Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Holy Innocents

Friday was the Festival of the Holy Innocents, which commemorates the baby boys of Bethlehem as martyrs:
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: "A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more." (St. Matthew 2:16-18, RSV -- which is also part of the Gospel reading for today, the First Sunday of Christmass.)
Holy Innocents' Day was also the occasion of the following letter from the Rev. Dr. David H. Benke, President of the Atlantic District, Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod:

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Greetings in the Precious Name of Jesus, saints of the Lord!

This word of encouragement is being sent to pastors, teachers, deacons, and parish leaders in the Atlantic District, LCMS. During 2008 it is my plan to send six such letters to you on specific church festivals or saints’ days that I have selected. These include:
  December 28, 2007 — Holy Innocents, Martyrs
  March 25, 2008 — The Annunciation of our Lord
  May 5, 2008 — Commemoration of Frederick the Wise, Christian Ruler
  July 28, 2008 — Commemoration of Bach, Schutz, Handel, musicians
  September 16, 2008 — Commemoration of Cyprian of Carthage, Bishop, Martyr
  November 19, 2008 — Commemoration of Elizabeth of Thuringia, renewer of society

In the midst of the onrushing celebrations and family duties compressed into the twelve days of Christmas, we are stopped short on the 28th day of December by the remembrance the first martyrs of the Christian era. These are the holy innocents slaughtered by King Herod as told in Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 2. It is a cautionary story, with the added tension of the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt under the threat of death by the sword.

Here, in “The Massacre of the Innocents” by Guido Reni, we see the horror of the spectacle unfolding:

Mouths open in horror, mothers and children hope against hope for their redemption. And it will not come on this side of heaven. These baby boys (from estimates of six to 144,000!) under the age of two are called Innocents for obvious reasons.

We might be tempted to reflect differently on their holiness or their martyrdom from our Lutheran perspective on original sin. But our Missouri Synod is in agreement with the Church through the centuries, in calling these baby boys both Holy and Martyrs (Lutheran Service Book, xii). Declared holy by the blood of the One who fled with his parents and later died for them. Declared martyrs because their lives were taken for the sake of the Infant King.

What is the call of God upon us today in our parishes and ministries when it comes to the most vulnerable and fragile in society? What is the call of God upon us today when it comes to those in full flight from terror and injustice? What is the call of God upon us today from the relative safety of our parish bases in New York, USA, to those who are being left behind and led as lambs to the slaughter?

My own reflection always begins with the way I spend my time and energy, the resources I have been given by God. So I would encourage us first of all to fervent prayer, private and corporate:

For an end to abortion on demand in the United States of America. Here the unborn, most vulnerable of all, die by the millions each year.

For refugees and asylees and those agencies seeking to place people who are forced to run for their lives because of unjust and violent governments.

For orphans and foster children and those agencies seeking to place them. Their compelling and urgent need for love in family breaks open our hearts.

Secondly, I am led to ask us to seek to do more. I know of the efforts of many of you to support crisis pregnancy centers. I am a founding board member of one of the most active centers, Pregnancy Help, Inc. Come to our Epiphany celebration on January 12 on West 14th and 8th Avenue and see infants, babies, toddlers and children who are here on this planet because of the intervention of wonderful counselors who follow the Wonderful Counselor.

I know how many of us reach out to the youth in our communities who are in such need of an active and joyful faith community. When we set a District goal of raising up 200 homegrown mission leaders from among our youth and young people, it is precisely to engage with the Jesus who hit the streets every day, bringing the Gospel to those who are vulnerable to the currents of a secular age. I know that we have tremendous and active confirmation, first communion and baptismal classes. Let’s pray and work to expand them in 2008! I know that we have missionaries and mission field developers, as well as many congregations working with those who have had to flee from their homeland in fear of their lives due to political and religious pressure. Are we able to reach beneath the cracks and into the seams of those lives with hope, with immigration assistance, with the Jesus who began his life with his parents as one of the disenfranchised asylees, heading purposefully to a pagan land in order to avoid terror at the hands of his own earthly king?

Finally, I would challenge us each and all to be convicted and convinced of the directions we will take in 2008 from God’s Word and God’s Church. We are called to lead, serve and engage in the here and now. We are called to lead, serve and engage not from a position of weakness, but from the position of ultimate strength and courage given us by Christ whose precious blood shed, whose innocent suffering and death for us leads us to state with assurance – “that I may be His own, and live under Him in His Kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness.” We poor miserable sinners are then and always declared Holy Innocents in being, living and serving. Have a wonderful 2008!

With love in Christ,
Dave Benke

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Thanks to President Benke, who posted this on ALPB Forum Online. This is the kind of letter one hopes to receive from his Bishop, which Dr. Benke is in everything but formal title.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

40 Days of Prayer for Peoria

What has emerged from when the Mayor brought Peoria ministers together is being called 40 Days of Prayer/ Push for PEACE. The 40 days begins this Monday (New Year's Eve) and concludes February 8 (the first Friday in Lent).

Each evening at six o'clock, the community is invited to the Gateway Building on the Peoria Riverfront, where for 35-45 minutes, there will be 1) a meditational Scripture reading, 2) a 5-10 minute word of encouragement from the leader, and 3) concentrated prayer time in a format designed by that evening's Host Congregation. On Fridays beginning January 11 the format will be a bit different, with "united praise and worship services" led by groups of ministers.

The Journal Star's Mike Miller has posted the schedule of hosts on his Faithfully Yours blog. There's a fairly wide representation of Evangelical and Pentecostal churches and ministries, but the presence of the more "mainline Protestant" traditions is pretty sparse compared to their (our?) place in the city's establishment. One other curiosity is that there is (at least so far, for there are still 3 unsponsored evenings) no Roman Catholic participation in this effort sparked by our Roman Catholic Mayor. The nearest to "Catholic" sensibilities will be January 16, the evening that Fr. Eric Craig of St. Andrew's Anglican and your humble servant of Zion Evangelical Lutheran churches are jointly leading.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christ Is Born!

Today the Virgin cometh to the cave
    to give birth in an ineffable manner
    to the Word before the ages.
Rejoice, therefore, O universe, when thou hearest,
    and glorify with the angels and shepherds
    Him who shall appear by His own will
    as a new babe, being God before the ages.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Bishop Hanson: "Testing Faith"

ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson was one of twelve world religious leaders featured on In God's Name, a rather interesting and well-done television special that aired on CBS television earlier tonight. Based on my personal experiences with Bishop Hanson, what I saw on this program, viewers saw sketchy, but accurate, portraits of these leaders -- their passions, their intelligence and theological acumen, a bit about their personal lives. And I was reminded that the Dalai Lama fled Chinese-occupied Tibet on the same day that I was born.

In a section entitled "Testing Faith," the program showed two extended episodes from the Jathedar of the Akal Takht, Joginder Singh Vedanti (the highest authority in the Sikh religion), and Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, a prominent Shi'ite Muslim leader -- whose words throughout the program were quite chilling. Then came this moment from our Presiding Bishop:
Oh, many times my faith is tested.

One of my sons was in chemical dependency treatment twice before he was 13. I had to stand in front of a judge one day, with tears in my eyes and say, "Your honor, we cannot parent this child any longer. He is too broken. Will you please send him to some place where he can get the help that we can't give him?"

The judge sent my son for 19 months to a locked treatment center. The day that they led my son out of court, in handcuffs, I felt that I had been an absolute failure. The only thing I could hold onto in that moment of being tested was the fact that I believe God had bound Godself to my son and that God wouldn't forsake my son even when I had failed and my son had failed.

And in those moments of being tested my faith becomes stronger and my love deeper.
(Sigh!) In the midst of a poignant discourse, he just had to speak of God that using that maddeningly artificial "inclusive" language that ELCA linguists instruct us to use so that we may be relevant in a diverse world. (If you ever hear me say "Godself" in a way that suggests I believe it to be a word worthy of being used...)

Meanwhile, a few moments later near its conclusion, In God's Name entitled a section (led off, interestingly enough, by Bishop Hanson) "A Prayer for Mankind."

Do you think that CBS television may know something about communicating in our diverse world?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Personal Note

Canon Kendall Harmon's TitusOneNine is second on my list of "Blogs for Faithful Churchmen" because it is as good a place as any in the blogosphere for reading about the crises in what was once called "Mainline Protestantism." T19 is "a free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it…." and it's biblical reference is "He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it." (Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version)

Among Dr. Harmon's contributions to the continuing debate is his description of the disputants as "reasserters" (for those reasserting scriptural witness) and "reappraisers" (for those reappraising it in the light of newer knowledge) as an improvement over the media's use of "conservative/liberal" or other descriptors like "progressive," "traditionalist," etc. He is Canon Theologian for the (Episcopal) Diocese of South Carolina, so the faith focus of his blog is the Episcopal Church and Anglicanism. It is useful for us in the ELCA, too, for our church seems to be very much following in the directions of the Episcopal Church. I look at it every day.

While much of the reporting and commentary on T19 centers about the crisis in Anglicanism precipitated by the election and consecration of Gene Robinson, a divorced father who has been in a long-term, committed gay relationship, as the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, Canon Harmon continues to take seriously the "free floating" nature of the blog -- to the annoyance of some regular readers who prefer to focus on the Anglican disputes or "religious" matters. But while the Church is generally at the center of a cleric's life, there are other things. You can see that in some of my posts here. It's what helps make a weblog more personal and, in bringing up other matters (baseball, something I read or saw, etc.), hopefully helps reveal me to be somewhat interesting to those who find this -- without (again, hopefully) appearing to be too vain.

Today Canon Harmon includes an entry on Dan Fogelberg, whose heart-tugging 1981 hit, "Same Old Lang Syne," is part of the soundtrack of my university years. Fogelberg's also a native of Peoria, and this is a city that takes a certain amount of pride in those from here who go on to "bigger things." And so it was interesting to me to learn that the inspiration for that song was an event in his life that happened near the home of one of my parishioners.

Apart from "Same Old Lang Syne," Dan Fogelberg's music doesn't strike many personal heartstrings for me as apparently it does for Canon Harmon. But in taking note of it today, in the light of Fogelberg's death this last Sunday at the young age of 56 from prostate cancer, Harmon has provided me with an entrée to post a very personal matter that I've been wondering whether, and how, to share on this blog.

For I am asking for your prayers for me. Two weeks ago, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I don't intend to dwell on it or my treatment here. I have plenty of personal and spiritual support to see me through this new journey and, from what I know so far, there is every reason to believe that I can be cured of this. Yes, I'm on the young side for this kind of diagnosis, but I also share some of the increased risk factors, which enabled us to discover this relatively early. The medical techniques get better and better and Peoria has excellent medical resources. I have great confidence in the Lord's healing powers. Prayers for me and those who will be helping me fight this disease have been lifted up in so many places here and across the continent already that I cannot begin to count them. I do know, however, the power of such prayer.

Yet even when one is confident in the ultimate destination, a journey can have it's fearful, scary moments. And that's where I am right now -- in fear, and in confidence. I'm in good company though, as we are reminded especially this season:
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. St. Luke 1:26-29
Thank you for you prayers.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Lutheran CORE News 1.6

Lutheran CORE News 1.6
December 14, 2007
(Please copy and distribute as widely as possible.)

A blessed Christmas to you and yours from Lutheran CORE, the coalition for reform!

Most of us have other things on our mind than the struggles of our church body during this season, as we should. For the hope we claim is that the God who sent His Son to redeem our fallen humanity is the Lord of the whole Church, including that part of the Body of Christ in which we find ourselves. And we believe that just as the Holy Child was saved from the machinations of Herod and all the religious and political authorities, so the Bible's vision of the glorified Church will be fulfilled not because of our efforts but because God is faithful to all His promises.

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Preparing for Next Year

We still need coordinators in some synods. If you are willing to serve as a synod coordinator or as a part of a synodical team within your synod, please contact Pastor Paull Spring at or Pastor Mark Chavez, Lutheran CORE director at All the members of the steering committee have agreed to provide guidance and support for synod coordinators. A job description is available from Pr. Chavez or Spring.

The most important work remains electing voting members for the churchwide assembly. In some synods this process has already begun. Now is the time to pray without ceasing for our church and for our cause. Now is the time for all of us to work hard and do our part for the sake of our church's fidelity to the Word of God. Lutheran CORE is all of us; we do not have a vast organizational structure or great resources of money or people just waiting to be used. Lutheran CORE will be effective only as we all work together to accomplish our goals.

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Welcome Lasting Word!

We are glad to welcome a new group in the coalition, Lasting Word, a reform group centered in Salisbury, NC. The group voted at their meeting in Nov. to join Lutheran CORE. Lasting Word has been at work in the North Carolina Synod for a few years to uphold the authority of God's Word over all matters of faith and life. Members of Lasting Word were very helpful at the past two churchwide assemblies and we are thankful that they have formally joined the coalition for reform.

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Regional meetings

The number of regional meetings in many areas is encouraging. Lutheran CORE members in Central/Southern Illinois had an organizing meeting in early November. Members from the Delaware-Maryland and Lower Susquehanna Synods held a joint meeting in mid-November. There are plans for meetings next year in Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area on Jan. 20; Upstate New York in the Buffalo area on Feb. 2; Indianan-Kentucky in the Indianapolis area on Feb. 9; Rocky Mountain in the Denver area on Feb. 24; and Southeast Michigan in the Detroit area in April.

Please send information (date, location, meeting details and a contact person) about regional meetings that you are planning to Mark Chavez ( so that we can help publicize your events. Thanks to Jerry Youngquist, we will soon have a new Lutheran CORE web site with a calendar that will list all your meetings.

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This helpful reminder comes from our fundraising chair, Ryan Schwarz:

Remember CORE as Year-End Approaches

As the end of the year approaches, many people are planning their annual charitable contributions. This year, alongside the other worthy causes and ministries that you undoubtedly support, please consider a contribution to the work of Lutheran CORE. 2008 will be a pivotal year for our common ministry, with the election of all the voting members to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly and the release of the draft ELCA social statement on sexuality both occurring in the new year. We need your support, prayerfully, organizationally and financially.

We are most thankful for your prayers and welcome your financial contributions. We are grateful that the WordAlone Network, a member group of Lutheran CORE, provides administrative support. Tax-deductible donations may be sent to:
       Lutheran CORE
       c/o WordAlone Network
       2299 Palmer Drive, Suite 220
       New Brighton, MN 55112

Please make checks payable to "WordAlone Network," and write "Lutheran CORE" on the memo line.

We can assist you with explanatory materials and procedural advice as you work to advance the cause of reform in the ELCA. Contact Ryan Schwarz at, or any member of the Lutheran CORE Steering Committee. Informational resources are also available on our website

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From Other Battlefields

This is two years old now, but some of you may not have read the poignant message of an Episcopal senior warden named Bill Boniface as he explained why he and his family felt they needed to leave their Episcopal parish. Lutheran CORE advocates staying in the ELCA, and we believe the ELCA can be reformed if we work together. But we can pray that faithful Christians not be forced into such wrenching decisions in our congregations, and we can profit by his analysis of the nature of our struggle. Read his message at
If the link doesn't work, copy and paste into your browser the text between the brackets. It is a lengthy letter, but be sure to scroll about a quarter of the way down the page to "The Danger to our Church."

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Woody Allen once said, "Eighty percent of success is showing up." That is certainly true of congregations, synods, and denominations. Decisions are made by the people who show up and participate responsibly in meetings, assemblies, committees, and task forces.

Shock your pastor (if you are a layperson) by offering to represent your congregation at conference gatherings and synodical assemblies. Show up at events in your area and get to know the other people. Take advantage of opportunities to volunteer in the organizational structure, while not neglecting your ministries in your local congregation.

Pastors, shock your dean or bishop by actually showing up at assemblies (conference and synodical). Network with the others who are there; you will find more friends than you expect. Offer to help even with the ordinary little tasks that seem unimportant but build your credibility with the leadership and with other participants.

The ELCA will not be changed by grumbling or complaining. Decisions will be made by the people who show up. If we act on our concerns by our presence and involvement, we will make more of a difference than we can imagine.

Sort of the way the Almighty didn't sit in heaven complaining about His rebellious creatures. Instead He came in person in His Son Jesus, to bear our sins and finally win the victory over them. May the example of the Incarnation guide our efforts during the coming years as we prayerfully offer ourselves to the Father to be used, if He wills, in the reform and renewal of the Church which he purchased and redeemed at such great cost.

Pastor W. Stevens Shipman, steering committee member and communications committee

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sankta Lucia

Today is St. Lucy's Day. Yes, one more Swedish tradition that didn't make it to my generation in California. Nor did we celebrate it at Saint John's Lutheran Church in Helena, Montana, though there I did get to experience other Advent and Christmas traditions immigrant Swedes brought with them.

The photo above I took from today's Church of Sweden front page. This article is from The Local, Sweden's news in English
The tradition of celebrating Saint Lucia of Italy in Sweden is honoured annually on 13th December. The total darkness of the Lucia early morning is broken by the glow of the Lucia figure dressed in a flowing gown of white and afire with a wreath of candles upon her head. Sankta Lucia, as she is known in Swedish, is a creature of goodness and light. She is a shining angel illuminating the way to the Christmas season.

The Lucia celebration originates from the Middle Ages when December 13th was the longest night of the year according to the Julian calendar. The Swedish Lucia has little in common with her namesake, also known in English as Saint Lucy, the Sicilian 4th century martyr. There is no certainty of the route the tradition took while establishing itself in Sweden.

However, it is popularly associated with a legend of a white-clad maiden, wearing a crown of burning candles. She appeared on the shores of Sweden’s largest lake, Vänern, bringing food to starving villagers during a time of famine. Ever since, she has been associated with light.

Today, the tradition is played out most often in the schools, churches and places of work before the dawn. A lucky girl dressed in a long white gown with a red sash and a crown of candles leads a procession. In tow are similarly dressed girls (tärnor) and boys wearing a tall pointed hat carrying a star wand (stjärngossar).

The rest of the procession is made up of girls and boys in similar dress sing beautifully haunting carols. Once the singing is over, the procession and its observers enjoy coffee and saffron-flavored buns called lussekatter.

Not too long ago the Lucia procession also took place at home. The eldest daughter had the honour to be Lucia. She and her siblings roused the family with their singing. Then the family gathered together with saffron buns at breakfast.

As the work traditions evolved in Sweden and both parents would go off to work dropping off children at centres and schools, there was a natural shift to leave the procession to the various institutions where people gather at the start of their day. Some modern families keep up the practice, but most often only for special guests or grandparents.
Read the rest of the article, first published last year, here. For more on the celebration of St. Lucia in Sweden, see this article by Kristian & Nora or this one by Ingegerd.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Our Lady of Guadalupe

I find this image of the Blessed Virgin Mary to be extraordinarily beautiful. The story behind it can be found (among many other places) on the Saint of the Day web site, where one reads the following:
A poor Indian named Cuauhtlatohuac was baptized and given the name Juan Diego. He was a 57-year-old widower and lived in a small village near Mexico City. On Saturday morning, December 9, 1531, he was on his way to a nearby barrio to attend Mass in honor of Our Lady.

He was walking by a hill called Tepeyac when he heard beautiful music like the warbling of birds. A radiant cloud appeared and within it a young Native American maiden dressed like an Aztec princess. The lady spoke to him in his own language and sent him to the bishop of Mexico, a Franciscan named Juan de Zumarraga. The bishop was to build a chapel in the place where the lady appeared.

Eventually the bishop told Juan Diego to have the lady give him a sign. About this same time Juan Diego’s uncle became seriously ill. This led poor Diego to try to avoid the lady. The lady found Diego, nevertheless, assured him that his uncle would recover and provided roses for Juan to carry to the bishop in his cape or tilma.

When Juan Diego opened his tilma in the bishop’s presence, the roses fell to the ground and the bishop sank to his knees. On Juan Diego’s tilma appeared an image of Mary as she had appeared at the hill of Tepeyac. It was December 12, 1531.
Until this, the evangelization of the Aztecs and other natives of Mexico not been particularly easy or successful. Afterwards, we are told, the stories of this apparition led to an outpouring of baptisms and the people of Mexico would be Catholic -- though how well Mexicans were catechized is a matter of considerable debate.

The original image can be found to this day at the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Only St. Peter's at the Vatican receives more pilgrims. This explanation of of the image is interesting:
The Image of Our Lady is actually an Aztec Pictograph which was read and understood quickly by the Aztec Indians.

She was greater than the dreaded Huitzilopochtli, their sun-god of war.

She had clearly crushed Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent moon-god.

She was greater than the stars of heaven which they worshipped. She was a virgin and the Queen of the heavens for Virgo rests over her womb and the northern crown upon her head. She appeared on December 12, 1531 and the stars that she wore are the constellations of the stars that appeared in the sky that day!

She was a Queen because she wears the color of royalty.

Her God was that of the Spanish Missionaries, Jesus Christ her son who died on the cross for all mankind.

She was with child because she wore the Aztec Maternity Belt.

She was the Mother of God because the flower was a special symbol of life, movement and deity-the center of the universe.

She was not God but clearly there was one greater than Her and she pointed her finger to the cross on her brooch.

She is the Queen of the Earth because she is wearing a contour map of Mexico telling the Indians exactly where the apparition took place.
More about Juan Diego's tilma and the image on it can be found here. La Virgen de Guadalupe has certainly been subjected to the excesses of Marian piety. Yet she remains an extraordinary image of the Mother of Our Lord, the Bearer of God (Theotokos).

Sunday, December 09, 2007

CaNNet Update

Both Drell's Descants (on his new back-up site) and, now TitusOneNine report the major hacking of CaNNet over the (U. S.) Thanksgiving Day weekend, and The Elves at T19 report:
Mike Daley of CaNNet is still working to restore the blog databases and partitions, and hopes to have the blogs backup as soon as possible, perhaps within a few days.
and offer links for a handful of CaNNet bloggers who've created alternate sites.

Pastor Zip prays for Mr. Daley's success, for not only has CaNNet been a fine vehicle for bringing orthodox Anglicans in North America together, it has been a wonderful resource of theological comment on the crises in the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church in Canada as the ELCA and ELCIC rush down the same tracks of letting our life experience judge the Holy Scriptures rather than the other way around.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Just Asking for It

At the top of my "Blogs for Faithful Churchmen" is Mere Comments, the blog for Touchstone magazine, to which I've subscribed since 1999 and which I often read cover-to-cover. I list it first because it is explicitly ecumenical in perspective. The others have varying ranges of ecumenical content, but also have a more particular perspective -- Anglican, Catholic, and Lutheran. I believe all of them are worth reading for anyone, even non-Christians, but Mere Comments/Touchstone specializes in "mere Christianity" that crosses churchly boundaries.

Ecumenical does not, however, mean mealy-mouthed or watered down -- to which the slogan shown here on their coffee mug attests. No, it's "caffeinated Christianity" and, like the Lord and his Apostles, it's bound to occasionally offend those of delicate sensibilities.

Today's post by Touchstone Executive Editor James M. Kushiner is one of those entries. Upon reading it might wonder how it would come to pass that an ELCA pastor would even make reference to it, much less do what I'm about to do here. Well, his initial reference to St. Barbara reminds me of the lovely city near my home named after her, the California Mission in that city named after her, and my association when I was in seminary with the Franciscan School of Theology (founded with that Mission) -- run by the St. Barbara Province of the Franciscan Friars. And when reading the article I just had to put it somewhere where I could never lose it.

Some of you may object to it; others will give a rousing "Amen!" Either way, I post this in its entirety and intend to just leave it at that. It is worth pondering, though.

Women Who Are Equal

Scholars have discounted the existence of St. Barbara, an early Christian martyr, according to the stories, traditionally commemorated on Dec. 4 in the East and West. Hence she was "supressed" in the West in 1969. This is not the place to discuss the details of her case, but in looking at her story and reading a recent article about female saints, I was struck once again by the role of women saints in the history of the church. The sheer number of them belies claims that women were generally suppressed or oppressed in the Church, second-class citizens so to speak. I'd like to focus on one bit of phraseology that I find suggestive, one that has informed my own view of the place of the fairer sex in the company of the saints.

The phrase "equal to the apostles" is used of certain figures in church history considered of great importance in the spread of the Faith: hence in the Orthodox churches we find Prince Vladimir "Equal-to-the-Apostles," enlightener of the Russian land (July 15), for example.

This phrase also has been applied to women saints: Mary Magdalene (July 22) "Equal-to-the-Apostles," St. Nina Equal-to-the-Apostles, (Jan. 14) enlightener of Georgia. The martyr Rhipsime (Sept. 30), while not given this title, is still credited with helping to introduce Christianity to Armenia. Women are found in the calendar throughout, from various times and places: There is the Prophetess Huldah in the Old Testament (2 Kgs. 2:14) (April 10); Mary of Egypt (April 1) is featured in some of the Lenten services. Six women are included in this partial list of those Equal-to-Apostles.

The role of women in the "patriarchal" church has been robust, if not as visible as that of men. So why not just allow them to be Apostles--or bishops? When it comes to "office" and the wearing the uniform of headship in the church, only men are given that role because--in my opinion--men need uniforms, a defined office, a duty to take on, to put them in their place, to keep them in line. Experience shows that when you start giving the uniform to the fairer sex, the men start to drop out (e.g., the dearth of altar boys when girls are included). That's just the way it is, and I don't see how any re-education would ever change that. Besides, there are some churches now with female bishops and do we really want to go there? A happy breakthrough? An inspired innovation? Hilda of Whitby would be appalled.
Yeah. I'm just asking for it. Read the responses here. Or make your own here or in private.

Monday, December 03, 2007

O'Malley Strikes Again

Go Maury, Go Maury, Go, Go, Go!..
oh he goes, the catcher throws, right from the solar plexis,
at the bag he beats the tag that mighty little waif,
and umpire Conlan cries "Yer out!"
Down in the dugout Alston glowers,
up in the booth Vin Scully frowns,
out in the stands O'Malley grins,
attendance fifty thousand!
The D-O-D-G-E-R-S Song, recorded by Danny Kaye, 1962

50 years ago Walter O'Malley moved the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles and Major League Baseball hasn't been the same since. Today, he was elected to the Baseball Hall-of-Fame by its Veterans Committee, along with 4 others. Most notable about this class is that none of them are in the Hall for their performance as players of the game. Billy Southworth and Dick Williams are in for their careers as managers and Barney Dreyfuss (the creator of the World Series), like O'Malley, is in as an extra-ordinary owner.

The other person elected is former Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. It seems fitting that Kuhn would be elected at the same time as O'Malley for, as legendary LA sportscaster Jim Healy regularly noted, in those days, the Commissioner never said anything important when the Dodgers' owner was in the room because everyone would see that O'Malley's lips were moving. So you might say O'Malley is the first guy ever to be elected twice, on the same day, to the Baseball Hall-of-Fame. ;->

Meanwhile, among the celebrations marking the Dodgers' 50th Anniversary in Los Angeles will be an exihibition game next March 29 against the World Champion Boston Red Sox at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum! Ah, yes. Mom and Dad would talk about attending a Dodger game at the Coliseum. Turned out their seats were out in right field where all they could see was Frank Howard.

Yup. O'Malley grins...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Confessing Reader Creates Back-Up

The Confessing Reader, one of my favorite blogs and one featured in my "Blogs for Faithful Churchmen," has established a back-up blog. He'll be posting there while server problems keep CANNet out of commission.

Why is this a worthwhile blog? Written by an Anglican/Episcopal layman by the name of Todd Granger, The Confessing Reader's special gift is highlighting the Sanctoral Calendar -- that is, the festivals of the Church, as observed (for the most part) in the Episcopal Church. The current entry, for example, is about Nicholas Ferrar, a Deacon in the Church of England whose heavenly birthday is 2 December 1637. Todd has a brief biography, the Collect for the day, and references to the propers (readings, etc.) for worship or devotions.

In addition to very serious theological commentary from an orthodox Anglican perspective (yes, laymen can do that -- and very well, too), The Confessing Reader (that's a link to the long-established site, in the expectation that it will rise again) is also one of very few sources for English-language news of what is happening within the (Lutheran) Churches in the Nordic and Baltic lands. (The other one is Touchstone magazine.) I'm not quite sure how that came to be, but as one with roots in the Swedish Church I'm glad he's been doing that.

With good fortune, all that has been posted on The Confessing Reader these years will soon be recovered. And until then, we have its new back-up available. Tip o' the biretta to The Confessing Reader himself!

What Happened to CaNNet? (with update)

The blogs at -- including the excellent Confessing Reader and many other that have been a key part of the faithful voice within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in Canada -- have disappeared. My WHOIS domain search has the domain expiring tomorrow, but that doesn't explain why the network is no longer accessible. Perhaps traffic crashed the system? Anyone heard anything?

* * * * * * * *

UPDATE: A CaNNet blogger tells me that it "suffered a major attack last weekend" and its Webverger is busy trying to reconstruct things.

I'll note that this is not the first time this has happened with CaNNet, or with other systems -- I've heard what webmasters of 70th Infantry Divison Association and ALPB Forum Online have had to deal with. Between spammers and others always trolling around, it's actually quite amazing that blogs, regular websites, or -- for that matter -- the entire Internet are as stable as they are.

Prayers for Mr. Daley's success. And for everybody else's patience.
                   spt+ at 6:15 PM