Sunday, August 31, 2008

God Calling

The Original Hotline

Mary Cat focused on God's call for today's sermon. Overall, she did a good job, although we did not get any enlightenment on Romans 12 9-31.
I sure would like some help with 19-20,
"19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God;* for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ 20 No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’"

This struck me as still being in the spirit of vengeance particularly that part about heaping burning coals on their heads through acts of kindness, and also transferring vengeance to the Lord is not the same as abolishing it from the heart.

Vengeance is such a typical human response to being wronged (and very Roman) that the writer of Romans 12 needed to explain how Christians should behave in such situations. How he got there is the unsaid part of the snippet we read on Sunday. I can only conclude it was by the example of Christ that such an unnatural response as "feed them," or "give them something to drink" could be instructed regarding one's enemies.
In this respect Christianity has something in common with the eastern religions and the principle of Ahimsa. The notion of carrying the principle of non-violence into the realm of law, justice, and politics has been the part that has been most difficult for all of the world's religions that dare to preach the principle as we have been instructed in Romans 12.

To illustrate this point witness the violence against Christians in India this past week.

WWGD (What would Gandhi Do?)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Jewish Clause

No, not that Claus, I said "clause."

Talk about conditionality, did you see this article by Tim Murphy on the "marry Jewish or else" clause in one man's will?

In a 2-1 decision, a state appeals court on June 30 upheld a lower court ruling that a provision in a will known as the "Jewish clause" was "unenforceable" and "contrary to state policies."

Before he died in 1986, Max Feinberg stipulated in his will that any grandchild who married a non-Jew would be considered "deceased" for the purposes of his inheritance. The death of his wife in 2003 triggered a series of lawsuits among descendants, all of which ultimately rested on the legal merits of the so-called Jewish clause.

Writing for the majority, Appellate Judge Joy V. Cunningham cited state-wide judicial precedent in affirming the lower court decision, while acknowledging that other courts nationally have ruled otherwise.

"The provision's clear intent was to influence the marriage decisions of Max's grandchildren based on a religious criterion and thus to discourage marriage by the grandchildren other than to those of the Jewish faith," Cunningham stated.

In a concurring opinion, Judge Patricia J. Quinn warned that allowing the Jewish clause to stand would open the door to bigotry.

The lone dissenting voice on the bench, Judge Alan Greiman, framed the clause as merely an attempt by the Feinbergs to "preserve their 4,000-year-old heritage."

4000 years of heritage? Maybe he has come up with the "Greiman Chronology."

According to Wikipedia,
Israel as a new, established ethnic group is generally thought to have consolidated in the twelfth century BCE,[32] although some archaeologists, notably Israel Finkelstein, reject the claim that Israel was a coalition of oppressed peoples, arguing that the emergence of the Jewish people as a distinct ethnos did not occur until the ninth or eighth century BCE.[33]

That calculates to 2900-3200 years of heritage, close, but maybe the judge is following theRoman Martyrology and calculating the date from Abraham,

In the twenty-fourth day of the month of December;

In the year five-thousand one-hundred and ninety-nine from the creation of the world, when in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth;

In the year two-thousand nine-hundred and fifty-seven from the flood;

In the year two-thousand and fifty-one from the birth of Abraham;

In the year one-thousand five-hundred and ten from the going forth of the people of Israel out of Egypt under Moses;

In the year one-thousand and thirty-two from the anointing of David as king;

In the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel;

In the one-hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;

In the year seven-hundred and fifty-two from the foundation of the city of Rome;

In the forty-second year of the reign of the Emperor Octavian Augustus;

In the sixth age of the world, while the whole earth was at peace— JESUS CHRIST eternal God and the Son of the eternal Father, willing to consecrate the world by His gracious coming, having been conceived of the Holy Ghost, and the nine months of His conception being now accomplished, (all kneel) was born in Bethlehem of Judah of the Virgin Mary, made man. The birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to the flesh.

So is it 7200 years from Creation, 4000 years from Abraham, 2900-3200 per Wikipedia? Or do you have a favorite chronology?

Digging deeper, UP

Sunday, August 24, 2008

On the History of Authority

I must say that today's sermon from Fr. Foss is probably beyond my authority to critique, but that has never stopped me before, so here goes nothing.
As I heard it, the rector started by giving us the history of empire as he understands it:

Authorities and Empires fall (no mention of cause and effect).

Then exercising his right as an authority, he cast America as the authority figure Pharaoh and predicted the fall of (here it comes again) the "American Empire" in the next 100-200 years.

And you thought the Episcopal Church was a non-prophet organization.

Then, we jumped back to the next authority mentioned in today's readings in Matthew 16:13-20, "Petros" (AKA the Catholic Church), the infallible Bishop of Rome and his measly 2000 year dynasty. We then bounced up to the Protestant Reformation, Luther, and the rapid splintering of Protestantism into "37,000" sects in part because of the notion of the "infallible" Bible. (What about the printing press, literacy, and those people translating Bibles?)

The next prophesy we heard was that at some point in the future the "infallible" Bible will be history and a new age will be born. In this future age we will actually live with God as the authority. This time was described as a cozy Church family of congregants doing good because that was all that one need do. Somehow we bypassed how to get from point "A" to point "B" without studying the Bible, and no mention of how Jesus might get us to point "B" (I guess it was assumed that we already knew that).

Charlie did not directly cite today's reading from Romans 12:1-8, but you can rest assured the lines,
"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-- what is good and acceptable"

must be the only thing we were to hear as authoritative today. (And don't dare read ahead to Romans 13.)

So why all the BCP mumbo jumbo. Why the Eucharist?

If I was lost before, to whom and or to what am I to turn? Forget the Bible, it's a fallible construct of man. I am lost in the desert and left to my mind's devices. Maybe I should call Sears and order an idol of a golden calf. If I do not refer back to the Biblical history of the Hebrews what will stop me?

I think Charlie wandered way off the orthodox path and my fear is that someone might follow him.
The following perspective from the CoE newspaper may sound more authoritative than my rant,
"A Church under judgement"

Source: Church of England Newspaper, August 22 edition, pg. 23
By Andrew Carey

"At the recent Lambeth Conference I had a couple of conversations with so-called 'conservative' Americans, both amongst the press and the bishops. I was even able to give the Bishop of Springfield (no relation to 'The Simpsons') some pointers on the rules of cricket as we snatched five minutes in the bar to watch England being clinically defeated by South Africa.

Their depressing and urgent situation in The Episcopal Church becomes ever clearer over time, despite all of the efforts of their liberal church leaders to try and persuade the rest of the Anglican Communion that really we're just like you. Close watchers of the US, and readers of this newspaper, will be more aware than most of the state of that Church. Heterodoxy is never punished, whereas orthodox impatience is the subject of lawsuits all over the country. And the amount of heterodoxy uttered in The Episcopal Church is truly astonishing. Even leaving aside the virtual atheism of Bishop Spong's 'Twelve Theses', we've had bishops claim that the church can 're-write the Bible', others make sweeping apologies for Christian mission to those of other faiths, while the Presiding Bishop views Jesus as just one way among many.

Furthermore, they've had scandals the likes of which would destroy the Church of England in the eyes of the world, with our much more effective national press conducting the funeral rites. They've had thrice-divorced bishops, a child-abusing bishop, as well as one who's covered up sex abuse by his brother, a priest. There's been a drug-dealing priest, others who've been exposed in a pornographic magazine for engaging in bizarre sex with Brazilians. This is truly only the tip of the iceberg. Any one or two of these cases would have been a national scandal in Britain, in the US it's only a few column inches.

With whole parishes and dioceses deserting the national Church amid such widespread heterodoxy and scandal, followed by a wave of litigation and squabbling over property, it's impossible to see The Episcopal Church as anything other than a disaster area. If there ever was a Church under the judgment of God, it is this one."

I accept that God is the final authority. I do not accept the notion that you can be a Christian congregation without Biblical and earthly authorities. And I know well the need to question authority and I accept the consequences of raising these questions.
Lack of authority in the Episcopal Church is one reason behind the fall of the Episcopal Empire (which was one empire not mentioned today).

We left the Church singing "O Zion, Haste" Following the instructions in the hymn, I publish it here.
O Zion, haste, thy mission high fulfilling,
to tell to all the world that God is Light;
that he who made all nations is not willing
one soul should fail to know his love and might.
Publish glad tidings: tidings of peace
tidings of Jesus, redemption and release.

Behold how many thousands still are lying
bound in the darksome prison house of sin,
with none to tell them of the Savior's dying,
or of the life he died for them to win. Refrain

'Tis thine to save from peril of perdition
the souls for whom the Lord his life laid down;
beware lest, slothful to fulfill thy mission,
thou lose one jewel that should deck his crown. Refrain

Proclaim to every people, tongue, and nation
that God, in whom they live and move, is Love;
tell how he stooped to save his lost creation,
and died on earth that all might live above. Refrain

Give of thy sons to bear the message glorious;
give of thy wealth to speed them on their way;
pour out thy soul for them in prayer victorious
till God shall bring his kingdom's joyful day. Refrain

He comes again! O Zion, ere thou meet him,
make known to every heart his saving grace;
let none whom he hath ransomed fail to greet him,
through thy neglect, unfit to see his face. Refrain

Words: Mary Ann Faulkner Thomson, 1870

But by what authority can I publish glad tidings in this new age without my fallible Bible? The new age religion, by it's rejection of the Bible is not going to have any authority with which to help people find The Way. There will be "none to tell them of the Savior's dying."

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Today the congregation of ECOOS split divided itself between those willing to go to the annual parish picnic and those who stayed at the parish hall for the 8:00 and 10:30 morning services. This presents the congregant with a smorgasbord of religious choices. From guitar to organ music, from Charlie Foss to Bobby Dunbar preaching, from improvised Eucharistic rites to approved rites. We even had missing text in the bulletins and another "Episcopal Life" insert. This insert purporting to explain the Anglican Covenant and also including the PB's letter to us after the Lambeth Conference where she wrote,
"The Anglican Communion is suffering the birth pangs of something new..."
I imagine that her idea of something new
is different from mine.
Sometimes, you have to ignore certain selections from the smorgasbord.

In the words of the Swedish Chef, "Yorn desh born, der ritt de gitt der gue. Orn desh, dee born desh, de umn bork! Bork! Bork!"

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What do Buddhists and Episcopalians have in Common?

In March 2008 WSOC reported that trouble was brewing at a local Buddhist temple.
On Tuesday July 22, 2008 the Charlotte Observer followed up as the story continues to unfold. This is all starting to sound that sounded eerily familiar to the problems in the Episcopal Church. The Observer article did not get posted on-line but the author e-mailed the story to one of our spies for reference. Here is what Tim Funk, Faith & Values Reporter for The Charlotte Observer reported (I have highlighted some of the parallels and shortened the story slightly),
By Tim Funk

More than 50 local Laotian Buddhists - including some monks - gathered with picket signs uptown on Monday to protest the closing of their temple off Freedom Drive.

The demonstration was the latest skirmish in an internal war, pitting the monks and their supporters in the congregation against the president and board of the Laotian Culture Center of North Carolina. The center, a nonprofit organization, owns the 30-plus acre site that includes the temple, with its statues of the Buddha, as well as buildings where monks lived and meditated, a pond, a columbarium and areas for social gatherings.

In recent years, the two sides have fought for control by filing competing lawsuits. The center's president, Syma Inthanonh, was even arrested on a charge of kidnapping one of the monks - a case the Mecklenburg County District Attorney's office recently decided to drop.

On Monday, the protesters complained that they have not been able to worshipp at the temple - or visit the ashes of their dead relatives - since June 18, when the entrance was padlocked and blocked by felled trees.

Hoping to get help, they marched past government buildings with signs reading "Public Officials, Please Investigate Non-Profit Organization" and "Temple Property 'Paid Off,' Members No Longer Welcome."

And they chanted: "Give the monks back their home."

"The community is not satisfied with the leadership (of the Laotian Culture Center)," said Sac Bounphasaysol, network engineer at Wachovia who spoke for the protesters. "All we ask is a fair election to vote out the leader ...and move in the right direction."

He and others charged that the center's leadership has embezzled funds, mistreated the monks and divided Charlotte's 3,000 Laotians.

Inthanonh, the center's president, could not be reached for comment. But his Charlotte attorney, Ken Andresen, called the accusations against his client "nonsense" and said most of the protesters "are being used" by a cabal trying to steal the land owned by the nonprofit center.

"What happened today was a continuation of the charade ...toward the goal of stealing my client's property," Andresen said. "(The protesters) have no rights whatsoever to that land or the buildings."

Just substitute "Orthodox Episcopalians" for "Laotian Buddhists," and "Episcopal Church USA" for "non-profit organization" or for "leadership" and a few bells might go off. Okay, so no bells went off? A good summary of the legal actions of late in the Episcopal Church was posted by the Anglican Curmudgeon.


"Not by hate is hate defeated;
Hate is quenched by love.
This is the eternal law."

Dhammapada 5


The words of our Lord in Luke 6:29,

"Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again."

It seems to me that we in T.E.C. are more like our Buddhist brothers and sisters, at least in our blind eye to scriptures, than I thought. And we have been know to have Buddhist healing services (recall the Buddhist healing ceremonies held in Trinity Episcopal Church in Sacramento).

If anyone should ask, "What is the difference between us and them?" this interesting Dalai Lama quote on the subject from might help,
Shortly before the Holy Father's visit to St. Patrick's Cathedral in 1979, the Dalai Lama was greeted there. A monsignor in the receiving line recalls his encounter with the Buddhist patriarch: The Dalai Lama approached him, gazed into his eyes, and queried, "Father, do you know the difference between you and me?"

"No, Your Holiness," replied the monsignor.

"You believe in a personal God," the Dalai Lama observed, "and I do not."

Oh yes, if you clicked on the link in the title, you will learn where to buy,
"The Shambhala Christ Cross represents the Manifestation of the Cosmic Christ in a physical body on Earth, and the blessing of Christ's sacrifice for humanity to help us attain our Soul. As the Teacher who teaches Solar Principles, Christ in incarnation is the doorway, the provider of Cosmic Light on Earth. The office of Christ is a governing body, a protective reality where in virtue one receives Sanctuary, Refuge and Regeneration. The Shambhala Christ Cross Radiator connects to these relationships, magnetically aligning to the throat and opening up all the centers between the heart and throat." HH Buddha Maitreya

The Shambala Cross Radiator must be a little like "This little light of mine..."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sink or Swim

Fr. Foss delivered today's sermon focusing on Matthew 14:22-33. After treading water a while, we wandered into a sermon about Charlie's issues with the KJV which reads as follows:
22 "And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.
23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.
24 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.
25 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.
27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.
33 Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God."

I do not have an issue with that.

I think Charlie felt that the KJV translation painted Jesus as an imperial, imposing figure, particularly so in verse 31, or something like this,
When I read verse 31 KJV, and I give Jesus a gentle voice, the impression changes. Of course, this is me inserting my mind's desired voice. For, if the wind was "boisterous," Jesus would have had to use a loud voice to even be heard.

Charlie did not think the KJV was positive enough, and perhaps the newer translations corrected that problem, but the Charlie Foss version had a stronger image of Peter's love for Jesus. I got the impression that the new picture should look something like this,

It matters not which picture is used, the story has been one that has saved countless souls since Peter. On a personal note, just this week, someone witnessed to me the positive effect this story had on them during a very difficult time in their life. The story, for most adults stands on it's own as a Biblical gem that we can reflect upon whenever we fear we are sinking. For at those times, it gives us the positive message of hope that "Jesus will stretch forth His hand" and save us.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Reflections are Meant to be Broken

h/t to StandFirm

One interesting "reflection" coming from Lambeth 2008 was the "Moratoria"
From Lambeth Indaba Reflections of August 3, 2008:

"145. The moratoria cover three separate but related issues: ordinations of persons living in a same gender union to the episcopate; the blessing of same-sex unions; cross-border incursions by bishops. There is widespread support for moratoria across the Communion, building on those that are already being honoured. The moratoria can be taken as a sign of the bishops’ affection, trust and goodwill towards the Archbishop of Canterbury and one another. The moratoria will be difficult to uphold, although there is a desire to do so from all quarters. There are questions to be clarified in relation to how long the moratoria are intended to serve. Perhaps the moratoria could be seen as a “season of gracious restraint”. In relation to moratorium 2 (the blessing of same-sex unions) there is a desire to clarify precisely what is proscribed. Many differentiate between authorised public rites, rather than pastoral support. If the Windsor process is to be honoured, all three moratoria must be applied consistently."

Now this from "August 3, 2008 NY Times,
"Rebecca Anne Binder, the daughter of Dr. Martha Connell and Dr. Jack Binder of Scarsdale, N.Y., was married on Saturday to Amanda Elizabeth Laws, the daughter of Oneida Méndez-Laws and the Rev. Thomas Laws of Montclair, N.J. Ms. Binder’s father, who was authorized by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, officiated at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Charlestown, Mass., where Ms. Laws’s father, an Episcopal priest, participated in a blessing ceremony."

And this from jolly old England on August 4, 2008,
"A retired vicar has 'married' his former gardener in a civil partnership ceremony after receiving the blessing of his bishop.

The Reverend Canon Rodney Bomford, 65, and Paddy O'Neil invited friends and family to the celebration at the home they share.
The couple were said to have been given approval by the church after convincing officials their relationship was not sexual.
The union will be seen by many members of the Church of England as an embarrassment, coinciding with a call yesterday by the Archbishop of Canterbury for an Anglican rulebook to keep the Church of England and its warring sister churches together"

And lastly, Bishop Andrus' open refusal,
"In not abiding by the moratorium on same-sex blessings I take it as incumbent on me and on us in the Diocese to actively labor to both understand the position of those to whom that moratorium is important, and to convey the reality of our life together to the world. I must redouble my efforts at inhabiting a deeper unity."

Reflections are meant to be broken, but remember the 7 years of bad luck you get when you break a mirror.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

You Can Go Your Own Way

Fr. Dunbar delivered today's sermon by starting off with a few words about polygamy because the old testament reading talked about Jacob having two wives. Fr. Dunbar used this as a segue to the issue of polygamy in certain parts of the Anglican communion, specifically Africa. He did say that polygamist converts to Christianity were not made to choose between spouses and drop one or more upon becoming Christians, but they were expected to take no more spouses. What he failed to mention was that the polygamist converts were not up in arms demanding a blessing of their relationships, nor did we hear about them conducting a self justifying mini-Lambeth 2008 tour (unlike a certain Bishop from N.H.).
Bobby then proceeded with the main sermon which to my ear focused on Jesus' command to "follow me," I got the impression from the sermon that following Jesus might be a personal quest for the truth. This left me thinking about following Christ as a group, as a Church. Of course, the ongoing Lambeth Conference brings to mind how much Anglicans disagree on what it means to follow Jesus.
Bobby also mentioned our Creeds which were developed by corporate means as an expression of what we believe.

Now this is where it gets tricky for some Christians. Are the creeds what you believe, are they what people used to believe, or are they a compromise, a sort of "what most of us believe?"

Let's go back to the "Follow me" command. While this is a personal call it is also a corporate one. Jesus called followers, and they had to work together to understand Him. No one was singled out as the follower who had all the answers. That is where we remain to this day. I will never have all the answers if I go the self realization route. We need one another to be able understand our Lord, but the nature of human interaction, our love of argument, our vain intellectualism, and our pride keep getting in the way. We need to agree on the common ground, and when we disagree we should be humble and accept what "We in the Anglican communion believe," and not fall prey to the provincialism of "We in TEC believe such and such and we don't care what they believe."

This past week the other Bishop in SC, Mark Lawrence made reference to T.E.C.s rejection of other opinions when he wrote,
"To suddenly now take refuge in our provincial polity and resist the Instruments of Unity as they attempt to mend the bonds of affection—strained and broken by the actions of TEC—is bad enough. But more grievous still, to resist the covenant is to thwart the Anglican Communion’s appointment with a God-given destiny. Such retreat into provincialism is the wrong response to this present crisis….To embrace the covenant will not only strengthen the bonds of affection, it will further our mission in Jesus Christ—helping us to live respectfully and responsibly with one another. It brings the inspiration that comes from a godly responsibility freely embraced…."

This to me is the real schism that people are talking about. It is the schism of the Episcopal Church leaving the world wide Anglican community and "going it's own way."