Tinyletter about a big conversation

Philip Christman captures the kind of frustration I felt when using Tinyletter.

Readers, I apologize for the atrocious formatting of last week’s newsletter. I have trouble making the UI of TinyLetter work on my laptop–in particular, it never wants to link. So sometimes I cut-and-paste the thing from elsewhere. That seems to have bitten us all in the ass. When I got my copy of my own newsletter, all the words were cut off on the right. It was mortifying, like the time I realized I had taught an entire class with my fly open. Since I am still unable to get the UI to work today, we may face the same issues all over again this week, but since I’m cutting-and-pasting from a different source, perhaps we will face new and exciting issues.

For such a simple service, there are a lot of bugs, especially around formatting. I could never tell how things were going to turn out and I always had to send myself a few previews to make sure that everything looked okay. Even when things did look decent in the email, they still weren’t exactly beautiful on the web archive. There were sometimes separate issues there. As someone who has spent a lot of time in QA, I found the issues to be somewhat maddening.

Beyond the formatting issues, this latest issue of Christman’s newsletter, The Tourist provides an interesting look at the Episcopalian debate around making references to God in their book of common prayer gender-neutral. Christman has thoughts on both sides of the debate.

I recently ran into the gender-neutralization of prayer when at a church event. We recited a prayer that I had said many times as a kid, “God is Great” (a common meal-time blessing). All of the male pronouns were replaced with simply the name of God, though, and I found myself out of step.

Another take on the discussions, from A Bigger Conversation about Liturgy – Covenant, laments the lack of collaboration with other faith traditions that characterize the current conversations around revisions (via @ayjay).

This shouldn’t mean we just borrow the insights of other traditions as ritual toys. One of the faintly tragic elements on display in the 1979 Prayer Book are the numerous borrowings from Orthodox liturgy, which reflect not just scholarly knowledge, but prayerful conversations with Russian and Greek scholars of the mid-20th century who were then genuine dialogue partners. It is hard to find such engagement with eastern Christianity in the Episcopal Church now, beyond the somewhat hollow testimony of facsimile icons in Church bookstores.

If the changes pass, and they are likely to, this will represent another point of division among Christian denominations. The question about whether the value of the changes warrant that unfortunate outcome has a very real and material impact on the body of Christian believers.

While Evangelicals are not likely to make prayers gender-neutral anytime soon, they are sometimes in favor of dropping The Apostles Creed from worship. Christ and Pop Culture has a post on a book by author Ben Myers about The Apostles Creed, arguing that it is ancient creeds like this that serve to unite Christians from different denominational (or even political) backgrounds.

In his new book, The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism, Ben Myers beautifully articulates the significance of each line of the ancient creed. Even more helpful, Myers keeps one theme running throughout the small book: saying these words is significant not only because they communicate deep truth, but also because they connect us to the global, historic Christian church. There might be nothing more desperately needed in the American church today than the regular reminder that our greatest loyalty is not to our nation or our favored political party, but to fellow believers. Instead of being united by a set of shared political beliefs or geographic origins, we are most strongly united by our devotion to Christ.

The objection some have to The Apostles Creed has to do with the line about the “holy catholic church” (that’s catholic with a small C, a reference to the universal church). As the piece points out, the problem with rejecting that reference pulls us out of the great cloud of witnesses that have gone before us, carrying the banner of the faith that has survived partly because of these flag bearers.

When we discuss these issues that serve to divide, let us keep in mind the words of the Apostle Paul in his first letter to the church in Corinth.

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (1 Corinthians 1:10-17)

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