Archive for October, 2014

For Gratitude Week at Incarnation

Monday, October 27th, 2014

One of the first speakers I ever heard on the subject of giving—at a time when “stewardship” was an unfamiliar word in the Episcopal Church—said that Christians shouldn’t make donations to the church out of a sense of duty. Nor should they tithe because they felt guilty if they didn’t.

Rather, he said, Christians should make their offerings from a sense of gratitude for all that we have received from a loving God. We should give because we are thankful; we should give because we enjoy the fruits of God’s creation.

And not only is this the right attitude. It also feels better! —J. Douglas Ousley

John Andrew, RIP

Friday, October 17th, 2014

One of the great figures of the Episcopal Church in this city. The Rev. Canon John Andrew, OBE, died this morning following a stroke. By means of his truly charismatic personality and remarkable preaching, he turned St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue from a sleepy backwater into a national center of classical Anglican worship. Rarely does one person have such an institutional effect.

John Andrew was a mentor to me. He preached at my installation as Rector in Rome in 1981 and at my installation at Incarnation in 1985. He also gave the homily at the funeral of my first wife in 2008. He loved my sons, John and Andrew.

At a time when clergy are so often bland and meek, John Andrew never suffered fools gladly. He was a giant in the clerical world. May he rest in peace. –J. Douglas Ousley

Courtroom Rituals

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

I am on jury duty in federal court this week and next. Yesterday, I was nearly selected for a projected two-week trial; I was excused at the last minute, after spending the day hearing juror interviews in a beautifully restored courtroom.

As I had never been on a jury and rarely visited courts, I saw the whole scene with an outsider’s perspective. Yet from the clergyman’s point of view, I couldn’t help noticing the juridical parallels with church rituals. The judge in robes, seated high above everyone else, directing the proceedings; all lawyers and prosecutors in black suits; many repeated speeches and actions; solemnity prevailing even in the audience–no talking, reading, eating.

In other words, very like church! Which I guess is good–people take the judicial process seriously. And it is, indeed, the secular guarantor of political freedom, as our faith guarantees our spiritual freedom. —J. Douglas Ousley

Low Point near the High Line

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

The article in the New York Times yesterday was only the latest of many media considerations of the current dispute at General Theological Seminary in the Chelsea section of Manhattan. Eight faculty members declared they could and would no longer fulfill their contracts unless seminary trustees addressed their criticism of Dean Kurt Dunkle’s leadership. The Board promptly declared that the faculty members had resigned and the Dean has since been planning to keep the classes going without them.

Among the nastier aspects of this situation are quotes in a faculty letter to the trustees that have the Dean expressing racist and sexist prejudices. On the other hand, the faculty members did take the risk of going over the head of the Dean; in my own experience on boards of directors, boards usually prefer to back the CEO in such cases. If the trustees don’t have confidence in him or her running the organization, they should find someone else to lead, rather than attempting to micro-manage alongside the appointed administration.

Although I have not myself been impressed with previous public statements from Dean Dunkle, and I find the faculty charges to be disturbing (especially the quotations), I am also sympathetic with students and alumni who are trying to stay on the sidelines in this dispute. The waters are muddy and it is by no means obvious to me what side God is on. Very sad. —J. Douglas Ousley