Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pass the Peace

Remembering that we are in the midst of the cold, flu, and now a bad stomach bug season, we should all follow the advice of this legendary grande dame of the CoE (Church of England):

I tried to glean the lyrics by listening to the video, so there may be some errors in the translation. This is for those of you who rely on the printed version of this blog.

Mrs. Beamish stands in church expression calm and holy,
but when the organ plays, she mumbles hymns extremely slowly.
A pillar of St. Barthols, for twenty years or more,
She does the flowers at Easter and the brass work on the door.
But recently St. Barthol's has gained a brand new vicar,
His name is Kerley Single and he wants the hymns sung quicker,
And he's introduced a custom, which Mrs. Beamish hates,
So she rounds upon the person next to her and clearly states,

"Don't you dare shake hands with me, or offer signs of peace,
You lay a finger on me and I'll call for the police.
Don't whisper 'Peace be with You,' this is the C of E,
so bend the knee, say thou and thee,
and keep your hands off me."

Ken tells us love your neighbor, and Mrs. Beamish sneers,
"I only love my neighbors if I've known them thirty years."
Even when it isn't Christmas, and he lets youngsters in the church,
He's altered all the music after audience research.
They shout out "alleluia," they don't act like me and you,
The young women don't wear hats and the young men quite often do.
They seem to like their hands enthusiastically wrung,
'til they turn to Mrs. Beamish and they feel her acid tongue,

"Don't you dare shake hands with me, I don't know where you've been,
You lay a finger on me and you'll feel this tambourine.
Don't whisper 'Peace be with You,' this is the C of E,
so bend the knee, say thou and thee,
and keep your hands off me."

In the beginning was the word read out loud by Flora Hurd,
Harry Seacum then would scream,"the morning is broken by a stream,
Now the organ's gone for scrap, every vicar's got the clap

Alleluia, Mrs. Beamish, Mrs. Beamish,
Alleluia, she's squeamish, so squeamish.

"Don't you dare shake hands with me, Or turn to me and smile,
You'll wake up spitting teeth out, face downwards in the aisle.
Don't whisper 'Peace be with You,' this is the C of E,
You'll go just one inch too far,
You'll end up wearing that guitar,
One false step in my direction,
You'll need to believe in the resurrection,
so bend the knee, say thou and thee,
and keep your hands off me."

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes (Turn and Face the Strange)

This Sunday's sermon was presented by the Rev. Mary Cat Enockson who had Jonah 3:1-5, 10 along with 1 Corinthians 7:27-31, and Mark 1:14-20 as scripture readings for today.

Her initial description of Jonah's difficulty changed the story a little. Her version, unlike the section read during the service, suggested that Jonah also presented a message for the people of Nineveh to repent, but what we read was
"‘Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’"

To me, Mary Cat's version fails to reveal the embarrassment of Jonah when God changes his mind and spares the city. In addition, the lectionary curiously omits verses 6-9 where the King gets credit,
" When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: ‘By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.’ "

I love that "Who knows?" in the new translation, but I would like to point out the KJV of verses 9-10:
3:9 Who can tell [if] God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?

3:10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did [it] not.

The new translation helps with the tricky questions of God repenting and of God doing evil.

While the sermon focused on Jonah, we ignored a question that I have regarding this business about God changing His mind. I have often wondered if this might be an argument against "Predestination." It certainly is an argument for intercessory prayer.

Also by focusing on Jonah, her deviation into the gospel of social change during the latter part of the sermon was weak.

I agree that Christ changes lives, and can change society, but there is more to it than that. I disagree that resurrection is the transformation of us into a mere instrument of social change. What about the transformation from a mere mortal into someone who, through Christ, is given eternal life? Did we hear about salvation today? No.

The scriptures from today made me think that the changes we get from becoming Christians are not always what we expect. If the 1 Corinthians passage meant that the people of that day were preparing for the end of the world, then they got it wrong and we got something different ("Thy will be done") or maybe God "changed His mind."

Likewise, what were those simple fishermen thinking when their lives changed at the Sea of Galilee in Mark 1:14-20? They did not know that they would later be witnesses to a real Resurrection. Nor could they know at the time of the promise of eternal life. They were changed, over time, into people who could spread the Gospel of Christ resurrected, the message that saves souls, and yes, changes society.

David Bowie

(Note there has been controversy over one word in this song so I included some alternative interpretations, I believe Mr. Bowie wanted his band to sing "strange" and many of us believe they do.)

"I still don't know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
Every time I thought I'd got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I've never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I'm much too fast to take that test

(Turn and face the strange/strain/straight)
Don't want to be a richer man
(Turn and face the strange/strain/straight)
Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can't trace time

I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence and
So the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same
And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They're quite aware of what they're going through

(Turn and face the strange/strain/straight)
Don't tell t hem to grow up and out of it
(Turn and face the strange/strain/straight)
Where's your shame
You've left us up to our necks in it
Time may change me
But you can't trace time

Strange fascination, fascinating me
Changes are taking the pace I'm going through

(Turn and face the strange/strain/straight)
Oh, look out you rock 'n rollers
(Turn and face the strange/strain/straight)
Pretty soon you're gonna get a little older
Time may change me
But I can't trace time
I said that time may change me
But I can't trace time "

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Anglicanism, the Long and the Short of It

Canon Kendall Harmon posted links to two of the papers presented at the recent Mere Anglicanism Conference held in Charleston, SC. The subject was "The Way, The Truth and The Life: Engaging Secularism and Islam with the Light of Incarnational, Trinitarian Christianity," but speakers managed to work in a timeline of Episcopal Church's walk away from the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Papers such as the "Decline and Fall and Rising Again of the Anglican Communion" by Stephen Noll bear witness to the havoc wrought by the undisciplined liberalism of T.E.C. In this comprehensive two part presentation which you can access by clicking on his name above, Dr. Noll lays out the facts of how we got from the era "B.G." to the era "A.G.". This is a must read for those unfamiliar with the situation, but it is lengthy, so I will give one pewsitter's short impression of it.

My personal take on this is that one of the most important problems besetting the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion is a lack of accountability and discipline due to the loose structure of this communion. Bishops are permitted to lead their flocks into fields of loco weed and muddy waters, and no one living can do a thing about it.

Dr. Noll does not talk about the mind of the average American Episcopalian. Why should they care?

The answer should be obvious to students of the Church, but to the uninformed masses, it might seem like much ado about nothing. As a student, I have been watching the Church walk away from its foundation into a new, revised theology of the "god of the month" and into "universalism," and "pluralism" by ignoring and denying Biblical truths. I am coming to the conclusion that the Episcopal Church would very much like to retain its independence, and claim an Anglican tradition, while continuing to ignore its dependence on the other Anglicans of the world, the majority of whom are calling for T.E.C. to repent. Remember that Episcopalians make up about only 3% of Anglicans (PewForum)

Has the Episcopal Church abandoned the communion it once shared with the rest of the world and decided to go its separate way? The evidence is clear, and the answer is "Yes." Getting the Archbishop of Canterbury to put that in writing is another matter. Ineffectual leadership will probably be the downfall of both Canterbury and 815. The resulting vacuum will be filled by something. After all, Americans still believe in God. A successful something will look to the errors of T.E.C. and perhaps be governed by a conciliar structure which will involve Anglicans worldwide. Such a structure would first govern and provide a new disciplinary structure for a new North American province, separate from the Episcopal Church. Will people leave their historic Episcopal Churches for this new province? Many already have.

Bishop Jack Iker of Fort Worth delivered an address outlining the development of a new Anglican Province in North America. This certainly is where we are headed, but will it be a province where he asserts "there will be no women bishops?" I wonder what the female priests in attendance are thinking about that. Of course, Bishop Iker is on solid Biblical ground in his view of the ideal qualities of Bishops. This is documented in Paul's letter to Timothy,

1 Timothy 3:1-13.
This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

"A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;

One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;

(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)

Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.

Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;

Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.

And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.

Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.

Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus."

Of course, the Episcopal Church rejected this teaching, first because of the divorce issue, then because of the masculine issue, and then because they found that the blameless, people of pure conscience, grave, sober, and spousal clauses would require a lot of the Church leaders to resign.

There is nothing stopping from resigning, and setting aside their miters and crosiers other than the lure of lucre (their pensions) and the dollars church buildings and properties represent. Having a lot of money and property is a plus when starting a new Church, which is their intent. If the lot of them were to resign, walk away from these sacred buildings, and set up the Universalist Church of their dreams, then the Episcopal Revival could begin. I don't think the proudest of our Bishops will ever submit to an outside authority, nor are they likely to resign their posts for the good of the people.

A post-revival Episcopal Church is the topic for another post, but I believe that repentance and revival would likely lead to re-admittance into the Anglican Communion.

How many Episcopalians don't want anything to do with worldwide Anglicanism? In my opinion, they should start working on creating their own Church, answerable to no one, and doomed to stray into self indulgence and heresy. It is quite possible that the upcoming 2009 General Convention of the Episcopal Church will continue on this path towards separation, and we in the pew will be expected to follow.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Requiem Eucharist for the Rev. Charles Alvin Boland

Today a special Requiem Eucharist was held for the Rev. Charles Alvin Boland at the Episcopal Church of Our Saviour. The church was still decorated from last night's wedding of Craigen Robinson and Phillip Albergotti which added a nice touch to the service.
Hidden amongst the preludes to Saturday's wedding service, former Episcopal Church of Our Saviour organist Dr. Shirley Herlong Fishburne, included the organ score to "In Paradisum" by Gabriel Fauré (along with several other pieces). While it was not printed in the program for the wedding, I noted and appreciated the addition of this piece from Fauré's "Requiem," and thought that perhaps it was included for Al. Some might consider it unusual to select something from a requiem for a wedding, but "sans" words, the melody is quite beautiful and stands on its own as something the modern ear should appreciate.

Enjoy the words and music together,

"In Paradisum"

In paradisum deducant te angeli,
in tuo adventu
suscipiant te martyres,
et perducant te
in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem.
Chorus angelorum te suscipiat,
et cum Lazaro quondam paupere
aeternam habeas requiem.

(May the angels lead you into paradise,
may the martyrs receive you
in your coming,
and may they guide you
into the holy city, Jerusalem.
May the chorus of angels receive you
and with Lazarus once poor
may you have eternal rest.

tr. Arnold vander Nat © 1999)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Keep the Christ in Your Prayer

Preachers will be put on the spot this week as the nation's eyes turn to Washington D.C. for the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States. I have three questions for you as you watch the pomp and circumstance:

1. Is there a role for prayer at these events?

2. What would you say if you were asked to pray, out loud, for everyone to hear?

3. Would you pray in the name of Christ?

The latest person given the inaugural prayer ball is the Rev. Joseph Lowery.

According to Kathy Lohr at NPR,
"Lowery co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr...

Obama's decision to select Rick Warren, a high-profile megachurch pastor who opposes gay marriage, to give the invocation has upset some supporters. But Lowery defends the decision and calls it part of the president-elect's promise to include people with differing political and religious views.

'Oh, I don't think it hurts. I think it'll pass,' Lowery says of the brouhaha. 'I think it'll even pass before the ceremony is over.'

'And I hope that in my closing prayer, I can find a way to inspire people to take that spirit, that warmth — that feeling of conviviality and brotherhood — and take it with us back down into the valley,' Lowery says."

You may have also read about the pregame analysis of Rick Warren and Gene Robinson's scheduled prayer times.
If not, here is one side of the story,
From Yahoo News: The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who was elected the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop in 2003, will deliver the invocation for Sunday’s kickoff inaugural event on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the Presidential Inaugural Committee said.

President-elect Obama is scheduled to attend the afternoon event, which is free and open to the public.

“The president-elect has respect for the Rt. Rev. Robinson, who offered his advice and counsel over the past couple of years,” an inaugural official said. “It also has the benefit of further reinforcing our commitment to an open and inclusive inaugural.”

Robinson remains the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay civil rights organization, said in a statement that the choice was "encouraging."

“Bishop Robinson models what prayer should be — spiritual reflection put into action for justice," Solmonese said. "It is encouraging that the president-elect has chosen this spiritual hero, and that should remain our focus today."

Many of Obama’s supporters were furious at the choice of Rick Warren, the evangelical pastor and best-selling author, to deliver the invocation at the swearing-in ceremony.

Warren had endorsed California’s Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage, with a statement saying: “There is no reason to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2 percent of our population.”

The furor has been Obama’s biggest clash with his party’s left wing since he was elected.

An Obama source said: “Robinson was in the plans before the complaints about Rick Warren. Many skeptics will read this as a direct reaction to the Warren criticism — but it’s just not so.”

Last summer, Robinson was united in a civil union with his longtime gay partner. The Concord (N.H.) Monitor reported at the time: “The day marked the five-year anniversary of the New Hampshire election that, once ratified, made Robinson the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican church.”

Robinson’s bio on the diocese website says: “Gene enjoys entertaining and cooking, gardening, music and theater. He is the father of two grown daughters and the proud grandfather of two granddaughters. He lives with his partner, Mark Andrew, who is employed by the State of New Hampshire's Department of Safety.”

Kinda makes one proud to be an Episcopalian doesn't it. Forget the matter of his divorce or some of his stranger statements...

Next, from The AP
"Robinson, 61, said both Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden will attend the event, and Obama is expected to speak. As for himself, Robinson said he doesn't yet know what he'll say, but he knows he won't use a Bible.

"While that is a holy and sacred text to me, it is not for many Americans," Robinson said. "I will be careful not to be especially Christian in my prayer. This is a prayer for the whole nation."

Robinson said his prayer will be reflective of the times.

"I think these are sober and difficult times that we are facing," he said. "It won't be a happy, clappy prayer."

It will be interesting to see how the game plays out, and it raises three more questions.

1. Will the Rev. Joseph Lowery bash Bush again?

2. Will Rick Warren's prayer include the "J" word?

3.Will Gene Robinson include the "g" word?

After reading Gene Robinson's latest comments I suspect he will talk about his "dream" rather than what the Bible has to say:

"I am writing to tell you that President-Elect Obama and the Inaugural Committee have invited me to give the invocation at the opening event of the Inaugural Week activities, 'We are One,' to be held at the Lincoln Memorial, Sunday, January 18, at 2:00 pm. It will be an enormous honor to offer prayers for the country and the new president, standing on the holy ground where the 'I have a dream speech' was delivered by Dr. King, surrounded by the inspiring and reconciling words of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. It is also an indication of the new president’s commitment to being the President of ALL the people. I am humbled and overjoyed at this invitation, and it will be my great honor to be there representing the Episcopal Church, the people of New Hampshire, and all of us in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

I have a problem with what Bishop Robinson said in the pregame warm ups, but I will be "careful to be especially Christian" in my response. Except to say, that such statements put me in the same uncomfortable place as Auntie Em was in when facing Elvira Gulch.

Just pray three times, There's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's no place like home in the Episcopal Church.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

That Southern Obsession With Sin

I obsessed a little more than usual over this post, so it might be a little longer than average.

At this past Sunday's 10:30 service Fr. Foss preached about Baptism. There was a Baptism that day, and the readings from Acts and Mark both related to Baptism. Charlie took as his theme the difference between the "baptism of John" and Baptizing in the name of Jesus.
Acts 19:1-7 reads,

"While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the inland regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?’ They replied, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ Then he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ They answered, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied— altogether there were about twelve of them."

Compare with Mark 1:7-11,

He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

I agree, there is a difference. But agreement ceased when once again we were treated to Charlie's view that in the South there is too much emphasis on "Sin." Baptism should be about the positives. Yes, when Paul did the baptism in Acts, it opened the door for the Spirit to come in and transform those twelve (or so) in Ephesus, but this simple pew person can't help but feel that there is still a need for the cleansing of Sin process, and you can't remove it. Our tradition speaks to this. After all, look at the language about sin we use in the liturgy of Holy Baptism (1979 BCP),
Question Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces
of wickedness that rebel against God?
Answer I renounce them.

Question Do you renounce the evil powers of this world
which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
Answer I renounce them.

Question Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you
from the love of God?
Answer I renounce them.

And this,

Celebrant Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
People I will, with God’s help.

And this,
Leader Deliver them, O Lord, from the way of sin and death.
People Lord, hear our prayer.

And here,
Now sanctify this water, we pray you, by the power of your
Holy Spirit, that those who here are cleansed from sin and
born again may continue for ever in the risen life of Jesus
Christ our Savior.

And here,
Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy
Spirit you have bestowed upon these your servants the
forgiveness of sin, and have raised them to the new life of

I am not sure that is "obsessing" with Sin, and I was wondering how to reconcile the three baptisms, John's, Jesus', and the Ephesians' when Kendall Harmon at T19 pointed out this nice, positive approach to a Baptism homily by Benedict XVI on Jan. 11, 2009. Here is an excerpt:
"John's baptism of repentance is certainly quite different from the one Jesus will institute. Nevertheless, at that moment, the mission of the Redeemer is glimpsed, for, when he comes out of the water, a voice from heaven resounds and the Holy Spirit descends upon him (cf. Mark 1:10). The heavenly Father proclaims him his beloved Son and publicly bears witness to his universal mission of salvation, which he will fully accomplish with his death on the cross and his resurrection. Only then, with the Paschal sacrifice, will the remission of sins be made universal and total.

With baptism we do not merely immerse ourselves in the waters of the Jordan to proclaim our commitment to conversion, but there is poured out upon us the redemptive blood of Christ that purifies us and saves us. It is the beloved Son of the Father, in whom he is well pleased, which reacquires for us the dignity and the joy of calling ourselves and truly being 'children' of God."

I guess the Ephesians, like us, might be considered "twice baptized." Washed by the water and then by the blood of Christ. Once for our renunciation of sins and once for Christ's saving remission of Sin.

I only wish that my sins, after having been washed away, would have stayed away after my baptism. I also wish that being so filled with the Spirit, I will sin no more in my new life in Christ. Unfortunately, us ordinary pewsters have to scrub behind our ears over and over again, hence all that "negative" language in the liturgy, and hence that old Southern "obsession with sin." Is that a bad thing?

(Copyright Gospel Communications International, Inc -

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Victory Won

Today is a day of loss and a day of victory. The death of Al Boland who served as Deacon at Our Saviour from 1974-2009 was presented to the congregation by Charlie during today's announcements. It was particularly difficult at the dismissal today, as Al would often be the one to say, "Let us go forth in the name of Christ" to which we all would reply, "Thanks be to God!" I choked, and I think that Charlie almost did too.

Thank you Al for all you did for the people of Our Saviour.

Please pause and pray for Al's family.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
The strife is o'er, the battle done,
the victory of life is won;
the song of triumph has begun.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
The powers of death have done their worst,
but Christ their legions hath dispersed:
let shout of holy joy outburst.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
The three sad days are quickly sped,
he rises glorious from the dead:
all glory to our risen Head!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
He closed the yawning gates of hell,
the bars from heaven's high portals fell;
let hymns of praise his triumphs tell!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
Lord! by the stripes which wounded thee,
from death's dread sting thy servants free,
that we may live and sing to thee.

Hymn 208, 1982 Hymnal
Words: Symphonia Sirenum Selectarum, 1695;
trans. Francis Pott (1832-1909)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Don't Get Your Fundies in a Knot

You probably won't hear about this at church on Sunday (addendum: oops, we just did get an e-mail from Charlie Foss), but the people at StandFirm alerted me to this story of what happens when you get tired of being given a wedgie by your National Church organization. Anonymous picked up on this in the comments to my last post. Here is the story from,

North Augusta church leader steps down, congregation follows

By Arielle Clay
Story Published: Jan 4, 2009 at 7:40 PM EST

Story Updated: Jan 4, 2009 at 7:40 PM EST

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. - The Vicar of St. John's Episcopal Church in North Augusta stepped down Sunday. He says it is because he does not agree with the direction the National Church is taking.

Now dozens of his congregants are following him to a new church and new denomination.

Sunday was Phyllis Kirkland's last time in the kitchen of St. John's Episcopal Church, Susan Bafford's last time singing in the sanctuary, and Paula Wahl’s last time as senior warden.

“I turned in my key today,” Wahl said.

That's because for the three women and most other members of the church Sunday was their last day as congregants at St. John's and of the Episcopal denomination.

“The Episcopal church has been going in a direction that I wasn't in agreement with,” Wahl said

“I was disappointed with the leadership at the national level. I had been waiting since 2003 for a different movement,” Bafford said.

In 2003 the church made national headlines when an openly gay bishop was consecrated.

“We were all shocked,” Wahl said.

But Father Rob Hartley who resigned Sunday as vicar of the church says the issue of homosexuality was not his main concern.

“I found it an error because it was contrary to scripture and I don't think it was any deeper than that,” Hartley said.

He says his issues with the Episcopal Church started long before 2003.

“Early 80's probably,” Hartley said.

That is when he said he started to see a shift in the theologies and teachings of the church.

“The Episcopal church really wants to make Christianity relevant they really want to make the truth of the gospel easier to ingest for the modern mind. I think the truth is the truth and changing it to make it digestible isn't exactly what the apostles learned from Jesus,” Hartley said.
“I think that's what's been confusing across the county is that all of a sudden the national church is like you can believe whatever you want to believe but what do we believe,” Bafford.

Now much of Hartley's congregation is following him to The Church of the Holy Trinity which is forming under the Anglican Church in North America but it is far from easy especially for St. Johns older members.

“It was really it was sad because my mother went there and she just passed away recently and her funeral was here,” Wahl said.

But Wahl says she is coming to terms with saying goodbye.

“It's just a building and the church is the people and the family and I could never stay and have my family leave,” Wahl said.

The church of the Holy Trinity will hold public worship temporarily at the Merovan Business Center on Highway 25.

Father Hartley says he does not have an exact count of how many members are moving with him. But, he says his main concern is to make sure that those who choose not to move are taken care of.

This church has had a remarkable growth in the past 5 years as documented here.

Bishop Henderson weighed in and seems more upset with the process than the problem. Here is the Bishop's letter,

From Bishop Henderson re: St. John's, Clearwater

January 5, 2009, 11:30 AM.

"I have just been informed that the Vicar of St. John's Mission Church in Clearwater has announced that he and most of the communicants of St. John's have left The Episcopal Church. This comes as a complete surprise to me. Although Fr. Hartley has shared his frustrations with me, he never indicated to me that he was on the verge of taking such a step, and I am extraordinarily disappointed not only in their decision, but that he went public with this announcement without informing me first. It is also a shock to me that he would lead this congregation away from the Church without providing me with the time and opportunity to be in conversation with them as part of their decision-making process--after all, as Bishop I am--or was--their chief priest and pastor. I not only ordained Fr. Hartley to the priesthood, but I am the one who appointed him Vicar of St. John's, providing him with an Altar and a pulpit.

Any division in the Church weakens the Church's mission. And when people leave they not only deprive those with different views of their voice, but they also deprive themselves of prayerful viewpoints which they need to consider. The Episcopal Church--indeed, traditional Anglicanism--respects highly the individual intellect and conscience, and I respect the decisions of Fr. Hartley and others at St. John's as a decision of conscience. Nevertheless, it breaks my heart."

So what is going on in the upstate? I went to the congo and asked for a few opinions, and this is what I heard,

"It must be a rogue priest, or two" (remember St. Christopher's Spartanburg).

"Bishop Henderson is soft on fundamentalism; we will fix that soon."

"Someone must have put Bibles in the pews."

"This is what happens when those poor, stupid lay people start dabbling in things they don't understand."

"Could it be that the ugly face of fundamentalism is rearing it's head? How do we stop its relentless advance? Why don't we approve of the rival Anglican province and let them go there? That way they won't bother us anymore with their aggravating appeals to scripture and tradition. All that chapter and verse quoting gets quite tiresome, and we modern folk have finally figured out the truth behind human relationships. Without all those homophobes, we can get on with things that really matter. Things like same sex blessings, or clown eucharists. Things that affirm God's gift of pleasure as the manifestation of His love for us."

"Who cares if a few fundies get tied up in knots?"

I don't think straight thinking priests and lay people are the ones who are tied up in knots of their own making. What kind of convoluted machinations has Bishop Henderson used to continue to lend support to the national church. The last time we suggested cutting payments to 815 in hopes of balancing the budget, wasn't his the voice that carried the day and to this day we continue to fund things such as the RCRC.

Consider that tomorrow we are led by the daily lectionary to read the following:
Revelation 2:1-7
"The Message to Ephesus ‘To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands:
‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance. I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers; you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them to be false. I also know that you are enduring patiently and bearing up for the sake of my name, and that you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this is to your credit: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God."

If you did not click on the link, the Nicolaitans were described by St. Irenaeus as, "they lead lives of unrestrained indulgence."

What does this passage say to the churches today? Is it to find a way to love the evil doers while at the same time not tolerating them?

Do we really get tied up in knots when discussing the Bible? The more complicated and convoluted the reasoning, the greater the likelihood of creating a knot that won't hold the weight our souls.

Who is holding the rope in the Episcopal Church, and what kind of knot they are tying?

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Leaving the Temple of the King

Today's sermon was given by Mary Cat. We were given another personal story, this one based loosely on the wise men's journey to Bethlehem. It was the story of her first trip to Washington D.C. ten years ago with her High School History quiz bowl team. She went to Washington as no fan of our country. I suspect she was taught and raised in the modern liberal method, and she had come to believe that American was the land of the oppressed, the discriminated against, and the homophobic (yes she did throw in a line about the oppressed GLBTs). Were things that bad in 1998? Maybe she didn't listen to President Clinton's "Things are Great" State of the Union address. Alas, I am afraid that her history team had studied a revisionist history of the United States. It grieves me to think that our youth are still being raised to believe that such negative things are at our nation's core.

Mary Cat's personal epiphany came when she visited (don't roll in your grave Col. Cadwallader Jones)
the Lincoln Memorial and read “In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.” I guess she came to understand that America is a place where people struggle for and achieve liberty and justice. I wish she had seen and said that America is the place where we can struggle for liberty and justice as "one nation under God." I also wish her epiphany had been somewhere else, like...,

Fat chance there! I ask too much.

Frankly, I think the sermon was short on God-talk and long on an earthly Kings/Presidents feeling. The hope for "change" with the upcoming inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama was evident in her sermon. Quite frankly, I fear that people are guilty of putting Obama on the throne in the temple of the King. We should remember the history of Politics and Presidents: "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose."

I was also reminded of the Gospel reading from today. The wise men also went to the temple of an earthly King, Herod. Their personal epiphany was when they saw the writing on the wall and took a different route home. This of course after bowing before the real King in the person of the Christ child. In my humble opinion, that is the route today's sermon should have followed. Leave behind your earthly Kings. Start with Christ the King, and follow Him. Oh, the places you will go. The things that you will see. The person you will become. That is the change I'm looking for.

Anyone out there have a problem with "wise men?" I think that might be another thing to "change." How about wise "persons?"