Archive for the ‘Mary McGrory’ Tag

Feast of Eugene Carson Blake (November 5)   Leave a comment

Above:  My Copies of the Presbyterian Books of Confessions, from 1967, 1985, and 2007

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

The Book of Confessions (1967), of The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

The Book of Confessions (1985, 2007), of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

EUGENE CARSON BLAKE (NOVEMBER 7, 1906-JULY 31, 1985)

U.S. Presbyterian Minister, Ecumenist, and Moral Critic

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Boasting about our heritage of freedom, we allied ourselves with some of the worst dictators all over the world, as long as they were, in our judgment, anti-communist.  We have justified all sorts of immoral political acts either because we thought they would weaken communism or (even a more immoral excuse) that since the communists were doing them, so must we….These, and other such actions, have been occasioned far more by fear of communism than by concern for justice.

–Eugene Carson Blake, quoted in G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006), 554

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Eugene Carson Blake comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Cady and Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

Blake came from Midwestern Presbyterian stock.  He, born in St. Louis, Missouri, on November 7, 1906, was a son of Lulu Blake and Orville Prescott Blake.  Our saint graduated from Princeton University with a degree in philosophy in 1928.  Then he taught the Bible, English, and philosophy at Forman Christian College, Lahore (then in India; now in Pakistan), for a year (1928-1929).  Next, Blake studied theology at New College, Edinburgh (1929-1930).  He matriculated at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1930 and graduated two years later.

Our saint, ordained in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (PCUSA) in 1932, embarked upon his ministerial career.  He was, in order:

  1. the assistant pastor (1932) then the senior pastor (1932-1935) of the Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas (Reformed Church in America), New York, New York;
  2. the senior pastor of the First Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), Albany, New York (1935-1940); and
  3. the senior pastor of the Pasadena Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), Pasadena, California (1940-1951).

Blake left parish ministry in 1951.  He served as the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (1951-1958).  As such, he helped to execute the merger of the PCUSA with The United Presbyterian Church of North America (UPCNA) to form The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (UPCUSA) in 1958.  Then he served as the President of the Stated Clerk of the UPCUSA (1958-1966).

Above:  The Logo of the UPCUSA

Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

On the ecumenical front, Blake also served as the President of the National Council of Churches (1954-1957) then as the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (1966-1972).

Blake’s ecumenism led to the founding of the Consultation on Church Union (1962-2002), the predecessor of Churches Uniting in Christ (2002-).  In 1960, at Grace Episcopal Cathedral, San Francisco, California, he preached a famous sermon.  Our saint advocated for the merger of The UPCUSA (1958-1983), The Methodist Church (1939-1968), The Episcopal Church (1789-), and the United Church of Christ (1957-) into one denomination truly both Catholic and Reformed.

The Consultation on Church Union included ten denominations in 1967:

  1. the African Methodist Episcopal Church,
  2. the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church,
  3. the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ),
  4. the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church,
  5. The Episcopal Church,
  6. the Evangelical United Brethren Church (merged into The United Methodist Church, 1968),
  7. The Methodist Church (merged into The United Methodist Church, 1968),
  8. the Presbyterian Church in the United States (merged into the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1983),
  9. the United Church of Christ, and
  10. The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (merged into the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1983).

The successor organization, Churches Uniting in Christ, consciously confronts racism.  The members are:

  1. the African Methodist Episcopal Church,
  2. the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church,
  3. the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ),
  4. the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church,
  5. The Episcopal Church,
  6. the International Council of Community Churches,
  7. the Moravian Church in America,
  8. the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.),
  9. the United Church of Christ, and
  10. The United Methodist Church.

That anti-racism is consistent with our saint’s legacy.

Blake was active in the Civil Rights Movement.  On July 4, 1963, he went to jail for trying to integrate the Gwynn Oak Amusement Park, Baltimore, Maryland.  The following month, he was prominent at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which he had helped to organize.  Our saint was one of speakers at that great event.  And, at the World Council of Churches (1966-1972), Blake led a global anti-racism program.

Blake’s opposition to the Vietnam War earned the ire of two Presidents of the United States of America.  He became persona non grata with Lyndon Baines Johnson (in office 1963-1969).  Richard Nixon (in office 1969-1974) had a list of 576 enemies, subject to official harassment, such as tax audits and F.B.I. investigations.  “Enemies” included actor Paul Newman (1925-2008), journalists Daniel Schorr (1916-2010) and Mary McGrory (1918-2019), and U.S. Representatives John Conyers (1929-2019) and Ron Dellums (1935-2018).  That list also included Blake.  Newman described being on Nixon’s enemies list as a great honor.  Schorr, whom the F.B.I. investigated, spoke to Nixon at a social occasion years after Nixon left office.  The journalist referred to that investigation.  The former President, apparently not apologetic and repentant, replied:

I damn near hired you once.

Blake was in very good company on Nixon’s list of enemies.

Blake also helped to make the United Presbyterian Book of Confessions and Confession of 1967 possible.  The first edition of The Book of Confessions debuted in 1967.  The emphasis on reconciliation in Christ in the Confession of 1967 was consistent with our saint’s work.

In Jesus Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.  He is the eternal Son of the Father, who became man and lived among us to fulfill the work of reconciliation.  He is present in the church by the power of the Holy Spirit to continue and complete his mission.  This work of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is the foundation of all confessional statements about God, man, and the world.  Therefore the church calls men to be reconciled to God and to one another.

–From the Confession of 1967, quoted in The Book of Confessions (1967), 9.07

In retirement, Blake worked for Bread for the World.  Feeding starving people was consistent with decreasing poverty, another social justice issue and long-time cause of our saint.  He had worked on economic and social development at the World Council of Churches, too.

Blake, aged 78 yeas, died in Stamford, Connecticut, on July 31, 1985.  By then The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and the Presbyterian Church in the United States had merged to form the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), in 1983.

Blake got more right than wrong–a daunting task and a great accomplishment.

I am an ecumenist.  Denominational structures exist because of human nature.  We in the Universal Church should, of course, strive to reduce the number of denominations via well-reasoned and feasible mergers.  And, when organic union is not feasible, perhaps cooperation is.  So be it.

I am also an Episcopalian.  I have definite Roman Catholic tendencies.  What passes for corporate worship in most of Protestantism leaves me uninspired.  I want to ask:

Do you call this a proper liturgy?

My denominational Plan B is the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), in full communion with The Episcopal Church.  This is a good fit, given the historical relations between Anglicanism and Lutheranism.

Blake’s proposed United Presbyterian Church-United Church of Christ-Methodist Church-Episcopal Church union was not feasible.  For example, in 1993, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) published its most recent Book of Common Worship.  It was a vast improvement over The Worshipbook–Services (1970), incorporated into The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972).  Many Presbyterians objected to the new Book of Common Worship.  It was too Episcopalian, they said.

A denomination has a character.  Some denominations are better fits with other denominations than with others.

Blake issued his proposal at a different time.  Most Christian denominations in the United States of America were growing in membership, for example.  Also, The Episcopal Church had yet to bear the full fruits of liturgical renewal in 1960.  Nevertheless, his vision for a more united institutional church has become more relevant when, in the United States of America and the rest of the Western world, “none” has become the fastest-growing religious affiliation.

Sadly, Blake’s foci on reducing poverty and racism are more germane than ever.  Related to them is another one of his favorite themes.  We need reconciliation with each other and God more than ever.  Reconciliation is difficult to achieve when mutually hostile camps cannot even agree on what constitutes objective reality.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Loving and righteous God, who transcends all religious denominations,

we thank you for the faithful ministry, social witness, and legacy of your servant, Eugene Carson Blake.

May we also seek to bring the world closer to the high calling of the fully-realized Kingdom of God,

and embrace our brother and sister Christians in other denominations;

for your glory and for the common good.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Leviticus 19:9-18

Psalm 133

1 Corinthians 1:10-17

John 17:20-26

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

GENOCIDE REMEMBRANCE

THE FEAST OF SAINT EGBERT OF LINDISFARNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK; AND SAINT ADALBERT OF EGMONT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT FIDELIS OF SIGMARINGEN, CAPUCHIN FRIAR AND MARTYR, 1622

THE FEAST OF JOHANN WALTER, “FIRST CANTOR OF THE LUTHERAN CHURCH”

THE FEAST OF SAINT MELLITUS, BISHOP OF LONDON, AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Berlin, Georgia   Leave a comment

 

Above:  Berlin United Methodist Church

Late 1980s on the left

February 1987 on the right

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Recently I have been thinking about some places in which I grew up and in which I am glad to have ceased to live.  One such place is Vidette, Georgia, where my family and I lived from June 1980 to June 1982.  Berlin, Georgia, where my parents and I lived from June 1986 to June 1989, is another.

Colquitt County 1951

Above:  Colquitt County in Context, 1951

Scanned from Hammond’s Complete World Atlas (1951)

Berlin (with the stress on the first syllable) is a small town in southern Colquitt County, near the boundary with Brooks County.  I recall it as being a reactionary town of about 400 people.

In the late 1980s Berlin was an openly racist town stuck in a time warp in terms of mindsets.  My father’s letter to the Moultrie Observer, the local newspaper, in support of the then-new Martin Luther King, Jr., federal holiday contributed to our move in 1989.  Old white men and young white people used racial slurs openly, even in the presence of African Americans.  Berlin Baptist Church, with its openly racist, Communist-baiting pastor, was the major cultural institution in town.  (The minister was convinced that liberal columnist Mary McGrory  (1918-2004), who had been close politically to President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and earned a spot on President Richard Nixon’s infamous enemies list, was a Communist, card-carrying or otherwise.)  And, when cable television came to town, opposition to it was vigorous, to the point of one man pointing a loaded gun at the workers laying cable when they came to his property.  The stated reason for opposition was some of the programming on the premium channels, but opposition weakened considerably when news that a country music channel was part of the basic package spread.

Above:  The Parsonage, next to Berlin United Methodist Church, 1986-1987

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

My father was the pastor of the Berlin-Wesley Chapel Charge.

Berlin Church Cornerstone

Above:  The Cornerstone of Berlin United Methodist Church

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Berlin United Methodist Church, rebuilt in 1953, was next door to the rundown parsonage, renovated after we moved out.  The Berlin congregation was nearly functionally dead.  It had an adult Sunday School class, but little else.  The congregation had once been so active that it had sponsored a Boy Scouts troop, but those days were long past by 1986.  One Sunday School room was vacant, as if waiting for a class that never gathered there.  The other had become a storage room for boxes my family and I had no room for in the parsonage.

Wesley Chapel Church August 21, 1988

Above:  Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church, Berlin, Georgia, April 21, 1988

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

I belonged to Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church, located a few miles outside of town.  My Sunday School class was there.

The two congregations functioned as one in most ways.  On the first and third Sundays one church hosted the morning and evening services; the other one did the same on the second and fourth Sundays.  The congregations also alternated hosting duties on fifth Sundays.  I have never seen that nice arrangement anywhere else.

Berlin United Methodist Church is no more; only Wesley Chapel remains.  The building of the former Berlin Church now hosts a Hispanic ministry within the denomination.

I was 13-16 years old at the time, so 1986-1989 were years replete with adolescent awkwardness.  Nevertheless, the schools in Moultrie were very good, and leaving for the inferior high school in Berrien County was a difficult transition for me.

I wonder if the town has become sufficiently progressive to move into the twentieth century in terms of its collective mindset.  I doubt it.

These memories remind me to thank God that I live in Athens-Clarke County.  I am a person born to live in a college or university town, where I am less likely to feel like an outcast and  am more likely to find people with whom to conduct an intelligent conversation.  In a college or university town I have more opportunities to grow intellectually and spiritually, given my temperament.

I know some of what I have, and thank God for it in the present tense, not in hindsight, with regret for having lost it.  I also thank God, with the benefit of hindsight, for a positive development at Berlin-Wesley Chapel.

There I began to choose how to participate in church activities; I began to say “no.”  For years parishioners at various congregations had been drafting me into church pageants and other activities.  At Wesley Chapel I had no choice but to accept a role in a terrible Christmas play.  The parishioner who had written the play seemed to like exposition and clunky dialogue.  Maybe she imagined herself to be a good playwright.  By the time of the creation of the youth choir, with its woeful musical selections, I had decided to refuse.  This created a diplomatic incident for my father, but, to his credit, he did not force me to participate in it.

Now I carry a strong aversion to people volunteering me for tasks.  Asking me if I will participate is not too difficult, is it?

I am active in my parish, St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia.  All the roles I fill are ones I want to perform, and enjoy doing.  One function (teacher of the lectionary class) is something I sought.  The others are roles I accepted when someone asked me.  Almost all of my functions (lectionary class teacher, lector scheduler, parish librarian, movie series coordinator) at St. Gregory the Great are those I could not taken on in the Berlin area, if I were to live there today, given the different ecclesiastical cultures.  Certainly I would not feel free, as I do in Athens, to speak my mind freely in Sunday School, lest I face an accusation of heresy, as I would in the Berlin area.

In 2018 I am where I belong.  Thank God for that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 28, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF AMBROSE OF MILAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT MONICA OF HIPPO, MOTHER IF SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO; AND SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF HIPPO REGIUS

THE FEAST OF DENIS WORTMAN, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LAURA S. COPERHAVER, U.S. LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER AND MISSIONARY LEADER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MOSES THE BLACK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND MARTYR

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++