Friday, December 26, 2008
First, we have to ask what the work of the Church is? Basically, the work of the Church is to make disciples - students - apprentices - of Jesus Christ and to prepare those souls for eternity with God. The Eastern Orthodox refer to this as "theosis" and it is growing in the new life that the Holy Spirit gives us in Baptism and which we receive in Holy Eucharist.
Whether this work is done within the Church by building up those who already follow Jesus Christ or if the work is done outside the Church by bringing those who do not follow Jesus Christ into a relationship with Him, both are important and part of the Work of the Church. And, just as an aside, every Christian should be involved in some way both in work within the Church and work outside the Church.
Works of corporal mercy - caring for the poor, the sick, the homeless, visiting those in prison, empowering people in society through things like ESL (English as a Second Language) or GED courses or other charitable works are important and are part of the work of the Church, but they, themselves and by themselves, are not the work of the Church.
After we have determined the work of the Church, we need to determine if the fight about sexual morality is distracting from that work or not and then who is distracting whom.
I would say that fighting in the Church today is distracting from the work of the Church and reasserters play a part in this. But the majority of the guilt from distracting from the work of the Church can be laid at the feet of the reappraisers.
My reasoning is two fold. Before General Convention 2000, the Church had discussed and debated blessing same sex unions and awlays said that it was not appropriate or that we would not move forward on this until the communion as a whole changed its mind. In 1998, all the bishops of the Lambeth Conference said that blessing same sex unions and ordaining those involved in same sex unions were outside of the teaching of the Church. The 1998 resolution was not a new teaching - it simply affirmed and codified the existing teaching.
So, it is not the reasserters who kept bringing this issue forward for debate. It is the reappraisers. So after two or three General Conventions, we who think this "new thing" violates the teaching of the Church should simply fall into line?
Second, the debate is not about sex or who sleeps with whom or about homosexuality vs hetersexuality. The debate is about the nature and place of authority in the Church. Does a single person have the authority to change teaching on something that the bible and the universal church so roundly condemned? How about a diocese? A province? Does even the Anglican Communion as a whole have that authority and still be considered a church based on "Scripture, Tradition, and Reason?"
Now, I am a reasserter. I believe that God does not bless homosexual sex and further I believe that He considers it sinful. I base this belief on what I read in Holy Scripture. So, if you want to convince me (and other reasserters) that God does bless homosexual sex, then you have to make your argument out of what our Presiding Bishop, Katherine Jefferts-Schori, as said to be our primary source of authority - Holy Scripture. Show me where God blesses homosexual sex within the Holy Scriptures.
The Spirit with the Purple Tail
There was a family of ghosts - Pappa Ghost, Mama Ghost and little Johnny Ghost. Each ghost has somethin unique about him or her that sets him apart from all other ghosts.
Johnny's unique feature was his purple tail. It was long and scintillating and would flow behind him as he ran through the house he loved to haunt. He would often take his head off and put it on backwards just so he could see his tail flow behind him.
Now all good ghosts have to be in by 6:00 in the morning or something terrible would happen to them. And, like all young ghosts, Johnny kept pushing the time. One night, he was having so much fun haunting this one house - he would run in the front door, through all the rooms and walls and then out the back door - that he lost track of time. As he passed the back door, the first stroke of six struck and he said: "I've got time for one more run!" and proceeded through the house again.
Bong! Bong! Bong! Bong! As the last stroke of six struck, he flew out the back door which shut on him and cut off his purple tail!
Johnny was inconsolable. He did nothing with his friends and just mopped around the attic all night.
Finally, his mother said to her husband: "Dear, you have to do something about Johnny! That kid's going to be the life of me yet. Please, do something.
So the dad gives his son 20 dollars and sends him to the liquor store.
wait for it
That's where they "re-tail" spirits!
Feel free to add your suggestions for penance, you own shaggy dog stories, or your own bad jokes in the comments.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
John was a man who lived on a farm with his family. While his wife was religious and attended church faithfully, he never went.
"I don't believe all that religious stuff." he said. "I mean that stuff about virgins conceiving or dead men coming back to life or God becoming man. It just doesn't make any sense."
One Christmas eve, the wife had take the children to church while John stayed home. Later, it began to snow heavily.
John looked out the window and found bird had hit his living room window in the snow storm.
A whole flock of birds were landing in his yard.
"They'll die if they don't get under some shelter" John thought. So he put on his boots and coat and went and opened the barn door and turned on the light in the barn.
"There. They can go into the barn and that will save them" he thought. But the birds kept landing in his yard. So he put on his boots and coat again and tried to shoo the birds into the barn. But everywhere we went among the birds, they just fluttered up out of his way and landed back on the yard.
"Stupid Birds" he thought. "I'm just so big that all I do is scare them. They're too frightened of me to follow me into the barn. If only I could become a bird - for just a moment, then I could lead them into the barn and they would live."
At that moment, the church bells rang to announce the birth of the Savior. John was overcome with emotion and fell to his knees and said: "Lord, I now know why you had to become a man. You had to lead us into the barn."
May you all have a blessed feast of the Incarnation.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
But Christmas is nothing without Good Friday and Easter.
The only reason that the Incarnation makes any difference - let alone any sense - is because of the work of Jesus on the Cross and in the Resurrection.
Mary, it is said, kept all these things in her heart. I wonder if, during the Three Days, she remembered the shepherds and the Magi - Simeon and Anna. I wonder if Simeon's words to her: "and a sord will pierce through your own soul also." ever came back to her during Jesus' arrest, trial, and crucifixion.
Sometimes we make too much of Mary - there are those who treat Mary as some form of co-redemptorix or as some minor diety. Sometimes we ignore Mary too much. In reaction to giving Mary a place beside Jesus we over react by not giving her enough honor. There is no saint or other person (outside of Jesus) that has done as much for us and our salvation as Mary did. Her "yes" to God was the mirror image of Eve's "Yes" to herself. Mary's willingness to "let it be to me according to your word" is what gave the world God incarnate and what continued the plan of salvation. For this, she should be remembered and honored.
If you have time before you celebrate the Incarnation, please view the video below. It brought me to tears as I pondered what Mary did for us - how she allowed us to be freed from sin and death by delivering her son so that He could deliver us.
Hail Mary, Full of Grace! The Lord is with thee!
Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.
Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me - a sinner.
Monday, December 22, 2008
I think one of the greatest sentences ever said to God comes from Mary: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word."
Now most of us like to think we would respond like Mary if faced with an archangel's request. But I don't believe that is the case. As evidence for my belief, I simply point to all of history.
We spend too much of our lives saying (or living as if we had said), "Behold, I am no one's slave. Let it be to me according to my word." By the way, the Greek for "handmaid" is the feminine form of "doulos" - slave.
We want to think of ourselves as the captains of our own ship. The master of our own destiny. We want to sing, with Frank Sinatra, "I did it my way!" That is very self-satisfying. But it is also self-defeating. "My way" is not the same as God's way.
My way focuses on getting my needs met and my desires fulfilled. God's way is the way of self-emptying and the turning of desires into desire for God.
So, how can we ever say "Behold, I am God's slave. Let it be to me according to your word." I believe that is the purpose of Advent.
Being a slave, in Jesus time, meant one of three things. Either you were born a slave, your people were defeated in war, or you had too many debts so you (and your family) were sold into slavery. In all three cases, it was possible to purchase your freedom.
Let's look at those three ways of being a slave. The first is easy - being born a slave. We don't mind this metaphor too much - after all, no one is responsible for his or her birth. We are all born as slaves to sin. We don't really mind being part of a race of people enslaved to sin.
The second, however, is more complicated. Being defeated in a war. We don't like defeat and we hate to admit that we have been defeated. We are in a spiritual war and, without God, we are fighting on the wrong side. Are you ready to admit that you can't win the battle on your own? Are you willing to admit that you are in rebellion against God and need to surrender? Are you ready to accept defeat at God's hands and become his slave?
The third path to slavery is also not pleasant - being sold to pay debts. Our sins are like debts that need to be repaid and we cannot pay them. We don't have the capital or income to pay the debts we owe. Are you ready to accept that you cannot pay your debts? Are you ready to accept slavery as the just reward for your debts?
Now, here is one of the greatest paradoxes of the Christian faith. Slavery leads to freedom. The first path to freedom with God is to recognize your poverty of self. It is to realize that you have nothing that is not given to you from God and that you have mis-used and abused what God has given for your. By accepting slavery with God - by surrendering to Him, we become people who have been freed.
See, God wants free men and women, but they only way they can be free is to stop being slaves to themselves or to their desires or to their sins. So we must first become slaves to God. Then God gives us our freedom. We are given spiritual wealth beyond our imagination when we surrender to God. We are given victory in our battles when we let God fight for us. We are freed from self and from sin and from death when we allow God to guide us.
As we approach the Feast of the Incarnation, let us practice saying "Behold, I am God's slave. Let it be to me according to His word."
Friday, December 19, 2008
Thank you all for your prayers and please continue to keep Elizabeth in your prayers as she faces recovery and rehabilitation.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
This lack of waiting has infected the Episcopal Church on both sides of the issue. On the reappraising side, they were not willing to wait for the communion to change its mind on blessing same sex unions or on ordaining men or women active outside of marriage. Even when General Convention said that we wouldn't proceed until the communion changed its mind, we didn't listen to ourselves. We got tired of waiting and moved forward. "Justice delayed is Justice denied" is the watch word of the reappraisers and they framed this as a justice issue rather than a righteousness issue.
On the reasserting side, they were not willing to wait on the communion for discipline. They saw that the reappraisers were "winning" and moved forward to create multiple overlapping jurisdictions - some from Uganda, some from Kenya, some from Nigeria, some from South America, some from Rwanda and some just cut off from TEC. They talked of the need for life boats. I've heard laymen and women complain that the souls of their children were in danger because of the confirmation classes and sermons preached by clergy in TEC.
The inability to wait on the reappraising side triggered the inability to wait on the reasserter side. Let me be clear. The troubles confronting TEC and the Anglican Communion can be laid at the feet of the reappraisers.
What we need to recover - and not just for Advent - is the ability to wait. Israel waited several hundred years as slaves in Egypt. They waited 40 years in the desert before they reaced the promised land. They waited for 400 years between the return from exhile and the coming of the Messiah. Christians have waited for 2000 years (so far) for the return of Jesus.
Can't we wait a bit longer before we insist on our own ways? Can't we wait upon God and His solutions? Have we lost the ability to wait in silence before God?
For God alone my soul in silence waits
from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold, so that I shall not be greatly shaken.
For God alone my soul in silence waits
truly, my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold, so that I shall not be greatly shaken.
In God is my safety and my honor;
God is my strong rock and my refuge
Put your trus in him always, O People,
Pour out your hearts before Him, for God is our refuge.
In this last 8 days of Advent, let's us wait up on the Lord and look to Him (and not to political wrangling) for our salvation.
Monday, December 15, 2008
I ask your prayers for her healing. She is nervous about the upcoming operation. I ask that you pray for a full and complete recovery - for peace of mind and for courage to face the upcoming pain and rehabilitation. Also, this is finals week at her school. I would ask that you pray that she would not be distracted by her fear and be able to focus on her tests.
I also ask that you pray for the doctors and medical team that will be treating her.
Finally, I ask that you pray for my wife, Beverly, and I (especially Beverly) as we care for Elizabeth.
For the last operation, Elizabeth had several months to heal before she went back to school. This time, she has two weeks.
As part of our reflection for Advent, we need to consider just whom is coming. For whom are we waiting? Why are we waiting for him?
These questions can be answered by looking at what Jesus asked Peter - "Who do you say that I am?" There is no more important question that we can answer than "Who is Jesus."
There are two answers to this question that sound really good to us and that we like to hear. The first answer is that Jesus is like a guru that helps us to get in touch with the divine in our lives. We learn to look for the "christ consciousness" in our selves. This affirms the original good in us - our "Original Blessing" if you will. This sounds good and affirming. We all want to think that we are basically good people who have just gone a little off. This version of Jesus serves our need for transcendence in our lives. "The Kingdom of God is within you." We need the sence of the Holy and this brings us there - by looking in a mirror and marveling at the wonderful work of God manifest in our selves.
The second answer is that Jesus is a wonderful teacher of moral truths. However, his followers could not see what he was teaching and got his teaching wrong. This is Jesus as "life coach" who comes to us to help us be better people. This affirms the need to serve the poor, to be work for social justice. This version of Jesus calls us outside of ourselves to serve others. This Jesus helps us to understand that freedom is found in service.
Both of these Jesuses have some basis in scripture. Both are true - they just are (like all heresies) not true enough. Both of these Jesuses are like chocolate. They taste good going down, but there is very little nourishment there and the consequences of a steady diet of this Jesus is deadly to your long term well being.
There are two words to discribe Jesus and both are necessary. The first is "Savior." We don't really like the word "savior" - it implies that we need to be saved. Being saved means that we have to admit that we are going to die without our savior - we are not going to live. Having a savior means that we have to admit to the world and to God and to ourselves that we are not nice people after all. We are not "basically good" and we are not divine by nature. We are utterly lost without our savior. Who is Jesus? He is my savior. Without Him I will die eternally. He heals me from myself and calls me out of my self and selfishess.
If we don't like "savior," then we really won't like the second word, "Lord." Jesus is our Lord and we don't like that. It implies that we need a Lord - a person to rule over us. Having a Lord implies surrender.
During this Advent ask yourself - for whom are you waiting? Are you waiting for a person to awaken the divine within you? Are you waiting for someone to teach you the same moral truths that you already know?
Or, are you waiting for a Savior and Lord - someone to whom you can surrender and admit that you can't do it alone. Are you waiting for someone to make you new or just make you better? Are you waiting for Jesus - the Son of God - the Messiah - the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? He is the only one worth waiting for. The other Jesus - the guru or the life coach or the moral teacher are a dime a dozen and can be found in any self help book. There is no need to wait for him.
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and ransome our captive souls. Free us from the prison we have built for ourselves. Help us to die to self and die to sin so that we can be raised in new Life and live in the resurrection.
The disputes on property are being handled just like a very acrimonious and messy divorce. Neither side may have a full claim to the property, but neither want the other to have any benefit from it. It's like a wife who cannot afford the house after the husband moves out but doesn't want to sell it and split the money with the ex-husband let alone let the ex-husband have the house. Likewise, the ex-husband "will be damned" if he'll let this woman have the house he worked so hard to pay for.
On all sides of this issue, we claim the title of Christian. When a congregation cannot see a way to remain within TEC, then we should be able to reach some form of compromise that honors the contributions of all involved and in both directions. The congregation did derive some benefit from being in TEC and in the diocese. Likewise, both TEC and the diocese derived benefit from the people in the congregation.
I propose that we let congregations share the property. Many congregations have multiple services on Sunday mornings. Let the congregation that has the most people attending pick their time and then let the smaller congregation have an alternate time. For major feast days that don't have multiple services (such as Maundy Thursday or the Great Vigil), develop some plan to share the space and have one service. Plan to do things such as mission or outreach work with both congregations.
Rather that buring the earth and sowing salt there, let's let Charity and forebearance rule our hearts.
Anger and hatred make great defenses against God's transforming love.
Friday, December 12, 2008
First, it gets us to spend a lot of time and money aquiring stuff in the hopes that they can make us happy. This is money that we cannot save and time we cannot be in ministry. The truth is that only God can make us happy.
Second, we spend a lot of time with our stuff trying to get it to make us happy. Again, only God alone is our source of true happiness.
It seems that Christmas has become more and more about stuff and less and less about Jesus. It seems that every year, "Christmas" (or, more accurately "Consumermass") starts earlier and earlier. We saw Consumermass items in Sams around Labor day this year!
Now, I am as guilty of running after the latest gadget and buying stuff as the next person. So, what is the antidote? I believe the best antidote is prayer and meditation. "For God alone, my soul in silence waits (Pslam 62:1)"
Advent is a time of waiting. It is a time of preparation. To aid the handful of people who read this blog in their preparation, I offer the following link:
O Come, O Come
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
We process to the back of the church and then I peel off and return to just before the chancel steps. After the final hymn, I then walk up the aisle reciting the Great Commission:
And Jesus came and said to them: "All authority in heave and on earth has
been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always,
to the close of the age."
Oddly enough, one of the hardest places to make disciples is in the Church. We have a lot of people who are interested in becoming members but not too many are interested in being disciples. I find it odd that it is actually easier to make disciples in prison than it is among may church members.
One of the reasons for this phenomenon is that too many people in the "free world" (as the Kairos inmates call it) don't recognize their need for Jesus. They think they have it pretty good. They are like Job who guaged his relationship with God by his wealth, family, and friends. As Job said in his final statement to God: "I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee; therefore I dispise myself and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:6).
Too many people in our churches know God only through the "hearing of the ear." They love God and want to know that God loves them. But they don' t need God. They don't need to be changed - only improved a bit. They don't need a savior; they need a "life coach" who will help them to become their true selves.
How do we combat this attitude? I believe it is at the heart of the problem with the Episcopal Church. Too many people see themselves as good people who just need to do a little work to improve themselves. They need to 12 step out of their destructive behaviors.
As C. S. Lewis said, the reality is that we are not good people who need to improve. We are rebels who need to lay down our arms.
In prison, I meet many men who are ready to surrender. Their "true selves" have betrayed them and they are defeated. Like any defeated army, they have two choices - surrender or death. Is it any wonder they chose surrender?
So, do any of you have any suggestions on how we can move people from membership to discipleship?
Monday, December 08, 2008
So, what should I do about it? I long for a Church where the Gospel is unashamedly proclaimed and where the faith is lived out courageously and where others are brought to faith in Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
But I won't find such a Church on earth. Every congregation and diocese and province has its problems. While the Church's one foundation is Jesus Christ (as we hear in that wonderful hymn) we also know that the Church has been "by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed." Our great heroes of th efaith, from Anthony through Athanasius, the Capodicians, Ratramnus and Radburtus, Benedict, Anselm, Dominic, Francis, Aquinas, Luther, Cramner, Latimer, Ridley, Hooker, Jewel, Wesley, Pusey, and a host of others have all found the problem of heresies in the Church. The problem is not that the Church is beset by heresy. It has always been beset by heresy. The problem is that we lack the discipline to do anything about it in TEC. And because we lacked that discipline in the past, we are in a place where "discipline" is being taken against the orthodox believers.
The conservatives' fight for the soul of TEC has been lost.
So, part of me wants to depart of a place where this is not the case. To a place where conservatives win the day and where I don't have to say "I am an Episcopalian... but a different kind of one."
But, I am convince that God wants me to stay in TEC. I know that I cannot win the battle. Banding together with other conservatives will not even win the battle. But God has shown me that winning the battle is not my job! My job is not success. It is faithfulness. The battle is not mine. It is the Lord's.
The inside "strategy" is not a political one where we hope to overthrow the liberal/revisionist/reappraiser hierarchy. It is a strategy where we band together for mutual support in our faithfulness to the faith delivered to us. My strategy is to be emptied (=kenosis)
of my desire to win and to accept that God has other plans for me rather than victory in this life. The strategy is to be faithful to God and be a faithful witness to God's power to make new. Even when we lose politically and even when we suffer for the Gospel, we are to be faithful. Even in the midst of a people of unclean lips, we are to be faithful. Even when the whole house of TEC plays the harlot and worships at the altar of society, we are to be faithful. Even when God calls TEC "not my people," we are to be faithful.
My strategy is faithfulness in the face of opposition and faithlessness. I am not called to win. I am called to witness.
Monday, December 01, 2008
Consider, if you will, the case of a husband and wife discussing the purchase of a new sports-car. The wife is dead set against it for several reasons, but is willing to be persuaded by the husband. She has several reasons, but the major reason is that they cannot afford the car. Still, they have been talking about a new car (and the husband suggesting a new sports car) for a long time.
One evening, while the wife is out doing something else, the husband purchases the sports car he wants. He tells his wife that he has been "in discernment" about this car for a while and doesn't undertstand the wife's anger.
Can you imagine the wife's reaction when the husband wants to continue to discuss the purchase of a new sports car?
Finally, if the husband has a habit of spending money that the family cannot afford, then the wife may have to divorce him to save the children - especially if the husband will not curb his spending and refuses to acknowledge that he is putting the family in danger.
I am not advocating schism, but a return to the status quo ante. If we are going to continue to discern whether God blesses homosexual sex or if the Church should ordain people who are engage in homosexual relationships, then we should first discuss it and then act when we have consensus. Don't buy the sports car and then ask for continued dialogue on the subject.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Dean Robert Munday of Nashotah House wrote a response the core of which argument I find here:
While some may argue that the best way to preserve the unity of the Anglican
Communion is to preserve the unity of the American Church (or, failing that, not
to recognize any group that splits off from the American Church), I would argue
the exact opposite. The best way to preserve the unity of the Anglican Communion
is to allow the American church to divide (which is happening anyway, whether
anyone likes it or not) and to recognize two North American provinces. Some
overseas provinces will relate to one of the North American provinces more than
the other. But there will not be the present level of vigorous advocacy (and
border crossing) that now threatens to divide the Communion.
Now for my own feable attempt at reconciliation. I believe that the majority of the leadership of TEC is heretical and becoming apostate. I also believe that TEC is, itself, not apostate. The official positions of the church are, for now, Christian (with a few exceptions, such as membership in the Religious Council for Reproductive Choice). However, I live and worship and work in an orthodox diocese under orthodox bishops and an orthodox priest. It is easy to remain in TEC here in Dallas.
What I am more interested in, for this post, is the reasons than people pursuing an inside strategy (by remaining in TEC and working for reform within the structures of the Anglican Communion) and those purusing and outside strategy (by breaking from TEC and forming partnerships - particularly this new province) have so much animosity towards each other.
Those who are "outside looking in" seem to think that we who are on the inside are cowards who want only to keep our pensions and our pretty buildings and our jobs. Likewise, those on the "inside looking out" also have called those on the outside "cowards" because they have left the fight for TEC. The insiders point to the leftward shift of TEC since the 1970s when the Anglican Continuum left (and fractured even more).
Here is my take on the subject. Many of the outsiders and insiders are correct that the church in which they were raised and that they love and that nurtured and uplifted them through many bad times is gone. The majority of the leaders in the church have become unfaithful to the faith that was given to them. They have subsituted the god within for the God that created the universe. They have searched for self-fulfillment rather than self-death.
One of the images that God uses for Israel and the Church in Holy Scripture is that of marriage. Read Hosea or Paul's letter to the Ephesians or the Revelation to St. John if you doubt me. So, with an unfaithful wife we have two alternatives. One is to live with the unfaithfulness and the other is divorce. What we are witnessing right now is the emotional baggage that come with a divorce or from a marriage that has been destroyed by an unfaithful spouse.
We have two groups of people who agree with each other on what has happened. We don't agree on what to do about it. So, with our hearts wounded by our Church leaders, we often act out of anger and injured pride.
So, then, what should we do? I believe that we should recognize that we are fighting a common enemy - the spirit of the age - and we should work together where we can and we should not condemn each other nor should we hinder each other's efforts. I believe that TEC will not be a full member of the Anglican Communion for long (say 10 years). I also believe that God is in charge and that He will act when He deems it best, not when we deem it best. For those of us fighting the inside strategy, we should continue that fight and be ready to move when God gives us a clear sign. We need to consider that we might be wrong and the outside strategy is what God calls us to. For those of us fighting an outside strategy, we should be faithful and consider that we might be wrong and the inside strategy might be best and what God desires.
When it comes to discerning the will of God, we are all still clouded by sin. All too often, the voice of God sounds like our own voice and urges us to do things we want to do anyway. We need to guard against that.
In the end, we should look towards the whole communion for a solution. As Americans, we are all to often ready to serve God and the Chruch as adivsors only, not as servants.
To the Bishops and priests who lead the orthodox Anglicans, I call on you to remember that you are first, and foremost, deacons - servants. Lead as servants, not as masters.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Now - for your assignment. The statewide lockdown came about because a correctional officer (guard) smuggled a cell phone into Death Row and one of the inmates used it to call and threaten a State Senator. In other states (and probably in Texas) cell phones have been used in the unit to order hits or conduct illegal business. This could be solved by installing a cell phone interrupter device. But, since cell phones use public airways, the FCC regulates this and has not allowed states to put them on Correctional Insitutions (such as prisons).
Please write or email or call your Congressman and Senators and ask them to either urge the FCC to allow for Cell Phone interruption within Correctional Institutions or to sponser and support legislation to do this.
First, we must ask what the goal of the Christian life is. The goal of the Christian life is union with God - as the Eastern Orthodox call it, theosis. Athanasius said that God became man so that men might become gods. In baptism, God gives us a life qualitatively like His own. We are to grow in this new life and nurture it. This is what the disciplines of the Church are for. Centuries of Christians have found that we grow more in God's life when we discipline ourselves like athletes or soldiers (two images the Paul uses to describe the Christian life).
So, the disciplines are useful for growing as Christians. Cursillo taught me that the Christian life is based on three things - Piety, Study, and Apostolic Action. All three are necessary to life a Christian life.
So, if we are maintaining our discipline, how can we know when we are doing so to be closer to God or so that we can feel better about ourselve and resist God changing us?
I don't know that we can. As fallen creatures, our motovation is often (always?) mixed.
I remember about 8 years ago, I had just entered the discernment process. I had been very active in the Kairos prison ministry (and I still am). Each weekend, I got such a spiritual high that I couldn't wait till the next weekend. I was worried that I was becoming a "spiritual high junkie" and was involved in the ministry because of the great feelings I received and because of the praise of others when they found out I was involved in prison ministry. I brought this to the attention of my Spiritual Director and he ordered me to serve on a team, but ask the Rector (leader) of the team to assign me to a position where I was not that involved with the inmates or with the team. I did so and,while I enjoyed the weekend, I did not get that great spiritual high. When I came back my Spiritual Director asked me about the weekend and I told him it was OK, but a lot of work with little consolation. He asked me if I was planning on serving on other teams and I said that absoultely I would serve on other teams. He then told me to shut up about my motovations and leave that to God, but to continue to serve and to the work to which I had been called.
So, If you are concerned about your motovations for obeying the Christian disciplines, then my advice to you is to put that concern before God in prayer, meditation and contemplation. Let God worry about your motovation and continue in the discipline. But be aware. Opening your motovation to God and asking Him to purify you and your motovations can be very dangerous. You will end up changed and made new.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
This got me thinking on one of my favorite topics. Using religion to hide from God. I'm familiar with this topic because I've used religion (and still have a tendency to do so) to hide from God.
The Church can be a wonderful place where we can use our religion and our religious busy-ness to keep God at arm's length. So long as we are involved in Church - so long as we can perceive ourselves to be "good" people who love God and we can point to our religious activities as proof of our love of God, we can keep God away from interefering too much in our daily lives.
I remember when I was in high school and my early adult years. I thought being a good Christian was about being involved in Church. I was an acolyte (and had been since I was 9 years old). I was a lay reader, a chalice bearer, a Sunday School teacher, even a Lay Eucharistic Minister (now Lay Eucharistic Visitor). I felt that being a good Christian was about getting my ticket punched for different destinations - kind of like moving my "Jesus" piece around a board until I passed "Go."
I see many people who live like that in the Church. They are so busy with being religious that they don't take time for faith. Christianity is far more about a relationship with God - about participating in the perichoresis of the Holy Trinity through trusting in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ than it is about obeying the rules and saying the right formulas.
What do you get when you read all the right books and say all the right prayers and live an outwardly upright and moral life? What do you get when you are at Church every time the doors are open and you can take pride in your tithe, your participation, and your level of commitment to the Church?
You don't get a good Christian. You get a good pharisee. What does it take, then, to make a good Christian? It takes faith - trust in God and the Grace of God actualized in our lives.
So, why do we have the rules and the morality and the outward activities of the Faith?
I'll ruminate on that tomorrow (hopefully).
Friday, July 25, 2008
The mission of the Church can be summed up in the Great Commission:
And Jesus came to them and said: "All authority in heaven and on earth has
been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you and lo, I am with you
always, to the close of the age."
Another way to say this is that the mission of the Church is to reconcile all people with God and each other thru Jesus Christ. Any thing that detracts from this mission is bad. That which furthers the mission is good.
The MDGs are good works. They can be ways of furthering the mission of the Church, but they are not the mission of the Church. I will work with non-Christians in relieving poverty, bringing good news to prisoners, working for justice and peace and other "good works" but only if I can do them in the name of Jesus Christ and only if I can, in some way, further the mission of the Church. The Church is only the Church when she is evangelizing.
Now that does not necessarily mean that we start grabbing people by the shirt and asking if they know Jesus. It does not mean that we need to be overt in our evangelism. A great deal of evangelism is what I call "covert." Evangelism can begin with justice issues. It can begin by working the the MDGs. But at some point it needs to be plain that we are doing this because of what Jesus has done for us and what He can do for them.
The MDGs cannot be a goal of the Church. They are a byproduct of living the Great Commission. The MDGs and any other social justice work are works done because of what Jesus has first done for us. If we make them the goal, we cease to be the Church. If we put them ahead of the Great Commission, we start to worship a false god.
I fear that this is what TECUSA is doing - particularly at Lambeth now. Our church leadership is trying to convince others that theology doesn't matter and that soteriology doesn't matter and that moral living doesn't matter. Only "mission" matters. This is a lie and leads to death because it leads to a false god (see the previous post).
I can support most of the MDGs because they can be great means of brining God's word and the new life that Jesus brings to those who do not know Jesus or need to know him better (which is all of us!).
Monday, July 21, 2008
To that, I respectfully, but firmly disagree. What we believe and how we behave have great impact on our relationship with God.
As human beings, we were designed to worship. Worship is built into the human psyche. We will always find something to worship. What we worship is critically important. When we worship false gods, they lead to death because they lead us from the author of life. Worshipping a false God leads us from life into the darkness and loneliness of hell.
Now, here is the great joke and great secret. We all worship a false god. I don’t mean that we do this intentionally, but that we all have false ideas of God and we worship the God we know. Our prayer should be to know God as He truly Is, not as we perceive Him to be. But this is impossible because we lack the capacity to know God as He truly Is. We cannot comprehend God. We can only apprehend God.
Now, each of us understands God a little differently. That is why we need the community of the Church. That is why I need you and you need me. As +Rowan Williams said, only the whole Church knows the whole truth (or as much of it as can be known).
Our inability to know God as He Is is another reason why dogmatic theology or systematic theology or the study of theology is important as well as the study of Holy Scripture . The Creeds and the teaching of the Church give us a much better frame work to know God. They are record by which we know which God we are worshipping and serve as signposts that tell us to turn around (repent) and return to the God made known in Holy Scripture and in the theology of the Church – particularly the theological statements that are the Creeds.
In Holy Scripture, God’s relationship with Israel is often described in terms of a husband/wife relationship. The church is called the Bride of Christ and has been referred to by the term “Holy Mother Church.”
I have been married to my wife for over 20 years. I will never understand or fully know her. She is a mystery to me and I anticipate continued joy as I spend the rest of my life trying to understand the mystery that is my wife. But that does not give me leave to sleep with another woman based on “mistaken identity.” If I crawl into bed and there is a 5’2” blonde with blue eyes, then that is not my wife and I had better get out of bed immediately!
If we find that the God we worship is no the same as the God revealed in Holy Scripture or discovered in the creeds, then we better return to the God of Scripture immediately. If we find that our idea of God conflicts with what the Church says (and has always said) about God, then we had better reform our ideas rather than try to reform the Church.
If we worship “the ground of being” rather that God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; then we are worshipping a false God and that worship will (unless we repent) lead to our spiritual death.
So, the study of theology is not “academic;” it is very important. It further makes known God as He Is. But the theology we study and learn needs to be grounded in Holy Scripture first and foremost. We need to worship, not the god we know of, but God as He has revealed Himself in Holy Scripture and the teaching of the Church.
Friday, July 04, 2008
Today in the Fourth of July. I would like to reflect on the things I love and the things I hate about my country. Let's start with the things I love
Freedom - We have the freedom to worship and believe and act on those beliefs. While this is messy, we probably have the most diverse views of faith and religion and religious practice in the world. We also have considerable economic freedom and in the USA almost anyone with a good idea can make it big. Finally, we have political freedom. Our Constitution does not grant rights to the people, it recognizes the rights granted by God.
Political System - while I don't like the new 24/7 political wrangling and constant campain whre every word or sentence or action of every member of the political classes is scrutanized for its impact on the next election, our electoral system is probably the best in the world. While I wish we had better people in office (vote for me, Phil Snyder, for Benevolent Dictator, 2008!), we probably have as good as any other country.
Inventiveness - The USA is responsible for the internet, for many advances in the fields of computers, physics, chemestry, etc. Since we were the place where people who didn't get along with their current governments went for so long, we got a lot of people who like to think differently. This gave us a great pool of inventors. I owe my job to the Apollo moon missions because it was the shrinking of components that was necessary to support Apollo that gave us the desktop and laptop computers.
Now, the things I don't like
Individualism - we have moved from a country where we supported each other to a country were we fight each other over small stuff. As a trivial example, consider traffic where there is a lane closure. We all hate this and we hate even more, the people who zoom along in the empty lane, waiting until the last minute to merge. This increases the bottle neck at the merge point and slows down everyone else. A couple of years ago, my wife and I went to the opening of WalMart for it's after Christmas sale. The majority of people joined the line but a handful (about 50) stood at the door and rushed it when it opened so they could get the best deals. We have forgotten our sense of community. This leads to abortion on demand (I want what's best for me and I don't care about anyone else), pornography, drug use and abuse, worship of self, and a lot of our social woes.
Consumerism - we are a nation of consumers. We are being sold to constantly and we look to things to make us happy. God created us to love people and use things, but we love things and use people (see individualism above). We spend too much time and too much money to buy too much stuff that can't fulfill us. We overspend because we want it all and we want it now. Stuff is not evil in itself, but our attraction to stuff gets in the way of our relationships with others and with God. Just about everything in life - from toothpaste to our political candidates are branded and sold to us, not offered to us to consider.
Even when I think our country can be greatly improved, I still think it is the best country on earth. May God bless us and recall us to Himself.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
The "Inclusive Church" has a statement about the recent steatement from GAFCON. You can read it at the link, but here is my fisking of the statement:
The "Statement on the Global Anglican Future” released after the
GAFCON conference in Jerusalem shows once again how deeply many people
misunderstand the nature and spirit of Anglicanism. It misrepresents
loyal, orthodox, traditional Anglicans across the world who are
working and praying, in the spirit of the Gospel, to bring about the reign of
God on earth.
That GAFCON was necessary is evidence of how "deeply many people misunderstand the nature and spirit of Anglicanism." But the problem is that the GAFCON delegates are the ones who do understand the nature and spirit of Anglicanism. It is the groups who are trying to change the Church from the Body of those who are being made new in Jesus Christ to a body of those who are affirmed in their deepest selves. GAFCON represents (not mis-represents) "loyal, orthodox, traditional Anglicans across the world."
Anglicanism is is a dynamic, changing, growing and living faith which takes its
authority from scripture, reason and tradition. It is unafraid to
learn and receive anew the lessons of God's unconditional love. The last
century has taught us how we must make sure that there are no barriers to the
welcome we offer to God's house. Anglican Christians in the United
States, Britain and across the world have applied those lessons and, in
accordance with scripture, opened their doors to those previously shut
This is a pretty true statement. But Inclusive Church has rejected Scripture, Tradition, and reason. (Note that "scripture" is not capitalized). The Church does need to be more open and call all people into relationship with the Holy Trinity. But that call is not a call to affirm yourself. It is a call to die to self to be raised with Jesus Christ. The only barriers to welcome in God's hourse should be within ourselves and include those sins of which we will not repent.
We welcome the response of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the GAFCON
statement. The arbitrary creation of a "Primates' Council” without
legitimacy or authority cuts directly across the Anglican Instruments of
Communion - the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference,
the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates Meeting. The Statement
represents, in sum and despite its denials, a schismatic document which
seeks to re-form Anglicanism in a way which is without justification
historically and ecclesiologically.
The audacity of this statement is almost beyond belief. Having rejected the authority of the Primates Council, Lambeth, the ACC, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, how can they question anyone who works both inside and outside these structures. GAFCON is not attempting to replace either Lambeth, the ACC, the Primates Council or the ABC. GAFCON is asking for a primates group to steer the GAFCON church within a church. This is actually better than the Inclusive Church or the Integrity way of acting schimatically by telling the rest of the Church that they are wrong and shouldn't be listened to.
We regret the stumbling blocks which are created by the insistence on a
narrow understanding of scriptural authority, especially for members of Anglican
Churches in provinces whose leaders support the ideas of GAFCON. And
those who break away from the Anglican Communion will still have the challenge
of celebrating the diversity in God's universe, and acknowledging the divine
gifts bestowed on people who may be marginalised in some provinces - especially
women and lesbian and gay people.
Chesterton once said "The purpose of an open mind is the same as an open mouth - to close it upon something." It seems that Inclusive Church wants to have scripture (for them it has no capital) to be so open as to avoid all meaning. There are many ways to interpret scripture in its plain sense. The problem comes when you interpret Holy Scripture to say what it manifestly does not say. When you insist on ways of interpreting Scripture that the Church has never used or has used and found wanting. No one is denying that God gives gifts to homosexuals or to women. We do deny that God blesses homosexual sex in any fashion.
We are reminded of Matthew 11.16 - "To what shall I compare this
generation? It is like children sitting in the market places and calling
to one another, "We played the flute for you and you did not dance; we
wailed and you did not mourn.”
I am reminded of Gal 1:8 "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed." No one is asking people not to dance nor not to mourn. What we are asking for is simple compliance with the united voice of the Anglican Communion in recognizing sin as sin and refusing to bless it.
Above all we give thanks that the Spirit which leads us into all truth continues
to inspire and refresh the Anglican Communion. We all have much to learn
from each other, and we look forward to the Lambeth Conference. We pray
that in humility and openness those who attend will grow in their understanding
of the Gospel, of the Communion and of one another so that we can all be
newly equipped to serve the God who calls each of us into God's immeasurable
I share this prayer and I pray that the Holy Spirit comes with great power upon the bishops assembled at Lambeth. I pray that the stiff necked people who will not submit to the will of God as it is made plain in Holy Scripture and the teaching of the Church will bend their necks, lower their hearts and bend their knews and surrender to God's grace and love.
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
But what the progressives follow the truth (we can't understand God and can't know Him with certainty) with is very false. They propose that, because we can't be certain about God because we can't fully understand and know God, we should allow that God desires us to do new things or to try new directions contrary to what the Church has said that God revealed in Holy Scripture.
This is a way to void the authority of Holy Scripture and replace it with the authority of the individual. Since we can't be certain of what God wants, we can't know that God doesn't want me to (get divorced, eat too much, cheat on my taxes, spend more than I make, waste resources, have sex outside of marriage, redefine marriage, take your pick). If we can't be certain of what God wants and doesn't want, then isn't almost everything adiaphora - non-essential?
The Truth (with a Capital "T") is this. We can't know God. We can't understand God. Therefore, we are bound by what God has choosen to reveal about Himself. The record of God's Self-revelation is found in Holy Scripture as interpreted by the Tradition of the Church.
Since we can't know God we must restrict ourselves to what God has shown us.
Monday, June 30, 2008
My biggest news is that my biggest fear (that she would get addicted to the pain medication) was completely unfounded! God answered our prayers in that Elizabeth didn't experience more pain than she could bear. In fact, she was completely off the pain medication within 10 days!
Thank you all for your prayers for Elizabeth. They have been a blessing to us and to her.
It'll be a few more weeks before she can put any weight on the foot and I'll try to remember to update you all then.
(edited to add the whole statement) - First is the statement and then I will "fisk" it line by line or section by section.
Much of the Anglican world must be lamenting the latest emission from GAFCON.
Anglicanism has always been broader than some find comfortable. This statement
does not represent the end of Anglicanism, merely another chapter in a
centuries-old struggle for dominance by those who consider themselves the only
true believers. Anglicans will continue to worship God in their churches, serve
the hungry and needy in their communities, and build missional relationships
with others across the globe, despite the desire of a few leaders to narrow the
influence of the gospel. We look forward to the opportunities of the Lambeth
Conference for constructive conversation, inspired prayer, and relational
Now the section by section response (end of addition to new post):
Much of the Anglican world must be lamenting the latest emission from
On the face of it, this is a true statement or at least not a demonstrably false one. I would guess about 5% of the Anglican Communion "laments" the GAFCON Statement. I also wonder about the title "emission." Why not talk about the "statement" from GAFCON or the GAFCON Declaration. ISTM that +Schori is belittling the statement from the beginning.
Anglicanism has always been broader than some find comfortable.While it is true that Anglicanism is "broader than some find comfortable," it is also true that it has boundries. Traditionally, those boundries were found in the Book of Common Prayer and in the 39 Articles. Also, the boundries were found in the Creeds, Holy Scripture, and the first 4 (or 7) Ecumenical councils of the Church. while TECUSA has not yet officially crossed these boundries, many of the Clergy (including +KJS) have crossed them and no discipline has been forthcomming.
This statement does not represent the end of Anglicanism, merely anotherFirst, the statement does not pretend to represent the "end of Anglicanism." That is a rather nasty red herring. Second, the delegates at GAFCON do not think themselves the only "true" believers. They are not struggling for dominance. They are witnessing to the historical and universal teaching of the Church, catholic. It seems odd that +KJS would say that others "consider themselves the only true believers" when she is quite willing to depose bishops without following the canons, replace standing committees without canonical authority and call for diocesan special conventions that don't follow the canons or constitution of either TECUSA or the diocese in question. +KJS seems to be willing to risk a large portion of the wealth of TECUSA on lawsuits and does not seem alarmed at the drastic fall in TECUSA's ASA or the crisis in the Anglican Communion - so long as she and those that agree with her are allowed to continue on their path. These are the actions of someone who is assured of her own rightness and righteousness and that everyone who disagrees with her is wrong. These are the actions of a person who things she (and those like her) are "the only true believers."
chapter in a centuries-old struggle for dominance by those who consider
themselves the only true believers.
Anglicans will continue to worship God in their churches, serve the hungryI notice no mention of making disciples for Jesus Christ. There is nothing about being made new in Jesus Christ. There is nothing about submitting to God's will or trying to learn God's will. From what I can see, the GAFCON leaders are broadening the influence of the Gospel because they are changing their societies with its message and power. TECUSA is the one narrowing the "influence of the gospel (sic)." They are narrowing their influence to a small and shrinking subset of society. They are presenting a gospel of self acceptance and self actualization, not one of dying to self to be raised to New Life. Bishop Schori - to see who is narrowing the Gospel's influence, look in the mirror.
and needy in their communities, and build missional relationships with others
across the globe, despite the desire of a few leaders to narrow the influence of
We look forward to the opportunities of the Lambeth Conference for constructive
conversation, inspired prayer, and relational encounters.
I too look forward to Lambeth and pray that God's Holy Spirit will come with great power on the Bishops assembled. C.S. Lewis once said that it is harder to convert those who think they know the truth than those who recognize that they do not. It is harder to convert a Sunday only Christian who thinks he's got a pretty good life than it is to convert a person who realized that he is in a bad way and needs help. I pray that God will work to convert those who don't recognize their need of Him at Lambeth.
Anyway, TECUSA claims that the only really authoritative voice in the Anglican Communion is the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) because it is composed of laity as well as clergy.
The problem is that the ACC is not representative of the Anglican Communion as a whole. It's membership was determined in the 60s based on wealth and on perceived influence. Today, the whole picture of membership in the Anglican Communion has changed. Whereas in the 60s, the average Anglican was a white european person living in either England, Australia, or North America, today the average Anglican is a poor black woman living in Africa. We need to update the structure of the ACC to account for this.
Therefore I propose the following. First, we split the ACC into two houses (like the USA's General Convention). The first house will be composed of bishops, priests, deacons, and laity appointed by their provinces by what ever means the province chooses. That is the way it is done today, but that we change the apportionment of delegates from a constitutionally fixed number to a number based on Average Sunday Attendance (ASA). Thus, the largest provinces in terms of ASA will get the largest voice in matters that pertain to communion governance. To start with, I suggest that you get one member for every 800,000 ASA or portion thereof. Thus, TECUSA will have two members. Nigeria (with 18 million members and, with the assumption of 30% ASA, 5.4 million ASA) will get 7 or 8 members. Uganda (8 million members, 2.4 million ASA) will get 3 or 4 members.
The second house will be composed of the Primates of the Anglican Communion and will serve to either ratify or veto the resolutions of the ACC delegates. For matters that pertain purely to governance (budgets, province membership, etc) it will take 2/3 majority of the primates to veto a proposal of the delegates. For matters pertaining to the faith or practice of the Church (e.g. can homosexual unions be blessed), it will take only a simple majority of the Primates to veto the delegates.
Surely TECUSA cannot object to this proposal as it makes the ACC a much more democratic institution and mirrors our own General Convention and our the republican structure of our own government.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Today I would like to discuss the need to proclaim our faith by our deeds. St. Francis of Assisi said something like “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” As a person who likes words (and particularly my own words J) this is something I struggle with. But God is good and faithful and He keeps putting me into situations where I have to use my actions.
Yesterday was a Kairos weekend reunion. There were about 7 “Brothers in Color” that met with about 100 “Brothers in White.” During these weekends, I spend a lot of time proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ by doing something that doesn’t happen much in prison – listening. I listen to the brothers and pray with them and demonstrate God’s love to them by being there for them.
Every Christian should have a minimum of two ministries that build up the Body of Christ. One should be a ministry within the Church. This can take the form of teaching Sunday School, serving as an Acolyte or in the choir or as a Lay Reader or Lay Eucharistic Minister. The service in the Church proclaims the Good News by serving others within the Church. It builds up the Body of Christ by helping others worship or learn about what God has done for us through Jesus Christ.
The second ministry is a ministry from the Church. This is a ministry to those who are not yet members of the Church. Prison ministry can take this form (although many profess Jesus Christ in the prison, there are those who don’t yet know Him). Ministry to the homeless, to hospitals, to the poor, mission trips to other countries all take this second form of proclamation by example. I like to think of this proclamation as “covert evangelism” where we are spreading the good news but not doing it overtly.
This brings me to an important point. We don’t “save” anyone and we don’t “convert” anyone. We don’t even bring people to faith or get them to make a commitment or to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. All those tasks belong to the Holy Spirit, not to us. We may have the joy of being there when someone is moved by the Holy Spirit to make a commitment to Jesus Christ. We may be there when God acts on that persons heart and we may be an instrument of God’s action, but we are not the actor – God is. A friend of mine once said: “Conversion is a Management responsibility. I work in sales.” We all work in sales and a large part of sales is building a relationship. Proclamation by work and example are part of the sales process.
Another part of proclamation by example is how we live our lives. Are we filled with God’s joy or are we depressed and cynical? Do we overcome obstacles and endure suffering well or are we complainers who whine that the world is not fair? How we live will say a lot about our example.
My father was an Air Force officer. When I was in college, I was in Air Force ROTC with the goal of becoming an Air Force Officer myself. My dad asked me if I wanted to lead by example and I said: “Of course I do!” My dad said: "Well, I've got good news and I've got bad news. The good news is that you will lead by example. The bad news is that you have no choice. The men and women you lead will follow your example - not what you say."
Like many things my father told me, I find this to be true. We all lead by example. What does your example say about the Good News of God in Christ?
This false gospel undermines the authority of God’s Word written and theThis problem of authority in doctrine and the teaching of doctrine contrary to the source of authority has led to a problem of authority in the political organization of the Church. This is seen with the congregations and dioceses that have left TEC and asked for Episcopal oversight from Africa, Asia, or South America.
uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the author of salvation from sin, death and
Those of you who know me know that I am what is termed a “communion conservative.” I believe that the best solution to this crisis of authority is for the Anglican Communion as a whole to exercise its authority to discipline those provinces and bishops who are acting against the expressed teachings of the Communion. But, it seems that there is no agreed on way for this to occur. I was deeply disappointed when Archbishop Williams invited the American bishops who have defied the Communion by ordaining +Robinson or by allowing same sex blessings in their dioceses. I have less hope for Lambeth, but there is some hope there. I was saddened when Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda refused to go to Lambeth. I am heartened that +Jensen, +Venables, and others are going to Lambeth and will stand for the Faith that has been entrusted to us by the Church triumphant and by the Triune God.
If the Common Cause Partners are acknowledged as a legitimate province of the Anglican Communion (and I pray that they will be), that would be an excellent solution to the problem. How TECUSA will deal with that reality is a different issue (and another blog post).
I believe that GAFCON offers us a way forward – perhaps the best way forward.
In my next post, I plan to propose a new organization for the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC).
Please pray for the Anglican Communion and for its leadership. Pray for +Williams, +Schori, and all the Bishops who meet at Lambeth. Pray that the Holy Spirit will break stone hearts and free minds trapped by their own ideas and our secular society.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
I ask, what excludes you now? I don't know of any Episcopal Church that excludes homosexuals simply because they are homosexual.
What we are seeing now is a distraction. It is one of the oldest tricks - both rhetorically and by magicians.
We start out with a true premise. "All people, by virtue of their baptism, are full members of the Church and should not be excluded from the sacraments." That is true. I affirm that and so does every other reasserter I know.
The next statement, those, is false. "Therefore, we should bless homosexual unions." This false because homosexual sex is sinful. The Church has maintained this stance for all of its history and it is still the official teaching of the Anglican Communion and the Church catholic. TECUSA lacks the authority to bless homosexual unions. It lacks the authority to recognize homosexual "marriages" as sacramental and it shows poor judgement in ordaining men or women who disagree with the teaching of the Church into positions of leadership in the Church.
The problem is that the Church cannot bless anything on its own authority. Priests do not bless or absolve or consecrate on their own authority. Priests are conduits of God's grace and authority, not arbiters of it or originators of it.
So, I affirm the full inclusion of homosexual men and women into the life of the Church. I welcome them to join us in the struggle against sin and the fight for a right relationship with God.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
In TECUSA, those who have placed themselves under the leadership of bishops answerable to Africa or South America are labled the schismatics and, from TECUSA's point of view, this is true.
But lets consider the whole Church - or at least the whole Anglican Communion. I doubt very much if we will attain sacramental union with Rome or Contstantinople any time soon (particularly on our current theological trajectory). Anyway, when we consider the whole communion, the ones who are walking apart from the rest of the communion are the ones who have changed the faith and practice of the Church.
Consider this anology. In the US Civil War, the state of Virginia voted to leave the union. It was a slave state and didn't like the Federal Government telling it what to do. However, several counties in Virginia voted to remain in the union. They formed the new state of West Virginia. This state remained separate even after Virginia rejoined the union. So, who were the "schismatics?" From the unions standpoint, the schismatics are the people of Virinia who insisted on their own autonomy and the people who formed West Virginia were loyal American citizens who desired to stay in the union. For the people of Virginia, those in West Virginia were the schismatics who would not support their fellow Virginians and wanted outside intereference in their daily lives.
The majority of bishops and clergy in TECUSA want to bless same sex unions and call homosexual sex "holy" in certain cases. This is against the teaching of the Communion. To act on this teaching against expressed will of the communion and against the knowledge that the actions will tear the fabric of the communion (and "schism" means to tear the fabric) is not to act prophetically. It is to act schismatically. The true schismatics in the Anglican Communion are those bishops and priests (and deacons and laity who support them) who bless same sex unions or participate in the ordination of men and women involved in same sex unions.
First, I support the "inside" strategy. This strategy says that we should reform the Episcopal Church from within. I have the luxury of that strategy for a few reasons.
- Neither my living nor my pension depend on TECUSA. I receive no pay and very little in the way of expenses to serve as a deacon.
- My parish (St. James, Dallas) is a very orthodox place with biblically based preaching and teaching. There is no confusion where we stand on the issue of authority.
- My diocese (The Diocese of Dallas) is a very orthodox diocese with a wonderful Bishop and diocesan staff. As a diocese, we send no money to the national church. Individual parishes do that, (but mine doesn't) but the diocese does not and has not for several years.
- I am in no way persecuted for my beliefs. It is not hard to be an orthodox Anglican in this parish or diocese.
If we take the Global Anglican Future CONference at its word, they are not working to create a separate Anglican Communion. They are working to reform the communion from within. I can support that. I can also support the Common Cause partnership that includes both TECUSA as well as "Continuing Anglican" congregations. The goal is the same - a theologically orthodox, unified Anglican witness in North America that is part of the global Anglican Communion.
But there is a large problem with the "outside" strategy. Those that leave have not left for a unified outside strategy. There are congregations and dioceses associated with Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, South East Asia, and South America. That does not even include the "Continuing Anglicans" that formed several different churches during the 70s and 80s in response to Women's Ordination. Those who engage in the outside strategy need to make it clear that these congregations and dioceses will reform into one witness by a date certain and that any parishes or dioceses that refuse to from into one witness with one house of bishops and a single primate will no longer be supported by their current bishop or primate. There needs to be a plan for the lifeboats to get back together and either build their own ship as part of the Anglican Fleet (ideally) or rejoin the effort to rescue or raise the good ship TECUSA.
As I said before, I believe that one of the largest problems with the outside strategy is that it arises from our individualism and lack of patience.
Anthony didn't start a new church when he found the church too corrupted by society.
Athanasius didn't start a new church when he found the church's theology to bring death and not life.
The Capadocians didn't start a new church when the church declared itself Arian.
Ratramnus didn't start a new church over sacramental theology
Dominic didn't start a new church when the people and clergy grew to lax
Francis didn't start a new church when the people and the clergy grew to rich and indolent
Luther didn't set out to start a new church, but to reform the existing one (and it took a long time, but he was basically successful).
We need to be very careful to be sure to create a way forward for all those who wish to continue in the Apostles' teaching and fellowship. Breaking fellowship is a very serious step. Almost all heresies have been successfully fought off (over time). To the best of my knowledge, no schism has.
Monday, June 23, 2008
There is a database word, "schema" which can indicate many things (normally, it indicates the overall layout of the tables in the database). In this case, it indicates the owner of the database tables. The customer is unsure in which schema I will be creating the tables I need for the program.
So, in the specs, I'm writing "SCHEMA.TABLE_NAME" (e.g "SCHEMA.RUN_CONTROL") so I have a place holder for when the customer determines in which schema the table will be created.
However, when I looked at the document, I noticed that I wrote "SHEMA.RUN_CONTROL." "Schema" is the Jewish word for "hear" and it is used of the phrase "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God. The Lord is One."
I guess this is one of the hazards of writing technical specs with a religious education.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Q: Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
A: I will with God’s help.
I’m not sure if we all realized that we promised to be evangelists! Each time we renew our Baptismal Covenant (and we do that at every baptism!) we promise that we will tell others about the Good News of God in Christ! We also promise that our lives will show forth the Good News of God in Christ! Note that is promise is not an ordination promise. It is not the bishops, priests, or deacons who are to proclaim and live the Good News; it is all baptized Christians!
So, this brings up a good question. What is the Good News of God in Christ? Just what is it that we are supposed to proclaim by word and example? Well, that is not really a suitable subject for a blog post, but I’ll take a crack at it.
God loves us so much that He became incarnate (as the Second Person of the Trinity) to free us from the powers of sin and death. God loves us so much that He became one of us to both pay the penalty for our sins - to pay a debt we owe – and to defeat death and sin by subjecting himself to their power and then defeating it. God desires us to have a life qualitatively like His own Life. God doesn’t want to make us better; He wants to make us new. God wants to give us the divine life that we try to grasp by our own sinfulness.
That is the good news! God wants to give us, freely give us, something that is infinitely better than anything we can ask or desire for ourselves. God wants to give us Himself. We were not created to be individuals who are concerned with their own welfare or their own rights or their own good. We were created to be persons whose common life together reflects the inward life of the Holy Trinity and, even when we run from that kind of life or try to bring about that life through our own power or our own strength, God continues to pursue us to invite us into communion with Him, with the Holy Trinity and – thus – with each other.
Now, an interesting point, is that we only know what the Good News is by continuing in the Apostles’ teaching. The best example of that is found by remaining in the Apostles’ fellowship. Breaking fellowship is not living a life that reflects the life of the Holy Trinity..
So, if that is the Good News of God in Christ, how, then, are we to proclaim it? Well, we proclaim it in two ways – by word (speaking) and example (living). In order to keep our Baptismal Covenant, we need to be evangelists in word and example.
So, let’s discuss word first. Just about every Christian I know is afraid of evangelism. Why is that? Well, I think it is for two primary reasons. First, there is the natural fear of rejection. What if we offer ourselves and we are rejected? What if people laugh at us? What if they ask questions that we can’t answer? What if we are wrong? What if we really blow it?
All these are real fears and we need to be aware of them. People don’t like answering the door when the evangelists come by, so they are afraid that being an evangelist will force them to go door to door asking people if they died are they sure they would go to heaven.
First, let me make one thing clear. We do not save anybody. We don’t bring people to faith. We don’t convert anyone. That’s God’s job. Our job is to simply share what God has done and is doing with us. Something every Christian should do from time to time is to write a “spiritual autobiography.” This is your story of your life and how God has acted in it. Try this, if you haven't already. Look at your life and see where God has acted to save you from yourself. Share this with Christian friends at first and then with non-Christian friends. You don’t have to get them to commit or to sign or to pray. You just have to proclaim by word the Good News of God in Christ.
The second major reason is that the worst sin our society tells us we can commit is the sin of hypocrisy. We are afraid of being (or being called) hypocrites. When I go to prison, the men there tell me that they hate hypocrites more than anything else. When I share that I am a hypocrite, they are somewhat taken aback. We are all hypocrites! We all want to be thought of as better than we are! If you are sharing what God as done in your life and how God wants us all to live and realize that you don’t live up to that yourself, then aren’t you a hypocrite? Well, in one sense you are. We propose a standard and can’t live up to it. But, on the other hand, you realize that and to pretend to live up to the standard. As long as you are honest that you don’t live up to that standard even when you recognize it to be the standard, you are not really being a hypocrite.
This post has gone on a little longer than I planned. What we have to recognize I that we must be evangelists to fulfill our baptismal covenant. Evangelism is not optional nor a calling for professionals or clergy. It is the task of all baptized Christians.
In part 5, we will talk about proclaiming the Good News by example of life.
The question of evil is a very difficlut one. We often think of Evil as a force opposed to God. Often we think that there are those who are out to serve "evil." (whatever that is.)
As I said earlier, evil is twisted good. it is a good twisted out of proper proportion. It is something created by God as "good" but put to ends that do not serve God, but serve the creation (generally ourselves) instead.
We've all heard the phrase "perception is reality." To that I say "Wrong!!!!!" Perception is not reality. Reality is reality. God (the author of reality) alone determines what is real and what is not. We participate in reality when we are in union with God. The problem with evil or sin (and sin and evil can be strong synonymns) is that it is an action or thought based in unreality. It is based on the lie that we know ourselves better than God and that we know better for ourselves than God does. So, sin and evil is unreal living. It living in a lie. Perception is not reality. Reality is Reality and the difference between our perception and Reality is commonly called "sin."
On the other hand, we can only know reality through our perception. If our perception is sufficiently twisted by sin, we end up worshipping a false God - that is idolatry. And here is the worse news. Left to ourselves, we all worship a false God - and that God looks and sounds and thinks very much like we do.
One of my "guilty pleasure" movies is a 1980s movie called "Yellowbeard." It stared Cheech and Chong as well as Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Marty Feldman, and Madeline Khan. In the movie, Tommy Chong is a Spanish Conquistadore Captain who plunders a rather rich treasure. His ship's chaplain says that the King of Spain will be very proud of the Captain when he receives the booty. Tommy Chong replies that such a treasure is to great for the King of Spain. It is meant for God along. After all, "who is more important? The King of Spain (pointing away) or God (pointing first to himself and after a moment, pointing upwards)?"
We all ask that same question and point to ourselves when speaking of God.
We are trapped in our perception. We need to be broken free from our perception so we can get a clearer glimpse of Reality. This what repentance does for us. Repentance is begun by God acting in our hearts and minds to let us see that our perception is hurtful to ourselves and to others. Our perception is twisted and sick and needs to be put right - to be justified.
Repentance is not possible without God's spirit working in us.
So, the question for this weekend is "how is your perception twisted? How is the reality that you perceive different from God's Reality?" And, after you have asked God to help you answer that question, the next question is what are you going to do about it?
Thursday, June 19, 2008
In Part 1, we learned that the Baptismal Covenant included trusting in the statements of faith in the Apostles’ Creed. This includes the Virgin Birth, the physical resurrection of Jesus (and us as well), that Jesus was human, born, died, and descended to the place of the dead (hell). Those who do not believe in the physical resurrection or the virgin birth or the Trinity have broken their baptismal covenant. An additional note is the this creed is still in “I” form. The language is first person, singular. I’ve heard priests say that the Nicene Creed (in the “We Believe” language) speaks of the faith of the Church, not necessarily the celebrants’ or speaker’s faith. To which I reply, if you don’t believe what the Church believes, then why do you seek to lead the Church in its statement of belief?
In Part 2, we promise to continue to teach and live and believe what the Apostles taught. We also promised not to split the Church. What do we do when the Church refuses to discipline itself? That is a thorny issue. But I believe that the action of splitting to find pure faith is misguided because you will not find it. We also promised to continue in the Breaking of the Bread and in the prayers. The First Promise is first for a reason. It underlies all other promises.
In this part, we will look at what we have to do when we don’t keep the First Promise. The second promise is “Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?”
This brings up two questions. First, when what is evil? How do we know what to resist? That is why the Apostles’ teaching is so important. We know what evil is by knowing what the Apostles taught about it. We know evil because of what the Church has passed on to us. To put it simply, evil is good out of proportion or twisted. Food is good. Eating too much or eating out of proportion is evil. Sex is good, too much sex or sex outside of marriage is evil. Strength is good. Using our strength to impose our will on someone else is evil. Material things are good. Acquiring material things to the detriment of prayer or charity or spending time with others is evil.
The problem is the evil has a very negative connotation. We don’t want to think of ourselves as “evil,” but we are. We, in our “natural” state, desire to be like God ourselves. We want to make the decisions and have the world revolve around us. If you doubt this just watch a small child that doesn’t get his way or watch a teenager when the latest “crisis” hits. We really believe, in our heart of hearts, that we deserve the best and are good people who should get our way. We are, all too often, self-focused.
But we promise to persevere in resisting evil. It is a struggle and we must develop the spiritual muscle to continue it. But when we fail, what then? When we realize that we have given in to evil – when we have sinned (and note, the question is not if you fall into sin, but whenever you fall into sin), what do we do? We promise to repent and return to the Lord.
This means that we have to repent. The Greek word is metanoeo and it means more than to say “I’m sorry.” It actually means to turn around – to acquire a new mind. Repentance is both a journey and an event. It requires us to turn from the evil that we are doing and to ask God to show us the way back. It can be painful because true repentance requires confession – not just to God, but to those whom we have harmed (if possible). It also involves a willingness to make restitution for the sins we’ve committed against other. At first glance, repentance is hard work – and it is if we try to attempt it ourselves with our own strength and power. But there is good news! God is there with us when we start to repent. All He needs is for us to say “I will leave this place and go to my father and say…” At that instant, God is with us, helping us to complete the statement and willing to aid us in actually leaving the far country of the younger son.
So, first we promise to continue in the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, but we know we won’t because our second promise is to repent and return to God when we break the first promise. When we fall and God helps us back up, we are empowered more to keep our third promise, but that’s yet another post.