Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top Stories of 2009

I should have been keeping track of these and storing them in a folder for a year end recap. I guess that my New Year's resolution for 2010 will be to be more organized. This year, I will have to work from memory.

1. Episcopal General Convention 2009 resolves to continue on the path of GLBT ordinations and to develop litugies for same sex blessings. Archbishop of Canterbury a little bit peeved.

2. The Anglican Covenant is sent to the churches.

3. June 2009, the Anglican Church in North America is formed an elects the first archbishop of what may become the newest province in the Anglican Communion.

4. ELCA follows TEC lead and chooses the path of full inclusivity.

5. Zen Buddhist lay "priest" election as Episcopal bishop nixed.

6. $3,000,000+ set aside in TEC's budget for litigation another indicator of failed leadership.

7. South Carolina Supreme Court rules in favor of congregation leaving TEC.

8. Staggering Losses of Membership Reported for TEC since 2003.

9. Diocese of South Carolina creates space.

10. Non celibate lesbian priest elected bishop suffragan in L.A., Archbishop of Canterbury given a wedgie.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

After a Defeat, What's Next?

I used this painting earlier in a post back on Dec 12, 2009 titled "It is Lost."

The Court Jester Stanczyk Receives News of the Loss of Smolensk (1514)

As I watch the slow decline and fall of the Episcopal church (in particular the Diocese of Western NY as evidenced at SF in this post by Sarah Hey), I have to pause and take a historical perspective and remember that failures, like victories, are transitory. I think of the fall of Rome and the ups and downs of that city over the centuries following the Goths, and the Visigoths etc. Did the jester Stanczyk seen in the painting above ever recover from the loss of Smolensk, and how about the people of Smolensk? Since 800 AD Smolensk has seen paganism, Christianity, Soviet style Atheism, and now a return to Christendom. After a defeat, we only see the desolation. Our tears blind us. Being short lived, self absorbed, and blind to the future, we cannot fully appreciate God's plan for us. The following poem came through my reading stack the other day, and images of the jester Stanczyk flashed through my mind.
"Not all who seem to fail, have failed indeed;
Not all who fail have therefore worked in vain:
For all our acts to many issues lead;
And out of earnest purpose, pure and plain,
Enforced by honest toil of hand or brain,
The Lord will fashion, in His own good time,
(Be this labourer's proudly-humble creed,)
Such ends as, to His wisdom, fitliest chime
With His vast love's eternal harmonies.
There is no failure for the good and wise:
What though thy seed should fall by the wayside
And the birds snatch it;-yet the birds are fed;
Or they may bear it far across the tide,
To give rich harvests after thou art dead."

The above poem is from "Politics For the People," 1848 which was a short lived publication that failed after a few years. The poem was quoted in "Character", by Samuel Smiles (1905).

Whatever became of the writer of the poem, and how did the failed "Politics For the People" drift its way into my blog 161 years later? I thought that there might be a trail of failures to follow, so off on the web I went.

In "The Making of Mr. Gray's Anatomy," Ruth Richardson says that the first two lines of the poem were attributed on the Internet in 2008 to Archbishop Trench. (p. 280 footnote #25).

From my searches, it is clear that the Archbishop did write a fair amount of poetry back in the mid 1800's, and judging from his style, I agree that he might have written the poem for "Politics For the People" whose contributors happened to include several future "Christian Socialists."

Smelling a defeated principle, I wasted some time on the Internet reading about Christian Socialism, and found some good material at, I have come to the conclusion that since many of the social and economic conditions that stimulated its conceptualizations when the term was coined back in 1849 no longer exist, those Christian Socialists of that time would be very puzzled by the current issues of 2009. In fact, I am not sure anyone today really knows what Christian Socialism means now or how it is supposed to work. What is clear is that 160 years later, the idea seems to have been a failure, but there are still some die-hards left (as further sniffing around on the web can easily demonstrate).

Looking for a Christian Socialist blogger, I found the inevitable Episcopalian connection (there always is one, if an issue is controversial enough). The Rev. Dennis Wienk, Rector of St. Thomas' Church, Bath NY, has a modern outline of Christian Socialism where he writes:
"I. Christian Socialism

Its fixed principle:

The community shall ultimately own the means of production (that is, the land and capital) collectively and use them co-operatively for the good of all."

I thought that had been tried and had failed (anyone remember late U.S.S.R.?). Oh well, some guys just won't admit defeat.

Looking around the web we find the Rev. Dennis Wienk's connections include "Integrity" a radical pro gay group of Episcopalians. As a contributor to volume 11, #2 the summer/fall edition of "Voice of Integrity" (see page 8) his place on "the issue" seems clear. Maybe he has finally latched himself onto a winner.

Currently, Integrity believes it has triumphed in the sexuality battles in the Episcopal church. History has yet to weigh in with a judgment. I suspect that the Rev. Wienk has made another poor choice of bedfellows.

I was hoping to be able to ignore Christian Socialism because history has judged that it has not accomplished its goals after 160 years of talk. Unfortunately the United States Congress and the Executive branch is picking up where Christian Socialism failed by pushing through a secular socialist agenda, and doing it in substantially less time than 160 years.

Perhaps the current "Health Insurance Reform" legislation only seems to be an "all is lost" moment for some while appearing to be a great accomplishment to others. Perhaps it will be only a minor footnote for future historians when writing of the rise and fall of capitalism. How long before socialism American style sees its defeat at Smolensk?

I dread the boasting when the President signs the health-care package.

But when I see the pictures, I will imagine the caption reading, "Sic transit Gloria mundi."

Blind to the future, we stumble forward, groping, trying to determine what's next.

We should not fear the defeats of the present. Peering through the tears, we should rest assured that there will be a resurrection, and a new Kingdom awaits. What this Kingdom will look like we may not live to see, but if we believe it when we pray, "Thy Kingdom come," then it will be something far greater than we can even imagine.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Not Enough Money for the Inn?

At the midnight Christmas Eve service at ECOOS, all appearances indicated a traditional service. Following the service, I asked three people, two lay visitors and one retired clergyman, if they heard anything out of the ordinary in the sermon. Surprisingly I got three different answers, but nobody picked up on the novelty that I heard. At one point in the sermon, our rector said that Jesus was born in a stable because Joseph and Mary were "too poor" to afford a room in "the motel."

We had just heard Luke 2:4-7 as the Gospel reading that night,
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The Gospel of Luke is the only one with the story of the Inn, and in it the "No Vacancy" sign was lit when Joseph and Mary showed up. This makes sense if there were a lot of people going to their home towns for the census decreed by Caesar Augustus.

I can't say that I had ever heard our rector's version of Luke 2. So where does the "too poor" to afford a room idea come from? This appears to me to be a natural progression from the "homeless couple" theology we have heard promulgated in recent years. It just needed a little tweaking to be more topical for our current state of high unemployment. All of us are aware of the "focus on homelessness" over the past few years, and other preachers have tried to draw a parallel between Jesus' birth and the modern American homeless. One reference at the indicated that
"Jesse Jackson was the first to turn Joseph and Mary into a “homeless couple” when he claimed that Christmas 'is not about Santa Claus and ‘Jingle Bells’ and fruit cake and eggnog,' of which all Christians would agree, but about 'a homeless couple.'[1] He repeated his 'homeless couple' theme at the 1992 Democratic Convention" ([1] As reported in The Atlanta Journal/Constitution (December 28, 1991), A9.) " 2006, Jesse Jackson got it right: 'The story of Christmas is about a couple—Mary and Joseph—forced by an oppressive imperial government to leave their home to travel far to be counted in the census.'" [6]

Unfortunately, the Rev. Jackson came back to the homeless couple theme again in an article in January 2008 in Houston Style magazine
"...economic distress doesn’t put Christmas under wraps. It only highlights the real story. Christmas isn’t about cards or toys or running up credit-card bills to buy presents. The real story is about a homeless couple, immigrants ordered by the government to return home to be counted."

The sharp eyed can see that the Rev. Jackson introduces another current issue, that of immigration, into the discussion. That led me to look for some illegal immigrant Christmas postings on the web. I found one at Dec. 11,2009 where Rosa Ramirez reports:
"La Posarela, a bilingual musical play, re-enacts the biblical journey of a young couple who traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of a place to sleep with their first-born child Jesus.

But as told in the 45-minute play, free at 7 p.m. on Dec. 11 and Dec. 12 at the Community Music Center, the themes of homelessness, undocumented immigration and health care come to the fore.

'Ay, José. Maybe, after all, this city will continue to be a sanctuary city for illegal pilgrims like us,' Ana Ortiz, who plays Mary, tells Joseph.

Rooted in the Mexican tradition of the bible narrative, La Posarela tells the story of Mary and Joseph going from inn to inn looking for shelter. Each time, they are turned away.

The search symbolizes today’s social perils — in the Mission District and across the country — of trying to find shelter and undocumented immigrants trying to belong, said Chus Alonso, the play’s music director."

Now, one can argue that later during their flight to Egypt, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were in a way homeless, although the modern description might be "political refugees," but that is another story.

The story in Luke 2:4-7 about the birth of Jesus is not about a poor homeless couple. It is about God becoming incarnate for us. Yes, the nativity was in very humble circumstances, but even then, it was recognized as something very, very special. The message that God came for us in this way should not be hijacked and revised into a political statement for whatever cause du jour that some high minded modern is wanting to promote. Unfortunately, revisionism such as this has become so acceptable that most people don't even notice anymore. Or as a couple of elderly anchors of the congregation told me this morning as to why they are hanging on, "We just overlook a lot of things."

I wonder if revisionists just wear attitudes and beliefs down to the point where you finally realize that there is no hope in debate or discussion, and you turn a blind ear to whatever the revisionist says. That is why newcomers are often shocked at hearing a revisionist's sermon, and are amazed that old timers shrug and ignore even the most ridiculous novelties coming from the pulpit.

At today's service at ECOOS, there was no sermon, just carol singing. The only hints of revisionism was the rewritten "Good Christian Men Rejoice" which has become, "Good Christian Friends Rejoice."

Shrug and overlook it?

Friday, December 25, 2009

12 Yats of Christmas

Irreverent: Warning the following video will be incomprehensible to most, and should not be taken as an insult to your intelligence or lack of humor.

I am still laughing about that Dix pack of Sixtie.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Don't Play that Grandma Song

Irreverent: (Warning, the following video depicts a potentially harmful depiction of callous rednecks, is discriminatory against grandmothers, presents ugly stereotype of grandfathers, includes no warning against the consumption of excessive amounts of eggnog on Christmas eve, and engenders reindeeraphobia.)

Don't say I didn't warn you!

Thanks Dr. Elmo.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Early Christmas Present

In a rare treat, today's sermon stuck to scripture and didn't stray into unorthodox. It was delivered by our deacon, Rick Hanners and his subject was the "Song of Mary." I was only worried at one point when he pointed out that Jesus was not just his personal saviour. My fear was that he would follow the path of our Presiding Bishop and say something like "we can only be saved as part of a collective" and forget about "the great Western heresy—that we can be saved as individuals." (Page 4 of General Convention opening address 7 July 2009 by the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Fortunately our deacon did not go there and stuck to Jesus as saviour of the world. That was my early Christmas present, and it felt personal.

The only problem with such a sermon is that it leaves no time for the mind to wander and leaves no time to prepare your last minute Christmas shopping list.

I am putting the blog on automatic pilot for the rest of the week with a mixture of reverence and irreverence (unless some new Episcopal horror occurs). Make sure your speakers are working!

Dear Andre Waldo+, Will You Agree to This?

(4.2.5) The Standing Committee may request a Church to defer a controversial action. If a Church declines to defer such action, the Standing Committee may recommend to any Instrument of Communion relational consequences which may specify a provisional limitation of participation in, or suspension from, that Instrument until the completion of the process set out below.

(4.2.6) On the basis of advice received from the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting, the Standing Committee may make a declaration that an action or decision is or would be “incompatible with the Covenant”.
(4.2.7) On the basis of the advice received, the Standing Committee shall make recommendations as to relational consequences which flow from an action incompatible with the Covenant. These recommendations may be addressed to the Churches of the Anglican Communion or to the Instruments of the Communion and address the extent to which the decision of any covenanting Church impairs or limits the communion between that Church and the other Churches of the Communion, and the practical consequences of such impairment or limitation. Each Church or each Instrument shall determine whether or not to accept such recommendations...

This is just one small subsection of a larger document that the Archbishop of Canterbury has asked our church to agree to sign. It is supposed to be more than a document, it is a written indication of the presence of an Anglican Covenant. Read the whole thing and decide for yourself.

Several questions for the Episcopal church come to mind. Does the General Convention have the authority to agree to this, or is this something the House of Bishops will be asked to address? If the House of Bishops does not agree, will the Communion Partner bishops agree on their own accord? Can individual dioceses agree?

WWWD(What Will Waldo Do)?

I would not have needed to ask that last question if Stockton Williams+, Neal Michelle+, or John Burwell+ had been elected bishop.

After you are finished reading the covenant, consider for a moment whether or not the Episcopal church wants to convene with all those fundamentalist Anglican churches out there, or does it want to go its own way?
"Tell me why everything turned around?
Packing up, shacking up, is all you wanna do
If I could baby I'd give you my world
Open up, everything's waiting for you
You can go your own way, go your own way
You can call it another lonely day
You can go your own way, go your own way" Fleetwood Mac

Friday, December 18, 2009

Recommended Links

"The Saint Barnabas’ Blog"
(the vague ramblings of the Revd. Fr. Edward Tomlinson SSC……)

has a couple of interesting posts on secularism and Christianity (no Virginia, they are not the same).

The first is "Its all in the soil....". Here is a teaser:
"Yet despite profound ignorance in matters floral I have harvested one tiny colonel of wisdom in my life-..."

(And I always thought that was "kernel" of wisdom)

"...that the soil is every bit as important as the plant. How often we wrongly check blooms for disease when the real problem lies buried underground.

Now to Christian life where, like a wilting rhododendron chocking in an alkaline soil, the church is floundering rooted to modern culture. Where all too often we gaze inwards, bewildered at the rotten fruit we find, when we need to gaze outwards to the true source of our malaise- the anti-Christian values drip feeding into souls by means of a rampant, secular agenda. How can the ten minute homily compete with the modern ‘values’ of the BBC that enter our ears by the hour?"

The second post is from Dec. 15, 2009 is titled "In the soil part2." Again, I give you a tease:

"Accepting the secular model of ‘justice’ (freeing people to ‘do what thou wilt’), as Western society has done, can lead to fixation on self. We see the evidence for this in the cult of celebrity that pervades modern life. Very soon this self-centredness, for the liberation secular ‘justice’ seeks is centred on self, breeds hubris. We grow cocksure and unable to recognise our weakness. This is seen in the modern scepticism of the past and the desire to deconstruct our heritage. The novel and new is embraced, look at how politicians fawn over minority faiths, but the old order is rejected, consider how Christianity is singled out for ridicule and attack."

Is there an answer to secularism? I believe that there is, and it lays within reach of every person who accepts the rule of Christ. Can Jesus compete with the modern media? Of course He can, and of course He would be mocked, scourged, and hung for so doing. Will He triumph? Yes. What will that look like?

When will He come again in Glory?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Songs of Hope 1

The days following the election of Andrew Waldo+ to be the 8th bishop of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina were marked by first a cold, rainy Sunday, followed by a cold misty Monday, then a foggy, misty Tuesday. While the skies wept, my heart cried out for sunny days. Memory responded with a song, "You Are My Sunshine." I remember this song best by Jimmie Davis' rendition.
Davis, a former governor of Louisiana (1944-48 and also 1960-64) was also a famous country singer. Before his death, he croaked out the old hit one more time (at age 100).

A wise clergyman once spoke to a group of concerned upstate traditionalists and reminded them to remember their first love. That first love we enjoyed upon hearing the Good News. The love we felt when we finally accepted the Light of the World into our hearts. Jimmie had it right,

Christ is my sunshine.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Those Pesky Prophets Are Always Causing Trouble

The last time we visited these guys was exactly one year ago. On the third Sunday in Advent 2008 we heard how the prophets were social activists. We heard about MLK and Rock Hill's own the rev. Ronal King. This year we had some new additions to the rector's list when he threw in Abe Lincoln and F.D.R. Once again, Jesus was left out of the discussion of the formation or inspiration of these "prophets." Before they are enshrined in the great hall of the prophets, let's look back at a couple of their Jeane Dixon moments.

I could not help but remember F.D.R.'s reluctance to help the poor when confronted with the second attempt of the "bonus army" of WWI veterans to get their checks early. The quickie version from Wikipedia is here:

"Following his election, President Franklin D. Roosevelt did not want to pay the bonus early either. In March 1933, Roosevelt issued an executive order allowing the enrollment of 25,000 veterans in the Civilian Conservation Corps for work in forests. When they marched on Washington again in May 1933, he sent his wife Eleanor to chat with the vets and pour coffee with them, and she persuaded many of them to sign up for jobs making a roadway to the Florida Keys, which was to become the Overseas Highway, the southernmost portion of U.S. Route 1. The third-strongest hurricane ever measured, the September 2, 1935 Labor Day hurricane, killed 258 veterans working on the Highway. Most were killed by storm surge flooding. After seeing more newsreels of veterans giving their lives for a government that had taken them for granted, public sentiment built up so much that Congress could no longer afford to ignore it in an election year (1936). Roosevelt's veto was overridden, making the bonus a reality."

And what about Abe Lincoln. I hate to drag it up, but didn't he once prophesy,
"It is better for us both, therefore, to be separated. I know that there are free men among you, who even if they could better their condition are not as much inclined to go out of the country as those, who being slaves could obtain their freedom on this condition. I suppose one of the principal difficulties in the way of colonization is that the free colored man cannot see that his comfort would be advanced by it. You may believe you can live in Washington or elsewhere in the United States the remainder of your life, perhaps more so than you can in any foreign country, and hence you may come to the conclusion that you have nothing to do with the idea of going to a foreign country. This is (I speak in no unkind sense) an extremely selfish view of the case. But you ought to do something to help those who are not so fortunate as yourselves.

There is an unwillingness on the part of our people, harsh as it may be, for you free colored people to remain with us. Now, if you could give a start to white people, you would open a wide door for many to be made free. If we deal with those who are not free at the beginning, and whose intellects are clouded by Slavery, we have very poor materials to start with. If intelligent colored men, such as are before me, would move in this matter, much might be accomplished. It is exceedingly important that we have men at the beginning capable of thinking as white men, and not those who have been systematically oppressed.

There is much to encourage you. For the sake of your race you should sacrifice something of your present comfort for the purpose of being as grand in that respect as the white people. It is a cheering thought throughout life that something can be done to ameliorate the condition of those who have been subject to the hard usage of the world. It is difficult to make a man miserable while he feels he is worthy of himself, and claims kindred to the great God who made him. In the American Revolutionary war sacrifices were made by men engaged in it; but they were cheered by the future. Gen. Washington himself endured greater physical hardships than if he had remained a British subject. Yet he was a happy man, because he was engaged in benefiting his race--- something for the children of his neighbors, having none of his own.

The colony of Liberia has been in existence a long time. In a certain sense it is a success. The old President of Liberia, Roberts, has just been with me--- the first time I ever saw him. He says they have within the bounds of that colony between 300,000 and 400,000 people, or more than in some of our old States, such as Rhode Island or Delaware, or in some of our newer States, and less than in some of our larger ones. They are not all American colonists, or their descendants. Something less than 12,000 have been sent thither from this country. Many of the original settlers have died, yet, like people elsewhere, their offspring outnumber those deceased.

The question is if the colored people are persuaded to go anywhere, why not there? One reason for an unwillingness to do so is that some of you would rather remain within reach of the country of your nativity. I do not know how much attachment you may have toward our race. It does not strike me that you have the greatest reason to love them. But still you are attached to them at all events.

The place I am thinking about having for a colony is in Central America. It is nearer to us than Liberia---not much more than one-fourth as far as Liberia, and within seven days'--- run by steamers. Unlike Liberia it is on a great line of travel---it is a highway. The country is a very excellent one for any people, and with great natural resources and advantages, and especially because of the similarity of climate with your native land---thus being suited to your physical condition."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

It is Lost

The Court Jester Stanczyk Receives News of the Loss of Smolensk (1514)

If a conservative state can't elect a conservative Episcopal bishop, and instead picks a once divorced man, one who practices open communion, one who is on record as supporting same sex blessings once approved by General Convention, the denomination is doomed.

These lectionary readings were from back on 11/23/2009 and I had a feeling that that this was going to be an appropriate time to reflect upon them.

Psalm 106: 6-18
Both we and our ancestors have sinned;
we have committed iniquity, have done wickedly.
Our ancestors, when they were in Egypt,
did not consider your wonderful works;
they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love,
but rebelled against the Most High at the Red Sea.
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
so that he might make known his mighty power.
He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry;
he led them through the deep as through a desert.
So he saved them from the hand of the foe,
and delivered them from the hand of the enemy.
The waters covered their adversaries;
not one of them was left.
Then they believed his words;
they sang his praise.
But they soon forgot his works;
they did not wait for his counsel.
But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness,
and put God to the test in the desert;
he gave them what they asked,
but sent a wasting disease among them.
They were jealous of Moses in the camp,
and of Aaron, the holy one of the Lord.
The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan,
and covered the faction of Abiram.
Fire also broke out in their company;
the flame burned up the wicked.

Joel 3:1-2,9-17
For then, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will enter into judgement with them there, on account of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations. They have divided my land,

Proclaim this among the nations:
Prepare war,
stir up the warriors.
Let all the soldiers draw near,
let them come up.
Beat your ploughshares into swords,
and your pruning-hooks into spears;
let the weakling say, ‘I am a warrior.’

Come quickly,
all you nations all around,
gather yourselves there.
Bring down your warriors, O Lord.
Let the nations rouse themselves,
and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat;
for there I will sit to judge
all the neighbouring nations.

Put in the sickle,
for the harvest is ripe.
Go in, tread,
for the wine press is full.
The vats overflow,
for their wickedness is great.

Multitudes, multitudes,
in the valley of decision!
For the day of the Lord is near
in the valley of decision.
The sun and the moon are darkened,
and the stars withdraw their shining.

The Lord roars from Zion,
and utters his voice from Jerusalem,
and the heavens and the earth shake.
But the Lord is a refuge for his people,
a stronghold for the people of Israel.

So you shall know that I, the Lord your God,
dwell in Zion, my holy mountain.
And Jerusalem shall be holy,
and strangers shall never again pass through it.

1 Peter 1:1-12
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who have been chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with his blood:
May grace and peace be yours in abundance.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry, inquiring about the person or time that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated, when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the subsequent glory. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things that have now been announced to you through those who brought you good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look!

In the Psalm, we are reminded that walking away from the way of God is nothing new. At those times when we should be most grateful for our deliverance, we forget His works and take counsel of our own "enlightened" minds. The consequences of believing in ourselves more than in the the Word of the Lord are terrible.

Through Joel, the Lord calls out to those held captive, calls them to arms, and promises His ultimate victory.

Peter also writes to exiles in dispersion. He recognizes the trials they will endure. There will be tests for the exiles which will make them stronger and more brilliant. He reminds them that the salvation we have through Jesus was predicted by those prophets, who also were careful in their study and inquiry.

These readings remind me that mankind is always challenging God, and mankind gets punished each time. Sometimes the earth swallows men up, but there is always a scattered remnant that God will care for and eventually restore. It is important for this remnant to do the hard work of arming themselves with study, prayer, and praise. They are to stand firm in support of the faith of the prophets, the martyrs, the saints, and the apostles.

We have been judged, and we have been punished, and the church remains captive to the spirit of the age.

Now where is that ploughshare I had in the garage?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Here I Stand

On the eve of the election of the 8th Bishop of the diocese, today's lectionary readings strike hard at religion gone wrong.
Revelation 2:18-29
The Message to Thyatira

‘And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze:
‘I know your works—your love, faith, service, and patient endurance. I know that your last works are greater than the first. But I have this against you: you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet and is teaching and beguiling my servants* to practise fornication and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her fornication. Beware, I am throwing her on a bed, and those who commit adultery with her I am throwing into great distress, unless they repent of her doings; and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am the one who searches minds and hearts, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve. But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call “the deep things of Satan”, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden; 25only hold fast to what you have until I come. To everyone who conquers and continues to do my works to the end,
I will give authority over the nations;
to rule them with an iron rod,
as when clay pots are shattered—
even as I also received authority from my Father.
To the one who conquers I will also give the morning star.

Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

And then we have the reading from Matthew 23:27-39

‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, and you say, “If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.” Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation.

‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you, desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” ’

Year after year, diocese after diocese, parish after parish, have been given over to those who have abandoned the faith of the Apostles. My Catholic friends tell me that this is the natural consequence of the Protestant Reformation. Protestant friends tell me this is the consequence of post reformation modernism and post modernism. Liberal friends tell me that all is well, come join us in the big happy bed of the church of Thyatira.

Whither the Episcopal church? When will I again be able to use a capital "C" in describing this denomination.

It is time to take a stand by electing a bishop who stands firm for the Gospel and will boldly proclaim even those uncomfortable parts, the parts that talk about our desires to walk in the way of sin and death, and who will show us how the Gospel message proclaims the way out of this death trap.

I believe that by electing either Stockton Williams, Neal Michell, or John Burwell, Upper South Carolinians can make this diocese into a shining light for the rest of the Episcopal church.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

T'was The Night Before the Election

T'was the night before the election,
And all through the upstate,
Not a delegate was certain of the Diocese's fate.

The liberals were sleeping
All in the same bed.
With visions of Same Sex weddings
Dancing in their heads.

I in my conservative thinking cap,
With the dog looking on.
Stayed awake wondering
What might go wrong.

When off went the scanner with a dreadful alert,
A Episcopal wreck on the interstate!
A call for the Pewster to get to work.

I ran to the highway
And what was the bother?
A broken down church van,
And six men in white collars.

And there on roadside,
All covered with bug splat,
Was St. Nicholas himself
A'fixin a flat!

The churchmen were harnessed
To tow the old wreck,
When St. Nicholas finished up,
And shouted, "Oh Heck..."

"On Linder, on Waldo, on Williams and Thompson!
On Burwell, Michell, we best be a hustlin.
To the Cathedral in Columbia,
To the State Capital.
Pull away, pull away, pull away all!"

I hopped on the bumper
To see where they went.
That team was holy fast,
One hundred percent.

With three on the left and three on the right,
St. Nick had that van haulin
Straight through the night.

We got to Columbia
And the church parking lot.
Santa unhitched the dog collars
And checked his list to see who got what.

He read, "The Laity is conservative
The clergy is liberal."
"What they need here is a doggone consiberal!"

I jumped from the bumper,
And ran to his side.
"No, not a moderate!" I said.
"You pick one," he replied.

I said, "Give me Michell, Williams, and Burwell, all three!"
But Santa shook his head,
and spoke straight to me,
"You can only have one.
Which one will it be?"

I said, "Which one will be faithful, true and trustworthy,
A pastor, a father, a leader, and preacher?
St. Nick, which one will be the best teacher?"

So Santa packaged one up,
Threw in a crozier and miter.
And a purple shirt too,
I hope he left us a fighter.

He hitched up his churchmen,
Who turned left on Bull Street,
When I last saw them.
The were pounding their feet.

Then off in the distance,
Santa cried through the night,

"Blessed election to all, I hope it works out out alright!"

2009 U.P.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

This Church Has Gone to the Dogs

Originally, I intended to discuss Covenant Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles. where, according to NPR,
"They don't hand out hymnals at this service — with leashes to hold or a dog in your lap, it would be just too much. But the dogs do get biscuits.

And by the time the closing hymn is sung, the pit bull in the second row is curled up next to the schnauzer."

I hope the pit bull is not just trying to keep his next meal warm.

But there were weirder things going on in LALA land this weekend. The Episcopal church, which has been going to the dogs for many years, elected Mary Glasspool+ as bishop suffragan.

If she gets the necessary consents from the other dioceses' bishops and standing committees (DEC for DUSC), she will become the first openly non celibate lesbian bishop, albeit a bishop suffragan.

The question for Upper South Carolina is this, "Which of our nominees would consent to this election?" I think it is pretty clear that Waldo+, Linder+, and Thompson+ would give consent. I suspect that our DEC might not give consent.

The next question is this, "Do we want a bishop who will work with DEC?"

If the answer is "Yes," then we must elect either Williams+, Michell+, or Burwell+.

The Los Angeles election coupled with Louisiana's election yesterday of a revisionist priest for their next bishop are two howling examples of where the Episcopal church is headed.

If anyone can't figure the direction of the church after reading the title of this post and the results of these two elections, I ask them to remember "Slouching Towards Gomorrah" by Robert Bork which is excerpted here (Chapter 11):
"Its [the New Left's] adherents did not go away or change their minds; the New Left shattered into a multitude of single-issue groups. We now have, to name but a few, radical feminists, black extremists, animal rights groups, radical environmentalists, activist homosexual organizations, multiculturalists, and new or freshly radicalized organizations such as People for the American Way, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), the National Organization for Women (NOW), and Planned Parenthood.
Each of these pursues a piece of the agenda of the cultural and political Left, but they do not announce publicly an overarching program, as the New Left did, that would enable people to see that the separate groups and causes add up to a general radical philosophy...

Thus, the themes and traits of the New Left have become prominent in today's culture. As will be seen throughout this book, the Sixties generation's fixation on equality has permeated our society and its institutions, much to our disadvantage. Their idea of liberty has now become license in language, popular culture, and sexuality.
The idea that everything is ultimately political has taken hold. We know its current form as "political correctness," a distemper that afflicts the universities in their departments of humanities, social sciences, and law. Works of literature are read for their sub-texts, usually existing only in the mind of the politically correct reader, about the oppression of women, Western imperialism, colonialism, and racism. Political correctness is not confined to the enclaves of the academy. It is now to be found in museums, art galleries, seminaries, foundations-all the institutions relating to opinion and attitude formation.
A corollary to the politicization of the culture is the tactic of assaulting one's opponents as not merely wrong but morally evil. That was, of course, a key stratagem of the New Left, and it remains a crucial weapon in modern liberalism's armory.
The student radicals' habitual lying is easily enough explained. They were antinomians, just as those Christian heretics thought themselves freed by God's grace from any obligation to the moral law, so the student radicals, imbued with the political grace of the Left, were freed of the restraints of law and morality. It could not be immoral to lie in a noble cause. For the same reason, it could not be wrong to break laws or heads.
Modern liberals, being in charge of the institutions they once attacked, have no need to break heads and only an occasional need to break laws. They do, however, have a need to lie, and do so abundantly, since many Americans would not like their actual agenda."

Why slouch with your tails dragging towards Gomorrah when you can strut there with your tails held high?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Voting for a Bishop, Waste Not, Want Not

In a post on the 2009 Minnesota bishop election, Anglicat makes some good points.

"... never waste your vote on 'making a statement,' even in the very first ballot. With nine ballots in each delegate's voting packet, it may seem that there will be a luxury of opportunity to eventually vote their ultimate intention. Unfortunate for the 'statement makers,' sometimes the earliest ballot sets an unexpected and undesirable trend that is never overcome."

"It has been famously said that politics is the art of the possible. The rule of thumb for wise voters must be: never vote for the impossible even at the beginning of what looks to be a many-balloted election."

As our election for the next bishop of Upper South Carolina draws near, this pewster is giving serious consideration to three men, each of which would make a good bishop. Ranking these men based on just their videos, their written responses, and their walkabouts remains difficult. Factor in the needs of this diocese for a new approach to change the 10% drop in Sunday attendance that we have seen over the past 6 years, and the reluctance of the clergy to accept the need to change their way of "being church," and the pewster is left with a dilemma. If clergy votes to continue the drift to develop rites for same sex marriages, and to ordain openly gay partnered clergy by choosing either David Thompson+, Andrew Waldo+, or Philip Linder+, then it will be clear that the majority of the clergy is committed to a path of continued decline of the diocese and of the national church. It is beyond belief that they would be so committed to "making a statement" that they would ignore the facts that revisionist churches are dying a slow death. This diocese needs someone who can not just hold the dying churches hands, but someone of vision who can turn things around. It may mean that the Episcopal brand name has to be rewritten. I understand clergy's fear of such a change, but come on guys, your way ain't working, and you still have a large number of conservative laity left in the pews and paying their dues who do not want this diocese to go the way of same sex blessings or openly gay, partnered clergy.

So which one of the remaining candidates, Stockton Williams+, John Burwell+, or Neal Michell+ is most capable of working with both a liberal clergy and a conservative laity and leading us out of the current downward spiral? Which one can garner enough votes from clergy to become our next bishop? Who do I vote for in order to make my vote count rather than just having it become a wasted a vote, wasted in making a statement?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Switzerland 1, Minarets 0

In a move that will no doubt enrage the mullahs, Swiss voters approved a constitutional ban on minarets this November as reported by NPR,
"The country's four standing minarets, which won't be affected by the ban, do not traditionally broadcast the call to prayer outside their own buildings.

The sponsors of the initiative provoked complaints of bias from local officials and human-rights group with campaign posters that showed minarets rising like missiles from the Swiss flag next to a fully veiled woman."

The poster had earlier been ruled as protected under freedom of speech laws as reported in The Mail online.

I wonder if that poster would have been classified as "hate speech" in the U.S.?

I have also wondered what our downtown churches will do when Rock Hill's newest mosque starts blaring out prayer calls and interrupting our Sunday sermons?