Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Where Your Treasure Is

Since 815 cut the entire evangelism budget for the next three years I have been struck (and angered) by the fact that they budgeted over three million dollars for litigation in the next three years and this does not include moneys to support the "remnant" dioceses of Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, and San Joaquin so that they can spend more of their locally raised money on litigation.

Jesus said that where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. It seems that TEC's treasure is in empty buildings and in doing nothing to fill them.

There are a number of issues at stake here. I think that the biggest issue is lack of Christian formation among both the clergy and the laity. Being formed to know Jesus means being formed to be an evangelist - to "proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ." We all promised to do that when we were baptized or when we renewed our own baptismal covenant at every baptism in which we participated. I doubt that too many at 815 can proclaim the good news of God in Christ because if they could, they would. The good news (gospell) is not that people gave buildings or money in perpetuity for the exclusive use of TEC. The good news is that God came among us as one of us to defeat sin and death and to pay the price for our own sins. We participate in that victory and as co-workers with God in His plan to renew (resurrect) all of creation by our baptism in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Thus our old nature is killed (and is being killed) and we are to be raised with a new nature. How can you know that good news and not work to help others understand that their struggle against sin and death has already been won and that they can work with God to continue the struggle among the rest of creation?

Also, I see the litigation and fighting to the death to own the buildings as one of the fruits of the decades long struggle. This seems to be to be the result of a "We won. You Lost. Get over it." mentality. This also belies a lack of Christian formation as this is the attitude of the political arena and not the attitude one should have with Christian brothers and sisters.

Since 815's heart is not with evangelism, but is with litigation, how can we change their hearts? I don't know that we can. But we can and should work to change the hearts of the people in our congregations and dioceses. We need to focus on teaching our people the fundamentals of the faith. We need to get them involved in Bible Study and Adult Sunday School. We need to get them involved in prayer, study, and ministry. We need to move them to an accountability group where they are accountable to each other for their Christian lives. In short, we need to concentrate more on making disciples than on adding members.

Phil Snyder

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


In light of TEC's decision to eliminate the entire evangelism office at the national level, I now suggest that this was only symbolic anyway. While what it symbolizes is significant - it symbolizes that TEC does not find Evangelism important, but finds bureaucracy important, it finds litigation important, it finds social programs important. But it does not find Evangelism important.

So, what is evangelism and why is it so important? Most importantly, what can we - as persons, small groups, congregations and dioceses do to increase evangelism?

First, evangelism is spreading the Good News. So, what is the good news? It is simply this. God has begun His plan to deal with sin and death and evil in the world - first with the creation of man and then with the calling of the patriarchs. I think that the central point of Holy Scripture occurs in Genesis with God's call of Abram - By you all nations will be blessed.

Next, from the Patriarchs, God called Israel to be his special people in rescuing the world from evil, death, and sin. In the fullness of time, God Himself became part of His creation in the person of Jesus. Jesus went about healing the effects of evil, sin and death and, himself, became subject to their greatest effects and, in doing so, defeated them! The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is both the seal on his victory and the promise of our own sharing in his triumph. By our personal incorporation into the Body of Christ (the Church) through baptism (in which we are killed and raised to new life), we can participate with God in His work of redeeming all of creation.

So, that is the good news! God does not abandon us to death and sin; He redeems us from them and gives us work today to help in the reconciliation of all creation. Part of that work is to get others involved in the work by helping them to participate in God's victory and in His work. Evangelism is the act of recruiting other laborers into God's work and God's victory.

So, if we are getting no help from 815 (which may not be a bad thing. You can almost track the growth of the bureaucracy at 815 and the decline of membership and attendance in TEC), what do we do? First, we become evangelists ourselves. We learn how to share the Good News of what God has done for us, in us, and through us and what God can do for, in and through others. Evangelism is not just making guests or visitors in a congregation feel welcome, thought that may be part of a congregation's evangelism plan.

I submit that each congregation has an "Evangelism Plan" that helps the clergy and vestry of that congregation become better evangelists and lead others to become evangelists too.

One tool I've used is what I've heard called "life lines" where we chart our live on a graph with good points and bad points in our lives. We do this in two lines - the first represents our physical life. The second represents our spiritual lives - our relationship with God. We then look for correlation between the two. This took helps us understand what God has done for, in, and through us.

What your plans for evangelism? How many people have you successfully recruited (or gotten them to recognize God's recruiting) to work with us in the redemption of the entire creation. What are you going to do differently to become an evangelist?

Phil Snyder

Monday, July 20, 2009

TEC Eliminates Evangelism Program

From Fr. Terry Martin (who was TEC's Evangelism Officer), we find out that, as part of the budget cuts at 815, TEC is eliminating the entire evangelism program.

Isn't this like eating your seed corn? Now, more than ever, I am convinced that the leadership of The Episcopal Church does not know Jesus Christ. They may think they know him, but it seems obvious to me that they do not.

Evangelism is essential to the Christian faith. It is part of its very core. Jesus' final "marching orders" to the Church are found in the Great Commission

And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been
given to me. God 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." (Matt 28:18-20)

You can also read Luke's version of this

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; andyou shall
be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the
earth. (Acts 1:8)

I am fairly involved in the Cursillo movement here in Dallas. The first talk of the Cursillo weekend in "Ideals" and we learn that you can determine what your ideal is by tracking where you spend your time, your energy, and your money. TEC has budgeted between 3 and 4 million dollars for litigation (depending on how you read the budget). This does not count providing much of the operating budget of San Joaquin and Fort Worth so they can sue the current owners of the property. TEC would rather spend its money on litigation - to recover empty buildings that need to be maintained and cannot be sold for their "book value" - rather than on growing the Church.

815 is a bureaucrats heaven and an evangelists nightmare. The bureaucratic beast that is 815 needs to be starved. Unfortunately, 815 responds by cutting programs that feed the hungry and expand the gospel rather than going on a diet themselves.

Let me get back to the leadership of TEC's knowledge of Jesus. If you know Jesus, you are filled with a desire to make him known to others. It is now a common saying that Evangelism is one hungry person telling another hungry person where there is food. The leadership of TEC does not recognize its hunger and doesn't seem to know where the food it.

As a Deacon in Christ's One, Holy, Catholic, and Aposotolic Church, it falls to me to "interpret to the Church the needs, concerns and hopes of the world." (BCP 543). What the world needs more than anything else is Jesus. TEC would rather give us litigation than Jesus. TEC would rather give us bureauracy than Jesus. TEC would rather give us unending arguments about the blessing of sin than give us Jesus.

We need Jesus. Please, Bishops and leaders in TEC, give us Jesus.

Phil Snyder

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sunday's OT Lesson

I am preparing a sermon for Sunday. A friend of mine has been busy at General Convention and asked me to preach for him at his congregation this week. I still use the BCP lectionary (until Advent) and the OT lesson struck me as I was praying over it.

Because of the iniquity of his covetousness I was angry,
I smote him, I hid my face and was angry;
but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart

I think this is a very apt description of our (not just TEC, but all of us) relationship with God. Whether we covet money or sex or power, we all have sin that we prefer to God. That is what it means to be fallen.

I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;
I will lead him and requite him with comfort,
creating for his mourners (the repentant) the fruit of the

God is good! Even though He knows our sinful nature, and our ways, He still reaches out to us to heal us - to restore us - to save us.

Peace, peace, to the far and to the near, says the Lord;
and I will heal him.
But the wicked are like the tossing sea;
for it cannot rest, and its waters toss up mire and dirt.
There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked

God loves us and wants to heal us. But what if we refuse God's peace? Then we are like a tossing sea.

Right now, I feel like I am in a tossing sea. The turmoil that TEC is in makes me feel like I will never reach land again. But God promises peace. We need to hold on to that promise and find our peace in Jesus Christ.

Phil Snyder

We've been here before

With the passage of D025 (saying that sexually active homosexuals can and are called to be bishops) and C056 (asking the SCLM to develop "liturgical resources" for blessing same sex unions) the Episcopal Church has told the Anglican Communion "we don't want to be a part of you - except on our own terms." I am saddened beyond words.

But the Church has been here before. Over the centuries, the people of God have turned away from God time and time again. They have "forsaken thy covenant" (I Kings 19:14). Everytime the people of God turned their backs on God, they suffered consequences and I belive this time is no different. But in every time there has been a faithful remnat - even if it is a small one. This time is no different.

Israel turned its back on God several times, but neither Elijah nor Isaiah, neither Ezekiel nor Jeremiah took God's people away. They stayed and witnessed and died among "a people of unclean lips." They maintained their covenant with God through the apostacy and eventual exile of God's people.

Anthony didn't start another church when he went to he desert because the church in his day (3rd century) had become too enamored of power and wealth.

Athanasius didn't start another church when he was exiled himself and the Church was too focused on political power after having become the State Church.

The Cappodocians didn't start another church when the Church declared itself Arian in the middle of the fourth century.

Neither Francis nor Dominic started another church when the Church in their day became too focused on secular power and approval.

When the CofE had become simply a religious laminate on an ungodly society, Wesley didn't leave it. He worked to reform it from within and did not succeed in his lifetime! In fact, his followers were kicked out of the Church.

In all these cases, the prophets and leaders for reform in their day did not live to see the fruits of their labors. We may not live to see a wholesome Episcopal Church in the USA. But I have faith to God will call the Church to Himself again - just as He called the people of Israel back to the desert to woo them in Hosea.

We need to recover the spirit of those early reformers and the spirit of the prophets. We need to be true to our covenant and work to reform our own lives and the lives of our congregations. We need to recover the prophetic voice and action that is our inheiritance. We need to be more faithful in prayer and study and ministry.

Tonight, let us weep for the good that was PECUSA, ECUSA, TEC.

Tomorrow let us rise and set our faces towards God - the only one who can reform TEC!

Phil Snyder

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Sad Day

Today is a very sad day for me. The Episcopal Church has choosen to walk apart. The House of Bishops approved resolution D025 which, in effect, stops the moritorium on ordaining a person sexually active outside of marriage to the Episcopate. TEC has effectively thumbed its nose at the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Communion and its own members. The leadership of this Church cares nothing for the fellowship of other Christians - only those who agree with them.

What will happen now? I don't know. I do know that the young boy who learned to serve God's altar at Trinity Cathedral in the 70s is crying because he doesn't understand what his Church is doing. I do know that the young man who was found by Jesus in TEC in California at Camp San Joaquin is asking his Lord what happened.

I do know that the young adult who got married and started (and then raised) a family in the Episcopal Church is not so much confused as hurt. Why would the Church turn its back on her Lord and on the rest of the Church?

But the deacon who was ordained five years ago is caught between sadness at the lack of will that the leadership in TEC has to hear God's word and anger that they refuse to listen. Part of the role of Deacon is that of prophet. To tell the Church what God has said. I am caught between Jeremiah's Lamentations and Hosea's anger. I find it rather interesting that God chose the metaphor of Marriage and Haroltry to explain Israel's faithlessness.

What now? I don't know. Tonight I will re-read Lamentations. I have a sermon to prepar for Sunday and the Gospel for Sunday is the feeding of the five thousand in Mark. Even in a far away place, God takes what we offer and provides abundance for it. Even when there is no hope in buying food to feed the people, there is God's provision for feeding those who stay to listen to the Lord as he teaches. I offer what I have to God and ask Him to multiply it. I pray that TEC learns to listen to God again as it drifts in the wilderness of secularism.

Phil Snyder

Monday, July 13, 2009

What is the Goal?

Right now, it is very easy to get lost in the political wrangling of General Convention for the Episcopal Church. I spent Saturday afternoon at the Coffield unit and was reminded that the goal of the Christian Life is union with God. It is in places like prison, or the homeless shelters or food banks where we meet Jesus. It is where "the least of these" dwell that we find the confirmation of all our doctrines and dogmas. I had several conversations with inmates that are worried about their Christian walk and that they don't feel the ardour that they felt in their first conversion. Let me share the story that I shared with them. I read this in a commentary on the Rule of Benedict by Joan Chittister (spelling?) This story helps us remember that the goal of the Christian Life is union with God, not political wrangling or a specific outcome at General Convention.

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 replied: "To attain God, you must do two things."

The novice thinks "Two things? I can do two things! This will
be easy!"

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

"And the second?" asks the novice - rather heartbroken and scared.

The master replies: "You must live as if you don't know the

Union with God is not our work. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. We can't put ourselves right with God nor can we make God love us more or less. But, and this is a rather large "but," we must be willing participants in our own sanctification. We must work hard at surrendering to God and we must practice self examination and denial and ask God to help us see ourselves honestly. The Christian life is easy because it is lived by God's grace. It is hard because we don't always want God's grace - we are too afraid that it will change us too much.

Phil Snyder

Kudos to Verizon and Frys!

I have Verizon's FIOS Fiber Optic service for my internet at home. Friday evening, my modem/router died. So, Saturday morning, I went to Fry's (my toy store) and picked up another modem/router. But when I got it home, it did not have the installation disk. So I took it back to Frys to get a replacement, but they were out of modem/routers, so I would have to purchase a modem and separate router (making my geek level increase). I got them home and called Verizon to register the new MAC address. The tech on the phone (who spoke flawless and mid-west accented English!) told me that Verizon would send me a new Router for free! So, I took the modem and router I had purchased from Frys back to Frys and they credited my card with no problems.

The technical support at Verizon and the customer focus at both Verizon and Frys are great and I strongly recommend both companies to anyone who reads this blog.

Phil Snyder

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Political Activism or Discernment

One of the problems with General Convention is that it is a political body. It makes decisions using political means. This is not a bad model for issues of church order, such as welcoming new dioceses, setting budget priorities, setting up the guidelines by which deacons, priests, and bishops are ordained or disciplined.

But it is a very bad model for deciding theological issues. The problem with the political model is that it is subject to political activism. People now make theological decisions based on political means. The problem with that is the decision is determined before the community does the discernment. And, when discernment is called for, it is called for in a political setting, so those who are politically active or politically driven are the ones who make the statements to the "discernment" committee/group. So, the method of discernment itself is subjected to political activism.

The largest problem with GC is that it uses the wrong means to do theological discernment. It asks, not what is the will of God, but what is the will of the deputies and bishops. All too often, they end up with the will of men and women, not the will of God.

So, how do we discern the will of God? First, we ask God to show us His will. We compare our answers to see if they are congruent with how God's will has been determined in times past (Scripture and Tradition). Looking at Scripture, I am struck by the pain and damage done to God's people when they insist on their own will instead of God's will. Perhaps the greatest example of this is the establishment of a King for Israel. When Israel insisted on a King, instead of letting YHWH be King, they selected Saul and, as a direct result of Israel becoming like the nations, you had the oppression of the poor, the rise of syncretism and idolatry, the dividing of the Kingdom and the people forgetting their covenant with God - and, eventually, the destruction of the 10 tribes and the Exile of Judah.

Looking at TEC today, I see a rise in TEC becoming like "the nation" or like the secular world. We speak of "rights" but not of "righteousness." We have forgotten our Covenant - or at least the first three promises (to continue in the Apostles' teaching and fellowship, to persevere in resisting evil, and to love your neighbor as yourself). We have divided the kingdom and are facing our own exile.

Phil Snyder

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

General Convention and Disneyland

As most of the Episcopal world know, General Convention is underway right now in Anahiem California - also the location for Disneyland. So, what is the difference between General Convention and Disneyland?

One is a place, designed the part patrons from their money, where they try to suspend reality - full of strange people in odd costumes.

The other is a theme park.

Phil Snyder

Monday, July 06, 2009

"Reforming" the Episcopal Church

Today marks the formation of yet another conservative coalition (the ecclesiastical version of YACC) - the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in the United Kingdom. I believe that, overall, this is a good thing. But it has been tried ad nauseum in the United States with limited success.

The problem with YACC is that conservative Anglicans tend to not be focused on political wrangling nor on long term strategy or even tactics. When it comes to political groups, I'm not much of a joiner. I like politcal wrangling far too much and I enjoy the cut and thrust of parlimentary debate. These are necessary and good things, but they can be so time consuming that I lose focus on Jesus as the goal.

Theology aside, that is my major critique of the liberal/progressive side of the Church. They are politically astute and they organize and plan and strategize much better than the conservative side does. They make their goals clear and their goal is not reconcilliation with God through Jesus Christ. Their goal is the success in implimenting a political goal using the methods learned in the Civil Rights struggles of the 50s and 60s - political activism and civil (ecclesiastical?) disobedience.

The conservatives cannot fight the progressive political machine using the progressives' tools. Reform of the Episcopal Church is a lost cause when we attempt it using political means - especially at the national (General Convention) level. If we are to concentrate on political actions, we need to concentrate at the local levels - vestry members, diocesan convention delegates, members of the Commission on Ministry, Standing Committee, and Executive Committee of the dioceses in which we worship.

But more important than local political wrangling is personal reformation and catechesis - instruction in the faith - for both the laity and the clergy. We need to return to God and let God fight for us. There are so many "conservative coalitions" that are trying to fight politics with politics. We need to recover the goal of union with God through Jesus Christ. Before we can fight politically, we need to fight spiritually. We need to remove our egos from the struggle and work to follow Jesus only. We are too much like the Church in Corinth with different leaders and different factions. I fear that we are repeating the Continuing Anglican mess of the late 70s and 80s where personality conflicts caused a fracture in what could have been a good movement.

So, I remain in TEC. I am not called to reform the Church - that is God's job. I am not even called to reform my diocese or parish. Again, that's God's job. I am not even called to reform myself. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. What am I called to do? First I am called to be faithful in prayer and study of Scriptures to more fully know the mind of God. Second, I am to help others become faithful in prayer and study so they too can more fully know the mind of God. Third, I am to help lead my congregation and my diocese out into ministry in the world. I am to help the Church recall her baptismal covenant and repent where she has fallen - especially the first promise to continue in the Apostles' teaching and fellowship.

Unfortunately, I doubt many on either side of the progressive/conservative divide will listen to me. But, again, my job is not to make them listen. My job is to be faithful in proclaiming God's Word and to help lead the Church to recover what she has lost so she can go into the world and make disciples.

Phil Snyder