Friday, November 30, 2007

Time will Tell: Commentary on the Secret Eucharist

Okay, here's the deal. This is what concerns me about the so-called "secret" Eucharist the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is reported by the London Times to have preached and presided at recently here.

1. That it was exclusive. When I was in my confirmation classes taught by John W. Howe back in the mid-1980s I was taught that worship services are open - even weddings. They are "worship" services and the point is to worship who? Not one another. They aren't meant to be forums for the community (I guess that's afterward over coffee). They are meant to be for worship and if someone wants to come to a worship service (yes, this even includes baptisms), they are welcome. The door is open.

Apparently, this was not the case with this exclusive Eucharist, according to the London Times (we have yet to see a statement from Canterbury - or even Jim Rosenthall - more on him in a moment). This was by invitation-only Eucharist that was meant, apparently, to be part of the "listening process" for Rowan Williams. So just exactly who was he listening to? It does not appear that the service was about worshiping Jesus (remember Him?) but on engaging in some sort of exclusive gathering of grievances. Well, we're not sure that can be called a Eucharist. And it was not open to all. It's like holding a Dyslexia Eucharist. One can sort of imagine what that might be like - but why would you want to put on non-inclusive so-called worship services, unless it's for another reason entirely?

2. That it was a Political Event. One of the things we've learned is that Eucharists can be turned into political events. Attending one of these Political Eucharists again turns the attention away from the subject of the worship to those who are worshiping. The event itself - and participating in it - becomes a political statement. Again, as said before, there is an exclusive-aspect to these Political Eucharists, again focusing on those who attend rather than focusing on the risen Lord (remember Him?). The statement in attending a Political Eucharist is that the courageous ones are there while the ignorant or unenlightened are outside the gates, or in this case, outside the door. Or at home doing laundry.

The Political Eucharists often modify the liturgy to suit the political cause and turns it into a service of initiation. Also, the "sermon" becomes a focus to assert the political cause over the preaching of the Word. The meaning of the Eucharist also changes to signal more of an initiation into the political cause and not as sinners saved by grace. It's a club.

3. That it was an Open Secret. Despite what the London Times wrote, it was not a secret. It reminded me of when I lived on West Granby Road, Connecticut as a child - there was something called "the Secret Path." It ran behind all the houses and of course, everyone knew about it. That is, everyone who lived there knew about it. People driving by on the highway didn't know about it and didn't know they didn't know about it because they never thought to ask. Still, all those that lived along West Granby Road may have known about it and we all called it "the Secret Path."

That's what this appears to be. It's meant to have the illusion of secrecy, but it isn't really a secret. A person just needs to care to know - and that goes back to the idea that it is an initiation into an exclusive club. And what are the Entry Fees to be invited? Well, it's not by having dyslexia.

4. Jim Rosenthall. StandFirm learned that once their original secret hiding place was revealed they moved over to this place - and guess who offers the new space? Why, the new space is where Canon Rosenthall now performs his newly-minted deacon services. Funny how that happens. Jim Rosenthall has a way of popping up in the most interesting places and he continues to say - or people mistakenly believe - that he speaks for Canterbury. Actually, he oversees the Anglican Communion news service (wild that some thing that Katharine Jefferts Schori calls a dream and David Booth Beers calls a theory has a news service, but there we are). The lines become quite blurred when the American (yep, he's still American) Rosenthall is around. Is it the AAC? Well, there's Jim Rosenthall. Is it the Anglican Communion? Well, there's Jim Rosenthall. Is it the Lambeth Conference? Well, there's Jim Rosenthall. Is it the Archbishop of Canterbury? Well, there's Jim Rosenthall. In fact, I saw him lurking about the National Cathedral at Katharine Jeffert Schori's investiture, so perhaps he knows a thing or two about 815 as well. The official websites of the ACC/ACO and 815 look strikingly similar. One could make the case that all roads lead to Rosenthall.

But just for the record, Jim Rosenthall does not speak for the Archbishop of Canterbury. Not officially - off the record perhaps. Neither does this guy. The official job goes to Jonathon Jennings. Where ever he is.

That we've learned that Rosenthall is involved with the organizational logistics of the "Secret Eucharist" and that the London Times has all the info, well, shouldn't we recognize that this is a strategic decision to engage in Rowan Williams in this political event? If so, why?

The obvious reason is that Rowan supports this stuff and now we know.

But could it be also that he's gone to prepare this group for the coming Advent Letter?

Time will tell. One way or the other.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, BabyBlue, for all you do.

Stewart said...

Thank you for the very accurate summation of my issues with this.

Stu Howe

Kevin said...

A PBS documentary on the fiasco that was the Clarance Thomas confirmation was a mirror that each element of American society look at it and saw reflected back their own struggles (which often were contradictory and mutual exclusive, but we saw our own concerns reflected back to us).

When I read your post, I could sense how many different people could respond to it, each very much like a mirror into themselves:

The organizers could agree completely with it, but read into it the messages as they understand it (as I can +Ingham's latest letter, because we start from a different conception of the issues the same words mean very different things). I can hear in my head the organizers saying, "amen" to everything you wrote, but challenge this as needing to happen this way because of the beliefs of others, but rather have fully open Eucharists (thus in a sense making it a political statement).

I can see other taking a tougher line and that unrepentant political ambitions were behind this so by 1 Cor 5 & 1 Cor 11 as well as 2 Peter 2, Gal 1:8 (many, many etc.) that ++RDW should not have done this because by the very act it condones what Scripture condemns. Thus it turns into a political event.

There are still other opinions that are out there.

++Rowan Williams is probably a very conflicted man who is in an ethical minefield. He probably wanted to show support to one group without appearing to be siding with them, basically not wanting a political Eucharist, but not understanding that action itself was a political.

Many of the ABC's answer at the NOLA press conference show me that he trying to combine iron and clay in his understanding of morality. Then he is taking this amalgamation of sacred & secular reasoning to extremely complex issues, and not doing so well.


PS. We have his view on the presenting issue from that press conference as well, but I think he'll annoy the other side as well for his commitment level seems low as the overarching concern it hoping the Communion does not shatter.

Anonymous said...

Making the Eucharist exclusive and political. What does this remind me of? I know ... certain primates in Dar es Salaam.

Lapinbizarre said...

Why was the eucharist by invite only and at an undisclosed location? You've seen the to-do over at Stand Firm, where the whole Rosenthal thread was pulled by Greg Griffith earlier today because of the nastiness of some of the comments. Is it not reasonable to assume that the principal reason for the secrecy was to avoid disruption, even possibly violence? Also, maybe to avoid unpleasant publicity against any of those attending the service.

Thanks, by the way, for the point that you made about Martyn Minns attending and preaching at an Integrity service five years back. Obviously his doing so did not impinge on his own position, but maybe by your pointing this out you lowered the SF temperature by a degree or two.

Ed McNeill said...

I just looked at the two websites, and apart from sharing a ubiquitous white background and similiar symetrical designs, they really are quite different. Both are boring from a design perspective, although I find the Anglcian Communion page more interesting. Basically though, both are such standard issue that suggesting collusion is too easy.

I also want to take the opportunity to thank you for your all that you do - have done - for Anglican orthodoxy in north america. Well done.

Anonymous said...

RE: "You've seen the to-do over at Stand Firm, where the whole Rosenthal thread was pulled by Greg Griffith earlier today because of the nastiness of some of the comments."


The thread was a do-over because of the childish comments about "brass rubbing" that BOTH reappraiser and reasserter participated in, not -- unlike what Lapin would like to imply -- because of any "nastiness" . . .. The thread needed to focus on Rosenthal -- not immature and bizarre sexualizing of brass.

RE: " . . . but maybe by your pointing this out you lowered the SF temperature by a degree or two."

Nope -- because the issue for almost all of our commenters was the ham-fisted, fumbling-around attempt at DECEIT that the bishop of London made about the service. What a deceitful, cowardly, and shamefully non-prophetic act that was.

If one is going to do some sort of "gay eucharist" [as BB points out -- truly bizarre and politicized] -- one should be proud and up-front about it.

They weren't. They behaved in a sneaky, sly, scared, and dissembling fashion.

Like Bruno at the New Orleans press conference.

Really -- just like children caught with their hand in the cookie jar, looking up when the camera flash goes off.


Lapinbizarre said...

"Brass rubbings"? Let's see, Sarah. Let me count the ways....

"If homosexual men are going to present themselves as openly promiscuous and if they are going to present their open promiscuity as a positive and attractive aspect of the gay lifestyle, then you can’t very well complain when people take then at their word. Would it shock me if a group of homosexual men took Communion, and then went into the church basement and sodomized each other like rats? Not in the least. And why should it? That is the homosexual lifestyle in all its glory. It’s not picket fences and suburban monogamy. It’s casual sex with whomever happens to be available at the moment - at least until you are too old to find a willing partner. And if promiscuity is not such a bad thing, then why should they (or you) be offended at the suggestion?"

Not nastiness, Sarah? Plenty nasty and a fine example of the perverse obsession with gay sex which, for some unaccountable reason has such a hold on a coterie of SF regulars.

In the absence of a more specific statement from Mr. Griffith, I will continue to hold him under suspicion of "decency". As to your comments, I can do no better than quote what Mad Priest coincidentally posted earlier this morning on his site.

"I am a man of integrity. That is why I never play word games or engage in theological discussion with the opposition, anymore - the time for such things is passed. My position is clear. I despise their devilish philosophy which I do not regard as adult or even sub-adult. I regard it as sub-human. I am not in conversation with them. I am out to shut them up."

KJ said...

Why the "secrecy?" The reaction would seem to answer that question. While many at the Eucharist would have no problem with their attendance being known, others would not. Some are not at a place, physical or emotional where they can be open about their sexuality. Sarah's distortion of the life of the gay believer would illustrate as to why. Let's also not forget that many, not all, detractors of the event would refuse to share the Eucharist with those attending, when given the opportunity. So then to feign shock when the Eucharist is shared in a place of safety defies logic.

I pray for those who find themselves in the bondage created by such lack of Gospel mercy. While it is most definitely a curse, in my experience, I ultimately found it to be blessing as I knew that in God alone was my security, and only there was I safe.

Also, you should be aware of the harm to the Gospel that such graceless reactions create. While they may play well to the "home crowd," those who may think they are not in need of a "physician", as Christ once pointed out, those on the "outside" are repelled by acts that seem quite contrary to what they know about Christ.

But even for that, I thank you, since as the occasion arises, it certainly makes it easy to make the distinction between empty religion versus the Gospel. One brings burdens and ridicule; the other, good news and life.

Pageantmaster said...

"could it be also that he's gone to prepare this group for the coming Advent Letter?"

I wonder if that might be extremely perceptive BabyBlue.

Anonymous said...

RE: "Sarah's distortion of the life of the gay believer . . . "

Huh? What distortion -- no idea what on earth you are speaking of.

RE: "So then to feign shock when the Eucharist is shared in a place of safety defies logic."

Right -- but then I didn't "feign shock" over that, I wasn't even "shocked" over the cowardly and deceitful behavior of the Bishop of London. Just grossed out, as I was by Bishop Bruno at his New Orleans press conference.

RE: "Also, you should be aware of the harm to the Gospel that such graceless reactions create."

I've no interest in your conception of your "Gospel" nor of what "harm" whatever I do does to your "Gospel."


Anonymous said...

Regarding the quote -- I wholeheartedly agree, LP -- a nasty one. But Griffith had merely to delete that quote, rather than the entire thread.

No -- that one quote could easily have been dealt with -- but since the thread was ruined by the ridiculous and frequent comments on brass rubbings, the entire thread needed to be deleted and restarted -- and I'm glad that he did.

RE: "As to your comments, I can do no better than quote . . . "

Why yes . . . I'm quite sure you cannot do better, LB. ; > )

However I agree with this segment of your quote: "That is why I never play word games or engage in theological discussion with the opposition, anymore . . . "

I agree -- we don't share enough in common to really have a discussion -- we don't share the same foundational worldviews and gospels.

RE: "I am out to shut them up."

But it is good to know that MP will be very disappointed in his latter goal. ; > )


Lapinbizarre said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BabyBlue said...

This is probably best a post on its own, but since yesterday was World AIDS Day it does remind me that for more "bourgeois" progressives (I'm thinking of Andrew Sullivan - I know he might think of himself as a conservative, but I think his views are far more of what I might call "bourgeois progressivism") - there is view to pick out the bits of bohemia one likes (alternative lifestyles) and then "establish" them into the culture, at least publicly. In literary circles over the years there has been an experiment not only with art forms but with lifestyle. Andrew is a good example because he is HIV-positive and knows the cost of living the lifestyle, so he now champions promoting one of the most bourgeois institutions ever into the "alternative lifestyle" - marriage as a way to combat the influx of AIDS. This was in direct opposition to the politically-challenging gay advocates (like ACT UP) which championed legitimizing the bohemian lifestyle (anything goes). In the book "After the Ball" the authors argue that ACT UP's type of methods were counterproductive and the authors basically make the point to take a "conservative" view of bringing legitimacy to the alternative lifestyles to the American culture by using cultural institutions to champion their cause. There was probably no institution more bourgeois than the Episcopal Church. That we have a melding of finding solutions to the pandemic and the political advocacy of alternative lifestyles is no accident. What is rather odd is that we don't hear much about the solution of partnered relationships to the pandemic - and it may be because the alternative lifestyle activities, especially among gay men who are the ones at greater risk in the US, continue - despite all the work toward legitimizing the lifestyle by introducing the institution of marriage as a way to curb the pandemic. It now seems to be all about rights and the political aspirations by advocacy groups.

So from using institutions with initiation rites like ordination, the Eucharist, or even marriage - it was a different way than storming into the U.S. House of Representatives shouting and being dragged off to jail to gain acceptance into the mainstream of American culture. It was a political strategic decision, not a moral one. It's not that having lots of different partners was immoral, it was the institutions were needed to further the political cause. And people's own personal identities were the collateral.

But there are problems - as even Andrew Sullivan learned. What is projected in public is not always the case in private. Authors such as Leanne Payne would argue that at the heart of these alternative lifestyles are sexual addictions and emotional enmeshing and the public acceptance of the lifestyles into the institutions of society blinds us to the serious emotional, physical, and spiritual issues raised by promoting the alternative lifestyles as being on par with traditional lifestyles. It also blinds us to the brokenness in the traditional lifestyles themselves by focusing such attention on the alternative lifestyle, that we don't see traditional institutions (i.e., marriage) going to hell in the proverbial handbasket.

When some point out the facts of what happens for gay men who engage in the lifestyle for decades and the physical toll it takes on their bodies - as Dr. Jeffery Satinover writes about in his book Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, it raises all kinds of painful reactions. There just doesn't seem to be a way to gently address the documented facts of what promoting the gay lifestyle will mean to the men who are engaging in it. And so blog lines shut down because there just doesn't seem to be a way to talk about it without acrimony - at least online.

Satinover's book is must-reading for any who care about gay men. Books by Leanne Payne are also helpful - but one thing she does is break down the barriers between "gay" and "straight" and basically maintain that because of the fall and our nature to sin, all are sexually broken and sexual brokenness is expressed in lots of different ways. No one is excluded from brokenness. No one.

To promote and establish alternative lifestyles as a way of showing compassion toward a segment of the population that is sexually broken is like handing a beer to an alcoholic. It will make the alcoholic very happy, but it not the compassionate thing to do. To hold a bottle of beer in front of an alcoholic and say "You can't have this and it will solve your problem" is cruel - and it seems to me that holding institutions in front of those who are gay and saying "you can have these and it will solve all your problems" is equally cruel.

If we are going to oppose legitimizing the alternative lifestyles but not offer another way through, then we too are cruel. It is true that the testimonies of celibate homosexuals or those who used to live in the lifestyle and are now married to the opposite sex are ridiculed by the leadership of organizations such as Integrity. But that is because talking about such ministries as Living Waters is in direct opposition to the goal of bringing legitimacy to alternative lifestyles. Those who advocate that position have promoted enmeshing the lifestyle with the identity of the person. To oppose the lifestyle is to oppose the person.

With the onslaught of AIDS, it appeared to many that engaging in the cultural institutions like marriage was one way to combat the influx - especially for gay men who were proportionately the larger victims in the United States from the terrorizing disease. How could the pandemic be stopped in the US but by promoting ideas of safe sex and fidelity to one partner?

The problem is that the "lifestyle" is still alternative. The lifestyle encourages more sexual brokenness. But much of the orthodox community is silent perhaps because in order for there to be real healing in our churches, we have to stop pointing fingers at the gay community and start looking at ourselves and our own brokenness. Jesus saves. Evangelism works when we too are saved - not just out saving everyone else while we ourselves are perishing.

One of the reasons I support separation is that the environment we are in right now is so toxic, it's a Level Five conflict we heard in court testimony, that we can't even begin to engage with one another at a level where we all feel safe. In Virginia we did - for a time - and part of my own grieving is that was lost. The acrimony spills out in our words. There are fundamentalist leaders on all sides - while the person in the pew (or perhaps, more importantly the person in the street) are left bewildered.

Again, what troubled me about this story was that the Eucharist appears to have been politicized - that it's no longer an act of worship where all are included, but a forum for grievances centering on a very broken group of people and legitimizing their brokenness by engaging in a re-imagined initiation rite that we would normally call the Eucharist. It is a political act and it takes advantage of hurting people - truly hurting people.

What we seem unable or incapable of doing is to recognize all of our own brokenness. It's not about exerting our rights and our condition, but about surrendering our rights and our condition to Jesus Christ and throwing ourselves on to His mercy, and finding our new life hidden in the cross. Our victory is not a personal realization political victory, but one that cost God's only Son his life. The celebration of our salvation - for all of us, for those of us who are straight and for those who are gay - we find our redemption and salvation in the empty tomb. "Therefore if anyone be in Christ they are a new creation. The old has past away, behold all things become new." That's not a political action, it's a personal redemptive one where we are remade from the inside out. We are transformed by the cross.

As I am constantly reminded, it is God's kindness that leads us to repentance, not acrimony, not accusation, not condemnation - but His kindness. Even a small cup of kindness can go a long way. And it's always on the house.


1662 BCP said...

I decry the shameful actions of the current ABC in conducting this "secret communion service". I, for one, call for his removal. Although I may periodically read what appears on Stand Firm, I am tired of the immaturity so prevalent there. Thank you for your postings which have kept me informed. As I have said before, cheer up it's going to get worse.

Anonymous said...

Yeah. It's not like the early Christians or Christians in China worship in secret or anything.