Friday, November 28, 2008

Surging shoppers kill New York Wal-Mart worker

Now I know why they call it "Black Friday!"

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A man working for Wal-Mart was killed on Friday when a throng of shoppers surged into a Long Island, New York, store and physically broke down the doors, a police spokesman said.

The 34-year-old man was at the entrance of the Valley Stream Walmart store just after it opened at 5 a.m. local time and was knocked to the ground, the police report said.

The exact cause of death was still to be determined by a medical examiner.

Four shoppers, including a 28-year-old pregnant woman, were also taken to local hospitals for injuries sustained in the incident, police said.


The Friday after America's Thanksgiving holiday is known Black Friday and marks what is traditionally the busiest retail day of the year, kicking off the Christmas shopping season.

Then [Jesus] said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." (Luke 12:15)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Response to Ephraim Radner's piece on "A New 'Province'"

The Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner has written a piece entitled, A New "Province" in North America: Neither the Only Nor the Right Answer for the Communion, in which, as the title suggests, he gives six reasons why he does not believe an alternative, orthodox province of Anglicans in North America is a good idea.

Let me be clear about my own position at the outset: I am still a priest in TEC, but I have many friends who are now in one of the entities that will comprise a new Anglican Province. And, as I read Dr. Radner's remarks, I could not help but put myself in the position of my Common Cause friends, who I believe will regard his comments as both unfair and unhelpful.

So I would like to make a few comments (in bold, below) on Dr. Radner's six points, as I imagine someone who is a part of Common Cause might respond to them:

1. The new grouping will not, contrary to the stated claims of some of its proponents, embrace all or even most traditional Anglicans in North America. For instance, the Communion Partners group within TEC, comprises 13 dioceses as a whole, and a host of parishes and their rectors, whose total Sunday membership is upwards of 300,000. It is unlikely that these will wish to be a part of the new grouping, for some of the reasons stated below.

True, a new Province will not, for various reasons, be able to include all traditional Anglicans in North America, but how does that constitute a reason not to do it? A great many orthodox Anglicans, including overwhelming majorities in four former TEC dioceses, attest that, due to conscience over the growing departures from orthodoxy and the political pressures being brought upon them, they cannot remain in TEC. Why should these who are determined to remain faithful Anglicans not constitute an Anglican Province that seeks to be in Communion with as many other Anglican provinces as will recognize them?

God willing, this new Province may well come to embrace all or most orthodox Anglicans if it proves to be a preferable alternative. It will also be of tremendous benefit and a fulfillment of Christ's high-priestly prayer if this new Province can succeed in uniting the members of an Anglican diaspora that stretches back to the separation of the Reformed Episcopal Church in 1873. How is this not a good thing?

2. The new grouping, through some of its founding members, will continue in litigation within the secular courts for many years. This continues to constitute a sad spectacle, and is, in any case, practically and morally unfeasible for most traditional Anglicans.

I agree that litigation is a sad spectacle. But we need to remember who started the litigation and who continues to pursue it. The martyrdoms in the reign of Bloody Mary were a sad spectacle too. But this is like blaming the Reformers for that spectacle.

No one who has ever left TEC desired to be involved in a lawsuit. The lawsuits are a regrettable consequence of their following their consciences. Many Episcopalians, either because they are too intimidated or because they do not see leaving as the correct solution, may not leave. But if you are going to make a case that those who have left TEC should not have done so, you are going to have to demonstrate how their consciences could have been assuaged in remaining, and not merely claim that they should not have left because it resulted in lawsuits.

3. The new grouping is, in the eyes of many, representative of diverse bodies whose theology and ecclesiology is, taken together, incoherent, and perhaps in some cases even incompatible. The argument can be made that this is no different than historic Anglican comprehensiveness as a whole; but under the circumstances of a new structural distinction and the challenges this brings, the incoherence constitutes a burden that not all traditionalists believes is prudent to assume. This warning bell has been sounded repeatedly by traditionalists.

As you anticipated, it must be pointed out that the diversity of theology and ecclesiology is no greater than that which already exists in the Anglican Communion. And, in some important respects, the diversity in theology is notably less than that which has brought the Anglican Communion into crisis. If Anglicanism has held together for nearly five hundred years, a Province united in its commitment to the authority of Scripture and Gospel-centered mission and ministry will have even less trouble doing so; and it may, in fact, succeed in healing some of the theological divisions that have troubled Anglicanism in the past.

If GAFCON can embrace Sydney evangelicals and Society of the Holy Cross Anglo-Catholics, the diversity among those who are included in the proposed North American Province is far less than that. To see this situation as "incoherence" and "a burden [that it is not] prudent to assume" strikes me as being either phenomenally nearsighted or timid to the point of paralysis.

It could be argued (and is being argued by those forming a new Province) that this is an opportunity to begin a remarkable new chapter in Anglican history--one in which an orthodox Anglicanism that shares the commitments I have mentioned above can move forward in mission, unshackled from many of the elements that have impeded its mission in the past.

In any event, the challenges you mention may be a reason why some Anglicans may choose not to join a new Province. They do not constitute a reason for those who embrace the challenges and the opportunity willingly not to proceed.

4. There is a host of irregularities regarding ordination, representation, consent, and so on that is included among the members of this new grouping. Some of these are both understandable and inevitable under the circumstances. But they nonetheless constitute barriers for future reconciliation with other Anglican churches.

The same could be said (and was said) regarding the ratification of Called to Common Mission (CCM) (providing reciprocal sharing of ministries between The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America). An even greater degree of "irregularities" had to be embraced in the formation of the Church of South India and the Church of North India. This is almost inevitable whenever breaches are healed through ecumenical union. The irregularities make things messy for one generation, but are usually resolved by the second generation of ordained clergy. Compared with the opportunity of fulfilling the call to unity for which Christ prayed, many Christians have found it to be worth the price.

5. Will the new grouping actually be a formal “province” within the Anglican Communion, whatever name it assumes? Surely, it will be recognized by some of the GAFCON Primates. However, it will probably not be recognized at the Primates’ meeting as a whole or even by a majority of its members, and will be yet another cause for division there. Nor will it be recognized at the ACC. Thus it threatens to be yet another wedge in the breakup of the Communion, even while there have been signs of coalescing efforts to restore the integrity of our common witness.

It can be argued that the establishment of an orthodox North American Province (even if it is initially recognized only by some of the GAFCON primates) is the best way to deal with the crisis in the Communion. (a.) The orthodox will be able to look after themselves, so "border crossing" for episcopal oversight by overseas bishops and primates can cease. (b.) Instead of being a beleaguered minority within TEC, the orthodox can be treated as equals in a dialogue intended to resolve the crisis of authority in Anglicanism. (c.) TEC will have greater incentive to respond to the calls of the rest of the Communion to return to Anglican norms, lest they lose credibility compared with the new Province. TEC's leadership fears the realization of this last point, which is the main reason why they are working so hard to prevent establishment and recognition of a new Province.

6. Such division on this matter among the Primates and the ACC will likely strengthen the position of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada. They will move forward as continuing and undisciplined members of the Communion. All of this will merely hasten the demise of our common life, even among Global South churches themselves.

While some may argue that the best way to preserve the unity of the Anglican Communion is to preserve the unity of the American Church (or, failing that, not to recognize any group that splits off from the American Church), I would argue the exact opposite. The best way to preserve the unity of the Anglican Communion is to allow the American church to divide (which is happening anyway, whether anyone likes it or not) and to recognize two North American provinces. Some overseas provinces will relate to one of the North American provinces more than the other. But there will not be the present level of vigorous advocacy (and border crossing) that now threatens to divide the Communion. And there will not be any reason why the other provinces of the Communion should be impaired in their relationships with each other or with Canterbury. However, if the present situation continues, and Canterbury does not recognize the new North American Province, it will eventually (and sooner rather than later) force some Global South provinces to end their relationship with Canterbury, and the Communion will be lost.

Finally, on a personal note: I am very appreciative of the work of the Anglican Communion Institute and especially the work being done with the Communion Partner dioceses and rectors. I have not criticized and would not want to see anyone criticize the work the ACI is doing on an "inside strategy" to the same degree that they apparently feel obliged to criticize those who are working on an "outside strategy." I can imagine the frustration that members of the ACI feel with those who are leaving existing Anglican structures while they are trying to save them. But I believe the ACI's efforts would win the support of a greater number of people if they spent more time telling us how they propose to save the ship and less time knocking holes in other people's lifeboats. It remains to be seen whether the ACI's strategy can be successful; and, if not, there may come a day when we are glad the lifeboats are there.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What can we learn from Mars Hill?

No, not the Mars Hill in Athens, in the Book of Acts--Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA USA.


Early Days
Mars Hill Church began in 1996. At the age of twenty-five, Mark Driscoll gathered a core group of twelve people in the living room of the Wallingford rental house where he and his wife, Grace, lived. For the next seven years, Mars Hill met in various locations throughout the city until, in 2003, the church (one thousand strong) (emphasis added) moved into a renovated hardware store between Fremont and Ballard. Within three years, however, the church had outgrown its new home.

Multi Campus
In early 2006, Mars Hill became a multi-campus church with the opening of the Shoreline Campus. The concept of meeting in separate locations was nothing new. Throughout its history, size and other factors compelled Mars Hill to hold services in various places throughout Seattle [That's not in the church-friendly Bible Belt, but in the unchurched Northwest]. And hundreds of Community Groups (small Bible studies) gather weekly throughout the entire Puget Sound region. As a people, Mars Hill Church was used to spreading out.

Video Venue
The difference this time around, however, was the implementation of video sermons and other resources that made the strategy more efficient and sustainable. Later in 2006, Mars Hill acquired two new properties, in West Seattle and Lake City, further facilitating a growth that has yet to stop—including the more recent expansion to Bellevue, Downtown Seattle, and Olympia.

On Sundays, Mars Hill gathers in several locations and multiple times, and during the week they meet in homes all over the regions surrounding each campus. Mars Hill Church lives for Jesus as a city within the city—knowing culture, loving people, and seeing lives transformed to live for Jesus.

Here's proof you don't have to compromise biblical truth (in fact, the more you teach it, the better). You can be relevant—even hip, cool, whatever—without selling out to the culture.

Anglicans might want to learn from this. Liberals might want to look at this and repent.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A brief response to the Diocese of Sydney's consideration of "lay presidency"

David Ould has posted a piece over at Stand Firm entitled, "Anglicanism Upside Down Down Under? - Understanding Lay Administration," dealing with the Diocese of Sydney’s consideration of lay presidency. I am very thankful to David for posting this piece, 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.

However, I did make some comments on Stand Firm regarding that piece, and I will offer those same thoughts here, beginning with the Articles of Religion and the 1662 and 1552 Ordinals.
Article 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 written with a view toward the possibility of misinterpretation) as a confessional statement, church canon, or policy would be 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 from the 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.

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.

Article 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”. There is one sense in which I fear this 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 1662 Ordinal is correct, it cannot be shown from the Scriptures or the whole history of the Christian Church that this was ever the case.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Proposition 8 and anti-religious bigotry

It it appalling to think that, in the days prior to the vote in California on Proposition 8, opponents ran ads that depicted religious people in false and hateful ways. But it happened.

Here is a very well done response by Professor Michael Barber of John Paul the Great Catholic University to the public media attacks by "gay rights activists" against Mormons. As Professor Barber says, Roman Catholics and members of the Mormon faith have longstanding theological disagreements. Nevertheless, it is heartening to see this expression of support.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Reflections on the morning after

As an update to my previous election eve post, I heartily recommend Sarah Hey's article over at Stand Firm on where we go from here.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sometimes we get the leadership we deserve

I don't claim to be a prophet, so I cannot be certain who will be the President-elect of the United States when I wake up in the morning. But, driving home from the polling place a few moments ago, I was overcome by a feeling of great sadness--not merely because of how this election might turn out, but because of how God's people have wasted the past eight years.

From the perspective of a conservative Christian, we have had good Supreme Court Justices appointed. In virtually every state where same sex "marriage" has been placed on the ballot, it has been defeated. The situation has been marginally better, compared with the previous 20 years, for those who believe that life is a sacred gift from God to be protected from conception until natural death.

And yet: over a million babies still die from abortion each year. Same sex "marriages" are legal in three states and gaining ground in several others. Same-sex "marriages" are not recognized by federal law due to the Defense of Marriage Act. However, since this is merely an act of Congress, and not a Constitutional amendment, it can be overturned just as easily as it was passed. After today's election, we may find ourselves with a Congress and a President who are committed to doing exactly that and to passing and enacting the Freedom of Choice Act, overturning restrictions on abortion in all 50 states.

Sometime in the past 30 years we should have extended Constitutional protection to all living humans, born and in utero. When something as basic as the definition of marriage came into question, it should have been protected by Constitutional amendment also, but it was not.

While it is perhaps easy to blame secularists and liberals for what is happening to our society, the real blame lies with those who should have known better and who should have done more—Christians who have been content with the status quo, complacent in the face of threats to all that they should have held dear, and seduced by materialism into thinking that, as long as they have an adequate "quality of life," nothing else really matters all that much. It is these who will have to give account for opportunities lost and time squandered. For if they did not work while it was day, what will they do now that night has come?