What Ignatius can teach the Anglican Communion

Today is the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola. The outmoded Philippine Episcopal calendar, which was not updated to reflect the 1997 American Prayer Book’s calendar change to add his feast, forgets to mention him, instead keeping the feast of Joseph of Arimathea, which—I must note—has been removed from the calendar in some other Anglican churches. (Talk about local observances.) I think it drives the Episcopal Church in this country irrelevant when it ignores Ignatius of Loyola, but it is known to me that one liturgist in the ECP distrusts the Jesuits very much, and the historic animosities can be rekindled, along with bouts of “No to popery” from among the more protestant members of that Church. (In case you don’t know about these, please look up Edmund Campion and recusancy.)

However, it should be noted that this morning the founder (or Fundador, as the Spanish song begins) of the Company was commemorated at the Thursday mass at Holy Trinity, Makati. The presider remarked that indeed the parish community can learn from the two great achievements of Ignatius: spiritual growth through “coming aside and resting awhile” and education. The latter is of course a very great achievement, for Ignatius and his followers made the idea of the ars liberi in the Renaissance acceptable in a Catholic context. Millions of people have since benefitted from (or have fallen victim to, depending on your leanings) what this great Catholic Reformation leader achieved.

Since yesterday, though, I have had time to reflect upon what Anglicans can learn from Ignatius. I will of course leave out the part about the Bishop of Rome being someone worth listening to, because among some Anglicans acknowledging this is the equivalent of a lobotomy. But the example of Ignatius of Loyola is worth emulating even if one may not agree with everything he says. Or everything his followers do.

1. Ignatius was an evangelical with a small “e.” He and his companions wanted to follow Christ and to make Christ known to other people, not only by the preaching of the Word in words, but in deeds. He believed that by meditating on the life of Christ (and nowadays, we can easily take our bibles alongside the Exercises), in a way that we can commit ourselves to Christ totally and completely, we can make a choice for a life which, while difficult, is truly rewarding. The spirituality of Ignatius on this matter is reflected in John Wesley’s own view on the subject, and one blogger came up with a very interesting comparison of the two. I think she says it a little better than me. Think about it. Compare the Suscipe and the Covenant Service.

It is instructive to note that the founder of the People Called Methodists never left the Church of England and it was the resistance of the institutional Church (a theme that resonates in both Ignatius’s life and the life of the Society which he founded) that led to the unfortunate divisions that followed Wesley’s life.

2. Ignatius believed in the priority of praise. Praise in the history of Christianity can sometimes degenerate into the vapidity of a fair number of contemporary Christian musical works or be elevated to the sublimity of Gregorian chant or, well, Wesley’s hymns. (I must note that I am a member of a Facebook group called “Praise Bands Annoy God.”) But it nevertheless remains that it is a very important feature of the Christian life. A life lived in praise, reverence, and service of God, the purpose, Ignatius argues at the beginning of the Exercises, for which we are all created, is indeed a life worth living for a true follower of Christ.

I can see echoes of this Ignatian idea in contemporary Anglican theology. David F. Ford and Daniel Hardy’s Living in Praise: Worshipping and Knowing God is a remarkable example of how we can enflesh the Ignatian principle and foundation (at least the very first sentence of it) in our lives both in an out of the liturgy. Which brings me to a divergent point:

It was the Jesuits more than anyone else who made liturgy as theater possible. What Fr. Tyler Strand mentioned in his Star interview was anticipated by the quintessentially Jesuit architecture of the Church of the Gesu in Rome. Here, the choir screens of the past gave way to a stage where the mystery was in a sense revealed (yet concealed) to the gathered Church.

3. Ignatius believed that the Church mattered. I think the problem with some Anglicans, not all, is that they are prone to thinking either the universal Church is unimportant, or other Anglicans are not really worth listening to, or that seeking a consensus does not require “thinking with the Church,” meaning that the mind of the Church must be observed insofar as it is the pillar and foundation of truth. Some Anglicans, under the unfortunate and corrosive influence of certain “Christian” tendencies, have the same cavalier disregard for the Church as those who influence them, even if Anglicanism itself has always held that there really is a Church on earth, that is universal and at the same time revealing its catholicity in a given place.

Ignatius sometimes exaggerates in describing how much we must understand and, if possible, heed what the Spirit is saying through the Church. But his point is this: a Christian cannot ignore the reality of the Church, which like Christ is both human and divine. In so doing, Anglicans in particular are called upon to listen to the Church, both those they may agree with and those with whom they express great hostility. And the ordained ministers in particular should bear in mind that, more than anyone else, they are put under the disciplines of thinking with the Church. Hence, and I cannot emphasize this enough, Rowan Williams cannot just disregard what people have to say, for instance, about homosexuality as being wrong in itself without damaging the Church itself.

I know the Jesuits would see this differently, but I think Ignatius meant that thinking with the Church is above all else a willingness to acknowledge that Christ works through the Church and his call to follow him is mediated through it, and that if one wants to really follow Christ, it is not some cavalier individualistic effort, but rather one done in communion. This is something Ignatius realized as his pilgrimage continued. To continue the Wesleyan parallel, John Wesley believed that the whole point of Methodism was to renew one’s communion with Christ in the Church, and the Methodists have, as I noted in my Pentecost Essay’s epigraph, always held a high view of the Church as a consequence.

4. Ignatius was not afraid to leave his so-called “comfort zone” behind and to risk all for the greater glory of God. I would not want to rehearse the details of Ignatius’s own spiritual and academic journey, but suffice it to say that Ignatius had to risk a lot to achieve what, in the end, deserves his being called a saint. It is this same boldness of vision and risk which I think the Episcopal Church in the Philippines in particular is called upon to do. For instance, they must abandon the ethnocentricity which was an unfortunate accident of history that in no wise should be repeated, in a situation where pluralism in the expressions of Christianity is fast becoming a reality in the Philippine setting.

The situation in the ECP is no different, I believe, than what is the case among the parts of the Orthodox Church, many of which are organized on ethnic lines, and I think that this has kept me from seriously considering Orthodoxy, notwithstanding its attractions. (One only has to listen to Ancient Faith Radio’s music feed.) I think the Episcopalians here, if they are really serious about mission, should take a risk and accept that they are a Church that is not only for all Filipinos, as Mark Harris challenged the Episcopal Church in his March speech at the National Cathedral, but a Church that is part of the Church universal, where the barriers of nationality and ethnicity fall in favor of an equality that allows highlanders, lowlanders, Chinese, and expatriates of all nations to truly follow Christ and to serve his Church.

5. The followers of Ignatius were right about something. Yes, the Jesuits may have done some harm to the intertwined institutions of Church and State in Elizabethan England which could be construed as treasonous, and suppression has been seen as deserved punishment, but the followers of Ignatius were right about something: one could not stop Roman Catholicism and the work of the Jesuits from persisting no matter how much Anglicans and other Christians persecuted them. So it is a challenge to Christians, not just Anglicans, everywhere to consider that all their actions have consequences for the Church as a whole, and when they do something that spits in the face of what millions of people sincerely believe, whatever it may be, Campion’s brag may be proven true. The faith will be restored.

Yet, I would dare say, it will be the Orthodox Church that will make the challenge too. “The faith has been planted, and it will be restored.” On this note, I hope that Campion’s brag will be fulfilled, not in one part of the Church dominating one another in triumph, but rather in a Church that is as united as Christ wills it to be, loyal to the faith handed down from the apostles, and to the Scriptures which are the record of that faith and are interpreted by the Church.


Trying a via media

I posted this comment on Thinking Anglicans, a site I frequently visit, in a thread on the Windsor Continuation Group. I have been waiting for the right opportunity to mention the SWS survey conducted sometime back, and I think it should be worth considering by all concerned:

“I am not very impressed, to be honest, with the activist ranting on this site. The Americans think the battle has been joined but to be honest, in the country of one of their partner churches, the ECP, it will be very difficult to get the so-called “gospel of inclusivity” across.

Why? A recent survey found that, across all religious groups, whether Christian or otherwise, same-sex relations are always wrong. I’ll quote the pertinent passage here:

‘In 1998, another huge 84 percent of Filipinos called sexual relations between two adults of the same sex “always wrong.” This was the average of 83 among Catholics, 88 among other Christians, and 88 among non-Christians—hardly any difference by religion.

On the other hand, in 1998 those calling same-sex relations “always wrong” were minorities of 46 percent in the CW and 30 percent in the NCW. I have no idea why Catholicism makes some difference in Western Christian countries, but no difference in the Philippines. What I want to point out is that, in such areas, attitudes towards practicing homosexuals were much less intolerant than in the Philippines.

Incidentally, Filipino disapproval of same-sex relations has dropped by a few points, to 79 percent in 2008.’

The full article is here:

Four out of five Filipinos consider homosexual behavior to be wrong. While attitudes are changing, as they should, I am really sure that any effort, as people will perceive, to impose values that threaten the heterosexual, familial, and (I hate to say this) patriarchial basis of our society, will be met with fierce resistance.

It’s a good thing the ECP is not breaking ties with TEC on this, but it’s a bad thing that they haven’t spoken the truth in love.”

I expected to be attacked for this by some American posters because I admit my language was strong at the beginning. Anyway, one Swede replied, saying that culture is ultimately what matters in the homosexuality debate and yes, to some extent he is right. You can imagine that for every person who is pissed at Danton Remoto for advocating gay rights, another one is commending him for the courage of his convictions.

Another American, who happens to be a lesbian, reacted quite violently, and I was quite offended that I decided to actually reply. I am posting it here in full:

“Erika, you said:
      ‘Why does the view of people in the Philippines matter, but the view of Americans does not?
      Why is it important what Nigerians think, but not relevant what liberal members of the CoE believe?’

Because, in the end, the center of Christianity is shifting from the North to the South. (Remember the average Anglican comment?) We in this country are definitely part of it. And the South, let’s face it, is working pretty hard to preserve the things people in North America take for granted, like the heterosexual family.

Filipinos will not deny people like you the right to say all they want about protecting gays and lesbians. We are tolerant of that. As far as I know, my former professor in university, who is openly gay and is an activist for LGBT issues, has not been threatened with death for what he has said or done.

We wouldn’t want to kill off gays and lesbians as in Nigeria, but you have to understand that a large number of people in the Global South—not only the Philippines—feel betrayed that you are abandoning the values your forebears taught us. How, for instance, marriage is a life-long relationship between man and woman. And how a family is founded upon these things.

But I find this rhetorical flourish to be exactly what I mentioned in the beginning. If you don’t care about us, then you don’t care for the growing number of Americans who can trace their roots to my country. I apologize if my initial statements came off as offensive, so I understand if (as I perceive it) you snapped back.”

My point is this: I think Filipinos are more liberal than the surveys betray, but what makes us different, and what has prevented society from collapsing into civil war, is the role of the family and the heterosexual relation of marriage on which it is founded. I will not force it upon other cultures or societies, but the tragedy is that—if you think about it—human survival is predicated upon that very institution. Some societies may have unique familial arrangements, and the Philippine family, which is often the extended one (with friends, godparents, etc.) rather than the nuclear ones of the industrial West, is a throwback to the agrarian and tribal roots of Philippine society. But what societies have in common is that there is a network of nurturing relationships we call family, and it has historically been one which is founded upon heterosexual relations.

I do hope, though, that Filipinos also understand that lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transsexuals deserve respect rather than ridicule for who they are. There is growing evidence that this is not unnatural and can be cured by “therapy.” If there is a genetic basis, I fear that eugenics might flourish anew with conservative/reactionary support because of the LGBT question. This is where I am sympathetic with the position the “noisy activists” take. And more importantly, I hope Filipinos don’t emulate the Nigerians in calling for the jailing of gays and lesbians. (I suspect that the arts and culture sector will collapse if that happens, among other sectors.)

However, as the saying goes, one can choose one’s friends, but one cannot choose one’s family. And as Aristotle said at the beginning of his Ethics, sometimes the truth is more important than one’s friends. At the same time, I have friends who are gay and lesbian, and I will, for the moment, keep quiet and listen to the joys and sorrows they feel. After all, I think the 2008 Lambeth Conference was meant to be a place for listening and sharing, and I would rather keep that spirit, for now.

Liturgical prayer – the superiority of form…

(Tonight, I am about to print something that may unintentionally offend people of certain persuasions but I should note one thing: the links are to sources from within that persuasion. Sometimes, we need to loosen up a bit, but my point should be clear…)

Ever since I read this article from a conservative Evangelical, I have never ceased to smile whenever someone does what we call “The Prayer of the Just.” I have often wondered as to where this liturgical quirk, peculiar to the Evangelical Christian communities, originated. But I have become more conscious of it, and understandably so. I began to realize that, yes, while it is desirable to pray using one’s own words, there is something to be said for at least trying not to rely just on one’s own verbal crutches, where we just keep on adding clause after clause, Lord, because we just want to add on to your praise which you just do not need, etc.

Of course, the funniest variant of this is a rant from noted author Brian McLaren, where on page 254-5 of his Generous Orthodoxy, he notes what I meant when I used the term “liturgical quirk.” “Every denomination is liturgical,” he says, “Some just don’t know it because their liturgies aren’t written down.” And then he begins with a long version (cynically, he admits) that—well, read it for yourself if Philippine bookstores carry it! (Yes, Ben, I asked Fully Booked today.) More conveniently the first part of the thing is on Google Books.

He ends on a note that he prefers the way Cranmer, for example, crafted his prayers. (I was therefore not surprised that he decided to address Lambeth.) Or if you want informality without annoyance, here is this passage from a certain Bishop of Hippo in North Africa:

“Is there anything in me, O Lord my God, that can contain you? Do even the heaven and the earth, which you have made, and in which you did make me, contain you?”

– Augustine, Confessio, cap. II.

It was cited approvingly in this article from Christianity Today, which is yet another Evangelical voice coming out against this unfortunate liturgical non-form. And here too is where I learned where all this came from. The most influential book in evangelical Christianity, Christianity Today notes, is a book which promoted the practice of spontaneous prayer—and since then the results have been a mixed bag. One comment to the first article notes that, as the CT article also mentions, some spontaneous prayers fall prey to heresy—patripassionism was caught out once.

I believe that the Holy Spirit works through the forms which the Church, itself brought forth and sustained by the same Spirit, has felt would allow it to express both its faith in God and the needs of all who are in it. And while there is value to praying from one’s heart as the Spirit prompts, we must bear in mind that the God beyond all praising deserves nothing but the best we can possibly give—especially in the way we address God. This is why I am happy to be a liturgical, post-denominational Catholic, who grew up Roman, who was once involved in the charismatic movement, and who learned about Anglicanism and the treasures of common prayer.

On a final note, the CT article cites several books, but one stands out. Phyllis Tickle’s Divine Hours is patterned on the ancient Liturgy of the Hours, a spiritual practice which has been done for centuries and which, I am pleased to note, uses Scripture a lot. (I should note Augustine was citing 1 Chronicles in his prayer, if I recall correctly.)


Next up: Canon Trevor Beeson and canons.

Brian McLaren at Lambeth

In the past, I spoke of a book by American evangelical Christian author Brian MacLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy, which I still think is required reading for Anglicans in the Philippines. The Bishops and their colleagues in the ministry can find a copy (just one, sadly) at the library of St. Andrew’s Seminary, and even more sadly, the local “Christian” bookstores I know do not carry this at all, or include this in their consignments to big shops like Fully Booked. (I hope I am wrong—can anyone help me with this?) The fact is, in a country where “Catholic” is always put into opposition with “Christian,” even by Roman Catholics themselves, a book with that title won’t sell as much as it did in the States, where disgruntled evangelicals have grown tired with those debates.

However, this is about what Brian McLaren said at Lambeth Conference, which has been drowned out sadly by the first salvoes of the Ahmanson-funded campaign to undermine the Anglican Communion (as it is doing with the United Methodists). From what I have read of it, I am convinced that discovering what McLaren has to say is a good move—here, for me, is an evangelical Christian who is making sense. You can read Bishop Alan Wilson’s account here. And another account is here, from one of the ecumenical observers. The Lambeth Conference website reports on it here. And of course, McLaren is awed.

O for a thousand tongues to sing.

The Lambeth Conference Reader, which Ruth Gledhill said had some very strong passages about people who didn’t come to the conference, is finally available. The quotes she had made in her article were indeed, as Episcopal Life noted in reposting her Times report, from a report from the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrine Commission on the nature of the episcopate, which is reproduced on the first few pages of the reader.


I am sure that some of the Facebook people on the “I’m fed up with bad liturgical music” group will be unhappy that one of the songs sung at the Lambeth Conference opening Eucharist was Marty Haugen’s “All Are Welcome.” And of course, certain people will be saying not-so-good things about the choice of the song, given its lyrics:

Let us build a house where hands will reach
beyond the wood and stone
to heal and strengthen, serve and teach,
and live the Word they’ve known.
Here the outcast and the stranger
bear the image of God’s face;
let us bring an end to fear and danger:
           All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

(“All Are Welcome,” Marty Haugen. Published by GIA Publications, Chicago, IL.)

All I can say is, this should apply to Christians of whatever shade—because the message of the whole song has an implicit appeal for Christian unity in it. That’s where my liberal streak comes out…