Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Faith Works 5-13-06
Jeff Gill

Reforming the Reformers

Our season from Easter to Pentecost series on the branches of Christendom continues with reforms of the Reformation.
Last week we saw Martin Luther in 1517 start the ball rolling, so to speak, although Czechs would proudly note that an early reformation movement was in their province of Moravia, under Jan Hus, over 50 years earlier. And they’d be right: the Moravian Church ushered in the Protestant Reformation, and their descendants would be some of the first Protestant Christians to reach the Ohio country in the 1700’s, giving us Schoenbrunn and Gnadenhutten and Lichtenau, so we daren’t forget them!
The Swiss Reformation under John Calvin was quickly exported to places like Scotland by way of French Hugenots, so even today the Church of Scotland is what today Americans know as Presbyterian, a church led by elders in session consulting and discerning together, the word for elder in Biblical Greek being roughly "presbyter" transliterated to English. John Knox and other Scots reformers brought Calvinism into the Anglosphere, but not without some resistance.
At first, the king of England called Henry the Eighth was indignant at "the monk Luther" challenging God’s authority through the church, which he rightly saw as challenging royal prerogatives. Writings he "helped" pen led to his receiving from the Roman pontiff the title "Defender of the Faith." Ironically, British monarchs still hold this title.
The irony is because the same Henry, heir-less from his first wife, led a reformation of the English, or Anglican Church, which led them away from Roman primacy and towards a "Church of England," with the monarch as, well, "Defender of the Faith." The Archbishop of Canterbury became another "primus inter pares," or first among equals in a form of church leadership for what is still known as the Anglican Communion, the third largest world branch of Christendom after Catholic and Orthodox Christian bodies.
Is the ruler of England the head of the church? Elizabeth the Second today, like her esteemed ancestor of the late 1500’s Elizabeth I, child of Henry, is exactly that for most Anglicans, but her son Charles, hapless Prince of Wales, may find a way to step aside from such a role given his complex marital history.
What is as true now, as then, is that the English Reformation was both less and more than many other Protestant revolutions, so their American branch, the Episcopal Church (from "episcope," or overseer aka bishop in New Testament Greek) has a liturgy quite similar to a Catholic mass. The major difference is in the authority structure, or hierarchy, tracing to the archbishops and primates of the still vital Anglican Christian stream.
Back in Europe, the idea of authority was thrown entirely aside by some reforming groups, especially in Bavaria and southern Germany into Switzerland, who thought Luther was far too restrained in his reform of the church.
Under leaders like Jacob Amman, becoming the Amish, or Menno Simons, with Mennonites, groups who saw authority as primarily in the local or congregational unit of the church, and who removed baptism from the infant to the adult stage of spiritual growth, were called "Anabaptist." They strongly weighed against ("ana") baptism as a rite of the church, and made it a decision of the mature adult to be, most often, immersed ("baptizo") in water, and many if not most were sent across the waters of the Atlantic for their troubles. Anabaptist groups are to this day both mostly found in the New World, and often associated with the clothing and habits of the time period that gave them birth, the 1600’s.
And even the Lutheran Christian movement of Germany, once made the official state church, provoked a reaction of what became known as "Pietism," a group seeking the original passion and purpose of Martin Luther’s first reformation. Some of these Pietist groups, Brethren and Dunkards German Evangelicals and the like, included a renewed Moravian Church, staying largely loyal to their Lutheran roots, helped to spin off movements and energy for groups that we know today in America in many forms . . . which we’ll talk about next week.
Suffice it to say that the Anglicans had protesters against their structures of authority, some who were more "pure" and some who wanted adult baptism or more congregational government (at least in the colonies) and some who were quaking in their silent prayer assemblies; these Puritans and Baptists and Congregationalists and Quakers all left the episcopal way of being Christian for organizing principles that still are with us in Licking County today.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him a story through disciple@voyager.net.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Notes From My Knapsack 5-14-06
Jeff Gill

Begin With a Single Step

Sidewalks, bike paths, trails, even the wider shoulders of some roads; strollers and bicycles and walkers of all sorts are out and around in this glorious spring weather.
True, we could use a little more rain, but just as in Camelot, Licking County has been receiving her liquid precipitation between midnight and 5 am for the most part.
Cool nights, also known as "good sleepin’ weather," with sunny days make for idyllic mornings and evenings, perfect for taking a nice walk.
Most health and weight loss advice boils down to this: get a move on! Better nutrition, smaller portion sizes, colorful platefuls of veggies are all important. But somewhat counterintuitively, a bit more exercise makes your body "ask" for more of that stuff, and plenty of fitness leaves your internal cues all pointing to the good stuff. If your muscles and bones are doing real work, they want real food and they know how to tell your foolish brain what the score is.
Kids present slightly different challenges, because they can want crud with their consumer-soaked brains and the veggie-dairy-healthy stuff with their bodies, and eat both with room for more. Limiting (or for some, banning) snack food is a task in its own, but children still respond best to their own physical cues with fitness driving better nutrition.
Where to run around, though? Running around in the car, of course, doesn’t count – let’s not even think about the drive-up windows you go by, or don’t. Our busy schedules of team practices, games, and rehearsals or lessons may actually have less real exercise in them than a long afternoon of running amok . . . if you have somewhere to do it.
A recent book proposed "Nature Deficit Disorder" as a form of illness afflicting American kids, and while I loathe the tendency to make a disorder of every little quirk of life, you can’t really dispute that roaming free in the wilderness ain’t what it used to be.
What did it used to be, anyhow? Is it another one of those golden glowing "good ol’ days" that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny?
My folks opened the 60’s by building a house on the edge of a town/small city, where farm fields could be seen from some upstairs windows and nearby woodlots from most. When we got kicked out of the house, joining other refugees from indoors into the banishment of "go play outside," that’s where we headed. A mowed field behind a church and next to corn was the ball diamond, and a ravine down the block held years of tree forts and scrap board clubhouses.
I suspect that there are some issues with increased fear (if not reality) of liability and lawsuits, with the accompanying fences and signage. The trend to screaming coverage of every pond drowning from Alabama to Wyoming on the local evening news helps generate a climate of fear and anxiety that may press parents to keep kids closer to home, let alone the "stranger danger" epidemic.
But I wonder how much has to do with family size. I was oldest of four, and my mom probably wondered where I was some afternoons, but after yelling my name out the back door, she was chasing another flapping diaper, and just couldn’t obsess about it. (Ground me for getting my sneakers muddy when I got home, she could do that, and ask "where did you get so dirty?" but I’m not sure she heard the answer.)
There was a six pack o’ kids around the corner, and three blocks down a twelve; some families were two and three, but four wasn’t unusual and five wouldn’t draw stares.
My dad was youngest of six, his dad was sixth of nine; great-grandfather was one of two, but that had more to do with his father’s service in the Civil War and then death not long after – he was youngest male of nine, we think, but the records are unclear. Coulda been more, but children who died young don’t always show up on paper.
The Little Guy is one of one, and is quite common in that state; his parents started late and got slowed down by a great deal of moving about. We didn’t really plan to have an only child, though his mother and my mother are exactly that themselves. We try not to be overprotective, but . . .
When you have one kid, you watch them more, if only because they’re the only show in town. You just can’t supervise four kids the same way. Whether or not you think kids should ever be out of your eyeshot or hearing unsupervised is a different debate, but average family size probably has a lot to do with why they rarely get there anymore.
The upside: since even adults should get out for a ramble regularly, just all go together. Stick to paths or climb a fence or two, as long as you’re keeping on the move.
And then have a healthy family dinner!

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; share your favorite family hikes through disciple@voyager.net.