The nonchalant arrogance of the current proprietors of ECUSA Inc is a prodigy to behold. Two examples have recently come to light, both of them involving so-called ‘inclusive’ language.
The Presiding Bishop (Frank Tracey Griswold III*) cites the great Thomas Merton (obiit Dec 10, 1968). Griswold is writing a piece about the German Jesuit Alfred Delp. ‘In 1962 Thomas Merton wrote a preface to the meditations’ says Griswold superciliously, ‘with gender references as they were at that time.’
The phrase is both casual and damning. Observe how Merton (very much alive and kicking when our Frankie was a boy) is relegated – along with all of us who stubbornly use ‘gender references as they were at that time’ – to the darkness of a postulated pre-history. Miller and Swift (The Handbook of Non-Sexist Writing for Writers and Editors, 1981) are clearly Holy Writ for the Episcopal Church!
My other instance is the text of a sermon preached by none other than our old friend, Chuck Bennison.
Charles E Bennison, Jr* began a recent sermon (at the rededication of his cathedral in Philadelphia) with a nearly identifiable text: ‘I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven and he came to the Ancient One and presented before him. (Daniel 7: 13)
With Chuck, of course, the new ‘gender references’ are taken for granted; but they have a deeper significance. Preaching on Ascension Day, Chuck had a ‘humane’ – that is to say, human – message. No longer is ‘Son of Man’ an esoteric term of late Hebrew apocalyptic, teasingly adapted by the Jesus of Mark’s Gospel to apply to himself, and in Luke/Acts to the Ascension in its relation to the Second Coming. The meaning is now simple and clear: ‘To any ordinary human being’, says Bennison, ‘to one like you and me, who has been through the watery clouds, is given “dominion and glory and royal power”.’
A fine example of what Brigid Brophy, reviewing Miller and Swift, called ‘tin ears and insensibility to the metaphorical contents of language’!
GK, * who is, so far as he knows, Junior to no one of the same name; and like the angels themselves, without number.