|Spy Wednesday: Backstory to a Kiss.|
[Psst -- Crusty is friends with the founders of Lent Madness and actually quite likes it. It's not so much Lent Madness but some underlying issues which it brings to the surface that gets me worked up and brings about the Hulk-like transformation into COD.]
In Crusty's most recent Lent Madness post, he reflected on the way in which Lent Madness is like the statue in the second chapter of Daniel: it is a golden crown built on the clay feet of the Episcopal Church's utter paucity of any theology of commemoration or sainthood. It is the clay feet of a theology of sainthood which has led to a kind of law of unintended consequences: the at times jaw-dropping arguments for one saint or another which range from misapplication of historical categories (can a random name of a person given to a gospel which is a composite of a number of sources have standing against an actual martyr?) to racism (we should vote for Frances Perkins over MLK because what she did helped all people). Crusty doesn't blame Lent Madness, which, as he keeps saying, he actually likes; but he is at times embarrassed, and at times horrified, by what it reveals about The Episcopal Church.
To review, there were very few commemorations on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church until 1964, when processes were set in place to allow for additional commemorations. That process itself, however, is hopelessly flawed in practice, if not principle. As COD wrote previously (try to think back to last week):
"The actual guidelines are laid out on pages 741-746 of Holy Women, Holy Men: we commemorate persons to call to mind their lives for instruction, guidance, inspiration, and emulation; who should have actually existed; who should be dead for 50 years (or two generations); and already be commemorated in a local observance in some way. Well and good, but there's two problems with this. For one, we have added persons that simply stretch the boundaries of this thinking, for all sorts of reasons: persons from traditions that do not commemorate persons on a liturgical calendar, persons nominally Christian, persons not even Christian, persons not dead 50 years, persons not commemorated locally by anyone, and persons who may not pass the historicity test (unless, of course, we become biblical literalists solely for the purpose of adding people to the calendar and treat Scripture as ahistorical in almost every other aspect). And secondly, we haven't kicked people off the calendar who don't represent those elements. By the standards we seem to have currently, I'd like to remove some people I don't think are worthy of emulation or inspiration and I don't turn to for guidance and whom I'm not sure existed historically."
Crusty has a solution for the conundrum of the Episcopal Church's fetid black hole of commemoration laid bare by Lent Madness: Cut the Gordian knot.
Alexander the Great, while wintering in the Phyrgian city of Gordium, was faced with the riddle of the Gordian knot: a knot supposedly impossible to untie. Rather than fumble his way trying to untie the knot, Alexander simply cut it with his sword. Crusty proposes mixing metaphors and using Occam's Razor to cut the Gordian knot of our calendar of commemoration:
Get rid of it. Have GC 2015 decline to reauthorize Holy Women, Holy Men and all previous and subsequent added liturgical commemorations. Return to the pre-1964 Kalendar.
As Sam Seaborn, Rob Lowe's character, once said on West Wing: "I have a thing. I have a thing I was
|To play Crusty in the movie version of COD? Yeah right.|
Instead of this liturgical calendar, let's get a better liturgical calendar. That's my idea.
Now, Crusty would like to hasten to say that this is not because of any particular animus towards HWHM. He uses it as the duly authorized calendar of commemoration as he has used all its predecessors, because it is what General Convention has authorized and COD thinks if we have structures we should follow them. He thinks the folks who put it together did the best job they could, but they, in turn, are inheritors of the desultory situation produced by the combination of a lack of a theology of commemorating saint and not following the guidelines laid out for commemoration. It's also not because of any particular love of the 1928 BCP and its predecessors; COD would be in favor of founding the Society for the Preservation of the 1979 Prayer Book, or the Society for Forgetting Entirely the 1928 BCP Because There's Not Much to Remember Because Lots of People Grew Up Never Using It And Think It is Overly Clerical And Sucks (granted, not a good acronym, but accurate)
COD is moved to suggest this course of action for several reasons:
a) It's clear we no longer follow the guidelines for commemoration laid out on pages 741-746 of Holy Women, Holy Men. So why be bound by the commemorations which so openly violate them? "Local commemoration" has been stretched to the breaking point: Where are there Episcopalians locally commemorating Lottie Moon and Karl Menninger? Thurgood Marshall died in 1993; how is sixteen years (from his death in 1993 to 2009 when he was proposed as a trial commemoration) two generations or fifty years? Joachim and Anna are about as historical as Paul Bunyan. Now, don't get Crusty wrong, Lottie Moon and Thurgood Marshall are amazing individuals. And while it's probably pretty clear that Mary had parents, if we take non-canonical gospels written over a hundred years after the fact as passing the "historicity" standard, we might as well commemorate Feast Day of the Talking Cross (Gospel of Peter) or Feast Day of the Childhood Playmates Jesus Struck Dead (Infancy Gospel of Thomas). Actually Crusty probably shouldn't have suggested those, they may show up in 2015. All of these, and others, simply fail what is laid out in the guidelines for adding people to the calendar of commemoration.
And, of course, there's the corollary: we exclude people from HWHM who are historical, are locally commemorated, and which many Christians see as worthy of emulation. Charles I is probably the best example of this: celebrated on many other calendars of the Anglican Communion and with his own devotional society, and voted down more times than William Jennings Bryan ran for president. Note: Crusty has absolutely desire to celebrate Charles I. But HWHM is not about my own personal piety; Charles I clearly meets all the standards for commemoration. Crusty commemorates Cyril of Alexandria, whom COD thinks was a thug and a poor theologian (and probably used Apollinarian theological treatises he thought were written by Athanasius) because he is on the calendar of commemoration, and he meets the criterion for being there.
This is another example of a crisis of governance and authority in the Episcopal Church: where canons, rubrics, and other components of governance are followed when one agrees with them, and conformity to them from others required, and simply ignored when one does not. HWHM stands with communion of the unbaptized, those who require Lutherans to be confirmed when joining the Episcopal Church, people who have multiple chalices on the altar, and all sorts of other violations of standards of governance: it's OK to violate them if we feel like it, and with no one actually asking whether we should change the standards themselves to reflect some kind of consensus. It's apparently OK to add commemorations which are in open violation of the guidelines and OK to reject commemorations which are perfectly in line with the guidelines; I guess it depends on whoever is in the room at a given time when the voting happens.
Note: Crusty is not some sort of slave to rubric and doesn't narc on people who don't stand or kneel during the eucharistic prayer. He does not necessarily agree with everything in the Prayer Book or canons. However, the answer is to change our governance, not capriciously to enforce those we agree with and refuse to follow those we disagree with.
b) Getting rid of HWHM and the processes which created it would be a return to the standards of the early church. The process of canonization was, by and large, a local affair for the the majority of the church's existence, done on the local level, with eventual petition to the diocesan level for recognition; and, if truly the will of the church, eventually gaining even wider acceptance. St Guinefort, the dog saint, is one of Crusty's favorites of this kind of groundswell of local commemoration. Even when the local bishop refused to authorize the commemoration, women continued to bring their children to his shrine for healing. (Seriously, how could we add Copernicus and Kepler to the liturgical calendar and not St Guinefort?) It has only become more centralized in Catholicism the past 500 years or so (and continues to undergo changes; John Paul II's canonized more persons than all other popes combined). The Episcopal Church had no process at all until 1964.
|Crusty ain't voting in Lent Madness till Guinefort is added.|
Why not let liturgical commemoration emerge from the local, grassroots level? Allow bishops, in their authority as liturgical ordinary, to permit commemorations in dioceses? This worked for a couple thousand years.
c) It would be in keeping with aspects of our polity. The Episcopal Church, historically, has allowed leeway to dioceses to order their patterns of life and worship. There is, for instance, no canonical description of how dioceses should choose bishops, only that they do so. A diocese could draw lots and it would be perfectly kosher by the canons. If we now seem to be about letting decision making in the church be done at the closest level, why not do this with liturgical commemoration? Diocesan bishops are permitted, as liturgical ordinary, to authorize certain aspects of worship; so why not let them?
Why let a small committee funnel a list through the General Convention, and declare that to be the "official" list of commemorations? For a church that prides itself on its democratic polity, in reality we have a rather top-down process of liturgical commemoration of persons. Let's let liturgical commemoration be the work of the people, and bubble up from the local level.
Let's return to a list of official commemorations that includes only the major feasts and saints' days of the church. Let's get rid not only of Holy Women Holy Men but any officially authorized additional commemorations.
Getting rid of Holy Women, Holy Men would be a return to the traditions of the church catholic, and in keeping with aspects of Anglican polity. And, if we truly believe that praying shapes believing, removing the shackles of a top-down process could open a path to solve the real problem underlying all of this and allow for a theology of sainthood and commemoration to emerge, over time, through praxis.
So next year, let's flip Lent Madness. Instead of two people cherry-picking from our flawed process and calendar, instead of voting people out, let's open-source all of this. What if we started with an open nominating ballot, and seeded persons from 1 to 32 based on the number of votes they get in the nominating process? If we think it somehow raises awareness and serves as a teachable moment to have people advocate for a small list of pre-selected saints, how much more would it be if we built that list through an open process of discussion?
Instead of reflecting what's wrong with the church's process of commemoration, maybe Lent Madness 2013 can help fix it.