Commission Proposes Deleting Some Saints, Adding Others

The Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers, chair of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music of The Episcopal Church, is a faculty member at Church Divinity School of the Pacific. (CDSP photo)

The Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers, chair of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music of The Episcopal Church, is a faculty member at Church Divinity School of the Pacific. (CDSP photo)

The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music of The Episcopal Church has proposed, in a report to the General Convention upcoming in July, that commemorations of the following saints be dropped:

4/12
Adoniram Judson, Missionary to Burma, 1850
4/22
John Muir, Naturalist and Writer, 1914; and Hudson Stuck, Priest and Environmentalist, 1920
7/1
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Writer and Prophetic Witness, 1896
7/12
Nathan Soderblom, Archbishop of Uppsala and Ecumenist, 1931
7/13
Conrad Weiser, Witness to Peace and Reconciliation, 1760
8/23
Toribio de Mogrovejo, 1606 [retaining Martin de Porres, 1639, and Rosa de Lima, 1617, Witnesses to the Faith in South America]
9/3
Prudence Crandall, Teacher and Prophetic Witness, 1890
9/8
Nikolai Grundtvig, Bishop and Hymnwriter, 1872
9/8
Soren Kierkegaard, Teacher and Philosopher, 1855
10/19
William Carey, Missionary to India, 1834
12/10
Karl Barth, Pastor and Theologian, 1968
12/15
John Horden, Bishop and Missionary in Canada, 1893
12/15
Robert McDonald, Priest, 1913
12/17
William Lloyd Garrison, 1879 [retaining Maria Stewart, 1879, Prophetic Witness]
12/19
Lillian Trasher, Missionary in Egypt, 1961
12/22
Charlotte Diggs (Lottie) Moon, Missionary in China, 1912

I would hate to see most of them go – especially since they don’t propose getting rid of Sarah Hale, author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” or the utterly depraved theologian John Knox.

The Commission proposes adding these saints:

Gladys Aylward (1/3)
Amma Syncletica of Alexandria (1/5)
Caesaria of Arles (1/12)
Marcella (1/31)
Scholastica, Religious, 543 (2/10)
Katherine Drexel (4/3)
Mary of Egypt (4/3)
Kateri Tekakwitha (4/17)
Maria Gabriella Sagheddu (4/22)
Marie de l’Incarnation, Educator and Spiritual Teacher in New France, 1672 (4/30)
Helena, Protector of the Holy Places, 330 (5/21)
Olga of Kiev (7/11)
Bridget of Sweden, Founder of Bridgettine Order, 1373 (7/23)
Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (8/12)
Paula and Eustochium (9/28)
Mother Theodore (Anne-Therese) Guerin, Religious, Educator, Prophetic Witness, 1856 (10/3)
Elizabeth Fry, Prison Reformer, 1845 (10/12)
Catherine of Alexandria (11/5)
Elizabeth of the Trinity (11/8)
Gertrude the Great and Mechtilde of Hackeborn (11/16)
Dorothy Day (11/29)
Ella Baker (12/13)
Emily Ayckbowm, Founder of the Sisters of the Community of the Church, 1870
Kate Harwood Waller Barrett
Etheldred Berry
Mary McLeod Bethune
Louise De Koven Bowen, Hull House
Josephine Butler
Anna Bessant Cassey and Henrietta Lockwood
Rosa Judith Cisneros
Florence Converse
Ella Cara Deloria, Native American Poet and Writer
Helen Fuller
Ann Gream
Angelina and Sarah Grimke
Sister Margaret Hawk, Church Army, Native American Activist
Addie D. Waites Hunton
Satoko Kitahara
Susan Trevor Knapp, NY Training School for Deaconesses
Eva Lee Matthews and Beatrice Henderson
Victoria Earle Matthews, Author and Settlement House Worker, 1907
Eleanor Laura McMain
Harriet O’Brien Monsell
Maria Montessori
Anna Newell, St. Margaret’s House, Berkeley
Phoebe Palmer
Katherine Parr
Ellen Albertina Polyblank [Sister Albertina] & Elizabeth Ann Rogers [Sister Beatrice]
Richeldis of Faverches
Eleanor Roosevelt
Dorothy Sayers
Mary Kingsbury Simkovitch, Greenwich House, NYC
Therese of Lisieux
Adeline Blanchard Tyler
Ruth Elaine Younger (Mother Ruth, CHS)

I don’t know enough about most of them to have an opinion, but as a “Church Army man” I am well acquainted with Sr. Margaret Hawk. I would rather have her described as an Evangelist or Lay Minister than “Church Army,” which is not a title, or “Native American Activist,” which is obvious from her biography.

This Catherine Parr? One of Henry VIII's many wives? (attributed to Master John)

This Catherine Parr? One of Henry VIII’s many wives? (attributed to Master John)

You’ll notice that all the new names are women. The Commission says this proposal would mean women make up one-third of the new list – which is a worthy goal, although it also sounds almost like a quota system.

The Commission is right to point out that the “classic approach” to designating saints skews heavily toward the clergy, and since women have only been ordained in The Episcopal Church since 1974, that leaves 2000 years of female believers out.

On the other hand, the Commission itself reflects a clerical bias, as well as a penchant for grandiose naming, which makes TEC sound full of itself to anyone under the age of 90.

But to get to one-third women, they delete Karl Barth, Soren Kierkegaard, Harriet Beecher Stowe and William Lloyd Garrison?

Others on the proposed hit list are saints recognized by other Churches and Communions, including St. Toribio, John Horden and Robert McDonald.

I've never thought of Eleanor Roosevelt as a saint, but at least she'd be someone we could talk about - unlike most of the others on this list.

I’ve never thought of Eleanor Roosevelt as a saint, but at least she’d be someone we could talk about – unlike most of the others on this list. (Speaking at the UN, 1947)

Let’s stipulate this: that the Commission is made up of good people trying to do a good job; that a case can be made for everyone on both the add and delete lists, whether I happen to like them or not; that any such list has political overtones, since Anglicans always need to balance their Protestant and Catholic constituencies; and that genuine sainthood is up to God, not up to us – so what we do when we collectively make such a list is, as the Commission rightly notes, telling “family stories” to each other, of which there are more stories than can be told.

The real problem here is too many Dead White Englishmen – worthies all, but not very meaningful to people today.

That’s what gives rise to the female quota. The Commission doesn’t have the guts to cut any DWEs, so it suggests we scrap some current newbies in favor of an all-women slate of newer newbies.

A Montessori class; well, maybe.

A Montessori class; well, maybe.

We really ought to ask, “Who among the saints make the best role models for today, in the United States, Cuba, Ecuador, Haiti, Taiwan, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and all the other nations where The Episcopal Church currently operates?”

As the Commission’s proposed new book, A Cloud of Witnesses, suggests, we’ve got plenty of role models to choose from. Who are the best ones for today?

The DWEs offer us a primer on Anglican church history, and yay for them. But they don’t help anyone live today. They should be taught in seminary, every last one of them, and in church history classes. Who helps us spread the Good Word today?

One obvious answer is the more recent the saint, the better. The closer to home, the better. The more like “me” and like us, the better.

We are becoming a browner church – so let’s X out St. Toribio? He campaigned against the enslavement of Latin American Indians!

St. Toribio: quick in, quick out.

St. Toribio: quick in, quick out.

Should we eliminate Harriet Beecher Stowe, the “little lady who caused our Civil War?” Why? That war freed our slaves, and no one can question that her motives were entirely Christian. Same with William Lloyd Garrison, even though he’s a Dead White Guy.

Where is Rosa Parks? How about Dorothy Haight, Fannie Lou Hamer, Viola Liuzzo and Coretta Scott King?

The Commission has a terrible job, and I thank them for their efforts. And yes, we’re all entitled to grouse if our favorites don’t make the list while someone else’s faves do. The right to boo comes with every paid admission to the ballpark.

But I’m afraid an all-female class will only provoke divisions, which we don’t need more of. It feels like one more needless insult, precisely because it fails to answer the question, “Who are the best saints for today?”

That question would no doubt yield a lot of women! I think we’d all want it to. Every woman in the Church, every girl coming up, every prospective member of either sex needs to see more women. After all, Frances Perkins won Lent Madness a year or two ago; there’s a definite market for more women role models in this Church.

I don’t think an all-female list, most of whom we’ve never heard of, is the way to go. Refining the question, “Who should be included and why?” is a better way.

Know this: our Daily Office sites will abide by whatever decision the General Convention makes.

But I do note that the Standing Commission in 2015 made no attempt to solicit the views of communities like ours, who live with the Calendar every day, or of any congregation that isn’t tied to the brick-and-mortar parochial system, online or in person. There are many “emerging church” congregations, but this clergy-dominated Commission has made no effort to engage any of them, beyond its commendably open invitation for anyone and everyone to comment.

They’re stuck in the past, and so is this list.++

Adding Mother Guerin just slays me. She was given RC sainthood just a few years ago after a janitor at her convent claimed a miraculous healing after he prayed to her. No joke, the guy's still alive and living in Indiana. (So much for the RC claim that they don't pray to saints.)

Adding Mother Guerin just slays me. She was given RC sainthood just a few years ago after a janitor at her convent claimed a miraculous healing when he prayed to her. No joke, the guy’s still alive and living in Indiana. (So much for the RC claim that they don’t pray to saints.)

Our Community Network Build Has Now Begun!

Lovely as this is, it is not a church.

Sainte-Chapelle, Paris (Wikimedia)

Sainte-Chapelle, Paris (Wikimedia)

It is a dazzling building erected for the glory of God and the edification of persons.

This is a church.

Members of the Diocese of Chicago playing with members of the Diocese of Southeast México, 2013.

Members of the Diocese of Chicago playing with members of the Diocese of Southeast México, 2013.

You can “have church” anywhere. You can “be church” only with other people.

This, so far, is The Daily Office version of church:

Some of my favorite people: a screen grab after one of our webcasts last year. We get together online five mornings a week, plus Friday nights.

Some of my favorite people: a screen grab after one of our webcasts last year. We get together online five mornings a week, plus Friday nights.

Community is everything. Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together, I am in the midst of them.”

I am not the vicar of a website, or three websites, or a Facebook group. I am the Vicar of 5000 followers, most of whom do not know each other, but do know that they are part of an intentional community, and value their connection.

To remedy the fact that few of us have met, we’re holding a retreat this August in southern Indiana. But for years I have worked to bring us together in more ways – and now at last it appears my dearest dream is about to come true.

I’m so excited I could run around in circles like the Verger!

Luke resting at my knee a few days after I got him; he runs around in circles every day when he knows we're going outside. I call him the Verger because he likes to tug on his leash and show me where to go.

Luke resting at my knee a few days after I got him; he runs around in circles every day when he knows we’re going outside. I call him the Verger because he likes to tug on his leash and show me where to go.

To promote community – people knowing each other, sharing their lives, and working together for holy purposes – I have long wanted to develop a social network. John M. came up with the idea for us years ago, and I have struggled ever since to make it happen – made phone calls to developers and coders and marketers, written e-mails, asked for grants, raised money – all to no avail, until now.

But as of Friday, the work has begun!

Here is the person who’s finally making it happen – in one fortuitous conversation, by hooking me up with a web professional she knows.

Former journalist and television news producer Kathy Copas of the Diocese of Indianapolis.

Former journalist and television news producer Kathy Copas, Communications and Evangelism Officer of the Diocese of Indianapolis.

We met in a private chat on Friday with Tony Schlisser of Pages & PCs in Louisville, Kentucky. Tony is IndyDio’s main computer whiz, responsible for 50 or more individual websites under the diocesan umbrella, including our donation page. Lately he’s been helping me develop a new, unified “landing page” for our three Daily Office sites (Americas, Asia-Pacific and Oficio Diario in Spanish). We are the Daily Office Network now, with a logo and everything. You’ve seen our logo; I should put it on this blog too, but I only now thought of it. Our logo’s gotten rave reviews.

daily office logo

In the course of developing this landing page, where all our sites will converge under the dailyoffice.org roof, I happened to mention on Friday what all this is leading toward, our own social network. Somehow this was the first Tony had heard of it – though I thought surely I had mentioned it before; I’ve been talking about it so long I think everyone I know has heard of it. But he hadn’t. And then…

PrestoTheMagician

He solved it in five seconds!

(Cue the rat terrier turning triple axels.)

Tony knew what Kathy and I didn’t, that WordPress, our bloghost, also offers a social networking application called BuddyPress. Thus one problem that’s stymied me repeatedly – what platform to use – he solved instantly.

What’s significant is that our current blogs must integrate seamlessly with the social network, so that you can go from one to the other with a simple click without ever leaving our site.

We’re not looking to do a churchy version of Facebook here, but to use the strengths of social networking to “be” the church.

The most fun part of our Morning Prayer webcasts happens after we pray; we move into our virtual Parish Hall, where we can see everyone’s face much better, and we chatter like magpies.

CommonMagpie

We have the beginnings of a timeline now for our long-awaited site makeover and expansion. We hope to have our new landing page debut on Easter Day. It will feature much bigger, widescreen art on the title page, with 3 buttons so you can choose which site you use for prayer; maybe we’ll use that photo above from Sainte-Chapelle so you can see it in all its glory. Every day I want you to see a photo or painting that gets you in the mood to enter into God’s presence. Every day when you come I want you to say, “Yes, this is the right place.”

Shortly after Easter Padre Mickey’s Oficio Diario site will be moving to WordPress; all three sites will have new URLs (probably subdomains of dailyoffice.org), including automatic forwarding so nobody has to change their bookmarks right away. And then, later in the summer we’ll open our new social network, which I haven’t named yet.

Dana Carvey on "SNL."

Dana Carvey on “SNL.”

I have gotten to know hundreds of you in the ten years since I founded our first site. You are great people, incredibly engaged with Jesus Christ and working hard to bring Good News to a hurting world. It’s time you met each other.

As I said, I don’t expect our social network to replace Facebook; after all, we have 2600 members there and dozens more arriving every week. But I hope, once you look us over, you’ll also join our network and make new friends for socializing, sharing, writing, linking, laughing, weeping, praying and working. It should also be a great place to let other people know what’s going on in your parish, diocese and neighborhood that may interest them.

My greatest hope is that we will use it for mission purposes. Publicize your concert, your trip to Haiti or South Sudan, your prison ministry, your health services. Spread the Good Word!

It will be essential that our core group of 5000 decide to join and make it work. So you can expect that we’ll be promoting it heavily. Here’s why.

HereLiesVera

When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, just one year after we launched our Daily Office site, thousands of people died, including Vera Briones Smith. Hundreds of churches were damaged or destroyed. Whole cities were ruined. I tried to compose a prayer that could begin to express our collective grief and loss and confusion.

And because our site is oriented in part toward praying about the events of the day – not just your personal piety, like other sites – we had a huge jump in traffic. People needed to pray, because we felt so helpless.

In the days afterward, thousands of Christians and other citizens from all walks of life rushed to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast to help survivors rebuild their lives. Our site raised money for Episcopal Relief and Development.

And while the teevee focused so much on New Orleans, our members knew that Mississippi was devastated just as bad if not worse – because we showed pictures of churches, where the only thing left was the bell that used to hang in the steeple but then was sitting in the front yard. Ocean Springs, Pass Christian – we learned the names of these places – Pensacola, Bayou La Batre, Bay St. Louis, Metairie and more.

As recovery began, we showed that too – worship the following Sunday, with everyone gathered around the rubble and the bell.

We stayed on it for weeks, while our competition kept acting as if nothing happened. When the Bishop of Mississippi wrote a prayer, I took down mine and put up his.

Today, if we’re able to create a viable social network for Episcopalians and Friends, we’ll be much more able to respond to the next disaster.

That’s the kind of mission work I’m talking about – along with the everyday emergencies of war and peace, homelessness, hunger, ignorance, hatred, materialism, scapegoating, imprisonment, environmental degradation, racism, injustice and everything else that God abhors about human beings.

How God’s able to love us through all of this I’ll never understand. But then God is God, and I am not. Thank God!

Famine is spreading in South Sudan tonight. Episcopalians are going hungry along with 150,000 of their fellow citizens. I want us to get food to those people, along with celebrating every birth and birthday, graduation and new job, accomplishment and disappointment, illness and healing, life and death. That’s what a Christian social network can uniquely do, so that’s why I want one.

Our friend Deacon Letha used Facebook this weekend to publicize a concert at her church, Midway Baptist in Midway, Kentucky, a fundraiser for one of their frequent mission trips to Haiti. They raised $2100 while the town was covered in two feet of snow!!!

[UPDATE: Letha says that a Haitian couple, now living in Louisville, Ky., saw a notice about this concert on social media and drove 75 miles to little Midway so they could attend! A bit of virality started up, which is what social networks are so good at. That’s how the Church first got started, you know; Jesus went viral.]

It was a "Love/Haiti" thing last night at Midway Baptist Church in Kentucky. (Letha Tomes Drury on Facebook)

It was a “Love/Haiti” thing last night at Midway Baptist Church in Kentucky. (Letha Tomes Drury on Facebook)

The thing is, it’s easy for this kind of event to get lost in the vastness of Facebook, with all its celeb news, politics, hookups, advertising, gaming and cat videos. What a person gets out of Facebook depends entirely on who their friends are – and for everyone, those friends are a diverse group. I’m tired of fighting an insatiably greedy, privacy-crushing mega-corporation over the contents of my news feed. I don’t care that you just won at Crazy Birds, bought a tractor at FarmTown or found a clue at MurderMystery. I don’t want to see racy pictures of you and the person you’re dating. I’m not going to shop at my nearest Chick Fil-A, Pizza Rot or Walmart. And if I never see another racist, misogynistic, homophobic, anti-Obamacare, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant rant I will like that just fine!

Yes to pictures of the “grandcubs,” the books you’re reading, the songs you recommend, the food you cooked, the flowers you grew, your concert for Haiti – and double-yes to Tim’s 40-second video of one-year-old Jackson’s first steps.

Taking Jackson for a ride.

Taking Jackson for a ride.

I just figure that Christians have a need to hang out with each other sometimes, even if our conversation is less than pious. And the chance to do a little good isn’t something I want to pass up.

Get this – the Diocese of Indianapolis will host our network for free. Unlimited bandwidth and storage, Tony says; just tell him what I want and he’ll try to find a way.

Kathy Copas is worth her weight in frankincense!

So watch for all these changes, and if you can spare a prayer please give us one.

Thank you, Lord, for making me a home in the Diocese of Indianapolis.

TECWelcomesYouRainbow.400
Think of this: if our new social site works for Episkies, it will work for progressive Christians of all colors.++

Announcing “The Progressive Church News” on paper.li

We now have a presence on paper.li, a news aggregator customized for us, and I suddenly understand the value of it. We’re calling it Progressive Church News.

It features a prominent link to our site, but you already know about The Daily Office, so what makes this new thing worth your while? It contains a lot more than just our stuff, newsy things from around the Church and the world that you may not see otherwise.

What paper.li does is to pull links from our Twitter feed and give them more prominence. You’ll see stories from church and society, in the U.S. and around the world. Check it out here.

The current edition (it updates twice a day, morning and evening – get it?) contains stories from Chris Hayes, several Episcopal seminaries, Mother Jones magazine, HuffPo, The New York Times, Trinity Wall Street, Episcopal Migration Ministries and more – photos, videos and news. And none of that “I’m sipping latte at Starbucks” or “I won a pig at Farmerama” trivia.

The folks at paper.li have figured out how to add value to Twitter, by expanding the links placed by others; the key to it is who and what we follow. I don’t use our Twitter account for personal friends, only for Daily Office purposes, so we get a feed of what’s worth knowing around the Church and the world, from street ministries to major institutions, Episcopal and otherwise. Here’s a screen grab:

Prog Church News

It’s laid out like a newspaper site, thus the name. And since we follow clergy, dioceses, lay leaders and various news outlets – from Diana Butler Bass to the Diocese of Mississippi – we get a more complete look at the Church and the world than we would otherwise.

I came up with a slogan for Progressive Church News, too – Things to Know & Pray About.

I hope you’ll check it out and consider subscribing. We are always looking to expand our reach and usefulness, and this is looking like a cool new thing.

As you know, we work hard at all this. Why?

(The Daily Office)

(The Daily Office)