Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Blogging the GOEs, Last Question: GOEs Go Medieval

Crusty can't quit you, #GOE.
All is forgiven, GOEs.  Crusty knows you and I have had our ups and our downs, our ins and our outs; the Syd to my Nancy, the Mr Roper to my Jack Tripper, the Adam Trask to my Aron Trask, the Doofenschmirtz to my Perry the Platypus, the Vrsonky to my Karenina, the Bert to my Ernie, the Jordan Catalano to my Angela.  COD couldn't spew out considerably more words than candidates spent writing these questions if he didn't care so much.  You got me started with that WTF opening question, and Crusty had a bumpy first two days with this GOE.  But you pulled it together and banged out a couple of good questions, and topped it off with a real whopper.

And here it is:

Set 7: The Holy Scriptures

LIMITED RESOURCES:A printed one-volume annotated Bible, a printed one-volume Concordance and a printed 1979 Book of Common Prayer. NO electronic or Internet resources.
A reminder: This is not a liturgical question; it seeks, rather, a careful discussion and application to contemporary faith and culture of a biblical mandate for repentance.

A. In both Old and New Testament writings a call to God's people for repentance is clear and undeniable. In an essay of 500 to 750 words, explore this call through exegesis of the following texts:

          Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 and Matthew 4:12-17

Your essay should address the literary, historical, and theological highlights of each text and set forth the biblical case for repentance as represented by these texts.

B. As an ordained person, you have just attended the monthly meeting of your Ecumenical Community Clergy Council. The topic discussed was "Preparing for Lent." One member had suggested that the group consider sponsoring "Ashes to go." She remembered some media coverage on Ash Wednesday 2012 showing clergy imposing ashes on street corners in the downtown business district and suburbs. She recalled that there was a great deal of positive reaction to this practice, stressing the theme that the churches were "meeting people where they are," and commenting that with people's busy lives, this was a visible way to reach out to the community. Another member was strongly opposed, asking, "What would be the biblical basis for this?" The group then had turned to you for your position on your colleague's original suggestion.  In an essay of 500 to 750 words, address the following questions:

1. In what ways does such a contemporary practice ("Ashes to go") respond faithfully to the call for repentance as articulated in Joel and Matthew?

2. In what ways does it not?

The GBEC, and the people who take their exam.
COD was tempted to title this blog post Law and Order:  GOE Unit.  Because, despite what we may think, the General Board of Examining Chaplains are not a bunch of collective Professors Binnses from Harry Potter, the History of Magic professor so boring and divorced from reality that he died and came back to teach class the next day as a ghost, and nobody really noticed any difference.  When it wants to, the GBEC pays attention, and often comes up with questions which are relevant and timely.  Last year they had a question on developing a social media policy for one's congregation, as well as questions exploring "church" and "state" issues (which didn't surprise Crusty given an election year was coming, and the prominent role religious issues have played in previous election cycles).  So like Law & Order episodes which are more or less cribbed from real-life legal cases, the GOE can sometimes take real-life issues and turn them into questions, albeit with a significantly longer lag time (imagine if Law & Order was only on TV one week per year!).

Here the GBEC crafts the question for the Bible area of canonical competency around an event which received some buzz in the Episcoblogosphere last year: the whole concept of "ashes to go," with people standing out on street corners or positioned in other various places to administer ashes on Ash Wednesday, apart from the normative liturgical context.  At the time last year when Crusty saw some of these reports about this new, innovative ashes-on-the-go thing, he scratched his head and initially mumbled, "I thought we already had this, and it was called the Catholic Church."  When Crusty lived in New York City, walking to work he would see people duck in and out of RC Churches on Ash Wednesday, with an elapsed time of maybe 20 seconds; when he was serving part-time as college chaplain, one year the Catholic chaplains more or less stood just inside the front door of their chaplaincy and administered ashes as people walked in and out.  Heck, last time Crusty attended a RC Church, the whole service seemed to be a form of communion on the go: with people coming in late, listening to a 5 minute homily, perplexed by the new translation of the Nicene Creed and turning the new Mass card with the translation over and over as if it were some kind of Rosetta Stone, whizzing through a prayers of the people with maybe three intercessions, then dashing out the second after receiving Communion.  The people sitting next to COD collected their things as they went up for Communion (COD did not receive) so they could leave directly after receiving.  Now, COD knows not all liturgy can be extrapolated from limited data sets or experiences, but the examples above are true.  But I digress.

The beauty of this question is severalfold:

First, the GOE takers are on a roll with their wording.  Last question had the hilarious (to Crusty) "thus broadly construed" and endless use of air quotes for "council."  This one has "A reminder: this is not a liturgical question it seeks, rather, a careful discussion and application to contemporary faith and culture of a biblical mandate for repentance."  Two LOL question wording moments in two consecutive questions!  Always important to begin with a disclaimer like this given how quickly Episcopalians can quickly disappear down liturgical rabbit holes -- though again COD shudders to think if any students blew past the disclaimer in their anxiety to get to the question and went into an exegesis of the Ash Wednesday liturgy.

Second, they finally seem to have kicked their addiction to vagaries in wording which have plagued previous questions.  This one had some of the strongest and clearest language EVER: it actually said there was something in Scripture "clear and undeniable."  Crap, getting Episcopalians to agree on anything as "undeniable" is nigh impossible!  And COD certainly hopes we could all agree that there is a call to repentance in Scripture; on what, exactly, we're called to repent...well, that'd be more interesting, but remember, folks, you're not being asked that!  While clear, this is a complex question because, like in church history, you're being asked to do at least seven, and maybe eight, things:  "address the literary, historical, and theological highlights" -- that's three things -- "of each text" -- times two -- and set forth the biblical case for repentance (a fourth thing).

Then on to section B, and the ashes to go.  Remember:  this is not a liturgical question.  The whole issue around McAshes is framed in a Biblical context, as one of the colleagues in clergy group, clearly not another Episcopalian, demands to know the "Biblical basis."  And again, COD loves the fact that the candidates have to be reminded of something they have just read about: "In what ways does such a contemporary practice ("Ashes to go") respond faithfully..."  What other contemporary practice could it be?  Why not just say "Ashes to Go"?  Is it just Crusty or am I the only one who finds this funny? 

The original going Sic et Non medieval on your...
And then the GOEs save their best for last:  they get medieval on the candidates, going all Sic et Non on their asses.  They are asked to reply from BOTH perspectives.  They are to point out how Drive Thru Ashes (mark COD's words, it'll happen) is  "faithful to the call for repentance" as found in Joel and Matthew (remember: this is not liturgical question!) as well as how it is *not*. Crusty found himself thinking they should have put this question into theory and practice of ministry set, since most Episcopalians seem to have lost the ability to see things from any perspective but their own.  To go truly medieval, of course, they then should have asked the candidates to give counterarguments to each point they made, and conclude with Section 3, "But I say..." and give the definitive answer to one's clergy colleagues, who clearly seem to be looking to you to provide some guidance.  Funny how in GOE questions people are always looking to you to make cogent, extended, and detailed theological statements.  Like those Elvis movies when a band appears from nowhere and he breaks into song, in the GOEs it's the opposite, the music stops and people turn to you.  The Vestry did so in Question 4, your colleagues in this question.  Maybe for a change of pace they could say, "As the conservative Baptist and the UCC minister start arguing with each other, in the 150 words you can get in edgewise before the Unitarian fed up with yet another intraChristian debate at clergy group gets up to get lunch which has arrived early and the overworked Catholic priest who is the sole clergy person at a parish bigger than all of yours combined dashes out to give someone last rights, explain how his practice does and does not respond faithfully to the call for repentance as articulated in Joel and Matthew while still making sure you still get one of the the box lunches which has chips and not the useless fruit."

So that's all, folks.  In general, in COD's mind, a mixed GOE.  Some problematic questions, largely in terms of phrasing and framing, not in principle.  A great WTF question out of the gate.  Hard, but overall fair, questions in theology, church history, and Biblical studies.  Some really great turns of phrase in the questions themselves.

Signing off until next year:  This was Part II: Electric Boogaloo.  Tune in in 2014 for Blogging the GOEs, Part III: The Search for Spock.  Live long and prosper.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Bloggings the GOEs: Question 6 "Happens"

OK, Crusty is now freaked out.  Remember when COD thought the General Board of Examining Chaplains was surreptitiously spying on him, by coming up with a question asking students to "explain the Trinity" when Crusty tells students to reassure them, "Don't worry, they're not going to ask you to explain the Trinity."

It's pronounced Vorms, not Worms.  And it wasn't that important.
Well, this morning COD was reassuring one of the test takers on the Church History section. "It's a no resources question," Crusty said, "they can't ask you to be overspecific when there's no resources allowed.  It's not like they'll ask you to describe the Concordat of Worms."

Well, it wasn't about the Concordat of Worms, they did get pretty specific.

Set 6: Church History

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church begins its definition of a council as: "A formal meeting of bishops and representatives of several churches convened for the purpose of regulating doctrine or discipline." (ODCC, 3rd ed., [1997], p. 422)

The authority and impact of three "councils," thus broadly construed, form the basis of this question.
1. The Council of Nicaea (325)
2. The King in Parliament in relation to the Church of England in 1533
3. The General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America in 1789

A. Choose two of the three "councils." In two essays of approximately 250 words each, set each one in its historical context, describing the circumstances for calling the "council," the issue(s) that the "council" had to address, and the impact of the "council."

B. In an essay of approximately 500 words, compare the sources, exercise and reception of the authority of the Council of Nicaea to the sources, exercise and reception of the authority of another "council" you have chosen.

C. Based on your discussion, evaluate in an essay of not more than 500 words how successful Church "councils" have been in regulating doctrine and discipline.

You and Lloyd...how did that "happen"?
1)   Crusty actually for once enjoys the wording of a question, albeit in a sort of perverse way -- in this case the "thus broadly construed," turn of phrase, his first LOL moment of the GOEs.  We'll know Bruce Springsteen had a hand in writing Set 7 if we see "in some fashion," a phrase Bruce likes to drop in interviews.  Use of "broadly" is probably the only way to link together gatherings as disparate in purpose and membership as the ones given in the question. The wording also allowed Crusty to chortle (trust me, not a pretty sight) at the way "council" had to appear in quotation marks in the  A, B, and C sections, and made him wish he could find a video link to Sheila from Say Anything to provide the necessary air finger quotes.  The conciliar question is an interesting one, because it's a concept which may seem more readily apparent than in reality.  The ODCC (Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church) has a definition which is correct in its essence but also reveals that the reality of what makes a "council" can vary incredibly.  How does a handful of lay people and clergy and only three bishops (two of whom who would not be in the same room with one another), gathering in Philadelphia in 1789, not even representing every geographical area of what would become the new church, compare to a monarch gathering what is the legislative body of the nation (albeit which included bishops as lord spiritual), compare to a gathering of bishops invited by the emperor?  You could argue more properly that options 2 and 3 are more akin to a "synod" convened for dealing with more "local" issues of doctrine and governance than a "council" as is generally understood in the history of the church.  And BTW this disparity can be extended to so-called "ecumenical" "councils" (COD using separate quotes to differentiate that the terms themselves are individually problematic, not just collectively) themselves; do we really want to consider the Fifth Ecumenical Council (otherwise known as Constantinople II: Electric Boogaloo), when Justinian kidnapped the Pope and held a rump gathering in Constantinople for the sole purpose of trying to ram through his own ecclesiastical compromise, an ecumenical council?  (Yes Crusty is still bitter at the condemnation of the Three Chapters)  Further, "councils" are complicated because of the ecclesiological freight (what is their authority?  what makes a council?) that they carry and the different ways they have been interpreted.  The Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Church both have reserved the right to define what makes a council truly "ecumenical" and binding on the church as a whole, to the extent that they do not have the same list of ecumenical councils.  So why even use "council" in quotes?  Why not "ecclesial gatherings" or some other circumlocution?  And yes, there may be one person out there (if my doctoral advisor is reading this, otherwise there is no one out there) who might point out, "In your dissertation, Tom, [he was just Tom, not COD, when he wrote it] subsequently published by Brill in the series Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae (shameless plug; yes, it's expensive, but on the plus side, it's available through Amazon Prime!  You'll save on shipping!), you repeatedly used the word 'Arianism' in quotation marks."  Ah, phantom interlocutor, Crusty did so because he outlined how anachronistic and ineffectual the word is, and was deconstructing the term.  Using the inverted commas acknowledges that a term or category already is not helpful or accurate.

2)  But on to the question itself, which Crusty will break down by each subsection.  But overall,  Crusty likes it.  Some might opine that this question is asking people to do too much.  As one reader pointed out, a previous question gave a 500 word limit for a response, and just one of Crusty's several digressions was 227 words.  Hell, point #1 above was over 500 words, which is more than is allowed in section C! Keep in mind, this is a "No Resources" question, and you're asking people to do this from memory -- so if the General Board outlines a fair expectation for readers of what should be covered within these word limit constraints, this should be OK.  So let's take them in order.

2A)  You basically just have to hit each point with one sentence -- historical context, circumstances for calling the council, issues addressed, and impact.  You write one decent sentence or two on each of these, that's your 250 words for the section.  It's not like they included the the Council of Lyons or the Latrocinium (look it up!), as a standard for competency, COD would hope students could come up with 250 words on two of these three "councils" at this stage in their education.  They even give you an out by making you only choose 2 of 3.  Crusty hopes students of his who may have been bored to tears by his breaking down of the 1789 General Convention are praising him.

Sidebar:  COD ponders how the GOE format might make it harder to answer the questions.  COD tells students that the GOE is as much an exam of test-taking as anything else:  you're not being asked to write a paper or argue you a point, you're being asked to show competency based on the question asked.  ANSWER the question, exactly as asked, is Crusty's first and last point in GOE prep.  Crusty mentioned he failed the history section of the GOE, which is funny because he got a ThM and PhD in church history.  Well, that, in part, explains why.  He knows you may find it hard to believe, but when he took it Crusty thought the history question was stupid and instead of answering the question tried to argue a point.  Kids, don't do as Crusty did.  Anyway:  when you used to get the question in hard copy format, either when it was handed to you, or when they experimented with emailing it to people, you could have it in front of you, scribble on it, outline it, underline it.  COD, for instance, would underline each of the four things asked for, x2 for each example, in 2A.  He wonders if candidates will have a harder time answering the question when asked if they don't print it out and keep it in front of them.

On to the next subsection.
2B)  This portion acknowledges the differences in what constitutes a "council" by asking to differentiate between Nicaea and another council that should have been chosen in 2A by the candidate -- thus a kind of stealth deconstruction of the whole term "council."  Bravo, GOE.  You introduced a term you acknowledge to be problematic and in the question itself ask candidates to point out the very differences in the constitution and authority of "councils".  Thereby co-deconstructing.  Very Foucaldian of you.  Nicely played. COD does feel the need to point out that if you choose options 2 and 3 in 2A, you still have to know from Nicaea in 2B.  Which is fine; if a working knowledge of Nicaea isn't something somebody's picked up by now, then we got problems somewhere in the system.  Of course, if a candidate actually reads and outlines the question, they can simplify things by choosing Nicaea as one of the options in 2A so they don't have to end up writing something about all three examples.  Which then leads to

Councils are not only in ages past.
2C)   If there's one critique Crusty has (yes, he knows, everyone just raised an eyebrow and said "one"?) about theological education, it's a lack of holistic efforts to integrate theological education into theory and practice of ministry and to a student's experience and self identity to what we are studying.  Put another way, reading a different seminary's website, Crusty sputtered when it said it provided an environment where students would be "steeped" in the traditions of that denomination. Crusty snarled, "Students aren't f****g teabags and tradition is dynamic!"  They are people who come with gifts, abilities, and talents, and theological education should be a place where that meets with a process of education and formation to co-create something new, out of one's tradition(s).   The preceding sentences have been a precis (in the midst of a digression) to wondering:  are we afraid to let students try to integrate what they are learning to real, current, and practical situations, or bring their own perspectives (while of course respecting the fact that they cannot reveal anything about their secret identities in their answers)?  There was an effort to get at something like this in the Theology question, asking candidates to explain why the Trinity mattered in daily life.  But yet in another question on social justice, there was no effort to try to link that with any of the issues currently rankling the Communion.  And frankly, in this question, Crusty was dumfounded there was not more an effort, hell, if that there wasn't even a hint, to invite reflection in 2C on what has been happening in the past decades in the Anglican world.  Are we not in the midst of a profound ecclesiological debate (even though many would not characterize it that way, it is an essential component of what's happening) on the relationship between understandings of authority of different "councils"?  Provincial synods/General Conventions, Lambeth Conference, Anglican Consultative Council, Primates' Meeting, Windsor Report, Anglican Covenant, and so on?  You could argue that it would make the question even more difficult to throw this into 2C; fine, then rework or even eliminate section 2B.  I'd rather students apply historical understandings to a current and critical ecclesiological issue central to the future of Anglicanism than compare two "councils," the most recent of which met 223 years ago.  Demonstrating competency, which is the standard on which the GOEs are based, should not only be on issues from ages past except for Studies in Contemporary Society and Theory and Practice of Ministry and Liturgy questions.  Otherwise we run the risk creating silos:  the study of history, or ethics, should be to inform our present, otherwise don't study it at all.  Part of what's happening in Anglicanism right now is a profound ecclesiological question that has never been answered: what is does it mean to be an Anglican, and on what basis is that determination made?  Crusty understands you can't have an exam where every question involves some sort of integrative component like this: but is it asking too much to have one?

In sum, though, Crusty is pleased (yes, it does happen).  GOEs seem to be on an upswing: COD approved of the theology question and, in general, approves of this question.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Blogging the GOEs, Question 5: OK, Start Splainin

[Hello all:  beginning with a disclaimer.  Crusty seems to have touched a nerve with my first post on GOEs (one of my most-read postings).  Apart from being perpetually stunned anyone cares what he has to say about anything (he mainly does this to spare CODW his rantings and provide an outlet), Crusty does want to say one thing.  He's not opposed to GOEs, and sharply criticized the decision to defund them in the original draft budget proposed last summer.  He would, however, like to have a discussion about a thorough overhaul, and you can read some of his previous thoughts here.]

Maybe Crusty is being covertly recorded by the General Board of Examining Chaplains.  Why?  Question 5.  The seminary holds a number of prep sessions in the fall for GOEs, orienting students to the exam process, reviewing the canonical areas.  As part of the test overview, Crusty usually tries to soothe anxious students by saying, "Don't worry, they won't ask you to do something like explain the Trinity."  This is one of COD's standard examples of the kind of question you won't be asked on the GOEs, because, well, nobody could answer it.

So you can understand my paranoia:

Set 5: Christian Theology and Missiology

LIMITED RESOURCES:A printed one-volume annotated Bible, a printed one-volume Concordance, a printed 1979 Book of Common Prayer and a printed Hymnal 1982. NO electronic or Internet resources.

Dorothy Sayers famously observed that if people depended upon the Church to answer the question, "What is the Trinity?" the vast majority of people would respond: "'The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the whole thing incomprehensible.' Something put in by the theologians to make it more difficult - nothing to do with daily life or ethics."

Drawing on the allowed resources and your own understanding, write an essay of approximately 1,500 words explaining how the doctrine of the Trinity is relevant to "daily life or ethics."

Here's one option.
Well, now, this is interesting:  they went there and did ask people to explain the Trinity.  As Ricky Ricardo would say, "Start 'splainin, Lucy."  Crusty also enjoyed Ricky's use of the imperative rather than gerundial form,  "Lucy, 'splain." (Note:  he never said the oft misattributed "You got some splainin to do." And yes by using an I Love Lucy reference Crusty has thereby validated the O in COD.)  Speakin of splainin, Crusty's PhD was in early Christian theology, specifically the development of the doctrine of the Trinity, and Crusty ended up writing about how people wrote about the Trinity rather than the Trinity itself because he didn't think it was worth wading into that quagmire.

On second thought this is better for yesterday's question.
And you might be surprised to hear that COD is glad he was being bugged, and pleased with this question.  Because, after all, they aren't asking students to explain the Trinity itself.   Rather, they are being asked to explain why the doctrine of the Trinity is "relevant to daily life or ethics."  Now that's interesting.  

Crusty was reminded of a conversation he had when he was Ecumenical Officer with a Christian from another tradition.  COD was pointing out that The Episcopal Church didn't demand other churches accept the ministry of bishops, but rather saw bishops in historic succession as a gift and a means of furthering the unity of the church.  "Well, why are bishops so important for the unity of the church?" his skeptical colleague asked.  "If you can't explain to me why it is, then it's not a gift, it's an imposition." Crusty was reminded of this response here, and thinks the question is actually framed properly:  no splainin of the Trinity itself, but why it is relevant to daily life or ethics.  This is why one of COD's mantras in GOE prep always is:  answer the question exactly as it is asked.  Reread it, underline it, outline it, do whatever you have to do, but make sure you answer the question they are asking.  So Crusty thinks this is a nice wrinkle:  after all, if you say something is important, but can't explain why it's important, is it really important or just something you're demanding?  So COD loves that students are not being asked to explain the Trinity, but rather explain why it isn't pointless.  This is the only thing we really should try to do; COD was once in charge with adult formation/newcomers' classes, preparing people to be received or confirmed in the Episcopal Church.  In those classes you never wanted to go down a rabbit hole in an adult formation class of trying to explain the Trinity to people.  It either can't be done or you end up using lame images like three matches burning together in one flame.  Besides, people really don't want to know what it means; our default mode is to think if we understanding something we will understand its efficacy.  Part of being a person of faith is, at times, letting go of that desire of certainty and understanding that somethings things operate on something more that our ability to know or not know.  Crusty sometimes thought that even when people would ask him what the Trinity means, what they really were asking, like Sayers' quote, is why it matters.

So Crusty likes the question.  Something ever Christian should have to reflect on, and, for clergy, something they will be called to do time and again, if not in baptismal and newcomers/confirmation classes, but yearly in the bane to preachers, Trinity Sunday.

And this is a limited resources question:  students have a Bible, Prayer Book, and Hymnal.  Think of all the different ways you could go with this!  COD immediately thought of the hymn St Patrick's breastplate.  He thought of the baptismal liturgy, thought of Paul's description of baptism as dying and rising with Christ.  Thought of those long nights working on his PhD (Crusty preferred starting his homework around 8pm, working till 2 or 3 am or so, and rolling out of bed at 10 am to go to Brewed Awakening for a custard danish and a large coffee -- shout out!! where my Bay Area peeps at!!) reading Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory of Nazianzus.  Times late at night when he realized the Trinity wasn't only something to accept on faith, it finally dawned on him that it really did matter that Christians believed in a Trinity and really should inform how we look at the world.

But really all you need.
However (where would COD be without a few howevers or pointless digressions?):  why tack on "or ethics"? Why not just leave it at "relevant to daily life"?  This would seem to be a nice counter to the sentiment expressed in the Sayers quote, trying to prove that the whole concept is not irrelevant.  Crusty is just plain old confused as to why "or ethics" is tacked on.  It sounds like it's almost in contrast to daily life -- daily life or ethics, as if it's either one or the other, when COD always thought an important understanding of ethics is how we live out our beliefs in daily life.  A minor point, perhaps, but something which, in context, has come up over and over again in this year's GOE:  the way in which the framing and phrasing of the questions are phrakking foggy.  This has been a recurring theme in this year's test, a perplexing predilection to perturbation, which prompts the pontificating and pedantic COD to perpetuate this point.

Yes, it's been a long week.  So, in sum, COD thinks this is a good question, just has continued concerns about the way the questions are phrased and framed.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Blogging the GOEs, Question 4: The Race Card Not Played

[Hello all:  beginning with a disclaimer.  Crusty seems to have touched a nerve with my first post on GOEs (one of my most-read postings).  Apart from being perpetually stunned anyone cares what he has to say about anything (he mainly does this to spare CODW his rantings and provide an outlet), Crusty does want to say one thing.  He's not opposed to GOEs, and sharply criticized the decision to defund them in the original draft budget proposed last summer.  He would, however, like to have a discussion about a thorough overhaul, and you can read some of his previous thoughts here.]

Today is not only No Resources Day, it's the Longer Titled Canonical Areas Day.  This morning we had the Dept of Redundancy Dept Area, Ethics and Moral Theology (seriously, a good question would be, "Set 3:  Ethics and Moral Theology.  Question: In a 1250 word essay, explain title of this canonical area.")  This afternoon's full canonical title is "Studies in contemporary society, including the historical
and contemporary experience of racial and minority groups, and cross-cultural ministry skills."  Thank God it's a No Resources question, huh?

And here it is:

Set 4: Contemporary Society [sic, not the actual canonical area's name in the canons]


This is the only Crane position COD knows.
You are the rector of a congregation in a medium-sized city with a centrally located church building. For several years, yoga groups have met in your parish hall; a number of your members attend these classes. More recently, under the leadership of the last rector, the rise of interest in meditation brought a Zen Buddhist meditation group to meet in your chapel once a week; a few of your members participate in these meditation sessions. A group of Muslims has now approached you to ask if it could rent space for Friday prayers because the lease has expired on the last place it met.
Canonically, you know that the use of space is the rector's decision, but you wish to involve vestry members in replying to the request and setting future policy. They are looking to you for guidance.

In an answer of 1,000 words:

1. Relevant to the decision you must make, describe how these three religious practices (yoga, Zen meditation, Friday prayers for Muslims) relate to Christianity.

2. Explain how the relationships identified in Part 1 inform your decision about whether or not to agree to the request of the Muslims and whether or not to continue to allow the other two groups to meet in your facility.

Well, how about that.  The GOEs just went New Age on us!

In all seriousness, great setup.  Crusty served for two years as a part-time college chaplain, at a chaplaincy that owned its own building, centrally located on a large Big 10 university campus.  (Hint:  Crusty was known to Jump Around.)  Crusty dealt with space requests from all sorts of campus groups.

Great setup because missionally we need to find ways to connect to our communities, and one asset churches often have is location and space.  COD enthusiastically responded to student usage requests as chaplain because it got people into the building and helped get us known in the broader community.  What minimal rental fee we charged paled in comparison to what we got from the free word of mouth that came with it.   Plus, as a progressive campus organization, we often provided a needed meeting place for groups not welcome elsewhere.  In 1969, one of the first gay student organizations on this university's campus got its start meeting at the Episcopal chaplaincy.  An important missional mantra of Crusty's is:  find out what the needs of your community are and what you have to offer.  Often one thing we have to offer is space and hospitality.

These decisions also involve a broader community.  While the Rector does have say over the use of the buildings, buy-in from stakeholders and constituents (neighbors, Vestry, etc.) is also essential.  So telling you to consult with the Vestry is also a good thing, as is setting policy (rather than responding continually in an ad hoc manner to requests).

Sadly, probably what most Americans know about Ganesh.
Great setup in the way it also inserts us into some of the tensions current in this religiously pluralistic society we call the USA.  In fact, if anything, American religious history is the story of a culture continually waking up to the fact that a previous paradigm has shifted (white Protestant hegemony in the wake of massive Catholic migration in the 1800s; explosive growth of Pentecostal and Holiness traditions in the 20th; shifting patterns in immigration due to changes in the 1965 immigration law bringing large numbers of Muslims and Asian religious practitioners, and so on) and concurrent tensions resulting from that.  Everything from burning of Catholic churches by mobs in the 1840s to a low-grade war with the Mormons to the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" controversy to the mass shooting at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin demonstrates the at times difficult and at times tragic struggles American society goes through adapting the issue of religious pluralism.  Of course, it was always there -- in a pre-9/11 world, much of American society was still cossetted in some notion of being a white Christian society that had long since ceased to exist, if it ever really existed, but in the past decade this religious diversity has been thrust into a spotlight it didn't ask for and the level of denial or fantasy from those who held the power to new realities was no longer tenable.  Put another way, Crusty turned to his boss when the second tower fell in 2001 and said, "Interreligious relations just changed forever."

So Crusty loves the setup!  This is "Studies in contemporary society, including the historical and contemporary experience of racial and minority groups, and cross-cultural ministry skills," after all.  Gosh Crusty gets mentally tired just reading the title of the canonical area, let alone the question proper.

However, about that requested answer.

1)  Crusty counts himself lucky that he served for a decade as Ecumenical and Interreligious Officer for The Episcopal Church.  In that role, COD dealt with a variety of religious traditions and went to churches and synagogues and mosques and ashrams and all sorts of places.  He counts himself lucky because he found himself saying, "Hold up, did they just ask a question about interreligious relations?" If so, Crusty can't remember the last time they did on a GOE.

While Crusty would normally be thrilled about an interreligious relations question, he found himself scratching his head on this one -- is it fair to expect students to have a working knowledge of the spiritual practices listed here?  Crusty 100% of GOE takers would have such a working knowledge.  Crusty is working to include a multicultural experience requirement as part of the Master of Divinity curriculum.  In a society becoming increasingly diverse and pluralistic, The Episcopal Church skews shockingly old and white.  Crusty wouldn't belong to a country club or pretty much any organization whose membership and leadership looked so out of whack with demographics as the church usually looks.  And (shameless plug) Crusty has developed an Ecumenical & Interreligious Relations course which will include site visits and worship experiences with other traditions.

So as I say, Crusty found himself asking, is it fair to ask students how this practices relate to Christianity?  Perhaps it depends on what they're asking.

There is [yet again] a clarity question:  what do they mean by "relate"? Theologically (do Muslims pray to the same God as Christians)?  Their parallels to certain Christian spiritual practices (meditation is like centering prayer)?  Some other manner of "relating"?

Then there's the fundamental issue of comparing these practices to one another, let alone to Christianity, in whatever way "relate" is supposed to function here.

These are practices that can be are incredibly different depending on their American context, let alone other contexts (in this question we're talking about Zen Buddhism in a medium sized American city, not Little Tokyo in LA, let alone Real Tokyo).  Here we have one practice which has, for a lot  (but not all) people in America, a tangential connection to religious tradition (yoga);  another which is more connected to a particular tradition (meditation and Zen Buddhism); to one that is actual, integral worship (Friday or jumma prayers). Would we call Sunday morning liturgy for Christians "a spiritual practice"?  Crusty realizes there will be variations, and in some places the connection between yoga and Indian spiritual disciplines may be quite well integrated, and there's probably Zen Buddhist centers where the meditation may be completely divorced from any spiritual or religious practice.  However, it's COD's universal experience that jumma prayer is nothing but jumma prayer and its relationship to Islam is pretty clear.  There's a kind of an apples to oranges dynamic here lumped under "spiritual practices". Contorting yourself into a yoga position at the multipurpose room in the Y is different from meditating which may kinda look like what a "real" Buddhist might do and both are fundamentally different from Friday prayers. 

2)  So Part 1 is problematic.  And then part 1 becomes the basis for part 2 -- and Crusty thinks the question could have been framed differently.  The basis for the decision on whether to allow Muslims to meet -- and whether to throw out current tenants already meeting! -- is here based on how how we interpret their relationship to Christianity:  "explain how the relationships...inform your decision."   So the decision is to be based on how these "spiritual practices" some "relate" in a undefined way to Christianity.

Crusty finds this framed oddly because often, in his experience, relationships with religious traditions, both Christian and non-Christian, are informed as much by ignorance, suspicion, race, class, and culture as by theology.  I doubt many people think, "Hey, do you think the way meditation relates to a Buddhist understanding of enlightenment conflicts with Christian understandings of salvation?" when deciding whether to let a Zen Buddhist group meet.  They usually think, "They seem like a fairly innocuous group of mostly white people sitting quietly."  Similarly, how many people ask, "Gosh, last night while reading the Quran I was troubled by the surahs which mention Jesus as a prophet and not Son of God," when pondering whether to let a Muslim group rent space.  And this is not just a non-Christian thing; if a predominantly white church is approached by a predominantly Hispanic church asking to rent space, will their decision be based on whether they're a Pentecostal or Holiness church and the compatibility of their theology with The Episcopal Church?  There's a greater likelihood that the decision would have more to do with being brown than being Baptists.  Instead of theology, these "relationships" and "decisions" can based on ignorance, fear, and downright racism.  Crusty tried his hardest as ecumenical officer to get churches talking more about the ways race, class, and culture were more church dividing than positions on bishops in historic succession or the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

If the question does not fit, you must acquit!
Crusty would love to read the answers to the question, and see how students wrestle with the issues involved, which are critical and important ones.  However, he also thinks an important opportunity was missed by not incorporating more explicitly the multicultural and cross cultural aspects on interreligious dynamics.

For once, he wished the race card HAD been played, and finds himself wondering how we can structure and facilitate the important conversations we need to have about diversity, multiculturalism, race and racism.

Blogging the GOEs, Question 3: The Most Delicious Question Yet

[Hello all:  beginning with a disclaimer.  Crusty seems to have touched a nerve with my first post on GOEs (one of my most-read postings).  Apart from being perpetually stunned anyone cares what he has to say about anything (he mainly does this to spare CODW his rantings and provide an outlet), Crusty does want to say one thing.  He's not opposed to GOEs, and sharply criticized the decision to defund them in the original draft budget proposed last summer.  He would, however, like to have a discussion about a thorough overhaul, and you can read some of his previous thoughts here.]

No...resources...till Brooklyn!

It's a no resources day!  To refresh your memories, GOE questions can come in limited resource and no resource versions (back in the day when Crusty took them, they also had unlimited resource questions where you could use anything, so long as you cited it, but that was in the pre-Wikipedia days).  Students tend to stress about the no resource questions, but Crusty loves them:  they tend to be fairer, on the whole, because the questions need to broader and place an emphasis on integration since they can't ask you to differentiate between too many specific facts or concepts, like comparing initial and forensic justification, since these are questions designed to demonstrate basic competency, not doctoral comprehensive examinations.

Speaking of back in the day when Crusty took GOEs (we had not yet transitioned from "i" to "j,", still pronounced "v" as "w", and Peter O'Toole from "Masada" was my dean), the Ethics & Moral Theology question on my GOE (a canonical area so nice they had to name it twice) was very special.  Crusty had not yet taken a single course in Ethics or Moral Theology by the time GOEs rolled around, so the only preparation he had was what he could cram in the library (remember: no Wikipedia back then).  Gobsmacked by the question, and forgetting what he had crammed, and not knowing what sources to use, Crusty crafted an answer based entirely on the Narnia books.  Crusty wrote his whole answer shaped around the difference between "Deep Magic" and "Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time" from Book 1 and Lucy reading the Spell Book in the invisible Wizard's House in Book 3.  It was the only "outstanding" (back when they graded it on four categories from "outstanding" to "sucky") Crusty got out of all seven canonical areas, despite having never taken a course in the field.  BTW, Crusty, who teaches Church History, failed the history section of the GOE.  But he digresses, but, if you're one of the people who inexplicably read this blog, COD assumes you know this by now.

On to the question:

Set 3: Christian Ethics and Moral Theology

Jesus said, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others." (Matthew 23:23)

In this passage from Matthew, Jesus is quoted as criticizing the scribes and Pharisees for neglecting to practice justice (as well as mercy and faith).

1. In an essay of 1000 words, present and expand on a Christian understanding of justice, drawing on your knowledge of sources in Scripture and the tradition of Christian thought. Identify and differentiate at least three forms of justice commonly discussed in Christian ethics and moral theology.

2. In an essay of 500 words, explain in detail what it means for individual Christians and the Church as a body to practice these forms of justice.

Some initial thoughts here...

First of all, having just written out some end-of-year giving checks:  Crusty forgot you could tithe cumin, dill, and mint!  Crusty's alma maters will now be receiving the fruits of his spice cabinet -- yeah right Crusty grew up Irish in Boston, he doesn't know from spices, just ask CODW (Crusty Old Dean's wife).

Second of all, Crusty would have to fight inevitable distraction, as this would get me hankering for lunch.  Of all the Scriptural passages where Jesus speaks of social justice, why did they have to choose the one where he lays out the ingredients for a delicious cucumber salad?  Is this an Ethics question or an episode of Chopped? [Aside:  Crusty loves the aside in the question: where the student is reminded, having just read a bible verse where Jesus criticizes the Pharisees for neglecting to practice "justice and mercy and faith", that in the passage Jesus is criticizing the Pharisees for neglecting to practice justice, and the parenthetical "(as well as mercy and faith)" is added.  So not only are they reminded about the passage they JUST READ they also have to be reminded that Jesus didn't just criticize the Pharisees for neglecting to practice not only justice.  A comment on our shrinking attention spans in a Twitbook age?  Or, yet again, the distracting power of mint, cumin, and dill?]

As for the question itself...

1)  In general, Crusty approves.  OK, justice is important, and Ethics as a discipline is all about how we translate belief into principles, decisions, and actions.  Good, if delicious, Scriptural quote, nice to see the church realizing there are passages other than Micah upon which to base an ethics of justice.  Given the cottage industry which has cropped up around Micah 6:8, Crusty is surprised Church Publishing hasn't issued Hymn #605 as a ringtone.

However, Crusty is again puzzled by the language of the question:  "present and expand"?  How in any way is that different from "present a Christian understanding of justice, drawing on..."  Are they looking for something else, or just again using more words when fewer words, and the accompanying clarity fewer words can (emphasis on "can", fewer words can be just as perplexing if not worded properly) bring?

2)  COD is fine with giving an open-ended "Scripture and tradition of Christian thought" basis.  This would allow students to incorporate and shape a holistic vision of justice, bringing in examples from the Hebrew Scriptures (Crusty would like to play "Micah 6:8!" bingo when the readers gather to consider this question), other sayings of Jesus, and, really, any number of examples from Christian tradition.

A life of F D Maurice directed by David Lynch...man that's scary.
But Crusty is puzzled, perhaps, in part, because he is currently reading F. D. Maurice's Kingdom of Christ right now (this is how COD spends January term).  Normally one might think Crusty is puzzled as a resulted of reading Maurice, who is nearly unintelligible since his prose is so dense, kind of like David Lynch crossed with Dr Seuss crossed with the sentence length of Richard Hooker.  No, that's not it:  Crusty is puzzled because THERE'S NOTHING SPECIFICALLY ANGLICAN  in the question.  This is, after all, an exam which is measuring competency in areas for people seeking to be ordained to the priesthood in The Episcopal Church.  The central theme of COD's Anglican Theology course overview for next semester (spoiler alert!) is on Anglicanism as a religion of the Incarnation -- something which is oft glibly tossed about, but something which we need to take seriously if we are to claim, and seriously engage how Anglicanism has looked at the Incarnation as a prism by which we understand ethics and theology (and pastoral care, and so on).  There is a deep, rich Anglican tradition of ethics.  The seminary where COD teaches offers a course on Anglican Ethics.  F. D. Maurice spend hundreds of pages articulating the way in which the Incarnation calls us to rethink the whole nature and purpose of the Christian endeavor, placing an emphasis on ethics and actions.

Crusty's not asking the examiners to ask the poor no-resources students to recapitulate Temple's Christianity and the Social Order or Maurice's Kingdom of Christ. But couldn't they be asked to include an Anglican reflection of some sort on ethics?  Is not the entire debate convulsing the Anglican Communion regarding human sexuality, and which Crusty gathers most GOE takers are away of, based on moral theology and ethics (along with Scriptural interpretation, ecclesiology, and other theological issues, to be sure)?  Episcopalians make dozens of decisions every day on a whole range of issues from where to shop to where to live to which church to go to; could not the question have incorporated one aspect of what it means to be an Anglican Christian and Ethics?

Hint: If using Tarantino as example, don't use quotes with the N-word.
3)  Crusty is puzzled by "forms" of justice.  Once again, vagaries abound in question phrasing.  Do Tarantino revenge films count as a form of justice?  If there's something they're telegraphing that they are looking for here, be more specific, otherwise err on the side of allowing students to shape a theology of justice based on the sources outlined. Is the question - which, again, is a no resources question -- really improved by adding this second sentence to Part 1?  You've got to give students more of a lifeline if there are boxes to be checked here in reading an answer.  Provide additional quotes for them to incorporate into an answer, provide an excerpt from a theological text with potential examples for them to identify/incorporate -- both of which have been common practice in other years for "no resource" questions.  Given the way Ethics has been cannibalized in some theological faculties (but thankfully not Crusty's!) it would be unfair to expect a certain specificity in a no-resources question without more context.  Even Wait Wait Don't Tell Me often has either multiple choice questions or generous hints provided to panelists.

4)  Why separate theological and praxis?  After being asked to "expand" their understanding, students are then asked to write a separate essay on "what it means" to "practice" these forms.  Isn't an important component of Ethics about integrating theology and praxis?

Crusty gives this question a mixed review.  Love the idea of centering an Ethics question around justice.  But disappointed there is no Anglican component to this question, and disappointed with the separation of theology and practice.  Maybe instead of reminding students about the quote, the examiners should have focused a little more on the quote themselves.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Blogging GOEs, Question 2: Let the GOEs' Enemies Be Scattered!

[Hello all:  beginning with a disclaimer.  Crusty seems to have touched a nerve with a previous post on GOEs (one of my most-read postings).  Apart from being perpetually stunned anyone cares what he has to say about anything (he mainly does this to spare CODW his rantings and provide an outlet), Crusty does want to say one thing.  He's not opposed to GOEs, and sharply criticized the decision to defund them in the original draft budget proposed last summer.  He would, however, like to have a discussion about a thorough overhaul, and you can read some of his previous thoughts here.]

Crusty noted previously that Morning Prayer began with an auspicious Psalm for GOE takers:  "Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered!"  COD called for an allegorical reading, in part because the allegory can always change according to context.  To whit:  Let the GOEs' enemies be scattered!  After a Set 1 Question that left Crusty perplexed, they have come roaring back with an intriguing Set 2 Question.  To whit:

Set 2: Theory and Practice of Ministry
Thursday, January 3, 2013, 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

For three years you have been the clergy person in charge at St. Christopher's Church, a congregation in a populous community. You receive a phone call from a chaplain working with one of the local hospice programs. She shares with you that a 12-year-old girl has been admitted into the hospice facility with a terminal disease. She is being kept as comfortable as possible but is approximately a week from death and is unresponsive.

The family has indicated to the chaplain that they are members of St. Christopher's. They say they have been inactive at St. Christopher's for at least five years and do not know the clergy person there, though they still consider it their spiritual home. You do not recall ever meeting the family. The chaplain tells you that she would be willing to continue to minister to the family but also feels it important to at least let you know of the situation.

In an essay of approximately 1,500 words, clearly identify and explain the theological, pastoral and practical issues that inform what you choose to do or choose not to do. Include in the essay any other people or resources you might consult to help you reach your decisions.

Very interesting question, in that it captures in many ways the complex nature of some pastoral interactions.  When Crusty was a young seminarian, doing his required clinical hospital chaplaincy rotation, he encountered an impossible pastoral situation -- he won't go into it, because all clergy have similar stories, but it's one that makes the one above look placid by comparison.  The next day, debriefing with his supervisor, Crusty half-huffed in exasperation, half-moaned from feelings of inadequacy, "You kno, I didn't ask for this!"  To which his supervisor replied bluntly, "Nobody asks for these things.  Unless you want to deal situations nobody else wants to deal with, get into a different line of work."

This question, in Crusty's mind, is an good one in terms of asking for demonstration of competency.

1)  For one, it touches precisely on those impossible situations which drop form nowhere and at the most inopportune times.  As F Scott Fitzgerald wrote, "In a real dark night of the soul, it's always three o'clock in the morning."  (I will leave it to you to figure out what it says about COD that the Fitzgerald book he loved the most and read over and over was not Gatsby or Tender but The Crack Up, a series of essays chronicling his personal and emotional breakdown.)  To be more true to pastoral form, the question should have read, "You get a call at 11 am on Saturday just before your 9-year-old son's birthday party" or "You get a call on 4 pm on Sunday just before kickoff," or "You get a call on your cell phone from the parish administrator while you're drinking a martini at your favorite bar," in order truly to capture the reality of pastoral emergencies.  All too often they seem to crop up at inconvenient times, out of nowhere.  But hey, Crusty is still in this line of work, so I'm not complaining; I made my peace with this line of work a long time ago.  All COD is asking for is a little more verisimilitude.

2)  It captures an important dynamic in shifting pastoral realities: people may affiliate with churches in ways different from previous generations -- Crusty is intrigued by what different understandings of "inactive" might mean.  Maybe this family doesn't come every week and fill out a pledge card and have the Mom on the Vestry and the Dad teaching Sunday school.  Does that mean they can't consider it their spiritual home?  Besides, just because the clergy person doesn't remember them doesn't mean they haven't come at all; the questions says "in a populous community"; doesn't say how large the congregation is; and the clergy person has only been there three years.  COD served as interim of a Lutheran congregation, and it took me nearly 6 months just to get all the weird names I'd never heard of before straight (Orpha and Orlan and Harlan and Merlin were a sampling).  Besides, their daughter may have been terminally ill for the five years of "inactivity." That kind of thing can take up a good chunk of one's time.  So "inactive" doesn't necessarily mean "irreligious."

3)  It also exemplifies the great statement from the (in COD's opinion) greatest Anglican theologian of all time, William Temple:  "The Church is the only society on earth that exists for the benefit of non-members."  Just because you might not remember them, and even if they only have a passing relationship with your church, they have reached out and claimed a connection, so of course you provide whatever pastoral care you can, in conjunction with the hospice chaplain.  There's no right or wrong answers, especially to these "Practice of Ministry" questions (well, there are some wrong ones, Crusty would not want anyone to use the "Heaven is getting another angel" line) -- rather than there is a holistic and integrated pastoral identity, and one that is sensitive to pastoral complexities.

4)  It also speaks to the way in which the pastoral office is not connected to the person; it's not you, or St Christopher's, or even the Episcopal Church.  Rather, in the end, it is how you represent God's grace and love which transcends these temporalities.  Crusty was serving as interim of a church in a denomination not his own when, on his second day on the job, the patriarch of the congregation dropped dead suddenly of a heart attack.  The previous pastor -- the congregation has narrowly voted not to renew her 3-year contract -- was living only 20 minutes away.  The patriarch had been one of her biggest supporters and bitterly disappointed the contract had not been renewed.  As Crusty sat with the stunned family, he gently said, "You know, Pastor X is only a few minutes away, and I knew she and Mr Y were close.  If you'd like her to take a lead in the service, I will be glad to work with her."  His widow looked up and said without thinking, "His grandfather built the first church building here.  Mr Y built the current church building with his own two hands.  He led the fundraising drive to rebuild it when it burned down.  You're pastor of this church.  You're doing the funeral."  It wasn't about me.  It was about God, and about community.

GBEC, Crusty is giving you the 80s-movie slow-clap salute.

Blogging the GOEs, Question 1: WTF Out of the Gate

[Hello all:  beginning with a disclaimer.  Crusty seems to have touched a nerve with this first post on GOEs (one of my most-read postings).  Apart from being perpetually stunned anyone cares what he has to say about anything (he mainly does this to spare CODW his rantings and provide an outlet), Crusty does want to say one thing.  He's not opposed to GOEs, and sharply criticized the decision to defund them in the original draft budget proposed last summer.  He would, however, like to have a discussion about a thorough overhaul, and you can read some of his previous thoughts here.]

Welcome back to COD's live-blogging of the General Ordination Exams 2: Electric Boogaloo

Well, live to me, not you, since Crusty doesn't want to post blogs that have the question in them and thus give any students taking the exam in Hawaii an unfair advantage.  Rest assured, GBEC, this will not be posted until well after all students have begun each question.

Crusty Old Dean initially took the Daily Office Readings for this morning as a good sign:  the Psalm appointed was Psalm 68, the triumphant declaration that God will arise and scatter one's enemies, that God is the God of orphans and widows, and yea, dogs will lap up the blood of our foes.

Origen approves of Crusty's exegesis.
COD does not want to presume who the enemy might be here; for all of you who thought the students taking General Ordination Exams might call down on God to smite their examiners, well, I think you have given us a window into your psyche.  Crusty, of course, interpreted Psalm 68 allegorically, in good Origenist fashion (best non-saint saint ever!): that students might smite the inner enemies of their own self-doubt, and lap up knowledge and triumph from the puddles of their tears of exasperation. 

Then Crusty saw the question.  As readers from last year might remember, GOEs often have a WTF question:  where you really wonder what people are thinking.  Last year's exam had some WTF moments (Crusty was perplexed a question on theology and the environment relied on quotes from a book over 40 years old, as if this topic has not been dealt with in any substantive theological works in recent years), but hard to say a real WTF question from top to bottom, and COD was in general thrilled with the 2012 General Ordination Exams, apart from his usual judgmental snark.

It's a whole new year.

Looks like we're hitting the WTF question out of the gate:

Set 1: Liturgy and Church Music

LIMITED RESOURCES:A printed one-volume annotated Bible; a printed 1979 Book of Common Prayer; a printed Book of Occasional Services; a printed Lesser Feasts and Fasts; the printed Enriching Our Worship volumes; a printed Holy Women, Holy Men; and printed authorized Episcopal hymnals. NO electronic or Internet resources.

Create a liturgy for a nature-oriented event in your pastoral context. You may imagine any such situation: for example, the planting or harvesting of crops, the blessing of a fishing fleet, the planting of a community garden, the reclaiming of land after a natural disaster, or the blessing of animals.

1. In a well-organized essay of approximately 750 words:

     A. Give the pastoral reason for the rite;
     B. Explain the theological understanding of creation that informs your liturgical design.

2. In another essay of approximately 750 words:

     A. Outline the celebration, explaining why you structured it this way and why you chose the liturgical texts, readings and music, showing how your choices conform to the rubrics of the liturgical books listed above;
     B. Describe the roles of the members of the congregation, including the liturgical leaders;
     C. Describe the liturgical choreography (the movement of the assembly, including the liturgical ministers) and the use of space.

Crusty's initial response was one word:  "Really?"  This is the same word of bemused disbelief that Official Child of Crusty Old Dean (OCOCOD, a condition for which, sadly, there is no known cure) drops when baffled by behavior of COD and CODW.

Really?  This is the liturgy question?  Let me count the levels of my bemusement:

1)  This puts the "occasional" in "occasional" services.  Crusty's been going to church his entire life, didn't take a decade off, and been active members of congregations, as lay and clergy, rural and suburban (Crusty spent six months as interim pastor in a farming town of 800 people!) and has been to a grand total of one of these kinds of liturgies.

Buddy Christ will say your answer is "proficient."
2)  When you think that the overwhelming majority of the work of ordained clergy involves either sacramental (Eucharist, Baptism) or pastoral (burial of the dead) liturgies and their adaptation to context -- I think of all the prayer vigils held after 9/11 and after Sandy Hook -- COD is utterly baffled that the one liturgy question likely to be asked has to do, frankly, with developing a liturgy that would be used in this context.  Don't get me wrong:  the question of our relationship to nature is an important one with long, deep roots in our traditions and in which some really good theological work has been done.  That's not the issue: rather, to have this be the grounds on which competency is to be based (and remember, that is the purpose of the GOEs -- to demonstrate grounds of competency in the defined areas) is a bit like having the ground for competency in the Bible section be writing a blog post on the movie Dogma.  Step off, haters: Crusty loves Dogma and the way it relates biblical and theological questions to modern (well, if you consider late 90s modern), however it would be baffling to ask such a question to be the grounds for demonstrating competency in Bible.  Crusty is flummoxed that the liturgical competency is being demonstrated through liturgies which simply do not rise to the same pastoral or theological level as, say, asking someone to develop a funeral liturgy for someone killed in a natural disaster, rather than reclaiming land after a natural disaster.  BTW, thank God they didn't allow the Book of Occasional Service from the Dutch Reformed Church, it totally would have telegraphed that reclaiming of land possibility.

3)  The question is just rife with vagaries, something that concerns COD.  If there's one thing Crusty has learned, it's that despite being crystal clear in sermons, people often don't hear what he says, and sometimes hear the exact opposite.  Crusty favors erring on the side of clarity.  Further, this can be a problem in GOEs if the assessment portion may wind up being based on unspoken understandings or standards.  Let's take Section 1, which asks for theological understanding:  what kind?  Ecofeminism? Biblically based? From an extrapolation of the oikonomia of the Trinity?  I would hate for someone to lay out a theological understanding of creation and have the readers say, "Oh but you didn't mention Genesis" or "How could you not mention the work of Sallie McFague in your answer!"  Also, what is meant by "creation?"  The dynamics involved in defining "creation" from, say, a pet blessing, would be different from, say, blessing of crops.  Similar with section 2:  "describe the roles" and "describe the liturgical choreography" and "use of space."  All of these things are important, to be sure -- Crusty's favorite liturgy professor endlessly repeated the maxim "the space always wins" when it comes to liturgical planning -- but what do you mean by "describe"?  What their theological, liturgical, or symbolic roles are?  Not what they are supposed to do, because that's asked in the next section.  More direction and clarity was needed throughout this question in what, how, and on what basis students are being asked to do.

4)  If the intent is to get students to think of creative applications of liturgy to context -- something which would be a fabulous way to demonstrate competency -- Good God, there are other ways to do this than this question.  Ask them to devise an emergent Eucharist, or a service that is in response to a natural disaster, not land reclaimed after one.

5)  Besides, the whole question is moot:  Crusty bets three-quarters do a pet blessing.  And that's how we'll judge people demonstrating competency in liturgy.