Mar 13

Episcopi Vagantes – Birds Of A Feather Tarred Together

You may have seen an article in your news feed about Ralph Napierski crashing the party at the Vatican as Cardinals arrive for the conclave to elect the next Pope. If not, have a look at the entry over at Get Religion, it includes a number of links to various takes on the story. When I first saw the story about a week ago – I wondered how long it would be before someone made the link between Napierski and the “infamous” Episcopi Vagantes. It took longer than I thought. It must be a slow news cycle.

Over the past three weeks I’ve been working on a section of my thesis looking at the history and development of the label “episcopi vagantes”. It has been an eye opener. It turns out that Church of England officials coined the term around 1910 to describe Abp. Mathew and his successors. Brandreth, and later Anson then popularised the term and “filled in” the picture for their readers. The result of course has been that Independent Catholics have all been “tarrred” as vile, scheming “fake” bishops ever since – as the collection of articles in the above link demonstrate. Not everyone is buying it however, some people are asking more probing questions – such as the author of the Get Religion piece.

The fact is that the exercise in what we would now call “branding” was effective. Now all Independent Catholics are percieved to be scheming nutters, not just in popular media, but in published scholarship as well. A journal article published in 2009, describes Abp. Vilatte as “the notorius French schismatic”, and Bp. Henry Carmel Carfora as “a notorious Italian schismatic”. Another, published in 1988, describes Abp. Vilatte as “a schismatic priest masquerading as a bishop in good standing”. The reality of what is now commonly referrred to as “episcopi vagantes” is much more complicated – and therefore, more interesting than is the “branding”.

Sadly, Napierski represents the very thing that many of us in the Indie movement find offensive. He’s a “wanna-be”, investing huge amounts of effort asserting his link to the Independent Catholic movement, while in the same breath arguing that he is in union with the Bishop of Rome. My less than charitable response to this is, if that were true, then there would not have been a media storm over his recent gate-crashing. My other less than charatible response is – “Go Home!” You want to be Roman Catholic, then BE a Roman Catholic.

The important thing here is that the branding fromt he early 20th century is still settled in the popular mindset. We cannot deny that there are nutters in the movement. Likewise the Big-Tent Churches have more than their fair share. What we can do, is to speak up, to challenge the popular branding. We can do this by blogging, by writing letters to media outlets, and more importantly, by researching the history of the movement, and publishing our findings – so that when scholars come across an Indie historical figure they are not forced to rely solely on Brandreth, Anson, and ill-informed editorials such as this.

Dec 12

Historical Puzzles – Connecting The Dots With Contemporary Indie Issues

Some of you know I have been embarking on “Thesis 2.0″ – this time looking at Independent Catholic history during the lifetimes of Abp. Vilatte and Abp. Mathew. Thus far, I’m enjoying it thoroughly, and have been playing “connect the dots” left and right. It is truly amazing to me how easy it is to become myopic – to have a disconnected view of where and how our tradition fits into the “big picture”. The proverbial scales are fast falling away from my eyes – and I’m really enjoying it.

One of the many “connect the dots” moments I’ve been having thus far is in relation to Independent Catholics being “half in” and “half out” of the movement. I have railed against this problem on more than one occasion, and you can read some of my reasoning here, here, here, and here. I’m a firm believer that it is wrong – it damages the development of the movement, and it disrespects other traditions. But, this is a modern perspective, one grounded in a belief that the Indie movement has spent too much time looking over its shoulder, and comparing itself to “the other churches”.

What I’m finding is that the problem of individuals in the Indie movement being “half in, and half out” of the movement – overlapping with their involvement in the Anglican or Roman Catholic or “other” community is not a new one – indeed it is a historic problem, borne out of the very origins of the movement in the 19th century, when Indie bishops, functioned as clergy in the Roman and Anglican communions (until they were caught and expelled). Then there are those who were ordained or consecrated members of the Order of Corporate Reunion who, again, functioned in Anglican or Roman Catholic parishes with varying degrees of openness. Thus it is not “just” Independent clergy doing this – it seems that it was much more widespread.

This raises a number of interesting questions about our history, and our identity. The first of course is – looking at this, in its context, can we trace key moments of development of a unique “independent catholic” identity and ethos? Or, is this a process that is still going on – now that many Independent clergy and communities are far enough removed from the shadow of Rome or Canterbury to think about such things?


Oct 12

Oops: Running Behind

This week’sBlessed Bulletin is going to be a day or two late I’m afraid. I’m re-learning a “print deadline”, something I’ve not had to do since I published MALCHUS back in the days of Zines.

Oct 12

NaNoWriMo 2012 – And You Thought It Was Fluffy!

I’m embarking on NaNoWriMo for the third time. This is my second “november” stint, and my third was this summer when I did Camp NaNoWriMo. For those who don’t know it, the aim is to write a 50 thousand word piece of fiction in a month. That is 1,667 words per day – if you are writing seven days a week. In the past I have written Monday through Friday, which meant I was pressed against the deadline, but this time I think I’m going to try a more liesurely pace, and write every day. Why do it? And more importantly, why encourage others do do it too?

My entry into Welt-NaN0WriMo was primarily theraputic. I had just done battle with my university for the Nth time over my long suffering thesis. I was deflated, tired, and in need of some serious distraction. I actually started a week late, so was 11,669 words behind from the start. Talk about being against the deadline! I found that the process of thinking outside of my normal reality, gave me some space to relax, recover, and think differently about my next move. It also had the benefit of allowing me to prove to myself (nobody else, just me) that yes, I am capapble of taking on such a large project and successfully accomplishing the task. For my second round of participation I did it “just because”. This time the only agenda was enjoyment of the challenge, and of the creative process. To my amazement, I not only finished (again) but I also had not actually finished the story. It is sitting there at the moment of the big cliff hanger, waiting for the final resolution. From the standpoint of “theology” there is something appealing about that – about the story not ending, remaining open to possibilities. This time, I have been victorious over my university, but am now undertaking Thesis 2.0, I am embarking on NaNoWriMo 2012 in a very different “mental space”, and I want to play with new approaches to crafting a story. For me, then, the reason to participate in NaNoWriMo is quite simply play. To play with an image set that takes me outside the box of this world; and challenges me to expand, develop, to be creative, and see what happens next.

Anarchist Rev. posted yesterday about why he is participating, putting it in the context of Breuggeman’s Prophetic Imagination: “in order to live into a new reality we must first be able to envision it. He says that you need to be able to take things that people can identify with, situations they can understand, and weave them into something Essays and sermons are wonderful, but there is nothing like stories to help us imagine.” Thus taking the experience beyond personal space (where I’ve sat with it), into a wider world. What is happening here is familiar – it is exactly what the early ascetics did when they first withdrew from society to master spiritual discipline, to imagine a different world, and then they re-entered the world to share what they learned, and see what happened. Even there, the story does not end, it is still very open ended.

We have in some ways lost sight of the creativity of being “theologians”, and “practitioners” of the faith – it is very easy to do. The pressure is to conform, to not challenge “the way things have always been”. But the fact of the matter is, in order to realise the vision Christ had for our renewal, we need to follow his example, and question the power of conformity – to allow some things to be very open ended. It is hard, it is a real challenge, in fact. But it is in that tension where creativity lay, and flourishes.

Consider joining NaNoWriMo on Thursday (1 Nov) just for the fun of it. Enjoy a month of playing with a story of your own devising. Enjoy a month of comiserating with other creative people. Allow yourself to play, and to surprise yourself. Nobody has to see what you’ve written (unless you want them to), but the process of participating might inspire your practice of other disciplines. If you are participating, drop a line in the comments here and tell us why. You can also “comiserate” with me via NaNoWriMo during the month.


Oct 12

An Interesting Consideration of Independent Catholicism

Thanks first to St. Rafe’s for pointing the way on this one.

I found Fr. Chadwick’s thoughts interesting, and confess I’m still sitting with them. It seems to me, that he begins by accepting the standard criticism of the Indie movement – “its a dead end”, and moves from there to an appreciation that in healthier models, the Indie movement may actually be a way forward, a future for sacramental Christianity. If I’m mis-reading this I welcome correction, either from Fr. Chadwick himself, or from other readers.

I’ve never accepted the “dead end” model. I don’t know why exactly. It could be that my own life within the community has never been particularly “ambitious” – if you are looking at it from the standpoint of raising through the ranks, or possibly even through the lense of “how many members do you have”. As you can imagine the “dead end” model raises questions about how we view the ekklesia, and how we see ourselves fitting into that vision. I remember when I worked in the bookstore at Virginia Theological Seminary, the number of times seminarians, and Episcopal clergy said to me: “Your talent is being wasted, why don’t you join a real church?” Against what are you measuring a “dead end”, or “real church”? That Fr. Chadwick has raised this model, as part of his post is useful – so please don’t misread my thoughts as a criticism of his, it is not – it has made me reflect on what “dead end” means, and what it means in relation to my life in the Indie community. My answer to the questions posed to me usually ran along the lines of: “this is my spiritual home.”. My bottom line, it seems, is that if I ever did truly percieve it as a dead end, I think I would have abandoned my attachement to being Indie years ago. Thus, if it truly is a dead end, I’ve not reached it yet.

But here is the highlight for me, at the moment:

How do they go about it? Thousands of ways probably, but small family-like communities and friendship seem to be the key – as an alternative to legalism, exclusion, institutionalism and bigotry. If we have to imitate what we left, why leave it in the first place? These are fundamental questions.

I enjoyed the fact that as he moved through the various models of being “Indie” he concludes on an open, positive note, in which he picks up themes that have resonated with me for some time. If for example, we are merely imitating the ways and means of the churches we have left, why leave in the first place? I have written about this point, and its effects on the movement, on more than one occasion, here, here, here and most recently here, and I know that I’m not the only one who has, or who is quietly having this conversation. However, I do think that it is a conversation that ought to be more public. The overarching aim of course is to confidently move out from the shadow of “the big tent churches”.

What are your thoughts?

Oct 12

What Are You Blogging With?

What tools do you use to blog with? I’ve been thrilled to see more indie folks are blogging, so I thought it would be fun to see what tools people are using; what works, what could be better for you?

I’m not just talking about the platform you might use – I use WordPress, though at one time I used Blogger. I switched because it gave me more freedom to do what I wanted to do with the blog – though I would be curious to know if there is a “preferred” platform within the Indie community. I’m also asking about the other tools you use for posting, managing pics, and other media.

Because I use WordPress, until recently, all I had to do was log in on a desk top or lap top and type away. Last Christmas I received an iPad, oooooh shiney! At first I could only imagine limited uses for it, however, now that I’ve had it for nearly a year, I take it all back! I use it for everything! And now, finally, blogging too. Until recently blogging apps on iPad were awful. I was startled at how disappointing the WordPress app is – clumsy, difficult. It was actually easier to log into my dashboard via a web browser than it was to use the app. Two months ago, however, I was doing some research for other apps, and found a reveiw for something called Blogsy. This is a fantastic, intuitive, user friendly blogging app for the iPad. It works on multiple platforms, and frees you from having to have your laptop or desktop to blog.

Are you using a free blogging service or are you self hosted? I’m self hosted for a number of reasons. My main reason for switching was that when my previous free plattform made significant changes to the “under the hood” aspects of the blog – it buggered my blog and I had to spend hours fixing links, and finding files. I wanted total control, and I wanted greater flexibility than a free service offered. I did some research and found LaughingSquid, I cannot recommend them enough. Their prices are reasonable, their customer service is amazing. You get loads of bang for your buck so to speak.

If you’re using an iPad for blogging, or other things for that matter, then you’ll no doubt have pics to edit. I’ve been using FilterStorm Pro since February and really like it. It has much of the photo editing “kit” you might expect with PhotoShop. It is intuitive to use, produces good results, and it is reasonably priced.

Finally, this would not be a “religious” blog without mentioning what Bible app I’m using on iPad (and on my laptop). That would be Accordance. If you already have Accordance modules on your desktop, or laptop, you simply download the app onto your iPad (sorry I don’t know if there is an Android version – if anyone has it please leave a comment), and your existing modules will carry over once you log in. I’m running Greek and English on mine, and I actually think it works better on the iPad than it does on the desktop.

These are some of my blogging tools, what are you using?