Friday, May 30, 2008

Programs or Discipleship?

At "Innocent as Doves" there is a great video about a fictional priest (at least I think the congregation is fictional) who discusses how busy he is with programs like:
  • Sunday School & Adult Christian Ed.
  • Wednesday evening Bible Study and Classes and Dinner
  • Christmas Pagent
  • Lenten Series
  • Small Group Ministries
  • Holy Week
  • Easter
  • Vacation Bible School
  • Mission Trips

He seems to be worried that all these programs are getting in the way of transformation and discipleship.

Go there now and watch the video. I'll be here when you get back.

OK. You're back. How would you go about advising the Rev. Percy Veering on his "extreme makeover."


Phil Snyder


Fr. Jake has a new post on Evangelism

He asks 5 Questions:
1. Define the term "evangelism."
2. How do Episcopalians engage in evangelism?
3. How might Episcopalians do a better job as evangelists?
4. How do you do evangelism?
5. After reflecting on this, and reading the responses of others, are there new ways of being an evangelist that you might consider adopting?

Go there now and comment concerning evangelism. Please comment here as well.

Phil Snyder

Where Your Treasure Is

From Titus 1:9 comes an important question. It seems that tithing is in decline and only about 5% of the country practice it.

We are a society who loves the illusion of control. We want to be in control and we want to control others. We like "authority" when it is ours to wield and don't like it when we have to yield to authority. The whole sexuality mess that the Episcopal Church (and other denominations as well) is in is about authority.

As I said in "What are we," we don't need to be in control. We need to surrender. That includes surrendering our finances. How you spend your money will tell you what you think of God and how much you trust Him. One of the biggest problems with "controlling" our finances is that they start to control us. The tighter we grip our money, the more our money controls us, not the other way around.

We need to surrender our finances to God as part of our own surrender. Are you tithing? If so, great! I would urge you to find new ways to surrender to God. If you are not tithing, I urge you to take the necessary steps to tithing (10% - off the top). Set a goal of tithing and set out a plan to get there. Make it a priority in your life. It will cause you to give up some things, but it will also increase your faith like nothing else in the world.

If you are part of the "one Lord, one Faith, one Buck" crowd, I urge you to set a goal of giving a percentage of your income now - start as large as you can - say 3 to 5 percent of your income. Then, gradually increase the percentage you give until you are at or over 10%.

I believe how we treat our money is one of the largest indicators of what we really believe about God. It is a very good measure of our faith.

Phil Snyder

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What are We? - Part 4

In part 1, we learned that we cannot know who we are - that our lives are hid with Christ in God. and the only way to know ourselves is to know God.

In part 2, we learned that we can't know God by ourselves, but that God has revealed Himself to us both in the natural order and in Holy Scripture. To know ourselves means that we must first know God has He has revealed Himself.

In part 3, we find that Holy Scripture is both of divine and human origin and that to try to separate the human from the divine is to engage in either scriptural adoptionism (emphasizing the human origin to the detriment of the divine origin or scriptural docetism (emphasizing the divine origin and not seeing (or minimizing) the human origin). In order to understand God's revelation in Holy Scripture, we must surrender.

So, as a brief recap, we must first realize that we can't know ourselves and, left to ourselves we can't know God. However, God chooses to reveal Himself to us in Holy Scripture and to understand Holy Scripture - thus understand God and, therefore, understand or know ourselves, we need to surrender our lives to God.


That is a scary word to us. It means that we are not in control. In our society, it is seen as a cowardly act. We glorify those who died fighting rather than surrender.

But to know God (and thus to know ourselves) we must surrender to Him. This is part of what we mean by "faith."

Today, we tend to think of "faith" as an intellectual assent to a set of ideas. We equate "faith" with "belief." But I think that is now what "faith" in the Christian sense means. The best way I've seen to differentiate between "faith" and "belief" comes from Bishop Stanton. I may believe that the value of a stock will increase. I may have done the necessary research and agree with the analysts that this specific stock will increase in value. But I do not have any faith in it until I invest my own money in it.

Faith is investing yourself with God. It is saying to God that you trust that He knows you better than you know yourself. Now one problem with us that that we tend to approach faith - even in this definition of trust or investment - the way we approach other investments. We want to diversify. We'll trust God with this much of our lives, but trust our money or our talents or our family/job/country/friends with some other part of our lives. We will come to know ourselves in direct proportion to how much we faith in God.

To know God as much as we can, we need to trust Him completely. Now, I don't personally know anyone who has done this. But I've know people who come close.

So, how do we go about trusting God more? It's easy to say "Just do it!" but isn't that itself a from of control?

In my prayer and study, surrender to God happens both in spurts (we discover in prayer that there is this part of our lives that we haven't surrendered) and gradually and that there are times of stasis where we aren't growing in faith. Thomas Merton said that the parts of our lives that we hold most dear are the last to be surrendered to God. I find this to be true.

So, how can we surrender to God? Well, I've got good news and I've got bad news. The bad news is that we can't of our own will or power surrender to God. The good news (Gospel!) is that God is there willing to help us surrender! God wants us to surrender and is willing to provide the means and help we need. All that is required of us is to ask for God's grace to surrender.

Surrender is hard work. It requires spiritual muscle and we need to practice it daily. But we need to be careful. Surrender can also be turned into a form of spiritual pride. When we start comparing ourselves to others or even to ourselves, we take the focus of off God and put it on ourselves. Just as Peter began to slip below the waves when he took his eyes off of Jesus, we too will slip as we lose focus on God. As a person who has Attention Deficit Disorder, I can attest that this is true and that it is difficult to keep our focus on God.

Here are ways to help us keep our focus on God.

  1. Pray daily - several times daily if possible. Practice both discursive prayer and prayer of listening or quiet. Actually, the more quiet time you have, the more likely surrender will occur because you will be listening.
  2. Study daily - reading scripture daily or reading books on Christian living/history/theology daily will help you to see how others have experience surrender to God and give us a good idea of the God to whom we are surrendering.
  3. Be a minister - Each Christian should have a minimum of 2 ministries. The first is inside the congregation and is used to build up the Body of Christ by encouraging others within that body through some ministry - choir, Sunday School teacher, hospitality ministries, administration. The second should be focused outside the congregation and be directed to bringing others to know and love Jesus Christ. This can be through prison ministry, or what have you.
  4. Accountability - we all need someone (preferrably a small group) to be accountable to. When we try to live the Christian life ourselves, we tend to lie to ourselves about how we are doing. Accountability groups help us to stay focused and will (if we let them) help us to learn to surrender more.
  5. Spiritual Direction - we need a person in our lives who is experienced in living the Christian life and can help us see what is happening in our own lives.

As I said here none of what we do will acheive salvation. This is not a works based righteousness. This does not help us to get closer to God. We do these things because we faith or trust that God knows us better than ourselves and that He wants better for us than we can ask or imagine. We can't surrender ourselves - we can only participate with God in our surrender.


Phil Snyder

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What are We - Part 3

In Part 1 of this series, we learned that we don't know who we are. Our hearts and minds are so darkened by sin and the fallen universe that we can't even know ourselves. The only one who know us truly is God. So how do we know God? In Part 2 we said that we cannot fully know God, so we are left with what God has chosen to reveal about Himself and the authoritative record of God's self-revelation is found in Holy Scriptures. We learned that Holy Scripture has a human nature (being written by men in specific places, and at specific times, in specific cultural contexts). It also has a divine nature - being "God's Word, Written" (Article XX). How do we (or can we) determine what is human and what is divine within Holy Scripture?

One of the problems that we have is that we even ask this question. It's almost like we are trying to avoid the parts of Scripture that we don't like by labeling them "of human origin." I've seen this in debates with some people who will say that Paul didn't write that letter or Jesus didn't say that phrase, but they were added later by some editor with an agenda. In this way, we can dispose of the scriptural arguments that we don't like.

If we accept that Holy Scripture is "God's Word, written," then we should be able to speak of it in the same terms as we speak of "God's Word, Incarnate" - Jesus Christ. We will make the same Christological mistakes with Holy Scripture that we make with the person of Jesus.

There are two basic types of christological heresies. The first is normally called "adoptionism" and denies or diminishes the divine nature of Jesus. Adoptionism states that Jesus was a human that was "adopted" as God's Son or became divine at some point. It is a claime that Jesus is not fully divine. The second heresy is "docetism." The word comes from the Greek word for "to seem." Docetic heresies claim that Jesus only seemed human. They advance the divine nature of Jesus at the expense of his human nature. To the docetics, Jesus was not fully (or at all) human.

We can do the same with Holy Scripture. We can take the adoptionist view (prevelant in the Episcopal Church) and say that this passage is not divine or that it was only a product of the human author/editor. The second passage is to say that Holy Scripture is purely the Word of God and not the product of human work at all. You see this in our more fundamenalist sects which require a 6 day (=184 hour) creation because that's what the bible says.

If we want to use Holy Scripture to learn about God and to come to know God, then we need to read it as if God is speaking to us through it while realizing that the metaphores and language used come with a specific cultural setting.

First, we should read it as a whole work and not a collection of smaller, disjointed works. We need to see the overarching theme(s) in Holy Scripture. I've heard men (clergy even) speak or write of Holy Scripture as the story of man's search for God. As I read Holy Scripture, I find the opposite to be true. I read it as the story of God's quest for a relationship with humans and humans attempts to run from or ignore the relationship.

As we read Holy Scripture, what do we learn about God that is important to discovering who and what we are?
  1. God created all things out of nothing. The world was created with purpose.
  2. God created man (and women) in His image. God created us to be like Him
  3. Humans did not want to be like God because of God's way, they wanted to be like God their way - which takes away our likeness with God and distorts God's image in us.
  4. The more and more we ran from God, the more He persued us.
  5. God wants a relationship with us and calls us into relationship with Him - first through the Patriarch, then through the People of Israel, then with the Prophets.
  6. We are incapable of wanting or having a relationship with God on our own (see #3 above)
  7. God the Son became incarnate (in the person Jesus) to bring us into relationship with God. Jesus died and rose again to put us right with God.
  8. God still calls us into relationship with Himself, but we still want to do things our own way.

The only way that we can know God beyond this intellectual understanding that we gather from Scripture is to surrender to God and to accept that we are not good people who just need a little fine tuning, but we are in rebellion against God and deserve to be killed. Our only path to know God is through surrender of ourselves.

More on what surrender entails tomorrow.


Phil Snyder

Friday, May 23, 2008

Personal Prayer Request

Please keep my daughter, Elizabeth, in your prayers. She is having surgery on one of her feet and ankles on June 4th. She has a problem in that she cannot bend her ankle past 90% and her ankle does not line up over her heel. The doctor will break her heel and realign her ankle and stretch her achilles tendon so that she can walk comfortably. One foot will be done on June 4th and the other will be done in December.

Please pray that Elizabeth will have quick and complete healing and that she be given the courage to face the pain and discomfort of the surgery and recovery. Pray for the doctors and nurses and the medical team that cares for her - that they will be God's healing hand on her and please pray for my wife, Beverly, my son, Joseph, and myself as we care for her after the surgery - that we be given patience to help her.

Phil Snyder

What is a Prophet?

On the progressive side of the Church, much is made of "prophetic" speech or actions. The progressives are trying to bring the Church into the new truths to which they believe God calling them.

In truth, however, prophets do not bring people to new truths. There are very few (if any) "new truths." If we look at the biblical record, the prophets did not announce or proclaim anything new in terms of our relationship with God. They called people back to the covenant that they made with God.

One of the tasks of a deacon is to interpret to the Church the "needs, concerns, and hopes of the world." I take this to be a prophetic call to the Church to remember its covenant with God. As a deacon, I am to remind the Church of its obligations. I am to call her people back to their covenant.

Our covenant with God is found in the Baptismal Covenant found on pages 304-305 of the Book of Common Prayer. It is in two parts. The first part is our subscription to orthodox belief. It is the Apostles Creed in question and answer form. We state we believe certain things about God.

But the second part is much harder to listen to and to keep. The first question that we are asked (and that we answer affirmatively) is "Will you continue in the Apostles teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread and in the prayers."

By answering "I will with God's help" we promise to eschew heretical belief, heretical practice, and schism. Because I answer this positively, I will not leave the Episcopal Church until I am kicked out. I will stay and be the prophet that God calls me to be. I will continue to call the Church back to her Baptismal Covenant.

Phil Snyder

What are we - Part 2

In the previous post on this topic (found at this link), I posited that we don't know who we are. Our hearts (the seat of the will) and our minds are clouded by sin and we can't know ourselves. I posited that Paul's statement "your life lies hid with Christ in God" applies to all people and that only by knowing God through His Son, Jesus Christ, do we have a chance to know ourselves.

So, knowing God is the path to know ourselves. This brings up the question of how do we know God.

There's a story that my Systematic Professor told us. St. Augustine of Hippo was on the beach and saw a small boy bringing water from the ocean and pouring it into a hole in the beach. Augustine asked: "Son, what are you doing?"

"I'm trying to put the ocean into this hole." the boy replied.

"Son, it will never fit." Augustine commented.

At that moment, the boy changed into an angel and said to Augustine: "Neither will God fit inside your mind."

Since God will not fit inside our minds, we can't know God. It would seem to be futile to try to understand ourselves by trying to understand God or to know ourselves by knowing God.

And it would be futile except for one small thing. God loves us and wants a relationship with us. God actively seeks us out for fellowship and friendship with Him. Because God can't fit in our minds, God has chosen to reveal Himself to us so that we can apprehend Him (and, so, know our selves). Further, God continues to reveal Himself to us through the Holy Spirit.

This is good news - This is Great news! But here is the rub, how do we know what the revelation is? One of the early mystical theologians of the 4th or 5th century world who titled himself "Dionysius the Areopagite" said it simply. We can't know God - we can't comprehend God, so we are limited to what God has chosen to reveal about Himself.

As Christians, we see two types of revelation. First, there is the revelation that Paul discusses in Romans 1. This is what can be know about God from nature or the natural order. This used to be called "natural law" and is the basis for a lot of common morality among the nations. Almost no people believe that lying or theft is good. C.S. Lewis' book The Abolition of Man discusses this aspect very well.

The second source or record of God's self-revelation is found in Holy Scripture. Holy Scripture has both a divine origin - it is inspired by God - and a human origin - it was written by men in specific times and at specific places with specific cultural contexts. So, how do we come to understand God from Holy Scripture?

That is a topic for yet another post.

Phil Snyder

Update: Read Part 3

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Dean Kevin Martin is Blogging!

Hi all,

Dean Kevin Martin of the Cathedral Church of St. Matthew's in Dallas now has a blog!

Please go visit him and welcome him to the wonderful world of blogging!

I have a great deal of respect for Dean Kevin and listen respectfully to his views and opinions. He is a man with a vision for the Church and should be listened to, even when you don't agree with him.

Phil Snyder

An Thought Experiment

When I was in High School in Atwater, California, I was involved in the debate team. My debate coach, Mr. Reese, was a wonderful coach who taught me many things about debate and about life. One of the things he taught me was that winning is not the goal in life or in debate. Doing your best is. Winning is simply a byproduct of doing your best.

One of the other things he taught me about debate is that we should understand the arguments on both sides of any issue so well that we can argue effectively against what we believe - that we can make the case the other side makes. As I have reflected on this bit of wisdom, I have come to accept it as true. First, it helps us to see that those who disagree with us are not evil or our enemies. They often have good reasons for their beliefs. Second, it helps us to strengthen our own beliefs. If we only argue the points we want to, our arguments become weak. One of the drawbacks of the blogosphere is that it tends to form echo chambers. Fr. Jake is one such echo chamber on the progressive/reappraiser side and Stand Firm is probaly the closest to Jake on the conservative/reasserter side. Over in either of these two places, people simply assert their beliefs and anyone who questions either their beliefs or their methods are obviously evil and wrong. They seem to lack the ability to have reasoned debate or discussion.

To try and stop that, I want to try an experiment. Concerning human sexuality and its moral expression, please try to argue the opposite of what you believe. This will show that you understand - really understand - the arguments against your beliefs.

Phil Snyder

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What are we?

I was at a great Clergy conference this past weekend. Being a non-stipendary deacon (I am not employed by the Church), I don't often get a chance to discuss things theological. One thing that keeps coming up to me in my prayers and in my dealings with my brothers and sisters in the progressive wing of the Church is that we have a fundamental difference of opinion of who we are as human beings.

I believe that we are created in God's image and after His likeness, but we have lost the likeness of God and marred His image in us both through our sins and through our sinfulness. So, we are not what God created us to be and we don't know what God created us to be. We cut ourselves off from God (and ourselves) by our own sins and by being in a sinful world.

So, the progressive response to who we are is that we are people created in God's image and that we are created "good." God created us as He wants us to be. So who we are and who we perceive ourselves to be is good and we need to develop our identity as God's beloved creatures. We need to find ourselves by looking inwardly to the deepest part of our being to see who we truly are and we need to celebrate that and improve that and to take that and grow it to God's glory.

On the other hand, I say that we are too blinded by our sins to know the truth of who we are created to be. Our wills and our minds are so twisted both by our individual sins and by our sinfulness - our state of rebellion against God - that we cannot know who we are in ourselves. As Paul says in Collosians 3:3, our life "lies hid with Christ in God." Our "inmost" being is corrupted and we don't know our true identity.

We are not good people who need to be made better, we are rebels who need to lay down our arms. We are not beloved of God because of who or what we are. We are beloved of God only because of Who God Is. We are not pleasing to God as we are. We are pleasing to God as we appear through our participation in the Resurrection of God the Son - the person Jesus Christ.

So, if God loves us because that is His nature, how are we to respond to that Love? How are we to live? Are there behaviors to avoid and are there things that we think are good that God does not consider good?

Once we realize that our minds and our wills are faulty, then we must realize that our subjective view of who and what we are is faulty. This means that we cannot depend on ourselves or even on our friends to know who we are. After all, their hearts and wills and minds are just a corrupt as ours.

So, if we can't depend on ourselves or our friends to know who we are, who can we depend on?

That will be discussed later.

Phil Snyder

Part 2
Part 3

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The heart of a liberal argument

I've been commenting over at Fr. Jake's blog. Recently, we have been arguing about the global south (GS) bishops taking oversight of parishes (after being asked by the parish) within the physical territory of TECUSA. Now, I do not support foreign bishops doing this. I find it to be a break of catholic order and you cannot defend catholic faith by violating catholic order. However, given the mindset of some of our bishops, I can see a pastoral need on a short term basis.

My point at Jakes (which he deleted twice) is that the same arguments that are used to support blessing same sex unions can be used to allow foreign bishops to take oversight of congregations in TECUSA's physical boundries.

In my reading of the literature that supports blessing SSUs, I find the following arguments
  1. Scripture does not speak about mutually monogamous homosexual relationships, so the verses that speak against homosexual sex do not apply.
  2. To use scripture to deny blessing SSUs requires a literal or fundamentalist reading of scritpure.
  3. TECUSA has been in discernment about this for years
  4. We see God's grace in the lives of men and women involved in homosexual relationships.
  5. The Church needs to respond pastorally to its members involved in same sex unions
  6. It is better to be in a monogamous relationship that be promiscuous and the homosexual men and women do not choose their orientation, so being monogamous is the best they can do. We should bless the best they can do.
  7. The Spirit is doing a New Thing.

In the case of foreign bishops, the controlling documents are not Holy Scripture, but the Constitution and Canons of TECUSA and of the other provinces. So the same arguments can be used

  1. Neither TECUSA's constitution nor its canons deny any foreign bishop the ability to oversee congregations within the physical boundries of TECUSA. In fact, the C&C of TECUSA does not even apply to foreign bishops.
  2. To use the C&C of TECUSA to apply to foreign bishops requires a very wooden, literal, and fundamentalist reading of the canon and avoids the "general drift" of the canons - which is to include all people in a love relationship with Jesus Christ.
  3. Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, and Southern Cone have been discussing this for years.
  4. We see God's grace in these congregations that have moved to foreign oversight, so that must be evidence that God blesses the relationship between the Bishop and the congregation
  5. The Church needs to respond pastorally to congregations who cannot accept the oversight of their bishop because he (or she) is espousing or teaching things that are contrary to what the Church has always taught.
  6. It is better to be within the Anglican Communion than to leave it or leave the Church altogether. Since these people believe they have no choice but to separate from TECUSA, we need to bless their attempts to remain in the Anglican Communion.
  7. The Spirit is doing a New Thing (NB - can't this argument be used to support any change in teaching or practice?)

I am not trying to show a correlation or causation between TECUSA's blessing of same sex unions and the foreign bishops having oversight of some congregations. My sole purpose it so show that the same arguments that the progressives make to support their change can be used to support this aberation from catholic order.

But Jake's method of arguing this point is to delete it. He simply lables it propaganda and says it doesn't matter. With such, it is impossible to have a reasoned discussion.

I was taught that "liberal" meant being willing to listen to arguments on almost any subject. "I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." But Jake is not a liberal. He doesn't want to engage in argument or debate. He wants what he wants when he wants it and be damned any who stand in his way.

What do we do in such a situation?

First, we pray.

Second, we pray

Third, we pray.

Fourth, we show forth the fruits of the Spirit and witness to the Truth. I try to do that here.


Phil Snyder

As if you don't know

This is, perhaps, my favorite story on discipleship. I've used it in many sermons and illustrations. I think it sums up the Christian life nicely is true to the entire witness of Holy Scripture. I can't take credit for it. I read it in Joan Chittister's book on the Rule of Benedict.

There was a young novice monk who came to the Master of Novices and asked: "Master, what must I do to attain God?"

The master looked at the young monk and said: "To attain God, you must do two things."

"Two things" the novice thought to himself. "This is going to be easy!"

"First", continued the Master, "You must know that nothing you can do or say or think will ever help you to attain God."

"And the second?" replied the crestfallen novice.

"You must live as if you don't know the first" said the Master.

The Christian life is a life lived in God's grace and empowered by God's grace and lived through faith. Faith is not a simple mental assent to a set of theological propositions. It is an active trust that God knows better than we do and that God wills better for us than we can imagine. We are saved by the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. Nothing we do can ever bring us salvation or increase God's grace in us. It is all God's grace.

On the other hand, we must actively seek His grace. We must exercise our "faith muscles" so that we trust God more and more and depend on His grace more and more and on ourselves less and less.

So the question comes up: "What can I do to be saved?" The answer is "nothing you can do will ever earn salvation. The next question comes up: "What do I do in response to that?" The answer is "Everything in your power."


Phil Snyder

Monday, May 12, 2008

Anger and what do we do now

The Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church are in a mess - a big mess. There are several forces at work that contribute to the mess, but I think that one of the biggest is the issue of trust. The progressives and traditionalists simply don't trust each other. We both accuse the each other of being more interested in property and power and "winning" than in the people and mission of spreading the Good News of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ. We are too ready to see the wrong that the other side does to us and not ready enough to see how "we" (whether that is the progressive we or traditionalist we) contribute to it. Over at Fr. Jakes, one commenter is activly gathering and posting information on the congregations that have asked for episcopal oversight from +Greg Venables or one of the bishops in the Southern Cone and is soliciting people to write to the governments of countries in Southern Cone to see if any finance laws are being violated by these parishes contributing money to SC. That is the level of vitriol and anger that is exists today. This anger exists on all sides of the problem.

Anger is one of the seven deadly sins and will form a shield against God's grace and love. So, what can we do to reduce the anger and to restore trust?

First, I think that a viable plan that allows a parish to seek alternative episcopal oversight from a bishop that it chooses. There should be some guidelines, such as the parish requesting a new bishop should have to lay out its case for why the Ordinary (or the Coadjudor / Suffragan / Assistant / Assisting bishop(s)) is not appropriate for the congregation. This should include specific actions and stated beliefs that are outside of mainstream Anglicanism. Examples could include the authorization of blessing same sex unions or a denial of any of the creeds (as a "reasonable man" would interpret them). There should be a list of appropriate active and retired bishops who are available and and that parishes should be allowed to choose from. The Ordinary should not have veto power over the parish's choice - unless he can show why the reasoning of the parish is faulty or that he does not hold, teach, or believe what the parish claims he does. Where there is conflict, an arbitration team composed of one person appointed by the parish, one by the Bishop, and one mutually agreed to will decide the question. No lawsuits will occur.

Second, we need to stop the lawsuits and stop them now. Bringing a lawsuit in court is no way to engage in reconciliation. Instead, we should provide for binding arbitration to work out a settlement that honors the contributions of the national church office, the diocese, and the parish. If the diocese holds title to the property, then the people can leave and the diocese have an empty building, but the parish should not be able to take its property without some consideration. Likewise, if the parish holds the title to the property, then it can leave, but some compensation should be given to the diocese and national church. Endowments and trust funds belonging to a parish should be split based on a validated vote of the congregation. For example, assume a parish has a 1 million dollar trust fund and that parish decides to leave TECUSA on a 70/30 split. In that case the "leavers" get 700,000 and the stayers get 300,000. If there is an impasse between the diocese and the parish, an arbitration team should be called in to bring settlement. Note that if we impliment a viable AEO plan, this should become significantly less necessary.

Third, we need to find a way to let clergy transfer to another Anglican province without deposing them for "abandonment of communion." If a bishop, priest, or deacon cannot stay within TECUSA, then he or she should be allowed to transfer to another province - even if that province has congregations in the geographic boundries of TECUSA. This leaves the door open for future reconciliation such that the clergy person can return to TECUSA at a future date.

Finally, we need to stop talking past each other and assuming that the other side is more interested in winning that following and promoting the Gospel. This means taking what our opponents say at face value. When they ask a honest question, give an honest answer. At all times, avoid name calling or assuming motives that are not stated.

Phil Snyder

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Top Heavy?

On think I do like about being in the private business world is that we have the ability to adapt to face changing situations. While the term "reorganization" srikes fear in the hearts of many and many reorganizations are little more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, the ability to change the structure of an organization to better fit the needs of its customers and staff (and, thus, increase profitability) is something I wish that the Episcopal Church had.

Currently, there are 100 domestic dioceses. (This does not count Tiawan, Haiti, Virgin Islands, Micronesia, or any dioceses in province 9).

Of those dioceses, 43 have average Sunday attendance < 5000 and 10 have ASA < 2000! Here is a bit of stastical inforamtion (ASA in thousands)

ASA Number of Diocese
LT 1 4
1- 2 6
2- 3 10
3- 4 11
4- 5 10
5- 6 9
6- 7 6
7- 8 9
8- 9 5
9-10 5
10-11 2
11-12 1
12-13 3
13-14 3
14-15 1
15-16 3
16-17 2

17-18 3
18-19 0
19-20 0
20-21 1
21-22 3
GT 22 2

The median ASA (in terms of thousands) is 3-4 thousand ASA.

The Episcopal Church needs to reorganize! It has too many bishops for too few people. I suggest that we combine several dioceses such that there is a mininum of 7500 ASA (preferrably 10,000 ASA). While this, after a while, would mean fewer bishops, it would also mean less diocesan overhead - fewer offices to maintain and a much leaner church. Given that we have a 6 dioceses that have > 20,000 ASA, the remaining 94 would have asa of 625,000. We should have only about 70 dioceses (if that many) domestically.

Phil Snyder

Monday, May 05, 2008

Deep Theological Question for our Times

This question is related to our Eucharist Theology.

The Anglican Church has held many views on what happens in the Eucharist. There are those among us (including some of the Caroline Divines) hold a receptionist view where the bread and wine are not objectively changed, but the faithful still receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ through their faith. Article XXVIII (Of the Lord's Supper) says: "And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper, is Faith.

There are those who hold Transubstantiation where the substance of the Bread and Wine are replaced by the Body and Blood of Jesus. This is particularly true of those on the Anglo-Catholic spectrum of Anglicanism.

I have spoken with those who hold something akin to the Lutheran Consubstantiation where the substance of the bread and wine remain, but the substance of Christ's Body and Blood are added thereto.

I have heard most often that we believe that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, but are not real sure of how this happens, only that God the Father does it through God the Son with the power of God the Holy Spirit.

This is the most common view that I have seen in Anglicanism today. So the question comes up - particularly for those in large cities.

So, if we truly believe the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, is it permissible for those taking the Bread and Wine to the sick and shut-in to use the HOV Lanes during peek traffic times? After all, there is more than one person in the car! Of course, you will probably be stopped by a Police Officer that has a memorialist view of the Sacrament and get a ticket anyway.


Phil Snyder

Friday, May 02, 2008

Perception and Reality

I've been in the business world for almost 25 years. I've worked in the IT industry for most all that time and have had customer facing jobs for the vast majority of it. In almost every position I've held, I've been told "Perception is reality. What the customer perceives to be true is true for the customer."

We see that in today's Church as well. We hear people speaking of "my truth" and "your truth" not "The Truth."

I have news for those who say "my truth" or "your truth." Perception is not reality! Reality is reality. The difference between our perception and reality is commonly called "sin."

Sin is "unreal living." When we sin, we turn from God (which is our natural state). We turn from He who is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life." Sinning is turning from the Truth into untruth. Sin darkens our minds and our hearts. Eventually, we come to where we can't even see the Truth for what it is and we substitute our own version of it.

Each of us is so darkened by sin and unreal living that we can't know the Truth even if we think we do. So, what is the solution? The solution is to look to the One Who Is (ego ami, I am that I am) the Truth. We need to follow what God lays as the Truth - even about who we are. You see, we are not who we think we are. We do not know ourselves. Only God knows us. Paul says that "you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God." Now Paul writes this to Christians at Colossae, but I believe it applies to all people - Christians and non-Christians. We are all dead because of our sins and our life lies hid with Christ in God. The difference is that Christians understand this and seek our true life. When Christians go to "find themselves," they turn to Jesus Christ.

To understand how to gain victory over sin, we must learn that the Victory has already been won, we need to submit to the Victor and walk in that victory. Clinging to our self image (no matter what that image is) is not submitting to the Victor.

Phil Snyder

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Levity Time

Things have been serious for a while, so I thought it a good time to share some humor. In the comments, please share your favorite clean religious joke. I know that God has a sense of humor. He must! Look at the people He calls to be clergy!

An Englishman was riding on a train through Scotland. He was sitting next to an old Scot, but obviously didn't want to talk. After reading through "The Times" three times, he finally folds it and puts it on the seat pocket in front of him. The Scotsman turns to him and asks:
"How do you like Scotland?"

"I don't" replies the Englishman in his clipped oxbridge accent. "It's cold. It's rainy, and it's full of those damned Presbyterians."

"'Och - you'll like Hell then!" replies the Scot.

"Why do you say that?"

"'Tis nae cold. 'Tis nae rainy and there are no damned Presbyterians." replies the Scot.

Phil Snyder