Sunday, June 30, 2024

Changing the Church by Stealth


In affirmation and celebration of The Episcopal Church’s LGBTQ+ members, the Office of Communication is pleased to unveil a new Pride shield.

Dr. Alice C. Linsley

The shrinking Episcopal Church welcomes all. It prides itself on diversity and inclusion. In 1976 the General Convention of ECUSA affirmed homosexual behavior when it passed the “we are children of God” resolution.

In 1977, Bishop Paul Moore (NY) ordained the lesbian Ellen Marie Barrett to the priesthood. She served as Integrity's first co-president along with the late Louie Crew.

Most Episcopalians slept through these changes, many of which were launched with great stealth, as Crew admits in this statement from his paper Changing the Church: "More 'irregular' ordinations of women took place… after our convention. In Washington at the time, on a missionary journey to our new chapters in the east, Jim Wickliff and I yielded to the counsel of friends who advised that our visibility at the ordination might put in jeopardy lesbians among all early ordinands."

However, the consecration of Gene Robinson in November 2003 stirred many to wakefulness, but by then it was too late to reverse the disastrous course of the Episcopal Church.

There is a popular saying Lex orandi, lex credendi. It means that there is a direct relationship between the law of praying (lex orandi) and the law of believing (lex credendi). Change the prayers of a community and you can change their beliefs. Innovation can direct people's thoughts away from the received tradition. That happened when the Episcopal Church introduced its 1979 prayer book. It should have been called "A Book of Alternative Services" as was done in other Anglican Provinces that introduced experimental liturgies in the 1970s.

By comparing the ECUSA/TEC prayer book to the Book of Common Prayer 1928 one sees the degradation of orthodox theology and the exultation of TEC's social justice agenda. Even advocates of the 1979 prayer book recognized that it presents heterodox theology, what Urban T. Holmes termed a "differentiated" theology. An Episcopal priest and theologian, Holmes understood that the liturgical revisions of the 1970s drew more on Process Theology and modern philosophy than on Scripture, Tradition, and the Church Fathers. In reference to the Episcopal Church 1979 Prayer Book, he wrote, "It is evident that Episcopalians as a whole are not clear about what has happened. The renewal movement in the 1970s, apart from the liturgical renewal, often reflects a nostalgia for a classical theology which many theologians know has not been viable for almost 200 years. The 1979 Book of Common Prayer is a product of a corporate, differentiated theological mind, which is not totally congruent with many of the inherited formularies of the last few centuries. This reality must soon ‘come home to roost’ in one way or another."

Holmes added, "The church has awakened to the demise of classical theology."

Holmes admitted that the 1979 prayer book is not orthodox, and it does not align with what Anglicans have always believed and how they have always prayed.

The sacrament of Baptism was turned into a pledge of allegiance to the social justice agenda of ECUSA (TEC).
Celebrant: Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

People: I will, with God's help.

The baptismal liturgy of the 1979 book virtually deleted the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. It barely gets a nod in this sentence: "Through it [water of baptism] we are reborn by the Holy Spirit." Contrast that with this from the Book of Common Prayer: "Dearly beloved, forasmuch as our Saviour Christ saith, None can enter into the kingdom of God, except he be regenerate and born anew of Water and of the Holy Ghost; I beseech you to call upon God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that of his bounteous mercy he will grant to this Child (this Person) that which by nature he cannot have; that he may be baptized with Water and the Holy Ghost, and received into Christ's holy Church, and be made a living member of the same."

And this: "We yield thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased thee to regenerate this Child (this thy Servant) with thy Holy Spirit, to receive him for thine own Child, and to incorporate him into thy holy Church. And humbly we beseech thee to grant, that he, being dead unto sin, may live unto righteousness, and being buried with Christ in his death, may also be partaker of his resurrection; so that finally, with the residue of thy holy Church, he may be an inheritor of thine everlasting kingdom; through Christ our Lord. Amen."

The 1979 book moved around some collects so that, depending on the church calendar, some do not get prayed. This is one: " Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen." 

The ECUSA prayer book deleted 5 convicting sections from the Decalogue. This was removed: "for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, and visit the sins of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and show mercy unto thousands in them that love me and keep my commandments."

This was removed: "for the Lord will not hold him guiltless, that taketh his Name in vain."

This was deleted: "Six days shalt thou labour, and do all that thou hast to do; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God. In it thou shalt do no manner of work; thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, thy man-servant, and thy maid-servant, thy cattle, and the stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it."

Following the commandment to honor thy father and mother, this was deleted: "that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."

Following the commandment not to covet, this was removed: "thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his servant, nor his maid, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is his."

The collect for the Circumcision of Christ (Jan. 1) was deleted. After all, circumcision is a touchy topic these days.

Episcopalians who wanted to hold on to the historic Anglican Eucharistic prayers were told they could do so in Rite 1. However, except for the older language, Rite 1 is essentially the same as Rite 2, Prayer A. The Prayer of Humble Access, one of the most profound Anglican prayers is preserved in Rite 1 as optional. It does not appear in Rite II (the contemporary language text), but it is noted as an option.

Two good features of the 1979 prayer book are the inclusion of Old Testament readings at the Eucharist, and a short but worthy Noonday Prayer.

We do well to wonder how orthodox Anglican scholars reacted to the 1979 prayer book. Peter Toon and Louis Tarsitano were experts on the history of the Anglican liturgies. Peter Toon had this to say:

"People who have the time and inclination to read my little tracts and books will have noticed that consistently over the years I have referred to the official Prayer Book of the Episcopal Church, USA, as “the 1979 Prayer Book.” This is a reasonable title to use and it is used by me for one basic reason -- in order to avoid using the official title as given to it by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Minneapolis 1979 which was “The Book of Common Prayer….”

Why do I seek to avoid calling this Book by its official title? The answer is simple. I cannot in conscience or historical judgment see it as “The Book of Common Prayer.” It is most certainly a Prayer Book, but to my eyes it is not “The BCP.” If we actually take note only of its internal contents which are characterized by variety and choice, we see very clearly and quickly that they belong to the new class of Prayer Books which were produced from the early 1970s onwards in the western/northern parts of the Anglican Communion, after the Lambeth Conference gave its moral backing to this enterprise. These new Books were intended to provide experimental, alternative forms of public services alongside the received, historical, Book of Common Prayer. Thus they usually contained the word “alternative” in their titles – e.g., An Alternative Service Book (England 1980).

Therefore, as a historian of doctrine and of forms of Anglican worship, I see that the 1979 book was given the wrong title. It should have been something like, An American Prayer Book (1979) or A Book of Alternative Services (1979). When I enquire why it has the wrong title, I find a long and involved story about the ecclesiastical politics operative in the Episcopal Church from the 1960s into the 1970s and it is not necessary to tell that story here.

However, looking back over the history of the Episcopal Church from the new millennium back to the 1960s, I can see clearly how so often the General Convention is driven not by a commitment to biblical truth and historical orthodoxy, but by the desire to innovate to be relevant to a fast changing society and culture. So, it seems to me, the title of the new Prayer Book was a major innovation, a novel way of using an hallowed and distinctive title in order to make easy the speedy entrance of innovation and change of doctrine. And as such it worked as bishops took up the cause and pressed its use upon all dioceses of the Church."

Dr. Louis Tarsitano was an Associate Editor of Touchstone and the author of An Outline of an Anglican Life. He wrote, "Reformed catholicism is both evangelical and catholic, and when we remain loyal to it, as we should since it is the original faith of the historic Church, we cannot help but be both evangelical and catholic. If we find ourselves merely one or the other, we need to refine our own understanding of the great inheritance that we have been given by Christ and his Church, through the Anglican Way."

The Episcopal Church's 1979 prayer book does not strike the balance of catholic and evangelical. It has effaced the historic Anglican approach to common prayer. 

This from "Of Forms and the Anglican Way" by Louis R. Tarsitano is especially relevant.

"In 1976, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church made two fatal departures from the faith embraced in 1789. The first was the claim to legalize the “ordination” of women, contrary to the Scriptures and nineteen centuries of Christian formularies. The second was to introduce a replacement for the Book of Common Prayer, which it illegitimately called by that name, to be finally adopted in 1979. In hearings at the General Convention of 1997, in Philadelphia, Frank Griswold, then chairman of the Standing Liturgical Committee and soon to be elected Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, freely admitted that the American Church had replaced the traditional Prayer Book and that it was the only Anglican church in the world to have done so.
While this admission surprised some people, it should not have. As early as 1976, in a review article in The Anglican Theological Review, Aidan Kavanagh, a Roman Catholic scholar, had noted: First, the Book as a whole is clearly not a mere updated revision of its predecessors since 1549 [the date of the first English Prayer Book]. It is nothing if not a new formulary that contains some structural and phraseological traces of what has gone before but which goes quite beyond it (LVIII, No. 3, 362).
For this new formulary to be Anglican, it must be consistent with other Anglican formularies. It contains, however, merely “traces of what has gone before.” For this new formulary to serve as an adequate basis for the Episcopal Church in the United States to claim that it remains a true local church within the one Church of Jesus Christ, it must be consistent with the forms and formulas of the undivided Church. It fails in this regard as well, since its Trinitarian language, liturgical formulas, mistranslation of the Scriptures (especially in the “Psalter”), confused or false teaching (especially in the “An Outline of the Faith”), and unisex “Ordinal” all fall short of the requirements of the formularies of the undivided Church.
Furthermore, the adoption of this book and the approval of the “ordination” of women are clearly outside the authority of any national church to legislate for its people or to impose its will on the rest of the Church of Christ. These actions are null and void, and they cannot bind the conscience of any Christian. The real effect of these actions was to render the Episcopal Church, stripped of its proper formularies, tohuw bohuw (formless and void) as a national church of any description."

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

The Ethics of Franz Boas


Dr. Alice C. Linsley

Cultural anthropology and paleoanthropology focus on humans, both modern and archaic (before 300,000 years ago). Interpretations of anthropological data vary depending on one's ideological inclinations and personal experiences. Field studies throughout the discipline's history often reveal the attitudes of the investigators. 

Ruth Benedict (1887 – 1948) viewed a culture as having a cohesive construct of intellectual, religious, and aesthetic elements. She understood that "No man ever looks at the world with pristine eyes. He sees it edited by a definite set of customs and institutions and ways of thinking." She believed that science and the humanities were equally valuable in understanding human diversity which she valued. She wrote, "The purpose of anthropology is to make the world safe for human differences."

Benedict was a student of the distinguished anthropologist Franz Uri Boas (1858 – 1942), a German-American anthropologist who has been called the "Father of American Anthropology." His work is associated with the movements known as historical particularism and cultural relativism. Among his contributions to anthropology was Boas' rejection of evolutionary approaches to the study of culture. He influenced the work of Margaret Meade, May Edel, and even the French Structuralist Claude Lévi-Strauss.

F. Pöhl wrote (2008), "In many ways Boas was influenced by Kant, but in his field research Kant's ethical position remained eclipsed; Boas' practice in the field did not respect humans as an end in itself. Rather, Boas subscribed to an ethical utilitarianism and sustained a strong separation of science and ethics." (From here.)

Boas also held a strong separation between his anthropological work and religion. It is not known if he read Kant's 1793 Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone, but he probably did as there are clear connections between Kant and anthropology in mid-20th-century and early-21st-century scholarship. 

Though Jewish himself, Boas did not believe there to be a Jewish cultural identity. Instead, he stressed human plasticity and insisted that people not be “classified” in groups. This position is questioned by this writer whose research on the Hebrew ruler-priest caste suggests that Jewish cultural norms express a tradition they have received from their genetic ancestors going back to at least 2400 BC. 

In 1941, Lévi-Strauss became a visiting professor at the New School for Social Research in New York, with help from the Rockefeller Foundation. He called it “the most fruitful period of my life,” spending time in the reading room of the New York Public Library and befriending the Franz Boas.

The conversations between Lévi-Strauss and Boas would have involved a fascinating exchange. Both came to believe that the behavior of humans is shaped by their kin and culture. Certainly, Lévi-Strauss' structuralism would find a friendlier audience among many of Boas' students.

The concept of culture as developed by Boas provided largely became the basis of its modern anthropological meaning. In developing his argument against racist theories such as mental deficiencies of primitive peoples, Boas set out to show human behavior, regardless of race or stage of societal development, is determined by the society's unique historical development. He noted that culture is also shaped by received traditions which the people often credit to their ancestors. Since the received traditions vary greatly and all humans view life through the lens of their own culture, a culture cannot be posed as better or worse than any other. This is the meaning of Boas' cultural relativity.

Boas poked holes in E. B. Tylor's theories that religion evolved in stages from animism to polytheism to monotheism. Tylor attempted to trace this evolution of religion to support his theory. The relationship between "primitive" societies and "civilized" societies was a key theme in 19th century anthropological literature. The influence of this older humanist-evolutionist idea of culture was waning, and as Boas advanced the idea of culture as a primary determinant of behavior.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

My Political Apology


Dr. Alice C. Linsley

History suggests that nations rise and fall because of leaders who put their own interests ahead of the welfare of the people they are supposed to serve.

I support Nikki Haley because I believe she has integrity and truly cares about our country. She is a seasoned and sane political figure whose life is not wrapped in criminal accusations.

She has an expansive view of world events. She is not an isolationist. Neither is she a war monger. I believe she would make an excellent president. Perhaps that will happen in the future.

As a lifelong conservative Republican, I cannot vote for Joe Biden. Neither can I in good conscience vote for Donald Trump who has shown himself to be arrogant, self-serving, and abusive. Even people who have supported him have experienced the abuse. Just ask Pence, Haley, some of Trump's former legal advisors, and others who served on Trump's cabinet.

I value our republican system and hope it is preserved. Political demagoguery threatens our freedoms. 

I appreciate the uniqueness of the US Constitution. Our Bill of Rights is truly exceptional and is the target of censorship by totalitarian governments around the world.

Having lived in other countries, including Iran, Greece, Spain, and the Philippines, I appreciate what the United States of America has to offer its citizens. We work hard. We think big. We are an innovative people, offering the world useful technologies, advancements in science and medicine, and intellectual property. 

We grow our economy, even in economic downturns. We support thousands of non-profit service organizations. The number of nonprofit organizations based in the USA is staggering. A Child's Hope International, American Medical Resources Foundation, Compassion International, World Vision, Samaritan's Purse, etc.

We are a generous people. Only the hardened cynic would suggest that all US foreign funding is self-serving. 

For me, the 2024 presidential race is a choice between two equally weak candidates: Biden and Trump. I will not be voting in November.

Some have argued that by not voting, I am voting. That misses the point. This is a matter of conscience. With Nikki Haley I had a choice. The Trump machine has taken that choice away from me. That is another reason for me to deny Trump my vote. His grasping for power appears to have no limits. Such men are dangerous.

Pray for our nation.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Peter Kreeft's Book "Ethics for Beginners"

Peter Kreeft has taught philosophy at Boston College for more than 50 years. In this book Ethics for Beginners, he provides a good introduction to ethics for people of religious convictions, especially Roman Catholics. Bishop Robert Barron (Word on Fire) recommends the book which he describes as "a digestible introduction to moral philosophy woven together with Kreeft’s trademark wit and humor."

The book presents the thoughts of 32 great thinkers of history. Kreeft believes that studying the ideas of the great philosophers helps people to take responsibility for their own thoughts and opens the mind to arguments on both sides of controversies. 

He asks:

What qualifies you for ethical wisdom? It is not your ideological beliefs or scholarly expertise but your character traits. And those character traits come in pairs, so that it is very easy and very common to emphasize one half of each pair and forget the other one. These traits include:

• Adamant, committed honesty and flexible, experimental open-mindedness;
• A hard (logical) head and a soft (loving, empathetic) heart; toughness and tenderness;
• Fair, unbiased, impersonal detachment and personal commitment and loyalty;
• Impatience (passion) and patience (maturity);
• Idealism and practicality; and
• Profound seriousness and lightness, playfulness, and a sense of humor.

Peter Kreeft asserts that ethics is real, that good and evil are knowable, and that we are happier people when we act well. Kreeft claims that the study of ethics is important in answering life’ questions: What is the meaning of life? How should I live? How should I treat other people?

This book is especially appropriate for use with high school students.

The book is available to purchase on Amazon.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Stolen Picasso and Chagall Paintings Recovered


Paintings by Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall stolen 14 years ago from a Jewish family were recovered by police during a search of a cellar in Antwerp.

The works are Picasso’s portrait Tête (1971) and Chagall’s L’homme en prière (1970). Both were found in their original frames and in good condition. They were stolen were from the home of an art collector in Tel Aviv in 2010. At the time of the theft the works were collectively valued at nearly $1 million, local authorities said in a statement

Some $680,000 worth of jewelry was also stolen from the collector in the same heist. However, the trove of jewelry remains missing.

The local prosecutor said the main suspect has been arrested. Read more here.

Monday, January 8, 2024

Rulers of the Ancient Water Systems


Dr. Alice C. Linsley

Before the first civilizations appeared in the Nile Valley, Mesopotamia, and the Indus Valley, human populations were drawn to ancient water systems. Rivers and lakes came under the control of local chiefs. The water systems were a source of wealth for these early lords, and places where religious rites were performed. Water came to be regarded as a substance of life, healing, fertility, and cleansing. 

As technology advanced, local rulers relied on the skills of boatbuilders, masons, smiths, and scribes to build and expand their territories. The early Hebrew ruler-priests were in the service of the early kingdom builders such as Nimrod, a Kushite kingdom builder (Gen. 10). 

Nimrod left the Nile Valley and through marriage to the daughter of a Sumerian king named Asshur he became established in the region of Mesopotamia. Nimrod’s Sumerian wife may have served as a singer or dancer at the water temple of Uruk/Erech which was initially constructed around 5500 B.C. The later “Stone-Cone Temple” was built over it. Among Nimrod's descendants were other kingdom builders such as Arpachshad, Asshur, Nahor the Elder, and Abraham’s father Terah. 

The advances of the early civilizations were under the powerful leadership and authority of "the mighty men of old" (Gen. 6). These "first lords of the earth" were governed by sacred law codes as early as 3200 B.C. They established commerce, built temples, patronized masons, metal workers, priest-physicians, and astronomers. Royal scribes were conversant in multiple languages and able to write using the various scripts of the Fertile Crescent and the Ancient Near East.

The royal water shrines were tended by priests who used the water to tend their flocks and herds. The water shrines were under the control of regional lords, but visitors were welcome to the water. Wells and water shrines were neutral ground and natural gathering places. Biblical narratives speak of Hebrew men meeting their future wives at wells, water shrines, or oases.

Royal Women and Water Shrines

Royal mothers ensured that their sons received the best foods available, the best medical attention, and training in kingship so that they would be prepared to rule and maintain power. The queen mother’s role was never separate from the identity of the royal house and its political strategy. She played an important role in securing proper marriage partners for her sons. These marriages formed political alliances. Hebrew mothers were instrumental is preserving the caste’s unique identity by arranging caste endogamous marriages for their sons and daughters. They were consummate matchmakers.

Royal mothers exerted authority in their own rite. They engaged in rituals at royal temples and shrines and attended royal banquets. These queen mothers held royal titles such as eresh (queen), šarratum (queen), gore/kore (a female head of state), gibrah (from the Hebrew gibor, meaning powerful), and ra-bitu.

The wives and daughter of these early Hebrew ruler-priests served at the royal water shrines. One title for royal ladies who served at Bronze Age water shrines was rabitu. The term is likely related to an Ancient Egypt word bity and to the earlier Akkadian words for water (raatu) and house/shrine (biitu). The emblem of the rabitu was the spindle. In the Ugaritic story of Elimelek, the queen mother holds the title rabitu and her emblem is the spindle.

Many women had names associated with Neith as she was the patroness of water shrines, rivers, pregnant women, and women in childbirth. It is likely that Neith was a holy woman who lived at one of the early water shrines along the Nile before Egypt emerged as a political entity (c.3000 B.C.). Joseph's wife Aseneth was named after her. She was the daughter of a priest at Heliopolis, a prestigious shrine city on the Nile River.

Earlier in history, a queen named Merneith (Beloved of Neith) gave birth to a son known as Hor-Den. Hor-Den was his Horus name and testifies that he was a devotee of God Father (Ra) and God's son (Horus/HR). This was when the Upper and Lower Nile regions were first united (c. 3000 B.C.), and Den was the first ruler depicted as wearing the double crown as the sovereign over the Upper and Lower Nile regions.

Hebrew wives and daughters who were associated with water shrines include Abraham's wife Keturah at the Well of Sheba (Beersheba), Sarah at Hebron which had four water sources, Asenath at Heliopolis (biblical On), and Moses' wife Zipporah who he met at the well of her priest father in Midian. Likewise, Jacob met Rebekah at the well of her father. Judah had sexual relations with Tamar at Enaim, the cult site of Two Springs (Gen. 38:14).

These women grew up at rivers, wells, and oases over which their fathers ruled. Though these were women of high social standing within their communities, they did not live pampered lives. Rebekah and Zipporah drew water for the livestock, a physically demanding task.

Because water is universally perceived as necessary for life, women seeking to conceive and deliver healthy children visited water shrines where they prayed and made offerings. Water shrines could be at rivers, lakes, wells, or oases. They might even be a ritual bathhouse such as the mikveh. The mikveh is associated with natural water systems. By law, it must be composed of stationary waters and must contain a percentage of water from a natural source such as a lake, river, sea, or rain.