Archive for the ‘Civil Rights’ Tag

Feast of Samuel Simon Schmucker (February 29)   Leave a comment

Above:  Samuel Simon Schmucker

Image in the Public Domain

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SAMUEL SIMON SCHMUCKER (FEBRUARY 28, 1799-JULY 26, 1873)

U.S. Lutheran Minister, Theologian, and Social Reformer

Samuel Simon Schumucker comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

I recall, while growing up as a good United Methodist boy in rural southern Georgia, hearing people say,

There are Baptists then there are Baptists.

That principle applies to Lutherans, too; degrees of Lutheran confessionalism exist.  If one, for example, labels The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, despite its strong confessionalism and social and theological conservatism, as being too liberal, one has a selection of Lutheran denominations from which to select a church home.

Samuel Simon Schumucker changed throughout his life; he was human, after all.  Lutheranism within the United States of America also changed during his lifetime.  Schmucker effected much of that change, but other change made him, once a prominent leader, an increasingly marginal figure in many quarters.  Yet Schmucker’s legacy has remained relevant within and beyond Lutheranism in North America.

Schmucker came from a devout and large Lutheran family.  He, born in Hagerstown, Maryland, entered the world on February 28, 1779.  Our saint’s mother was Elizabeth Catherine Gross (1771-1820).  His father was the Reverend John George Schmucker (1771-1854), the President of the German Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States (the Ministerium of Pennsylvania, for short) in 1820 and 1821.  Our saint was one of the best-educated young Lutheran ministers in the United States.  He had graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton Theological Seminary.  In 1820, when young Schmucker was preparing to assume pastoral duties in New Market, Virginia, he and his father helped to found the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the United States of America (the General Synod, in short).  The General Synod was the first national confederation of Lutheran synods in the United States.  Schmucker, who grew quickly into a leader of the General Synod, attended every convention through 1870.  At its founding, the General Synod encompassed almost all of the U.S. Lutheran Synods and the vast majority of U.S. Lutherans.  Within a few years, however, doctrinal disputes reduced the membership of the General Synod; the Ministerium of Pennsylvania defected in 1823.  (Then it rejoined in 1853 and departed again in 1867.)  Proposed union with the German Reformed Church caused another controversy in 1830.  Our saint saved the General Synod in 1823 and 1830.  Although some synods left the General Synod, others formed and affiliated with it over the years.

The General Synod was too liberal for many Lutherans in the United States in the 1800s.  This was especially ironic in the 1820s.  Our saint was relatively conservative; he advocated for an increased prominence of the Augsburg Confession (1530) in U.S. Lutheranism.  He also sought to purge all traces of Deism from U.S. Lutheranism.  Schmucker, like many Christians of his time, held an overly strict position on “worldly amusements;” the following entertainments (a few of them actually sinful), among others, were forbidden:

  1. Playing games of chance,
  2. Playing checkers,
  3. Playing chess,
  4. Casting dice,
  5. Playing cards,
  6. Listening to opera,
  7. Attending vocal performances in concert halls,
  8. Using tobacco,
  9. Consuming liquor, and
  10. Wearing fashionable clothing.

If Schmucker was too liberal, what was the standard of conservatism?  Perhaps his position that intellectual rigor was no threat to Christianity marked him as a liberal and an alleged heretic.  As time passed, so did his abolitionism, opposition to the U.S.-Mexican War (1846-1848), and acceptance of Evolution.

Schmucker and his father recognized the need for a Lutheran seminary in the United States.  They helped to found Gettysburg Theological Seminary, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in.  Schmucker, Sr., served as a trustee.  Our saint served on the faculty and as the President for nearly four decades.  The seminary gave rise to another institution, Pennsylvania College (now Gettysburg College) in 1832.

Schmucker wrote a textbook, Elements of Popular Theology, with Special Reference to the Doctrines of the Reformation, as Avowed Before the Diet at Augsburg, in MDXXX (1834).  This volume indicated our saint’s concept of orthodox Christianity.  He defined orthodox Christianity according to a common creedal core, which he defined as

fundamental doctrines of Scripture,

while eschewing overly specific creeds and allowing for disagreement in secondary matters.  Parts of some creeds were optional, Schmucker argued.  Orthodox Christianity, according to our saint, was Protestant yet did not include all Protestants.  Roman Catholics, Unitarians, Campbellites, Baptists, and Deists were not orthodox Christians, according to Schmucker.

Schmucker’s critics, starting in the 1830s, in particular, found more and more theological ammunition to use against him.  The General Synod permitted much theological latitude.  Our saint’s Eucharistic and Baptismal theology was closer to that of Calvinism than to that of Lutheranism.  (He did graduate from a Presbyterian seminary.)  He, influenced by the Second Great Awakening, was also a revivalist, to a point.  Puritanism and Pietism were prominent in his theology.  (Pietism had been part of a segment of Lutheran theology for some time by the 1800s.)  Schmucker’s “American Lutheranism” made him open to ecumenical relations with non-Lutherans he defined as orthodox.

This became evident by 1838, when Schmucker proposed church union–confederation, really–on what he called

the apostolic basis.

This plan offered six points of union:

  1. Variety in liturgy, polity, and discipline;
  2. Toleration of theological diversity within the ecclesiastical confederation;
  3. A common creed;
  4. Full communion and open communion within the ecumenical confederation;
  5. Cooperation in matters pertaining to “the common cause of Christianity;” and
  6. The Bible as the main textbook for religious and theological instruction.

Schmucker manifested other evidence of his liberalism as he aged and the General Synod became increasingly confessional and conservative, yet never sufficiently conservative, according to many U.S. Lutherans.  In 1855 our saint worked on the proposed American Rescension of the Augsburg Confession.  The controversial proposal, which most synods of the General Synod refused to accept, deleted the condemnations of non-Lutheran groups, removed mentions of baptismal regeneration, denied Consubstantiation, and argued that the Augsburg Confession (1530) contained errors.

Schmucker was also a liturgist.  He, as the head of the General Synod’s Committee on Liturgy of 1866, in lieu of the Liturgy of 1856.  The Provisional Liturgy of 1866 influenced the Washington Service (1876), which, in turn, presaged the Common Service (1888).  The Liturgy of 1856 was noteworthy for reintroducing The Apostles’ Creed (complete with “the holy Catholic Church”) to corporate worship.  A greater influence on the Common Service was the Reverend Beale Melanchton Schmucker (1827-1888), the more conservative, formalistic, and confessional son of our saint.  Beale, whose liturgical sensibilities were evident in the Ministerium of Pennsylvania’s Liturgy for Use in the Evangelical Lutheran Church (1860) and the General Council’s Church Book for the Use of Evangelical Lutheran Congregations (1868), was one of the greatest experts on liturgy and liturgical development.  He was, according to accounts, a walking encyclopedia on the subjects.  He was one of the main reasons the General Council had a stronger liturgical  tradition than the General Synod.

Schmucker lived long enough to witness the General Synod divide twice.  The General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Confederate States of America organized in 1863.  This organization became the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America in 1866 then the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the South in 1876.  Ten years later, with the addition of the Tennessee Synod, the Southern General Synod became the United Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the South.  The General Synod (1820) suffered another schism in 1867, when the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America came into existence.  The merger that created The United Lutheran Church in America (ULCA) in 1918 repaired the schisms of 1863 and 1867.  The General Synod (1820) moved to the right as the General Council moved to the left.  The two confederations moved toward each other.

Schmucker married three times and outlived his first two wives.  He married Eleanora Geiger (1799-1823) in 1821.  Wife number two was Mary Catharine Steenbergen (1808-1848).  Our saint’s third wife was Heisther (Esther), who died in 1882.  Schmucker fathered at least four children.

Schmucker, aged 84 years, died in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 26, 1873.

I, as an Episcopalian, am creedal, not confessional.  I also accept science and oppose all forms of slavery.  Anglican collegiality is one of the defining characteristics of my faith.  Therefore, I find much to admire about Schmucker.  I also recognize points of strong disagreement with him.  Yet, whenever I ponder denominational full communion agreements, such as the one the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and The Episcopal Church share, I think Schmucker would approve.

Alex Haley advised,

Find the good and praise it.

I praise the good in the legacy of Samuel Simon Schmucker.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DENIS, BISHOP OF PARIS, AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 250

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND SAINT JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC SCHOLAR, PHILOSOPHER, AND BISHOP OF LINCOLN

THE FEAST OF WILFRED THOMASON GRENFELL, MEDICAL MISSIONARY TO NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Samuel Simon Schmucker,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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Feast of Marian Anderson (February 29)   3 comments

Above:  Marian Anderson Performing at the Lincoln Memorial, 1939

Image in the Public Domain

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MARIAN ANDERSON FISHER (FEBRUARY 27, 1897-APRIL 8, 1993)

African-American Singer and Civil Rights Activist

Marian Anderson comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

Anderson grew up in a devout Christian home.  She, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on February 27, 1897, was one of three daughters of Annie Delilah Rucker (1874-1964) and John Berkeley Anderson (c. 1872-1910).  Annie, who did not have a college degree, had taught in Virginia.  She could not teach in Pennsylvania, however; a state law barred African Americans (yet not whites) without a college degree from teaching.  So Annie took care of children for a living.  John sold coal and ice at the Reading Terminal in Philadelphia.  Eventually, he added another source of revenue–selling liquor.  The Andersons were active in Union Baptist Church, South Philadelphia.  All three daughters sang.  Our saint joined the church’s junior choir when she was six years old.  She joined the People’s Chorus in the city four years later.  Marian performed solos in both choirs.

Church and family helped Anderson achieve her potential.  Her father died when she was 12 years old.  Annie and the three daughters moved in with John’s parents.  In 1912 our saint graduated from Stanton Grammar School, but her family could not afford to send her to high school and to take music lessons.  Anderson’s church eventually paid for her to take music lessons and to attend South Philadelphia High School.  Our saint graduated in 1921.

Racism proved to be a professional obstacle for Anderson in the United States.  She, rejected from the Philadelphia Music Academy because of her skin color, studied music privately.  In 1925 our saint won a contest in New York Philharmonic sponsored.  The prize was a concert, at which she performed with the orchestra.  The date of that concert was August 26, 1925.  Anderson continued to study music privately.  She performed at Carnegie Hall for the first time in 1928.  Our saint’s career outside her native country was more successful than in the United States.  In 1937 she was in Princeton, New Jersey, to perform in Princeton, New Jersey.  When a hotel turned Anderson away because of her race, Professor Albert Einstein invited her to be his guest.  This was not the last time Anderson spent time with the Einstein family.

Perhaps Anderson’s most famous concert was her performance at the Lincoln Memorial, in 1939.  The Daughters of the American Revolution had denied our saint the opportunity to sing at Constitution Hall, Washington, D.C.  First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt arranged for a larger, better venue instead.  Anderson finally sang at Constitution Hall in 1943.

Anderson was a trailblazer.  She performed the role of Ulrica in Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City.  In so doing, our saint became the first African American to perform for that opera company.  The intensely patriotic vocalist, who entertained military personnel during World War II and the Korean War, also performed at President Dwight Eisenhower’s second inauguration (1957) and President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration (1961).  Eisenhower appointed Anderson to the United Nations Human Rights Committee (1958f).  Furthermore, our saint, active in the Civil Rights Movement, received a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963.

Anderson married architect Orpheus H. Fisher (1900-1986) on July 17, 1943.  She thereby became the stepmother of Fisher’s son, James.  Our saint, who lived on a farm near Danbury, Connecticut, from 1940 to 1992, retired on April 10, 1965, the date of her last performance at Carnegie Hall.

Anderson moved to Portland, Oregon, to reside with her nephew, James DePriest, a conductor in 1992.  She died in that city on April 8, 1993.  Our saint was 96 years old.

Anderson had a simple, non-judgmental faith she learned from her mother.  She trusted in God without condemning people whose theology differed from hers.  God, as our saint understood God, was loving and providential.

Marian Anderson’s life spanned decades of much cultural and legal change, especially regarding matters of race.  She helped to create some of that change; our saint did her part to leave the world and the United States of America better than they had been.  Events of the last few years have proven (as if anyone needed evidence) that any talk of the “death of racism” is ridiculous.

The work of fighting racism has fallen to those of us who still have pulses.  May we do our parts, so that those who follow us chronologically will have less work to do in this arena than they would otherwise.

I remember the casual racism around which I grew up.  My parents raised me to reject racism, but many people around me had a different attitude.  Seldom did any of these racists–classmates or some of my father’s parishioners, usually–bother to use code words in lieu of slurs.  I recall know that this language and the bias behind it were wrong.  Yet I also know that some of that racism rubbed off on me, as if by osmosis.  Some thoughts I know to be immoral occur sometimes.  Only God and I know when this happens, for I never express these thoughts.  No, I confess them to God and seek forgiveness.  I entertain the better angels of my nature.

The beginning of resisting racism in society, an institution, a community, et cetera, is choosing not to cave into it as it manifests withing oneself, unless one is a rare person who lacks any trace of racism.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 7, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILHELM WEXELS, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; HIS NIECE, MARIE WEXELSEN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER; LUDWIG LINDEMAN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN ORGANIST AND MUSICOLOGIST; AND MAGNUS LANDSTAD, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, FOLKLORIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF BRADFORD TORREY, U.S. ORNITHOLOGIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHANN GOTTFRIED WEBER, GERMAN MORAVIAN MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND MINISTER

THE FEAST OF JOHN WOOLMAN, QUAKER ABOLITIONIST

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Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servant Marian Anderson,

to work for justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your name, through Jesus Chris, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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Happy to Be an Episcopalian   1 comment

Above:  The Flag of The Episcopal Church

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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I have belonged to three denominations and chosen one.  When my parents were Southern Baptists, so was I.  Likewise, in 1980, when my father left the ordained ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention for that of The United Methodist Church, I became a United Methodist at the age of seven years.  Thus, in June 1980, our family moved from Newington, Georgia, where he had been pastor of North Newington Baptist Church, and settled in the parsonage in Vidette, Georgia.  He served as the minister of the Vidette, Friendship, and Greens Cut congregations in Burke County.  In the ensuing years, I took the grand tour of rural southern Georgia.  My initial spiritual formation occurred within the context of rural Southern United Methodism, a different creature from United Methodism as it exists in much of the rest of the United States and the world.

Yet I have always had an inner Catholic.  The sacraments, central to my faith, were too infrequent in those rural United Methodist churches.  My attraction to the Deuterocanon (what many call the Apocrypha) asserted itself, also.  Furthermore, my interest in history, and therefore, in ecclesiastical history, made me an outlier in the congregations my father served.  Church history, as it existed in those places, started with Jesus, ran consistently through the Apostles, jumped to the Crusades, jumped again to Martin Luther, ran forward, and really started sprinting with John and Charles Wesley.  That version of church history left many gaps.

In the autumn of 1991, I started my studies at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Tifton, Georgia.  I started attending services at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, Tifton, on the Sunday after All Saints’ Day.  On December 22, 1991, Bishop Harry Woolston Shipps confirmed me.  I remained in the Diocese of Georgia through 2005, belonging to the following congregations:

  1. Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia (1993-1996),
  2. St. Thomas Aquinas Episcopal Church, Baxley, Georgia (1996-1998),
  3. Christ Episcopal Church, Cordele, Georgia (1998-2001),
  4. Trinity Episcopal Church, Statesboro, Georgia (2001-2003), and
  5. Christ Episcopal Church, Dublin, Georgia (2003-2005).

I have worshiped as a member of St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, in the Diocese of Atlanta, since August 2005.

I have enjoyed the liberty of being a layman and the pleasure of belong to congregations that respect scholarship and encourage the asking of questions.  My father, as a pastor, censored himself; he made honest theological statements at home he dared not utter from a pulpit.  I did not feel free to ask certain questions in those churches.  In Episcopal churches, however, I have asked questions freely and heard priests utter statements (not all of whom I agreed with) that would have gotten my father into great trouble.  The threshold for offending people was low in his case; my father once offended people by supporting the Martin Luther King, Jr., federal holiday.  That position contributed to us moving.  On another occasion, he upset a parishioner by preaching that Jesus had a sense of humor.  He had allegedly insulted her Jesus.  The District Superintendent did not take the complaint seriously, fortunately.

Many of my statements on my weblogs, such as this one, would have cooked my goose in those churches.

So be it.  I refuse to back down from my Catholic tendencies and my acceptance of Single Predestination.  I refuse to back down from my support of civil rights (and not just based on skin color), of Biblical scholarship, and science.

I am where I belong–in The Episcopal Church.  Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Feast of Eleanor Roosevelt (November 7)   10 comments

Above:  Eleanor Roosevelt, 1945

Image Source = Library of Congress

J38008 U.S. Copyright Office

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-107008

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ANNA ELEANOR ROOSEVELT ROOSEVELT (OCTOBER 11, 1884-NOVEMBER 7, 1962)

First Lady of the United States of America, and Civil Rights Activist

I refer you, O reader, to some biographies of Eleanor Roosevelt as I offer some concise thoughts about her.

National Women’s History Museum

Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum

President Harry Truman was correct when he referred to our saint as “First Lady of the World.”  Eleanor Roosevelt, an Episcopalian, acted on faith for causes including civil rights, human rights, civil liberties, and economic justice.  From Marian Anderson‘s concert in 1939 to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to civil rights work in the 1950s, our saint acted on conscience and took politically controversial positions.  She had exemplary public morality.  She left the United States of America and the world better than she found them.

She was indeed a great person.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 31, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FREDERICK MACKENZIE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CENTRAL AFRICA

THE FEAST OF HENRY TWELLS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARY LUNDIE DUNCAN, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MENNO SIMONS, MENNONITE LEADER

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Almighty God, whose prophets taught us righteousness in the care of your poor:

By the guidance of your Holy Spirit, grant that we may

do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in your sight;

through Jesus Christ, our Judge and Redeemer, who lives and reigns

with you and the same Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 55:11-56:1

Psalm 2:1-2, 10-12

Acts 14:14-17, 21-23

Mark 4:21-29

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 736

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Feast of Rosa Parks (October 24)   2 comments

Above:  Rosa Parks, December 1, 1955

Image in the Public Domain

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ROSA LOUISE MCCAULEY PARKS (FEBRUARY 4, 1913-OCTOBER 24, 2005)

African-American Civil Rights Activist

In this post I refer you, O reader, to a biography of the great Rosa Parks, as well as to Sarah Vowell’s audio essay about the general folly of comparing oneself or another person to Parks.  Now I offer my thoughts about our saint.

Perhaps the first volume to list Parks as a saint was G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006), published about a year after her death.  I had written her name on a list for addition to this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days before I ordered that book, one of the recent additions to my library.

Parks, a lifelong member of the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church and a deaconess within that denomination, spent most of her 92 years working for social justice, one the greatest legacies of the A.M.E. Church, a great contributor to the struggle for civil rights in the United States of America since 1816.  Long after Parks famously broke the law in Montgomery, by refusing to give up her bus seat for a white man, advocating for Black Power and working for the release of prisoners–political ones and those incarcerated for acts of self-defensive violence.  Her faith was of the variety that understood that Christianity is about liberation–of individuals and societies.  Her faith compelled her to work for goals that seemed impossible yet morally imperative.  She was faithful in these efforts.

May we work for justice wherever and whenever we are, whoever we are.  The legacy of Rosa Parks challenges us to imagine what society would be if the Golden Rule were the norm, and violations of it were socially unacceptable.  That legacy also challenges us to work to make society more like the ideal, and not to give up in apathy or despair.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BENSON POLLOCK, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY FOTHERGILL CHORLEY, ENGLISH NOVELIST, PLAYWRIGHT, AND LITERARY AND MUSIC CRITIC

THE FEAST OF JOHN HORDEN, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF MOOSENEE

THE FEAST OF RALPH WARDLAW, SCOTTISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

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Almighty God, whose prophets taught us righteousness in the care of your poor:

By the guidance of your Holy Spirit, grant that we may do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in your sight;

through Jesus Christ our Judge and Redeemer, who lives and reigns

with you and the same Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 55:11-56:1

Psalm 2:1-2, 10-12

Acts 14:14-17, 21-23

Mark 4:21-29

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 736

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Feast of William Scarlett (October 4)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Flag of The Episcopal Church

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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WILLIAM SCARLETT (OCTOBER 3, 1883-MARCH 28, 1973)

Episcopal Bishop of Missouri, and Advocate for Social Justice

Bishop William Scartlett comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Interpreter’s Bible.

Scarlett, born in Columbus, Ohio, on October 3, 1883, grew up to become a courageous, progressive Christian leader on the vanguard of various moral causes.  He was what certain cynical reactionaries of 2018 would have called a “social justice warrior.”  So were Hebrew prophets.  Our saint, influenced at an early age by Washington Gladden (1836-1918) and Walter Rauschenbush (1861-1918), proponents of the Social Gospel, graduated from Harvard University with his A.B. degree in 1905.  Scarlett, unsure about whether to study for ministry or medicine, worked on a ranch in Nebraska for a year.  He matriculated at the Episcopal Theological School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1906, and graduated three years later.  Our saint, spent the rest of his life in ordained ministry marked by a dedication to social justice dictated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Scarlett cared deeply by outreach to the poor, the rights of industrial workers, civil rights, and other issues germane to human relations.  He was, in order:

  1. Assistant Rector, St. George’s Episcopal Church, New York, New York (1909-1911);
  2. Dean, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Phoenix, Arizona (1911-1922);
  3. Dean, Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis, Missouri (1922-1930);
  4. Bishop Coadjutor of Missouri (1930-1933); and
  5. Bishop of Missouri (1933-1952).

Friend Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) described our saint as

the conscience of the community.

Scarlett was on the avant-garde of The Episcopal Church with regard to social ethics.  He advocated for the liberalization of the denomination’s stance on remarriage after divorce.  In 1946 our saint edited Christianity Takes a Stand, in which various authors took a stand against societal sins such as racial segregation and the federal government’s recent internment of West Coast Japanese Americans.  Although the House of Deputies, at the General Convention of 1946, consented without debate to sponsor the publication of the book, the majority of Episcopalians were not ready to espouse those positions yet.

Scarlett, a Low Church Episcopalian and self-described Liberal Evangelical who wore a tie in lieu of a clerical collar, was a natural ecumenist.  He cooperated with members of other Christian denominations as easily as he did with Jews.  At Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis, our saint scandalized many Anglo-Catholics by encouraging interdenominational Eucharists.  He also scrapped plans for a new Episcopal hospital in the city when he learned of a similar Presbyterian plan.  The result was cooperation, not competition, in the form of St. Luke’s Episcopal-Presbyterian Hospital.  He also favored the merger of The Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in the 1940s.  The proposal did not survive the late 1940s.  It would probably have been impractical anyway.

(Aside:  I mean no disrespect to any Presbyterians, but the denominational cultures and certain theological-liturgical factors are too different for merger to be practical.  I suppose that many Presbyterians agree with that assessment.  Cooperation of many issues is feasible and desirable, however.)

Scarlett retired in late 1952.  His successor as Bishop of Missouri was Arthur Carl Lichtenberger (1900-1968), later the Presiding Bishop of the denomination.

In retirement Scarlett wrote the exposition on the Book of Jonah for The Interpreter’s Bible.  He wrote, in part:

If God has a controversy with his people, it is because there has been in our world too little concern for our brother, too little recognition that his fate is bound up in ours, and ours in his, even to the least, too much forgetting that word of old, “We are members of one another” (Eph. 4:25) and if one member suffers, “all the members suffer with it” (I Cor. 12:26).  A plain fact of the nineteen-thirties is that Hitler climbed to power on the backs of the unemployed in Germany, and it was this frustration, this sense of uselessness, in millions of lives that made his way easy.

The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VI (1956), 877

That is a chilling text in 2018.

The resurgence of fascism and of authoritarianism in general has been current reality in the world, from the Philippines to Europe to Brazil to Turkey to Europe for a few years now.  Many of the enablers of fascist and other authoritarian leaders have been professing Christians.  The call to “Make America Great Again” has echoed pre-World War II movements to make Italy and Germany great again.  The rhetoric of “America First,” originated before World War II in an openly anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi movement to keep the United States out of that war, has returned, still with racist overtones.  Calls for U.S. society and government to practice the Golden Rule have become subversive as many professing Christians have chosen to ignore the demands of that great commandment and embraced xenophobia and nativism, largely out of fear.

I encourage you, O reader, to read Scarlett’s exposition on the Book of Jonah and to oppose–resist–the deplorable resurgence of fascism and of authoritarianism in general.

Scarlett, aged 89 years, died in Castine, Maine, on March 28, 1973.  His wife, Leah Oliver Van Riper (b. 1889), had predeceased him in 1965.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 3, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE KENNEDY ALLEN BELL, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CHICHESTER

THE FEAST OF ALBERTO RAMENTO, PRIME BISHOP OF THE PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENT CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT GERARD OF BROGNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JOHN RALEIGH MOTT, U.S. METHODIST LAY EVANGELIST, AND ECUMENICAL PIONEER

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Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Help us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servant William Scarlett, to work for justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your name, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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Legislating Morality   2 comments

Above:  Principles of the Prohibition Party, 1888

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-07977

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You can’t legislate morality.

That argument is objectively false.  First, a review of law-making reveals many examples of explicit appeals to morality in legislative proposals, many of which have become laws.  I argue that if someone has done something, doing it must be possible.  Second, all acts of legislation are examples of legislating morality.  One might legitimately question many of the moral codes informing much legislation, but the existence of those moral codes is objective reality.

In the United States of America perhaps the example most frequently cited to support the objectively false claim that one cannot legislate morality is the prohibition of liquor (1920-1933).  (Interestingly, the Eighteenth Amendment (1920) to the Constitution barred the manufacture, sale, and transportation of liquor, but not the consumption of it.  One could theoretically drink it legally so long as one did not purchase, manufacture, or transport it.  There were also exceptions in the law for sacramental wine, a large loophole.)  The failed experiment of Prohibition, rooted in morality, nativism, and xenophobia, actually serves best as an example of the law of unexpected consequences more than anything else.  I posit that, in the 1920s and 1930s, the most enthusiastic supporters of Prohibition were the bosses of organized crime, men profiting beyond the most extravagant dreams of avarice from opportunities the law created.

The real questions, then, are when legislating morality is more effective, when it is less effective, and when it is ineffective.  One might point (correctly) to the formal end of race-based chattel slavery via the Thirteenth Amendment (1865) to the Constitution of the United States of America as both necessary and morally correct.  Likewise, one might also point to all expansions of civil rights, from women’s suffrage to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the Voting Rights Act (1965) to fair housing laws and beyond.  Whenever discrimination is part of the law, part of the remedy must also be part of the law.  But to what extent?  The answer to that question can be difficult to discern.  Furthermore, although laws by themselves cannot change attitudes, they can change actions.  The change in actions can alter attitudes eventually.

Ultimately we in our societies–especially in the global West–need what the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking on April 4, 1967, called

a radical revolution of values.

We need to value people more than property, wealth, and, for lack of a better word, things.  We need to move beyond lip service to that proposition and change attitudes for the better, and therefore improve society.  If we do that, the need to legislate morality will decrease.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 29, 2018 COMMON ERA

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