Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hurl Him Off the Cliff!

This Sunday's Gospel reading from Luke 4:21-30 shows us the reaction of Jesus' hometown people to his audacious claims and to his inflammatory retorts to their protestations.
Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’
The people were probably thinking, "Blasphemy!" because of what Jesus had just read aloud (refer back to last week's reading).

As if that didn't upset them enough, Jesus proceeds to essentially say that they are not going to receive God's blessing,
He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your home town the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.” ’ And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
The people's response to what they perceived to be the ravings of a blasphemous wacko was to try to hurl him off a cliff which is a kind of death by stoning with the exception that usually the stones are the objects that get hurled.

What would be the response of any reasonable, educated, modern if a person came into their place of worship and made such a claim?

We tend to reject prophets...

...unless they agree with us.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Walking in an Episcopal Wonderland

My friend, the Underground Pewster, is taking some well deserved R+R this week and asked me to fill in. Inspired by UGP's last post on the responses of Episcopal bishops to the recent actions by the Anglican Primates, I present to you the following ditty best sung in barbershop style to the tune of "Walking in a Winter Wonderland".

Time out bells ring
Are you listening
In the pews
Folks are sitting
Another low Sunday,
We're happy this way
Walking in an Episcopal wonderland

Gone away, is the old Word
Here to stay, is the new Word
He/She/It sings an inclusive love song,
As we go along
Walking in an Episcopal wonderland

In the pulpit we can build a strawman
And pretend that he's a Primate brown.
He'll say Bill and Bob aren't married
And we'll say, "No Man!"
So our job is to get him turned around.

Later on
We'll conspire
As we dream by the pyre
To face unafraid
The plans that we've made
Walking in an Episcopal wonderland

Time out bells ring
Are you listening
In the pews
Folks are sitting
Another low Sunday,
We're happy this way
Walking in an Episcopal wonderland

Gone away, is the old Word
Here to stay, is the new Word
He/She/It sings an inclusive love song,
As we go along
Walking in an Episcopal wonderland

In the pulpit we can build a strawman
And pretend that he's a Primate clown
We'll have lots of fun with Mr. Strawman
Until the hateful bloggers knock him down

When we misbehave
We're excited
Though our Presiding Bishop's uninvited
To frolic and play, in meeting the Anglican way
Walking in an Episcopal wonderland,
Walking in an Episcopal wonderland

Sunday, January 24, 2016

One Body? False Teachers on Parade: Walking in an Episcopal Wonderland

Today's reading from 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 in which Paul describes the body's need for many various parts will probably be used in many a sermon to try to reassure the pewsitters that they are still an essential part of the world wide Anglican Communion, but the fact of the matter is that the Episcopal church has decided to walk apart from scripture in regards to human sexuality and the majority of the rest of the Anglican Communion have told them so.

I can hear it now,
"Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body." So too in the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal church's view on marriage on the one hand, and the rest of the world on the other. The whole cannot exist without both parts.

If your right hand is gangrenous, better to amputate than to let the poison spread to the rest of the body.

For the past couple of weeks, responses from Episcopal bishops to the recent "suspension" of the Episcopal church have been rolling in. These have been gathered by "Anglican Ink", and you can read them all for yourselves, but the site is a bit unwieldy, so I will summarize them below and provide links to the specific pages.

I actually had to stop before compiling all of the links because doing so was starting to affect me spiritually much in the same way that one of my friends was affected by a research project she was engaged in when we were in school. She was tasked with studying hundreds of suicide notes from successful suicides, and after the first two hundred, she could not keep from laughing uncontrollably when she saw the same protests and similar claims of being hurt in letter after letter after letter.

You might think that was cruel, but read them and weep, or laugh if they get to you too,

Bishop of El Camino Real: Totally unrepentant and has the nerve to say this,
"On the one hand as a Bishop of the church, I am part of the problem for your provinces, and I ask your forgiveness; on the other hand, I do not regret my inclusive stance and votes at our General Convention."
What would Paul have to say about those two hands?

Bishop of Nevada : We got away with the Gene Robinson thing, and we'll get away with this.
"If being excluded from committees for three years is the price we have to pay for full inclusion of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, it is a price I would pay many times over."
Bishop of Minnesota:  Cultural relativism on display.
"Being part of the Anglican Communion is very much like being part of a neighborhood or a community. There are a great number of things, including shared history, that bind us together. Yet, each home in that neighborhood is inhabited by unique individuals with their own contextual family set of norms and values. When we run up against these, for instance: a kid playing in my yard without supervision at a time when I believe they should be in bed, it is not only challenging, but from my perspective, wrong. However, it is clearly acceptable to that family."
Bishop of Alaska: We are still a part of the Anglican Communion!
"The decision by the Primates (carefully couched in the context of the Institutional Church) does not break apart our relationship in the Anglican Communion..."
Bishop of Iowa:  There are Parts of Romans I will quote, but there are parts that I won't.
"In fact I read somewhere (Romans 8:38-39) that "neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor heights, nor depth, nor anything in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." After all it is God's love that binds."
 Bishop of Colorado: This is not punishment, it is a step onto a new path of being in communion,
"This really is the invitation that has come out of the Primates meeting: to 'walk together in the grace and love of Christ-while faithfully and prayerfully recognizing our differences.'" 
Bishop of Southern Ohio:  It is a sad misunderstanding,
"I am saddened by the Anglican Primates' decision to discipline the Episcopal Church owing to the disparity in our understanding of marriage."
Bishop of Maine: Message from the bridge from the Captain of the Titanic,
 "I want to be clear that nothing has changed in either The Episcopal Church or the Diocese of Maine. LGBT persons are full members of the body of Christ and full members of The Episcopal Church. We will uphold marriage equality here and throughout The Episcopal Church." 
Bishop of Los Angeles:  Its those evil homophobic Africans who need to repent!
"We in the Diocese of Los Angeles remain in strengthened solidarity with LGBT sisters and brothers around the globe, especially those whose lives are endangered daily by draconian laws that fail to respect the dignity of every person as we live together in diverse cultures and sexual orientations as people created in God’s own image."
Bishop of Montana:  Ignorant savages, bullies, haters! How dare they do this to the prophets of God! Let me quote Paul... (yes another one),
"It may well be true that what we have done departs from the doctrine of other churches, but it would be more accurate to say that it is a departure from the beliefs of the bishops present."
"The primates are acting like prelates in the pejorative sense of that word. Or, more bluntly, they are trying to bully TEC, and are thereby indulging in the worst kind of clerical arrogance."
 "This hardly comports with the description of love in I Corinthians 13 nor with the Pauline command to forbear with one another." 
 "I wonder who is being punished by this high-handed action. The rest of the communion will now not have benefit of the considerable talents of the TEC."
 "Finally, I believe that history will look favorably on TEC. We have taken what I believe is the course of action that accords with scripture, tradition and reason. I wonder what the primates will do when other provinces of the communion follow our lead, as some surely will. My prediction: no time-out for them."
Let me pause for a second because I am rolling on the floor and laughing out loud over the Bishop of Montana's self-righteous indignation.

Bishop of Utah: We will not repent!
"We were inclusive about marriage equality before today. We still are."
Bishop of Arizona: They have no right to do this, stick to your guns!
"We are not backing down from full inclusion of all. Oddly, we have been asked to not participate in policy decisions by a group that has no authority to make such decisions in the first place!"
Bishop of Indianapolis: More cultural relativism with a dash of persecution complex thrown in,
That we occupy a place which others around the world cannot embrace should not surprise us. We are equally incapable of embracing the cultures and contexts of others. 
"Suggestions that scripture may actually be challenging the status quo, or that prior interpretations were inaccurate or incomplete, has often been met with both heated denial and violent repudiation. The persecutions of Galileo and Copernicus come to mind…."
Bishop of Western North Carolina: We have found the Promised Land, and we ain't going nowhere!
"We the Episcopal Church have crossed the river by opening marriage to all persons. We may change the liturgies and we might tinker with the stipulations, but we won’t change our minds. We are who we are and they are who they are."
Bishop of West Tennessee:  We the people are visionaries; those Primates are just "management" getting in our way,
"Ideals drive us forward.  Management, while important for order, often keeps us tied to a past that is no longer what is needed for the times in which we now live.  To 'choose for ideals at every turn' reminds me that I am to be driven by that which is 'good news for all people.'”  
Bishop of West Mizzou: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,
"So, I don’t foresee this having much impact where the rubber hits the road for The Diocese of West Missouri."

Bishop of Southern Virginia: Can you believe they did this to our new P.B.?
 "I'm particularly disappointed that our new Presiding Bishop, who was present at the meeting, was forced to endure what was most certainly a difficult and painful experience."
Bishop of Rochester (NY): A contextual martyr,
 "If the cost of upholding human personality is a sanctionable offence then I am happy to be part of a faith community that is deemed guilty of such an offence.  While our unity is in Christ our differences also are in understanding the love of Christ.  I pray that our unity thrives even while our differences are authentically contextual."
Bishop of Central New York:   I will apologize, not to the Anglican Communion but instead to the LGBTQ!
"In my perspective, however, the Primate’s decision to censure The Episcopal Church compounds the pain of discrimination that LGBTQ people have suffered over the centuries and continue to suffer as a result of Church policy.  For that pain I am deeply sorry, and as a Bishop of the Church I apologize to all LGBTQ people, especially those of this Diocese." 
Bishop of Wyoming:  We are so far removed that these things don't matter.
"Ministry is essentially local. These decisions do not impact the life and ministry of the Diocese of Wyoming. Our ministry will carry on as we seek to continue to present Christ in each of our communities, throughout the state, the nation and even the world."
Bishop of Oregon: Reprise: We believe what Paul said in Galatians, but we don't believe him in Romans 1.
"While I understand that many disagree with us, our decision regarding marriage is based on the belief that the words of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians are true for the church today: 'All who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ.'”
Bishop of Spokane: In your face!
"I can assure you that the very recent decision to suspend The Episcopal Church will have no direct impact on the policies and practices regarding marriage in this diocese.  We will continue to make the Celebration and Blessing of Marriage available in a fully inclusive and equal manner as authorized by the canons of The Episcopal Church."

Bishops of Connecticut: No repentance here,
 "The Episcopal Church is deeply committed to the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the life of our church and we affirm the dignity of every human being created in the image of God. In Connecticut, we are fully supportive and stand behind the positions taken by The Episcopal Church with respect to LGBT sisters and brothers."
Bishop of Rhode Island: Feeling rejected,
"When someone rejects you for doing what you prayerfully discern to be the right thing to do, the Bible teaches us that we are to respond in love, by staying in relationship, doing what we can to show God’s love to those who are rejecting us."
 Bishop of New Jersey: Shoot the messenger,
In the communique the Primates “condemned homophobic prejudice and violence” and expressed their resolve to work together to offer pastoral care and loving service irrespective of sexual orientation.” They have made similar statements before. Despite these statements, the conversation about LGBT persons in the church is often hostile and hurtful. Draconian laws in parts of the world foster an environment in which our LGBT brothers and sisters are frequently harassed and persecuted, leading to violence, imprisonment, brutality and sometimes death. Sadly, some Primates and other church leaders in these regions have been vocal in their support of harsh laws and policies against gay and lesbian persons.
Once more, it appears the Primates’ Meeting makes statements of care and support on the one hand, while punishing The Episcopal Church on the other. It obscures widespread oppression and persecution of gay and lesbian persons and the violence done against them around the world with a concern about “unilateral actions on a matter of doctrine without Catholic unity.” I find this incompatible with the baptismal demands that we “seek and serve Christ in all persons loving our neighbor as our self” and that we “strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.”
Bishop of Vermont: I just don't understand...
"As a bishop in the Episcopal Church who has worked hard to provide full access to marriage for all, while at the same time doing all I can to maintain good collegial relations with those bishops, and others, who disagree with the recent decisions of our General Convention regarding marriage, I find myself puzzled by the inability or unwillingness of the majority of Primates to find a better way to be in relationship."

Bishop of Chicago: I will continue to discriminate against polygamists.
 "As your bishop and as a Christian, I believe that the faithful, loving, and lifelong union of two persons–of the same sex or of opposite sexes–is capable of signifying the never failing love of God in Christ for the church and the world, and nothing that happens in a meeting or anywhere else will ever change that."

My diagnosis: Nothing will change the path that these bishops have chosen to lead their flocks down. It is a wayward path, one that is far from the straight and narrow way prescribed by Jesus and the Apostles. It is a way that leads to sickness and death.

My recommendation to the rest of the Anglican Communion?


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Incomplete Psalter: Dixit injustus

This Sunday's lectionary presented a good example of one of its major flaws, and that is presenting a sanitized version of scripture and thus a sanitized picture of ourselves. Here is the part of Psalm 36 ( also known as Dixit injustus) that most pewsitters heard today,

5 Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, *
and your faithfulness to the clouds.

6 Your righteousness is like the strong mountains,
your justice like the great deep; *
you save both man and beast, O Lord.

7 How priceless is your love, O God! *
your people take refuge under the
shadow of your wings.

8 They feast upon the abundance of your house; *
you give them drink from the river of your delights.

9 For with you is the well of life, *
and in your light we see light.

10 Continue your loving-kindness to those who know you, *
and your favor to those who are true of heart.

That sure sounds nice, and it should leave the average pewsitter feeling all warm and fuzzy, but why should we need such a God? If churchgoers had heard the full psalm, they might have learned why. Here is the unabridged Psalm 36 (I have highlighted the missing verses).

1 There is a voice of rebellion deep in the heart of the wicked; *
there is no fear of God before his eyes.

2 He flatters himself in his own eyes *
that his hateful sin will not be found out.

3 The words of his mouth are wicked and deceitful; *
he has left off acting wisely and doing good.

4 He thinks up wickedness upon his bed
and has set himself in no good way; *
he does not abhor that which is evil.

5 Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, *
and your faithfulness to the clouds.

6 Your righteousness is like the strong mountains,
your justice like the great deep; *
you save both man and beast, O Lord.

7 How priceless is your love, O God! *
your people take refuge under the
shadow of your wings.

8 They feast upon the abundance of your house; *
you give them drink from the river of your delights.

9 For with you is the well of life, *
and in your light we see light.

10 Continue your loving-kindness to those who know you, *
and your favor to those who are true of heart.

11 Let not the foot of the proud come near me, *
nor the hand of the wicked push me aside.

12 See how they are fallen, those who work wickedness! *
they are cast down and shall not be able to rise.

Adding back the missing verses returns the full power of the psalm to the reader/listener. The strong language in verses 1-4 appear directed at the wicked and that just couldn't apply to those of us sitting in the pews... ;-) and verses 11-12 speak to the consequences of wickedness.

The long term effects of a steady diet of partial teachings may be just as harmful as overt false teaching. In the above example, pewsitters do not hear about evil in the world and thus lose their awareness of our desperate need for a loving God.

What parent would fail to warn their child of the dangers of the world and how best to defend themselves?

It seems that the Church that cuts up the psalms might be that type of parent.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Bishop Waldo on the Episcopal Church's "Suspension" From the Anglican Communion: Turning Vinegar Into Wine, or is it Whine?

This Sunday's Gospel reading is from John 2:1-11 and contains the story of Jesus turning water into wine.

For those of you who may have missed it, this past week the Episcopal church got spanked for defying the majority of the world wide Anglican community by pushing forward with its agenda of revising the Church's teachings in regards to human sexuality. The Episcopal church, buoyed by having successfully avoided any discipline for the ordination of the first openly gay, partnered bishop, Gene Robinson (since "divorced" from his partner), and having gotten away with the use of a trial rite for same sex blessings, went ahead last summer with full approval of that rite and resolutions to develop a same-sex marriage rite as well as a gender neutral liturgy over the next few years. The Episcopal church did this in defiance of earlier resolutions of leaders of Anglicans from around the world.

Now, having been spanked, and wanting to put a positive spin on this, Episcopal bishops are sending letters to their sheep trying to assure them that "all is well." I am afraid our bishops are no miracle workers and that this looks a bit like them trying to turn vinegar into wine. Instead of words of repentance, most are pledging allegiance to the General Convention's past sins and leaving this pewsitter with a sour taste in the mouth.

This is what my Bishop Waldo had to say,

On the Events of the Primates 2016 Meeting
15 January 2016
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Many of you have by now seen the various media reports about the Anglican Primates' Meeting that have taken place this week in Canterbury, England. The most visible result of the meeting was a Communiqué from Primates 2016 temporarily suspending The Episcopal Church from representation on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, being appointed or elected to internal standing committees, or voting in any decisions on issues pertaining to doctrine or polity. 
Not that the Anglican Communion has been strong on making decisions pertaining to doctrine in the past. It remains to be seen if such decisions can be made now that the Episcopal church has lost its vote.
Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, called the Primates of the 38 Provinces of the Anglican Communion together - plus a non-voting guest from the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) - specifically to discuss tensions within the Communion around homosexual and women's ordination and same-sex marriage. 
Waldo tossed out a backhanded insult of the Archbishop of ACNA by calling him a non-voting guest and not including his title. Word on the street is that  Archbishop Foley Beach participated more than a simple guest would have been allowed to do.
The Communiqué reflects deep pain that already exists in the Communion; it also causes deep pain among those of us who have acknowledged and/or embraced LGBT persons as full participants in the sacramental life of the Church. 
Waldo repeats the lie that I have heard from many bishops of the Episcopal church that this is about full participation of LGBT persons in the Church. The Church is for all sinners. The Episcopal church has declared that one particular sin is no longer to be considered a sin.  Not only that, the Episcopal church has declared it to be a blessing. All this is contrary to scripture of course, but the way Waldo has worded it, the average pewsitter will remain clueless as to the false teaching hidden in Waldo's vesion of "full inclusion."
It is critical to note, however, that the Communiqué is a communiqué. The Primates' Meeting, while serving as what we call an "instrument of unity" within the Communion, has no authority in and of itself to say who is in or who is out of the Anglican Communion, or to discipline constituent provinces. The other instruments of unity are the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Lambeth Conference of all bishops in the Communion.
In other words, "Don't worry, about a thing, cause every little thing's gonna be alright."
The deepest desire expressed by the Meeting and its Communiqué was that we continue to "walk together in Christ." In fact, the vast majority of connections remain intact between the Episcopal Church and many of the provinces, dioceses and congregations who dissent from the General Convention 2015's decisions on marriage-through mission partnerships, companion diocese relationships, friendships and, especially, shared faith in the Lordship of Jesus Christ. 
 Waldo either misses the boat or is deliberately misleading his sheep here. This walk together in Christ is like a having a Christian brother take you aside and tell you that you are walking away from Christ when you bend and manipulate scripture in order to bless something that is clearly condemned.
Schism has not occurred. A reiteration of our common desire to stay in relationship is in fact explicit in the Communiqué.
Since no other Church was so sanctioned, and the Episcopal church is a minor Anglican sect (in numbers), it is not schism. It is a formal recognition that the Episcopal church has strayed from the fold, and the good shepherds in the rest of the Anglican Communion are seeking out the lost sheep, and in the unlikely event if the Episcopal church were to repent, I am sure relationships would, like the return of the prodigal son, be mended.
 In this Diocese, we have persisted in dialogue and relationship, maintaining respect for one another in the presence of sometimes strong disagreements among us. And we have succeeded remarkably well, opening doors for new understandings of multiple perspectives, traditional and progressive, and the recognition that it is more important that we stand together around the table of Christ, to be transformed by his Body and Blood, than it is to win this or that doctrinal battle.
I would like to see an accounting of Waldo's successes.
But that we are all welcome at that table is non-negotiable.
Actually, it is negotiable. Bishop Waldo, because of his approval of same-sex blessings in the Church would not be in communion with the majority of the world's Anglican bishops unless he were to repent of the false teaching which he is allowing to flourish in his fold. He would have to negotiate to be welcome at many a table in the Anglican Communion.

Lastly, Waldo tries to appeal to us through the words of the Presiding Bishop who, if you listened to his entire statement, is not going to back down from same-sex marriage in the Church.
Following the Primates' Meeting, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said this: 
"Our commitment to be an inclusive church is not based on a social theory or capitulation to the ways of the culture, but on our belief that the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross are a sign of the very love of God reaching out to us all. While I understand that many disagree with us, our decision regarding marriage is based on the belief that the words of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians are true for the church today: All who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ."
As I have mentioned elsewhere, for Michael Curry to ask us to believe Paul in Galatians while at the same time to disbelieve him in Romans 1 is asking a bit too much.

Waldo concludes,
 As in every age of human existence, we have much work to do together, as the very need for the Primates' Meeting confirms. And that work entails, as Archbishop Welby defines reconciliation, "learning to disagree well." That work is the work of mercy and forgiveness extended to one another, laying our burdens at the feet of Christ and rejoicing in the love, grace and mercy God has abundantly showered upon all people. 
Blessings to each and every one of you in the name of Jesus,  
The Rt. Rev. W. Andrew Waldo, 
Bishop The Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina
Actually, Waldo and his friends do have much to work on: repentance for what their votes at General Convention 2015 have done to the Church would be a good start, and that is hard work for someone who is in such denial.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A Response to: "The Church has to adapt and change with the times or else it will die."

How many churches have to die before people will realize that it is not the Church's job to affirm every new social movement that comes along and to change its teachings to accommodate the feelings of those simple pewsitters who are unaware of the ramifications of messing with theology and doctrine.

Witness the steady decline of the Episcopal church which has bent over backwards to adapt with the times in regards to female ordination, caving in on divorce, gay ordination, gay marriage, and gender neutral language in worship. The charge towards the cliff has been largely led by clergy who should know better, with a generous helping hand from their uninformed congregants.

As if the example of the Episcopal church is not enough, we still hear the old "Adapt or Die" meme pop up in other denominations.

From Pirate Christian who posted the following in "Defusing Demonic Dirty Bombs"
These ideas, catch phrases and concepts have infiltrated the church and have laid a false foundation. They’re a “set-up.” Because many Christians believe these things, false teachings are slipping into the church all over the place.

“Christianity has to adapt and change with the times or else it will die.”  
 This idea is just plain false; it’s a pragmatic “let’s fix it ourselves because God needs our help” way of thinking. Think about it; are your religious beliefs so shallow and frail that they can’t stand up against whatever new trend is affecting society? God’s truth is above us, distinct from us and unchanging; otherwise it’s just something we’re making up as we go. Historically, the Christian church was stronger when it went against the culture of the day. The early church began and flourished under the (sometimes very) hostile Roman Empire. But it was weakened and diluted when it became enmeshed with political and social power.   
The constant striving to make church “relevant” is usually counter-productive, and the unbelieving world often views our attempts at “marketing God” as shallow pandering
Striving to make the Church relevant when it is already charged with delivering the most relevant message the world has ever heard does nothing but dilute the message and as the example of the Episcopal church makes clear, adapting the Church to the times can lead to the Church becoming a purveyor of false teachings, apostasy, and heresy. Such a Church will have to answer to God for its sins.

Pirate Christian has other dirty bombs to defuse, and he adds scriptural references to drive home his points. For the "Adapt or Die" claim, he counters with,
Romans 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will.” 
Galatians 1:10 “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
My experience with those who would deny scriptural references in order to advance change in the Church is that they would have no problem ignoring Romans 12:2 and Galatians 1:10.

Ignore the warnings and the Church will die.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

I will say to the north, "Give them up", and to the south, "Do not withhold"

Today's reading from Isaiah 43:1-7 might prophesy something for this week's Canterbury Bowl contestants.

1 But now thus says the Lord,
   he who created you, O Jacob,
   he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
   I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
   and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
   and the flame shall not consume you.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
   the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
   Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.
4 Because you are precious in my sight,
   and honoured, and I love you,
I give people in return for you,
   nations in exchange for your life.
5 Do not fear, for I am with you;
   I will bring your offspring from the east,
   and from the west I will gather you;
6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up’,
   and to the south, ‘Do not withhold;
bring my sons from far away
   and my daughters from the end of the earth— 
7 everyone who is called by my name,
   whom I created for my glory,
   whom I formed and made.’

This week the Anglicans of the world will gather in Canterbury, and it remains to be seen exactly what will or will not happen.

A modern day Isaiah might say that it is time for the North (CofE, TEc, and Canada) to "Give them up" and let their dissenting churches go.

He might also say that it is time for the Global South to not withhold its call for repentance from the wayward North. 

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Scouting Report: Canterbury Bowl 2016

For those of you who don't follow Anglican Communion news, there will be an important gathering of Anglican Primates in Canterbury (England) pitting the orthodox (those who oppose same-sex marriage in the Church) versus the heterodox (those who bless same-sex marriages in their churches or are moving in that direction) next week, and it is a guessing game right now as to who will win or who will lose.

One of the things that makes this a tough game to call is that although we know the players, and their playbooks, the ground rules for the game have not been publicized. One thing that we do know is that the Referee, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, is also a player on one of the teams. Plus he holds home field advantage.

Another thing that makes it difficult to guess the outcome is the possibility that one of the teams might walk out following the invocation and before the coin toss (see "Repent or we quit say bishops in gays feud: Anglican church could split in challenge to Welby's authority " in the Daily Mail).

In case there is no walkout and the game goes on, here is my breakdown of Canterbury Bowl 2016:

The West: 
The Church of England will act as quarterback on offense and middle linebacker on defense, The Episcopal church (USA)  will start an untested rookie at over paid and egotistical wide receiver on offense and at conceited cornerback on defense, the Anglican Church of Canada at punter and holder for extra-points, New Zealand at tight end and free safety, the Church of Wales at fumble happy half back and overweight nose tackle, and the Scottish Episcopal Church at cheerleader and ball holder.

The South:
The GAFCON Primates will play as a unit both on defense and when on offense (if they can find a quarterback and middle linebacker).

The Parade:
In fancy hats and flowing robes, the show will start with a parade of sort. Expect lots of smiles and photo-ops. The South team should avoid having pictures taken with the heterodox and steer clear of getting too close to the West's team who will want use the parade to weaken the South's fan base.

The pregame show:
Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America will be allowed to briefly set foot upon the turf and then will be escorted to the bleachers.

The coin toss:
After pleasantries are exchanged, and the Referee has explained the rules, there will be no coin toss. The referee will decide who gets the ball first and the direction in which they will play which of course depends on which way the wind is blowing.

Keys to the game for the West:
The West will probably get the ball first and should try to grind it out on the ground, hoping to wear the opposing defense down. The West will try to keep their over paid and egotistical wide receiver from spouting off and drawing attention from the Referee. Expect frequent opportunities for delay of game penalties to be overlooked by the Referee.

Keys to the game for the South:
On Defense, the South must present present a solid front and not get thrown off their game by the West's slow down game. They will need a strong middle linebacker to call the shots and should go into the game with a ball hawking attitude, looking for any opportunity for a turnover. If they see the ball go into Canada's hands, they should go for the either a strip or a hard hit. They will need to ignore TEc's rookie wide receiver because he is just coming off the Injured Reserve list and will probably be used more as a decoy than as deep threat. When on offense, the South should not expect to get many cheers from the stands or positive comments from the press-box. The South's best offensive plays may run the risk of drawing "Unsportsmanlike Conduct" calls from the Referee and having points taken off the board. The South should check the pressure on any softballs coming from the West, and should ignore distractions coming from the West's cheerleaders.

Pewster's Picks:
Since defense wins championships, I am going to go with the South in this one. and I predict that this will be the first and final Canterbury Bowl for them. I think the best the West can hope for is a draw and a chance for a rematch.

See you for the post-game wrap-up.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

The Loss of Innocents

If you are a Sunday churchgoer and you heard Matthew 2:13-15,19-23 as the Gospel lesson this Sunday, you missed hearing about the slaughter of the innocents as verses 16-18 were expurgated. This may have been done because there was supposed to be a service on December 29 (this fell on Tueday this year) in which the Holy Innocents are remembered. This is one of the problems with the lectionary used in many churches: unless you read the whole Bible on a regular basis, the average churchgoer receives sub-optimal religious instruction from the very institution that the pewsitter believes is supposed to be in the business of teaching and preaching all of God's word.

Never one to let an opportunity go by where the bits that go unsaid during a Sunday service are lost, I have added in the missing verses (in red).
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 fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’... 
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.’
...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.’ 

This is the world that God chose to be born into. We should not fall into the delusion that the present world is any less cruel. Leaving part of the story out may lead to such a delusion.

Unfortunately, sanitized readings from the Bible as often heard in many churches, while sounding nice, are pablum that may cause more harm than good and may make many an average Sunday churchgoer more susceptible to heretical teachings or more likely to simply drift away altogether. These churchgoers are the innocents of today who might be subject to slaughter.