Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How You Were Diverted

It was 10 years ago today that George Harrison passed away.  I am afraid that his spiritual quest led him away from Christ, although he may have believed otherwise. In fact, I suspect that Mr. Harrison may have believed that Jesus was but one of many avatars that come to us throughout the ages as an incarnation of the deity.

The following is the opinion of Jesus-is savior.com,

George Harrison clearly believed in a New Age god, i.e., that all gods are one. In sharp contrast, the Word of God states that the Godhead was manifest in the flesh of the man, Jesus Christ (1st Timothy 3:16). Colossians 2:9 states... "For in him [Jesus Christ] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." Biblically, Jesus Christ is the Son of God (John 3:16). Islamic Muslims, who worship Allah, openly DENY that Jesus is the Son of God. Clearly all gods cannot be one as Mr. Harrison states.

Harrison, as do other New Agers, believed that each soul has the potential to become divine through such practices as yoga and chanting. Harrison believed that "god perception" (what he termed "Krishna consciousness") was possibly only through personal meditation, and chanting "Hare Krishna" repeatedly.

Tragically, George Harrison rejected the Word of God and Jesus Christ. Harrison's 1971 song MY SWEET LORD, is a song of praise to the Hindu god, Krishna. In fact, Harrison admits that he did that to trick people. In his 1982 interview with the Hare Krishna organization he stated...

"I wanted to show that Hallelujah and Hare Krishna are quite the same thing. I did the voices singing 'Hallelujah' and then the change to 'Hare Krishna' so that people would be chanting the maha-mantra-before they knew what was going on! I had been chanting Hare Krishna for a long time, and this song was a simple idea of how to do a Western pop equivalent of a mantra which repeats over and over again the holy names. I don't feel guilty or bad about it; in fact it saved many a heroin addict's life."

Poor George. I once made up a term, inclusive exclusivism, to leave the opportunity for each soul to encounter Christ at the time of judgement, and to be given one last chance to accept Him as Saviour.
I don't really know if that is a possibility or not.

Do all notes lead to the same chord?

For lots of reasons, my piano gently weeps.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Portents and Percentages

One problem with raising political questions from the pulpit is that it causes the mind to wander away from the mystery of God's saving grace and raise questions in the mind such as, "Where did he come up with that?"

Such was the case today as our preacher began to expound on Mark 13:24-37.

24 ‘But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
26 Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory. 27Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

28 ‘From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

32 ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.’

I know that there will always be people who try to interpret the signs in the heavens as signs of the time of the second coming, and those who are unemployed in our current economic downturn might be more inclined to look to these soothsayers and place their trust in someone other than the Almighty, but do people really have more confidence in a communist form of government than they have in our Unitrd States Congress? At least that's what we heard today in the sermon.

I guess that if people do not have faith in God's plan, then they will seek out or create false idols such as communism to solve their problems.

But communism over Congress? Really?

Distracted, I turn to Google.

I found a possible source for our preacher's statistics at the Lebanon Daily News where we read,

"You know you've fallen pretty far when the number of Americans who approve of your performance is less than the number of Americans who would like to see the country become communist.
On the floor of the Senate a few days ago, Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet revealed only 9 percent of Americans polled approved of Congress' performance; 11 percent want to see the country adopt a communist form of government.
On a chart he presented to accompany this revelation, Bennet showed how Congress' approval rating has dropped through the years. The chart looked like a rendering of a mountain precipitously flowing down into a sea."
11% of Americans want to see the country adopt a communist form of government? I don't buy it, but it might be a portent in the heavens.

With Congress' approval rating at 9%, can you trust a Congressman to present accurate numbers on such a question?

Maybe he meant 11% of his constituency.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Oneness Stole

I thought I had seen everything, but the "Oneness Stole" proves the old adage that the universe is stranger than we can imagine. You can see it by clicking here. On it are the following symbols:

The Christian Cross
 Star of David - Judaism
 Triple Treasure - Buddhism
 Yin/Yang - Taoism
 Star/Crescent - Islam
 Om - Hinduism
 The Oneness Symbol

Dad always said, "No tool designed for multiple functions can preform as well as a single tool designed for a specific job."

Needless to say, his workshop had a whole lot of single use tools.

I guess this "onenes stole" would be the perfect gift for a minister who is trying to cover all the bases, or one concerned with the unique claims of the faiths symbolized in this "all in one" accessory? Instead of illustrating that all religions point to a universal truth (which is what I think the stole is trying to do), doesn't it it make a mockery of their individual beliefs by forcing them into a false unity?

There really is only one tool designed for oneness that we must have in our workshop.

"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6).

 And if you don't want to shell out $177.75 for the stole, you can get the oneness car magnet for $4.00.

 May the stole be with you.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How Not to Determine What is Morally Good

I was considering that question when today's Gospel reading from Matthew 25:31-46 came up and the answer seemed clear, at least to me.
31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
God is the ultimate judge of righteousness. He alone determines who is to be one of the sheep at the right hand and who will be the goats on the left. He holds what is morally good, but when I encounter moral questions in this life, where should I look for the answers?
 I know the following quotation is taken out of context, but can you speculate as to the source of the following conclusion?

"...what is morally good -- that is something that must instead be determined by the community's wider values."*

I would guess a moral relativist, or a maybe a secular humanist, or perhaps an atheist. It could not have come from a Christian...right?


I was shocked when I considered the source, and the fact that this was posted on the Episcopal News Service.

I must have been under the mistaken impression that I should be looking to Christ to help point the way to Goodness, to Truth.

I guess I was wrong.

In the future, when confronted with a moral question, I will conduct a poll, or maybe I will hold a convention and vote on a resolution of the community. Isn't that how the Epsicopal church determines the will of God?

After all, no community has ever opted for immorality before, have they?

*Ask for the Rt. Rev. Mark S. Sisk bishop of the Diocese of New York. 

h/t T19

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Forgiveness and the Pederast: A Flaw in the Theology of Forgiveness?

Last week, the sports world was rocked by the story of allegations of sexual abuse made against a Penn State assistant football coach that resulted in the firing of that coach's superior, Head Coach Joe Paterno.

Public opinion seems to be pretty much unanimous about the inappropriateness of pederasty in this case.

The public still seems divided over the question of how one should deal with a coworker or close friend when such behavior is suspected. Some think that the Head Coach should have called the police when he first heard of the accusations, and others feel that it was sufficient that he reported the accusations up the chain of command.

When it comes to sexual acts with children, the secular world is full of talk about judgement, protection of others, and punishment.
The Church however, tends to view the individual through the lens of forgiveness, and this is where the Church's vision gets blurry.

It was the scandals involving the Roman Catholic Church that most recently raised public awareness of the question of reporting, the problem of passing the buck, and the problem of allowing the pederast to persist in their chosen "ministry."
From reading the Epistles, it seems that sexual immorality has always been a problem in the Church. Ever wonder why, in two thousand years, the problem has not been solved (except perhaps by redefining what is "immoral")?

Take the Episcopal church for example. Fr. Bede Parry was a Catholic monk and was removed from his monastery because of multiple acts of sexual misconduct. Score one point for judgement to the Catholic Church. But were those accusations passed on to the police? Fr. Parry applies for work in the Episcopal church and is accepted by the then Bishop of Nevada, +Katherine Jefferts Schori. It is widely believed that Fr. Parry's sordid past and proclivities were known since after his acceptance into the church, he was supposed to be placed away from temptation in his new position in TEc, but that word seemed to have been forgotten somewhere along the way. Fortunately, we have no further accusations against Fr. Parry from his time ministering in TEc. The case in a nutshell can be found at the Anglican Curmudgeon's blog.

Was the acceptance and placement of a potentially dangerous priest into the Episcopal fold an act of Christian forgiveness? Or was it an act of stupidity?

Another factor in the equation is a fear of rendering "judgement" among modern day Christians. We can all agree about judging the pederast as a danger, but when we fail to act appropriately upon that judgement we put others at risk. Of course, there is risk involved when speaking up and trying to act against threats to the congregation. I remember what happened to Beverly Moore back in 2005. She was placed among the excommunicated for reporting her concerns about a sexual predator in the church (my comments and links here).

Maybe there is a also broken theology of Christian judgement, but I suspect a flawed theology of forgiveness is at work in the passing along of problematic priests to unsuspecting congregations.

Here is how it works:
Priest A (a female) has a problem, let's say a dalliance with a parishioner.
Bishop A hears about it and calls Priest A in to talk about it.
Priest A confesses and pledges to never do it again.
Bishop A sends Priest A to a shrink and appoints a spiritual counsellor.
Bishop A gets reports from the shrink that Priest A might do it again.
Priest A does well for a few years and applies for a position in another diocese under Bishop B.
Bishop A reports to Bishop B the earlier issue with Priest A.
Bishop B sits down with Priest A and is convinced of Priest A's repentance.
The flawed theology of forgiveness then enters into the equation and Bishop B hires Priest A.
Priest A has a problem, another dalliance with a parishioner...
Another parish wrecked,
And the cycle repeats...

A flawed theology of forgiveness assumes that the loving response to the individual sinner is to accept them as truly repentant and restored. The flaw may stem from a belief in the inherent goodness of people, a rejection of the Doctrine of the Fall. This leads to a reluctance to pass judgement and to speak the sentence, "You're fired.," or, in the case of Fr. Parry, "We cannot hire you."  A person who recognizes their fallen state should be able to accept such a sentence, but many will take it as a sign of rejection and lose faith. Such a time is a spiritual hinge point that must be handled properly. The easy way is to hire the offender with provisions, the harder way is the "tough love" approach.

A proper theology of forgiveness must include the need to protect others from the risk of the individual falling back into sin as well as the restoration of the individual to Christ. I feel that, under a proper theology (although I am not the one to work out the details), certain individuals will not be permitted to participate in active ministry. Is that denying them their rights?

The Church's unwillingness to protect the body of Christ and society as a whole leaves the responsibility of protection to be acted upon by somebody else. Since the Church can't act, the task has been passed to the civil authority, and as a result of passing along this responsibility, the authority of the Church is weakened further.

+Katherine Jefferts Schori should have refused to accept Fr. Bede Parry into ordained ministry in the Episcopal church. That would have been consistent with the existing Canons of the Episcopal church (see the Anglican Curmudgeon's most recent analysis here). The fact that she did not follow the Canons of the church and put innocent children in peril is inexcusable. There are procedures in place for dealing with clergy who violate the Canons of the Episcopal church. Will Bishop Henderson give her a pass, or will he act?

My bet is that the flawed theology of forgiveness will be invoked, and Bishop Henderson will then probably just ask her to write a report for him on 1 Corinthians Chapter 5.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bishop Fitz Allison (DSC ret.) Takes on Apostasy and the Current Bunch of Heretics

At today's church service we were blessed with the presence of retired Bishop Duvall who gave a very good sermon touching on the message of God's wrath contained in today's scripture readings, and the salvation we may find at the time of trial when as Bishop Duvall puts it, "As I stand there with my head hung low facing the judgement seat of God, ready for my sentence, I feel an arm around my shoulders, the arm of Jesus, who says 'This one's with me.'"

Such sermons are rarely spoken these days in the Episcopal church. We are more often treated to vague interpretations and extra-scriptural speculations some of which can be traced back to heresies that have infiltrated many Episcopal seminaries and minds of unsuspecting Christians in formation. 

I once incurred the wrath of the rector when I protested against a planned "Faith Formation" series based on a book by Marcus Borg. When I called Borg a heretic, I pushed one of the rector's buttons. Fortunately, I was not alone in that protest, and that "Faith Formation" event was never held. 

Nor am I alone in my belief that modern "theologians" like Borg are the purveyors of false and heretical teachings.

An excellent article from the retired Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina puts it far better than I can. Read it all here.

+Fitz takes on the modern heretics, Crossen, Borg, Spong, and the current Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal church. Here are some excerpts:

"Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan are two remarkably popular theologians who teach a version of Christianity that reduces the Christian faith to contemporary secular assumptions. For Crossan, Jesus was an illiterate Jewish cynic. No Incarnation no Resurrection. The Easter story is 'fictional mythology' (p. 161,Jesus a Revolutionary Biography). Borg claims that Jesus was only divine in the sense that Martin Luther King and Gandhi were divine.  Borg dismisses the creeds (p.10, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time) Jesus was a 'spirit person,' 'a mediator of the sacred,' 'a shaman,' one of those persons like Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Mohammed, et al. (p. 32)"
The teachings of Borg and Crossen have been insanely popular in the Episcopal church for a number of years. It is obvious that their beliefs have infected much of the leadership of the church as Bishop Allison points out.

"Christian faith, but not secular faith, now effectively banned from schools, colleges, and universities, has been relegated to the private and subjective arena.  The result is the growing popularity of any who eliminate from Christian faith all that secular trust finds incompatible: miracles, the radical nature of sin and the consequent radical nature of grace, transcendence, holiness, and our human desperate need for God’s initiative action in Jesus.
The consequence of this secular replacement of Christianity over the years is that otherwise educated people can be bereft of any substantial grasp of scripture. One glaring example is Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori who tells us that Marcus Borg 'opened the Bible to me.' (Acknowledgements A Wing and a Prayer). The Christian creed’s affirmation, to which she has repeatedly sworn, (but Borg negates) is that Jesus Christ is:
'the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made . . .'” 
"Borg has not opened the scripture for Bishop Jefferts Schori but closed its revelation of Jesus’ divinity."  
How did we get to this sad state of affairs? What makes false teachers so attractive? Is it because their supposed wisdom lets us off the hook and relieves us of the responsibility of checking their assertions against scripture? Off the top of my head I can rattle off a dozen or so other causes, but I think it ultimately boils down to what scripture teaches us about our fallen state. We are a stiff necked and stubborn people. We are too quick to wander off the path, and we are too quick to worship whatever new false idea or idol someone cooks up. If all this sounds a bit like historical doctrine, well, yes it does, and the fact of the matter is that today the historical doctrines are ignored, or reduced to a muddled mess by endless pages of theological argument, and the end result is a church with no foundation, a church that is fertile ground for heresy.  
"One must ask how such apostasy has come about in the Episcopal Church.  One answer is given by the new bishop of Connecticut, Ian Douglas.  He accurately claims, 'The Episcopal Church does not readily think in terms of doctrine.' As one thinks carefully about this statement the spiritual pathology of TEC becomes apparent."
+Douglas has it partially right. The Episcopal church readily thinks in terms of doctrine but usually comes up with an answer that a doctrine can be interpreted in many different ways by different individuals at different times. Or, as Bishop Allison points out:

"The Episcopal Church does indeed think in terms of doctrine: doctrines of litigation, abortion, divorce, sexual behavior outside of marriage and all kinds of current politically correct doctrines, as well as teachings that Jesus is reduced from the Son of God to a 'subversive sage.' (p. 119, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time)
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church personifies this sad reduction, this shrunken Jesus, this betrayal of Christian faith. Her claim that 'salvation is attained by many ways – Jesus Christ is a way, and God has many other ways as well. . .'(italics provided) (Interview, Time Magazine, July 10, 2006) is a violation of her ordination and consecration vows regarding the church’s creed (p. 519, Book of Common Prayer, , 1979). It is also sadly bereft of the Good News that salvation is never attained but freely given to those who believe. As to her belief in eternal life, she is unsure it exists and she contends that Jesus was more concerned with heavenly existence in this life. (Arkansas Democratic Gazette, Jan. 7, 2007)"

As we read these strong words of warning from +Fitz Allison, one has to wonder why the Borgs and the Schoris of the Episcopal church have not themselves been accused of "Abandonment" and referred to the disciplinary team (headed up by our former Bishop of Upper SC,  +Henderson). 

Oh, I forgot, Bishop Henderson is too busy investigating the charge of "Abandonment" leveled against someone who is the antithesis of the heretics cited above. Heretics run rampant while those who protest are charged with abandoning the church. This church has demonstrated in prior times of trial that it cannot effectively charge anyone with heresy. In fact, such a charge would seem to be a positive feature on one's resume and could quite possibly lead to election to a high position in the church (to say nothing of the money generated through the sale of books and from being out on the speaker's circuit). Unable to fight heresy, heresy reigns, and heretics and apostates reign terror on those who oppose them.

Bishop Duvall remains on the speaker's circuit, but his generation is fading away. Who will be available to preach to future generations of Episcopalians?

I am afraid the future of TEc belongs to the Borg collective.

Captain Picard, where are you?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Flower Fadeth

We have been blessed with a warm sunny November thus far. Under clear Carolina blue skies and temperatures in the upper 60's and low 70's even the azaleas have been fooled as evidenced by this pink ruffle in the yard.

Sorry for the blurry picture, but there was a large unruly animal tethered to my other arm as I tried to steady the cell phone camera.

The leaves on the surrounding trees are turning red, gold, Volunteer orange, and those leaves will be falling soon to become my annual Black Friday lawn chore (although this year the last of the leaves might wait to be cleaned up on Christmas Day). The azalea in the yard shows that life and beauty pushes despite what we know to be the approaching signs of winter.

"The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever." Isaiah 40:8

Sunday, November 06, 2011

For All the Saints

We celebrated All Saints' Sunday today and a couple a lines from a very short sermon got me to thinking about the process of sanctification. Our guest preacher concluded his sermon by saying, "all saints are sinners and all sinners are saints." Perhaps he should have said "all saints were sinners" which might have kept me from wondering.

I understand that sanctification comes not through the works of the saints, but from a gift of a merciful and loving God. As baptised Christians, all of us can partake in the process of sanctification, but most of us fight it. I mean that we seem to take one step forward and two back, but even so, we are still being changed into something new. Will that something new be that which others recognize as saintly? Judging by the numbers of acknowledged saints (subtracting some of those in the Episcopal book of "Holy Men and Holy Women") and dividing that by the total number of baptised Christians who have come and gone over the centuries leaves each of us with an impossibly low probability of becoming that kind of saint. Perhaps the bulk of us can pray that God will keep helping us to see the need to die to sin, and He will see Christ growing in us and transforming us.

On this Sunday we recite a long list of the dearly departed. Names are submitted by the congregation and printed in the bulletin. I do not contribute to this list because I don't want to add any stumbling blocks to the impatient. My list this year includes ten names. If we average 100-120 people in attendance on Sunday, and each has ten people in mind, then the list to be read aloud would include 1000-1200 names. I will print my list here just by the first letter of their first names: L, O, M, D, L, E, MJ, M, J, and B.

That said, many of us have been blessed to be in the presence of some of those unacknowledged saints whose faith in Jesus was such that the evidence of their faith shone through and spread to others. All of these that I have known have also humbly acknowledged their sinfulness and were ever so thankful for everything that God has given them, both the good and the bad.

"They lived not only in ages past;
there are hundreds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints
who love to do Jesus' will.
You can meet them in school, on the street, in the store,
in church, by the sea, in the house next door;
they are saints of God, whether rich or poor,
and I mean to be one too."
("I Sing a Song of the Saints of God"-Lesbia Scott)

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Diocese of Minnesota Resolves to Defeat Marriage Amendment

My excuse for covering all things Minnesota this week is that my grandmother was from Minnesota, and I still have some great aunts and other assorted nuts living there (and nuts don't fall too far from the tree).

From the Star Tribune comes this story.
"Members of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota, which held its annual convention over the weekend in Minneapolis, passed a resolution opposing the marriage amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage.

The church is joining other denominations and non-profit organizations in signing the 'Resolution against the Constitutional Amendment to Ban Marriage for Same-Sex Couples' as prepared and presented by Minnesotans United for All Families.

That group is trying to defeat the amendment set for a vote on the November 2012 ballot, which would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman."

“'The Episcopal Church in Minnesota has always stood with the marginalized,' said Bishop Brian N. Prior, IX Bishop of Minnesota, said in a released statement. 'Regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, gender orientation or immigrant status, Episcopalians in Minnesota have always embraced both the Gospel mandate of love of neighbor and the Baptismal Covenant imperative to respect the dignity of every human being.'”
Bishop Prior obviously thinks that to hold true to the Biblical standard of marriage is unloving and disrespectful.

I think that he is not holding true to the Apostolic faith, and in so doing, he is unloving and disrespectful.

Do not forget that our Bishop Waldo fell from the Diocese of Minnesota tree, and wait till you hear who has taken over his last church.