Retreat time…

August 29, 2006

I’m going on a retreat for seminary orientation so hopefully I’ll be back with the blogosphere by Friday.

Happy blogging!

j

I was responding to a post on one of the sites I read a lot but don’t usually comment on, The Episcopal Majority, and I started thinking.

The post is called Falsely Accused, by the Rev. Thomas B. Woodward.

Now don’t get me wrong– I think he did a great job of writing that post.

I just have my own opinion and the post got me to thinking.  I have a slightly different emphasis and I wanted to express it.  After all, that’s what the blogosphere is all about, right?

And before we start– I may sound a little… angry?  bitter?  something in this post.  I realize that I’m arguing with an invisible debate partner.  So no offense to anybody in particular when you’re reading- it’s not personal.  At least it isn’t intended to be.

My original comment on the post was essentially along these lines:  Yes, the ultra-right wing folks may say all those things about us, and no it may not be true- but it doesn’t really matter.  The thing which we should focus on is the fact that it doesn’t matter whether or not it is true.

We are not the Presbyterian church, who has a Book of Confessions, which is revised every time they have their General Convention and dictates what their orthodoxy and theology is.  The Lutherans have something similar- the Book of Concord, and so do other denominations.  We just don’t work that way.  Oh, I know, I know– we can talk about the quadrilateral and the articles and the creeds and blah blah blah.  That’s just not the same thing.  We are not a confessional church.  We do not spend much time talking about our common theology.  We spend the bulk of our time worshipping together around a common liturgy.

There may be an embedded theology within that liturgy.  But we don’t spend countless hours talking about it in our common life, other than maybe in the blogosphere.  I can’t remember the last time I heard of a local parish meeting on whether or not to revise the theology to more clearly re-articulate our belief in predestination or not to present for general convention, and so forth.  We are more busy acting on our faith than talking about what our faith should look like from an esoteric point of view.  And that’s one of our strong points.  We should sell it, and sell it hard.

If we don’t like it, or if some don’t like it, then they should propose changing it.  Let’s sit down and have an honest and open dialogue about having a confessional document listing out what we think about all of it.  Everything.  Every cotton-pickin’ thing.  And we thought GC06 was hard.  Because if we’re supposed to all agree, I think that’s what we’re talking about.  But I don’t think that’s what anyone really wants. Read the rest of this entry »

In orientation at seminary this past week, we were studying a book which I have discussed here several times.

In that discussion, at one point I began a comment with, “I loved this book, so don’t get me wrong when I’m critical of it by saying that…” or something like that.

The professor who was facilitating the discussion (who happens to also be one of the Bible professors) made an interesting comment that I think is worth repeating.  She said, “Just because you like something doesn’t mean you can’t be critical of it.  That is true of this book, and it is especially true when we start discussing the Bible.”

I appreciated that comment.  I wonder if somehow some people might not be confusing the ability to be critical of the Bible with the belief that the Bible is not worth studying.

I’m sure that there are those for whom it is dangerous to be critical of the Bible because it raises fear within them- critical thinking may undermine their whole belief system.  Something like this:  “I believe that Moses wrote Genesis as it was revealed to him from God.  To be critical of that work by reminding me that it was actually authored after Israel was in exile in Babylon and that the authors had that specific historical context undermines my ability to believe in the story of Genesis because now I have to find a new way to believe that the story of Genesis is Holy.”

Of course, that is an extreme, and I would hope that there are relatively few of us left who believe the literal creation story, with a canopy hanging over us that has stars suspended from it and so on (as Genesis and the authors depict).

But hopefully you get the point.  Even when we get to the finer points it seems to me that many times the response is many times less “interesting observation, but I disagree” but more “that’s heretical because if I try to believe it my apple cart would be turned upside down.” Read the rest of this entry »

Breaking Down Walls

August 25, 2006

Today, in our continuing new student orientation at seminary, we had more faculty introductions.

One professor said something that especially caught my attention.

He said, “We tend to define ourselves by those we disagree with.”

I found myself identifying with that, much as I didn’t want to.

Over the past week, I have been in a place of much movement.  I started on the defensive, and due to a few limited instances of over-analyzing things that I said or heard would be very quick to try and hear things that I disagreed with in an effort to quickly shut-down so as to protect my ideology/theology.  I had been concerned about being in a conservative part of the country, and I moved here knowing that I would potentially have to make a conscious choice to reassert my position in order to keep it.

As the week progressed, I realized quickly that this is going to be a very rough three years if I try to keep that up.  I am not going to be able to learn without opening myself up.  Staying on the defensive takes a lot of mental energy, and prohibits my ability to process information that can also be formative.  Turning on the filter, in other words, filtered out too much.

We had several sessions yesterday that were very inspiring- seemingly direct answers to my prayers about how to deal with this.  I don’t know if more progressive faculty were put in front of us, or if I just felt that way.  But we heard directly about how our experience will be shaped by the fact that we won’t always agree with faculty.  We heard about the need to find our passion- to stay connected with our call- and let that carry us through the difficult times in our ministry.  We heard about the need to trust the process of formation that has been carefully planned and developed not to deliver us into a specific shape or substance chosen by the faculty or anyone else but instead to form us in such a way that we will find the shape and substance given to us by our calling.

That was helpful.  That, combined with some helpful conversations with some students about the diversity and fallibility of all of us, eased my mind greatly and allowed me to relax.

AND I touched based with a few non-seminary people, got off campus a little and had dinner with some non-seminarians for the first time in a week… a little break never hurt anybody!! Read the rest of this entry »

As a tenured almost week-long seminarian now, it’s become clear to me that writing much about my seminary life isn’t going to work in this forum because our seminary is so close-knit and doing so might be seen as an invasion of that inner-seminary life.

So I’m going to have to get creative about my content, since I imagine over the next three years most of my inspiration will likely come from my life experience as a seminarian…  I have one such topic in mind at the moment but the kids aren’t awake yet and I’ve got 30 minutes to get them up, dressed, fed and off to school, so it’ll have to wait!!

j

Well, I’m not quite sure where this post is going to go today.

We had a site visit yesterday as part of our new student orientation for seminary.  My assigned site was a local Episcopalian-run homeless day shelter.

A few days prior to the site visit, just to set my mental context for the day, I had a few experiences worth mentioning.  When standing around some of the campus housing talking to some seminarians and their spouses, there was some level of… surprise when a seminarian mentioned that some local homeless people may be using the pool in the middle of the quad for bathing quarters.  My oberservation is that the spouses in particular had a level of fear about homelessness that I’m not judging but observing.  I would imagine that because their children play in this area, there was a concern about some of the side effects we were discussing (human waste, etc.) leading to unclean conditions in the area.  On the other hand, I (only half-jokingly) suggested we put a bar of soap by the pool to see what would happen.

Then I had a conversation immediately prior to the site visit with a seminarian who had spent some time at the shelter as a chaplain.  He told me about some of the issues he faced trying to help folks that he met, and some of the social issues involved in causing homelessness in Austin in the first place.  Apparently from his perspective one of the biggest problems is that prisoners, when they are released, are given $20 and their prison id and told that they can use that id to get work, which isn’t correct.  But to get a driver’s license or state id costs $24 and requires a social security card.  To get a social security card requires a birth certificate.  So there is a whole sequence of events that has to happen before a person can even get an ID to begin looking for work; something I had certainly never thought of. Read the rest of this entry »

My son, who recently started 1st grade, was assigned the “red group”.  That means that all his activities are pretty much segregated for simplicity’s sake to this group of kids assigned to the color red, including eating in the cafeteria.

We were talking about eating lunch last night, and he said, “I don’t know why there can’t be a rainbow color.  Then I could eat with all the people.”

I thought that was pretty profound.

The gay flag, of course, is a rainbow flag meant to symbolize the diversity of the gay community.  Since moving to Austin I have been very acutely aware of racial/ethnic differences in our society and how we, in the name of “political correctness” seem to ignore them despite the very deep impact they still have on our society.  The non-ethnic divides certainly exist too- as our current “Anglican crisis” shows us.

I started seminary yesterday – new student orientation, anyway.  One of the things that struck me was how different the students were from what I expected.  I’m really looking forward to going through these next three years with these folks.  There was a lack of ethnic diversity, which didn’t surprise me, but a really broad spectrum of life experiences.  The church and the way she operates in this part of the country is just very, very different than what I am used to back in California.  It will be interesting to watch as we all go through our formation together and see how we change; how we either split into “red, blue and green” groups or into a “rainbow” group.  Let’s hope that we elect to go for the latter, even while our mother church appears to be opting for the former.

I guess I like sitting with all the people at lunch, too.

j