Sunday, June 28, 2015

What Could be Worse Than Avoiding Conflict?

 As the General Convention of the Episcopal church groans on in Salt Lake City Utah, and more and more church dividing resolutions are brought forward, it is time for a little reminder to our delegation (whose blog is here),
"Where there is respect, there is a tendency to avoid
conflict. However, worse than avoiding conflict is
another inclination that is born out of respect – and
that is to affirm wrongdoing.

While it is true that families disagree at
times, we would do well to remember that the settling
of disputes is part of the father’s inherent authority.
Speaking metaphorically for the Church, the old
adage that 'Father knows best' certainly applies here.
But Jesus’ words are more to the point: 'Every
kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and
every city or household divided against itself will not
stand.'” (Matthew 12:25; NIV)

From, WE’VE HAD DESSERT.Biblical Malnutrition & Today’s Episcopal Church by Charles W.“Slats” Slaton, Jr.

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Pastoral Letter From Bishop Waldo Who is Now Full Monty on Same Sex Marriage


Thursday, June 25, 2015 Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: I am writing to you from Salt Lake City, Utah during the first day of the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church. During the next eight days, the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies will consider many important matters. There will be critical mission initiatives, the election of a new Presiding Bishop, and conceptual plans to restructure our governance to make more resources available for mission across our Church. We will also consider proposals to change the marriage canon, including granting permission to clergy in states where same-sex marriage is legal to solemnize and bless those marriages within the canons, as well as to authorize provisional rites for that purpose...

 ...In early May last year, the Bishop's Task Force on Unity of this diocese released its report, creating a process of study and reflection by which congregations seeking permission to bless (not solemnize) same-sex relationships could receive it. Few indeed within Upper South Carolina imagined that same-sex marriage would become legal in this state for a generation, much less within a few months, as did occur. As General Convention prepares to address this issue canonically and liturgically, I offer a few thoughts. My own study and reflections in preparation for last year's report persuaded me that it is indeed time for the church to experience and embrace the fullness of covenanted, monogamous same-sex relationships, even as our theology and ritual practice continue to develop and unfold. It remains critical to me, however, that in addition to the well-established right of priestly discretion in solemnizing any marriage, bishops retain discretion in how any provisional rites authorized by this Convention will be used in a given diocese. With these provisos in place - as they currently are in proposals submitted for consideration - I will vote in favor of the necessary canonical changes at this Convention. The process put in place a year ago in our diocese will be essentially the same in this scenario, except that permission will be granted to solemnize same-sex marriages to congregations that have engaged in the required discernment and dialogue. I recognize that deep differences on this question exist within our diocesan community. I remain committed to ensuring that there is a place at the table in this diocese for everyone, people of all perspectives. My hope is for a conversation within the church of a deeper, less divisive, and evolving nature, even as decisions are being made. It is clear to me that theological resolution will elude us for the foreseeable future. Early in the last century, Bishop William Guerry of the Diocese of South Carolina wrote that
We should strive for unity, not uniformity. Uniformity is mechanical, barren, unfruitful and unprofitable. Unity is organic, living, and capable of endless growth. If we are to be truly catholic, as Christ himself is catholic, then we must have a church broad enough to embrace within its communion every living human soul.
Such unity is most deeply formed in a forge that makes an alloy out of seemingly incompatible elements, and it virtually always involves heat. In my five years serving as your Bishop, I have seen this at work in a godly determination to stay and work together that pervades this diocesan community. As St. Paul reminds us, we are to “Bear with one another and
If anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other, just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your heats, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.”
I am indeed thankful, for we have been blessed in this diocese with an abundance of missional opportunities that continually energize, unite, and send us into our Lord’s service. With longing for your prayers and grateful hearts, I remain yours in Christ, The Rt. Rev. Andrew Waldo Eighth Bishop Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Cathedral Dean Equates Book of Common Prayer to the Stars and Bars

These days, anything that offends any individual or tiny group is vulnerable to being hauled into the public square and torn to shreds by the mob. It was just a matter of time for the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) to be targeted as a symbol of hate. This week during the Episcopal General Convention the BCP was attacked by no less than a Dean of Cathedral. The report below was excerpted from The  Living Church.

Thursday, June 25, 2015
By G. Jeffrey MacDonald
When the Special Legislative Committee on Marriage convened its first open hearing Wednesday night, speakers overwhelmingly favored proposals that would clear the way for same-sex marriage across the Episcopal Church.
Of the 15 who spoke to two proposed resolutions, only one said, “I do not have the clarity that others do,” and called for more study of the issue. The rest urged the panel to make marriage rites available to same-sex couples and to allow gender-specific language in the Book of Common Prayer to be used in a gender-neutral manner.

Speakers also connected the quest for same-sex marriage rites with other causes, including the quest for racial equality, which has emerged as a hot topic in the early days of the 78th General Convention. One priest compared marriage-rite language in the Book of Common Prayer with the Confederate flag, which activists have clamored to remove from statehouses in the wake of a June 17 massacre of nine African-Americans at a Charleston, South Carolina, church.
“How long are we going to allow documents like the Book of Common Prayer to contain language that is explicitly discriminatory?” asked the Rev. Will Mebane, interim dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Buffalo and a member of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage. “Demands for the Confederate flag, a symbol of hate, to come down have been heard. … It is time to remove our symbol that contains language of discrimination.”
The lunatics are running the asylum.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What is the New Episcopal Church? A Church Willing to Sacrifice the Book of Common Prayer.

A report from the Anglican Communion Institute details the changes to the structure and polity of the Episcopal church which may come out of the upcoming General Convention of TEc. The proposed resolutions, if passed, will complete the transformation from a church made up of people who share a common Prayer Book and liturgy into one where all manner of prayer and practice may be carried out with accountability handed over by its bishops to the whims of successive General Conventions and to a newly empowered Presiding Bishop. 

The report is long, but the following excerpt may give you an idea of what this New Episcopal church will look like and some of the problems it will create. I have added bullet points.

"...we are witnessing the emergence of a New Episcopal Church, which conforms neither to the historical TEC nor even the confused one set forth in the Primer.
  • The New Episcopal Church (henceforth NEC) retains a Constitution, Bishops, a General Convention, and even Holy Scripture, but these take on an altogether different character than in the erstwhile TEC. 
  • NEC has allowed to emerge a Presiding Bishop with disciplinary authority over fellow Bishops – something the Constitution does not permit. 
  • NEC no longer sees Bishops as obedient to Holy Scripture by solemn oath, as set forth in the BCP, but rather as agents of General Convention actions. This is made clear in respect of proposed same-sex blessing and marriage rites, where the role given to them (“under the direction and subject to the permission of the Bishop with ecclesiastical authority”) is now obviated. 
  • The Constitution remains but is no longer the governor of General Convention actions, but is somehow identical with whatever General Convention may decide to do.
The problem may be seen in its more acute form in the manner in which the Book of Common Prayer, itself a constitutional document which is not to be altered except by affirmative votes by orders of “a majority of the Dioceses entitled to representation” at two successive GCs, has now become a vague placeholder of yesterday’s temporary and transitory convictions. Even the Primer stays away from this obvious problem area in the quote above, though we may see a hint of it in the language which concludes the quote, “…of our various liturgies.” What began as an assertion of the unique and catholic status of the Book of Common Prayers (and its Ordinal) which embodies “the essential understanding of Christian faith as prayed by faithful Episcopalians” (lex credendi, lex orandi) appears to slide into a very different context: various liturgies emerging to give expression to what we now believe and hold to be so, apart from subjection to the Constitution and the letter of the Book of Common Prayer. This produces not catholicity but each new generation’s assertion of its freedom to confess and pray and pronounce and hear scripture’s word on its own terms."
The New Episcopal church has no choice but to change its constitution and canons (C+C's) to match moves by the last General Convention to bless same sex unions or else be faced with the disciplinary problem of having priests and bishops knowingly in violation of the C+C's as well as the BCP by participating in these "marriage" liturgies. Of course, it just codifies a historic abandonment of the Apostolic faith.

While bishops, priests, deacons, and pewsitters in the New Episcopal church may still recite the Nicene Creed every Sunday, many will be doing it with their fingers crossed if these resolutions pass when they get to the part in which they say,

"We believe in one holy, catholic and apostolic Church."   

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Episcopal Church Summer Solstice Worship Round Up

Each year I post a brief rundown of Summer Solstice services in the Episcopal church. I marvel at how many churches engage in Solstice worship services. To my mind, this is a misdirected and ill-advised approach to attracting the "spiritual" among us to church. The answers to peoples' questions about the meaning of life are not to be found in bowing to the Sun, the Moon, or the stars.

St. Augustine of Hippo wrote in the Confessions of what happened when he interrogated nature to learn something of God.

 I asked the earth; and it answered, "I am not He;" and whatsoever are therein made the same confession. I asked the sea and the deeps, and the creeping things that lived, and they replied, "We are not thy God, seek higher than we." I asked the breezy air, and the universal air with its inhabitants answered,' 'Anaximenes. was deceived, I am not God." I asked the heavens, the sun, moon, and stars: "Neither," say they, "are we the God whom thou seekest." And I answered unto all these things which stand about the door of my flesh, "Ye have told me concerning my God, that ye are not He; tell me something about Him." And with a loud voice they exclaimed, "He made us." My questioning was my observing of them; and their beauty was their reply? And I directed my thoughts to myself, and said, "Who art thou?" And I answered, "A man." And lo, in me there appear both body and soul, the one without, the other within. By which of these should I seek my God, whom I had sought through the body from earth to heaven, as far as I was able to send messengers - the beams of mine eyes? But the better part is that which is inner; for to it, as both president and judge, did all these my corporeal messengers render the answers of heaven and earth and all things therein, who said, "We are not God, but He made us." These things was my inner man cognizant of by the ministry of the outer; I, the inner man, knew all this - I, the soul, through the senses of my body. I asked the vast bulk of the earth of my God, and it answered me, "I am not He, but He made me."
Here is a sample of what is going on out there as people today ignore Augustine's ancient findings,

 The Paul Winter Consort, with special guest, Navajo singer Radmilla Cody, will celebrate the dawning of the summer during the 20th annual Summer Solstice concert on Saturday, June 20, at 4:30am at The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, located at 1047 Amsterdam Ave. at 112th Street, Manhattan.

Summer Solstice Celebration
Saturday, June 20; 5:30 PM – 9:00 PM
Holy Comforter Church, Atlanta GA
Shared meal, sacred ritual around the solstice fire,  crafts & fun for everyone!

Celebrate the summer solstice with a labyrinth walk at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church,  Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

St. Brigit Episcopal Church, Frederick, CO - The Summer Solstice Service is part of St. Brigit’s A’it Caol series, now entering its fourth year. A’it Caol (pronounced atch qweel) is Gaelic for “A Thin Place.” These services are created to offer guests an experience of God through a unique liturgy, which combines ancient tradition with contemporary language. They include specially designed meditation areas, reflecting the Scriptural lessons, and sacred music with an ethereal sound. In keeping with the Celtic tradition of honoring the earth as God’s creation, St. Brigit will mark the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, as a celebration of God’s gift of light. The Solstice Service is unique among the A’it Caol services in that all the meditation areas will be outdoors on the church grounds, including one utilizing St. Brigit’s outdoor labyrinth. St. Brigit’s youth group, the Lightsiderz, will be assisting in creating the meditation areas.

St. David’s Episcopal Church, Spokane, WA Celtic Celebration for the summer solstice.
Join us on Thursday, June 18 at 7:00 p.m.  We’ll start on the lawn outside, then move into the parish hall,  Enjoy an evening around the fire of prayer, song, and Christian communion.  Celtic music led by Janet Dodd.  A potluck snack reception follows.

Thomas the Apostle Retreat Center, Cody, WY. Come Celebrate the beginning of Summer by joining the "Summer Solstice Labyrinth Walk" on Saturday, June 20, 2015.
Walk Thomas the Apostle Retreat Center's Labyrinth with Labyrinth Facilitators, AnnMarie Bilek and Douglas Sunderland, from 11:00 am through 12:00 pm.

St. Timothy's Episcopal Church, Fairfield CT
SUMMER SOLSTICE SERVICE: Eucharist and Cream Tea
Today we mark the “longest day,” the day on which the sun lights the earth for the longest period of time in a twelvemonth.  Join our celebration of the Light of God, even as we greet the returning of the gestational darkness. A lovely cream tea will begin at 5 pm, in the spiritual company of St. Brigid of Kildare, patron saint of dairy products and dairy workers. An introduction to the saint and an information packet--including quotes and suggested reading—will be given to each attendee.
The Rev. Alice Mindrum has been the Director of the Anam Cara Christian Center for Spiritual Life since its inception over three years ago. She is a writer and stage director, a spiritual director, a Reiki teacher and a serious anglophile. Alice is a graudate of the Yale Divinity School, and currently she is developing Anam Cara on the Road, our new educational and arts ministry.

You can run but you can't hide from the sun...

Here He comes...

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The State of the Episcopal Church: Spin Control from 815

From the pre-General Convention propaganda effort by the Episcopal church comes this classic piece of spin from "The Episcopal Church House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church" which was put out as a press release by the Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs on  May 14, 2015 and meant to be used as an insert for the Sunday bulletin in Episcopal parishes. Here are the pertinent details, but pay particular attention to "By the Numbers" and "For Reflection."
The Committee on the State of the Church has partnered with Forward Movement, working together to offer an overview, or “snapshot,” of the 38- page report.  This summary report is available as a PDF document in two formats — as an 8 1/2 x 11 full sheet here or as a half-sheet suitable for use as a bulletin insert... Congregations are encouraged to print and distribute this information so that Episcopalians across the church will gain an awareness of the state of our Church
I was encouraged to distribute it as a fisk.
• What constitutes a worshiping community is an emerging and changing definition. How we count congregations and measure the vitality of congregations is changing.
What an opener, "an emerging and changing definition." If that doesn't define revisionism, nothing does. And they have to change how we count and measure because the numbers we are getting from measuring things by the traditional methods look terrible.
• Many dioceses and congregations are discovering how to measure and fund mission instead of adhering to traditional models of maintenance and budget priorities.
In other words, there are a lot of leaky roofs out there.
• How we communicate is undoubtedly changing at all levels. Face-to-face (and virtual face-to-face) meetings create opportunities to break down isolation and to reflect on what unites us in the Church. More change in communications is likely; more collaboration is also likely, especially in the form of mission hubs.
A "mission hub"? I guess that means two or more churches joining hands and marching together in the local gay pride parade.
• Fewer congregations report being in conflict than in the previous years. Money has replaced issues of sexuality as the most commonly reported topic of conflict.
That is because so many have left the Episcopal church thereby reducing conflict through house cleaning. With fewer people, money then becomes the primary problem.
• Dioceses that were once in conflict and have reorganized after a portion of the members left The Episcopal Church continue to explore creative ways to “be church,” quite possibly leading the way for new ways of thriving and serving. 
Exploring creative ways to be church? Isn't that what landed us in hot water to begin with?
• Many dioceses are addressing leadership needs by more fully engaging all the baptized in ministry roles.
That is because smaller parishes cannot afford full time clergy.
• There is new energy for the task of clergy formation. Seminaries are exploring alternatives to the traditional three-year residential model of formation and are reconfiguring their efforts with positive motivation and momentum.
Seminary education is overpriced and potentially toxic.
• Collaboration, rather than competition, among the ten seminaries of The Episcopal Church is an important focus for the future.
Seminaries are going broke.
• Dioceses are exploring local options for those preparing for all kinds of ministry, including the priesthood and the diaconate.
Liberal dioceses raising up liberal priests. That ensures further decline.

And now for the truly dreadful,
• Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) has dropped from 80 to 61 in the last thirteen years.
Staggering losses.
• The 2010 US Census reported 72 percent of the population as non-Hispanic white, while in 2009, The Episcopal Church reported 87 percent as non-Hispanic white.
We are diverse and welcoming... heh.
• The number of congregations that reported having a female rector or vicar rose from 24 percent in 2005 to 30 percent in 2008, and to 36 percent in 2014.
Do you think this could have anything to do with the drop in ASA?
• The two most commonly cited priorities for provinces are youth engagement (IV, VI, VIII, and IX) and outreach (VIII, IV, II, and I).
A priority for sure, but what are you teaching our youth?
• Nearly half (45 percent) of domestic parishes and missions are served by clergy who are not full-time.
That will rise.
• The average age of those ordained continues slowly to rise;currently the average age is 48 years old.
I don't think that is a bad thing, let the old failures age out.
• The advanced—and still advancing—age of the Church’s membership, combined with a low birth rate, means that the Church loses 16,000 people a year—nearly the equivalent of one average-sized diocese per year through deaths over births.
• In 2014, 38 percent of Episcopal congregations (versus 28 percent in 2010) report that their financial condition is good or excellent. At the same time, 62 percent of congregations are in some kind of financial stress in 2014, as compared to 72 percent in 2010, and only 44 percent in 2000.
 The improved economy may be shifting some of those numbers.
We need to change the ways in which we assess vitality. A vital church is defined by more than just people in the pewson Sunday mornings. What other questions do we need to ask?
They want to change the way they measure things because the old method is generating too much bad news.
A proposed resolution that lets us assess more accurately who we are follows the SOTC report. Look for it at General Convention.
I can hardly wait.
Also, and more importantly, we need to make changes in our systems so that we become more vital and healthy. We must build upon our sacred traditions but also be willing to adapt and embrace new ways of being Church.
How has that been working thus far?
The bottom line is that the numbers suggest decline.
"Suggest" decline?!?! Doh!
Still, while many of these statistics are alarming or negative, the SOTC report offers hope and optimism, not despair and resignation.
You have got to be kidding.
The State of the Church Committee heard too many good things to call hospice or ring the death knell just yet.
No need to call Hospice because the undertaker is already carrying off the body.
God is at work! The question is not “are we dying,” but rather “where is resurrection occurring?” We are, after all, an Easter people!
The question is not "are we dying," but rather, "are we dead yet?"

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Kingdom of God

This Sunday's Gospel reading was Mark 4:26-34,

Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come."
He also said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."
With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
In these parables, the kingdom of God is something that will grow from a small seed into something great, but we are not going to know exactly how that happens, but that hasn't stopped people from trying to figure it out.

The subject of the Kingdom of God has engaged Christian thinkers for thousands of years with good reason,
The term "Kingdom of God" occurs four times in Matthew (12:28; 19:24; 21:31; 21:43), fourteen times in Mark, thirty-two times in Luke, twice in the Gospel of John (3:3, 5), six times in Acts, eight times in Paul, and once in Revelation (12:10). Matthew actually prefers the term "Kingdom of heaven" which he uses over 20 times in his gospel. (from
In light of so many mentions, why do we have so many questions?

If it were simple, it would not need to be described in parable form.

All human words will ever do at best is to capture a sense of the incomprehensible.

Here is what George Eldon Ladd, "longtime professor at Fuller Seminary and one of the most influential evangelical scholars of the 1900’s", had to say in What is the Kingdom of God?

We must also "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness" (Matt. 6:33). What is the object of our quest? The Church? Heaven? No; we are to seek God's righteousness-His sway, His rule, His reign in our lives. 
When we pray, "Thy kingdom come,' are we praying for heaven to come to earth? In a sense we are praying for this; but heaven is an object of desire only because the reign of God is to be more perfectly realized then it is now. Apart from the reign of God, heaven is meaningless. Therefore, what we pray for is, "Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." This prayer is a petition for God to reign, to manifest His kingly sovereignty and power, to put to fight every enemy of righteousness and of His divine rule, that God alone may be King over all the world. 
We pray, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." The confidence that this prayer is to be answered when God brings human history to the divinely ordained consummation enables the Christian to retain his balance and sanity of mind in this mad world in which we live. Our hearts go out to those who have no such hope. Thank God, His Kingdom is coming, and it will fill all the earth. 
But when we pray, "Thy Kingdom come," we also ask that God's will be done here and now, today. This is the primary concern of these expositions, that the reader might meet the Kingdom of God, or rather, that the Kingdom of God might meet him. 
We should also pray, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done" in my church as it is in heaven. The life and fellowship of a Christian church ought to be a fellowship of people among whom God's will is done-a bit of heaven on earth. "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done" in my life, as it is in heaven. This is included in our prayer for the coming of the Kingdom. This is part of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.

When we pray, "Thy kingdom," and "Thy will," we should stress the word "Thy" and humbly confess that too many times we think and act as though it were "my will" and "my kingdom."

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Grape Vines Do It, Olive Trees Do it...

I am thankful for our musician in residence, Wallace Hartley, who is filling in for me as I take a much-needed break.

In a recent rambling sermon(?) at the Executive council of the Episcopal church, the Presiding Bishop came up with the following zinger when talking about how the Mormons are somehow related to the Episcopalians,

"We often in the church focus our attention on differences in reproductive customs and norms – yet both the grape vine and the olive tree has multiple ways to be generative. Flowers can be fertilized by pollen from the same plant or another one. The fruit and seeds that result are eaten by birds and animals and left to grow far from the original plant, yet they are still related. The vine also generates new branches from its rootstock or from distant parts of its branches. But all those kinds of vines and branches are related, however they come about." Katherine Jefferts Schori (March 21, 2015)
(Insert sound of head banging against a wall)

Most of us have stopped reading her sermons but this one somehow spoke to me. I think it was the part about "multiple ways to be generative."

Strike up the music Cole Porter!

Churches do it, tabernacles do it
Even educated mosques do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love 
Mormons in the inner sanctum do it
Lutherans and Episcopalians do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love 
The Orthodox in Greece do it
Not to mention the Wiccans who brew it,
Folks in Islam do it, let's fall in love. 
Hindus without means do it
Animists say even beans do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love 
Rabbis if they're lucky do it
Druids down in Stonehenge do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love 
Catholic priests 'gainst their wish, do it
Even the Amish do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love 
Presbyterians, I might add do it
Though it shocks 'em I know
Why ask if Satanists do it, the Devil told me so. 
In New York, New Agers do it
Polytheists in privacy do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love 

Apologies to Cole Porter.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Ties That Cannot Bind

Today in church we heard about the fall of Man in Genesis 3:8-21 (the link will include the expurgated vs. 1-7), a plea for mercy in Psalm 130, words to comfort us in our times of woe with the promise of what is to come in 2 Corinthians 4:13-18, and we finished up with the seemingly out of place story of Jesus and the house divided from Mark 3:20-35.

 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family[a] heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”
 So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan?  If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.  In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”
He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.” 
Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him.  A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.  
Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!  Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” 

While today's sermon ignored the fall, the need for repentance, and the promise of eternal life, found in the first three readings, and only gave a passing reference to the Gospel with something to the effect that we, like Jesus, must be crazy to follow him, I would like to take a few minutes to focus on the strong man and his house.
 " one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up."
I see the strong man not as the last named individual in the story, Satan, but instead as representing the Church which can only be plundered when Satan is the one doing the work of binding its strongest asset, the Bible.
"Then he can plunder the strong man’s house."
What things can possible tie up the Bible? Let me list a few,
1) Revisionism: By this I mean injecting strange interpretations into the text as well as re-writing of the texts.
2) Excisionism: The systematic removal or silencing of certain passages that might offend.
3) Translationism: Confusion over the meaning of individual words leads to loss of trust in the entire text.
4) Relativism: the relegation of most if not all of the Bible to something applicable only to the ancients.
5) Relevantism: Ignoring those parts that don't seem relevant.
6) Divisionism: By dividing the Church into factions where one side interprets the Bible differently from the other, outsiders feel that there is no reason to bother with it.
There may be more, but this is just my quick take on it.

Things that tie up the Bible close it to our hearts and minds and must surely be products of both the fall and of something seeking to destroy and plunder, namely, Satan.

But the word of God will not be bound by the fetters of Satan forever, and while the present day Episcopal church seems to have handed over the keys of the house to forces that seek to twist the words of scripture and to tie theology into knots in order to advance an agenda of sexual immorality, we can trust in the power of the Lord that those ties will not bind the One who overcame the nails of cross and the darkness of the tomb.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Episcopal Weirdness From the Blue Book

The Blue Book  is a collection of reports created for the triennial General Convention of the Episcopal church. This will take place from June 25 - July 3, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The big deal this time is the push to remove gender specific language in any of the church's documents that refer to marriage so that same sex marriages can be performed in the church, but there are other gems to be found, you just have to dig through several hundreds of pages to find 'em.


A Litany for the Planet: 
On rocks and minerals that form the foundations for life,
Creator, have mercy.
On volcanoes and lava flows that reveal the power of earth’s core,
Creator, have mercy...
I for one pray that God will show no mercy on volcanoes and lava flows. Was that prayer written by the guys who run the lava flow cruises or helicopter rides in Hawaii?
On micro-organisms of endless variety, the complex and the simple,
Creator, have mercy (
pp 248-9)
I hoped this one would go away when I pointed it out three years ago, but I guess we will soon be praying for multidrug resistant tuberculosis along with botulism, salmonella, and HIV.

And how about a little bit of PETA prayer in the following "Liturgy in Thanksgiving for Creation and in Honor of the Feast of St. Francis, with the Blessing of Animals",

Remember all in captivity and those who are hunted, trapped, deserted, or abused, that they may find safety in homes of loving care;
Shower your blessing on earth, O God.
or We beseech you to hear us, good Lord. (
p 259)
When I go hunting or fishing, I am praying that the Lord remembers to send the critter my way so that it can find a new home in my loving refrigerator and freezer.

Last but not least we have this example of syncretism found in "Prayers of the People Honoring God in Creation",  Form 2,  found on page 243,

[Gichi Manidoo,] Great Spirit God,
we give you thanks for another day on this earth.
We give you thanks for this day
to enjoy the compassionate goodness of you, our Creator.
We acknowledge with one mind
our respect and gratefulness to all the sacred cycle of life.
Bind us together in the circle of compassion
to embrace all living creatures and one another. Amen. p 243

From we see that
Gitchi Manitou is the great creator god of the Anishinaabe and many neighboring Algonquian tribes. The name literally means Great Spirit, a common phrase used to address God in many Native American cultures.
As in other Algonquian tribes, the Great Spirit is abstract, benevolent, does not directly interact with humans, and is rarely if ever personified in Anishinabe myths--
That pretty much describes the god of many Episcopalians.
originally, Gitchi Manitou did not even have a gender (although with the introduction of English and its gender-specific pronouns, Gitchi Manitou began to be referred to as "he.")
That's one way to create a gender neutral liturgy.
It is Gitchi Manitou who created the world, though some details of making the world as we know it today were delegated to the culture hero Nanabozho. "Gitchi Manitou" (or one of its many variant spellings) was used as a translation for "God" in early translations of the Bible into Ojibway, and today many Ojibway people consider Gitchi Manitou and the Christian God to be one and the same.
I doubt that most Christians would consider Gitchi Manitou to be one and the same, but I suspect a majority of those voting at General Convention will have no problem elevating Gitchi Manitou to become a part of the divine tetralogy.

Oh yeah, did I mention that the same SCLM geniuses who are foisting Gitchi Manitou on us are the ones who prepared the liturgies for same sex marriages? (pp 2-159)