Skip to comments.Liturgy Commission Ponders Racism, Rites of Transition [ECUSA]
Posted on 06/11/2005 4:17:45 PM PDT by sionnsar
The Episcopal Church's Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) discussed a variety of draft rites-some marking the passage from childhood to adulthood and some lamenting failed pregnancies-during its meeting on June 6-9 in Atlanta.
Before focusing on those rites, however, the commission devoted all of its plenary sessions on June 7 to anti-racism training. General Convention of 2003 voted that the training should be mandatory for all commissions and committees of the church.
The church's Executive Committee, scheduled to meet on June 13-17, planned to hold its anti-racism training in closed session. The SCLM remained in open session during its training.
The training began with familiar icebreakers. In one, participants used index cards to express their one hope for the session and their one fear. (Some members expressed their fear that anti-racism training sessions would be a permanent fixture in church meetings.)
In another exercise, commission members engaged in one-on-one discussions of two to three minutes. The pairs told each other about their family heritages, what sorts of racism they had experienced growing up, how they had experienced cruelty, how racism hinders them today, and how they had stood up for their rights or the rights of others. Many commission members praised those brief discussions as the most intimate and informative of the day.
After a break for lunch, the training session took a decided turn away from individual storytelling and toward ideological uniformity. Members watched Free Indeed: Of White Privilege and How We Play the Game, a 30-minute video produced by the Mennonite Central Committee in 1995.
In the video, a group of white, middle-class young adults has volunteered to help with building a home for members of a black Baptist church. The pastor of the church sends over an older white woman, who leads the complacent suburbanites through a role-playing card game. Whenever members of the group protest that they should not be blamed for the choices of their forebears, or that racism today is less of a problem than in previous generations, their tutor says, matter-of-factly, "That's a statement of white privilege."
Another video, with the working title of What Makes Me White, featured the anguished testimony of white women who grew up in households with African American maids.
SCLM members filled out a White Privilege Cards worksheet, in which they would accumulate a point each time they could agree with statements like "I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to 'the person in charge' I will be facing a person of my race"; "I am not made acutely aware that my shape, bearing, or body odor will be taken as a reflection on my race"; or "In my neighborhood, I can be pretty sure that my neighbors will be neutral or pleasant to me."
In future sessions, that worksheet will refer merely to privilege rather than white privilege, said Barbara L. Culmer-Ilaw, one of two presenters of the training.
SCLM members had to rank where they saw the commission placing on what was called An Antiracist Transformation Continuum. The six categories were Exclusive, Passive, Compliant, Antiracist, Redefining, and Transformed. SCLM members sat at three different tables, grouped by their normal work assignments. One table gave the group its highest ranking of 4 (Antiracist). Another group ranked the SCLM at 2.14 (barely beyond Passive). The third group ranked the commission at 3 (Compliant).
A closing prayer, which Culmer-Ilaw read aloud, repeated the familiar claim that Jesus felt no concern for Gentiles until the encounter with a Syro-Phoenician woman narrated in Mark 7:24-30. (The woman pleaded with Jesus to cast a demon out of her daughter, because "even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.") "We pray in the name of Jesus, whose mission was changed by an encounter with a foreign woman," Culmer-Ilaw prayed. "She was outside his ethnic group and his religion. She had no claim on his energy or talents, yet with her wit and determination and faith she broke through the boundaries of Jesus' mission to his own Jewish people and opened up the possibility of salvation for us."
Vetting Future Rites SCLM members' discussion was much freer as they turned to their area of expertise and passion: developing new liturgies as requested by General Convention.
A group coordinated by four SCLM members-the Rev. Devon Anderson of Minneapolis; Julia Huttar Bailey of Ann Arbor, Michigan; the Rev. Canon Ernesto Medina of Los Angeles; and the Rev. John Ruder of Seattle-has drafted Liturgies for Rites of Passage. These are a collection of prayers designed for use both by families at home and in corporate worship.
Many of the rites, which are written in a tender tone, mark people's transitions through four stages of life, as identified in the book Generations, by William Strauss and Neil Howe. The stages are:
* Dependence (youth, birth to age 22). * Activity (rising adulthood, ages 22-44). * Leadership (midlife, ages 45-66). * Elderhood (stewardship, age 66 and older). * Rites for the transitions of childhood include "Moving from a Crib to a Bed," "Becoming a Big Brother or Sister," "Beginning the School Year," and "Learning to Ride a Bike." * Rites for young adulthood include "Beginning Menstruation" (which is handled gracefully), "Entering Dating Relationships," "Going to College," "Going Into Military Service," and "On the Godly Expression of One's Sexuality."
Anderson said that the Rev. Angela Ifill, the Episcopal Church's Missioner for Black Ministries, recommended writing the latter prayer to help young people who are unsure about their sexual identities. The prayer does not mention sexual orientation or engaging in sexual activity.
Bishop George Wayne Smith of the Diocese of Missouri was the toughest critic of the rites as they came before the SCLM as a whole. His questions mostly concerned editorial improvements and whether the rites would join other existing rites in the Book of Occasional Services, or be published as a supplement to that book. "I think they're trite," Smith said of some of the rites. "I think there are some of these that will hold us up for ridicule. I don't think they're wrong-minded. But I don't think they have the gravitas needed for liturgical materials."
Bishop Neil Alexander of Atlanta compared the rites to the work of Lancelot Andrewes, an Anglican divine who wrote collects for all sorts of domestic moments.
Phoebe Pettingell of Three Lakes, Wisconsin, said that the rites emphasize the priesthood of all believers as they encourage parents to bring prayer into so many of their children's experiences.
Smith also asked whether any of the rites would strain "the bonds of affection," a phrase that has become shorthand for what unites Anglicans across the world.
"With whom?" a few different SCLM members asked in virtual unison.
"Within our church," Smith said. "I'm just asking if any one of these collects is a bridge too far."
Commission members decided that the Liturgies for Rites of Passage would be acceptable, after further editing by Pettingell. They voted to publish these new liturgies as a supplement to the Book of Occasional Services. Commission members also heard about slower progress on rites that, in the words of a General Convention resolution, "respond to the pastoral needs of women and men who have experienced miscarriage, abortion, or other trauma in the childbearing or childbirth process."
Anderson led a committee that has expanded the concept to include infertility, unplanned pregnancies, and-on a note of greater hope-adoption. Anderson spoke warmly of Georgette Forney of the National Organization of Episcopalians for Life (NOEL), who had championed the General Convention resolution authorizing the rites. Anderson said that Forney had sent her numerous rites used by NOEL members over the years. But Anderson assessed those rites, including prayers for judges who have decided abortion cases, as being overly political. In describing her committee's goal, Anderson used the image of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which brings catharsis and healing to people across the political spectrum.
Anderson was unsure whether the rites for problem pregnancies would be ready for the next General Convention. But she said that her committee would focus on that goal between now and the SCLM's next meeting-its final meeting before General Convention of 2006-in October.
--Douglas LeBlanc comments on religion coverage in the secular press on the website getreligion.org. An Episcopalian, he was formerly an editor at Christianity Today and Episcopalians United. He will be covering several Episcopal Church events for the IRD in the coming months.
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Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15
I'm not a loss for words, but since I consider myself a guest on these threads, I'll hold my tongue.
Run. All Christians need to run from this cult as quickly as possible.
Forney is right. Anderson is wrong. On many different levels.
Where would they rank their good friend John Shelby Spong's opinions on his African Anglican brethren?
"They've moved out of animism into a very superstitious kind of Christianity. They've yet to face the intellectual revolution of Copernicus and Einstein that we've had to face in the developing world. That's just not on their radar screen."
Am I alone in thinking that the more anti-racism training the commission can have, the better things are?
My point is that time spent fooling around being told about 'white priviledge' is time NOT being spent on further ruining the Episcopalian Liturgy.
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