Thursday, October 23, 2014

Prayers for a Dead Friend

14th Century Fresco, Chora Church, Istanbul

O God, who by the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ destroyed death, and brought life and immortality to light: Grant that your servant Elsie, being raised with Him, may know the strength of His presence, and rejoice in His eternal glory; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

For our sister Elsie, let us pray to our Lord Jesus Christ who said, "I am Resurrection and I am Life."

Lord, you consoled Martha and Mary in their distress; draw near to us who mourn for Elsie, and dry the tears of those who weep.
Hear us, Lord.

You wept at the grave of Lazarus, your friend; comfort us in our sorrow.
Hear us, Lord.

You raised the dead to life; give to our sister eternal life.
Hear us, Lord.
You promised paradise to the thief who repented; bring our sister to the joys of heaven.
Hear us, Lord.

Lord Jesus Christ, we commend to you our sister Elsie, who was reborn by water and the Spirit in Holy Baptism. Grant that her death may recall to us your victory over death, and be an occasion for us to renew our trust in your Father's love. Give us, we pray, the faith to follow where you have led the way; and where you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, to the ages of ages. Amen.

Give rest, O Christ, to your servant with your saints, 
where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting.
You only are immortal, the creator and maker of mankind; 
and we are mortal, formed of the earth, and to earth shall we return. 
For so did you ordain when you created me, saying, 
"You are dust, and to dust you shall return." 
All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: 
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

(From the Book of Common Prayer 1979)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Breaking News: Mark Driscoll Resigned!

Note: some of the content below is pretty racy, so if that offends you here is your warning. There's also a great deal of misogyny and homophobia because, well, it's Driscoll.

Yes, I am excited by the news. I've already explained the general principle of why, but I'll go into specific details for my Catholic readers.

Mark Driscoll started a non-denominational church in Seattle in 1996, purposefully creating a church in a place that most deemed "unchurched" and even hostile to Christianity. By using various techniques including casual dress, salty language during sermons, and evangelism to social outcasts and the counter-culture, he built a mega-church with satellites in other states. Eventually this because the Acts 29 Network, which also planted a church in my hometown a few years back. These churches were known for their Calvinism, vital ministries to young families, and quick church plant model. They were part of a "network" but otherwise not part of any denomination, unless it's the denomination of Mark Driscoll.

For awhile, his efforts were lauded everywhere you turned in evangelical circles. Even Donald Miller's spiritual memoir Blue Like Jazz, written in the 90s, had a complimentary account of the "cussing pastor's" ministry to "fruitcakes and artsy people," a place where the religiously-burned Donald felt he could breath again. In keeping with his commitment to contemporary-style ministry, Driscoll had a constant stream of podcasts for anyone with a computer access. He and his wife Grace even authored a book called "Real Marriage" which hit the NY Times bestseller list (through nefarious means, it turns out).

Slowly, we started seeing signs that things were not kosher. There were too many stories of ex-parisioners who felt bullied by leadership, who had been shunned by congregants who got their orders from on high. These stories sounded an awful lot like cults. For awhile though, Driscoll got a pass from conservatives because he was preaching "The Truth" on gender issues, homosexuality and other hot button issues. In the past few years, that reputation crumbled. This year it came out that he plagiarized and essentially bought his way onto the NY Times list. However, the real damage was to his character reputation. After awhile, his comments about "pussified" Christian men and "pansy" pacifists were recognized as what he really thinks, not mere aberration or exaggeration.

Before his leadership at Mars Hill, he posted a series of misogynistic rants on his church website under the pen-name William Wallace. The content of these rants is shocking, even for those of us who had been following developments for awhile.

In response to a woman on the discussion board, he said these gems of wisdom:

I speak harshly because I speak to men. A woman might not understand that. I also do not answer to women. So your questions will be ignored. I would however, recommend to you a few versed to memorize: I Timothy 2:11-15 I Corinthians 14:33-35.To learn them, ask your father or husband. If you have neither, ask your pastor. If she is a female, find another church. If you are the pastor, quit your job and repent.

Perhaps she took umbrage to remarks like these: 

The first thing to know about your penis is, that despite the way it may see, it is not your penis. Ultimately, God created you and it is his penis. You are simply borrowing it for a while. While His penis is on loan you must admit that it is sort of just hanging out there very lonely as if it needed a home, sort of like a man wondering (sic) the streets looking for a house to live in. Knowing that His penis would need a home, God created a woman to be your wife and when you marry her and look down you will notice that your wife is shaped differently than you and makes a very nice home....

Can I be a gay Christian? In the infamous words of the now metaphysically challenged and likely kindling ex-pentecostal pastor Sam Kinison "How can one man look at another man's hairy ass and find love?" What an insane conversation. Every man knows you can't build anything with bolts and bolts. Damn freaks. And the pastel cashmere wearing sensible haircut clean shaven loafer wearing minivan driving suburban sympathizers contend "But they really really love each other." I love dogs, but I don't stick my tongue in their mouth and lobby congress for a tax deductible union. "But we need to be nice." What the hell for?  A man is free to knock boots with any sad hairy lump of clay desperate enough to climb in the sheets and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that total depravity is an understatement, but what the hell you want from me? Should we form some form of homo Promise Keepers so we can all climb into a stadium and hug each other and cry like damn junior high girls watching Dawson's Creek. I'd tell you to kiss my ass, but I'm afraid you'd take me up on it.

I always wanted to be a penis-home! 

He called this his "prophecy days" and assured folks that he was a kinder, gentler version of that guy. Well, I believe that they're the same person; I just don't see a change. Neither did the 21 pastors who charged Driscoll with abusive conduct. Neither did any women outside of his congregation when we heard sermons like this:

Men, I am glad to report to you that oral sex is biblical. Amen? [Amens and laughter] The wife performing oral sex on the husband is biblical. God’s men said…Amen. Ladies, your husbands appreciate oral sex. They do. So, serve them, love them well. It’s biblical, right here. We have a verse. “The fruit of her husband is sweet to her taste and she delights to be beneath him.” I’ll tell you a story, if you don’t tell anyone else. [Laughter] Of a man who started attending our church because of oral sex. [Laughter] So many of you women come to church, I think in your country [Scotland] it’s 60 or 70%, “My husband won’t come to church he doesn’t have any interest in the things of God and doesn’t’ see why church would apply to him.” We had a woman like that come to our church, she became a Christian, her husband was not a Christian. He hated the church, wanted nothing to do with the church. She kept browbeating him about Jesus. “You need to get saved. You’re gonna burn in hell.” He had no interest in that. So finally I was teaching a class on sex, and she said, “Oh, so oral sex on a husband is what a wife is supposed to do.” I said “Yeah.” She said, “My husband’s always wanted that but I’ve refused him.” I went to 1 Peter 3. I said “The Bible says that if your husband is not a Christian that you are to win him over with deeds of kindness. [Laughter] So go home and tell your husband that you were in a Bible study today and that God has convicted you of sin, and repent [Laughter] and perform oral sex on your husband and tell him that Jesus—Jesus Christ—commands you to do so. The next week, the man showed up at church. [Laughter, clapping] He came up to me, and said, “Uh, you know, this is a really good church.” That handing out tracts on the street thing—there’s a better way to see revival, I assure you.

His sexual obsessions notwithstanding, the scariest things came from those who formed entire support groups to help each other after leaving Mars Hill. They said the church acted like a prototype cult: lure you in when you're new in town and lonely, provide an instant family via small group assignments, fill up your free time with "work for the church," require new members to sign an extensive "covenant," and intrude on all your personal decision making. And if you step out of line, your name might get put on a shunning list on the church website and email list. Perhaps the last straw for many was in 2007 when Driscoll fired the executive board that was meant to be a check on his authority and installed a group of yes men.

I feel sorry for his wife and kids. Hell, I feel bad for him, in that many of his quotes and actions indicate someone in dire need of counseling. But mostly I am overcome with relief that, for now, he is no longer able to bully anyone but his immediate family. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What Not to Say to a Pastor/ Priest's Wife

"Honey, I don't mean to be forward, but.... are you pregnant?"

Quickly followed by:

"Oh my, I didn't mean to imply that you have a little pooch.... I think it's just the style of dress."

What I wanted to say in response

Monday, October 13, 2014

Request for Prayer

Without going into details, I ask for your prayer for myself and my husband. We are going through a very difficult time, partly related to his ministry. For the next nine days I'll be doing a novena to Mary undoer of knots. I've never done a novena before, but let's just say I'm desperate. :) 

In whatever way you can, please pray for us. 

Pope Francis' prayer: 

Holy Mary, full of God's presence during the days of your life, you accepted with full humility the Father's will, and the Devil was never capable to tie you around with his confusion.

Once with your son you interceded for our difficulties, and, full of kindness and patience you gave us example of how to untie the knots of our life. And by remaining forever Our Mother, you put in order, and make more clear the ties that link us to the Lord. 

Holy Mother, Mother of God, and our Mother, to you, who untie with motherly heart the knots of our life, we pray to you to receive in your hands (the name of person), and to free him/her of the knots and confusion with which our enemy attacks. 

Through your grace, your intercession, and your example, deliver us from all evil, Our Lady, and untie the knots that prevent us from being united with God, so that we, free from sin and error, may find Him in all things, may have our hearts placed in Him, and may serve Him always in our brothers and sisters. Amen.

Friday, October 10, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Weddings as Sacrament


Well, I hadn't done a 7QT in awhile, and since my blogging has been sporadic at best lately decided it's now or never! 


In my defense, I've been to two out-of-town weddings in the same number of weeks. In the first (which was also out of state), my husband was best man, and in the second I was a bridesmaid. Both weddings were lovely though very different, and both did an excellent job of highlighting the personalities of the couple while providing a gracious environment for guests. Naturally it got me thinking about weddings, and marriage. 


My father walking me down the aisle. It doesn't show faces so I'm OK with showing it.

I married an Episcopalian before I'd ever been to an Episcopal wedding (or a Catholic one for that matter). In my Protestant, Southern experience, the ceremonies were short and almost informal. There might be a little special music (heaven help us) or a congregational hymn, probably a reading of 1 Corinthians 13, the exchange of rings and vows, and sometimes a short talk (we don't say homily) given by the preacher/ celebrant. Weddings are a big deal, but they aren't sacraments. I'd certainly never heard of taking communion at a wedding. Why, that would seem sacrilegious! Weddings might be held in churches, but they don't hold the same reverential value that a regular church service does; it would seem profane to have the Lord's supper mingled with a wedding service. 

Like most converts though, I was determined to go full bore. We had the full shebang, communion and all, which caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth among my more Protestant family members. (In their defense, everyone was sweet the day of, although they all decided not to partake of communion. I guess they thought it was idolatry or something). It just made so much sense to start off my new married life with a miracle. The moment that my husband and I knelt and partook together was like nothing I have ever experienced. 


My husband is not the "strong and silent" type. In our wedding, I was dry-eyed and grinning from ear to ear, and he was the one tearing up. He's a very emotional soul, which I adore. During the wedding of his best friends, I caught his eye once or twice from the congregation, and we were both thinking the same thoughts. How has our marriage held up? It's been a very hard two and half years, what with my mental health issues, family problems, three moves across states, job changes, his time in seminary, preparing for ordination to the priesthood, etc. It's easy for us to be jealous of other couples who seem to have it easy, to groan when we hear yet another preacher talk about the trials of newly weds including toothpaste brands. Mental health problems are a heavy burden on a marriage, even with the support we've been blessed to have.


Thinking of marriage as sacrament helps. When you were baptized, you were promised grace, not freedom from sin and trouble. The sacraments never remove our trials, do they? (Sometimes it feels like they add to them!) The Christian life is not easy, and in fact can be an inconvenient faith as Chesterton said. Sacraments give grace upon grace because that grace is needed so desperately. 


My husband and I were blessed (in retrospect) to have weathered trials as an engaged couple. However, nothing can prepare you for the work of being married, no matter how much pre-marital counseling you receive - though it helps! The joy and hardship of being two people and yet one flesh is something that must be lived out to be believed. Before we got married, I trusted on faith that marriage is sacramental, but I didn't really get it. Like any sacrament, until you make that "leap of faith" it won't really click. 


In closing, pray for your spouse! One thing I've started practicing is offering a Rosary up for our marriage. Funny how spending time meditating on God's grace changes your perspective on marriage and love. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Accepting Grace, in spite of Pride

I finally went to confession. It had been a few months, and I felt particularly nervous since this was a new priest, a new place. Therefore, I wanted to plan, to spend several hours examining my conscience.

One morning I got up and went to the Catholic cathedral in downtown Savannah. It's open all day to visitors, and there are always tourists taking pictures. I had been meaning to go, so I went, lit a candle, prayed a Rosary, admired the iconography and statues. Thinking that was that, I got in my car and started home. Halfway there, I felt a tug to call and see if any priests in the area were available to hear my confession that day.

Confused but feeling strangely urgent, I parked in a strange neighborhood and started searching for churches on my phone. In no time I saw a church with which my husband and I have no connections and called the office. To my surprise, the priest himself answered. Yes, he would be happy to hear my confession, no, he had nothing going on at the moment, why not come on over?

The church was in south Savannah, so I did have some time to consider my recent past as I drove. It's been a chaotic last few months: moving from D.C. to Savannah, my husband's graduation from seminary and ordination to the diaconnate, my sojourn in a mental hospital. There were many opportunities for sin, but as I drove the thing that reverberated in my heart was my intense self-hatred.

I met the priest, talked a bit about my situation, made my confession. To my consternation, he was more concerned with my suicidal tendencies than with anything else. He gave me his card and made me promise to call him, day or night, if I was in any way tempted to end my life or hurt myself.

One of my religious quirks is the desire to earn my own way. Maybe it's part of overcorrecting from my Calvinist past, in which man could do nothing and had no free will. Or maybe it's human nature that cringes from gifts and would rather give to charity than be charity. I would rather be given a harsh penance than be told that most of my confessed "sins" require being more merciful to myself.

Maybe that's why it took me so long to confess in the first place: I know from past experience that the grace found there is abundant and embarrassingly free.