After the Reverend Francis Lawrence died, the church continued its mission under new leadership. It had an illustrious literary parishioner: Upton Sinclair.
Sinclair was from a shabby genteel Baltimore family; his father was not very successful. His mother was a devout Episcopalian, so when they moved to New York in 1888 when Upton was ten years old, he became an active parishioner of the Church of the Holy Communion, where the Rev. William Wilmerding Muir continued Lawrence’s work with the poor.
When I was thirteen, I attended service, of my own volition and out of my own enthusiasm, every single day during the forty days of Lent; at the age of fifteen I was teaching Sunday-school. It was the Church of the Holy Communion, at Sixth Avenue and Twentieth Street, New York; and those who know the city will understand that this is a peculiar location—precisely half way between the homes of some of the oldest and most august of the city’s aristocracy, and some of the vilest and most filthy of the city’s slums. The aristocracy were paying for the church, and occupied the best pews; they came, perfectly clad, aus dem Ei gegossen, as the Germans say, with the manner they so carefully cultivate, gracious, yet infinitely aloof. The service was made for them—as all the rest of the world is made for them; the populace was permitted to occupy a fringe of vacant seats.
The assistant clergyman was an Englishman, and a gentleman; orthodox, yet the warmest man’s heart I have ever known. He could not bear to have the church remain entirely the church of the rich; he would go persistently into the homes of the poor, visiting the old slum women in their pitifully neat little kitchens, and luring their children with entertainments and Christmas candy. They were corralled into the Sunday-school, where it was my duty to give them what they needed for the health of their souls.
I had a mind, you see, and I was using it. I was reading the papers, and watching politics and business. I followed the fates of my little slum-boys—and what I saw was that Tammany Hall was getting them. The liquor-dealers and the brothel-keepers, the panders and the pimps, the crap-shooters and the petty thieves—all these were paying the policeman and the politician for a chance to prey upon my boys; and when the boys got into trouble, as they were continually doing, it was the clergyman who consoled them in prison—but it was the Tammany leader who saw the judge and got them out. So these boys got their lesson, even earlier in life than I got mine—that the church was a kind of amiable fake, a pious horn-blowing; while the real thing was Tammany.
I talked about this with the vestrymen and the ladies of Good Society; they were deeply pained, but I noticed that they did nothing practical about it; and gradually, as I went on to investigate, I discovered the reason—that their incomes came from real estate, traction, gas and other interests, which were contributing the main part of the campaign expenses of the corrupt Tammany machine, and of its equally corrupt rival. So it appeared that these immaculate ladies and gentlemen, aus dem Ei gegossen, were themselves engaged, unconsciously, perhaps, but none the less effectively, in spreading the pestilence against which they were blowing their religious horns!
So little by little I saw my beautiful church for what it was and is: a great capitalist interest, an integral and essential part of a gigantic predatory system. I saw that its ethical and cultural and artistic features, however sincerely they might be meant by individual clergymen, were nothing but a bait, a device to lure the poor into the trap of submission to their exploiters.
Sinclair seems to have been an old fashioned Progressive Reformer. He disliked political corruption because it contributed to VICE. As the corrupt political parties received money from businesses from which well-to-do people also contributed, Sinclair held them responsible, although it is not clear what he wanted them to do.
Good Society moved uptown, and the leaders of the Church of the Holy Communion were aware that they were losing the parishioners who supported the church and its work with the poor, so they tried to set up an endowment that would allow the church to function with reduced contributions.
By the 1890s the area was the Ladies’ Mile, with department stores and dry goods stores; but by 1920 they had moved uptown.
The church survived but underwent the vicissitudes which the Episcopal Church also underwent.
“On 14 June 1970 Al Gross’s seventy-fifth birthday was celebrated at an honorary service in Lower Manhattan’s Episcopal Church of the holy Communion. The church, on Sixth Avenue and Twentieth Street, was next door to the offices of the George W. Henry Foundation, which were housed in the church’s parish house. Gross was the executive director of the foundation, an agency founded in 1948 to help young men charged with homosexual offenses. Gross’s career as a homophile activist began in 1937 when he first became associated with Henry. A biographical sketch appeared in the church’s program for the honorary service that charted Gross’s career as a researcher and activist. No mention was made of how and why Gross embarked on his life’s work. Indeed, this was not possible because Gross ws a closeted gay man who began his endeavors after he had been removed as an Episcopal priest. (Henry Minton, Departing from Deviance, p. 95)
The last rector saw the handwriting on the wall and in 1966 had the church designated an historical landmark, which at least protected the exterior.
The church was closed in 1976 and deconsecrated ; it was sold to the Lindisfarne Association, which held poetry readings, lectures, and concerts. The restoration of the building was too expensive for the Association, so the Lindisfarne Association returned the building to the parish and moved to Colorado.
The parish then sold the building to Odyssey House, a drug treatment center. Odyssey House in turn sold to Peter Gatien who open the Limelight night club there in 1983.
Then the trouble started.
Gatien stripped the beautiful old structure of its sacred context – distorting the Gothic finery with a funhouse mirror, placing bars lined with expensive imported spirits (alcoholic as opposed to celestial) next to the marble crypts, and turning the hushed reverence of the chapel into the riotous frivolity of the VIP lounge.
There were go go cages suspended above the dance floor in the nave.
Andy Warhol hosted opening night. Prince came, and Mick Jagger, and Madonna, and the gay nights became every more popular, filling the building to its capacity of 2500.
The NYC Police were unhappy:
The Limelight, located in a former Episcopal church on the Avenue of the Americas at West 20th Street in Chelsea, was temporarily padlocked by the police after a drug raid last year. New York City police arrested three people, including an employee, on charges of selling marijuana. The police said that drugs were rampant at the Limelight and sold in an “open and notorious manner,” sometimes by the employees.
The DEA was not amused:
The owner of three of Manhattan’s largest nightclubs was accused yesterday of turning two of them — the Limelight and the Tunnel — into virtual drug supermarkets, peddling the drug known as Ecstasy to a clientele made up largely of college students and teen-agers.
Zachary W. Carter, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a written statement that Peter Gatien, one of the reigning nightclub promoters in New York, had “installed a management structure” at the Limelight and the Tunnel that was “designed to ensure successful distribution” of Ecstasy to nightclub patrons, and that the sale of Ecstasy “was the centerpiece of the operation of these clubs, not just a lucrative illegal sideline.”
A former patron remembers fondly:
The amount of sex that went on in the Limelight was unbelievable. Orgies in one room,sex in the bathrooms and on the dance floor, in the video booths. Music and lights were incredible. Nothing exists today to match the Limelight. Late 70’s and 80’s were truly great times. Kids today have no idea what they missed.
Michael Alig (1966- ) was its most famous employee:
Andre “Angel” Melendez was regular on the New York City club scene and worked at The Limelight. He also sold drugs on the premises. After the bar was closed by federal agents due to an investigation that Peter Gatien was allowing drugs to be sold there, Melendez was fired. Shortly thereafter, he moved into Alig’s apartment. On the night March 17, 1996, Alig and his friend Robert “Freeze” Riggs murdered Melendez after an argument in Alig’s apartment over many things including a long-standing drug debt. Alig has claimed many times that he was so high on drugs that the events are quite cloudy.
After Melendez’s death, Alig and Riggs did not know what to do with the body. They initially left it in the bath tub that they filled with ice. After a few days, the body began to decompose and became odorous. After discussing what to do with Melendez’s body and who should do it, Riggs went to Macy’s to buy knives and a box. In exchange for ten bags of heroin, Alig agreed to dismember Melendez’s body. He cut the legs off, put them in a garbage bag and stuffed the rest into a box. Afterwards, he and Riggs threw the box into the Hudson River.
In the weeks following Melendez’s disappearance, Alig told “anyone who would listen” that he and Riggs had killed him. Most people did not believe Alig and thought his “confession” was a ploy to get attention. Alig was eventually tried and convicted.
The 2003 film Party Monster featured these events.
The nightclub was the subject of a 2011 movie.
The Limelight was finally shut down. After a brief stint as the Avalon night club (2003-2007), the building became an high-end boutique center, Limelight Marketplace.
This 25,000-square-foot former eighties nightclub (and, before that, a church) was converted into a shopping emporium in May 2010. The 20th Street landmark’s lancet windows, labyrinthine layout, and soaring chapel are the same as they ever were, but the sex-and-drugs-fueled bacchanal is long gone. Where makeout booths and cocaine corners once stood, now you’ll find limited-edition sneakers, handmade belts, MarieBelle chocolates, Hunter boots, tubes of Sue Devitt lip gloss, scented soaps from Caswell-Massey, and Grimaldi’s pizza.
The Marketplace failed, and was replaced by a gym.
Changing demographics often produce superfluous church buildings, and the mission fo the church is not to preserve buildings which are no longer of use to it, even if the buildings are architecturally significant. Creative re-use is a solution, but what the parish failed to do was to put some kind of restrictive covenant one the building that would forbid the premises from being used for inappropriate, immoral, or infamous purposes. Such a restriction would lower the market value but preserve the dignity of a building which, although deconsecrated, had once served as a house of prayer.
¡Pobre de mi!
Clerical narcissism is the bane of many, perhaps all churches. It was a major factor in the sexal abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, and Episcopalians are not immune. He Baltimore Brew reports:
With Bishop Heather Cook in a Baltimore jail cell on charges of manslaughter, drunk driving and leaving the scene of an accident, the man who presided during her hiring says he didn’t realize how burdened he was by the incident until “a bishop colleague” spoke with him.
Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton – Cook’s Episcopal Diocese of Maryland boss, who has acknowledged diocesan officials knew about Cook’s 2010 drunk driving and drug arrest but did not disclose it to the people who elected her – recounted the colleague’s words of solace in a “pastoral letter” published today.
“Eugene, I am the child of an alcoholic and I’ve spent many years dealing with that and coming to understand the hold that alcohol has on someone who is addicted to it,” the colleague said, according to Sutton’s account.
“I want to tell you that the Diocese of Maryland is not responsible for the terrible accident that killed that bicyclist,” the colleague said, according to Sutton’s letter. “You are not responsible for that; Heather Cook is. It’s not your fault.”
Sutton goes on to say the colleague’s words prompted him to “burst into tears.”
“I hadn’t realized how much I had internalized the weight of responsibility for the tragedy, the sense of shame, and the desperate need to make it all better,” Sutton wrote in a letter posted on his Facebook page as well as on the website of Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.
But the areas where Sutton addresses his personal feelings of culpability – and seemingly absolves himself – are also striking.
“I hadn’t realized how much I had internalized the weight of responsibility for the tragedy, the sense of shame, and the desperate need to make it all better,” he writes.
“Later, praying before the Icon of Christ the Pantocrater, I gazed into those piercing eyes of our Lord, asking: What is Christ wanting to say to me? And what did I want to say to him?”
“After what seemed like an eternity, I was finally able to gaze into his eyes and say: ‘Lord, it’s not your fault,’” he recounts.
Well, no, the death of Tony Palermo is not God’s fault, although the question of theodicy is the most difficult matter in Christianity, as Pope Benedict admitted once in an interview.
ButSutton is quick to absolve himself and the diocese of any responsibility.
Commentators on Baltimore Brew site were spot on:
The Diocese knew of Cook’s alcohol, and drug, abuse. Yet the church saw her fit to be placed in a position of power. They promoted her (but did not disclose it to the people who elected her) to the second highest position in the church in Maryland. They did this even with her recent horrible choices. In the world of us alcoholics, four years is very recent. The church chose to say marijuana and a .27 BAC wasn’t a huge deal. They chose to say being so drunk that you’re driving with a shredded tired and covered in your own vomit isn’t a big deal. They chose to call this a lapse in judgment. They saw no problems with her as being a leader of Christians. Was she the best choice the Episcopal Church could come up with. How did she make it to the final four? Was the church trying to fill a spot with a politically correct choice? And now, finally, they are going to review that process that allowed her to keep her background private. During the election process she was encouraged to self disclose but chose not to.
Another is more direct but also spot on:
The Bishop’s Super-sized crosier says it all. Bigger than the Pope’s staff!
No wonder with this culture of the High and Mighty, Bishop Cook lost her basic Christian values and compassion, as well as what is right and wrong!
This cult mentality of supreme power and elitism has nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus.
Exodus 32.4 all over again with the Pagan imagery going to their heads and good judgment going out the golden temple door.
No wonder the High Priestess has a skewed vision of right and wrong.
And another give the bishop some good advice:
Mr. Sutton, there is a reason why you have “internalized the weight of responsibility for the tragedy, the sense of shame, and the desperate need to make it all better”. You are not responsible for this murder, but your actions in hiding and ignoring Cook’s problems did play a part in causing it. What you are feeling is called a conscience. What you do about it will show who you are as a man. Hiding behind god and your position is not the answer.
I do not know Sutton’s involvement in the appointment of Cook, but many people were complicit and were enablers. Also, I doubt that the day of the accident was the first day since 2010 that Cook was blind drunk. Had no one in the diocese noticed her drinking problem? The precise legal liability of the diocese will probably be tested in court, but their moral responsibility in choosing an irresponsible alcoholic for a position of church leadership, an action which gave her the sense of invulnerability from consequences of her actions, is clear.
To return to the life and times of the Reverend Francis Effingham Lawrence.
The Church of the Holy Communion
As our never-failing source Wikipedia says:
The Gothic Revival church building was constructed in 1844-1845 according to a design by Richard Upjohn, and was consecrated in 1846. In 1853 Upjohn completed the Parish House and Rectory on West 20th Street, and in 1854 he built the Sister’s House.[The design of the church, which features brownstone blocks chosen for placement at random, made the church “one of the most influential buildings of the 19th century”. It was:
[the] first asymmetrical Gothic Revival church edifice in the United States … Upjohn designed the building to resemble a small medieval English parish church … The church’s founder, the Reverend William Muhlenberg, a leader of the evangelical Catholic within the Episcopal Church, was closely involved with the design …
Muhlenberg believed that the Gothic style was “the true architectural expression of Christianity.”
Another source elaborates:
Land was procured on the northeast corner of Sixth Avenue and West 20th Street, at that time a second-rate residential district surrounded by fields. On July 25, 1844, the cornerstone was laid for a church designed by Richard Upjohn and built from 1844-1846. Upjohn’s small building resembled a small medieval English parish church and was noted for being the first asymmetrical rustic Gothic Revival edifice in the United States, a design that would be copied by many churches throughout the country. Dr. Muhlenberg, a leader in the evangelical Catholic movement of the Episcopal Church, was closely involved with the design, suggesting the use of transepts and other features that were more typical of Roman Catholic churches.
Richard Upjohn (1802-1878) designed Trinity Church on Wall Street. It is formal and symmetrical.
Trinity before the canyons were built.
But he made the Church of the Holy Communion asymmetrical and less elaborate, presumably in keeping with Muhlenberg’s desire to welcome both rich and poor, like the village churches of England. The asymmetrical tower inspired numerous Episcopal churches in the United States.
This view romantically portrays the location of the church as it should have been.
This is the church as it in fact was in the 1860s.
Here is an older view, probably in the heyday of the church.
Here you can see how Upjohn used brownstone to give an informal, rustic effect.
And how it looks today.
Here is the interior in 1946.
Muhlenberg, like the Ritualists of England, used Catholic paraphernalia to appeal to the poor, who found bare churches and hour-long Calvinist sermons a touch on the cold side. He thought that the poor should be served with grace and beauty.
The Church of the Holy Communion was the first church to use flowers on the altar, and after the Easter service the congregation in procession brought the flowers to the sick in the hospital the church had founded. This seems to have been the origin of the New York custom of the Easter Parade. Other churches took up the custom of Easter flowers; as Francis Lawrence said in thus funeral sermon of 1877, it was –“a practice now indeed carried to such a silly and wasteful extreme, many churches seeming rather flower-shops at Easter than Sanctuaries of the Almighty, that he almost regretted that he had introduced the custom.”
And the Easter Parade no longer was in service to the poor:
In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it,
You’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade.
I’ll be all in clover and when they look you over,
I’ll be the proudest fellow in the Easter parade.
On the avenue, Fifth Avenue, the photographers will snap us,
And you’ll find that you’re in the rotogravure.
Bishop Cook was driving with a 2.2 alcohol level, almost triple the Maryland limit of .8.
She weighs 250 lbs.
To get to that level she would have had to have 13 drinks in the hour before she was tested (and she wasn’t tested immediately after the accident).
If she started drinking at 9AM, she would have had to have 16 drinks to have that level in her blood.
She swerved into the bike lane and hit Palermo, who went through her windshield.
She went home and returned to the scene of the accident only after diocesan officials told her she had to.
She is charged with four felonies, including vehicular manslaughter.
Her bail was set $2.5 million bail.
She has asked to have home detention or to enter Father Martin Ashley’s, a substance abuse treatment center. She had checked into it after she was identified as the driver in the accident.
The judge has refused to reduce her bail to the $500,000 she requested, and said she is a flight risk.
“To me she represents a grave danger to the community,” said Judge Nicole Pastore Klein at a bailing hearing at the John R. Hargrove Sr. District Court Building on Patapsco Avenue.
“I cannot trust her judgement. . . She showed a reckless and careless indifference to life.”
The facts of the case are not in doubt.
What can her attorney say? What possible defense could he mount? She faces 20+ years in jail.
She will also be the target of a wrongful death lawsuit by Palermo’s widow.
The Episcopal diocese is nervous. Was she on diocesan business at the time of the accident?
Whatever the legal liability of the Episcopal diocese, its moral liability is clear.
The committee that approved Cook’s nomination for bishop knew about her DUI. They neglected to inform the voting delegates about this little incident.
If Cook had been publicly humiliated by having her disgusting DUI (covered by vomit, too drunk to stand up) made public to the diocese, she would not have (I hope) been elected a bishop. That might have brought her up short and motivated her to get sober.
But as it was, she thought her enablers in the diocese would always protect her.
Is the diocese going to post her bond and pay for her attorney? They are still paying her salary and benefits.
Despite having a more democratic polity and married clergy, the Episcopal church is as riddled with clericalism as the Catholic Church.
PS There was one fact that was in Cook’s original bio that was omitted on the diocesan web site; her “life partner” Mark. I guess men and women can’t get married in Maryland.
Todd Oppenheim, an attorney with the Public Defender’s Office, voices what many have been saying around Baltimore:
Palermo died 10 days ago and still no charges have been filed by the State’s Attorney’s Office against the driver of the vehicle that hit him. Why? Based on my experience as an attorney in the Public Defender’s Office for 10 years, I believe one key factor is at work.
Heather Elizabeth Cook, who drove into Palermo and fled as he lay dying, is a member of the upper tier of Baltimore’s socioeconomic ladder as the Bishop Suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.
If one of my clients, who are mostly African-American men, hit Palermo, charges would have been immediately filed against them. This would have been done at the scene by police without a formal arrest – or at the jail if the police took them in and prosecutors looked at the (still publicly unreleased) police report about the incident.
A client of mine would not have been able to go home that evening like Bishop Cook did. While I understand that the police investigation is still on-going, several reliable witnesses reported seeing the bishop leave the scene.
The badly crushed windshield of Bishop Cook’s car was more evidence of her involvement in the crash. And even her own church released a statement, first published by The Brew, identifying her as the driver, confirming that she left the crash scene at first, shirking her responsibility, before returning. The statement even noted that her actions “could result in criminal charges.”
Prior Arrest Record
Right now, especially given her prior DUI arrest in Caroline County, Bishop Cook should be facing charges of failing to remain at the scene of an accident causing death. This is a very serious charge. A hit-and-run with a fatality is a felony offense that carries 10 years of jail time in Maryland.
Instead, she remains free and “lawyered up” with a veteran Towson attorney who has represented many high-profile clients for a substantial fee. My clients can’t afford an attorney of their choice, and they certainly never get the opportunity to preemptively hire an attorney.
The state will likely work with her lawyer to prearrange a “turn-in” or “walk-through” booking whenever she is charged in order to protect her image (and that of the church).
The general prediction around town is that a possible ten-year sentence will turn into community service, at most, and that the Episcopal Diocese will settle with Palermo’s family for a substantial sum under a confidentiality agreement. A criminal or civil trial might raise even more embarrassing questions about the life of the bishop and the workings of the Episcopal Diocese.
Although I referred to the Rev. Francis E. Lawrence as an Anglo-Catholic, that is perhaps not entirely accurate. He was a pupil of William Augustus Muhlenberg (1796-1877), who was a great-grandson of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg (1711–1787), the father of Lutheranism in America.
William Muhlenberg became an Episcopal priest. His first significant work was in education.
The Young Muhlenberg
Muhlenberg resigned as rector of St. James’ Church, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1826, and moved to Flushing, Long Island. He became supply priest at St. George’s Church in Flushing, and later became the rector. Several men in Flushing wanted to establish an academy for boys and asked Muhlenberg to be the head instructor. He accepted, and the school opened in the spring of 1828. Muhlenberg served in this position for eighteen years. He made the school the model for other church schools in the United States. Flushing Institute stressed the ideals of a Christian atmosphere, the role of the Bible in the curriculum, physical education, and a sense of family life. One of the most famous schools influenced by Flushing is St. Paul’s School, Concord, New Hampshire.
St Paul’s (the Flushing Institute) existed from 1836-1848. There Francis Lawrence was educated. (The Lawrences had lived in Flushing for centuries). Lawrence said
I think–when I claim that the influence for good of St. Paul’s College can hardly be overestimated, not merely in the religious training of its students, although in that respect its success was most remarkable–at least one hundred of the clergy, numbering among them some of our most eminent Bishops, Professors, and Pastors, tracing, it is said their choice of the sacred ministry to the impressions received at College Point–but it made honorable the hitherto slighted office of the teacher and woke the dormant conscience of the Church generally to the vast importance of a Christian training of the young.
St. Paul’s College / The Flushing Institute
The Flushing Institute provided a model for the Episcopal prep schools of the US.
Muhlenberg’s religion has been described as Evangelical Catholicism.
He began to call his religion “evangelical and catholic.” To Muhlenberg “evangelical” meant devotion to Jesus Christ, dedication to the Scriptures and the responsibility to live and share the Gospel. “Catholic” denoted roots in a universal faith and order, with guidelines and discipline.
Muhlenberg explained his stance:
In a word, Catholicism, as such, is more objective than subjective, while Evangelicism, is more the latter than the former, though, of course, in respect to the great facts of revelation, it is equally objective with Catholicism. Accordingly, Evangelicism deals more with the inward and spiritual. It considers the Church as the society of all true believers, the “blessed company of all faithful people;” ministers of the Gospel, as having a call within from the Lord, rather than as ordained by man; the various forms of worship, as comparatively indifferent, so there be the “worship in spirit and in truth.”
Agreeable to these distinctions, our Church is both Catholic and Evangelic — Catholic in adhering to the ancient documents of the faith; Evangelic in requiring the faith of the heart and immediately in Christ.
Muhlenberg hoped for a Pan-Protestant union. He wanted the Episcopal Church to offer ordination to clergymen of other churches and offer a very general supervision if they would use certain elements of the Book of Common Prayer. This was the Memorial Movement.
Lawrence said of Muhlenberg:
The prayer of that Redeemer, “that they may be one as We are one,” seemed to him to be a call to unity, which could not but be heard by the devout believer. Hence, with great ability, in the columns of the “Evangelical Catholic,” which he edited for several years, as well as in the pamphlets published by him, a broader Catholicity was advocated than was familiar at that time to the thought of the Church. The freer use of our inherited forms of prayer, the adaptation of the service more fully to the Christian year, and especially the extension of the Orders of the Church to those who stumbled at a full reception of our whole ecclesiastical system–our Episcopate thus becoming a golden bond of union between the divided followers of Christ–these were among the subjects upon which he wrote with power..
It was supported by Bishop Potter but High Church bishops objected and it got nowhere.
Muhlenberg’s attitude is very appealing:
I confess, as I advance in life, I grow increasingly tolerant of the various organizations of genuine Christianity, and proportionably impatient of the exclusive claims of any one of them to be that of Christ or His apostles. I come to look more and more at the Church simply as the Congregation of the Brethren in Christ. This is the Ecclesia of the Gospel, having equally the universal Christian consent. Brotherhood in Christ is eminently Evangelic Catholicism. What idea of the Church is more Catholic than that of the Society of men, in all ages and everywhere, united by faith to Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of God, taking their nature upon Him, and so becoming their God- Brother, the one and only Mediator between God and man ? What virtue more Evangelic than the love of the brethren as brethren in Him? What more Evangelic and Catholic, pre-eminently both, than Charity, the informing spirit of the Church on earth, and so to be of the Church forever in heaven? May such be the Evangelic Catholicism of our Union, making it a true brotherhood in Christ, for a new bond of love to one another in Him, and a new encouragement to all such works of love as “He hath ordained for us to walk in.”
The Elderly Muhlenberg
The differences between Anglo-Catholicism and Evangelic Catholicism are not doubt very significant theologically, but I doubt they were noticed by anyone in the pews. The worship of the Episcopal Church in the US must have been rather stark and Calvinist before Muhlenberg’s work at the Church of the Holy Communion, where (according to Lawrence)
were introduced, for the first time it is believed in this country, the Daily Service, the Weekly Communion, Choirs of boys, the Chanting of the Psalter, the Christmas Tree–inherited from Dr. Muhlenberg’s German ancestry–the use of flowers at Easter as symbols of the Resurrection….
As we shall see in his work at the Church of the Holy Communion, Muhlenberg is a most engaging and most Christian man.
Bishop Heather Cook of Baltimore killed a bicyclist last week.
She apparently left her apartment at the end of Roland Avenue in Baltimore. She drove south down a section of Roland Ave which is 6 lanes, untrafficked, with clearly marked bike lanes and smooth pavement.
There she encountered Tony Palermo and ran into him. He was an expert bicyclist, and worked in the bicycle section at REI. My son frequently saw him bicycling. There were other bicyclists around.
She continued on Roland Avenue and turned around. The bicyclists saw her car and realized it must have been the one involved in the accident. A bicyclist pursued her to get her license number. She drove into her gated community but the guard kept the bicyclist out.
45 minutes after the accident (according to eyewitnesses) she returned to the scene of the accident. An official from the Episcopal diocese was on hand.
Cook had had a previous encounter with the police:
Court records show that a sheriff’s deputy stopped Cook on Sept. 10, 2010, in Caroline County on the Eastern Shore. The officer wrote in a report that Cook was driving on the shoulder at 29 mph in a 50 mph-zone with a shredded front tire. The deputy noted that a strong alcohol odor emanated from the vehicle and that Cook had vomit down the front of her shirt.
The officer wrote that Cook was so intoxicated that she couldn’t finish a field sobriety test because she might fall and hurt herself.
According to the report, Cook registered .27 percent blood alcohol content. The legal limit in Maryland is .08 percent.
The officer found two small bags of marijuana in the vehicle, along with paraphernalia, and a bottle of wine and a bottle of liquor.
Cook pleaded guilty to drunken driving, and the prosecution of marijuana possession charges was dropped. A judge sentenced her to a fine and probation before judgment on the DUI charge, meaning her record could be cleared if she stayed out of trouble.
She was then made a bishop in 2012. Her father had been rector of Old St Paul’s, the society church in Baltimore. The committee that chose her was aware of the driving incident but did not share the information with others. Diocesan officials have defended their decision by claiming that the church is all about forgiveness.
Cook had given a sermon:
If we routinely drive 55 in a 30 mile-an-hour zone, we won’t be able to stop on a dime if driving conditions get dangerous or if an animal or, God forbid, a human being should step out in front of us. Things happen suddenly, and we’re either prepared in the moment or we’re not, and we face the consequences. We can’t go back. We can’t do it over.
“In real life, there are no instant replays. I think this is something of a hard message to give to you today. My perception is that we live in the midst of a culture that doesn’t like to hold us accountable for consequences, that somehow everybody gets a free pass all the time. Well, we do in terms of God’s love and forgiveness, but we don’t in many of the things that happen, and it’s up to us to be responsible.”
Emily Heath, a clergywoman who herself in recovery, observes of Cook:
her 2010 DUI charges were particularly disturbing. Many of us in recovery never drove drunk, but the facts of her prior case seem to indicate that substance abuse was indeed a problem. My hope is that when she was charged she saw the need to get sober. My other hope is that the Episcopal Church supported her in that endeavor.
But as far as her consecration as bishop, a very short period of time had elapsed between her DUI incident and her elevation. If she was sober, she was still in “early sobriety” and taking on a position like this, with higher stress and demands on time, would have likely been discouraged. And, if she relapsed, as now seems likely, it was on her to step back and say “I need to focus on getting healthy.” But Bishop Cook alone is not at fault. Church communities are often too quick to push those who have had major falls back into the spotlight. They are not doing the one who is recovering any favors by pushing a false rhetoric of “forgiveness” or “grace”. Sometimes grace means saying “you need to work on yourself for a while”.
With Bishop Cook too many questions are unanswered, and too little time had elapsed since her “rock bottom” of a few years ago. Something went wrong, and she found an even lower “rock bottom”, and this time a man is dead, not because she was in recovery but because of her own bad decisions. Add to that the fact that this was a hit and run, and Bishop Cook took no responsibility for her actions until she was chased down, and it is clear that her behavior is exactly the opposite of what we are taught in recovery, regardless of whether or not she was drinking when she hit Mr. Palermo.
Tony Palermo left a widow and two children, 4 and 6 years old. He is being buried this morning from Immaculate Conception Church in Towson.
No charges have been filed in the death of Tony Palermo.
Bicyclists held a memorial ride on Roland Avenue.
Bishop Cook has made no statements.
Dr. Henry C. Potter, who gave Lawrence’s funeral sermon, was rector of Grace Church and seventh bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York.
In Wikipedia we read:
He was notable for his interest in social reform and in politics: as rector of Grace Church he worked to make it an institutional church with working-men’s clubs, day nurseries, kindergartens, etc., and he took part in the summer work of the missions on the east side in New York City long after he was bishop; in 1900 he attacked the Tammany Hall mayor (Robert A Van Wyck) of New York City, accusing the city government of protecting vice, and was a leader in the reform movement which elected Seth Low mayor in the same year; he frequently assisted in settling labour disputes.
Potter therefore could be seen as a proponent of the Social Gospel. Michael Bourgeois in All Things Human: Harry Codman Potter and the Social Gospel in the Episcopal Church, points out that Potter was entirely evangelical and orthodox, but emphasized that Jesus had come to end both sin and suffering. Suffering was in part caused by unjust social structures.
Potter, as his sermon on Lawrence indicated, was concerned about the masculinity of the clergy. The proponents of the Social Gospel thought that Christianity had become sentimentalized and therefore feminized. Walter Rauschenbusch, at the beginning of the twentieth century, claimed the failure to preach the Social Gospel was the reason “that our churches are overwhelmingly feminine.”[i] The Southern Baptist Convention in 1915 proclaimed: “Some think of the Kingdom of God as narrow, effeminate and sentimental. The exact opposite is true. It is broad, masculine, and practical….So long as there is social inequality, industrial justice or political crime, the kingdom of God is not yet fully come….The kingdom of God is not a Sunday affair. It must pervade the factory that runs six days a week as well as the Sunday morning service.” Religion was a public matter for men who would fight for justice, as the Evangelical Wilberforce had by his persistence ended the slave trade.
Potter was aware that individual vices also brought suffering. Drunkenness led to violence and neglect of family. But instead of becoming a Prohibitionist, attacking the male vice of drinking. Potter thought working men should be able to drink in a decent environment. He therefore founded the Subway Tavern.
The Subway Tavern was to operate like a respectable upper-class club, except for poorer folks. “I belong to many clubs which I can go,” remarked the bishop, “but where can the toiler go?” Where, indeed!
Potter honestly believed the Subway Tavern could be jovial and free-spirited without becoming debaucherous. The front room, adored with a sign ‘To The Water Wagon’ playfully overhead, would be open to both sexes “with a ‘sanitary’ soda water fountain where beer will be served to women.” Men would have a private room behind some swinging saloon doors in the back.
As the bar was funded by donations, the ‘evils’ of profit were eliminated. And thus, reasoned Potter, bartenders would not encourage patrons to drink. Men and women could come to converse, read a newspaper and have one — maybe two — drinks. Employees were to closely watch the intoxication levels of customers; if one even looked tipsy — if say, somebody appeared to be enjoying their drink a wee too much — they would be cut off. Healthy food would also be on hand downstairs to soak up any amoral toxins in the belly.
As the New York Times lightly mocked, “The benevolent bartenders … are anguished when they are compelled to serve whisky, and … dimple with joy when sarsaparilla pop is ordered.”
It was a great idea but, alas, did not work out.
[i] Walter Rauschenbusch, Christianity and the Social Crisis (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox, 1991), 367.
Committed Christians in a Christendom that has many competing Christian bodies have to do something they really should not have to do: decide which Church they should belong to.
Journeys of Faith: Evangelicalism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Anglicanism
edited by Robert L. Plummer (Zondervan, 2012) recounts faith journeys among the various Christian traditions: Evangelicalism, Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Anglicanism.
A convert explains why he left, for example, the Baptist Church for Orthodoxy. A Baptist responds, and then the convert gets to respond again. It is a good format.
All churches have their severe problems. I have documented some of Catholicism’s worst problems, so I have no illusions about the Roman Catholic Church. Evangelicalism, Orthodoxy, and Anglicanism all have severe problems; some are historical accidents, some may by intrinsic to the traditions.
For my part, it has always been clear to me that the Roman Catholic Church has all the elements of the complete Church as described in the New Testament, including a central authority, the papacy, to strengthen the brethren and to foster unity. Whether they are in the right proportion or operate in the right manner in another question entirely.
In reading the rehearsal of the Catholic-Protestant arguments on justification in this book, I keep sensing that nominalist, voluntarist assumptions have made the controversy insoluble. God is the cause of all things, the creator of all things, including all actions. Every human action is created by God, or it would not exist. But a human action is both free and caused (a concept difficult for modern Westerners to understand – we have a nominalist, voluntarist conception of freedom in the air we breathe). God causes some things by acting through free agents. Therefore the actions are both the action of God and the action of the agent. This is true in the orders of nature and of grace.
When God acts in us, God acts in us. That is, out just actions are truly His, but they are also truly ours. Since they are truly His, they are saving, since they are truly ours, they are worthy of blame or praise, that is, they are meritorious. Paul was confident that the just God would give him the crown he had merited.
Chrysostom explains this in the context of friendship. Friendship finds or makes friends equal. A friend when he discovers that his friend needs something, gives it to him, but in a way that makes the recipient seem to be doing a favor to the giver.
As to the Eucharist, the best explanations I have ever read was by a member of the Eastern Church. He explained that the same thing happens invisibly at the Eucharist as happened when Jesus was on earth. When Jesus ate bread, it was transformed into his body. In the Eucharistic banquet, the same thing happens invisibly. Although we see bread, it has truly become Jesus. This explanation avoids terminology that sounds foreign to the New Testament (transubstantiation) and better preserves the whole context of the Heavenly Banquet at which God and man are sat down.
The Evangelical in this book also takes some swipes at the supposed unity of Roman Catholicism by comparing it to Hinduism. If he knew more about popular Catholicism, he would have even more ammunition. But the imperfect assimilation to Christianity in many Catholic cultures (an endless source of frustration to the clergy) has two sides. Less so than Protestantism, the Catholic Church (for all the charges of cultural genocide) has tried to transform rather than totally destroy the cultures it encounters, so that the riches of all nations will serve the Lord. But the result is often an odd mixture, sometimes charming, sometimes appalling.
In Baltimore, parishes were closed one or two at a time, and I noticed little outcry. Ethnic parishes had been built within a block or two of each other, and the neighborhoods had become almost entirely back, with very few Catholics. Other dioceses held onto a structure that was built for a far larger and more ethnic Catholic population, and with the recent financial crunch have had to close down parishes wholesale. In Cleveland the enormous decline in both the Catholic and overall population has necessitated the closing of numerous parishes with the usual outcry – although is hard to see how it could have been avoided.
One parish responded by setting up its own congregation independent of the bishop Tom Roberts has an article, “A Community of a Different Sort,” in the National Catholic Reporter (now available here) about this situation.
The Rev. Robert Marrone had revived St. Peter’s, an inner city parish (for some of its problems see Marrone’s difficult relationship with street people) by attracting white suburbanites, but Bishop Lennon decided that it had to be closed as part of the diocesan reorganization. The members of the parish rented their own space in an industrial and have continued to meet as the Community of St. Peter with Marrone, their former pastor, who has been threatened with unspecified ecclesiastical penalties.
The parish seems to be in schism – it is conducting unauthorized liturgies with the former pastor, who is not assigned to it and is listed as being on leave from the active ministry.
The present Catholic system of episcopal governance is not God-given in all its details, but on the whole many problems in the Church have been the result of bishops (and popes) failing to exercise the oversight that is the essence of their office, not in exercising too much oversight.
The Community of St. Peter has set itself up as an independent Catholic congregation outside the structure of the diocese. Marrone has not been suspended or excommunicated – not yet, but that seems inevitable.
Marrone claims that the split was not based on any of the controversies in the Church, but on the desire of the congregation to stay together. The congregation has set itself up as a legal entity and plans to hire its own clergy.
In all the other independent Catholic congregations that have been set up, almost immediately there is a full acceptance of homosexual behavior and a general rejection of Catholic sexual ethics. It also seems inevitable that the parish will hire a woman priest, whose ordination they will claim to have somehow been in the line of apostolic succession – the one doctrine that schismatic Catholics cling to when they reject all other Catholic ecclesiology. (See the experience of Spiritus Christi in Rochester)
Protestant denominations that are congregational in polity also have a poor record of dealing with sensitive problems like sexual abuse. The Southern Baptists point out that the denomination has no authority over clergy – each congregation calls its pastor and no one outside the congregation has any say over the qualifications, opinions or behavior of the pastor. Congregations who have suffered from manipulative, sexually abusive pastors sometimes look wistfully at denominations with an episcopal structure which could step in and deal with the problem.
I do not see why the Community of St. Peter does not join the Episcopal Church. That polity allows the congregation more autonomy in running its affairs and choosing its pastors than the Roman Catholic system does, but also provides episcopal oversight to deal with problems that congregations cannot deal with internally. A congregation can also accept or reject as much Catholicism as its feels comfortable with. The Episcopalian Church has a good pension system, which an individual congregation would have trouble setting up.
Do the parishioners of the Community of St. Peter not think that the Episcopal Church is as much a church as the Roman Catholic Church? Do they have a lingering suspicion that Episcopalian priests are not “validly” ordained? Why do they insist in being Catholic but not being in communion (or at least in impaired communion) with the local Roman Catholic bishop, or, for that matter, with any bishop of any denomination? If they reject the episcopal structure entirely, in what sense do they differ from Congregationalists? If they set up their own episcopal structure independent of the Roman Catholic Church, in what sense are they not in schism?
I suspect that, in their anger at Lennon, they have not thought these matters through, and they will sooner or later discover that it is hard to remain Catholic when one is completely detached from the structures of Catholicism. It is hard to be a Catholic with the bishops that have been inflicted on us, but it is almost impossible to be a Catholic without a bishop.
A priest molested a boarding school boy – but this case didn’t happen in Ireland. It was an Episcopal priest, James Lydell Tucker, a father of five, who molested boys at an upper-class Episcopal school in Austin, Texas. And the Episcopal diocese conspired to cover it up.
What are the lessons? Men don’t have to be celibate to have a messed-up sexuality, and organizations protect themselves, not the children entrusted to them.
But at least the Episcopal Church doesn’t claim that if you leave it you risk going to hell.
The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in
The metal scaffolding that surrounded the tower in this picture has come down in an admission that the tower will never be finished.
After entering the door one walks down the main aisle through on a grey-painted plywood corridor, such as used to grace the
The main altar and surrounding chapels are finished, but are already decaying.
It is hard to understand what was going through the minds of the Episcopal worthies in the 1880s when they projected building the largest cathedral in the world.
What could it have been used for? Unlike
If the faith had been kept, it would matter little, but the Cathedral’s website proudly chronicles the events it has hosted:
(After some standard politically liberal stuff in the 1960s)
1982 Halveti-Jerrahi Order of Dervishes at
1984 Cathedral exhibits Christa, a bronze crucifix by British sculptor Edwina Sandys depicting Christ as a woman.
1986 Philippe Petit performs Ascent on a high wire.
1990 Big Bird and other Muppets pay tribute to puppeteer Jim Henson at his memorial service.
1999 Stonewall 30: A Sacred Celebration brings thousands from
The sadness of it all.
During our annual Christmas trip, we heard the choir of St. Thomas Episcopal Church (
When a culture is Christian, it reminds all its members, even unbelievers, of the story of Christianity. Some think it fact, some think it myth, some dislike it, but no one can escape it. Even the unbelievers in the audience for months will have the words and music For unto us a child is born, He was despised and rejected of man, The LORD GOD omnipotent reigneth, running through their heads – a message that they might not want to hear, but cannot ignore it completely, because the music is too great to give up.