Thursday, May 6, 2010

For almost a week now I have been living and practicing with some pretty serious physical pain- the result of a reoccurrence of a double Charlie-horse which first occurred the summer following the death of my dear Louis. The third reoccurrence since then, this has been the worst pain ever from this, which could be a reflection of my age as much as anything.
Almost a week now, there is still some pain, but the primary issue is now getting some strength back into the muscles of my left calf muscles. All to say, though the post I refer to here appeared a week ago now, I have been in no shape until now to complete this entry. In the meantime, practicing with pain has been incredibly insightful and the opportunity for all sorts of intercessory/metta practice.

Amazing how the Holy Spirit is continually reaching out to engage us, especially when we leave ourselves open to wrestling with the great questions and ambiguities of living a life of faith in such complex times. Recently, it was a post by a wonderful priest who is not only a cherished sister but also a powerfully prophetic voice in our process of becoming the Church we are called to be.

In one post 'It’s Margaret' managed to not only blast me wide open, leaving me aching and in tears with the tragedy of Julie & John; she also echoed my own continual struggles with the violence in Scripture; she waxed positively prophetic, calling the American House of Bishops/House of Deputies on their indiscriminate use of such problematic scriptures in our liturgies- a call I would suggest which is long overdue.

I will not presume to either parse or extract Margaret’s powerful post found here however I would urge you to not only read it, but to seriously consider enrolling Margaret’s blog in your favorties or whatever it is more technically savvy people do. Not only is Margaret’s online ministry one of the most gloriously human and prophetic out there, she also contextualizes her posts with extracts from our daily lectionary.

And of course, as if the prophetic challenge of Margaret’s post weren’t enough there were personal resonances to my reading Margaret’s post.

Essentially, Margaret’s challenge to the HoB/D was:
A reminder that while we believe that Scripture contains all things necessary for salvation, not everything in Scripture is either necessary or conducive to salvation.

A witness to the perils and human consequences of idolatry- and never more so than when it is practiced towards a document with multiple authors, a staggering diversity of cultural contexts and written over a span of more than a thousand years.

A call to those responsible for the design and organization of our liturgical calendar to resort to that third medium of Anglican practice- intelligence- in their use & selection of Scripture for our liturgies.

All of which, of course mirrors some of my own issues with certain practices within our Church at this time.

Sitting with ‘the Margaret effect’ also brought to mind a recent conversation with another cherished online contact ‘P’ who, like myself, was a recipient of Bart Ehrman’s ‘’Jesus Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and why we don’t know about them)” from a mutual contact with her wishes for a challenging Lent.

Ehrman, a Biblical scholar of some repute and a successful popularizer of contemporary Biblical scholarship, teaches at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and I have read and appreciated several of his earlier books. I would be the last person on earth to feel qualified to either critique or review Ehrman’s work; I would however suggest that it deserves serious consideration and reflection on the part of people of faith.

‘P,’ a recovering Roman-Catholic and ‘joyous newbie Episcopalian’ (to use his term) had never read Ehrman before, and was seriously shaken but much of what he read for its implications for our current Church practice. During his reading we ended up speaking several times on the phone, and not surprisingly the questions ‘P’ raised went right to the heart of the matter.

Having discovered that Ehrman now identifies as an atheist, P wanted to know if Ehrman’s interpretation of contemporary scholarship was either erroneous or skewed, where was the response of the academic community within our Church, challenging or dialoguing with this very successful author? Where was the rethinking of our current use of the Scriptural canon in our liturgies? And where were the teaching opportunities being developed to explore the implications of the historical/critical method of Scriptural study?

Basically, if Ehrman’s work is indeed ‘correct’ why is our Church not reflecting the contradictions and ambiguities of Scripture in its teaching and liturgical practices?

Which brings to mind another conversation of more than two years ago with an Anglican academic who has contacted me about getting together during her visit to Montreal.

This was our second meeting, our first alone and we were having coffee at a café across from the university building where I worked. I no longer even remember the Scriptural passage we were discussing, but my visitor had heard it the previous Sunday in the St. James Cathedral in Toronto which she had been visiting for a conference. Whatever it was, as a feminist scholar my visitor was taking well-deserved issue with it.

When I reminded her that the bad theology expressed in that particular passage was a reflection of the cultural context at the time of the book’s creation, my friend frothed more richly than her cappuccino. ‘Exactly! So why was this misogynist embarrassment even included in liturgy... And to make matters worse, it wasn’t even referenced in the sermon. What sort of subliminal message does this send to the person in the pew.’

Who knows, perhaps we even coined a term that afternoon- ‘lazy liturgy’ but there was also ‘sleepwalking through the Scriptural canon.’

‘You know what really pisses me off is that once again it’s being left to the laity to rock this particular boat.’ That’s a money quote, and I’ve recalled it verbatim.

My friend went on at great length about her experiences of too many clergy just ‘going through the motions’ and what an insult it is to both their congregation and the liturgy.

Trying to put a positive spin on things I commented on what a challenging and necessary gift she was to the Church and reminded her of many of the incredible engaged Anglicans we both know from their online ministries (you know who you are Beloved Giants).

‘That’s just it,’ she reminded me. ‘I have my own fulltime job, a house to run, two children and a husband, to say nothing of the new program I’m putting together... Besides which, I’m not even a theologian!’

We eventually went on to my work on ‘A Church Unafraid,’ creating transformational models and how the Church must to come clean on several fronts in order to free itself from its self-made straightjacket of patriarchal dualism in order to meet the Holy Spirit and embrace Her vision of the Church we are called to be. But sitting here tonight, thinking of and my cherished friend and her prophetic priesthood, another ‘money quote’ came to mind. It’s Matthew Fox, quoting M.D. Chenu, the French theologian who not only participated in Vatican II, but also played a key role in the worker priest movement:
M.D. Chenu used to insist that the New Testament priesthood was not about cult but about prophecy. Priests were to be prophetic.

And in the same essay:
Worship ought to be the energy source from which a people heals itself and lets go and starts over.

and of course, being dear Father Fox there’s more to this quote:

The postmodern worship makes all this possible and even fun.

1 comment:

it's margaret said...

I don't know what your previous post says --but I am deeply humbled by this post, and all that you say.


God bless you.
(PS --small 'm' --please! It has nothing to do with self esteem, and everything to do with subverting the systems of the cult of individualism....)