Hey, I'm a Freakin' Genius!  

Posted by Joe Rawls

Thanks to Alice Linsley of Just Genesis (well worth checking out on a regular basis) for this reference to The Blog Readability Test (http://www.criticsrant.com/bb/reading_level.aspx) You bring up the webpage, type in the URL of your blog (or any other site you want to check), and the site gets an instant rating ranging from Elementary School to Genius. I have no idea of how the thing works. Frankly, it seems a bit fishy, even if your friendly neighborhood Byzantine Anglo-Catholic did get into the Genius category. Maybe it does some kind of vocabulary analysis. When I'm writing these posts a lot of the arcane theological terms get redlined by Spell-check (including, I notice, the word "redline" itself, which is really not a theological term unless one is a real hardcore Calvinist), so maybe there's a connection of that sort. Quien sabe? I'm a geek, but not a computer geek. I recently installed Haloscan without having to ask anyone for help, which for me is a major accomplishment.

How does this site compare with others? Your intrepid blogkeeper applied the Blog Readability Test to several other sites of interest and came up with the following results:

  • Anglican Church of Nigeria: HIGH SCHOOL. These guys are in the forefront of the move to split the Anglican Communion. Apparently a high school diploma counts for more in the Global South.
  • Episcopal Church (national website) and Stand Firm in Faith: both COLLEGE UNDERGRAD. These entities are diametrically opposed theologically and hate each other's guts to boot. At least they hate each other's guts as intellectual equals.
  • Anglican Communion: GENIUS. Archbishop Rowan Williams probably is a real genius, but that won't prevent the AC from going down the crapper.
  • Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles: GENIUS. These jokers rejected me for ordination. No way in hell!
  • Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America: GENIUS. A lot of their people are Anglican converts, so that makes sense.
  • Convocation of Anglicans in North America: These folks are affiliated with the Nigerian Church and are dead set against the agenda of the Episcopal Church. I tried three times to get a rating and the message each time was "something went wrong..." which sums it up pretty well.
  • Trinity Episcopal Church, Santa Barbara, Ca: HIGH SCHOOL. This is my own parish. We have an openly gay rector and have been blessing gay unions for years, yet we are at the same level as the Nigerian Church. Hmmm...

Latin Strikes Back  

Posted by Joe Rawls

I was born in 1949 and baptized a Roman Catholic, which means that I grew up with the Latin Mass. I became an acolyte exactly 50 years ago this month, and I've been doing it--in both the Roman and Anglican communions--ever since.

The Latin Mass is currently experiencing a resurgence in Catholicism. This is part of a worldwide trend towards the recovery of tradition that can be seen in all Christian communities, even evangelical Protestantism. An informative source of documentation for this is The New Liturgical Movement, a site run by Catholic guys (they all seem to be guys, at least) who post stories about the Pope's vestments, Gregorian chant workshops, and church remodels in which worship spaces that were realigned in a modernistic fashion after Vatican II are now reverting to their original configurations. Of particular interest are stories of Latin Masses celebrated at Catholic universities such as Georgetown and Notre Dame. A very insightful recent post is "Why is chant making a big comeback?", which is available here.

One reason for this is that the Latin Mass provides an alternative for Catholics fed up with liturgical business as usual. In many Catholic parishes the music is still controlled by aging boomers who still sing pseudo-folk ditties that were already showing signs of wear by 1973. They are aided and abetted by jovial Fr Chuck in his rainbow stole and chasuble with pasted-on butterflies. If I were still RC and the choice was between one of these and the Latin variety, I'd start relearning the Confiteor.

Newark's mea culpa  

Posted by Joe Rawls

Thanks to bls of The Topmost Apple for this reference to a website created by the Diocese of Newark. The site deals with the search process for a new bishop that took place a few years ago, resulting in the election and consecration of the Rt Rev Mark Beckwith.

The relevant part of the site is a "confession" listing the various shortcomings of this diocese, at least as its members perceived them. The document is astonishing in its candor and exhibits an honesty almost unique in public church statements, where "spin" is typically the order of the day.

The first item in the list states, "We thought that our spirituality would take care of itself, and so we find ourselves embarrassed and feeling selfish in wanting replenishment for our souls."

Another says, "In the past 33 years...The Diocese...has lost 23,875 communicants (46%) and 23 congregations (16%). During the same period...The Episcopal Church lost only [sic!] 16% of their communicants and increased the number of congregations by 2%. We have not started a new congregation since 1989."

"Membership decline is revealing our growing awareness and discontent with the fact that we often lack spiritual vitality, creativity, vision and direction."

"A vast number of people in the Diocese ignore what happens on a diocesan level (except when they are upset about something) because they have neither time nor energy to focus on anything outside their congregations or daily lives."

For most of this time John Spong was bishop; he was consecrated coadjutor in 1976 and was diocesan from 1979-2000. It would be both unfair and inaccurate to blame Spong for all or even most of this pitiful state of affairs. What is obvious is that Spong's wildly doctrinaire take on liberal Protestantism--in some ways he's to theology as Richard Dawkins is to evolutionary biology--does not result in butts in the pews or bucks in the plate. One of Jack's books is Why Christianity must change or die. Looks like if it changes according to his dictates, it will die anyway.

Amen, Brother, and Pax Vobiscum!  

Posted by Joe Rawls

I recently came across a well-written and richly detailed article by Chris Armstrong in the February 8 2008 edition of Christianity Today. "The Future is in the Past" deals with the recovery by evangelical Christians of aspects of pre-Reformation theology and spiritual practice. I've touched on this subject in previous posts, but this essay provides a very good overview of the entire phenomenon, complete with historical background. A tip of the born-again monastic hood to Haligweorc for turning me on to it.