Sunday, April 23, 2017

From the beginning, it was all about saving souls

Over the course of a lifetime wasted listening to Episcopal priests downplaying the notion of heaven, reinterpreting the meaning of "eternal life", and scoffing at those who sought to "save souls", I have come to realize how harmful those sermons were to the body of Christ. In the first decades of Christianity, salvation and the promise of eternal life were central to the spread of the Gospel as evidenced by this Sunday's reading from 1 Peter 1:3-9

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls."
Granted that the work of saving souls belongs not to man, it is clear that preaching the good news of salvation through belief in and love for Jesus remains as important today as it did in the time of Peter.

Giving up on modern preaching which is afraid to mention the hereafter and instead is obsessed with speaking out on issues of the day, I turn today to a classic sermon by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1898-1981) entitled, "A Living Hope of the Hereafter",

 This old world is doomed. It is a sinful world, an awful world, and man can never make it a good world. He can protest, he can march, he can pass acts of Parliament. But he can never make the world good, because the sin is in himself. When he lived in paradise, he turned it into a place of shame.
O No! Man can never put this world right, but God can, and He will. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." A lively hope of what? That this old world is going to be renewed! The regeneration is going to take place in the entire cosmos. When? When the Lord Jesus Christ comes again in glory. The Lord Jesus Himself tells of "the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory' (Matt. 19:28b). That is the Christian message. He has triumphed over all His enemies. He is risen, and He is seated at the right hand of God. What is He doing? He is waiting until His enemies become His footstool (Ps. 110:1). Then He will come back to earth again as "King of kings and Lord of lords." He will destroy out of existence all that is sinful and vile, ugly and foul. He will renew the whole creation, and bring in His glorious kingdom. The City of God, the New Jerusalem, will descend, and God will make His tabernacle amongst men.
This is what the living hope means to us. If we are Christians we shall be there. Not as vague spirits floating in a nameless sea of existence. No--but in this body as glorified, delivered from all vestiges of sin and shame, weakness and wildness. You will be identified as yourself. You will be in a glorified body. "Our citizenship is in heaven," says Paul to the Philippians, "whence also we wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change this our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working of that mighty power by which he is able to subdue even all things unto himself" (3:20-21).

Amen to that Brother! 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Local Shamanism Lessons This Weekend

I am posting this for my liberal Episcopalian friends who are seriously into other religions and for my serious Christian friends who might find the following notice amusing and sad. I know some Episcopalians who will be interested in this workshop. They should feel free to contact me for the details since I have redacted the contact information.

This is the Basic workshop through The Foundation for Shamanic Studies, a non-profit public 501(c)(3) charitable and educational organization. 
Shamanic Journeying, Power, and Healing

During the Basic experiential workshop, participants are introduced to core shamanism, the universal, near-uni-versal, or common basic methods of the shaman to enter nonordinary reality for problem solving and healing.
That was a mouthful. It kinda reminds me of Episcobabble. I guess I'll call it "Shamanababble".
Particular emphasis is on the classic shamanic journey, one of the most remarkable visionary methods used by humankind to explore the hidden universe otherwise known mainly through myth and dream.
Aren't hallucinogenic drugs part of the classic shamanic journey?
Participants are initiated into shamanic journeying, aided by drumming and other techniques for experiencing the shamanic state of consciousness and for awakening dormant spiritual abilities, including connections with Nature. 
At least there are none of those unnatural tambourines.
Practice includes comparisons by participants of their discoveries in shamanic journeys as well as being introduced to shamanic divination and healing. They are also provided with methods for journeying to meet and study with their own individual spirit helpers in nonordinary reality, a classic step in shamanic practice.
I always wanted to meet someone in nonordinary reality.
Participants learn how the journey is utilized to restore spiritual power and health, and how shamanism can be applied in contemporary daily life to help heal oneself, others, and the Planet. 
Can you earn a degree in Planetary Medicine?
Please bring:• A rattle or a drum if you have one.• A bandana or other eye covering.• A cushion and/or blanket.• A rough-surfaced GRAPEFRUIT-sized rock.• A pen and notebook to record your journeys.• A bag lunch (optional).
Wear comfortable layered clothing and warm socks. Please do not use perfumes or scented oils (some participants may have allergies). 
I knew I should have kept that GRAPEFRUIT sized rock.
Completion of this workshop qualifies participants to take more advanced FSS workshops.
(and spend more money)
WORKSHOP DATE AND TIMEApril 22 & 23, 2017 10 am - 5:30 pm
FEE AND REGISTRATIONFee: $250 with a $25 discount for paid in full registration by March 24, 2017.
Only 250 bucks to journey universally, near-uni-versally, or commonly into nonordinary reality! Sign me up!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Holy Week Classical Break: Miserere Mei Deus (Allegri)

I hope everyone will sit down in a quiet spot, close their eyes, and listen as Psalm 51 is sung in my favorite setting, Allegri's Miserere.

Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

51 Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
    and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
    O God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
    you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
    build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
    in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.

The following history is from and provides a most excellent background on the history of the music,

Allegri's masterpiece was written sometime before 1638 for the annual celebration of the matins during Holy Week (the Easter celebration). Twice during that week, on Wednesday and Friday, the service would start at 3AM when 27 candles were extinguished one at a time until but one remained burning. According to reports, the pope would participate in these services. Allegri composed his setting of the Miserere for the very end of the first lesson of these Tenebrae services. At the final candle, the pope would kneel before the altar and pray while the Miserere was sung, culminating the service.
The idea of using a solemn setting of the "Miserere mei Deus" psalm likely started during the reign of Pope Leo X (1513-1521). Contemporaneous accounts relate the use of the Miserere in this way in the year 1514. The earliest surviving setting is dated 1518 and was composed by Costanzo Festa (c. 1490- 1545). Festa's Miserere was sung in the "falsobordone" style, which is an ancient and rather simple means of harmonizing on traditional Gregorian chant. His setting consisted of nine vocal parts split into two choirs, the first a five-part and the second a four-part, each alternating with the traditional Gregorian plainsong melodies, and then coming back together again for the last verse. Festa's setting was the first of twelve such settings collected in a two-volume manuscript preserved in the Pontifical Chapel archives. Ten more contributors, including Guerrero and Palestrina, are represented in these volumes before the final manuscript of Allegri's celebrated work, following exactly the same ensemble layout as Festa's original work and is likewise in the falsobordone style, closes the collection of twelve.
It was not long before Allegri's Miserere was the only such work sung at these services. With its soaring soprano parts (sung for centuries by castrati) and compelling melodic style, the work enjoyed almost immediate popularity. So impressed was some subsequent pope that the work thereafter was protected and a prohibition was placed on its use outside the Sistine Chapel at the appointed time. Chapel regulations forbid its transcription; indeed, the prohibition called for excommunication for anyone who sought to copy the work. In spite of this, by 1770 three copies were known to exist. One was owned by the King of Portugal; another was in the possession of the distinguished composer, pedagogue, and theoretician Padre Giovanni Battista Martini (1706-1784); and a third was kept in the Imperial Library in Vienna.
It is here that the first tale contributes to the mystique that has come to surround this work. The copy in the Imperial Library was brought to Vienna by Emperor Leopold I (1640-1705), who, having heard of the piece from dignitaries visiting Rome, instructed his ambassador to the Vatican to ask the Pope for a copy of the work for performance in the royal chapel. The Pope eventually obliged, but when the work was performed in Vienna, it was so disappointing that the Emperor believed he had been deceived, and a lesser work sent to him instead. He complained to the Pope, who fired his Maestro di Cappella. The unfortunate man pleaded for a papal audience, explaining that the beauty of the work owed to the special performance technique used by the papal choir, which could not be set down on paper. The Pope, understand nothing of music, granted the man permission to go to Vienna and make his case, which he did successfully, and was rehired. In fact, it is this elaborate performance technique, including improvised counterpoint, first employed soon after the work was written, that has been approximated in a recent recording by A Sei Voci on Astree.
The next famous story concerning the Miserere involves the 12-year-old Mozart. On December 13, 1769, Leopold and Wolfgang left Salzburg and set out for a 15-month tour of Italy where, among other things, Leopold hoped that Wolfgang would have the chance to study with Padre Martini in Bologna, who had also taught Johann Christian Bach several years before. On their circuitous route to Bologna, they passed through Innsbruck, Verona, Milan, and arrived in Rome on April 11, 1770, just in time for Easter. As with any tourist, they visited St. Peter's to celebrate the Wednesday Tenebrae and to hear the famous Miserere sung at the Sistine Chapel. Upon arriving at their lodging that evening, Mozart sat down and wrote out from memory the entire piece. On Good Friday, he returned, with his manuscript rolled up in his hat, to hear the piece again and make a few minor corrections. Leopold told of Wolfgang's accomplishment in a letter to his wife dated April 14, 1770 (Rome):
"…You have often heard of the famous Miserere in Rome, which is so greatly prized that the performers are forbidden on pain of excommunication to take away a single part of it, copy it or to give it to anyone. But we have it already. Wolfgang has written it down and we would have sent it to Salzburg in this letter, if it were not necessary for us to be there to perform it. But the manner of performance contributes more to its effect than the composition itself. Moreover, as it is one of the secrets of Rome, we do not wish to let it fall into other hands…."
Wolfgang and his father then traveled on to Naples for a short stay, returning to Rome a few weeks later to attend a papal audience where Wolfgang was made a Knight of the Golden Spur. They left Rome a couple of weeks later to spend the rest of the summer in Bologna, where Wolfgang studied with Padre Martini.
The story does not end here, however. As the Mozarts were sightseeing and traveling back to Rome, the noted biographer and music historian, Dr. Charles Burney, set out from London on a tour of France and Italy to gather material for a book on the state of music in those countries. By August, he arrived in Bologna to meet with Padre Martini. There he also met Mozart. Though little is known about what transpired between Mozart and Burney at this meeting, some facts surrounding the incident lead to interesting conjecture. For one, Mozart's transcription of Allegri's Miserere, important in that it would presumably also reflect the improvised passages performed in 1770 and thus document the style of improvisation employed by the papal choir, has never been found. The second fact is that Burney, upon returning to England near the end of 1771, published an account of his tour as well as a collection of music for the celebration of Holy Week in the Sistine Chapel. This volume included music by Palestrina, Bai, and, for the first time, Allegri's famous Miserere. Subsequently, the Miserere was reprinted many times in England, Leipzig, Paris and Rome, effectively ending the pope's monopoly on the work.
It is not known where Burney obtained his copy of the Miserere. It has been suggested that Maestro di Cappella Santarelli at the Vatican gave him a copy, which he checked against Padre Martini's manuscript when he visited Bologna. This is certainly possible, as is the alternative that he simply obtained a copy from Martini. However, both explanations seem unlikely given the papal strictures placed on copying the manuscript. Is it possible that Burney took Mozart's transcription, perhaps compared it to Martini's copy, and then published a cleaned-up version, minus the improvisations, and destroyed Mozart's manuscript to protect him as Catholic subject of the Holy Roman Empire? We may never know the whole story.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

An Artist's Vision of a Gay Jesus

The Jesus in Love blog attempts to bring Jesus to the LGBTQ community, and their methods are of necessity, revisionist.

For example, last year they presented Douglas Blanchard’s “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision”, a series of paintings of the artist's vision of Jesus' last days and resurrection.
"The paintings present Jesus as a contemporary gay man in a modern city as he lives out the dramatic events of Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, and his arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection...
Blanchard’s images show Jesus being jeered by fundamentalists, tortured by Marine look-alikes and rising again to enjoy homoerotic moments with God and friends. He stands up to priests, businessmen, lawyers, and soldiers—all of whom look eerily similar to the people holding those jobs today. His surprisingly diverse friends join him on a journey from suffering to freedom."
To some people this is what Holy Week is all about.

From Jesus in Love Blog

For an example of the paintings, click here... if you dare,

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

On Female Bishops

I know I will get blasted for this one.

My opposition to female bishops goes back to Titus 1:5-9,

"The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.  An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.  Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.  Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.  He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it."
I also look to Jesus' non-inclusive and less than diverse choices for his twelve closest followers.

In order to be in favor of female bishops in the Church, I believe that one must decide to keep the two examples cited above locked into their historical eras. In so doing, these facts become irrelevant to any discussion about how the present day Church is structured. This way of reading the Bible inevitably leads to one becoming free to discard any part of scripture with which one is uncomfortable. The "authority of scripture" thus becomes the "authority of me".

What else did Paul write that can be ignored? Romans 1: 26-27 is a favorite one,
"Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error."
I am not aware of any female bishops in the Episcopal organization who believe that either Titus 1:5-9 or Romans 1:26-27 have any applicability to today's Church.

To put it bluntly, in order to be a female bishop, you first must have a revisionist mindset.

And I am not in favor of revisionist bishops.

I hope the logical side of my brain can silence the emotional side which is screaming its lobes out in a visceral reaction to the new female bishop of the Diocese of Spokane. Spokane is an "inclusive diocese", and she should fit right in.

Spokane is also a dying diocese having lost 28% of average Sunday attendance between 2005-2015.

Don't look for a major turnaround anytime soon.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Lenten Spirit: "To set the mind on the flesh is death"

This Sunday's reading is from Romans 8:6-11, 
"To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you."
Paul is fleshing out a theme he introduced in Romans 7:24-25,
"Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin."
Paul's words of encouragement to the Romans in Romans 8 have to be tempered against the realization that his audience is just as wretched as him.

Most sermons today will probably focus on the positive aspects of being "in the spirit", and the resuscitation of  Lazarus (the Gospel lesson) while totally ignoring the reason why we need the Holy Spirit and Jesus in the first place.

Most pewsitters will probably be too in the flesh to notice.

Just trying to keep everyone in the Lenten spirit.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Charlotte North Carolina Schools remove "Jacob's New Dress", but add one that might be just as bad.

Controversies over what is taught in public schools are nothing new. Recently, our liberal neighbors across the border have come under fire for trying to add a pro-transgender children's' book to the first-grade curriculum.

Here's how WSOC reported it,

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - "The Amazon summary for the book 'Jacob's New Dress' describes a story about the unique challenges faced when someone doesn't identify with traditional gender roles.
In the book, Jacob wants to wear a dress to school.
The book was supposed to be part of an anti-bullying lesson for first graders in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools during Child Abuse Prevention Month.
But not everyone was in agreement.
CMS board member Rhonda Lennon said that a concerned teacher spoke up about the book.
That concern made its way to Raleigh and lawmakers contacted the CMS Board of Education, which didn’t know about the book selection.
'Apparently, we were the topic of conversation for most of the General Assembly off and on yesterday,” Lennon said. "I think there are ways that we could have incorporated that kind of communication and that type of a curriculum with our students to make sure people are treating everybody respectfully without really going that far and it just feels like we went too far.'
Lennon said after all the discussion, the book was pulled Tuesday morning."
So, what was put in its place?
"Instead, students will read 'Red: A Crayon's Story,' which is about a red crayon that sees itself as blue."
Which, in my opinion, is just a backdoor way to present the same message that self-identification trumps any external source of characterization. In other words, putting a blue cover on a red crayon or a red cover on a blue crayon is essentially the same as putting a frilly dress on a little boy or a pair of greasy coveralls on a little girl.

"Red: A Crayon's Story" is a favorite of the transgender community. The following is from Gay Star News,
"Red has a bright red label, but he is, in fact, blue.While everyone around him wants him to do ‘red’ things, and draw things like strawberries, Red just ends up all blue. He can’t be red, no matter how hard he tries!Finally, after being given a brand-new perspective, Red discovers what readers have known all along. He’s blue.Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall can be written in many ways, but especially as a tale to explain transgender people to a young child."
Of course, the LGBT community has their panties/briefs/boxers/thongs in a knot as WSOC reports,
"Chris Sgro, the executive director of Equality NC, responded.
'Every student should have the right to learn from and understand diverse perspectives of the many backgrounds that make up a large school district like CMS,' Sgro said. 'It's sad that some are unwilling to allow students this opportunity and seem to stop at nothing to push their extreme views about LGBTQ people on children at any cost. Let's be very clear, children don't have closed minds, but sadly yet again, adults have proven that they do. The only thing controversial about these books is that it seems some have blown their understanding of the intent of this curriculum way out of proportion. All students deserve to have their experiences represented in the curriculum taught to them, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity, ability and class.'"

To WSOC's credit, they balanced the story with an opposing viewpoint,

Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of N.C. Values Coalition added a statement on CMS’s attempt to mandate transgender curriculum.
"As Charlotte's City Council passed an outrageous ordinance last year that made it necessary for the state to correct the mistake with HB2, Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools were working on rolling out a new anti-bullying policy that seeks to indoctrinate students in the school district by normalizing transgender behavior.
"The purpose of our elementary schools is to teach writing, reading and arithmetic, not to encourage boys to wear dresses. CMS is failing our children. In the recent 2016 state academic ratings, 43 of 165 CMS schools achieved overall pass rates below 50 percent and a majority (59 percent) earned a grade of C or below when measuring student proficiency and growth. These lessons found in the book, Jacob’s New Dress and My Princess Boy and other transgender curriculum that are not appropriate for any child whose parents support traditional family values.
There is no question that this attempt by CMS staff to mandated training is nothing more than putting a dress on CMS's Gender Unicorn. We encourage CMS to refocus on their mission of maximizing academic achievement instead of advancing this controversial curriculum."

I always wondered why the gender unicorn was naked and sexless.

Things were so much easier when I was in first grade and we learned how to read using the Dick and Jane books and the most controversial thing was Dick's name.

If they used those books today, I bet someone would change the names,

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Turning a Blind Eye: Défense de cracher

Back in high school, my French teacher had a sign over the chalkboard that read "Défense de cracher" which means,

No Spitting!

Monsieur Berard always got a laugh when new students asked him what "Défense de cracher" meant. It was a good icebreaker as many of his students had limited previous exposure to the French language and were probably a bit apprehensive about taking his class. Once the meaning of the sign was revealed, the students could see that our teacher was a good man who we could love and learn from.

This Sunday's Gospel reading from John 9 relates the story of Jesus healing a man who had been blind from birth. Later, after gaining his sight, the man met Jesus, recognized him as Lord, and worshiped him. Jesus' method of spitting on the ground, making some mud, and applying the mud to the man's eyes might make my Ophthalmologist squirm, but the miracle of healing the blind and the theme John uses of removing spiritual blindness should resonate with many in the pews this morning.

Unfortunately, the people who are not in the pews today are the very ones in need of a spit of mud in the eye.

Who will carry the good news to those who choose to not worship the Lord today? Who will tell them that there is a beautiful new life to experience if they simply let Jesus heal them of their blindness?   

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lay Pastoral Caregivers: Should Priests Delegate Pastoral Care Duties?

Looking back at a post aimed at pastors titled "How Pastoral Care Stunts The Growth Of Most Churches" by Carey Nieuwhof from November 16, 2015, makes me think of certain failures I have witnessed in the Episcopal organization, the most important of which is the failure for a parish church to grow in spite of a growth in the surrounding population. While the failed theology of the Episcopal organization is reason enough (I could never recommend this denomination to a new convert), one has to look at what local leadership is or is not doing to bring people to Christ. Raising up evangelists is one thing, another important part of a church ministry is the development of disciples from within who can take on some of the pastoral care needs of the church freeing the priest/minister/pastor to focus on growth. Episcopalians are not alone in this failure. Nieuwhof in the process of promoting his book, thinks failure to delegate pastoral care is a major factor holding churches back,

"The Barna group reports the average Protestant church size in America as 89 adults. 60% of protestant churches have less than 100 adults in attendance. Only 2% have over 1000 adults attending..."
"If pastors could figure out how to better tackle the issue of pastoral care, I’m convinced many more churches would grow..."
"When the pastor has to visit every sick person, do every wedding and funeral and make regular house calls, attend every meeting, and lead every bible study or group, he or she becomes incapable of doing almost anything else..."
"Message preparation falls to the side, and providing organizational leadership for the future is almost out of the question..."
"Caring for 30 people personally is possible. Caring for 230 is not. Many pastors burn out trying.
The pastoral care model most seminaries teach and most congregations embrace creates false and unsustainable expectations..."
It’s ironic. They very thing you’re great at (pastoral care) eventually causes your exit when you can no longer keep up."
For many years I worked 24/7, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. Getting called out at all hours of the night and then being expected to perform at a 100% level the next day is tough, and while most younger people can keep that up for a few years, I know how that can lead to burn out especially if you are over 40. People in that situation should realize that something has to be done in order to bring in associates or the church will never be able to grow. With the average Episcopal Sunday attendance running around 58, most parishes can barely afford a full-time priest who just cannot do it all (although many think they can). A small church usually believes that their options are to either dig deep into their pockets and bring in a church growing assistant priest/minister/pastor, or a perhaps a deacon who can take over the pastoral care duties while the existing leadership focuses on growth. Those church-growers who want to serve as an assistant are few and far between, and deacons are the Bishop's men/women and not always consistently available.

Nieuwhof figured that changes were needed in his ministry and looked to lead instead of continue as a pastor to a pastoral size church.
"The goal of Christian leadership is to lead, not to be liked.
If a church is going to grow, congregations have to let go of the expectation that their pastor will be available for every medical emergency, every twist and turn in their lives, every family celebration and every crisis.
That’s a tough sell for many congregations, but if a church is going to grow, it has to happen..."
The average pew sitter expects his or her pastor to be there whenever they experience a change in their status, and that is unrealistic. Even Moses, Jesus, and the Apostles delegated authority to others,
"So how do you deal with this?  Have the courage to shift care to the congregation.
The best answer I know of for pastoral care in a larger church is to teach people to care for each other in groups.
Groups based care isn’t just practical. It’s biblical.
It’s thoroughly biblical: going back to Exodus 18, when Jethro confronted Moses about doing everything himself.
Even Jesus adopted the model of group care, moving his large group of hundreds of  disciples into groups of seventy, twelve, three, and then one."
The idea of creating lay pastoral caregivers is nothing new, but in my experience with the Episcopal organization and the Community of Hope lay chaplain training program, well trained, licensed lay chaplains have been underutilized by their rectors, rectors who continued to shoulder most of the load to the neglect of putting more effort into church growth. Those rectors or their parishioners were guilty of not "letting go" of the old model, not accepting that,
 "98% of pastoral care is having someone who cares. It doesn’t have to be the pastor.
2% of the time you’ll have situations where the need of a member exceeds the ability of the group to help..." 
While we were successful at a local level of creating pastoral care teams which were great at organizing meals and snacks for funerals, the rector continued to handle most of the pastoral care and the best our church could do was to slow the decline.

Unfortunately for the Episcopal denomination, it appears that most people going into seminary are drawn to ministry because they have a personality profile that matches someone who is best suited for pastoral care rather than true Christian leadership, and when "called" to be a full-time rector will have a great deal of difficulty delegating that role to lowly pew sitters. That same personality type will condemn the rector to a career of frustration as they are forced into the role of "leader".

So, the answer to the question, "Should Priests Delegate Pastoral Care Duties" is "Yes", but priests should maintain a supervisory role and train and select their lay pastoral team carefully.    

Sunday, March 19, 2017

There are conditions to be met before drinking this water

Last Sunday's Gospel reading was John 4:5-42 in which Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. Out of this relatively lengthy Sunday morning lesson, I have chosen to highlight just two sentences which usually go unmentioned in the typical sermon,

Jacob's well

So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ 
The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’
Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ 
The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you* say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’ 
Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah,* can he?’ They left the city and were on their way to him.
 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’ But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples said to one another, ‘Surely no one has brought him something to eat?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, “Four months more, then comes the harvest”? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving* wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, “One sows and another reaps.” I sent you to reap that for which you did not labour. Others have laboured, and you have entered into their labour.’ 
Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I have ever done.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there for two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.’
Jesus' initial response to the woman was to indirectly confront her with her sins, sins that she tried to hide.

Isn't that typical of how we respond to Jesus as well?

For years I treated this passage just as proof that Jesus could see my sins, but in light of the rest of the story it would appear that as a pre-condition to taking a drink of the "living water" we must fess up our sins, sins that Jesus already knows, and will forgive.

All of this has the making of an effective argument against communion of the unprepared and a strong argument for the Prayer of Humble Access.

How might you respond if when you approach the altar rail for communion the priest was to say, "Go call your love, and come back." ?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

What is the problem with the "Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement"?

This year and the next are supposed to be years of revival in the the Episcopal organization (TEc). The first revival was held in Pittsburgh last month. So far there is no indication of anything of any substance having occurred. Where are the thousands of new converts? Considering the fact that the Episcopal organization is trying to pass off a false gospel on any unbelievers who might stumble into one of their revivals, no news might be good news.

These revivals sound more like social activism recruitment drives,
"The six Episcopal Revivals will vary in design, but most will be multi-day events that feature dynamic worship and preaching, offerings from local artists and musicians, personal testimony and storytelling, topical speakers, invitation to local social action, engagement with young leaders, and intentional outreach with people who aren’t active in a faith community."
One catch phrase that the Presiding Bishop has used to promote his revivals is "The Jesus Movement". What he means by this can best(?) be explained by TEc itself.
"What is the Jesus Movement?We’re following Jesus into loving, liberating and life-giving relationship with God, with each other and with the earth. 
How do we join? First, we follow Jesus. We are simply the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement, seeking every day to love God with our whole heart, mind and soul, and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40). Just like Jesus. 
What’s our work?We’re working on simple practices for each priority area – if it’s a Movement, then we should all be able to grasp the ideas and get on board. Then we’re mapping a strategy that inspires and equips all of us to join God and make a difference. 
The Jesus Movement takes you places. For the Episcopal Church, it calls us to focus on three specific Jesus Movement Priorities: 
1) EVANGELISM:Listen for Jesus' movement in our lives and in the world.Give thanks. Proclaim and celebrate it! Invite the Spirit to do the rest. 
2) RECONCILIATION:Embody the loving, liberating, life-giving way of Jesus with each other   
3) CREATION CARE:Encounter and honor the face of God in creation 

  • INSPIRE Episcopalians to embrace evangelism 
  • TELL the truth about church and race 
  • DEVELOP creation care resources 
  • GATHER Episcopal evangelists 
  • REWRITE the narrative 
  • GROW local eco-ministries 
  • EQUIP all to be evangelists 
  • FORM Episcopalians as reconcilers 
  • PURSUE eco-justice at church-wide and local levels 
  • SEND all as evangelists 
  • REPAIR  and RESTORE institutions and society 
  • CONVENE conversations around climate and faith"
"Develop creation care resources", "Grow eco-ministries", and "pursue eco-justice"? Is that the evangelism Episcopalians will learn to embrace at these revivals?  Count me out..

"Tell the truth about church and race" can be said in one sentence, "Episcopalians are predominately white."

"Rewriting the narrative" sounds like more of the revisionism that has been such a disaster for the Episcopal denomination.

"Repair and restore institutions and society" is a pretty ironic goal considering what the Episcopal organization has done in the past to weaken the institution of marriage.

"Convene conversations around climate and faith." The presumption is that everyone shares the faith in the climate change due to humanity theory.

I don't know about you, but I don't see anything in there about bringing unbelievers into belief in Jesus as Lord or spreading the good news of Christ born, crucified, and resurrected for our sins.

Since they are going about it all wrong, I predict that the Episcopal revivals will fall flat and that the great Episcopal decline will continue unabated.

Matt Kennedy who is Rector (Senior Pastor) at the Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, NY explains the problem this way,
"Love God and love your neighbor is not the Gospel. It's the law. And no one can do it. The Episcopal Church's "Jesus Movement", Andy Stanley's 'attractional church', and a number of other church-growth gurus embrace the Great Commandment and the second like it as "the message" of Jesus and believe it is the key to renewal and growth. Jesus certainly preached the law, as we must as well, but what is the result when the law is the center of our preaching? We only condemn those who hear. We tie burdens on their backs they cannot carry. The first purpose of the law is to reveal sin (Rom3:20). The Gospel is about Jesus' life death and resurrection to save sinners (1Cor15:3-5). But preaching the bloody cross is much less seeker-friendly than preaching human potential." Matt Kennedy
Jesus is moving alright. It is just that the Episcopal organization is moving in a different direction.

They should probably call it "The Episcopal Movement" and flush it down the nearest gender neutral toilet.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina: Born Anew?

This Sunday's reading from John 3:1-17 tells the tale of Nicodemus who couldn't understand how one can be born again.

"Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus* by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.” The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?"
‘Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?  No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.*
‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
It seems to be a fitting lesson fitting for the day after the Diocese of South Carolina voted to affiliate with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). The DSC notification states that,
"Affiliation with the ACNA brings the Diocese into full communion with an organization of 111,853 members in 966 churches and 32 dioceses spread across Canada, the United States, and Mexico."
Many at 815 may feel like Nicodemus and question how this new birth can be possible, but the ACNA is about to add 20,000+ members with a strong tradition behind them. DSC's influence will be great on the still developing ACNA which doesn't even have a Prayer Book yet.

It seems that either the ACNA or the Diocese of South Carolina is going to be born anew. One can only pray that the Spirit remains with them/us in all of our efforts to grow into the Church that God intends.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Oops! ABC News Prediction from 2003: "Why Episcopal Conservatives Won't Split"

The trustworthiness of the mainstream news media has been a recurrent issue these days. There is nothing new about the problem as we can see from the bias evident in the following article from 2003 published by ABC News.    

Why Episcopal Conservatives Won't Split 

"— More than a dozen conservative bishops may have angrily walked out of the Episcopal Church's convention on Tuesday, but don't expect them to leave the denomination."
Oops is right. Many bishops did leave, taking their dioceses with them, and more pewsitters left the denomination altogether. Sunday attendance has dropped by 26% so our reporter might want to revisit her expectations.
"Why? Because they learned a lesson 27 years ago, when the church battled over whether or not to allow female clergy. After a huge fight that Episcopalians still recall and dissect, the church voted yes — and some of the conservatives said with much fanfare, 'Goodbye, we're starting our own church.'"
"...Yet today, few people even remember the names of the splinter churches they formed. They are tiny and without influence. Conservatives are well aware of the history and have played the gay issue quite differently."
Women's ordination and the 1979 Prayer Book revision were two of the reasons that "conservatives" left in the 70's. There was sufficient inertia in the pews and such tiny numbers of female priests that only a small number of people left the denomination. It has taken a couple of generations for female priests to be trained, "called" to parishes, and for them to take over a large part of the Episcopal organization. The real lesson from the past is that revisionist teaching introduces a cancer that slowly invades a Church body, spreading to vital organs, weakening resistance to other threats, and ultimately leading to death.

Back to the article,
"Lesson One: Schism gets headlines (briefly) but not much else. 
Forming a new denomination would disconnect conservatives from the 73 million-member Worldwide Anglican Communion — churches in England and around the world — denying them influence, money and support. Individual parishes will also be reluctant to leave because the Episcopal Church owns the buildings and their financial assets. Instead, conservatives will look to affiliate with a church overseas so they can remain part of the official Anglican Communion."
What has happened is that "conservative" dioceses easily connected to the majority of world-wide Anglicans and were not really concerned about influence, money, or support. The Episcopal church has been able to retain some church buildings, but not all. This may have had some effect on the departure of some "conservatives" but many were willing to fight the TEc's lawyers in court.
"Lesson Two: It's all about the battle to define 'mainstream." 
"Today, women are accepted as clergy in most Christian groups, and those who opposed women's ordination appear in hindsight to have been on the fringe. And so, conservative Episcopalians in the current debate have been careful to present themselves as moderate, while portraying Episcopal church leaders as ultra-liberals who stole 'their' church out from under them."
There was no battle to define mainstream. Mainstream denominations are dying because they have cut a new channel and are flowing downhill in a new stream. Who wants the label of "mainstream" anyway?
"'This body, willfully confirming the election of a person sexually active outside of holy matrimony, has departed from the historic faith and order of the church of Jesus Christ,' Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh said on behalf of the dissenting bishops."
The quote does not do justice to the full damage to the faith from TEc's rejection of the Bible.
The Web site of the main conservative group — the American Anglican Council — welcomes visitors with this greeting: "We are mainstream Anglicans. We are orthodox Episcopalians. We're missionaries called to fulfill the Great Commission, to proclaim Biblical truth and to transform the Episcopal Church from within. We'd love to share our mission and ministry with you."
The AAC website thankfully took out that "mainstream" word.

This last bit left me scratching my head,
"Lesson Three: Play on liberal white guilt. 
Last time, conservatives opposing ordination argued that a rift would harm relations with the Roman Catholic Church. This did not persuade American Episcopalians, who were (and still are) the church of elites and intellectuals.
This time, the AAC has teamed up with Anglican leaders in Africa and Asia — where, they point out, Anglicans are growing the fastest — who say they will not associate with a church that permits a gay bishop."
I don't know how "liberal white guilt" plays into that, but some guy at the liberal General Theological Seminary (GTS) had it figured out,
"'What makes this battle interesting is that the conservatives know how to play upon white liberal guilt,' says Robert Bruce Mullin, an Episcopal Church historian at General Theological Seminary in New York. Mullin said the appeal to Third World Christian sensibilities is 'poignant' and smart, though he believes they will ultimately fail."
 So "conservatives" were suffering from "liberal white guilt" which caused them to associate with African bishops? What do you expect from a GTS historian?

To be fair, ABC News tried to include some balance in the article although it is still off base,
"Others disagree. Allen Guelzo, an Episcopal Church historian at Eastern College in St. David's, Pa., said the Third World alliance may give dissidents the leverage they need to actually split the Worldwide Anglican Communion."
That made it sound as though "conservatives" were the ones who wanted to split the Anglican Communion. Guelzo actually meant something entirely different,
"'People in Africa don't have this American clubbiness,' Guelzo says. 'They'll walk. They are the majority. So that gives an entirely new heft to dissident protests. If the African bishops really do proceed as they have threatened, then we have introduced an entirely novel situation.'"
At the end of the article the author makes her worst prediction of all,
"...Ultimately, conservatives and liberals alike will pray, cry, and yell at each other. They'll hold meetings and caucuses and issue pronouncements. There will be a gay bishop in the Episcopal Church and conservatives won't like it." 
"But the most likely outcome is that all of them — conservative, moderate, liberal, gay, and straight — will remain in the same church."
All of them will remain in the same church?


Sunday, March 05, 2017

Does The Revised Common Lectionary Contribute to Today's Gender Confusion?

Followers of this blog should be familiar with the problems Sunday churchgoers face when the only parts of the Bible to which they are exposed are selections from the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL). Hearing bits and pieces of the scripture every seven days is bad enough, but when the RCL selectively edits out verses that might be confusing, controversial, or too harsh and judgmental for "Sunday ears" the net effect is to create a congregation of "tame" Christians, a group which would never be able to defend itself in the public square.

This Sunday provides another example of the curious (some might say suspicious) way that parts of the Bible get cut. Most pewsitters will hear Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7, but they will probably be unaware that Genesis 2.18-25 was dropped.

This is what people will hear today (Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7).
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’ (Genesis 2:15-17)
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.” ’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. (Genesis 3:1-7)
So what did the congregations miss, and why might it be important? They missed the story of the creation of the animals, the creation of woman, and God's intention for the sexes.

Its all in Genesis 2.18-25,

 Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.’ So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
‘This at last is bone of my bones   and flesh of my flesh;this one shall be called Woman,   for out of Man this one was taken.’ 
Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed. 
If Sunday church goers miss out on the story of the creation of woman out of man, they might wind up falling for the sexual worldview of the current age which denies God's creative act and denies the purpose of the two sexes.

It is quite possible that the lack of adequate teaching from the Church about God's plan for the sexes is a contributing factor to today's gender confused society.

And the Revised Common Lectionary may shoulder some of the blame.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Powerplay: TEC Extorts Its 15%, Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida Caves

Oh, those tricky Episcopalians. They passed a resolution at their 2015 General Convention that I missed. Buried in Resolution D013 was the following wording.
(f) Full payment of the diocesan assessment shall be required of all Dioceses, effective January 1, 2019.
(g) Effective January 1, 2016 Council shall have the power to grant waivers from the full annual assessments of Dioceses within the limit established by the General Convention. Any diocese may appeal to Executive Council for a waiver of the assessment, in full or in part, on the basis of financial hardship, a stated plan for working toward full payment, or other reasons as agreed with the Executive Council. Effective January 1, 2019, failure to make full payment or to receive a waiver shall render the diocese ineligible to receive grants or loans from the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society unless approved by Executive Council.
The Episcopal pledge was not required in the past and many parishes who disagreed with the pro-abortion, pro-gay ordination, pro-same-sex marriage stances of TEc tried to not contribute to the larger organization by designating their diocesan pledge to be used solely for the purposes of their diocese. 

In times when the budget of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina was tight, some of us asked for a cut in the Episcopal pledge. All such suggestions were quashed by the Bishops at those times.

It appears that Resolution D013 was worded to give struggling dioceses a waiver. I suspect the rump dioceses, small groups of parishes that decided to stay in TEc after the majority of a diocese departed, were the intended beneficiaries of this largess. 

The reality of this resolution is slowly sinking in at the diocesan level, but TEc loyalists, like my past bishops, will probably succeed in furthering the progressive agenda by passing resolutions in support of paying the full ask from 815. The Diocese of Central Florida recently did just that.

From the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida comes the following,

Debate Heats Up Over Mandatory 15 Percent Assessment
February 1, 2017  
In an otherwise calm and orderly convention, the heat rose during the discussion period R-1 Episcopal Church Assessment, the mandatory 15 percent assessment scheduled to begin Jan. 1, 2019.
After years of using an “asking formula,” the National Church changed the wording to “mandatory” with Resolution D013 at the 78th General Convention in 2015 and set by Resolution C001. In the past, under the asking formula, a parish suffered no consequences if it did not contribute to the National Church.
Currently, the assessment stands at 16.5 percent. Some parishes, which oppose certain rules set forth by the National Church, pay their money to the Diocese of Central Florida, but ask their money not be sent to the National Church. Those parishes will not have that option when the 15 percent assessment takes effect. Without getting a waiver, a diocese that does not pay the full assessment will be unable to get grants or loans from the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, the name under which The Episcopal Church is incorporated, conducts business, and carries out mission.
“I heartily support the efforts being made to find ways for us as a diocese to meet the 15 percent financial assessment voted on by General Convention,” said the Rt. Rev. Bishop Gregory O. Brewer during his State of the Diocese Address. “Among other reasons, because the financial funding brings integrity to the work for change. And the work for change brings integrity to the financial funding. The two go hand-in-hand. As it might be said crassly, ‘Put your money where your mouth is.’ And that’s what I’m committed to us doing.”
After heated and impassionate pleas from both sides, R-1 passed with a significant number of dissenting votes. 
To download the full resolution, click here.
I had to laugh when I read that classic bit of Episcobabble from Bishop Brewer,
“Among other reasons, because the financial funding brings integrity to the work for change. And the work for change brings integrity to the financial funding."
 There are a few reasonable pewsitters left in Central Florida, and one was actually quoted in the article,
“One word: mandatory. That’s a tax. I want to be able to give freely. It’s not too cheerful if they have your arm behind your back. I have no problem with the 15 percent as opposed to the 10 percent. It would make all the difference in the world to me if they took out that one word—mandatory.”
—Dr. Larry Warren, St. Andrews’, Ft. Pierce
 If I was a member of a church in Bishop Brewer's diocese, I would stop putting money in the plate because to give is to support the extortionists at 815 who are going to use the money to push their progressive agenda and who will continue to fund pro-abortion groups such as the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (formerly known as the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights).

Sadly, most pewsitters are unaware of where their pledge dollars are going.

Sad but true.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

We Too Can Hear the Voice From Heaven

This Sunday's lectionary will have many pewsitters listening to Matthew 17:1-9 and his account of The Transfiguration.
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’ When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Get up and do not be afraid.’ And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, ‘Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.’
Last year we were treated to Luke's version and I took the opportunity to point out the times in the Gospels that God the Father speaks. Since I am on the road today, I would ask you for your prayers for safe travels (especially through Atlanta), and to please look again at last year's post which I copied below,

"Listen to Him"

The Gospel reading from Luke 9:28-36,(37-43a) contains the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus, and in this we hear a voice from the clouds,
Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’—not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
The voice of God coming from a cloud is also found in Mark and Matthew,
Mark 9:7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”
Matthew 17:5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
The voice parallels what the voice heard at the time of Jesus' baptism (which is another event repeated in all of the synoptic Gospels),
Mark 1:11  And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Matthew 3:17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Luke 3:22  and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
The Gospel of John does not include these, but instead recalls a voice from heaven near the end of Jesus' life,
John 12:27-28 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
How many times do we pray to hear God's voice?

Why do we feel disappointed when we do not get an answer when the answer is staring us in the face?
"Listen to Him"
And how can we hear the voice from heaven?

By opening up those dusty Bibles and reading what God has to say!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Would Curry and Jennings Share the Same Bathroom? They Want Texans To

The Episcopal organization is led by The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, presiding bishop and The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President, House of Deputies. They just cannot keep their noses out of the loo. I knew they were close, but their opposition to separate-sex restrooms as stated in the letter quoted below sent to the Speaker of the House of the state of Texas has me wondering if Curry and Jennings would object to sharing the same bathroom themselves?

I apologize for planting that image in anyone's mind.

"January 30, 2017
The Honorable Joe Straus Speaker of the House
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, Texas 78768 
Dear Speaker Straus: 
Thank you for your stand against Senate Bill 6. As the presiding officers of the Episcopal Church, we are firmly opposed to this legislation and condemn its discriminatory intent."
It is now a form of malevolent discrimination to separate the sexes.
"We reject the notion that transgender people do not deserve equal civil rights and protection under the law."
Going to any potty of your choice is now a civil right.
"We affirm the dignity of all of God’s people, for we are all equally children of God, as the prophet Malachi declared when he wrote: “Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us?” (Mal. 2:10)"
There goes the Episcopal 1979 Baptismal Covenant argument again, and here I go again repeating what I have said before: "The meaning of 'dignity' has become so perverted that today when any of our selfish desires is denied, it amounts to an attack on our dignity. If a man says he is a woman and you say 'No, you are a man', you guilty of not respecting his dignity."
"As you are no doubt aware, this is not the first time that the segregation of bathrooms and public facilities has been used to stigmatize minority groups. 'Bathroom bills,' as they are sometimes called, were passed during the Jim Crow era, and the bogus rationale advanced then is the same bogus rationale being advanced now: the safety of women and children who are no way under threat."
 There is no comparison between racial segregation and separation of the sexes, but that won't stop the strawman from being built.
"The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church has stood against fear and in support of God’s love by passing a resolution that reaffirms the church’s support of local, state and federal laws that prevent discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression."
In case you missed it, an accusation of fear mongering is hidden in that statement and is a common tactic used by the radical left to paint conservatives as mean-spirited and hateful creatures.
"The resolution also states our opposition to any legislation that seeks to deny the dignity, equality, and civil rights of transgender people."
The same argument they used earlier except with the addition of "equality". How is the law to treat someone who one day can ask for equal treatment as a male and on the next day can demand equal treatment as a female? Prisons are facing that problem with men asking to be transferred to the women's prison because of a change in their gender identity.
"The need for voices of conscience is urgent at this moment, because laws like the one proposed in Texas target some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. In a 2011 survey, 78 percent of transgender people said that they had been bullied or harassed in childhood;"
 "Cis-gendered" children and teens also report being bullied. I have seen numbers as high as 83 percent of girls, and 79 percent of boys reporting being bullied either in school or online. I think it all depends on what one considers being bullied. These days, in our hypersensitive age, creating a "microaggression" is considered an act of bullying.
"41 percent said they had attempted suicide; 35 percent had been assaulted and 12 percent had suffered a sexual assault. Almost half of transgender people who responded to the survey said they had suffered job discrimination, and almost a fifth had lost housing or been denied health care due to their gender identity or expression."
 Curry and Jennings are implying that people who support separate restrooms for men and women  might be guilty of causing the untimely deaths of transgender people.
"For us, as Episcopalians, the proposed Texas law is of particular concern. We are currently scheduled to hold our triennial General Convention—a nine-day event that includes as many as 10,000 people—in Austin in July 2018. Our church is proudly diverse: racially, economically, and in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity. At our conventions, we are duty-bound to ensure that all of our people are treated with respect, that their safety is guaranteed, and that our investment in the local economy of our host city reflects our values.
In 1955 we were forced to move a General Convention from Houston to another state because Texas laws prohibited black and white Episcopalians from being treated equally. We would not stand then for Episcopalians to be discriminated against, and we cannot countenance it now. We would be deeply grieved if Senate Bill 6 presented us with the same difficult choice that church leaders faced more than sixty years ago."
It would be no loss to the state of Texas if the Episcopal General Convention cancels its plans. In fact, it might be better for the spiritual health of all Texans if that triennial affront to the Gospel is sent to another state.
"We urge you to remain steadfast in your opposition to Senate Bill 6 and any similar bill that might be introduced in the Texas House, and we thank you for your commitment to keeping Texas a welcoming state for all of God’s children."
 Texas welcomes all but kindly asks them to use the facilities that correspond to their biological parts.
The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, presiding bishop
The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President, House of Deputies"
I am sure they have faith in something, but it is not shared by the vast majority of faithful Anglicans.

All this leaves me wondering if Curry and Jennings have enough faith to share the bathroom with each other?

Sunday, February 19, 2017

I resist the evil ones, I don't give to beggars, can't love some enemies, am terribly shy, and cannot be perfect

This Sunday's reading from Matthew 5:38-48 concludes a four week walk through Matthew 5. Once again, Jesus challenges us to the point where we should realize that try as we might, we are going to need help if we are to see the Kingdom of God.

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil.
I resisted an evil one in a blog post. Strike one.
But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. 
I passed a beggar the other day, Strike two.
 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
Does not hating your enemies count? Strike three.
 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
Hey, I went up to a stranger and greeted them yesterday, but he was a brother in Christ so I guess that is strike four.
  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (ESV) 
I guess that counts me out. I don't even belong in the same ballpark with Jesus.

Still, as imperfect a bench warmer as I am, I trust that he will deliver me.

Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Norwegians chasing Swedes thjrough the wjeeds in rush to create a gender neutral pronoun

When I was a child, my grandmother taught me a little song causing me to be forever believing the myth of Norwegian superiority. It went like this, 
"Ten thousand Swedes ran through the weeds,
chased by one Norwegian.
Ten thousand more ran to the shore
in the battle of Copenhagen."
Alas, the myth has been busted with the recent news that Norway is considering adding a third gender to government documents, and not only that, they are following Sweden's example! My grandmother would be shocked to learn of the "Swedenization" of her ancestral home.

The article, "Could Norway follow Sweden’s lead and introduce a third gender?", appeared at The Local, Norway's news in English on 6 February 2017,   
Could Norway follow Sweden’s lead and introduce a third gender? 
The leader of Labour's youth wing said that Norwegians should be able to identify themselves whoever they want in their passports and other official documents.Norway’s Labour Party, the largest party in parliament, will consider backing the introduction of a third gender, broadcaster NRK reported.Labour’s programme committee will debate the introduction of the third gender category so that Norwegians would no longer need to define themselves as male or female in their passports and other official documents.
A third gender? That seems so unfair to all the other possible gender identities out there. Facebook has identified 58 gender options (see list here).

Norway may ignore all those alternative identities and follow Sweden's example by coming up with one "generic" category.
Although the proposal is only under the early stages of consideration, Labour committee member Mani Hussaini suggested that Norway should follow the lead of neighbouring Sweden, which adopted the gender neutral pronoun ‘hen’ into official use in April 2015. 
"Hen" would not work in English speaking countries for obvious reasons. Immigration officials might have a bit of a problem as well figuring out how to classify a new arrival, and maybe that is why Norway is doing this. Perhaps Norwegian customs agents are seeing a few "hens" come across the border and the agents are being put in the awkward position of asking if they are a "han" or a "hun",
Hussaini, who is the leader of Labour's youth wing AUF, said ‘hen’ could also be used in Norwegian as a gender-neutral alternative to ‘han’ (he) and ‘hun’.
 Around here, "Hon" (short for Honey) is used in a gender neutral context.

The most revealing quote is the following,
“I believe that all people should be allowing to live out their identity and thus the law should adapt to reality rather than the other way around,” Hussaini said. 
"The law should adapt to reality" is exactly the same reasoning used by the Episcopal organization's progressive leaders to change its doctrines on divorce, remarriage, and same-sex marriage. This will also be the reasoning for gender neutral language in new liturgies that are to be put forward as prayer book revision moves forward.

We can blame it all on those cowardly Swedes who made it official two years ago.
The Swedish Academy agreed to include ‘hen’ in its official dictionary, Svenska Akademiens ordlista, in 2015.
Red Stangland who placed Minnesota Norwegian humor on the map may have to re-write his version of "The Battle of Copenahgen" which went like this,

Ten thousand Swedes ran through the weeds,
chased by one Norwegian.
Ten thousand more ran to the shore
in the battle of Copenhagen.

Way, way back in history,
back when the world was new,
norwegian searched all over,
to find some snoose to chew.

They fished for Lutefisk and Torsk,
it helped to make them strong,
and you and me, we know a Norsk,
cannot do nothing wrong.

But swedes and danes were envious
of Viking trips and raids.
The Viking shields and helmet horns,
made all those folks affraid.

Throughout the world the Vikings sailed,
to Ireland and to France.
The even found America,
one afternoon by chance.

My grandpa says, and he should know,
the swedes made up the minds.
To beat the Norsky Vikings,
and kick a few behinds.

But history, so grandpa says,
show that the Norskies won.
They clobbered all the swedes and danes,
and made it lots of fun.

Ten thousand swedes ran through the weeds,
chased by one norwegian.

The dust from the weeds,
made snoose for the swedes,
and they called it Copenhagen,

E. C. Stangland

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Tough Lessons

This Sunday most churchgoers will hear more of the fifth chapter in Matthew. Two weeks ago they heard the Beatitudes and last week listened to Jesus stress the importance of keeping the Old Testament laws. The teachings that immediately follow Jesus' discourse on the O.T. law and the need to exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees point out how everyone is guilty of sin and all fall short of the goal of exceeding the "righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees" by giving added meaning to the laws concerning 1) murder, making anger with or between one of the brethren equally bad, 2) adultery, by making ogling a good looking woman equivalent to adultery and making divorce (except if for unfaithfulness) the equivalent of adultery, and 3) not to take an oath by anything since a simple "Yes" or "No" from one of Jesus' followers should not need additional proof of truthfulness. 

I consider these verses some of the most damning of Jesus' teachings. Every preacher giving a sermon today knows they are also guilty of the sins Jesus lists and should be feeling the weight of those sins as they mount the pulpit.

Matthew 5:21-37
‘You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.” But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister,* and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court* with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
 ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.
‘It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.” But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
‘Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.” But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be “Yes, Yes” or “No, No”; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

If all of us are sinners by Jesus' definition, how then are we to enter the kingdom of God? The good news is that we have Jesus, our advocate, someone who will stand beside us on the day of judgement and place his hand on our shoulder and say, "This one is with me."

Thank you Jesus for caring for a sinner like me.