Wednesday, August 26, 2015

General Convention 2015 Explained by the Delegation and Bishop of Upper South Carolina

This past Sunday, a meeting was held at St. John's Episcopal church in Columbia which was advertised in the EDUSC web news as follows,
You are invited to come hear from your bishop and deputation to General Convention in person about their experience at General Convention 78. Come learn about the legislation that was passed, about our Presiding Bishop Elect and to ask questions. The meetings times and places are as follows: 
Sunday, August 23rd, St. John's Shandon, Columbia, 4 pm
Sunday, August 30th, Christ Church, Greenville, 4 pm
I had a feeling that this would be sparsely attended, but some thought that the Bishop's presence might draw in a few folks, while others thought it might have the opposite effect. 

For myself, the television was on the fritz, and we needed to go to Columbia for dinner anyway, so off we went.

The fact that the Bishop was late didn't help bring in any late-comers. It ended up being a  small group of retired and current clergy and a smattering of grey-headed lay people in a very large room. 

As expected, the Bishop's presence attracted as much attention as a brown banana at a fruit stand.

On to the presentation! A brief summary of the resolutions passed by General Convention went over like a lead balloon.

I had the feeling that no one wanted to bring up the elephant in the room, so we talked about the resolution to plan on Prayer Book revision. Someone asked, "Why revise the Prayer Book?", and after some hemming, hawing, and mumbles about "gender neutral" language by the rector, our Bishop came up with this zinger,
It's about creating more "expansive language."
I wonder if that will be the code word others in TEc use when trying to describe how gender neutral language should replace gender specific language not just in the Marriage Rite but in all manner of liturgies.

Someone asked if all this General Convention foolishness might be a cause of the decline in the TEc, and Bishop Waldo claimed that in 2013 EDUSC was growing (failing to mention that this was slower than the population growth) and that average Sunday attendance (ASA) was a lessor measure than total membership since some members only attend once a month, but through some complicated mental gymnastics and new math, we should believe that many more members are worshiping than meets the eye.

Waldo on confirmation: When he interviews a candidate he is more interested it how Jesus changed that person than checking to see if the candidate knows the creeds and catechism stuff. I guess he doesn't want to scare them away by being too hard on them, after all he only confirmed 15 children in all of 2013.

I posed the question why there were no resolutions on removing the Episcopal church from its affiliation with that pro-abortion group "The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice" given what we know goes on at Planned Parenthood. The response was that our Bishop is sure that there will be a resolution three years from now at the next General Convention. I was not reassured.

Finally, someone got tired of dancing around the elephant and brought up the same-sex marriage issue.

Bishop Waldo tightened his grip on the backs of the two chairs he was standing behind and volunteered the information that only six or seven of his 61 parishes have completed the Bishop's "curriculum" (I remember when he asked all of his churches to have done so by October 2014).  These churches will be permitted to conduct gay marriages after Advent 2015.

With such a tiny number of churches participating, I suspect the "bury their heads in the sand" types will go on thinking that this issue does not affect them.

Bishop Waldo, his speech accelerating a bit, continued to dig a deeper hole for himself as he attempted to justify the move by the church to authorize same-sex marriage.

His weakest argument was when he compared the Church's progress towards same-sex marriage to the progressive change in divorce rules in the last century and added that it is the Church's job to reinterpret scripture. How all of this will play out to the Church's benefit or decline he would not speculate. Using an approach reminiscent of Gamaliel, he shrugged, lifted his hands in the air, and basically said that only time will tell.

Following this there was a general love fest about the Presiding Bishop Elect Michael Curry. This led to a discussion of evangelism which is supposed to be his forte.

Did anyone ever check to see how effective his evangelism has been in North Carolina? I did.



In TEc circles, that rates a 2 on the evangelism scale (1 = stable, 2 = slow decline, 3 = moderate decline, 4 = precipitous decline, 5 = merger with another diocese).

One brave soul readily admitted that they did not know how to evangelize. Bishop Waldo suggested telling people about how your relationship with Jesus has changed your life, and he proposed that online resources might be made available through TEc.

Heh.

I have some resources for him, though I doubt they would ever be considered acceptable by 815. The C.S. Lewis Institute recently posted Evangelization: Sharing the Good News with Delight by Gerard Long Executive Director, Alpha USA,
"Today we need to learn afresh how to evangelize. A recent Barna study showed that only 3 percent of sixteen- to twenty-nine-year-olds have a positive view of evangelical Christians! Instead of drawing people to Jesus, we’ve turned them away from Him!
Sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ should not be something we dread. It can be something we love to do, flowing naturally from the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives... "
 " ...Regrettably, we’ve come to a place in our society where we don’t want to hear about hell. It’s uncomfortable and not 'politically correct.' Whatever we feel about hell, the key question is, what is the truth? Do we believe Jesus was telling the truth when He warned people about eternal judgment? If we believe hell is a reality, it should fundamentally change how we go about our lives. If we know the end of the story, and other people don’t, I think it’s fair to say that we’ve got an obligation to tell them about it. Not out of guilt, but out of a genuine concern and compassion for people, deep in our hearts. If a blind man was about to walk off a cliff, how hard would we try to persuade him to change course? If he’s convinced he’s on the right path, we’d have to be strategic in how we persuaded him to take another course..."
" ...There is an amazing YouTube clip of a magician named Penn, who shares how impressed he was by a man who gave him a New Testament and Psalms. He goes on say that although he is an atheist, he has never had a problem with Christians proselytizing because, 'If they believe what they say about heaven and hell, why aren’t they telling us more about them?' And, of course, he has a great point. Not that Christians should go about telling people they’re going to hell (that rarely works!), but we should be more active in sharing the Good News about Jesus Christ our Savior."
C.S. Lewis had a thing or two to say on the subject. I will include two choice quotations,
1) "If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, Wilberforce and the English Evangelicals who abolished the slave trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth thrown in; aim at earth and you will get neither." C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; repr., New York: Touchstone, 1996), 119
2) “You can’t lay down any pattern for God. There are many different ways of bringing people into his Kingdom, even some ways that I specially dislike! I have therefore learned to be cautious in my judgment."
“But we can block it in many ways. As Christians we are tempted to make unnecessary concessions to those outside the faith. We give in too much. Now, I don’t mean that we should run the risk of making a nuisance of ourselves by witnessing at improper times, but there comes a time when we must show that we disagree. We must show our Christian colors, if we are to be true to Jesus Christ. We cannot remain silent or concede everything away." C.S. Lewis The Final Interview
One more suggestion to the Episcopalian evangelist to be, you cannot evangelize a false gospel that has "conceded everything away" regarding sexual immorality. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Why We Seem to be Stuck on John 6 this Month

As the Sunday lectionary continues to be stuck in the sixth chapter of John, one starts to wonder if there is method to this madness. Today's selection was John 6:56-69,

"Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live for ever.’ He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’ But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, ‘Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, ‘For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.’

Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’"
Since the bread from heaven theme is repeated Sunday after Sunday in August, I have come to the conclusion that someone figured out that attendance is traditionally low in August as people try to squeeze in the last of summer vacation time, and these words are so important that by increasing the frequency of their presentation to the pewsitters, this would increase the probability that they would have a chance to learn that,
‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

When to Leave a Church

When should one leave a church? Over at Bible Study Tools, Jeff Robinson quotes John MacArthur. He advises (and provides biblical rationale) that you should consider leaving a church if:

  1. Heresy on some fundamental truth is being taught from the pulpit (Gal. 1:7–9).
  2. The leaders of the church tolerate seriously errant doctrine from any who are given teaching authority in the fellowship (Rom. 16:17).
  3. The church is characterized by a wanton disregard for Scripture, such as a refusal to discipline members who are sinning blatantly (1 Cor. 5:1–7).
  4. Unholy living is tolerated in the church (1 Cor. 5:9–11).
  5. The church is seriously out of step with the biblical pattern for the church (2 Thess. 3:6, 14).
  6. The church is marked by gross hypocrisy, giving lip service to biblical Christianity but refusing to acknowledge its true power (2 Tim. 3:5).
This pretty much nails the Episcopal church and the reason why so many faithful Christians have fled.

Jeff Robinson advises people to stick around and be a gracious, reforming presence and avoid exacerbating the problems in their local body.

It is difficult or next to impossible to avoid exacerbating problems in the local body while attempting to be a reforming presence if you are embedded in a church that has wedded itself to the zeitgeist.

Reformation will always stir up "problems" in such a circumstance because a church wouldn't need a solution like reformation if it didn't have problems to begin with.

The problem with the Episcopal church is that it does not believe that it has a problem.

Those who stick around as a reforming presence will need to have the patience of  Gabe Kotter in the television series, "Welcome Back Kotter."

(Cue the scene where Vinnie wants to become a priest)



If Fr. Vinnie Barbarino shows up at your church, it is definitely time to leave.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

An Exercise in Denial

Back on Friday Dec 3, 2010 a comment from R. Sherman on one of my posts noted that people
"...are trying to do what they want to do and flail around later trying to come up with a justification" 
This came to roost with the recent decision by the Episcopal church to approve of same-sex marriage, a decision that (as my earlier post points out) cannot be supported by Scripture.

I think we may have reached the point where people no longer feel the need to justify these actions, but in case you run across a revisionist priest or layperson who does, please keep in mind the following exercise.

First, remember that the Bible teaches us that we are always going to be prone to the problem of being misled into believing that our sins are justified.

Isaiah 3:8-12

For Jerusalem has stumbled
and Judah has fallen,
because their speech and their deeds are against the Lord,
defying his glorious presence.

The look on their faces bears witness against them;
they proclaim their sin like Sodom,
they do not hide it.
Woe to them!
For they have brought evil on themselves.

Tell the innocent how fortunate they are,
for they shall eat the fruit of their labours.

Woe to the guilty! How unfortunate they are,
for what their hands have done shall be done to them.

 My people—children are their oppressors,
and women rule over them.
O my people, your leaders mislead you,
and confuse the course of your paths.

The parallels between the modern world and the world of Isaiah are all too clear.

When clergy and lay people ignore these warnings, they tend to use one or more of the following excuses,

1.) Isaiah's prophecy was meant for the people of that age.

2.) Since this was obviously written by a man for a traditionally male dominated society as evidenced by the "women rule over them" comment, the whole must be rejected.

3.) The whole idea of punishment that is built into the prophecy is not compatible with the current view of God.

4.) Sin is relative; back then sin was different than today. Today nobody thinks that sodomy is sinful.

5.) There are no universal truths, so there is no point in looking for them in the scriptures.

Also in the same day's readings as Isaiah 3 I came across,

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 (N.A.B.)

Finally, brothers, we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that, as you received from us how you should conduct yourselves to please God--and as you are conducting yourselves--you do so even more.

For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
This is the will of God, your holiness: that you refrain from immorality,
that each of you know how to acquire a wife for himself in holiness and honor,
not in lustful passion as do the Gentiles who do not know God;
not to take advantage of or exploit a brother in this matter, for the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you before and solemnly affirmed.
For God did not call us to impurity but to holiness.
Therefore, whoever disregards this, disregards not a human being but God, who (also) gives his holy Spirit to you.
Applying the same reasoning to the epistle that I used for the Psalm, here again are a few thoughts as to why this teaching might be denied by moderns.

1.) Isaiah's prophecy 1 Thessalonians' exhortation was meant for the people of that age.

2.) Since this was obviously written by a man for a traditionally male dominated society as evidenced by the "women rule over them" "brothers," and "how to acquire a wife" comments, the whole must be rejected.

3.) The whole idea of punishment that is built into the prophecy exhortation is not compatible with the current view of God.

4.) Sin Immorality is relative; back then sin immorality was different than today. Today we know that lust is good, and that it is harmful to keep it in or to not act upon one's sexual identity.

5.) There are no universal truths, so there is no point in looking for them in the scriptures.

While readers of this particular blog may have difficulty seeing things from the perspective of the doubter, I can assure them that I have heard these comments in one fashion or another from within the walls of the church. This particular exercise can serve as a handy reminder of what the Word is up against in this age. I suspect that the Word was up against similar thoughts in the minds of those who heard it for the very first time way back when.

The Lord knows that we are prone to the sin of denial. Remember his prophecy to Peter (Luke 22:61) before we pass judgment on modern day people who deny Him.
"And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, 'Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.'"
The justifications listed above came to mind all too easily. I have to pray for help against the problem of my own denial as well as how I should handle the denial of the world.
"And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." Mark 9:24

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Ecclesiagenic illness

"Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17) 
How many times have you heard, "The church is a hospital for sinners"?

Hospitals are places where we go to be healed, or at the very least, to be cared for. They should not be places where we go in sick and come out sicker, but that, unfortunately, does sometimes happen.

When people are made sick in hospitals, it is called an "iatrogenic illness" which the Free Medical Dictionary defines as,
"Any complication related to diagnosis and treatment of disease, regardless of whether the condition occurs as a known risk of a procedure or through errors of omission or commission"
My grandfather's 1957 Dorland's Medical Dictionary (23rd ed) defines it this way,
Iatro-. Combining form denoting relationship to a physician or to medicine. 
Iatrogenic. Resulting from the activity of physicians: a term applied to disorders induced in the patient by autosuggestion based on the physician's examination, manner, or discussion (Sir Arthur Hurst).
The analogy of the Church as a hospital holds up even when we take the analogy further to the Church which has become infected with falsehoods that it then transmits to the pew sitters resulting in "ecclesiagenic illnesses" (a neologism that will probably not be added to Webster's).

Ecclesiagenic transmission of disease is nothing new, the ancient heresies are prime examples, but today's Episcopal church and the other denominations that have tried handling the same-sex marriage bug that recently blew through our nation have become the new breeding grounds for ecclesiagenic illness.

As the mainline denominations write same-sex marriage and gender neutral liturgies into their constitutions and canons, it is inevitable that the teachings and practice in support of this "new revelation" will work their way into the ears, hearts, and minds of persons coming in the doors looking for healing.

I fear for the children, for those who lack resistance, for those who have not been immunized.

Instead of a place for healing, the Church will become a place to avoid.

Or maybe it already has.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

When the Bread From Heaven Hits the Floor

Have you ever dropped your communion wafer, or has your priest ever dropped one or a whole plate full onto the floor?

I remember the procedures we were to follow as acolytes for such accidents, and how we used to place bets on which one of us would be the one to eat a wafer off the floor... yeech.

I also remember how we poured water over the fingers of the priest after he had distributed the wafers so that any tiny particle would be washed into the chalice so that the priest could consume that too.

I am not sure that people in most Protestant denominations share the same degree of reverence for the host anymore.

This Sunday's Gospel reading, John 6:35,41-51 (note the missing verses), reminds us of exactly why we should be reverent,
35 Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.  
41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’

The missing verses were 36-40
But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.’
Why the lectionary editors left them out is beyond me, but I suspect it is to make it simpler for the preacher in preparing his sermon, to focus on the bread from heaven bits, and for the poor dumb pewsitters who musn't be fed too much information.

It has always been a mystery to me that the lectionary editors did not pair this reading from John 6 with a reading from Exodus 16,
Exodus 16:11-21  
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God. And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host. And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat. This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents. And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less. And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating. And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning. Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was wroth with them. And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted.
My old priest was right when he insisted that any of the bread from heaven that he was passing out should be consumed immediately if it hit the floor... lest it breed worms!

We Protestants are not alone in that some concerned Roman Catholics have also noted a decrease in reverence for the host shared at the Eucharist. The following is from the Catholic Family News pages,

 In modern parishes, under the lax rubrics of the New Mass, the priest simply picks up a dropped Host and moves on, as if he dropped some loose change. Particles are left to be stepped upon and desecrated. Before and after Mass, people prattle away in church as if they are socializing in the parish hall. Many modern priests and laity disregard their duty of silence before the Blessed Sacrament. They forget the stern warning of little Jacinta of Fatima, “Our Lady does not want people to talk in church”.
Where is this reverence and care for the Blessed Sacrament in the post-Conciliar Church with the introduction of Communion in the hand and the “anyone can handle it” attitude? How will our young people gain any understanding of the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament when He receives cavalier treatment from clergymen? How can reverence for the Eucharist be instilled in the Catholic faithful when they see It given in the hand as common foodstuffs, and distributed by ill-trained lay people who should not be handling the Blessed Sacrament in the first place?
It is no mystery why so many Catholics have lost faith in the Sacred Mysteries. Too many of our priests have abandoned the outward devotion necessary: 1) to give proper reverence to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament; 2) to teach the people through example that the highest reverence must be shown to Our Lord Jesus Christ truly present in the Blessed Sacrament.
 I think they have a point in that a public display of reverence by the priest toward the sacraments will send a strong message to the people and most importantly, the children, that the Bread from heaven is very, very important, and may lead some of them to some day realize that it is the most important event ever to happen to them and to the world.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Biblephobic Jesus Haters

After three decades of watching the culture war over same-sex marriage, I have decided that name calling, while despicable and unbecoming, is a necessary weapon that traditionalists in the church must learn to wield.

The victors in the last war succeeded in part by jumping on those opposing their views and quickly labelling traditionalists as "homophobes" and/or "haters" even when the argument against same-sex marriage was calm, cool, and scripturally based.  

At present, in the aftermath of the war, expressing the slightest hint of an anti-marriage equality viewpoint is likely to cause one to lose their job, their friends, and their social status.

Nobody likes a homophobic hater.

Traditionalist pewsitters and bloggers in the Episcopal church may want to borrow this strategy when dealing with priests, bishops, and other bloggers who have chosen a false gospel or a revisionist approach to scripture to somehow justify same-sex marriage. These people have rejected the words of Christ on the subject of marriage. 

The minute a revisionist opens his or her mouth and emits the tiniest whiff of same-sex marriage nonsense, pounce upon them and shout it out or type in bold, 

JESUS HATER! 

"Biblephobe" is another one you could try, but I think it lacks the emotional impact of "Jesus hater" and don't forget that emotions are what rule the day in the present age.

Although I doubt it will ever come to pass, imagine what would happen if the passive pew-sleepers somehow took ecclesiastical disobedience to heart, and when their Episcopal Bishop who voted for same-sex marriage comes to their parish, and when he/she/it stands to give the sermon, some wacked-out nut job stands up and calls them out as a Jesus hater, and doesn't stop until they have been physically removed from the church.

What if that loon organizes people to picket the Diocesan house, and they are there to march around the entrance when the Bishop arrives for work in the morning? 

And what if they do all this with buckets of smiles and lots of love because they desperately want their bishop to become a Jesus lover?

Nah, it'll never happen.