Posted by Christopher Johnson | Tuesday, May 25th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 47 Comments

I do not think it means what the Rev. Richard E. Helmer, rector of the Episcopal Church of Our Saviour in Mill Valley, California, thinks it means:

Chastity means setting aside dominance and control and seeking instead a new way to relate to the world and to God.

That’s not what it says here.  Welcome to Deep Episcopalianism, folks.  Strap yourselves in because you are about to go on one hell of a wild ride.

Having spent an increasing amount of time in conversation with married couples in recent years, the most commonly destructive dynamic in any relationship I have found has to do with a failure of chastity. But I don’t mean sex outside the marriage. By chastity in marriage I mean the challenge of setting aside the stubborn drive to control or change the person we most cherish.

Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  As long as I set aside “the stubborn drive to control or change” my wife, I can schtup every hot female in the parish right up the va-jay-jay and still have a “chaste” marriage?  Apparently.

When couples learn this, the effect in their relationship and family is simply astonishing. Anxiety and anger levels drop almost immediately. There is a renewed simultaneous sense of freedom and connection. Spouses allow their partners to grow. Parents allow their children to seek accountable maturity. Needs are articulated. Resentments are set aside. Rather than using or abusing the relationship to change others, the relationships by themselves become transformative. Everyone is changed.

You’d be in a good mood too if you were bumping uglies on a regular basis.  But chastity isn’t just about families or friends or a three-way with your next-door neighbor’s wife.

Chaste leadership serves and seeks to set example rather than manipulate or control.

Your secretary should want to have that nooner.  She should never be forced or manipulated into it.

Chaste leadership is honest about the power it holds and seeks to exercise it with transparency, deliberation, clarity and the good of others first and foremost in mind.

Does that attractive female canon to the ordinary enjoy being spanked?  Don’t judge her but try to see things from her perspective.  And your wife will never miss that spatula.

And chaste leadership learns to live with the reality that we are never in full control of outcomes,

Particularly since your prostate operation. 

that consequences bad


and good

Despite your prostate operation, you were still able to get it up.

flow from every action, and that ends rarely if ever justify means.

But do you know who most emphatically isn’t chaste these days?

Chastity deserves a thorough study by everyone presently involved in the tired crisis of the Anglican Communion. The desire to manipulate outcomes, to control others, to dominate an otherwise messy situation inherited from our colonial, modern past is all about unchaste approaches to relationship. And our late great crisis is rife with unchastity.

Raise your hand if you didn’t see that one coming.

We see it a lot in bishops and clergy attempting to manipulate the situation to their own ends. We see it in the floundering of the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury attempting to control through appeasement and veiled threats.

Helmer’s too smart to play the martyr.

We see it in the unwillingness to acknowledge our actions within our own Church have unforeseen consequences for everyone — both good and bad.

Directly, anyway.

We have already seen the failed outcomes of dishonest ecclesiastical legislating that is inherently unchaste for its attempt to placate rather than humbly hold the truth. And we know too well the abuse of reports and non-binding councils as instruments of shadow law, and the potential of distorting covenant into a tool of manipulation.

However it’s obvious where Helmer stands.

But there is good news. Chastity has been in evidence in the increasing number of voices of those who recognize our disagreements as a Communion, but yet insist that costly communion in Christ is far more valuable than agreement.

And if that wasn’t clear enough for you…

Chastity has long been in evidence by those courageous, oft-threatened “firsts” of our faith who inhabit dangerous positions not for power or the quixotic pursuit of perfection, but simply by being who they are and following God’s call as best they can. The consecrations in the Diocese of Los Angeles are some of the most recent examples of this form of chastity.

Basically, we’re down to this.  The consecration of a practicing homosexual is a “form of chastity.”  Strenuously objectiing to it is a form of unchastity.  Since chastity really has nothing to do with sex.

Oh, it does if you’re going to get all superficial like the conservatives do.  But to be really chaste, you have to go a lot deeper than that.  So deep that you’re going to need Dick Helmer to show you the way down.

Chastity demands we return to what is real, setting aside the spectacles of objectification, and learn again to see ourselves, others, and the world through Christ’s loving eyes. Chastity calls us to embrace our humility and acknowledge our lack of control — to some degree over ourselves, and to an even greater degree over others. Chastity asks us to hope rather than to expect, to forgive rather than to condemn, to cultivate rather than destroy. Perhaps most importantly, chastity insists that God be God, not a projection of our own desires. Chastity towards the divine is captured in that critical turn of phrase in the Lord’s prayer: “thy will be done…”

Actually, chastity means refraining from sexual intercourse unless you’re married to the person you’re doing or the person who is doing you, as the case may be.  No more, no less.  But any port in a storm, huh, Dick?


Damian G.
May 25, 2010

“Setting aside dominance”? Since when is the opposite of chastity BDSM?

May 25, 2010

clearly had a major bong hit……

The Pilgrim
May 25, 2010

You made this up, right?

May 25, 2010

Typical liberal game. Redefine a virtue, and then claim it’s the other side which fails to display it. This is a pretty sad and unconvincing stretch, though.

May 25, 2010

Guy has a point somewhere in there that chastity within marriage is not merely ‘as long as you’re not committing adultery, you’re being chaste’ and that the issue involves the commodification of sex and the objectification of others and that our present culture may think we’ve improved or avoided the mistakes of the past but we’re still doing the same old things, just wrapped up in new packaging.

To quote Chesterton from his newspaper piece “On a Piece of Chalk” (emphases mine):

One of the wise and awful truths which this brown-paper art reveals, is this, that white is a colour. It is not a mere absence of colour; it is a shining and affirmative thing, as fierce as red, as definite as black. When, so to speak, your pencil grows red-hot, it draws roses; when it grows white-hot, it draws stars. And one of the two or three defiant verities of the best religious morality, of real Christianity, for example, is exactly this same thing; the chief assertion of religious morality is that white is a colour. Virtue is not the absence of vices or the avoidance of moral dangers; virtue is a vivid and separate thing, like pain or a particular smell. Mercy does not mean not being cruel or sparing people revenge or punishment; it means a plain and positive thing like the sun, which one has either seen or not seen.

Chastity does not mean abstention from sexual wrong; it means something flaming, like Joan of Arc.”

Plenty of stuff in the writings of the Fathers that spiritual, rather than merely physical virginity, is the one that is in question here and this is why virginity was privileged above marriage. Then Rev Helmer goes off on the crazy with ” The consecrations in the Diocese of Los Angeles are some of the most recent examples of this form of chastity”, which is like saying “The recent armed robbery of the First National Bank is one of the most recent examples of this form of poverty” when discussing, as he started off, the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

“In starting discernment to become a member of a spiritual community of The Episcopal Church, I have been invited in recent months to study the three classic evangelical counsels as they have been articulated as vows beginning with the mendicant orders in the twelfth century: poverty, chastity, and obedience.”

As a side-note and a personal plea – dear heirs of the Reformation, both Lutheran and Henrician, who closed down the monasteries and convents, abolished clerical celibacy, and denied men and women the rights to become religious outside the ordained ministry and used the Epistles of St. Paul to back up your theological position, please leave our Papist accretions and corrupt unBiblical traditions and imposition of binding conditions on free conscience alone. Whenever you guys start dabbling, you end up like this. The evangelical counsels – ur doin’ them rong.

May 25, 2010

Argh! HTML fail. When I said ’emphases mine’ in the above, the bits I meant to bold were:

“And one of the two or three defiant verities of the best religious morality, of real Christianity, for example, is exactly this same thing; the chief assertion of religious morality is that white is a colour. Virtue is not the absence of vices or the avoidance of moral dangers; virtue is a vivid and separate thing, like pain or a particular smell.

Chastity does not mean abstention from sexual wrong; it means something flaming, like Joan of Arc.

May 25, 2010

From Three Amigos; “You keep saying that word (plethora). I do not think that word means what you think it means.”

May 25, 2010

They still sell dictionaries and thesauri don’t they? The English language will never survive these hippies and their children.

Allen Lewis
May 25, 2010

What a humungous twerp! It is people like Dick Helmer to abuse language to the point of making it insensible that are the problem. Chastity means not trying to manipulate outcomes? Then was Gene Robinson and his supporters unchaste during GC 2003 by wearing those “I Am Gene” buttons all over the place?

Was the US delegation to the ACC meeting in 2006 (?) unchaste in arguing their case with “To Set One’s Hope on Christ when they were trying to justify their innovations to the rest of the Communion?

Was Rowan Cantuar unchaste when he set up the Indaba-dabba-doo-doo groups at the last Lambeth Conference so no one else could be unchaste by forcing an up or down vote on anything?

Give me a break!

May 25, 2010

After reading that my head hurts!

Therese Z
May 25, 2010

By de-incarnating chastity, they continue their destructive path of de-incarnating the Gospel. When our bodies no longer are required to express what they ought to express (I am a woman, my sexual expression is with a man, with only one man, when I have sex, I may create a child, all that obvious biological stuff), then Jesus’ own Incarnation is weakened – He didn’t really rise from the dead, He didn’t really multiply loaves and fishes, He was a guy not one in being with His Father…

May 25, 2010

“Whenever you guys start dabbling, you end up like this. The evangelical counsels – ur doin’ them rong.”

Sez U, Fuinseoig.

Heh. We Unapologetic Reformation Evangelicals know better than that and we ain’t backing down.

There is plenty of repenting and recanting to do in Rome as elsewhere.

Athanasius Returns
May 25, 2010

Dude is so Orwellian that it’s scary. Of course, all revisionists fit into this to one degree or another.

What. A. Bunch. Of. Outright. Bunk.

May 25, 2010

This guy is living and ‘ministering’ (just imagine what goes on in his sermons and counseling sessions) in Californicatia land of chaste orgies and orthodox syncretic heresies.

He buh-leeves it and thinking makes it so! In the Divided Mind World, you CAN have it both ways…within the confines of your own mind…but that’s, um, delusion, isn’t it, Fr. Matson?

May 25, 2010


(had to borrow a few of Sasha’s exclamtion points)

May 25, 2010

“They still sell dictionaries and thesauri don’t they? The English language will never survive these hippies and their children.”

After GC2003, I realized what was going on with the agendites redefining words and playing games with them, so I went online to abebooks.com and ordered the biggest oldest Oxford English Dictionary I could afford. It’s HUGE and was printed in 1933…before ‘gay’ and ‘orientation’ were purloined for political propaganda purposes.

Ed the Roman
May 25, 2010


So all that crap about being a eunuch for the kingdom of God was just crap, right? And Paul didn’t mean anything in particular when he contrasted how his state, which he wished his readers all had, as preferable to marriage? And Protestantism in general has not set its face against voluntary celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom at least as firmly as it has against gambling?

That said, we are in perfect agreement that Chris is the funniest man on Earth.

May 25, 2010

Orwell had it nailed.

Helmer duckspeak doubleplusgood.

May 25, 2010

I couldn’t understand the article, although I know what chastity is.

May 25, 2010

Whitestone, explain to me please how someone who has been invited to join an Anglican/Episcopalian religious community, based on the monastic tradition, can meditate on the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and then come up with “Consecrating as bishop a woman who is not alone living with someone she is not married to, her partner is a woman too” as an example of chastity.

Whether you’re talking about Orthodox desert cenobites or Catholic communities following the revival of St. Benedict, no-body ever said “Aha! Chastity really means sticking it to Da Man!”

Hence, I respectfully suggest, people who dumped the entire concept of vowed religious five centuries ago as untenable and have now decided to dabble with them as a cool add-on are not perhaps the best in the world to give us the definitions of what the vows mean as against the unbroken practice of those of us who hung on to these options.

May 25, 2010

To continue on the point I was making, Reverend Helmer’s extrapolation of chastity reminds me of the Wife of Bath’s defence of marriage against virginity, where she rightfully says that St. Paul only recommends it as a council and God has not commanded it of us nor forbidden marriage, but is too enthusiastic for her case by dragging in the polygamous patriarchs:

“Beside a well Lord Jesus, God and man,
Spoke in reproving the Samaritan:
“For thou hast had five husbands,” thus said he,
“And he whom thou hast now to be with thee
Is not thine husband.” Thus he said that day,
20 But what he meant thereby I cannot say;
And I would ask now why that same fifth man
Was not husband to the Samaritan?
How many might she have, then, in marriage?
For I have never heard, in all my age,
25 Clear exposition of this number shown,
Though men may guess and argue up and down.
But well I know and say, and do not lie,
God bade us to increase and multiply;
That worthy text can I well understand.
30 And well I know he said, too, my husband
Should father leave, and mother, and cleave to me;
But no specific number mentioned He,
Whether of bigamy or octogamy;
Why should men speak of it reproachfully?

35 Lo, there’s the wise old king Dan Solomon;
I understand he had more wives than one;
And now would God it were permitted me
To be refreshed one half as oft as he!
Which gift of God he had for all his wives!
40 No man has such that in this world now lives.
God knows, this noble king, it strikes my wit,
The first night he had many a merry fit
With each of them, so much he was alive!
Praise be to God that I have wedded five!
45 (Of whom I did pick out and choose the best
Both for their nether purse and for their chest
Different schools make divers perfect clerks,
Different methods learned in sundry works
Make the good workman perfect, certainly.
50 Of full five husbands tutoring am I.)
Welcome the sixth whenever come he shall.
Forsooth, I’ll not keep chaste for good and all;
When my good husband from the world is gone,
Some Christian man shall marry me anon;
55 For then, the apostle says that I am free
To wed, in God’s name, where it pleases me.
He says that to be wedded is no sin;
Better to marry than to burn within.
What care I though folk speak reproachfully
60 Of wicked Lamech and his bigamy?
I know well Abraham was holy man,
And Jacob, too, as far as know I can;
And each of them had spouses more than two;
And many another holy man also.”

I find her meditation on the Samaritan woman curiously reminiscent of modern TEC exegesis: now, when the text says he was not her husband, what does it really mean? How do we know that the man she was living with was not her husband? Who are we to comment on her lifestyle choices, if she was in a committed mutual relationship outside of the conventional social structures? Maybe Jesus had to learn from her to be more broad-minded the way He learned from the Syro-Phoenician woman about overcoming His racism!


May 25, 2010

You say “The Princess Bride.” I say “Through the Looking Glass”:

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ”
“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”
Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. “They’ve a temper, some of them—particularly verbs, they’re the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs—however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!”

Anonymous Anglican
May 25, 2010

More deconstruction of the language and meaning. On the Episcopal Cafe he’s already having to explain what he meant. Guess it sounded good to him at the time.

Time for someone to give him a new Thesaurus, unless he’s using the new one for TEC where any word means whatever they want it to mean and can twist to make the ends justify the means.

And that article made my head hurt, too. My universal translator couldn’t get enough to decode that sucker.

May 25, 2010

Get with the TEC program, Johnson!

Hate is Love.
War is Peace.
Infidility is Chastity.
Future Ministry is Theme Restruant.

May 25, 2010


That last one should have been:

“Future Ministry is Islamic Awareness Center”

Sorry – I was reading from the 2006 GC playbook.

May 25, 2010

Up is down. Black is white. True is false.

TEO logic in a nutshell.

Smurf Breath
May 25, 2010

Come on, people. We’ve gotta give him props. I was bored to death with the mindless, boilerplate propaganda, with “arguments” that could be applied with more accuracy to the revisionists than the orthodox, but the creative redefinition of ‘chastity’ was an amusing change of pace. Never seen that before. And he blatantly admits it.

I’m sure blatant dishonest idiocy like this is one of the reasons people so easily see through TEC and why it is imploding so rapidly. We should be encouraging this.

Michael D
May 25, 2010

I think this analysis by Helmer is a good example of Viral Encephalitis, where by “Viral Encephalitis” I mean the misappropriation of well-established words so that the ethos of the words can be extracted and used to artificially inseminate completely unrelated concepts.

May 25, 2010

So he’s redefined “chastity” to suit himself. What is the new meaning of all those other words he spouts?

Anglicanese has got to be the most difficult of languages, since nothing means anything. Anything means something. Everything means something else.

May 25, 2010

And he gets paid by his parish to spout this nonsense. Amazing.

The Little Myrmidon
May 25, 2010

I guess love means never having to say you’re chaste.

May 25, 2010

Every time I wonder how our great country could elect Obama, Pelosi, Reid et al
I read something like this. Bet he is one of the 53%.

Whitestone have you ever read any writings of the patristics? Perhaps you should.
You will be shocked to find that church history did not start in the1500s.

mary raitt
May 25, 2010

Worthy of the Provincial Letters! Is there no end to the ludicrous dishonesty of The Episcopal Church?

CS Baillie
May 25, 2010

Speaking of Alice…

“Why is a raven like a writing desk?”

I think the Mad Hatter got hold of his ‘find and replace’ function. No idea what the original was.

May 25, 2010


Congratulations! You’re beginning to sound like Gilbert Kieth himself. “The recent armed robbery… .” Keep it up!


May 26, 2010

Re: raven writing desk


Actually a useful set of answers.

Christopher Hathaway
May 26, 2010

I find this new transformative lexicon intriguing.

old definition: To exert mastery over one’s self in regards to sexual desire.
new definition: To
refrain from exerting mastery over others with regards to anything

How about other virtues:
old: willingly risking injury to one’s self.
new: preventing others from suffering risks.

Where have I heard this idea before?
Oh yeah. Medals for Courageous Restraint.

Christopher Hathaway
May 26, 2010

oops. Screwed up codes

May 26, 2010


st. anonymous
May 26, 2010

In honor of this new Anglican redefinition of the word, “chastity” will now be known as “chaz”.


May 26, 2010


I’m sorry to say but this type of thing is found among Roman Catholics too:


“2337 Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman.”

As far as I can tell, the first sentence can be interpreted as “you’re chaste if you pray while masturbating to the point of orgasm”.

FW Ken
May 26, 2010

Kozaburo –

Paragraph 2339 would preclude an interpretation such as you suggest:

2339 Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy.125 “Man’s dignity therefore requires him to act out of conscious and free choice, as moved and drawn in a personal way from within, and not by blind impulses in himself or by mere external constraint. Man gains such dignity when, ridding himself of all slavery to the passions, he presses forward to his goal by freely choosing what is good and, by his diligence and skill, effectively secures for himself the means suited to this end.”126

As always, context matters. In this case, you do well to read the entire section, including this admonition:

“Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action.”137

In fact, I don’t find Helmer’s reflection on chastity troubling in the first half. Sexuality, including celibacy, should be about self-giving, not dominance, willing the growth of the other, not controlling the other.

Helmer goes off the rails in misapplying this concept to the same-sex issues. He is clearly a homosexualist ideologue, which fact warps his vision of our human state and means of relating. When you consider same-sex attractions a normal variant of human experience, everything else falls apart, including the plainly evident fact that when given half a chance, gay advocates proceed to control and seek to dominate those who don’t accept their ideology. In other words, they behave in a most unchaste (per Helmer) manner.

Which is not surprising to those who know anything about gay life other than the mainstream media hagiography.

May 27, 2010

My point made: Look at the volume of text FW Ken needed to make his point, which is not much less confusing than the Catechism. And FW Ken, your first quote from the Catechism doesn’t negate my point. “he presses forward to his goal by freely choosing what is good and, by his diligence and skill, effectively secures for himself the means suited to this end” could just as well be applied to the act of masturbating. Hell, I could apply it to anything. Meaningless words…

The pseudo-intellectual bullshit in the Anglican and Catholic traditions on the subject of chastity exists for one purpose only: To muddy the waters and give priests a “legal argument” for sexual deviance.

Helmer is firmly established in this tradition. This is one area where triumphalist Catholics don’t have a leg to stand on.

CS Baillie
May 27, 2010

Strict unyielding Calvinism is looking better all the time.

May 27, 2010

Ad hominen attacks do not do well here. Perhaps you should address Ken’s argument
sans the personal attack.

FW Ken
May 27, 2010

I didn’t take the comment as ad hominem, Robb, nor did I, strictly speaking, make an argument. I only provided text from the Catechism. Unfortunately, Kozaburo’s “argument” is that the Catechism says something it clearly doesn’t say, to wit: “you’re chaste if you pray while masturbating to the point of orgasm”. In addition to being clearly false, his comment was vile.

But perhaps I did use too many words. Perhaps this reduces it to something comprehensible:

…masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action.

That is the teaching of the Catholic Church; if Kozaburo wishes to pursue his claim further, then I can only ask if “strict unyielding Calvinism” gives license to malicious slander.

May 27, 2010

I do stand corrected, Ken.
I guess the vileness of his remarks set me off. You need not me or anyone to defend you. It’s just for the most part here we have civil disagreements other times
not so much.
Ah well, time for my second Sam Adams. Cream Stout of course.

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