Sunday, February 07, 2016

"Listen to Him"

This Sunday's Gospel reading from Luke 9:28-36,(37-43a) contains the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus and in this we hear a voice from the clouds,
Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’—not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
The voice of God coming from a cloud is also found in Mark and Matthew,
Mark 9:7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”
Matthew 17:5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
The voice parallels what the voice heard at the time of Jesus' baptism (which is another event repeated in all of the synoptic Gospels),
Mark 1:11  And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Matthew 3:17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Luke 3:22  and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
The Gospel of John does not include these, but instead recalls a voice from heaven near the end of Jesus' life,
John 12:27-28 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
How many times do we pray to hear God's voice?

Why do we feel disappointed when we do not get an answer when the answer is staring us in the face?
"Listen to Him"
And how can we listen to him?

By opening up those dusty Bibles and reading what he has to say!

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Property Battle in the Diocese of Haiti Strains Relationships Between the Diocese of Upper South Carolina and Bishop of Haiti

Curious events have been occurring in Haiti centering around the community of Cange. Since 1979, the Diocese of Upper South Carolina has been very supportive of missionary work there, and has provided much-needed engineering and medical assistance largely through the efforts of the parishioners of Christ Church Greenville (see their web pages).

Episcopal priest Père Lafontant, who for many years was the spiritual leader at Cange and who along with his daughter visited our parish in Upper South Carolina in the past, retired four years ago and things apparently have not been the same there since.

Bishop Waldo has only provided cryptic and carefully guarded remarks about the problems in Cange, but he opens his "Pastoral Letter" on the subject by saying,
"the World Missions Committee, with my support, has temporarily suspended all aid and all trips to Haiti." 
We all know that Haiti is one of the poorest nations in our hemisphere, so what could be so bad that a a Church would cut them off?

As Bishop Waldo explains, it sounds like a church property dispute, and that is something that people in the Episcopal church should be familiar with.

"Over the course of the fall of 2015, the Diocese of Haiti has made it clear that they intend to manage all of the buildings on land purchased in their name by Père Lafontant in the early years of our shared ministry. These buildings include:
École Bon Sauveur and Église Bon Sauveur.
The Zanmi Lasante (Partners in Health’s Haitian sister organization) administrative compound, Artisan Center, Friendship House, hospital, and TB/HIV sanatorium.
Further complicating matters is the fact that many of Zanmi Lasante’s buildings are constructed on this property belonging to the Diocese of Haiti.  For years we have hoped to have a signed MOU (memorandum of understanding) between Zanmi Lasante and the Diocese of Haiti, for the use of the property. The World Missions Committee and I know that having the MOU is imperative both for security reasons and for us to be able to continue our work without choosing sides in this transitional struggle. We have attempted to promote the process of getting an MOU without success. "
Security for aid workers is also an issue in Haiti as evidenced by an attack on a Zanmi Lasante bus in October 2015.
"On Monday morning, a bus carrying 32 employees (doctors, nurses and technicians) of the humanitarian organization 'Zanmi Lasante' was attacked in Arcahaie by 4 heavily armed individuals, who have not hesitated to fire on the vehicle before set fire to it, according to the testimony of passengers. Fortunately no victim is to deplored, except employees strongly traumatized by this savage aggression." (Haiti Libre)
We are left to speculate as to the reasons why the Diocese of Haiti and the Diocese of South Carolina cannot agree on this matter, but this is not the only disagreement that exists between our two bishops.

Hint: Same-sex marriage.

Bishop Waldo of Upper South Carolina is totally in favor of "marriage equality" and is allowing the blessings of same-sex marriages in his diocese.

Bishop Duracin of Haiti was a signatory to the minority report on marriage equality at the last General Convention of the Episcopal church which read,
The nature, purpose, and meaning of marriage, as traditionally understood by Christians, are summed up in the words of the Book of Common Prayer:“The bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation, and our Lord Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. It signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and Holy Scripture commends it to be honored by all people.The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord” (BCP, p. 423)The nature, purpose, and meaning of marriage are linked to the relationship of man and woman. The promises and vows of marriage presuppose husband and wife as the partners who are made one flesh in marriage. This understanding is a reasonable one, as well as in accord with Holy Scripture and Christian tradition in their teaching about marriage.When we were ordained as bishops in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, we vowed to “guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church of God” (BCP, p. 518). We renew that promise; and in light of the actions of General Convention, and of our own deep pastoral and theological convictions, we pledge ourselves to “Maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). The bonds created in baptism are indissoluble, and we share one bread and one cup in the Eucharist. We are committed to the Church and its people, even in the midst of painful disagreement.“Speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). When we disagree with the Church’s actions, we will do so openly and transparently and – with the Spirit’s help – charitably. We are grateful that Resolution A054 includes provision for bishops and priests to exercise their conscience; but we realize at the same time that we have entered a season in which the tensions over these difficult matters may grow. We pray for the grace to be clear about our convictions and, at the same time, to love brothers and sisters with whom we disagree.“Welcome one another . . . just as Christ has welcomed [us]” (Rom. 15:7). Our commitment to the Church includes a commitment to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. We will walk with them, pray with and for them, and seek ways to engage in pastoral conversation. We rejoice that Jesus’ embrace includes all of us.We are mindful that the decisions of the 78th General Convention do not take place in isolation. The Episcopal Church is part of a larger whole, the Anglican Communion. We remain committed to that Communion and to the historic See of Canterbury, and we will continue to honor the three moratoria requested in the Windsor Report and affirmed by the Instruments of Communion.We invite bishops and any Episcopalians who share these commitments to join us in this statement, and to affirm with us our love for our Lord Jesus Christ, our commitment to The Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Communion, and our dissent from these actions.Communion Partner signatories:The Rt. Rev’d John C. Bauerschmidt, Bishop of TennesseeThe Rt. Rev’d Gregory O. Brewer, Bishop of Central FloridaThe Rt. Rev’d Daniel W. Herzog, Bishop of Albany, resignedThe Rt. Rev’d Paul E. Lambert, Bishop Pro Tem of DallasThe Rt. Rev’d Edward S. Little II, Bishop of Northern IndianaThe Rt. Rev’d William H. Love, Bishop of AlbanyThe Rt. Rev. Bruce MacPherson, Bishop of Western Louisiana, resignedThe Rt. Rev’d Daniel H. Martins, Bishop of SpringfieldThe Rt. Rev’d Edward L. Salmon, Bishop of South Carolina, resignedThe Rt. Rev’d William J. Skilton, Assistant Bishop of Dominican Republic, resignedThe Rt. Rev’d Michael G. Smith, Bishop of North DakotaThe Rt. Rev’d Don A. Wimberly, Bishop of Texas, resignedOther signatories:The Rt. Rev. Lloyd Allen, Bishop of HondurasThe Rt. Rev. Jean Zache Duracin, Bishop of HaitiThe Rt. Rev. Francisco José Duque Gómez, Bishop of ColombiaThe Rt. Rev. Orlando Guerrero, VenezuelaThe Rt. Rev. E. Ambrose Gumbs, Bishop of Virgin IslandsThe Rt. Rev. Samuel Johnson Howard, Bishop of FloridaThe Rt. Rev. Julio Holguin, Bishop of Dominican RepublicThe Rt. Rev. Alfredo Morante, Bishop of Ecuador Litoral
After General Convention 2015, there was speculation as to what effect the Episcopal church's actions might have on its missionary efforts in other countries. The party line in TEc circles was that the same-sex marriage issue would not have any impact on mission and outreach. In fact, Bishop Waldo recently said exactly that as I posted here a few weeks ago,
 "In fact, the vast majority of connections remain intact between the Episcopal Church and many of the provinces, dioceses and congregations who dissent from the General Convention 2015's decisions on marriage-through mission partnerships, companion diocese relationships, friendships and, especially, shared faith in the Lordship of Jesus Christ."
Are we beginning to see some cracks in that argument?

Without a face to face interview with Bishop Duracin of Haiti, I cannot be sure.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hurl Him Off the Cliff!

This Sunday's Gospel reading from Luke 4:21-30 shows us the reaction of Jesus' hometown people to his audacious claims and to his inflammatory retorts to their protestations.
Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’
The people were probably thinking, "Blasphemy!" because of what Jesus had just read aloud (refer back to last week's reading).

As if that didn't upset them enough, Jesus proceeds to essentially say that they are not going to receive God's blessing,
He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your home town the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.” ’ And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
The people's response to what they perceived to be the ravings of a blasphemous wacko was to try to hurl him off a cliff which is a kind of death by stoning with the exception that usually the stones are the objects that get hurled.

What would be the response of any reasonable, educated, modern if a person came into their place of worship and made such a claim?

We tend to reject prophets...

...unless they agree with us.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Walking in an Episcopal Wonderland

My friend, the Underground Pewster, is taking some well deserved R+R this week and asked me to fill in. Inspired by UGP's last post on the responses of Episcopal bishops to the recent actions by the Anglican Primates, I present to you the following ditty best sung in barbershop style to the tune of "Walking in a Winter Wonderland".

Time out bells ring
Are you listening
In the pews
Folks are sitting
Another low Sunday,
We're happy this way
Walking in an Episcopal wonderland

Gone away, is the old Word
Here to stay, is the new Word
He/She/It sings an inclusive love song,
As we go along
Walking in an Episcopal wonderland

In the pulpit we can build a strawman
And pretend that he's a Primate brown.
He'll say Bill and Bob aren't married
And we'll say, "No Man!"
So our job is to get him turned around.

Later on
We'll conspire
As we dream by the pyre
To face unafraid
The plans that we've made
Walking in an Episcopal wonderland

Time out bells ring
Are you listening
In the pews
Folks are sitting
Another low Sunday,
We're happy this way
Walking in an Episcopal wonderland

Gone away, is the old Word
Here to stay, is the new Word
He/She/It sings an inclusive love song,
As we go along
Walking in an Episcopal wonderland

In the pulpit we can build a strawman
And pretend that he's a Primate clown
We'll have lots of fun with Mr. Strawman
Until the hateful bloggers knock him down

When we misbehave
We're excited
Though our Presiding Bishop's uninvited
To frolic and play, in meeting the Anglican way
Walking in an Episcopal wonderland,
Walking in an Episcopal wonderland

Sunday, January 24, 2016

One Body? False Teachers on Parade: Walking in an Episcopal Wonderland

Today's reading from 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 in which Paul describes the body's need for many various parts will probably be used in many a sermon to try to reassure the pewsitters that they are still an essential part of the world wide Anglican Communion, but the fact of the matter is that the Episcopal church has decided to walk apart from scripture in regards to human sexuality and the majority of the rest of the Anglican Communion have told them so.

I can hear it now,
"Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body." So too in the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal church's view on marriage on the one hand, and the rest of the world on the other. The whole cannot exist without both parts.

If your right hand is gangrenous, better to amputate than to let the poison spread to the rest of the body.

For the past couple of weeks, responses from Episcopal bishops to the recent "suspension" of the Episcopal church have been rolling in. These have been gathered by "Anglican Ink", and you can read them all for yourselves, but the site is a bit unwieldy, so I will summarize them below and provide links to the specific pages.

I actually had to stop before compiling all of the links because doing so was starting to affect me spiritually much in the same way that one of my friends was affected by a research project she was engaged in when we were in school. She was tasked with studying hundreds of suicide notes from successful suicides, and after the first two hundred, she could not keep from laughing uncontrollably when she saw the same protests and similar claims of being hurt in letter after letter after letter.

You might think that was cruel, but read them and weep, or laugh if they get to you too,

Bishop of El Camino Real: Totally unrepentant and has the nerve to say this,
"On the one hand as a Bishop of the church, I am part of the problem for your provinces, and I ask your forgiveness; on the other hand, I do not regret my inclusive stance and votes at our General Convention."
What would Paul have to say about those two hands?

Bishop of Nevada : We got away with the Gene Robinson thing, and we'll get away with this.
"If being excluded from committees for three years is the price we have to pay for full inclusion of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, it is a price I would pay many times over."
Bishop of Minnesota:  Cultural relativism on display.
"Being part of the Anglican Communion is very much like being part of a neighborhood or a community. There are a great number of things, including shared history, that bind us together. Yet, each home in that neighborhood is inhabited by unique individuals with their own contextual family set of norms and values. When we run up against these, for instance: a kid playing in my yard without supervision at a time when I believe they should be in bed, it is not only challenging, but from my perspective, wrong. However, it is clearly acceptable to that family."
Bishop of Alaska: We are still a part of the Anglican Communion!
"The decision by the Primates (carefully couched in the context of the Institutional Church) does not break apart our relationship in the Anglican Communion..."
Bishop of Iowa:  There are Parts of Romans I will quote, but there are parts that I won't.
"In fact I read somewhere (Romans 8:38-39) that "neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor heights, nor depth, nor anything in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." After all it is God's love that binds."
 Bishop of Colorado: This is not punishment, it is a step onto a new path of being in communion,
"This really is the invitation that has come out of the Primates meeting: to 'walk together in the grace and love of Christ-while faithfully and prayerfully recognizing our differences.'" 
Bishop of Southern Ohio:  It is a sad misunderstanding,
"I am saddened by the Anglican Primates' decision to discipline the Episcopal Church owing to the disparity in our understanding of marriage."
Bishop of Maine: Message from the bridge from the Captain of the Titanic,
 "I want to be clear that nothing has changed in either The Episcopal Church or the Diocese of Maine. LGBT persons are full members of the body of Christ and full members of The Episcopal Church. We will uphold marriage equality here and throughout The Episcopal Church." 
Bishop of Los Angeles:  Its those evil homophobic Africans who need to repent!
"We in the Diocese of Los Angeles remain in strengthened solidarity with LGBT sisters and brothers around the globe, especially those whose lives are endangered daily by draconian laws that fail to respect the dignity of every person as we live together in diverse cultures and sexual orientations as people created in God’s own image."
Bishop of Montana:  Ignorant savages, bullies, haters! How dare they do this to the prophets of God! Let me quote Paul... (yes another one),
"It may well be true that what we have done departs from the doctrine of other churches, but it would be more accurate to say that it is a departure from the beliefs of the bishops present."
"The primates are acting like prelates in the pejorative sense of that word. Or, more bluntly, they are trying to bully TEC, and are thereby indulging in the worst kind of clerical arrogance."
 "This hardly comports with the description of love in I Corinthians 13 nor with the Pauline command to forbear with one another." 
 "I wonder who is being punished by this high-handed action. The rest of the communion will now not have benefit of the considerable talents of the TEC."
 "Finally, I believe that history will look favorably on TEC. We have taken what I believe is the course of action that accords with scripture, tradition and reason. I wonder what the primates will do when other provinces of the communion follow our lead, as some surely will. My prediction: no time-out for them."
Let me pause for a second because I am rolling on the floor and laughing out loud over the Bishop of Montana's self-righteous indignation.

Bishop of Utah: We will not repent!
"We were inclusive about marriage equality before today. We still are."
Bishop of Arizona: They have no right to do this, stick to your guns!
"We are not backing down from full inclusion of all. Oddly, we have been asked to not participate in policy decisions by a group that has no authority to make such decisions in the first place!"
Bishop of Indianapolis: More cultural relativism with a dash of persecution complex thrown in,
That we occupy a place which others around the world cannot embrace should not surprise us. We are equally incapable of embracing the cultures and contexts of others. 
"Suggestions that scripture may actually be challenging the status quo, or that prior interpretations were inaccurate or incomplete, has often been met with both heated denial and violent repudiation. The persecutions of Galileo and Copernicus come to mind…."
Bishop of Western North Carolina: We have found the Promised Land, and we ain't going nowhere!
"We the Episcopal Church have crossed the river by opening marriage to all persons. We may change the liturgies and we might tinker with the stipulations, but we won’t change our minds. We are who we are and they are who they are."
Bishop of West Tennessee:  We the people are visionaries; those Primates are just "management" getting in our way,
"Ideals drive us forward.  Management, while important for order, often keeps us tied to a past that is no longer what is needed for the times in which we now live.  To 'choose for ideals at every turn' reminds me that I am to be driven by that which is 'good news for all people.'”  
Bishop of West Mizzou: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,
"So, I don’t foresee this having much impact where the rubber hits the road for The Diocese of West Missouri."

Bishop of Southern Virginia: Can you believe they did this to our new P.B.?
 "I'm particularly disappointed that our new Presiding Bishop, who was present at the meeting, was forced to endure what was most certainly a difficult and painful experience."
Bishop of Rochester (NY): A contextual martyr,
 "If the cost of upholding human personality is a sanctionable offence then I am happy to be part of a faith community that is deemed guilty of such an offence.  While our unity is in Christ our differences also are in understanding the love of Christ.  I pray that our unity thrives even while our differences are authentically contextual."
Bishop of Central New York:   I will apologize, not to the Anglican Communion but instead to the LGBTQ!
"In my perspective, however, the Primate’s decision to censure The Episcopal Church compounds the pain of discrimination that LGBTQ people have suffered over the centuries and continue to suffer as a result of Church policy.  For that pain I am deeply sorry, and as a Bishop of the Church I apologize to all LGBTQ people, especially those of this Diocese." 
Bishop of Wyoming:  We are so far removed that these things don't matter.
"Ministry is essentially local. These decisions do not impact the life and ministry of the Diocese of Wyoming. Our ministry will carry on as we seek to continue to present Christ in each of our communities, throughout the state, the nation and even the world."
Bishop of Oregon: Reprise: We believe what Paul said in Galatians, but we don't believe him in Romans 1.
"While I understand that many disagree with us, our decision regarding marriage is based on the belief that the words of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians are true for the church today: 'All who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ.'”
Bishop of Spokane: In your face!
"I can assure you that the very recent decision to suspend The Episcopal Church will have no direct impact on the policies and practices regarding marriage in this diocese.  We will continue to make the Celebration and Blessing of Marriage available in a fully inclusive and equal manner as authorized by the canons of The Episcopal Church."

Bishops of Connecticut: No repentance here,
 "The Episcopal Church is deeply committed to the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the life of our church and we affirm the dignity of every human being created in the image of God. In Connecticut, we are fully supportive and stand behind the positions taken by The Episcopal Church with respect to LGBT sisters and brothers."
Bishop of Rhode Island: Feeling rejected,
"When someone rejects you for doing what you prayerfully discern to be the right thing to do, the Bible teaches us that we are to respond in love, by staying in relationship, doing what we can to show God’s love to those who are rejecting us."
 Bishop of New Jersey: Shoot the messenger,
In the communique the Primates “condemned homophobic prejudice and violence” and expressed their resolve to work together to offer pastoral care and loving service irrespective of sexual orientation.” They have made similar statements before. Despite these statements, the conversation about LGBT persons in the church is often hostile and hurtful. Draconian laws in parts of the world foster an environment in which our LGBT brothers and sisters are frequently harassed and persecuted, leading to violence, imprisonment, brutality and sometimes death. Sadly, some Primates and other church leaders in these regions have been vocal in their support of harsh laws and policies against gay and lesbian persons.
Once more, it appears the Primates’ Meeting makes statements of care and support on the one hand, while punishing The Episcopal Church on the other. It obscures widespread oppression and persecution of gay and lesbian persons and the violence done against them around the world with a concern about “unilateral actions on a matter of doctrine without Catholic unity.” I find this incompatible with the baptismal demands that we “seek and serve Christ in all persons loving our neighbor as our self” and that we “strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.”
Bishop of Vermont: I just don't understand...
"As a bishop in the Episcopal Church who has worked hard to provide full access to marriage for all, while at the same time doing all I can to maintain good collegial relations with those bishops, and others, who disagree with the recent decisions of our General Convention regarding marriage, I find myself puzzled by the inability or unwillingness of the majority of Primates to find a better way to be in relationship."

Bishop of Chicago: I will continue to discriminate against polygamists.
 "As your bishop and as a Christian, I believe that the faithful, loving, and lifelong union of two persons–of the same sex or of opposite sexes–is capable of signifying the never failing love of God in Christ for the church and the world, and nothing that happens in a meeting or anywhere else will ever change that."

My diagnosis: Nothing will change the path that these bishops have chosen to lead their flocks down. It is a wayward path, one that is far from the straight and narrow way prescribed by Jesus and the Apostles. It is a way that leads to sickness and death.

My recommendation to the rest of the Anglican Communion?


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Incomplete Psalter: Dixit injustus

This Sunday's lectionary presented a good example of one of its major flaws, and that is presenting a sanitized version of scripture and thus a sanitized picture of ourselves. Here is the part of Psalm 36 ( also known as Dixit injustus) that most pewsitters heard today,

5 Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, *
and your faithfulness to the clouds.

6 Your righteousness is like the strong mountains,
your justice like the great deep; *
you save both man and beast, O Lord.

7 How priceless is your love, O God! *
your people take refuge under the
shadow of your wings.

8 They feast upon the abundance of your house; *
you give them drink from the river of your delights.

9 For with you is the well of life, *
and in your light we see light.

10 Continue your loving-kindness to those who know you, *
and your favor to those who are true of heart.

That sure sounds nice, and it should leave the average pewsitter feeling all warm and fuzzy, but why should we need such a God? If churchgoers had heard the full psalm, they might have learned why. Here is the unabridged Psalm 36 (I have highlighted the missing verses).

1 There is a voice of rebellion deep in the heart of the wicked; *
there is no fear of God before his eyes.

2 He flatters himself in his own eyes *
that his hateful sin will not be found out.

3 The words of his mouth are wicked and deceitful; *
he has left off acting wisely and doing good.

4 He thinks up wickedness upon his bed
and has set himself in no good way; *
he does not abhor that which is evil.

5 Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, *
and your faithfulness to the clouds.

6 Your righteousness is like the strong mountains,
your justice like the great deep; *
you save both man and beast, O Lord.

7 How priceless is your love, O God! *
your people take refuge under the
shadow of your wings.

8 They feast upon the abundance of your house; *
you give them drink from the river of your delights.

9 For with you is the well of life, *
and in your light we see light.

10 Continue your loving-kindness to those who know you, *
and your favor to those who are true of heart.

11 Let not the foot of the proud come near me, *
nor the hand of the wicked push me aside.

12 See how they are fallen, those who work wickedness! *
they are cast down and shall not be able to rise.

Adding back the missing verses returns the full power of the psalm to the reader/listener. The strong language in verses 1-4 appear directed at the wicked and that just couldn't apply to those of us sitting in the pews... ;-) and verses 11-12 speak to the consequences of wickedness.

The long term effects of a steady diet of partial teachings may be just as harmful as overt false teaching. In the above example, pewsitters do not hear about evil in the world and thus lose their awareness of our desperate need for a loving God.

What parent would fail to warn their child of the dangers of the world and how best to defend themselves?

It seems that the Church that cuts up the psalms might be that type of parent.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Bishop Waldo on the Episcopal Church's "Suspension" From the Anglican Communion: Turning Vinegar Into Wine, or is it Whine?

This Sunday's Gospel reading is from John 2:1-11 and contains the story of Jesus turning water into wine.

For those of you who may have missed it, this past week the Episcopal church got spanked for defying the majority of the world wide Anglican community by pushing forward with its agenda of revising the Church's teachings in regards to human sexuality. The Episcopal church, buoyed by having successfully avoided any discipline for the ordination of the first openly gay, partnered bishop, Gene Robinson (since "divorced" from his partner), and having gotten away with the use of a trial rite for same sex blessings, went ahead last summer with full approval of that rite and resolutions to develop a same-sex marriage rite as well as a gender neutral liturgy over the next few years. The Episcopal church did this in defiance of earlier resolutions of leaders of Anglicans from around the world.

Now, having been spanked, and wanting to put a positive spin on this, Episcopal bishops are sending letters to their sheep trying to assure them that "all is well." I am afraid our bishops are no miracle workers and that this looks a bit like them trying to turn vinegar into wine. Instead of words of repentance, most are pledging allegiance to the General Convention's past sins and leaving this pewsitter with a sour taste in the mouth.

This is what my Bishop Waldo had to say,

On the Events of the Primates 2016 Meeting
15 January 2016
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Many of you have by now seen the various media reports about the Anglican Primates' Meeting that have taken place this week in Canterbury, England. The most visible result of the meeting was a Communiqué from Primates 2016 temporarily suspending The Episcopal Church from representation on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, being appointed or elected to internal standing committees, or voting in any decisions on issues pertaining to doctrine or polity. 
Not that the Anglican Communion has been strong on making decisions pertaining to doctrine in the past. It remains to be seen if such decisions can be made now that the Episcopal church has lost its vote.
Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, called the Primates of the 38 Provinces of the Anglican Communion together - plus a non-voting guest from the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) - specifically to discuss tensions within the Communion around homosexual and women's ordination and same-sex marriage. 
Waldo tossed out a backhanded insult of the Archbishop of ACNA by calling him a non-voting guest and not including his title. Word on the street is that  Archbishop Foley Beach participated more than a simple guest would have been allowed to do.
The Communiqué reflects deep pain that already exists in the Communion; it also causes deep pain among those of us who have acknowledged and/or embraced LGBT persons as full participants in the sacramental life of the Church. 
Waldo repeats the lie that I have heard from many bishops of the Episcopal church that this is about full participation of LGBT persons in the Church. The Church is for all sinners. The Episcopal church has declared that one particular sin is no longer to be considered a sin.  Not only that, the Episcopal church has declared it to be a blessing. All this is contrary to scripture of course, but the way Waldo has worded it, the average pewsitter will remain clueless as to the false teaching hidden in Waldo's vesion of "full inclusion."
It is critical to note, however, that the Communiqué is a communiqué. The Primates' Meeting, while serving as what we call an "instrument of unity" within the Communion, has no authority in and of itself to say who is in or who is out of the Anglican Communion, or to discipline constituent provinces. The other instruments of unity are the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Lambeth Conference of all bishops in the Communion.
In other words, "Don't worry, about a thing, cause every little thing's gonna be alright."
The deepest desire expressed by the Meeting and its Communiqué was that we continue to "walk together in Christ." In fact, the vast majority of connections remain intact between the Episcopal Church and many of the provinces, dioceses and congregations who dissent from the General Convention 2015's decisions on marriage-through mission partnerships, companion diocese relationships, friendships and, especially, shared faith in the Lordship of Jesus Christ. 
 Waldo either misses the boat or is deliberately misleading his sheep here. This walk together in Christ is like a having a Christian brother take you aside and tell you that you are walking away from Christ when you bend and manipulate scripture in order to bless something that is clearly condemned.
Schism has not occurred. A reiteration of our common desire to stay in relationship is in fact explicit in the Communiqué.
Since no other Church was so sanctioned, and the Episcopal church is a minor Anglican sect (in numbers), it is not schism. It is a formal recognition that the Episcopal church has strayed from the fold, and the good shepherds in the rest of the Anglican Communion are seeking out the lost sheep, and in the unlikely event if the Episcopal church were to repent, I am sure relationships would, like the return of the prodigal son, be mended.
 In this Diocese, we have persisted in dialogue and relationship, maintaining respect for one another in the presence of sometimes strong disagreements among us. And we have succeeded remarkably well, opening doors for new understandings of multiple perspectives, traditional and progressive, and the recognition that it is more important that we stand together around the table of Christ, to be transformed by his Body and Blood, than it is to win this or that doctrinal battle.
I would like to see an accounting of Waldo's successes.
But that we are all welcome at that table is non-negotiable.
Actually, it is negotiable. Bishop Waldo, because of his approval of same-sex blessings in the Church would not be in communion with the majority of the world's Anglican bishops unless he were to repent of the false teaching which he is allowing to flourish in his fold. He would have to negotiate to be welcome at many a table in the Anglican Communion.

Lastly, Waldo tries to appeal to us through the words of the Presiding Bishop who, if you listened to his entire statement, is not going to back down from same-sex marriage in the Church.
Following the Primates' Meeting, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said this: 
"Our commitment to be an inclusive church is not based on a social theory or capitulation to the ways of the culture, but on our belief that the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross are a sign of the very love of God reaching out to us all. While I understand that many disagree with us, our decision regarding marriage is based on the belief that the words of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians are true for the church today: All who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ."
As I have mentioned elsewhere, for Michael Curry to ask us to believe Paul in Galatians while at the same time to disbelieve him in Romans 1 is asking a bit too much.

Waldo concludes,
 As in every age of human existence, we have much work to do together, as the very need for the Primates' Meeting confirms. And that work entails, as Archbishop Welby defines reconciliation, "learning to disagree well." That work is the work of mercy and forgiveness extended to one another, laying our burdens at the feet of Christ and rejoicing in the love, grace and mercy God has abundantly showered upon all people. 
Blessings to each and every one of you in the name of Jesus,  
The Rt. Rev. W. Andrew Waldo, 
Bishop The Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina
Actually, Waldo and his friends do have much to work on: repentance for what their votes at General Convention 2015 have done to the Church would be a good start, and that is hard work for someone who is in such denial.