Comments: Do American bishops have a different view of their role?

"At the Lambeth Conference, I believe that the voice of the conformed bishop will be easily heard and affirmed. The prophetic voice will not be easily heard."

I find this very telling. First,there is the idea that to conform to authority is to silence the prophetic voice. I cannot agree with this as a basic attitude, since it is my belief that guidance of the Spirit is found in the group's voice, not that of the individual. I know this is not exactly what is being said, that after all the bishop is elected by the laity, thus it is not merely his/her voice, but this is again an attitude just as much informed by American political structures as the more authoritarian model of episcopacy is informed by Imperial and medieval political realities. Notice in one of the comments how bishops are described as "representatives" of the laity, as though a bishop is some sort of ecclesiastical congressman. If this is the underlying Episcopal concept of episcopacy, then we have a huge problem. A bishop is not a political representative. The more appropriate image is of shepeherd, not Congressman. In so far as mere words can describe it, we call it the Kingdom of God, not the Republic of God. I'm not talking about individual issues here, but about the underlying understanding of how these decisions are made and enacted. A glimpse of what I am trying to say comes from an Orthodox document I read years ago, where different concepts of authority were being discussed. The comment was made that Orthodox Christians are mystified how something with such wideranging implications as the ordination of women could be considered appropriatly dealt with by a show of hands. Here in Canada, the bishop certainly has authority, given by God, though recognized by the laity that elected him/her. On the surface, though no doubt the reality is more nuanced, it appears the underlying attitude, perhaps subconscious, is that the laity get to tell God who he will have for their bishop, rather than the other way around.

Posted by Ford Elms at Saturday, 31 May 2008 at 6:35pm BST

It isn't just that we are divided by a common language, but a common episcopate, it seems. American bishops are very different from English bishops, not merely because they are elected by representatives of all parishes in their dioceses, and all the clergy of the dioceses, and consented to by the majority of other diocesan bishops and standing committees of all the other dioceses. And once elected, American bishops do not "govern" their dioceses, though they share in their governance. (There is a difference between leadership and governance.) Similarly, the House of Bishops does not make decisions for the church.

Rowan may understand all of this (surely it is not hard to understand), and understanding it he may not like it. He may also not like (or understand) the very American way of saying, "I didn't vote for Lambeth 1.10 and I'm not going to support it!" That, I think, is more to the point than all of the issues about polity.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Saturday, 31 May 2008 at 10:28pm BST

When I have participated in an Episcopal election it was to elect a person who would represent God to us, which is an essential part of the apostolic office. I do not need a Bishop who represents either me or my congregation. The congregation and I are perfectly happy to represent ourselves in the councils of the Church. Heaven forbid a kind of ecclesiastical congressman or senator.
Episcopacy that listens to God, reads, marks and inwardly digests the Scriptures and then, ministers - this is the ideal.
I am singularly unimpressed by Mrs. Anderson's grasp of church polity as it seems to be spun to serve her needs. She is very nice to meet and very engaging in conversation, however as a church leader I cannot trust her thinking or leadership. She is part of an overall movement to change the polity of the Episcopal church, sadly they are so far successful - hence a Communion standoff.

Posted by Ian Montgomery at Saturday, 31 May 2008 at 11:06pm BST

I believe the ABC's question is fair. May be it should have been asked two hundred years ago, but nevertheless, here we are.

The problem with an exclusively General-Convention-centered episcopal ministry, is that it leaves out the universal character of being "a bishop of the Church of God."

What then is the role of episkope in the wider global Communion? Is it only limited to providing that a bishop can move from one province to another without the need of being ordained again? Going to Lambeth or being member of an international committee?

One the other hand, playing the universal at the expense of the local, certainly would not be acceptable. Indeed, in a way, Anglicanism in itself was born on the rejection of such premise.

Then, the question is- What are the limits/boundaries to the universal character of the ordination to the episcopate? Indeed, are there any clear limits/boundaries? How does the local plays against the global? How a bishop deals with the question of his/hers unique calling of being "a bishop in the Church of God" with the fact that he/she is bound to conform to the polity of the local body? He/she is charged with guarding the unity (NOT the uniformity) of the church-- but, which church? The local body? The universal body? Both? What if the unity of one body imperils the unity of the other? I believe that -- as current circumstances are showing -- there are no easy answers. Yet, the lack of easy answers should not be a deterrent to making hard questions.

And, uncomfortable as it may be, bishops should not run to hide behind the local body nor the universal-- as some, on both sides of the current issues and of the Atlantic, are very much willing to do.

Thomas+

Posted by Thomas+ at Sunday, 1 June 2008 at 12:02am BST

Brava, Bonnie Anderson.
Lois

Posted by Lois Keen at Sunday, 1 June 2008 at 1:19am BST

Ms Anderson notes:

"Some of us in TEC in the past have thought that perhaps the Archbishop and others in the Anglican Communion do not understand the baptismal covenant that we hold foundational."

This is in fact a very significant point. The Baptismal Covenent of which she speaks is part of the Baptismal liturgy in the BCP 1979 of the Episcopal Church (USA) and is also included in the Book of Alternative Services of the Anglican Church of Canada. (I assume it is also included in the Brazilian prayer book, which I understand to be a translation of the BCP 1979.) But to my knowledge it is not found in any other prayer book in the Communion. North Americans have recited this Baptismal Covenant on a regular basis for 30 years, and this has had a profound influence on their spirituality. "lex orandi, lex credendi" is indeed a very serious matter.

If others in the Communion do not understand the impact of this Baptismal Covenant, it is precisely because they have not been exposed to it in the liturgy as North Americans have. And given that this is a significant part of the basis for North Americans' approach to human sexuality, it is no wonder that they are in many ways isolated from much of the Communion. This is not a value judgment either way, but merely an observation.

Posted by Nom de Plume at Sunday, 1 June 2008 at 1:50am BST

What do you get when you have all powerful bishops? Let's talk about what happened in Botswana when Archbishop Malango fired bishop Mwamba for not sticking with the party line. What about those who dissent from the official line in such places and Nigeria, Kenya and Central Africa?
Fear can be a powerful tool. It silences dissenting voices. Another glowing example is Kunonga and his friend, Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

I'll take a republic to a kingdom anyday. One persons interpretation of directives from the Holy Spirit can be another's nightmare. No one has the whole truth! God speaks to all people, not just bishops or clergy.

Posted by Bob In PA at Sunday, 1 June 2008 at 2:34am BST

I think the rest of the Communion needs to figure out that we Yanks have little use for, or patience with, monarchy in any of its reincarnations. It's an idea whose time is long past. The old model of priests and bishops teaching and guiding easily awed peasants is over (and not just in America). The children of those peasants are now educated professionals, and those that aren't aspire to be so. We are not so easily awed or intimidated anymore. Skepticism, independence of thought, like it or not, are facts of life.
Religious democracy, like political and economic democracy, is participatory. The Holy Spirit makes use of mitered bishops, vestry committees, diocesan conventions, Sunday school classes, and church janitors without much distinction. The Spirit speaks and acts through the whole Church, not through official channels.
That was the aspect of Christianity that so scared the hell out of the Romans; its egalitarianism. That Christians, slave and free, rich and poor, noble and common, foreign and native, male and female, worshipped together as equals deeply offended and threatened the ancient Romans.
In its long life as an imperial cult of one kind or another, the Church forgot that heritage.

Posted by counterlight at Sunday, 1 June 2008 at 3:09am BST

Bonnie Anderson, you ROCK! :-D

[Ian Montgomery, I am singularly unimpressed by *your* grasp of Bonnie's point: that bishops, while lifted up FROM the people, remain intrinsically OF them, and share governance WITH them. They are not set OVER them: not in TEC, praise Christ!]

*****

"In so far as mere words can describe it, we call it the Kingdom of God, not the Republic of God."

Yes, Ford: but GOD is the monarch, not a bunch of prince (OR princess) bishops!

The question remains: how best, under King Jesus, to order ourselves, in a way that honors the dignity of ALL the Imago Dei? I would argue that is is through democratic discernment, and NOT a (small 'e') episcopal junta!

Posted by JCF at Sunday, 1 June 2008 at 4:10am BST

Perhaps, though, this demonstrates that we in the Episcopal Church are distinctively committed to the priesthood of all believers. The Holy Spirit dwells in all of us from baptism, and calls us all to service, and each in our own way to proclaim the Gospel. If that is the case, it shouldn't be a surprise that we expect the laity to participate, to share how each of them perceives the leading of the Spirit.

At the first Pentecost there were eleven apostles, and more than 89 lay men and women - and all of them proclaimed. It should be no shock that some portion of the Church should want to listen to what God is saying through lay people. Indeed, shouldn't it be shocking if there are portions of the Church that do not want to listen?

Posted by Marshall Scott at Sunday, 1 June 2008 at 4:44am BST

Ford,

I disagree. The Spirit works through the whole Church, including the laity. The laity should have a say in the governance of the church. Checks and balances on authority are appropriate and all the moreso in a tradition that says the Church can err.

Posted by Christopher at Sunday, 1 June 2008 at 5:39am BST

I think it's very important in all this to remember the historical context of the establshment of the American episcopacy. There was an Anglican Church in North America for almost two centuries without an local episcopacy at all. The real power in during that time was the vestry, not the clergy, and certainly not the episcopacy.

Bishops during the colonial period and the revolutionary period were identified with the monarchy and the aristocracy, both of which were despised by the end of the colonial period. There was some discussion in the establishment of an independent Anglican Chuch in America about whether, having gotten rid of monarchy and aristocracy, the church should have bishops at all.

The decision was made, of course, to have them. But they were given very little power in the American Church. Part of that was of course the reluctance of the local vestries to give up power. But part of it was a fear of establishing the British system of episcopacy as well.

All this was before the Oxford movement and the accompanying high theological view of the episcopacy.

This comparatively low-view of the episcopacy remains very much a part of the American Church and, in many way, very unconconscious and unarticulated. And it's not only a lay thing. Rectors and other clergy don't want the bishops around running things either.

This is not Anderson's spinning things to meet her needs. This is a very deep part of the American Church culture. Williams' -- or Wright's or others' -- attempts to interfere with that culture is very counter-productive. It stirs up the whole anti-monarchy, anti-aristocracy kind of mood that is very much part of the culture of America and the American Church that has existed here for well over two centuries.

Posted by dr.primrose at Sunday, 1 June 2008 at 7:15am BST

I love the stories of the early Church where bishops were teachers and protectors of the people. Probably because the people brought them forth and held them up. Thank you, Church of England, for never ever having sent us bishops to minister to the people. Your negligence or arrogance enabled us to learn the wisdom of the early Church and raise up our own bishops.

As far as most Episcopalians I know, the Archbishop of Canterbury can skip his spin on the "special charism" of bishops. God can, has and will tell that story through time. Has it ever occurred to you that there have been, are and will be total duds (best case)as bishops. Given the lot you are dealing with, I certainly hope so. Have you ever asked yourself how that came to be?

I certainly hope that Lambeth will be an occassion of radical hospitality and open converstion, even if the table has not been well set.

Kahu Aloha

Posted by Kahu Aloha at Sunday, 1 June 2008 at 8:49am BST

One thing that this thread and Ford's posting leave us to ponder, is "are the bishops (aka shepherds) accountable to the flock?". My reading of the bible is definitively yes. More definitively, their missive is the the care of their flocks.

For example: Zechariah 10:2 "Therefore the people wander like sheep oppressed for lack of a shepherd." or 11:17 "“Woe to the worthless shepherd,who deserts the flock! May the sword strike his arm and his right eye! May his arm be completely withered, his right eye totally blinded!”

Contemplate Jeremiah 17:16 "I have not run away from being your shepherd; you know I have not desired the day of despair."

Compared to the desired compassoin of Isaiah 40:11 "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young." or 44:28 or 61:5 Or Ezekiel 24, which includes "I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice."

Hebrews 13:20-21 "May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."

Posted by Cheryl Va. at Sunday, 1 June 2008 at 12:33pm BST

counterlight-"The old model of priests and bishops teaching and guiding easily awed peasants is over (and not just in America)."

Uh, you haven't been to too many suburban "mega churches" have you, nor the hundreds of various fundamentalist churches that dot the U.S. countryside?

Before we Americans pat ourselves on the back for our supposedly wonderful every three year party, I should note that it is often the same delegates and alternates that attend these things. And our "democratically" elected bishops come from a three or four dog and pony show that magically appears from the very mysterious standing committees of their respective dioceses, only to find these same elected bishops acting with the imperial rule with no recourse.

Although the C of E's system is far from perfect, the idea of them being appointed civil servants should give them a humility befits the office. Like ours, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Sunday, 1 June 2008 at 12:43pm BST

choiboyfromhell,

I grew up in deeply fundamentalist Texas.

Posted by counterlight at Sunday, 1 June 2008 at 1:19pm BST

If there is a special charism of being called to be bishop, it must involve living the gospel by listening and pastoring across our current or future global Anglican differences.

The listening job is to help us all keep telling the truth, instead of repeating part or total falsehoods in our characterizations of other points of view inside the global Anglican big tent.

Temper tantrums from the right to the contrary, setting aside listening in favor of policing plus punishment will actually do little to save us from thorny but not impossible choices in hermeneutics, empirical hypothesis testing, and the fastest era of global changing knowledge that has ever before existed on our planet.

(Assuming we survive global climate and ecological changes, ODC's, the juggernaut mass extinction of species and habitats, and other sweetly sidelined dramas which will kill us off as a species, while we natter on about how to finesse the policing or punishingment of, say, uppity women or queer folks or gasp, believers who have varying opinions.)

So far as the special teaching charism of a bishop goes, if my bishop or any particular bishop cannot be bothered to learn what hermeneutic stances/methods I am adopting at any given moment, nor why I intentionally choose to start there instead of somewhere else, what can that bishop have to say to me that shows those special episcopal gifts of intelligence, intellectual respect, and informed understandings?

Repeating literalisms or quasi-literalisms from proof texted or presuppositional or other typically modernized conservative readings of the scriptures will soundly be far beside the point.

Posted by drdanfee at Sunday, 1 June 2008 at 3:44pm BST

"North Americans"

Um, I'm a North American, and the only time I have heard the term "Baptismal Convenant" is in online discussions with Americans. What is it, with whom is it, and what does it entail?

"The laity should have a say in the governance of the church."

I didn't say they shouldn't. There are numerous ways of doing this, the American model is but one of them.

"The old model of priests and bishops teaching and guiding easily awed peasants is over (and not just in America)."

Here in Canada we have a very different understanding of episcopate, it appears. We certainly don't have this idea that the bishop is our representative. Representative to whom? There is no heavenly congress, no divine senate to which he could be a representative. God sends us a bishop to guide us, we do not send a bishop to God to represent our interests in His wider governance. Most people around here would not take kindly to being described as "easily awed peasants" just because we have different understanding of episcopal authority and where it comes from.

Posted by Ford Elms at Sunday, 1 June 2008 at 6:34pm BST

I do not believe that either the ABC, NT Wright, et al are concerned with the particularities of TEC's polity per se.

The COE elects some bishops and others are appointed. We elect our bishops. However, both churches have managed to have saintly bishops and scoundrels. We can't say that our democratic process ensures the action of the Holy Spirit, while England, by lacking our polity, lacks some part of the blessings of the Spirit So, that is not the point.

I believe that they are asking is, how do you play the local episcope (shepherding, pastoring, teaching, or whatever the model may be) against the universal role of the "bishop in the church of God."

Congratulating ourselves about the glories of our polity does not answer the question posed.

In fact, if episcope is absolutely limited to the realm of the General Convention, we might as well change the Ordinal and take the words out of the PB.

Thomas+

Posted by Thomas+ at Sunday, 1 June 2008 at 7:09pm BST

counterlight: My sympathies. I grew up with them too and had a painful lesson learned from their emotional sabotage during adolescence. It probably explains my snappiness at them on this blogsite. Wounds do run deep.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Sunday, 1 June 2008 at 7:32pm BST

The Fulcrum website writes:

"Rowan Williams and "the distinctive charism of bishops"

A statement by Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies of TEC, sheds light the differences in mindset between US Episcopalians and their Anglican cousins, Episcopal Cafe, 30 May 2008."

I have pointed out (as can now be seen) that Episcopalians are not cousins of Anglicans but are Anglicans, that they have not gone from any core group yet, and indeed are very unlikely to go anywhere.

Posted by Pluralist at Sunday, 1 June 2008 at 9:08pm BST

Ford Elms:

For the Canadian version of the Baptismal Covenant see the Book of Alternative Services, pp. 158-159, especially the 5 questions on p. 159. To wit:

"Will you continue in the Apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers?

Will you persevere in resisting evil and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?

Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ?

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbour as yourself?

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?"

The answer to each is "I will, with God's help."

Obvously the last two questions have a signifcant role to play in the North American approach to the question of the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the Church and its sacraments. As I suggested before, this is perhaps not so obvious where these questions are not part of the baptismal liturgy.

Posted by Nom de Plume at Monday, 2 June 2008 at 2:55am BST

I just checked--and the US version (from the '79 prayer book) is identical to the Canadian...and, yes, those last two questions make the full inclusion issue one of special significance. I don't see how anyone can honestly answer them affirmatively and then NOT support full inclusion of all people in the church, no matter what the "presenting issue" might be.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Monday, 2 June 2008 at 10:50am BST

"I just checked--and the US version (from the '79 prayer book) is identical to the Canadian"

Interesting fact, this. I have been to the US and find the people friendly, kind, generous to a fault, and, surprise, surprise, humble. In fact, I was more at home in Seattle than I have ever felt in, say, Toronto. I think part of the problem is that they don't let the nice Americans run for office or travel abroad:-) Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that I can't imagine anyone giving what we have always called our "baptismal vows" the rather grandiose sounding name of "baptismal convenant", and I am sure that no American on this site considers it grandiose in the least, and is shocked and likely a bit insulted that I would perceive it that way (and for that I apologize, since I am saying it SOUNDS grandiose, I know it isn't, hence my opening statements). But, in much the same way some Evangelicals can't seem to understand that the rest of the world finds it hateful, offensive, and offputting to be judged and condemned in the name of "evangelism", so some Americans can't understand why something they take so seriously, that informs the very way they practice their faith, could be seen by others as grandiose, especially when it isn't offensive to other people, like the things I mentioned above. It relates to the fact that others find TEC's actions arrogant when they are actually coming from a sincere place of faith.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 2 June 2008 at 1:41pm BST

Dr. Primrose writes:

"The decision was made, of course, to have them(bishops). But they were given very little power in the American Church. Part of that was of course the reluctance of the local vestries to give up power. But part of it was a fear of establishing the British system of episcopacy as well.

All this was before the Oxford movement and the accompanying high theological view of the episcopacy."

Excellent points.

It isn't simply a matter of American Episcopalians having a different view of the office of bishop, in contrast to those of Anglicans in England, Canada, or elsewhere. Rather, the divide is between the catholic and evangelical understandings of the episcopate.

Posted by Matt Humphrey at Monday, 2 June 2008 at 2:42pm BST

Ford,
The Baptismal Covenant is alive and well in the Canadian church, though maybe not so much in your diocese. Here on the west coast, when one priest raised an objection to the baptismal covenant at our clergy conference last year (he was ordained in the CofE), the universal reaction was one of looking at him like he had 2 heads, it is so much a part of our thinking about baptism and membership in the church.

I think we are also seeing a drift toward a more "American style" polity in the Canadian church. Witness GS07, where the laity pulled the clergy along in the election of Fred Hiltz, and the criticism of the bishops after the vote on same-sex blessings, which passed in the orders of laity and clergy but failed in the bishops.

Posted by Jim Pratt at Monday, 2 June 2008 at 2:59pm BST

Ford,

In point of fact, many Episcopalians would find find it surprising that they have signed on to a "baptismal covenant." While I find much of the intent of developing a "baptismal covenant" laudatory, I find the way in which it is being done lacking. First, as this posting suggests, it seems normally to be expressed in political terms of representation and voting rights. Further, it's foundation appears to draw less from Scriptural language about covenants than it does from an Anglo-American political tradition. Second, it seems to sit loose on the idea of special charisms and ministry within the baptismal covenant. Finally, when and who promulgated this teaching, which appears now to be central to TEC's self-understanding? I can remember no theological debate about its merits. Is it merely coincidental that it should be promoted now in the midst of present Anglican debates and expectations?

Mark

Posted by Mark Clavier at Monday, 2 June 2008 at 3:47pm BST

For an explanation of the US baptismal covenant, read this

http://www.inclusivechurch2.net/Drenched-in-Grace-When-signs-signify-Revd-Dr-Louis-Weil-4d86fc5

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Monday, 2 June 2008 at 4:07pm BST

My recollection of what is being called a "Baptismal Covenant" is the recitation of parts of the Apostle's Creed that came about in the Baptism Service of the 1979 BCP (USA). Before that, baptism was commonly a private service and the 1928 book has no mention of the "covenant" except for an adult candidate affirming the Apostle's Creed and "Articles of Faith" (p. 278), or godparents doing such for an infant. In the Services For Trial Use ("Green Book"-1971) the recitation of the Apostle's Creed with congregational participation appears (p. 25), but is not labeled as the "Baptismal Covenant".

Having baptisms a public ceremonies tied into the weekly liturgy is now accepted practice in many American parishes. There is even continual talk to keep (and even limit) the baptisms at important holy days, such as All Saints, St. John the Baptist, Easter Even and (I think) Pentecost.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Monday, 2 June 2008 at 4:22pm BST

The Liturgy of Holy Baptism (2006) of the Scottish episcopal Church has the following section

5
5. COMMITMENT TO CHRISTIAN LIFE
Either
The president addresses the
candidate(s)
N., as a disciple of Christ
will you continue in the
Apostles' teaching and
fellowship, in the breaking
of bread and in the prayers?
Answer With the help of God, I will.

Or

At the baptism of infants the president
addresses those who are presenting
the candidate(s)
NN., as those who will love
and care for N., will you
continue in the Apostles'
teaching and fellowship, in
the breaking of bread
and in the prayers?

Answer With the help of God,
I will.

The president then continues

Will you proclaim the good news by word and deed,
serving Christ in all people?

Answer With the help of God, I will.

Will you work for justice and peace,
honouring God in all Creation?

Answer With the help of God, I will.
The president addresses the whole congregation

This is the task of the Church.
All This is our task:
to live and work for the kingdom of God.

Posted by Kennedy at Monday, 2 June 2008 at 4:43pm BST

“All this was before the Oxford movement and the accompanying high theological view of the episcopacy."

Well, I guess that depends. Edward Bouverie Pusey did not subscribe to a particularly “high” view of the episcopacy, either, did he? He was more “American” in this respect, I think.

Posted by Kurt at Monday, 2 June 2008 at 4:45pm BST

Jim, I have never heard the term here, nor in Anglican Journal nor Anglican Life, though I may just have missed it. I do understand the concept, and I'm not opposed to it, we speak of the New Covenant, after all. I'm not surprised it's more common in Western, you've always been more 'au courant' with this kind of thing, I think, (I didn't say 'trendy', since that has negative connotations I don't wish to give). There seems to be a perception, I think true, that the Church now is becoming more and more like the Early Church: witnessing the Gospel in a world that doesn't know it and doesn't see any need for it. There are those who fear this and are angry about it, fear always breeds anger, and those for whom this is liberating. I wonder if the term is more common in the latter group than the former. One igroup s glad to cut ties with the world after 1700 years, the other is railing against the loss of power and is more interested in afirming old ideas than in adopting newer more productive ones, since it fears change while the other side is perhaps a bit in love with change.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 2 June 2008 at 8:16pm BST

There's a saying "There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come".

The Baptismal Covenant term has probably been around for a while. I first heard it through the 2007 New Orleans conference which Rowan Williams attended. It is one of those times where the words did not create the dynamic, but rather gave a label to a dynamic that was already happening.

One clue that God is involved is when the ripples are disproportionate to the actions and individuals involved. Jesus was just another man crucified on the cross, but because Jesus moved with the Father and Spirit...

There is no problem in redefining the terms of God's covenant through Jesus, especially if the redefinition returns the interpretations closer to the original intentions and heals transgressions of selfish priests.

The bible makes clear that God will intervene to restore justice where the priests break covenants e.g. Jeremiah 33:20-21 "If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night… then my covenant with David my servant — and my covenant with the Levites who are priests ministering before me—can be broken..." The covenants of peace with Levi or the Daughter of Zion, of night and day, with eunuchs are some of what has been ignored or transgressed.

God can use gossip to shift the collective consciousness, it can be a fire lit and fanned by God’s zeal e.g. Zechariah 8 the Lord declares “I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her.… I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem… I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west… they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God.” and “Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the LORD and seek the LORD Almighty. I myself am going.’ And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the LORD Almighty and to entreat him.”… “In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’ ”

Posted by Cheryl Va. at Monday, 2 June 2008 at 8:50pm BST

Let me quote a small section of Louis Weil's presentation which I have linked above:

Keeping this in mind, let us apply what has been said to what is called in the American Book of Common Prayer (1979) the Baptismal Covenant. The use of that title is new to Prayer Book evolution. I believe, however, that what it says grows out of what has already been present in the evolution of the Book of Common Prayer over the centuries. In the 1979 rite, the title 'The Baptismal Covenant' comes at the point where historically the Apostles' Creed was recited, as in all of the English Books from 1549 to 1662, by the Minister of Baptism. In 1549 in fact, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer kept the medieval Sarum pattern in which the candidate simply responded, "Credo,” "I believe.” In the American Books, from 1789 onward, the candidates were asked to affirm belief in "all the Articles of the Christian Faith, as contained in the Apostles' Creed,” substituted for the actual recitation of the Creed by the Minister as indicated in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Monday, 2 June 2008 at 9:09pm BST

Let me point out that the five questions quoted from the Canadian baptism rite (and confirmed by me as also being in the US version) are, in the US version, immediately preceded by the Apostles Creed, done in the form of a two-part question and response by the congregation...the entirety (Creed and following questions) headed "The Baptismal Covenant".

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Monday, 2 June 2008 at 10:06pm BST

Pat O'Neill -- thanks for the point you made, which I was just getting around to making. The term "The Baptismal Covenant" is in big block letters at the top of page 304 of the current American Prayer Book, which has been in common use since it was approved for the first time in its "proposed" form in 1976 (Prayer Book revision requires the votes of two General Conventions) -- over 30 years ago.

Choirboyfromhell mentioned that baptism is now reserved for certain Holy Days. The rubrics (p. 312) say, "Holy Baptism is especially appropriate at the Easter Vigil, on the Day of Pentecost, on All Saints’ Day or the Sunday after All Saints’ Day, and on the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord (the First Sunday after the Epiphany). It is recommended that, as far as possible, Baptisms be reserved for these occasions or when a bishop is present."

In addition, the rubrics on the same page say, "If on the four days listed above there are no candidates for Baptism, the Renewal of Baptismal Vows, page 292, may take the place of the Nicene Creed at the Eucharist."

The "Renewal of Baptismal Vows" is verbatim the same as "The Baptismal Covenant." My parish unfailling renews its baptismal vows on these four Sundays if there are no baptisms. We therefore reaffirm The Baptismal Covenent at least four times a year (and sometimes more if, for pastoral reasons, a baptism has to be scheduled on a Sunday other than the rubrical four; we never, ever [except for emergencies] do private baptims). I think this is a fairly common practice in TEC. As a result, my impression is that TEC is steeped and marinated in The Baptismal Covenant.

The frequent renewal of these vows is very important to the people in my parish and they take these vows quite seriously.

Posted by dr.primrose at Tuesday, 3 June 2008 at 12:54am BST

Ford,
I think you've hit the nail on the head.

Posted by Jim Pratt at Tuesday, 3 June 2008 at 2:53am BST

"There is even continual talk to keep (and even limit) the baptisms at important holy days, such as All Saints, St. John the Baptist, Easter Even and (I think) Pentecost."


The recommended days for baptisms are Easter (or the Easter Vigil), Pentecost, the Baptism of the Lord (the Sunday after Epiphany) and All Saints or in the Octave. These days are seen as particularly appropriate because of the associations of the day. This does not preclude holding baptisms at some other time.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Tuesday, 3 June 2008 at 6:48am BST

Ford wrote after my last posting "There seems to be a perception, I think true, that the Church now is becoming more and more like the Early Church: witnessing the Gospel in a world that doesn't know it and doesn't see any need for it. "

I would agree, but slightly modify that to "...some elements of the Christ body is becoming more and more like the Early Church: witnessing the Gospel in a world that doesn't know it and doesn't see any need for it."

The elements that see beyond organisational politics and power hierarchies and status in "this" world, to God's broader intent, irregardless of the form or structure that Christianity (or any other faith) takes on.

Posted by Cheryl Va. at Tuesday, 3 June 2008 at 10:19am BST

Dr. Primrose:

My experience is the same; while the two parishes I'm involved with perform baptisms more often than the four rubrical dates (keeping to just those four could mean as many as four or five baptisms per service on those dates, clearly not a viable option), they are ALWAYS public baptisms with the entire congregation participating.

My only regret is that too many of the "visitors" have no idea how to behave in a church service.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 3 June 2008 at 11:15am BST

"The recommended days for baptisms are Easter (or the Easter Vigil), Pentecost, the Baptism of the Lord (the Sunday after Epiphany) and All Saints or in the Octave. These days are seen as particularly appropriate because of the associations of the day. This does not preclude holding baptisms at some other time." (Malcolm+)

In addition, if there is no baptism on one of those four feasts, worship is to include the full Baptismal Covenant, so that it is renewed at least four times each year.

Posted by Lois Keen at Tuesday, 3 June 2008 at 11:27am BST

Thank you Malcolm+, I should probably read my rubrics more closely.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Tuesday, 3 June 2008 at 12:11pm BST

Jim, it occurred to me last night that maybe my perception of this is because I hear the phrase with a Bayman's ears. You've lived where you are long enough to have seen how quickly outport hands shoot up to drag back down anyone with the temerity to rise above their station. I can hear it now "Oh, listen to Mr. Biggee, 'e've agot awful big in 'eesself, 'avn't 'e? "E can't 'ave vows like the rest of us, oh no, 'e got to 'ave a COVENANT!" Sorry, I had to make up an orthography as I went along. It sounds much more melodic than the printed word can express, as you know. And I'm not mocking outport people, it's where my roots are, and this is about laughing at our foibles, not ridiculing people, though I suspect you know that. I take pride in the way I talk, or at least they way I CAN talk after a few days back home. I actually think this social levelling has good aspects. It certainly ingrains in one the idea that no-one is better than anyone else, and it is a bad thing to present yourself otherwise. Not that I can say I apply it to myself in EVERY instance:-) I honestly think that, whether or not such perceptions are limited to Canadians, Newfoundlanders, or only me, Americans don't have a sensitivity to this. What is confidence to them can seem overproud to others, especially if cultural insecurities make one oversensitive, as is the case here, and I suspect in Africa. What are your thoughts on this? I can imagine you had a bit to do to get beyond some stereotypes of Americans when you first arrived, though being the priest probably softened that a bit.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 3 June 2008 at 1:45pm BST

The point of calling the Apostles Creed and subsequent commitments regarding life in Christ the "Baptismal Covenant" is to emphasize that the covenant is between God in Christ and the baptized. Thus, when used without a baptism it is also appropriate to speak of "Renewal of Baptismal Vows." Within the Episcopal Church at public baptisms and confirmations, and at the Easter Vigil whether or not there are baptisms, the entire congregation participates. Thus, each of us affirms (on our own behalf or as parents of an infant baptizand) or reaffirms our commitment to this understanding of our covenant with God in Christ within the Church.

Thus, it isn't really surprising that "many Episcopalians would find find it surprising that they have signed on to a "baptismal covenant," (pace Mark); and also that many of us wonder why we would need an earthly paper Covenant. We have affirmed publically in this detail our covenant with God in Christ (and so no need for a signature, as it were); and if we can be united in this, what else is necessary?

Posted by Marshall Scott at Tuesday, 3 June 2008 at 5:54pm BST

Why Ford, and all 'dis toime, I tot you was a townie, bye.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Tuesday, 3 June 2008 at 9:44pm BST

Malcolm,
You take that back! A corner boy is something one is born as, I've lived in town since 1980, but I'm still a Bayman in everyone's eyes, my own included.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 5 June 2008 at 4:19pm BST
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