Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy 2010!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What do you worry about?

"Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

How much can we afford?

Yes, this is off-topic, but it's important:
WASHINGTON - The Democratic-controlled Senate on Saturday cleared away a Republican filibuster of a huge end-of-year spending bill that rewards most federal agencies with generous budget boosts.

The $1.1 trillion measure combines much of the year's unfinished budget work — only a $626 billion Pentagon spending measure would remain — into a 1,000-plus-page spending bill that would give the Education Department, the State Department, the Department of Health and Human Services and others increases far exceeding inflation.

The 60-34 vote met the minimum threshold to end the GOP filibuster. A final vote was set for Sunday afternoon to send the measure to President Barack Obama.


Just the $626 billion defense bill would remain. That's being held back to serve as a vehicle to advance must-pass legislation such as a plan to allow the government's debt to swell by nearly $2 trillion. The government's total debt has nearly doubled in the past seven years and is expected to exceed the current ceiling of $12.1 trillion before Jan. 1.

Republicans said the measure — on top of February's $787 billion economic stimulus bill and a generous omnibus measure for the 2009 budget year — spends too much money in a time when the government is running astronomical deficits.

$12.1 trillion in debt and no end in sight. Does anyone realize the disaster that is brewing? Write your representatives and senators.

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years.
A quotation sometimes attributed to Scottish lawyer and historian Alexander Tytler (1790).

Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.
A quotation often linked with the one above, but actually taken from a 1943 speech "Industrial Management in a Republic" by H. W. Prentis, president of the Armstrong Cork Company and former president of the National Association of Manufacturers.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Healing the Fault Lines in Christianity - Some Initial Responses

"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me." (John 17:20-21)

At this point I had intended to move on and talk about methodology--some possible means by which the fault lines in Christianity can be healed. However, there have been a few responses to my first post that call for some discussion first.

It has been suggested that I am being idealistic. Yes, I am talking about achieving an ideal that exists in the mind of God for his Church and which Jesus prayed might be realized. I am being idealistic! But that is not to say that I am being unrealistic, since I am speaking about something Scripture explicitly says God wants to see happen.

I wrote that "Orthodox Anglicans, possessing as we do a comprehensive grasp of the Church—ancient and modern, east and west, catholic and reformed—are uniquely positioned to be the focal point of Christian unity." But I then went on to cite a partial list of things about which Anglicans hold varying opinions:

  • The nature of justification,
  • the nature of sanctification,
  • grace and works,
  • the nature of a sacrament,
  • the nature and effects of Baptism,
  • the nature of Christ's presence in the Lord's Supper,
  • the role of the Virgin Mary,
  • the authority of the Scriptures in relation to Tradition,
  • Apostolic Succession,
  • the nature of the Priesthood (Presbyterate), etc.

    Referring to this list, Fr. Al Kimel commented on Stand Firm that, "It would appear that Anglicanism does NOT in fact possess a comprehensive grasp of the Church." Well, yes, it does. First, you have to note that the differences among Anglicans on many of these issues are matters of nuance, not fundamental disagreement--which is all the more reason why we should engage in discussions to resolve them. Secondly, where there is fundamental disagreement, we have both the freedom and the obligation to work out those differences. Within the range of interpretation on each of these subjects lies the truth. Like Michelangelo, we need to chisel away the marble to liberate the statue that is trapped inside. Thirdly, I believe it is better to be in an ecclesial environment where one can honestly work out differences than to be in one that may have authoritatively resolved these questions incorrectly.

    Again, referring to my idealism, someone commented: "Archbishop Williams and Dean Munday appear to share one characteristic--DENIAL." Rowan Williams (alas) bears much of the responsibility for what the Anglican Communion has become (at least during his tenure). I am speaking of what Anglicanism can be!

    What is more, I am not speaking of the Anglican Communion, I am speaking of the Anglican Way. The institutions of the Anglican Communion may fall to dust, yet it will remain that the Anglican Way of being a Christian contains much that is of great value that we can and must contribute to the universal Church and to the future of what Christianity is becoming.

    I realize that for those who need the reassurance of a strong visible expression of the Church, dealing in ideals may not be enough. But I would submit that while the whole company of believers in Jesus Christ—baptized into Christ's body, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, from Pentecost until our Lord's return, and existing in heaven and on earth—may not at times be keenly visible, nevertheless, it is a reality. And our work for the Church must have that reality as our focus and our aspiration, more than any earthly expression of the Church (no matter how venerable) that represents only a portion of those believers at one moment in time.

    I realize that my proposals may hold no attraction for former Anglicans who have now become Roman Catholics. That is understandable. If you are someone who believes that the answer to Christian unity is for everyone to become united in communion with the See of Rome, without any prior discussion of the ways in which Rome has erred—that there need be no discussion of Christian doctrine into which Rome in humility needs to enter—then, naturally, we are going to disagree.

    My starting point is a fundamentally Anglican premise:
    Article XIX. Of the Church.
    The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.

    As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, have erred, so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith. (emphasis added)

    If you do not believe that last statement—if you believe that the Church of Rome has not erred, or through Papal Infallibility and the Magisterium cannot err—then you have already become a Roman Catholic. A discussion of how Anglicans can work for the unity of the Church (or any discussion of the unity of the Church that consists of a solution other than everyone coming under the Papacy) probably holds nothing for you.

    My present calling and my purpose in writing this series of blog posts is to call orthodox Anglicans to see what they have in common in the catholic faith of the Church, to reconcile our differences where they exist, and to work for unity in the faith among Christians worldwide. Furthermore, I am not so much concerned whether Christians ever come under the same institutional structure as whether they find unity in the truth.

    It is not my intention to comment here on the Apostolic Constitution presented by the Vatican in recent weeks, other than to say this: I recognize that there are many Anglicans (including close friends of mine) who have already entered into full communion with the Holy See or who will choose to do so as a response to the Vatican's offer. Even though I believe I am called to work for Christian unity on different terms and by other means, please do not take my arguing for those other means as showing any disrespect for you and your decision. Even though our paths my be different, they run along parallel lines; and our journeys are motivated by the same intention. Let us strive to outdo one another in humility, forbearance, and Christian charity. And let us work and pray that we may someday be one.
  • Friday, November 20, 2009

    Healing the Fault Lines in Christianity - Introduction

    It has been my conviction (indeed, my passion) for quite some time that those of us who are serious about the unity of the Church for which our Lord prayed in John 17, and who are concerned for the contribution that a renewed, orthodox Anglicanism can make to the future of the universal Church, need to take the lead in healing the "fault lines" that have separated Christians for most of the past 1000 years.

    Orthodox Anglicans, possessing as we do a comprehensive grasp of the Church—ancient and modern, east and west, catholic and reformed—are uniquely positioned to be the focal point of Christian unity. But to be truly effective as an instrument for uniting the rest of Christianity, we must get our own house in order.

    While various jurisdictions in Anglicanism have conducted ecumenical dialogues with Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Lutherans, Methodists, Moravians, etc. the great theological divide between Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical Anglicans has been left untended (ostensibly with a sort of benign neglect) and even occasionally displayed as a sign of Anglicanism's amazing comprehensiveness. The problem is that the neglect in healing such a gaping wound in the Body of Christ is anything but benign.

    Why do I consider this to be a gaping wound instead of simply a healthy sign of diversity? For one thing, there is the attitude of suspicion and even hostility with which Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals sometimes regard each other. I have lived among Anglo-Catholics who use the term "Evangelical" as an epithet. And I have lived among Evangelicals who regard Anglo-Catholics as near pagans in need of conversion. I am not referring merely to fringe movements or isolated incidents--the problem exists among church leaders, theological colleges, and church societies associated with Anglo-Catholicism and Anglican Evangelicalism on every continent where there is an Anglican presence. These attitudes (and sometimes actions) are not healthy displays of diversity, they are a reproach to an institution that exists to manifest God's grace and love.

    A second reason this division is a gaping wound and not a healthy display of diversity is the magnitude of the theological issues that remain unresolved. I am not going to argue any of these issues for the time being, but merely list some of them.

  • The nature of justification,
  • the nature of sanctification,
  • grace and works,
  • the nature of a sacrament,
  • the nature and effects of Baptism,
  • the nature of Christ's presence in the Lord's Supper,
  • the role of the Virgin Mary,
  • the authority of the Scriptures in relation to Tradition,
  • Apostolic Succession,
  • the nature of the Priesthood (Presbyterate), etc.

  • Knowledgeable Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals will immediately recognize the point of controversy in each of these issues and also recognize that this is far from a complete list. Just as obvious is the fact that these are not trivial issues.

    One might well ask, given the magnitude of the issues, whether reconciliation of the differing viewpoints is possible. But are we willing to say that something for which our Lord prayed is impossible?

    I have long maintained that what unites Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals is far greater than that which separates them. The simple tenets of the Apostles and Nicene Creeds are more than sufficient grounds for a very formidable unity:

  • belief in and worship of the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
  • the Incarnation of the Son in the Person of Jesus Christ,
  • His virgin birth, atoning death, and resurrection,
  • the Holy Spirit and His work in the life and ministry of the Church,
  • belief that there is one holy catholic and apostolic Church,
  • that there is a resurrection of the body and everlasting life for all who believe these things

  • This much (and more) we have in common already, and it is of major consequence in establishing both our unity and the basis for our proclamation to the world.

    The third reason I believe that orthodox Anglicans must take the lead in overcoming our divisions and manifesting the unity of the Church is that our disunity impairs our witness. It is only a united witness to the truth of the Gospel that can reach a world that is slipping into post-Christianity precisely through the compromise of the message of the Gospel by the western Church in the face of challenges from materialism and secularism on the one hand, and militant Islam and other world religions on the other hand.

    To accomplish unity for the sake of the Gospel will entail a healing in our spirits, a working out of theological differences, and a renewed commitment to the integrity of our witness.

    To achieve this unity will mean laying aside much of the baggage that characterizes the various parties in Anglicanism. It will require a methodology that enables us to recognize and hold fast to what is essentially Christian. It will call for passions of equal intensity for unity and truth. And it will demand a greater love for God and our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.

    This is a beginning of my thoughts along these lines. I will have more to say in future installments.

    Friday, November 13, 2009

    Former [abortion] clinic director: "Church chilly to my pro-life turn"

    Former clinic director: Church chilly to my pro-life turn
    Now feels unwelcome among Episcopalians

    Abby Johnson, the former Planned Parenthood clinic director whose about-face on abortion prompted her to resign her job, says she's gotten flack for her decision from an unexpected quarter: her own church.

    Read it all.

    Episcopal News Service article on Sweden's lesbian bishop

    Very positive reporting from Episcopal News Service:
    SWEDEN: Lesbian priest ordained as Lutheran bishop of Stockholm

    The (Lutheran) Church of Sweden on Nov. 8 ordained a female pastor as Christianity's first openly gay female bishop.

    Eva Brunne, 55, was elected in late May to be bishop of the Diocese of Stockholm by a vote of 413-365 over Hans Ulfvebrand in the second round of voting. A first round of voting by clergy of the diocese and an equal number of elected lay people was held in April. There are 13 dioceses in the Church of Sweden.

    Then, later in the article, follows this section in which various denominations try outdoing each other to claim "first!"—
    The AP reported that while Brunne's consecration is a first, the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, a spokesman for the United Church of Christ, said that the UCC has several openly gay and lesbian "conference ministers." That designation is similar to that of bishop.

    In 2003, the Episcopal Church consecrated its first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

    Finally, the celebration: "Hey, we can get jiggy wi' deese folks!"
    The Episcopal Church is about to enter into a dialogue with the Church of Sweden that could lead to a full communion agreement similar to the one the church has had with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America since January 2001. The July 8-17 meeting of the Episcopal Church’s General Convention called for that dialogue, via Resolution A076.

    Full communion?  Why not?  Sounds like "birds of a feather" to me.

    Read it all.

    Sunday, November 08, 2009

    World leaders line up to mark fall of Berlin Wall

    Guess which "world leader" won't be there.
    BERLIN (Reuters) - World leaders past and present will join German crowds on Monday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall -- a stark symbol of the Cold War that divided a city and a continent.

    Recollections of November 9, 1989 dominated German newspaper headlines over the weekend, and television stations ran program after program of documentary footage, eyewitness accounts and discussion panels about the event that changed the face of Europe.

    "There has scarcely been an historical watershed so radical and so immediately visible as November 9, 1989," the Koelnische Rundschau daily wrote in an editorial.


    Pivotal figures from the era that ushered in the collapse of communism in eastern Europe, such as ex-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Lech Walesa, who led anti-communist protests in Poland at the head of the Solidarity trade union, will take part in commemorative events around the once-divided capital on Monday.

    Joining them will be the leaders of the nations which occupied postwar Germany, apart from the United States, which will be represented by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

    British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev are all due to attend the celebrations hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, amid a series of bilateral meetings.

    Read it all.

    Saturday, October 31, 2009

    MSNBC: "U.S. churches pave way for Catholic switch"

    MSNBC, has this piece regarding the Vatican's announcement of a soon to be issued Apostolic Constitution, providing new and expanded provisions for receiving orthodox Anglicans (including married priests) who wish to convert to the Roman Catholic Church.

    I have yet to comment publicly on this development and may wait until the Apostolic Constitution is issued before doing so. But the Vatican's announcement has already attracted a great deal of media attention and become a hot topic in Anglo-Catholic circles. The MSNBC piece reflects on this development, as seen from the standpoint of a Texas parish that has already converted under the Roman Catholic Church's existing Pastoral Provision for Anglican clergy and congregations.

    Thursday, October 29, 2009

    Opinion: Reid’s health care scam may be still-born.

    People (and there are a few who have e-mailed me recently—well, okay, it was only one, but I was trying to make him feel better) who think my blog is sometimes too political need to realize that blogs are all about the free expression of ideas. Read that last part again slowly: FREE. EXPRESSION. OF. IDEAS.

    Those one or two people That one person won't like this piece that I received via e-mail either. But, in the immortal words of that great philosopher Alfred E. Neuman, "What? Me, worry?"
    Reid’s health care scam may be still-born.

    Some are almost feeling sorry for the hapless Harry Reid – perhaps the dumbest person to ever hold the position of Senate Majority Leader. Harry just never quite gets it right.

    He humiliated the entire Democrat Senate membership by getting them each to sign his letter demanding the firing of conservative talk show host, Rush Limbaugh. It was a stupid act, of course, and Limbaugh deftly turned it around and left poor Harry with egg all over his face and splattering every Democrat Senator as well.

    Of course, poor old Harry unilaterally surrendered to the radical Islamic terrorists in Iraq – declaring on his own that “this war is lost”. Subsequent events proved Harry totally wrong and demonstrated what most observers had guessed – Harry is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, brightest bulb in the lamp, or whatever other disparaging comparison you care to make.

    Harry is not only truly dumb, he works hard proving it.

    His latest fiasco is a health care “reform” bill that seems to be going nowhere. When he called a news conference to announce his bill, he stood alone at the mike, no other senator joined him. We should have read the obvious signs. Harry took that occasion to “compound his felony” by contending the GOP had no health care reform bill if its own. The claim was an out and out lie, of course, but it also overlooked the fact that on Capitol Hill, sometimes the very best answer to bad legislation is a resounding “No”. This is especially true when liberals hold the majority, and is particularly accurate in the case of liberal efforts to steal health care from real Americans. Liberals such as Reid, want to gain government-run care – a plot that would lead to single payer healthcare – the euphemistic description of the very flawed Canadian version of socialized medicine.

    If Reid and other liberals have their way, kiss quality health care goodbye. Government is an eternal enemy of quality and that is particularly true in the case of healthcare. Socialized medicine is notably void of a most important element of care: compassion!

    Sound health care requires honest concern and empathy – elements bureaucrats have absolutely no time for. At all.

    Reid’s announcement received a resounding “thud”. This coming as it did, only days after news outlets ran over and over a video of Reid and Pelosi emerging from a White House huddle in which Pelosi makes no attempt to hide or disguise disgust and revulsion when Reid put his hand on her shoulder as a collegial signal they were on the same song sheet. Clearly they are not and just as clearly, even Pelosi has little regard for Reid.

    Reid’s health care reform scheme included the dreaded “public option”. Such inclusion meant automatic rejection by any and all Senate Republicans – even Olympia Snowe and her partner from Maine – the only two really liberal Republicans on Capitol Hill.

    Reid had hoped to have Snowe’s support, but has made it very clear that with NO GOP vote on the issue, he is fully prepared to impose his bill on America without GOP support and without any honest debate. He has the votes – or had them until Joe Lieberman stepped to the plate and hit a home run for normal America by announcing he would join Republicans in a filibuster of Reid’s bill. Liberman’s courageous move was a catastrophe for Reid’s bill and probably seals its fate.

    Lieberman is quite unique, of course. Despite having been a Democrat Vice Presidential candidate, he jumped switch in the last election because of his opposition to Obama’s weak or non-existent strategy for our wars in the Middle East. Lieberman knew the reality and knew no responsible leader could accept the non-strategy promoted by Obama. He was unwilling to do what was politically the thing to do, and eschew party loyalty in order to stand for what is right.

    That support for our effort and our troops in combat earned Lieberman ouster from the Democrat party. He now serves officially as an “Independent” but caucuses with Democrats. After all, when all is said and done, Lieberman is a liberal on social issues, Yet he is clearly a man of honor and conviction. He chooses to do what is right when “going along” with his Democrat friends would be easier.

    Lieberman was so moved regarding support for our troops, he even campaigned extensively for McCain. Now he goes a step farther.

    Lieberman’s defection robs Reid of his 60 votes – and amount necessary to act without fear of filibuster by Republicans. Lieberman says he will join any such filibuster on this particular issue.

    “Hapless Harry” said in a TV sound bite: “Joe Lieberman is the least of my concerns”. If this is one of the rare moments in which Harry knows his subject, then he has a lot of very serious problems of which we are unaware. With Lieberman opposed, Reid’s bill is probably as dead as his letter demanding Rush Limbaugh be fired.

    Surely the voters of Nevada will relieve this nation from the troublesome and embarrassing wart that is Harry Reid.


    I couldn't have said it better myself.

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Of Red Queens and Hornets' Nests

    All the people who didn't like the now-changed title of my last post need to head on over to Lark News, where you will find items like this one:
    Presb. Church USA launches ambitious plan to lose only 5% of members

    LOUISVILLE — The Presbyterian Church (USA) has launched a campaign to slow the rate of decline to 5 percent, according to the denomination.

    "People at the grass roots need hope and motivation," says a spokesman. "This is a positive goal we can all get behind."

    The Minus 5 Campaign aims to lower the attrition rate in spite of the denomination's continued struggle with moral issues, which has led to even greater exodus of members. Instead of losing 12 to 15 percent of members every decade, the group will now "work in great unity and joy to lose only five percent."

    "This is the rallying cry we've been needing," says a pastor in Pittsburgh, Pa. "It's heartening to people at the local level to know we're determined not to shrink as rapidly."

    Of course this article is satirical (with a definite element of truth in it), as was the title and now-deleted quotation from Alice in Wonderland in my previous post. But both items are probably sufficient to demonstrate that church bureaucrats have VERY THIN SKINS and ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE OF HUMOR!!!

    Saturday, October 17, 2009

    Bishop Ackerman, the Presiding Bishop, and the Canons

    [A number of people have commented that my original title and introductory satirical quotation were a distraction from some very valid observations regarding the Presiding Bishop's actions toward Bishop Ackerman, hence this updated version.]

    Today, a very godly and humble Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Keith Keith L. Ackerman, received communications from the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, accepting his "renunciation of ordained ministry." There is only one problem: Bishop Ackerman never had any intention of renouncing his ministry.

    I know from speaking with Bishop Ackerman that he sent the Presiding Bishop a handwritten letter merely asking to have his credentials transferred to the Diocese of Bolivia. He said that he had no intention of renouncing his orders and that, while he intends to assist Bishop Lyons in work in Bolivia, he also wished to remain available to assist bishops in the United States, as requested.

    The Presiding Bishop says that “...there is no provision for transferring a bishop to another province.” But that is not true. Title III, Canon 10, Sec. 2, provides for the reception of “Clergy Ordained by Bishops of Churches in Communion with This Church” by means of Letters Dimissory and states:
    (3) The provisions of this Section 1 shall be fully applicable to all Members of the Clergy (emphasis mine) ordained in any Church in the process of entering the historic episcopal succession with which The Episcopal Church is in full communion as specified in Canon I.20, subject to the covenant of the two Churches as adopted by the General Convention.

    And a subsection states that the churches from which such a clergy may be received includes:
    (i) those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces, and regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury,

    So if the Episcopal Church can receive clergy (and bishops are included when it says “all Members of the Clergy”) from other provinces of the Anglican Communion by means of Letters Dimmisory, then it can issue those same letters when a bishop or other member of the clergy transfers to another province of the Anglican Communion.

    And, of course, the Episcopal Church has transferred clergy to other provinces of the Anglican Communion throughout its history. If one reviews the clergy list in The Episcopal Church Annual in most years one will find a section listing “Clergy Transferred to Other Churches” with the country or province to which the clergy have transferred given in parentheses. For instance, if you look in the 2003 Annual you find the name of the late Peter Toon followed by (England), because the Rev. Dr. Peter Toon, who continued to live and minister in the United States until his death earlier this year, transferred his canonical residence back to England in 2002.

    Further, it is not even necessary for the Presiding Bishop to be involved in transferring a bishop to another province or diocese elsewhere in the Anglican Communion.

    CANON III.10.2(a)(2) provides only that Letters Dimissory be issued by “the hand and seal of the Bishop with whose Diocese the person has been last connected.”

    That a resigned bishop (such as Bishop Ackerman) may transfer to another diocese is indicated in CANON III.12.8(i) which states:
    A resigned Bishop may, at the discretion of the Bishop of the Diocese in which the resigned Bishop resides, and upon presentation of Letters Dimissory from the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese in which the resigned Bishop has had canonical residence most recently, be enrolled among the Clergy of the new Diocese, and become subject to its Constitution and Canons including being given a seat and vote in the Diocesan Convention, in accordance with its canonical provisions for qualification of clergy members.

    This Canon demonstrates that Bishops are considered to have canonical residence in a diocese and that this canonical residence can be transferred by means of Letters Dimissory. Consequently, the “Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese in which the resigned Bishop has had canonical residence most recently” (presumably the “Provisional Bishop” of Quincy) could have transferred Bishop Ackerman to Bishop Lyons in Bolivia by means of Letters Dimissory and his transfer have been recorded without any recourse to the Presiding Bishop or the purported “renunciation” which the PB is now asserting.

    It will be remembered that the Presiding Bishop also erroneously asserted that Bishop Henry Scriven renounced his orders when he returned to England. (See 1, 2, and 3.) If the Presiding Bishop would only have bothered to check for precedents in how such tranfers were handled, she could have avoided the scandal of, once again, misinterpreting the canons.

    Friday, October 02, 2009

    It's an ancient/future thing.

    This week at Nashotah House, we have had our annual retreat. The leader for our retreat has been the Rt. Rev. Donald J. Parsons, Professor Emeritus of New Testament and former Dean and President of Nashotah House, who went on to serve as Bishop of Quincy from 1974-88. Now 87 years old, he is as active and as keen of mind as men 30 years his junior—and full of wisdom and wit. It is always a delight when Bishop Parsons is with us!

    The theme of Bishop Parsons' retreat meditations was Christ's Ascension—the event that a few Christians actually go to church and celebrate on the Thursday before Pentecost Sunday, but that is overlooked and undervalued by many. The other night, Bishop Parsons talked about the significance of the Ascension—how it demonstrates the reality of Christ's Incarnation. If God entered the world by taking on flesh in the Incarnation, and if he was crucified, died, was buried, and rose again on the third day; then, unless he was to begin his earthly reign at that point, his earthly existence had to have an end. And that end was his Ascension back to heaven, where he sits at the right hand of the Father.

    Of course some, including certain liberal bishops, have mocked the idea of a literal Ascension, just as they disparage the necessity of a bodily Resurrection. One such bishop has gone so far as to say that, if Jesus went up into the sky, and even if he traveled at the speed of light, then he would still have a long way to go even to leave our galaxy, so he can't be in heaven (wherever that is.)

    But if Jesus was going to return to the Father in heaven, how should he have gone? Should he have simply disappeared? No, that might have signified that he was an illusion or a ghost? Should he have gone down into the earth? What would that have signified to those who were present? No, he ascends, which his disciples would have known signified going to a higher, better place. Similarly, in saying that Christ is now seated at the right hand of the Father, the aim isn't to tell us about the arrangement of the furniture in heaven; it is to tell us that Jesus, who has ascended, now reigns with the Father's favor and authority.

    The Ascension demonstrates the reality and the physicality of the Resurrection. If Jesus' body still remained in a tomb outside Jerusalem, then the Resurrection is merely a metaphor for the immortality of the soul. But if Jesus rose bodily then he had to ascend if he was to leave this world. But, of course, Christ did ascend and 10 days later sends the Holy Spirit to indwell and empower his Church.

    Sitting there listening to Bishop Parsons' meditation, I had a sense of what it must have been like to listen to the Apostle Paul teach one of the New Testament churches about the meaning of Christ's Ascension for the very first time. It was a blessed moment. It transcended time and space. And during that moment it didn't matter whether we were in the first century or the twenty-first century—we were simply Christians.

    We're doing a new/old thing—an ancient/future thing—at Nashotah House. It is called Christianity. And it feels great!
    "Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you.
    Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
    Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."
    (Hebrews 13:7-8)


    Tuesday, September 15, 2009

    In the Footsteps of (St.) Tikhon and (Bp.) Grafton

    L: Bp. Charles Grafton (1830-1912), R: St. Tikhon of Moscow (1865-1925)    

    Nashotah House is hosting a conference on Anglican-Orthodox relations on October 8-10. Entitled, "In the Footsteps of Tikhon and Grafton," the conference will include presentations by scholars associated with Nashotah House and St. Vladimir's Orthodox Seminary. The conference will conclude with the signing of a Concordat between the two seminaries, like the covenant partnership that Nashotah House has had for several decades with Sacred Heart (Roman Catholic) Seminary. The Concordat commits the two seminaries to pray for each other, to further ecumenical relationships between members of the Anglican and Orthodox traditions, and to continue to work for the reunion of all faithful Christians.

    I call your attention to a wonderful address by Fr. Chad Hatfield, who is now Chancellor of St. Vladimir's seminary gave a paper, entitled "Nashotah House, Bishop Grafton, and Saint Tikhon of Moscow" given at the Sesquicentennial Convocation of Nashotah House, in November 1992, when Fr. Hatfield was dean of St. Herman's Seminary, in Alaska.

    You can read the paper (10 pages, PDF file) here:   It provides a wonderful background to what we will be doing on October 8-10, as we continue "In the Footsteps of Tikhon and Grafton."

    You can call Mrs. Sandy Mills (262) 646-6508 for more information on the Conference.

    Saturday, September 12, 2009

    Thousands pack D.C. to protest spending, taxes

    WASHINGTON - Tens of thousands of protesters fed up with government spending marched to the U.S. Capitol on Saturday, showing their disdain for the president's health care plan with slogans such as "Obamacare makes me sick" and "I'm not your ATM."

    The line of protesters clogged several blocks near the Capitol, according to the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency. Demonstrators chanted "enough, enough" and "We the People." Others yelled "You lie, you lie!" and "Pelosi has to go," referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

    Throngs of people waved U.S. flags and held signs reading "Go Green Recycle Congress" and "Obama Bin Lyin.'" Men wore colonial costumes as they listened to speakers who warned of "judgment day" — Election Day 2010.

    Read it all.

    Friday, August 21, 2009

    AP sources: $2 trillion higher deficit projected

    WASHINGTON - The Obama administration expects the federal deficit over the next decade to be $2 trillion bigger than previously estimated, White House officials said Friday, a setback for a president already facing a Congress and public wary over spending.

    Read it all.

    At first, it puzzled me that the Obama administration would issue a report so potentially damaging to their own spending plans. Then I read the final paragraph:
    Such deficits have always prompted Congress and the White House to take politically painful steps to curb them, such as former President Bill Clinton's tax-heavy 1993 deficit reduction plan. A companion effort by Obama could force him to break his promise to not raise taxes on individuals making less than $200,000 a year.

    Then I understood: It is an excuse to go back on a promise not to raise taxes on the middle middle class, without which Obama might not have been elected. So Obama's answer to increased deficits isn't to curb outrageous government spending like a phony stimulus plan, "billions for clunkers," and socialized medicine. Instead, his solution is to loot the middle class.

    2012 can't get here soon enough.

    Tuesday, August 18, 2009

    Losers spell it 'looser.'

    I don't know if the internet is making us stupid or simply affording more opportunities for us to see how many people don't know how to spell.

    Lose (rhymes with blues) and losing (rhymes with cruising) are the opposite of win and winning.
    Loose (rhymes with moose) is the opposite of tight.

    It isn't rocket science. Learn it.

    Monday, August 17, 2009

    Top Ten Reasons Obamacare Is Wrong for America

    Human Events, with the help of the Heritage Foundation, lists the top ten reasons Obamacare is wrong for America:

    1. Millions Will Lose Their Current Insurance: President Obama wants Americans to believe they can keep their insurance if they like. Proposed economic incentives, plus a government-run health plan would cause 88.1 million people to see their current employer-sponsored health plan disappear.

    Read the other nine reasons.

    Tuesday, August 11, 2009

    Woman in trouser case banned from travel

    Another wonderful example of the "Religion of Peace" in action:
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan has barred Lubna Hussein, a woman who faces 40 lashes for wearing trousers in violation of decency laws, from traveling abroad, she said Tuesday.

    Hussein said she tried to leave for Lebanon Tuesday after a television channel asked her to appear in a program there.

    "It emerged when I tried to get an exit visa that my name was on a blacklist," she told Reuters. "There is no way to get out of Sudan."

    Hussein was arrested at a party in July and, with 12 other women, charged with being indecently dressed. A former reporter, Hussein has publicized her case, posing in loose trousers for photos and calling journalists to support her.
    Read it all.

    Wednesday, August 05, 2009

    Gov't insurance would allow coverage for abortion

    WASHINGTON (AP) - Health care legislation before Congress would allow a new government-sponsored insurance plan to cover abortions, a decision that would affect millions of women and recast federal policy on the divisive issue.

    Federal funds for abortions are now restricted to cases involving rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother. Abortion opponents say those restrictions should carry over to any health insurance sold through a new marketplace envisioned under the legislation, an exchange where people would choose private coverage or the public plan.

    Abortion rights supporters say that would have the effect of denying coverage for abortion to millions of women who now have it through workplace insurance and are expected to join the exchange.

    Read it all.
    Apart from the article's emphasis on the abortion issue, notice the incidental fact that is revealed in that last sentence: "millions of women who now have it [abortion coverage] through workplace insurance and are expected to join the exchange." This is a direct admission that government insurance will replace private insurance for millions of people, leading to the demise of private healthcare insurance and the establishment of a single-payer, government-controlled healthcare system.

    Write or call your senators and representatives today and urge their opposition to this legislation.

    Monday, July 27, 2009

    Whimpers from across the ocean

    A number of literary sayings crossed my mind when I saw that the Archbishop of Canterbury has (finally, today) issued a statement in response to the actions of the Episcopal Church's General Convention, which ended ten days ago. The first thought that came to me was a paraphrase of T.S. Eliot's line, "This is the way the Communion dies, not with a bang but a whimper." Because, although I pray that I am wrong, there isn't nearly enough in Rowan Williams' statement to reassure me that this isn't the Anglican Communion's fate. Indeed, the very weakness (and studied ambiguity) of Dr. Williams' statement may be a factor in pushing the Communion toward that end.

    Regarding the Archbishop's delay in issuing his response, I have no doubt that he has spent most of the past ten days laboring and consulting with trusted advisers on this statement. It might well be the defining statement of his career. But when it comes to the actual effect this statement might have on the Communion he is supposed to lead, the saying that comes to mind is, "The mountain labored and brought forth a mouse." The statement is thoroughly considered, carefully crafted, finely nuanced--and, in the end, says very little and accomplishes even less.

    When a sizable majority in both houses of the Episcopal Church's General Convention passed resolutions ending restraint in the matter of consecrating non-celibate homosexuals to the episcopate and agreeing to provide a "generous pastoral response" (i.e., blessing marriages) for gay and lesbian couples, it was not a matter of making merely hypothetical statements. There are bishops and deputies who are coming away from the General Convention intending to act on those resolutions.

    There is nothing in Rowan Williams' statement that would deter those in the liberal camp from acting on those resolutions; and his words are cold comfort to conservatives who have been deeply wounded by their passage, and who will be further wounded and alienated when their intent is carried out.

    To be sure, the statement from Canterbury could say something. When Rowan starts down the path of "there is at least the possibility of a twofold ecclesial reality in view in the middle distance" it could mean that his relationship to the Episcopal church has suffered damage, just as the fabric of the Communion has been torn by the Episcopal church's unilateral actions. It could even mean that he is going to turn around next week and recognize the Anglican Church in North America and/or the Communion Partner dioceses as a separate ecclesial reality. It could mean all that--but I would be astounded if it did.

    Of course, the Covenant to which Rowan alludes could be in place and could be already defining the "Anglican Future" with which Rowan seems concerned. Except that--oh, my--Rowan himself saw to it that the Covenant didn't make it out of the Jamaica conference, but was given to the Joint Standing Committee, from which it will almost certainly emerge as a gelding and not a stallion.

    On second thought, I am going to go back to my first thought: This is the way the Communion dies, not with a bang but a whimper.

    Monday, July 20, 2009

    Still Troubled

    The thing that has troubled me most as I have reflected on the Episcopal Church's General Convention is the number of bishops who voted against D025 (electing gay bishops), but who were deluded enough to vote for C056 (same-sex blessings).

    Consider the two operative clauses that these bishops would have had to overlook or misconstrue to vote for C056:
    Resolved, That the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consulation with the House of Bishops, collect and develop theological, and liturgical resources and design liturgies and report to the 77th General Convention; for further action…
    Bishops should not have been fooled by the fact that the words “ and design liturgies” were struck from the final form of this resolution.

    Even if only the word “collect” had been used, it would have been sufficient to allow for the development of liturgies for same sex unions, because you can’t collect something that does not exist. But as it is, it says “collect and develop theological and liturgical resources”. How much of their own money would these gullible bishops be willing to bet that these “liturgical resources” won’t actually include some rites that can be (or have been!!!) used to bless same sex unions?

    The other problematic clause is:
    Resolved, That bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church…
    Note the resolution does not say only those in civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage is legal, but particularly those in such jurisdictions “may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church”.

    Again, how much of their own money would these gullible bishops be willing to bet that other bishops will not interpret these words as support for allowing the blessing of same sex unions in their dioceses, given that such "generous pastoral responses" have already occurred even without such a resolution. The GLBT organization, Integrity, and some of the more realistic bishops have already said that this is exactly how they interpret C056.

    That indaba stuff the bishops indulged in before this vote is apparently a powerful hallucinogen.

    Saturday, July 18, 2009


    On the Stand Firm website, they are taking a survey, asking the question: How will you decompress from GC 2009? I answered that I was:
    1. Having some worship and fellowship this evening with some non-Episcopal brothers and sisters in Christ—connecting to God in a way that doesn’t remind me of my job or the Episcopal Church (a practice I recommend other clergy try occasionally);
    2. Re-reading The Lord of the Rings, which I read for the first time 39 years ago this month and have re-read at least once every five years since. It has a lot to say about courage in the face of unexpected dangers and unsought conflict;
    3. Leaving in a few days for a beautiful place with green fields, wooded hills and sweeping vistas of the Mississippi River valley—back to the good earth and far from civilization and the ways we have screwed things up.

    It is later Saturday evening, and the first of the things I mentioned is behind me. Here's how it worked out:

    I showed up and found they were having a ten-week series called 10 Words for LIFE—a study of the Ten Commandments. This was Week 7, so the topic was "Do Not Commit Adultery."

    We sang a few songs from Australia's Hillsong fellowship, including: Mighty to Save:

    and From the Inside Out,

    and Chris Tomlin's version of Amazing Grace/My Chains Are Gone (Embedding for this video was disabled, so you'll have to follow the link.) If you are inclined toward contemporary Christian music, you may enjoy these videos. If not, skip them.

    Then we heard a message about:
    • God's gift of sex
    • God's purpose for sex in marriage
    • Avoiding the temptations that are so prevalent in our culture
    • The importance of purity and holiness in our relationship with Christ.
    Well, needless to say, this message was so much in contrast with the sexual ethic I had encountered over the past 10 days at General Convention, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at the irony. But I gave thanks to God for the articulate, undiluted, biblical teaching.

    I am reminded of the tag line for the television series The X Files: "The Truth is Out There." There are Christians out there who know the truth—about the Incarnation, the Cross, the Resurrection, the uniqueness of Jesus, the way of salvation, the purpose of the sexes, the sanctity of marriage, the sanctity of life, and the whole range of Christian doctrines. They may be Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, or Evangelical Christians. Along with faithful Anglicans around the globe, these Christians dwarf the dwindling "mainline" denominations of the West. Those of us who are a minority in the Episcopal Church can draw comfort from that fact.

    It is also true that Anglicans and Episcopalians aren't necessarily called to run from our problems to join these other traditions. (They all have their problems too--they're just different problems.) We can be nourished by sound teaching and strengthened by fellowship with other Christians in a way that helps us to proclaim the truth in the places where God has planted us.

    Where God has planted us—that is the key. Some people may question why I am still in the Episcopal Church, especially after the decisions of this General Convention. Yes, it would be preferable in a number of respects to be in a Christian body where there were fewer theological tensions. But God has planted me where I am. He has given me a calling that I must obey and a community for which I am responsible, and I cannot abandon my post unless and until God gives me leave to do so.

    (To be clear: I am not saying that all those who have left the Episcopal Church have abandoned their posts. God may have called them to leave in the same way that he has called others to stay. And I believe we need to head off any acrimony between the "leavers" and the "stayers," recognize that God may have different callings for each of us, and learn how to support each other in the different, but related, callings God has given us.)

    God may lead many to move to a purer fellowship or a "safer" place. But there is also the example of Joseph, who was sold into slavery in Egypt. When he was freed, he could have gone home to be with his family and those who worshiped the true and living God anytime he wanted. But God had planted him in Egypt, and he remained until he died, in order that good might come of it and that God's people would be blessed.

    Then there is Hosea, to whom God said, "Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD" (Hosea 1:2). Hosea was called to be a prophet and a witness (at great pain and cost to himself). The history of the prophets is full of those who were called to preach among a rebellious people and who suffered as a result.

    Discerning where God has planted us is not the same thing as discerning where the pasture is greener. God may plant us in a desert if that is what is needed to accomplish his purposes. "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight" (Matt. 3:3). But if we are planted in the desert, we must put down deep roots to secure the nourishment we need to live.

    If you are in this situation, let me encourage you to do the following:

    (1) Renew the habit of daily Bible reading. Read the Bible not merely for information but for inspiration. Read it slowly, deeply, reflectively—asking God to speak to you about your life, your relationship with him, your priorities, your relationships with others, and anything else about which God needs to speak to you.

    (2) In addition to daily Bible reading, find a regular source of biblical teaching or preaching that speaks to your spiritual needs. This may involve attending a bible study or listening to or reading sermons. Christian radio and the internet are full of choices. (Some are very good, some are not—so be selective.)

    (3) As you read Scripture reflectively, cultivate a life of conversation with God. Learn to pray in a way that goes beyond formality and attains intimacy. (See Brother Lawrence, Practicing the Presence of God for a classic example of what I mean.)

    WOW! coincidence: As I am typing these words, I have a service from Saddleback Church playing in a different window. The preacher (not Rick Warren, it's one of the associate pastors today) just said: "The object of a life of prayer is obtaining a character that is fit for eternity." Amen.

    When I speak to clergy retreats, which I do fairly often, I sometimes tell them:

    1. If the only time you read the Bible is when you are preparing your sermons (and saying the Daily Office), you are in trouble.

    2. If the only sermons you ever hear are your own, you are in trouble.

    3. If the only time you pray is in church (or in the Daily Offices or the Eucharist, i.e., liturgical prayer), you are in trouble.

    If our spiritual roots don't go any deeper than this, we will not do well even in the green pastures, much less survive in the desert.

    Decompressing after General Convention or any spiritual trial requires that we touch base with the bedrock of our spiritual foundation. This is step one. God willing, I will have more to say in a future post.

    Wednesday, July 15, 2009

    Rowan Williams, meet Neville Chamberlain.

    Several months ago, I stumbled upon an excellent television series on the History Channel entitled, Hitler's Bodyguard, which chronicled the rise and fall of Adolph Hitler, as seen through the eyes of those who were entrusted with protecting him from the numerous attempts to overthrow or kill him. The episode in this series entitled, "Before the War" makes the point that British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain may have been the man most responsible for World War II.

    The argument runs like this: If Neville Chamberlain had been clear from the outset that the consequences of Hitler's aggression would be war, the German people would not have supported him to the degree that they did; and politicians and military leaders would have stood a chance of removing him from power while there was still time to preserve the peace. However, by continued appeasement in the face of Hitler's aggression, capped by the misguided trip to Munich from which Chamberlain returned home to England proclaiming that there would be "peace for our time!" the forces in Germany that could have deterred or unseated Hitler were undermined and the resulting war became inevitable.

    In the course of Rowan Williams' scholarly pursuits, he would do well to take a closer look at Neville Chamberlain. The history of Chamberlain's engagement with the greatest challenge of his career is remarkably similar to the Archbishop's thorny problem with the American Episcopal Church.

    Those with better memories or more resources at their fingertips will probably come up with more examples than I can, but five critical points that have led to the Anglican Communion's present predicament come to mind:

    #1. There was the September 2007 meeting of the US House of Bishops in New Orleans at which Rowan Williams was an invited guest. Hopes and speculations were strong in the weeks leading up to that meeting that the Archbishop would make clear, in no uncertain terms, the consequences of the American church's failure to respond to an ultimatum from the other primates of the Anglican Communion to conform to the norms of the rest of the Communion in matters of sexuality. In fact, this visit by Rowan was considered by many to be the Episcopal Church's last chance. Instead, Dr. Williams let the US church completely off the hook.

    I reported the outcome of that meeting in my post on Tuesday, September 25, 2007:
    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.”
    #2. Mention of the Dar Es Salaam Communique calls to mind the earlier example of the Archbishop's actions at the Dar Es Salaam meeting itself. This meeting of the Primates of the 38 member churches of the Anglican Communion was the first meeting to be attended by American Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori following her election at the 2006 General Convention of the Episcopal Church--a meeting which only by the barest of technicalities (and some high-handed parliamentary maneuvers) had managed to pass a resolution responding to the moratorium on the consecration of gay bishops requested by the Primates. Instead of taking the opportunity to warn the American and Canadian churches about the consequences of violating Communion norms, the Archbishop used his opening remarks to commend the American church on how well they had done. The other Primates were less impressed and issued the strongly worded Communique I mentioned above; but from that moment on, it looked (and has continued to look) as if the misbehaving American church had a front man in Rowan Williams.

    #3. There was the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Bishops of the Anglican Communion, which was structured in indaba groups in order to avoid any possibility that the rest of the Communion might address or challenge the American church's path toward the ordination of gay bishops and the blessing of same-sex marriages.

    #4. More recently, there was the May 2009 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Jamaica, in which it looked to all the world as though the ACC would finalize and release the long awaited and much discussed Anglican Communion Covenant--a document which member churches (and even dioceses) could sign, attesting to their commitment to follow the norms of the Communion in the interpretation of scriptural teaching regarding marriage and sexuality.

    Previous efforts by the Archbishop of Canterbury to front for the American church pale in comparison to the show in Jamaica. There Rowan Williams single-handedly derailed the release of the Covenant and its provision of consequences for member churches that did not subscribe to the Covenant or follow the understanding contained in it. As I wrote in a post entitled, "PERFIDY!" the Archbishop's actions were a betrayal of everyone who had trusted in the Covenant process to bring order to our fractured Communion.

    #5. Finally, we come to this present moment: the Episcopal Church's General Convention in Anaheim, California, at which Rowan Williams spoke. As the Telegraph reports,
    [T]he Archbishop of Canterbury flew to this year's gathering in Anaheim, California, and said in a sermon: "Along with many in the Communion, I hope and pray that there won't be decisions in the coming days that will push us further apart."

    Although I am proudly of British ancestry myself, I have to admit that there must be a strain of something in the British temperament that has the ability to combine understatement, optimism, naïveté, and foolishness into one humongous character flaw. Because, as with Neville Chamberlain, Dr. Williams must have flown home thinking (or at least hoping) his words had been sufficient and that he had achieved "peace for our time."

    But, as subsequent news bears out, he couldn't have been more wrong. On Sunday, the Episcopal Church's House of Deputies, made up of clergy and lay members, effectively voted in favor of overturning the moratorium on homosexual bishops (Resolution D025) by a 2-1 margin. The following day, the House of Bishops concurred with an amendment, and the House of Deputies quickly responded with their own concurrence to the final version.

    But the news doesn't end there. On Wednesday evening, the bishops approved Resolution C056, which moves the Episcopal Church toward the development of rites for same-sex marriages and provides:
    "[t]hat bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church..."
    In other words, bishops in states where same-sex marriages are legal may allow their clergy to perform those marriages. This resolution will go to the House of Deputies tomorrow, where (barring an earthquake that causes California to sink into the ocean) passage is certain. Media outlets worldwide are predicting that this will permanently shatter the Communion.

    So what should Rowan Williams do? There are some who, throughout the series of events I have mentioned above, have said he should resign. That would be a nihilistic and (dare I say?) typically European response. It is the path Chamberlain took. The Archbishop could take that path, or he can find the leadership necessary to take strong and definitive action by perhaps recalling the Prime Minister who took Chamberlain's disaster and (at great cost) confronted evil and brought his people through. Rowan Williams, meet Winston Churchill.

    Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    Episcopal House of Deputies concurs on end to moratorium

    As an update to my previous post regarding yesterday's passage by the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops of an amended version of Resolution D025, dealing with the ordination of non-celibate gays and lesbians: The amended resolution came back to the House of Deputies for approval and passed easily this afternoon on a vote by orders (clergy and laity voting separately). Although several conservative deputies once again urged defeat of this resolution, arguing that it would be a rejection of the restraint urged by the rest of the Anglican Communion, the resolution passed by the exact same percentage—72%—in both orders.

    As with yesterday's vote in the House of Bishops, this vote in Anaheim came in what is the middle of the night in England, though the Archbishop of Canterbury is undoubtedly watching this development carefully. Conservatives once again find themselves hoping that the Archbishop will receive this news with something more than mere words of disapproval and provide more substantial support for those Anglicans in North America who are endeavoring to remain faithful to Scripture and Anglican Communion norms on this matter.

    Monday, July 13, 2009

    "Ummm, uh... Good morning, Your Grace!"

    The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, is a gracious man--one who is unlikely to shoot the messenger who brings him bad news. Nevertheless, I would hate to be the correspondence secretary who has to bring him dispatches from around the Anglican Communion tomorrow morning.

    It is 3:00 a.m. in London, and moments ago the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops passed Resolution D025, a resolution that effectively removes the moratorium against the consecration of non-celibate gay and lesbian bishops in the Episcopal Church. During the discussion one bishop voiced the opinion that this resolution did not end the moratorium, it would take the actual election and consecration of a gay or lesbian bishop to end the moratorium, and the Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, said that that was her understanding as well. But, effectively, this resolution makes it clear that there is no longer any desire on the part of the Episcopal Church to refrain from doing so.

    This decision by the Bishops (99 in favor, 45 opposed, with two abstentions) came despite the fact that Bishop William Love of Albany read a quotation from the Archbishop of Canterbury urging the American Church not to take this step. Another bishop, John Howe of Central Florida, read a letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury to the church in Sweden urging them not to take similar steps to ordain non-celibate homosexual bishops. Many orthodox bishops spoke courageously and well in opposition to this resolution; however the final tally indicates just how far the General Convention has moved since it last met in 2006.

    Since the House of Bishops made a slight amendment to Resolution D025, the amended version will now have to go back to the House of Deputies for their approval. But, barring a miracle, final passage looks all but certain. Resolutions dealing with rites for same-sex marriages will come up for a vote later this week.

    Tuesday, July 07, 2009

    BREAKING NEWS: Episcopal Church finally defines "Heresy"

    Silly me. This being the first time in six General Conventions of the Episcopal Church that I have not been a deputy, I thought it started tomorrow. I will fly out there (Anaheim, CA) later this week; but tonight I was at home, having a wonderful time.

    Wisconsin this time of year is the kind of place God had in mind when he created the Garden of Eden. My wife and some friends (one of them a visiting professor in our DMin program at Nashotah House) and I had a leisurely dinner (2 1/2 hours) at a restaurant on one of our local lakes. Sipping red wine and sparkling water, enjoying the lake view and and a beautiful sunset in perfect (not near-perfect--absolutely perfect!) weather, engaging in stimulating conversation over delectable food--one of the finest evenings I have had in a long time.

    Then I came home, switched on the computer and saw that the General Convention had begun this evening, and that the Episcopal Church (or at least its leadership) had done something that they hadn't been able to do in all the General Conventions I attended as a deputy. They finally defined heresy.

    Or at least the Presiding Bishop did. The defining moment came in an opening address, which the Rev. Philip Ashey, reports as follows:
    Then the Presiding Bishop of TEC took the stand. She spoke about the crisis facing The Episcopal Church. “Crisis is always a remarkable opportunity,” she said. Speaking from her own experience as a pilot, she said it is a time to “aviate, navigate, and then communicate,” in that order. Always keep the plane flying through the crisis—even when you are not sure where you are.

    She described the essential crisis within the Gospels as Jesus’ decision to set his face toward Jerusalem, and likened the decisions of this 76th General Convention to that decision to set one’s face toward Jerusalem.

    And then in a cold, calm, defiant and defining voice she said, "The overarching connection in all of these crises has to do with the great Western heresy - that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God. It's caricatured in some quarters by insisting that salvation depends on reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus. That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy, at the center of existence, as the ground of all being. That heresy is one reason for the theme of this Convention."

    Now, to give the Presiding Bishop the benefit of the doubt (See, I really am feeling good this evening!), what she may have meant is: "It is wrong for us to concentrate solely on the individual aspects of salvation. As a Church we are called to life in community, and at this General Convention we are going to concentrate on what we do as a Church together. That is why we have chosen 'Ubuntu' as our theme."

    For those who haven't kept up with the choice of this year's theme for General Convention, one way of defining "Ubuntu" is this quotation from Archbishop Desmond Tutu:
    One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu - the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality - Ubuntu - you are known for your generosity.

    We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.

    Okay, perhaps the Presiding Bishop is talking about "the Social Gospel" updated for the 21st century.

    But that is not what the Presiding Bishop said. She used the "H" word--a rarity for a contemporary Episcopalian--and she appeared to aim the word squarely at those who believe in the necessity of an individual confession of Jesus Christ as Lord for salvation.

    This, of course, would seem to run contrary to the following passage of Scripture as well as several others:

    But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

    How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:8-17)

    (This passage, incidentally, sets out not only the means by which individuals are saved, but also the Church's message as it does mission.)

    So either the Presiding Bishop is being provocative (Google the words "mother Jesus" to see a long list of entries about a previous example of the same), or else the biblical illiteracy that has long been the bane of Episcopalians has now become a requirement for continued membership.

    And General Convention is only just beginning.

    Sunday, July 05, 2009

    Rising debt may be next crisis

    Economists point to rising debt as next crisis
    Higher taxes and reduced federal benefits, services may be result

    WASHINGTON - The Founding Fathers left one legacy not celebrated on Independence Day but which affects us all. It's the national debt.

    The country first got into debt to help pay for the Revolutionary War. Growing ever since, the debt stands today at a staggering $11.4 trillion — equivalent to about $37,000 for each and every American. And it's expanding by over $1 trillion a year.

    The mountain of debt easily could become the next full-fledged economic crisis without firm action from Washington, economists of all stripes warn.

    Read the whole article here or here.

    "Without firm action from Washington..." the article says. Folks, it is WASHINGTON that is getting us into this mess! -- The problem our government is presenting us with right now is: Reckless spending we cannot afford for change we do not need!

    How could "Washington" prevent the debt crisis? Stop the omnibus energy spending bill known as "Cap and Trade" or "Cap and Tax" already passed by the House of Representatives and being debated in the Senate right now. If there are any energy measures in that bill worth considering, they should be considered one at a time and not in a multi-trillion dollar spending bill that no member of Congress has actually read but that would put heavy new taxes on energy at every level and spend money on hairbrained schemes that will result in no new energy.

    At the same time, we must stop the nationalization of our health care. The often quoted figure of 40 million Americans who lack health insurance is a myth. There are millions of people who should be excluded from that tally, including: those who aren’t American citizens, people who can afford their own insurance, and people who already qualify for existing government coverage but haven’t signed up.

    Government statistics also show 45 percent of those without insurance will have insurance again within four months after job transitions.

    Accounting for all those factors, one prominent study places the total for the long-term uninsured as low as 8.2 million – a very different reality than the media and national health care advocates claim.

    Furthermore, being without health care insurance does not mean that individuals lack access to health care. Most hospitals and health care providers make provisions for treating the uninsured.

    We must stop the government take over of our health care system that would diminish the quality of health care available to everyone and put several thousand dollars of additional taxes on every American and drastically increase our national debt.

    Right now the overall debt is now slightly over 80% of the annual output of the entire U.S. economy, as measured by the gross domestic product--and this is BEFORE the impact of the schemes the Obama administration wants to implement.

    Let me say it again--the problem is:

    Reckless spending we cannot afford for change we do not need!

    Even if you have never written your elected representatives and senators before, do it today.

    Friday, July 03, 2009

    A 'coup' in Honduras? Nonsense.

    A comment from Jonathan on my last piece on Honduras pointed to this piece in the Christian Science Monitor in which writer Octavio Sánchez essentially corroborates the position I took regarding this week's developments in that country:
    A 'coup' in Honduras? Nonsense.
    Don't believe the myth. The arrest of President Zelaya represents the triumph of the rule of law.

    By Octavio Sánchez
    from the July 2, 2009 edition

    Tegucigalpa, Honduras - Sometimes, the whole world prefers a lie to the truth. The White House, the United Nations, the Organization of American States, and much of the media have condemned the ouster of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya this past weekend as a coup d'état.

    That is nonsense.

    In fact, what happened here is nothing short of the triumph of the rule of law.

    The piece goes on to give a very brief and clear assessment of what happened in Honduras this past Sunday and quotes the Honduran Constitution and its provisions that were violated by then President Zelaya, triggering his removal by the Honduran Supreme Court and the Congress.

    The perspective presented by Sanchez is so compelling that I was tempted to quote his entire column here. But out of respect for copyright, I strongly encourage you to follow this link to the article in its original location on the Christian Science Monitor website.

    Wednesday, July 01, 2009

    Obama on Honduras: Getting it wrong--again

    The Obama administration said Wednesday it has suspended joint military operations with Honduras to protest a coup that forced President Manuel Zelaya into exile. The U.S. withheld stronger action in hopes of negotiating a peaceful return of the country's elected leader.

    The administration appeared to be counting on the threat of Honduras having its OAS membership suspended as leverage in getting Zelaya back in power. While the administration joined the OAS in calling for Zelaya's unconditional return, with no limits on his presidential powers, it also seemed open to some form of compromise.

    I have been absolutely aghast (though not terribly surprised) at the position the Obama administration has taken on the recent deposition of the president of Honduras--a position that puts Obama squarely in line with dictators Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. News accounts of how this episode in Honduras began are now falling off the radar of the mainstream media. But Reuters provides this bit of background:
    World leaders from President Barack Obama to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez have told the new rulers of the Central American country to restore Zelaya, a leftist who was toppled by the army on Sunday and sent into exile after a dispute over presidential term limits.

    Translation: "a dispute over presidential term limits" means Zelaya was trying to make himself into a dictator, and he was deposed for his attempt to subvert the Honduran Constitution by the military with the support of the Honduran people, the Congress, and the courts. As the Reuters account also states:
    Public support for Zelaya, a wealthy businessman, had dropped as low as 30 percent in recent months, with many Hondurans uncomfortable over his tilt to the left in a country with a longtime conservative, pro-Washington position.

    Yes, Zelaya had been tilting toward the left--in the direction of Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro--and why shouldn't he? Leftist leaders from Latin America are now on the White House "A" List. They're best buds with Obama!

    The poor Honduran people who have been faithful allies of the United States for decades haven't gotten the message that there is a new Socialist Sheriff in Washington. "Communism good; capitalism bad."

    Now, of course, with Obama signaling that he wants to see Zelaya returned to power, the Organization of American States (OAS) can clearly tell which way the wind is blowing and is making threats against Honduras. Worse still, Chavez may take Obama's signal as an okay to use military intervention to restore Zelaya to power.

    So, thanks to the President of the United States, we may witness a war in Central America to insert a Socialist dictator into power and to transfer a nation that was once the US' staunchest ally in the region into the camp of Chavez and Castro. Is anybody paying attention?

    Pray for the people of Honduras!

    Sunday, June 28, 2009

    Spare me the gurus, please.

    Reading the news on Sunday can be a trying experience. The media usually think we have had enough of finance and politics during the working days of the week; and so, except for a couple of political talk shows on the television networks, the print and internet media usually think it is time for feature stories--the sort we can read while enjoying a leisurely Sunday brunch and come away feeling that, more than mere facts, we have perspective!

    So, in contrast to Monday's stories that will usually give me a preview of what is to come during the week, whether on Wall Street or Capitol Hill, midweek stories that tell me about unfolding events, or Friday's stories that give me a wrap of the week's developments, Sunday's news is aimed at giving me culture.

    This is, at least for me, often a trying experience. As one who generally tends to regard contemporary culture with a mixture of suspicion and detatched amusement, and who feels there is wisdom in the old adage that Christians are to be in the world but not of the world, as a youth I memorized 1 John 2:15-17,
    "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever."
    Surveying the news headlines on a typical Sunday only tends to reinforce the wisdom of my conviction.

    Today's stories are all aimed at giving us perspective on the death of Michael Jackson. I got on a plane on Thursday just as the news of Farah Fawcett's death was blaring over the airport television screens and got off that same plane greeted by the news that Michael Jackson had died. "How sad!" I thought. "A brave and compassionate woman's heroic fight against cancer (from which we all could learn something) has ended. But that news is going to be quickly eclipsed by the death of a self-destructive freak and child molester."

    And sure enough, we are in full eclipse. Fawcett and Jackson died on the same day, yet by today Farah is nowhere to be seen, but the headlines are awash with stories on Jackson, especially dealing with the role that prescription drugs may have played in his death. It all looks eerily familiar. My wife and I lived two blocks from Graceland when Elvis Presley died. We've seen this before.

    Article # 1 tells me that the Rev. Jesse Jackson (no relation to Michael) revealed that Michael Jackson's family wanted a second, private autopsy of the pop superstar because of unanswered questions about how he died.
    "It's abnormal," Jesse Jackson said from Chicago a day after visiting the Jackson family. "We don't know what happened. Was he injected and with what? All reasonable doubt should be addressed."

    Well I am certainly glad that the Rev. Mr. Jackson is there to hog the spotlight provide pastoral care. All the police, doctors, lawyers, agents, and real clergy surrounding the Jackson family were obviously incapable of dealing with this situation until Jesse arrived.

    Article #2 takes me to a video of "medical doctor and spiritual advisor" Deepak Chopra giving his take on Michael Jackson's death, complete with photos taken of the two men together, in one photo even posing together wearing matching hats. How cute!

    But the main feature on MSNBC, on this Sunday when the media wants to give me "perspective," is this story:

    On marriage: Let’s call the whole thing off
    Author Sandra Tsing Loh is ending her marriage. Is it time you did, too?

    The story features a short video of Sandra Tsing Loh and psychiatrist Gail Saltz talking with TODAY’s Meredith Vieira about "the case against marriage" suggesting that "marriage made sense prior to 1900 when we were an agrarian society" but in today's more sophisticated, gender neutral society, marriage is outmoded--all because this particular woman who happens to be an author has decided that her marriage is over. And she is being held out as a guru for the rest of us. But not to fear: the story ends on an upbeat, hopeful note about marriage (the media know better than to depress their readers too much) and is followed by (surprise!) a series of stories on how couples can save their marriages and enhance their sex lives (with commentary from more media gurus), ending with a story on "shopping for a perfect husband" that concludes that a woman is better off with "an average looking guy who does the dishes." Okay, that's it. Guru overload. Closing my web browser NOW!

    But since it is Sunday, the day of Christ's Resurrection, could there be a better perspective? Let's look first and foremost at the perspective of the One who created us:
    "To God belong wisdom and power;
    counsel and understanding are his.

    What he tears down cannot be rebuilt;
    the man he imprisons cannot be released.

    If he holds back the waters, there is drought;
    if he lets them loose, they devastate the land.

    To him belong strength and victory;
    both deceived and deceiver are his.

    He leads counselors away stripped
    and makes fools of judges. (Job 12:13-17)

    How do we have God's perspective on our lives?
    Remember your word to your servant,
    for you have given me hope.
    My comfort in my suffering is this:
    Your promise preserves my life.

    The arrogant mock me without restraint,
    but I do not turn from your law.

    I remember your ancient laws, O LORD,
    and I find comfort in them.

    Indignation grips me because of the wicked,
    who have forsaken your law.

    Your decrees are the theme of my song
    wherever I lodge.

    In the night I remember your name, O LORD,
    and I will keep your law.

    This has been my practice:
    I obey your precepts.

    You are my portion, O LORD;
    I have promised to obey your words.
    I have sought your face with all my heart;
    be gracious to me according to your promise.

    I have considered my ways
    and have turned my steps to your statutes.

    I will hasten and not delay
    to obey your commands.

    Though the wicked bind me with ropes,
    I will not forget your law.

    At midnight I rise to give you thanks
    for your righteous laws.

    I am a friend to all who fear you,
    to all who follow your precepts.

    The earth is filled with your love, O LORD;
    teach me your decrees. (Psalm 119:49-64)

    So, spare me the gurus, please. And in the words of the gospel song, "Give me Jesus!"

    (I hope you enjoy the beautiful video.)


    Sunday, June 14, 2009

    Rebuild My Church!

    Traveling through Italy the past couple of weeks on Nashotah House's Archbishop Michael Ramsey Society pilgrimage, we spent a couple of days in Assisi, home to St. Francis. I found myself drawn to return more than once to the church of St. Clare, where, in a side chapel, hangs the large crucifix that once hung in the church in San Damiano. It was before this crucifix, in the summer of the year 1206, that Francis had the experience that sealed his conversion.

    Francis had always possessed a heart that was concerned for God and for others, but he began to be increasingly convicted that his father's obsession with money, his mother's concerns for his health, and his own desires for sumptuous foods, lavish clothes, and extravagant parties were something he needed to renounce in response to the call of God for his life.

    Francis frequently took walks in the countryside around Assisi, and one of his favorite paths took him past the church of San Damiano, a tumbling down, deserted chapel halfway down a steep hill outside the walls of the city. In this decrepit place hung a large, almost life size painted icon of Jesus on the Cross.

    One summer day, in 1206, Francis was walking in the vicinity of San Damiano when he felt an interior tug of the Spirit to go inside to pray. Obeying the inner voice, Francis entered and fell on his knees before the familiar icon, his own spirit alert to what the Lord might wish to convey.

    In eager anticipation, Francis looked up into the serene face of the crucified Lord, and prayed this prayer: "Most High, glorious God," he prayed, "cast your light into the darkness of my heart. Give me, Lord, right faith, firm hope, perfect charity, and profound humility, with wisdom and perception, so that I may carry out what is truly Your holy will. Amen." Ever more quietly he repeated the prayer, lost in devotion and wonder before the image of his crucified Lord.

    Then, in the quietness, Francis heard Jesus speaking to him from the Cross: "Go, Francis, and repair my house, which as you can see, is falling into ruin." Another translation gives these words as, "Francis, don't you see that my house is being destroyed? Go, then, and rebuild it for me." In short, "Rebuild My Church!"

    So Francis looked around at the crumbling church of San Damiano, gathered some of his friends together and rebuilt it. Then they went out and began restoring other church buildings in the vicinity of Assisi that were in need of repair. Only gradually did Francis realize that "rebuild my church" meant to reform the institution, to rebuild it by witnessing to the truth of the faith and calling people to renewed faithfulness to Christ and commitment to His mission.

    As I spent time in Assisi last week, I had the opportunity to reflect on Jesus' call to Francis and what those words might mean for me today. Certainly as we look around we see a Church that is in need of repair and rebuilding--whether it is the institutional churches of "mainline Christianity" in America, or the Church as it exists in areas of the world that are deemed "post-Christian," or churches of all types in every place that are wracked by materialism, hedonism, apathy, and lack of commitment.

    I believe that, in the midst of these circumstances, God is calling faithful Christians to rebuild the Church, (1) by renewing their own witness to the truth of the Christian faith, (2) by reflecting God's holiness and love to each other and especially to those who need to know Jesus as their Savior and Lord, (3) by giving visible expression to the unity of all faithful Christians whenever and wherever possible, and (4) by being the Church even when the institutional churches of which they are a part may fail at that same calling.
    Almighty Father, whose blessed Son before his passion prayed
    for his disciples that they might be one, as you and he are one:
    Grant that your Church, being bound together in love and
    obedience to you, may be united in one body by the one Spirit,
    that the world may believe in him whom you have sent, your
    Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in
    the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.