Why Do I Wear a Cross?

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I bought the cross I wear on a retreat to Holy Cross Monastery in April, 2014. It was a spontaneous decision made while browsing through their bookstore. A heavy rainfall eroded the glue holding the beams together about two months later, so I patched it up using superglue and a bit of red thread a housemate of mine had to hand. I’ve worn it almost every day since. Continue reading “Why Do I Wear a Cross?”

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Abiding in Love and the Price of Glory: Building Community in Light of Charlottesville

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Shancia and me, being entirely reverent during the liturgy.

Last week, my beloved friend (and fellow former Hildan) Shancia Jarrett and I had the opportunity to preach a sermon together as part of the orientation for this year’s incoming YDS class. I cannot say how joyful an experience it was to compose and preach a sermon with another voice—to know that I was preaching words which weren’t just my own, and to experience preaching with company. Here’s the text. Continue reading “Abiding in Love and the Price of Glory: Building Community in Light of Charlottesville”

If We Want the Episcopal Church to Engage in Effective Political Advocacy, then We Must Evangelize

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Awakening the Spirit in Missouri (Source: ENS)

A substantial number of Episcopal Bishops recently wrapped up a conference in Chicago. Titled “Unholy Trinity: the Intersection of Racism, Poverty, and Gun Violence,” it was organized by Bishops United Against Gun Violence and it dealt with how to broach these three social sins in scriptural and theological frameworks. It was probably a very powerful event, especially given the panel it put together. I can also easily imagine that the work done will inspire new forms of advocacy and activism within various Episcopal Dioceses.

Continue reading “If We Want the Episcopal Church to Engage in Effective Political Advocacy, then We Must Evangelize”

The Problem of Memory: Forgetting the Teachings of the Church

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Augustine: not an American, or a Western European. (Source: Wikipedia)

I wrote this in Denver last year, but for some reason didn’t post it. It seemed like it might be important then, so figured it might still be worth posting now.

I’m writing this introduction on Tuesday, June 7th. This morning I had a conversation with a woman at the Network Coffee House on 14th and Pearl—a place of community for the homeless and impoverished, and one of the most beautiful locations in Denver. When the woman told me that her name was Grace, I remarked that this was one of the most powerful words in the English language. She agreed, adding ‘I’ve only recently started to learn what it really means. We learn a lot of words in America, but we aren’t always rightly taught what them.’ We spoke for a while longer, musing on how wonderful it is that when learning the meaning of our own names, we can also learn both who we are and who God is.

Continue reading “The Problem of Memory: Forgetting the Teachings of the Church”

Some Thoughts on the Prosperity Gospel

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I can very clearly remember the day, several years ago, that one of my students came into graduate support at SMPA clutching a Joel Osteen book. My immediate reaction was general shock, and expressed as such—not least because they were one of the most thoughtful and spiritually motivated students I’ve had the privilege of working with (to say nothing of their keen intellect). My second reaction was one of puzzlement, caused by reflecting on this second truth. So I asked them why they were reading Osteen. The answer was that reading him gave the student a sense that they were and could be worth something; to God, to themselves, to their family. The book laid out clearly many of the psychological blocks to realizing this worth (both social and personal), advocated clearing them away by considering the great power of God, and promised that once these blocks were removed that power would work through them to bring this worth to light in prosperity. Continue reading “Some Thoughts on the Prosperity Gospel”

A Lesson from The Socialist Controversy at Berkeley Divinity School

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The memorial bulletin for W.P.Ladd, around whom the controversy centered. (RG216, Box 2, Folder 50)

On December 2nd, 1919, an unassuming Brit by the name of Wilfred Humphries gave a talk at Berkeley Divinity School (then located in Middletown, CT, now a part of Yale Divinity School). The stated purpose of his talk was to give a first hand account of the contemporary situation in Russia, and he dedicated it to describing what he took to be some of the more positive aspects of the new Bolshevik regime. During the talk he shared a slide of the Russian flag and described how it was perceived by the Russians he had met. He also said a few complimentary words about Lenin and Trotsky.

This talk had been given at several New England colleges without provoking much of a reaction. After the talk in Middletown, CT, however, several members of the public claimed that the talk was unpatriotic communist propaganda. Newspaper editorials were written denouncing Dean W.P. Ladd and his faculty as corrupting both the Gospel and their students with socialism. A three person committee investigating the matter was formed at Ladd’s request. The provincial storm made national headlines, but Ladd was not forced to resign. It was decided that Berkeley had not propagated socialism, that Ladd himself had not sought to do so, and that the faculty were not responsible for the content of or reaction to the lecture—though the offending lecture was declared ill-advised and it was decided that it would have been Ladd’s responsibility to prevent it if he had known its content beforehand. A motion was put forward by several trustees (notably Judge Greene, who was on the above committee) requesting Ladd’s resignation in June 1920. This, however, appears to have been motivated by his combative response to the trustee’s recommendations following the committee’s report and questions over whether or not he respected the rules of Berkeley’s charter, rather than culpability for the initial affair.1 A compromise was reached where Ladd worked with an advisory committee of sorts. All in all, he weathered the assault, oversaw Berkeley’s move to Yale, and served as Dean until his death in the early 1940s, inspiring an uncommon loyalty in the student body. Continue reading “A Lesson from The Socialist Controversy at Berkeley Divinity School”

What Makes a True Christian?

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Jesus healing the Paralytic, from Dura-Europos in Syria

One of the most wonderful things about being a student again is the opportunity to read through the jewels which litter the Anglican tradition. There is the systematic genius of Richard Hooker, the principled and poetic reverence of Thomas Cranmer, the preaching of Lancelot Andrews. There’s the practical advice of Jeremy Taylor and the stern exhortation of William Law. And we’ve just arrived at the evangelical fervour of first the Wesley brothers, then Hannah More and John Newton.

I’d like to briefly reflect on one theme which has recurred in several of these authors—the question of what signifies a true Christian. And I’d like to do so because I believe attempts to answer this question have been premised on a mistake. Continue reading “What Makes a True Christian?”