On Mottos Part 2: Honorable Mention List

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I concluded in the last blog that we should keep our motto. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t other good roads departing in the woods we could have gone down. Let me list them too, along with a reason of how each says something useful to the moment in which we stand as Episcopal Christians.  Some have the disadvantage of not appealing to Biblical terms, but you will judge them for yourselves….

Ancient Faith, Future Church: This one is actually a quotation from the late professor at Wheaton, Robert Webber, an evangelical who discovered the great tradition and became an Episcopalian.  We benefit from many who follow in his footsteps.  It also assumes that it is the re-hearing of what is old, but maybe overlooked, that will galvanize the present; it connects theological retrieval and mission to our time and culture.

Perspicuous! This one would force people to their dictionaries! It means “clear” and it is what the Bible is - one the great and saving matters (though not in every detail.)  It assumes that trusting the Word of God is the real issue in our hectic and self-absorbed and skeptical age.

Bible, Creeds, Sacraments, Bishop: This one is also a quotation, from the Lambeth Quadrilateral which has had an important history as our Church’s contribution to Anglican self-understanding. These are the sources of our theological self-understanding, though Bible is the first, with the other three providing trustworthy guides and defenses of its right interpretation. But as a motto it is quite a mouthful!

Generous Orthodoxy: This one is a quotation from the late theologian Hans Frei of Yale, whose neo-traditional theology was all about rehearing the Bible on its own terms (which really is what all theology ought to be about.)  I think it tries to make a distinction between the ethos and the content of our re-hearing.  One problem is that many think it describes them, as opposed to someone else!

Ye are the Body:  A quotation here too, from the late Bonnell Spencer, a monk of Holy Cross, who wrote a popular catechetical history of our Church two generations ago.  We mean to produce such resources. The sentence reminds us, as did John Donne, that we are not islands.

Disciples of Christ on the Prayer Book Road: This one is unworkable for several reasons, but at least it puts first things first (being His disciples) and gets to the heart of our spirituality (the Prayer Book).

I hope these worthy aspirants that didn’t make the cut say something, each in their own right, about who we need to recall that we are, in this time and place.






On Mottos, Part 1

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The question whether we should keep our diocesan motto, “we are Resurrection people” came up recently.  My first reaction was “of course”- who wants to suggest we aren’t?  My second was a query. Why that sentence and not another: “we are atonement people,” or “we are justification people,” or “we are Gospel people,” or “we are mission people,” etc.  Those are true as well. 

This led to a third thought, that mottos are judgments that, at this time, in this situation, this is what needs most to be heard.  I thought of other sentences we might have picked (and plan to list them in my next blog), each also speaking into our moment as traditional Christians in the Anglican tradition in this post-modern circumstance. 

The marketers know their business, as I have been reminded by sitting in on sessions with one of the pros recently. They would say that mottos should communicate immediately. If you have to explain you’ve lost: “just do it” with the swoosh doesn’t need a commentary.  By contrast Biblical symbols are amazingly fecund and of the making of commentaries on them there is no end!  That is a sign of their truth.  But that density of meaning also implies that they can be misunderstood, as that teller of parables Jesus of Nazareth was. 

My fourth reaction was that the folks who decided on “resurrection” did well, as this symbol is particularly suited to being a summary of the whole Biblical message. How economically that one sentence can entail a thousand pages of sacred text is remarkable!  But a great deal more must be said.

Finally, and fifthly, we should retain our motto because we are Anglicans in the Prayer Book tradition. Cranmer’s genius was to keep as much as possible, changing only what the truthful communication of the Gospel required. His was an ethos of conservation. The new regime going and changing everything around willfully was what was wrong with that era of our history, and ours too!



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