Monday, December 17, 2007

Merry Tossmas!

Perplexed by the title? Watch the video to see what it means.

Feliz Navitoss!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

International Anglican group initiates 'strategy of inclusion'

Posted without comment; because if I started, I don't know where I would quit.
Chicago Consultation celebrates contributions of gay Christians, calls homophobia 'a sin whose end time is now'

Read it all.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Weekend Palate Cleanser: Fridgie Tales

Before I became Dean of Nashotah House, I used to be on the faculty of another very fine seminary, where two of my friends, David Sadd and Steve Brown, did some wonderfully creative stuff. They would harness some computers together in a model of distributed computing to come up with a system that would make Pixar Studios jeal... (well, okay, it wouldn't actually make Pixar Studios jealous, but it was still pretty cool).

The following clip is the first in a series of videos David and Steve made, in a takeoff on the popular Veggie Tales series.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Further Thoughts on Christians Asking Muslims for Forgiveness

The piece I posted yesterday has received a number of comments on the Stand Firm website. I want to make it clear that my piece was not intended to dismiss or denigrate either A Common Word Between Us and You (the Muslim document) or Loving God and Our Neighbor Together: A Christian Response to 'A Common Word Between Us and You' in their entirety. I merely said "this whole affair raises at least six questions in my mind." My concerns fall into two groups: (1) while attempting to draw on Judeo-Christian teaching regarding love of one's neighbor in "A Common Word," the Muslim authors fail to acknowledge any of the ways in which Muslims have failed egregiously in loving their Christian neighbors or even fellow Muslims (Sunnis vs. Shiites) for centuries and the many atrocities that still occur in any country where Islam is dominant. That is to say, this statement fails to take into account the realities of the religion it purports to represent.

(2) The signatories of Christian response seem (a) to have a case of amnesia with regard to this same history and (b) are insufficiently attentive (to put it mildly) to the real distinctiveness of the Christian Gospel. The list of signatories includes some of the most respected Christian leaders of our time, liberal as well as conservative. However, my contention is that many Christian scholars, in their eagerness to promote peace with Muslims, have paid inadequate attention to the question of whether the deity of Islam is someone whom a Christian can acknowledge as God.

As I said in my original article, when A Common Word cites the two testimonies of faith or Shahadahsi: "There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God" Christians need to realize that, to a Muslim, this statement of the unity of the Allah of Islam absolutely precludes any notion that God could have a Son or that God could consist of a Trinity of Persons.

Similarly, the Shema of Judaism, "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength" Deuteronomy (6:4-5), as traditionally understood by Jews, also precludes the idea that God could have a Son or exist in a Trinity of Persons. Without trying to cover the whole subject of the nature of Jewish expectations regarding the Messiah, it is sufficient to say that the Christian understanding that Jesus is the Messiah, and that the Messiah was not simply a messenger from God, but was God Incarnate—and that the Holy Spirit also exists as a third Person in the Godhead—was not a part of Jewish understanding, even though the Apostolic writers repeatedly used the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) to proclaim the good news concerning Jesus (see the Book of Acts).

So, then, while Jews may disagree with the Christian interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures, Christians understand the God of the Old Testament to be the same God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But what about the deity who is represented in the Koran? Is this the God of Judaism and Christianity? Consider the article written by Jon D. Levenson, professor of Jewish studies at Harvard University, entitled, "Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?" The article is enlightening in several respects. Among the points Levinson makes is the following: "Although the Qur'an speaks respectfully and appreciatively of Jesus (and Mary as well), it insists that he is only a man, and not God or the son of God: "They are unbelievers who say, 'God is the Messiah, Mary's son.'"

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all monotheistic religions. But does it necessarily follow that that the singular gods of all monotheistic religions are the same god? Levinson comments on this and goes on to conclude:
To the extent that God is characterized by attributes such as uniqueness, omnipotence, foreknowledge, justice, mercy and the revelation of his will in prophecy and scripture, then Jews, Christians and Muslims can easily detect the selfsame God in the LORD of Judaism, in the triune God of the church, and in Allah (which is simply the word for "God" used by Arabic speakers in all three traditions). There is a problem with such reliance on attributes, however, for it actually describes a Supreme Being who is closer to the God of the philosophers than to the God of Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac and Jacob. To state the point differently, to the extent that the one God of the universe is rendered through narratives such as those in the scriptures and not through abstract attributes, the claim that Christians and Muslims worship the same God cannot but appear, if not false, then certainly simplistic and one-sided.

Just as Christianity sees itself in many ways to be the completion of Judaism, Islam considers itself to be the completion of Christianity. But is it?

Although Islam claims roots going back to Abraham, historically, as a religion, it comes after Christianity. It makes use of much of the same data as Christianity in that it refers to Old Testament personages such as Abraham, and New Testament personages such as Jesus and Mary. However, as mentioned briefly above, it comes to radically different conclusions concerning, in particular, Jesus, his nature and his relation to deity. So did Marcionism. So did most of the expressions of Gnosticism, to cite only a couple of movements identified as Christian heresies.

The Roman Catholic writer, Hilaire Belloc, wrote a book entitled, The Great Heresies, chapter four of which is entitled, "The Great and Enduring Heresy of Mohammed." Belloc cited the many common points of reference that Islam shares with Christianity and goes on to identify it as a heresy, in that it makes use of the material and personages of Christianity (as any heresy does) but decisively diverges from Christianity in rejecting the God and Christ taught by Christianity.

Those of us who have grown up in the modern and postmodern West have, for so long, used the term "God" to refer to that which is the highest and best we can conceive, that we believe that the term may be applied to the highest and best that others can conceive, and that our differences are only a matter of perspective.

We often hear the analogy of the blind men, standing under an elephant, feeling the legs and calling them trees, feeling the trunk and thinking they have found a snake—but really it is all the same elephant. So we think we really all believe in the same god, we just perceive differently.

But, if we are going to get a handle on the crux of this issue, we must first realize that "God" is not simply a human construct for the "ultimate Being," however one may conceive of that Being. The God of the Bible, the God of Christianity, is the God Who IS—self-defining and self-revelatory, not merely a human construct or projection. That God has revealed himself in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as having a precise nature and character and, in the New Testament, is fully revealed as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Further, it is only on the basis of our being "in Christ" that we truly know God, and that his Father becomes our Father. (See my piece on "The Fatherhood of God.")

There is much that is commendable in interfaith dialogue. But if it is to have any real significance for Christian believers, those who engage in it must start with what Scripture teaches regarding the essential nature of the Gospel. Many of those who claim to represent Christianity in interfaith dialogue have already succumbed to a relativism that lacks such a foundation. And, increasingly, Christian respondents are so eager to find common ground, in light of the terrors that have occurred and fears regarding the future, that they are taking the course of appeasement in the face of Islam, eager to find "Peace for our time"—peace at any cost. It will not serve Christians well if they underestimate the true distinctiveness of the Gospel. And it will not serve anyone well if we underestimate the challenges that the world faces from the religion known as Islam.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Episcopalians, Other Christians Ask Muslims for Forgiveness

The following piece, from The Living Church refers to a letter, titled “A Common Word Between Us,” signed by 138 Muslim scholars, clerics and intellectuals, seeking common ground between Islam and Christianity, and a full page ad in the New York Times signed by Christian leaders in a conciliatory gesture.

This whole affair raises at least six questions in my mind:

1. While not seeking to excuse any atrocities committed during the Crusades—including crimes committed by Crusaders against the inhabitants of Christian lands on their way to the Holy Land (the Crusaders were often a sorry lot—no argument there), do the Christian signers of the full page ad recognize that the Crusades were, nevertheless, a response to the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem?

2. Do the Christian signers of this full page ad recognize that Europe had to withstand repeated Muslim invasions for over 800 years; and that, without victories over Muslim forces by the Duke of Aquitaine, at the Battle of Toulouse (721) Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours (732); and, later, the defeat of the Ottoman Turks at Belgrade (1456) and the gates of Vienna (1529), Europe would have been conquered and subjugated by Muslims?

It would seem that, if Christian priests, pastors, and theologians are going to apologize for the Crusades, Muslims ought to apologize for the conquests of Spain and southern Italy, and 800 years of attempts to conquer the rest of Europe. But I am still waiting to see that in print.

3. Would the Muslim signers of "A Common Word Between Us" care to apologize for the continued persecution of Christians in virtually every country and territory where Islam is dominant, from Sub-Saharan Africa to Indonesia and the southern Philippines?

4. What have the Muslim signers of the letter done to end violence between Sunnis and Shiites?

5. Most importantly, do the Christian signers of the full page ad recognise that, to a Muslim, the chief statement of Faith in Islam, "There is no god but God (Allah)," excludes the possibility that God could have a Son and that Jesus Christ is God? That, therefore, when we talk about the deity of Islam and the God of Christianity, we are talking about different gods?

"Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also." (I John 1:22-23)

6. And, finally, do the Christian signers of this response know the meaning of Dhimmitude? If their approach is not tempered by a strong dose of reality, people in the West may soon learn the meaning of the word, much to our regret.

Episcopalians, Other Christians Ask Muslims for Forgiveness
Posted on: November 29, 2007

Seven bishops and other Episcopal leaders joined with a number of influential Christian leaders in signing a letter asking Muslims to forgive Christians. The letter with signatures recently appeared as a full-page advertisement in The New York Times.

“Muslims and Christians have not always shaken hands in friendship; their relations have sometimes been tense, even characterized by outright hostility,” the authors said. “Since Jesus Christ says, ‘First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye’ (Matthew 7:5), we want to begin by acknowledging that in the past (e.g. in the Crusades) and in the present (e.g. in excesses of the 'war on terror’) many Christians have been guilty of sinning against our Muslim neighbors. Before we ‘shake your hand’ in responding to your letter, we ask forgiveness of the All Merciful One and of the Muslim community around the world.”

Last month 138 Muslim scholars, clerics and intellectuals sent a letter titled “A Common Word Between Us,” seeking common ground between the two faiths. The letter was hand delivered to many Christian leaders including Pope Benedict XVI, the Orthodox Church’s Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew 1 and all the other Orthodox patriarchs, and to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the leaders of protestant churches worldwide. Archbishop Rowan Williams has already responded to the letter in a joint communiqué written with several prominent Jewish rabbis.

Episcopal bishops signing the letter include: Barry Beisner of Northern California, Joseph Burnett of Nebraska, Edwin F. Gulick Jr., of Kentucky, Shannon Johnston, coadjutor of Virginia, David C. Jones, suffragan of Virginia, Peter James Lee of Virginia and George E. Packard, Bishop Suffragan for Chaplaincies. Other Episcopalians signing the letter include the Very Rev. Joseph Britton, dean, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale; the Very Rev. Sam Candler, dean of St. Philip’s Cathedral, Atlanta, and the Very Rev. James Kowalski, dean of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, New York City.

The letter also includes the endorsement of several prominent evangelicals, among them the Rev. Rick Warren, founder and pastor of Saddleback Community Church and author of The Purpose Driven Life; the Rev. John Stott, rector emeritus, All Souls’ Church, London; the Rev. Bill Hybels, founder and senior pastor, Willow Creek Community Church, and Robert E. Cooley, president emeritus, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Among those launching the letter in the United Kingdom last month was David Ford, Regius Professor of Divinity and fellow of Selwyn College, Cambridge University.

In a news conference on Nov. 26 at the Cultural Foundation of Abu Dhabi, Muslim scholars invited Prof. Miroslav Volf of Yale’s Center for Faith and Culture in order to thank him and his colleagues for their embrace of “A Common Word.” Both Muslim and Christian leaders have expressed interest in meeting together as a next step toward mutual understanding and peaceful coexistence.

Read it all.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Wash. School Calendar Forgets Christmas

The most telling statement in this article is the following: "It was absolutely an error of omission," district spokeswoman Terren Roloff said. "In our efforts to be inclusive, we missed the obvious."

Well, at least this story helped me to learn a new word. I reasoned that if a xenophobe was "a person unduly fearful or contemptuous of that which is foreign, especially of strangers or foreign peoples," then there had to be a word (an antonym—like xenophile, if such a word existed) to describe those who rush headlong to embrace every new influence and cultural extreme, even at the expense of their own culture.

And sure enough, a visit to the The Free Dictionary led me to:
xen·o·phile (zn-fl, zn-)n. A person attracted to that which is foreign, especially to foreign peoples, manners, or cultures.
This obsession with other cultures, even those that do not exist within a community or that have to be invented (How many devotees of Kwanzaa were there before someone fabricated this "holiday" out of whole cloth?), has become such an obsession that it causes people to forget reality. I mean, forgetting Christmas? C'mon.

Of course this could have been simply a case of a school secretary having a bad day. But this sort of thing is emblematic of what is happening to much of western culture—a reckless abandonment of our own cultural foundations while mindlessly chanting the mantra of "inclusion."

Wash. School Calendar Forgets Christmas
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - They made a list, but they should have checked it twice.

In a December newsletter to the families of elementary school students, Spokane Public Schools' list of "important dates" didn't include Christmas.

Hanukkah, Human Rights Day, winter break, the Islamic holy day Eid al-Adha, first day of winter and Kwanzaa all made the list. But no Christmas.

"It was absolutely an error of omission," district spokeswoman Terren Roloff said. "In our efforts to be inclusive, we missed the obvious."

The omission drew complaints from some parents that Christians are being overlooked in favor of other cultures and beliefs.

Greater Spokane Association of Evangelicals Executive Director John Tusant said the error surprised him.

"The stores have been decorated for the last month. How do you overlook that?" Tusant asked.

Hutton School parent Jane Harper noted the absence of Christmas but didn't think the omission was meant as a message to Christians.

"Christmas is so dominant in our society. I don't know that anyone should feel slighted," Harper said.

Roloff said the district would not have included Hanukkah and Eid al-Adha if it had intended to avoid religious celebrations. She said her office has been fielding calls about the newsletter from concerned parents, and that most have been understanding about the mix-up.

Christmas had been added to the "important dates" section of the online version of the school district's newsletter by Thursday afternoon.

Monday, November 26, 2007

How the BSA Nets Piracy Suspects

This article from the conputer industry might seem a bit off topic, but it isn't really. Look at the lengths that one business organization is willing to go to to avoid lawsuits over the issue of software copyright infringement.

Cannot the Episcopal Church go to similar lengths in the current dispute over parish property.

How the BSA Nets Piracy Suspects
Nov 25, 1:44 PM (ET)

By BRIAN BERGSTEIN

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Business Software Alliance collects tens of millions of dollars in settlements from companies it accuses of software piracy, but it doesn't have to file lawsuits to do it....

The BSA generally begins investigating businesses after a tip from an employee. Software vendors can also initiate or lend credence to a complaint if they tell the BSA that an organization has, for example, bought suspiciously fewer software licenses than it has employees.

Next, a law firm representing the alliance will send a company a letter informing its management that it is suspected of violating software copyrights, a crime that carries penalties of up to $150,000 per infringed work.

The letters will then state that the BSA is willing to avoid court and settle amicably - if the company audits its computers to see whether they contain unlicensed copies of software made by the group's members.

That turns out to be the key step. Usually, companies go along, and report to the BSA's attorneys what they've found. With that information, the BSA will demand payments, plus penalties and attorneys' fees, for the unlicensed software.

At that point, it's mainly a matter of settling on the amount and negotiating whether BSA can publicize the crackdown in a news release.

[...]

[Some attorneys] advise companies to have their lawyers conduct software audits and issue directions on which software licenses they need. Depending on the situation, findings from this kind of audit can be shielded by attorney-client privilege. BSA could still try to file a lawsuit in hopes of proving past infringement, but it is unlikely to go that expensive route, [one attorney] said.

It's not necessarily simple: The BSA in some cases will file complaints under court seal and win a judge's approval to raid companies so it can gather evidence on its own.

The group's enforcement director, Jenny Blank, said her group resorts to raids only when it suspects that a company might try to destroy evidence of its copyright infringement.

Even then, however, the case doesn't end in a courtroom.

"The parties don't litigate," Blank said. "They settle on dollar amounts."


I have excerpted the relevant parts, but you can read the whole story here.

Note the parts I have highlighted in bold. Even with the possibility of recovering hundreds of thousands of dollars in a case that is relatively simple to prove and unlikely to be appealed, the business association would rather settle than taking the "expensive route" of filing lawsuits. And even when they raid a company that is infringing on copyrights, "the parties don't litigate," they "settle on dollar amounts."

Why is it that these companies, who have no biblical injunction to love one another, or to stay out of the secular courts, are behaving better than the Church?

Friday, November 23, 2007

What would Gamaliel do?

I have had conversations this week with several TEC insiders who have objected to my post on A Church out of Control and even more strongly to my satirical piece Location, Location, Location, both of which address, one seriously, the other satirically, the litigious tendencies of the Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop, as seen in a spate of highly publicized lawsuits over the past year.

The expression that was repeatedly used to defend the Presiding Bishop's multiple lawsuits was "fiduciary responsibility"—that the PB had a "fiduciary responsibility" to protect assets (supposedly) belonging to the Episcopal Church. Therefore, so the logic goes, she was only doing her duty in insisting that bishops and dioceses sue departing congregation over the property.

But, does not a settlement for the property, negotiated between dioceses and departing congregations, constitute a means of diocesan officers fulfilling their fiduciary responsibility? It seems that Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia thought so when he engaged in a lengthy process of negotiation with 11 departing parishes.

It seems that other bishops thought so when they negotiated settlements with departing parishes in such places as Plano, Texas; El Paso, Texas; and Overland Park, Kansas—to mention just three examples among many. Did these bishops violate their "fiduciary responsibility" by settling out of court? No one seems to have thought so at the time; and no presiding bishop prior to the present one sued anyone for it.

But as the Washington Times reported,
According to prior testimony, Virginia Bishop Peter J. Lee was ready to accept buyouts from the 11 departing churches, several of which sat on historic pieces of property in Fairfax and Falls Church. That changed after he met with the new presiding bishop soon after her Nov. 4, 2006, installation.

"I told Bishop Lee I could not support negotiations for sale if the congregations intended to set up as other parts of the Anglican Communion," Bishop Jefferts Schori said, referring to the 77 million-member worldwide body of which the Episcopal Church is a part.

What particularly angered her, she said, was the presence of the Nigerian-controlled Convocation of Anglicans in North America, then headquartered in Fairfax. An American bishop for CANA, the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, had been consecrated that August.

CANA's presence "violates the ancient principle of the church that two bishops do not have jurisdiction in the same area," said the presiding bishop, whose face appeared on three screens positioned around the courtroom.

Under further questioning by attorneys for CANA, she said that had the property been sold to a Methodist or Baptist congregation, she would not have objected.

But, "the Episcopal Church, for matters of its own integrity, cannot encourage other parts of the Anglican Communion to set up shop within its jurisdiction," she said in her deposition.

It then fell to Bishop Lee to break the news to the dissenting congregations, Falls Church rector the Rev. John Yates said in prior testimony. His church was one of the 11 that was negotiating amicably with the diocese until Dec. 7. That is when, he said, Bishop Lee told them things had changed.

"[Bishop Lee] said, 'There's a new sheriff in town. The situation is different'" Mr. Yates said.

Since the PB is reported as saying that she wouldn't object if the property were sold to a Baptist or Methodist congregation, she obviously believes that a settlement to sell the property does not violate anyone's fiduciary responsibility. Her real objection is to seeing property sold to Anglicans who would rather come under an alternative Anglican jurisdiction than to stick around for the new improved version of Christianity that has become her stock and trade. Her objections to property settlements, then, are based on differences of religious opinion and her desire to act punitively toward those who disagree with her. How wonderfully tolerant these liberals are!

There just might be a precedent for all this in Christian history. In Acts, chapter 5, the disciples, while under arrest, have proclaimed the message of Jesus Christ to the Jewish Sanhedrin--there was obvously a division over matters of religious opinion then, too:
When [the Sanhedrin] heard this, they were furious and wanted to put [Peter and the other disciples] to death. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. Then he addressed them: "Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God." (emphasis added) (Acts 5:33-39)

Bp. Schori has elsewhere expressed the view (also reported here) that, "if all sides in the current debate over sexuality and Scripture could 'hold their truths more lightly,' they might yet find a way forward."

Well, okay, if you want to try holding your "truths more lightly," here's a place to start. Let's assume that Gamaliel is right (and he certainly has been proven right about the beginning of Christianity). These Anglicans are as much a division in the Episcopal Church over a difference in religious views as the early Christians were from the Jews. How about applying Gamaliel's test to our present situation? How about dispensing with all the lawsuits and, instead, start negotiating settlements with departing Anglican congregations? "For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."

Or am I being too biblical?

Presiding Bishop: “I Ordered U-Turn on Deal.”

George Conger reports on PB Kathatine Jefferts Schori's testimony in the lawsuit over parish properties in Virginia:
In testimony before a Virginia court last week, US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori stated she had directed the Diocese of Virginia to sue the clergy and lay leaders of 11 congregations after they had quit the Episcopal Church for the Churches of Nigerian and Uganda.

In video taped testimony presented to the Fairfax County Circuit Court, Bishop Schori said she ordered Virginia Bishop Peter Lee to break a verbal agreement allowing the 11 parishes to withdraw from the diocese so as to prevent “incursions by foreign bishops.”

Bishop Schori’s testimony during the four hour deposition, recorded on Oct 30 and presented in evidence on Nob 15, did little to engender the sympathy of the court, as observers noted she carefully parsed her words, and at one point was directed by the court to answer a question.

Testimony in the week long trial, revealed that shortly after her installation as Presiding Bishop in November [2006], Bishop Schori met with Bishop Lee, telling him she “could not support negotiations for sale if the congregations intended to set up as other parts of the Anglican Communion.”

In December [2006] the diocese broke off negotiations with the congregations, and filed suit in January [2007] to recover the assets of the congregation.

Read it all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A poem for a sermon: The Lamb

The Lamb

The Shepherd loved His little lamb,
And gave it His tender care
And followed it with His loving eyes
As it wandered here and there.

And as He sat by His grazing flock
Who so meekly His voice obeyed,
He pondered sadly His little lamb
As again it strayed.

The little lamb had a loving heart,
And adored His Shepherd, true,
But would turn aside and seek his own way
As lambs so often do.

With his gentle voice the Shepherd called,
To His loved and straying lamb,
"Come back, little one, for you are not safe
Unless you are where I am."

But still the lamb would soon forget
And unthinkingly wander away,
And not really noticing what he did,
From the Shepherd's side would stray.

Until one day, the Shepherd kind
Took His rod in His gentle hand,
And what He then did seemed so cruel
That the lamb could not understand.

For with one sharp and well-aimed blow
Down the rod so swiftly came
That it broke the leg of the little lamb
And left it crippled, and lame.

Then the little lamb, with a cry of pain,
Fell down upon his knees...
And looked up at his Shepherd, as though to say,
"Won't you explain this, please?"

Then he saw the love in the Shepherd's eyes
As the tears ran down His face,
As He tenderly set the broken bone,
And bound it back in it's place.

Now he was utterly helpless,
He could not even stand!
He must trust himself completely
To his Shepherd's loving hand.

Then day by day, 'till the lamb was healed
From the flock he was kept apart...
And carried about in the Shepherd's arms
And cradled near to His heart.

And the Shepherd would whisper gentle words
Into his now listening ear...
Thus he heard sweet words of love
That the other sheep could not hear.

He felt the warmth of the Shepherd's arms.
And the beat of His faithful heart...
Until it came a blessing to seem,
By his weakness to be set apart.

Every need of the little lamb
By his Shepherd so fully was met
That through his brokenness he learned
What he never again would forget.

And as the broken bone was healed,
And once more became whole and strong...
Wherever the Shepherd's path would lead,
The lamb would follow along.

Thus at the Shepherd's side he walked
So closely, day by day,
For once a lamb has a broken leg
It will never again go astray.

For the cords of love had bound it so
In its hour of weakness and need...
That is had no desire to wander away,
When once again it was freed.

Could it be you are broken today,
And you cannot understand
The painful blow of the Shepherd's rod
Nor believe it came from His Hand?

He only seeks, by this painful thing,
For a time to call you apart...
To cradle you close in His loving arms,
And draw you near to His heart.

So look up into your Shepherd's eyes,
And earnestly seek His face...
And prove in the hour of your weakness and need
The sufficiency of His grace.

For as you are borne in His loving arms,
And carried there, day by day...
He will bind you so close with the cords of His love
That never again will you stray!

—— Author Unknown

Monday, November 19, 2007

From Anglicans Ablaze: "The Cost of Unfaithfulness"

Robin Jordan of the blog Anglicans Ablaze makes some important points in todays commentary and does it very well.
Monday, November 19, 2007

The Cost of Unfaithfulness
Commentary by Robin G. Jordan

What does Presiding Katherine Schori hope to gain from the costly and lengthy litigation in which she is involving the national church and a number of dioceses? It will not stop the Episcopal Church from hemorrhaging members. It will not help Episcopal parishes and churches to retain existing members and to attract new members. It will not prevent clergy, congregations, and dioceses from leaving the Episcopal Church. It will not keep other provinces from assuming jurisdiction over the departing congregations and dioceses. What it will do is strain the resources of the dioceses involved in the lawsuits. It will use monies that might have been put to better use in a shrinking denomination for evangelistic outreach, new church development, and congregational revitalization.

Read it all.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Friday, November 16, 2007

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Gary Drier, a General Convention Deputy from the Diocese of Fond du Lac, shared this satirical missive with the Bishops/Deputies listserv today. I reprint it with his permission.
The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
815
NY, NY

Dear Bishop Schori:

We heard about your interest in real estate, especially old church buildings. On the chance you are looking not just at just high end properties, you may want to investigate a gothic fix up.

It needs a little work: roof (some slate shingles slid off); walls (gaps in tuckpointing here and there); doors (main doors stick); heating (some radiators leak); floors (terrazzo has lost its seal) and plumbing (urinal bowl will not fully evacuate).

On the bright side, the property is home to some entertaining bats.

Our vestry recently passed a resolution to affiliate with the Anglican Conference of Mediocre Edifices (ACME). ACME is not in communion with The Episcopal Church.

Could you PLEASE hire some lawyers to take over this building and fix it up?

Sincerely,

Eddie Fuss

A short time later, this response also found its way to the Bishops/Deputies list:

Mr. Eddie Fuss
% St. Swithin's Episcopal Church
Smallville, WI 53850

Dear Mr. Fuss,

I am in receipt of your letter regarding the disposition of your church building. As you are no doubt aware, congregations can leave the Episcopal Church, but buildings cannot.

My extensive legal team and I have considered the matter you have placed before us, and we must state that your property does not have sufficient value for us to be interested. In suing various congregations around the US, we have primarily selected those properties whose sale can net a considerable return, given that any effort to maintain a ministry in them will likely not result in a congregation capable of paying the utility bills, much less the other costs associated with the upkeep of the building.

I need to inform you that since your congregation has chosen to affiliate with the Anglican Conference of Mediocre Edifices (ACME), we have empowered the sexton (as the only remaining person whom we recognize as having any interest in the building) to sell the building as a restaurant, tavern, night club or any enterprise that does not involve its use as a place of Anglican worship. It sounds as though the St. Swithin's building has excellent potential as a Halloween House of Horrors.

You will soon be hearing from my attorneys who will, unless we change our minds, sue you in your own person for your leadership role in affiliating with the Anglican Conference of Mediocre Edifices (ACME). I also need to state that if your bishop attempts to negotiate any sort of settlement contrary to our expressed wishes, we will sue him also.

Love and Peace,

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori


(posted and possibly even written by
Robert Munday, Deputy from Quincy)

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Church Out Of Control

Anyone who lives in the Episcopal Church these days has probably already recognized himself (or herself) to be a victim of the (purported) old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times!" However, the last two weeks have seen the times get even more interesting than usual.

First, there was the news item: "Presiding Bishop reaches out to bishops attempting to withdraw dioceses"—such a compassionate sounding title for an article conveying that the PB had sent letters threatening disciplinary action against the bishops in question! As one commentator put it, "The Episcopal Church is probably the only place where 'being reached out to' means being threatened, deposed, and sued." These threats against bishops of dioceses come on top of the numerous places around the country where the Episcopal Church is involved in legal action against departing parishes.

A concurrent development with the escalating legal tensions over the past year has been the repudiation of the General Convention 2006 resolution (B033) urging restraint in giving consent to the election of a bishop "whose manner of life might present a challenge to the larger Communion"—in other words, a gay bishop. This call for restraint has now been repudiated by various dioceses, a partial list of which includes: Los Angeles, New Jersey, California, Rochester, and (just this past weekend) Chicago.

Chicago held its election for a new bishop this past weekend also. While, Tracey Lind, the partnered lesbian candidate (and Dean of the cathedral in Cleveland) was not elected, the Chicago Tribune reported the successful candidate, Jeff Lee, from the Seattle area, as saying:
"I am overwhelmed and grateful to God for the opportunity to come to such a great diocese," Lee said by telephone. "In many ways, I believe Chicago reflects the face of the Episcopal Church in all its diversity. Rich and poor, urban and suburban, black and white, gay and straight ... and I believe I've been called to be a bridge-builder and a reconciler."

The election marked the most recent flash point in the conflict over homosexuality in the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion. The 2003 consecration of Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop, began a shift in the church and some thought there would be further divisions if Lind were elected bishop.

When asked about his stance on gays in the church, Lee said he supported full inclusion.

"I believe God is calling us to full inclusion of gays and lesbians in ministry of this church. ... There is a place for everyone in the church, and the church has to catch up with God's vision," he said.

In case anyone doesn't remember, this is simply a repeat of the Diocese of California's election of a bishop, where they also did not elect the lesbian candidate, but elected a "straight, white, male" bishop who was just as strongly committed to advancing the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals.

This past weekend also brought news that the Diocese of Northern California has voted to support gay couples.

All of this means that, despite the Windsor Report and the Dar Es Salaam Communique, despite the General Convention's passage of B033, and regardless of what the House of Bishops said at its meeting in New Orleans, the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals will continue unhindered.

There was also this rather bizarre news item that the Episcopal Church is taking disciplinary action against three retired bishops. The three retired bishops: Fairfield, Bena, and Cox have, since their retirement, been received into, respectively, the Anglican provinces of Uganda, Nigeria, and the Southern Cone. Their "crime" is, apparently, that they have, under the direction of their new provinces, ministered to Anglicans in North America who are also affiliated with those overseas provinces. The substance of the complaint is that the bishops failed to "resign" in a way that was approved by the House of Bishops. I am sure the bishops thought their resignation was taken care of when they retired. To all but the most bellicose among us, pursuing these bishops in retirement must seem like an egregious example of legal overkill. But, hey, welcome to the Episcopal Church!

Then there is the news that the Province of the Southern Cone has passed a resolution opening its doors to any US diocese that desired to transfer into that province. This is a move obviously aimed at the bishops and dioceses who are "being reached out to" by the Episcopal Church's litigious Presiding Bishop. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out.

In all this, the silence from Lambeth Palace has been deafening!

Ealier in the week, there was a report from London Times religion writer, Ruth Gledhill, that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, "described the plan of [Southern Cone] Archishop Greg Venables [to take dissenting US dioceses under his wing] as a 'sensible way forward.'" I am willing to bet that this is the last talk of that sort anyone hears from the ABC.

There seems to be a pattern emerging here. This isn't the first time Rowan Williams has made a comment that seemed to support orthodox Anglicans in the US, only to have the comment nullified several days later in an official "clarification" issued from Lambeth Palace.

It appears that, if someone can actually talk with Rowan Williams, the fellow isn't really a bad chap. But then his Wormtongue managers at Lambeth Palace and the heavily US-funded Anglican Communion Office regain their control over him, and he becomes once again entranced to do nothing while evil prospers.

Actually, the ABC seems to be acting under the assumption that the best way to keep the Anglican Communion together is to keep the Episcopal Church together. Thus, he is remaining silent while the litigious (did I mention that already?) Presiding Bishop crushes all dissent. American Conservatives are apparently supposed to reconcile themselves to being casualties in a war Rowan would like to pretend doesn't exist.

In reality, the only way to save the Anglican Communion is to discipline the Episcopal Church for its departure from Anglican Communion norms. The Archbishop of Canterbury can accomplish this discipline through his prerogative of invitations to the Lambeth Conference. The Primates can accomplish this discipline by censuring the American Church and limiting TEC's participation in the instruments of unity. If this does not happen, not only the Episcopal Church, but the Anglican Communion will fly apart under the centrifugal forces of the orbit into which the anarchic deviations of the American Church have cast it—and it will happen sooner rather than later.

Are you listening, Rowan?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What Do We Leave Them?

From an anonymous essay by a young clergyperson in the Diocese of Pittsburgh:

The Episcopal Church with our liturgy gives young people, Gen-X’ers a sense of belonging and ritual that so many of us desire. With our sense of Tradition, the Episcopal Church (like the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches) gives otherwise disconnected X’ers a sense of place in a long chain of believers stretching back to the dawn of time. This is immensely valuable, a rare and precious gift. It is a gift which can be a tool to attract people my age to the Christian faith. It is a gift that can combat the surface Christianity which so repelled me, even at the age of eighteen. It is a gift which so many in the world at large are seeking. Yet it is a gift which we have utterly failed to pass on to at least two generations of our children....

Read it all.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Next Twenty Years for Anglican Christians - Archbishop Peter Jensen

Dr Peter Jensen is the Archbishop of Sydney

‘Crisis’, ‘schism’, ‘division’, ‘break-up’ – this has been the language of the last five years in the Anglican Communion. Again and again we have reached ‘defining moments’, ‘crucial meetings’ and ‘turning points’, only to discover that they simply lead into another period of uncertainty.

Uncertainty is now over. The decisive moments have passed. Irreversible actions have occurred. The time has come for sustained thought about a different future. The Anglican Communion will never be the same again. The Windsor process has failed, largely because it refused to grapple with the key issue of the truth. A new and more biblical vision is required to help biblically faithful Anglican churches survive and grow in the contemporary world. [...]

Read it all @ Global South Anglican.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Do you feel blessed? You may be more than you realize.

If you woke up this morning
with more health than illness,
you are more blessed than the
million who won't survive the week.

If you have never experienced
the danger of battle,
the loneliness of imprisonment,
the agony of torture or
the pangs of starvation,
you are ahead of 50 million people
around the world.

If you attend a church meeting
without fear of harassment,
arrest, torture, or death,
you are more blessed than almost
three billion people in the world.

If you have food in your refrigerator,
clothes on your back, a roof over
your head and a place to sleep,
you are richer than 75% of this world.

If you have money in the bank,
in your wallet, and spare change
in a dish someplace, you are among
the top 8% of the world's wealthy.

If your parents are still married and alive,
you are very rare, especially in the United States.

If you hold up your head with a smile
on your face and are truly thankful,
you are blessed because the majority can,
but most do not.

If you can hold someone's hand, hug them
or even touch them on the shoulder,
you are blessed because you can
offer God's healing touch.

If you can read this message,
you are more blessed than over
two billion people in the world
that cannot read anything at all.

You are so blessed in ways
you may never even know.

If you are feeling blessed, repay the blessings bestowed unto you and do something for others.

A blessing cannot be kept. If it stops with you, then the blessing will disappear. The blessing will only keep working if it is continuously passed around. If you are a recipient of a blessing, keep the blessing working by being the source of blessing to other people.

— source unknown

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Yes, Rowan, it is an ultimatum

If there is anything that "really gets up my nose" (as the Brits might say), it is when someone tries to fiddle with the plain meaning of words. ("When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean..." —Humpty Dumpty in Alice Through the Looking Glass).

Take our fearless leader Rowan Williams, who, this week, faced with an opportunity to save the Anglican Communion decides to "go all wobbly" and start saying that the Dar Es Salaam Communique, issued by the Primates at their meeting in February 2007, didn't really constitute an ultimatum to the American church to get its act together or else. Before leaving New Orleans, last Friday, he described September 30th as simply a date of convenience. The only reason a specific date was chosen, he suggested, was that the primates recognized the September House of Bishops’ meeting as the last official meeting of bishops before the next Lambeth conference and they wanted to have the position of the American church clarified.

Well, let's see what the Communique actually said:
“The Primates request that the answer of the House of Bishops is conveyed to the Primates by the Presiding Bishop by 30th September 2007. If the reassurances requested of the House of Bishops cannot in good conscience be given, the relationship between The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as a whole remains damaged at best, and this has consequences for the full participation of the Church in the life of the Communion.”

Apparently one of the spiritual graces given to the Archbishop of Canterbury is the mystical power to turn granite into fog.

Monday, September 17, 2007

C.S. Lewis on Unorthodox Priests

From a paper read "to an assembly of Anglican priests and youth leaders at the 'Carmarthen Conference for Youth Leaders and junior Clergy' of the Church in Wales at Carmarthen during Easter 1945," contained in the essay entitled "Christian Apologetics" in God in the Dock.
I insist that wherever you draw the lines, bounding lines must exist, beyond which your doctrine will cease either to be Anglican or to be Christian: and I suggest also that lines come a great deal sooner than many modern priests think. I think it is your duty to fix the lines clearly in your minds: and if you wish to go beyond them you must change your profession. This is your duty not specially as Christians or as priests but as honest men. There is a danger here of the clergy developing a special professional conscience which obscures the very plain moral issue. Men who have passed beyond these boundary lines in either direction are apt to protest that they have come by their unorthodox opinions honestly. In defence of those opinions they are prepared to suffer obloquy and to forfeit professional advancement. They thus come to feel like martyrs. But this simply misses the point which so gravely scandalizes the layman. We never doubted that the unorthodox opinions were honestly held: what we complain of is your continuing in ministry after you have come to hold them.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Pro-What?

One of the most despicable organizations on the planet, in my opinion, is the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Originally named the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, the organization quickly got a little smarter in its marketing and, in sync with other pro-abortion organizations, revised it's language (and its name) to talk about "choice" instead of abortion.

But, of course, the "choice" they are talking about is the choice to have an abortion—a "right" they consider paramount, taking precedence over all other rights, including the right of a child in his/her mother's womb to go on living.

As Professor Michael Gorman makes clear in his books Abortion and the Early Church and Holy Abortion?: A Theological Critique of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, abortion (except to save the life of the mother) has never been a Christian option. It has only been the formerly mainline (now sideline) denominations of the post-Christian west that have lobbied to make abortion acceptable.

In a move that dismayed many Episcopalians and Anglicans, the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church voted last year to join RCRC. Anglicans for Life has two petitions: (1) "that the Episcopal Church's Executive Council should terminate all affiliation with and support of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice?" and (2)
to "let the Archbishop of Canterbury and all the Bishops of the Anglican Communion know that it is your desire for the Anglican Communion to state unequivocally that God is the creator of life and to affirm that God, through His Holy Scripture, calls for life to be protected at every stage, from conception to natural death."

If you agree, I hope you'll sign the petitions.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Deadline Looming

Jonathan Petre Church of England Newspaper September 6

Which way will Rowan jump? With just a fortnight to go before the crucial meeting of the Episcopal House of Bishops in New Orleans, that question is becoming ever more pressing. But the answer remains frustratingly elusive. Few believe that the American bishops are willing or able to deliver the moratoriums asked for in the Dar Es Salaam communiqué.

But what will Dr Williams do about it? The tactics displayed by Lambeth Palace and the Anglican Communion Office in recent months have done little to dissipate the clouds of confusion. The messages coming out have been mixed, to say the least. On the one hand, sources close to the Archbishop are insisting that he is committed to following through the Dar Es Salaam communiqué when he flies out for talks with the American bishops during the first two days of their meeting. But how strictly will he insist on its terms?

Even if the American bishops overcome their initial huffiness at being asked to respond at all, and that is not certain, it is difficult to see how they could come up with a response that is both adequate and credible. The liberal tide seems to be running just too strongly. Too many of the American bishops have pledged their allegiance to the pro-gay camp. A lesbian is on the shortlist to be elected as the next bishop of Chicago; Gene Robinson has given the goahead
for clergy in the New Hampshire diocese to conduct same-sex blessings; at least two dioceses are developing official blessing rites. Moreover, the American bishops have already resoundingly rejected the primates’ scheme for pastoral oversight for American conservatives. The Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori is understood to be preparing yet another version that may well prove acceptable to her liberal colleagues, but is highly unlikely to pass muster with the conservatives.

It also appears that there is little room for manoeuvre. Dr Williams himself, in a press conference following the eleventhhour agreement of the communiqué at the primates’ meeting in Tanzania, said it would be ‘difficult’ if the Americans failed to follow its exact wording. So, if the Americans do fail to respond adequately in New Orleans, it would seem that Rowan will have little choice but to carry out the implicit threat in the communiqué and withdraw their invitations to Lambeth. Or does it?

Read the rest here.

The 'King of spade' is a preferred gender in India! - Selective elimination of female foetuses!

Increasing female feticide in India could spark a demographic crisis where fewer women in society will result in a rise in sexual violence and child abuse as well as wife-sharing, the United Nations warned. As a result, the United Nations says an estimated 2,000 unborn girls are illegally aborted every day in India.

Read it all.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Encyclopedia editor says CofE has become irrelevant

"'The church's preference for commitment over numbers has made it increasingly irrelevant,' says David Self."

Now, let's be clear. I don't agree with much of what this article has to say. It is like a physician correctly describing a patient's symptoms and then incorrectly identifying the cause.

Here are the symptoms the author correctly notes:
Obviously, rival Sunday attractions also hastened the process of change, but by the end of the century the Church of England had largely become a "members only" organisation. Go to any parish church and the notices ("See Sue for tickets", "Tell Pamela if you can help") indicate that everyone knows everyone and newcomers are not expected. Even cathedrals model themselves on suburban parishes, nurturing their regular congregations. Attend debates at the church's parliament or general synod and you witness an inward-looking body.

Now here is where he gets the diagnosis wrong:
If the church prefers commitment to numbers, that is its prerogative. If, on social issues, it wishes to be out-of-step with public opinion, that is its decision. If, as a result, it appears irrelevant, it must not be surprised if it loses the perks of being part of the establishment.

Commitment does not have to be the opposite of numbers. In fact, some churches that have the highest demands for commitment are also the largest and fastest growing. Take for instance this mission statement from Willow Creek Community Church: "The mission of Willow Creek Community Church is to turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ." And they have done it—by the thousands!

Here is another instance of the author's misdiagnosis:
The rise of the parish communion was not the only manifestation of the church's changing nature. Until 1967, many "low church" parishes were simply churches without a lot of candles, vestments and ritual. In that year, at a short congress, the evangelical leader John Stott set out a new agenda. The evangelical wing of the church awoke to preach biblical truths with a new passion and, often, a requirement that its members should be "born again".

In other words, the author suggests that churches that followed John Stott in preaching biblical truth and requiring real commitment became irrelevant. What the author (amazingly) fails to realize is that the evangelical churches in Britain who followed John Stott's lead are virtually the only ones displaying any growth and vitality.

It is precisely the churches that have failed to preach biblical truth and require commitment that have become inward looking and irrelevant. The author evidently prefers the days when churches used Matins (instead of Holy Communion) as the primary service and used an older prayerbook that allowed people to say things they didn't really understand. In other words, when the church used to be irrelevant, it was really relevant. Huh?

Growing churches sometimes say that their mission is to be "high impact, high commitment" congregations. These congregations are committed to having a high impact in reaching their communities, and they stress a high level of commitment from those who become "fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ." The problem with the "irrelevant" British churches the author cites is that they have long ago lost any desire to be "high impact." They are not so much irrelevant as dormant.

In noting that the church is "out-of-step with public opinion" on social issues, the author appears to mean that the Church ought to follow the direction of the culture in social and moral issues instead of challenging it. Again, he could learn something from the American experience, where churches right now are at a watershed. The mainline churches that are following the culture are shrinking. The churches that are counter-cultural in their moral and ethical teaching are growing.

And as for the "church's preference for commitment over numbers"—it doesn't take a high level of commitment for people to show up at the same club meeting every Sunday morning; it could just mean they are a bunch of poor dweebs with no place else to go. If these congregations really were "high commitment," they would be evangelizing their cities, ministering to the poor, and involved in world mission. Churches that are heavily involved in that kind of outreach don't shrink; they grow.

My recommendation is for the author to take a couple of years to become seriously involved with a congregation like All Souls, Langham Place or Holy Trinity, Brompton, and really embrace the faith they teach. Then let's see if he still agrees with his own article.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Pete Seeger Sings Out Against Stalin

Talk about "too little, too late!"
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Pete Seeger has the Joe Stalin blues.

Decades after drifting away from the Communist Party, the 88-year-old banjo-picker has written a song about the Soviet leader that's as scathing as any tune in the folk legend's long career.

"I'm singing about old Joe, cruel Joe. He ruled with an iron hand. He put an end to the dreams of so many in every land," Seeger wrote in "The Big Joe Blues."

Read it all.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Colorado School Bans Tag on Its Playground

Okay, it's official: THE WORLD HAS GONE NUTS!!!

Witness this report from a Colorado school:
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - An elementary school has banned tag on its playground after some children complained they were harassed or chased against their will.

"It causes a lot of conflict on the playground," said Cindy Fesgen, assistant principal of the Discovery Canyon Campus school.

Running games are still allowed as long as students don't chase each other, she said.

Fesgen said two parents complained to her about the ban but most parents and children didn't object.

In 2005, two elementary schools in the nearby Falcon School District did away with tag and similar games in favor of alternatives with less physical contact. School officials said the move encouraged more students to play games and helped reduce playground squabbles.

What kind of dweebs is this society producing???

Of course, this isn't the only sign that the world has gone nuts. There will be more to follow, I am sure.

Friday, August 24, 2007

So What?

An article in The Church Times now suggests that Archbishop Peter Akinola did not write all of the piece entitled "A Most Agonising Journey towards Lambeth 2008" (see the post below) that came out over his signature.

These "journalists" are shocked—SHOCKED, I tell you—that Abp. Akinola may have had assistance in writing this document. Have these journalists never heard of a public figure using a ghostwriter or engaging in collaborative writing before? Here's my perspective on this whole thing: SO WHAT?

I happen to be a seminary dean, not primate of a whole country, and (believe it or not) there are many occasions when not every word that is issued publicly over my signature was actually written by me. And, I will guarantee you, if I were writing an important document about a situation in Nigeria (or any other country), and I happened to have a colleague there, I would gladly accept all the additions, corrections, or editorial changes that colleague wished to contribute.

But, you know what? If, in the end, a document goes out over my signature, it is because I OWN it. It says what I wish it to say; I stand by it, and I am responsible for it. And Abp. Akinola is just as much the owner of "A Most Agonising Journey towards Lambeth 2008."

In the final analysis, the real significance of "A Most Agonising Journey towards Lambeth 2008" is not who wrote it, but whether it is a true assesment of where we as the Anglican Communion now stand. If it appeared over Abp. Akinola's signature, it is obviously his assessment. And I, for one, happen to think he is right.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A MOST AGONIZING JOURNEY

Archbishop Peter Akinola writes to Nigerian Synods on the Journey towards Lambeth 2008

A Most Agonizing Journey towards Lambeth 2008

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph. 4:1,3)

We have been on this journey for ten long years. It has been costly and debilitating for all concerned as most recently demonstrated by the tepid response to the invitations to the proposed Lambeth Conference 2008. At a time when we should be able to gather together and celebrate remarkable stories of growth and the many wonderful ways in which our God has been at work in our beloved Communion as lives are transformed new churches built and new dioceses established there is little enthusiasm to even meet.

There are continual cries for patience, listening and understanding. And yet the record shows that those who hold to the “faith once and for all delivered to the saints” have shown remarkable forbearance while their pleas have been ignored, their leaders have been demonized, and their advocates marginalized. We made a deliberate, prayerful decision in 1998 with regard to matters of Human Sexuality. It was supported by an overwhelming majority of the bishops of the Communion. It reflected traditional teaching interpreted with pastoral sensitivity. And yet it has been ignored and those who uphold it derided for their stubbornness. However, we have continued to meet and pray and struggle to find ways to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

The journey started in February 1997 in Kuala Lumpur. It was here, during the 2nd Encounter of the Global South Anglican Communion that a statement was issued in which concern was expressed about the apparent setting aside of biblical teaching by some provinces and dioceses. The statement pleaded for dialogue in ‘a spirit of true unity’ before any part of the Communion embarks on radical changes to Church discipline and moral teaching. [[i]]

Sadly, this plea, and several similar warnings, have been ignored and ten years later, in February 2007, the Primates of the Anglican Communion met in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and experienced an agonizing time trying to repair the Communion that has been so badly broken. Their earlier prediction at the Primates Meeting at Lambeth Palace In 2003, that rejection of the faith committed to us would tear “the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level,” has proven to be accurate. In Dar es Salaam the Primates proposed, as one last attempt to restore unity, a period of seven months for those who have brought our Communion to the brink of destruction to reconsider their actions and put a stop to the harmful actions that have so polarized our beloved church. [[ii]]

With about seven weeks to go, hope for a unified Communion is not any brighter than it was seven months or ten years ago. Rather, the intransigence of those who reject Biblical authority continues to obstruct our mission and it now seems that the Communion is being forced to choose between following their innovations or continuing on the path that the church has followed since the time of the Apostles.

We have made enormous efforts since 1997 in seeking to avoid this crisis, but without success. Now we confront a moment of decision. If we fail to act we risk leading millions of people away from the faith revealed in the Holy Scriptures and also, even more seriously, we face the real possibility of denying our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The leadership of The Episcopal Church USA (TECUSA) and the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) seem to have concluded that the Bible is no longer authoritative in many areas of human experience especially in salvation and sexuality. They claim to have ‘progressed’ beyond the clear teaching of the Scriptures and they have not hidden their intention to lead others to these same conclusions. They have even boasted that they are years ahead of others in fully understanding the truth of the Holy Scriptures and the nature of God’s love.

Both TECUSA and ACoC have been given several opportunities to consult, discuss and prayerfully respond through their recognized structures. While they produced carefully nuanced, deliberately ambiguous statements, their actions have betrayed them. Their intention is clear; they have chosen to walk away from the Biblically based path we once all walked together. The unrelenting persecution of the remaining faithful among them shows how they have used these past few years to isolate and destroy any and all opposition.

We now confront the seriousness of their actions as the year for the Lambeth Conference draws near. Sadly, this Conference is no longer designed as an opportunity for serious theological engagement and heartfelt reconciliation but we are told will be a time of prayer, fellowship and communion. These are commendable activities, but this very Communion, however, has been broken by the actions of the American and Canadian churches. The consequence is most serious because, even if only one province chooses not to attend, the Lambeth Conference effectively ceases to be an Instrument of Unity. The convener’s status as an instrument or focus of unity also becomes highly questionable. Repentance and reversal by these provinces may yet save our Communion. Failure to recognize the gravity of this moment will have a devastating impact.


Scorned Opportunities

Following the 1997 warning, the 1998 Lambeth Conference issued Resolution 1.10 that affirmed the teaching of the Holy Scriptures with regard to faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union and declared that homosexual practice was incompatible with Biblical teaching. At their meeting in Porto, Portugal, in March 2000 the Primates reaffirmed the supremacy of Scripture as the “decisive authority in the life of our Communion.” [[iii]] [[iv]]

The General Convention of the Episcopal Church USA responded in July 2000 by approving Resolution D039 acknowledging relationships other than marriage “in the Body of Christ and in this Church” and that those “who disagree with the traditional teaching of the Church on human sexuality, will act in contradiction to that position!” The Convention only narrowly avoided directing the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to begin preparation of official rites for the blessing of “these relationships … other than marriage.” [[v]]

In 2001, the Primates’ meeting in Kanuga, North Carolina issued a pastoral letter acknowledging estrangement in the Church due to changes in theology and practice regarding human sexuality, and calling on all provinces of the Communion to avoid actions that might damage the “credibility of mission in the world” [[vi]] In April, 2002 meeting at Canterbury the Primates further issued a pastoral letter recognizing responsibility of all bishops to articulate the fundamentals of faith and maintain the Church truth. [[vii]]

In what appeared to be deliberate defiance the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada voted in June 2002 to approve the blessings of same-sex unions with the enthusiastic support of their Bishop Michael Ingham. [[viii]] Later that year ACC-12 meeting in Hong Kong in October 2002 approved a resolution [34] urging dioceses and bishops to refrain from unilateral actions and policies that would strain communion. [[ix]]

The following year ECUSA met in General Convention in Minneapolis in July/August 2003. Among their many actions they chose to reject a Resolution [B001] affirming the authority of Scripture and other basic elements of Christian faith [[x]] while approving the election as bishop [C045] someone living in an unashamedly sexual relationship outside marriage. [[xi]]

The Primates’ meeting at Lambeth Palace in October 2003 issued a pastoral statement condemning ECUSA’s decisions at General Convention describing them as actions that “threaten the unity of our own Communion as well as our relationships with other parts of Christ’s Church, our mission and witness, and our relations with other faiths, in a world already confused in areas of sexuality, morality and theology and polarized Christian opinion.” They also declared that if the consecration proceeds “the future of the Communion itself will be put in jeopardy” and that the action will “tear the fabric of our communion at its deepest level, and may lead to further division on this and further issues as provinces have to decide in consequence whether they can remain in communion with provinces that choose not to break communion with the Episcopal Church (USA).” They also called on “the provinces concerned to make adequate provision for Episcopal oversight of dissenting minorities within their own area of pastoral care in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury on behalf of the Primates.” [[xii]] ECUSA responded the following month by proceeding with the consecration of Gene Robinson thereby tearing the fabric of our Communion and forcing Nigeria along with many other provinces to sever communion with ECUSA.

Earlier, in June 2003, we in the Church of Nigeria had cut our links with the diocese of New Westminster and sent a clear warning of reconsidering our relationship with ECUSA should Gene Robinson be consecrated. [[xiii]] As always, we were ignored.

During 2004 there was a growing number of so-called ‘blessings’ of same-sex unions by American and Canadian priests even though the Windsor Report released in September 2004 reaffirmed Lambeth 1.10 and the authority of Scripture as central to Anglican Common Life. The Windsor Report also called for moratoria on public rites of same-sex blessings and on the election and consent of any candidate to the episcopate living in a same-sex union. [[xiv]]

One consequence of this continuing intransigence by ECUSA was the alienation of thousands of faithful Anglicans who make their home in the USA. The attempts by the Primates to provide for their protection through the Panel of Reference proved fruitless. So the desire of these faithful Anglicans for alternatives for their spiritual home led to many impassioned requests to the Church of Nigeria and a number of other provinces within the Global South. The Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria (CofN) recognizing this urgent need during their meeting in Ilesa in March 2004 and as a result initiated a process for the provision of pastoral care through the formation of a Convocation within the USA.

During the African Anglican Bishops Conference (AABC) in October 2004 the Primates present released a statement that among other things urged the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada to take seriously the need for “repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation enjoined on all Christians by Christ.’’ It called on Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada to move beyond informal expressions of regret for the effect of their actions to a genuine change of heart and mind. [[xv]]

Although the Primates in February 2005 at their meeting in Dromantine, Northern Ireland, advised the withdrawal of both ECUSA and the ACoC from the ACC [[xvi]] the continued influence of these churches on the Communion and their renewed efforts to make others adopt their intransigent line frustrated any genuine reconciliation attempts. The agonizing journey towards unity and faith seemed unending.

The failure of resolve by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the unwillingness of the other Instruments of Unity to effect discipline on those who had rejected the mind of the Communion prompted the Church of Nigeria to effect a change in her constitution during a General Synod held in Onitsha in September 2005. This constitutional change not only protects the Church of Nigeria from being led into error by any Church in the Communion but also makes full constitutional provision for the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). [[xvii]]

The Third Anglican South-to-South Encounter in Egypt October 2005 issued a very strong indictment of ECUSA and the ACoC and called for a common “Anglican Covenant” among churches remaining true to Biblical Christianity and historic Anglicanism. [[xviii]]

Ignoring all the calls for repentance, homosexual unions and nominations for episcopacy continued in the USA with the Archbishop of Canterbury expressing “deep unease” with such nominations in California in February 2006. [[xix]]

A much-awaited ECUSA General Convention in 2006 proved to be a disappointment as resolutions expressing regret for the harm done to the communion were rejected as well as one that tried to emphasize the necessity of Christ for salvation. Approved were resolutions promoting homosexual relationships as well one apologizing to homosexuals for the Anglican Communion following Biblical principles. A pledge to include openly homosexual persons was requested “of our sister churches in the Anglican Communion and Anglican Communion bodies as evidence of the apology”. Finally someone who does not regard homosexual behaviour a sin, and does not consider Jesus the One way to the Father, was elected as Presiding Bishop. [[xx]] The agony of a frustrated communion was visible worldwide except among those already prepared to embrace this dangerous path departing from the faith.

Nigeria needed no further prodding to proceed with the election in June 2006 and the August 2006 consecration of the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns to give Episcopal oversight to CANA. The Nigerian House of Bishops also declared a reluctance to participate in the 2008 Lambeth Conference with an unrepentant ECUSA and Canada. [[xxi]]

The Global South Anglican Primates meeting in Kigali, September 2006 recognizing that ECUSA appears to have no intention of changing direction and once again embracing the ‘faith once delivered’ said in their communiqué: “We are convinced that the time has now come to take initial steps towards the formation of what will be recognized as a separate ecclesiastical structure of the Anglican Communion in the USA . . . . . . . We believe that we would be failing in our apostolic witness if we do not make this provision for those who hold firmly to a commitment to historic Anglican faith.” [[xxii]]

The Anglican Communion Primates meeting in Dar es Salaam in February 2007 reaffirmed the 1998 Lambeth resolution and called on ECUSA (now TEC) to consider definite actions, which could heal the communion as well as reassure those who have been alienated of adequate pastoral care. By June 2007, both the ACoC and TEC indicated unwillingness to comply but a desire to remain part of the Communion they have hurt so much. As the deadline approaches, we fail to see how these positions can be reconciled. The situation has been made even more incoherent by the decision, made earlier this year, to extend an invitation to the Lambeth Conference of those responsible for this crisis with no call to repentance, whilst rejecting bishops who have stood firm for the Faith.


All journeys must end someday

“We are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for of running a race.” (Hebrews 12:1)

These past ten years of distraction have been agonizing and the cost has been enormous. The time and financial resources spent on endless meetings whose statements and warnings have been consistently ignored is a tragic loss of resources that should have been used otherwise. It now appears, however, that the journey is coming to an end and the moment of decision is almost upon us. But this is not a time to lose heart or fail to maintain vigilance. It would be an even greater tragedy if while trying to bring others back to the Godly path, we should miss the way or lose the race.

§ We want unity but not at the cost of relegating Christ to the position of another ‘wise teacher’ who can be obeyed or disobeyed.

§ We earnestly desire the healing of our beloved Communion but not at the cost of re-writing the Bible to accommodate the latest cultural trend.

As stated in “The Road to Lambeth” [[xxiii]] “We Anglicans stand at a crossroads. One road, the road of compromise of biblical truth, leads to destruction and disunity. The other road has its own obstacles [faithfulness is never an easy way] because it requires changes in the way the Communion has been governed and it challenges [all] our churches to live up to and into their full maturity in Christ.”

The first road, the one that follows the current path of The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada, is one that we simply cannot take because the cost is too high. We dare not sacrifice eternal truth for mere appeasement; we cannot turn away from the source of life and love for a temporary truce.

The other road is the only one that we can embrace. It is not an easy road because it demands obedience and faithfulness from each one of us. It requires a renewed commitment to the Historic Biblical Faith. For those who have walked away from this commitment, especially The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada, it requires repentance, a reversal of current unscriptural policies and credible assurances concerning such basic matters as:

a. The Authority and Supremacy of Scripture.

b. The Doctrine of the Trinity

c. The person, work and resurrection of Jesus the Christ

d. The acknowledgement of Jesus as Divine and the One and only means of salvation

e. The doctrines of sin, forgiveness, reconciliation, and transformation by the Holy Spirit through Christ.

f. The sanctity of marriage and teaching about morality that is rooted in the Bible.

These are not onerous burdens or tiresome restrictions but rather they are God’s gift, designed to set us free from the bondage of sin and give us the assurance of life eternal.

It is our hope and fervent prayer that in the coming months, all those in leadership will be directed towards the restoration of true unity in the Body of Christ by an unconditional embrace of the One who says to all who will listen, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress, describes the Christian life as a journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. On his journey, Pilgrim is confronted by numerous decisions and many crossroads. The easy road was never the right road. This is our moment of truth.

This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. (Deuteronomy 30:19,20a)

+ Peter Abuja

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[FOOTNOTES]

[i] The Kuala Lumpur statement on Human Sexuality available here.

[ii] Communiqué of the Primates meeting in Dar es Salaam in February 2007 available here.

[iii] Lambeth 1998 resolution 1.10 text is available here.

[iv] Communiqué of the Primates meeting in Porto in March, 2000, available here.

[v] Text of Resolution D039 from General Convention 2000 can be found here.

[vi] Communiqué from the Primates meeting in Kanuga, North Carolina in March 2001, available here.

[vii] Communiqué from the Primates meeting in Canterbury in April 2002, available here.

[viii][viii] Diocese of New Westminster policies on Same Sex Blessings can be found here.

[ix] Resolutions from ACC-12 meeting in Hong Kong in October 2002, available here.

[x] Test of Resolution B001 rejected by General Convention 2003, available here.

[xi] Text of Resolution endorsing the election of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, available here.

[xii] Communiqué from the Primates meeting in Lambeth Palace in October 2003, available here.

[xiii] Statement from Church of Nigeria breaking Communion with the Diocese of New Westminster, available here.

[xiv] The full text of the Windsor Report is available here.

[xv] Statement from the Primates gathered at the first African Anglican Bishops’ Conference is available here.

[xvi] Communiqué from the Primates meeting in Dromantine in February 2005, available here.

[xvii] Statement issued on 15th September 2005 describing actions of the General Synod is available here.

[xviii] Communiqué from 3rd South to South Encounter held in October 2005 text available here.

[xix] Article describing reaction by Archbishop Rowan to California election is found in Church of England Newspaper, February 24th, 2006

[xx] Episcopal News Service describing the election is available here.

[xxi] Minutes of the Church of Nigeria House of Bishops meeting June 2006

[xxii] Communiqué from the Primates meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, in September, 2006, available here.

[xxiii]Complete text of the Report “The Road to Lambeth” is available here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Lincoln Brewster - "Love the Lord"

So, what is the Dean of Nashotah House doing promoting a contemporary Christian music video? Well, let's just say that I am liturgically and musically ambidextrous. If you are an Anglican who is into contemporary Christian music, try imagining the following piece as a response to the Summary of the Law (in place of the Gloria—a rubrically permissable substitution in the 1979 BCP) for use in a contemporary worship setting.

If your liturgical taste stops with Healey Willan and the 1928 BCP, do not click on the video below. It will only give you apoplexy, or the vapors, or something. If it is too late, and you have already clicked on the video, just take two aspirin, or maybe a stiff Gin & Tonic, and lie down. It will pass.

And if you haven't understood a word I have said in the preceding two paragraphs, I hope you'll enjoy the video anyway.



♪ I will love You Lord
With all my heart
With all my soul
With all my mind
And with all my strength...♪

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

4 Simpsons Blog takes a poke at false teachers (D'oh!)

One virtue (perhaps the only virtue, IMHO) of the television show, The Simpsons, is that it often tells the truth about things we don't want to recognize and does it in a humorous way. The same goes for this blog (also apparently by four individuals named Simpson) dealing with false teachers in organized Christianity and a lot of other things.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A Response to the Rev'd Prof. Christopher Seitz

I want to express my thanks for the many responses to what began as a comment on a piece Greg Griffith had posted on Stand Firm before Matt Kennedy elevated my response to the level of an article. I thank Matt for that as well.

To Chris Seitz, I must hasten to say that I never intended to suggest that all of you in the ACI "have avoided academic conflict, fought no battles in University life, written no books that did not earn them derision and hurt their professional ‘advancement’..." All of you have done and continue to do great work for Christ—and at considerable cost. Ephraim Radner's work on the Covenant Design Group alone is something for which all conservatives owe him a great debt. And, indeed, I would be praising him publicly, instead of criticizing him as I did, had he found a more gracious way of articulating his differences with the Network than launching a broadside against the Network's elected Moderator.

In saying that you all live "in your heads," I was not trying to be insulting; I was simply using the vernacular to refer to the tendency all of us in academia sometimes have of developing highly nuanced views of things. This is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that it gives you the insight and the patience to work with the Windsor Bishops and other Communion leaders. The curse is that it distances you from those of us who feel like we have been wading through nuances until we have worn out our hip boots.

I have spent 26 years in theological education, 21 of those years in two Episcopal seminaries—not as long as some of you in the ACI, I know, but long enough. I have been a deputy to five General Conventions, and I still serve on several Church commissions and committees. And I am tired. Frankly, I long for godly bishops who have truly heard from our Lord, whose "yes" means "yes," and who don't need Balaam's donkey to tell them which way they ought to go. I do not have the subtlety or patience that you and Ephraim possess, so I am glad that you are where you are and are doing what you are doing. I pray God will richly bless your work.

The difference between the ACI and the Network is an example of the classic tension between diplomacy and direct action. I, along with many members of the Network and Anglicans from the Global South, believe that our present situation calls for both. So I pray that those who are committed to both approaches can work together, without disparagement, to produce the orthodox Anglican future for which we both long.