Monday, August 31, 2009

ELCA Lutherans and Episcopalians Together in Christ!

There are different ways of coping with church controversies. There is the walk away to save your soul and the souls of your family approach, there is the stay and fight to your last breath approach, and then there is what I consider to be a non-political approach of staying and testifying to the Word of God as revealed in Christ and Scripture. This last approach requires perseverance in the face of prosecution and constant prayer. The last approach inevitably draws even the non-political into a political fray because it demands testifying, and it is impossible to follow the Lord by withdrawing completely from the company of man forever (going to the mountain alone to pray from time to time is okay, Luke 6:12).

This ad appeared Sunday in our local newspaper, The Herald. It was signed by several men of the cloth from our region. Sadly, none of these churches are in our fair city of Rock Hill, SC. I have added links to the Biblical and historical references and made one minor correction where the word "to" was left out (highlighted in red).

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are writing as individuals to disassociate ourselves from certain actions taken at the recently concluded General Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the General Convention of The Episcopal Church (TEC). We believe that by their actions, the ELCA and TEC have abandoned the authority and plain teaching of Holy Scripture; overturned two thousand years of Christian thought and teaching; and sought to conform the church to this world/age instead of discerning the will of God (Romans 12:2)

In response to these actions, we wish to affirm that:

* Jesus Christ is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (John 14:6) and that "there is salvation in no one else" (Acts 4:12).

* We believe the Holy Scriptures to be God's Word written and to "contain all things necessary for salvation." In addition, we feel that "it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God's Word written" (Article XX - Articles of Religion).

* The ideal set forth by God in Holy Scripture for human sexuality is found within the bounds of Holy Matrimony between one man and one woman, or chastity in the single state. And if this be the case, the church cannot bless relationships outside of this standard, and ought not ordain those whose lifestyle does not conform (to) this standard.

We call upon all men, women and children to put on the Gospel armor, especially taking the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:10-17). We call upon all ordained ministers to heed what Jesus says to us, lest we miss our eternal commendation from the Lord (Matthew 5:19, Luke 12:48b). We call upon all Christians to heed the words of the Apostles (Acts 5:29b).

We acknowledge our own sinfulness and the need we have for repentance and amendment of life. We rejoice that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom we are chief (1Timothy 1:15). As we do believe that since all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God (Romans 3:23), all are welcome to join us in the fellowship of the church and we invite everyone, regardless of who you are, to come and worship with us.

Finally, we ask for your prayers (Ephesians 6:19-20) as we continue to preach the Gospel in this portion of the vineyard.

In Christ's love and service,

The Rev. Robert Gaillard Kirkland
Rector, The Church of the Good Shepherd (Episcopal), York, SC

The Rev. Chearles Aurand
Pastor, Abiding Presence Lutheran Church, York, SC

Pastor R.E. Lybrand Jr.
Lake Wylie Lutheran Church, Tega Cay, SC

The Rev. Kenneth "Corky" Spitler
St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Gaffney, SC

Lord bless these clergymen. Lead them and teach them; "Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day." Psalm 25 v.5.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

"We Do Not Believe in the Bible"

Would any of you clergy types out there include this soundbite in your Sunday sermon, "We Do Not Believe in the Bible."? Would any of you pewsitters have a problem with it?

The soundbite was part of a longer rant by our self admitted liberal rector on why he is upset when people quote scripture to him to defend "prejudice" by daring to deny ordination to any of the baptized, in particular non-celibate homosexuals. Our rector launched his sermon from Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23 (see the missing verses at the bottom of this post). Today's Gospel provided the perfect segue for the horrendous liberal assault that spewed forth from the pulpit today using a classic liberal tactic to label conservatives as modern day Pharisees and hypocrites. Our rector twisted the Gospel message into a sermon supporting the decisions of first the Episcopal church and then the ELCA (of whom he is soooo proud) to accept non-celibate homosexuals into the ranks of ordained ministry. Included in this particularly odious piece of finger pointing oratory were important looks into the pernicious undermining of God's Word by those sworn to uphold it.

Number one is how the claims of "justice" trump scripture. This starts with a mistaken idea that the recommendations of scripture are burdensome, discriminatory rules. To the liberal mind, such rules are meant to be broken as Jesus' disciples did when they ate without washing their hands, and Jesus backed them up. Sorry Charlie, you can't use the Bible to justify throwing out the Bible.

Number two is the way the liberal preacher must cover his ears and shake his head vigorously when anyone uses scriptural sources to discuss the issues of marriage or qualifications for ordained ministry. Our rector spells the liberal technique out in total clarity, he refuses to listen.

Number three is to use the dog collar and the pulpit to accuse the world of being close minded finger waggers. You know the old, "You can't do that because that is not what the Bible says" type of finger wagging. Those people are bad. The rector got incredibly animated today and on numerous occasions shook his finger at the crowd to demonstrate this point. Sorry Charlie, don't wag your finger when complaining about finger waggers.

Number four is to call people names or mock those opposed to your personal desires. This rector desires to perform same sex blessings. There are people who would oppose this and the ordination of active homosexuals on Biblical grounds. Lacking a Biblical basis himself, the liberal preacher must indirectly call those opposed to his personal feelings Pharisees, hypocrites, and prejudiced.

Number five is to reject the authority of scripture by casting doubt on Biblical truths, and then confuse the congregation by saying that you believe in the living word. The liberal preacher may think but should never, never say out loud, "We Don't Believe in the Bible," because even if he tries to contextualize it by saying that he believes in the living word, he will still lose a good portion of the congregation. Of course, the liberal preacher should not concern himself with parishioners who vote with their feet. To the liberal preacher, the church is a better place without those Bible thumpers.

Today's ravings from the pulpit came before a crowd of visitors and guests who were present to witness a double baptism. There will be repercussions. The conservative fraction of the church will continue to be driven out. Next year's budget will proportionately decrease. Today, a mild family of pewsitters told me that something had to be done. I am afraid that nothing will happen, and the rector will have a free reign to continue in this cattle drive because he knows we are under the rule of a lame duck bishop, and that he has the support of those who gave him a loud "Amen" at the end of today's sermon. I, for one, will remain constant in prayer, and when I pass the Holy Book sitting on the back of the large brass eagle in the front of the church, I will say out loud, "I believe!" Will there be anyone left who will change that "I believe" into a "We believe!"?

In the recent profile of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina the question of whether or not we believe in the Bible was not included. If it had been, I wonder how people would have responded. As I recall, there was one question in the survey that was similar.

#18. I believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and
New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to
contain all things necessary for salvation.

62 % Strongly Agree
24 % Somewhat Agree
4 % No Opinion
7 % Somewhat Disagree
3 % Strongly Disagree

I pray that today's sermon from our rector did nothing to sway the 86% who agree.

Mark 7:9-13,16-20
9 Then he said to them, ‘You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! 10 For Moses said, “Honour your father and your mother”; and, “Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.” 11 But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, “Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban” (that is, an offering to God)— 12 then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.’

17 When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 He said to them, ‘Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, 19 since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?’ (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, ‘It is what comes out of a person that defiles.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Please Pray for the Bishop of Faisalabad

From Religious Intelligence George Conger reports:

"The First Information Reports or FIRs were filed this week by the Punjabi police against the Rt. Rev. John Samuel, the Church of Pakistan’s Bishop of Faisalabad and 28 other Christians, in retaliation for complaints of police incompetence in the wake of the attacks on Christians in the town of Gojra that left ten dead and destroyed three churches and over 100 homes.

FIRs have also been registered against 100 unnamed Pakistani Christians charging them as co-conspirators in the attacks."

A man who understands persecution, the Bishop...
"...would remain in the town and was ready to be 'prosecuted for the glory and for the work of Jesus Christ.'

'I daily receive threats through phone calls from unknown numbers,' he said, and reported this to the police. However, the police are 'not paying attention to us and they are just favouring the persons who are responsible' for the attacks.

Bishop Samuel has urged Christians around the world to 'please pray for us and also do something for my family because we are in great trouble.'"

Prayer ascending for the Bishop and Christians of Pakistan.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Summer Reading Report

Does anyone remember having assigned summer reading back when they were in school? My mother often helped me out when I questioned the reasoning behind the selection of some of the books. When I complained about having to read "Nine Coaches Waiting," she patiently explained that my English teacher probably wrote a paper about that book, and as a consequence, the teacher did not have to do much preparation to discuss the story, and since the teacher knew it backwards and forwards, I had better read the whole thing. So, obeying my mother, I choked it down, and I hated it.

Thankfully, those school days are over. These days, I am left to my own devices when choosing what and when to read. Unfortunately, this places me in the role of being my own teacher, and that is not a wise choice of leadership. I pray that the Lord will lead me to good reading material. An interesting thread at StandFirm in Faith is available for those who wish to have a peek at the reading habits of others. There are a number of good suggestions there.

These days there are a number of good summer reads coming in the form of Internet publications. In the Summer 2009 edition of "Knowing and Doing," a publication of the C.S. Lewis Institute I was blessed to read,

C.S. Lewis and the Case Against Subjectivism
by Jerry Root, Ph.D. Adjunct Professor, Christian Formation and Ministry, Wheaton College

His paper is just 4 pages long, and even this simple pewster can follow his reasoning and even take away a few pearls. Here is one that shows up on page two of the .pdf file.
"Humility and honesty allow one to reason in community in ways that add perspective and corporate understanding. Evil, on the other hand, is destined to manifest itself in a culture leaning in the direction of subjectivism. Once an objective standard for morality is neglected, there is no longer any means for a proper appeal to objective reality whenever disputes arise; that is, there is no longer a way to settle disputes. Harmony is lost because the culture has no common tuning fork by which that harmony might be achieved."

Read the whole thing. Enjoy, and support the C.S. Lewis Institute!

P.S. After drafting this post, the subject of objective truth and how impossible it might be to discuss anything with those who deny such a thing came up over at the Anglican Curmudgeon's site. I commented on something that may pertain to this post as well. Here goes something,
During my lunch break, I chanced upon this collect in the 1928 BCP. I think it ties in with the subject of your post.

Offices of Instruction

O ALMIGHTY God, Who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men; Grant unto thy people, That they may love the thing which thou commandest, And desire that which thou dost promise; That so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, Our hearts may surely there be fixed, Where true joys are to be found; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Curmudgeon points out that this collect is also in the 1979 BCP, as the "traditional" collect for the Fifth Sunday in Lent, p. 167.

(Be watchful for future BCP revisions to see if the "traditional collects" survive the revision.)

So, the summer reading questions for your book report presentation to the class are the following,
1. Is there an objective standard for morality?
2. Where is it to be found?
3. Is it contained in the Bible?
4. Is the Bible the Word of God?

Sorry class, but the teacher has probably written a paper about the subject, or at least a blog post, so, as Momma said, "You'd better read the whole Thing."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Where Else Can We Go.

Guess which verse was omitted from this Sunday's lectionary selection from Joshua 24?

A.) I gave you a land on which you had not laboured, and towns that you had not built, and you live in them; you eat the fruit of vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.

B.) ‘Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.

If you selected A, you win the prize.

When I began, I didn't know if this would have anything to do with the rest of today's post. I just happened to like verse A and missed it.

Today our recently ordained deacon, Rick Hanners, gave his first sermon to the congregation of ECOOS. He must have had the jitters because he admittedly read part of last week's Gospel, and in so doing left out the following verses from today's reading from John 6:56-69:
60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’
61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, ‘Does this offend you?
62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?
63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
64 But among you there are some who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him.
65 And he said, ‘For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.’
66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.

In his sermon, he focused on the last lines of the Gospel for today,
So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’

By keeping the Gospel at the center, Rick got me to thinking of a connection between the missing verses and his sermon. So here is my crack at it, in as few words as possible.

God has given us the Word made flesh, this is the land He has cleared, the vineyard He has planted. We, like the twelve, have a choice. To live in this land of His, as presented in the Gospels, or to seek life elsewhere.

There is another approach people try. Hoping to follow but unwilling to submit to Him, they try to re-write the Word to fit into a land of their own making. This is the path TEC and now the ELCA have taken.

Rick's approach appears to be Gospel centered. So far so good. Now if we can just get him to work on his sermons' length...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hang Out the Washing on the Columbia (SC) Line

Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Diocese of South Carolina gave an address to his clergy on August 13, 2009. The full text may be found at Kendall Harmon's blog, TitusOneNine. Read it all.

In the past, I have heard disparaging remarks about the Diocese of South Carolina coming from the mouth of one self professed liberal clergyman of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina. Yes Virginia, there are two Episcopal Dioceses in SC, and they appear to be growing apart.

First, guess which Bishop, +Lawrence (a) or +Henderson (b) said the following:
"We face a multitude of false teachings, which like an intrusive vine, is threatening The Episcopal Church as we have inherited and received it from our ancestors. I have called this the false Gospel of Indiscriminate Inclusivity because I see a common pattern in how the core doctrines of our faith are being systematically deconstructed."

Answer: (a).

Next, which Bishop wrote the following:

"...recent secular news reporting on the Episcopal Church has been filled with inaccuracies and misleading phrases..."

Answer: (b).

Ya'll are doing great! So who wrote this:
"At the last three General Conventions I have been concerned about the lack of Eucharists according to the rites in the Book of Common Prayer. Even this I might be able to overlook if the rites that were employed were not so devoid of references to God the Father. In more than a few of these worship services the only reference to God the Father actually in the liturgy was the Lord’s Prayer. In the name of inclusion there’s the perception by some (a variant of radical feminism I suppose) that the references to the Father, and the pronoun 'he' is some lingering patriarchal holdover. Yet it has always intrigued me that in all of the Hebrew Scriptures there are only a handful of references to God as Father. If one wants to locate the authority of the Church to worship God as Father one need look no further than Jesus himself. It was he who called God 'Abba' and taught the disciples to prayer 'Our Father.' Frankly, if Jesus got that one so wrong, why should we turn to him for anything?"

Answer: (a).

How about this:
"The new spirit began early and gradually built so that, by the close of Convention even the most liberal and the most conservative in the House of Bishops took to the floor to acknowledge and to express gratitude—even awe—to God, to each other, and to the Presiding Bishop. Each one noted, although in different words, the growing spirit moving among us, prompting us to listen, respect, and honor each other. I believe we came to recognize more clearly that, in fact, we are indispensable parts of a Church united in purpose. Perhaps I repeat myself, but we discovered common ground even when we were dealing with the most sensitive of matters."

Answer: (b).

How about his one:
"As some within TEC are busy cutting the cords of fellowship with the larger Church through the unilateral actions of General Convention expanding policies which further tear the fabric of the Communion; our task will be to weave and braid missional relationships which strengthen far flung dioceses and provinces in the work of the gospel. As some in TEC find a hopeless refuge in the narrower restrictions of denominational autonomy, we shall find hope in a deeper and generous catholicity."

Answer (a).

And this one:
"In short, common ground led to common joy in both bearing one another’s burdens and discovering more effective, comfortable ways of living into the Great Commission. Sounds like 'One Body, One Mission…' to me."

Answer (b).

Lastly, let us look at how dissenting parishes may be handled:
"Should a parish find it needs to be served by alternative Episcopal care I will work with them toward that end. Please know this is not my desire for any parish. It would grieve me because I have enjoyed my relationship with every congregation in this great Diocese... Still these are challenging times, and if I am called to lead in such an assertive manner as I have suggested here, pastoral sensitivity suggests I should give space to those who feel they need it."

Answer: (a).

Remember St. Christopher's or how about St. John's North Augusta?
Answer (b)

Finally, my thoughts:

Would Upper South Carolinians embrace or reject the approach outlined in +Lawrence's address? Will they even hear about it? Newspapers in the lower half of the state may have given more or different coverage than upstate papers. The Rock Hill "Herald" for instance, had little, if any coverage of +Lawrence's address. It was mentioned in a small piece on the back page of the religion page. Was there better coverage in Charleston? Many people in the upstate have second homes and shared friendships in the Dio. of SC and this is the time of year for increased travel to the coast and back. Many of our up-staters had the opportunity to attend services in both dioceses this summer. This cross cultural contamination should not be forgotten. At the same time there is a certain animus between upper and lower SC. I once heard a liberal upstate priest remark that the diocesan border divides the state like the Maginot line. The impression he was giving was that the lower half of the state was analogous to pre-WWII Germany (AKA the bad guys), and the upper half of the state was analogous to France (AKA les bons hommes). In my opinion this was a poor choice of analogies, not just because it reveals a hideous prejudice, but because we all know how the French wasted time and money building a useless defensive structure, deluding themselves into believing in their superiority and security.

If there is to be a defensive line erected by liberal theology, will it be drawn through Columbia? If so the liberal clergy of Upper SC might want to look for a different model. Personally, I think liberal theology's fundamentally flawed defenses will, in the long run, be overrun by Biblical truths. Surely, my liberal clergyman was not thinking that the roles were reversed and that his offensive liberal theology was being stopped at the Siegfried line just south of Columbia by stubborn, thick necked, low country barbarians?

Before discounting +Lawrence as a fringe element, read his entire address and ask yourself, "Is this something that Upper South Carolinian pewsitters would agree with?"

"No, we have no business fostering unexamined prejudice; so few of us are free from scars of sexual brokenness. Rather, we are constrained by the love of Christ to be primarily about the task of proclaiming the Gospel—calling all people to
repentance—ourselves included; administering the sacraments; encouraging faithfulness in the body of Christ; and through the power of the Holy Spirit walking with charity in the world."

Answer: (a).

Pewster's score 100%, but I did write the test.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

All Are Welcome at the Tippy Table

Just don't come tipsy! (Ephesians 5:18)

When I was young, we used to go out to dinner on Sundays following church services. My dad would always get mad when we found ourselves at a "tippy table." You know, the kind of table with one short leg that rocks every time anyone around the table tries to cut into their entree. We kids would sometimes try to shore up the table to keep him from creating a scene. He would always figure it out. This experience may have led to my awareness of the need for a sure foundation, especially when eating.

Today's twenty minute sermon sounded pleasing to the ear, except perhaps that reference to Jesus using disgusting words (eating flesh etc was disgusting to 1st century Jewish listeners), but the pewster has "Sunday ears." The rector had to work pretty hard to water down the Gospel of John, and he may have sweet talked some into believing this simplified version of John's Gospel even though he indicated that John's Gospel is always calling us to look deeper. Instead of a a deeper look at God incarnate being the bread from heaven, and all that John 14:6 stuff, we were asked to come the table to be fed by the bread of "wisdom incarnate," that spiritual "she" who helps us when we are happy or sad, up or down. The oft repeated take home message was, "This is what we do," (we come to the table to eat of this bread and drink of this wine). That was too deep for me because I was wanting to know more about this bread, and why do I need it? I wish the twenty minutes had been used to "flesh" this out a little better. Of course, that is what blogging is for isn't it?

I knew better than to expect to hear an exposition on why we should need God to come down from heaven, to walk with us, to die for us, and to feed us with His body and blood. Such a sermon might wander into "doctrine," and we were told today that we are a church that doesn't do doctrine; we are not an "issue" church. We were told again today that we are about "mission." So why, pray tell, was the congregation given a copy of the Episcopal Life bulletin insert headlining the issues whipped up by the liberals at the 2009 General Convention of the Episcopal church? The headlines boldly proclaimed "Openness of Ordination Process Affirmed" and "Resources for Same-Gender blessing to be Collected During 2010-2012 Triennium." Maybe these aren't issues any longer. Maybe these are now the mission of the Episcopal church.

So when and how do issues get turned into mission? In the Episcopal church it is when people vote at general convention. These votes are usually not based on careful doctrinal and theological study, and as a consequence, we get a huge number of "resolutions" being hashed together to create a mixed up, jumbled up, shook up denomination (apologies to the Kinks for the "Lola" allusion). Even the Episcopal Life bulletin insert was brave enough to print this warning from the Archbishop of Canterbury where he,

"...concluded that blessings for same-gender unions cannot, at present, have 'the authority of the Church Catholic, or even of the communion as a whole,'
because such a change in policy would require 'the most painstaking biblical exegesis' as well as consensus in the Anglican Communion and with ecumenical partners..."

The fact that clergy and lay people continue to vote in favor of such resolutions should tell everyone that the seminaries are putting out large numbers of strangely thinking priests who are perfectly capable of painfully strained biblical exegesis. There must also be extremely poor continuing education for these priests, and there is revealed in the votes of the laity a glaring need for foundational Christian education in the congregations. These so called leaders are the ones building God's altar. I am afraid that they are including way too many of their own desires into the base of their altar.

When we are called to come to the Episcopal altar to be fed, we come not to a solid altar built on a firm foundation, but to a tippy table with legs made up of general convention resolutions, minus doctrine, minus John's Gospel, and minus the resolve to even assert the uniqueness of Christ. No one is happy when dining at a tippy table, such a table should be taken away and repaired, particularly if it is to be called the Lord's table.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Doublecrosswalk, or Will it Play in Pew-oria?

"Crosswalk" is the title of the newspaper of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina (DUSC). In fact, it consists of just a single sheet of paper that is literally the cover for the underlying 24 pages of "Episcopal Life Monthly," a publication of our national Episcopal church. The August issue arrived by snail mail as a "Special Issue: 76th General Convention, August 2009." Our August "Crosswalk" was greeted with the usual quick toss into the recycling container, but a voice called out and led me to rescue the August edition from oblivion. The voice said, "Look for subliminal messages."

The title of the lead article by Peggy Antwerp Hill, "Upper SC makes presence known at General Convention" is a clue that the article may contain a certain bias. After all, who knew DUSC was so important!

The article begins with,

"While hot-button issues were grabbing headlines in our secular press..."

(Subliminal message #1: Don't believe the mean spirited secular press, believe Crosswalk.)
"...Upper South Carolinians were making news in a gentler way at the 76th General Convention..."

(Message #2: Bless their hearts.)
"...Often finding themselves in the limelight..."

(Insert sound of "Crosswalk" being thrown across the room.)

After that laughable first paragraph, we get to the real message:
"Both Bishop Henderson and deputation chair the Very Rev. Dr. Philip Linder, dean of Trinity Cathedral..."

(I am a little worried that this Linder chap is getting more ink than the Bishop. Is this subliminal message #3?)
"...both...had a hand in crafting the controversial resolution D025, 'Commitment and Witness to Anglican Communion,' offered as a successor to B033, which, in 2006, urged restraint in consenting to the consecration of bishops whose 'manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church.'"

(Gulp, now this is news. This Linder guy and +Henderson were partly responsible for D025!?? I don't think that this is something for Upper South Carolinians to be boasting about.)
"Linder...participated in the intense and time consuming work of developing a single resolution...from a group of 13 resolves submitted in response to B033."

(In the accompanying photo of a pensive Philip Linder, I can almost feel the intensity of the moment.)

When reading the next section, keep in mind that the average uninformed pew sitter has no clue as to the language of D025 or how the rest of the Anglican Communion has reacted to its passage.
"The resolution...endorsed by Linder and others from the floor, affirms the openness of the ordination process in the Episcopal Church..."

(Wait a second, I thought the spin was that it meant the discernment process was open to all.)
"The resolution...reaffirms the Church's abiding commitment the fellowship of churches that constitute the Anglican Communion."
This is an outrageous attempt at spin. IMHO the resolution affirms the church's commitment to walking away from the fellowship of the churches.

(Subliminal message #4: All is well. "Fellowship" sounds like something all of us would vote for, unfortunately that is not what the resolution is about. See the end of this post for the final wording).

What does our brave deputy tell us about D025?

"The resolution," Linder said, is "a truthful acknowledgement of what is, a way forward that is not perfect but nonetheless a way for us to state boldly that we are now recommitting to our faith in Jesus Christ with a desire to focus fully upon mission and ministry in his name. I believe," Linder continued, "that we have turned a major page in going forward...and we have done so in a most Anglican way that respects the worldwide Anglican Communion."
(Insert the sound of 'Cough, cough...' The Archbishop of Canterbury begging to disagree in a most Anglican way.)

This is more outrageous spin, this time from the Very Rev. Dr. Philip Linder, dean of Trinity Cathedral. D025 "...respects the worldwide Anglican Communion." Poppycock!
(Insert sound of the "Crosswalk" being folded into the shape of an air sickness bag).
And his statement about the resolve being "'a truthful acknowledgement of what is" is another example of how far the church will go to follow society's values instead of tradition and scripture. The Very Rev. Dr. Philip Linder is saying that society has moved here, and we the Church acknowledge it.
(Subliminal message #5: "Acknowledgment" is code for "future acceptance.")
The next step is to move the Church further towards the culture in which it finds itself. "What is" is essentially the Zeitgeist. Do you think "What is" might be harmful to the body of Christ? What does our deputy think?
Linder's words leave me with the impression that the church is conforming itself to the world by acknowledging the zeitgeist rather than acknowledging that there is another path, one opposed to the "what is", a way that leads the world to Jesus and everlasting life.

You should also notice the recurring theme of "mission and ministry" (Subliminal message #6) which I believe is a smokescreen. The code words "mission and ministry" are meant to distract people from "issues," and from the serious work of Bible study, apologetics, and evangelism needed by Christians to face an increasingly pluralistic and secular world. What ever happened to leading people to Christ for heaven's sake? The subliminal message is that if our leaders can just keep the sheep focused on eating grass, that they won't notice the wolves in their midst, nor will the sheep notice that their shepherds were the ones who let the wolves in the gates in the first place.

This whole section of "Crosswalk" seems designed to build up the Very Rev. Dr. Philip Linder, and leave the impression that he is a multi-titled, super special kind of guy, maybe the kind of guy who would make a good bishop (Subliminal message #7) . Does Ms. Antwerp think Upper South Carolinians will fall for this blatant airbrushing of the chair of Upper SC's deputation?

The final section of this piece is entitled "Hoping to Reassure." In it we find a very confusing account of the journey of D025 from the House of Deputies to the House of Bishops, and how our heroic bishop tried to,

"soften the assertion of the original resolve, which states that God calls partnered gays and lesbians in 'life-long committed relationships,' 'like any other baptised members, to any ordained ministry.'"
(Insert sound of the "Crosswalk" being crumpled into a nanoparticle)

(And uh, excuse me, but the reporter, bless her heart for shielding the conservative majority, left out the language in the resolve that includes this theological leap across the Rubicon: "the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God." )

Our bold bishop then offered an amendment to

"reassure Episcopalians and other Anglicans more than the original language would."

(Who is he kidding? I don't think the original language was reassuring at all.)

"The amendment, affirming 'that God's call to the ordained a mystery which the Church attempts to discern for all people through our discernment process...'"

(That is soooooo reassuring.)

"However, a second amendment, incorporating the original language, along with the language the bishop had proposed, was adopted and the resolution passed."

(Drats foiled again! But wait a second, didn't both Bishop Henderson and the Very Rev. Dr. Philip Linder vote for this stupid thing they helped create? Come now fearless reporter, tell us how they voted! Again, for those of you unfamiliar with the final version, see the whole resolution at the end of this piece, and note that the entire resolution was not printed in "Crosswalk.")

"In a statement issued following the vote, Bishop Henderson regretted that some would use the language of the resolve 'to advance an agenda for which I believe neither we nor the Anglican Communion are ready to endorse...'"

(Excuse me, but isn't that reason enough to vote against the resolution?)
Just say, "No!"

Events have proven Bishop Henderson right in that the Dioceses of Los Angeles and Minnesota have recently nominated non-celibate homosexual individuals to run as candidates for Bishop suffragan and Bishop respectively.
So why did he vote for it?

"...the content of the resolution, taken as a whole, is more helpful than not."

(Insert sound of the nanoparticle sized "Crosswalk" being crammed into a quantum hole trash can.)
Question: If a nanoparticle gets compressed to fit into into a quantum hole, does it make a sound?

I could not resist but to ask a naive Episcopalian to read the "Crosswalk" article and let me record their opinions. This is a heavily censored summary:

"There is no substance in this!"

"They don't say anything!"

"It's a bunch if B.S."

"The typical parishioner won't understand what they are talking about!"

"What is B033?"

"What is 'openness of the ordination process,' and what is this abiding commitment to this Anglican Communion thingy?"

"What does D025 mean?"

"What did I learn? Nothing!"

"What a bunch of gobbledy goop."

"Why do I need reassuring?"

"Who is this Linder person, I have learned nothing of what he stands for, and who pays his salary anyway?"

"God calls who to what!? Is God's plan for them to be in lifelong relationships, or is it for them to be ordained? What Bible verse was that? He (+Henderson) is making this up."

"Is he saying that gays and lesbians are called to ordained ministry, and they have to be partnered to called by God? Why can't they be celibate?"

Guess what, naive pew sitter, the article also fails to tell you that Linder and Henderson's yes votes endorse the part of the resolution that stated that these new "lifestyles" among the baptised fall under the category of "holy love" as defined by the Episcopal church. The article says nothing about the Archbishop of Canterbury's opening address to the convention in which he asked the Episcopal church not to do anything like this. The article says nothing about the Archbishop's response to the passage of this resolution. The article appears to be attempting to shield Bishop Henderson from criticism during his last months in DUSC, and the article appears to be laying the groundwork for a candidacy for bishop by the Very Rev. Dr. Philip Linder.

After reading this Crosswalk article, and knowing how contrary the actions of our deputation's leaders are to the conservative majority (as evidenced by question 17 amongst others found in the recently published profile of our diocese), I am inclined to offer a new title for "Crosswalk." How about: "Doublecrosswalk?"

Oh, how that limelight burns.

* FINAL VERSION - Concurred Resolution: D025
Title: Commitment and Witness to Anglican Communion
Topic: Anglican Communion
Committee: 08 - World Mission
House of Initial Action: Deputies
Proposer: Ms. D. Rebecca Snow


Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 76th General Convention reaffirm the continued participation of The Episcopal Church as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion; give thanks for the work of the bishops at the Lambeth Conference of 2008; reaffirm the abiding commitment of The Episcopal Church to the fellowship of churches that constitute the Anglican Communion and seek to live into the highest degree of communion possible; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention encourage dioceses, congregations, and members of The Episcopal Church to participate to the fullest extent possible in the many instruments, networks and relationships of the Anglican Communion; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention reaffirm its financial commitment to the Anglican Communion and pledge to participate fully in the Inter-Anglican Budget; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm the value of "listening to the experience of homosexual persons," as called for by the Lambeth Conferences of 1978, 1988, and 1998, and acknowledge that through our own listening the General Convention has come to recognize that the baptized membership of The Episcopal Church includes same-sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships "characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God" (2000-D039); and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention recognize that gay and lesbian persons who are part of such relationships have responded to God's call and have exercised various ministries in and on behalf of God's One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and are currently doing so in our midst; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm that God has called and may call such individuals, to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church, and that God's call to the ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church is a mystery which the Church attempts to discern for all people through our discernment processes acting in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention acknowledge that members of The Episcopal Church as of the Anglican Communion, based on careful study of the Holy Scriptures, and in light of tradition and reason, are not of one mind, and Christians of good conscience disagree about some of these matters.


This resolution provides clarification in light of the Windsor Report (2004) and subsequent discussions in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

The first resolve reaffirms resolution A159 adopted at the 75th General Convention General Convention, in 2006. While much attention has been focused on official statements and resolutions from the primates meetings, Lambeth Conference 2008, and Anglican Consultative Council meetings in 2005 and 2009, our participation in the Anglican Communion consists of a much richer tapestry of ministries and networks as well as personal relationships. Hence the second resolve encourages Episcopalians, individually and in dioceses and parishes, to build relationships with our sisters and brothers around the Anglican Communion by participation in these networks and ministries.

Another sign of the Episcopal Church's commitment to the Anglican Communion is financial. In 2007, The Episcopal Church budgeted $661,000 for the Inter-Anglican budget, which sustains the work of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Anglican Communion offices in London. The 2007 financial report of the Anglican Consultative Council (the latest available on the Anglican Communion website) reports a total income from Inter Anglican Budget contributions as £1,134,745 ($1,864,574.36, using 2009 currency rates). In other words, The Episcopal Church contributes a substantial portion of the Inter Anglican Budget. This resolution reaffirms our financial commitment.

Our relationships in the Anglican Communion have been tested by the question of the ordination to the episcopate of individuals living in a same-sex partnership. Resolution D-039 of the 73rd General Convention, in 2000, acknowledged that the membership of the Episcopal Church includes persons living in same-sex relationships; established an expectation that "such relationships will be characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God"; and further denounced "promiscuity, exploitation, and abusiveness in the relationships of any of our members." Three years later, the 74th General Convention reaffirmed this expectation. These standards thus provide guidance for access to the discernment process for ordination to the episcopate.

The acceptance of the ministry of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons is not settled in The Episcopal Church or in the Anglican Communion. While the church continues to discern God's will in these matters, it is important to remind ourselves that sacramental theology since the time of Augustine of Hippo has affirmed that the validity of sacraments does not depend on the character of the ordained person celebrating those sacraments.

* Note: The final language, as well as the final status of each resolution, is being reviewed by the General Convention office. The Journal of the 76th General Convention and the Constitution and Canons will be published once the review process has been completed.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Let Them Eat Plain White Bread

Of all the different breads in the world, which is your favorite?

This morning, I opened the fridge and discovered that the milk bandits had visited during the night. Of all the important questions of the day, one of the most important is "What's for breakfast?" Today, the answer was, "Whatever you can forage up." Gone too was the blackberry jam, so cinnamon toast made from the heel of a loaf of whole wheat bread was the best I could come up with.

Was my breakfast more satisfying than Elijah's in today's Old Testament lesson, 1 Kings 19:4-8? An exhausted Elijah prayed and asked, "O LORD, take away my life." The Lord instead gave him cakes and water. His fresh baked cakes were presented by an angel of the Lord. My mistake this morning must have been that I did not start out the morning with a prayer such as, "Lord, what's for breakfast?" I might have gotten cake instead of poorly made cinnamon toast. Elijah's cakes sustained him through a forty day and forty night journey to Horeb. My cinnamon toast had to carry me through until coffee hour.

Sticking with the bread theme that the Sunday readings have given us the past few weeks, we heard John 6:35,41-51. Because of the missing verses problem in the RCL (discussed in earlier posts), I present the missing verses bracketed by the included ones:

35 Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.’

41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’

Once again, I am puzzled by the omission of important verses. They might present a challenge or two, but hey, that's what the preacher is getting paid for, right?

Our sermon today was another reiteration of the theme of the gospel of good works, and as such, does not merit further comment except to say that I was left feeling a bit like I do when served plain white bread. I knew that there was something missing. It was the usual, no discussion of the uniqueness of Christ, of salvation, of eternal life. There is a lot of meat in John's Gospel. I simply didn't get enough ingredients to make a proper sandwich.

At coffee hour I was rescued; I indulged in homemade Pistachio friendship bread. Unique, tasty, different, but I think my favorite bread was served up earlier, in John 6:35.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Katie Bar the Door

(Picture from the History of Leith)

Go over to World Wide Words for a look at Michael Quinion's fascinating discussion on the possible origins of the expression "Katy bar the door."

I remember the cry, "Katie bar the door," coming from some sports announcer, perhaps it was Keith (Whoa, Nellie!) Jackson, maybe it was as a big game was coming down to the wire, or perhaps it was when a runner was heading towards the end zone for a mop up touchdown in a game that was already a blowout. In the first instance he was expressing the traditional meaning of "Look out, there's gonna be a fight, so lock the door." In the second circumstance, I recall the expression being used to describe a game that has gotten out of hand, and one team was seeing the door closed on any possible hope of victory.

I thought of this expression as news came of a recent flurry of nominations of openly gay clergy to various Episcopal Bishop positions around the U.S.A. (Minnesota and Los Angeles, NYT) These come "Schorily" on the heels of the Episcopal church's 2009 General Convention and the passage of the controversial resolution C025 (which you may recall from last week's post). Or hadn't you heard?

“It's permeated the fabric of the bloody society, almost.”

-Keith Jackson

In the case of the Episcopal church, fighting words were effectively issued by those who voted in favor of resolutions C025 and C056. "Them fightin words" were directed at the rest of the Anglican Communion. So far we have in this corner TEC, and in that corner the AoC and the rest of the world. Are we getting ready for a smackdown? What we are going to need is a great play by play man, but don't call Keith Jackson.

“I don't want to get back into the pressure cooker of play-by-play and worry about travel. I don't want to die in a stadium parking lot.”
-Keith Jackson
(Read it again, but substitue "church parking lot" for "stadium parking lot").

The post game analysis won't be pretty. It might look something like this (from and "Gardner's Photographic Sketchbook of the Civil War" 1866):


I love the description accompanying the picture:
"Perched upon the gentle slope of the ridge that bears its name, and looking across fertile fields to the mountains that rise up grandly hiding the West, Centreville had smiled on many generations, and grown feeble with all its pleasant things about it. The houses were leaning structures with huge stone chimneys, doors that creaked in their old age, and fences that straggled every way, but there was always an odor of wild roses and honeysuckle about it, and a genial hospitality to welcome the stranger. War crushed it, piled earthworks upon its ruins to protect hostile camps, built cantonments in its gardens, and made hospitals of the churches. Scarcely a vestige of its former self remains. Redoubts and riflepits stretch along its knolls; graves, half hidden by the grass, tell where the dead of both armies slumber, and the spot now only interests the visitor because of the wreck that has come upon it...
...Guerillas have swarmed about it, cavalry have charged over its untilled fields, and demoralized divisions have bivouacked for roll-call behind its hills.

Through all these scenes a few of its people have lived and suffered, faithful to their homes. Others are turning back from uncertain wanderings to the resting place of their fathers, and, with returning peace, the husbandman finds that nature has not forgotten its fruitfulness in the years of war and devastation."

The photographer's perspective after the battle is preferrable, but right now I can only see the view from my little rifle pit.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Happiness Is...

A warm puppy?

Or how about, "A short sermon."? Neither is a serious answer to a question that occasionally pops up, "Are you happy?"

Is happiness something we find, or make for ourselves? Ultimately, God is who can make us happy. Follow along.

Is happiness being filled with manna as illustrated in the Old Testament reading from Exodus 16, bread and fishes as seen in the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, or is it being filled with the living bread from Heaven? How can we obtain this happiness? Today's reading from John 6:28-29 helps answer that last question, and seems to point us away from a works theology:
Then they said to him, "What must we do to perform the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."

That sounds so simple doesn't it? The words need little explanation. Nevertheless, man has spent thousands of years and thousands of pages working on interpreting the Gospel of John. The rector, in his sermon today, stuck to the readings and did not attempt an interpretation. He wandered a little close to the edge when describing the pursuit of "getting theology right" as being something that is ultimately impossible. Theology, along with other things Christians try to "get right," can distract some people from the simple teaching contained in the above Gospel quotation. Fortunately the rector did not follow an anti-doctrinal path at this point., but I was left wondering this: The pursuit of "getting it right" may not lead to happiness, but should the pursuit be abandoned?

A modern look at the pursuit of "making myself right," suggests that the real work is done by God and not by me. C.S. Lewis in "The Problem of Pain" had proposed this definition of happiness (one which gave me goose bumps): It is to become, "such as He can love without impediment."

I quote from C.S. Lewis and "The Problem of Pain:"
"To ask that God's love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labour to make us lovable. We cannot even wish, in our better moments, that He could reconcile Himself to our present impurities--no more than the beggar maid could wish that King Cophetua* (see below) should be content with her rags and dirt, or a dog, once having learned to love man, could wish that man were such as to tolerate in his house the snapping, verminous, polluting creature of the wild pack. What we would here and now call our 'happiness' is not the end God chiefly has in view: but when we are such as He can love without impediment, we shall in fact be happy."

Our job is to welcome God, the master home renovator, in so that He can accomplish His work. How do we do that? By believing " him whom he has sent..."

Getting back to my original question, what will you say when someone asks, "Are you happy?" Let's make it a multiple choice type.

1. Happy as a clam.
2. I thought I was happy until I read this blog.
3. Relatively happy.
4. Not yet, but with God's blood, sweat, and tears, I will be.
5. Happy in the knowledge that I am going to be happy beyond my imagination.

*King Cophetua and the Beggar-Maid from "A Book of Old English Ballads"

"I read that once in Affrica
A princely wight did raine,
Who had to name Cophetua,
As poets they did faine.
From natures lawes he did decline,
For sure he was not of my minde,
He cared not for women-kind
But did them all disdaine.
But marke what hapned on a day;
As he out of his window lay,
He saw a beggar all in gray.
The which did cause his paine.

The blinded boy that shootes so trim
From heaven downe did hie,
He drew a dart and shot at him,
In place where he did lye:
Which soone did pierse him to the quicke,
And when he felt the arrow pricke,
Which in his tender heart did sticke,
He looketh as he would dye.
'What sudden chance is this,' quoth he,
'That I to love must subject be,
Which never thereto would agree,
But still did it defie?'

Then from the window he did come,
And laid him on his bed;
A thousand heapes of care did runne
Within his troubled head.
For now he meanes to crave her love,
And now he seekes which way to proove
How he his fancie might remoove,
And not this beggar wed.
But Cupid had him so in snare,
That this poor begger must prepare
A salve to cure him of his care,
Or els he would be dead.

And as he musing thus did lye,
He thought for to devise
How he might have her companye,
That so did 'maze his eyes.
'In thee,' quoth he, 'doth rest my life;
For surely thou shalt be my wife,
Or else this hand with bloody knife,
The Gods shall sure suffice.'
Then from his bed he soon arose,
And to his pallace gate he goes;
Full little then this begger knowes
When she the king espies.

'The gods preserve your majesty,'
The beggers all gan cry;
'Vouchsafe to give your charity,
Our childrens food to buy.'
The king to them his purse did cast,
And they to part it made great haste;

This silly woman was the last
That after them did hye.
The king he cal'd her back againe,
And unto her he gave his chaine;
And said, 'With us you shal remaine
Till such time as we dye.'

'For thou,' quoth he, 'shalt be my wife,
And honoured for my queene;
With thee I meane to lead my life,
As shortly shall be seene:
Our wedding shall appointed be,
And every thing in its degree;'
'Come on,' quoth he, 'and follow me,
Thou shalt go shift thee cleane.
What is thy name, faire maid?' quoth he.
'Penelophon, O King,' quoth she;
With that she made a lowe courtsèy;
A trim one as I weene.

Thus hand in hand along they walke
Unto the king's pallàce:
The king with courteous, comly talke
This begger doth embrace.

The begger blusheth scarlet red,
And straight againe as pale as lead,
But not a word at all she said,
She was in such amaze.
At last she spake with trembling voyce,
And said, 'O King, I doe rejoyce
That you wil take me for your choyce,
And my degree so base.'

And when the wedding day was come,
The king commanded strait
The noblemen, both all and some,
Upon the queene to wait.
And she behaved herself that day
As if she had never walkt the way;
She had forgot her gowne of gray,
Which she did weare of late.
The proverbe old is come to passe,
The priest, when he begins his masse,
Forgets that ever clerke he was
He knowth not his estate.

Here you may read Cophetua,
Through long time fancie-fed,
Compelled by the blinded boy
The begger for to wed:
He that did lovers lookes disdaine,
To do the same was glad and faine,
Or else he would himselfe have slaine,
In storie, as we read.
Disdaine no whit, O lady deere,
But pitty now thy servant heere,
Least that it hap to thee this yeare,
As to that king it did.

And thus they led a quiet life
During their princely raine,
And in a tombe were buried both,
As writers sheweth plaine.
The lords they tooke it grievously,
The ladies tooke it heavily,
The commons cryed pitiously,
Their death to them was paine.
Their fame did sound so passingly,
That it did pierce the starry sky,
And throughout all the world did flye
To every princes realme."

That He would deign to love a beggar like me.