Wednesday, August 16, 2006
There was a man who lived alone on a mountain. Outside his cabin, there was a very large and heavy rock.
God spoke to the man and said: "Every morning, for 1 hour each day, I want you to push with all your strength against this rock.
The man, being faithful, agreed and for several weeks, he strained at pushing the rock, but the rock would not move.
One day, Satan spied the man pushing the rock and came to him while pushing and said:
"Why do you push against the rock?"
"Because God told me to" the man said.
"Why?" Satan asked. "You will never move it. You can't possibly succeed. All you are doing is waisting your time pushing against something that you can never move. You could even hurt yourself if you push too hard."
The man thought for a bit and said: "You know? You're right." He continued to push each day, but pushed with less force than before. One day, he stopped pushing.
God came to the man and asked why he stopped pushing. "Because I'll never move the rock. I might even hurt myself if I continue to push with all my strength.
God said to the man: "I never asked you to move the rock. I asked you to push against it. Now your arms and legs are stronger than ever before. Your back is fit for the work I prepared for you. You have made yourself less useful because you didn't push against the rock. Push hard for a little longer and you will be ready for the work I am to give you."
I hope you see the parallel between this story and the present situation in the ECUSA. Those of us on the "conservative" or reasserter or traditionalist side of the issue are getting tired of pushing against the rock that is the wayward ECUSA. We fear that we will never be successful. That is not our call. We are called to be faithful and to continue to witness to the Truth concerning Biblical Authority and the traditional expression of Anglicanism.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
See my post below on the blog comment exchange I had with Elizabeth Kaeton. I used the term "reappraiser" thinking it was emotionally neutral. She took offense at it. Now, being human, we will always be confronted by people who offend out of ignorance - and out of a desire to offend (unfortunately).
As Christians, what should our response be? I find that I am not far wrong when I assume that someone doesn't mean to offend. I often try to educate the offendor that his/her actions or words are offensive. Most of the time, people offend out of ignorance and not out of spite.
What do we do, then, with those who desire to offend? First, I think the most effective thing we can do is to not take offense. They are trying to get a rise out of us. We should react with love and charity towards the offensive people. It disarms them! Particularly in the little cyber-wars we have been having. I find it effective to let my "opponent" rant and rage while I remain (or try to) cool and reasonable. The best defense against offensive speech is to the the offender keep talking! The whole world will see what an ingorant and offensive and close-minded person they are.
How, then, should we behave in our dealings. We will offend someone. We should never never use epithets like "bottom feeder" or "priestess" or "nazi" let alone other epithets. If we find that we have used a term that offends someone, ask for education as to why it is offensive and then find a way to not use it. Sometimes we will be successful and sometimes we won't be successful in not attempting to offend. When in debate, we should always engage the other person's arguments and not their persons.
In short, we need more charity on all sides of the discussion. You cannot claim the "other side" is offensive when you are using terms like "bottom feeder" or "priestess."
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
I have asked several of my reappraising brothers and sisters to justify changing the moral teaching on this and to use biblical and traditional support. So far, none have done this. Can you show me a biblical example of God blessing homosexual sex? Can you show in tradition where it was called blessed?
It is not the orientation that is a bar to ordination, it is calling "sin" "not sin." It is saying that God blesses homosexual sex when Scripture is unequivocally against homosexual sex and calls it "sin" every time it is addressed.
Please help me understand your moral thinking on this. From where I sit, it seems to be "There are several people who naturally are attracted to members of the same sex, so God must have created them that way and homosexual sex (in the right contexts) is good and blessed.
Mother Kaeton (and the title is meant respectfully, not sarcastically. She is a priest and that office deserves resepct) seemed to take offense at my post and claimed that I was ignorant of the issues or the arguments. At first, she replies pointing me to several documents I have already read. She claims she is too tired of defending her position. She points me to Integrity and to Claiming the Blessing. She then claimed ignorance of the terms "reappraiser" and "reasserter." She wrote to me in a comment: "I only know that I am called a "reappraiser" when I refuse to accept what someone else defines as "orthodoxy," or their image of God and their image of Jesus.I think there is a word for that, Phil. It's called idolotry."
I took that to mean she thinks I am guilty or close to idolatry. I actually believe that I should accept the Church's definition of "orthodoxy" and not my own. That is part of what being a catholic Christian is about - submitting our own beliefs and our own wills to the Will of God and to the teachings of the Church.
I again asked her for her reasoning. I am really curious about this. She mentioned that she is "a Christian who considers herself conservative on ecclesiology and progressive on issues of social justice." I remarked:
How you can claim to be "conservative on ecclesiology" while ignoring the
unified and historical condemnation of homosexual acts by the universal Church
is beyond me. I have read the documents you mentions (well, most of them) and
their arguments underwhelm me. They sound like so much of the rationalization
that I do for my own sins. I am not ignorant of the arguments. I wanted your
reasoning on the issue - how you came to your decision in the face of
scriptural, traditional evidence to the contrary as well as the unifed voice of
the Anglican "Instruments of Unity" asking us not to proceed with consecrating
Yes, the Church has spent much time discussing this topic and
everytime (until either 2000 or 2003, depending on how you read certain
resolutions), a decision was reached, that decision stated that homosexual sex
was not blessed and that the Church should not bless same sex unions nor ordain
those living in a same sex sexual relationship. A person with "conservative
ecclesiology" would look at that and agree that the Church teaching is what it
is and then strive to follow it. A person of conscience would, if he or she
could not teach what the Church teaches, resign any position of leadership that
requires teaching what the Church teaches.
You did not do that.
She then went into a tirade
And now, here, for you, 'his majesty," I'm to give my own "reasoning on the
issue - how you came to your decision in the face of scriptural, traditional
evidence to the contrary as well as the unifed voice of the Anglican
"Instruments of Unity" asking us not to proceed with consecrating +Robinson."Umm
. . . do you think I have nothing else to do with my time but to respond
personally to you?Especially when you and I know that NOTHING I say will
persuade you?Please, don't even try to convince me that you are intentional
about a serious conversation. You, like David Anderson, stay in the Episcopal
Church because “you like a good fight.”Sorry, I love Jesus way more than that.
I’ve got too much He wants me to do to get into a word fight or a useless
exercise in scriptural gymnastics for that foolishness.If and when you are
serious about a conversation, I have already told you what to do: Call my
office. Get my number. We'll talk – I’ll even try to arrange a face to face
meeting – like the Christians we say we are.Otherwise, go lurk about T19 or
Drell’s Descants where you can be with people who think and act and pray as you
do and all will be well with your world.
I responded to her comment to the effect that she had showed me the back of her cyber hand and I would not comment on her site any more.
In the midst of all this, Greg Griffith spotted the her post and my comments and wrote a post about it on Standing Firm.
Well, Mother Kaeton went ballistic when she found out that Standing Firm had commented on this:
Okay, boys and girls, here's the deal. Someone tipped me off to a little service
which helps me track the number of visitors I get to this site.What I didn't
realize is that it also helps me track where the visitors are from as well as
the origin of their post. Turns out that "Your Brother in Christ Phil" is only a
brother in Christ by baptism, by certainly not by spirit - which is pretty mean,
low down and nasty. He is a Deacon in Plano, Tx who has a website called STAND
FIRM. Turns out, he has been baiting me, which I knew all along and why I would
not answer him directly, so that he can reprint my comments and let others, like
Marty here, have an absolute "bottom feeders" banquet.Bottom feeders, of course,
are those fish in the tank that survive - indeed, thrive - on all the "garbage"
(ahem) cast off by all the other fish in the tank.It's amazing. Honestly.Put on
your asbestos pumps and venture forth into the LaLa Land of the Neo-Orthodox and
'see how these Christians love one another.' Not! http://www.standfirminfaith.com/index.php/site/article/945/
Did I mention that neither Marty nor Phil took me up on my offer to have an authentic conversation? You know, like REAL Christians?Needless to say, we won't be hearing from brother Phil or brother Marty again - not in this space, anyway.
I am not part of the people who run Standing Firm. I only comment on there. I don't consider myself to be a "bottom feeder" and I was not baiting her. I was looking for a serious conversation - one in the open where all could see our responses. I have had several of these in the past and have always been edified by them. I have changed my opinions on things because of conversations I've had. I will take up the challenge to email her and see if I can start the conversation again. However, I doubt it will be possible. I am now, according to her "mean, low down and nasty." I challenge here to show any post or comment of mine that is "mean, low down and nasty."
Mother Kaeton, if you read this, know that I did not intend to offend, but to learn. I don't want to hurt, but to heal (myself included). It is important to me that I have the right (e.g. God's) take on this. I am not saying that my take is God's, but that I want to know and understand and hold God's take on this and all issues.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
When I was in High School in Atwater California, I was on the High School Debate Team (Surprise! :) )
The coach had a huge number of trophies surrounding his classroom because his teams used to be the best and they knew it. Then he read a book titled "They Call Me Coach" that taught him that winning isn't the goal. Winning is a byproduct of doing your best. After he put that in practice, the teams didn't win as much, but they were better debaters and better people and he was much more loved as a coach and teacher.
I have tried to put that philosphy to work in my life. Winning is not the goal. Whether winning is defined by profits, converts, material wealth, grades, or any other measure of success; winning is not the goal. The goal is to do your best. When you do your best, you will win. You may not have the most or be "Number 1," but you will be a much better person and much better at life in general than if you make the measure to be the goal.
Friday, July 14, 2006
I came to know Jesus as a personal Savior and Lord in Camp San Joaquin in the summer of 1978. I had been a member of the Church all my life, but I finally understood what it is to love and be loved by God there, on the mountain and beside a mountian stream. (But that is another post.)
I love that diocese and will do all I can to support it in this fight.
I call for a day of prayer and fasting on Monday, July 17. I will spend the day drinking only water and will spend the time I would normally spend eating in prayer for the Diocese of San Joaquin, Bishop Schofield, the Network and Windsor bishops, the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.
May God's power be given to Bishop Schofield as he fights to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Bishop, you have served Jesus Christ faithfully and he will be faithful to you. Trust his promise to be with you and tell you what to say when you are brought forth on this matter.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
These are all interesting questions, but for most people, they are exercises in wasted time. Satan loves to have us occupy our time with what will happen in the future. While God knows the future, we do not.
What should we do now? Well, first we need to focus on now. There are people whose task it is to focus on tomorrow. Let them focus on tomorrow. We need to focus on being the Church now. We need to sit at the feet of Jesus and his apostles and learn from them. We need to witness to the power of Jesus Christ to change lives and to redeem us from sin and death. We need to proclaim that Jesus is not just "Savior," he is also "Lord."
That proclaimation needs to take place both in words and in deeds. Are you worried about the ECUSA (or TEC)? Then take up a ministry of service. Find some place in your parish where you can meet Jesus in the poor, the sick, the homeless, the hungry, and those in prison. Find some place where you can serve your neighbors outside your parish. Learn to practice witnessing to the power of Jesus Christ in your own life. Don't focus on tomorrow. Let God worry about tomorrow. Focus on today and on being faithful to God today.
Friday, July 07, 2006
To avoid this path of empty churches, we need to recover our missionary zeal. Along with our missionary zeal, we need to recover our faith in Jesus Christ.
Sunday, July 02, 2006
2 Cor 8:1-9,13-15
Almighty God, give us ears to hear, minds to understand and the will to do those things that you teach us today. Amen.
As many of you know, General Convention concluded a little more than a week ago. You have heard it before and will hear it again: The Episcopal Church is in a crisis. What is going to happen to the Episcopal Church, USA? To the Diocese of Dallas? To our beloved church family here at St. James? I don’t know. Those decisions are made above my pay grade. The Episcopal Church is in a Crisis. But, something I learned in studying Church History is that the Church has always been in a crisis.
Given the turmoil that the Episcopal Church is in, I think that last week’s Gospel was rather apt. Last week, we heard the story of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee and we look for him to calm our storms. But now, instead of saying to the storm, “Peace! Be Still!” I believe that Jesus is saying to us: “peace, be still.”
The prayer we said just before the Scripture readings – called a “collect” because it “collects” our thoughts for worship today - shows us how we can do that – how we can have peace and be still in the midst of our storm – no matter what that storm may be. Let me read it again.
The way to peace and stillness in all of our crises is to follow the teachings of the apostles and prophets and of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. How do we know those teachings? Where can we find them? Well, a good summary of the teaching about God is found in the Nicene Creed and we will say that together after the sermon. As you say it today, think about what each phrase means. What does it say about God? As a brief start to your reflection, let me say this. First it says that we believe in One God in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We believe that God the Father created all things through God the Son. This God loves us and, because we are in rebellion against God, came to earth to be a human being – to become “incarnated” or “en-fleshed” and Jesus. This Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead. He ascended into heaven to take our human nature and join it to the divine nature of God. We believe that Jesus will come again in glory and judge the living and dead. We believe that we are given a new kind of life through God the Holy Spirit who spoke through the prophets. We believe in one Church (however fractured we are, we are all still one Church) that is holy (set apart), catholic (teaches the whole of the faith) and apostolic (follows the teachings of the Apostles). We believe that we will be resurrected and have new life in the world to come.
3. Giving changes us. There is a bond that is set up between the giver and the receiver and both are changed by the gift. When we give, and give with the intention of being the hand of God in a situation, we are changed. I can’t describe it exactly, but I know it to be true. When I minister in prison, I can’t tell who comes away more changed, the men I talk with or me. Sometimes I come away feeling great – like I have helped someone come closer to the Lord today. Sometimes I feel sad – that so much that is good now sits in a very dark place and refuses to see the light. I often think this is how God sees me. When I respond to His invitation, He rejoices. When I reject Him or His word, He is sad that a person for whom His Son died is in a dark place. Giving changes us and brings healing to us and helps us to see God more clearly.
4. We are one body. In the Church, when any one of us is hurting, we all hurt in some way. The smallest pain makes the Body of Christ less effective. Giving heals both the giver and the receiver and brings wholeness to the Body of Christ. Giving outside the Body even helps the body as it brings healing to the giver.
So, we know why we give, but what do we give? Well, most times when we think of giving, we think of giving money and that is great. Money, if you think about it, is a universal means of barter. I trade my time and talents to Perot Systems in exchange for money. Most of us do that – trade time and talents for money. So, money is a measure of our time. Money is also portable. Which is easier to carry? $100 or $100 worth of food? Money is universally traded and, usually, of little or no intrinsic value itself. A $5 bill costs about the same in time and materials as a $100 bill, but the $100 bill is worth 20 times the $5 bill. When giving over long distances, money is often best. This summer, several members of the Diocese are going to Uganda as missionaries from us. Our own Pat Hind is one of the people going. To help her, many people in this congregation didn’t give her food or clothes, they gave her money and I am sure that the missionaries are taking funds to purchase things over in Uganda. Money allows us to help others minister in our name.
In the Name of God: Father and the Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Friday, June 30, 2006
The picture at the right is my son, Joseph, after he realized that he was supposed to be "scared" during a rollercoaster ride. When he realized that being scared was part of the fun, he had a great time and went from riding the small coaster to the two big ones at LegoLand in England.
Now he wants to go to Six Flags and ride the "really big" coasters there!
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Bishop Lillibridge said: "When we are forced to legislate and vote on theological issues, the inevitable result is that winners and losers are created."
The truth is that General Convention was never designed to debate, decide, or vote on theological issues. GC was designed to govern the Church. It is designed to debate budgets, diocesan creation or consolidation, set out rules concerning qualification and training for ordained ministry. GC sets out the disciplinary rules for the Church and provides (or should provide) direction of the ministry of the Church. GC does not, or should not decide the Faith of the Church because everything GC does that is not canonical or constitutional is considered recommendary. (Which makes me wonder why we go through the whole mess because if you don't want to follow the recommendation, you don't have to.)
The Faith of the Church has already been given. I made this point in my post on Ordination. When changes are made in the faith of the Church (such as the proposed change on moral teaching), those changes should be debated by the Bishops and Presbyters of the Church - in concert with the other members of the communion. In truth, there really is no current mechanism to change the teaching of the Church, so we've been making it up as we go along. The method we selected this time has not been a good one for reflection or debate. Perhaps we should come up with a better process before we try to change the faith of the Church.
Monday, June 26, 2006
We know the story. Jesus tells the disciples to go across the sea to the other side. He is tired and sleeps in the stern of the boat. A great storm comes up so that waves are coming in over the sides of the boats and they are about to be swamped. The disciples wake Jesus up with "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" Jesus rebukes the wind and waves with "Peace! Be still!" and the wind ceases and the water is calm as glass. He rebukes the disciples with "Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?"
In my experience with "storms" in my life, I notice two reactions from Jesus. At times, He has rebuked the storm with "Peace! Be still!" and things calm down around me. Other times, Jesus has held me in his arms and whispered to me "peace. be still." When I headed his voice, the storm still raged, but I was protected and knew that I was save in Jesus' arms. When I didn't heed Jesus' words, I found myself yelling at him: "Do you not care that we are perishing!" and Jesus again says "Peace. Be still."
In the ECUSA's present storm that derives from colliding fronts, there is great wind and the waves seem to beat on us. Many are afraid and worried that our ship will sink. We've asked Jesus to rebuke the wind and the waves, but we are causing them. It is time to let Jesus hold us in His arms and listen to Him as He whispers "peace. be still."
In the comming days and weeks and months and, probably, years as the storm that is the ECUSA moves and plays out, let us renew our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us let him hold us and we hold him. Listen to him in our hearts: "Peace. Be still." knowing that we are his children and that storms will rage about us. Ships will flounder, but we will always be in Jesus' arms.
Sunday, June 25, 2006
First "Civil Rights" and then Justice.
Before God, we have no rights. There are no civil rights in the Church - or there should not be. Currently, I am teaching a class on C. S. Lewis' book "The Great Divorce." In Chapter 4, Lewis hears the conversation between "The Big Man" and the saint sent to him (who murdered a mutual acquaintance). "The Big Man" says that he wants his "rights" and refuses to ask for "bleeding charity." The saint responds that only by asking for "the bleeding charity" can anything be given in Heaven. Only by not insisting on one's "rights" will we ever get anywhere. None of us want our rights - for by getting what we deserve, we will all end up in hell and alone.
As for justice, the reappraisers talk as if Justice and Righteousness can be disconnected, but that is a false dichotomy. You cannot be just and, at the same time, be unrighteous. I have been told by several men who know that the word "Justified" in Greek is a passive verb form of "righteous." The two are the same. You cannot be unjust and righteous. Righteousness is a right relationship with God.
The question on sexuality all comes down to what is sinful behavior and how do we determine sinful behavior. The Church has always taught that there are certain behaviors that are always wrong - theft, murder, adultery, fornication, idolatry, greed, lust, covetousness, etc. Homosexual sex has always been in that list of behaviors proscribed all the time - it has been an unrighteous behavior that (like all persistent sins) leads to a breach in our relationship with God and with the Church and leads to darkness of ourselves and our understanding of everything.
Now, a small part of The Church, catholic ( or universal) wants to change that. How do we go about changing it? What tools do we use? What is there for precident on making a change? It seems to me that the reappraisers want to simply declare that it has been changed and that we were wrong without persuading the rest of the Church (let alone the Anglican Communion) that their method for changing the moral teaching is acceptable.
Saturday, June 24, 2006
The past perfect verb "has received" shows an action that was completed and has implications for today. My brothers and sisters, the revelation has been received. It is not in the process of being received. We may come to understand the revelation clearer or more fully, but it has been received. The question of blessing Same Sex Unions and ordining men or women sexually active outside of holy matrimony is not one of discipline (as the reappraisers would have us believe) but one of justice and righteousness. Justice and Righteousness are not opposites nor are they two separate concepts. They are the same. It is impossible to be just without being righteous and impossible to be righteous and unjust. We who are ordained must live in right relationship with God and are called to a higher standard of behavior because we are leaders of the faithful. We re-present Jesus Christ to the Church and to the world. None of us can live that righteous life, but that does not exclude us from the obligation to try and to fall to our knees in repentance when we fail. Sex outside of marriage is failing to live a righteous life. Holy Scripture and Tradition are clear on this and the Church was clear on this until 2000 or 2003.
I am and will remain an Episcopalian in communion with my bishop and the Archbishop of Cantebury. I will stand on the faith that this Church has received and will hand that faith (and no other) to those among whom and with whom I minister.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
I recently spent almost two weeks in London. (I love frequent flyer miles and hotel points - the flight and hotels nights were almost free. We had to pay taxes on the flights, but $400 for four people to fly business class ain't bad!)
On Saturday, June 3rd, we went to Cantebury (which was fantastic! Just to pray in a place where prayer had been offered daily for over 1400 years was wonderful!)
One funny thing happened when we got the Cantebury gate. Right next to the gate is a famous temple of the god of Commerce (not that god, the other one.)
See the image above (I hope).
I believe that the ECUSA is not compliant with the Windosr Report. What does this mean? I don't know. I do know that God is still God and Jesus is still my Lord and Savior. I know that I have a faithful Bishop (+Stanton) and Rector (Fr. Clif +) and a wonderful parish (www.stjamesdallas.org). I will continue to minister to those in prison as I have done for the last 10 years. I know that no matter what the Episcopal House of Bishops or House of Deputies say, that God's truth does not change.
I believe that a revival is coming in the Episcopal Church in the USA. It may take time (about 50 years), but I believe it will come. In my studies of Church History, God always seems to allow the Church to stumble and fall before a revival. We are seeing her stumble now. It may be dark here in the ECUSA, but God's light will not be shut out.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Theologically, I consider myself to be a classic "reasserter" or conservative. I do not believe that the Church has the authority to change the revealed moral law. I accept the ordination of women as presbyters and bishops in the Church, but I believe that all who are ordained have an obligation to teach what the Chuch teaches (and has almost always taught) on matters theological and moral.
Politically, I am a social and fiscal conservative. I believe in helping the poor, the sick, the homeless, and those in prison, but I also believe that the Federal Government is a bad way to accomplish this. Helping the "least of these" is not a goal in itself, but a by product of a society that accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
That's enough for a first post. May God bless you all