Generous Orthodoxy  

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Bishop Jefferts Schori's peculiar angle on the Bible

Mark Oppenheimer writes the "Beliefs" column for The New York Times on Saturday. The column is almost always worth reading, but virtually impossible to find in the on-line edition. Today he writes about the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and her version of biblical passages--in particular the one in Acts about St. Paul driving a "spirit" out of a young girl. Mr. Oppenheimer has gone to some lengths to collect voices that elucidate the problems with her interpretation.

Bishop Katherine has done this before, but this time the protests seem more intense. The trouble from my point of view is that it is so easy for her to dismiss dissent as coming from the hopelessly "conservative" wing of the Episcopal Church, what's left of it after so many defections.  Can't we get some objections from the center-left? or, better still, from those of us who would like to consider ourselves unclassifiable (good luck with that one)?

Anyway, here's the link:

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Wedding trends

Setting aside the discussion about same-sex weddings, let's take a look at what's happening on the male-female front. The New York Times for Sunday, June 2, 2013, has notices of 34 such weddings. The overwhelming majority of them were held at "event spaces." The Roman Catholics are holding their own, as usual; three of the weddings were held at a Roman Catholic church with a priest presiding. Several rabbis presided at weddings held in various secular "venues." There was only one wedding held at a church with the church pastor presiding, and that one--wouldn't you know--was held in the South.

Most remarkable, though, is the long list of non-denominational officiants. They include numerous "Universal Life" ministers and "American Marriage Ministries" ministers ("a friend of the couple became a Universal Life minister for the event"), 2 ministers of the Church of Human Spiritualism, and a minister of the World Christianship Ministries (Google that one to get a shock).

Granted, the list of couples chosen for the New York Times is hardly representative of the rest of the country--or even the city itself. But given all the beautiful New York City churches that used to be the scenes for weddings, and all the hard-working clergy of this city, one would think that we could do a better job. Such is the power of the cultural trends. How did these Universal Life "ministers" achieve this status all of a sudden? How can anyone take that seriously? Wouldn't you think that would be a joke?

During the 14 years that I was on the clergy staff at Grace Church in New York (1981-1995), I started counting the number of married couples who had met at the church. I stopped counting at 50. Most of them were married at Grace Church and all of them at a church somewhere. All were married by a member of the clergy (need I say legitimate clergy). Most--though, granted, not all--are still married. Am I bragging? not really, since the circumstances at Grace in those years were truly remarkable and God-given. However, I think a case can be made for the help given to couples by a strong grounding in the church.  This business of do-it-yourself weddings speaks volumes about the unmoored, self-created ethos of the institution of marriage today. This is a very serious matter for families and for our society as a whole. May God bless all those who are working hard to strengthen marriages in the context of religious faith and Christian community.