Thursday, January 31, 2008

Book of the week: Cleopatra VII

Book of the Week is a serialized reading of Joyce Tyldesley's Cleopatra. The book takes issue with almost everything that is attached to her, from her reported beauty and powers of seduction to her motives and abilities. Indeed, Joyce says in order to understand the real Cleopatra, we must disregard everything we know about her, beginning with that alleged promiscuity.

"Who she wasn’t was this glamorous seductress that film-makers seem to like so much. There’s no evidence that she had more than two sexual partners - Julius Caesar, who she was faithful to until he died, and Mark Antony - but I think we like to see her that way – there’s something appealing about it, but it’s most unfair."

"She was a very clever woman. She ruled for over 20 years and managed to delay the Romans taking over Egypt, which was something that was threatening throughout her reign. Plus, she took over a country from her father that was fairly poor and strengthened the economy so that when she died, Egypt was in a good position."

She considers whether Cleopatra could be a Black Greek.

Paul: In and Out of the Canon

I've written the first part of a series on noncanonical texts over at Episcopal Cafe. This one's on Paul in and out of the New Testament. While I enjoy the ad hoc nature of blogging (my own and other people's), writing a series is more focused.

Interestingly enough, descriptions of how St Paul looked such as this one can be found in the Acts of Paul and Thecla 1:7:

"At length they saw a man coming (namely Paul), of a low stature, bald (or shaved) on the head, crooked thighs, handsome legs, hollow-eyed; had a crooked nose; full of grace; for sometimes he appeared as a man, sometimes he had the countenance of an angel."

The Pauline scholar William Ramsay in his book Paul the Traveller and Roman Citizen points out that to the ancient reader this description is not unflattering: small stature suggested a quick intelligence, bowed legs and meeting eyebrows were admired characteristics, and a hook nose was a sign of magnanimity. The bald head may indeed, he thinks, be a genuine recollection of Paul's physical appearance.

Further information about the Acts of Paul and Thecla may be found on Paul Halsall's pages from the 1820 edition of the text by William Hone:-

Tertullian says that this piece was forged by a Presbyter of Asia, who being convicted, "confessed that he did it out of respect of Paul," and Pope Gelasius, in his Decree against apocryphal books, inserted it among them. Notwithstanding this, a large part of the history was credited, and looked upon as genuine among the primitive Christians. Cyprian, Eusebius, Epiphanius, Austin [Augustine], Gregory Nazianzen, Chrysostom, and Severus Sulpitius, who all lived within the fourth century, mention Thecla, or refer to her history. Basil of Seleucia wrote her acts, sufferings, and victories, in verse; and Euagrius Scholasticus, an ecclesiastical historian, about 590, relates that "after the Emperor Zeno had abdicated his empire, and Basilik had taken possession of it, he had a vision of the holy and excellent martyr Thecla, who promised him the restoration of his empire; for which, when it was brought about, he erected and dedicated a most noble and sumptuous temple to this famous martyr Thecla, at Seleucia, a city of Isauria, and bestowed upon it very noble endowments, which (says the author) are preserved even to this day." (Hist. Eccl., IIb. 3, cap. 8)

Cardinal Baronius, Locrinus, Archbishop Wake, and others, and also the learned Grabe, who edited the Septuagint, and revived the Acts of Paul and Thecla, consider them as having been written in the Apostolic age; as containing nothing superstitious, or disagreeing from the opinions and belief of those times; and, in short, as genuine and authentic history. Again, it is said, that this is not the original book of the early Christians; but however that may be, it is published from the Greek MS. in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, which Dr. Mills copied and transmitted to Dr. Grabe.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Magaret Miles, "God's Love, Mother's Milk"

In this week's Christian century, Margaret Miles writes on the significance of paintings of the nursing Virgin in 14thC Tuscany:

For medieval and early modern people the breast was anything but an abstract symbol. In societies that lacked refrigeration and in which animal milk was thought to foster stupidity in the infant who imbibed it, almost all people experienced their first nourishment and pleasure at a woman's breast. In texts and images, religious meaning bonded with physical experience to form a singularly powerful symbol. Although theologians may have claimed that crucifixion scenes exhibited the extremity of God's love for humans, it was scenes of the child suckling at the breast that spoke to people on the basis of their earliest experience.

Several prominent theologians also described God's love for humanity as that of a mother who offers care and provision to her dependent child, both in her womb and in its early experience in the world. Theologians such as Clement of Alexandria, Augustine, Anselm and Bernard of Clairvaux pictured the Christian's nourishment as coming from God's breasts. But it was Julian of Norwich (d. about 1416) who most explicitly analyzed God's care as closely resembling that of a mother: "The mother's service is nearest, readiest, and surest: nearest because it is most natural; readiest because it is most loving; surest because it is truest" (Showings, Long text 59).


But by 1750 the public meaning of breasts was "largely medical or erotic." After 1750 she has not been able to find a single religious image of the breast. The crucifixion scene represents God's love for humanity. She muses on loss of the earlier image:

The value of the nursing breast as a symbol of God's provision might need to be reconsidered in our own time, a time in which the technological capacity for, and interest in, objectifying women's bodies contributes to eating disorders among young women as well as to rape. Understanding the complex social, religious and technological factors that resulted in the eclipse of the nursing Virgin could prepare the way for a critical recovery of this symbol. In societies in which violence is rampant on the street and in the media, the nursing Virgin can perhaps communicate God's love to people in a way that a violent image, the image of one more sacrificial victim, cannot.

Her book, A Complex Delight: The Secularization of the Breast, 1350-1750, is just out from the University of California Press.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Sacrament of Baptism presented by Father Matthew

Father Matthew starts a series of videos on the sacraments. If you haven't seen any of his videos, check this one out!
I spent part of the morning touring our new Desmond Tutu Conference Center with a graduate who has moved back to the area as a parish priest. The Photo Gallery gives you some idea of the conference rooms and accomodation. There are 60 en suite bedrooms with Internet access, and seven conference rooms with all amenities. Its fabulous!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

In the BBC World Service "Heart and Soul" available today for a week Michael Buerk examines Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s claim that the worldwide Anglican Church is obsessed with human sexuality, rather than with issues of war and injustice and poverty.

Bishop Duncan, Lord Carey, and Archbishop Tutu speak but not actually to each other. Lord Carey respects the right of homosexuals to their relationships but not to have relationships sanctioned or recognised by the Church. Jesus spoke instead of the sacramentality of marriage. Lord Carey knows that the Bible is clearly against practicing homosexuals. One shouldn't mix religion and politics.

Archbishop Tutu, on the other hand, says people who want to separate religion and politics are generally well off. God freed slaves and this is a political act. We need to tackle the real sins of this world: poverty, sin and disease. We need to deal not with personal but structural sins. When are we going to have a fair economic system that reflects the righteousness of God? "God is weeping looking at the atrocities we commit against one another. The Anglican Church is almost obsessed with questions of human sexuality." Archbishop Tutu pleads for the Church to be inclusive but instead, "we have become homophobic and exclusive." He is sad and ashamed. "If God is homophobic, I wouldn't worship that God." Jesus spoke of a shepherd who goes to look for the most troublesome sheep not a lamb.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Birdfeeding and Birdwatching



Julie Zickefoose's piece, "Restaurant for the Birds" on NPR yesterday is so well written and a pleasure to read. Yes, we can disturb patterns by bird feeding in our backyards but there are larger disruptions such as the one that brought Redpolls south to our feeders in mid-coast Maine this winter. Last week a friend in Nashville called to say she had seen two Whooping Cranes in a nearby area. Today I saw a Scott's Oriole in Union Square Park--a first for New York City. Its been around since December 2007. At least we can witness.

I was introduced to birdwatching by my father. He and my mother are avid bird-watchers. They go on birding holidays to places like the Scottish highlands and Islands to see birds like dotterels. They are not actually "twitchers," nor do they employ twitchers' vocabulary. They simply love birdwatching. Its an activity I enjoy sharing with them and we often converse about it.


Birdwatching involves patience and tenacity. Every bird sighting is an epiphany. You can do it anytime, anyplace. It builds community--introducing you to new places and people. I recommend it highly. All you need is a pair of binoculars and a willingness to wait.

Friday, January 25, 2008

"Jerusalem in the Time of Herod"

Jodi Magness

Archaeologist and Distinguished Professor in Early Judaism
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Fellow, Center for Advanced Studies at Princeton University

Monday Feb. 4, 2008
6:00 pm
Held Auditorium
304 Barnard Hall

Barnard College

Open to the public. Part of The Underground Lecture Series:
What Archaeology Tells Us About Ancient Israel
Sponsored by Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and LionPAC

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tariq Ramadan

Tariq Ramadan has been on view at Trinity Institute this week and here's a review of his book "The Messenger" in this week's TLS by Barnaby Rogerson. Here's the opening paragraph:-

Read this book, but be careful to read it with an alert awareness of its subtitle. It is an act of piety, a beautifully articulated sermon that selects incidents from the life of the Prophet that can inspire the conduct of modern Muslims. It blends textual criticism with a lively appreciation of contemporary concepts and other faith traditions, while remaining grounded on an absolute bedrock of belief. The result is that, while some incidents are deconstructed to reveal inspiring early role models for Islamic democracy, spiritual self-sufficiency, ecology and women’s rights, the Angel Gabriel also makes frequent quite matter-of-fact appearances as the ambassador-messenger of God.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Being a Sausage: Who Might Be the Next Miss Marple?

Organ Grinder at the Guardian blogs on Who should be the next Miss Marple now that Geraldine MacEwan has announced her retirement.

If ITV's looking to appeal more to the US, Maggie Smith or Helen Mirren would bring a bit of spice to the role.

But why not go completely left-field and bring in David Suchet? Think of the cross-promotion opportunities.

Top suggestion here at Media Guardian Towers though is someone renowned for her sharp tongue and ability to tease out people's secrets.

Yes...the campaign for Dame Edna Everage for Miss Marple starts here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"Twilight of the Books" by Caleb Crain from the Dec 24&31st New Yorker

How I missed this essay when it first came out I don't know, but Caleb Crain's essay, "Twilight of the Books" from the New Yorker is enlightening and provocative. He notes, "some sociologists speculate that reading books for pleasure will one day be the province of a special “reading class,” much as it was before the arrival of mass literacy, in the second half of the nineteenth century. They warn that it probably won’t regain the prestige of exclusivity; it may just become “an increasingly arcane hobby.” Such a shift would change the texture of society." Think of the implications for biblical literacy.

I was alerted to the article by the letter from Maryanne Wolf in this week's New Yorker whose book "Proust and the Squid: The Story and the Science of the Reading Brain" is the subject of Crain's article. She writes to clarify two important points from the article: "As it develops expertise, the circuity for reading in the brain becomes both "smaller" in its streamlined regions and also "larger," that is more widely activated--in those regions engaged in sophisticated thinking like inference, critical analysis, and insight. This type of activation is the basis for 'deep reading' and the highest form of thought in a society, from novel thinking to the deliberation of virtue.My primary concern for the future of reading is that these critical areas will be short-circuited in the next generation of readers, whose formative years may be immersed too early in digitally driven media."

It turns out that Mr Crain (of course) has a blog with several entries referring to this article and providing further research and documentation. Here is much food for thought.

Discussion of The Fisher King

This week's In Our Time is on notion of The Fisher King (available from Jan 17th for a week). Conversation partners are Carolyne Larrington, Tutor in Medieval English at St John’s College, Oxford; Stephen Knight, Distinguished Research Professor in English Literature at Cardiff University; Juliette Wood, Associate Lecturer in the Department of Welsh, Cardiff University and Director of the Folklore Society. Other resources are here.

The story emerges in 1180 in Chretien de Troyes and continues in the different 12thC account by Robert de Boron. Stephen Knight's Greek, alas, is deficient when discussing the fish in Robert de Boron's account as a Christian symbol. In this story, royalty can be seen as weak and in need of redemption. Wolfram von Eschenbach's German version names the Grail King Amfortas who is wounded because of his pride in chasing after women. Parzifal, the hero, engages in self-discovery as a maimed person and has to learn and then acknowledge his connection to the Grail family by asking, "Uncle, what ails you?"

The story presupposes the ethos of a good Christian warrior who exercises Christian virtues and ideals of the knightly world. In some versions, there is a female goddess figure personified in the earth. Issues in it are not as simple as good versus evil but things like when to speak and when to be quiet. It is not just ancient ritual but also modern psychology. The tale is retold in Thomas Malory's Death of Arthur and in later versions of Arthur. By the Reformation, the story has almost disappeared but of course there is a 19th C version in Wagner's opera Parzifal. The story has resonances in modern novels like David Lodge's Changing Places.

I did once read a paper arguing that the anointing of Jesus for his death by a woman in Mark's gospel is a version of the Fisher King story. This relates to how the woman's action was perceived. The paper was intriguing.

Monday, January 21, 2008

On-line registration for St Bart's Center for Religious Inquiry Spring Courses is now available!

Reduced Nativity Competition

The overall winner of the competition to tell the Nativity Story in under 30 seconds or in less than 90 words was someone the judge Adam Long of the Reduced Shakespeare Company commended for "taking reduction to heart".

The winner was Vandita Chisholm with this reduction:
Baby born in a stable. Lots of visitors...... Who's the daddy? God knows!!

Jane Gerson submits Joseph of Nazareth's diary, 26 Dec 0000:
Held up by Roman checkpoints all the way to Bethlehem, then guess what? Mary goes into labour and starts babbling about being a virgin. No room at the inn after that! End up in a cowshed-cum-hangout for radical shepherds resisting the occupation. Mary they adore, but their spiel about the sprog being a godsend who will 'save us through martyrdom', I don't need. Then three wise guys try to shmooze us with gifts we can't refuse. One day these meshuga extremists will get that kid crucified.

Andrew Tyrell submitted this entry:

Dear landlord,
It is with pleasure that I bring you the glad tidings of a richly deserved award for your recent sales drive. The idea of turning your stable into a temporary maternity unit and using celestial lights and voices to attract shepherds was inspiring.

The success of your international advertising campaign in bringing regal customers from far off lands has made us all sit up and take note.

May I suggest that we make this an annual event?
Yours faithfully,

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Bible as an academic subject: Kent Richards (Atlanta Journal and Constitution)

Kent Richards, Director of the Society of Biblical Literature, opines about teaching the Bible in schools in yesterday's Atlanta Journal and Constitution. He says:

"We need to acknowledge the fear around teaching Bible and religions in the public schools. Fears about a cloaked "religious agenda," the inadvertent imparting of religious values or about the ACLU policing our schools are all out there.

We address these fears by following the law, assigning qualified teachers, teaching with sound resources and by treating the Bible and religion as a subject worthy of study and understanding."

Friday, January 18, 2008

Prof Jorunn Buckley on the Mandaeans

Discovering the Mandaeans
Assistant Professor of Religion at Bowdoin College Jorunn Buckley, a leading scholar on the Mandaeans - an endangered Middle Eastern religious sect - talks about how she became involved in human rights work on their behalf (scroll down the link--this is a good example of faculty podcasting).

Interfaith Voices: An Independent Public Radio Show

Interfaith Voices this week (its been around since 2002) features a program on the Interfaith Relationship and deep bond between the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Jewish spiritual leader Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Rabbi Heschel’s daugher, Susannah will reflect on their legacy. On the link, there is a link to listen to the program.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

BBC Radio 3: Greek & Latin Voices

BBC Radio 3’s new 12 week series The Essay: Greek and Latin Voices offers us an accessible modern guide to some of the foundation texts of Western culture.

The Essay: Greek and Latin Voices will be broadcast Monday to Thursday, 11.00pm-11.15pm, in six fortnightly blocs, one week with a Greek focus and one week with a Latin focus. The series focuses on the works of the major figures of Greek and Latin literature, philosophy, history and politics, including Thucydides, Euripides, Plato, Horace, Augustine, Tacitus, Juvenal, Cicero and Virgil.

Here's the link to the broadcast from January 14 on St Augustine available for a week. It contains an overview of Augustine's life and interviews with authors. The argument is that Augustine critiqued the classical world and his writings are a bridge to the modern period. Broadcasts on Augustine go on all this week. Tuesday January 15th broadcasts from Lambeth Palace with the Archbishop of Canterbury talking on Augustine as a person standing in the middle of a decaying society. Augustine's writings on the interior life, the formation of the self and human awareness, are quoted at length particularly the Confessions.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mary: host of the next-to-Last Supper by Cynthia Kittredge

Today's Daily Episcopalian at Episcopal Cafe serves a double latte with cinnamon: Cynthia Kittredge clarifies the role of Mary of Bethany as host of the next-to-Last Supper in John 12. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

More thoughtful material on the Magi

Jane Stranz posts a piece on the Magi by Dr Manoj Kurian on her blog: Of Life, Laughter, and Liturgy. He speaks of the dark and light side of the narative in Matthew's gospel, particularly the massacre of the Holy Innocents.

"The unfortunate massacre took place because the Magi initially searched for God in the wrong place. When they initially targeted their search to Palestine they decided that the final identification could be made with the assistance of the rich and the powerful.

The Christian community has traditionally considered these children as martyrs and as Saints and commemorate this sad event as Childermas, Children's Mass or Holy Innocents' Day. In the gospel the massacre of the holy innocents comes after the story of the Magi. Yet the western church's marking of that date coming after Christmas on the 28th of December and before celebrating the Epiphany in January 6th seems almost to hide this story away – almost as if it would be rather bad taste to have such a sad unpleasant story spoiling the celebration of Christmas and Epiphany.
So by conveniently separating this sad event and the celebrations of Epiphany, we risk losing the holistic understanding of the consequences of Epiphany. By sanctifying and elevating to sainthood the massacred children we cannot sanitise the fact that the martyred children were victims of raw human greed for power and control and their massacre was the horrific consequence of wise people searching for God and salvation in the wrong place."

There is much to ponder here. Is there a cause and effect between the Magi and the slaughter of the innocents in the narrative of Matthew or is the story of Herod's murderous rage a tragic result of a flawed man in a powerful office? Other narrative consequences ensue: without the massacre of the children, Joseph would not have been instructed by an angel to "take the child and his mother"and flee to Egypt.

The Ordination of Megan Sanders to the priesthood


Yesterday, Megan Sanders was ordained to the priesthood in St Peter's Essex Fells, NJ. Today she will celebrate the Eucharist. It was a wonderful service and a great occasion. Let us thank God for all those newly ordained and those who will be ordained this Spring.

How to achieve happiness

Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk, has been called the “happiest person in the world”. Emily Kasriel in the BBC World Service program "Heart and Soul" finds out from him what happiness is.

First, a sense of direction is very important. A sense of flourishing comes from inside, where the mind translates all the circumstances. This gives inner strength and freedom. Genuine happiness comes from altruistic love, inner peace, and not on external circumstances such as things that give us pleasure like meals with friends. Putting hopes and fears outside of us is ultimately disappointing.

In general make distinctions between mental emotions that are toxic: hatred, anger, jealousy. Cultivate inner love and peace and genuine compassion. This involves training. We need to first evoke compassion by thinking of an image such as a child we love and how much we wish health and happiness for that child. Do not let that thinking and imagining go but cultivate it. This is what we practice.

Of course the mind will wander, but bring it back gently without recrimination. Our aim is to practice compassion and wisdom. Wisdom is so as to free others from suffering.

We learn to deal with negative toxins or emotions. Look at anger and stop fueling it as if it were a fire and it will vanish.

Scientific research in 2000 from the Mind and Life Constituents organization met on the topic of destructive emotions. The Dalai Lama asked to make a contribution to the world so the organization identified the gamma waves of the brain. When the brain is practicing loving kindness, it generates positive emotions in gamma waves that can be measured on a scale.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Adoration of the Kings 1564 Breugel

From the National Gallery, London: The Adoration of the Kings 1564 by BRUEGEL, Pieter.

In this unusual rendering of the Adoration, the Three Kings presenting their gifts are treated as caricatures and the Virgin is not idealised. The work is composed from a high viewpoint, focusing attention on the Infant Christ on his mother's lap, at the exact centre of the picture. People crowd around them and there is little sense of depth or space. The elongated figures of the Kings are characteristic of a painting style that was fashionable around this time.

A figure on the extreme right wears spectacles. His presence may indicate that those around Christ are blind to his significance; Bruegel has used spectacles on other occasions to signify in an ironic manner the inability of the subject to see the truth. Most of the figures, in fact, appear to be gently mocked by the artist.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Post on "Who Were the Magi?" for Daily Episcopalian

This past month, before Christmas and up to an including last week, the Magi have been in the headlines. I had no idea that for some they shore up masculine images in scripture. Wouldn't everybody agree that their focus is on the baby as the object of their journey and not themselves? Aren't they in Matthew to indicate the significance of Jesus for the Gentile world and to provide a contrast to Herod both in demeanor and actions? Anyway, here's my post for the Feast of the Epiphany 2008.



To complement the post on Episcopal Cafe, here are examples of multiple Magi from East and West: the first is an Adoration of the Magi from the Hastings Hours 1470, published/produced in the Netherlands and the second is an Armenian illustrated manuscript of the Nativity originally published/produced in Kharbi, 1317 both from the online collection of images from the British Library.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Tyndale USA

Searching for images of William Tyndale, first translator of the entire New Testament and a good part of the Hebrew Bible, I came across this. It left me speechless...

Friday, January 04, 2008

File under esoterica: why I like Radio 3

Lyndsey Handley of NS explains so well:-

Radio 3 doesn't mean to be scary, I know it doesn't; it just happens to present a challenge to those unused to, or not schooled in, the music that it broadcasts. It exudes the kind of calm authority you don't know that people are capable of having until you enter a very particular, very rarefied world. There is a slightly queasy feeling of having arrived once it becomes your station of choice, which its programmes and presenters do both everything and nothing to dispel.

So - my musical education began with Composer of the Week, Donald Macleod's daily address, which, taken with Charles Hazlewood's Discovering Music (Sundays, 5pm), permits you to catch up with the aforementioned knowledge so you can enjoy the rest of the station's output. There's no denying that these programmes are necessary, if Radio 3 is to provide a public service for the musically curious in a climate of rigid incuriosity.

As long as music education barely exists in schools, poor Donald has to do the job himself. I love the way he savours the minutiae of his subjects' lives: it matches the fervour with which pop fans gobble up details of sock size and favourite foods, but information is used here as context, not trivia. You're invited to think about music as something that has a place and a time beyond the moment you first heard it - the soundtrack of the spheres, rather than the one to your life.


For me, listening to Radio 3 is about commitment in the sense of patient submission to the expertise of others. I must listen to a programme from the beginning, not join it in the middle. And a programme like COTW (Composer of the Week) takes a 7-day commitment because each day's hour-long broadcast builds on the next. Speaking of commitment, I wish they had more podcasts.

Snow, snow and more snow



December saw over 40 inches in our part of mid-coast Maine. January has seen one big snowfall of 11-12 inches. Some towns have reportedly spent all their 2008 budget for sanding and plowing already...

All this reminds me of the English deployment of gritters and snow ploughs (plows): by lottery!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

My First (and Second) Sermon by Sir John Everett Millais

I've been looking at a lot of art for my new book. Here's something for seminarians!

The little girl was Millais’ five year old daughter Effie and this was the first time that he used any of his children as models. She is sitting in one of the old high-backed pews in All Saints Church, Kingston-on-Thames, which Millais hurried to paint in December 1862 shortly before they were removed. He knew Kingston well, as his parents had moved there in 1854.





After the success of "My First Sermon" at the Royal Academy exhibition in 1863, Millais painted a companion showing the same little girl - his daughter Effie - after the novelty has worn off. In his speech at the next Royal Academy Banquet, the Archbishop of Canterbury claimed it as a warning against ‘the evil of lengthy sermons and drowsy discourses’.

David Smith: Star Reference Librarian at the New York Public Library

“I expedite the use of the library,” Mr. Smith said over lunch at the Algonquin Hotel, explaining just what it is he does. “I’ve been called a connector. I’m in a position to save people time. I know where to find things.” Like the other dozen or so librarians at the reference desk of the library’s landmark Fifth Avenue building, Mr. Smith provides information free.

This just makes my heart sing...

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on BBC Radio 4's PM program (+ next day reactions)

For several days, an interview with the Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, is available on the PM program website from BBC Radio 4. Broadcast on January 1 at 5pm UK time, the program is an hour long and the interview occurs about 45 minutes into the program.

Amongst other things, Bishop Schori declared the American church's support of gay people. She noted that the Bishop of New Hampshire is a bishop in good standing. He is not alone in being a gay bishop or a gay partnered bishop in the Anglican communion but he is the only one open in the Church. The Episcopal Church lives in a society that values transparency and brings these issues into the public sphere where we can be honest and do theology about them. Other cultures and societies operate with a more unilateral style of leadership. There's a double standard operative where other communions like the Church of England know same-sex blessings are taking place but same sex unions are not publically acknowledged.

She hopes that the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion remember their roots and that worshiping together holds us together. As far as Lambeth 2008 is concerned, its program offers the chance of and plans for the possibility of letting people build relationships. Its not just about legislation. It would be too bad not to go to a dinner party just because you didn't like one person that was going. Its a long time until July and we hope that Bishop Gene Robinson will be invited.

UPDATE: Reactions to the interview (clearly taped before the New Year) are swift.

The AP reported the interview.

The Bishop of Manchester has urged the Anglican Communion to face up to the controversial issue of homosexuality in the Church at this year’s landmark Lambeth Conference. Bishop McCulloch said in his diocesan magazine, “However deep family arguments and differences are, we ought to be following the New Testament pattern of meeting together to pray, to learn, to eat and to share.

"The first Lambeth Conference was called in the wake of controversy; and it would be exceedingly odd - even irresponsible - for the bishops to avoid, and appear to sweep under the carpet, the very issues that are currently inhibiting our common witness to Christ across the world."

Here's Episcopal Cafe's Lead on the podcasts of the PB and reactions.

Redpoll: New Year's Day Visitors



We'd never seen them before!

Update from a friend: they've been seen as far south as Connecticut. The reason is because of poor seed and berry crops, particularly on birches, some spruces and mountain ash trees. Redpolls and pine siskins, for example, feed heavily on birch seed. Pine grosbeaks feed on the berries of the mountain ash.