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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Raising the Dead

Photo of The Poconos, Shawnee-on-Delaware, PA, Elizabeth Kaeton

I've just returned from the annual clergy retreat in the Poconos in Pennsylvania which was led by "Jesus Freak" Sara Miles, who is also Director of the St. Gregory of Nissa Food Pantry in San Francisco.

The focus of our time with her, however, was her latest book, Take This Bread.

Just so you'll know what we were dealing with, here's a brief except from Chapter Four:
One evening in St. Gregory's kitchen, after everyone else had left, I heard a confession from a pantry volunteer, who'd brought me what she said was a 'secret' in a shopping bag. She had a cast on her leg, and kept looking over her shoulder anxiously, and she made me close the kitchen door. Her boyfriend, who beat her up regularly, had been threatening to kill her, she said, swallowing hard.

"I thought, this is a church, it'll be safe here," she said, unwrapping a dirty dishtowel from around a huge .357 Magnum revolver. "I took out the firing pin."

That's what church was for, I realized: a place to bring the ugly, frightening secret you couldn't tell anyone else about. I checked that the gun was disarmed, and stuck it in a cookie tin in a locked closet beneath the pantry shelves. I didn't mention it to anyone from the Sunday congregation. The woman moved away, to stay with a sister in Sacramento. A month later I did tell Steve.

"You must be kidding," he said.

"Isn't this what church is for?" I said.

"Uh, yeah," said Steve. He looked scared, and like he wanted to laugh at the same time. "Whoa, that's a really big gun." We drove down to the local police station, and I walked up to the officer on duty. I was wearing a crucifix and a fairly respectable sweater. "Excuse me, I found this in our churchyard," I lied. "Can you please take it?"

There's nothing like being a middle-aged white lady, I told Steve as we drove back. The cops had gathered around the officer who unwrapped the package. "Holy shit," said of them. "Excuse me, ma'am." They passed it around, gingerly, and let me leave after I insisted I didn't want to make a report or get a receipt. "Can you imagine if we'd been two black teenage guys walking in with that?"

"You just made the high point of my career as a parish administrator," said Steve. "I never imagined I'd show a cop something that could make him say 'holy shit.' "

"Yeah, well," I said. "I guess this is what you call the Christian life.
Alrighty, then. Don't say I didn't warn you.

And, you need to know that I absolutely agree with her. About "the Christian life."

Which is not to say that she didn't make me squirm from time to time.


Like her unabashed commitment to "Open Communion" - the idea that communion should be open to everyone - baptized and unbaptized. Christian and Jew and Buddhist and Muslim or Atheist - as well as those who are rich and poor, old and young, clean and unclean, literate and illiterate.

She ties this thought with the impeccable theological position that the passion of Jesus was - is - about loving God and ourselves and our neighbor so much that our passion becomes welcoming the stranger (who is our neighbor in Christ) and feeding the people of God.

You know - doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with God. 

Not that I don't agree about Open Communion. I do. With my whole heart and mind and soul and body. It's what I believe.

It's just that there's this little matter of the Canon Law of The Episcopal Church.

We don't allow it.

According to the laws that have governed the church catholic church for centuries, we're only supposed to give communion to those "baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit."

Presumably, this means that those who were baptized in the name of the "Creator, Redeemer and Spirit" would also be excluded. I know, right?

Oh, but wait! There's more.

We celebrated Eucharist together in an absolutely glorious chanted version in which everyone participated. The words of the Eucharistic prayer were based solidly on scripture and the harmony was profoundly mysterious and positively delicious.

I felt fed on so many levels, I got dizzy.  Oh, maybe that's because we also danced and sang our way to the altar and away from the altar.

The Eucharistic experience was simultaneously ancient and modern. Indeed, it moved me to a place beyond the constraints of time and place and person - which, as I understand the Eucharist, is precisely what it is meant to do.

However, you should know that they use this prayer often at St. Gregory's church. With clergy and laity fully participating in the words and music while the priest(s) preside.

Which is also against the canons of the church.

Oops! Yet another aspect of "Open Communion" with profound implications.

One of the things our experience in this retreat led us as clergy to discuss with our bishop is the fact that while we may, as individual clergy, support "Open Communion" in both aspects of participation, and our bishop may fully support us as individual clergy and congregations, we need to be very clear that we are not in compliance with the canons of the church.

What's the big deal? Well, for one, the revisions to Title IV (Ecclesiastical Discipline) of The Episcopal Church make it clear that clergy are subject to Ecclesiastical Court Trial for such infractions, which may well lead to being disciplined. It could also lead to suspension of license to function as a clergy person and/or being "defrocked".

Which someone may want to push to court trial action - and not necessarily for pernicious purposes.

This is precisely what happened when eleven women and three bishops pushed for a change in our canon law by participating in an "irregular" ordination at the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia on July 29, 1974.

If we're going to be practicing Open Communion "locally" and we consider ourselves part of the "one, holy, catholic and apostolic church" well, perhaps we need to change our canons. An act of "canonical disobedience" resulting in an Ecclesiastical Court trial might be one way to accomplish that canonical change.

Indeed, it might be the most efficient way, rather than waiting around for years and years before the church finally comes to an understanding. And then, a few centuries for the "church catholic" to come to an agreement - which, oh, by the way, it still hasn't in terms of the ordination of women.

Meanwhile, some people will disobey the canons while bishops look the other way. Others will change the canons. And others will continue to go hungry.

We've got a great deal of theological water to cross before we get to the point of a 'catholic' Open Communion. Meanwhile, it's happening any way. Meanwhile, clergy and bishops are not doing anyone any favors by practicing an ecclesiastical version of "Don't ask, don't tell."

That's as dishonest in the sanctuary as it is in the military.

It's an inconvenient dilemma, isn't it, this business of truth telling and honesty and integrity? It would be so easy to dismiss it as not important - especially right now, during Stewardship Season.

I was astounded by some of my clergy colleagues who felt "judged" by Sara's presentation. Some felt that she was offering her thoughts on the theology of liturgy and mission at St. Gregory's as "the way". She did not. She repeatedly pushed us to think through why we do what we do and what we may need to change to have integrity with the Gospel.

The resistance to that was palpable, unintentionally supported by the fact that, when we gathered for communal prayer we used straight-up liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer.  Indeed, we were even asked to bring our own BCPs.

Some said they were "greatly relieved" by this, relishing in the comfort of the familiar and the illusion of the perfected, seemingly unconcerned about the fact that some of us feel excluded by the language and inhibited by the structure.

I could only shake my head, as I imagined Jesus must have done when the rich man came to him, asking what he else he might do, besides following the law to the letter, in order to gain eternal life.  "Take everything you have and give it to the poor," he said.  And, the man walked away.

Which had me thinking a great deal about this idea of "raising the dead". I haven't been blogging much because I've been doing a great deal of "walking meditation" on this very notion - in myself and what I see happening in the church and in the world.

At first I thought Sara Miles was making the connection about feeding people who are being starved to death by poverty - financial and spiritual - and the deep mystery of the Holy Communion we know in the Eucharistic moment where we join our voices with "angels and archangels and all the company of heaven" to praise God and serve the people of God.

And, she does mean just that. I recognize and understand that very point. Indeed, when I was a seminarian at St. John's, Bowdoin Street, Boston, my senior project was a slide show which made that very connection.

I used Neil Diamond's "Holly, Holy" as the soundtrack and interspersed pictures I took of the Thursday Night Supper and the Doorbell Ministry with pictures of our Sunday Eucharist. I must say, it was very powerful. Alas, the slides are long gone along with the ancient slide show/sound projector I used to display it, but the memory of those images is still very much present in my heart and in my mind.

But her larger point is that when we do that - when we make the connection between what one of our Eucharistic prayers asks to "deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal" and actively engage in the Mission of Jesus - we awaken that which has died in our selves - our souls and bodies and our whole lives - to become more alive in Christ Jesus.

I'm coming to see that Open Communion is precisely what Jesus intended - indeed, what the ancient church practiced in the first few centuries of its life, before those who followed Jesus were not called Christians but "People of The Way."

And, I'm coming to understand what our Presiding Bishop provocatively challenged the Episcopal Church's Executive Council, meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Oct. 24, to avoid "committing suicide by governance."
Jefferts Schori said that the council and the church face a "life-or-death decision," describing life as "a renewed and continually renewing focus on mission" and death as "an appeal to old ways and to internal focus" which devotes ever-greater resources to the institution and its internal conflicts.

"We need some structural change across the Episcopal Church," she said. "Almost everywhere I go I hear dioceses wrestling with this; dioceses addressing what they often think of as their own governance handcuffs, the structures that are preventing them from moving more flexibly into a more open future."

Later in her remarks, Jefferts Schori said "we need a system that is more nimble, that is more able to respond to change," calling for "a more responsive and adaptable and less rigid set of systems."
"Suicide by governance" is an unfortunate term in the aftermath of the spotlight being on LGBT suicide. Our Presiding Bishop has a way of being quite provocative in her imagery. "Conjoined twins" and "standing in a crucified place" come immediately to mind.

Nevertheless, I think she's absolutely right. We've become so institutionally top heavy that we can scarcely get out of our own way to do the work of the Gospel. She's right: as a church and a denomination and as a people, we will die if we don't become "more nimble".

It's not "teh gays". It's not "women." It's not "the liberal left" or the "right wingnuts."  It's not "the leadership". It's not "sheep who attack" in dysfunctional congregations, resistant to change.

We're killing ourselves.

The ENS article also reported that
House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson, council vice chair, said during her opening remarks that Executive Council has the responsibility to address important big-picture issues.

"Fortunately God has called us to this ministry and has given us the gifts to do what needs to be done," she said. "It is all of us, together -- bishops, laity, clergy -- who govern the Episcopal Church. Make no mistake about it: our form of governance enables our mission."

Anderson suggested that "a choice between governance and mission is a false choice," adding that the choice is a both-and, not either-or.
I've been thinking and praying and meditating about all of this for the past few days and, here's my take about all of this: we are in the midst of a Great Reformation which God is bringing about in our very midst. 

It's been hard to find the words to express what's in my heart and in my mind. I've been writing furiously in my journal and having long, late-night conversations with my Spiritual Director. I regret this piece doesn't quite do it - and indeed may make me sound like I've gone right 'round the bend - but it's the best I can do to express what's in my heart at this moment:

I think the heart of the church, the Body of Christ, is longing - desiring, pleading - to return to a radical  (meaning "at the root"), and less orthodox (meaning, "customary or conventional, as a means or method; established") church.

As an Anglican, committed to the "via media" or middle way, I'm wondering how we can avoid a "false choice" of choosing between "government and mission" and do both: reform the structures we have in place which invite the full participation of all four orders of the baptized to better enable us to do the mission of the church.

I'm convinced of it: Reformation is here. It's in process. I don't think there's any doubt about it. We need a Martin Luther to rise among us to name it and claim it and lead us past our ideas of "post modern relevance" resulting in a "consumer religion" and into a more "radical" faith.

The dead are being raised to new life.

Like the trees on the hills of the Poconos that surrounded me for three days, the church is looking rather like it has past its Golden Age and we are in the Autumn of our Ecclesiastical Life.

Some of us are holding on for dear life to each dry, brittle branch and fighting against letting go of every dry leaf that is blown off by the chill of the wind that blows from the Northeast or ravaged by the cold, sobering rain.

All many of us can think about is the difficult Winter ahead and how the lands will soon be barren when not covered by a thick blanket of snow.

We forget that Spring will follow, with the promise of new life. New hope.New meaning. Changing the landscape in an Annual Divine House Cleaning Event.

The Resurrection of the Earth.

It is God's way as revealed in Christ Jesus and magnified in God's Creation and Creatures.

At a moment in our lives when Right-wing American Christianity is on the rise, when all of the major world religions seem to be following an arc bent on fundamentalism and exclusionary - even violent - practices, I believe we are in the midst of an unexpected and terribly inconvenient Christian conversion to be even more radically inclusive. More radically loving. More radically giving.

Yes, more "nimble" in our hearts and souls and in our structures of governance - in the church as well as the state.

Embracing the stranger - feeding him - loving her enough to partake freely in the banquet and participate fully in the sacramental life that is ours in the world and in the church.

To be as lovingly wasteful. As God is with us in Creation.  As Jesus was for us. As the Holy Spirit is in our lives.

Letting the leaves fall where they may, knowing that even they have a divine purpose: they will be used to nourish and feed the earth to bring forth new life.

I can feel this knowledge burning a fire in my bones, like the Autumn ritual of the burning of the leaves, its incense rising as a prayer of glory to God.

Like the mist of an Autumn morning on the hills of the Poconos, it hovers and dances over the baptismal waters of my faith.

From the smoke and mist and ashes, God is raising the dead to new life.  Do you not see it?

In the midst of it all - the dying and resurrection, the reformation and renewal - we are being asked to sing the ancient, radical mystery of our faith which is at the very center of the cosmos:

"All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave our song is "Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!"

I only know this much to be true: Raising the dead is a radical, mysterious, joyful part of a Sacramental Life in Jesus.

Me? I'm planing to sing along. Full-throat. Dancing the whole way.
 Photo Credit:The Rev'd Lauren Killbourn
Photo Credit of Sara Miles: Internet 


Muthah+ said...

Elizabeth, There is so much in this one post that it is hard to bring it all together. And perhaps that is what makes the post so powerful. I am with ++Katharine in that we are trying to legislate ourselves to death. And we will kill ourselves as Church if we do. The Spirit must have room to move. But the one thing that we can depend upon--the Spirit will move whether in the Church or without.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

There IS a lot in this post, Muthah. Sorry. That's what I get for not writing every day. I've got one more thing from that retreat I'll be posting on tomorrow, but these things all just came together for me in a very powerful way.

it's margaret said...

A friend left this post on another blog:

"Maybe we'd all be more likely to eat with a stranger if we were really hungry more often. Part of our problem is that we -- at least those of us who are willing and able to have conversations like this one -- never allow ourselves to become hungry.

It may have one of Jesus's many gifts that he apparently was able to make people hungry for God."

Given this --and your post --I am grateful that I did my parish internship at St. Gregory's --and that I know people who will always put their life and vocation on the line to welcome the stranger and share some food.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Margaret - I'm soooOOOoooo jealous that you got to spend an internship at St. Gregory's. You have to write a book on the experience.

Strangers - just friends we haven't met. Neighbors, all, in Christ.

Brother David said...

I'm coming to see that Open Communion is precisely what Jesus intended - indeed, what the ancient church practiced in the first few centuries of its life, before those who followed Jesus were not called Christians but "People of The Way."

I felt a deep gut reaction against the idea of open communion until you said this Madre, because I am forever and always open to gaining more light and knowledge. I have never heard this claim. Do you have material to which you could direct us to learn more of this idea that the most ancient followers of Jesus practiced open communion. And please remember, I could use internet sources better than having to try to get books here in Mexico.

It is the identical claim that Sydney makes for lay presidency at communion, but I have never seen their material to back that claim as well.

Could you imagine a reformation that resulted in the possibility of lay presidency at open communion?

Dios mio, that just caused a big shiver down my back. I think that it is a bit drafty in here all of a sudden.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Just to be clear - I'm not talking about lay presidency. I'm talking about the laity fully participating with an ordained presider. Big Difference.

As for the full participation of everyone in communion - just read the Book of Acts and some of Paul's Epistles - especially to the Church in Corinth.

Lauren said...

Elizabeth, I've gone back and forth over the issue of Open Communion for a long time now. My basic rule: I'll commune anyone who comes forward. But if I then learn that they are not baptized, I ask them WHY they are coming forward. This has always led to great discussions about Baptism, and has always resulted in the people being baptized. And when someone is being prepared for baptism, I ask them not to take communion, so that they can decide if this is something they really want. It's always made the baptisms, and the Eucharists that follow, that much more meaningful.

I agree that at this point in the life of the Church, we have to be bold and passionate. We have the greatest Good News to share - and yet, we seem to be timid in our proclamation. In this season of Stewardship, how many are of us are boldly saying, GIVE because it's GOD's money, not yours! How many of us are passionately standing up and saying, "We have to witness, we have to be involved, we have to stand up for what's right"? Consequences seem to get in our way far too often.

I'm hoping that we all get a little more radical.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I suspect that Sara would comment, "And, if a hungry person came to you for food, would you ask her/him why they were asking for food?"

I have known people who I have learned I've communicated but were not baptized. Once I asked someone, "Why" and they looked at me like, "Are you kidding?! Why would you ask why?" I never did it again.

I started asking, "I'm just wondering if you understand what's happening here." I got the answer, "Do you? Do you really understand what's happening here?"

I stopped doing that. Now, I don't ask questions. I just say, "When you're ready to talk about baptism,and what it means, and the connection between baptism and Eucharist, come and see me."

And, I keep feeding them until they do. Never had anyone not come see me for baptism. Some just take longer than others.

Matthew said...

I knowingly and intentionally offer communion to a friend not baptized with water. She is a close friend and a deeply committed Quaker -- Quakers do not practice water baptism but believe in baptism of the spirit only. I simply cannot say no in part because she has lived a far more dedicated Christian life than I. She was a missionary for several years in the west bank for the Society of Friends. She is convinced she is a Christian. She does not feel that she would have spent years dodging bullets and helping poor Palestinian children if not for her commitment to Christ. She has absolutely zero interest in getting baptized because she recalls her baptism of the spirit. She is also committed to Quaker theology which is opposed to water baptism. So, why does she sometimes attend an episcopal church? Because her Quaker meeting only meets monthly and is very small here. So, she drops in from time to time. Quakers are also opposed to all creeds and I noticed leading services once that she recited the creed and so I used that as an opening and asked why she recited the creed. Her response was that when she is in our church, she feels better about giving herself over to the whole experience of it that refraining based on intellectualizing theology. This was also her way of telling me in not so many words why she also presents herself for communion. And so I serve her. I simply cannot do otherwise. But she is still a Quaker first and has no current desire to even consider baptism.

Anonymous said...

The idea that the early Church practiced open Communion is risible. It is no wonder that the hostess here doesn't offer any sources to back up her preposterous assertion, other than a few biblical references that serve as nothing more than red herrings.


Elaine C. said...

Last winter the clergy of the diocese of Southern Ohio had a day with the bishop with 2 topics on the agenda.
1) Open Communion & 2) Blessing Same Sex Unions.

Our bishop opened with canon law and his position in support of baptism before communion, yet said he wanted to hear from the clergy. In a lively discussion, clergy argued passionately for open communion for the reasons you state. Most said, we do open communion and are not willing to give that it -- we are to feed people. The bishop said he would not change the practice, but wanted us to be real about what canon law says. Eventually the discussion became "we need resources/conversations to enliven our parishes for mission -- instead of concern about open communion."

Near the end of the day, someone asked about the other agenda item, blessing same sex unions. All that was said, "a theological statement and liturgy are posted on the diocesan website."

Brother David said...

Just to be clear - I was clear that you were not speaking of lay presidency.

You made a truth claim about open communion; Open Communion is precisely what Jesus intended - indeed, what the ancient church practiced in the first few centuries of its life.

Dio Sydney makes a parallel truth claim about lay presidency; lay presidency is precisely what Jesus intended - indeed, what the ancient church practiced in the first few centuries of its life.

Because neither are truth claims that I have heard from Piskies, certain Protestants yes, Piskies no, I was merely wondering out loud about a future where both were substantiated enough that they became practice in the AC.

Personally, I do not believe that a solid case can be made for either strictly from a New Testament source, Lukan nor Pauline, so I hoped that perhaps you had a corner on some historical material that backs your truth claim.

divinitymonster said...

A very insightful blog, Elizabeth! I found myself quite challenged by the inner dialogue of open communion vs. well, canonical communion.

There is a huge part of me that thinks loyalty to the canons is so important, and is what keeps us safe. (I'm all about safe these days)
But at the same time, I think that one of the models of our Anglican tradition is to reform canon by breaking canon. Shoot, that's basically how we were formed. And in more recent days I find myself more and more grateful for the 11 women, 4 bishops, and unknown number of supporters who "broke the rules" on July 29, 1974...

That's all I got for now (I haven't really had coffee yet).
-Lauren Kilbourn

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

@ Matthew - I think following Jesus takes as least as much courage as it does to perform the ministry your friend does. Keep feeding her so she can do her work.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Fr. Michael. I am not a "hostess". I am a priest who blogs. But, I suspect you don't believe that either. Women ordained priest by Jesus are not in scripture, right? Well, guess what? Neither did Jesus ordain men as priests. They were appointed disciples. The church, in much later years, began to articulate and canonize the "four orders" of ministry.

If scripture isn't the ultimate authority in our lives, what else is?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Elaine - Interesting. If we can have a "theology statement and liturgy" for blessing covenants, and that's okay, why is it not okay for Open Communion? Thanks for your comments. Very helpful.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Dahveed, my darling. I'm sorry if I was short with you. Truth be told, I haven't read any theologians who have written any books on this. I'm still just feeling my way through my thoughts into all of this. If anyone knows of any text that is helpful, I'm sure we'd all love to hear it. I know St. G's writes a great deal, and Sara's books are WONDERFUL, but I don't know of any theological texts out of the academy.

As I said to "Anonymous" Fr. Michael, scripture is the final authority for me in this. The confusing part, I think, is that we overlay our church structures and ecclesiological/liturgical assumptions and expectations on what was happening in the time of Jesus.

To argue from the tradition and history of the church is to make a slam-dunk argument against Open Communion. To argue from the actions we read of Jesus or of the (Un-ordained, ahem) of some of the early disciples/apostles/followers with some of the (unbaptized, ahem) people, is to make a slam-dunk argument for Open Communion.

Me? I'm following Jesus and His motley crew.

I think it was Joan Gancey who said, "I never trust a woman who hasn't been fired at least twice."

I never trust a priest or bishop who hasn't broken at least two canons.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hey, Lauren. (You knew I would use that picture you sent me, right?).

What was it Sara kept saying? It's not about being comfortable with what you're doing - it's about having integrity.

I hope to always have the courage to at least question the canons that keep us safe at our own peril.

Paul said...

I remember passionate debates on this topic in the 90s with people that I knew loved each other crying on one side and red in the face on the other. At that time I came down squarely on the side of the canonical tradition. The cathedral explicitly practiced open communion at ordinations no less. We eventually had a rather open invitation printed in our bulletins also. And at one point I gave Communion to a visiting imam. I broke a canon in our tradition; he committed heresy in his. It was after 9/11 and I can live with myself. It is not difficult for me to see validity on both sides of the open communion debate, yet I know where I am in practice.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Good for you, Paul and thank you for sharing your story with such honesty.

It's messy, isn't it? Just the way theology ought to be.

Anonymous said...

Dear Elizabeth,
I read and was very deeply moved - to the point of tears - by the conversion story told in Sara Miles' book. And that brings me to my point. At it's depth, the sacraments are about raising the dead. Sara's being raised, you're being raised, I am being raised from all kinds of dying to new life. I don't want to argue about Open Communion. I'd rather we share our resurrection stories, acknowledge the world's inchoate hunger for eucharistic bread, and challenge structures that stand in the way of those sacramental grace moments.

Very soon after the apostolic era "The Way" became "The Church." These discussions are the ongoing accounting of the gains and losses. Let's be honest on both sides of the ledger.
Lou Poulain, a member of the vast fourth order of ministry, in Sunnyvale CA

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Lou. Come back and visit any time.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Word on the street is one of the "classic" questions asked of candidates for ordination by COM's is, "if you knew someone was unbaptized, would you give them communion?" The classic, "Do you want me to say the "right" answer, or "my" answer?" question.

Yet we are not asked to produce our Baptismal Homeland Security card at the rail.

I've always thought to myself, "Well, like if someone tells the clergy that AT the rail, you'd bless them but not commune them...but like if that's well, old do you know? How do you know your aunt didn't scurry you away against your parents' wishes and never told anyone? Even when someone thinks they weren't, what do you remember before age 3? Not much. Without the piece of paper, you don't know if you were, or weren't."

But it is always something that there are lots of things in the Canons we say we do, but aside from what you bring up about DADT, there's a lot we just don't know, and we act as if they are because we truly don't know, even when we think we "know."

These are the kinds of thoughts I can spin in my head for weeks.

As for your anonymous troll and the use of the word "hostess," well, a Hostess Bakery product comes to mind...the Ding Dong. (sly grin...)

Matthew said...

One of the additional arguments I make for giving my Quaker friend communion is that she has taken communion from the bishop and Katherine Jefferts Schori because they didn't know but I'm supposed to be the enforcer, hard ass because i know, because I've bothered to get to know her. What a perverse set of incentives to keep people at arms length because you might find out.

JCF said...

["FrMichael" (assuming he is the same one) is a Popoid priest in Oakland CA, who has in the past REVELLED in the role his denomination has played in outlawing marriage between loving couples of the same sex (i.e., PropH8). He comments occasionally at Tobias Haller's blog. From a recent post there, I thought there was a slight sign that he was mellowing in his Popoid misogyny. His post here, unfortunately, is more typical. Pray for him---he needs it!]

The comparison of Open Communion to DADT is very apt, IMO.

In my experience, most Episcopal priests do it, and even more don't push against it . . . and yet the reticence to publicly resist and/or change the canons is palpable.

I think TEC still has a fear of the "FrMichaels" of the world: Popoids, and other hard(of heart)liners, who would excoriate us . . . for doing what we (rightly!) believe Jesus would have us do (and for which Biblical/Early Church proofs AGAINST are, in someone's words, "risible").

I believe that when the Gospel is proclaimed, the natural reaction will be ala the Holy Ethiopean Eunuch: "What is to prevent me from being baptized?" NOWHERE does that demand that holy communion (feeding on Christ) might not be PART of that Gospel Proclamation. [Equally risible: the idea that Open Communion would somehow create a disincentive to baptism. Puh-leez!]

TEC needs to Come Out. Christ invites ALL to his table. We KNOW (most of us) that we shouldn't create human-invented stumbling blocks to the Godly Grub. Let's SAY so, for heaven's sake!

gerry said...

Incredible Post!!!

We have celebrated an open table through two rectors and two interims inviting all to come forward to Christ's table.

We offer the Bread and the Cup (or an intinction cup) or a Blessing -- your choice -- not ours; all we ask is that you cross your arms if you prefer the Blessing. I offer the Blessing in the name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.

I think the legalists could nail me at least two or more canons, but there are too many people out there hungering and thirsting for the good news...

Bateau Master said...

Mathew 18:20 - was the Lords word on the subject and thus He puts fretting over Apostolic succession in its proper perspective. Anything added later by men is just bureaucracy.

That said ... why do I find the Eucharistic Liturgy so comforting?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Gerry. I'm thinking a few of us should put ourselves up for Title IV charges. Let's get on with it and stop behaving like naughty little boys and girls who think we're getting over on something.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Bateau - Thanks for your comments and for your question. It's a good one. Is the Eucharist supposed to be comforting or transforming? Can it be both at the same time?

walter said...

Mother Elizabeth,

A prayerful Word about virginity: Inspired by some of the writing of Gregory of Nissa I pray that the One who has purified all the faculties of his/her own soul from the vices of racism classicism and homophobia reveals himself/herself the subject of objective who is beautiful uniquely thanks to his/her own nature and who is the causality of every beauty and every good. Like the eye liberated from the tares sees to shine that which is found in the air so the soul, thanks to the purity,owns the faculty to think of that light: the sound of genuine virginity. Raising the dead is a radical, mysterious, joyful part of a Sacramental life in Jesus. In the name of the One who keeps us centered and focused and truthful, Jesus the Christ.

Buffalo Shepherd

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Walter - what a wonderful way to think about virginity. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

This thread has certainly grown.

First of all, my use of "hostess" wasn't meant to offend. I suppose I'm showing my age. My unmarried nephews give the same groan when I address their birthday cards with "Master First Last Name." I will use "host" in the future.

The subject of my comment was this one paragraph:

"I'm coming to see that Open Communion is precisely what Jesus intended - indeed, what the ancient church practiced in the first few centuries of its life, before those who followed Jesus were not called Christians but 'People of The Way.'"

Once again, is there a single bit of Patristic or even non-Patristic early Christian or semi-Christian writings that indicates that the Christian communities of the first centuries practiced open communion?

It is the ahistorical assertion that I object to here. Otherwise I would have passed by this post in silence.