Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Next Time Someone Calls You a Fundamentalist...

All too often, people like myself are characterized as fundamentalists and painted like this,

When I look at that picture, I see the proper order of things: politics is under country, and both are under God. Perhaps a better picture would have a included donkey alongside the elephant, but try as I might, I couldn't find one of those anywhere.

Unfortunately, historical religious fundamentalism is also painted in a negative light, but the reality of the matter is nothing to be ashamed of as Charles Hoffman+ points out below:
"While there was no single founder of of fundamentalism, many ideas and themes had been suggested by American evangelist Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899) and British preacher John Nelson Darby (1800-1882). The original formulation of American fundamentalist beliefs can be traced to the Niagara Bible Conference (1878-1897) and in 1910 to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, which distilled these into what became known as the five fundamentals:
1. The inerrancy of Scripture
2. The virgin birth and deity of Jesus
3. The doctrine of substitutionary atonement through God's grace and human faith
4. The bodily resurrection of Jesus
5. The authenticity of Christ's miracles (or alternatively, his pre-millenial second coming)
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) 
But consider these questions:
Are these five fundamentals not the core of the Christian faith and life as contained in the Creed and traditions of the church?
Are they not held as the teaching of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as reflected in the teaching and praying of the Book of Common Prayer?
Are they not what the church has believed throughout its history?
So why should we be ashamed of being called a fundamentalist?
Perhaps if the Episcopal Church returned to these fundamentals of doctrine, we would find our way back into the fullness of the Christian faith and heal the many divisions in the church. 
So the next time someone calls you a fundamentalist, respond by saying: 
'Yes, and which of these fundamentals do you reject?'" The Rev. Charles L. Hoffman, D. Min. from back in 2005 

Note: Chuck Hoffman retired this year (see Grace Episcopal Church, Old Seabrook). 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Recommended Discussion on Spong's "The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic"

The word of the day is,
Theologaster: a petty or shallow theologian.
Rob Bowman over at the Parchment and Pen blog takes the old theologaster (Spong) down in a review of  retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong's book,  "The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic." Bowman exposes the lack of research Bishop Spong actually put into his book as well as highlighting Spong's main points as he takes the bishop to the woodshed.
"Spong claims, both in the book and in an article on Huffington Post promoting the book, that The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic is the result of an “intensive five-year-long study” of the Gospel of John and of Johannine scholarship. “I have now read almost every recognized major commentary on John’s gospel that is available in English from the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries” (Fourth Gospel, 8). Unfortunately, it doesn’t show. Spong has left himself some wiggle room by using the qualifier “recognized,” which is probably code for 'non-evangelical.' Spong’s nine-page bibliography at the end of his book does not include a single conservative or evangelical commentary on John and only one monograph on John by an evangelical (Craig Evans’s Word and Glory, an academic study on John’s Prologue). The only other work by a conservative author listed in the bibliography is Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, attributed to Richard 'Bruckman,' which is a reflection of just how little attention Bauckham’s excellent study received. Neither Evans nor Bauckham is actually cited in the book..."

"The main points that Spong seeks to make in his book are as follows:
The Fourth Gospel was not written by the apostle John or any of the disciples.
It was produced by at least three different authors over a period of perhaps thirty years.
Jesus probably said not even one word attributed to him in the Gospel.
Jesus did none of the miracles narrated in the Gospel.
Many of the figures appearing in the Gospel never existed.
The Gospel contains many indications that it was not meant to be taken literally.
The message of the Gospel is not that God became incarnate for our salvation but that human beings can experience personal transformation and a sense of mystical oneness with God (i.e., with being itself).
The orthodox creedal doctrines of the Incarnation and the Trinity depend in large measure on misreading John by taking the Gospel’s statements literally."

One comment sums it up better than I could,
"If Spong and his fellow Jesus Seminar folks like Marcus Borg are right, then they've constructed a faith that is essentially meaningless! Their God and 'faith' is merely an option at best and requires nothing from us!"
Read the rest at

Sunday, June 23, 2013

When Pigs Swim

From Mean2behappy blog

Today' s Gospel reading was Luke 8:26-39,
Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me’— for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) Jesus then asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Legion’; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.

Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.
Our guest preacher today was one of our congregants who related his personal spiritual journey and the many demons he encountered along the way along with his personal resurrections and saviours.

I suppose he could have tied his personal story in with the Gospel a little better and perhaps used the last sentence of today's Gospel reading to speak to what he was doing today, "So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him" but that's probably just the critic in me speaking.

I have always wondered about the demons in this story. They are far better at detecting the presence of God than most of us, but in spite of their abilities, they cannot foresee the results of the error of jumping into a herd of swine. Demons are pretty sneaky, and I always thought they were clever when compared with us, but they aren't so smart when compared to God.

I guess the demons were doomed anyway once Jesus appeared so it didn't matter what they wanted to do at that point. Their bacon was fried. 

I liked Bishop Dan Martins' take on it,
"The setting for this incident is a cemetery, a graveyard. And nearby is a herd of pigs. To Jewish sensibilities of the time, these were both highly offensive conditions, symbolizing every sort of four uncleanness imaginable. For us the cultural equivalent might be a sewage treatment plant next to a rat colony. So what this means is that Jesus is taking the offensive. He is going right into the belly of the beast to do battle. He’s not waiting for Evil to come to him; he’s bringing the fight to Ground Zero of Evil—a graveyard next to a herd of swine. And right there, at symbolic Ground Zero, Jesus wins. Jesus is triumphant. Jesus conquers the powers of darkness right on their own home field. The spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God, the evil powers of this world that corrupt and destroy the creatures of God, the sinful desires that draw us from the love of God—everything that we renounce when we’re baptized and when we’re confirmed—are cast out of us by Jesus just as he cast the legion of demons out of that man on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee." (Read the rest here)

Pigs can but those pesky demons can't swim in the water of baptism.

Thanks be to God. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Who Says Coaches Are Dumb?

A Facebook friend shared something from the Social Democrat Party page the other day, and although I was reluctant to click on the link, I did and found that it did make me stop and think that maybe coaches aren't so dumb after all.


As you can see, the graphic shows that the highest paid public employees in the United States are most likely to be football or basketball coaches. 

The battle between academics and athletics at the university level has been going on for decades, and it looks like from a financial standpoint, the jocks are winning this tug-o-war. Of course, the Social Democrats are having a holy cow over this as an example of a grave injustice. 

But is paying these coaches high salaries a bad thing?

If you have a negative feeling about the highly paid coaches, is it because you value other studies higher than sports, or do you feel that sports provide a lower benefit to society, or is just that you were a wuss and could never shag a fly without tripping over your own shoelaces?

I don't know what the Social Dems are upset about. Aren't we supposed to trust our government? Can't they see that this is just another example of what happens when you give your money (tax dollars) to somebody else (government). Does anyone really expect government to spend all that money wisely?

Isn't this just what people want from government, bread and circuses?

I, for one, am second guessing my father's advice that "Brains beat brawn." Judging from the other high paid public employees on the map, I am also questioning his decision to turn down that offer to be an academic Dean. 

I think that it is vitally important to educate our football and basketball players to become productive citizens instead of thugs and gangstas, and this is exactly what the best coaches do. 

The best coaches are educators as well as role models and leaders. Let them get paid what they are worth, and this leads me to the key question:

"How do you determine someone else's worth?" (see previous post)

Do the Social Democrats get to decide?

Or do market forces get to decide?

Which way is just?

Addendum 06/19/2013:
 "The three highest-compensated employees on the Pentagon payroll are the Army, Navy and Air Force football coaches, according to a recent report."

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Alabaster Jars and Pearls of Great Price, Biblical Economics 101.

One of my least favorite subjects in college was Economics. Although the professor tried to make me believe that all the curves and graphs were based on science, it all seemed very unscientific, and perhaps that is why I still mistrust the words of "leading economists", their economic forecasts, and their recommendations for government policy.

I prefer the parables of Jesus with their simple economic principles such as, if something is of high value, it should fetch a high price,
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:
Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it." Matthew 13:44-46 King James Version (KJV)
Doesn't it always seem that somebody else gets the pearl, or doesn't it always seem to be the other guy who gets the best deal on a new car, or who gets in on the ground floor of something that is about to take off?

I guess part of the problem we have is first to recognize the pearl as a pearl and then to judge its value.

I was visiting Hilton Head Island once when a friend told me the tale of someone who was in on the early development of the island. For those readers unfamiliar with Hilton Head, it is one of the pricier spots in S.C. with beautiful resorts, wide beaches, and lots of restricted access "plantations".

A select few had the vision to see the future of Hilton Head during its initial development. According to my friend, an initial offering of $10,000 per beachfront lot was mailed to a number of potential investors, but there were no buyers.

(Insert sound of hand slapping forehead and voice uttering "Doh!")

After six months the developers raised the price to $15,000 and mailed the offer to the same potential investors. They still had no offers.

After another 6 months they raised the price again and mailed the offer to the same people. This process repeated itself for a while.

At some point, people started buying.

This seemed contrary to the way we see  most sellers operate. After all, when the house across the street goes up for sale, doesn't the price get reduced every six months until it sells if there were no takers at the original asking price?

Time to take a trip down analogy lane for a moment.

Your church attendance has been slumping over the past several decades. In response, your church lowers the cost of admission by cutting back on traditional moral teachings. Does this approach work for the Church as well as it works for the home-seller?

Perhaps people tend to see more value in something that has a higher price tag as suggested by the story of the Hilton Head developers. The cost to the individual of being in a church which teaches those things that God values in us may seem high. After all, it might mean accepting that our favorite sins are Sins and not blessings. It might mean humbling oneself before an almighty God. Perhaps one of the signs of a dying church is one that keeps lowering its standards (either consciously or unconsciously)  thinking that this will attract the paying public.

I was once told you are more likely to get rid of something by asking $5 for it than if you try to give it away for free.

The early church grew during times when the cost of Christianity was measured in lives. Today's Christians in the west may not be under the threat of death that many of our brethren in other parts of the world have to face, but we are still called to sacrifice everything when we are called to give up our precious love of self to gain the pearl of great price.

Analogy lane #2: Hardly anyone bothers to get down on the ground to pick up cheap plastic beads at Mardi Gras parades anymore, but they will do just about anything for a hand painted coconut or a hand decorated shoe (thanks to Keely for the red one).

Do people still see the value of getting on their knees and worshipping God? 

Today's reading from Luke 7 related the story of the sinful woman washing Jesus' feet with tears and anointing them with what must have been costly ointment (costly since it was in an alabaster jar), and the parable of the creditor and his two debtors both of which speak to how we assign value to things.

"And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat.
And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,
And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.
Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.
And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.
There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.
And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?
Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.
And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.
Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.
My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.
Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.
And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.
And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? 
And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace." Luke 7:36-50, (8:1-3)(KJV)
Biblical economics lessons such as these open our eyes to perceive the things of real value such as,

1) Loving God with all your heart, mind, and soul as demonstrated by giving up those things precious to yourself
2) Humility
3) Repentance
4) God's loving forgiveness
5) Thankfulness for His love
6) The value of Faith

Pray to perceive the things of real value so that we avoid Simon's error of not giving to the Lord the homage due His name.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

+Marc's Magical Mandala Tour: Part 2

As I reported in Part 1 of this magical mandala tour, a so-called friend got me hooked on this. Because of its addictive potential, I recommend the following video be accessed only by those who are already addicted to mind altering substances or by those who live in a state where such things can be legally prescribed, for those folks can probably not be harmed much more by California's Episcopal Bishop Marc Andrus' vision of moving, energetic, mandalas everywhere and in everything. For the sober, I have provided a painstakingly prepared transcript which, because of its dry, non-auditory, non-visual (although I tried to put in some of the visuals) format lacks the hypnotic effects of the video. 

The whole thing reminded me of an art appreciation class I took back in college. I never could see what the professor claimed to see when studying an objet d'art. Many of my fellow students concluded that the professor was growing magic mushrooms in her study and drinking a little mushroom tea before class.

One really scary thing about the Bishop's lecture is (if you go to the question and answer session at the end) there appear to have been high school students witnessing his performance. What effects this talk had on their shapeless minds of clay can only be guessed, but if this was an introduction to Christianity to any of those present (and there was a Muslim student who spoke), my guess is that they got as much out of the Bishop's speech as I got out of my art appreciation class in college.

For the video, scroll to minute 33:00 for Bishop Andrus' presentation. It only lasts 12 minutes I promise.

Bishop Marc Andrus and The Sakyong, Jamgön Mipham Rinpoche: A pathway to compassion 2013 May edition of the Festival of Faiths

Here is the transcript, I have added time markers for those who want to refer back to the video, and added some footnotes marked with an * where I felt you might need a reference.

Bishop Andrus at 0:33:00 - "That was beautiful and everything I hoped and knew it would be. Mandala really broke into western consciousness as Buddhism and Hinduism moved into the west The Sakyong's father wrote profoundly about mandalas, and then Carl Jung whom I quoted also did tremendous deep work on how these mandalas manifest in peoples and communities spontaneously, just coming up as they are facing great challenges in their lives, so the mandala in Christianity is relatively an unknown idea. We have icons, we have the famous cross that's on the other side of the stage which was venerated by St. Francis. Those kinds of images we are familiar with.  
When the Sakyong said that the mandala also exists as an imaginative (0:34:00) quality, I'd like to suggest that in the earliest times in Christianity there was a mandala community. So the work of two interesting scholars who don't know each other, Alexander Schaia* and Fr. Bruno Barnhart*, have suggested that the communities from the second through the fifth century of Christianity organized themselves around an imaginary a community mandala, and that it looked like this: young people would be prepared for baptism, that is a rite of transformation, that's how I'd like you to think about baptism (0:35:00) as a rite of transformation, its very much like a Lakota person in South Dakota in the late 19th century Black Elk* when he went on his vision quest that was very similar if you take it right down to the bones like the preparation of young people for this rite of transformation in Christianity in its earliest centuries, and the elders would meet them as the newly initiated, and they considered this the most dangerous moment of the year for the elders for as they said, 'We are in danger of dying every time we meet the newly initiated' Why? because the newly initiated will challenge everything about what we consider to be reality and settled truth (0:36:00) So our principles and our self organizing ideas die when we meet these young people who have just gone through this rite of transformation.  
The mandalas are dynamic they're not static images they revolve around the center point. Now the way that they revolve in this early Christian community is through Gospel readings, sacred readings, that followed an interesting pattern moving from the outside to the center so typically we read the Gospels in Christian circles Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John the way we find them in the New Testament, but in this rite of transformation for young people and for the whole of the community, they read them this way, (0:37:00) Matthew, Mark, John, Luke, and John was at the center. So what I want to suggest to you is what is at the center makes a big difference what you conceive of being at this energetic center, that pulls everything together and then sends it back out again in service makes a big difference and the reason that John was at the center was that John itself is a mandala. The Gospel of John is a deep and flowery document, story, that presents the deepest understandings of Christianity so they placed the Gospel of John at the center of the mandala, and then you make your progress back out into the world with Luke which is about how do we serve the world. Once we've made the journey in, and then we've abided in the center (0:38:00) with John then we don't stay there we move out again in service.  
So I wanted to show you some of the ways that this shows up."  
"This is an early Christian sarcophagus, where a body was placed and what you see is Christ as the good shepherd in the center and you see how everything is organized around that image. This was the dominant image of Christ for eight hundred years in Christianity. Almost no crucifixes, no Christ on the cross but Christ the good shepherd. This is a very appealing image and the energy of Christ the good shepherd is different than Christ on the cross. It talks about protection, love, intimacy, so if you place that at the center of the mandala what energy do you have as you move outward?"  
"This is a really significant little painting from Syria where we think about the horrible depredations and destruction that is going on now in humanity. This comes from the oldest house church in Christianity that has ever been discovered. It is at Dura-Europos* in Syria. It is very primitively painted but full of energy and beauty. This is a fragment of three paintings that was in a little part of this house church where they baptized people, this rite of transformation, three images: one was Christ the good shepherd, one was Jesus healing a paralytic, and then this one which is considered to be the center of the center of the mandala, the mandala of the Gospel of John. The center of that mandala is Christ walking on the water (0:40:00) at night, and that is what you see in the right hand bottom is the figure of Christ, and he is reaching out his hand to Peter who is giving it a little try walking on the water, then he gets afraid, sinks down, and gets pulled up again. Why did they put that at the center of the center of the mandala? Christ walking on the water. This is the light that shines in the darkness and nothing can put it out. So it is the middle of the night, the disciples are in a boat on the water, and Christ comes to them walking on the water, this little point of light in an overwhelming ocean of chaos and shadow and extends himself to them to empower them to do the same, to walk on water, to restore creation. "
(Next image not available, but this will give you a rough idea)

"The crucifix, Christ crucified is at the center of some mandalas (0:41:00) the four symbols at each corner are the symbols of the four Gospels and these are what move around, this is the energy moving around the center of the mandala. If the cross is at the center, it is different energy, than... different meaning than Christ the good shepherd or Christ walking on the water. Here the center of the cross is where everything meets in your life: good, bad, in Paul's terms, Jews or Greeks, men or women, slave or free, and the differences between those polarities in your life and in the lives of the early Christians was not to dissolve them in the center of the cross but to bring them into relationship with each other. That's a very important energy, to bring all things into relation to each other in the center (0:42:00) Everything has its identity, nothing loses its identity, but they become related to each other instead of cut off from each other that's a very profound thing to put in the center of the mandala. "

"This is a very early maybe the oldest piece of stained glass in the world. It is in France and it is the head of Christ from Wissembourg*. And... I think I love it... I put it up there as an example of Jesus as the Christ that is embodying the divine but being very human like you, embodying the divine but being completely human so it is a very appealing image at a human level. Feel the attraction of the eyes, a very vulnerable face but strong at the same time and if you put that at the center of the mandala different things happen with that energy (0:43:00), and that is what Jesus says as he is walking on the water, they don't know who he is coming to them walking on the water and he says 'I Am', which is a declaration of divinity, 'I Am He, Jesus of Nazareth' so a declaration of being just like you that at the center.
 (Next image not available but picture something like the next image sans the four images around the cross)
Now this... you see a center that is undifferentiated so this is like the first mandala in a way that the Sakyong presented here there is nothing in the center and this you can say as Meister Eckhart* would have said is the God behind God, no images, no names, this is the principle of becoming everything comes out of that which we cannot see you could say is (0:44:00) the parent god if you wanted to put a name on it or the ground of being everything comes up out of this."  
"This is from the book of Kells from Ireland in the ninth century and it should animate (special visual effect) and that's how you would see it in the Book of Kells. See the undifferentiated center and then the cross and then the four creatures of the Gospels these energetic beings who move around the center emanating from that undifferentiated center. This is how you would see it in the document from the ninth century."
"This is from Syria again from the fifth century this is the Ascension of Christ (0:45:00) see how Christ is in the center of a mandala in the upper register so he is ascending and that is God waiting for him in the far corner and you should imagine that this cherubim in the bottom with all the eyes on the wings and the flame colored wings and the angels are circulating around the figure of Christ who is ascending. So here Christ is the Sun, S U N, and the sun, if you will rolls from east to west and carries the spirit with it. So again I asked this great young person ... to animate it, there they go into the Father."

"This is Christ in Majesty so what's interesting here, this is from Germany/France that border (0:46:00) this is also from the 800's very early they maintained this wisdom knowledge of the transforming community so the animals associated with the Gospels are in the wisdom order. They go Matthew, Mark, John, and Luke and
they are turned toward the Christ in Majesty this is the Christ of the Book of Revelation who says I am the beginning and the end I am the alpha and the omega."

"And again from another document of the same time... now there is no center that is discernible there is an energy at the center of these four Gospel writers these are four people writing the Gospels but there is clearly a center we can feel it we can see it (0:47:00) but it is not manifested and that is like much of our lives, there's an energetic to our lives we don't even seem to be referring to it each of them is facing away from that which is informing them and compelling them to write these Gospels and for writing the Gospel you could substitute doing your work, doing your work in your world. And that is the final picture the hidden center point. Okay Thank you..."
The following are not endorsements, but I make available for those investigating Bishop Andrus' sources.
1) Bruno Barnhart books at Amazon can be found by clicking here.
2) Alexander Shaia books at Amazon can be found by clicking here.
3) In his vision, Black Elk is taken to the center of the earth, and to the central mountain of the world. What mythologist Joseph Campbell explained as "the axis mundi, the central point, the pole around which all revolves...the point where stillness and movement are together..." Black Elk was residing at the axis of the six sacred directions. Campbell viewed Black Elk's statement as key to understanding myth and symbols.[(wiki link8])
4) Dura-Europos house church. Article about
5) Wiisembourg Abbey Church of Saint Peter andSaint Paul, Wissembourg
6) Meister Eckhart (b. 1260) danced with heresy but avoided condemnation by retracting some of the things he said.

Okay, you have successfully negotiated Bishop Andrus' magical mandala tour. If you are like me, you should be seeing mandalas everywhere, and you should be ready to handle your next task, the dreaded traffic circle mandala,

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Task Force 10 to Gomorrah Part 4

In earlier posts, (links to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) we presented the details on what we call Task Force 10 to Gomorrah, or the Bishop of Upper South Carolina's group studying the theology of unity in hopes of keeping Episcopalians in his diocese together if and when same sex blessing ceremonies start being done (officially) in Upper South Carolina churches.

The task force has fallen on hard times lately with the resignation of one of its few conservative voices. With his departure, we can be pretty confident on what kind of document they are going to come up with.

Word got out pretty quickly after the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina sent the following letter via email to our clergy this week that he was fully intending to permit the use of the rite of same sex blessing in his diocese although the details as to how this will take place have not yet been completed (since his scattered task force is still hiding behind a smokescreen after the loss of one of its ships of the line).

June 6, 2013
 Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I write to give you an update on the Bishop’s Task Force on Unity. Although I originally planned to include this update as part of a more comprehensive letter about several initiatives taking place in our diocese (to be mailed next week), a recent letter about the Task Force from the Rev. Harrison McLeod to the Christ Church congregation prompted me to send this to you now. I had asked Harrison, as president of Diocesan Executive Council, to review a draft of my comprehensive update, which included much of the text below.
As you know, I called the Bishop’s Task Force on Unity together following General Convention 2012 to address those challenges with regard to disagreements in the church around same-sex blessings. The Task Force has met seven times since October 2012 and hopes to finish its work by late fall this year or early winter next year.
A structure for what we present to the Diocese upon the completion of our work is beginning to emerge and will include a pastoral letter from me and a curriculum created by the Task Force for congregations. We hope this structure will challenge people of all perspectives to examine assumptions, engage the issue more rigorously—biblically, theologically and morally—and to stay in community and in conversation throughout.
My pastoral letter at that time will detail how we will address same-sex blessings in this Diocese. Our way forward will, as I have written and said on several occasions over the last year or more, include a path for congregations who seek to allow same-sex blessings as well as my support for those congregations who cannot in good conscience allow them.
It is my most profound hope that we will succeed in shifting our diocesan conversation away from secular vs. sacred polemic to a deeper engagement with the sources of our faith and a more profound trust in God’s reconciling presence with us as we struggle with hard things. It is my most profound prayer, that our work may draw the diocesan community into a deeper unity in important areas of our common life, even if, as expected, we remain in disagreement on this particular issue.
In Christ,
The Rt. Rev. W. Andrew Waldo
VIIIth Bishop
This letter is an illustration of a bishop who has chosen to walk apart from the one holy catholic and apostolic Church in which we all profess to believe, and who is content to let parts of his flock do the same (the greater crime?).  The teaching ministry of a Bishop as well as his responsibility to preserve the historic Faith of the Church has been perverted by a new teaching, that a sin can be made a blessing by virtue of a consensus of the people.

Kudo's to the rector of Christ Church Greenville for telling his congregation that he will not be party to Bishop Waldo's false gospel.

Episcopalians in Upper South Carolina should consider the following questions,

1.) Which Bishop Waldo is a false teacher, the one who agrees with same sex blessings or the one who blesses churches that call same sex blessings wrong?
2.) What direction will your priest support when it comes to the question of same sex blessings?
3.) What will your vestry support?
4.) Can churches who do not agree with Bishop Waldo continue under his leadership?
5.) How will you as an individual continue under Bishop Waldo?
6.) How will you spread the Gospel of Christ when there exist two very different gospels operative and both are sanctioned by the same Church?

As expected, the unity Bishop Waldo has sworn to uphold (see the Ordination of a Bishop below) is not likely to exist until traditional Episcopalians strike their colors and surrender or move to Greenville.

Episcopal traditionalists should consider the following from the Historical Documents section of their Prayer Books.

XX. Of the Authority of the Church.
The Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: and yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God's Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another.  Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of Holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree any thing against the same, so besides the same ought not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation
XXVI. Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacraments.
Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have chief authority in the Ministration of the Word and Sacraments, yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ's, and do minister by his commission and authority, we may use their Ministry, both in hearing the Word of God, and in receiving the Sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ's ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God's gifts diminished from such as by faith, and rightly, do receive the Sacraments ministered unto them; which be effectual, because of Christ's institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men.
Nevertheless, it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church, that inquiry be made of evil Ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences; and finally, being found guilty, by just judgment be deposed.
XXXIV. Of the Traditions of the Church.
It is not necessary that the Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one, or utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men's manners, so that nothing be ordained against God's Word. Whosoever, through his private judgment, willingly and purposely, doth openly break the Traditions and Ceremonies of the Church, which be not repugnant to the Word of God, and be ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly, (that others may fear to do the like,) as he that offendeth against the common order of the Church, and hurteth the authority of the Magistrate, and woundeth the consciences of the weak brethren.
Every particular or national Church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish, Ceremonies or Rites of the Church ordained only by man's authority, so that all things be done to edifying.

Clergy and Bishops both active and retired should consider the following from The Ordination of a Bishop (1979 BCP pp.512-523)
My brother, the people have chosen you and have affirmed
their trust in you by acclaiming your election. A bishop in
God's holy Church is called to be one with the apostles in
proclaiming Christ's resurrection and interpreting the Gospel,
and to testify to Christ's sovereignty as Lord of lords and
King of kings.
You are called to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the
Church; to celebrate and to provide for the administration of
the sacraments of the New Covenant; to ordain priests and
deacons and to join in ordaining bishops; and to be in all
things a faithful pastor and wholesome example for the
entire flock of Christ.
With your fellow bishops you will share in the leadership of
the Church throughout the world. Your heritage is the faith
of patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and those of
every generation who have looked to God in hope. Your joy
will be to follow him who came, not to be served, but to
serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.
Are you persuaded that God has called you to the office of
Answer I am so persuaded.

Bishop Will you guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the
Answer I will, for the love of God.

A Bible is presented with these words
Receive the Holy Scriptures. Feed the flock of Christ
committed to your charge, guard and defend them in his
truth, and be a faithful steward of his holy Word and

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

+Marc's Magical Mandala Tour: Part 1

A friend (with friends like this who needs enemies) recently turned me on to the Timothy Leary of the Episcopal church, Bishop Marc Andrus of the Diocese of California. He is an incredibly cool and hip dude who is exploring the mystical realms of Christianity through mandalas, cosmological powers, maximal maternal affection, and the new Cosmologies. In Part 1 of this series, feed your head on "Maximum Maternal Care" from +Marc's blog (link to +Marc's blog),

“Those who receive maximum care and affection from their mothers will always have the trace of this in them, no matter what happens to them in life.” — XIV Dalai Lama, teaching in Louisville, Kentucky, May 20, 2013

When I heard the Dalai Lama say this yesterday in Louisville in the Yum! Center, I immediately thought of the work I’ve taken with the Christ Mandala — to relate the cosmological powers to the archetypes of the Cosmic Christ.

What could be more the expression of the maximum maternal affection and care than the originating event of the universe, the Great Flaring Forth? Fourteen and a half billion years ago not only did all that is come into being, but all that is came into being as inter-being, deeply interrelated. The originating event of the universe made us a universal family.

Jesus had a terrific mother and father, who showed him, it seems, maximum care and affection. But he was also raised, it appears, in a fairly hostile, censorious community that made his relations difficult. Particularly, there may have been continual pushing at Jesus when he was a boy about his questionable parentage. Mary’s saying that the Holy Spirit had brought the child might be accepted in a contemporary urban community like my home, San Francisco, but there are many tight-knit communities where that would be greeted with incredulity and censure.

So at some point, Jesus had a mystic experience, the first of many that told him the truth about his parentage; “I have no father, I have no father, I have no father…Yes, my father and the father of all is God!” This is a statement of deep truth, and one we can understand in a new way, benefiting as Christians from the New Cosmology.

We can find the traces of the maximum parental affection and caring, the love of God in the deep interrelatedness that remains as the birthright of all beings in the universe, and of the universe itself. “Are we not all offspring of the Divine?” asks St. Paul, and we, with Jesus can say, “Yes!”

Today, pray to see the traces of the maximum maternal care and affection for you that is woven within you, from God.


May 21, 2013 2:27:55 PM

Consider yourself enlightened.

Coming down off the spiritual high I experienced from reading this blog post, I went into a real spiritual downer. I found myself searching my brain for scriptural references to the "Christ Mandala" and how it relates the "cosmological powers to the archetypes of the Cosmic Christ." And then I realized that the source of my angst was due to my maternally implanted desire for precision. You see, the source of the "Great Flaring Forth" was a book about the "Primordial Flaring Forth" by Brian Swimme, and I just hate to see things mis-quoted, it just, like draws away some of the coolness energy from the man, you know.

And then I searched high and low for the mystic experiences of Jesus that told him the truth about his parentage. Was it his baptism, or was it the forty days in the wilderness? Doesn't my need for details and facts also represent a trace of the background glow of the great flaring forth of maximal maternal affection? Are not the orthodox also offspring of the Divine?

Can one offspring tell the other he is just plain nuts?

In Part 2 of this series we will have our minds expanded through +Marc's vision of the Christ Mandala in Christian history and art.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Another one bites the dust: St. Andrews Episcopal Church (Charlotte) Closes

This story was printed in the Charlotte Observer this morning.
"After more than 100 years in three locations in Charlotte, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church closed and ended services on Central Avenue last week.
While the immediate cause was financial, a spokesman for the Raleigh-based North Carolina diocese as well as the leader of the church-elected vestry said internal conflict that has roiled the church for several years contributed to the decision." (Read the rest here).
While I am not familiar with their situation, I am familiar with the image below,
 As far as average Sunday attendance and membership goes, it looks like they were doing better than most Episcopal churches (this chart goes through 2011). The report in the Charlotte Observer says that more recently,
"Unfortunately, membership also had dwindled, with as few as 40 or 50 people attending on many Sundays."
That is still in keeping with a fair number of Episcopal congregations.

What is interesting is that there might have been some financial hanky panky which caused a new rector to be  installed in 2011,
"A longtime priest had to be placed on administrative leave several years ago after mishandling church money, although criminal charges weren’t filed. A new rector, the Rev. Leslie Burkhardt, was called in December 2011..While Burkhardt had supporters within the church, some members of the congregation had trouble working with her and that made things worse..."
It also sounds like the diocese stepped in and closed them down.

Another one bites the dust.

Read more here:

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Recommended Resource Page(s) on "Gay Christians"

R. Scott Clark at the Heidelblog posted a helpful, easy to read analysis on May 29,2013 (click here), and I recommend it as a brief and handy resource to pass along to those who are new to the question of "Gay Christians". (Addendum: Part 2 was posted on May 30, 2013)

In Part 1, he takes people through the usual O.T. and N.T. passages with clarity and precision, but I suspect that his arguments may fall on deaf ears and closed hearts when brought before people who feel that many of the words of the Apostle Paul can be safely ignored, and that the novel teachings of those who speak of "inclusion", "justice", and "integrity" as they give their assent to the blessing of homosexual behavior in the Church are to be followed as though that was the new gospel message we all need to hear.

Perhaps it may require an initial assessment of your target audience's opinions on Paul and the authority from which he writes before you suggest they visit R. Scott Clark's Heidelblog site.

In reading Paul's letters, one can see that he may have had some to question his authority from time to time, and he is obliged to lay out his defense, as seen in today's lectionary reading:
Paul an apostle—sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me,
To the churches of Galatia:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or a messenger from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!
Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a slave of Christ.
For I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. Galatians 1:1-12
Oh those foolish Galatians (3:1). Are we all that different when we write Paul off?

Part 2 tackles the "God made me this way" argument.

WWPS? (What would Paul say?)