Blogging “Blue”: Holy Women, Holy Men

This is a thirteenth in a series of posts on the “Blue” Book for General Convention 2012. Previously, I blogged about Same-sex Blessings (SCLM). Next up is Liturgy Sundries I (SCLM). Please see my index of General Convention 2012 resolutions, with a summary of the 7WD position on them.

Holy Women, Holy MenI have previously written about my issues with Holy Women, Holy Men, the trial use kalendar of the Episcopal Church. Many of the people featured in the volume are not known for their inspiring witness of the faith, but rather were famous for being first at something or for cultural accomplishments. While it is fine to celebrate their lives, to commemorate them in our kalendar is confusing at best.

Derek Olsen has written a lot about the many problems with Holy Women, Holy Men on his blog and in the Living Church. I encourage you to read his scholarly, theologically careful, and well articulated critique. Go ahead, right now. I’ll wait.

OK, now that you’re back, I also object to the process for this work. The SCLM has been driving it hard, and then claiming that General Convention really wants this. Well, OK. But who wrote the resolutions for General Convention to pass? I’d like to see General Convention reject the whole enterprise. And then let’s find a publisher to make the work available for people who find this kind of devotion helpful in their prayer lives. In fact, I will say that Forward Movement would be pleased to publish this (though I suspect Church Publishing is a better fit; just wanted to put my money where my mouth is).

Not every liturgical idea needs to become part of the authorized liturgical corpus of the Episcopal Church. Sometimes, it is enough to make texts available for appropriate use by congregations and individuals.

OK, here are my (predictable) thoughts on the Holy Women, Holy Men resolutions.

A051: Continue Trial Use of Holy Women, Holy Men. Likely vote: NO.
I’ve already said what I have to say, here and elsewhere. Time to end this project of radically expanding our kalendar with people who do not meet the criteria we have identified for inclusion within our kalendar.

A052: Identify Additional Church Calendar Commemorations. Likely vote: NO.
Our expanded trial use kalendar is already rife with problems. Let’s not make it worse. There are several “firsts” here. What if we were to discover (as happens not infrequently) others who were first? Would we remove these people, and add the others? What does that say about the criteria for our kalendar and our theological integrity?

Really, go read what Derek has written. If you are a deputy or a bishop, it is important to understand the problems with Holy Women, Holy Men. If you are not voting at this Convention, please contact your deputies and bishops about this. Many people simply have not bothered to think about Holy Women, Holy Men and the challenges it poses.

P.S. If you are planning to vote YES for Holy Women, Holy Men, I have a suggestion. Call your local rabbi and ask him or her what he or she thinks about a bunch of Christians saying that a twentieth-century Jewish chaplain is in the Communion of Saints (yes, that thing that knits together the Body of Christ). Yep, that’s what we are doing with Holy Women, Holy Men. Ironic, isn’t it, that we are also considering a resolution about Christian anti-Judaism?

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13 Responses

  1. I would also suggest people read the article Ruth Meyers and I wrote in the 2012 winter issue of ATR on the baptismal ecclesiology of HWHM. Have you read it, Scott?

    Also, note that the bishop of Federal Chaplaincies was the one who request the commemoration of the Dorchester Chaplains. I agree with the tension between the work on anti-Judaism in the liturgy (for which I am a consultant along with the HWHM projects), but I also preached on the Dorchester Chaplains at CDSP two years back. It was a transformative experience for me. I have plenty of reservations about that commemoration in a Eucharistic context, but if their example is not a heroic witness of faith, tell what is.

  2. Laura says:

    Dan, would you post a link to the article you wrote for ATR? I’d love to read it.

    Thank you for this, Scott, and for directing me to the article by Derek Olsen which put a finger on some things that have been bugging me about HWHM.

    I am concerned that the focus of the additions is on achievements rather than…whatever else saintliness might be. Because if nothing else, being a saint is not about our own achievements. Reading HWHM these days is a depressing task as all the saints still striving strive in the ways that I think are problematic for us in these 24/7 days. Which is different from seven whole days, of course.

  3. Dear Laura,

    Thanks for asking for the link. It is here:

    I would note that there is more to many of the people commemorated in HWHM than their achievements. I think it depends on how you want to read their lives. Of course, the commemoration of people has never been without disagreement the life of the church.

    One note, HWHM has not yet gone through a first reading. The intention to make revisions exists, but frankly the task is so large it needs to be carried over to the next triennium. I hope some of this is clarified at GC. I have only served as a consultant to the HWHM project after it passed at the 2009 GC.

  4. Elizabeth Anderson says:

    I share a lot of your concerns about HWHM, however, I also think that the revised collects that are in the Blue Book this year are *better*. Less random biographical information in what is supposed to be a prayer, and even a traditional language option for those that prefer such a thing. I do still think it needs a lot of work, and I was pretty happy with the saints calendar we had before. (Adding people is always nice, but a complete overhaul seems a little drastic.) But I was pleased to see that things were definitely improved from the 2009 version.

    But if we’re looking to add more saints, I wish we had focused more on people who were already canonized by the Catholic or Orthodox churches pre-schism, whose sanctity we in theory already acknowledge, but who just aren’t on our calendar. (Actually…that would be a really fun version of Lent Madness! An entire bracket of ancient and medieval saints who are NOT on our calendar…. Winner gets a General Convention resolution!)


  5. Scott Gunn says:

    Dan, thanks for stopping by to leave a comment. The link for your article just gives us the precis. Is the full text online somewhere? I might have a copy of that ATR in my office.

    Anyway, even assuming there is some kind of theological coherence, the saints included do not even meet the criteria identified by the SCLM and adopted by General Convention. So far, my sense is that the SCLM has been resistant to any change or feedback on HWHM, as they clearly pressured GC last time to approve HWHM without any modification. I’d like to believe that there will be a healthy process for revision, but we haven’t seen that thus far. Maybe the SCLM could float a list of people who are likely to be removed, and GC could do that now. This would make me feel better about the quality of the resource and the integrity of the process.

    I agree that the story of the chaplains of Dorchester is inspiring — a terrific witness to deep faith. But that does not mean that the Church should say that all four chaplains (including the rabbi) are in the communion of saints. The calendar of saints is not meant to be a list of heroes. Not every inspiring person or story is appropriate for inclusion.

    That said, there are plenty of publishers who would be pleased to offer a “heroes of faith” volume for suitable devotion. But that’s a whole different thing than tinkering with our calendar of commemorations and our very theology of eschatology and ecclesiology.

  6. Melody says:

    I agree that HWHM is a bit of a hot mess. A full overhaul of the calendar of saints seems overkill, and what has happened already is completely unwieldy; additions on top of what we already have are making it more and more cumbersome.

    Another concern that I have, mentioned, I believe, in your previous article, is the proliferation of saints. With all that we have and adding more and more every triennium, we are quickly running out of Ferias. Our bishop said at our recent gathering that she felt that HWHM was problematic for those who actually typically use the Daily Office. When you have saints commemorated every single day, you lose much out of our current cycle and pattern of prayer.

    I would very much like to see HWHM voted down, and something much, much more limited and restrained considered instead.

  7. Scott, I would love to send you a copy of the article, but I am on sabbatical at Ripon College Cuddesdon in England and don’t have it with me. I hope you can lay your hands on it.

    I respect what Derek wrote, but I disagree with his eschatological critique, or more to the point, his views on eschatology.

    I can tell you for a fact that the SCLM subcommittee for HWHM went through all of the feedback received. In fact, the feedback was so significant that we ran out of time this triennium to incorporate it all. I do know HWHM has not yet undergone a first reading according to Gregory Straub. That happens at this convention. If the work of HWHM continues for the next triennium, you will see a proposal for a more limited kalendar.

    I would point out that HWHM emerged from a move by Frank Griswold to expand the commemorations of TEC to more fully reflect its baptismal theology. I differ from Derek Olsen on how well that was done. It is not a perfect document, but I think once it has been refined and revised, it will speak well to our ecclesiology. My biggest desire is to see this done right. I think we share the same goals in this regard and I will be the first to admit more work is needed.

  8. Derek Olsen says:

    I didn’t have the opportunity to read the article by Dan and Ruth Meyers before I wrote my piece. Dan, I did follow your suggestion and have a copy of it–and, yes, we have different notions about what sanctity is and what it should look like theologically in our church. While I appreciate your piece, I think there are some significant gaps that need to be addressed and am hoping to submit a response to ATR in the near future.

    Too, there will be more discussion on the first article linked above. I believe there will be a formal response to my article in TLC from a bishop whom I’ve annoyed and a few other folks may be chiming in as well.

  9. Dan Joslyn-Siemiatkoski says:

    Derek, I look forward to seeing more thoughts from you and to see what your work has generated from others. I think a much needed conversation has developed on this topic. On my own end, I don’t consider what I wrote in ATR to be the final word on the topic or even the fulness of my own thoughts on it. May good fruit be borne out of these discussion for the sake of the church.

  10. Kevin Montgomery says:

    Hypothetical here: If by some chance HWHM were voted down this time, what would be the official calendar of commemorations? Would it be the most recent Lesser Feasts & Fasts (2006?), or would there have to be a resolution to reauthorize that for the next triennium?

  11. Derek Olsen says:

    Yes, it’d be the most recent LF&F which is where there are apparently redundant motions to put people both into HWHM and into LF&F.

  12. Ruth Meyers says:

    I’m delighted to see this discussion. The theological significance of the commemorations is important. I want to clarify a few things:

    Melody reported that her bishop raised concern about those who typically pray the daily offices. The materials in HWHM are not intended for use at the daily offices (though I realize that some individuals and congregations use them in that way), but rather are intended for the eucharist.

    The materials fall in the category of “Days of Optional Observance.” That means no one is required to observe any of these commemorations.

    Dan Joslyn-Siemiatkoski, who served on the HWHM subcommittee, reported correctly that the additions to the calendar (which are revisions to the BCP pp. 19-30) have not yet had a “first reading” for BCP revision. However, the SCLM is not asking that this convention act on a first reading, but rather that it reauthorize HWHM so the SCLM can continue its review of the feedback and propose a calendar for first reading in 2015.

    Ruth Meyers, Chair, Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music

  13. Scott Gunn says:

    I wonder if the SCLM could ask CPI to publish LFF in an updated form? The problem is that most people in the church simply do not know that HWHM is trial use, since LFF is not updated. How do I know this? Because I work at a place that publishes a daily devotion read by hundreds of thousands of people every day, and they call us and ask questions about our calendar.

    To be clear, I know this is outside the purview of SCLM, but CPI might listen to you.

    I’d also like to see HWHM available as a free download. That one is actually pretty important.

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