Wednesday, March 30, 2016

How Episcopalians React to a Church Scandal: Laity Get Swift Justice, Bishops, not so Much

In our small corner of Episcodom, a recent sex scandal has resulted in a parishioner who worked with church youth being barred from church property, and his ministry being terminated. The church has sent out a letter advising parishioners that nothing happened on church property. While we usually operate under the presumption of innocence, the church has to reconcile its hopes that the accused is innocent with the requirements of "Safe Church" policies that the safety of our children must be assured.

That is one way to handle things, at least for scandals involving a lay person. Do it quickly and decisively, but that is not how things work if you are a bishop.

In the past, Bishop Bennison of Pennsylvania got into trouble in a case that dragged on for years for not acting on the sexual misconduct of his brother with an underage girl,
"The basis of the misconduct charge was that Bishop Bennison had failed to respond appropriately to his brother’s actions when his brother served as the bishop’s youth minister in a California parish 35 years ago, and that Bishop Bennison had conspired to cover up the scandal." (See George Conger's pages)
In the end, Bishop Bennison refused to resign after almost everybody advised him to quit.

Hopefully we have learned to avoid covering things like that up.

More recently we learned about the Bishop of Lexington and his past adultery.
"On 14 March 2016 the Rt. Rev. Douglas Hahn wrote to his diocese confessing: “Several years ago - long before I was your bishop - I engaged in an inappropriate sexual relationship with an adult woman parishioner."
A priest having an affair with a parishioner is both a misuse of power as well as adultery. It is similar but not identical to the misuse of power that a youth minister might exert over one of their charges. At least for Bishop Hahn it was with an adult woman. The discipline imposed by the Episcopal Church? One year's suspension.

Adultery is considered a minor offense in the modern Episcopal church, and bishops and priests have been making up the rules regarding adultery and remarriage for the last 50 years ever since abandoning lessons derived from scripture, so they can pretty much make it up as they go. At this point, I guess they treat each other the same way they treat their parishioners, they get a spanking with a wet noodle, but in so doing they also are looking after their own. We once had a priest who got a nasty divorce, and the parish church, unable to justify to the Bishop that the priest should go, had to live with it.

At Anglican Ink you can read a bit of the history of Episcopalian discipline in regards to the scandal of adultery. If you remember how the Church handled the scandal of the Righter trial and its tortuous arguments, then you can guess how this current scandal will turn out, or simply let Bishop Hahn summarize,
"Bishop Hahn wrote the new disciplinary procedures were designed not to punish to but 'designed to help create healing and reconciliation'”.
"Discipline" being effectively re-defined is no longer disciplinary in its effect.

"Healing" is Episcospeak meaning, "This is going to hurt someone else a lot more than it is going to hurt you."

"Reconciliation" is Episcospeak meaning, "We pewsitters are getting screwed again."

The new definition of discipline in action: The bishop will get a year off without pay while the diocese will have to shell out money to hire a substitute for any confirmations, ordinations, or disciplinary actions that come up in the interim, and once the year is up, Bishop Hahn puts on his miter and resumes his job as if nothing had ever happened.

Would this bishop have gotten elected to his position if the nominating committee, or the laity, or the clergy had known of his past? The Standing Committee of Lexington will have to reconcile themselves to the fact that they are powerless to impose any harsher sanctions. If they were a real board of directors of a real corporation and found out that their CEO had withheld potentially scandalous details of his past, they would have fired the guy who they had hired under false pretenses and brought in a new CEO to try to save the business. They should learn from the Bishop Bennison case that they are stuck with him.

In the meantime, I hope the Standing Committee of Lexington will consider removing the door from Bishop Hahn's office...  in the interest of transparency of course.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter

"Happy Easter" is going to be on everyone's lips today, but how often to we stop to think how truly happy we should be? Over the course of the past forty days, and especially the last week, we have been reminded of exactly what God has done for us. We should be hyper-aware that we are loved beyond measure.

Jesus lives!

My sins are forgiven!

God loves me!

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

House of Bishops "Living Under the Shadow of the Lynching Tree"

An Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release recently crossed my desk and if I didn't grok these people, I would have been left scratching my head. Let me help you understand them too.
The House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church, meeting in retreat, unanimously approved the following Word To The Church.
A Word to the Church
Holy Week 2016
On Good Friday the ruling political forces of the day tortured and executed an innocent man. They sacrificed the weak and the blameless to protect their own status and power.
Uh oh, here comes a thinly veiled political statement.
On the third day Jesus was raised from the dead, revealing not only their injustice but also unmasking the lie that might makes right.
I always thought the resurrection 1) confirmed Jesus' claims about himself and the truthfulness of the Bible, 2) it  proved that death has been conquered,  3) it proved the deity of the Son of God, and 4) it proved that Christ came to save us from our sins.
In a country still living under the shadow of the lynching tree, we are troubled by the violent forces being released by this season’s political rhetoric. Americans are turning against their neighbors, particularly those on the margins of society. They seek to secure their own safety and security at the expense of others. There is legitimate reason to fear where this rhetoric and the actions arising from it might take us.
Fear mongering at work here on the part of the House of Bishops, hauling out the lynching tree canard insinuating that certain candidates are racists, in response to what they perceive to be fear mongering on the part of those politicians. The bishops only intensify the problem by ramping up the rhetoric themselves.
In this moment, we resemble God’s children wandering in the wilderness. We, like they, are struggling to find our way.
This country is wandering, and the bishops seem to be going to Hillary in a hand basket.
They turned from following God and worshiped a golden calf constructed from their own wealth. The current rhetoric is leading us to construct a modern false idol out of power and privilege.
These bishops should know a thing or two about false idols. Divorce, abortion, gay marriage  have been golden calves they have been bowing down to for years.
We reject the idolatrous notion that we can ensure the safety of some by sacrificing the hopes of others. No matter where we fall on the political spectrum, we must respect the dignity of every human being and we must seek the common good above all else.
"We reject the idolatrous notion that we can ensure the safety of some by sacrificing the hopes of others." I am not sure what they are talking about.  Hopes, being mere ideas, can be sacrificed, whereas safety cannot.
How do you think this might work when applied to the Episcopal Church's stance on abortion? By this reasoning, women who have an urgent medical need for an abortion (one of the arguments used by pro-choice Episcopalians) and are having the procedure for safety of the mother by sacrificing the life of the baby are effectively sacrificing the hopes of the unborn. Isn't this an idolatrous notion that the Episcopal church supports? What about the argument that unwanted children have nothing but poverty and abuse to look forward to and that we can ensure the well being of children as a whole by sacrificing the unwanted through abortion?
We call for prayer for our country that a spirit of reconciliation will prevail and we will not betray our true selves. 
"Not betray our true selves."  I have no clue as to what they mean by that.
The Episcopal Church House of Bishops met in retreat March 11 – 15 at Camp Allen Conference Center in Navasota, TX.
These folks are lost, retreating like their church, and they are supposed to be shepherds...


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Cloak Sunday: Preparing for the Feast

This Sunday is what most people in the U.S.A. call Palm Sunday. If it were up to Luke 19:28-40, it would be known as Cloak Sunday because he fails to mention palms or branches at all.
"After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” just say this: “The Lord needs it.” ’ So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ They said, ‘The Lord needs it.’ Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,
‘Blessed is the king
   who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
   and glory in the highest heaven!’
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’"
Previous posts on these pages have cataloged the many names people have given this
the Sunday before Easter. Here is an updated list,
  • Kyriake
  • Fig Sunday
  • Heorte ton baion
  • Heorte baiophoros
  • Lazarus Sunday
  • Dominica in Palmis
  • Dominica Palmarum
  • Dies Palmarum
  • Dominica Hosanna
  • Pascha floridum
  • Pâques fleuries
  • Pascua florida
  • Dominica florida
  • Dies floridus
  • Flower Sunday
  • Olive Sunday
  • Branch Sunday
  • Sallow Sunday
  • Willow Sunday
  • Yew Sunday
  • Blossom Sunday
  • Sunday of the Willow Boughs
  • Blumensonntag
  • Blumentag
  • Secundus floricultus (Armenian seventh Sunday after Easter)
  • Secunda palmarum dominica (Armenian seventh Sunday after Easter)
With the plethora of names for this Sunday come a plethora of shopping lists for next Sunday's dinner. Everybody seems to have their own tradition when it comes to Easter dinner. Yes, part of the preparation for Easter means that during Holy Week, your family's "Martha" will probably be running around gathering ingredients and working in the kitchen.

Growing up, my mother would always cook a leg of lamb on Easter with rice and gravy on the side. Around here, people tend to eat ham, so our shopping list may include ham, sweet potatoes, brown sugar and pecans (for the sweet potato casserole).

This week, I received an interesting recipe in my e-mail box from Cook's Country (free subscription required) for "Torta rustica, or Italian Easter pie", something I had never heard about before. I looked up a little history from Italian Food Forever,

"Although the Easter table may vary greatly from region to region across Italy, there are some basic elements that are commonly found everywhere. Eggs are considered a symbol or renewal and life, and feature prominently in the day’s dishes, in both soups such as Brodetto Pasquale, a broth-based Easter soup thickened with eggs, and in many breads, both sweet and savory. Lamb is the symbol of birth and the shepherd, and both lamb and kid are commonly found on Easter menus, usually roasted or grilled on a spit. Other symbols that may be brought into the Easter feast are the cross which symbolizes resurrection which some breads are shaped into, and the dove symbolizing peace which the famous Easter sweet bread the Columba Pasquale is shaped as. Many other dishes commonly found on Italian tables each Easter are seasonal specialties that highlights the season’s finest fresh produce such as artichokes, asparagus, baby peas and fava beans which overflow local market stands in all their glory. 
Every region seems to have its own particular version of Easter pie, made with eggs, which reflect fertility, and cheese, and my version of Torta Pasqualina is similar to what you would find in Liguria. Torta della Pasqualina, is another rich pie that contains ricotta cheese, eggs, and a selections of cold meats and cheeses. In Campania, the specialty is called Pizza Rustica, and in Umbria, Torta di Pasqua. These pies or tortas often contain greens as well as ricotta and other vegetables. 
Most Italian families will also make a number of traditional sweets each Easter season, including the very popular sweet breads found across Italy each year. Some of these breads include Pupi con L’uova which are doll shaped breads made for children, and the Columba, a dove shaped sweet bread similar to Panettone."

Here a sample of the recipe from Cook's Country (go there for the detailed instructions),

"Made to feed a crowd, torta rustica, or Italian Easter pie, is a hefty construction of meats and cheeses wrapped in a pastry crust. So that it can stand up to the considerable fillings, we reinforce our crust with eggs and knead the dough to develop gluten. Instead of the deli’s worth of meats called for in some recipes, we use just two: hot capicola and Italian sausage. For cheese, we found that aged provolone and salty Pecorino make a good pair, while creamy ricotta mixed with eggs holds it all together. Sautéed broccoli rabe adds freshness and a touch of bitterness, and it wouldn’t be Italian without garlic."
  • eggs
  • water
  • all-purpose flour
  • salt
  • unsalted butter,  chilled
  • vegetable shortening,  chilled
  • olive oil
  • broccoli rabe
  • hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • salt
  • garlic cloves
  • whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • Pecorino Romano cheese,
  • eggs
  • pepper
  • aged provolone cheese
  • hot capicola
  • egg yolk
I trust Cook's Country for most things except I prefer to add a bit of cayenne pepper to many recipes. If you bake an Easter Italian Pie, remember to let it cool for 4 hours before eating.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Time to Study the Anglican Church in North America's Possible Prayer Book Material

For a number of years I have followed once priest, now Bishop Dan Martin's blog, "Confessions of a Carioca". He has a traditional opinion of marriage yet remains loyal to the Episcopal church as well as a non-TEc opinion about the rights of a diocese to decide its course. This past week he has been blogging from the House of Bishop's meeting. I was struck by the fact that he had chosen to not participate in some of the worship services because certain music and liturgies were outside his comfort zone. Indeed, they would have been outside of mine too. One thing that he objected to was the following that was substituted for the traditional creed (I located the lyrics from a separate source here),

‘I Believe in God Almighty’ - Creedal hymn by the late Sylvia Dunstan based on the Apostles’ Creed: 

I believe in God almighty, Author of all things that be,Maker of the earth and heavens, Keeper of the sky and sea.I believe in God’s Son, Jesus, now for us both Lord and Christ,of the Spirit and of Mary born to bring abundant life.
I believe that Jesus suffered, scourged and scorned and crucified;taken from the cross, was buried—true Life there had truly died.I believe that on the third day Christ was raised up from the grave,then ascended to God’s right hand. He will come to judge and save.
I believe in God’s own Spirit, bonding all the saints withinone church, catholic and holy, where forgiveness frees from sin;in the body’s resurrection, for the breaking of death’s chaingives the life that’s everlasting. This the faith that I have claimed.

Please note that the virgin birth gets left out of this "creed". I guess that was okay with the majority of bishops present, at least no one else noticed or had the nerve to object.

It seems inevitable that strange teachings like this will creep into the Episcopal church's new prayer book that is in its early stages of development. If a bishop of the Church stays home rather than attend a service with such novelties, what do you think the effect will be on the desires of the average pewsitter come Sunday morning once the next prayer book is out of the closet.

There are options for traditionalists coming out soon. The Anglican Church in North America has available on-line "Texts for Common Prayer 'The Bible Arranged for Worship.'"  This page has links to the components of a future prayer book, and most of the material should look quite familiar to long time Episcopalians (those confirmed before the 1979 BCP).

Younger Episcopalians might be puzzled by some of the differences if they choose to visit an ACNA church that is using these liturgies.

One of these will be that the Episcopal sacred cow, the "Baptismal Covenant" has been scrapped.

Another shocker will be the Prayer of Humble Access has been included in the Eucharistic service. This prayer has been neglected for the past 38 years in most Episcopal churches that use Rite II for the main Sunday service, I recall one former rector who hated the Prayer of Humble Access for being too "grovelling" and too much in keeping with "That Southern obsession with Sin" and therefore two generations were raised not having to pray it.

I think it is time to study the ACNA's prayer book because it appears to be the lifeboat that TEc traditionalists have been needing.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Looking for Some Nard?

This Sunday's Gospel reading is John 12:1-8 and tells us the story of Jesus' feet being anointed by Mary,
Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’
Nard or spikenard is a fragrance extracted from the root of a flowering plant of the Valerian family that grows in the Himalayas.

This perfume also appears in the Song of Solomon 1:12 and thus carries a certain romantic connotation,
"While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof."
That was very costly perfume in its day. If one denarius = one day's wages for a field worker in Jesus' era, then the 300 denarii mentioned in John's account would have been one year's wages (no work on the Sabbath). Assuming a field  worker today might earn $10.50/hr (USDA data) and could work 40 hours a week for, lets say, 50 weeks, he/she might be able to earn $21,000 a year. I doubt even the wealthiest people would pay $21,000 for a pound of perfume these days, but there are some perfumes that are priced as high as $1,000,000 per ounce. Checking around, at ABC News, I found "Hermès 24 Faubourg" priced at $1,500 per ounce or $24,000 per pound to be the rough equivalent (in price) to the valuable nard described in John 12. Looking at it in today's dollars, one can understand where Judas is coming from.

Would any of us make that large a sacrifice?

For those of us cheapskates who would probably opt for a less costly alternative or one that is closer to Biblical nard, there is "Pure Spikenard Essential Oil" at 609.08 per pound (16 oz) which is available with the following description,
Botanical Name: Nardostachys jatamansi
Plant Part: Root
Extraction Method: Steam Distilled
Origin: Nepal
Color: Golden yellow to greenish color slightly viscous liquid.
Common Uses: Spikenard Essential Oil is used by aromatherapists for rashes, wrinkles, cuts, insomnia, migraines, and wounds.
Consistency: Medium
Strength of Aroma: Strong Aromatic
Scent: Spikenard Essential Oil has an earthy, harsh wood like smell that is slightly musty.
Cautions: Spikenard Essential Oil should be avoided during pregnancy.
Was Jesus worth it?

He was and is worth more than all the nard in the world.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

What Presiding Bishop Michael Curry Means by "Core Doctrine"

After the Episcopal church got spanked by the Anglican Primates over same-sex marriage, and were asked to not take part of any voting on doctrinal issues ( ruling which TEc has disavowed), it was only a matter of time before revisionist teaching as to what exactly constitutes "doctrine" reared its ugly head.

For most of us, doctrines should not only be derived from the Bible but should also be consistent with a plain reading of the texts. The Church has in the past added things such as Purgatory, Indulgences, etc which did not stand the test of Biblical scrutiny and were eventually rejected by reformers.

Today, the idea of "Core Doctrine" has been floated in order to shield the Episcopal church from the separation it faces as a result of its adoption of a new doctrine of marriage that permits same-sex marriage.

Unfortunately for those in the Episcopal church (TEc) there are no reformers left to demand the rejection of false doctrine.

Lacking such voices from within the church, let me quote from S. Donald Fortson and Rollin Grams new book entitled "Unchanging Witness: The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition" as reported at The Gospel Coalition,
"The issue is not whether the Bible addresses homosexual practice: it does. It is not whether diverse interpretations on this issue have existed in the history of the church: they have not. The issue is, rather, what is authoritative for the church in the formation of its convictions and in its practices."
Is the Bible authoritative for the church or not? That sounds like a doctrinal issue to me. Unfortunately, the use of the term "authoritative" just creates another crack for revisionists to prevaricate over and argue about just as they will do over the words "core" and "doctrine" when used separately or together.

As far as the current issue goes, these authors see no room for compromise for those who agree that the Bible is authoritative for the Church.
"On the issue of homosexual practice, no person or church or group should say that biblical texts mean something other than what the church has said all along because both Scripture and the church have consistently said the same thing. The issue comes down to this: the authority of Scripture and the relevance of the church’s teaching. That is where we wish to leave the matter, for that is the point at which some in the church are dividing from the rest of the church universal, from the teaching of the church in other centuries, and from what must indeed be considered the teaching of all Christians."
In the Episcopal church, people have made the matter much more complicated because the authority of the Bible has been under attack for decades. Rather than trying to support same-sex marriage on the basis of what is found in Holy Scripture, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry claims that it all boils down to "Core Doctrine".
For me, marriage is not part of core doctrine. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is core doctrine. The doctrine of who Jesus Christ is – wholly God and wholly human – is doctrine. The articles of the Creeds are doctrine. The Holy Scriptures and the Old and New Testament are core doctrine.  Other sections of the Chicago–Lambeth Quadrilateral are core doctrine. Marriage is a sacramental right, it is a solemn and sacred matter of faith and practice.  But it is not core doctrine.
I guess he would throw Marriage into the same basket as Purgatory and Indulgences.

The decision in the 1996 Righter Trial in which Bishop Walter Righter was tried for heresy after ordaining a non celibate homosexual man provides insight into how the Episcopal church twists the meaning of what is not "Core Doctrine" to basically mean "Anything that can be argued about in scripture", and we all know what that means (in revisionist circles it means everything in the Bible can be disputed).

The following is the court's not so brief explanation of doctrine which it conveniently splits up into "core doctrine" and "doctrinal teaching" (or not so core doctrine for you simple pewsitters). I have highlighted a few points.

II. Doctrine is the Basic Issue
In a pre-trial hearing held on December 8, 1995, in Hartford, Connecticut, the Presenters and Respondent agreed that the basic issue in this case is the doctrine of the Episcopal Church. The Court gave permission to the parties to submit a paper and cite additional published resources that would guide the Court in deciding the question: 'What does and does not constitute the doctrine of the Church, particularly as it is binding on what a bishop may or may not teach?' (Memorandum and Order of the Court, January 10, 1996). The submissions were made and the question of doctrine was the focus of the arguments before the Court in the first session of the trial held in Wilmington, Delaware, on February 27, 1996. The Court has given careful consideration to these arguments, the submissions offered by the parties, the published resources submitted and cited by them, and the Court's own understanding of doctrine in the Anglican tradition as bishops of the Episcopal Church entrusted with the doctrine and teaching of the Church.

A. The Scope of Doctrine in Relationship to the Church's Teaching and Discipline 
In the case before us the Presenters have argued by submissions and oral argument that doctrine includes the Church's teaching as well as its Creeds. In their view, all doctrinal teaching comes under the weighty purview of Title IV especially Canon IV.1.1(2) (1994) (cf. Canon IV.1.1(c) [1996]) for 'holding and teaching publicly or privately and advisedly any doctrine contrary to that held by the Church.' The Court finds that this is overreaching the Anglican understanding of doctrine. We are not a confessional church which has carefully articulated and identified the entire scope of its teaching and the disciplinary consequences for the violation of its teaching. The Court is bound not to extend this Church in that direction without explicit authority from General Convention of the Church, which is the Church acting corporately.
On the other hand, Respondent makes a sharp distinction between doctrine and discipline. Respondent relies heavily on the close reasoning of the Preface of the Book of Common Prayer which states:
. . . that in his worship different forms and usages may without offense be allowed, provided the substance of the Faith be kept entire; and that in every church what cannot be clearly determined to belong to Doctrine must be referred to Discipline; and therefore by common consent and authority, may be altered, abridged, enlarged, amended, or otherwise disposed of, as may seem most convenient for the edification of the people, 'according to the various exigency of times and occasions.'
Once you make the argument that your issue is a controversial area, you have moved the discussion away from core doctrine, all you need to do next is get enough votes (common consent in TEc lingo) at General Convention in  order to do the next new thing.
(Book of Common Prayer, 9). Standing alone this language would seem to deny the force of doctrine to anything other than creedal formations. Indeed Respondent argues that doctrine is limited to statements about God and not about human relationships. (Transcript of the Record, February 27, 1996, 131, 134-35). Making this sharp distinction ignores the broader context of Anglican thought and practice.
The Court is guided by what we understand to be a broader Anglican tradition. In doing so, we follow a more flexible course. We hold that doctrine involves more than creedal affirmations, and that it involves a spectrum which includes not only faith and belief, but morals and practice. In affirming this, the Court understands that the issue before us is not a general definition of doctrine and its scope, but rather the question of what doctrine is protected by Title IV.
"We follow a more flexible course." This gives wide latitude for all kinds of deviations from traditional interpretation of scripture.

B. Core Doctrine
Within Anglicanism there is a long tradition of appeal to fundamental doctrine as supplying a basis for reckoning a Church to be a true Church. This 'Core Doctrine' of the Church arises out of the Gospel itself, and is rooted and grounded in Holy Scripture.
It is the story of God's relationship to God's people, and has been entrusted to the Church as the people of God, the bearers of God's mission to 'restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.' (See 'An Outline of the Faith commonly called the Catechism,' Book of Common Prayer, 855). 
The Court holds to the ancient distinction between the Core Doctrine which is derived from the Gospel preaching, kerygma, and the Church's teaching, didache, of those things necessary for our life in community and the world. The kerygma is found in the life and teaching of Jesus and the preaching and evangelistic action of the Church revealed in the New Testament and other early Christian documents. Sound and trustworthy biblical scholarship has identified the basic contents of the kerygma. See, for example, C.H. Dodd, The Apostolic Preaching (New York and London: Harper & Bros., 1936). They are:
God in Christ fulfills the scripture.
God became incarnate in Jesus Christ.
Christ was crucified.
Christ was buried.
Christ rose again.
Christ was exalted to God.
God gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit.
There will be a day of judgment.
Therefore repent.
That leaves a whole lot of "stuff" out of TEc's definition of core doctrine. Most importantly, forget Jesus' teachings, and forget anything about our sinful nature without which we wouldn't need a saviour.

This kerygma evolved during a period of controversy which culminated in the first four General Councils of the Church, and was given expression in particular through the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, in agreement with the formula of St. Vincent of Lerins, the so-called Vincentian Canon: 'What has been believed everywhere, always, and by all.' (See F.L. Cross, ed., Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church [London: Oxford, 1957], 1423). Core Doctrine is understood as of the essence of Christianity and necessary for salvation, and is therefore binding on all who are baptized. Core Doctrine, therefore, is unchangeable.
Since it is unchangeable, the court must be careful to exclude any of Christ's teachings that have to do with human sexuality, because this court's goal was to justify homosexual behavior.

C. Where is Core Doctrine to be Found? 
Anglicans have important grounds for viewing the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1886, 1888 (see Book of Common Prayer, 876) as a reflection of this understanding of Core Doctrine, one which sets forth what we hold as essential to the restoration of the unity of the Church. This Quadrilateral describes not only articles of belief but a way of life. The use of scripture and the creeds in worship, the centrality of the dominical sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Eucharist, and the practice of episcopal government represent elements which seek to ensure the transmission of orthodox apostolic doctrine, not solely to propound it. We are guided by the Anglican understanding of lex orandi, lex credendi, (the law of prayer, the law of faith). Worship, when faithful to Holy Scripture, expresses the kerygma as the living dwelling place of the Church's Core Doctrine. It is this tradition of 'continuing in the apostles' teaching and fellowship' which we pledge to continue in the Baptismal Covenant. (See ibid., 304).
When applied to the present issue, same sex marriage rites are clearly not faithful to scripture, and any teaching that same sex marriages are blessed is not "continuing in the apostles' teaching and fellowship", and is a violation of the holy cow of the Episcopal church, their "Baptismal Covenant".

It is this Core Doctrine, and not the broad definition urged by the dissent, which is protected by the Canons of the Church, particularly Canon IV.1.1(2) (1994) (cf. Canon IV.1.1(c) [1996]) which we have before us today. Teaching contrary to this Core Doctrine is constrained by this Canon. This understanding of the doctrine of the Church, protected by canon law, is consistent with the holding of the Court of Review in In the Matter of the Presentment of Bishop William Montgomery Brown, Decision and Opinion, Court for the Review of the Trial of a Bishop, January 15, 1925, 15-18, affirmed by Opinion and Decision, Court of Review for the Trail of a Bishop, 1925, Archives of the Episcopal Church (hereinafter 'Bishop Brown Case'). Among other things, the Court of Review affirmed the holding of the trial court that:
The doctrine of this Church is fixed by the whole Church, acting in its corporate capacity, and not by the individual opinions or interpretations placed upon any documents supposed to contain the Church's doctrine, by any bishop, priest or deacon speaking individually . . . .
The question has been asked by counsel as to where the doctrine of the Church is to be found. In reply the Court expresses its opinion that such doctrine is to be found in the Book of Common Prayer as adopted and established by the Constitution of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. It is perhaps superfluous to state that the most important formularies of doctrine are the Apostles' and the Nicene Creeds.
Since doctrine is found in the BCP, this is why present day Episcopalians are planning to create a new Prayer Book that will include gender neutral language and/or a same-sex marriage liturgy.

It is a matter of common knowledge that the doctrine of the Church is not formulated in the Holy Scriptures, but is in all cases to be supported by the Holy Scriptures as interpreted by the Church in its corporate capacity.
The corporate capacity in the case of TEc means its own General Convention and does not include the rest of the Anglican Communion or any other entity.

(Bishop Brown Case, Transcript of the Record, Court for the Trial of a Bishop, May 29, 1924, Archives of the Episcopal Church, 133-34). This Court reaffirms the decision of Bishop Brown Case in holding that the 'doctrine of the Church' as the term 'doctrine' is used in Canon IV.1.1(2) (1994) (cf. Canon IV.1.1(c) [1996]) and Article VIII of the Constitution, is the Core Doctrine as set forth by the court in the Bishop Brown Case. We agree with and reaffirm the holding in the Bishop Brown Case that this doctrine is not found but rather is grounded in Holy Scripture. Holy Scripture is the story of our relationship to God. It is not at heart a rule book of doctrine or discipline. It is the foundation on which and by which all doctrine and tradition are to be tested.
If this were true, then Bishop Righter's action failed the test of scripture as does Presiding Bishop Curry's stance on same-sex marriage.

D. Theology is Different From Doctrine
We also agree with the holding of the Bishop Brown Case that doctrine in the Anglican sense is to be established by the whole Church acting in its corporate capacity. Doctrine is not to be confused with 'theology' which is prayerful reflection on scripture and Core Doctrine in the light of the Christian experience. While such reflection has helped to form doctrine, theology may also offer diverse understandings of Holy Scripture and doctrine. It is a reflection upon and guidance for Christian life and practice. The Anglican tradition has encouraged theological diversity and supports faithful exploration in developing theology rather than a confessional definition. Nevertheless, all theology is in the end to be subordinated to the Core Doctrine of the Church's faith.

E. Count One Dismissed
Accordingly, the Court holds that the protection afforded by the disciplinary canons of Title IV to matters of doctrine is limited to what we describe as Core Doctrine. The Court finds that there is no Core Doctrine prohibiting the ordination of a non-celibate, homosexual person living in a faithful and committed sexual relationship with a person of the same sex and therefore the Court dismisses Count 1., ,
On that ruling hangs all the revisionists and visionaries.

III. Traditional Doctrinal Teaching
A. Respondent's Motions Regarding Count 2
The Court has decided it has full jurisdiction of all issues encompassed in Count 2. The discussion of the Court's decision on the issues raised regarding its jurisdiction of Court 2 is set forth at pages 21 to 26 below. 
B. Traditional Teaching
Alongside the Core Doctrine through the ages has stood the Church's teaching, the didache. Various sources, including documents submitted to the Court, call this teaching 'doctrine,' 'doctrinal teaching,' and 'traditional teaching.' The terms are frequently used interchangeably. For instance, we speak of the Church's 'doctrine of marriage;' sometimes this 'doctrine' is referred to as the Church's 'traditional teaching.' In every instance, it is intended by the Church to be an expression of the contours by which faithful Christian marriage is to be lived.
Marriage has been relegated to "teaching" which as we saw earlier is something that is subject to change by popular demand.
As another example, we speak of the 'just war doctrine' in attempting to offer ethical and moral standards to guide us in deciding whether or not to go to war. Doctrinal teachings as illustrated by these examples are used by the Church to guide its members in living the faith day by day in the Church and the world. Doctrinal teachings, grounded in Holy Scripture, seek to interpret the Holy Scripture, the Core Doctrine described above, and the Church's tradition, that the people of God may understand and faithfully live out the mission entrusted to us. As the dissent points out, there are other examples of teachings that are referred to as 'doctrine' such as the 'doctrine of episcopal collegiality.'
Doctrinal teachings are of vital importance for the life of the Church. They are the deposit of the Church's tradition from age to age, understood and expounded by the gift of reason which integrates the lived experience of the people of God in particular times and places, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 'Doctrine' in this sense consists of 'communally authoritative teachings regarding belief and practice that are considered essential to the identity and welfare of the group in question.' 
Traditional teachings give guidance to the Church and focus its life and that of its members. They contain the patterns of interpretation and ethics that guide us amid the challenges and decisions that pull and tug at the disciples of Jesus the Christ. The history of Anglicanism has from the sixteenth century to the present been marked by an effort to understand the relation between traditional teaching and the demands of life within changing social, political, and theological understandings and realities. 
It is significant that both Presenters and Respondent have sought support for their position in the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity of Richard Hooker (1554-1600), a work which has shaped Anglican theology to the present. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, Folger Library Edition of The Works of Richard Hooker, 1977-1993). Hooker is at pains, in the controversies with Puritan elements in England, to shape and defend a church polity within which there is a unity of vision linking scripture, tradition, and reason. No church polity is good, he argues, unless God is its author. But God is present as author either by light of the scripture itself, or by the natural light of reason guided by the Holy Spirit. Although scripture is the source of many laws, there are 'laws for the Polity of the Church [which] may be made by the advice of men . . . those Laws being not repugnant to the Word of God are approved by his sight.' Thus, there are matters for which the scripture hath not provided by any law, but left them unto the carefull discretion of the Church: . . . and what is so in these case, partly scripture and partly reason must teach to discern. (Ibid., vol. III, intro. and ch. ix. 1.). For our purposes, it is enough to note that Hooker's effort at comprehensivness has shaped a tradition extending through such figures as Frederick Denison Maurice and Charles Gore in the last century, and William Temple and Michael Ramsey in our own. In From Gore to Temple: The Development of Anglican Theology between Lux Mundi and the Second World War (London: Lonmans, 1960), 27, Ramsey wrote:
There is . . . a distinctive witness still to be borne by Anglican theology out of the depths of its own tradition. . . . There is here a task that Anglican theology can yet perform, by keeping alive the importance of history in the manner of its great divines of the past, by strenuous attempts to relate Biblical revelation to other categories of thought in the contemporary world, by striving to integrate dogma with spirituality in the life of prayer, by presenting the Church as the effectual sign of the supernatural in the midst of the natural order.
The Court understands that doctrinal teaching in the broad sense includes belief, practice, faith, and morals. Stability of doctrinal teaching is important for the order and unity of the Church. Nevertheless, the context in which we live, worship and carry out our ministry does change. As the context changes, the Church's teaching may also change in order to guide us in living the Christian life as we face new circumstances and understandings. Changes in doctrinal teaching must always seek to be in conformity and obedience to the Core Doctrine as interpreted by the Church in its corporate capacity. 

C. Changes in Doctrinal Teaching
The Court notes that development and change in the Church's doctrinal teaching has occurred in various aspects of the Church's life. For example, for most of its history the Church understood slavery as normative in society and acceptable within Christian life and practice. Gradually, we have come to accept that the enslavement of human beings violates the Gospel's gift of freedom and dignity to every human being. The continuing struggle to understand and overcome the effects of racism in contemporary culture indicates that this work has not yet been completed, nor have we fully grasped its implications for faith and morals.
I was wondering when the slavery argument would show up.

On to divorce and marriage,
Similarly, the Church for generations also interpreted New Testament passages on divorce and remarriage as a fixed and unchangeable law which prohibited remarriage in the Church after divorce. We have come to see and understand that marriages can die and even be places of destruction which may justify their termination. Furthermore, as the Episcopal Church now recognizes, remarriage in the light of the Gospel can be a new beginning grounded upon God's forgiveness and reconciliation. Again, as revisions in the Book of Common Prayer make clear, the Church has changed its teaching on the emphasis placed on the several purposes of marriage. With a dramatic decline in infant mortality, greatly extended life expectancy, and a worldwide population explosion, the focus on procreation of children has been subsumed in many places by a heightened emphasis on marriage as a union of husband and wife for their mutual joy and support. This shift has been accompanied by a strong acceptance of family planning and the use of contraception, views strongly resisted within the Anglican communion a generation earlier. 
This reshaping of the doctrinal teaching of the Church in the face of new historical contexts and in the light of reason and faithful reflection on experiences was at the heart of the Report of the Advisory Committee of the Episcopal Church chaired by Bishop Stephen F. Bayne, Jr.. (See 'Report of the Advisory Committee on Theological Freedom and Social Responsibilities,' reprinted in Journal of the General Convention of the . . . Episcopal Church [New York: General Convention, 1967], app. 6 [hereinafter 'Bayne Committee Report']). The Bayne Committee Report was a response from within the House of Bishops to the controversial teachings of Bishop James A. Pike. The summary from that report provides sound guidance for the Church of this day as well (with apologies for the report's use of gender, itself a note of contextual change):
God makes men free. It does not behoove His Church to try to hobble their minds or inhibit their search for new insights into truth. The Church not only should tolerate, but should actively encourage, free and vigorous theological debate, application of the Gospel to social wrongs, re- statement of Christian doctrines to make them more intelligible to contemporary minds, and experimentation with new forms of worship and service. Any risks the Church may run by fostering a climate of genuine freedom are minor compared to the dangers it surely will encounter from any attempts at suppression, censorship or thought-control. The Church can command the respect of modern man only if it has the confidence, courage, and honesty to test its faith in the free-market place of ideas.
I think the court made a terrible error here and unleashed the demon of revisionism to ravage the Episcopal church, its seminaries, its clergy, and its pewsitters for decades to come.
We believe that the historic Christian faith can stand that test, and are not afraid to have it subjected to the most searching scrutiny. To that end, we recommend the establishment of institutes and seminars and provisions for new training which will enable laymen and clergymen to participate more positively in theological discourse. We recommend a new design for meetings of the Bishops to give more opportunity for theological discussion. We recommend the formation of a Standing Commission on the Teaching of the Church.[]
While we affirm the right of every man to choose what he will believe without any kind of coercion whatever, we also assert the right of the Church to maintain its distinctive identity and continuity as a community of faith centered around the historic revelation of God in Christ. Although we certainly do not uphold a narrow verbal orthodoxy which requires a person to give literal assent to some particular formulation of doctrine, we do believe that if an individual finds himself unable, in good conscience, to identify with the living tradition of the Church, reflected in the Bible, the Creeds, and, especially for Anglicans, in the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer, he should as a matter of personal integrity voluntarily remove himself from any position in which he may be taken to be an official spokesman for the whole community.
Without censuring or condemning any individual for his ideas, the Church may find it necessary, on occasion, to dis-associate itself publicly from theological views which it considers to be seriously subversive of essential Christian truths. But this should be done in a positive and constructive way, and with scrupulous fairness to those concerned, by explaining what the Church does believe. The best answer to bad doctrine is good doctrine.
Don't hold your breath waiting for good doctrine to come out of the processes of the Episcopal church. It has been twenty years since the Righter trial, and it would seem that General Convention after General Convention has been trying to answer bad doctrine with worse doctrine.
'Heresy trials' are anachronistic. Although the Church may feel that it must maintain a last-resort power to deal juridically with Bishops or priests who publicly engage in persistent and flagrant contradiction of its essential witness, we strongly recommend that initiation of this process be made extremely difficult. To that end, we propose a drastic revision of canon law, to insure that no charge of deviant teaching may be put forward by only three bishops, and that no such charge may proceed to the stage of a formal trial without the advance concurrence of two-thirds of the House of Bishops.
We do not believe that there are many who willfully set out to destroy the Christian community. We are prepared to say that there are many ideas and speculations which fail to do justice to the acts by which God gave us the Church in the beginning. We agree that it is essential that the Church make its own judgments as to those ideas and speculations. But, in all this, we pray that the Church may not act as less than what it is -- the community of those who know, have accepted, and mean to show, the love of God and His supporting grace for all who mean to bear honest witness for Him.
(Ibid., app. 6.23-6.24).
It is clear that Presiding Bishop Curry is making the same error that the court in the Righter trial made in 1996. Through revision of the definition of doctrine, and playing word games with "core doctrine" and "doctrinal teaching" almost anything can be justified thereby opening the doors of the Church to all manner of heresy.

Lord have mercy on the Episcopal church, it knows not what it is doing.

Addendum: After completing this post, I see where Canon Phil Ashey posts similar comments in a shorter format. I have included a large swath of the 1996 document for completeness. 

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Luke 15: "So he told them this parable..." No, he actually told three, but in the interest of time, Sunday churchgoers only heard the last one.

This Sunday, most churchgoers heard Luke 15:1-3,11-32 for their Gospel lesson. Since verses 4-10 were left out, I will attempt to explain why.

First, look at Luke 15:1-3,11-32 as read in church,

1 Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’
3 So he told them this parable:
11 Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ ” 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” 22 But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.
25 ‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” 31 Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” ’
The impression casual listeners hear is that Jesus launched right into the parable of the prodigal son, but that is not the way Luke presents it. Here are the two parables you may have missed hearing today,
4 ‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance. 
8 ‘Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’
Jesus must have told the two missing parables first for a reason. I will speculate and guess that these two stories were told first in order to prep his audience as to the identity of the father figure in the "Parable of the Prodigal Son". The first two parables point to heaven and the angels. This leads to the inescapable conclusion that the father in the third parable is God which might lead the Pharisees and scribes to assume that Jesus is making a God-like claim that he is the one who welcomes the repentant sinner.

Even if my guess is wrong, why should we second guess Jesus and cut out a large chunk of his words?

As some have commented here, the Gospel might be shortened by the Lectionary editors in the interest of time, otherwise the Sunday service might run long, in this case an additional 55 seconds. I timed it, and that is how long it takes to tell the other two parables. It would be far better to shorten the sermon by 5 minutes than to shorten the Gospel at all.

I have another theory, and that is the desire by some to avoid teaching about the supernatural in church, particularly during the sermon. By leaving out references to heaven and angels and by sticking to the earthy story of the prodigal son, the pewsitters' minds never have to leave the ground. The end result is that their imaginations are not given the opportunity to dream of loftier things.

As always, be alert for those missing verses!

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

The Elastic Identity of the Episcopal Church

"Elastic identity" is not an idea that I came up with. Instead, it is straight from the mouth of the President of the Episcopal House of Deputies at the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church this February.
"The last time we met, just over three months ago, I said some things. I said some things about standing on the threshold and about longing for change and about embracing our elastic identity."
 Are any of you bouncing up and down, eager to join a church with an elastic identity? If so, there are several things about elastic that you should remember. For one thing, elastic tends to wear out. Old socks start to sag. Elastic loses its spring as it ages and when it is overstretched (unless it is perfectly elastic). It can also snap back and pop you if you or someone else gives it a pull. And, some of us are allergic to elastic; just the thought of it can give us hives. So forget about to embracing it as Jennings suggests.

None of this is about to stop the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings from stretching the metaphor,
"I said — I looked this up to be sure — that 'The world might swirl around us, but we know who we are, and we can stretch our identity to accommodate the changes we need to make.' And I said, 'I’m pretty passionate about these huge changes fermenting below the surface of our common life.' 'I’m feeling pretty elastic this triennium,' I said, “and I’m ready to get started.'"
The Executive Council should be feeling pretty elastic as they have been stretching the budget and watching membership numbers bounce steadily downhill.

A lot has happened in the Episcopal church recently, and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings takes the blame although she probably said the following with tongue firmly in cheek,
"So, it’s entirely possible that this three-month roller coaster ride we’ve been on was a result of me tempting fate. I said that I was up for some huge changes and a chance to stretch, and apparently the universe heard me. We’ve certainly have had a chance to stretch since November, haven’t we?"
She is only saying that she is willing to stretch and does not mean it because there are certain subjects on which she is quite inflexible. One thing is her response to the Anglican Primates who have resolved to not allow the Episcopal church to vote on matters of doctrine (which means no voting on the Anglican Consultative Council).
Read her firm refusal to comply with the Anglican Primates,
"...I want to thank you, Michael, for the wisdom and steadiness with which you guided us all through the recent primates meeting and its aftermath. While confusion reigned and rumors swirled, you helped us understand, to renew, that we are still full members of the Anglican Communion, that our mission relationships with Anglicans across the world are strong, and that what binds us together is far stronger than what threatens to separate us. I will take your spirit with me when I travel to Zambia in April as the Episcopal Church’s clergy representative to the Anglican Consultative Council, where you can be assured that I will participate fully with a glad heart, a strong spirit and pride that the Episcopal Church fully affirms the dignity and worth of all of God’s children, including our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender sisters and brothers."
I think the elastic Episcopal church believes it is made of a secret form of elastic,"flubber", and that it can not only rebound from its recent setbacks but rebound higher!

Tahnks to LP CoverLover

Flubber was fiction, and so is the elastic identity of the Episcopal church.