Saturday, September 27, 2008

Resolving the Issues issues

On the 6th month anniversary of the cancellation of Issues Etc., Pastor Todd Wilken and Jeff Schwarz spent 80 minutes giving more details on their firing.

In particular, they went through line-by-line dissecting the official LCMS explanation for their firing. (Also stored and annotated by Save the LCMS! on May 1 and May 1 and May 2 and May 2). Rather than burn air time from their syndicated show, last Tuesday’s response was a web-only MP3 report, following up on their earlier August 1 “open mic” discussion.

“LCMS Inc.” sounds a lot like the large lethargic bureaucratic organizations where you can’t get any results, either because nobody knows if a good job is being done or no one feels they can make a difference. The term “syndocrat” may be specific to today’s problems of the Missouri Synod, but many large church bodies (like many government bodies and nonprofits) have similar problems. It is refreshing to have the “inside scoop” of a detailed rebuttal by two former employees that know where the bodies are buried.

We should all be thankful that the two former KFUO employees didn’t sign the non-disclosure agreement that was the prerequisite for any severance pay.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Last one out turn of the lights

This week marks the beginning of the final chapter of traditional belief in the Episcopal Church. Acting in the belief that the ends justify the means, the revisionist majority of the House of Bishops ignored the canons of the church and voted to depose Bishop Robert Duncan, leader of the Anglican Communion Network and Bishop of Pittsburgh. The heretic Bp. Walter Righter got a trial for his heresies, but the orthodox do not.

The vote — in anticipation of the diocese’s imminent departure from TEC — was likened by one Episcopal priest to a 2002 Tom Cruise movie:
The Presiding Bishop and her Chancellor have interpreted the canons of the church in a way that would not hold up under impartial scrutiny and so appear to have proceeded with an interpretation of the cannons that suits their desire to proceed with deposition. Expediency ruled the day. I am reminded of the movie “Minority Report” in which people are arrested before they commit crimes.
Ignoring due process sets a dangerous precedent for the church, as a few Episcopalians recognize. However, with the Stalinists firmly in charge, no further dissent will be tolerated and all the orthodox (small o) will be forced out.

Steve Wood predicts that next summer’s General Convention will sweep away any attempt at compromise, repealing all accommodations intended to hold the moderates in the church. He sees this as the logical end result of decades of revisionism in PECUSA.
I suggested that two entirely different religions, with very different languages of faith, now exist under the same name. And that The Episcopal Church as revealed at the most recent General Conventions no longer remotely resembles The Episcopal Church we once knew - which is the source of great grief and sorrow for many of us.
So the orthodox (traditionalist and evangelical) will be gone by the end of 2009. In Virginia and possibly in California, they’ll leave with their buildings, but in other cases, parishes will be forced to start from scratch. Either way, they’ll all be leaving, because the fa├žade of compromise has been stripped away.

The good news is that this week’s developments will likely hasten US and international support for a new North American Anglican Province. So perhaps the new church is two years away, not nine years away.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What makes 'Christian' music?

On Wednesday, George Strait won a Country Music Award nomination for best single for “I Saw God Today”. The songwriters were also nominated for song of the year. The poignant song about loss and faith spent two weeks at #1 on the country charts in May.

I happened to see Strait perform the song back in February, before the song was released on Strait’s album, Troubadour. (I didn’t tape it but someone else did).
I've been to church 
I've read the book 
I know he's here 
But I don't look 
Near as often as I should 
Yeah, I know I should 
His fingerprints are everywhere 
I just slowed down to stop and stare 
Opened my eyes and man I swear 
I saw God today.
Still this song — supposedly tied to the death of his daughter in 1986 — is far more explicitly religious than you’d hear in hip hop or (nowadays) even in pop.

So my question — how is this different than CCM? Is the music enough to make it not qualify than CCM? If you read the lyrics and didn’t have the music, would it seem consistent with some of the less salvation-oriented CCM songs.

Some argue that country music reflects the theology of rural white Southern Protestants. (See, for example, Redneck Liberation: Country Music As Theology).

Given this, other than the pedal steel, how is popular (country) music with vaguely Christian lyrics different from popular (pop) music with vaguely Christian lyrics?

Monday, September 8, 2008

New Wesleyan disharmonies

Charles Wesley was perhaps the most prolific English hymn author, with more than 5,000 hymn lyrics to his name. He recently celebrated his 300th birthday (or rather, his fans celebrated on his behalf). Today he’s best known as the younger brother John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement within the 18th century Church of England.

Recently, Kenneth Newport, English professor (and Anglican priest) decoded Charles Wesley's secret diaries. Those diaries reveal his feelings about his brother's personal and professional choices. Newport's findings were reported last month in the Daily Independent and then reprinted in VirtueOnline.

Rev. Prof. Newport’s website notes that he is preparing to release a two-volume edited set of letters of Charles Wesley. So if there's a living expert on what Wesley was thinking, it would appear Newport is it.

One discovery from the diaries was that Wesley objected to the timing of his brother's marriage. More relevant to church history are his feeling sabout forming a separate Methodist church:
The diaries confirm Wesley's clear opposition to a break-off from the Church of England. "There was a suspicion of lay preaching and Methodism was frowned upon by the established church," said Professor Newport. "Charles had a very clear line on separation. He wrote: 'I am for church first and then Methodism.'"
Fortunately, Anglican hymnody borrows liberally from Methodist hymnals, as well as Lutheran and often Catholic and other Christian songs. (Not counting those hymns sung in the Church of England before Henry decided he wanted his own church).

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Protestant doctrine in hymn lyrics

Josh Osbun runs the most hymn-oriented Lutheran blog out there (or at least LCMS blog): Holy Holy Hymnody, successor to his earlier blog The Crazy Lutheran. On July, he went on a binge of posts about wedding hymns (i.e. his own), but recently the Concordia seminarian is now back posting about how theology peeks out in hymn lyrics.

Two recent posts look at hymns whose theology would not fit with LCMS (or earlier Luther) teachings. One a week ago looked at how a particular Lutheran denomination (Association of Free Lutheran Congregations) had adopted a law-based theology in hymns more consistent with a Pentecostal hymnal. A posting Monday noted not only the strong Marian worship in a Catholic hymnal, but also the phrase “ever virgin” as a side comment in a hymn about Joseph.

Of course, the whole point of the “both Catholic and Reformed” mantra of the COE is that in the 16th century, Henry, Cranmer and later Elizabeth were trying to split the difference between the Catholic heritage and the winds of Reformation blowing over England.

Unfortunately, John Calvin (with Reformed) theology was having more influence on the British Isles (e.g. Church of Scotland) than were Luther and Melanchthon. I say unfortunate, because I believe Lutheran thought would be easier to reconcile than Calvinism: despite the enmity to the "Bishop of Rome," much of the theology of Luther (the former Catholic monk) is Catholicism plus the primacy of the Bible (Sola Scriptura) minus a Pope. A few Lutherans even parallel Catholics and Anglo Catholics in their liturgical traditions.

So how would Anglicans (e.g. as bound by the 39 Articles) react to Osbun’s list?

The rejection of certain Reformed beliefs is clearest. While the Reformed put Law ahead of Gospel, Article XVIII explicitly rejects works righteousness and embraces Luther’s Sola Fide.

Although a strong tenet of Catholic and Orthodox faith, the 39 Articles are silent as to whether Mary remained a Virgin after Jesus was born or enjoyed normal marital relations with her husband. A recent Nashotah term paper renews the older argument that Anglicans should embrace perpetual virginity, because a) it’s not banned by the 39 Articles and b) there was a long church tradition supporting the idea.

Here Catholic and Lutheran theology are opposed: with sola scriptura, it’s hard for most Protestants to accept this dogma. (But again, Anglo Catholics are neither/both reformed and catholic). So I guess I need to scour all the Marian hymns in the COE/PECUSA hymnals and see what they say.

I had not realized that it’s the Evangelicals rather than the Anglo-Catholics that treat the 39 Articles as a statement of confession, analogous to Luther’s small catechism. At least, that’s what Ian Murray said in a review of the GAFCON events, said Evangelicals called themselves “confessing Anglicans.” Murray continued:
For centuries evangelicals have appealed to the Thirty-nine Articles as affirming the Protestantism of the Church of England, particularly the Articles which deny the ‘Romish Doctrine of Purgatory’ (22), other ‘sacraments’ (25), ‘the sacrifices of masses’ (31), and the jurisdiction of ‘the Bishop of Rome’ (37). For Anglo-Catholics those statements have long been the most serious barrier to any re-union with Roman Catholicism, and if evangelicals were to enjoy their partnership there was no way that commitment to all the Articles could be required.
Despite being a High Church Anglican, the willingness of some Anglo-Catholics to abandon the founding principles of our church is troubling. If some clergy are so keen on working for the Pope, they should jump now, as opposed to pretending that they want to create a new orthodox Anglican province.