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


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.