Volume 41, No.



A Quarterly Journal of Anglican Identity

Pentecost 2013

Miniaturist Monk: The Eadwine Monk, c. 1150, illumination on parchment, Trinity College, Cambridge

Trinitarian Moments in Politics, Religion, & Poetry

The mission of The Anglican Society is to promote and maintain the Catholic doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church in accordance with the principles and contents of the Book of Common Prayer.

In This Issue

Cornelius the Centurion: 3 Soldier for Today J. Robert Wright Trinitarian Relationality: 5 Unity in Mission Robert Solon Expand Thy Wings, Celestial Dove: 8 The Methodist Renaissance and Its Anglican Associations Nicholas Birns The Immaculate Conception and Time: 18 A Critical Epistemology of Faith C. Don Keyes Natural Law, Natural Rights, and 24 Marriage Equality Troy E. Elder John: An Anglican Meditation on 36 Literary Gifts and Giving David Middleton



Exsultet Redux 40 Rodger Patience Hymns 41 Charles Wesley & Joseph Hart


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From the President

Cornelius the Centurion: Soldier for Today
J. Robert Wright

On which side should a Christian vote at the time of an election? Elections are soon to come upon us now, and I think the example of Cornelius the Centurion is one that we do well to heed at this time when the subject of voting in on the minds of most of us. Is God on the side of the liberals or the conservatives?

and enthusiastic about this development. He says: “First at Palestinian Caesarea, Cornelius with his entire household, through divine revelation and the agency of Peter, embraced the Christian faith, followed by many other Gentiles at Antioch who heard the preaching of those dispersed by the persecution of Stephen’s time . . . . It was also at that time and in that city that the name of ‘Christian’ first appeared.” Now if you and I were transposed to that early time of Cornelius, we too would almost certainly have experienced a polarity in terms of liberal versus conservative, which are filters always present in human nature as well as in the Church’s history, even though those words were not then in use. Are we going to open the floodgates to the Gentiles, which the liberals of that day were urging, or are we going to hold the line and keep them out, as the conservatives demanded because God is always on the side of the status quo? Where would we stand on this question?


OMEWHERE THE GREAT protestant evangelical theologian Karl Barth is reported to have remarked that of the two poles in human nature, the conservative and the liberal (which are replicated also in the Christian Church), the liberal is often mistaken because it makes a virtue of change for change’s sake, forever trying to do something new and different, but that the conservative is always mistaken, because it assumes that the status quo is never wrong and should always be preferred.

I think we have a good example of this polarity in the history of the Church’s attitude to the conversion of Cornelius the Centurion. In Lesser Feasts and Fasts, the Episcopal Church’s semi-official biography of him tells us that Cornelius “was the first Gentile converted to the Christian faith, along with his household.” And this, we are told, was, “a primary precedent for the momentous decision of the apostolic council held in Jerusalem a few years later to admit Gentiles to full and equal partnership with Jewish converts in the household of faith.” The earliest historian of the Christian Church, Eusebius of Caesarea, was likewise affirmative

We too would almost certainly have experienced a polarity in terms of liberal versus conservative

Of course it would be wrong to read back our present-day political struggles into the patristic period of Church history in a simplistic way, but I think we cannot deny that the principle of which Karl Barth speaks represents a consistent polarity throughout time, seen early in the second century in these two attitudes toward the conversion of Cornelius, and this in its own way challenges us to ponder whether the better course is generally to make a virtue of change or always to be defenders of the status quo, or, at the very least, to admit that we stand within that polarity. This tension, I believe, is independent of the specific historical particularities in which it is embedded across


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time, and is related to our differing theological views of the Resurrection itself -- whether by the Resurrection God intends to bring something genuinely new into human history (the principle of change), or whether Jesus’ rising from the tomb was merely a return to the old order that God had always intended from the beginning (the principle of continuity). Let us mark carefully the words of Peter in Holy Scripture from the historical account in the book of Acts, chapters 10 and 11, which contain all that we know about Cornelius: “Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I perceive that God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation anyone who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to God’” (10:34-35). Then Peter asked: “Can anyone forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? [So] he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ”(Acts 10:47-48). And finally Peter concluded: “If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?” And reading on, we find that “When they heard this they fell silent, and they glorified God saying ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance unto life’”(11:17-18). Peter, in his attitude toward the conversion of Cornelius, clearly stood on the liberal side, the side of change. But does this mean that we as Christians today should always take that position in every situation? Far be it from me to say that God is always on the side of the liberal over against the conservative, although I have heard that carelessly asserted even from high places too often to believe that it can be accepted without the hermeneutic of suspicion! So let us consider

At stake was also the principle of inclusivity of Church membership, over which much of the Civil War was fought and many elections are still decided today.

every case, patiently and reasonably. Probably like you, I want to consider the evidence and then make my own decision, and I respect the right of others to do the same, and in some matters I end up more on the conservative side and in others more on the liberal. In this case, though, I would want to affirm the principle outlined by Karl Barth and underlined by Lesser Feasts and Fasts and the Book of Acts in the conversion of St. Cornelius, whereby the Christian Church was expanded and opened to Gentiles as well as to Jewish converts. In this case I believe the liberal principle was the course that God wanted the Church to take. So I stand with Peter and Eusebius on this issue, and with Cornelius himself, and I hope that you do also. At stake, for example, was also the principle of inclusivity of Church membership, over which much of the Civil War was fought and many elections are still decided today, and there are yet other issues of inclusivity even closer to our own time. In each case, let us ask on which side God will have us stand. Which principle should we follow? On which side should we vote? Let us pray that the Holy Spirit, whose feast of Pentecost we recently celebrated, may guide us in the right way forward. X The Rev. Canon J. Robert Wright is St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery Professor of Ecclesiastical History Emeritus at General Theological Seminary in New York, and president of The Anglican Society of North America.


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From the Editor

Trinitarian Relationality: Unity in Mission


Robert F. Solon Jr., SCP
E RECENTLY CELEBRATED THE feast of the Most Holy Trinity, and I find myself drawn more and more to the basic idea from St. Augustine of the holy and undivided Trinity as Lover, Beloved, and the Love that binds them: For I do not love love, except I love a lover; for there is no love where nothing is loved. Therefore there are three things -- he who loves, and that which is loved, and love.1 Unity, and that the persons are just “modes” of the one God acting in various ways at various times. If there is no unique Father, unique Son, and unique Spirit, there is no true Trinity and thus no relationality as the fundamental nature of God. This core idea of the relationality of God is embedded right in the Church’s mission. The Book of Common Prayer’s Catechism teaches that “[t] he mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.”2

This seems ultimately relational to me, and I can see why some get worried about other names for the three persons of the Unity in a Trinitarian invocation, such as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer; to be a Father definitely implies a child; and to be a Son implies a parent; and of course the Holy Spirit is simply there. But one can be a creator of things without necessarily including persons; one can be a redeemer of items and not people; and a sustainer can sustain anything, whether person or object. Although when describing the individual persons, it’s completely acceptable and even desirable to use titles such as Creator, Redeemer, etc. (just look at practically every hymn from The Hymnal, for example), when we invoke the Trinity qua Trinity I think it’s important to use relational language, rather than descriptive, as much as possible, which is (or at least can be) a form of modalism, the heresy that says there is no distinct Trinity within the
1  Augustine of Hippo, “On the Trinity,” trans. Arthur West Haddan, in A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series, Volume III: St. Augustine: On the Holy Trinity, Doctrinal Treatises, Moral Treatises, ed. Philip Schaff (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1887), 126.

It is the most basic task of the Church, then, to work to remake that unity among individuals and with God.

The language here is straightforward, but contains a deep theology that deserves noting. To “restore to unity” implies that the status quo ante lacks that unity now. The present state of the universe, claims the Catechism here,3 is that humanity is dis-united, or not fully united, or mis-united, not only from itself but also from God, a God who exists and with whom a relationship of unity is possible.4 It is the most basic task of the Church, then, to work to remake that unity among individuals and with God. The Catechism also implies that at one point such unity did exist. One cannot restore what never existed. Its short statement simultaneously articulates a theology of the fall (without, wisely, explaining how that came to be or commenting otherwise on
2  Book of Common Prayer, 855. 3  In an earlier section, the Catechism states explicitly on 845: “From the beginning, human beings have misused their freedom and made wrong choices.” 4  J. Andrew Kirk explores some of the positive implications of a God who can be in relationship in What Is Mission? Theological Explorations (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999), 25-30.


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the mechanics of creation) as well as a theology of salvation. If the Catechism only presupposes an entire theology of creation and the fall, it does not do the same about salvation. Our task is to accomplish restoration of unity, but that unity is explicitly found “in Christ.” We should never forget that our mission is to work toward unity among humans and with God in, through, and by the power of Christ Jesus. The position of this prepositional phrase makes clear what, or rather who, the agent of our work should be. In an increasingly multiethnic, multicultural, and multireligious age, it’s important to recall that we indeed have -- and should have -- a point of view;5 we are not simply articulating a deistic humanism, but affirming a true salvation resting in the entirety of Jesus the Christ.

“Missioning with” may be a nice phrase, but in actuality “mission” per se is really and only God’s mission.

regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us, (II Corinthians 5:14-20 NRSV). The “ministry of reconciliation” that Paul sees as God’s initiative in Christ is both gift and command, and is similar to the “restoring . . . to unity with God and each other” from the Prayer Book. And “all people” per the Prayer Book calls to mind the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” For many Christians, the Great Commission -- “comission,” to mission with -- is the sum total of what the Church is about.6 “Missioning with” may be a nice phrase, but in actuality “mission” per se is really and only God’s mission. The catechism puts it bluntly: “Q: What help is there for us? A: Our help is in God.” This idea is that of the missio Dei, “God’s mission.” It is God as God, who “made us for himself,” as Eucharistic Prayer A puts it, who undertakes the mission of restoration first. God is both the sender and the sent one.7 As David Bosch observed: “The classic doctrine on the missio Dei as God the Father sending the Son, and God the Father and the Son sending the Spirit was expanded to include yet another ‘movement’: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit sending the church

The language of the mission statement is deeply, although not obviously, scriptural in nature. It calls most immediately to mind St. Paul’s reflection to the Corinthians about what keeps him going: For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we
5  As noted by Lambeth 1998, there are lots of ways to respectfully maintain a Christian point of view when working with those of other religions, even when we profoundly disagree. See “Thirty Theses on Christian Responses to People of Other Faiths,” The Official Report of the Lambeth Conference 1998 (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse 1999), 138-147, and Resolution V.36: “On Relations With People of Other Faiths.” Accessed on June 2013.

6  “Mission and Spirituality,” The New Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005), 443. 7  “Mission,” The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 440.


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church into the world.”8 So although the Book of Common Prayer’s version of the Church’s mission seems inexplicably to omit any reference to the Holy Spirit, to “restore to unity with God” must mean God-as-Trinity.9 Bosch notes: “Mission has its origin in the heart of God. God is a fountain of sending love. This is the deepest source of mission. It is impossible to penetrate deeper still; there is mission because God loves people.”10 And so, as we move into the time after Pentecost, we focus anew on our mission as the Church, to, paraphrasing the Catechism, work to restore right relations between us and God our Father, us and each other, us and our own selves, and us and the very Creation itself, in Christ Jesus by the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It’s appropriate then, that this issue of The Anglican explores various issues and topics concerned directly with relationality and relationships, and getting them right: • Dr. Nicholas Birns explores corporate relationships between The United Methodist Church and The Episcopal Church in “Expand Thy Wings, Celestial Dove: The Methodist Renaissance and Its Anglican Associations” and shows how it was the Methodists who really carried on the tradition of excellence in writing and poetry between the time of the Anglican Divines and the Oxford Movement. • The Rev. Dr. C. Don Keyes completes his series of contributions to us with some ideas on the Blessed Virgin and her relationship
8  David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission (Mary-knoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1991), 390-391. 9  The mission statement also seems to neglect other aspects of the cosmic lack of unity, e.g., between humans and the rest of the created universe, and between humans and their own internal selves. Granted that full restoration with God will facilitate restoration with all, it’s still interesting that the mission statement omits these deep and pervasive aspects of our unrestored natures. 10  Bosch, 392. See also Companions in Transformation: The Episcopal Church’s World Mission in a New Century, Report of the Standing Commission on World Mission to the 2003 General Convention, 2.

to her Son, and to us as well, in “The Immaculate Conception and Time: A Critical Epistemology of Faith.” • We also welcome Mr. Troy Elder, Esq., who in a timely analysis of natural-law ideas, both ancient and modern, explores the intersection of ethics, law, and theology in the context of marriage equality, in “Natural Law, Natural Rights, and Marriage Equality.” • And Professor David Middleton offers a personal reflection about relationships that arise between good friends and colleagues in “John: An Anglican Meditation on Literary Gifts and Giving.” And of course, our president’s message from the Rev. Canon J. Robert Wright and some poetry, both ancient and modern. I invite your letters and opinions (editor@ anglicansociety.org) for our new “Letters to the Editor” blog. As always, your contributions of prose, poetry, fiction, or artwork that furthers our own mission as a “journal of Anglican identity” are most welcome! Bob X The Rev. Robert F. Solon Jr., SCP, is resident at General Theological Seminary while pursuing a Th.D. in liturgics. He is canonically resident in the Diocese of Newark and recently served as supply priest for Trinity and St. Philip's Cathedral in Newark, where he is also a member of the Cathedral chapter, and has served as vicar of St. Thomas' Episcopal Church in Vernon, New Jersey.


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Expand Thy Wings, Celestial Dove: The Methodist Renaissance and Its Anglican Associations
For Elaine Savory

Nicholas Birns


ART OF WHAT ANGLICANS MOST cherish about Anglicanism is the association of its emergence in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries with a great flowering of English literature. Even if one restricts oneself to writers actually associated with the Church -Thomas Cranmer, Richard Hooker, Lancelot Andrewes, George Herbert, Henry Vaughan, William Tyndale, Miles Coverdale, the many gifted translators of the Authorized Version -- the roster is impressive; it becomes even more so when one adds lay writers such as Edmund Spenser who were fervent defenders of the Church of England, figures such as John Donne and Ben Jonson who flirted with Roman Catholicism but ended up in the Anglican embrace, and of course William Shakespeare, who, whatever his essentially protean and indefinable nature, certainly had Anglican patrons and seems more often than not to have had, in his work at least, Anglican sympathies. Even an idiosyncratic Puritan like John Milton would not have written and thought as he did without the prior century of literary and theological rigor to inspire and enrage him. But where did this all go? After the English Civil War, this renovating association of religion and literature seems to fade. The eighteenth century’s most perceptive literary mind, Samuel Johnson, although a pious Anglican himself, discouraged

any overt linkage of literary composition and religious belief. Conventionally, we have to wait until the Oxford Movement of the 1840s to see the baton taken up; and this movement, like the later neo-Christianity of the twentieth century, was consciously an embrace of the past and liturgical tradition, as much about the historicity of Christianity as its faith affirmations. What we miss here, though, is the cultural ferments of the late eighteenth century, and we miss these because, though we recognize the importance of the abolitionism, political reformism, and Romantic aesthetics of the era, we seldom see them as linked. But if we do, and we ask what religious current goes with these developments, there is only one possible answer: Methodism. This essay will argue that there was, as it were, a Methodist Renaissance of the late 1700s, which inherited the verve and force of the Anglican Renaissance of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These two moments largely encompass the truly epochal religious achievements of the English-speaking world. Indeed, so accustomed are we both to periodize and to segregate spirituality in terms of highlow oppositions of churchmanship that we miss continuities: Milton, the last major figure often associated, even in Puritan opposition, with the Anglican Renaissance, died in 1674, the same year Isaac Watts, whose great hymns were forerunners

Even an idiosyncratic Puritan like John Milton would not have written and thought as he did without the prior century of literary and theological rigor to inspire and enrage him.


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of the Methodist Renaissance, was born. Indeed, it is surprising to remember that Watts was a figure of the first half of the eighteenth century, so much were his ideas, and his mode of expressing them, premonitory of the later Enlightenment and Romanticism. This is seen even in by far his most famous hymn: Joy to the world! The Lord is come; Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven, and heaven and nature sing.1 The first verse, in a very Enlightenment way, aligns heaven and nature -- religion and science just as the U.S. Declaration of Independence speaks of “nature and nature’s God.” The cosmos is seen as a frame for power and majesty, but also passionate celebration. If one is to inquire about the whereabouts of all the paradoxical and ingenious figures associated with John Donne, and cherished as part of the aesthetic atmosphere of the Anglican Renaissance, the first answer would be that they are absent, but this would be wrong. The juxtaposition of mind and heart, spiritual heaven and physical nature, is as striking as any in Donne, but it is done seamlessly, so that the reader can apprehend it intuitively rather than have to work it out logically or mathematically. This is also seen in the final verse: He rules the world with truth and grace And makes the nations prove The glories of His righteousness, And wonders of His love, And wonders of His love And wonders, wonders of His love. Truth and grace, righteousness and wonder, might be seen as antithetical, but Watts, without claiming they are simply one thing, melting them all into a meaningless soup of praise, shows their juxtaposition and harmony. Watts was no naïf: he wrote a treatise on logic and one on astronomy, and even attempted a book of conventional reli1  Free Methodist Hymnal (Chicago: Free Methodist Church,1905), 39.

John Milton

gious lyrics, Horae Lyricae, in 1705, though these did not meet with worldly success. Watts had a curious and multifoliate mind, and the main difference between his poetic efforts in hymnody and those of the Anglican poets of a century earlier is that his hymns garnered a far greater audience. This commonality has been neglected; for instance, in his authoritative Religious Trends in English Poetry 1740-1780, Hoxie N. Fairchild excludes hymnody from his considerations of poetry ostensibly because another then-recent book had covered the subject, but in fact because Methodism, and predecessor Dissenting movements, to Fairchild’s mind “appealed chiefly to the subliterary” (91) and “was imbued with deep distrust of the worldly arts.”2 Though Fairchild soon realizes a complete exclusion of Methodism and Dissent from the history of religious poetry is unsustainable -- he notes that John Wesley, in 1744, compiled A Collection of Moral and Sacred Poems from the Most Celebrated English Authors -- there is a sense that to be Methodist is ipso facto to be not literary, and that the further low one goes in churchmanship the further distant from the Muse one strays. That Methodism was in its origins what Mark Noll termed an “experiential movement” means to many literary historians that it cannot be poetic, as their idea of poetry remains that of Donne, Marvell, and even Milton, university-educated men addressing learned cote2  Hoxie Neale Fairchild, Religious Trends in English Poetry, 1740-1780 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1942), 91.


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ries and foregrounding wit and ingenuity.3 This has affected the understanding of Watts -- because people know that Watts was a Dissenter, and thus they deny him any continuity toward or relevance to mainstream Anglicanism. Yet to employ hymns at all -- to sing songs in church with words other than those found in the Bible -- was in itself a divagation from a Puritan stance that found many supporters in the Anglican church of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Watts’s sense that songs could be sung based on the Bible and on Christian doctrine, while not simply reproducing the ipsissima verba of Biblical passages, retains and broadens the embrace of language even as it goes beyond the “appeal to ingenuity” that George Williamson saw as indicative of seventeenth-century religious poetry.4 With respect to poets of the previous century, such as George Herbert, who used plain language yet entertained elegant paradoxes, and who was skeptical of opulence and ostentation yet resolutely committed to a historic understanding of the Church, Watts by comparison is strangely neglected. As Donald Davie has pointed out, Dissenting and Methodist hymns used striking appositions of physical and spiritual imagery that mirrored the way Christ’s incarnation broke down categories of being.5 Wattsian hymnody was not an annulment of seventeenth-century sacred opulence, but a redeployment of it. And this broadened yet still affirmative attitude toward language has two serious consequences for Anglican-Methodist dialogue. First, it puts Methodism in an essentially catholic tradition of seeing the Bible as meaningfully amended by subsequent commentary, one that affirms that, even though the words of the Bible will always, rightly, have a special status, words can be added to them and be used liturgically in a way that is not impious and is
3  Mark Noll, America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 3. 4  George A. Williamson, A Reader’s Guide to the Metaphysical Poets: John Donne, George Herbert, Richard Crashaw, Abraham Cowley, Henry Vaughan, Andrew Marvell (London: Thames and Hudson, 1968), 14. 5  Donald David, A Gathered Church: The Literature of the English Dissenting Interest 1700-1930 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978).

productive of Christian understanding. There is no sense of sola scriptura, no fetishism of the Word. As with Count Nicolaus Zinzendorf and the Moravians, the great exemplar for eighteenth-century Anglophone religious reform, hymns for Isaac Watts and later Charles Wesley became the bridge between Scripture and the human heart. For both Moravians and Methodists, hymns used language as an intermediate symbolic form to conduct meaning from divine truth to individual apperception. Zinzendorf, who wrote so many hymns as to be almost uncountable, is here strangely reminiscent of the other great cultural link between Britain and the German-speaking world in the eighteenth century, George Frideric Handel. Just as Handel used music (and often rearranged Biblical verses in his sacred oratorios) to both acknowledge beauty and celebrate God, Zinzendorf, Watts, and the Wesley brothers used words and music to create a new spiritual meaning in the minds of their audience. It is not that the hymns occasioned a surrender to pure emotionalism; they provided a vehicle to capture people’s spiritual aspirations in words of human authorship that incarnated a verbal testimony to the Church’s history and institutionalism. Hymns provided, in the actual world in which their singers lived, a way to affirm what every Christian could believe. Watts and the Wesleys in essence replaced, in the body of hymnody they produced, the medieval Catholic hymn-writers who then had to be reincorporated into hymnals by the Oxford Movement and by men such as John Mason Neale. Their goal was the same as these earlier writers and composers: to amplify the ministry of the Word by producing words that were not scriptural but which served to edify and ramify scripture. The Romantic linkage between divinity and creativity which Stephen Prickett so eloquently registered in his path-breaking book, Words and “The Word,” was already in evidence in Watts, the Wesleys, the Augustus Montague Toplady of “Rock of Ages” (1763), the John Newton of “Amazing Grace,” (1779), the Edward Perronet of “All Hail The Power of Jesus’ Name” (1780), and the many eighteenth-century Dissenters and Methodists who used striking, innovative imagery and memorable turns of phrase to instance affirmations


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that all Christians could readily make.6 Prickett’s book directs us to the other major link between the Methodist Renaissance and Anglican -- Anglophone? -- literary history besides catholicity: Romanticism. To situate this linkage, we need only look at another very famous hymn of Watts, the 1719 “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.”7 Our God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come, Our shelter from the stormy blast, And our eternal home. Under the shadow of Thy throne Still may we dwell secure; Sufficient is Thine arm alone, And our defense is sure. Before the hills in order stood Or earth received her frame, From everlasting Thou art God, To endless years the same. Thy Word commands our flesh to dust, Return, ye sons of men: All nations rose from earth at first, And turn to earth again. A thousand ages in Thy sight Are like an evening gone; Short as the watch that ends the night Before the rising sun. The busy tribes of flesh and blood, With all their lives and cares, Are carried downwards by the flood, And lost in following years. Time, like an ever-rolling stream, Bears all its sons away; They fly, forgotten, as a dream
6  Stephen Prickett, Words and “the Word”: Language, Poetics and Biblical Intrepretation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986). 7  Watts originally wrote the first line as “Our God, our help in ages past . . .” It was later changed by John Wesley, when he was editing a collection of hymns, to the wording we are familiar with, “O God, our help . . .”

Dies at the opening day. Like flowery fields the nations stand Pleased with the morning light; The flowers beneath the mower’s hand Lie withering ere ’tis night. Our God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come, Be Thou our guard while life shall last, And our eternal home.8 What is striking here is not just the juxtaposition of heaven and nature, as in “Joy to the World,” but the sense of temporality. This is not just a watchmaker God (of a sort to be made famous in the decades after Watts by the theologian William Paley) but a God with a kinetic, dynamic relation to temporality; time resonates through echoing arenas, tears through huge courses of experience. The direct apostrophe to God -- “everlasting Thou art God” -- is striking; Watts in effect interrupts himself in the middle of the poem to call out God. It is as if his spiritual passion is so ardent that even the rhetorical frame of a praise-song to God must be jettisoned in favor of a spontaneous effusion of unmediated praise, or that God is so present to the writer (and singers) that God’s dwelling within our hearts must be instantly registered. But it is also a striking rhetorical technique akin to those that Anglicans feel so justly proud of when they see a Donne or a Herbert noted, but which is seldom attributed to Watts. Like the earlier poets, Watts’s
8  The Episcopal Church, The Hymnal as Adopted by the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America in the Year of Our Lord 1892 (New York, 1892), 353-4.

Prickett’s book directs us to the other major link between Methodist Renaissance and Anglican literary history besides catholicity: Romanticism.


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piety was so intense that the normal channels and tropes of language are insufficient to accommodate them. Like “Thou art God,” the idea of “time rolling” ruptures customary paradigms. Importantly, even though the human and divine scales of time are very different, time still matters; God is not simply a nunc stans, an eternal Now outside time, but manifests himself in a complex, enfolding temporality. With this in mind, we can see a real continuity when we look at a secular Romantic poem written by William Wordsworth over a half-century later, “Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” (1798). And I have felt A presence that disturbs me with the joy Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime Of something far more deeply interfused, Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, And the round ocean and the living air, And the blue sky, and in the mind of man; A motion and a spirit, that impels All thinking things, all objects of all thought, And rolls through all things.9 Just as, in Watts, time is an ever-rolling stream, so in Wordsworth’s intensely temporal poem, which focuses on revisiting a beloved scene five years later and remembering past joys, an empowering motion and spirit roll through all things. “Roll” as a verb -- convulsive and inspiring, but not linear; prodigious, but not static; at once kinetic and dignified -- expresses well the way Watts and Wordsworth see spirit in history: as not a line, not a trickle, not a continuous interchange, but a turbulent yet majestic forward motion. The Watts intertextuality here -- and it is safe to assume Wordsworth knew of Watts’s hymn, and to assert that this is a direct borrowing, whether conscious or unconscious -- also reminds us that Tintern Abbey was a ruined, formerly Catholic monastery, dissolved in the days of Henry VIII. Though both Watts and Wordsworth are the
9  William Wordsworth, Select Poems of Wordsworth ed. William J. Rolfe (New York: Harper, 1895), 54.

furthest things from being Roman Catholics in the strict sense, their vision of God, time, and nature manifests a robust catholicity: an affirmation of creativity and history; a sense of what all Christians should feel and believe in common; and their sense that juxtaposition of natural imagery to our experience of God in time can generate, as John Wesley put it in his record of his spiritual experience at Aldersgate, “a heart strangely warmed.” Wordsworth’s aesthetic hopes, in a poem like “Tintern Abbey,” are cognate with the spiritual hopes of Dissenting and Methodist spirituality. This can be seen by recourse to one of Charles Wesley’s most famous hymns, the 1740 “Come, Holy Ghost, our hearts inspire”: Come, Holy Ghost, our hearts inspire, let us thine influence prove; source of the old prophetic fire, fountain of life and love. Come, Holy Ghost (for moved by thee the prophets wrote and spoke), unlock the truth, thyself the key, unseal the sacred book. Expand thy wings, celestial Dove, brood o’er our nature’s night; on our disordered spirits move, and let there now be light. God, through the Spirit we shall know if thou within us shine, and sound, with all thy saints below, the depths of love divine.10 The “sacred book” is seen as at once a fount of knowledge and an occasioning of effect, and as both historic -- of the days of the prophets -- and contemporary, as being manifest in our own souls. The unlocking key the Holy Ghost provides is the answer both to an intellectual riddle and an anterior spiritual desiccation, just as the power that rolls through all things in “Tintern Abbey” can provide “abundant recompense” for an incipient spiritual crisis brought on by Wordsworth’s distance from youthful inspiration. In both poems, an outside power intervenes when the human sense
10  The United Methodist Church, The United Methodist Hymnal (Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1989), 603.

. . . time is an ever-rolling stream . . .


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alone cannot render meaning in the world. We are used to seeing the younger Wordsworth, the one who wrote memorable poems, as a secular liberationist, and the older Wordsworth, who wrote less memorable poems, as a dogmatic Anglican, scorned by secular liberals such as Robert Browning for truckling to Queen Victoria to receive the poet laureateship, “just for a riband to stick in his coat.” But the young Wordsworth had substantial religious links; they are just unnoticed, as they were with Dissenters and Methodists rather than with the high Anglicans that literary history has come to see as tantamount to “religion and literature.” Wordsworth was a great admirer of the abolitionist Thomas Clarkson, and these lines from his memorable sonnet to Clarkson display Wordsworth’s sense of Clarkson’s mission as a sacred and evangelical one: But Thou, who, starting in thy fervent prime, Didst first lead forth this pilgrimage sublime, Hast heard the constant Voice its charge repeat, Which, out of thy young heart’s oracular seat, First roused thee. - O true yoke-fellow of Time With unabating effort, see, the palm Is won, and by all Nations shall be worn!11 People as different in aesthetics and manner as Jane Austen and Samuel Taylor Coleridge admired Clarkson, and his life and work represent a profound association between the moral fervor of Abolitionism and the aesthetic reimaginings of Romanticism, seen also in Wordsworth’s equally impassioned and admiring sonnet to the imprisoned Haitian leader, Toussaint L’Ouverture.12 These connections were not visible to scholars as long as the Romantic canon was defined away from politics. But the recent redefinition of this era from being an era of Romanticism as such to “the Romantic period,” as suggested by Jerome McGann, and the popularity of discussing Romanticism in
11  William Knight, ed., The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, (London: Macmillan 1896, Vol. 4), 65. 12  See, for example, “To Toussaint L’Ouverture,” Accessed on June 2013.

terms of both the “long eighteenth century” and the “long nineteenth century” (locutions popularized by analogy to Eric Hobsbawm’s “short twentieth century” in The Age of Extremes, which in turn drew upon the longue durée of Fernand Braudel) have let us see the writers of the Romantic period in greater continuity with respect to times before and after them.13,14 Thus I am arguing that the Wesley brothers, Watts, Wordsworth, and a figure such as Clarkson can be seen together as part of a long eighteenth century that bears the particular emphasis of a Methodist Renaissance. (I use this term even though the same redefinitions of periods that have led to the use of the phrases long eighteenth and long nineteenth centuries have largely seen “Renaissance,” in the sense of denoting the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in English literature, replaced with the locution “early modern”). Even more than a Methodist Renaissance, though, the broadening of the eighteenth -- and nineteenth -century canon has given us newly prominent texts that go beyond the white, Eurocentric vantagepoints of the critics of Fairchild’s generation. One of the most widely taught texts in all of English literary studies today is The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano. This tells the story of a slave kidnapped from West Africa, who after experiencing the Middle Passage and spending time in the Caribbean and British North America, is freed by a Quaker friend and spends years as a successful seaman and explorer before writing his life story as a way of garnering energy for the abolitionist cause, in what Daniel O’Quinn calls a “strategic intervention in the debate on the aboli-

These connections were not visible to scholars as long as the Romantic canon was defined away from politics.

13  Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes: A History of the World 1914-1991 (New York: Pantheon, 1995). 14  Jerome McGann, The New Oxford Book of Romantic Period Verse (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993).


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tion of slavery.”15 Though recent scholarship, as for example the work of Vincent Carretta, has questioned the veracity of the entirety of Equiano’s narrative, it cannot be denied he was a black African who contributed to the discourse of abolitionism in the long eighteenth century.16 It also cannot be denied that Equiano was a Methodist; in his brief time in British North America, he listened to George Whitefield and was evangelized by him. When The Interesting Narrative was published, many of the subscribers to its North American edition, as Akiyo Ito points out, lived in Middletown, Connecticut, later the home of Wesleyan University and already a municipality with substantial Methodist population, black and white.17 Equiano was a seminal figure in what Adam Potkay and Sandra Burr term the eighteenth-century Black Atlantic, and his inclusion in the twentyfirst-century literary canon foregrounds the links between Methodism and the literary imagination that the stereotypes of earlier generations would disallow.18 Equiano reminds us that, as the Theological Foundation for Full Communion between The Episcopal Church and The United Methodist Church adopted by the U.S. Episcopal-Methodist dialogue team in May 2010 indicates, “The Episcopal Church and The United Methodist Church share a common heritage in the broad tradition of English Christianity as well as the eighteenthcentury Church of England, among other sources and influences.”19 The life and career of Olaudah
15  Daniel O’Quinn, “The State of Things: Olaudah Equiano and the Volatile Politics of Heterocosmic Desire,” Romantic Circles. Accessed on April 20, 2013. 16  Vincent Carretta, Equiano The African (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2005). 17  Akiyo Ito, “Oludah Equiano and the New York Artisans. The First American Edition of The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano,” Early American Literature (1997), 82-101. 18  Adam Potkay and Sandra Burr, Black Atlantic Writers of the 18th Century: Living the New Exodus in England and the Americas (New York: St. Martin’s, 1995). 19  The Episcopal-United Methodist Dialogue Team, A Theological Foundation for Full Communion between The Episcopal Church and The United

Equiano drives this point home.

Among the Powers of the Earth

It also cannot be denied that Equiano was a Methodist

Equiano is a bridge not only between Anglicanism and Methodism, but between Britain, America, and other elements of the Atlantic world. We have already seen that admitting Methodism into English literary history not only deepens its spiritual reach, but also extends its geographical breadth. The Anglican Renaissance had a transatlantic aspect: an American Puritan poet like Edward Taylor wrote in a metaphysical mode similar to Donne, although with a very different theology from Donne or even Herbert; and Donne himself spoke jocularly of “O, my America, my new-found land.”20 Marvell wrote about the Bermudas, and in The Tempest, Shakespeare about a setting many see as North American even if not literally so. But by the time of the era of Watts and the Wesleys, British North America was a series of settled polities with a vital cultural sphere. The problem was, though, that the Church of England could not conceptualize this. In common with many post-Reformation churches, it was a national church and had difficulty seeing itself extending beyond the confines of the nation. Whereas the Roman Catholic Church and even the then-threadbare and captive Orthodox Church saw themselves as supranational, the European Protestant churches had all been formed under the principles of Cuius regio, ejus religio -- whatever the religion of the king, there let the religion of the country be -- and even as they acquired colonies, these countries had a difficult time extending the state religion to them in a way that would allow it any autonomy there. Thus we have the paradox of the Church of England, a church whose manifest difference from its fellow Protestant confessions lay in its strong affirmation of the role of the bishop, nonetheless not extending the episcopate to North America. Though the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG) was founded
Methodist Church, adopted April 16, 2010. 20  John Donne, Elegy XX, “To His Mistress Going to Bed,” Accessed in June 2013.


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in 1701 expressly to minister to North America, on the model of the already-existing Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, its mandate was not to establish new dioceses but to inspire and succor individual congregations. Indeed, the lack of bishops inevitably gave the SPG an evangelical overtone even though it saw itself in manifest competition with the Dissenting groups that had established themselves in North America. Indeed, these Dissenting groups, such as the Quakers and the Puritans, had a paradoxical advantage in North America over the SPG and the Anglicans: their leadership, however differently conceived and structured, was physically resident in the colonies, whereas the only effective leader among the Anglicans who largely populated the middle and especially the Southern colonies was the bishop of London (not Canterbury; the bishop of London was the supervisor of the colonies) thousands of miles and a two-months voyage away. In other words, because the Church of England did not appoint bishops in North America, for reasons of colonial control and a conceptual inability to see America as a separate ecclesiastical space, it vitiated the administrative structure of a church whose effectiveness, unlike that of the Puritans and Quakers, depended on administrative structure. Wesley’s own North American experience, in the at-first-utopian colony of Georgia, exemplified this; the non-hierarchical structure, at first a product of negligence, became part of the experimental nature of the society. As Carl Bridenbaugh points out in Mitre and Sceptre, much of the British reluctance to establish bishops in North America had to do with the fact that the large number of Dissenters there would have seen such an institution as an imposition.21 But an unwillingness to pluralize symbols of oversight surely contributed to this reluctance -- if Cuius regio, ejus religio, then if there were English and American bishops did that mean a separate English and American sovereign? As is well known, Henry Alline, a Dissenting Christian, evangelized Nova Scotia for evangelical Protestantism during the years of the American Revolution and, depending on one’s perspective,
21  Carl Bridenbaugh, Mitre and Sceptre: Transatlantic Faiths, Ideas, Personalities and Politics, 1689-1775 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1962).

is either blamed for or credited with keeping the province quiet during the American Revolution and outside of the eventual American Union. Yet, in 1787, George III appointed Charles Inglis, the former Tory rector of Trinity Church in New York, as first bishop of Nova Scotia. The British government had learned its lesson: that just as Canada would be given just enough self-government so it would not rebel, so it would be given bishops just enough to prevent an ecclesiastical disaffection. But these motives born out of the loss of what became the U.S. were not there before 1783; and North America had no bishops. Indeed, it had more baronets (such as Sir William Pepperell and Sir William Johnson) than it did bishops. Raised on anti-British and anti-authoritarian rhetoric, we in the U.S. might tend to see this as a product of America resisting bishops; but it is just as much that the British refused to give us bishops, much as they refused to give us representation in Parliament, as it would have meant pluralizing authority. This leads to the basic paradox that a colonizing country, if it wants to fully build up its colony, must afford that colony all appropriate institutions, and that those institutions will inevitably lead to self-governance; that, as Homi Bhabha has argued, colonial authority is weirdly self-undoing.22 What this paradox did enable, though, is two major strands in the American story. One is the Great Awakening: the preaching of George Whitefield, the later missionizing of Philip Embury, Francis Asbury, and Thomas Coke -- not to mention Zinzendorf, whose most lasting impact was arguably on American shores -- and the association of Dissenting fervor with the frontier, culminating in the Cane Ridge Revival of 1801. The
22  Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 1994).

. . . a colonizing country, if it wants to fully build up its colony, must afford that colony all appropriate institutions.


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other was the generation of the Founding Fathers, the many Virginians among whom were, as Daniel Boorstin points out, Anglican vestrymen who lived in a world where “church duties and civil duties are one.”23 Men such as Washington and Madison, whatever their eventual religious beliefs, cut their civil teeth as vestrymen in a church polity where the vestry was all the more important because of the absence of bishops. Thus even though sentimentality and stereotype might urge us to say that Americans refused bishops and that this was one of the seeds of independence, in fact what happened is that the absence of bishops in America fostered innovative and alternative ways of thinking about faith and polity that provided the spiritual fire and the intellectual leadership for the American experiment. When the country was independent, though, those Christians whose denominations were oriented toward bishops wanted them. As is frequently pointed out, the Wesley brothers never saw themselves as leaving the Church of England or as operating outside it, but as developing a new tendency of renewal and holiness within it. Inevitably, the Wesleys ended up, as Albert Outler puts it, “exercising a vigorous freedom to criticize and alter Anglican proprieties” but “deeply attached to the Church and determined to carry forward her true mission to the people.”24 Thus, when in 1780 U.S. Methodists asked for a bishop, John Wesley asked the bishop of London, who had jurisdiction over the Anglicans in the former colonies, to consecrate one. Ironically, the incumbent bishop was Robert Lowth, the brilliant Hebraist whose discernment of the parallelistic nature of
23  Daniel Boorstin, The Americas: The Colonial Experience (New York: Vintage 1964), 131. 24  Alber Outler, ed. John Wesley (New York: Oxford University Press 1964),19.

. . . the Wesley brothers never saw themselves as leaving the Church of England or as operating outside it . . .

Hebrew poetry revolutionized Biblical aesthetics and is a pivotal example of the alignment between spiritual fervor and Romantic imagination that undergirds the idea of a Methodist Renaissance. Wesley knew Lowth’s character well -- they were frequent correspondents -- and buttered him up by accurately noting Lowth’s “abilities and extensive learning.”25 In this respect though, Lowth’s sense of his episcopal office held sway, and, just as the traditional U.S. Anglicans who wanted a bishop were greeted coldly in England and had to go to the Scottish Nonjurors for a handing-on of the historic episcopate, Wesley, who bewailed to Lowth the mournful state of “poor America, for the sheep scattered up and down therein” had to take another option.26 He ordained Thomas Coke as superintendent, an office that, upon Coke’s arrival in America, was construed by the Methodists in the U.S. as that of bishop, and named as such. Thus it is untrue to say that Wesley, not a bishop himself, ordained a bishop. He appointed somebody to an office of oversight -- episcopacy in a very lower-case sense -- and the nomenclature of that person’s office in the U.S. became path-dependent in terminology on the office which his “sheep” instinctively correlated with the act of oversight -- that of bishop. As the 2010 Theological Foundations statement puts it so well: In the late eighteenth century, after the American Revolution, three groups of Anglicans in North America felt it necessary to adapt historic Anglican polity and worship in order to face the challenges of mission and ministry in the North American context. Two of these groups came together to form the Protestant Episcopal Church, now also known as The Episcopal Church; the other group formed the Methodist Episcopal Church, a principal predecessor church of The United Methodist Church. Both of these churches were forced to adapt Anglican polity in order to face the challenges of mission in the North American context. The resulting churches shared much in common, including similar liturgies and
25  George Eayrs, ed. Letters of John Wesley (Whitefish: Kessinger, 2007), 128. 26  Eayrs and Birrell, Letters, 129.


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episcopally-structured forms of church polity.27 It is not as if bishops were a hangover from a colonial past, but that bishops were what the colonial past had denied us and what we assumed we should have as an independent nation, to quote Jefferson in the Declaration, “among the powers of the earth.” Anglicans and Methodists found separate solutions, and this is what has driven us apart institutionally, but the paradox -- one that the Metaphysical poets might have appreciated -- is they were trying to find the same solution for the same reasons. Further divisions -- the increasing North-South divide, the lamentable splitting-off of the African-American Methodist churches, regional and class separations -- have made Episcopalians and Methodists seem very different factors in American religious life. Yet the stereotypes of sherry-sipping Episcopalians and detailing Methodists, of Episcopal intellectuals and Methodist revivalists, of hardscrabble Methodists and Episcopal grandees, of Episcopal chantries and Methodist tent-meetings, belie a common origin during the long eighteenth century, where it has to be said Methodism set the intellectual tone and was linked to the more cutting-edge cultural practice. Above and beyond any specific cause for this sundering, one may observe that the long eighteenth century, for all its hierarchies and inequalities, had what Srinivas Aravamudan has called a “tropicopolitan” aspect, a sense, at least in the Anglophone world, that identities and affiliations could conduct themselves across barriers.28 Despite the broader democracy and more intense imaginative scope of the nineteenth century, identities -- as reflected in British-U.S. cultural difference as well as sectional and denominational differences within the U.S. -became more hard and fast. Somebody who retained a transatlantic eye, however, was the later Wordsworth. As we have said, the later, more conservative Wordsworth is not so well regarded poetically. But his late sequence of “Ecclesiastical Sonnets” (1821-2) not only is intrinsically interesting also to Anglicans for its concen27  Methodist Episcopal Theological Foundations statement. 28  Srinivas Aravamudan, Tropicolitans: Colonialism and Agency, 1688-1804 (Durham: Duke University Press, 1999).

trating on the history of the Church of England, but, because Wordsworth celebrates American Episcopacy, casting the divines who sought Episcopal ordination in England as “those who strove in filial love to reunite/what force had severed.” Wordsworth apostrophizes Bishop William White, saying, “To thee, O Saintly White/Patriarch of a wide-spreading family/Remotest lands and unborn times shall turn?/Whether they would restore or build.”29 Though Wordsworth does not honor Coke in the same way he does White, he continues to manifest that sense of the temporal continuity of spiritual zeal, the panoramic vision of the future that conduct, spiritual feeling, organically if not predictably, from age to age, that we saw in his echoing of the verb “roll” from Watts. He also cultivates the nourishing spiritual broadening urged by Charles Wesley: “Expand Thy Wings, Celestial Dove.” Even though the conservative later Wordsworth endorses the quintessential Anglican doctrine of the historic episcopate, he does not give up the sense of ethical force and personal integrity associated with Methodism. Bishop White, indeed, is a hero in the mold of Wesley himself. Methodism and Anglicanism were not necessarily working at cross-purposes or out of sharply opposed agendas. We need to realize how much kinship there was in this era. To do this, though, we must relinquish the reflexive assumption that the prized literary associations of Anglicanism are inevitably high-church and seventeenth-century, and that Methodist hymnody belongs to what Fairchild insultingly once called the “subliterary.” Granting the full scope of what the Methodist Renaissance is and was may be a way to expedite this needed reorientation. X Dr. Nicholas Birns is a parishioner of Grace Church in New York and chair of the New York area EpiscopalMethodist dialogue. He is the author of many books and articles as well as the editor of Antipodes: A Global Journal of Australian/NZ Literature. He thanks the Gill Library of the College of New Rochelle for assistance in the research for this article.
29  William Wordsworth, Ecclesiastical Sonnets, John Morley, ed. (London: Macmillan, 1988), 169.


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The Immaculate Conception and Time: A Critical Epistemology of Faith
C. Don Keyes
This article is the third of a series, the first and second of which were published respectively in the Spring1 and Fall2 2011 issues of The Anglican. All of them ask how faith can endure the world’s absurdities. The search for insights into aesthetic redemption and time in the Fall 2011 issue continues in this article about the Blessed Virgin Mary. I thank Clair W. McPherson and Katherine Weber, who contributed to this article. key argument of this article. Meanwhile, I mean that Marian doctrines are aesthetic creations and therefore beyond either falsification or verification in the scientific sense.


N AUGUST 14, 2011, I HEARD A sermon that gave an overview of various Marian doctrines. The preacher said that if some of those doctrines were proven false, it would not disturb his basic faith. That made me decide to write this essay, an Anglican interpretation of the Immaculate Conception from the perspective of a critical theory of knowledge that also tries to retrieve meaning from conventional distortions. As a philosopher, I would ask what theory of knowledge might account for believing in Mary. In Fall 2011, I wrote, “The light of reason that guides faith uses analogical, as opposed to scientifically literal, thinking. All our knowledge of God is symbolic (as Kant shows), and (following Ricoeur) so are myths that narrate symbols, rituals that enact them, and theological theories that explain them.”3 I come back to this shortly as the
1  C. Don Keyes, “New Julian Casserley Research and Incarnational Social Thought,” The Anglican (2011), 10-13. I ask the “burning question of how to do what the Incarnation requires in our seemingly hopeless age,” and answer with Casserley’s assertion possibly from 1950, “Nothing remains except to endure the absurdities with heroic defiance to the end.” 2  C. Don Keyes, “Julian Casserley’s Hope for 2050: A New Interpretation,” The Anglican (2011), 8-13. I recast my earlier question by asking what kind of heroic defiance might have produced “Casserley’s strange hope for 2050,” and answer that “hope triumphs aesthetically . . . by feeding upon the beauty and sublimity that heal the wounds of life.” 3  Keyes, “Julian Casserley’s Hope,” 13.

As believer, I would show that Mary is vital because the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, even though not manifestly scriptural, can be inferred directly from the Incarnation of Christ. I argue that she, as immaculately conceived, contributes to the redemption of both sin and also suffering in time. Her acts are an aesthetic spectacle. Mary is worthy of what Louis Bouyer characterizes as “total voluntary self-abandonment in faith, constant prayer, and more precisely, the exultant thanksgiving of a soul seized by the spirit.”4 Devotion to her exults in all that is best and noblest. Johann Sebastian Bach’s Magnificat is an aesthetic archetype of the spirit exulting in her. The aesthetic dimension of faith as such is vital, the unspoken grassroots feeling of many Anglicans.5 Redemption is aesthetic justification, a view
4  Louis Bouyer, History of Christian Spirituality Volume I: The New Testament and the Fathers (New York: Seabury Press, 1980), 15. 5  Julian Langead Casserley, Christian Community (New York: Longmans, Green, 1960), 95, 154. “It is the function of the liturgy to repeat and perpetuate the patterns of the divine redemption which we proclaim in the gospel and expound in our theology. In this sense the liturgy is obviously the most authoritative element in Christian practice and provides us with the touchstone of authority. . . . The Book of Common Prayer is an essentially conservative institution.

That aesthetic dimension of faith as such is vital, the unspoken grassroots feeling of many Anglicans.


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that looks toward Nietzsche and, beyond him to Orpheus, the beauty of whose music suspended the torments of the damned momentarily.


My arguments are an unconventional combination of critical epistemology and culturally conservative expressions of theological positions. The same theory of knowledge that accounts for believing in Mary exemplifies what applies to all religious ideas. Faith claims are not scientific, but aesthetic, judgments. Respect for truth, whether religious or otherwise, begins by first recognizing the integrity of scientific knowledge. Fundamentalism and other kinds of Christian anti-intellectualism do the opposite and begin by denying it. Respect for the truth of science goes against the relativism of postmodern philosophies that reduce science to societal constructions. The rigorous critical epistemology of Kant, on the other hand, is not relativistic since (in the First Critique) it regards transcendentally deduced scientific experience as empirically real. To hold that our knowledge of God is symbolic is not a move out of critical philosophy but (in the Third Critique) a reflective aesthetic move within it. That changed position is rationally sound to the extent that faith events and theological statements elaborating them are held to be aesthetically, not factually, true. To say that in somewhat different language, religion cannot settle its epistemological distress by saying, “Science does not presently know enough about reality, but it will legitimate faith when it does.” There are actually two irremovably different ways of speaking: factual and reflective, or symbolic. Language is scientific if its truth (or falsehood) can be tested factually, or empirically. The truth (or falsehood) of religious language in general does not depend upon any specifically testable facts. Language about faith events is like music; it bestows significance upon life and facts. Bach’s Magnificat is a holy event. It generates meaning. It
In theory at all events it surrenders no part of the liturgical heritage in Western Christendom, except in order to remove unworthy innovations and manifest corruptions.”

is not merely an expression of emotion, since it is also cognitive. High music like it can be even prior to the split ordinary experience makes between feeling and reason. Language about religious phenomena -- whether they point to events or theological reflection on them -- does not aim at proving anything, but at disclosing meanings in a descriptive circle. The first step in respecting truth is to recognize the sovereignty of scientific knowledge and mark off aesthetics as the domain of religious phenomena. The second step is to respect the integrity of the phenomenon. Some phenomena are hidden and cannot be disclosed because conventional distortions, especially authoritarianism, hide them. These distortions have to be broken down and destroyed. I distinguish the primordial authority of what might be hidden from an alien, hostile kind of authority. Authoritarian authority requires submission to external power. In the process, it turns doctrines into dry bones, a set of alien laws imposed upon individuals from the outside. As opposed to this, primordial authority is persuasive. “It chooses freely because it aesthetically appropriates the symbols of the spiritual heritage and events that gave rise to them. Instead of acquiescing, it rejoices in the symbols of faith as one does in a loved work of art,” as I wrote in Fall 2011.6 Primordial authority dwells on the edge of revelation, repeats the event of the inception of the truth of doctrines, and displays what Heidegger terms the “birth certificate” of the inception. Heidegger also characterizes the recovery of the inception of truth as “wresting” out into the open and “robbery” out of concealment. I will use these terms as appropriate figures for “destroying” distortions, authoritarian and

Respect for truth, whether religious or otherwise, begins by first recognizing the integrity of scientific knowledge.

6  Keyes, “Julian Casserley’s Hope,” 12.


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other, which conceal primordial religious phenomena.

Attestations and Arguments

In Luke, the Archangel Gabriel salutes Mary and announces that she is filled with grace. I quote excerpts below to reveal the primordial event as aesthetic spectacle and show that Mary’s actions and her own words destroy conventional distortions. Some commentators argue that the special status Gabriel attributes to Mary points toward what will later be called her Immaculate Conception. The virgin birth of Jesus is different. It means that Mary was “found with child by the Holy Ghost” before she and Joseph had intercourse (Matthew 1:18, 25). The much later post-Biblical doctrine of Mary’s own conception means that God prevented her from original sin when she was conceived, namely at the time her soul was created. Anne and Joachim had intercourse that generated her body.

otokos). Her life is the source of the “complete” humanity which “true” divinity took into itself in Christ when the word became flesh. A mother, already immaculate, brought unfallen humanity, life as it ought to be, to the hypostatic union. As I also said in Fall 2011, The Definition of Chalcedon does not have primordial authority because the institutional church decreed that it is true, but mainly because it theoretically repeats the origin of the mighty events of God’s action in Christ and also because of the elegance of the dialectical perfection of the concept that Christ is truly divine and perfectly human, and these two natures are inseparable, yet not confused.7 I argue that the Incarnation of the Word is the a priori condition for thinking about the Immaculate Conception, which makes belief in that doctrine accountable to the dignity of material reality and the essential goodness of flesh. Piety about Mary and interpretations of doctrines about her cannot escape that ontology.

God prevented her from original sin when she was conceived, namely at the time her soul was created.

Ineffabilis Deus

Pope Pius IX’s definition (1854) of the Immaculate Conception appropriately circumscribes what the doctrine means and does not mean: We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.8 The Catholic Encyclopedia lays out four elements of the definition, excerpts of which I quote: The subject of this immunity from original sin
7  Keyes, “Julian Casserley’s Hope” 12. 8  Pius IX, “Immaculate Conception,” Papal Encyclicals Online, Accessed on September 25, 2012.

I confine the following comments about the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception to three sources whose primordial, ontological core can be retrieved even though belief in the doctrine might have been promulgated in an authoritarian way. They are significant because, taken together, they move toward a circle of meanings. The first is from the early Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Christian Church, the second is the explicit definition of the Immaculate Conception by Pius IX (1854), and the third is the Seattle Statement of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (2004).

Definition of Chalcedon

The Councils of Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451) hold that Mary is the mother of God (The-


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is the person of Mary at the moment of the creation of her soul and its infusion into her body. The term conception does not mean the active or generative conception by her parents. Her body was formed in the womb of the mother, and the father had the usual share in its formation. The question does not concern the immaculateness of the generative activity of her parents . . . . The person is truly conceived when the soul is created and infused into the body. Mary was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin at the first moment of her animation, and sanctifying grace was given to her before sin could have taken effect in her soul. The formal active essence of original sin . . . never was in her soul . . . . But she was not made exempt from the temporal penalties of Adam -- from sorrow, bodily infirmities, and death.

The immunity from original sin was given to Mary by a singular exemption . . . Mary . . . being the new Eve who was to be the mother of the new Adam, she was, by the eternal counsel of God and by the merits of Christ, withdrawn from the general law of original sin. Her redemption was the very masterpiece of Christ’s redeeming wisdom.9 I argue that Pius IX’s definition (as explained above) remains consistent with the ontology of the hypostatic union in two ways. The first is that the definition does not go against the essential goodness of the flesh. Since Mary’s immaculateness pertains to the way her soul was created and infused into her body, the natural process
9  Frederick Holweck, “Immaculate Conception,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 7 (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910), Accessed on September 25, 2012.

. . . one of my major purposes is to justify the ontological validity of the Immaculate Conception and the event itself in spite of the authoritarian way some popes tried to enforce belief.

of reproduction is not an essential element of the definition. Consequently we might infer that immaculateness or the lack of it is not a sexual consideration, even though familiar views of the doctrine have nurtured flesh-denigrating interpretations, which the basic ontology of the doctrine neither requires nor warrants. Furthermore, since the definition of the Immaculate Conception of Mary need not be tied to any specific theory of original sin, Augustinian or other, its meaning is reducible purely to the mythology of Adam, who fell because he violated the bond of trust with the Lord God. The truth of that myth, in turn, belongs individually and socially to all of us. The narration which it unfolds in the light of the Immaculate Conception means that even though God’s gift exempted Mary from original sin, she suffers from the adversities of existence in time, such as “sorrow, bodily infirmities, and death.” Her time differs from ours. In order for her to be the “new Eve,” the merits of Christ were given to her retroactively. As George Tavard argues, “The Son’s merits flowed back upon the mother, not in the irreversible temporality of history but in the sovereign mind of God the Creator who makes all creatures what they are.”10 Tavard’s statement suggests a more significant way in which the definition complements the ontology of the hypostatic union. It has to do with Mary’s temporality, and points to the completion of the circle of meaning which the Definition of Chalcedon initiates. Mary’s temporality is our time, both the bitter tragedy of its passage and the instability of what is now. Time disintegrates. It disconnects experience. Mary suffers with us in time and, with Christ, co-redeems our innocent suffering. She suffers even though she is innocent and reveals that the redemptive power of Christ
10  George Tavard, The Thousand Faces of the Virgin Mary (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1996), 195.


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the King must be beyond penal substitution for sins, aesthetically justifying our existence. Her retroactive temporality disrupts ordinary time. Her time redeems ours, fulfilling the circle of meanings by disclosing insight into the dynamics by which the Mother of God brings “complete” humanity to the hypostatic union. In other words, Chalcedonian ontology can be viewed as a shorthand summary of redemptive events.

Archaism Is Ambivalent

On the one hand, archaic roots can retain lifeaffirming symbols over against modern reductionism. On the other hand, they can also strangle life. Biblical religions are fraught with both. In their rational versions, the former overcomes the later. Their recessive versions cause the opposite to happen. The excellence of Roman Catholicism in this regard is manifold. Relatively free of the fundamentalist corruption and the eliminative emptiness in other traditions, it preserves its primordial archaic roots, allowing, even encouraging the (arguably genetically encoded) female symbolism of humankind to develop fully in and through faith in Mary. The fact that devotion to her sometimes hovers on the verge of deification -- needless to say without crossing over that line -- does not discredit the Church of Rome since it apprehends the life-affirming power that reveals the nobility of womankind. However, the authoritarian way Pius enforces belief in the definition is regrettable: Hence, if anyone shall dare -- which God forbid! -- to think otherwise than as has been defined by us, let him know and understand that he is condemned by his own judgment; that he has suffered shipwreck in the faith; that he has separated from the unity of the Church; and that, furthermore, by his own action he incurs the penalties established by law if he should dare to express in words or writing or by any other outward means the errors he thinks in his heart.12 The “penalties established by law” might be but a sliver of something far worse from a wider historical perspective. Heretics ought to be invited to dialogue, not eliminated. Enforcing submission to doctrines not only turns them into dry bones of conventionality, but also makes the church a club that acquiesces to them instead of really believing them. Yet the darkest and most regressive archaism is
12  Pius IX, “Immaculate Conception,” Papal Encyclicals Online, Accessed on September 25, 2012.

A major contribution toward theological understandings of Mary is Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ11 (the Seattle Statement), the Agreed Statement regarding Mary from the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission of 2004. Scriptural and other attestations to belief in Mary in that document are especially instructive, covering a much wider scope than I do. It carefully shows why Marian doctrines have theological authority for Christians as such. I recommend it highly, because it is the complementary other side to the contrasting perspective from which I write. My philosophical theology is more epistemological and ontological. Furthermore, my epistemology starts with Kant’s Critiques and remains largely within the Continental orbit, and one of my major purposes is to justify the ontological validity of the Immaculate Conception and the event itself in spite of the authoritarian way some popes tried to enforce belief. Nevertheless, I believe my view concurs with basic concepts of the 2004 statement, especially that there is already more similarity between Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism concerning Mary than many might suppose and that further dialogue is desirable.

The Seattle Statement

. . . there is already more similarity between Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism concerning Mary than many might suppose . . .

11 Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ, Accessed in June, 2013.


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neither papal, nor Christian, nor the property of any particular religion. By the same token, the absence of religion does not abolish that grimness, as naïve atheists presume. Tyrannical folkpower, as I will name it, is the true problem. It is the law of the sword, to borrow Michel Foucault’s term, the symbolism of blood. Its first dogma is that might makes right. And the second is like unto it -- territory is absolute, so that anyone or anything that hints of a strange place or belief is the enemy. Typically, folkpower is male-dominated. Woman is unquestionably man’s property; her purpose is to please him and reproduce for him. Territory needs an unending host of offspring and no control to limit the production of swords. Archaic clinging to the sword, together with the illusion that it is religious and patriotic to do so, is an ideology of secular sovereignty. At the same time, folkpower does have a religious side, which says that each birth, death, and change of weather is a divine act. Folkpower is even more insidious than it seems, especially if it turns natural-law theory into a weapon. If any group, Christian or any other, were to propagate a version of that theory (or an ideology inferior to it) to forbid contraception, it would increase the male rule over females to the detriment of women’s rights, further the transmission of disease, and assuredly contribute to overpopulation, thereby furthering the destruction of civilization. Even though the human race must never be allowed to forget what happened to Bruno and Galileo, we nevertheless ought to wrest truth out of what has been spoiled: honor the succession of St. Peter for what it is, not necessarily for what it says. Yet the whole of organized religion has been spoiled, including all branches of institutional Christianity. We are reminded of Nietzsche’s pronouncement that the only true Christian died on the cross. The cruelty, indifference to social justice, scorn of science, bad music, sticky sentimentality, and prideful stupidity of increasing numbers who

claim to be Christian spoil Christianity as a whole. The true leap of faith would not be away from reason, but toward respect for it, not submission to belief, but affirmation of it through heroic defiance of conventional distortions. It would mean doing what seems impossible, wresting healing truth out of what has been poisoned in order to say yes to the love of Christ and the Mother of God.


The birth of Jesus happened in the midst of spoiled politics.

The birth of Jesus happened in the midst of spoiled politics. The brutality of Herod, forced travel to register for taxation, and various kinds of misery surround the birth of Jesus. The first chapter of Luke reports actions of the historical mother of Jesus that broke the darkness down and words that went against the conventions of repressive society and, so to speak, “wrested” beauty and grace out of a time of despair. Gabriel had appeared to her and said: “Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women,” (Luke 1:28), for “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). “And Mary said, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word’” (Luke 1:38). The words Bach put into music include social protest, as John Orens rightly notes,13 in a feminist mode: “for he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed” (Luke 1:48). God “hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree” (Luke 1:52). X The Rev. Dr. C. Don Keyes is professor of philosophy at Duquesne University and priest associate at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh. His philosophical roots are in Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, and phenomenology. He is currently researching existential phenomenology and social philosophy.

13  John R. Orens, “Dancing the Magnificat,” Order of the Ascension, Accessed on October 17, 2012.


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Natural Law, Natural Rights and Marriage Equality
Troy E. Elder
“But we make God’s love too narrow with false limits of our own; / and we magnify God’s strictness with a zeal love cannot own. / There is room for fresh creations, and for worlds as new as this; / there is room enough for thousands in that Upper Room of bliss.”1 graduate students intervened in Perry v. Brown, the litigation over California’s marriage-equality laws (the appeal of which was just decided by the U.S. Supreme Court), where they raised a number of new-natural-law arguments in defense of heterosexual marriage.4 While certainly of value to the study of the new natural law, these contributions also provide insight into and suggest fresh questions about the ambitions of the natural law within the realm of positive law. In particular, they invite conversation with other natural-law scholars who similarly countenance a positive-law errand for a natural-law/natural-rights morality, both about that errand’s overall prospects, and about the meaning of its recent forays (and fortunes) in the area of sexual ethics.5
2-102, 2003 WL 470066 at *10. The Court subsequently overturned the Texas statute. See 539 U.S. 558 at 579. 4  Brief for Robert P. George, Sherif Girgis, and Ryan T. Anderson as Amici Curiae Supporting Reversal and the Intervening Defendants-Appellants, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, 704 F. Supp. 2d 921 (2010) (No. 10-16696) [hereinafter George, Perry Brief]. On February 7, 2012, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the highest federal court in California, ruled that Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot initiative that had restored the state’s prior limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples, was unconstitutional. See Perry v. Brown, No. 11-17255 (9th Cir. Feb. 7, 2012). Following appeal, in March 2013 the Supreme Court heart arguments in the Perry case. See Hollingsworth v. Perry, No. 12-144, U.S. S. Ct. (March 26, 2013). 5  I borrow the sympathetic, constructive notion of “errand” from Lamin Sanneh, who deploys it in his descriptions of the spread of early Christianity into the Gentile world. See, e.g., Lamin Sanneh, Disciples of All Nations: Pillars of World Christianity (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 29. Christianity spread through established cultural patterns -- sometimes flowing with the tide, and sometimes grinding against the flow -- but always making local appropriation of its claims a necessary prerequisite . . . ‘Christianity was . . . something which could blend with coefficients of the most diverse nature, somethign which, in fact, sought out all such coefficients,’” (citing Adolf von Harnack’s Mission and Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries).


. . . these contributions also provide insight into and suggest fresh questions about the ambitions of the natural law within the realm of positive law.

OR MUCH OF THE PAST TWO decades, the natural law, or at least certain of its exponents, has played a visible role in state and federal litigation over the rights of sexual minorities. In 1994, for example, John Finnis invoked “new” natural-law principles to support an amendment to the Colorado state constitution that would have prevented that state from passing antidiscrimination laws to protect lesbians and gay men.2 A few years later, “new” natural lawyer Robert George made similar arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in Texas’s attempted defense of its laws criminalizing private, consensual adult same-sex sexual activity.3 Most recently, George and two of his
1  Frederick William Faber (lyrics) and Calvin Hampton (music),“There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy,” The Hymnal, 1982. 2  John M. Finnis, Law, Morality and ‘Sexual Orientation,’ Notre Dame Law Review, vol. 69 (1994), 1049, 1056, 1064-65. The U. S. Supreme Court later ruled against the amendment. See Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620, 634 (1996). 3  Brief of Amicus Curiae of the Family Research Council Inc., and Focus on the Family in Support of the Respondent at 10, Lawrence V. Texas 539 U.S. 558 (2003) No.


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In this perspective, Notre Dame ethicist Jean Porter’s scriptural/theological approach to the natural law warrants attention, not because she has inserted herself into the current controversies in the same way as the new natural lawyers have, but because her approach, at least as it emerges in two works considered here,6 addresses two critical natural-law questions that underlie the legal issues in the Perry case. The first is the relationship between the natural law and its perhaps most enduring and celebrated modern heir, the discourse of human rights. In her careful excavation, retrieval, and rearticulation of the scholastic concept of the natural law, Porter connects medieval natural-law thinking with emergent notions of reason, agency, and subjective rights-holding. Viewed through the lens of the current marriage-equality debate, Porter’s relation of these concepts suggests that the discourse of natural rights provides an acceptable, alternative idiom for natural law reasoning, at least when moral claims deriving from it are disputed in public fora. A second, embedded question relates to Porter’s understanding of the determinacy of natural-law norms themselves. While cautioning that that the natural law underdetermines human morality and must thus admit a plurality of moralities, Porter argues that it nonetheless constrains the universe of acceptable moralities and may provide norms that ought to be common to all of them.7 Not unlike the new natural lawyers, she would also assign a disciplining role to natural law within the realm of positive law.8 Porter’s work thus poses the further question of whether the determinacy of the natural law, and its positive-law ambitions, will ultimately reduce to an appraisal of the fortunes of its intellectual heir, natural/human rights. Finally, Porter has shown scholarly interest in the substantive issues raised in Perry, as evidenced
6  Jean Porter, Natural & Divine Law: Reclaiming the Tradition for Christian Ethics (Grand Rapids: Eerdman’s, 1999), and Jean Porter, Nature as Reason: A Thomistic Theory of the Natural Law (Grand Rapids: Eerdman’s, 2004). 7 Porter, Natural & Divine Law 141. 8 Porter, Natural & Divine Law 159. “The natural law sets constraints on what can count as a legitimate positive law, whether in church or civil society.”

by her application of the natural law to modern questions of sexual ethics, including marriage and homosexuality.9 Specifically, Porter argues that the scholastics’ conception of sexuality, read in conjunction with certain scriptural warrants, privileges procreation as the basis for heterosexual marriage, and for human sexual relations.10 She further suggests that the Christian natural law is inconsistent with same-sex sexual activity.11 She has apparently not, however, applied a scholastic natural/human-rights approach to these questions, or to the marriage-equality debate, at least as it is framed in Perry. In this essay, I argue that certain of the questions with which the new natural lawyers have grappled in Perry provide both a point of departure and a test for Porter’s vision of the natural law, now understood as natural or human rights. Specifically, I suggest that Porter’s account yields the possibility of a substantive outcome at odds with that urged by George, one that would not necessarily foreclose marriage equality.

She further suggests that the Christian natural law is inconsistent with same-sex sexual activity.

This essay proceeds in four parts. I first review the new-natural-law arguments made by Robert George in Perry. Second, I set forth Porter’s accounts of the natural-law foundation of natural/ human rights, and discuss her account of the natural law’s view of marriage and sexuality. In the third part, I argue that Porter’s account does not necessarily lead to a stance against same-sex
9 Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 187-244. 10 Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 220. 11 Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 232. “The privileging of the erotic and the affirmation of sexual freedom do reflect natural human tendencies and genuine goods. But such a construal of human sexuality, with its privileging of the value of the erotic and its concomitant de-emphasis on the value of procreation, stands in tension, at least, with a Christian sexual ethic.”


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marriage, at least as the question has been framed in Perry. In a final section, I anticipate criticisms of my argument, and attempt to frame an initial response to them.

thus that legal recognition of certain relationships as marriages necessarily involves taking a position on at least two questions, both inescapably normative, having to do with morality or basic values: (1) the purposes or ends of the institution of marriage, and (2) the moral worthiness of adherence to the norms of marriage so conceived -- adherence which is . . . honored and encouraged by state recognition.15 George thus construes the otherwise uncontroversial notion that positive law encodes morality as implying (i) a necessary threshold agreement about the purposes of the underlying construct, here marriage; and (ii) the legitimacy of the state’s role in incentive giving assent to that agreement. Distinct from the issue of private morality, as mentioned above, the lower court in Perry further found that Proposition 8’s supporters had, in effect, enacted a regime that codified an impermissible “animus” against gays and lesbians.16 Perhaps because the Supreme Court had ruled (in the Colorado case cited above) that positive law motivated by animosity is constitutionally impermissible,17 George makes a careful attempt to distinguish a more generalized natural-law morality, arguably countenanced by the positive law, from a stronger, legislated ad hominem antipathy toward gays and lesbians: Support for [Proposition 8] need not involve a desire to harm or disadvantage, reliance on bare tradition or animus, or even moral disapproval of homosexual conduct. The irreducibly normative content of Proposition 8 is the same as the irreducibly normative content of any marriage law at all: a claim about the
15 George, Perry brief, 11. 16  704 F. Supp 2d, 1002. 17  Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620 (1996).

In submission to the appeals court12 in Perry, George (and his colleagues, collectively hereinafter, “George”) make their four related but distinct arguments that are relevant to our purposes here. For ease of later reference, I will label these now as (a) an argument about the positive law’s “inevitable morality”; (b) an argument denying the new natural lawyers’ “animosity” toward putative same-sex married couples; (c) the “bodily union” argument; and (d) the “dilution” argument.13 In striking down Proposition 8, the lower court in Perry had found it problematic that the measure implied

Perry and the New Natural Law

same-sex couples simply are not as good as opposite-sex couples. Whether that belief is based on moral disapproval of homosexuality, animus towards gays and lesbians or simply a belief that a relationship between a man and a woman is inherently better than a relationship between two men or two women, this is not a proper basis on which to legislate . . .14 In response, George argues that most if not all types of positive law entail moral judgment and
12  George subsequently submitted an amicus brief in the Perry case before the U.S. Supreme Court. That brief makes arguments similar to George’s positions in the appellate case, which remain my focus here. 13  These labels are not identical to, nor are the concepts brought out here congruent with, those used by George, who articulates his claims in the language of constitutional jurisprudence. Rather, I attempt to mine George’s arguments for their underlying naturallaw basis and thus label them here accordingly. 14  704 F. Supp. 2d, 1002.

George advances a teleological claim about the nature of marriage to counter arguments that his position impermissibly targets specific human beings as moral agents.


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purposes or ends of marriage, and an endorsement and encouragement of adherence to those as worthwhile and consistent with the state’s interests.18 Here again, George advances a teleological claim about the nature of marriage to counter arguments that his position impermissibly targets specific human beings as moral agents. In his brief, George offers a substantive definition of marriage echoing that which has traditionally been put forth by the new natural lawyers, that of a two-in-one-flesh communion.19 Writing consistently with prior academic positions taken by Finnis and Germain Grisez, and citing his own work, George thus connects the good of marriage with its morphology:

can one fully make sense of the other marital norms of permanence, exclusivity and monogamy . . .20 Marital unity thus understood is a “good” that, by definition, excludes forms of same-sex sexual activity (and, indeed, much opposite-sex sexual activity, both within and outside of heterosexual marriage). Finally, George deploys what I will label the argument from “dilution,” according to which recognition of forms of marriage other than the heterosexual would disrupt the positive law’s commitment to fostering the one-flesh bodily union urged by the new natural lawyers. According to George, same-sex marriage would significantly weaken the extent to which the social institution of marriage provide[s] social pressures and incentives for husbands to remain with their wives and children. . . . [L]egally redefining marriage would convey that marriage is fundamentally about adults’ emotional unions -- not bodily union or children, with which marital norms are tightly intertwined. . . . Less able to see the point of such norms, people would be likely to feel less bound to live by them, especially as time wore on and the original understanding of marriage grew more remote.21 George goes on to link this dilutive effect to broader social ills, such as absentee fatherhood and out-of-wedlock births.22 Through these arguments, George articulates a new-natural-law conception of marriage that accomplishes several purposes. First, he clears the rhetorical space necessary for an articulation of natural-law morality within the positive law by suggesting that moral considerations, even
20  George, Perry brief, 17 (citing Patrick Lee and Robert P. George, Body-Self Dualism in Contemporary Ethics and Politics, ch. 6 (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008). 21 George, Perry brief, 17-18. 22  George, Perry Brief, 19.

. . . moral considerations, even religious ones, are not incompatible with positive law formulations . . .

[M]any supporters of Proposition 8 hold that (a) opposite-sex couples are capable of real bodily union (in mating, whether or not conception can or does occur); that (b) this makes it possible for such couples -- and only such couples -- to form and consummate the kind of relationship intrinsically oriented to procreation and childrearing; and that (c) only if marriage inherently involves bodily union and its corresponding orientation to children

18 George, Perry brief, 28. 19  E.g., Germain Gabriel Grisez, The Way of the Lord Jesus: Living a Christian Life Volume 2 (St. Bonaventure, NY: Franciscan Press, 1993), 596; Finnis, “Law, Morality and ‘Sexual Orientation,’” supra note 2, 1066. “The union of the reproductive organs of husband and wife unites them biologically (and their biological reality is part of, not merely an instrument of, their personal reality); reproduction is one function and so, in respect of that function, the spouses are indeed one reality, and their sexual union therefore can actualize and allow them to experience their real common good -- their marriage with the two goods, parenthood and friendship, which . . . are the parts of its wholeness as an intelligible good.”


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religious ones, are not incompatible with positivelaw formulations, particularly where, as here, the underlying moral claims relate to the definition of concepts, as opposed to the characterization of actors who engage in specific conduct. Second, he offers an ostensibly secular23 defense of a classic natural-law “good,” heterosexual marriage. Finally, he argues that failure to recognize the exclusivity of the good he propounds -- compulsory heterosexual marriage -- will redound to both its detriment and that of the larger society.

tions of natural rights.26 In her later work, however, Porter seems to make a better case for the emergence of a “strong-rights” conception as the product of scholastic natural-law thinking, based in part on the rationalism and subjectivity implied by a more robust Imago Dei doctrine: [I]t was only a short step from Huguiccio’s preferred definition of the natural law in terms of reason, to the scholastic identification of the natural law with a force, capacity, or power of the individual person; and from there it is a further short step to the idea of a right as a subjective power of the individual. Here again, we see that scholastic thought was informed by scriptural and theological considerations. . . . We see that this capacity is said to represent the Image of God in which the human person is created, and which therefore cannot be extirpated even . . . in Cain himself.27 Porter adds that this rational capacity would have been understood by the scholastics to mean something beyond mere ratiocination; it implied a degree of self-control and even divine-like power to bring about changes in one’s immediate context. Moreover, such empowered self-direction, Porter explains, is the feature of human nature par excellence, because it, “is the definitively human way in which [the] creature . . . reflects God’s wisdom and goodness. . . . [T]his capacity deserves not only appreciation as a likeness of God, but reverence as the very image of God.”28 As I suggest below, this interpretation of the Imago Dei is critical, because it stands in some tension with another scholastic commitment: privileging humanity’s link -- via procreativity -- to another signature activity of God’s, creation.29 Interestingly for our purposes, to illustrate this development Porter chooses the example of mar26 Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 275. 27 Porter, Reason, 350. 28 Porter, Reason, 351 (emphasis mine). 29 Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 225. “For the scholastics, on the other hand, the defense of procreation and marriage follows from a doctrinal commitment to the goodness of creation.”

Jean Porter’s Natural Law, Natural Rights, and Sexual Ethics
From Natural Law to Natural/Human Rights In Nature as Reason, Porter explores the connections between the scholastic natural law and the contemporary political discourse of human rights, disturbing the regnant view that human rights (as we understand them) first arose in and have a necessary connection to post-Enlightenment market states.24 Consistent with her larger project, Porter suggests instead that human rights owe a debt to the scholastic natural law, and thus to Christianity.25 Most relevant to our purposes here is Porter’s account of the way in which a discourse of natural law led to a discourse of natural (and then human) rights, a dynamic that she had first explored in Natural & Divine Law. There, Porter concluded that although the scholastics recognized rights claims that, in some ways, functioned like modern, “strong” conceptions of natural (human) rights, there was no necessary or inevitable connection between scholastic natural law and subsequent no-

23  Nicholas Bamfort, New Natural Law, Religion and Same-Sex Marriage: Current Constitutional Issues, Wake Forest, Journal of Law and Policy 207, 214-229 (Fall 2011) arguing that Finnis’s and George’s concept of “two-in-one-flesh” communion is essentially religious. 24  Jack Donnelly, Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice, 2nd ed. 2003 57-70, arguing that human rights first emerged in the West in response to social changes produced by modernity. 25 Porter, Reason, 343.


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riage. She shows how the scholastics’ emerging sensitivities toward Imago Dei inspired human self-direction were consistent with a medieval appropriation of Roman marriage that emphasized consent and equality, both within and outside the marriage unit.30 In turn, those concepts nurtured wider egalitarian principles in scholastic natural law. Eligibility for marriage, for example, was broadened to include slaves, and putative marriage partners could neither be compelled to marry nor be precluded from doing so. Indeed, Porter reports that Aquinas himself grounded the universal right to marry in a God-reflective notion of equality of opportunity to choose, rather than a universal procreative mandate, even when such choice would conflict with other classic natural-law notions, such as obedience to societal superiors.31 Finally, Porter offers some observations about the scope and content of modern human-rights norms that are implied by her reconsideration of their scholastic natural-law forebears. Recognizing the substantive heterogeneity of human rights discourse(s) over time, Porter nonetheless distills two common features that would seem to count as progeny of the scholastic human-rights-as-natural law notion just described. First, Porter remarks that rights claims have historically involved the marking out and ultimate prevailing of minority positions against majority sentiments.32 Second, rights claims are often of necessity made in situations where the positive law has, for whatever reason, come up short.33 Finally, and related to but
30 Porter, Reason, 352-53. 31 Porter, Reason, 352, citing Summa Theologica II-II 104.5. 32 Porter, Reason, 365. 33 Porter, Reason, 366. An important distinction needs to be drawn here between Porter’s assessment of the ambition of natural law, on the one hand, and naturallaw-inspired natural rights/human rights, on the other. With respect to the former, throughout her work, Porter emphasizes the modest ambitions of the scholastics’ view of the natural law. See, e.g., Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 145: “[F]or most of the scholastics . . . the natural law in its primary sense is understood as a capacity for moral judgement, or a set of fundamental principles by which such judgment takes place, rather than as a set of specific moral rules.” And Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 215: “Christians are no longer in a position to institutionalize this [natural law-indicated, procreative] vision of mar-

distinct from the first feature, rights claims often imply or threaten to bring about a subversion of majority values; indeed, their implementation is not without cost to the regnant sense of social solidarity.34 Put differently, the vindication of human rights is not fated to be a zero-sum game, or at least not often.

Aquinas himself grounded the universal right to marry in a Godreflective notion of equality of opportunity to choose

Completing this core morphology, Porter adds a further Thomistic corollary to the primacy of equal, God-reflecting autonomous creatures: a “zone of personal freedom” that applies with particular force to the “fundamental needs of the body … regarding those inclinations and activities with respect to which all persons share in one common nature.”35 In sum, then, one might summarize Porter’s view of natural law cum natural/human rights into four core notions: 1) equality among creatures, who individually reflect God’s powerful autonomy and model God’s subjectivity; 2) the sometimes costly, generally permanent prevailing of rights claims against majority interests; 3) the superiority of rights claims to inconsistent features in the positive law; and 4) a particular concern for fundamen-

riage in the wider society, nor would it be desirable to try to do so.” Natural rights, however, imply content specific enough to trump discrete provisions of positive law: We have a powerful stake in translating moral condemnation into a framework for accusation, retribution, and redress -- in other words, a legal system. . . . [Human-rights language] connotes a claim that has, or should have, legal force as well as moral significance. . . . [Scholastic] rights are understood on these terms as claims which have juridical force, and therefore create law. . . . (Porter, Reason, 375). 34 Porter, Reason, 367. 35 Porter, Reason, 368.


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tal individual bodily needs.36 As I suspect Porter would appreciate, the naturalrights framework that emerges here seems to combine both deontological and teleological elements, consistent with her characterization of the natural law writ large.37 The Natural Law, Marriage, and Same-Sex Relations In chapter four of Natural & Divine Law, Porter applies her concept of the scholastic natural law (though not natural/human rights) to modern questions of marriage and sexual ethics. In doing so, she toes a careful line between the implications of her overarching thesis that the scholastic natural law was a fundamentally theological enterprise with the scholastics’ emergent respect for human rationality. Thus, Porter reminds us that although the scholastics may have incorporated rationalistic tendencies into their notions of marriage, for example, their understanding of the licit purposes of sexuality -- which, for them, was limited to marriage -- is, in the end, “a theological judgment, formulated and defended in the face of serious doctrinal challenges to Christian orthodoxy.”38 As a result, Porter argues that we ought avoid modern temptations to ascribe to the scholastic natural law features that would, in effect, deprive it of its Christian character.39 Similarly, she cautions against readings that would strip the scholastic understanding of sexuality from the largely negative view of the pleasure, the body, and women
36  Of course, Porter disavows that this structure constitutes a “full Christian theory of human rights.” She is no doubt correct. I contend that is, however, full enough to inform the present discussion. 37  Specifically elements one, two, and three reflect rulebased concerns; elements one and four, concerns about the good or end of created beings. In addition, though beyond the scope of my discussion here, Porter would likely view these notions as part of a larger Thomistic system of virtue ethics. E.g. Porter, Reason, 321-23. 38  Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 189. 39  Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 190.

that it inherited from the ancient world.40 Instead, she traces the emergence of a limited sphere of acceptable, marital sexual practices that the scholastics endorsed and erected largely as a foil to pagan dualism. With respect to marriage, however, Porter recounts an interesting history of scholastic generosity toward variations on the institution, an openness that reflects the fact that marriage incorporated “natural and pre-conventional” elements.41 Thus, within the overarching procreative framework, Porter suggests that for the scholastics: • God did not necessarily decree one specific form of marriage;42 • humans can, and have, faithfully shaped the development of marriage through their laws and customs;43 • marriage might legitimately include polygamous unions, such as those modeled by the saints or the Church fathers, or tolerate concubinage, even if these practices are not “optimal”;44 • marriage may have more than one purpose;45 • God might grant dispensations for non-primary ends of marriage that nonetheless serve the primary ends;46 • consent (and thus agency) is a core aspect of marriage;47 and, finally, • there exists an abiding and expanding concern for equality in relation to marriage, including extending it to slaves and other subordinated groups.48
40 Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 191. 41  Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 199. 42 Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 201. 43 Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 201. 44 Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 203. 45 Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 203. 46 Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 204. 47 Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 207. 48 Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 208-09.

. . . the naturalrights framework that emerges here seems to combine both deontological and teleological elements


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Having traced this history, Porter moves to the present, and builds on it to articulate her own vision of a contemporary Christian sexual ethic, one that consciously moves beyond the “at best quaint, at worst, tyrannical”49 medieval view of sexuality that might otherwise be indicated by an unreconstructed fidelity to the scholastic context. Porter first acknowledges that her modern application of scholastic natural law will require its “reformulation,” but pledges to remain faithful to scholasticism’s core theology.50 Thus it is no surprise that she argues that, for the scholastics, procreation was “a centrally important expression of the goodness of creation.”51 (Perhaps less historically defensible is her subsequent move: promoting procreation to the top rank, as “the” centrally important concept in creation.52) Porter then reports that, for the scholastics, concern with procreation was not limited to fertility or physical reproduction, but rather encompassed a larger agenda of childrearing and the establishment of secure settings for children.53 Ultimately, Porter suggests, the scholastics’ interest in procreation-in-marriage translates into a more fundamental concern over individual identity, development, and security. But what about non-procreative aspects of sexual intercourse? Here, Porter elaborates, in effect, a hierarchy (or perhaps a series of concentric circles) of desirable rationales, reflecting a theologically informed natural-law ordering that comprises four distinct, but overlapping levels: (1) procreation as physical reproduction; (2) procreation as social reproduction; (3) fostering of interpersonal love; and
49 Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 188 citing Mark Jordan, The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 156. 50  Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 212. 51  Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 212. 52  Porter, Natural & Divine Law. “There is no aspect of ordinary human experience that more profoundly expresses our embodiment, our mortality, and our place in a succession of human generations than procreation.” Porter may here be reflecting other articulations of the primacy of procreation, such as that reflected in the papal encyclical’s Humanae Vitae and other documents. See, e.g., 224-25 quoting Humanae Vitae, para. 16, parenthood is “man’s most high calling.” 53 Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 213.

(4) “other theologically valid aims for a sexual relationship.”54 Interestingly, and presumably following from the scholastic openness to variation and dispensation just mentioned, even this ranking of rationales is not immutable for Porter. Thus, in some cases, the third and fourth rationales take will take priority, or even constitute the “only purposes for pursuing a sexual relationship.”55 Moreover, Porter seems willing to jettison this hierarchy in individual cases as long as, in the aggregate, it is respected: [T]he Christian community, functioning as a social unit, is committed to promoting the procreative purpose of sexuality and marriage, whatever else it recognizes and promotes as a value for sexual morality. This does not imply that other purposes are illegitimate, or even that a commitment to procreation should be primary for every Christian in his or her sexual relationships.56

. . . concern with procreation was not limited to fertility or physical reproduction, but rather encompassed a larger agenda of childrearing . . .

What emerges from Porter’s account, then, is a general natural-law inspired framework for evaluating contemporary sexual issues in Christian ethics, but one that, quite self-consciously, acknowledges the room for variation, contingency, and reform (as well as its own preliminary nature). In the end, Porter articulates a vision that attempts to balance the “irreducibly personal dimension” of sexual relations with larger Christian commitments.

54 Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 220-22. 55 Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 222 (emphasis mine). 56  Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 222 (emphasis mine).


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Perry, Porter, and Natural Rights

As is perhaps becoming clear, the questions raised by the new natural lawyers in Perry suggest that, when refracted through the lens of scholastic natural-rights theory, Porter’s natural-law sexual ethic takes on a new complexion. Indeed, it would seem that there are several arguments based on scholastic concern for natural rights that suggest, against George, that marriage equality should be allowed. First, it should be clear that the new natural lawyers’ “bodily union” concept is fundamentally at odds with the Imago Dei notion of scholastic natural rights that Porter has articulated. This could be illustrated in many ways, but I will limit myself to two of the most problematic here. To the extent that the new natural lawyers believe that during coitus a heterosexual married couple becomes “one [shared] reality” as distinct from separate “personal realities,”57 such a single organism would lack the self-directed, self-actualized autonomy that Porter’s scholasticism erects as the signature feature of creatureliness. Second, to the extent that such an organism exists only during coitus, but then subsequently subdivides into two separate creatures for purposes of raising the child, it would seem that the coital phase is thus an instrumental one, or means to an end; this view again, seems inconsistent with natural rights. In contrast to the one-flesh view, a Porter-inspired scholastic natural-rights approach to this core issue in Perry would more likely focus on the autonomous, generative God-reflecting natures of two creatures who come together for a number of purposes, with procreation being a primary but not exclusive one. Modeling God’s powerful, selfdirected rationality, these creatures would enjoy a degree of autonomy about the whether, when, and “with whom” of sexual relations, understanding that, in the larger Christian community, procreation will of course most often be the result (Porter’s first level). Less often, but equally legitimate, would be unions that foster social reproduction (Porter’s second level), such as the many non-pro57  Finnis, “Law, Morality and ‘Sexual Orientation,’” Notre Dame Law Review, Vol. 69, 1066-67.

creative same-sex unions that provide nurturing environments for foster children. Similarly, and in full respect of a universalistic natural law given particular expression by God-reflecting, naturalrightsexercising, autonomous creatures, one could admit legitimate sexual activity at Porter’s “lower levels” -- not all of which are exclusive to same-sex situations, such as the fostering of interpersonal love (level three) -- that reflect other Christian theological concerns (for example, one might consider non-procreative same-sex relations as one of God’s many, generous means of controlling the population).

Marriage equality might actually require the procreating members of Christian community to take their own procreative commitments more seriously, not less

Different aspects of Porter’s approach would likely settle the other questions raised by George in Perry, as well. Concerns over possible “animus” are likely to be dispelled by a natural/humanrights approach whose hallmarks include the prevailing of unpopular minority views in the face of overweening majority sentiment. At the very least, a scholastic natural-rights analysis could draw on its core principles of creaturely autonomy and equality to be marshaled in its defense; as we have seen, the new natural lawyers, lacking such core concepts (or, if not lacking them, evidently believing them to be subordinated to procreative goods like marriage), remain vulnerable to claims of animosity. Third, Porter’s view of the ways in which natural law, natural rights, and positive law interact would seem to be more palatable to those concerned about this intersection, despite her self-consciously theological understanding of scholastic natural law. As discussed above, Porter seems to be satisfied with a view of the natural law that limits it to


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a more generalized establishing of “moral floors” for legislative enactments. In many cases, this will represent a more modest positive-law errand for the natural law (and, as just set forth, would seem to be the case for same-sex sexual relations). And when understood as natural/human rights, Porter’s conception largely coincides with postEnlightenment rights discourse, which focuses on autonomy and equality. However, it is with respect to George’s final argument that marriage equality will somehow dilute, detract from, or otherwise harm heterosexual marriage and thus the larger society where Porter’s approach shows a particularly subtle richness. Recall first that, in making this claim, George expands the relevant sphere of ethical inquiry from the realm of individual action (that of one couple incarnating the “good” of marriage) to the broader society, which would allegedly suffer if marriage equality were a reality.58 Porter, too, is concerned about the adverse impacts (within the Christian community) of an ethical approach that is limited to simple non-maleficence,59 seemingly because of the potential for an unbridled individualism to “negate and undermine” values -- such as procreation -- of the larger Christian community.60 Yet the natural/human-rights approach she offers, while clearly advancing individual interests, does not reduce to an atomized sexual free-for-all. Rather, viewed from the perspective of the larger Christian community, non-procreative same-sex unions might be viewed as nonstandard (in the statistical sense) but nonetheless have positive communal value, such as those implied in the second, third, and fourth “levels” of the natural-law sexual ethic that Porter urges. Put differently, and perhaps more fundamentally, marriage equality might actually require the procreating members of Christian community to take their own procreative commitments more seriously, not less, precisely because of the responsibilities entailed by procreation’s fun58  I will take this assertion as granted for purposes of the ensuing discussion. However, as the Perry litigation and ample social science have demonstrated, these claims have no empirical basis. 59  Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 223. 60 Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 223.

damental status, and the existence of minorities (gays and lesbians, the infertile, post-menopausal couples) unable to meet them.

The first likely objection to the foregoing approach, of course, is suggested by Porter’s largely negative treatment of homosexuality in Natural & Divine Law.61 There, Porter argues that same-sex sexual relations, to the extent that they privilege the erotic and de-emphasize procreation, are “in tension”62 with a Christian sexual ethic, despite the fact that (as she concedes) homosexuality has increasingly been documented to be a natural part of the human condition. As support for this conclusion in the scholastic context, Porter cites (i) scriptural prohibitions that purport to target homosexual behavior and (ii) the scholastics’ disapproval of homosexual acts as “gravely sinful violations of the natural order.”63 Both arguments, however, seem difficult to reconcile with Porter’s position, articulated just a few pages earlier, that any modern scholastic naturallaw based Christian sexual ethic “will require considerable reformulation” of the scholastics’ “quaint” or “tyrannical” views of sexuality (which views, of course, also reflected scripture and the scholastics’ view of the natural order). Why Por-


Why Porter is willing to do this reformative work in a manner that allows her to claim nonprocreative sexual activity in the area of heterosexual relations as consistent with scholastic theology, but draws the line at homosexuality, she does not explain.
61 Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 228-34. 62 Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 232. 63 Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 228.


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ter is willing to do this reformative work in a manner that allows her to claim non-procreative sexual activity in the area of heterosexual relations as consistent with scholastic theology, but draws the line at homosexuality, she does not explain.64 Specifically, in widening the universe of scholastic-sanctioned sexual activity for modern (heterosexual) Christians, Porter does not tell us on what basis she is thereby presuming that the scholastics would sanction such a move (for example, if they were presented with a modern theology, or with modern social conditions, or with modern scriptural arguments -- all of which would be equally applicable to same-sex sexual relations, as well). A better response to this possible objection, however, is that, in Natural & Divine Law, Porter has yet to articulate a theory of natural/human rights based on the scholastic conception of the natural law. Under her later, rights-based approach, it would be difficult to make the generalizations (bordering on caricature) that Porter visits upon the LGBT community, whose relationships, in her view, always reduce to the erotic. One suspects that Porter might recognize that the marriageequality issues at stake in Perry point to the agapic self-giving required in the long-term commitment of partners, which presupposes an Imago Deiinflected autonomy of the type that Porter believes the scholastics found to be fundamental. A second objection to viewing the issues at stake in Perry in light of Porter’s theological/scriptural retrieval of the natural law is that, unlike that of new natural lawyers, Porter’s project is self-consciously Christian. As such, her version of the natural law (and natural/human rights) is arguably less salient for projects of secular engagement, such as constitutional litigation. Indeed, even the arguments of the new natural lawyers have been dismissed as religious doctrine dressed up in the clothing of secular constitutional jurisprudence. Rather than a defect, however, this objection in fact points to the value of Porter’s approach in a larger assessment of the role of the natural law in public discourse, or at least in human-rights
64  Porter, Natural & Divine Law, 213.

discourse. It is also consistent with Porter’s view of the natural law as under-determinate. Nothing in the secular law precludes its drawing on a moral foundation that expresses values consistent with religious ones. Porter’s overall approach reflects this principle; indeed, an analysis of marriage equality in light of her work provides a textbook application of it. Moreover, Porter draws important connections between the scholastics’ developing sense of respect for human beings’ capacities for self-direction and later articulations of human rights. She comes close to claiming a Christian heritage for modern human-rights discourse. And since “secular” constitutional adjudication has long made appeals to extra-conventional (or extra-textual) norms, analysis of the various forms of the natural law are thus instructive, irrespective of the secularity of their pedigree (or its want).


In these few pages, I have attempted to relate some seemingly disparate elements of Jean Porter’s work in natural law and Christian ethics using a frame provided by a topical dispute in which other natural lawyers have taken a public role. Whether one (such as Porter) agrees or not with the substantive outcome I have suggested, a number of themes seem to have emerged that speak to larger questions in the ongoing debate about the role of natural law in public discourse. First, Porter’s development of scholastic natural/human-rights doctrine through the metaphor of the Imago Dei suggests that, for her at least, rights might indeed be the natural law’s inevitable manifestation, at least in areas where moral claims are disputed. This follows, perhaps, from the more specific content of rights talk, as the scholastics and Porter have

Porter has yet to articulate a theory of natural/human rights based on the scholastic conception of the natural law.


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developed it, and its inherently counter-majoritarian orientation. Put differently, it seems that once natural law has crystallized into a natural/humanrights distillate, it is difficult to put the genie back in the bottle in such a way that, for example, a prior scholastic natural-law concept (such as obedience) might ever trump it. On some level, of course, this move is not Porter’s -- the scholastics clearly understood conscience to be humanity’s use of reason to make moral judgments -- but Porter’s modern retrieval, pairing medieval reason with God-mirroring autonomy, seems to relegate much of the rest of the natural law to a secondary status (at least in the interesting cases, such as marriage equality, where natural/human-rights claims will inevitably be made). If this is true for Porter’s theological conception of the natural law, one might speculate whether a parallel development is to be expected (or has already occurred) in rival theories, such as those of the new natural lawyers.

. . . it is difficult to put the genie back in the bottle . . .

Of course, neither Porter nor the scholastics seem to argue for an absolute privileging of rights discourse over and against the larger frame of natural law. Largely unexplored here has been the relationship between virtue ethics and the natural law, which might provide a sense of how this tension could be navigated. Through the development of the virtues, rational agents develop habits that guide them in right moral thinking and action. For example, temperance, one such moral virtue, if properly cultivated, might orient an autonomous actor to forbear -- to “waive” a natural/human right that she would otherwise enjoy -- in a case when exercising the right would conflict with other natural-law principles. A second theme that emerges here contemplates the fortunes of a self-consciously theological/ scriptural vision of the natural law. The originality of Porter’s larger project stems from a perspective based on scripture, or at least on honoring the scholastics’ attention to certain parts of scripture (namely Genesis) and inattention to others (nearly

everything else). Consequently, like other naturallaw theories and as she concedes, Porter’s account is Christologically anemic. But viewed through the marriage-equality issues raised in Perry, Porter’s natural-rights account seems to cry out for reference to the autonomy-respecting, equalityfostering themes of the New Creation. And it is not entirely clear that the scholastics would reject such an approach, particularly to the extent that they view the virtues, many of which find their perfect embodiment in Christ, as necessary accompaniments to natural-law/rights moral action. Finally, the constructive account of Porter’s work offered here suggests the possibility of a new agenda, both for her and for other natural law theorists, particularly those who continue to be so fascinated by genital ethics that they would ignore other issues where natural law has proven so powerful and hardy. A scripturally strong doctrine of natural rights has much potential in a world where human autonomy and equality are daily threatened by economic and political conditions. One hopes that the morality it prescribes will soon be translated into other discourses (if not that of constitutional jurisprudence, then perhaps into pastoral or ecclesial settings), where God’s promise of acting pro- (in the sense of for) -creation, in all its wide beauty, might be redeemed. X Postscript: While this issue was in production, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Hollingsworth v. Perry case. However, the Court did not address the substantive issue raised in this article. - The Editor Troy Elder is the Senior Schell Visiting Human Rights Fellow at Yale Law School. He received his master’s degree from Yale Divinity School in Ethics this year. He is grateful to Jennifer Herdt for her helpful comments on an earlier version of this article. He is a law professor and litigator whose research, teaching, and advocacy focus on immigration, international human rights, poverty, health, and critical legal theory. He can be reached at troy.elder@yale.edu.


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John: An Anglican Meditation on Literary Gifts and Giving


David Middleton
NE OF THE MOST moving poems in the Anglican tradition is “On Recovering the Use of His Eyes” by the great English man of letters and devout, lifelong member of the Church of England, Samuel Johnson (1709-84). Threatened in his later years with the loss of eyesight due to a serious infection, Johnson, in this poem, expresses his profound gratitude to God for curing his eyes so that he could continue to employ the literary gifts that God had given him. Translated below, the poem was written in Latin,1 the language into which Johnson often put his deepest feelings:

Louisiana State University: Present-day colonnades ary gifts sustained by a bodily cure calls to mind a story from my own life about similar literary gifts gratefully employed for the glory of God and in service to others. It is a story about sadness and loss yet also about triumph and fulfillment, a story in the Easter spirit of death and resurrection. During my years as a graduate student in English at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge (1971-79), I became a member of a group of four poets who were afterwards called the LSU Formalists. Studying under poet and scholar Donald E. Stanford, editor of The Southern Review, LSU’s internationally known literary quarterly founded in 1935 by Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren, we younger poets decided to challenge the dominant modern poetic style of free verse by writing in

Universal Lord, who tempers the rife Vicissitudes of everything in life, Who bids the night, gloomy in gelid cold, Be changed into the limpid morning gold, Who willed it that, by humid clouds obscured, Puffed up by stinging blood, my eyes be cured: Where pleasing day but heightened my dark fright You brought me health and gave me back to light. Lord, how can I attend in prayer and praise? A student of the Bible all my days, O may I ever, rightly, in my station, Honor you with useful application: For, Father, proper thanks to you are given By him who uses well the gifts of heaven.2 This gratitude to God for the bestowing of gifts upon us all and, in Samuel Johnson’s case, for liter1  E. L. McAdam Jr., ed., with George Milne, The Yale Edition of the Works of Samuel Johnson, Vol. VI., Poems: (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1964), 277. Date of poem: June 20-21, 1773. 2  Author’s original translation.

John would recite passages from Shakespeare to the cows (whom he named after Greek goddesses).


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traditional literary forms and in plain, accessible language on sharable subjects of universal human concern. One of the four graduate students in this group was John Martin Finlay. John was born at home on his family’s farm just outside Enterprise, Alabama, in 1941. A lover of literature since childhood, John would recite passages from Shakespeare to the cows (whom he named after Greek goddesses) as he drove them to and from the pasture every day. All four of the LSU Formalist poets remained friends and served as critical readers of each other’s verse both during our years at LSU and after.

Originally, the Garland was to have been a complete surprise.

enced social rejection and isolation as well as some people’s fear of contagion, John and his family had heavy burdens to bear beyond caring for John as his physical needs increased and his disease progressed. In such conditions, and with his health worsening to the point that in the end he was blind, feverish, and all but paralyzed -- thus, unable to read a book or to lift a pen to write and wondering whether his poems and essays would be remembered or forgotten after his death -- John was in need of loving support, not only from doctors, family and lifelong Alabama friends, but also from those poet friends with whom he had spent such intense and joyful years in Baton Rouge becoming one of the LSU Formalists. In those circumstances, it occurred to me that a garland of poems by various hands might be gathered up into a chapbook and published in honor of John, a “garland” of course being not only a collection of verses and but also a wreath of laurel leaves placed upon the head of a poet in ancient Greece and recalling the title “poet laureate.” And so, throughout most of 1990, as John grew ever closer to death, I worked on this project and was able -- with generous help from Carolyn Portier Gorman, owner of Blue Heron Press in Thibodaux, and two poet patrons -- to publish A Garland for John Finlay in early November of 1990. Twenty poets from America and England who admired John’s verse each gave a poem for this small volume, most of the poems being previously unpublished or even newly written just for the Garland. Contributors included not only the other three LSU Formalist poets (Wyatt Prunty, Lindon Stall, and myself) but nationally recognized poets such as Edgar Bowers (winner of The Bollingen Prize, America’s highest award for lifetime achievement in poetry) and Dana Gioia, later to serve as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts under President George W. Bush. Other contributors were equally distinguished. Originally, the Garland was to have been a complete surprise, but as John’s health deteriorated rapidly in the late summer of 1990, we decided to tell him about the Garland and its contributors. When copies of the Garland arrived on the farm in Enterprise on November 9, 1990, John’s mother,

In 1977, I left Baton Rouge to complete my Ph.D. dissertation in Thibodaux, Louisiana, and to begin there what became a thirty-three-year career in the Department of English at Nicholls State University. John returned in 1980 to his family’s farm in Enterprise. He had set himself a ten-year goal of writing two substantial books: a book of poems and a book of essays. During the decade that followed, John did indeed write what would be published after his death as Mind and Blood: The Collected Poems of John Finlay and Hermetic Light: Essays on the Gnostic Spirit in Modern Literature and Thought. (Gnostics believed that a non-omnipotent lower god bunglingly made the world of matter, an evil place from which the soul yearns to escape through hidden knowledge [gnosis] possessed only by initiates. Such a non-Incarnational view of matter meant that the body could either be ascetically denied or grossly abused -- since it was a thing to be escaped from into a higher world of pure spirit.) Both John’s book on Gnosticism and his book of poems remained in manuscript at the time of his death. Some of the essays and poems had appeared in literary journals or in small chapbook collections. During his years back home, John’s health began to decline and in time he was diagnosed with AIDS. In those days when so little could be done medically to help AIDS patients, who often experi-


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Mrs. Jean Finlay, read John a poem a day from it, as her son needed all of his strength just to hear and understand a single poem at a time, read over and over again. He often quietly cried in his blindness, his mother said, at the thought of these twenty poets doing this for him. Thus, as death neared, John knew that his poems were admired by many poets whom he himself admired. (I myself also swore to him that I would see his two completed books into print with a reputable publisher -- something that indeed happened -- and would serve for as long as his family wished as his literary executor.)

style And sensuous descriptions charged with thought, Probing toward the source and end of intellect That marks our place in all the Maker wrought. Both natives of the South trying to reclaim Something of Greece and Christendom, we’d walk To the Union from our desks in Allen Hall Talking of Homer, Dante, Winters, Tate, A “Stanford” or a “Simpson” Southern Review, Finding ourselves as poets and as friends There, at LSU, in those sweet-olive days, Summer seeming endless in sunlit colonnades. In the spring of 1990, some months before the Garland appeared, John, confined at home to a hospital bed, dictated to one of his sisters a poem he had composed entirely in his head. The poem is called “A Prayer to the Father,” and was intended, as is often the case with older or dying poets, as a final poem, or death poem. The poem expresses John’s natural human fear of the body’s demise and its separation from the soul as well as a dread of the terrors death holds for the mind, yet the poem also affirms John’s belief in the immortality of his intellectual and spiritual being and his hope that, after death, he might gaze at last upon the face of God: A Prayer to the Father

His last word, spoken as a question, was “Plato?”

My own poem in the Garland retells the story of our first meeting and of our years at LSU -- of Donald E. Stanford and Lewis P. Simpson, who shared editorial duties at The Southern Review, of times when John and I spoke of writers we admired (including Samuel Johnson), of the old English building, Allen Hall, of walking from Allen Hall to the Student Union as we talked, of the fragrant smell of the sweet-olive trees on the LSU campus, and of the long sunny colonnades that seemed to promise us a never-ending youthful summer of friendship and poetry: For John Finlay I met you on Good Friday at the wedding Of a friend, and struck by your strong voice, broad Forehead, wiry build, and penetrating mind Determined to know you better. Later, In Baton Rouge, we read each other’s poems Testing the rhythms, images, and rhymes, Struggling to master this greatest of all crafts, Craving the grace of one perfected page. Truly a man of letters who could love Blunt Johnson and the nuances of James And ask how that which says “the mind is weak” Can state its law and yet transcend the same, You wrote clean abstract poems in plainest

Death is not far from me. At times I crave The peace I think that it will bring. Be brave, I tell myself, for soon your pain will cease. But terror still obtains when our long lease On life ends at last. Body and soul, Which fused together should make up one whole, Suffered deprived as they are wrenched apart. O God of love and power, hold still my heart When death, that ancient awful fact appears; Preserve my mind from all deranging fears, And let me offer up my reason free And where I thought, there see Thee perfectly. Edgar Bowers (mentioned above), in a poem entitled “John,” refers to John dictating this final poem before he would return to the “old country”


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from which we all have come and to which one day we will all return: “And so it was, before his death, he spoke / The poem that is his best, the final letter / To take to that old country as a passport” (Collected Poems: Edgar Bowers, New York, Knopf, 1997). John Finlay died in Flowers Hospital, Dothan, Alabama, on February 17, 1991, the first Sunday in Lent. His mother told me that in his last moments he seemed to see a figure coming from beyond this life as a guide (like Dante’s Virgil) to lead him home to God. His last word, spoken as a question, was “Plato?” Those of us who knew the depth of John’s Christian faith and who also knew how much he loved Greek literature and thought are convinced that “Plato” was sent as a guide to take John, not to the Greeks’ Elysian Fields, but to Christ Our Redeemer in Heaven. (Raised a Southern Baptist, John was an Episcopalian from the early 1960s until 1980, the years of the beginning of his maturation as a poet and an essayist. He was Roman Catholic from Easter of 1980 until his death.) In the fall of 2012, over twenty years after John’s death and the publication of the Garland, I wrote a poem called ‘The Break-In.” The poem is about an event from the 1970s in Baton Rouge when thieves broke into John’s sparely furnished apartment, then left just as they had come, not having seen anything that they considered valuable enough to take away: . . . you walked back one night to quiet rooms From wine and conversation, new work shared Through dinner with likeminded poet friends To spy a door ajar, a window prized By thieves who’d broken in but then had found Nothing worth stealing -- old clothes, older books, A manual Underwood, fair-copies typed,

Ashes of finished cigarettes and thoughts, No TV, radio, hi-fi, or cash -And so fled empty-handed, cursing God. And when you saw that all you had was there -The cinder-block bookshelves’ unpainted boards Still holding Shakespeare, Milton undisturbed A poor man dancing past the robber band, You knew you had been faithful to a gift The Holy Ghost as Muse bestowed at birth, Plowing by mind and hand down lines and rows, True to the ancient sanctions of the land. At the end of “The Break-In,” a number of lines speak of John’s final years on the farm, his struggle against Gnostic impulses that plagued him, and the moment of his death. The poem closes with a glimpse of the Christian heaven (Christ as “Love”) in the form of a Socratic “symposium” or long, spirited discussion between philosophers (etymologically, “lovers of wisdom”): You wrote late poems and essays to be whole, Returning to the house where you were born, Full harvests of a Blood Moon in the fields As you stayed up all night, suffering AIDS A decade while completing those two books, Your story left for others who would strive For mind’s integrity, which, years ago, A break-in had confirmed, exemplified, As did your final moment’s final breath When from your deathbed halfway rising up, With blinded eyes you looked beyond and said “Plato?” to one now sent to take you home To that last, great symposium of Love At which the conversation never ends. And so, both as poet and as editor, with God’s grace and guidance and with essential help from other people, I was able to use my literary gifts on behalf of a fellow poet in need. There is a fine line between self-congratulation and sharing with others for the general good in the retelling of such a story as I have just done here. I am very much aware of this fine line and sincerely hope that it has not been crossed in this meditation.

You knew you had been faithful to a gift / The Holy Ghost as Muse bestowed at birth


THE ANGLICAN | Pentecost 2013

May John Finlay, poet and friend, rest in light eternal, in everlasting peace, and in the hope of the Resurrection that we celebrate at all times but most especially during the Easter season. And, like both Samuel Johnson and John, who faced blindness and death with faith and courage and who made such good use of their gifts, may we all work to discern our own God-given talents and offer them up as best we may in the furthering of God’s Kingdom. X Note: This meditation is revised and edited from its original appearance in the April 2013 issue of The St. John’s Episcopal Newsletter, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Thibodaux, Louisiana. David Middleton is a parishioner of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Thibodaux, Louisiana, and a member of The Guild of Scholars of the Episcopal Church. Books for, by, and about John Finlay (all edited by David Middleton): A Garland for John Finlay (Thibodaux, LA: Blue Heron Press, 1990) Mind and Blood: The Collected Poems of John Finlay (Santa Barbara, CA: John Daniel & Company, 1992) Hermetic Light: Essays on the Gnostic Spirit in Modern Literature and Thought (Daniel, 1994) In Light Apart: The Achievement of John Finlay [essays and poems by various hands and a bibliography of works by and about John Finlay] (Glenside, PA: The Aldine Press, 1999).

Exsultet Redux
Rodger Patience
(To be hummed quietly to oneself in the days following the Easter blowout.) Relax now, heavenly hosts and choirs of angels, and give your trumpets a vacation after the victory of our mighty King. Relax and breathe now, all the round earth, quiet with a glorious splendor, for darkness has been vanquished by our eternal King. Relax and be glad now, Mother Church, and let your holy courts, in peace and quiet, reflect on the saving of your people. All you who rest near this intimate and holy flame, pray with me to God the Almighty for the grace to live in worthy praise of this great light; through Jesus Christ his Son our Lord, who lives and rests with him, in the stillness of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Rev. Deacon Rodger Patience is a preacher, presenter, and frequent flier. He is the senior product specialist for TeleTracking Technologies, the leading provider of patient flow solutions for healthcare, and he serves in the Episcopal Diocese of Fond du Lac at St. Thomas Church, Menasha, WI. Find him on Facebook or Twitter @dcnpatience.


THE ANGLICAN | Pentecost 2013

A Hymn to the Trinity
Charles Wesley
Hail, co-essential Three, In mystic Unity! Father, Son, and Spirit, hail! God by Heaven and earth adored, God incomprehensible; One supreme, almighty Lord, One supreme, almighty Lord. Thou sittest on the throne, Plurality in One; Saints behold Thine open face, Bright, insufferably bright; Angels tremble as they gaze, Sink into a sea of light, Sink into a sea of light. Ah! when shall we increase Their heavenly ecstasies? Chant, like them, the Lord Most High, Fall like them who dare not move; “Holy, holy, holy,” cry, Breathe the praise of silent love? Breathe the praise of silent love? Come, Father, in the Son And in the Spirit down; Glorious Triune Majesty, God through endless ages blest, Make us meet Thy face to see, Then receive us to Thy breast; Then receive us to Thy breast.

Maker in Whom We Live
Charles Wesley
Maker, in whom we live, in whom we are and move, the glory, power, and praise receive for thy creating love. Let all the angel throng give thanks to God on high, while earth repeats the joyful song and echoes to the sky. Incarnate Deity, let all the ransomed race render in thanks their lives to thee for thy redeeming grace. The grace to sinners showed ye heavenly choirs proclaim, and cry, “Salvation to our God, salvation to the Lamb!” Spirit of Holiness, let all thy saints adore thy sacred energy, and bless thine heart-renewing power. No angel tongues can tell thy love’s ecstatic height, the glorious joy unspeakable, the beatific sight. Eternal, Triune God, let all the hosts above, let all on earth below record and dwell upon thy love. When heaven and earth are fled before thy glorious face, sing all the saints thy love hath made thine everlasting praise.


THE ANGLICAN | Pentecost 2013

Come, Holy Spirit, Come
Joseph Hart
Come, Holy Spirit, come; Let thy bright beams arise; Dispel the darkness from our minds, And open all our eyes. Cheer our desponding hearts, Thou heav’nly Paraclete; Give us to lie with humble hope At our Redeemer’s feet. Revive our drooping faith; Our doubts and fears remove; And kindle in our breasts the flames Of never-dying love. Convince us of our sin; Then lead to Jesus’ blood, And to our wond’ring view, reveal The secret love of God. ‘Tis thine to cleanse the heart, To sanctify the soul, To pour fresh life in ev’ry part, And new create the whole. Dwell, therefore, in our hearts; Our minds from bondage free; Then we shall know and praise and love The Father, Son, and Thee. Amen


THE ANGLICAN | Pentecost 2013

A Journal of Anglican Identity
Pentecost A.D. 2013
A Publication of The Anglican Society http://anglicansociety.org
Episcopal Patron The Rt. Rev. Andrew St. John Rector, Church of the Transfiguration New York, NY President The Rev. Canon J. Robert Wright The General Theological Seminary 175 Ninth Avenue, New York, NY 10011 wright@gts.edu Vice President The Rev. Canon Jonathan L. King jlking340@aol.com Treasurer Miss Linda Bridges 305 East 72nd Street New York, NY 10021 lbridges2@mindspring.com Recording Secretary Dr. Nicholas Birns 205 East 10th Street New York, NY 10003 birnsn@newschool.edu Membership/Subscription Secretary The Rev. Paul B. Clayton Jr. pbclayton@aol.com Editor of The Anglican The Rev. Robert F. Solon Jr., SCP editor@anglicansociety.org Immediate Past Editor Members of the Board-at-Large The Rev. William Loring The Rev. Gaylord Hitchcock Professor R. Bruce Mullin Emeritii The Very Rev. Lloyd G. Chattin, president The Rev. Canon A. Pierce Middleton, editor Mr. David L. James, editor The Rev. Victor L. Austin, editor The Rev. Dirk C. Reinken, editor Production Editor Ms. Hannah Wilder hannah.wilder1@gmail.com
THE ANGLICAN | Pentecost 2013

The Rev. Dr. Cody Unterseher (1976 - 2012)


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