Tag Archives: Episcopal Church

‘How The Plowman Learned His Paternoster’ or English Catechism Before the Reformation

What was the Church of England like before the Reformation? A snapshot comes from Eamon Duffy, in his award-winning book The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400-1580 (second edition, 2005):

“Round the fourteenth-century font in the parish church of Bradley, Lincolnshire, is carved an English inscription, which runs

Pater Noster, Ave Maria, Criede,

Leren the childe yt is need.

“That injunction was directed to the godparents and was a formal part of the rite of baptism in late medieval England. Just before the blessing of the font at baptisms the priest was required to admonish the godparents to see that the child’s parents kept it from fire, water, and other perils, and themselves to ‘lerne or se yt be lerned the Pater noster, Aue Maria and Credo after the law of all holy churche’. The Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary, and Apostles’ Creed were in fact the irreducible core of a more elaborate catechetical programme for the laity which had been decisively formulated for the English Church at Archbishop Pecham’s provincial Council of Lambeth in 1281.”

Duffy’s book won the Longman-History Today Book of the Year Award, for good reason.

Writing in Sixteenth Century Journal, the late Stanford Lehmberg said Duffy’s book “presents a marvelously detailed new picture of traditional religious belief and practice in English during the century prior to the Reformation and it shows exactly when and how the customs of faith and ceremony were stripped away in the sixteenth century. Our interpretation of the Reformation and our understanding of Tudor religion will never be the same.”

In English Historical Review, the late Margaret Aston said Duffy’s book “takes a major step toward better understanding of the English reformation.”


The story of the Reformation needs reforming



I’m in the newspaper today; here’s a subtle clarification

I’ve known Steve Jones for years, and I admire him. He’s a top-notch reporter.

When he was interviewing me with two other members of Church of the Messiah for today’s article in The Sun News (my former employer), I think either I didn’t make my point clearly enough or maybe a subtle distinction was lost in the shuffle.

Jones reports:

Messiah church member Colin Burch chose to stay with the traditional church while his wife and three daughters continue to worship at Trinity Church.

The bishop of The Episcopal Church in S.C. conducted the service where one of his daughters joined the traditional church.

He said his children see the situation much like they might a divorce.

“They just don’t know which (parent) to go with,” he said.

The divorce analogy, which originated with my wife Kristi, was intended to describe Kristi and my three daughters — they see the split between Bishop Mark Lawrence’s diocese and The Episcopal Church USA like a divorce, and they aren’t sure which “parent” to go with.

My wife and my daughters, in varying combinations, join me at Church of the Messiah from time to time.

As far as my family is concerned, I listen to Kristi and I listen to my daughters, especially my 14 year old, and even as dense as men can be, I’m fairly certain we [my wife and daughters] all share certain values. I can certainly claim Kristi, the 14-year-old, and I have rich conversations about many things related to church, Bible, tradition, and theology.

Now, if I can just get the 14-year-old to teach me Latin. She’s way ahead of me.

Furthermore, more than a year ago now, the 14-year-old opted to be confirmed by the Episcopal Church USA bishop while continuing in a Bishop Lawrence parish.

Of course, I continue to love and admire many members of Trinity Church.

Update, 4:10 p.m.: On my Facebook page, I referred to a tradition started by my great-grandparents. As an exhibit of that heritage, please see “An Important Church in My Family,” which includes a few photos from All Saints Episcopal Church in Oakley, Maryland.

Update, 8:50 p.m., Dec. 8: My distinguished friend (though not distinguished because of our friendship) Charlie Jordan alerted me that RealClearReligion.org, in its list of today’s articles, included a link to Steve Jones’s article in The Sun News.

Update, 7:55 p.m., Dec. 12: I added a bracketed phrase to clarify “we” in the paragraph beginning, “As far as my family is concerned…”

The Rev. Stephen Kidd on The Episcopal Church

Gratitude for Greg Garrett, who yesterday posted the following quotation on his Facebook page, a quotation that captures the essence of why I started this blog about 7 years ago:

“The Episcopal Church welcomed me when others wouldn’t have me, and honored my questions when others simply sought to dismiss them. Its sacramental life spoke to parts of my soul that the fundamentalism of my childhood couldn’t touch; worship felt ancient, holy, and real in ways I didn’t expect. 15 years later I am still amazed at the depth and breadth of our tradition, and I appreciate all the more our peculiar vantage point at the intersection of the Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox corners of our Christian family. The Episcopal Church isn’t perfect, far from it, but for me, it is home. — The Rev. Stephen Kidd, from an upcoming book by Church Publishing Incorporated


‘A Conflict of Beliefs’ — a bad document for Orthodox Anglicans and differences with The Episcopal Church

Update: See this post about the leader of a Bible-based cult who was given two consecutive life sentences in Durham, N.C., on July 5, 2013.

Sustain your “Orthodox Anglican” identity by embracing Bible-thumping primitivism.

Ignore each chance for thoughtful engagement and instead force the false choice of heretical liberalism or fundamentalist quote-mongering.

I want to explain why these are the take-away lessons from the document entitled “A Conflict of Beliefs: Orthodox Anglicanism and The Episcopal Church.”

(The document isn’t especially new, although it was recently given some renewed exposure by someone in my county. I find the underlying lack-of-thinking especially annoying.)

Read the document, linked above, or briefly revisit it. Consider the possible reasons why The Episcopal Church leaders make some of their statements. Then, consider these brief points:

1. Scholarship — yea, even conservative, traditionalist scholarship — has illuminated and contextualized books of the Holy Bible and its (human) writers. “A Conflict of Beliefs” pits liberal, progressive, yea even heretical scholarly views against the primary source material.

In other words, the document is a comparison of apples to apple fritters and apple tarts and artificially-flavored-10-percent-real-fruit-deep-fried-pre-packaged apple pie snacks.

Why not answer scholars with scholars? Because the Bible is adequate? Sure it is — read No. 2.

2. Snake-handlers in the Appalachians support their practice with Scripture, with Biblical authority, taking the language in its plainest sense and applying it to their lives. What does that have to do with “A Conflict of Beliefs”? Well, having gone to various types of Christian schools and churches my entire life, I would like to testify that snake-handlers have everything to do with the silliness behind “A Conflict of Beliefs.” That’s because in less audacious areas of life, evangelicals (and “Orthodox Anglicans”?) do the same types of things based on the same near-drought levels of Scriptural warrant, and encourage others to do so, too. Should the snake-handlers interpret things differently? Really? So you’re making an interpretive move against the plain sense of Scripture? Kind of like The Episcopal Church leadership quoted in “A Conflict of Beliefs”? Sure, it’s not the same thing, is it?

So why not provide some context from contemporary scholars or theologians — pick your favorite seminary, heck, pick your favorite Presbyterian — who can use context and explanation for “Orthodox Anglican” views? 

By the way, the Appalachian snake-handlers are not fully compliant with Luke 10:19, which in the New International Version reads, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” I’m not sure if snake-handlers trample on snakes, but at least they’ve obtained the means for obedience. But I’ve never seen or heard of them messing with scorpions. Perhaps grace-filled living would spur me to realize scorpions don’t live in the Appalachians.

3. Satan quoted Scripture to Jesus (Luke 4:9-11). Satan encouraged Jesus to take the Scriptures authoritatively. How funny that the only thing “A Conflict of Beliefs” encourages us to do is to follow Satan’s lead, with only three brief exceptions of the 39 Articles and a quotation from an ex-Episcopalian minister. Honestly, the inclusion of the 39 Articles and the minister’s quotation seem out of place — they aren’t Bible verses! After so many Bible verses, who even needs the 39 Articles or the minister?

For that matter, who needs anything in the Book of Common Prayer? Who needs any commentaries? Who needs any scholarship? Who needs any sermons or homilies? Who needs a Bible dictionary or a concordance?

These things just get in the way of Bible-thumping primitivism.

And let’s face it. Once you’ve made liberalism and liberals the target, you can use the Bible to usher-in all kinds of not-liberalism. The Bible can say anything you want it to say, and I guess that’s fine by “Orthodox Anglicans.”

Tonight’s vote at Trinity Episcopal Church Myrtle Beach explained

Trinity Episcopal Church in Myrtle Beach tonight voted to stick with Bishop Lawrence & the Diocese of S.C. rather than to re-affiliate with the Episcopal Church USA, 119 to 31, with 4 abstentions.

Analogy: If your spouse decides no longer to believe in historical Christianity, you must divorce.

Heresy is reversible but schism endures.

Heresy is about ideas, but schism is about relationships.

In The Episcopal Church, innovation is ‘For Me But Not For Thee’

I realized something about the 12-point claim that Bishop Mark Lawrence (Diocese of South Carolina) has left the doctrine and discipline (and worship?) of The Episcopal Church:

The people who assembled those 12 points would not pass my ENGL 101 class. That would be the one I teach to freshmen. Lawrence’s accusers wouldn’t pass because a fundamental contradiction undergirds the allegations.

In The Episcopal Church USA, numerous bishops and priests have allowed or embraced innumerable innovations in theology, doctrine, and worship – so on what grounds can Lawrence’s attackers say anything about what anybody else chooses to do?

Don’t say the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the church provides any grounds. That’s ridiculous.

The innumerable innovations in theology and doctrine haven’t followed the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church as presented in the Book of Common Prayer. Numerous priests and bishops deny the basic historic formulas of the Nicene Creed and the Apostles Creed, and they have received no discipline from the House of Bishops. So anyone who makes claims about violations against the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church has both feet planted in midair.

In this situation, I think my ENGL 101 students would realize that there’s no consistency in the church’s actions. The Episcopal Church USA has already allowed too many variations and violations.

The officials who put together the allegations  against Lawrence call to mind the title of a Nat Hentoff book: For Me But Not For Thee. It’s a book about the left censoring the right and the right censoring the left. Hentoff argues very few people take a principled stand on free speech and free expression; most people claim it for themselves while censoring others.

Flagrant, rank hypocrisy, in other words.

The message of Episcopalian diversity seems to be this: there’s no single way for everyone.

If there’s no single way for everyone, then how can you condemn someone for choosing his own way? His own expression of Episcopal-ness?

Since when does an essentially pro-choice denomination stop anyone from doing anything? (Referring especially to No. 7 on the allegations list.)

I’m beyond worry – this is all just hilarious. Grown-up liberals are acting like petty tyrants and fascists. Maybe it’s not liberalism that has influenced high offices of The Episcopal Church. Maybe the folks in those offices are under the spell of daytime TV.

There’s a solution, however. Let all those who made the allegations against Bishop Lawrence attend my ENGL 101 course. Or, we could just let one of my sections of the course take over the accusers’ positions. I’m thinking the 11:30 a.m. Monday-Wednesday-Friday group would do a great job.


Officials of The Episcopal Church take new action to punish free speech

So I’m no theologian. What I am, however, is a former newspaper section editor and a veteran of 10 years in the newspaper business. One thing we journalists learn to value, very quickly, is freedom of speech for all, in all situations, and one thing we quickly learn to notice is censorship.

What really stunned me recently was the decision of officials in an otherwise progressive body to align themselves with the pro-censorship right-wing. As a Libertarian Party voter (let there be plagues on both the big political parties), I’ve been choking back an exasperated vomit following the flex of a new fascism in the high offices of The Episcopal Church USA, a body that my family joined more than a century ago (see the sidebar photos).

The upper levels of The Episcopal Church are upset because its own Mark Lawrence, Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, referred to his own Christian denomination as “a comatose patient” and as a “sidecar on a motorcycle.”

Despite the fact that The Episcopal Church continues to hemorrhage members (thus making Lawrence’s phrases into rather apt metaphors), these comments are one part of a 12-point claim that Lawrence has abandoned the doctrine and discipline of his denomination. He hasn’t, but considering the goofy allegations, who would blame him? He’d probably have more self-respect if he worked in the failing Obama administration, but men of character do not abandon their commitments.

Consider the gravity of phrases like a “comatose patient” and a “sidecar on a motorcycle.” These oh-so-horrible phrases have not pleased the censors in the high offices of The Episcopal Church, which is too fragile for thoughtful metaphors, never mind free speech. If anyone needed proof that The Episcopal Church is a dwindling body, they just need to think about how those phrases were taken as insults instead of helpful diagnoses.

Of course, in the United States of America, we value the right to critique and criticize our governing institutions. We have the freedom of speech and the freedom of dissent, even if the Libertarian Party is the only political body that fully supports those freedoms. But in The Episcopal Church, neither freedom exists. The new fascism insists that no one say anything but Nice Words, even if what’s happening reeks of juvenile ugliness.

If only it were about those two phrases.

Another allegation from the high offices of The Episcopal Church seems to boil down to this: They don’t like Lawrence’s webpage design. Really (see point No. 6).

The high offices think Lawrence has failed to display The Episcopal Church logo prominently enough on his webpage. Again, considering the goofy allegations, who would want to be branded with The Episcopal Church, the denomination that punishes free speech and micromanages webpages?

Lawrence probably didn’t realize how petty the top brass of his denomination could be — until he became bishop. But a man of character sticks to his commitments.

In our current cultural, political, and social environment, the allegedly progressive institution of The Episcopal Church USA had a chance to stand for freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of dissent.

Instead, the high offices have joined the simple-minded cable-news crowd in attempts to censor and intimidate anyone who has an alternative point of view. The Episcopal Church doesn’t welcome you. It doesn’t even welcome its own. It’s too intolerant.

The Burch family joined The Episcopal Church more than a century ago, and I will continue as an Episcopalian because the heritage is good. Maybe I’m foolish because I believe common sense can see through all the allegations against Lawrence, and I believe The Episcopal Church can become a pro-freedom organization again, some day.

But for now, the high offices have made evangelism, and the bolstering of our dwindling numbers, nearly impossible for me. What Libertarian would want to join the denomination that punishes free speech, the denomination of censorship?

This post is my own and represents only my point of view. — Colin Foote Burch