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.