Generous Orthodoxy  

The word ortho-doxy (Greek for "right doctrine") has both positive and negative connotations. In a culture that prizes what is iconoclastic and transgressive, orthodoxy has come to sound constricted and unimaginative at best, oppressive and tyrannical at worst.

The position taken on this website is that we cannot do without orthodoxy, for everything else must be tested against it, but that orthodox (traditional, classical) Christian faith should by definition always be generous as our God is generous; lavish in his creation, binding himself in an unconditional covenant, revealing himself in the calling of a people, self-sacrificing in the death of his Son, prodigal in the gifts of the Spirit, justifying the ungodly and indeed, offending the "righteous" by the indiscriminate nature of his favor. True Christian orthodoxy therefore cannot be narrow, pinched, or defensive but always spacious, adventurous and unafraid.
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Latest News

Fleming is a regular now on the very popular “Crackers and Grape Juice” podcast. Look for “Fridays with Fleming”:

Posted: Monday, March 13, 2017

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/crackers-and-grape-juice/id1100507919

 


A very knowledgeable recommendation of The Crucifixion, from London

Posted: Monday, February 20, 2017

"I'm Fleming Rutledge, and I approve this synopsis, from London, of my book The Crucifixion."
https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/book-review-the-crucifixion


Fleming's book The Crucifixion has been named the Book of the Year (2017) by Christianity Today

Posted: Friday, December 16, 2016

Here is a link to the webpage with the announcement. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/january-february/christianity-todays-2017-book-of-year.html


The Crucifixion by Fleming Rutledge crosses the pond

Posted: Friday, May 27, 2016

The Church Times is a widely read publication of the Church of England. The May 27 issue contains a review of Fleming's book along with two others. Here is an excerpt from the review by Dr. Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester:

"The most substantial of these books is The Crucifixion, by the veteran US Episcopalian [sic] priest; Fleming Rutledge. A gifted preacher and spiritual writer, this is her theological magnum opus of 600 pages. Don’t let the length put you off: this is pure gold, reminiscent in style of Ken Leech at his best. The book is at once profound and preachable. A preacher will find material, and illustrations, for many sermons. Any Christian would find it uplifting, and academic theologians will see just how theology can best be put at the service of the wider Church. Her main dialogue partner is American Christianity, which evades the cross, as it comes packaged “as inspirational uplift — sunlit, backlit, or candlelit”. Not that the cross can ever be interpreted without reference to the resurrection, but this must be as a conjoined paradox rather than as a balance or neat sequence. If there is a central motif in this restless and multi-faceted book, it is that Jesus Christ represents, and enacts, God’s apocalyptic entry into creation in order to confront and destroy the powers and principalities of evil, supremely in the confrontation that the cross portrays. Hence the importance of its public dimension. The cross is not just an ugly death but a public ugly death."

 

 


The Crucifixion wins Best Reference Book award

Posted: Friday, May 13, 2016

Dick and Fleming Rutledge are shown with Professor Deborah Hunsinger and Professor George Hunsinger of Princeton Theological Seminary at the Episcopal Conference Center in Oviedo, Florida, where both women won Best Book awards from the Academy of Parish Clergy. Prof. Hunsinger's book, the Best Book of 2015, is Bearing the Unbearable, which puts trauma theory to work in the service of the gospel. Fleming Rutledge's book, The Crucifixion, won as Best Reference Book of 2015, so designated on account of its heft and comprehensiveness. George Hunsinger, who has won many awards himself, wrote an endorsement (aka "blurb") for Fleming's book. It was a wonderful reunion of colleagues.


The Episcopal New Yorker interviews Fleming Rutledge about The Crucifixion

Posted: Tuesday, May 10, 2016

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The Crucifixion was reviewed on the Reformed-ish blog by Derek Rishmawy, who calls it a “beautiful piece of theology”, ideal for pastor-theologians.

Posted: Monday, February 29, 2016

http://derekzrishmawy.com/2016/03/16/the-crucifixion-understanding-the-death-of-jesus-christ-by-fleming-rutledge/


Commonweal, the highly respected Roman Catholic magazine, has given Fleming's The Crucifixion a prominent, positive review:

Posted: Sunday, February 28, 2016

The reviewer, Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, associate professor of theology at Boston College, calls the book a "remarkable" and "monumental" work, and closes by echoing "the chant Augustine heard in the Garden: tolle, lege: take up and read! Rutledge’s volume wonderfully celebrates the triumph of redeeming grace: the crucified Messiah, Jesus who is 'the wisdom and power of God.'"

https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/crucifixion-0


The Christian Century featured a very positive review of The Crucifixion:

Posted: Saturday, February 27, 2016

http://www.christiancentury.org/reviews/2015-09/crux-matter

 


Fleming presents her new book at the Ecumenical Institute in Baltimore:

Posted: Tuesday, December 15, 2015

http://www.stmarys.edu/the-crucifixion-according-to-fleming-rutledge/

The photo shows Michael Gorman, of the EI, responding to her presentation. The copy is by David Neff, retired editor-in-chief of Christianity Today.


Fleming's new book is published and available

Posted: Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ, is now officially in print. It can be ordered at a discount from Eerdmans directly, or from Amazon if you must. If you are a supporter of an independent bookstore, do ask them to order directly from Eerdmans. Eerdmans is superlative in speedy response and delivery, and they give substantial discounts to clergy.

This book about the cross of Christ is not like any other book presently on the market. It delves deeply into all the major images and motifs used in the Old and New Testaments to explain what is happening on the cross. That phrase, “what is happening,” is important. The crucifixion of Christ is not simply a spectacle to wonder at. God is doing something, something unique and cosmically effective, in historical time, at a specific geographical location intimately associated with his promises to the Jews. What is this thing that God is doing? This book attempts to answer that by reflecting in depth on what the Scriptures show us.

The book also attempts a close look at the problem of evil. There is no “answer” in this life to the problem of evil and suffering, but the suffering and excruciating public death of Jesus by torture is related to it in a way that is unique in religion and actually undercuts human religious ideas. The chapter called “The Descent into Hell” examines this matter in depth. Individual human frailty and sinfulness is addressed in the chapter called “The Substitution.” Social evil—war, violence, crime, oppression, racism, exploitation—is addressed particularly in “The Apocalyptic War: Christus Victor.” The entire volume is organized around the central proclamation of the gospel: the justification of the ungodly.

Several lay people have already testified that they are finding the book readable and engaging. To be sure, it is directed to pastors, preachers, and students, but it is also accessible to inquiring non-specialists. It can profitably be used by study groups, particularly by using the eight chapters in Part Two: The Biblical Motifs.


Recent Ruminations

Fearing one another in the Eucharist
Friday, March 24, 2017

I am reprising this blog post from two years ago because I think the issue is important, and because in subsequent months I have gotten the impression that intinction has become even more prevalent. 

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Michael Curry, has testified that he, a black man, was first attracted to the Episcopal denomination because when he was young, he attended an integrated Episcopal church and was deeply impressed that black and white members all drank out of the same communion vessel.

He did not say anything about the wholesale abandonment of this tradition by the church in recent years.

Until the 70s and 80s, virtually no Episcopalians dipped their communion wafers into the chalice (intinction). I grew up acting as an acolyte in the early 50s (probably the first girl acolyte in the diocese of Virginia), and I can vouch for the fact that, from my vantage point in the sanctuary, no one ever dipped his or her wafer in the wine. Everyone drank from the common cup. I went to many Episcopal youth camps; no one dipped. I was an active Episcopalian in college and early adulthood, going to numerous conferences; no one dipped. It would have been considered very peculiar if not downright irreverent (indeed, I'm afraid we were snootily dismissive of Baptists and others who passed around those teensy little individual glasses in trays). It's possible that occasionally someone would refrain from drinking from the common cup if she had a bad cold and did not want to risk giving it to others, but even that was very unusual, and typically she would not dip but would simply signal for the cup to pass by. I don't recall anyone ever mentioning the possibility that a healthy communicant might catch a germ from someone else.

When I was a seminarian in "Mass class" in the early 70s, we were instructed to "turn the chalice with each sip, wiping as you go" and  "keep the wine flowing over the rim" and "refold the purificator frequently, keeping the stained side in." This counsel hardly seems necessary today. Since I was ordained in the mid-70s, the numbers of people drinking from the chalice has plummeted.

I realize that my anecdotal evidence is not scientific. I admit that I don't know what they are doing in the Dioceses of Eau Claire or San Joaquin. However, I have traveled very widely across the Episcopal church, East to West, North to South, and although I have trained myself not to look at my neighbors when I am actually receiving, when I as the preacher am sitting behind or near the communion rail, I can't help noticing that the vast majority are dipping their wafers. (Generally speaking, the few that still drink from the chalice tend to be of a certain age.) I have also noticed that  the amount of wine poured into the chalice has greatly decreased. We used to fill up a chalice, or even two, at a Sunday service in a small-to-mid-size parish, in order to provide for all those who were sipping; now the priest puts in barely half a cupful for the dippers.

For 20 years and more, I have inquired from many people about this, The answer is always the same: GERMS. Sometimes the person giving this reply is being considerate of others, because he has a cold, or she is coughing. But the great majority who receive are not sick. They are afraid of contracting germs from others.

I have consulted two epidemiologists about this. Both of them said that sterling silver, interacting with wine, neutralizes germs (both of them were leery of porous ceramic or pottery). They emphasized what everyone surely knows by now, that colds are spread on hands, and people sometimes get their fingertips in the wine when dipping. I believe it is the case that no one has been able to prove that disease is spread through the common cup in ordinary circumstances. If it was, the clergy would be the sickest people in the nation, since a good many of us consume the leftover wine; I did this without fail every time I presided at the Eucharist during the entire 21 years of my parish ministry.

I don't have a "magical" view of what happens to the wine when it is consecrated. Drinking a lot of leftover consecrated wine at the end of the communion can give a definite "buzz," as I can testify. Many recovering alcoholics, understandably, receive the bread only. I admit that in the case of epidemics of saliva-borne illnesses, such as SARS or--worse--Ebola, exceptions would have to be made. I think I remember that the Roman Catholic Church made such an exception during the SARS epidemic of 2003. I can't say that I would drink the leftover wine in the middle of an Ebola breakout. But these are exceptional circumstances.

I don't see this as an ontological question, but an ecclesiological one. When Paul rebukes the Corinthians because they do not "discern the body" during the Lord's Supper (I Corinthians 11:29), the context indicates that he does not mean the bread or wine themselves; he means the diverse members of the Body of Christ.  It is our mutuality, our union in the Lord that is the central focus.

Therefore the most significant problem with this shift in church practice, it seems to me, is that people are acting out of fear. Children and visitors from other denominations are instructed that they should receive by intinction because they might catch something harmful from a fellow Christian. Surely this undermines the central reality of the sacrament. When we are at the altar rail we are brought into the closest possible personal communion with other disciples of Christ in the fellowship of His conquering love, and "there is no fear in love; perfect love casts out fear" (I John 4:18). Should fear dictate our practice in this most intimate of all settings? It seems to me highly ironic, to say the least, that this precipitous decline in the use of the common cup should have coincided with the wholesale shift toward the centrality of the Eucharist in the worship of the Episcopal church.

In Terrence Malick's deeply religious film, To The Wonder, a central episode shows a young woman receiving the sacrament. She drinks from the chalice. The symbolic power of the image of her receiving the blood of Christ would have been a reductio ad absurdum if she had merely dipped.
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Latest Tips From the Times

I am shifting to Twitter!
Monday, January 23, 2017

I have decided to stop writing for this "Tips from the Times" feature on my website. From now on, I will simply reTweet articles that I think are notable, trying to be selective and not send too many. I have really enjoyed doing Tips, and I think there are some good pieces in my Tips archives, but I am spending too much time on it and--as we all know by now--Twitter is easier and more efficient, if not exactly mind-stretching! I will be able to put more effort into Ruminations. Many thanks to all my readers.
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