Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thoughts on a Kairos Weekend

This past weekend (April 15-18), I was part of the team for Kairos #29 at the Coffield Unit in Texas. I know many of you were praying for the participants and the team - Thank You!

Kairos is a wonderful prison ministry, but what makes it so effective? We don't have huge revivals or large tent meetings. We don't have Altar Calls or pressure the men to make a commitment to Jesus Christ.

I think there are four major features of the Kairos weekend that make it so effective:
  1. We listen to the inmates. This is the most critical feature of Kairos. We do not preach. We teach very little. But we listen to and respect the inmates. This is something new to them.
  2. The team members make themselves vulnerable to the participants and other team members. We do not hide the fact that we are still sinners. We confess ours sins in our talks and meditations as appropriate. We also allow ourselves to be "foolish" during songs. When I serve, I try to do all the "dance" moves to songs such as "Jesus is the Rock" or "Pharoh, Pharoh." There is a time to be serious and a time to be foolish. The important thing is to know the difference.
  3. We come from many different denominations. This is also critical. We may have our differences and we are upfront with the inmates that we have differences. But we are united by the Lordship of Jesus Christ and a common call to serve in His Name. We NEVER proclaim one denomination or group as better or worse than another. One inmate I counselled with said that he was upset and confused by all the divisions and denomination in the Church, but that he had finally seen "The Church" in action on the Kairos Weekend. Our willingness to put aside differences to focus on Jesus Christ is an important part of the witness of Kairos to the inmates. They often see denominations as rival gangs. Our unity suprises and amazes them.
  4. We come back. We don't just present Jesus and then take him to the next unit. We come back to visit Jesus. Jesus lives in our prison system and in Texas, he wears the white uniform of an inmate.

All of these things are critical to the success of Kairos because of one thing and one thing only - God's agape love. We model that love to the "brothers-in-white" and we show evidence of that love both within the team members and among the inmates.

This weekend we had a committed Wiccan man tell us that this is the first love he had seen in a very long time and, while he did not accept Jesus, he committed to coming back for the followup weekends. We had a white supremist embrace Jesus Christ and the men of other color at his table family. I had a Jehovah Witness question me about the Trinity.

The greatest thing about Kairos is that it "works" in spite of the team members! We make countless mistakes, but God is faithful to the work and the Holy Spirit is present.

Please pray for the continuing ministry of Kairos and for the new 42 brothers in white that just completed this past weekend. Pray that God will continue to work through Kairos and in the lives of the team, the inmates, and the unit staff.


Phil Snyder

Friday, February 05, 2010

Archbishop Anis' call for New Leadership

The Rev. Dr. Kendall Harmon, the "blogfather" of the Anglican Communion, has a post about Archbishop Anis' call for a new executive leadership in the Anglican Communion.

As much as I respect +Anis, I cannot join him in this call. I think we spend way too much time worrying about leadership in the Church. We need to concentrate, instead, on discipleship.

We need new discipleship for our Church. As I've remarked in the past, TEC (and I would bet CofE and ACoC and other western, Christendom models) does a very poor job of making disciples out of members. We then take our members and look for leadership qualities in them and send them off to seminary without first making sure that they are gounded disciples. We look for people who can organize and inspire, but we don't seem to care what they inspire to.

We, particularly the clergy, need to be better disciples before we can be better leaders. We need to make sure that our leaders are disciples first.

A disciple is not just a "student" but closer to an "apprentice." The apprentice hears the voice of his master (the Holy Spirit) and does what the Holy Spirit says. in TEC, we have substituted the voice of the spirit of the age for the Holy Spirit. If you doubt that, look at how we discuss and debate issues. We form advocacy groups and put out press releases. We fight in courtrooms and use the canons of our Church like cudgels to beat each other with. We fight with political will and not with enlightened debate on the teaching of the Church.

And we wonder why we are declining in membership.

I call for a renewed focus on discipleship within the Church. Before you send someone to the Commission on Ministry, ask them what being a disciple of Jesus Christ means. Before electing a bishop or a person to the vestry, ask them how discipleship is evidenced in their lives.

We need to be more focused on being disciples first and leaders second.

Phil Snyder

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Agony and The Sinner - by George Herbert

I recently came across a copy of The Temple by George Herbert. Here are two of the poems that caused me to give thanks for such a faithful priest and poet.

The Agony
Philosphers have measured mountains,
Fatholmed the depths of seas, of states, and kings,
Walked with a staff to heaveN, and traced fountains:
But there are two vast, spacious things,
The which to measure it does more behoove:
Yet few there are that sounds them, Sin and Love.
Whoever would know Sin, let him repair:
Unto mount olivet; there he shall see
A man so wrung with pains, that all his hair,
His skin, his garments bloody be.
Sin is that press and vice which forces pain
To hunt his cruel food through every vein.
Whoever does not know Love,
let him assayAnd taste that juice, which on the cross a pike
Did set again abroach; then let him say
If ever he did taste the like.
Love is that liquor sweet and most divine
Which my God feels as blood, but I as wine,

The Sinner
Lord, how I am all with fever, when I seek
What I have treasured in my memory!
Since, if my soul makes even with the week,
Every seventh note by right is due to thee.
I find there quarries of piled vanities,
But shreds of holiness, that dare not venture
to show their face, since cross to thy decrees:
There to circumference earth is, heaven center.
In so much dregs he quintessence is small.
The spirit and good extract of my heart
Comes to about the many hundreth part.
Yet, Lord, restore thine image, hear my call.
And though my hart heart scarcely can to the groan
Remember that thou once didst write in stone.

Phil Snyder

Monday, February 01, 2010

Health Care Revisited Part 2

In my previous post, I listed three types of health care:
  1. Primary Care - normal doctor stuff.
  2. Catastrophic care - ER Stuff, Major Illness, accidents, etc.
  3. Chronic Care - long term illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, and some mental illnesses.

There are several problems with how health care is delivered in America today. I would like to address what I think are the two biggest.

  1. Using insurance the wrong way - we have divorced the reception of services from the payment for services. There is little incentive for the patient to be fiscally involved in his or her health care
  2. Overuse of some types of health care. This is primarily "defensive medicine" where a doctor orders test as a precaution, not against the adverse health, but against a malpractice lawsuit. This also comes when a doctor orders a battery of lab results from a lab in which the doctor is a partner or orders rehab in a clinic where the doctor is a partner. There is a tendency to over-order in such cases.

First, let's talk "insurance." The purpose of insurance is to provide relief in the event of an unforseen and catastrophic loss. We have home owner's insurance to cover costs associated with major and unpredictable damage such as fire, flood (a separate policy), lightening, major theft, or other damage. We don't ask home owner's insurance to cover light bulbs going out or the replacement of air filters or routine maintenance on the grounds. Most financial analysts will tell you to take as high a deductible as you can reasonably afford because it will save you in the long run.

But, when it comes to health insurance, we ask that it cover every single visit to the doctor. At the beginning of the year, I had a visit with my doctor to get blood work on my diabetes. (The blood work came back good with a glucose level of 100 and an A1C of 6.2.) I suggested that I pay the doctor for the visit right then because I had started a new deductible year. However, the office couldn't do that. They had to file the insurance, wait for it to deny, then bill me and wait for me to pay. All the filing and tracking requires a person to handle. So, the costs of delivering routine medical care have gone up because of the friction involved due to the instrusion of health insurance into a type of care that is not a good candidate for insurance - routine, primary care. To reduce the cost of insurance (and the cost of delivering health care), we should return to a high deductible plan that covers only chronic or catastrophic care. Currently, most employees are allowed to have a set amount taken from their paycheck, pre-tax, to cover health care costs. But, the amounts are lost if they are not used. So, may people either have too little take out or they spend wildly at the end of the year so as not to lose the money they've already spent.

We should change this to a health care savings account that can be carried over year to year and will grow tax free. The money in this account can be used for later costs such as rehab or even long term care. If a person dies with money in this account, the money should be taxed at capital gains rates before it becomes part of the person's estate. This would return primary care back to a transaction between the patient and the doctor and it could reduce the cost of delivering care because it reduces the friction of paying for the service.

My next post on health care will dicuss "defensive and offensive medicine."


Phil Snyder

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Health Care Revisited Part 1.

As some of you may know, my "day" job is as a computer programmer for Dell Perot Systems (Perot Systems was purchased by Dell last October). I work in our Health Care area and I work with Health Insurance companies, designing and writing programs for our Claims Payment and Premium Billing system, Xcelys. I've been working in the payer side of health care for 13 years now.

Now when we talk about Health Care Reform, we are not talking about reforming health care in the US. We aren't even talking about reforming how it is delivered. We are talking about how to pay for and ration health care. Now "rationing" is a "bad" word. But as everyone who has taking any courses in economics can tell you, almost everything is rationed one way or another. We ration most things in the US by ability to pay. Not everyone who wants diamonds has them. Only those who have enough money to pay for diamonds have them.

Currently, health care is paid for, primarily, by insurance. The purpose of insurance is risk management. You buy home owners insurance to mitigate the risk of catastrophic loss because of damage to your home. You don't buy home owners insurance to fix a leaky toilet or replace the filters on your air conditioner/heater. We don't buy insurance to pay for someone to cut our grass or even trim our trees. Those things are considered normal costs of owning a home.

One of the problems with health insurance is that we ask too much of it and we are using it for too many things. I submit that there are three types of health care
  1. Primary Care - this is the normal health care that we receive. It is doctors visits for routine physicals and immunizations or when you get the flu or a cold. I don't believe that insurance should cover this type of care. Covering primary care is like asking your car insurance to pay for oil changes or tune ups.
  2. Catastrophic Care - this consists of things that are rare, but expensive when they happen. Examples could be specialized tests or surgery or trips to the emergency room or catastrophic illnesses like cancer. These cannot be planned for on an individual basis
  3. Chronic Care - this consists of chronic diseases such as diabetes or asthma or even some mental illnesses. Maintenance care for these diseases is necessary and relatively inexpensive, but it can grow to be very expensive and, if the maintenance care is not received, the chronic disease will turn into a catastrophic one. Some form of payment sharing should be done by insurance because both parties have a strong interest in avoiding the costs of catastrophic care.

My next post will concern other impacts to the costs of delivering health care such as defensive medicine and legal fees as well as the friction costs of insurance and how we can reduce them.


Phil Snyder

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Confession of St. Peter

Today is the Feast of the Confession of Saint Peter the Apostle. Today, we remember Peter's confession "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matt 16:16). His answer comes to the most important question we will ever face? "But who do you say that I (Jesus) am?"

To put this in a bit of context, Jesus starts by asking what seems to be a theoretical question: "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" Jesus is not directly about himself here. He seems to be asking what appears to be some "coffee hour" question. When the Son of Man comes, what are people expecting? The various answers are John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. The people were expecting some form of strong and forceful person as the Son of Man.

After listening to what the people were expecting, Jesus asks, "But who do you say that I am?" This is where Peter, inspired by God, answers.

Now, what did Peter mean by "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God?" Well, I don't think he fully understood what he was saying. I believe that Peter was still thinking in terms of a "traditional" Messiah (Christ) who would throw out the hated Romans, reform the Jewish state and restore the Kingship of David. For evidence of this, simply read the rest of the Gospels and look at how often Peter puts his foot in his mouth. Heck, right after saying this, he goes so far as to contradict Jesus when Jesus says that he will have to die and then be raised on the third day (Matt 16:21-24).

So, who do you say that Jesus is?

The Church answers this question with two words: "Savior" and "Lord."

Jesus is our Savior. Americans don't like to hear that we have a Savior, let alone that we need one. We are the people of the Self Made Man. We are the people that pulled ourselves up by our boot straps. We are the people of John Wayne and Gary Cooper at High Noon. We are the rugged individualist. If Pelagius lived in the 20th or 21st century, he would be an American. But we need a Savior! We cannot save ourselves, no matter how hard we try. Jesus is that Savior. He saves us from the power of sin and death. By submitting to the ultimate that sin could dish out, Jesus defeats sin and death and we participate in that victory through our baptism and our life in Jesus Christ. We need Jesus like we need oxygen or water.

Jesus asks you "Who do you say that I am?" I pray that you answer: "You are my Savior. I need you.?"

Jesus in our Lord. If Americans don't like to hear that we need a savior, we even less like to hear that we need a Lord. After all, we are all little lords in our own homes. It seems that our national motto is "You aren't the boss of me!" (Witness TEC's answers to the Anglican Communion.) If we admit that we can't save ourselves, we also must admit that we cannot make the decisions in our lives that lead to salvation or lead to union with God through Jesus Christ. We need direction. We need someone to help us know what to do, when to do it, and how to do it? We need a Lord. This does not mean that we live an escapist life where we make no decisions. A large part of the Christian life is coming to know God so well that we make the right decisions by habit and by nature. We can only have God's law and will written on our hearts if we let God do that. By our fallen nature, our hearts are inclined away from God. We need a Lord to bring our hearts and our wills back to the state that God desires.

Jesus asks you "Who do you say that I am?" I pray that you will answer: "You are my Lord. I will follow you."

Jesus is our Savior and our Lord. He saves us from sin and death and leads us to know the Will of God and provides us direction in our lives to know God's will and the strength (through Grace) to do it.

Phil Snyder

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

J. I. Packer and Catechesis

I had a wonderful "Godincidence" (a "coincidence" that can be attributed to God) this weekend. Dr. J. I. Packer (the author of Knowing God and other books) came to town for the Bishop Stanton lecture. Normally this takes place in November, but this was how the schedule worked out.

Anyway, Dr. Packer's latest crusade is for improved catechesis - instruction in the faith. This is something that the Episcopal Church has done poorly for several decades. We seem to operate under the notion that everyone is already a Christian and they don't need instruction. This is something that I feel very strongly about. We don't seem to care about Christian Education - particularly for adults! We operate as if the Catechism class is where you "graduate" and you don't have to be in Sunday School any more.

Now one of my duties at St. James is to teach our Catechsism class every year. I normally do a combined youth and adult class and I refuse to talk down to the young people. The class is about 1/2 lecture and 1/2 small group discussion - with adults and kids sitting in the same groups.

The "Godincidence" is that my Catechism class started last Sunday (Jan 10th) - the day after Dr. Packer's lecture!

Anyway, here is what we cover in the class
1. Who is God - the Father
2. Who is God - Jesus, the Son
3. Who is God - the Holy Spirt and the Trinity
4. Who are we?
5. What is our goal? (To live a life filled with and powered by God's Grace)
6. Where do we live the life of Grace? - The Church
7. How do we live the life of Grace? - by Faith.
8. What is this faith? The Baptismal Covenant
9. What is this faith? The Nicene Creed
10. How do we grow in faith and grace? - Prayer
11. How do we grow in faith and grace? - Study
12. How do we grow in faith and grace? - Ministry
13. How do we grow in faith and grace? - Sacraments
14. What obstacles can we expect in our life? Sin (and overcoming obstacles)
15. Sin and Virtue (APESLAG, and FHL Time For Prune Juice)
16. How is the Parish and Church structured?

Anyway, that is my basic outline. I will be teaching the class from now until Trinity Sunday when our Bishop will come to confirm.

Please pray for me and for the class.

Phil Snyder

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Perception and Reality

One of the phrases I loathe in today's business and social world is "Perception is Reality." Today, Matt Kennedy published a story on Stand Firm about the definition of "faithfulness" and it brought this problem to mind.

One of the tenents of post-modernism is that every person has their own meaning for words and, so, the only thing that really matters is what the reader or listener understand the meaning to be - that the author's intent should not be attended to or it should be secondary to the listener's/reader's understanding. The first part of that statement is true. We all have, because of our experiences, our own shading on the meanings of words - particularly words with religious significant such as "faithfulness." However, the second statement - that the author's intent should be seconded to one's understanding does not follow. The author's intent and meaning should be what drives the conversation, not the reader's understanding.

I believe that this is a problem that comes up from "perception is reality" thinking. It is true that we act on our own perception of reality. But that does not mean that our perception is reality. Reality is reality and our perception is always faulty.

In religious terms, the difference between Reality and our perception is commonly called "sin." If I perceive that marital faithfullness is not broken unless I have sexual intercourse outside of marriage and I then have several female friends where we perform oral sex on each other, then I do not perceive that I have sinned, but I still have sinned. My perception did not match reality. Even if my wife agrees with me, I still have sinned. I submit that the majority of our sins are committed because we truly do not and cannot perceive reality. But we still sin.

So, how do we come to perceive reality more truly? Some submit that this is a problem of knowledge. We simply need to be instructed in what the right is and then we will do it. Some submit that this is a problem of our nature and we should just accept that we are all just human and we should support and bless those who are being faithful to their perceived reality.

I say that it is a matter of our will and not our minds. Our wills are so twisted that we cannot know reality - even when we are educated about it. Our will reject reality in favor of our perception. The way to solve this is not just education (although education can be a part of it). We need to have our wills destroyed and remade. This is the process of sanctification or theosis. This is the process of developing our conscience (with knowledge) and submission of our wills to God's will. So, how do we know God's will? Well, as individuals it is very hard to know God's will. God's voice sounds an aweful lot like our own when we are by ourselves. We have to listen to what God has said in the past (Scripture and Tradition) and listen to what the Church says now (Reason).

The second answer (just accept that we are sinful and then bless people when they are being true to their perception) denies that there really is sin. It makes Jesus' sacrifice on the cross meaningless and empties the Resurrection of its power. We cannot bless sinful behavior - no matter how well meaning the behavior is.

Perception is not reality. Reality is reality. We need to pray and study and submit so that we can see reality more clearly. Changing our perception to match Reality is not so much a problem of the mind. It is a problem of the will. We need "to die daily to sin" so that we can perceive reality.

Phil Snyder

Thursday, November 12, 2009

More about Plano Schools

Here is an update about the Plano ISD School situation. I'm sorry it is so late in coming.

The School Board had a very difficult task. In the end, they did not opt for any of the six plans for school feeders in the east side. The created a new plan that was very similar to one of the economically balanced plans.

I believe this is a major victory for the Latino Community in Plano and for the parents in the east side (where most of the poverty is located). PISD even had its first public input session in Spanish at a school with a large Latino community! The fact that they asked for and listened to the opinions of our Latino brothers and sisters is a major victory!

So, what is next? Well, next on my radar is the organizing and launching of what I am calling the "homework clinic." One of the problems in elementary (K-5) and middle school (6-8) in some of the poorer communities is that the teachers don't hand out as much homework as gets handed out in more affluent schools. This is a problem because the kids don't get the much needed reinforcement that homework provides. I am proposing that we have a nightly homework clinic at the schools where people from the larger community will come to the school cafeteria every evening from 4:30 to say 6:30 or so and be there as a resource to help the kids with homework. I am trying to organize the leaders at different churches and the PTAs and the school administration to get this accomplished.

Please pray that I will find the time necessary to do this and that the way will be opened with the school administration for us to accomplish this ministry and that people will volunteer and that parents will have their kids go to the clinics.

Phil Snyder
Note: actually published on Jan 7, 2010

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Plano Schools - Re-segregation?

Note: Blue is Williams, Magenta is McMillen
It's been a while since I've written anything - I know. I've been busy with work and with a local school project.

Plano Independent School District has a unique way of dividing its grades
Elementary school runs from K-5. Middle School is 6-8. High School is 9 and 10 and the Senior High School is 11 and 12.

In the east side of Plano, there is currently one Senior High school and one High School. PISD is building another. The problem comes out with how do we divide the middle schools between the high schools.

East Plano has a very wide mix of economic status. In "Old Plano", there are a lot of Latinos and a lot of African Americans. In far east Plano, including the suburbs of Parker and Murphy, there are many wealthy families that live in homes that are 500,000 or more (5k square feet).

There are currently six plans that the School Board is considering. Three plans that have the biggest support among the School Board will put the two newest middle schools into the new high school (these are located in the richer part of town) and the two older middle schools to the old high school. The problem is that in doing so, over 90% of the Latino students in east Plano will be sent to the old High School. Also over 92% of the Economically Disadvanted students in east Plano will be sent to the old high school and just under 8% of them will be at the new high school. The new middle school is equidistant from the two high schools, so this isn't really about "neighborhood schools." To me, this is an issue of Justice. To segregate the schools either by race or by economic status is just plain wrong. The image above shows the breakdown of Latino students and Economically Disadvanted students under plans E456 and under the most balanced plan, E3. Click on it to get a bigger picture.
When I spoke at the public hearing I said that to concentrate this much poverty at one school while alleviating the other school of almost all poverty is morally reprehensible. When I said that at the public hearing, I got boo'ed. I have had people ask me how I can call myself a Christian Minister and still make statements like that. I wonder how people can call themselves Christian and support that level of segregation. How can I be a Deacon in Christ's church and not call society's attention to this injustice? How can I not raise the alarm of immorality and injustice? I have received a lot of flak on this, but I have also received a lot of support. When I spoke to the Bishop Suffragan about it, he supported me as did the Archdeacon. I haven't had an opportunity to speak with my Ordinary about it yet.
I would ask you all to please pray for the Parents and Board Members who support the plans that effectively segregate the Latino and poor children into one high school. Pray that God will soften their hearts and open their eyes.
Also pray for me, that I not be consumed with anger. It is hard to meet anger with love and bitterness with joy. Pray that I will be given the grace to do just that.
Phil Snyder

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