Winslow Day One

Today marks the first day of the lecture series in which I’m giving a presentation tomorrow afternoon. I’ve been pretty reticent online, because I’m busy and edgy; my co-lecturers know their stuff really well, and I want to maintain the high standard that they’ll surely be setting.

Or, as the case turns out to be, that they’ve already begun to set, since Steve Fowl gave his talk this evening. He provided a knock-your-socks-off exposition of the way Aquinas works with the literal sense so that it entails multiple divergent meanings — an argument that sets me up beautifully for my talk tomorrow. Of course, it also raises the expectations for me, but I’ll endeavor to live with that.

It turns out that another co-lecturer, Francis Watson, revealed to us at dinner that he had never heard of “blogging” before today, so he and Kevin Vanhoozer (fourth lecturer) probed me to find out more about what I actually blog about. I didn’t say “I blog about dinner companions who ask me what I blog about” lest life get too recursive, but I tried to explain what goes into the several minutes a day I spend typing into MarsEdit. Then too, he didn’t know what “tofu” was, so Steve and I had to try to explain that he had just eaten some of it for dinner. “No, honest, Francis, it was that white stuff.” Whatever else comes of this lecture series, we’ve expanded the cultural horizons of a theologian from Aberdeen.

Last word: Steve teaches at Loyola College in Maryland, where (of course) the theology department bears a vivid interest in who the new pope turned out to be. I get the sense from him that they receive the news of Benedict’s elevation with a degree of satisfaction. Though he be “more conservative” than they, he’s a theological intellectual, and after all doesn’t have that much further right to steer the magisterium.


I’ve heard, and Margaret has reported, a high degree of dismay that Cardinal Ratzinger was elected pope. For clarity’s sake, I should say that he was very far from being my favorite candidate, and the decision to elevate to the pontificate the cardinal who was Rome’s point man relative to the priest-pedophilia scandal in the U.S. strikes me as an indicator of the Vatican’s characteristic deafness on this issue.

On the other hand, I’m a little perplexed that anyone feels shocked at this turn of events. The Vatican is not a hotbed of liberalism, and the cardinals whom John Paul II appointed reflect his characteristic conservatism (if not his personal magnetism). If the world honored John Paul II with weeks of attention and veneration, in what respect do we anticipate that Benedict XVI — a personal friend and theological soul mate to John Paul II — will be any less praiseworthy? I’m with Hans Küng, who has as much reason as anyone to mistrust the new pontiff: “he compared it to an American presidential election and said people ‘should allow the pope 100 days to learn’.”

Excuse Me?

For all the intuitive appeal of working in Apple’s Pages application, I can’t believe that they didn’t supply a keyboard command for inserting a footnote. I can call the Colors menu with a keyboard shortcut, but to insert a footnote I have to reach for the mouse and pull down a menu item. Hmph!

Power of Incumbency

I’ll admit that mine was an outsider candidacy from the start, but when Cardinal Ratzinger wasn’t elected on the first two ballots, my supporters in the conclave drew encouragement. Unfortunately, the idea of a non-Roman-Catholic, married pope was just too radical for the College of Cardinals. Since Ratzinger was already on the scene, and everyone knew him, and he was sort of next in the line of succession, the tiara went to him. Good thing I didn’t quit my day job.

To show my heart is in the right place, permit me to extend earnest gratulatory wishes to Benedict XVI. Let’s do lunch sometime!

Blurred Eyes

I’m not hiding out from you; I’m just squeezing out the revised version of my talk from last week that I’ll polish and refine for Thursday’s lecture. I sure wish I had a decent work-free interval before this occasion (in fact, before last week’s talk at Notre Dame, too, which seems in retrospect to have been even more disorganized and incoherent than it felt at the time).

Meanwhile, go check out Dave and Micah’s Anglican Wiki, and add such wisdom as you have to share. Keep it helpful, please! “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”

Sign of Truth

Kendall Harmon points to a comment (#5) over at Leander Harding’s blog in which Dr. Harding says something (about the “Connecticut Six” controversy) that promises great possibilities: “this will be an extreme test of charity and require the willingness to live with uncorrected injustice for a defined interim period” (my emphasis).

I’m not going to say anything about the Connecticut situation since so far I haven’t heard anything that suggests even the thinnest rationale for applying the “departure from communion” canon, and charity forbids my thinking that Bishop Smith is acting without even a flimsy reason.

I will note Dr. Harding’s vision of an interval of uncorrected injustice — not because I’m in favor of injustice, nor because I don’t care about those who suffer it, but precisely because there’s a large group of people who care very much about the Anglican venture*, who as an aggregate do not know where our present path leads. In these circumstances, almost everyone needs to live with uncorrected injustice for a while, until we reach together a clearer vision of what “justice” entails. It would take a lot of persuading — the kind typically associated with biblical miracles — to convince me that justice in the church should involve one party prevailing over the other in an unambiguous way. Under the circumstances, though I know no one will like it and everyone feel wounded, it looks to me as though the only way that leads closer to God involves us all enduring for a while in uncorrected injustice, and having faith that the God in whose grace and love we put our whole trust will bring a church of frayed-but-bound-together affections to a fuller understanding of what justice requires of us.

* With regard to this affection for Anglicanism as a lived test of an ecclesiastical hypothesis, I quote John Henry Cardinal Newman: “I doubt not Roman Catholics themselves would confess, that the Anglican doctrine is the strongest, nay the only possible antagonist of their system. If Rome is to be withstood, this can be done in no other way” (“Retractation of Anti-Catholic Statements,” from the Advertisement at the beginning of Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, cited online at the Newman Reader). I have no interest in “withstanding” Rome, nor in acting as an “antagonist” to magisterial governance, but as I have been given to understand the call of Jesus Christ to follow in an articulated community of differentiated ways of serving, I share Newman’s estimate that the trajectory of the Church of England, at its truest, best serves the liberty and guidance of the people of God (thought I otherwise, I’d be a Roman Catholic, or Orthodox, or whatever).

A Foolish Quiz On A Worthwhile Topic

Your Linguistic Profile:

40% Yankee
35% General American English
25% Dixie
0% Midwestern
0% Upper Midwestern

For the record, that 25% must come mostly from the fact that I comfortably appreciate the contribution that “y’all” makes to the English language. I’m also lobbying gently for the return of “ain’t,” but that unjustly maligned construction will probably not be rehabilitated in my lifetime.

Deaconing Again

The staff at St. Luke’s was short-handed this morning, so as Pippa and I walked in, a friend indicated that it would be helpful if I would deacon for the rector. I was happy to pitch in, but it was a special privilege this morning, as it involved me in sharing the special ministry of Jane, Rebecca, and Jeff — and Stephen, of whom we read today, and of all who have dedicated their energies to the serving work of feeding, healing, clothing, defending, and visiting. This morning evoked a vast, deep, overpowering sense of how we’re knit together, in our communion and in our distinction from one another, into a vital network of small pieces, loosely joined, doing great things.

Grim Humor

Pippa pays close attention to the news, so I wasn’t surprised to hear that she was on top of the finger-in-Wendy’s-chili story. She did catch me off guard by reading aloud some of the details, though, and by noting that they were offering $100,000 for “tips” (she thought they had one too many of those already) and that they were looking for “the finger’s original owner” (she wondered if that meant that Wendy’s owns it now).

Meanwhile, I felt sympathy for the real Wendy and her namesakes. . . .

Just Asking

I’ve had a number of inquiries lately about churches using blogs, and I’ve answered as best I could — but you may be able to help me further. There’s a lot I don’t know well, since I’ve been principally a remote-hosted Moveable Type guy for years, now.

Question One involved which software/system to use. I suggested starting out with Blogger/BlogSpot, to see whether it suits; someone bridled at the terms of service, and we wondered about advertisements (whether a parishioner might be dissatisfied about ads that Blogger associated with their parish). I pointed to TypePad, noting that it isn’t very expensive for an experiment, but “a little expense” is still a lot for some churches. I commended Blogware, but I don’t know anything about the particular ISPs that offer Blogware service. And I mentioned Textdrive, too. WordPress and (soon) WordForm are open-source, but don’t necessarily come pre-packaged with hosting (yes, WordPress is available on TextDrive).

You’d think that a quick entrepreneur would launch an ISP oriented toward churches, with a free six-week trial period or something — but these are my quick answers.

Question Two involved congregations that presently use a blog as a main web communication channel. I thought of Holy Innocents and Reconciler right away, and tracked down a few more.

If you have thoughts on congregations making particularly effective use of a blog, or on the relative benefits of various software packages, or of particular ISPs or services that make a congregational blog practical and inexpensive, please leave a comment!