Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What should we think of Lay Presidency?

The subject of lay presidency at communion is once again in the news from Australia, as reported in these two posts on the Stand Firm website: 1, and 2.

The issue attracted international attention in October 2008, when the Diocese of Sydney passed a resolution authorizing lay presidency. Now, in August 2010, a tribunal in the Anglican Church in Australia has ruled against Sydney's action. The report from that tribunal will be received at this October's Diocese of Sydney convention, where apparently, it will be considered only as "advisory." In other words, Sydney could choose to implement this innovation despite the opinion of the tribunal.

This discussion brought back a comment I made on this subject on Stand Firm in November 2008, responding to David Ould's piece on this subject, which I have adapted slightly and offer here in light of the importance of this issue for the Anglican Communion.


I thank you for posting this piece on Sydney’s consideration of lay presidency, given the seriousness of the issue as it pertains to the present and future unity of orthodox Anglicans, and I wish I had time to write a more comprehensive response.  But let me, at least, offer a few thoughts, beginning with the Articles of Religion and the 1662 and 1552 Ordinals.

XXIII. Of Ministering in the Congregation.

It is not lawful for any man to take upon him the office of public preaching, or ministering the Sacraments in the Congregation, before he be lawfully called, and sent to execute the same. And those we ought to judge lawfully called and sent, which be chosen and called to this work by men who have public authority given unto them in the Congregation, to call and send Ministers into the Lord’s vineyard.

The article is wonderfully Elizabethan in its use of language, and perhaps not as direct (or circumspect with regard to the potential for misinterpretation) as one might be in writing a confessional statement, church canon, or policy today.  However, the article is saying that only those who are lawfully called and sent may engage in preaching or ministering the sacraments in a congregation, and that only those who have public authority to call and send Ministers into the Lord’s vineyard can do this calling and sending.

In other words, this is talking about ordination.  How can we be sure it is talking about ordination?  Because of the way those who wrote the Articles applied them.  The uniform practice of the Church from that time to the present was that the Ministers (clergy) did the preaching and the administration of the sacraments.  (See “Article XXXVI Of Consecration of Bishops and Ministers” where the context demonstrates that here and in every instance in which the term “Ministers” is used in the Articles, it means the clergy, functioning in such manner as pertains to their order.) 

Regarding the application of these Articles, we notice this language from the 1662 ordination service for a deacon:
The Bishop says.

IT appertaineth to the Office of a Deacon, in the Church where he shall be appointed to serve, to assist the Priest in Divine Service, and specially when he [i.e., the Priest] ministereth the holy Communion, and to help him in the distribution thereof; and to read Holy Scriptures and Homilies in the Church; and to instruct the youth in the Catechism; in the absence of the Priest to baptize infants; and to preach, if he be admitted thereto by the Bishop. And furthermore, it is his Office, where provision is so made, to search for the sick, poor, and impotent people of the Parish, to intimate their estates, names, and places where they dwell, unto the Curate, that by his exhortation they may be relieved with the alms of the Parishioners, or others. Will you do this gladly and willingly?

  Answer. I will so do, by the help of God.

Notice that it is the priest who ministers (administers or presides at) the holy Communion. The deacon merely assists in the distribution of the elements. Further, note these differences in the services of ordination for a deacon and a priest:
(From the Ordination of a Deacon)

Then shall the Bishop deliver to every one of them the New Testament, saying,

TAKE thou Authority to read the Gospel in the Church of God, and to preach the same, if thou be thereto licensed by the Bishop himself.

(From the Ordination of a Priest)

Then the Bishop shall deliver to every one of them kneeling the Bible into his hand, saying,

TAKE thou Authority to preach the Word of God, and to minister the holy Sacraments in the Congregation, where thou shalt be lawfully appointed thereunto.

(These words are virtually unchanged from the earlier 1552 book, favored by many evangelicals.)

Most significantly, perhaps, in the Preface to the Ordinal we read:
IT is evident unto all men diligently reading holy Scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles’ time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ’s Church; Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. Which Offices were evermore had in such reverend Estimation, that no man might presume to execute any of them, except he were first called, tried, examined, and known to have such qualities as are requisite for the same; and also by publick Prayer, with Imposition of Hands, were approved and admitted thereunto by lawful Authority. And therefore, to the intent that these Orders may be continued, and reverently used and esteemed in the Church of England, no man shall be accounted or taken to be a lawful Bishop, Priest, or Deacon, in the Church of England, or suffered to execute any of the said Functions, except he be called, tried, examined, and admitted thereunto, according to the Form hereafter following, or hath had Episcopal Consecration, or Ordination.

XXVI. Of the unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacraments.

ALTHOUGH in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometime the evil have chief authority in the ministration of the word and sacraments; yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ’s, and do minister by His commission and authority, we may use their ministry both in hearing the word of God and in the receiving of the sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ’s ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God’s gifts diminished from such as by faith and rightly do receive the sacraments ministered unto them, which be effectual because of Christ’s institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men.

Nevertheless it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church that inquiry be made of evil ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences; and finally, being found guilty by just judgement, be deposed.

From this Article we see three things:

1. the Sacraments have an effect;

2. unworthiness of the ministers does not diminish or hinder that effect, and

3. the sacraments are administered by the ministers.

Another thread on Stand Firm dealing with this issue is entitled: Dan Martins on the Sydney Stance: Evangelicals to Liberals: “Psst! Meet Me in Back of the Barn”.  And there is one sense in which I fear Dan Martins' comparison of Sydney Evangelicals with western Liberals is apt:  Both seem to be saying (1.) “we know more about how the church should function than our Anglican forebears did” and (2.) “we believe that what we are doing (be it lay presidency or same sex blessings) is a ‘Gospel imperative’.”

While the Diocese of Sydney asserts that its position is based on a Gospel imperative,” it does not actually or convincingly demonstrate how that is so. There is also a tendency in the Sydney position to attribute too much to the bogeyman of Anglo-Catholicism and a supposed sacerdotal conception of the priesthood, when all we are really talking about is Church order as it has been traditionally understood by Anglicans and as reflected in the 1552 and 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

If we wish to remain consistent with the 39 Articles as an expression of our Anglican identity, the burden of proof must fall on those who wish to implement lay presidency to show that laity or even deacons were ever authorized to administer the Lord’s Supper.  And, if the language I quoted from the Preface to the Ordinal is correct, it cannot be shown from the Scriptures or the whole history of the Christian Church that this was ever the case.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

UGANDA: CAPA Bishops Conference - the future of Anglicanism?

David Virtue reports from Uganda regarding the Conference of Anglican Primates in Africa (CAPA) Bishops Conference which has been going on for the past few days. The conference has been notable for the many African voices asserting a vigorous biblical orthodoxy in the face of western challenges. I agree with David's assessment: If there is any hope for Anglicanism, this is it.

UGANDA: CAPA Bishops Conference: From My Ear to Yours

By David W. Virtue in Entebbe
August 28, 2010

If I had to choose between the revivalism of African Anglicanism versus the liberalism of Western Anglicanism, the answer is a no brainer. Even assuming for the moment that a lot of African Christianity is superficial (false), that it is an inch deep (also untrue), moralistic (also untrue) - one must make a distinction between moralism and true biblical morality. Then the evidence is clear - Anglican churches in Africa are daily being born and growing at a remarkable rate while Western churches are emptying at a rate that will guarantee their extinction possibly within my life time.

The charismatic assistant bishop of Kampala, the Rt. Rev. Zac Niringiye of the Province of Uganda, conducts daily Bible Studies here for the 400 bishops. He is a superb teacher. If he is the future of Anglican Christianity on this continent, and he might well be, then Africa has little to worry about. Problems abound, and the amazing thing is that despite the enormous political corruption, stupidity and laziness of government officials, peoples' lives are being changed by the gospel.

Read it all.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Resurrection Sunday Dance, Budapest, Hungary

I have been concerned about the countries of Eastern Europe in the post-Soviet era, because many of them, having lived for a couple of generations under official atheism have now turned to secularism and materialism and are in as much of a social and spiritual predicament as they were under Communism. To put it another, less flattering way: if you are an Eastern European and the only model you have for what to do with your freedom is what you see in Western Europe and the so-called "culture" exported by American mass media, you are in real trouble.

Perhaps nowhere have the ill effects of trying to fill post-Soviet emptiness with Western materialism and decadence been more obvious than in the cities of Prague (Czech Republic) and Budapest (Hungary).

So it was a delight to run across this video from of an Easter Sunday celebration that took place on one of the largest squares in Budapest. These young people are from Faith Church, which has grown beyond one congregation to become something of a revival movement in Hungary. I am still checking these folks out, so this isn't necessarily an endorsement. But, in a country with great spiritual need, I consider it a hopeful sign.

You can learn more about Faith Church from this video:

From the description that appears on YouTube along with the video:
Faith Church considers itself as representing a modern Reform movement in Hungary. It accepts the results and spiritual, moral values of both early Christianity and the Reformation, as well as other revival movements serving the progress of the Christian faith. Nowadays the process of renewal gains new momentum from all around the world, affecting both the traditional Christian communities and the Pentecostal-Charismatic churches formed during the 20th century.
The Church also started the website: Up to Faith.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Obama Family Still Hasn't Found a Church

A friend called my attention to this little piece in Ebony magazine. It seems that President Obama and his family still haven't found a church to attend in Washington. The author of this article has a suggestion: The Episcopal Church. His reasons aren't very flattering, but then satire isn't meant to be.

Read it here.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Obama hosting Ramadan dinner - UPDATED

When I ran this story a few hours ago, the link led to a story which began:
Obama to preach tolerance at Ramadan dinner
White House won't say if president will address N.Y. mosque controversy

NEW YORK — President Barack Obama on Friday will speak up for religious freedom at a dinner celebrating the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, emphasizing that point just as New York City is immersed in a deeply sensitive debate about whether a mosque should be built near the site of the World Trade Center's twin towers.

Read it all.

When I first read this, words failed me. I'm over that now.

First of all, Obama can show up for this event, but he would rather do fundraisers and appear on The View than celebrate the Boy Scouts' 100th Anniversary. You know The View would have been glad to have the President anytime they could get him, but the 100th Anniversary of the Boy Scouts only comes once. By air, he can get from Washington to New York in about an hour. He could have appeared at the Boy Scout Jamboree in Washington and made it to New York for the fundraisers if he wanted to. But that would be showing respect for a great American institution. Nope, we can't do that!

Now he speaks at a New York dinner (early headlines said "hosts" dinner) kicking off the season of Ramadan, while the city and country are outraged over the effort to build a mosque at the site of the worst foreign attack on US soil since Pearl Harbor—an attack waged in the name of Islam.

It makes you wonder what the President believes—about Islam—about this country and its institutions. Americans have a right to know.


Now, if you now click on the link: (Read it all), it takes you to an updated story with a new title and some important changes:
Obama defends ground zero mosque plans
Ramadan dinner speech: 'Muslims have the right to practice their religion as anyone else'

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Friday endorsed plans for a Muslim mosque two blocks from ground zero in New York City, declaring that "Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country."

Yes, Muslims have a right to practice their religion, too. But building a mosque on the site of a victory has been a historic Muslim practice, and building one at "ground zero" shows that they don't have much respect for the feelings of millions of Americans. And neither does the President.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cows Swept Away by Current

What is it we find so funny about cows? I saw this headline on the WTMJ, Milwaukee website; and, before I even read the article, I knew it was a serious matter for the cows and the farmer who owned them. But I couldn't help it; I just broke out laughing.

Here's the story. Now tell me if you can read this whole thing without at least a smile.

Dozens of cows float away in Western Wisconsin flooding

MARTELL, Wisc. -- The Rush River at Martell is known for its trout fishing. But Wednesday's catch of the day was cows.

"We should have put floaties on them or something," said Pierce County farmer Tim Wiff.

Wiff's herd of pregnant heifers survived Wednesday's early morning six-inch deluge just fine in their pasture. The trouble came after sunrise when some 80 head of cattle tried to cross the swollen Rush River to get back to their barn for feeding - and floated away.

"You could see 20 to 25 cows all in a blob just flying with the current down the river and it was just shocking," said Doreen Smith, who watched, stunned, as cattle floated by.

With help from friends and neighbors, Wiff was able to round up most of the heifers that floated away. Some were found as far as three miles downstream.

"Most of them when they came on the trailer they looked fine. They looked tired. You could tell they've been working to get out of the river."

Wiff says 10 to 15 heifers are still missing. He's hopeful more will be found alive, though he expects some will be found dead once the water recedes.

Still, Wiff considers himself lucky so many of his heifers came home. "We'll bed them good tonight and feed them and tell them to stay home," he laughed.

And while I am on the subject, here's a good one about cows and capitalism:

Capitalism Nowadays


You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull. Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows. You sell them and retire on the income.

You have two cows. You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows. The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company. The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. The public buys your bull.

You have two cows. You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows. You are surprised when the cow drops dead.

You have two cows. You go on strike because you want three cows.

You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. You then create clever cow cartoon images called Cowkimon and market them World-Wide.

You have two cows. You re-engineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.

You have two cows. Both are mad.

You have two cows, but you don’t know where they are. You break for lunch.

You have two cows. You count them and learn you have five cows. You count them again and learn you have 42 cows. You count them again and learn you have 12 cows. You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.

You have 5000 cows, none of which belong to you. You charge others for storing them.

You have two cows. You worship them.

You have two cows. You have 300 people milking them. You claim full employment, high bovine productivity, and arrest the newsman who reported the numbers.

You have two cows. That one on the left is kinda cute…


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Right on target!!!

The J.A. Kubik law firm, which publishes The Pennsylvania Litigation Blog has hit the nail on the head with a piece entitled, "Episcopal Church Pokes Itself In The Eye Again."

The opening sentence definitely gets your attention: "Like Lord Voldemort, the embodiment of pure evil from the Harry Potter stories, Charles Bennison, the once defrocked Episcopal Bishop of Pennsylvania, is back."

But the payoff is in the last paragraph:
The Bennison case tells us much of what we, I suppose, already knew about the Episcopal “Church”. That Bishop Bennison can repeatedly and publicly question foundational principles of the faith without fear of reprisal is bad enough. That the church hierarchy cares more about technical legal niceties than it does about whether its own bishops are in fact believers confirms that the Episcopalians have forfeited their right to claim to be any kind of church.

"[T]he church hierarchy cares more about technical legal niceties than it does about whether its own bishops are in fact believers..." Ouch!!!

I'll resist the temptation to quote any lawyer jokes at this point and simply ask: If a secular trial lawyer can recognize the true nature of the Episcopal Church's problem, why in heaven's name can't we?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Another iPhone selling point???

I can just imagine Apple's next ad campaign...
Report: iPhone Users Have Most Sexual Partners

Does the smartphone you carry help your chances with the opposite sex? According to research from dating site OKCupid.com, people who own iPhones are having more sex than those who use BlackBerrys or Android phones.

Of the 9,785 people with smartphones polled by OKCupid, men with iPhones had an average of 10 sexual partners by age 30, compared to 8.1 partners for those with BlackBerrys, and 6 partners for those with Android-based

Among the women, iPhone owners had 12.3 partners, BlackBerry users had 8.8 partners, and Android users had 6.1 partners, on average, by age 30.

Of course, this is from a dating Web site – an area of the Internet not usually synonymous with honesty, so take those stats with a grain of salt.

Read it all.

Okay, I think I'll be heading out to buy an iPhone now. ;-). (Just kidding.)

Blogged from my iPad--does that count?

What is happening to the Lutherans (ELCA)???

From here:
Many of you know the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America recently added seven pastors who are gay, bisexual or transgender, to its clergy roster. This occurred at a Rite of Reception service.

Here are a few things you may not have heard concerning this.

1) During the "festival Eucharist celebrating the reception and reinstatement of pastors," (p 4) the congregation recited the “Our Mother who is within us” prayer taken from the Goddess Rosary. (Read more about the Goddess Rosary here). The prayer goes like this -

"Our Mother who is within us
we celebrate your many names.
Your wisdom come,
your will be done,
unfolding from the depths
within us.
Each day you give us all that we need.
You remind us of our limits
and we let go.
You support us in our power
and we act in courage.
For you are the dwelling place within us,
the empowerment around us,
and the celebration among us,
now and forever. Amen"

Read it all... and weep!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Faith and smart phones commune in religion apps

Cedarburg, Wisconsin - Father Tom Eichenberger began a recent sermon by playing an iPhone ring tone of church bells into the microphone and talking about how praying is like using the popular mobile device.

"The same rules apply," he told the Sunday mass congregation at St. Francis Borgia Catholic Church in this small town north of Milwaukee.

"You don't just use your iPhone for phone calls, you have to use the apps," he said, referring to small programs that make the popular smart phones perform specific tasks.

"And you don't just use prayer to beg for things and treat God like Santa Claus," said Eichenberger, 60, reminding parishioners that prayers are also for giving praise or listening to the Spirit.

With smart phones boasting apps to do everything from finding convenient restaurants to identifying stars in the night sky, developers were bound to make programs that bring age-old religious practices into the digital world.

Read it all.

[Blogged (with some difficulty) from my iPad.]