Friday, 23 January 2009

General Synod agenda - press reports

The Church Times has published a detailed report by Margaret Duggan on next month’s General Synod Agenda Financial crisis and ARCIC report feature on Synod agenda

One item was picked up by the secular press.
The Guardian Church of England may ban clergy from joining BNP
Martin Beckford in the Telegraph Vicars could be banned from membership of British National Party

And then there are two reports on an item that will not be debated this time because of a lack of interest from synod members:
Martin Beckford in the Telegraph Fix date of Easter to prevent ‘confusion and disruption’ over holidays, says clergyman
Steve Doughty in the Mail Church of England clerics want Easter date fixed for every year

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 23 January 2009 at 11:22am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod
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The date of Easter is fixed. It is just that it is not fixed according to the solar calendar.

What's the problem?

Posted by: Wilf on Friday, 23 January 2009 at 12:12pm GMT

Fixing the date of Easter is one of the screwiest ideas I've heard in a long time...particularly if we're doing it just to accommodate the vacations of people who probably won't attend Easter services anyway!

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 23 January 2009 at 1:16pm GMT

Set a fixed Easter date? Good idea, but not original. See the Easter Act 1928, which you can look up at www.statutelaw.gov.uk and which specifies that Easter shall be the Sunday after the esecond Saturday of April. The Act is only awaiting an Order in Council to come into effect.

Surprising the vicar in question, and the two newspaper reports have missed this Act of Parliament.

Posted by: Nom de Plume on Friday, 23 January 2009 at 1:27pm GMT

Pat
Why would fixing Easter be ridiculous?

The first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox isn't exactly pregnant with Christian meaning that would get lost if Easter was always celebrated on the 1st Sunday in April.

Hands up all those who are so converse with the symbolism of fixing Easter that they don't need to look it up in a calendar.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 23 January 2009 at 1:57pm GMT

"The first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox isn't exactly pregnant with Christian meaning that would get lost if Easter was always celebrated on the 1st Sunday in April."

Actually, it is. It is timed to the return of Spring, thus linking the return of Creation to life with the budding of leaves, etc. with the return of all Creation to it's original state of the perfect life of God. There was also a stipulation that Easter not precede the Jewish Passover, thus symbolizing the replacement of the "old Passover" with the New Passover. Now, that symbolism falls flat in a place like here, where Easter is often celebrated in what is for us the Dead of Winter, but the principle is still there. All the same it was odd when I was a kid for my mother and me to walk across the harbour ice and climb through the snow to the top of Teahouse Hill for the Easter sunrise service where we'd sing hymns that referred to the return of Spring when the buds wouldbn't start to swell for another month or more. The Orthodox have a lot to say about this, actually, some of it a bit much, but still grounded in the symbolism of fixing the date of Easter by the lunar calendar. The criticism is sometimes made that Christians ignore Creation and the turn of the seasons, thereby failing to recognize our place in nature. In fact we don't. The central mystery of our religion is celebrated based on the turning of the natural seasons, and some of our fixed feasts, like Christmas, are also positioned where they are for exactly that reason, at least that's one of the reasons. But, given that most of us do not have the ability to calculate when the vernal equinox actually occurs, we still have to look it up in a calendar. What's wrong with that?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 23 January 2009 at 2:37pm GMT

Fixing the date of Easter?

It's political correctness gone maaaad!

Sorry - couldn't resist it.

Posted by: Gerry Lynch on Friday, 23 January 2009 at 2:44pm GMT

I suppose if we fix the date of Easter we can expect Mother Nature to regularly get even and mess it up (how dare God interrupt our plans). I've had more than my share of Easter Even liturgies on frosty narthexes and watch kids trying to find Easter eggs in snow.

Why must we always accommodate those aren't literate in history and can't figure further than their 'crackberries' that remind them what's coming up in their over-planned and overbooked agendas?

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Friday, 23 January 2009 at 3:40pm GMT

"The central mystery of our religion is celebrated based on the turning of the natural seasons, and some of our fixed feasts, like Christmas, are also positioned where they are for exactly that reason, at least that's one of the reasons. But, given that most of us do not have the ability to calculate when the vernal equinox actually occurs, we still have to look it up in a calendar. What's wrong with that?"

There's nothing wrong with it.
But there's also nothing intrinsically important about it that makes it "the screwiest idea" in a long time.

The origins of the Easter date are pagan but have been overwritten with Christian imagery and meaning. That's fine, but if you want to mark seasons you could just as easily select the 21st March.
It wouldn't actually change the symbolism or the character of the celebration or anything else truly important.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 23 January 2009 at 4:11pm GMT

Erika:

My objection is exactly what I said it was...as described in the news reports, the "problem" is that the ever-changing date of Easter is fouling up people's vacation plans. Well, tough! I see no reason to go fooling around with the church's liturgical calendar to satisfy a bunch of people who, as I noted, probably won't be attending Easter services anyway, since they're off to the islands, or skiing, or something anyway.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 23 January 2009 at 4:48pm GMT

I think I would ask Erika to consider that our date for Easter not pagan, rather it is poorly brought over from Jewish practice, at least in the Western Church; the Eastern Church still celebrates Easter in close proximity to Passover. The entire cycle of Maundy Thursday to Easter to Pentecost is present in modern Jewish tradition. In fact the Sunday after Passover is known as “First Fruits” making it very plain where the early tradition derived the imagery of this Risen Christ as the “first fruits of those that sleep.” So in some sense our lunar association for the date of Easter connects back to early Christian origins in first century Judaism. This connection also intensifies the Vigil emphasis on the Red Sea story as necessary component of that liturgy.

Posted by: David Bieler on Friday, 23 January 2009 at 5:08pm GMT

Comment from someone in the Southern Hemisphere would be good, not to mention those so close to the equator as to remove almost all sense of 'seasons'.

Posted by: Lister Tonge on Friday, 23 January 2009 at 5:32pm GMT

If they're going to reopen that particular can of worms, perhaps they ought to hold the Synod at Whitby........

Personally, I'm with Erika. I'd be quite content for Easter to be fixed on the first Sunday of April. Not only would it remove the curiously unChristian-feeling calculations to do with equinoxes and phases of the moon, and re-connect our practice with that of society (see above), it would reduce confusion about the Movable Feasts and the endless irritation of keeping up with the number of Sundays after Epiphany and Trinity/Pentecost (or in Ordinary Time - whatever that is). Last year, I blinked after Christmas and nearly missed Lent.

It isn't going to happen, though. Whatever arguments may be deployed on either side carry no weight whatever in comparison with the immovable bulk of "It's aye been."

Posted by: David Bayne on Friday, 23 January 2009 at 6:17pm GMT

The origins of the date of Easter (and probably Passover, for that matter) and some of its customs and rituals probably are pagan. That’s no reason to reject it. Should we demolish the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris because it was deliberately built on a pagan site?

From my perspective, there is good solid religious and historical reason to let it float as it does.
If you believe the Gospels, Jesus of Nazareth was tried, executed, died, and resurrected during the Jewish holiday of Passover. Passover in Hebrew is "Pesach". Most European languages have some form of "P-s-ch" name for Easter. The symbolism in the Gospels and in the letters of Paul has been there for almost two millennia. As others have said, he was the ultimate Paschal sacrifice, the final and best offering. In our oh-so-cultured modern minds, that may sound barbaric, but it is part of orthodox Christian faith, including Anglican faith.

Every once in a while, such as this year, the timing between the two holidays is perfect. This year, the first seder of Passover is Wednesday, April 8 – during Holy Week, when some Christians celebrate Tenebrae. The second seder is Thursday, Maundy Thursday, when Christians celebrate the Last Supper (a seder observance and meal), and the institution of the Holy Eucharist or Mass.

Sure, setting a fixed date for Easter makes it “convenient” for those two-times-a-year Christians whom otherwise never set foot in a church, but it would divorce the Anglican Church from one of its roots.

If people think the fuss over consecrating gay bishops is over the top, it is absolutely nothing compared to the commotion created by changing the date of Easter.

But leave it to some newspapers to focus on that item out of all the items General Synod is studying.

Posted by: peterpi on Friday, 23 January 2009 at 6:51pm GMT

Erika, what *is* the screwiest idea in a long time is the idea that one national church - or even all the churches in a given country - ought to arbitrarily set a date for Easter in isolation. It's scandalous that we have to deal with two dates for Easter (Orthodox and Western) -- God forbid every local franchise decided to celebrate it when it best suits them. (Oh, and the idea that the church ought to switch the date its holiest feast to accommodate the school vacation schedule is pretty screwy in itself.)

Posted by: BillyD on Friday, 23 January 2009 at 7:26pm GMT

There has been a suggestion that the Western Churches might return to the calculation for the date of Easter used in the East so that all Christians would celebrate the Feast on the same day -- a suggestion which I think most excellent (although my own preference would be to make the first Sunday after Annunciation Palm Sunday -- but that's just me).

BTW -- since the Eastern Churches will never change, the only way of achieving a common date for Easter is if the West changes.

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Friday, 23 January 2009 at 9:39pm GMT

...and besides, the bunnies would never remember.

Posted by: Cal McMillan+ on Friday, 23 January 2009 at 9:56pm GMT

"The central mystery of our religion is celebrated based on the turning of the natural seasons, and some of our fixed feasts, like Christmas, are also positioned where they are for exactly that reason, at least that's one of the reasons. But, given that most of us do not have the ability to calculate when the vernal equinox actually occurs, we still have to look it up in a calendar. What's wrong with that?" - Ford Elms -

As someone already has suggested on this thread, perhaps you Northern Hemisphere dwellers need to consider the other hemisphere, where we have the liturgical Feasts of Easter and Christmas at radically different seasons of the year from you. Therefore, traditional references to Spring and Easter, Winter and Christmas, simply have no relevance to us. We are content to live with what you Northerners have decreed is good for us so far so I donm't suppose the prospects of a fixed date for Easter Day - except it still be on a Sunday - would bother us one iota. We are usually amenable to what our N.H. brethren and sistren think on such peripheral matters of 'Faith'.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 23 January 2009 at 11:47pm GMT

Pat and everyone

I'm staggered by the level of emotion displayed here.
I find Easter the most important day of the year, but its precise date is rather irrelevant for me.

It's a step of symbolism too far for me. Not that I obeject to it, I just don't find it terribly important.

But as for fixing the date for the sake of people who never come to church more than twice a year anyway.... makes me wonder how few families you all seem to be having in your churches.

Where I am we now have fixed Easter school holidays, whether they fall into Easter or not. So at least during some years the problem is solved.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 24 January 2009 at 8:21am GMT

Erika- Where I am we now have fixed Easter school holidays, whether they fall into Easter or not. So at least during some years the problem is solved.

Ditto here (first two weeks in April), and they get Good Friday and Easter Monday when not in those weeks.

It has the advantage that people in church are (usually) around for the whole of the easter season rather then missing Holy or easter week dues to being away on holiday.

Kennedy

Posted by: Kennedy Fraser on Saturday, 24 January 2009 at 10:40am GMT

Erika:

Yes, here in the Philly area of the US, public schools do not schedule their spring break around Easter, but choose a week (usually in April) based on hitting the mid-point of the second semester. (RC schools usually DO schedule around Easter.)

Oddly enough, when I lived in NYC, the spring break was most often scheduled to coincide with Passover (a difference in demographics, especially among the teaching staff).

As for church attendance, my parish does fine, thank you. My objection to the whole thing was that the people who wanted a fixed date for Easter were the ones most likely not to celebrate the day at all (save for coloring eggs and eating chocolate rabbits, that is).

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Saturday, 24 January 2009 at 11:54am GMT

"I'm staggered by the level of emotion displayed here."

Oh, I'm not. I knew when I clicked on the Comments that this item would dominate the thread.

Posted by: Geoff McLarney on Saturday, 24 January 2009 at 2:04pm GMT

You will be wanting to re-schedule the solstices and equinoxes next !

The date of Easter runs very deep. Leave well alone I would say. There is nothing 'convenient' about Easter. It has never been noted for its convenience.

Let's leave a place for the lunar, the irrational, the tides, the archetypal Feminine, the chthonic, that not born of Consciousness.

Our solar, rational, patriarchal world sorely needs these corectives.

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Saturday, 24 January 2009 at 8:24pm GMT

"Five "Reverends" were identified on the list (of members of the B.N.P.), but the Church of England said none were licensed or serving Anglican clergy although one was a retired priest."

It seems, from the above, that, though five 'Reverends' were members, only one of them was Anglican - and he was retired.

I guess, from this information, that only one Anglican clergy-person (who is retired, and therefore hardly subject to discipline by the Church) has elected to be identified with the B.N.P. Tghis implies that no serving Anglican Clergy-person elects to be recognised as beloning to this racially-discriminatory political entity.
This is what one might expect - the Anglican Church being committed to a non-racist theology.

If any clergy-person started preaching about their support for racism, then might be the time to get all hot and bothered about this issue. To have to raise up a legal prohibition preventing clergy from being a member of such a party might imply to others that we are capable of promoting racism. This could be quite counter-productive.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 24 January 2009 at 11:40pm GMT

Fix the date of Easter? Why? It's not broken.

OTOH, I'd just as soon let the secular folks celebrate Easter with bunnies and eggs and chocolate on some other day and allow the rest of us to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord in the traditional way with billions of Christians around the world.

Posted by: ruidh on Sunday, 25 January 2009 at 4:10pm GMT

"OTOH, I'd just as soon let the secular folks celebrate Easter with bunnies and eggs and chocolate on some other day and allow the rest of us to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord in the traditional way with billions of Christians around the world."

Oh, does that mean that as a Christian I can no longer have coloured eggs, bunnies and chocolate?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 25 January 2009 at 10:21pm GMT

"Oh, does that mean that as a Christian I can no longer have coloured eggs, bunnies and chocolate?"

Give up chocolate for Easter? H--- I can't even think of giving up beer for Lent!!!!!!

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Monday, 26 January 2009 at 1:02am GMT

"perhaps you Northern Hemisphere dwellers need to consider the other hemisphere,"

I stand corrected and chastened. But, instead of coming from a position of "This is wrong, we have to change it" which seems to inform so much of modern "reform" (and I'm not necessarily ascribing that attitude to you), why not come at it from a position of "This is what we have received, what can we find in it that is meaningful?" As I said, overall, this attitude that what we have been given was given for a reason seems pretty weak among most "reformers", of whatever stripe. Instead, "reform" seems mostly based on the idea that if we don't see much sense in it, or if we disagree with it outright, then it has to be changed.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 29 January 2009 at 1:50pm GMT

Ford
"This is what we have received, what can we find in it that is meaningful?" ...
"Instead, "reform" seems mostly based on the idea that if we don't see much sense in it, or if we disagree with it outright, then it has to be changed."

Same thing, wouldn't you say? If it's meaningful it remains, if it is no longer meaningful, why should reform not at least worth an attempt at renewed discernment?

How else is the Spirit to move the church forward?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 29 January 2009 at 7:39pm GMT

"Same thing, wouldn't you say?"

No, I wouldn't. I don't like it so it must be wrong? Because modern society is so enlightened? Every society in the history of humanity has considered itself the most enlightened. Some of these "enlightened" societies burned women at the stake, cut the genitals off women in the interest of "purity", declared women to be property, burned Jews in ovens, and on and on, all convinced they were doing what was right and good and "God's Truth" because they were so much more enlightened than anything that had gone before. And we can all come up with reasons why our disagreement with something is right, by God! Take OOW. When it was being debated in Canada, it was between those who were convinced that our modern "enlightenment" was the be all and end all, and those who were just as convinced that we were drifting from the "enlightenment" of a more perfect time. The question, unasked then, was, as it is now, is God calling women to priesthood or not? Our answers can help us better understand the Gospel. If we answer 'no', then we have to ask why, in the Church, of all places, slightly over half of humanity is disenfranchised. If God, in whom all are equal, intended the priesthood to be male, then we were mistaken in making it into a source of inequality. So how did that happen and what do we do about it? If we answer 'yes', there's a whole pile of other questions. We didn't get to have that discussion in Canada, and I don't think we're effectively having it even now, because one side is so convinced of how enlightened we moderns are it can't even conceive there might be other reasons for not ordaining women than oppressing them, and the other side is so convinced we are drifting from our past "enlightenment", and fearful of what that means, it can't make it's point without duplicity, conniving, and accusation of oppression. Sorry, Erika, I no more put my faith in the "enlightenment" of modern society than I can in the "enlightenment" of a society that burned witches. They were just as convinced of their own "enlightenment" as we are of ours, and it strikes me a hubris to refuse to learn from that.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 3 February 2009 at 2:35pm GMT

"no longer meaningful"

I think maybe exploring this phrase will help clarify what I'm saying. What does this mean? I mean, for two thousand years, give or take, Christians have seen it as meaningful that the Paschal Feast occurs in the Spring. The return to life of the Earth after it's "rest" in the tomb of winter is symbolic of Creation itself rejoicing at the Resurrection of its Redeemer. How does that cease to be meaningful for us in the Northern hemisphere? Even in the Southern hemisphere, might it not be more reasonable, and certainly more humble, to consider that perhaps God understood that by making the world as a tilted sphere the symbolism of a Springtime Paschal feast would be inverted in the southern half of the planet He was making, and that there might be meaning for us to discover in that fact as well? Would that not perhaps be more spiritually productive than doing away with something that has had spiritual meaning for the last 2000 years because we in the modern age decide that since we can't superficially see any sense in it it must be disposable, and, besides, it makes our friends in the Southern hemisphere feel hard done by? Well, our friends in GAFCON feel hard done by too, just as sincerely, but we don't assume that THEIR feelings of persecution are valid. If they can invent a myth of how hard done by they are, why can't any other group?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 3 February 2009 at 3:09pm GMT

Ford
I think we're talking cross purposes.
I know you don't think much of society, probably as little as I think of the average church
- both are hugely fallible, both have enlightened members and both have self-focused me-firsts.

But what I meant was: whether a Christian says "This is what we have received, what can we find in it that is meaningful?" or whether she says " if we don't see much sense in it, or if we disagree with it outright, then it has to be changed." - that is the same thing.

In both instances it will lead to a discernment process.


And "no longer meaningful" means that all Christian symbols have to be looked at occasionally.
The image of shepherds and lambs has to be carefully looked at when you talk to children who only know lamb as a chop in plastic shrinkwrap.
The image of spring at Easter probably has less meaning to people in the Southern hemisphere who celebrate it in autumn.

Just because an image was meaningful once does not mean it is meaningful everywhere or for all times.

That's not to say "let's throw out the flexible Easter date". But it IS to say - let's see if it still holds as much meaning as it did. We can discuss this without being threatened in our identity.

It troubles me greatly that often symbols appear to be more important to us than that which they point to.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 3 February 2009 at 3:51pm GMT

"The image of shepherds and lambs has to be carefully looked at when you talk to children who only know lamb as a chop in plastic shrinkwrap."

Or you could just teach them about shepherds and lambs.

Posted by: BillyD on Tuesday, 3 February 2009 at 7:57pm GMT

"The image of shepherds and lambs has to be carefully looked at when you talk to children who only know lamb as a chop in plastic shrinkwrap."

That's just an artifact of a society that really doesn't want to think of death as anything other than a horror to be avoided. Even nature shows refer to predators as having "a sinister purpose" when hunting their prey, as though it is somehow evil for a carnivore to get a meal. So, don't tell Precious Little Snowflake that her burger once walked and mooed. It is the same exactly as the Victorian attitude towards sex, and it's creating a generation of animal rights industrialists for whom, as I saw reported in a German magazine, a polar bear can actually be said to "senselessly murder" a fish! It is far more important when trying to preach to a society that doesn't have the concepts. In the Arctic, Anglican missionaries had to translate "Lamb of God" to a society that did not have lambs or even agriculture, and didn't understand the concept of animal sacrifice. They also had neither bread nor wine. Talk about being hamstrung by ineffective symbols! I'm not sure how they handled the bread, wine, and sacrifice things, but they eventually translated Lamb of God by an Inuktitut term that literally means "God's Precious Thing the Looks Like A Caribou Calf".

"It troubles me greatly that often symbols appear to be more important to us than that which they point to."

And I come at it from the other end. It troubles me greatly when ancient symbols are seen as nothing more than hoary traditions to be jettisoned. I'm not accusing you specifically of this, Erika, but that attitude often appears to be rooted in a rejection of anything that isn't new just because it isn't new.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 3 February 2009 at 7:59pm GMT

"It troubles me greatly that often symbols appear to be more important to us than that which they point to." - Erika -

Don't you think, Erika, (and Ford) that sometimes our symbols are so fused with the reality they symbolise that it might be difficult to separate the two? Think of ikons - in the Russian and Greek tradition, they are kissed as representing the very nature of the Christ, or the Saint, they symbolise. They are wrought with prayer and there is a definite aura of 'sanctity' within.

The take again, the elements of the Eucharist. To a Catholic or an Orthodox believer (and to me), consecrated, they become the Body and Blood of Christ, indistinguishable from Christ himself. This is an integral doctrine of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. However, to be fair to your argument here, they (the symbols) never become
MORE important than the reality they represent - just AS important, in their representation.

Regarding this matter of Seasonal & liturgical coincidence; I was brought up in the Northern Hemisphere where Spring and Easter Seasons happen to coincide; whereas, in my present situation in the Southern Hemisphere, they do not. Somehow, I still manage to live with the difference, leading me to wonder whether it was necessarily a Divine initiative to ensure that the seasons coincided - in order impress on the Christian community the need to recognise the significance of this. If this was so, then God obviously forgot to provide for the faith spreading to the Southern Hemisphere

My point here? - Is it worth anyone getting worked up about?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 3 February 2009 at 10:50pm GMT

BillyD
"Or you could just teach them about shepherds and lambs."

Of course. But the point I was making is that these images were every day images to the people in their times.
These days, even the teachers and priests don't actually know what watching the flock outside the cities it about. Do you? I come from the country and I've only once or twice observed a real shepherd at work and spoken to one. It's astonishing what I didn't know.


Fr Ron Smith
I agree! It's not worth getting worked up about!
Remember this conversation started because I suggested we took seriously questions to fix Easter, and suddenly everyone was getting worked up about it as though I'd made the most off-the-wall and threatening comment ever?
You're right - it is not work anyone getting worked up about.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 4 February 2009 at 7:15am GMT
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