Monday, January 31, 2011

Now This is How You Settle a Church Dispute

With your dukes!

Read the story of what happened at the Greater New Zion Baptist Church in Fletcher when they ousted the pastor. Go to The Rock Hill Herald for the details.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

43,000 Dollars Under the Water

That pretty much describes the current state of the church budget.

Did anybody catch the name of the creature that has us in its grip?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Upon Further Reflection

A recent fishing trip in the chilly winter waters of one of our nearby lakes seemed to be an exercise in futility, until I caught this:

                                                    Winter 2011 -U.P.

(No, it was not enhanced or otherwise photoshopped, but I did have to rotate it to get the proper orientation.)

I thought about giving this post the title "How was it made?" because my mind thought some might wonder how the image was created, while others might reflect on Genesis 1.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.

And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. - Genesis 1:1-10 KJV
Upon further reflection, the image is just that, a reflection of a day in which I thought that all God delivered was an empty net, but He actually gave me so much more.

Some days we are not meant to catch fish, but to catch a glimpse of Him.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mere (Anglicanism) Reflections

"Mere Anglicanism" is more than a cute play on words with C.S. Lewis' classic work, "Mere Christianity."

Mere Anglicanism's goal of creating "educated, authentically discipled, and active Anglicans — both lay and clergy" must be considered a long term project. The prospect of a long term project such as this may not be the kind of thing that dissatisfied Episcopalians are likely to gravitate to, but this process, that of building a Biblically centered, authoritatively discipled base is absolutely essential if Anglicanism is to play any role in spreading the Good News of Christ crucified to an increasingly indifferent, if not hostile, world. Indeed, if Anglicanism proves incapable of this carrying out fundamental task, then it should be allowed to die.

The Mere Anglicanism Conference 2011 was held on January 20-22 at St. Phillips Church, Charleston, SC. This year's topic was "Biblical Anglicanism for a Global Future: Recovering the Power of the Word.”

A few reflections on the conference from my rough notes:

Thursday p.m. Dr. William Dickson presented: "Recovering the Power of the Word of God Written." Like many of the papers this year, this pewster had to ratchet up the little grey cells a notch to follow the speaker. I could not count how many times the word "perspicuity" came up, and I heard a few murmurs about the speaker being a few grade levels above some of the audience. Nonetheless, we were brought up to speed on William Whitaker's Disputations on Holy Scripture: Against the papists especially Bellarmine... (Google Books)and the question of scriptural clarity.
"Even if there were some obscurity in the words of scripture greater than in those of the fathers, it would not nevertheless be a just consequence, that the scriptures were so obscure that they should not be read by the people. This should rather rouse men to an attentive reading than deter them from reading altogether. Besides, the scriptures speak of necessary things no less plainly than any fathers, or even much more plainly, because the Holy Spirit excels in all powers of expression." William Whitaker, A Disputation on Holy Scripture Against the Papists, Especially Bellarmine and Stapleton, trans. and ed. William Fitzgerald (Cambridge: University Press, reprinted 1849), p. 390.
I took away from this paper that "we are not to be masters of the text, the text will show us who is the master."

Friday and Saturday's Morning Prayer services gave us early birds a chance to hear two of Dr. James Nestingen's (Lutheran) wonderful sermons. It was good to hear the Word communicated clearly.

Friday morning we heard from Archbishop Mouneer Anis of the Diocese of Egypt whose subject was, "Recovering the Power of the Word for the Anglican Communion." He correctly identified the problems of Biblical illiteracy and that "for some the scriptures have become like a hermenuetical supermarket...pick what you like." There seems to be more emphasis on worship than on study of the scriptures. The structure of conferences such as Lambeth 2008 does not lead to any resolution of issues and we have lost any idea of what a concilliar meeting should be. His solutions include: 1. We need to repent. 2. Do what Anglicans did first. He mentioned that we need to trust Article VI,
"Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church."
3. He also advised the training of lay Bible teachers, 4. establishing sound schools of theology, and 5. developing a concilliatory structure.

That sounds like Mere Anglicanism to me.

Later in the morning, Dr. Gillis Harp presented "Recovering the Power of the Word in Anglican History." I thought this talk was one of the more useful ones to the pewperson. He took us from Tyndale, through Cranmer, Hugh Latimer, Charles Simeon, and a couple more who I missed in my notes. The take home message was about the importance of effective preaching and how there must time spent in preparation, there has to be a connection to Christ crucified (Simeon), and there needs to be a renewal of Anglican preaching. Perhaps by studying the history of great preaching, we can reclaim some of its power today.

At noon Dr. John Senyonyi read a paper by Dr. Stephan Noll on "Recovering the Power of the Word Philosophically: From the Truth to the Whole Truth," but the take home line was from Dr. Senyoni describing "the Word as God's love letter to me." Like a love letter, you are drawn to pore over it time and time again.

Dr. Ashley Null's paper on "Recent Findings on Cranmer Research" was interesting and Dr. Null's enthusiasm for the subject kept me from sinking into my usual postprandial fog.

Friday p.m. we celebrated Holy Communion at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul, where they appear to have fixed the heating system (as compared to my last visit), and Bishop Lawrence preached the sermon. We enjoyed his Gospel centered approach, and the music of the Cathedral choir as they sang "Oh Thou the Central Orb," but I noted that the lay readers needed some amplification as the readings while familiar, were so quietly read (sorry Ann) that I was left thinking that this was not a good example of communicating the Word clearly.

After escorting Bishop Michael Nazir Ali through the Charleston streets to the reception in honor of Bishop Allison, we skipped the banquet and went in search of a hot chocholate before calling it a day.

Saturday a.m.'s speakers included Dr. Charles Raven whose subject "Gospel or not Gospel? Recovering the Power of the Word of Truth" should be translated into "The theology of Rowan Williams compared to that of Cranmer." To sum up, hermeneutical pessimism compensated by eccleisiastical optimism compared to hermeneutical optimism compensated by eccleisiatical pessimism. You get one guess as to which is R.W.

Finally, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali spoke on "Recovering the Power of the Word for Anglican Polity." He discussed how new knowledge and revelation are reconciled. He noted the clarity, sufficiency, and supremacy of scripture. He reminded us that engagement cannot obscure or negate the Gospel. Engagement does not equal capitulation. In engagement we should be able to recognize the Gospel in others (yes, if the other has a false gospel, there can be no engagement, only evangelism of the true Gospel. - my words).
Bishop Nazir Ali also pointed out the lack of decision making, the lack of discipline, and the fact that the concilliar process is avoided in Anglicanism to its demise.

This year, I was most deeply affected by the homiletics and "mere" Morning Prayer (Rite I). Talk about "recovering the power of the Word!"

As I whispered to Dean McKeachie, "This is my yearly vaccination."

I would like to thank the Diocese of SC for hosting this event, and Bishop Lawrence for his gracious presence.

This year, Upper SC was represented by a grand total of three persons. I hope that more will make the trip next time and that maybe Bishop Waldo will give it a taste. I'll be happy to escort him through the Charleston night if he feels lost.

Sitting, chatting, praying, and worshipping with those on the frontlines such a Bishops Anis, Lawrence, and Nazir Ali is a humbling experience for a lowly pewster. Their openness to me, a stranger, was greatly appreciated.

And thanks Fitz for autographing your latest book. I am working on it, I promise.

Anytime one gets to spend a few days in Charleston is a delight, but to get to spend time with the Lord and such a wonderful, friendly group of people made the trip special.

All in all, Mere Anglicanism 2011 might have been a little too cerebral for many pewsitters, but there were pearls to be found in these presentations. Gillis Harp's in particular was helpful to me. The presentations should be available as a CD set for $65 payable to:

Mere Anglicanism CDs
126 Coming St.
Charleston, SC 29403

Oh yeah, don't forget the Central Orb.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Calling All Fishermen

One thing about fishing, most fishermen would never want to leave half of their gear at home when going out in search of that lunker.

In today's worship service, Psalm 27 was shortened not only by being cut in half, but by two verses at the very beginning. We chanted verses 1 and 4-9. I am not sure why the Revised Common Lectionary makes these cuts as I can see more opportunities for the homilist with the full Psalm rather than with a shortened version. Here is the entire Psalm, using the translation we read, with the omitted verses highlighted.

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When evildoers assail me
to devour my flesh—
my adversaries and foes—
they shall stumble and fall.

3 Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me,
yet I will be confident.

4 One thing I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
and to inquire in his temple.

5 For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will set me high on a rock.

6 Now my head is lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,
be gracious to me and answer me!
8 ‘Come,’ my heart says, ‘seek his face!’
Your face, Lord, do I seek.
9 Do not hide your face from me.

Do not turn your servant away in anger,
you who have been my help.
Do not cast me off, do not forsake me,
O God of my salvation!

10 If my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will take me up.

11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
12 Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries,
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they are breathing out violence.

13 I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

Since we left the dock without a full tackle box, lets carry the analogy a little further...

Today's sermon started from the story of the call of Peter, Andrew, James, and John found in Matthew 4:12-23 and also drew from the story of the disciples casting their nets in John 21:1-6.

While I might have focused on the promise to make the disciples fishers of people, and the need follow Jesus' instructions in order to do so (which works also with John 21), instead we heard about the abundance of the catch without really driving home the point that without Jesus, we will remain lousy fisherfolk. Our homily probably worked for those in need of a "feel good" sermon, but I didn't leave church with any clue as to how to put more fish in the boat.

Undeterred, I spent the last several minutes thinking about it, and here are some suggestions:

1. For directions, first look for Jesus.

Where are his directions to be found? Where is He to be found? First and foremost, in scripture and prayer. One thing that sticks out in the disciples' futile attempts to catch fish in John 21 is the fact that they were relying on their own ideas as to how to fish, until Jesus shows up. You don't see them setting out on their fishing trip after first praying for Jesus' help. Oops. They figured that they knew all there was to know about catching fish. We are guilty of this all the time. Left to our own devices, the catch will be poor.

Given the current trends in attendance at Sunday worship services, I suspect we are making the same mistake the disciples made.

2. Use the proper bait.

The other day, while receiving the host and wine through intinction, the celebrant struggled to find my mouth and nearly missed. I, of course, was chasing the body and blood as the celebrant waved it in front of my gaping mouth. While I think that such a lure should attract even the most finicky fish, the fact of the matter is that fish are quite turned off when human scent has rubbed off onto the bait. They might nibble but a nibble is about all you will get. People will not swallow the Gospel when it has been tainted, twisted, and tied into knots by the hand of man. Give it too them straight, and freely, and they will feed well and often.

3. Spend as much time on the water as possible.

You can't catch fish if you don't wet your hook.

4. Know what is in the tackle box.

The scriptures contain all that you need. Open your tackle box up and look inside regularly. There is something in there for any and all kinds of fish.

5. "Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27: the unread verses)

When the fish aren't biting, wait, not for a bite, but for the Lord who will be your guide.

6. Teach others to fish.

And the Church will be fed.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

They Promise Them Freedom, but They Themselves Are Slaves... (2 Peter 2:19)

"Now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian." - a certain mover and shaker of TEc
That pretty much sums it up folks. This is where TEc, much like the Israelites in the final verse in the book of Judges, is following whatever wind of change spins their weather vanes.
"In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what he thought best." Judges 21:25 (NAB)

Sinking lower in despair...

Is there Anybody out there...

Why should I care...

For some strange reason I hear a Pink Floyd tune coming through the wall.

Hey you, out there in the cold
Getting lonely, getting old

Can you feel me?

Hey you, standing in the aisles
With itchy feet and fading smiles

Can you feel me?

Hey you, don't help them to bury the light
Don't give in without a fight.

Hey you, out there on your own
Sitting naked by the phone

Would you touch me?

Hey you, with you ear against the wall
Waiting for someone to call out

Would you touch me?

Hey you, would you help me to carry the stone?
Open your heart, I'm coming home.

But it was only fantasy.
The wall was too high,
As you can see.
No matter how he tried,
He could not break free.

And the worms ate into his brain.

Hey you, out there on the road
always doing what you're told,

Can you help me?

Hey you, out there beyond the wall,
Breaking bottles in the hall,

Can you help me?

Hey you, don't tell me there's no hope at all

Together we stand, divided we fall.

Pink Floyd: The Wall (Available at

Poor Pink, trapped in madness, haunted by delusions of his disciplinarians, protected by his wall.

Our Episcopalian quoted above has made the classic mistake of walling away the disciplinarian to gain liberty, when the real problem is the multilayered walls that he himself has created.

Another of the warnings from the disciple Peter might help break down that wall.

2 Peter 2:17-22

These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm; for them the deepest darkness has been reserved. For they speak bombastic nonsense, and with licentious desires of the flesh they entice people who have just escaped from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for people are slaves to whatever masters them. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment that was passed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb,

‘The dog turns back to its own vomit’,


‘The sow is washed only to wallow in the mud.’

What is man that he dares to deny the power and justice of God?

A slave to his own desires.

My loving God,
take and receive
all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, my entire will
and all that I have and possess.
You gave it all to me.
To you, my God, I return it!
All is yours, dispose of it according to your desires.
Give me your love and grace.
This is enough for me.

---- The offering of Ignatius of Loyola

The disciple accepts the discipline with thanks, for the rewards are more than enough. - U.P.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Road to Sainthood

Today's services at ECOOS included a departure from the assigned texts as we were instead treated to readings in honor of MLK Jr. day (which is tomorrow, and is not exactly on the church calendar). It is not uncommon for us to shift the celebration of the feast day of one particular Saint or another to the nearest Sunday, but I was unaware that MLK Jr. had been promoted (I am not sure of the Episcopal term) to sainthood.

Until today.

After hearing several references to his sainthood in the course of today's service, I was left wondering who authorized this election and whether or not to dare to raise the question for fear of sounding totally PIC (politically incorrect).

I am aware that the Catholic Church has a mechanism through which the Church examines the life of and miracles attributed to a deceased person when considering whether or not we should consider that person a Saint.
Here is a brief summary from the CatholicPages.
In official Church procedures there are three steps to sainthood: one becomes Venerable, Blessed and then a Saint. Venerable is the title given to a deceased person recognized as having lived heroic virtues. To be recognized as a blessed, and therefore beatified, in addition to personal attributes of charity and heroic virtue, one miracle, acquired through the individual's intercession, is required. Canonization requires two, though a Pope may waive these requirements. Martyrdom does not usually require a miracle.

When beatification and canonization procedures were not yet consigned to the authority of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints (instituted in 1588 by Pope Sixtus V) and to the Holy Father himself, it was the "vox populi" or "spontaneous local attribution" which led to the proclaiming of saints. This was the case, for example, of St. Anthony of Padua.
In the Episcopal church, the road to sainthood goes "vox populi" and political, meaning it goes through the General Convention, that motley assemblage of scripturally conflicted and ungrounded clergy and laity that meets every three years to waste millions of dollars digging the church's grave.

In any case, the nearest Episcopal saint day to today should be Antony (or Anthony in the Catholic calendar). Antony was famous for preaching against Arianism (a heresy which arose in the fourth century, and denied the Divinity of Jesus Christ).

We could use a little dose of Antony today.

The Episcopal list of saints, commemorations, and proposed saints and or "commendees" includes some interesting characters to include:

AMELIA JENKS BLOOMER (remember Barbara Eden's harem pants?)
SØREN KIERKEGAARD, one of the fathers of existentialism.
HARRIET BEECHER STOWE, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin.
GEOFFREY ANKETELL STUDDERT KENNEDY who wrote Democracy and the Dog-Collar (1921) (featuring such chapters as "The Church Is Not a Movement but a Mob," "Capitalism is Nothing But Greed, Grab, and Profit-Mongering".)

It seems that there is no real process of beatification, canonization, etc to the Episcopal path to sainthood. You just have to have been a social activist for causes that are considered by today's liberal elite to have been "good."

Today's canonization at ECOOS must have been an act of "spontaneous local attribution."

I hope they save some open dates for the next wave of Episcopal saints.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Maybe Bullying Ain't All That Bad

Mama knew that she didn't have to worry about me when she watched (from the school library window) as the fourth grade class bully and I faced each other (nose to chest) on the schoolyard. Dad had always taught me that "He who learns to run away lives to fight another day," but standing up to a bully doesn't always mean that a fight will ensue. On that day, I didn't run, no fight broke out, and an important lesson was learned. Did that stop the bullying, no, once the threat of physical violence had been removed, the bully turned to psychological torture.

I learned more lessons over the ensuing two years thanks to this evil child. One lesson was that prayers are not always answered in the way that we want. My desire was that the bully would magically become nice to me. That did not happpen. I wished the bully would go away. That didn't happen. I wanted instant results, and I wanted it my way. That didn't happen. I wound up angry with God.

What did happen was that a small cadre of kids like me started to learn how to turn the bully's words, sneers, and haughty attitude into something of a joke, and at the same time we developed a special comraderie. These outcasts have all seemed to do well in their adult years, and I have to wonder what the all the fuss is about when I hear talk of the long term effects of bullying.

The effects of the bullying revisionists of the Episcopal church may seem painful now, and this might lead us to pray that they just disappear, or we may pray that these bullies see the light of day and return to the Apostolic faith.

I have been praying this, but so far, it hasn't happened.

Maybe we just need bullies.

I also wonder what the long term effects will be if bullies are someday, somehow, eliminated.

Maybe we will become a nation of wusses.

It took many years for me to see that my childhood prayers had been answered. The bully is gone. God did it in His way, in His time. I give Him thanks now, and I am sorry for all the bad things I said about Him in the past.

I have to keep this in mind when dealing with the bullies of today.

I wonder what would have happened if I had run away?

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Keeping It Simple

A couple of weeks ago I responded to someone who was trying to get me to give a more detailed explanation of something by saying, "I like it simple." Judging by the negative reaction to my comment, I concluded that some people like it complicated. When it comes to Christian theology, the most important work of the theologian, after their pages and pages of analysis, interpretation, extrapolation, should be to simplify things for those of us who don't make a living by writing about God.

I think that would be in keeping with the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles.

Today's readings included the witness of Peter: Acts 10:34-43
where he relates Jesus' marching orders,
42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.
43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

Why make it anymore diffcult than that?

"The real fasting of the preacher is not from food, but rather from eloquence, from impressiveness, and exquisite diction... from everything that might hinder the Gospel of God being presented."

From "My Utmost for His Highest" by Oswald Chambers

Friday, January 07, 2011

First Theological Council For Upper SC

This came via the EDUSC yesterday. I can't comment right now; I haven't gotten up off the floor after its first pass through my digestive system.

The First Theological Council, April 8-9
Feast of the Epiphany, 2011

May the Lord help us to “preach not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord,
and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor. 4.5)

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Grace and peace to you in Christ Jesus.

As I stated at convention and have repeated several times since, how we are in relationship with one another is the canvas upon which our common life is painted. It is utterly fundamental and colors all the claims we make to the world about the loving grace and salvation of Jesus Christ as Lord of the universe. Getting right with each other is at the very heart of our Christian vocation. It is a sign of our relationship with Jesus himself.

Since last March at the Clergy Business Day and continuing with the Fall Clergy Conference and the October Diocesan Convention, we have begun a disciplined process of open dialogue on matters of critical importance to our common life. Through these initial efforts at establishing norms for how we are in relationship with each other as Episcopalians in Upper South Carolina, we have already experienced some measure of new understanding and compassion for one another.

Call for Special Convention:

The 1st Theological Council of the Episcopal Church in Upper South Carolina

In light of our call to continue and deepen our disciplined practice of open dialogue, I am, with the full support of the Diocesan Executive Council, calling a special, non-legislative convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina. The purpose of this 1st Theological Council of the Episcopal Church in Upper South Carolina is to engage in substantive biblical and theological dialogue on norms for how we are in relationship with one another and to practice these norms in a dialogue on human sexuality.

How will we go about this dialogue?

Our first priority will be to ensure a safe, secure, and open environment that will keep us mindful of our unity in Christ Jesus. The introduction to the proposed Anglican Covenant, as well as The Rule of St. Benedict, provides helpful scriptural guidance for being together in this way. We will ground our dialogue in a rhythm of prayer and worship, flowing from meals, to worship, to spoken meditation, to reflection, to small group discussion, and then to plenary discussion.

How can I prepare for the Council?

We will send to all attendees reference materials that will assist our dialogue on norms and on human sexuality. These materials will include readings from scripture, the Anglican Covenant, The Rule of St. Benedict, and the fall clergy conference norms.

What will the result of this Council be?

Again, the dialogue is the purpose. We will issue no statements from this Council but only a reporting of the event and how it unfolded. We will have no voting. We will have no hidden agendas. The goal is to expand how we understand one another and how deeply we engage one another in Christ. We do know that General Convention will make decisions in 2012 and 2015 that will affect our common life, and I believe strongly that before then, we must make biblically informed, healthy dialogue a norm for all of us, so that we will be able to discuss those decisions with grace and integrity. We must know more fully who we are as a people.

Who will participate?

◦All clergy who are canonically resident or currently licensed in Upper South Carolina
◦Certified 2011 lay delegates*
◦Certified 2011 youth deputies**
◦Lay members and officers of Diocesan Executive Council
◦Lay deputies to General Convention
◦Convocational lay wardens
◦Postulants, candidates, and seminarians
◦2011 senior and junior wardens
* Certification forms will be available online
** To be elected at March convocation meetings

When and where will the 1st Theological Council take place?

We will gather on Friday and Saturday, April 8 and 9, 2011, at Christ Church, Greenville. The Council will begin at 4:30 pm on Friday the 8th and conclude by 5:00 pm on the 9th. Registration will open at 2:00 pm on Friday.

How much will it cost?

The cost will be $25 per person, and includes Friday dinner and Saturday lunch. I hope the churches will pay this fee for their delegates. A block of rooms has been reserved at The Phoenix Inn. The cost of $79/night includes a full hot breakfast buffet. Reservations can be made by calling 800-257-3529 or 864-233-4651 and providing the block title “Episcopal Diocese.”

I recognize that, by calling this 1st Theological Council, I am asking churches and delegates to make a special and additional commitment. Because of the overnight schedule, we have decided to shorten the October 2011 business convention to one day. At the time of the Council, we will be in the heart of Lent, our season of repentance, reconciliation, fasting, and preparation for the Feast of the Resurrection. I can imagine no better way to prepare for that feast than by reconciling ourselves to God and to one another through deep and holy dialogue.

Faithfully in Christ Jesus,

The Rt. Rev. W. Andrew Waldo, Bishop
The Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Truly, A Trivial Pursuit

This past Christmas, while pursuing some entertainment, I chanced upon "The Bishop's Wife" starring Cary Grant, David Niven, and Loretta Young. While it was for the most part a pleasant diversion, watching the angel Dudley (Cary Grant) get uncomfortably cozy to the Bishop's wife (Loretta Young) got a bit creepy to me (and to the Bishop as well). At the current pace, the title "The Bishop's Wife" will undoubtedly take on a whole new meaning in the not too distant future (as far as the Epsicopal church is concerned)...

At the end of the movie version, David Niven, who plays the preoccupied and suspicious Bishop, is reading the sermon that Dudley had substituted for the Bishop's original script. The careful viewer might notice that to the Bishop's left as he stands in the pulpit is a hymn board with three hymns posted for that Christmas. Knowing that the good film director placed that hymn board there for a reason, and selected those hymns for a reason, left me wondering...

What were they?

Answers below.




Next question: Name the Hymn or cite the first verse...

(Insert theme from "Final Jeopardy")

Did I forget to mention that you needed to pull out your 1940 Hymnal?

If you can't find yours, here is a link to an on-line version.

If you don't want to go there, here are the answers:

12 O come, all ye faithful

382 O where are kings and empires now

268 I bind unto myself today

#382 is one we don't sing anymore because it got left out of the 1982 Hymnal.

I can't imagine why...

O where are kings and empires now
of old, that went and came?
but Lord, thy Church is praying yet,
a thousand years the same.

We mark her goodly battlements
and her foundations strong;
we hear, within, the solemn voice
of her unending song.

For not like kingdoms of the world
thy holy Church, O God,
though earthquake shocks are threatening her,
and tempests are abroad.

Unshaken as eternal hills,
immovable she stands,
a mountain that shall fill the earth,
a house not made by hands.

Words: Arthur Cleveland Coxe, 1839

Since the Bishop in the film was preoccupied with fundraising for the construction of a cathedral, the last line of the hymn might be the reason why the director chose that particular hymn.

I wonder why "O where are kings and empires now" got left on the cutting room floor during the 1982 revision of the hymnal?

I can only guess that the references to "earthquake shocks" that "are threatening her," and "tempests are abroad" struck too close to home. Or maybe "the solemn voice of her unending song" was not thought to be clappy happy enough to reach the current generation. Or perhaps the idea of "goodly battlements" was an image the post-Vietnam era wished to reject because it sounded too militaristic.

Maybe they thought new hymns would be a better box office draw. (Oops!)

Or maybe they thought that hands could build a proper house. (In which case they didn't watch the movie).

I have a hard time understanding the workings of the inner circles that decide these things, but every few decades we get a new Hymnal, a new Prayer Book, but why?

In pursuit of truth, the wise follow the money.

Maybe the earthly desire of the Clergy Pension Fund, which profits from the sales of new hymnals and prayer books, is the impetus behind the need for revisions.

The film instructs us that the pursuit of money to the neglect of our loved ones is not always wise.

In pursuit of "The Bishop's Wife" the wise tune to TCM on Jan 6, 2011 at 3:00 pm.

Monday, January 03, 2011

The Rapture Predicted For May 21, 2011

May 21, 2011 to be exact.

According to Harold Camping,
"Beyond the shadow of a doubt, May 21 will be the date of the Rapture and the day of judgment," he said.

In a neat rationalization, believer Allison Warden says,
"If May 21 passes and I'm still here, that means I wasn't saved. Does that mean God's word is inaccurate or untrue? Not at all," Warden said.

I really must clean out the draft posts in this blog before then...

I read it here.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

The Dreams of Saint Joseph

No sermon today, we sang the first two verses of Christmas hymns instead...Wheeee!!!

There always seems to be one man left out of the Christmas hymns. We tend to hear more about shepherds, than him. We just missed singing about him in verse 3 of Hymn 110 today.
Saint Joseph, too, was by to tend the child;
to guard him, and protect his mother mild;
the angels hovered round, and sang this song,
Venite adoremus Dominum. Refrain
The house I was raised in had a brick foundation, and when we were kids, we removed one of the bricks to create a secure hiding place for our kid's club secret documents. The brick we removed had the words "St. Joe" molded into it's once motar covered face.

Dad never discovered that chiseled out brick, the house never fell down, and something about "St. Joe" still gives me a feeling of security.

In Matthew's gospel, St. Joseph gets quite a bit of attention, and today we got to hear about three of his dreams. Unfortunately, a couple of verses got slashed by the lectionary committee, and I have placed these following the text we heard today.
Matthew 2:13-15,19-23
Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’
...(insert missing verses here*)...
When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He will be called a Nazorean.’
You may recall that Joseph was also visited back in chapter 1 of Matthew (verses 19-21),
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

You may note that when Joseph gets a heavenly visitor, the angel comes in a dream.

Oh yes, I forgot to tell you about the missing verses: 16-18,
*When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’
Those missing verses were foundational to me. As a child, the slaughter of the innocents was a sharp reminder that God came into a cold, cruel world. What a dangerous place to be born into. Too bad the children present in churches that use the RCL will miss this part of the story. I guess they will sleep well tonight and not have any disturbing dreams.

I still don't want to visit the middle east.

Thank you, St. Joe, for providing a strong foundation for Mary, Jesus, and us too.