Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cutting the Gordian Knot of Lent Madness

Well, the time has finally come: the exercise in futility known as Lent Madness draws to a close this Spy Wednesday (the formulators of Lent Madness almost had Crusty with their designation of the Golden Halo on Spy Wednesday; Crusty is just glad someone else knows about Spy Wednesday; COD got his church to call their Wednesday in Holy Week service Spy Wednesday back in 1995; Crusty once preached a whole sermon about Spy Wednesday).  There are no more zero-sum-game
Spy Wednesday:  Backstory to a Kiss.
false choices to be made, no hard-fought debates about whether the New Deal was better than the Civil Rights movement, or whether people who lived out the gospel to the point of martyrdom are somehow more worthy than the random name given to someone credited with writing that gospel.  This annual exercise of mostly white live people voting for mostly white dead people is on hiatus for another year.  What should be our takeaway, what should we ponder as we prepare for the next round of Lent Madness (which, given the perpetual campaign mentality of the founders of Lent Madness, will probably begin on Easter Monday)?

[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.
going to mention, just a proposal to throw
out there. When I was a congressional aide, we had an expression, 'no idea was too stupid to say out loud,' so here it is, bear me out. Instead of buying these ships? Don't buy these ships. Buy other ships. Better ships. That's my idea."

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.


  1. I thought HWHM was still in trial use and therefore optional. Am I wrong?

  2. Yes it's still in trial use, though the Kalendar will be updated in future printings of the Prayer Book once commemorations are authorized. The last Lesser Feasts and Fasts was 2003, which included commemorations added in 2003. 2006 GC authorized additional commemorations which were folded into HWHM. HWHM was authorized for trial use in 2009 and reauthorized in 2012. So yes, it's in trial use, but it reflects commemorations added since 2003 through the legislative process.

  3. I could be wrong, but as I read the rubrics (I know, a quaint, if harmless hobby) everything in LFF and HWHM would fall under “days of optional observance” (#5 on page 17, BCP), so we could all in solidarity with COD declare a moratorium on everything other than major prayer book holy days. Along with a rethinking of the commemorations on the calendar, we need some serious thought on the question of weekday liturgies- why they are offered and how our practice, whatever it is, affects the formation of a community. The “why” would need to involve some serious effort to express how worship is an offering made to the Triune God- not just an effort a edification and community building. The question of formation would take up those concerns- and that might be where we would get some sense of what sort of calendar would make sense given our history, present realities and sense of the eschatological purposes of worship.

  4. I think there's something to be said for the church not to get all up in arms about authorizing every last thing. In the Church of England, there's a distinction between an "authorized" Common Worship liturgy and a "commended" Common Worship liturgy. (I believe those are the right terms but am ready to be corrected.) Basically, the former means Synod has gone over the text with a fine-tooth comb and the latter it has merely said, "Sure, looks good, fine with us if you use it but we're not going to make you." (This is handy because Common Worship has moved from being a liturgical revision to a publishing industry and there's so much material out there now. It's obscene. But that's a story for another day.)

    Seems like a similar principle could apply to HWHM: here's a list of people we think are pretty neat (and represent some of the gender, racial, class, generational diversity of the church because we wanted to be PC) and here are some resources to help commemorate them. But if you come up with your people, then that's great too.

    Speaking personally, I commemorate Stephen Bayne because he speaks to me in my life and ministry. (I even wrote a collect for the occasion: But he had the misfortune to die on the same day as St. Peter so I doubt it's a commemoration that will catch on. But it's a resource out there for others to use. I'd be happy to hear who is on other people's personal devotional calendars.

  5. They lost me when they included "the first woman seminary professor".....Come on.

  6. I never really worry too much about what people say anonymously on - you know - the internet.

    What's interesting to me is that three of the last four in LM make up a pretty straight-ahead standard group of saints; I mean C.S. Lewis won, one year! (I finally realized that Frances Perkins got there because the Department of Labor and Mt. Holyoke College are sending their people to LM. She gets about a thousand votes that way every time.) So the comments don't reflect what's actually happening - as usual.

    I completely agree with you about HWHM - which to my way of thinking would make a great devotional volume - and about the "theological basis" problem (which is maybe the central problem for Anglicanism generally). Lent Madness, OTOH, is completely tongue-in-cheek, all the while it's showing off some of the people on the calendar; it's just ridiculous and fun. It's completely up front about that, too; I mean it has, let's not forget, a kitsch round....

  7. What I've discovered is that Lent Madness brings out the Protestant in me. I'm all for loosening up the categories but WHWM makes me weary. I'm sort of uncomfortable with the idea of commemorating saints in general, frankly. I think any observance of the saints is an opportunity to teach about how to live the Christian life, and anything that is too fantastical (except for Brigid, whose wells I like a lot) loses my attention pretty quickly. We have enough mystery without all that in my opinion, just like I don't need a big story about which candle to light first. (I think I'm basically a hypocritical, liturgical anabaptist who has a bishop, but enough about me)

    I abhor the idea of venerating little girls who are held up as models because they chose martyrdom over losing their virginity, but otherwise it is a pretty open category for me. I like Francis because she does expand the tent a bit and is a great example of a lived faith that doesn't include martyrdom. We could use a few more folk like that.

  8. Well said, COD. Lesser Feasts and Fasts has enough dubious commemorations (why, e.g., have a single feast day for four people -- Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and, most puzzlingly, Amelia Bloomer?) as it is. Those commemorated in LFF but not on many more "traditional" church calendars are, in at least one field, inspirational and cool. But what about holiness of life?

    I think that issue with respect to HWHM comes into particularly sharp relief in its selection of laity to be added to the calendar. Holiness of life is not, in my opinion, concentrated among white priests and bishops, so it makes sense to look for exemplars of the faith among the laity and across cultures.

    However, it seems in many cases that laity added by HWHM to the calendar were chosen primarily because of their professional accomplishments in cool fields (e.g., Bach). In some cases, the professional achievements of those commemorated are particularly admirable in light of the great odds and unjust obstacles they had to overcome (e.g., Anna Julia Haywood Cooper).

    I love art, for example. Bach was a great composer, and I appreciate that. He was best known and paid as an organist during his lifetime, and like most upper-crust musicians of his day, he played in and got his money from a combination of churches funded by nobles and by appointments to serve the nobles directly. Was his life exemplary in discipleship? I have no idea, and I doubt others do either. I suspect that Bach won a 'golden halo' in HWHM over other church musicians who could have been appeared within not because Bach was particularly devout, but because Bach was particularly talented, successful, and famous.

    To add people to the calendar based on their professional accomplishments when little is known or examined about their manner of life sounds like "blessed are the successful and the famous" rather than "blessed are those who are reviled and persecuted for [Jesus'] sake and for the sake of the gospel." It strikes me as an unthinking expansion of what some call "the professionalization of the clergy" to "the professionalization of holiness," and I think that a sad development.

    We already worship success and define ourselves too much by our trades in much of American culture in particular. Furthermore, "Sainthood by professional achievement" in the particular professions HWHM exalts implies (unintentionally, I'm sure) that holiness is more common among the educated and less common amongst those who are born and remain poor.

    In short, I think that the biggest problem with HWHM is not inconsistent implementation of guidelines, but fuzzy, conflicting, or empty ideas of what "holiness" means in everyday life. I think we would do well as a church to address that issue -- to try to become a church that celebrates (and funds -- our hearts follow our treasure) formation to help us become holy women and holy men who know the difference between holiness and churchiness (i.e., the holiest among us might not be the major donors or those who put in the most hours as volunteers to run church programs), and the difference between holiness and success or fame.



  9. Thanks for the reflections, Dylan -- your comments are exactly what I meant by "fetid black hole" and "utter paucity of theology of commemoration". Lack of consistency in following guidelines is just one aspect (and a rather small but annoying one, really) of a much bigger set of issues which you outline here.

  10. Bach was a devout Lutheran, and wrote what is widely acknowledged to be some of the most beautiful religious music ever written. (I've even heard atheists say they could almost believe in God when they listen to it.) I'm not surprised at all that he was chosen - but it would definitely be interesting to some of the original documents from those discussions, if they exist.

    The real question is, though: where does the Episcopal Church get its standards of "holiness"? The word appears only once in the Catechism, and only as an adjective for God. So who decides?

  11. Barbara -- I wouldn't dispute that Back was a Lutheran. That century of German history isn't my strong suit, but I think at the time anyone born in Germany who didn't declare themselves to be something else was automatically a Lutheran.

    Where is the extent of his religious devotion documented? I haven't spent ages looking, but I haven't found any. And beyond that, is there any evidence that his manner of life was more saintly or holy than any number of other Lutherans of his nation and time?

    I don't deny that he is among the greatest European composers of his time. I love his music.

    I also can't deny that William Shakespeare wrote some of the most beautiful and inspiring poetry and drama ever written. His speech placed on Portia's lips in 'The Merchant of Venice' is something that, if I didn't already believe in God, might persuade me to consider it. Should he be in the calendar? He was religious enough to be buried in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon with an inscription drawing a particular curse against anyone who moved his bones. I wouldn't move to put him on the calendar, but why Bach and not him? It's hardly fair to Shakespeare that playwrights and poets didn't get paid by the church while organists, and choir directors did. So why not Shakespeare on the calendar?

    Joe Naylor of Livonia, Michigan, not only has an astonishing gift for creating some of the most beautiful-sounding electric guitar pickups, the most innovative resonant, gorgeous, and affordable guitar and bass bodies (using phenolic as well as traditional wood materials), but he also has sought to make the highest-quality instruments affordable to working-class musicians. I haven't asked him about whether he's a devout Christian, but if he were, would we be talking about adding him to our calendar once he'd been dead for long enough? Heck, his company is called Reverend Guitars!

    If I said I also knew an auto mechanic who was a lifelong Episcopalian and whose work in repairing VWs is widely acknowledged to be among the best and most beautiful ever done, should we advocate for her inclusion in the calendar?

    I think the answer is clear that no matter how good an auto mechanic is and even if said mechanic were a lifelong Episcopalian who had taught Sunday School for years, we wouldn't consider including her in the calendar.

    If Joe Naylor were Christian (which he may well be), we might consider adding him to the calendar in a couple or a few decades if he had become as famous as Leo Fender or Les Paul. But it would be the extent to which his work sold nationally and internationally, not the quality of it or how prayerfully he crafted them, that would probably make the difference.

    And that, I think, shows how unapologetically biased we are in terms of social class, ethnicity, ordination or lack thereof, and other things that have nothing to do with holiness. Not that I'd say Joe Naylor should be included in HWHM, even in 50 or 100 years, and no matter how popular his guitars, basses, amps, and pickups do or don't get amongst critics. He'd probably agree with me that he's an excellent example of the difference between artistic excellence, however outstanding and inspiring, and holiness of life.



  12. Oh, and the question of "who decides" is easily answered in our polity. Local liturgies outside the BCP can be authorized by a diocesan bishop. Liturgies for churchwide use, whether on a trial or permanent basis, must be approved by General Convention, and generally no liturgy gets to a vote in either house of GC without being routed first through the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, whose members are appointed by the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies. Legislative committees of GC meet ONLY during GC. The GC legislative committee for Liturgy & Music will handle, nix, tinker with, and/or ignore resolutions that come to it as they see fit too. Usually, they don't do fine wordsmithing of proposed liturgies, but in theory they could do so before sending a resolution approving that liturgy to the floor of the houses for a vote.

    It's all quite top-down and bureaucratic, but is far more democratic than the way a lot of Christian bodies do it.

    And I do think that liturgical innovations should be tested thoroughly before, e.g., being included in the BCP. We couldn't have *common prayer* we just had clergy or others invent and alter sacramental liturgies according to whim. That doesn't stop a lot of people from doing it, of course, and few bishops will bother to intervene unless a critical mass of "important" people complain. Bishops have, from time to time, annoyed me or stood in the way of something I wanted to happen, but if I didn't think there were virtues to a church structure including episcopal office, I wouldn't be in TEC.

  13. Sarah:

    The first thing to say is that neither William Shakespeare nor your auto mechanic (or guitar player) spent or are spending their lives in the creation of music for the church. Bach did, though: Cantatas for every Sunday of the year (four times over!), Masses, Passions, even stuff based on the catechism, as I understand it (haven't heard any of this myself). Christian worship without music is almost an oxymoron (the Quakers are an exception to everything, it seems).

    More to the point: if we can't commemorate a man who signed these remarkable sacred works with "Soli Dei Gloria" - a fact that impressed me well before I ever joined the church, BTW - well, who in the world can we celebrate when it comes to music? Bach is, in my view, one of the greatest of all ambassadors for Christianity. For me, he's not being celebrated for his "professional accomplishments"; he's being celebrated for his astounding ability to create the highest of praises to God and Christ in music.

    The other problem is: is "manner of life" the standard for inclusion in our commemorations? I don't have a copy of HWHM myself, but reading COD's summary on the other post: "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."

    Where can I find the "manner of life" standard - and who decides what's an appropriate "manner of life"? If I recall, that was the exact phase used against Bishop Gene Robinson and his consecration as bishop; obviously there are plenty of opinions on the subject. Which one prevails? Is it simple "majority rules"? Really? That's what happened at Lambeth 1998, too; majority ruled. Surely we both know (from experience) that "the majority" can be and often is very, very wrong. Your whole point here, as I understand it, is that the very process you're describing has gone wrong in the inclusion of many of the people chosen for HWHM.

    My point, really, is pretty simple: liturgy is enacted teaching. So where are the teachings on this topic? What are the standards Episcopalians are to use? Where are they coming from?

    I personally don't think "manner of life" should be the end of the discussion, anyway; God doesn't work solely through people who've mastered fortitude, prudence, and temperance. But that's for a much later discussion; before we can ever get there, we have to find some sort of standard to point to. We know what the Catholics use as standards; they are very clearly laid out. They have a clear process; some of it's subjective and some is more objective. What do Episcopalians have, in either category?

  14. Soli Deo Gloria that is. And I see I forgot to list "hymns"! Very important....

  15. Barbara and Sarah,

    The discussion over JSB demonstrates the COD's point. By any reasonable standard JSB belongs in the calendar of Lutheran churches (if they had a calendar!). His nickname of "the fifth evangelist" is well deserved.

    But JSB isn't in our calendar. Yes, I know, HWHM page 491 has him right there. But it really doesn't. July 28 is properly "Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frederick [sic--he normally didn't use the "k"] Handel, and Henry Purcell." Now, absence of proof isn't proof of absence, but I'd challenge anyone to show one shred of evidence (outside of some incredibly sensitive text setting) that Purcell believed anything. I want to believe from his music that he did, but we've got better proof than Anna and Joachim lived under those names than Purcell was anything more than a British civil servant in the 17th century, and thus had some water splashed on him when he was a baby. Now Handel is a different can of worms alltogether. There's enough reportage during his lifetime that his Christianity was overtly and only commercial. And he arranged the tunes in Messiah, not out of the 19th century fictions of a vision of heaven, but out of a need to stave off bankruptcy before Easter (and couldn't perform secular music in Lent). He belongs in our calendar only if someone is willing to propose a feast day of John Locke, David Hume, and Bishop Benjamin Hoadly, or possibly one for Paul McCartney and George Harrison (for "Hey Jude" and "My Sweet Lord").

  16. Thanks, Walt; I think you're right about the discussion of JSB. And I think COD is right about the "bubble-up" thing, too - except there's one problem.

    Nobody celebrates any of the saints' days that are on the calendar now. And I'm talking about the major ones: Apostles, Evangelists, John the Baptist, Marian days - and even the major feast days I mentioned on the last post. I'm not sure how long this has been going on, but it's definitely the case in my diocese, and in the other dioceses I know about. So I don't think people really have much of an idea about what sainthood is all about. IOW, I think it's actually a much deeper problem. And I think that's the reason HWHM is the way it is. (This, to my mind, is why Lent Madness is actually a great thing; the write-ups are helping people get ahold of this topic. You see comments about this over and over again.)

    So before anything can "bubble up," there has to be some real discussion - dare I say "teaching"? - about the topic. I don't think people really can make any good decisions without it.

    I've just been reading about saints on an Orthodox website ( The upshot is that there's no formal "canonization" in Orthodoxy - and the Church doesn't "make people saints." It simply recognizes people who were saints - and, as COD says, this comes about through the "bubble-up" method: "Local congregations of the faithful simply began to remember certain well-known Christians in their liturgical gatherings, to ask them for help in prayer...."

    Here's a particularly nice section, with some discussion of what "sainthood" might actually entail: "The word saint means holy, thus 'Saint John' means, in fact, 'Holy John.' This is not to say that he was always perfect; that he was a genius; that he was a great man according to the understanding of this world; that his views on politics, social life, or economics were desirable or correct. It means only that, within the context of his age, he manifested the image of God in himself in some way -- that he was an ikon, an original creation, a new creature in Christ. "

  17. I like the idea of dropping HWHM completely, although it might be good to turn it into an almanac of people we like out of respect for all the work that's gone into it. We might also have to explicitly remove all the commemorations that don't have their collects in the BCP, otherwise we could be getting rid of the book but not it's contents.

    The bigger problem is how to encourage bubbling up, since it seems like very few parishes give any thought to who they want to remember and when (it doesn't have to be date of death for example although that is the best known way of picking the date). Beyond explicitly stating that parishes are free to come up with their own kalendars with the bishop's approval, I don't see that there's anything the national church can do to help the situation.

  18. The fact is that there are other ways of arriving at decisions. Consensus is one possibility; it's how the Quakers do things, and I think the Mennonites use it, too, so there are religious-group precedents. It takes a lot longer, sometimes - which isn't always a bad thing. Perhaps that's one way to encourage "bubbling up"? It will keep people talking about things for longer than a week-and-a-half every three years.

    "Democracy" (i.e., "majority rules") is OK in matters of governance, of course - although even there, in a church, perhaps consensus is a better way. The real problem, though, is the bleeding of "majority rules" into theology - or, rather, the skipping of theology entirely. (I was new to the church, and really floored when I learned about the "voting on homosexuality" thing at Lambeth....)

  19. Great post, COD! And a great discussion in these comments (with the wonderful if unintentional illustration in the debate about J.S. Bach, Joe Naylor, and the auto mechanic - which actually sounds like the beginning of a "walk-into-a-bar" joke). The real issue, as you have stated and as all of this demonstrates, is that we (the Episcopal Church) have no solidly grounded theology of "holiness" or "sainthood" and without that commemoration of "saints" (so labeled or not) makes little sense. I vaguely remember in confirmation class back in the 60s being told that we commemorate "saints" because these are people whose "holiness of life" we should emulate. That does not seem to be the criterion used for most of the newer commemorations in HWHM; it rather seems that commemoration is now something on the order of an Episcopal Church post-mortem Nobel Prize for having accomplished something the Standing Liturgical Commission thinks noteworthy. Not really a very solid theology, if you asked me (which, I admit, no one has). (Blogging at

  20. This is very much an aside, but I was under the impression that the latest Lesser Feasts and Fasts was still an authorized resource alongside the "experimental" HWHM. Certainly, Lesser Feasts and Fasts is what gets used at my church.

  21. I like the idea of paring back the official Feasts of TEC to those in the 1928 BCP and then allowing each Diocese to add additional Days of Commemoration to their calendar as the Diocesan Convention approves with the concurrence of the Ordinary and the Standing Committee. I only add the thought that if a Diocese goes to the trouble of adding additional commemorations, at least one parish should host an annual dedicated Eucharist for the person commemorated rather than simply adding a commemorative collect...


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