Thursday, December 22, 2005


This seems to be a blatant defiance of Bishop Tom's authority. We should be in prayer that he will act with integrity and prudence.


By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

December 22, 2005

A VICAR who had his civil partnership blessed at a church service yesterday could face disciplinary action from the Church of England.

The Rev Christopher Wardale, 59, the vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Darlington, Co Durham, and Malcolm Macourt, 58, a retired lecturer, registered their union at a ceremony in Newcastle before having it blessed at a local church. The blessing, attended by Dr David Jenkins, the former Bishop of Durham, breached guidelines issued in July by the bishops of the Church.

Clergy were advised against conducting formal blessings of civil partnerships to avoid equating them with marriage.

In the guidelines, condemned by evangelical Anglican Communion archbishops from the Global South as giving the appearance of “evil”, the bishops said that clergy could enter into partnerships, but only if they would abide by Church teaching that sex should be confined to heterosexual marriage.

The guidelines are an attempt to head off a split between conservatives and liberals over homosexuality and the clergy.

A spokeswoman for Dr Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durham, said yesterday: “The bishop is taking advice about what action to pursue.”

A "Converting Ordinance"

I'm not a player in the so-called "Federal Vision" controversies that are currently plaguing my former denomination (Presbyterian Church in America), but some persons whom I consider friends are.

In any case, I am posting these files because a good number of persons on the wrong side of those debates are constantly whining about "innovators" who treat Baptism and Eucharist as "converting ordinances." The paper I posted the other day treats the Sacramental thought of Solomon Stoddard in a tertiary manner, but it bears repeating that Stoddard's theology of Baptism and Eucharist was actually less "Catholic" than many of his fellow Congregationalists. Rather than the sacraments being "means" they were merely the possible "occasion" for a person to receive an "effectual calling" (i.e. "initial justification by faith" on Puritan terms).

Ironically, it is this sub-catholic sacramentology that brings Stoddard and the current crop of Zwinglians in conservative American Presbyterianism into close similitude.

Anyway, I just thought that people batting about terminology like "converting ordinances" ought to have some small idea of what they are talking about and poor students standing for licensure and ordination could benefit from the historical background. Also, Stoddard is one of the dearer American Puritans and this work is apparently not available online anywhere else:

Solomon Stoddard, An Appeal to the Learned, Being a Vindication of the Right of Visible Saints to the Lord’s Supper, Though they be destitute of a Saving Work of God’s Spirit on their Hearts (2nd ed.;Boston, 1751).

Part 1 (Preface through Book 1)

Part 2 (Books 2 and 3)

Sunday, December 18, 2005

What I've Been Up To...

I finished both of these in the last couple of weeks. I am fairly happy with them, but they have not been beaten around by the experts. Let me know if you find particularly offensive errors.

Making The Invisible Visible: The Puritan Wager And Sacramental Hospitality In New England

Development By Rectification: John Henry Newman’s Conception of the Schola Theologorum and the Oxford Movement

Blessings to you all in this Christmastide.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Man, I Sure Do Miss This...

As many of you know, this will be our first winter away from Chicago in several years. Although I really miss the guarantee of snow and cold that we would get up there, this is something I am glad to be rid of...

Chicago Tollway

Today was one of those days where a 45 min. commute would take 2.5 hours.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Practical Roots of Liturgical Reform

My friend, Mark Horne, has raised some important pastoral concerns regarding the participation of physically and cognitively impaired persons in the sacraments. I contributed the following as feedback, not to chide Mark, but to share from my own struggle to overcome the practical and credal limitations imposed by American Presbyterian/Reformed practice.

Presbyterian Bedside Rites (If there is such a thing)

PCA folk generally won't be able to properly imagine the communion of persons outside of public worship (whether because of cognitive or physical difficulties) without a minor liturgical reformation regarding bedside rites and the reservation of the Sacrament.

First, The Westminster standards preclude private masses, and the usual practice of inviting the elders and deacons to an off-site service would seem to violate the spirit of that precept. If anything, the Puritans who composed the confession would have been working from the principle that the grace of the sacrament is non-peculiar and spiritually available elsewhere, so why go to extremes to provide something nonessential?

Secondly, when the Sacrament is re-consecrated in these services (where it is properly consecrated at all), a real disservice is done to the notion of the common table. The Book of Common Worship prescribes this solution to the dilemma. I used it for a while, but stopped when my conscience got the better of me.

Having a number of older folks in my Chicago congregation, I adopted beside liturgies of the Book of Common Prayer and bought a portable communion kit with a pyx to reserve a portion of our Sunday sacrament. I added to the kit some anointing oil and a small stole.

By the time I left Chicago, my home bound folks came to expect that I would bring Holy Communion each time I visited. Fortunately, the RCA isn't quite so hung-up on these things, and I was able to get away with my "Puseyan" innovations.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Lots of Projects

I'm trying to get some stuff finished for the end of the semester. The good news for those who come for the the theology (as opposed to the latest on Notre Dame and general smart-assed comments), I am preparing one paper on John Henry Newman's understanding of the Schola theologorum and one paper on how the fatal problems of the "Puritan experiment" in New England were actually anticipated and pastorally mitigated by the participants themselves (esp. Solomon Stoddard and Cotton Mather).

In the meantime, I am concerned that many of you might be facing the holiday blues. Here is a nice prescription of cyber-Prozac for you. Just click on the link.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Lines from Pants Wars

Special credit to AKMA for the link.

Lines from Star Wars that can be improved if you substitute the word "Pants" for key words:

We've got to be able to get some reading on those pants, up or down.

The pants may not look like much, kid, but they've got it where it counts.

I find your lack of pants disturbing.

These pants contain the ultimate power in the Universe. I suggest we use it.

Han will have those pants down. We've got to give him more time!

General Veers, prepare your pants for a ground assault.

I used to bulls-eye womp-rats in my pants back home.

TK-421. . . Why aren't you in your pants?

Lock the door. And hope they don't have pants.

You are unwise to lower your pants.

She must have hidden the plans in her pants. Send a detachment down to retrieve them. See to it personally Commander.

Governor Tarkin. I recognized your foul pants when I was brought on board.

You look strong enough to pull the pants of a Gundark.

Luke. . . Help me remove these pants.

Great, Chewie, great. Always thinking with your pants.

That blast came from those pants. That thing's operational!

A tremor in the pants. The last time I felt this was in the presence of my old master.

Don't worry. Chewie and I have gotten into pants a lot more heavily guarded than this.

Maybe you'd like it back in your pants, your highness.

Your pants betray you. Your feelings for them are strong. Especially one. . . Your sister!

Jabba doesn't have time for smugglers who drop their pants at the first sign of an Imperial Cruiser.

Short pants is better than no pants at all.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

A Post-Critical Historical Theology

Beyond Ideology and Utopia: Towards a Post-Critical Historical Theology

I've been wanting to do this ever since I started reading Paul Ricoeur five years ago. It was something of a grind because where the shape of Ricoeur's thought is basically intuitive once you get the basics, the details are really complicated.

I have basically operating with this framework for a while now, but needed the space to map the details. Hopefully it will prove useful to the two of you who read this blog.

Special thanks are due to Kevin Vanhoozer who introduced me to Ricoeur and to Brian Robinette for his proofreading and helpful feedback.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

WWJD? (What Would Jesus Drive?)

You say that your Hummer just isn't enough to drive your kids to soccer? Suburban streets not safe enough and you need the offroad capacity to make it past your mailbox? Check this out:

GMC TopKick C4500

At 7 miles per gallon, how could you refuse to partake of this symbol of decadent waste?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Christianity and American Religious Diversity

NOTE: None of this is new and discerning readers will detect retreaded Milbank, Ricoeur, and even Alan Bloom. I just needed to get something posted before you all left for good.

Diana Eck has argued that America is no longer a “Christian nation,” but rather “the world’s most religiously diverse nation.” [A New Religious America: How a "Christian Country" Has Become the World's Most Religiously Diverse Nation (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001).] This can only be received as true if one buys into the premises that precede the conclusion.

In one sense, of course, America has never been a “Christian nation.” Critical historical inquiry into its constituting documents reveals that the United States of America is a deliberately secular project, firmly rooted in the philosophy of the eighteenth century Enlightenment. The Declaration of Independence (1776) recognizes a Creator who endows “certain unalienable rights,” but this is far from the particularity required to affirm the one, tri-personal God, decisively revealed in the God-man, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Indeed, this affirmation countenanced a number of differing and mutually exclusive interpretations among the signatories themselves. More importantly, the Constitution of the United States (1787) and first ten amendments constituting a Bill of Rights (1789/91) specifically disestablishes any particular religion or religious expression. Viewed from this perspective, the fact that the majority of American citizens were Protestant Christians is irrelevant to the question and enfranchised representation is merely a matter of which historical stratum one chooses to investigate. The fact that, say Scientology, was not enfranchised in colonial America is more an accident of history (given that the Church of Scientology wasn’t founded until 1955) than an indication of its in principio exclusion.

On the other hand, one must account for religious practice as part of the discourse of American religion. Simply put, for the majority of its existence the United States has been composed of a predominantly Christian majority. Furthermore, whether one wishes to speak of the vitality and orthodoxy of the founding fathers’ personal religion or not, it remains the case that even they were either practicing Christians or men whose intellectual wealth was predominantly composed of borrowed Christian capital. From the perspective of such thoroughgoing Christian inculturation, then, we may speak, as Fr. Richard John Neuhaus often does, of an “incorrigibly and confusedly Christian America.” [See, for example, his “Re–evangelizing a ‘Post–Christian’ World,” First Things 139 (January 2004): 72-3.] It is in this space of schizophrenic tension evoked by the two words – “incorrigible” and “confused” – that Eck is trying to stake out territory and while we may concede the point that the increasing diversity of American religious expression heightens one’s appreciation of the strain, it is also important to realize that this condition is congenital to modernity and to our very modern civil experiment.

Catholicism, Modernity, and American Religious Pluralism

In his essay “The Catholics in the World and in America,” [in World Religions in America: An Introduction (ed. Jacob Neusner; Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox, 2000) 66-77.] Fr. Andrew M. Greeley is likewise trying to manage this tension. A liberal Catholic himself, Greeley is concerned to distance himself from the hostile receptions of American democracy in the recent, ultramontane Catholic past (ie., the dominance of the so-called Pian papacies of 1846-1958) and to downplay Roman Catholicism’s doctrinal particularity in order to emphasize its capacities for hospitality and malleability. He does this by pursuing two rhetorical strategies: one drawn from the phenomenology of religion and the social sciences, the other drawn from the Catholic understanding of the analogia entis.

Greeley’s statement that, “religion is poetry before it becomes prose,” is a useful summation of the idea that first order practices such as story, ritual, community, and experience precede the second order reflection which gives rise to dogma, cult, and code. From the perspective of phenomenology and the social sciences, the rule of prayer precedes the rule(s) of belief (lex orandi ante lex credendi est). This preference for religious practice over religious reflection allows Greeley to subordinate “official” self-descriptions of the Roman Magisterium to the lived experience of Catholicism in its embodied manifestations. Put simply, it matters less to Greeley what Catholics should be, believe, or become and more what they actually are being, believing, and becoming. The result for Catholics in a religiously diverse culture is a convenient and quite exploitable cleavage between Magisterial apologists for Catholic particularity and the indigenous catholic community which must negotiate between faith and culture. Because “poetry” is polyvalent and thus more malleable than “prose,” Greeley’s vision of Catholicism is more adaptable to American culture than the older visions he seeks to transcend.

When Greeley speaks of Catholicism’s ambivalence to, “contaminating God by comparing God to creatures and human experience,” he is invoking the principle of the “sacramentality” of the world rooted in an analogy of being. According to this understanding, particular beings in the world participate in, and thus reflect, the Supreme Being that is God. Because all things in the world live in, move in, and have their being in God (Acts 17:28), these particular beings are a said reveal the Divine in more or less reliable ways. This “analogical” or “sacramental” imagination underwrites a general hospitality toward the world and toward all things human.

Facing the question of emergent religious diversity in the United States, Greeley’s conception of Catholicism’s hospitality towards the human opens some space for the renewed appreciation and integration of religions that are not specifically Christian or Roman Catholic. He cites as precedent several examples from the history of Catholic missiology where pagan religious practices were retained as Catholicism incarnated itself in a particular culture, but were harmonized with and then integrated into the Christian story. This construal of the continuity of human religious experience does have its drawbacks to be sure. Greeley cites Catholicism’s tendency toward, “superstition and a mixture of Christianity with and paganism that is called folk religion.” More important, however, is a danger that Greeley does not name: the tendency toward an uncritical, paternal colonialism that dismisses the integrity of non-Christian religious experience.

Religious Diversity and American Christian Particularity

Helpful though Greeley’s winsome vision of Catholic Christianity may be, it is to the peculiar particularity of Christian affirmation that we must return, for it remains the chief obstacle in our negotiation of the American space between the “incorrigible” and the “confused.” The sacramental imagination of Catholicism must be balanced by the Divine otherness implicit in the principle of Protestantism. As the Fourth Lateran Council put it so well, “In every similarity between the world and God, there is an even greater dissimilarity.” [Maior dissimulitudo in tanta similitudine, Canon 2.]

First order religious experiences invariably result in second order reflection. Doctrine, cult, and code emerge because they are socio-cultural necessities. We are truer to the nature of things when we admit that the rule of prayer not only precedes the rule of belief, but that it is the rule of belief and vice versa (lex orandi, lex credendi). The rule of belief thus names the boundaries of prayer and preserves it from becoming a merely self-referential, self-deconstructive idolatry even as it creates the space in which faith experience may flourish.

Because this reality is attendant to all religious faith, we are bound as students of other religions to attend as much to religious particularity as we are to religious similarity. By neglecting this balance we neither benefit society nor preserve religion and we unwittingly suborn the ideology and utopian vision of what may be the real American religion – the secular. The secular consensus from which American democracy sprang is itself an alternative and exclusive atheology that must be thought and constructed like any other theology. As such, secularity is inimical to full-throated religious commitment and advocacy. In its wake religious experience tends to suffer marginalization and society loses the potential therapeutic value of faith that is lived undiluted.

The implications of this critique of secularity are beyond the scope of this short exploration but it certainly entails the conclusion that there is no such thing as “religion” in the sense of an abstracted “thing,” standing behind and underwriting all particular religions. Christians are not practicing “religion,” but Christianity; Muslims are not practicing “religion,” but Islam. “ Religion” is a construction of secularity and ceases to be useful as a concept in the face of genuine religious particularity. When we subordinate religious particularity to generic “religion,” we are neither very good students of a given faith nor are we becoming adequately self-critical adherents of our own faith.

What then is the committed Christian to do in a religiously pluralistic culture? First, as Greeley’s article suggests, Christian orthodoxy is capable of remaining fully itself and while remaining extremely adaptable and quite patient of human diversity. The complicating presence of human sin creates an already/not yet tension in human redemption that closely mirrors the tension between the “incorrigible” and the “confused.” We can live in a world where everyone is not yet Christian because we recognize in prayer that the Kingdom is yet coming. Secondly, basic honesty requires humble admission that Christianity makes exclusive claims on public truth and public history. Ideology and utopia are necessary for social cohesion. Embracing Christian ideology and utopia with humility and self-criticism is the mark of integrity, not totalitarianism. Thirdly, affirming, public Christianity is a stable ground from which one may engage non-Christian religious similarity and particularity. Once we honestly admit (to ourselves and others) that we are about the business of persuasion we may engage non-Christian faith experience for all it is worth. All religions are telling stories that construe the world in particular and exclusive ways. As we know from our experience with literature, the best writers become so by first being the best readers.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Civil Disservice in New Orleans

This is nauseating.

When formal F.E.M.A. director, Michael Brown, testified before Congress as to how "disfunctional" New Orleans was, I wondered how correct that portrait was. Of course one cannot prematurely conflate this with that, but from the underwater bussing exhibit to the visible incompetence of Mayor C. Ray Nagin to this, it's hard to avoid the impression that "disfunctional" is putting it lightly.

For those without high speed connections, here is the written link.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Uses of the Bible in Slavery and Homosexual Debates

Here are the notes from a talk that I gave last week at SLU...


One’s prior reception of Scripture as revelation in its theological dialogue with the world constitutes a “first theology.” If Christian theology arises from a fusion of two horizons – the horizon of the text and the horizon of the world – reflection on how we construe that fusion is all important. Following the useful model of Hans Frei, we may organize various “first theologies” into five discrete types based on how they relate the Bible to contemporary frameworks, philosophies and agendas.

 Type one theologies give exclusive priority to the Bible and its language. For theologies of this type, Scriptural teaching is immediate, obvious, all-sufficient, and immutable. Biblical fundamentalists are largely persons of this type.

 Type two theologies value dialogue with alien frameworks, philosophies and agendas, but give overall priority to the teaching of the Bible. Methodologically, type two theologies proceed with a basic confidence in the language of the Scripture, but recognize its historical and cultural conditioning. This self-critical awareness of the interpreter’s distance from the world of the Bible necessitates engagement and dialogue with other voices. Type two theologies adopt a "faith seeking understanding" approach to a given question, but reject the idea of a neutral posture for dialogue. Because the Scriptures are the Word of God, no outside frameworks are permitted to set the agenda for Christian self-understanding. Type two theologies are widely represented in post-conciliar Roman Catholicism (see esp. Dei Verbum) and most varieties of classical Protestantism.

 Type three theologies can be broadly described as “correlationist” because of their attempt to correlate issues raised by the Scriptures to an indeterminate variety of modern frameworks, philosophies and agendas. The notion of a larger, transcendent “Truth” to which the Bible and the other frameworks correlate is usually assumed. Theologies of this type proceed methodologically in something of an ad hoc fashion, remaining open to multiple avenues of intersection while resisting the temptation to privilege a single framework or agenda above the others. The absence of critical readings, either of the Scriptures or the given external phenomenon is key here. Think Schleiermacher here.

 Type four theologies can be described as “revisionist” in that they privilege a single external philosophy or framework above others and then interact with Scripture from that critical posture. Here the external agenda sets the agenda and the Biblical teaching is judged to be valid or invalid on that basis. Type four theologies are as widely divergent as the cultural frameworks that they adopt. Liberation theologies of all stripes tend (though not exclusively) to fall into this category.

 Type five theologies are “post-Christian” or “non-Christian” and represent the mirror image of type one theologies. In the case of type five, however, it is the given philosophy, framework, or agenda that claims exclusive priority. Type five theologies are usually represented by avowedly post-Christian, a-theological, or fundamentalist members of other religions.


How we approach the “great issues” in our theological engagement with contemporary culture depends a great deal on how we frame the conversation. Using Frei’s model, I want to suggest some ways in which we might frame issue of affirming homosexuality and its compatibility with Christian profession in light of a past cultural conversation regarding the compatibility of slave ownership with Christian profession.

A. Charles Hodge vs. Wm. Ellery Channing on Slavery

The readings from Charles Hodge pretty clearly identify him as a type one theologian. Three quotes are telling:

What are the moral principles which should control our opinions in regard to [slavery]. Before attempting an answer to this question, it is proper to remark, that we recognize no authoritative rule of truth and duty but to the word of God. (“The Bible Argument on Slavery” p. 847)

If we were wiser, better, more courageous than Christ and his apostles, let us say so; but it will do no good, under a paroxysm of benevolence, to attempt to tear the Bible to pieces, or to exhort, by violent exegesis, a meaning foreign to its obvious sense. (“The Bible Argument on Slavery” p. 848)

The thing there forbidden is the restoration of a slave who had fled from a heathen master and taken refuge among the worshipers of the true God. Such a man was not forced into heathenism. This is the obvious meaning and spirit of the command. (“The Fugitive Slave Law” p. 813)

Channing is a bit more dicey to quantify because he stands at a historical seam between pre-critical Christian orthodoxy and Enlightenment modernity. His underlying moral sentiments reflect a thoroughgoing Christian inculturation, but he then justifies these by appeals to the “universal reason” of Enlightenment philosophy. That said, I think its fair to speak of Channing as an example of type four theologies:

The first question to be proposed by a rational being is, not what is profitable, but what is right. (“Slavery” p. 688)

It is plain that if one man may be held as property, then every other man may be so held. If there be nothing in human nature, in our common nature, which excludes and forbids the conversion of him who possesses it into an article of property; if the right of the free to liberty is founded, not on their essential attributes as rational and moral beings, but on certain adventitions, accidental circumstances, into which they have been thrown; then every human being, by a change of circumstances, may justly be held and treated by another as property. (“Slavery” p. 692)

Note that this second quotation reflects an application of Kant’s categorical imperative that, while not directed as a criticism of the Bible itself, is a criticism of fundamentalist applications of the Bible.

B. Observations

Two things must be said here:

First, Channing was on the side of the angels as this specific issue and one may approve of his argument even from the standpoint of a different theological type. Proponents of type two theologies, for example, will regard Channing as an instance of “good theology, bum methodology.”

Second, Hodge is subject to what I think is a devastating critique both from the standpoint of subsequent historical evaluation and on his own terms. Put simply, Hodge’s exegesis is as problematic as his fundamentalism.


So to stoke the embers of debate here, let me ask three questions and suggest some tentative answers regarding the Church’s negotiation of affirming homosexual practice as it relates to our use of the Bible.

Question #1: Does the 19th Century debate over the institution of slavery serve as a reliable precedent for dealing with the contemporary question of affirming homosexual practice?

I think it important to note that there can be no naïve equation of our negotiation of affirming homosexual practice with a prior generation’s negotiation of the practice of slavery. This is true both because the issues are quite distinguishable historically and because the debates even back then resist a simple either/or construal because of the aforementioned diversity of types. If Channing can be right for the wrong reasons and Hodge can be wrong for right and wrong reasons, simple moves from one issue to the other only obscure and prejudice the debate.

Question #2: What theological types are operative in the present debate? Is there a privileged or most truly Christian type?

It is so very important that we identify which theological type is being modeled by a particular person or communion. Closely related to this is the question of which theological type should be modeled by individual Christians and the Christian communions to which they belong. Getting clarity on the prior question of how we fuse the horizons of text and world is as important, perhaps more important, than the issues themselves.

Question #3: Turning to the third, communal horizon, is there a difference between the preferred theological type for an individual interpreter and a preferred theological type for a church or churches as a communion?

Frei’s model does tend to be Protestant in that it identifies types operative in the conversation of individuals with the Scriptures. To only speak of how one or another person uses the Bible is to presume that the interpretive community is a secondary, potentially forgettable, concern.

Beyond discrete uses of the Bible in a given debate, we still have yet to speak of the issues and implications of ecclesiology. How to hold these negotiations as a worldwide communion of Christians and churches remains the great unexamined question of this debate.


Bahnsen, Greg L. Homosexuality: A Biblical View. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978.

Gagnon, Robert A. J. The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001.

Hays, Richard B. The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New Creation: A Contemporary Introduction To New Testament Ethics. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996.

Moore, Stephen D. God's Beauty Parlor: And Other Queer Spaces In and Around The Bible. Stanford, Calif : Stanford University Press, 2001.

Nessan, Craig L. Many Members, Yet One Body: Committed Same-Gender Relationships and the Mission of the Church. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2004.

Pahls, Michael J. “Abraham’s Other Wife: Negotiating Homosexuality in a Situation of Ecclesiologial Chaos.” Perspectives: A Journal of Reformed Thought 20, no. 6 (June/July 2005): 5-10.

Scroggs, Robin. The New Testament and Homosexuality: Contextual Background For Contemporary Debate. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983.

Seow, Choon-Leong. Homosexuality and Christian Community. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996.

Swartley, Willard M. Homosexuality: Biblical Interpretation and Moral Discernment. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 2003.

Office of Communion of the Episcopal Church U.S.A. To Set our Hope on Christ: A Response to the Invitation of the Windsor Report 135. Online: documents/ToSetOurHopeOnChrist.pdf.

Via, Dan O. and Robert A. J. Gagnon. Homosexuality and The Bible: Two Views. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

They Live!

"I came to kick ass and chew bubble gum...and I am all out of bubble gum."
(Las Vegas) A man suspected of killing two tourists and injuring 12 others on the Las Vegas Strip told police he steered his car into the crowd on the sidewalk because they were staring at him like demons.

"They were staring at him like they were `demons,'" the report said. "Ressa admitted he became angry at them, and intentionally steered the vehicle toward them."

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Positively Ghoulish

Planned Parenthood offering abortion to rape victims in New Orleans

BATON ROUGE, September 12, 2005 ( - The Catholic Exchange reports that the crisis pregnancy centres in Mississippi and Louisiana areas are being called upon to help with maternity cases but Dorothy Wallis, director of Care Pregnancy Center of Baton Rouge, said that the huge influx of donations is not getting to them. “The hospitals are sending their post-delivery patients to us for care. The American Red Cross sent eight families today.”

In an email, pro-life nurse and activist, Jill Stanek told that as of today, the centres have received only US $5000.00 and that is to cover extra expenses for all the pregnancy centres in the area, including the overflow from the five New Orleans clinics destroyed by the hurricane.

Caring to Love Ministries has set up a website where readers can send in tax-exempt donations for the care of expectant mothers in the Gulf area. The Care Pregnancy clinic of Baton Rouge offers critical personal, prenatal, and post partum support for women and particularly focuses on low-income mothers.

The group hopes to counter the action of Planned Parenthood teams who have already descended upon the refugees offering surgical abortions and chemical abortifacients to rape victims and other pregnant refugees. Wallis said, “I will walk side by side with Planned Parenthood into the devastated area.” “We have something to give they do not. We offer love and compassion. We have the opportunity to give forth life. Devastation and death have already arrived.”

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Ugly Wins Are Still Wins...

Of course this ugly win came against #3 MICHIGAN in the Big House for the first time since 1993!

Lloyd Carr

Go Irish!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Return to Glory (For Real This Time)

Notre Dame Defeats Pitt 42-21

Trust me, dear reader, I was sitting in the hallowed confines of Notre Dame Stadium last year as Tyler Palko and Pittsburgh hung five passing touchdowns on our defensive secondary. It pains me to this day, but those wounds finally began to heal as my beloved Irish put on an offensive clinic in the first half of last night's game. By halftime Notre Dame led 35-13, scoring more points in a half than Tyrone Willingham's teams had in 35 of his 37 games under the golden dome.

Charlie Weis has brought Notre Dame football back from the brink of extinction!

Bring on Michigan!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Prayer and Action for Hurricane Katrina Relief

Prayers for the Gulf Coast

O God of all the nations of the earth: Remember the multitudes who have been created in your image but have not known the redeeming work of our Savior Jesus Christ; and grant that, by the prayers and labors of your holy Church, they may be brought to know and worship you as you have been revealed in your Son; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace: Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Almighty God, who created us in your image: Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son came not to be served but to serve: Bless all who, following in his steps, give themselves to the service of others; that with wisdom, patience, and courage, they may minister in his Name to the suffering, the friendless, and the needy; for the love of him who laid down his life for us, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Heavenly Father, giver of life and health: Comfort and relieve your sick servants, and give your power of healing to those who minister to their needs, that the people of the Gulf Coast, for whom our prayers are offered, may be strengthened in their weakness and have confidence in you loving care; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Several charities allow you to donate online:

Anglican Communion Network

Catholic Charities

The Red Cross

Samaritans Purse

Also, those friends who have "one click" set up, go there and give.

Less Churchy!?

New poster ads are being distributed in the UK by the Church of England. The general theme demonstrates a concern to convince fellow Brits of a less "churchy" Church. Here are some notable examples:

"The Church. Provider of judo lessons, antique sales, playgroups, ballet lessons, school discos, flower-arranging classes, theatre clubs and, oh yes, church."

"Church. It isn't as churchy as you think."

"More dances are held in church halls than in dance halls"

"You have to be a pretty good bloke to let 40 screaming kids and a bouncy castle in your house"

"Why go to India to find yourself? You might be round the corner."

All the posters end with the line "Church. Part of modern life".

Now I may be completely turned around on this one, but the systematic disenchantment with the church in our culture seems to stem from its being less "churchy" not "more churchy." Sure, koinonia is all about the messiness of one embodied soul interacting with other embodied souls, but when we run away from mystery - from the Holy - we tend to lose the inherent transcendent and transfigurative heart of resurrection faith. No, it can't always be smells, bells, and mystical ascent, but I'm pretty sure that communion with the Holy through the Resurrected Jesus is the only unique thing the Church really offers. After all, any social organization can offer judo lessons, antique sales, playgroups, ballet lessons, school discos, flower-arranging classes, and theatre clubs - and usually of a higher quality than the average cash-strapped local parish.

Perhaps our best advertising is to remain true to who we are: redeemed sinners, becoming saints, mystics, martyrs, reformers, and - yes - resurrected, transfigured humanity. Some words from St. Dominic capture my point:

"It is not the display of power and pomp, cavalcades of retainers, and richly-houseled palfreys, or by gorgeous apparel, that the heretics win proselytes; it is by zealous preaching, by apostolic humility, by austerity, by seeming, it is true, but by seeming holiness. Zeal must be met by zeal, humility by humility, false sanctity by real sanctity, preaching falsehood by preaching truth."

By the way - Does anyone under 40 not hear the term "modern" (as in "modern life") in a negative light? To me at least, the advertisement sounds like a saccharine invocation of mid-twentieth century late-Enlightenment enthusiasm. Remember, the pinnacle achievement of "modern life" hubris was Nazi Germany

Thursday, August 25, 2005

A Day for Eucharistic Hospitality


This Eucharist at the funeral of Brother Roger of Taizé is a poignant example of the way Christians practice better than their offical policies allow when more important things are at stake.

Thank God that Taizé, Kaspar ("The Friendly Cardinal"), and Brother Roger have graced the earth in these days. May we all take heed of the humble example.

At His Funeral, Brother Roger Has an Ecumenical Dream Fulfilled

TAIZÉ, France, Aug. 23 - Brother Roger Schutz pursued many ecumenical dreams in his long life, but in death one of them came true: At a Eucharistic service celebrated Tuesday by a Roman Catholic cardinal for Brother Roger, a Swiss Protestant, communion wafers were given to the faithful indiscriminately, regardless of denomination.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Vatican's council for the unity of Christians, who celebrated the Mass, said in a homily, "Yes, the springtime of ecumenism has flowered on the hill of Taizé." Beyond religious divisions, Brother Roger also abhorred the division between rich and poor. "Every form of injustice or neglect made him very sad," Cardinal Kasper said.

Brother Roger's community and friends, including President Horst Köhler of Germany and the retired archbishop of Paris, Jean-Marie Lustiger, attended the liturgy in the vast wooden monastery church at Taizé, while thousands more followed it on a huge screen in fields outside the church.

Brother Roger was 90 when he was stabbed to death by a Romanian woman, Luminita Solcan, 36, during an evening service in the church one week ago. His successor, the Rev. Alois Leser, a Roman Catholic priest from Germany, prayed for forgiveness: "With Christ on the cross we say to you, Father, forgive her, she does not know what she did."

The gathering here in the hills of eastern France under leaden, showery skies reflected the spirit, and also the popularity, of Brother Roger, the son of a Swiss Calvinist pastor, who first gathered followers here in 1940. The monastic community here encompasses about 90 members from 20 or so countries and virtually every Christian denomination. Four Roman Catholic priests from among the members celebrated the funeral Mass with Cardinal Kasper.

Brother Roger's simple wooden coffin, a wooden icon lying upon it, was carried into the church by brothers. It was followed by a group of Romanian children who had been visiting the community when Brother Roger was killed.

Brother Roger founded Taizé as a monastic order only a 10-minute drive from Cluny, the site of Europe's largest and best-known monastic abbey before its destruction during the French Revolution. In the 1970's, Taizé developed into a pilgrimage site where people from different countries and faiths gathered annually at Easter. Many returned, in sadness, on Tuesday. Holding candles, they followed his coffin in procession to the Taizé cemetery.

Petra Simmert, a schoolteacher from southern Germany, came with her husband and two children. She is Protestant, he Catholic; one child is Catholic, the other Protestant. "We're an ecumenical family," she said, with a laugh. Watching the funeral of Pope John Paul II on television, they saw Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, give communion to Brother Roger, even though he was not Catholic. "That struck us," she said.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Political Assassination in Jesus' Name

Pat Robertson

Pat Robertson has been on television lately praying for further vacancies on the United States Supreme Court. Now this naturally would entail the untimely demise of lifetime-appointed justices or at least adverse circumstances leading to retirement, but Robertson has been humble enough to not specify terms for the Almighty in his supplications.

Today, however, Robertson seems not to have taken Doug Lewellyn's advice. Not content with taking his case to the heavenly court, he now thinks that we should take the law (and the sword) into our own hands with regard to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez:

"You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it," Robertson said. "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don't think any oil shipments will stop."

It's a good thing that Jesus Christ isn't as tempermental as the Hon. Judge Wapner or he would have ordered Rusty the baliff to pistol whip Pat Robertson by now.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Infant Baptism and Dedications

Some Reformed/ Presbyterian congregations are moving to practice both infant baptism and infant dedications. Here are some stray thoughts that I contributed to a discussion regarding the validity of this practice:

First, baptism is a sign and symbol of incorporation into the Church. As a rite of initiation, it functions as the formal basis of our unity in Christ ("One faith, one Lord, one baptism" and all that). To introduce an alternative rite of initiation (though one may not call it that) would effectively create a "two peoples of God" situation which the book of Galatians is intended to counter.

Second, because baptism is a sign and symbol of our incorporation into the Church, it is the formal ground of accountability to the Church and its leadership. Put simply, an unbaptized adolescent would have no formal accountability to the elders of a local Reformed congregation and could not be considered a member, be disciplined, or commune at the Eucharist. Conversely, the vows taken in an infant dedication to raise a given child in the fear and admonition of the Lord would be improperly taken by the congregation because the formal disciplinary component of that responsibility could not be assumed over a child who, at least notionally, must be regarded as a non-Christian.

Third, by creating an either/or choice for parents, we further cater to our culture's penchant for Enlightenment individualism and consummerism. Being part of the people of God requires a critical subordination of the self (Descartes' self-constituting ego) to Christ and to the Body of Christ. This failure of koinonia or
communion was the precise error condemned by St. Paul in 1Corinthians ("Eating and drinking judgment to oneself" and all that). The sacramental component of baptism teaches us that Christianity is all about what God does to us and for us in Christ and not what one chooses for oneself.

Fourth, our culture's deep suspicion of embodiment and of Christianity's sacramental imagination are further eroded when we short sell the sacraments. God really does complete his redemptive work via the agency of physical rites, acts, and gifts. This would be true regardless of whether we speak of the formal sacraments of
Baptism and Eucharist or the foundational sacraments of the Incarnation and the Church.


Thursday, August 11, 2005

"Life in the abbey comes first..."

The priority of communio. Thank God that such people exist in the world.

Belgian monks run out of the world's best beer

Thu Aug 11,10:06 AM ET

Monks at a Belgian abbey have been forced to stop selling their famous beer after it was voted the best in the world and was promptly sold out.

The abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren in western Belgium is home to some 30 Cistercian and Trappist monks who lead a life of seclusion, prayer, manual labour -- and beer-brewing.

A survey of thousands of beer enthusiasts from 65 countries on the RateBeer Web site ( in June rated the Westvleteren 12 beer as the world's best.

But the abbey only has a limited brewing capacity, and was not able to cope with the beer's sudden popularity.

"Our shop is closed because all our beer has been sold out," said a message on the abbey's answering machine, which it calls the "beer phone".

And the abbey has no intention of boosting its capacity to satisfy market demand. "We are not brewers, we are monks. We brew beer to be able to afford being monks," the father abbot said on the abbey's Web site.

Monk Mark Bode told De Morgen daily: "Outsiders don't understand why we are not raising production. But for us life in the abbey comes first, not the brewery."

The Ironies of "The Rapture Index"

The Rapture Index

I was checking in on the "Rapture Index" today and discovered that the death of John Paul II merited a bump in the "false prophesy/false teaching" category.

Ironically, I found this admonition regarding the Trinity and the Church elsewhere in the sight...

A good church will teach the doctrine of the Trinity. This means that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are three distinct beings but are one. This is a difficult truth to wrap our feeble human minds around, but it is biblical and must be accepted in faith. It will be made clear to us when we meet the Lord! See, Matthew 28:18, 19 and Romans 5:5-8.

Not that I am one to quibble unnecessarily, but I think the drift of "the rapture index" into polytheism merits another couple of points in the false prophesy/false teaching and in the ecumenism/world religions categories.



I took this picture while on vacation the last week of July. I am not well-traveled by any means, but if I could select a place to retire to write it would be Northern Michigan. I dont mind five feet of snow in winter and wasn't bad hanging out in 75F degree weather while the thermometer topped 103F in St. Louis.

Mackinac Bridge


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Abbot Gregory's Cloister

Welcome to everyone. Hopefully you found me OK.

Before becoming Pope Gregory I ("The Great"), Gregory was Abbot of St. Andrews. My website and this blogsite are named for him.