Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Let's Keep This Church a Lord-Free Zone!

From The Arizona Star
God has no gender. And the Lord? There's not much Lord in this church service.

At Tucson's largest Episcopal church, St. Philip's in the Hills, the creators of an alternative worship service called Come & See are bucking tradition by rewriting what have become prescribed ways of worship.

For the faithful, that means God isn't referred to as "him," and references to "the Lord" are rare.

"Lord" has become a loaded word conveying hierarchical power over things, "which in what we have recorded in our sacred texts, is not who Jesus understood himself to be," St. Philip's associate rector Susan Anderson-Smith said.

"The way our service reads, the theology is that God is love, period," St. Philip's deacon Thomas Lindell added. "Our service has done everything it can to get rid of power imagery. We do not pray as though we expect the big guy in the sky to come and fix everything."

When they say that God is love, period, what I think they really mean is that love is God. That sounds, well, nice, but as a clergy friend once said, “I suspect that hell is chock full of very nice people.” Besides, If God is just love, what happens to justice, or purity, or wisdom, or sovereignty, or holiness?

[…] "Jesus was for an egalitarian community. He did not have room for titles or status. And it is recorded that many of the disciples called him Lord. But they had a different idea about worshipping him," she said. "Jesus was a rabbi and teacher. It was a relationship of mentoring, looking up to him for that kind of companionship."

Grace St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Midtown has kept references to "Lord" minimal for years. Rector Gordon McBride said he personally — in writing, preaching and spontaneous prayer — has not used the word in more than a decade. He associates the word with a God that is powerful, separate, and perhaps brooding over creation.

[…] The most recent version of the Book of Common Prayer, published in 1979, is what's used in American Episcopal churches. But the book was published just prior to a consciousness of patriarchy in linguistics, said McBride, a history professor before he became a cleric.

"There are lots of problems in that prayer book that are just so patriarchal it's laughable — language loaded with 'Lord' and power references that owe their existence to the Coverdale 16th century translation, the time of the Tudors, Henry VIII," McBride said.

These people think the '79 BCP is too conservative????

And there's no question "Lord" has patriarchal connotations, he noted.

"I'm sorry, but if there is a Lord, by implication there is a Lady," he said.
Of course there is! And the Blessed Mother will be glad to carry your prayers to the throne of her Son. But I guess that's not what they meant.

[…] A lifelong Episcopalian, retired middle school teacher Jane Chilcott calls the reduction of "Lord" usage she's heard at the Come & See service "refreshing." She also likes the references to a genderless God, because that's how she's always viewed the divine.

"I'm a great advocate of change, but not just for change's sake," said Chilcott, 78. "A lot of people are turned off by traditional liturgy because it sounds like they have to literally believe these credal statements. I don't think that's necessarily true. Faith is very personal."

God forbid that anyone take that "I believe" nonsense seriously! And, if I may be so impolite as to ask, what exactly is the difference between a "personal faith" and a personal opinion?

[…] Rewriting liturgy is not only about gender and power balance, noted Lindell, the St. Philip's deacon.

"We don't stress the blood and gore of the crucifixion and the so-called sacrifice of the Mass," he said. "I think that calls attention to Jesus' death but it doesn't call attention to why we are Christians. It seems to me, being a Christian isn't just about the birth and death of Jesus. It's about living in the world with his life as an example."

Where do they think that love they talk about comes from? It is expressed precisely in that “blood and gore of the crucifixion.” Remove that blood from Christianity, and what you have left is Confucianism with fancy costumes.

[…] "If God is understood and viewed as within creation, acting inside of it, loving, compassionate, hopeful, creative — all of those produce a very different way of imagining the Christian life and living it out," he said. "If you are always calling God 'Lord,' you are sticking him into that outside place. It seems to me, in order to avoid doing that, one of the first things you do is call God something different."

I ought to be outraged, but I’ve pretty much run out of rage to out. This is just sad; I feel sorry for these people, who seem to find their god in a mirror instead of in the uncreated light. There are so many things to fisk in here that it’s like shooting deer at a salt lick.

The problem with the reconceptualized god that these folks embrace is that he/she/it isn’t really a big enough god to be of much value to anyone. Maybe nice people only require a nice little god that doesn’t demand much of them except niceness. I need the sort of God that sends fire down from the sky and whacks people with cosmic 2 x 4’s to get their attention. Only a God that is big and strong enough to do that is big and strong enough to fix a guy like me. Keep the quiche and sprouts, thank you; I’ll stick with the Body and the Blood.