evaluate the liturgical experimentations of the past forty years. And let us also learn from the liturgical experience and practice of the Byzantine Churches.

Here are my concrete proposals:

(1) Abandon the versus populum, immediately! Let priest and people face God together. The single most destructive feature of the “renewed liturgyâ€? is its anthropocentric orientation. The people of God are sanctified by worshipping God, not by celebrating each other.
(2) Restore the chanted liturgy. Prayers are to be sung according to the ancient forms.
(3) Ban the musical compositions of Marty Haugen and David Haas and anything similar. Gregorian chant must be restored as the primary music of the Latin rite. Given the magnitude of the problem, it is probably best to simply ban all music composed after 1960. Perhaps one day the good music that has been composed during the past forty years can be retrieved, but that day is not now. Catholic priests and musicians today do not know what sacred music is.
(4) Restore the use of incense.
(5) Eradicate ritual informality.
(6) Drastically reduce electronic amplification.
(7) Encourage eucharistic adoration both within and outside the Mass. Let the people prostrate themselves before Christ Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. A bow of the head is not sufficient!

All the Anglicans say Amen.

Campaigning in silence

Petition to BMA on Abortion

6.7 million abortions have been performed by doctors in Britain since the implementation of the 1967 Abortion Act and 2006 figures just published show a further rise in the annual number of abortion

There is growing public unrest about the growing number of abortions and specifically about:
1. The 24 week upper age limit for abortions – many feel this should be reduced
2. The fact that abortions for handicap are available up until birth
3. Doctors being placed under pressure to be involved in abortion
4. The increasing evidence that abortion has adverse consequences for mental health
5. The inadequacy of counselling currently available for women seeking abortion

Despite this the British Medical Association (BMA) Ethics Committee is pressing for further liberalisation of the abortion law to allow abortion on request up until twelve weeks.

Sign the petition (if you a UK citizen) or learn more from the Christian Medical Fellowship

The Christian Medical Fellowship and the Lawyers Christian Fellowship are evangelical outfits, presently campaigning on abortion and the sexual orientation regulations respectively. But you will find no mention of them or these campaigns at (the evangelical) Christian Today UK online news service.

The problem is not just that evangelicals cannot hear what Catholics are saying, but they cannot hear each other either. Public Christianity, ha, ha.

Absent from the public sphere

There are two very astute pieces from Pietro De Marco over at Chiesa on the Church and the public square in Italy, though it could be the UK that he is describing. The first is called A Catholicism deliberately absent from the public sphere

A first thesis: in the Tuscan communities, Catholic existence – outside of the circles of family and parish, or the many spiritual and intellectual cenacles, as well as the visibility circumscribed by the Sunday Mass and outreach activities – is, paradoxically, mainly notable for its absence.

This prevalent absence is an absence from what is called the public sphere. A dominant Catholic invisibility cannot be replaced by a thousand activities, as important and generous as these may be, in the social realm and in the domains of daily life. The public sphere is something else. The civil dimension of “reactivating at the present time the values of the Christian faith and the ethical guideposts derived from itâ€? (Garelli) is not realized in the little things.

A second thesis: this Tuscan syndrome of a publicly absent Catholic existence is often translated into a presence of individuals in the intellectual or political sphere. This presence is mimetic. What does that mean? A mimetic presence is given if one acts by imitating and adopting the appearance and role of actors already familiar and accepted in the public sphere.

Thus the Catholic is by turns the tolerant mediator, the pacifist, the narrator of the glories of Florence in the twentieth century, the critic of the institutional Church, the extremist defender of the Constitution, the political leader on the side of the citizen, the priest of the disenfranchised (the other priests arouse distrust), the volunteer for strictly humanitarian reasons, the theologian who presents himself as a leftist intellectual, etc. Make no mistake, this mimetic presence is more often the expression of personal conviction than of an effort to mask one’s identity.

A third thesis: this effective invisibility, constituted by a mimetic presence, entails the objective separation of the faith of the individual and of the ecclesial community from the public sphere. But at the same time, it faces recurrent appeals to break down the “historical barricadesâ€? between the Church and civil society. If this contradiction is accepted with complacency, it is because Tuscan Catholic invisibility and its popular theorems have a background of weak theology, which makes it seem natural to merge the condition of the lay Christian with modern secularism.

So three points:

1. Christian institutions are being made, or making themselves, invisible, as Christian institutions.

2. We are happy to fall into the roles that the media is ready to acknowledge, and then Christian witness is identified with this or that individual rather than with the Christian community, so it ceases to be Christian witness.

3. This minimises the Christian difference. But the point of Christian witness is not to dissolve the difference between the Church and society – that would be to hide the distinctiveness of the gospel. The difference between Church and society must be clear, for the sake of society.

A lot of good theological diagnostic work is being done by the Catholic Church in Europe. The Catholics are teaching us how to be public Christians.

Are evangelicals in the UK listening to this? Are you listening Bible Society, Theos, Evangelical Alliance, Christian Today?

We come to dialogue with the whole of our faith

First of all, a remark about the idea of dialogue itself. It is, I suggest, an idea that finds its roots and origins in the Jewish and the Christian traditions. It is an idea that has undergone, philosophical development in the western world. In his great encyclical, Ecclesiam Suam, Pope Paul VI spoke of Christianity as essentially dialogical in nature. It is grounded in dialogue between God and man that finds its full expression in the relationship between Jesus and his heavenly Father. The spirit of Gaudium et Spes is one of dialogue and therefore of a spirit of openness to what the Holy Spirit is doing in the world as a whole

As Catholics, when we evangelise, when we preach, we are also receptive to what the Holy Spirit has been doing and is doing in the lives of those to whom we preach our message. I mention this to make the point that this key concept of dialogue, which is integral to Vatican II, may be quite alien to members of other religions. They may see it as an imposition of a Western way of thinking on them. Both Muslims and adherents to the great religions of the East could have questions about the rhetoric of dialogue. They might see questions of the unity of the human community in quite different terms.

Nonetheless I would submit that dialogue is a vital contribution that Christians have to make to inter-faith relations and peace in the world. Dialogue means respecting the other as other. When members of different religions come together in dialogue they do not water down their beliefs in order to find a lowest common denominator. When we come to the table of dialogue we bring the whole of our faith. Otherwise we come empty-handed. And if we bring our faith in all its fullness and integrity to the table of dialogue then we will discover shared perspectives, convergence of understanding as well as sympathy and mutual respect. As Christians we cannot but promote dialogue and seek a response- an attitude of dialogue in those to whom we reach out.

Archbishop Kevin McDonald of Southwark Inter-Religious Dialogue in a Globalised World

An Anglicanism in which every one does what is right in their own eyes

The Communion has grown and developed through the missionary vision and labours of, among others, Evangelical Anglicans in the Church of England. Evangelicals have never understood the Church of England as simply the national church of the English people but part of the worldwide church of Christ sharing in his mission. We should have a vision for a global communion committed to mission and to partnership together in mission with other provinces. The covenant process provides a means of developing structures for such a missional vision. It also offers the hope of being able (in a theologically rich and biblically based form of a covenant) to express biblical and creedal faith and to develop the structures of a distinctive global Anglicanism which is both Catholic and Reformed and which will help us work for the unity among all his disciples for which Christ prayed.
Conclusion

There are no solid reasons – either in principle or pragmatically in the current political context – for evangelicals or anyone else to object to Synod making a commitment to positive participation in the covenant process. There are many reasons – theological and political – why evangelicals and others who share our commitments to world mission, to learning from Anglicans around the globe, to safeguarding biblical faith and to facilitating harmony among Anglicans should wish the Church of England wholeheartedly to support the covenant process. Indeed, in terms of our life together as a Communion, the covenant process is – like the Windsor Report in which it originated – now ‘the only poker game in town’. If the Communion is to have a future together then the form of this will be discerned in and through this covenant process. For the Church of England to abandon that process through non-participation, or destructive participation, would therefore be for the eye to say to the hand ‘I don’t need you’ and for us as a province to embrace a vision of Anglicanism in which every one does what is right in their own eyes.

Andrew Goddard The Anglican Covenant

What is ‘common’ needs to be nurtured

Amongst the papers prepared for the Church of England General Synod in July (220&) is the very considerable GS 1651 Transforming Worship: Report of the Liturgical Commission (large Word doc), made available online by Thinking Anglicans.

The Liturgical Commission reviews the vast range of initiatives and says something cautiously encouraging about almost everything. But is this what we want the Liturgical Commission to do? Don’t we want it to give us some direction, and so to be prescriptive?

It description of the situation as our worship book ‘Common Worship’ is met by the profusion of ‘emergent’, ‘liquid church’ and ‘fresh expressions’ is a marvel of understatement.

6.2.4 In a climate of considerable liturgical diversity, what is ‘common’ (in Common Worship) needs continually to be nurtured, embraced and celebrated. This need arises from loyalty to the Anglican style of worship, respect for those structures and texts which have been formed with the consent of the whole Church, and a shared sense of identity and fellowship in our common calling to serve the nation

6.5.3 It is also important to note that the relatively informal liturgies associated with Fresh Expressions, or categorized as ‘alternative worship’, require of those who are to lead them a higher degree of liturgical and theological preparation than more ‘traditional’ liturgies that follow a set pattern. This is true in both senses of the word ‘preparation’: they require a better grasp of liturgical issues, and they demand more homework.

Amy

Pope Benedict has, in his Wednesday General Audiences, been giving brief addresses on the leadership of early Christianity. He began last year with the Apostles. Such things naturally lend themselves to be collected in book form, and a couple of months ago, OSV obtained rights to publish an edition of Apostles in the US (a British version has already been published).

As the editor was working his way through the text (cleaning up footnotes, clarifying puzzling translations, etc), it occurred to me that this would lend itself to the needs of an adult religious ed program. It’s short, the chapters are relatively brief, and of course, it’s Pope Benedict writing, so the content is rich and clearly presented, with at least one thought-provoking, made-for-reflection sentence on every page.

So, I opened my big mouth, and here I am with one more project to do before the end of the month.

Anyone who does religious ed in a parish setting – consider this. There will be twelve sessions, each with questions for study and questions for reflection, as well as opening and closing prayers.

I really believe in what Pope Benedict is doing – he is a master catechist, he understands the problems and challenges of the way of discipleship, of the way of simply being human, and he brings all of that into what he writes.

Amy Welborn

And here are those Wednesday General Audiences – (backwards from June) on Athanasius, Eusebius, Cyprian, Tertullian, Origen, Irenaeus…

Unknown faith

Christianity is politics done slowly. It is politics with memory and imagination, that understands the past as resource from which a future may perhaps come into being constructed. It is the politics of the promise of God.

It is a deep-seated assumption of the tradition as we have inherited it that the past is gone and has no further impact on us. But the past does not disappear. It is still entirely with us. It is just that we have no awareness of it. This is the nominalism (we are entirely to free to make up names for things, after which they will be what we have named them), or the voluntarism (things are what we will them to be) or antinomianism (there is no law or tradition or givens for us to come to terms with) of the Western tradition. We do not see it as a tradition, that is as somthing passed to us, or see it as one tradition, but instead see it simply as everything, our field of view being filled by it.

The Western tradition is a kind of forgetfulness. We are not at in charge of the machine we have inherited. The machine wants to give us the impression that we are entirely in charge: it does not even tell us that we are astride a machine. It wants us to believe that we are entirely free agents, able to choose what to do just as impulsively and unconstrainedly as children. We are up on the bridge of an ocean liner, throwing the wheel this way and that, unaware that the ship is only able to react very slowly, so each of our instructions cancels out the previous one, while the great ship of the Western intellectual tradition ploughs on.

But Christianity allows us to see that the Western intellectual tradition – ‘modernity’ – is one tradition, because Christianity is another tradition. Christianity is a distinct tradition because the world is unable to absorb the church so that the distinction between disappears.

The Western tradition think it knows Christianity and has seen through it. But Christianity is preserved as a tradition, and as an alternative to the Western tradition, by the freedom of God. It is God who keeps Christianity out of our reach, this unknown, ungraspable mystery, which alone secures for us the possibility of a future.

Ecclesia in Europa

This loss of Christian memory is accompanied by a kind of fear of the future. Tomorrow is often presented as something bleak and uncertain. The future is viewed more with dread than with desire. Among the troubling indications of this are the inner emptiness that grips many people and the loss of meaning in life. The signs and fruits of this existential anguish include, in particular, the diminishing number of births, the decline in the number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and the difficulty, if not the outright refusal, to make lifelong commitments, including marriage.

We find ourselves before a widespread existential fragmentation. A feeling of loneliness is prevalent; divisions and conflicts are on the rise. Among other symptoms of this state of affairs, Europe is presently witnessing the grave phenomenon of family crises and the weakening of the very concept of the family, the continuation or resurfacing of ethnic conflicts, the re-emergence of racism, interreligious tensions, a selfishness that closes individuals and groups in upon themselves, a growing overall lack of concern for ethics and an obsessive concern for personal interests and privileges. To many observers the current process of globalization, rather than leading towards the greater unity of the human race, risks being dominated by an approach that would marginalize the less powerful and increase the number of poor in the world.

In connection with the spread of individualism, we see an increased weakening of interpersonal solidarity: while charitable institutions continue to carry out praiseworthy work, one notes a decline in the sense of solidarity, with the result that many people, while not lacking material necessities, feel increasingly alone, left to themselves without structures of affection and support.

At the root of this loss of hope is an attempt to promote a vision of man apart from God and apart from Christ. This sort of thinking has led to man being considered as “the absolute centre of reality, a view which makes him occupy – falsely – the place of God and which forgets that it is not man who creates God, but rather God who creates man. Forgetfulness of God led to the abandonment of manâ€?. It is therefore “no wonder that in this context a vast field has opened for the unrestrained development of nihilism in philosophy, of relativism in values and morality, and of pragmatism – and even a cynical hedonism – in daily lifeâ€?. European culture gives the impression of “silent apostasyâ€? on the part of people who have all that they need and who live as if God does not exist.

This is the context for those attempts, including the most recent ones, to present European culture with no reference to the contribution of the Christian religion which marked its historical development and its universal diffusion. We are witnessing the emergence of a new culture, largely influenced by the mass media, whose content and character are often in conflict with the Gospel and the dignity of the human person. This culture is also marked by an widespread and growing religious agnosticism, connected to a more profound moral and legal relativism rooted in confusion regarding the truth about man as the basis of the inalienable rights of all human beings. At times the signs of a weakening of hope are evident in disturbing forms of what might be called a “culture of deathâ€?.

John Paul II Ecclesia in Europa 1.8-9

Aberdeen faculty

Scott Prather at Swords to Plowshares introduces the Aberdeen theology faculty. They look like a good team, young fresh and energetic, all publishing, with the emphasis on dogmatics, which I think makes this department unique in the UK.

My first question:

What sort of ecclesiology does all this evangelical dogmatics result in? It looks to me as though ecclesiology is regarded as the concern of just one member of this faculty. Evangelicals do have an ecclesiology, don’t they? Since there is a fair input from the German theological scene, I hope that there is at least a nodding relationship with Lutheran ecclesiology, by which I mean Luther, not Bonhoeffer. I appreciate that the Anglican/Episcopalian church is not in particularly good shape in Scotland, but then this is where a faculty like this could make a difference, isn’t it?

Second question:

How can we replicate this faculty a little further south in the UK? You have heard of church plants – how about a faculty plant? I know another city a little further down that North Sea coast that could do with some dogmatic theology, and London is its name.