Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Desperate Times at VTS? Will Free Tuition Help the Problem of Falling Enrollment?

With many of the candidates for the Democrat's presidential primary promising tuition free college education, most of us who paid for our education are left wondering how we taxpayers are going to afford such a give-away.

One wealthy Episcopal seminary, Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS), is already experimenting with the idea of a free ride, along with free meals, housing, and healthcare, but there may be a hidden motive behind this move. The story from Episcopal News Service is as follows,

"Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) is delighted to announce an expanded and simplified financial aid application and award process that will allow anyone with assets less than $200,000 (excluding one’s primary home and any pensions) have the costs of education covered.
'Expanding and simplifying our financial aid packages is an investment in the future of the Episcopal Church,” said the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D., dean and president of VTS. “Many institutions are going tuition free, but we are going tuition free, housing free, meal plan free, and making a substantial contribution to healthcare.'
In a move that will help ensure the Seminary’s goal of making theological education accessible to all, effective immediately, all students applying for financial aid for Fall 2019 with a combined adjusted gross income (single/family) less than $150,000 annually and/or combined assets less than eight times the respective Cost of Residency category (see below) will receive a package that includes:
• The cost of tuition;• The cost of housing;• The cost of a meal plan (for single students – three meals weekday, for all others – the lunch-only plan); and• A maximum contribution of $4,000 towards healthcare cost for those selecting the VTS sponsored health insurance plan.
'With this step, VTS has made it possible for students to attend seminary without taking out educational loans to cover tuition, room, or board,” said the Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes, associate dean of students. “Most students should be able to graduate from VTS debt-free.'
To qualify, all students must apply for financial aid to be considered for this award package. Assets to be considered for the Cost of Residency requirement are: Cash and Cash Equivalents, Stocks, Bonds, and Real Estate Holdings. Primary Residence and Pension/Retirement accounts will not be considered. Cost of Residency categories are defined as follows:
• Single students: $24,200;• Students living in a one-bedroom apartment: $34,100;• Students living in a two-bedroom apartment: $36,500;• Students living in a three-bedroom apartment or house: $38,900;• Students that cannot live on the campus and live in rented accommodation off-campus: $41,300.
'We are thrilled to be able to offer such comprehensive scholarship packages to our students and to make theological education accessible for all,' said Jacqueline Ballou, CPA, MBA vice president for Finance and Operations.
Any student electing to live off-campus when on-campus housing is available will not be eligible for housing accommodation but will be eligible to receive an award to cover tuition, fees, and meal plan. Each student will be required to present an annual budget of living expenses. This budget should clearly identify the sources that will be used to meet all other financial obligations during residency.
'Student debt has become a multi-generational burden,' added Dean Markham. 'VTS is in a fortunate position to make a difference. This is the right thing to do.'”
How can they afford all of that? They do have a $17 million operating budget but a $160 million endowment fund (gleaned from this story).

Over at Juicy Ecumenism back in 2014 we saw the early warning signs of problems at VTS.
"Giving to the Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) Annual Fund has dropped dramatically in recent years. In 2006, the Alexandria, Virginia-based school received $1,050,000 from parishes, alumni and other supporters. By Fiscal Year 2013, giving to the fund had been cut nearly in half, dropping to $538,000.VTS officials have not let the shortfall go unnoticed, with Markham making development of the Annual Fund a priority for Fiscal Year 2014."
So where is the hidden motive?

Juicy Ecumenism dropped a hint in the above article,
"Data provided from the Association of Theological Schools shows a total 2012-2013 enrollment of 250 in VTS, with 169 full-time students taking classes"
I thought I would update those numbers to look at the trend in enrollment by going to The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS) data base,
Fall 2010 Head count 241, Full time enrolled 171Fall 2018 Head Count 188, Full time enrolled 138 (From  here)
Falling enrollment is clearly the motivation behind the freebies.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

There Goes the Shellfish Argument

This Sunday's reading from Acts 11:1-18 will probably be ignored by Episcopalians who still use the argument that since we don't follow the Old Testament dietary laws, we are hypocrites when we argue for traditional male-female marriage using Jesus' standards and Paul's admonitions against homosexual activities.

Now the apostles and the brothers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised brothers criticized him, saying, ‘Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?’ Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, ‘I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” But I replied, “By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.” But a second time the voice answered from heaven, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, “Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.” And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?’ When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, ‘Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.’ 
 I know that crawfish were not specifically mentioned in Peter's vision, but I am going to eat some anyway at our annual boil next week. Heaven forgive me.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

"We are content to remain among the vulgar souls who believe the old doctrines of grace."

Charles Spurgeon wrote this 150 years ago and it still rings true today. I especially like the line,
"And may these bones be picked by vultures, and this flesh be rent in sunder by lions, and may every nerve in this body suffer pangs and tortures, ere these lips shall give utterance to any such doctrines or sentiments."

Here goes the extended quotation,

"Little did I think I should live to see this kind of stuff taught in pulpits. I had no idea that there would come out a divinity which would bring down God’s moral government from the solemn aspect in which Scripture reveals it, to a namby-pamby sentimentalism, which adores a Deity destitute of every masculine virtue.
But we never know today what may occur tomorrow. We have lived to see a certain sort of men.. who seek to teach nowadays that God is a universal Father, and that our ideas of His dealing with the impenitent as a Judge, and not as a Father, are remnants of antiquated error.
Sin, according to these men, is a disorder rather than an offence, an error rather than a crime. Love is the only attribute they can discern, and the full-orbed Deity they have not known.
Some of these men push their way very far into the bogs and mire of falsehood, until they inform us that eternal punishment is ridiculed as a dream.
In fact, books now appear, which teach us that there is no such thing as the Vicarious Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. They use the word Atonement, it is true, but in regard to its meaning, they have removed the ancient landmark.
They acknowledge that the Father has shown His great love to poor sinful man by sending His Son, but not that God was inflexibly just in the exhibition of His mercy, not that He punished Christ on the behalf of His people, nor that indeed God ever will punish anybody in His wrath, or that there is such a thing as justice apart from discipline.
Even sin and hell are but old words employed henceforth in a new and altered sense. Those are old-fashioned notions, and we poor souls who go on talking about election and imputed righteousness, are behind our time.
Ay, and the gentlemen who bring out books on this subject, applaud Mr. Maurice, and Professor Scott, and the like, but are too cowardly to follow them, and boldly propound these sentiments.
These are the new men whom God has sent down from heaven, to tell us that the apostle Paul was all wrong, that our faith is vain, that we have been quite mistaken, that there was no need for propitiating blood to wash away our sins; that the fact was, our sins needed discipline, but penal vengeance and righteous wrath are quite out of the question.
When I thus speak, I am free to confess that such ideas are not boldly taught by a certain individual whose volume excites these remarks, but as he puffs the books of gross perverters of the truth, I am compelled to believe that he endorses such theology.
Well, brethren, I am happy to say that sort of stuff has not gained entrance into this pulpit. I dare say the worms will eat the wood before there will be anything of that sort sounded in this place.
And may these bones be picked by vultures, and this flesh be rent in sunder by lions, and may every nerve in this body suffer pangs and tortures, ere these lips shall give utterance to any such doctrines or sentiments.
We are content to remain among the vulgar souls who believe the old doctrines of grace.
We are willing still to be behind in the great march of intellect, and stand by that unmoving cross, which, like the pole star, never advances, because it never stirs, but always abides in its place, the guide of the soul to heaven, the one foundation other than which no man can lay, and without building upon which, no man shall ever see the face of God and live."

--Charles H. Spurgeon, “Christ—Our Substitute,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, Volume 6 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1860), 6: 190.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Lord is My Shepherdess?

This Sunday's Psalm is the familiar and beloved 23rd, "The Lord is my Shepherd". I recently visited an Episcopal parish for a concert and learned that one of the works which the choir was planning to sing was the Bobby McFerrin feminized 23rd Psalm version, and they planned to do it again today for Mother's Day. He dedicated this to his mother, but that is no excuse for what he wrote,

The Lord is my Shepherd, I have all I need  
She makes me lie down in green meadows Beside the still waters, She will lead
She restores my soul, She rights my wrongs 
She leads me in a path of good things And fills my heart with songs
Even though I walk, through a dark and dreary land There is nothing that can shake me 
She has said She won't forsake me I'm in her hand
She sets a table before me, in the presence of my foes  
She anoints my head with oil And my cup overflows
Surely, surely goodness and kindness will follow me All the days of my life  
And I will live in her house Forever, forever and ever 
Glory be to our Mother, and Daughter And to the Holy of Holys  
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be World, without end
If I had done this for my mother, she would have smacked me and made me write the correct version of the 23rd Psalm one hundred times.

I spoke with one of the choir members who actually attends a real church,and who was only there to help out with the concert performance. She had not even noticed the words as she was concentrating on learning the notes to this piece and learning  the rest of the repertoire (all of which was quite traditional).

That is how revisionism works. Changes in words mean a great deal but usually go by unnoticed, slipped into something that otherwise seems traditional, subtly influencing attitudes and eventually beliefs.

I realize that Episcopalians do not care if they offend a lone traditionalist and cause them to walk out in the middle of a performance, but I am willing to bet that they would never allow an anthem based on Romans 1:25-27 to he sung under their roof for fear of offending one sinner. Not that anyone has composed an anthem with words like,
25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
I may have to pass this along to my musical friend Wallace Hartley to see if he will take up the challenge.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Justin Welby Apologizes?

For those of you who are outside the loop of Anglican chat, the latest controversy that has been abuzz concerns next year's Lambeth conference and similar to the last time one of these meetings of Anglican bishops rolled around, the issues are who got invited and who got their panties in a wad. 

The Archbishop of Canterbury makes the guest list, and this year he made the decision to dis-invite the same sex spouses of those bishops who are in same-sex "marriages". This action came up at a recent  meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) in Hong Kong in which Archbishop Justin Welby expressed his dilemma (as reported by the Church Times),

“The most painful part, to me, of the decisions that have to be made, is that I know that, at every moment that I write a letter or make a decision, I am making a decision about people — and that there is no decision that will result in nobody getting hurt.
“If I’d decided differently on the decision about same-sex spouses — and it hurt a lot of people, by the way — I would have hurt a huge number of people elsewhere in the Communion. And there wasn’t a nice solution which I looked and thought, ‘Nah, I don’t want to do that, I’ll take the nasty solution.’ It’s not as simple as that.”

The ACC was was not free to discuss what it wished, the Archbishop explained. Unlike the other instruments of the Communion, it was legally set up as an English company with charitable aims, governed by trust deeds which defined what it could and could not do. “Doctrine is not one of the issues that it does.”
Archbishop Welby has one foot on the pier and the other foot in the boat, a boat that is no longer securely moored.

What to do?

Apologize to anyone and everyone of course (as reported in the Episcopal News Service), 
The archbishop of Canterbury is known as the “focus of unity” for the ACC, Lambeth Conference and the Primates Meeting. In that spirit, Welby said it is his “fault and my responsibility” that certain people are upset because some people were invited to the 2020 Lambeth Conference and others were not. 
“It may be that at the end of time, I will understand that I got that wrong, and I will answer for it in one respect or another on the day of judgement,” he said. “Where I handled it badly, which I am sure I did, for one group or another, I want to apologize to you because I have not helped the communion, either for those who are concerned by who was invited or those who are concerned by who was not invited. 
“I ask your forgiveness where I made mistakes.”
Although he may not be sure to whom he is apologizing, at least he believes in the judgement day, which for the Anglican Communion is coming sooner rather than later.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

He put on some clothes, and then he jumped into the lake?

This Sunday's Gospel reading from  John 21:1-19 recalls the appearance of Jesus to seven of his disciples by the Sea of Tiberius.
After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We will go with you.’ They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ He said to them, ‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the lake. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.
When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’ (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’
Who goes fishing naked? Nobody these days, but back then it was pretty normal.

I don't know about you but it is hard for me to recognize someone or to hear them from a hundred yards away.  People have often assumed that the "disciple whom Jesus loved" was in fact John. Anyway, he tells Peter that it is Jesus, and Simon Peter was so confused that he put his clothes on before he went swimming.

Try swimming one hundred yard with your clothes on and you may get my point.

At least that's how I see it. Of course he could have put on his clothes out of respect for the Lord, but when he dragged himself out of the water, Peter would have looked like he came to meet Jesus fresh from a wet tunic contest.

Or maybe his clothes just needed a good wash.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Unthinking Anglicans

The other day I had an unexpected visitor. As I was tending to my garden, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I froze as I immediately recognized that tap. Turning slowly, I gazed up at my old embedded source, Deep Pew! "Pewster", he said, "You have to see what 'Thinking Anglicans' are up to across the pond. I think you will find that you have been sheltering yourself from vitriolic revisionists since you retired from the Episcopal wars." I invited Deep to step inside and guide me to this group, but he said that he had to run (which would have been a sight to see), and he jumped onto a waiting black sedan which departed with a cloud of CO2 and other gases belching from its tailpipe.

"Thinking Anglicans"? I remember being told too many times that Episcopalians didn't check their brains at the door of the church. The insinuation being that those fundamentalists down the street do.

As it turns out, "Thinking Anglicans" don't think like most Anglicans if they think at all. Witness their comments to ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach's refusal to be treated like a gentile by Archbishop Justin Welby.

"The Anglican Communion News Service has published a news article titled: Archbishop of Canterbury invites ecumenical observers to the Lambeth Conference. This reports that such invitations have gone to a much wider group of churches than at previous conferences.
It also says that:
In addition to leaders of Churches in Communion and ecumenical partners, representatives from Churches formed by people who left the Anglican Communion are also being invited to send observers. These churches – the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA), the Anglican Church of Brazil and the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa (REACH-SA) – are not formally part of the Anglican Communion but are recognised to different extents by some of the Communion’s provinces."

"This has provoked the following response from Archbishop Foley Beach of ACNA:

Yesterday I received a letter from Archbishop Justin just moments before the invitation was reported online. I read the online report first and was disappointed to see that the original 'news' source had furthered a partisan, divisive, and false narrative by wrongly asserting that I left the Anglican Communion. I have never left the Anglican Communion, and have no intention of doing so.
I did transfer out of a revisionist body that had left the teaching of the Scriptures and the Anglican Communion and I became canonically resident in another province of the Anglican Communion. I have never left. For the Anglican Church in North America to be treated as mere 'observers' is an insult to both our bishops, many of whom have made costly stands for the Gospel, and the majority of Anglicans around the world who have long stood with us as a province of the Anglican Communion.
Once I have had a chance to review this with our College of Bishops and the Primates Council of the Global Anglican Future Conference I will respond more fully."
The comments that followed from "Thinking Anglicans" illustrate the mindset of our opposition (I have removed the names to protect the guilty),

"Incredible how Foley Beach (the 'Archbishop', no less) has made this about him and his martyrdom for his “sacrifice.” I had assumed that Welby would do this, once he asked for ecumenical observers. Incredible the sense of false outrage, self-righteousness and entltlement on Foley’s part for public consumption. Wait for the GAFCON bishops to ride to his rescue. 'We didn’t leave, they left us' is their cry. Don’t forget that they left to ensure that the oppression of gay people and the enshrining of unAnglican conservative fundamentalism can be maintained within their church of judgement and exclusion. Not to mention trying to steal what wasn’t theirs. They always seem to be able to cry about injustice and persecution when things don’t go their way."
"To ensure the oppression of gay people"? "Enshrining unAnglican conservative fundamentalism"? That seems to prove the thesis that the "liberal" misnd is closed to Bible based theology while open to all innovations that feel good to them.

"It appears utter stupidity on the part of Welby to invite folk who still live in the dark ages, and do not want to express and feel the full love of God for themselves or those to whom they ‘minister’.
If I were a pessimist, which I am not, I would suggest it is a management ploy by Welby to increase the pressure on those Provinces who have moved forward in their expression of love for ALL God’s children, regardless of gender orientation."
Living in the "Dark Ages" eh? Well, I  guess that is an improvement over being called a knuckle dragging Neanderthal.
"Keep in mind that ACNA is playing a propaganda game within the Communion, aimed specifically at their GAFCON allies. They import African bishops to do their ordaining and Foley is now one of the top players in GAFCON. ACNA is campaiging to be regarded as THE Anglican entity in the United States, if not North America, displacing the recognized Churches already in the Communion. This has always been their stated goal. Even to admit that they are not “in the Communion” (and they are not) is for them a loss of their propaganda message and the claims they have made. Welby should have seen this coming."
Displacing the recognized churches has always been ACNA's goal? Sorry, but I think the goal is to form biblical Anglicans who can face the brave new world created by secularism and revisionism.
"Nobody excommunicated ACNA, unlike King Henry. They left voluntarily because they were no longer allowed to force their opinions on the rest of their church. They may resent that, but it is what happened."
No, the opinions that were forced down our throats were that same-sex couplings are a blessing from God and deserve to be celebrated with a bishopric, a rite of blessing, and a marriage ceremony.

If anyone can explain this next one, please let me know,
"Foley Beach -.'I never left the Anglican Communion' has the stamp of the Gafcon/Foca/Acna sodality, which did not exactly sleepwalk into secession from the world-wide Anglican Communion. The real problem here is that the ABC is still obviously under the impression that ACNA-ites will be very keen to take up their Invitation To Lambeth, but what good will it prove to be for loyal Anglicans around the world, for whom this ‘Cuckoo in the Nest’ is seen to be a backdoor route to ACNA’s claim to Anglican Orthodoxy?"
Somewhere in all of that non-thinking one sane voice commented,
"Rather than say 'they were no longer allowed to force their opinions on the rest of their church', you could say that they held fast to the teachings of Anglicanism, which had been accepted for centuries."
That comment did not gain any traction.

I guess nobody thought very much about it.

"Unthinking Anglicans" might be a better name for this group.

"Devil's Henchmen" might be even better.