Saturday, December 25, 2010

Stories of Extraordinary Giving

From here.
You don’t have to be rich to give enough to change someone else's life. Just ask Barbara Cooke, who found out firsthand that $60 can go a very long way. Cooke decided for her 60th birthday to give $60 to each of her friends, who in turn were asked to "grow" the money and help out a charitable cause. She called it the Give60 Project.

"It was fantastic! For me, a person of faith, it was like observing the spiritual laws of giving play out, as different Give60 projects unfolded," Cooke, of Portland, Ore., told by e-mail.

"The givers often feel like they were receiving much more than they were giving. Many of the people involved have told me how they have shared the story of the project to others and that some of these people are now planning on doing their own version for a birthday, anniversary or other event in their life. How cool is that!"

Twenty-three different organizations benefited from the project, with several being gifted with ongoing, open-ended donations. "And our final total? $23,265, plus! Wow!" Cooke exclaimed.

Cooke was among dozens of readers who wrote in to share their own stories of how extraordinary giving by ordinary individuals can profoundly change lives.

Read the stories.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas 2.0 – The Digital Nativity Story

The guys at Excentric have created a "digital" version of how the Nativity story might have played out if all the sites we use today happened to be around a few thousand years ago.

(You may want to click through to YouTube and watch a larger version of this video that you can see better.)

[UK News:] The Red Cross bans Christmas

From The Daily Mail (UK):
The Red Cross bans Christmas

Christmas has been banned by the Red Cross from its 430 fund-raising shops.

Staff have been ordered to take down decorations and to remove any other signs of the Christian festival because they could offend Moslems.

The charity's politically-correct move triggered an avalanche of criticism and mockery last night - from Christians and Moslems.

Christine Banks, a volunteer at a Red Cross shop in New Romney, Kent, said: 'We put up a nativity scene in the window and were told to take it out. It seems we can't have anything that means Christmas. We're allowed to have some tinsel but that's it.

'When we send cards they have to say season's greetings or best wishes. They must not be linked directly to Christmas.

'When we asked we were told it is because we must not upset Moslems.'

Mrs Banks added: ' We have been instructed that we can't say anything about Christmas and we certainly can't have a Christmas tree.

' I think the policy is offensive to Moslems as well as to us. No reasonable person can object to Christians celebrating Christmas. But we are not supposed to show any sign of Christianity at all.'

Labour peer Lord Ahmed, one of the country's most prominent Moslem politicians, said: 'It is stupid to think Moslems would be offended.

'The Moslem community has been talking to Christians for the past 1,400 years. The teachings from Islam are that you should respect other faiths.'

He added: 'In my business all my staff celebrate Christmas and I celebrate with them. It is absolutely not the case that Christmas could damage the Red Cross reputation for neutrality - I think their people have gone a little bit over the top.'

[Read it all.]

How many times have we seen this? A group dumps Christmas in an effort not to offend a few people and ends up offending a lot more people. They just don't get it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The giving doesn't stop when adversity hits

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, where there is more:
Who can imagine losing a child so unexpectedly, as Mary and Kevin Coubal did in early September when their 11-year-old son Evan died of a head injury after a school playground accident?

Now imagine them turning their thoughts, through such heartache, to others in Evan's honor.

Evan was a sixth-grader at Bay Lane Middle School in Muskego, [Wisconsin] where his mom works as an administrative assistant. He was athletic, a baseball and football player, a boy remembered in loving tributes from hundreds.

When he died, his organs went to others. His liver went to a 7-month-old child. His kidneys and pancreas went to two women, 31 and 49. His lungs went to research. His heart valves were saved for reuse. His corneas restored the sight of two people.

Still the gifts continue in his name. When the Christmas Clearing Council opens its Waukesha-based toy store Saturday so hundreds of needy parents can shop for about 1,000 of their children, some of the credit goes to Evan.

Last Sunday would have been his "golden" birthday - 12 years old on the 12th day of the 12th month. So his parents organized a birthday party at Alpine Lanes in Muskego, complete with pizza and birthday cake and free bowling for anyone bringing a toy for the Christmas Clearing Council.

Mary Coubal said the alley owner began collecting toys for 12 days leading up to the party. Despite a winter storm that blanketed the area Sunday, the event gathered eight large boxes full of toys that will help stock the toy store shelves.

"He'd be amazed," Evan's mother said. Like the rest of us.

Read it all.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What Matters To Millenials: Pew Study

"The Millenial generation -- young adults between 18 and 29 years of age -- has made headlines as both a victim of its own apathy and the current state of the world. But the generation as a whole remains enigmatic. Millenials can't find jobs. They get married later than earlier generations. They live with their parents. They don't vote. They're not religious. They wait to have kids. So what actually matters to Millenials?"

Click here to find out. (Reported in The Huffington Post.)

See also this article: Religion Among the Millennials (From the Pew Center website.)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

University Silences Christmas Bells

From here.
The clock tower at Southern Illinois University has played Christmas carols for nearly 15 years. But this year, someone complained – and that led university officials to briefly silence the holiday tradition until they could add a more diverse selection of music.

“We got a complaint about not being inclusive in the music,” university chancellor Rita Cheng told Fox News Radio.

She backed off comments she made to a local television station that claimed the music was indeed removed because it was “religious” and “offensive to non-Christians.”

“No one really complained about it being religious,” she told Fox News Radio. “They asked that their religion also be reflected in the music.”

A longer version of the story is here.

Alas, Southern Illinois University is where I earned one of my two undergraduate degrees (the one in Religious Studies and Psychology). It was a site of campus radicalism in the late 1960's and has always been inclined more toward political correctness than common sense. But silencing the carillon in the clock tower at Pulliam Hall because it played Christmas music makes me ashamed of and embarrassed for my alma mater.

If the University wants to do something to help students of other faiths to celebrate their holidays, that is a fine idea. But have you ever heard of a Hanukkah carol? How about a Ramadan hymn? And how good would Hindu music sound being played on bells in a clock tower?

The longer version of the article has the University Chancellor saying that "the university staff assured her they could add other religious songs to the chimes without taking away from the Christian element." Yeah, well, my other undergraduate degree happens to be in music, and all I can say is "Good luck with that!" (sarcasm intended). Most non-western music doesn't even use the same diatonic scale as western music, and wouldn't necessarily sound good even if you could get it to play. Ah, but there I go trying to interject common sense into a discussion that is obviously more about political correctness.

If you want to help students of other faiths celebrate their holidays, then do something that is appropriate to their tradition on their holidays. But carols on bells are a very unique way of celebrating a holiday that is special to most of your students, alumni, and local residents. So how about using a little common sense and let Christmas be Christmas.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Curious Bear

I love bears. But this one gets a little too close for comfort.

It helps to know you can get the bear to go away with just a question. It also helps if you happen to be deer hunting and have a rifle or shotgun handy, just in case.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christian woman faces death for blasphemy

From here:
Christian woman faces death for blasphemy

ITTAN WALLI, Pakistan – In early November, in the dusty city of Sheikhupura in Pakistan’s heartland, Asia Bibi, an illiterate Christian woman and mother of five, was sentenced to death by hanging under the country’s blasphemy laws.

Her crime? She allegedly insulted the Prophet Muhammad.


Bibi, 45, is the first woman condemned to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. While no one has ever been executed, most of the accused – all men – languish in prison alone and forgotten. Human rights groups point out that the law is a convenient way to settle scores, often among the Christian community who total about 2 million of Pakistan’s 175 million people.


So far, the Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti submitted a report on the case to Zardari. He concluded that the charges were baseless. In an interview with NBC News, he said that Bibi could be released on appeal in the high court. “We should wait for the court proceedings but if the court delays then the president may pardon her on the basis that she is innocent,” he said.

Bhatti is well aware of the possible consequences of an acquittal. Judges have been assassinated for freeing victims and several accused persons have been gunned down inside prisons or outside courtrooms as they walked free.

Read it all.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Peacherine Rag

As frequent readers know by now, I occasionally like to drop a bit of culture into this blog--especially musical performances. Well, this is something entirely different. In the interest of being inclusive, multicultural, ecumenical, here is the Bottle Band from St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Park Ridge, Illinois, demonstrating what may be the next big thing after church hand bell choirs:


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Airport "Security"?

I have always loved Thomas Sowell's writing, and I think he really nails it in this piece. I am not even going to offer an excerpt. You'll just have to read the whole thing for yourself.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Support Wikipedia

"Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge." This vision led Jimmy Wales to found Wikipedia in January 2001. Since then, the English-language Wikipedia has expanded to more than 3,450,000 articles today. In total, Wikipedia contains more than 17 million volunteer-authored articles in over 265 languages, and is visited by more than 408 million people every month, making it the fifth most-popular internet site in the world.

While it is fashionable in scholarly circles to look askance at citations from Wikipedia, the reality is that articles on Wikipedia are often as good or better than other encyclopedias that charge for access and are usually far more current. Articles are reviewed by teams of volunteers consisting of academics with credentials in relevant areas. In addition, the democratic nature of Wikipedia means that inaccurate information, unbalanced perspectives, and contributions of insufficient quality do not remain unchallenged for long.

In 2003, the Wikimedia Foundation began and now supports other valuable repositories of materials, including:
  • Wikimedia Commons, a media repository containing more than 7,700,000 freely usable images, videos, and sound files

  • Wikibooks, a project to create free textbooks

  • Wiktionary, a multilingual dictionary and thesaurus

  • Wikisource, a library of source texts containing more than 474,000 proofread pages in 19 languages

  • Wikinews, a citizen news website

  • Wikiversity, an interactive learning platform

  • Wikiquote, a collection of quotations

  • Wikispecies, a directory of life on Earth

Around this time each year, Wikipedia asks for contributions to support its work. There are no ads on any of Wikimedia's sites, so contributions are their only source of revenue. If you benefit from this free online resource, then I hope you will visit their contribution page and make a donation. And if you have expertise in any field of learning, I hope you will join Wikipedia and volunteer by contributing and editing content.

TSA pat-down leaves traveler covered in urine

I thought this news item deserved its own post: TSA pat-down leaves traveler covered in urine.

In related news: TSA forces cancer survivor to show prosthetic breast.

Best comments regarding the TSA situation I have seen on the internet:

"I should never have to explain to my five-year-old twins that a stranger is going to touch their genitals, and that it's okay."

"Since when did flying become "probable cause?"

"19 hijackers hijacked 4 airplanes with box cutters. One crashed into the Pentagon, two crashed into the World Trade Center and one crashed in a field in Western Pennsylvania (because the crew and passengers foiled it). Now we ban box cutters. Another nutcase decided he was going to use his shoe as an explosive. Now we have to remove our shoes. A third wacko tried using something liquid. Now we have the 3 ounces in a quart size baggy. A fourth wingnut tried to hide explosives in his underwear. Now we get x-ray screenings. Care to suggest what would the TSA do when they find someone who has explosives hidden in their [body cavities]?"

"So, it is OK to treat American Citizens as criminals, but you can't profile people, what the h e double l is wrong with our government ?"

"I think some nice furry bomb sniffing dogs would be acceptable to most people as a third option to pat downs and screenings. They are expensive to train, but if TSA went [all] out with the dogs there would be enough of them in every airport to eliminate the pat downs. TSA should also be willing to forgo political correctness and start profiling instead of random screenings."

To this last comment I would add that: (1) Bomb sniffing dogs would be cheaper than the new TSA radiation machines. And, (2) I would rather have a bomb-sniffing dog sniff my body than a TSA screener putting his/her hands all over it.

And finally, a comment that is popping up all over the internet in response to this situation: "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." — Benjamin Franklin

TSA has met the enemy — and they are us

My travels took me through airport security twice yesterday. So when I saw this item on MSNBC, "TSA Has Met the Enemy — and They Are Us," I just had to pass along a few excerpts:
How did an agency created to protect the public become the target of so much public scorn?

After nine years of funneling travelers into ever longer lines with orders to have shoes off, sippy cups empty and laptops out for inspection, the most surprising thing about increasingly heated frustration with the federal Transportation Security Administration may be that it took so long to boil over.


The TSA "is not a flier-centered system. It's a terrorist-centered system and the travelers get caught in it," said Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University who has tracked the agency's effectiveness since it's creation.

That built-in conflict is at the heart of a growing backlash against the TSA for ordering travelers to step before a full-body scanner that sees through their clothing, undergo a potentially invasive pat-down or not fly at all.


TSA operates on the belief that a key to foiling terrorists is to keep them guessing, agency watchers say. But it has never really explained that to a flying public that sees never-ending changes in policies covering carry-on liquids, shoes, and printer cartridges as maddening and pointless inconsistency.

"If you ask what its procedures are, how you screen people, its 'I can't tell you that because if the bad guys find out they'll be able to work around the system'," said Christopher Elliott, an Orlando, Fla.-based consumer advocate specializing in travel. "That's why a lot of what they've done has not really gone over well with air travelers. They perceive it as being heavy-handed and often the screeners come across as being very authoritarian."

Over time, TSA has settled into a pattern of issuing directives with little explanation and expecting they be followed. But increasingly fed-up travelers don't understand the agency's sense of urgency and aren't buying it.

"I don't think the law enforcement approach is going to work with the American public. You've got to explain yourself and reassure people. And they're not doing it," Light said.

Read it all.

At least my experiences with airport security ended up better than this poor fellow: TSA pat-down leaves traveler covered in urine.

Friday, November 19, 2010

"You have the choice not to fly."

Perhaps the most condescending and infuriating thing about the whole TSA experience is the remark being uttered by everyone from TSA administrator John Pistole down to the TSA employee with his or her hand in your forbidden zone: "You have the choice not to fly."

Our jobs require us to fly just as much as yours currently requires you to grope us. Whatever else is wrong with this whole process, the one thing that surely isn't going to fly is that kind of attitude from people who live at the taxpayers' expense.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Don't Touch My Junk!

The event that started it all:
SAN DIEGO — John Tyner won't be pheasant hunting in South Dakota with his father-in-law any time soon.

Tyner was simultaneously thrown out of San Diego International Airport on Saturday morning for refusing to submit to a security check and threatened with a lawsuit and a $10,000 fine if he left.

And he got the whole thing on his cell phone. Well, the audio at least.

Here's John Tyner's account on his own blog.

The issue is TSA's new x-ray machines and pat-down procedures, which even the head of TSA admits are "invasive".

The passengers are mad about it (video).

The pilots are mad about it (video).

And now comes this item from Newsweek about the worry the new procedures pose for survivors of sexual assault.

As a frequent flier on six different airlines, I have to say that I am not thrilled with a choice of either accepting an increased risk of being blown out of the sky, being irradiated every time I go to the airport, or submitting to legalized sexual molestation.

As retired airline pilot and air safety expert Chesley Sullenberger, the hero of the water landing of US Airways flight 1549, says in the video I referenced above, we need to utilize an "intelligence-based" approach—we need to know who the passengers are who are flying and look for terrorists rather than merely looking for weapons.

Here's why it matters: Right now the x-ray machines being used are designed to examine the body contours of the individuals being screened. The pat-downs are designed to tell by feel whether contraband is being hidden in the groin or breast area. The next step for terrorists, then, will be to hide explosives inside the human body. Experts are already warning that terrorists could use breast or buttock implants to conceal explosives. Either inserting explosives in a body cavity or surgically implanting them would put them beyond detection of current scanners or pat-down techniques.

Or to put it more crudely: Do we expect that the TSA staffer giving a pat-down will be able to tell whether breast implants are silicone or something more dangerous? Will the TSA staffer watching the x-ray screen be able to distinguish whether someone's colon is full of fecal matter or plastic explosive?

Sullenberger and other experts agree: There simply has to be a better way—a way that doesn't spend billions of dollars and countless hours of TSA staff time conducting procedures that treat everyone who boards an airplane as a suspected terrorist.

Reflecting on his experience that started the "passenger pushback," John Tyner points out that, after the first three events of 9/11, every terrorist act on an airplane has been halted by passengers. "It's time to stop treating passengers like criminals and start treating them as assets," he said.

Monday, November 15, 2010

[Off topic] Why I'm Still Worried About the Pelosi-Reid 'Lame Duck'

From here:

They laughed when I worried that a "lame duck" Democratic congress might pass the so-called DREAM Act--a conditional amnesty for illegal immigrants who were brought into the country when they were young, a bill that would provide a powerful new incentive for illegal immigration (cross the border and your kid gets to be legal!). People like me shouldn't worry, we were told. Dems were only pandering to Latino voters. The pols would lose interest after the election.

Ha. The election's over--and both Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, and Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, say they want to bring the DREAM act to a vote in the lame duck, while the Dems still control Congress.

Be sure and read the rest.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Can you guess the verse?

Here's another verse turned into word art by Wordle, where you can create your own using any text of your choice.

Wordle: Philippians 2:5-11

Ephesians 1:3-10

Wordle: Ephesians 1:3-10

Wordle: Ephesians 1:3-10

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—-to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

Friday, November 05, 2010

(NY Times) Bloggingheads: Ban Marriage?

Jack Balkin of Yale and Ann Althouse of the University of Wisconsin debate whether marriage should be replaced with civil unions for both gay and straight couples.

The video cannot be embedded, so you'll have to go here.

(Frankly, I find it scary that either of these individuals is actually teaching the next generation.)

After you watch these two professors, you may want to come back and listen to the aria on my previous post and be reminded that there is still beauty and sanity in the world somewhere.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Montserrat Caballe "Senza mamma"

Soprano Montserrat Caballe does a splendid job on the aria "Senza mamma" from Suor Angelica by Giacomo Puccini.

Suor Angelica (Sister Angelica) is the second in a group of three short operas by Puccini known as Il trittico (The Triptych). Suor Angelica begins with scenes of life in the convent. Three sisters confess their inmost desires: Sister Genevieve confesses that she wishes to see lambs again because she used to be a shepherdess when she was a girl, and Sister Dolcina wishes for something good to eat. Sister Angelica claims to have no desires. But Sister Angelica has lied: Her true desire is to hear from her wealthy, noble family, from whom she has not heard in seven years. The rumors have it that she was sent to the convent in punishment.

Soon after, a carriage arrives at the convent bearing the Princess, Sister Angelica's aunt. The Princess explains that Angelica's sister is to be married and that Angelica must sign a document renouncing her claim to her inheritance. Angelica replies that her only concern is for her illegitimate son who was taken from her seven years ago when she was sent by her family to the convent. At first, the Princess refuses to speak, but finally informs Sister Angelica that her son died from a fever two years ago. Sister Angelica, devastated, signs the document and collapses in tears. The Princess leaves.

Sister Angelica is seized by a heavenly vision — she believes she hears her son calling for her to meet him in paradise — and sings this aria:
You died without your mother, my baby--
Without my kisses on your lips.
My baby, you closed your lovely eyes.
Unable to caress me, you crossed your tiny hands on your chest.
And you died without knowing how fiercely your mother loved you.

Now you are an angel in heaven.
Now you can see your mother at last.
You can descend through the heavens.
I can feel you hovering about me.
You're here with me.
You kiss and caress me.

When will I be able to see you in heaven.
When will I be able to kiss you?
That moment will mark the end of all my pain.
When can I rise up to meet you?
When can I die?

Speak to your mother, lovely child.
Speak through the light of a flickering star.
Speak to me.

Eager to join her son, Angelica makes herself a poison and drinks it, but realizes that in committing suicide, she has committed a mortal sin and has damned herself to eternal separation from her son. She begs God for mercy and, as she dies, she sees a miracle: the Virgin Mary appears, along with Sister Angelica's son, who runs to embrace her.

Tragic opera at its best--and beautifully sung by Montserrat Caballe.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

On the lighter side: "A Dark And Stormy Night"

Bob Hill and his new wife Betty were vacationing in Europe... as it happens, near Transylvania. They were driving in a rental car along a rather deserted highway. It was late and raining very hard. Bob could barely see the road in front of the car. Suddenly, the car skids out of control! Bob attempts to control the car, but to no avail! The car swerves and smashes into a tree.

Moments later, Bob shakes his head to clear the fog. Dazed, he looks over at the passenger seat and sees his wife unconscious, with her head bleeding! Despite the rain and unfamiliar countryside, Bob knows he has to get her medical assistance.

Bob carefully picks his wife up and begins trudging down the road. After a short while, he sees a light. He heads towards the light, which is coming from a large, old house. He approaches the door and knocks.

A minute passes. A small, hunched man opens the door. Bob immediately blurts, "Hello, my name is Bob Hill, and this is my wife Betty. We've been in a terrible accident, and my wife has been seriously hurt. May I please use your phone?"

"I'm sorry," replied the hunchback, "we don't have a phone. But my master is a doctor; come in, and I will get him!"

Bob brings his wife in.

An older man comes down the stairs. "I'm afraid my assistant may have misled you. I am not a medical doctor; I am a scientist. However, it is many miles to the nearest clinic, and I have had a basic medical training. I will see what I can do. Igor, bring them down to the laboratory."

With that, Igor picks up Betty and carries her downstairs, with Bob following closely. Igor places Betty on a table in the lab. Bob collapses from exhaustion and his own injuries, so Igor places Bob on an adjoining table.

After a brief examination, Igor's master looks worried. "Things are serious, Igor. Prepare a transfusion." Igor and his master work feverishly, but to no avail. Bob and Betty Hill are no more.

The Hills' deaths upset Igor's master greatly. Wearily, he climbs the steps to his conservatory, which houses his grand piano. For it is here that he has always found solace. He begins to play, and a stirring, almost haunting melody fills the house

Meanwhile, Igor is still in the lab tidying up. His eyes catch movement, and he notices the fingers on Betty's hand twitch, keeping time to the haunting piano music. Stunned, he watches as Bob's arm begins to rise, marking the beat! He is further amazed as Betty and Bob both sit up straight!

Unable to contain himself, he dashes up the stairs to the conservatory.

He bursts in and shouts to his master:

"Master, Master!...The Hills are alive with the sound of music!"


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

[Political humor] "Call Me Senator" - From David Zucker

Director David Zucker, who directed "Airplane" and "The Naked Gun," takes off on Barbara Boxer's notorious demand that a military officer, testifying before a Senate panel, call her Senator. Zucker also issued a public apology recently for having supported her in past elections.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The "Left Coast" and the future of American Christianity

On the Stand Firm website, Sarah Hey asks the question: "So How Is The Inclusive, Open-Minded Left Coast Doing With 815’s New Gospel?" She then posts statistics (with graphs) to show that every Episcopal diocese in the state of California has lost nearly 25% of its average Sunday attendance in the last 10 years.

The apostle Paul wrote: "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes..." (Romans 1:16)

America is becoming post-Christian (more quickly in some places than others) after the manner of Europe, and for the same reason. In the face of modernity, the church retreated and became ashamed of the Gospel. Liberal and "mainline" Christians felt that society's advances would provide the answers to society's ills. All the church needed to do was provide the spiritual component (for those who still required it).

Well it hasn't worked. The Brave New World doesn't need chaplains. A purely horizontal "gospel" overlaid with a religious veneer just isn't appealing to anyone. If people want to support gay rights and the Millennium Development Goals, all they have to do is vote Democrat, and they can sleep in or take the kids to soccer on Sunday morning. And they can probably feel better after a Yoga session, an hour of transcendental meditation, a walk on the beach, or a work-out at the gym than they will after a service at the typical liberal church.

If we don't preach the everlasting Gospel of Jesus Christ that can save souls and transform lives, then we need to give up, period.

Fortunately there are churches that preach the authentic Gospel on the "Left Coast." A few of them are Anglican, but hardly any of them are Episcopal (sadly). But the ones who do so are growing.

[Off-topic] Say goodbye to traditional free checking

Free checking as we know it is ending.

The days when you could walk into a bank branch and open an account with no charges and no strings attached appear to be over. Now you have to jump through some hoops — keep a high balance, use direct deposit or swipe your debit card several times a month.

One new account at Bank of America charges $8.95 per month if you want to bank with a teller or get a paper statement.

Almost all of the largest U.S. banks are either already making free checking much more difficult to get or expected to do so soon, with fees on even basic banking services.

It's happening because a raft of new laws enacted in the past year, including the financial overhaul package [thanks to Pres. Obama and the Democrats in Congress], have led to an acute shrinking of revenue for the banks. So they are scraping together money however they can.

Bank of America, which does business with half the households in America, announced a dramatic shift Tuesday in how it does business with customers. One key change: Free checking, a mainstay of American banking in recent years, will be nearly unheard of.

"I've seen more regulation in last 30 months than in last 30 years," said Robert Hammer, CEO of RK Hammer, a bank advisory firm. "The bottom line for banks is shifting enormously, swiftly and deeply, and they're not going to sit by twiddling their thumbs. They're going to change."

Yeah, I've heard plenty about CHANGE the past two years. Come November 2, we had better start to change back.

[Off-topic] Soros and Saban: Do Billionaires have too much influence in American politics?

Opponents of the so-called "pro-Middle East peace" lobbying group J-Street--which, it turns out, is funded by billionaire George Soros see Soros as an anti-Israel (and anti-American) monster.

Meanwhile, billionaire Haim Saban is a major supporter of AIPAC, the pro-Israel group that J-Street was formed to combat. But Soros and Saban apparently agree on one thing: Democrat politicians in California should be allowed to gerrymander their districts! Both have bankrolled the pro-gerrymandering Prop 27. . . . Luckily, they have to contend with the son of billionaire Charles Munger.

Read more here.

Why would billionaires Soros and Saban support the gerrymandering of state and congressional districts to keep Democrats in power? Is their use of wealth to make the electoral process less fair a travesty of justice? I would argue a very emphatic YES!

For more on the outrageous gerrymandering of California's state and congressional districts, read this.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pittsburgh's "Seusscharist" sacrilege

"For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes." (I Corinthians 11:26)

First there was the Clown Eucharist from Trinity Church, Wall Street, NYC. Now comes this latest bit of folly from the Episcopal (TEC) Diocese of Pittsburgh. I know the link will go away once the event is over, so I have copied the relevant text and graphics here:

With brains in your head and feet in your shoes
Please come to Calvary from any direction you choose.

Friday, October 22 will be the day.
Fun is waiting, so get on your way.

We'll have a light supper and share together
A little Seuss fun, no matter the weather.

A movie, and popcorn, and stories, too.
We'll finish with a Seusscharist designed just for you.

Five thirty is the time that we will start.
We know you will join us, if you are smart.

Weezie is the one that you should call
She'll take reservations for family, friends and all.
412-661-0120, ext. 40

Age is no limit, bottom or top.
We know that our gathering won't be a flop.

Have any questions you'd like to ask?
Just call Adele. She's up to the task.
412-661-0120, ext. 16

Calvary Episcopal Church
315 Shady Avenue
Pittsburgh PA 15206

Now, before someone calls me a GRINCH for casting aspersions on this program, let me be clear about my reasoning. The Eucharist is to proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ's death, whenever we eat the bread and drink the cup, until He comes again. That is its message, and that is the meaning. It needs no other metaphor. Dressing it up in other garb can only obscure—not enhance—its message and its meaning.

The concept of a sacrilege teaches us that "sacred objects are not to be treated in the same way as other objects." That's the point of the matter. And no, this kind of display (Clown Eucharists and Seusscarists) isn't what the Apostle Paul means when he calls the preaching of the Gospel foolishness in I Corinthians. Even though C.S. Lewis does a wonderful job of symbolizing the atoning death of Christ in Aslan's death in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I would not be in favor of a Narnia Eucharist either. (And neither would C.S. Lewis!)

"Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup" (I Corinthians 11:27-28). Literally interpreted, this text means that we should not approach the Eucharist with impure motives or unconfessed sins against God and our neighbor, thereby having little regard for the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. But does it not also mean that, when it comes to the Eucharist, we shouldn't be clowning around? We are dealing with holy things in the Eucharist, when God in the flesh died for the sins of humankind. I can state it no better than the Book of Common Prayer:
An Exhortation

Beloved in the Lord: Our Savior Christ, on the night before
he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and
Blood as a sign and pledge of his love, for the continual
remembrance of the sacrifice of his death, and for a spiritual
sharing in his risen life. For in these holy Mysteries we are
made one with Christ, and Christ with us; we are made one
body in him, and members one of another.

Having in mind, therefore, his great love for us, and in
obedience to his command, his Church renders to Almighty
God our heavenly Father never ending thanks for the
creation of the world, for his continual providence over us,
for his love for all mankind, and for the redemption of the
world by our Savior Christ, who took upon himself our flesh,
and humbled himself even to death on the cross, that he
might make us the children of God by the power of the Holy
Spirit, and exalt us to everlasting life.

But if we are to share rightly in the celebration of those holy
Mysteries, and be nourished by that spiritual Food, we must
remember the dignity of that holy Sacrament. I therefore call
upon you to consider how Saint Paul exhorts all persons to
prepare themselves carefully before eating of that Bread and
drinking of that Cup.

For, as the benefit is great, if with penitent hearts and living
faith we receive the holy Sacrament, so is the danger great, if
we receive it improperly, not recognizing the Lord's Body.
Judge yourselves, therefore, lest you be judged by the Lord.

Examine your lives and conduct by the rule of God’s
commandments, that you may perceive wherein you have
offended in what you have done or left undone, whether in
thought, word, or deed. And acknowledge your sins before
Almighty God, with full purpose of amendment of life, being
ready to make restitution for all injuries and wrongs done by
you to others; and also being ready to forgive those who have
offended you, in order that you yourselves may be forgiven.
And then, being reconciled with one another, come to the
banquet of that most heavenly Food.

And if, in your preparation, you need help and counsel, then
go and open your grief to a discreet and understanding priest,
and confess your sins, that you may receive the benefit of
absolution, and spiritual counsel and advice; to the removal
of scruple and doubt, the assurance of pardon, and the
strengthening of your faith.

To Christ our Lord who loves us, and washed us in his own
blood, and made us a kingdom of priests to serve his God
and Father, to him be glory in the Church evermore. Through
him let us offer continually the sacrifice of praise, which is
our bounden duty and service, and, with faith in him, come
boldly before the throne of grace [and humbly confess our
sins to Almighty God]. (BCP, 1979, p. 316)

Now, who wants to clown around with that?

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Message in a Bottle Survives Epic Journey

Last year, a high school student named Corey Swearingen put a letter in a bottle, sealed it up, and dropped it in the Atlantic Ocean, off the Florida coast. It was kind of an experiment for school. In the letter, he appealed to whomever came across the bottle to contact him and let him know where in the world it showed up. Amazingly, someone did.

Find out where it landed and read about some other long-traveling messages in a bottle here.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Blind Type - No Accuracy Required

I gotta get me one of these!

Read more here.

Now, can it teach the seemingly illiterate products of our modern school systems the difference between your and you're, or they're, their, and there?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Treating Friends Like Enemies

Matt Kennedy has written an excellent piece on Stand Firm entitled, "Treating Friends Like Enemies," dealing with the Australian Diocese of Sydney's move to allow deacons and lay people to preside at the Eucharist. I have written about Sydney's move twice previously.

Matt disagrees with this move, as do I, and he gives three reasons for his disagreement:
First: There are many Anglicans, and I am one of them, who reject the Anglo Catholic understanding of the priesthood while recognizing that presiding over the Eucharist is an act of headship and as such ought to be reserved for the ordained leadership of a local congregation. I will not argue that case here but I want simply to point out that the Communion standard is no more an implicit endorsement of the Anglo Catholic sacerdotal position than it is an endorsement of the evangelical headship argument. The reason the Communion standard has survived so long is precisely because it can be legitimately embraced by both evangelicals and Anglo Catholics in very good conscience.

Second: Because that is true, what Sydney may perceive to be a grand act against sacerdotalism also stands as a divisive act against fellow evangelicals.

Third: Sydney’s stance toward Anglo Catholicism as represented by the move toward lay or diaconal and lay presidency is the kind of stance generally taken toward an enemies rather than friends.

I appreciate Matt's contribution to this issue and agree with his piece to a large degree. But I posted a comment on Stand Firm taking issue with Matt's representation of Anglo-Catholicism. Here is what I had to say:


I am somewhat late (perhaps too late) in weighing in on this piece. But thank you for making this contribution to the discussion of lay presidency. Your three reasons are on target and well said. But I would like to raise a few points concerning your characterization of Anglo-Catholics and Anglo-Catholic positions.

When you say, "There are many Anglicans, and I am one of them, who reject the Anglo Catholic understanding of the priesthood," you leave your readers to assume they know what you mean by an "Anglo Catholic understanding of the priesthood" or to deduce it as they continue reading. Subsequently, you refer to "an Anglo Catholic sacerdotal understanding of the priesthood," which elaborates but doesn't clarify.

A sacerdotal priesthood can mean three things:

1. A sacrificing priesthood, as in the Old Testament or in pagan religions that still sacrifice live animals. Obviously this does not apply to the New Testament presbyterate. A priest in the Eucharist re-presents the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ; he is not re-sacrificing Christ.

Or, to cite a dictionary definition, it can mean one of two other things:

2. Relating to priests or the priesthood; priestly.
3. Relating to a doctrine that ascribes spiritual or supernatural powers to ordained priests.

Well, #2 seems a bit redundant, but might, in fact, be apt: Sydney evangelicals do seem to object to a priestly priesthood, and Anglo-Catholics favor a priesthood that looks like one. But that seems to be bit trivial for such a profound difference of opinion.

Which leaves us with #3, that there is a spiritual or supernatural power that pertains to the ordained priesthood. I think (and I believe most Anglo-Catholics would agree) that spiritual authority is more accurate than "power." But is it not also true that the lowest low-churchman who sets apart a presbyter for ordained ministry believes that a spiritual authority has been conferred on that individual by virtue of ordination?

Another way to put it is to say that Anglo-Catholics believe that when we lay hands on something or someone and pray, God actually does something. When we pray "that we receiving these thy creatures of bread and wine, according to thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ's holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of his most blessed Body and Blood" (1662 BCP) we believe that "the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ." (Article XXVIII. And, no, I am not talking about Transubstantiation, which is spoken against in the same Article.) We believe that that which was previously bread and wine is now, for us, the body and blood of Christ. "The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper, is Faith."

Likewise, when the Bishop and assembled presbyters pray over a candidate for ordination, "RECEIVE the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the Imposition of our hands. Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained. And be thou a faithful Dispenser of the Word of God, and of his holy Sacraments; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" we believe that the Holy Spirit actually empowers the individual for a new ministry of Word and Sacraments. The Bishop then says, "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." (1662 BCP)

So the Church authorizes and the Holy Spirit empowers an individual to undertake the ministry of a priest in response to the Bishop's laying on hands and the Church's prayers. Do Evangelicals not believe this as well? Is the individual who has been prayed for effectually and set apart in this manner not spiritually changed? I would submit that the reason the Communion standard has survived so long and can be legitimately embraced by both evangelicals and Anglo Catholics is because it embraces a difference in emphasis and not in substance.

I am very concerned when you say that "Regular participation in a validly celebrated Eucharist with validly consecrated elements is necessary, Anglo Catholics believe, for the salvation of souls." Most Anglo-Catholics would not want to be perceived as belittling the Eucharist by taking issue with that statement. But, as a theological proposition, it is not strictly true. The thief on the Cross is an obvious biblical exception. The Ethiopian eunuch was obviously saved, though there is no mention of his partaking of the Eucharist. So, to be theologically accurate, no Anglo-Catholic I know would say that partaking of the Eucharist is essential to salvation. But it is an essential part of the Christian life, in that no real Christian would choose to live a life that neglects the Eucharist. After all, our Lord instituted it and commanded that we partake of it. So Anglo-Catholics believe the Eucharist is an essential part of the Christian life and that the ordained elders (presbyters/priests) should preside. Wouldn't most Evangelicals agree with that?

The matter gets complicated further when Carl says and you agree that "The Anglo Catholic understanding of the priesthood is, I believe, in error because it is, as you say, 'a works based gospel.'" Whoa! Hold on! That's a dangerous allegation. But I am certain that that assumption underlies the problem that Sydney Evangelicals think they have with Anglo-Catholics.

The beautiful thing about the Prayer Book is that it sums up a theology that we all confess every time we celebrate the Eucharist. We pray "that by the merits and death of thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in his blood, we and all thy whole Church may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of his passion." Is that not the basis of salvation for all of us?

Evangelicals tend to look at the disciplines that an Anglo-Catholic considers an important part of the Christian life and say, "they think they are earning their salvation." Anglo-Catholics look at an Evangelical and Reformed proclamation of sola fide and say that it is "cheap grace" or that it breeds a lax Christianity. It is, once again, a difference in emphases (and the source of a great misunderstanding). We do not have different Gospels!

Matt, I do not know if you have ever read Archbishop Michael Ramsey's The Gospel and the Catholic Church? A new edition has been released recently. I highly recommend it. As I have said elsewhere, I wish Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics could come to a true understanding of each other's positions, actually discuss their differences, and achieve a rapprochement. The division has continued too long, and our witness is suffering because of it. The Sydney move toward lay presidency is just the latest manifestation.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion Addresses Nicean Club at Lambeth Palace

Address by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations to the Annual Nicean Club Dinner (Lambeth Palace, 9 September 2010

The Metropolitan had much to say about western innovations in faith and order and the threat to Christian unity.

From here, where there is much more:
We are also extremely concerned and disappointed by other processes that are manifesting themselves in churches of the Anglican Communion. Some Protestant and Anglican churches have repudiated basic Christian moral values by giving a public blessing to same-sex unions and ordaining homosexuals as priests and bishops. Many Protestant and Anglican communities refuse to preach Christian moral values in secular society and prefer to adjust to worldly standards.

Our Church must sever its relations with those churches and communities that trample on the principles of Christian ethics and traditional morals. Here we uphold a firm stand based on Holy Scripture.

In 2003, the Russian Orthodox Church had to suspend contact with the Episcopal Church in the USA due to the fact that this Church consecrated a self-acclaimed homosexual, Jim Robertson, as bishop. The Department for External Church Relations made a special statement deploring this fact as anti-Christian and blasphemous. Moreover, the Holy Synod of our Church decided to suspend the work of the Joint Coordinating Committee for Cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Episcopal Church in the USA, which had worked very successfully for many years. The situation was aggravated when a woman bishop was installed as head of the Episcopal Church in the USA in 2006 and a lesbian was placed on the bishop’s chair of Los Angeles in 2010.

Similar reasons were behind the rupture of our relations with the Church of Sweden in 2005 when this Church made a decision to bless same-sex “marriages”. And recently the lesbian Eva Brunne has become the “bishop” of Stockholm.

What can these churches say to their faithful and to secular society? What kind of light do they shine upon the world (cf. Mt. 5:14)? What is their ‘salt’? I am afraid the words of Christ can be applied to them: If the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men (Mt. 5:13).

Read it all.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What to do on 9/11: Instead of burning the Koran, tell the world about Muslim persecution of Christians

H/T = Virtue Online

From here:
The news has been full of groups of idiotic evangelical Protestant groups who want to commemorate the anniversary of the mass murder of 9/11 by burning copies of the Koran. This is a really dumb idea. First of all, burning the Koran will ignite fury in parts of the Muslim world and will lead to Americans being targeted for murder. Also, Christians living in Muslim countries will be endangered by the actions of this fringe of American Christians.

Secondly, burning the Koran will only fuel the propaganda that Islam is a victimised, endangered religion - a faith that struck out at America on September 11 in self-defence. If you want to create fertile ground for more radical Islamists, more suicide bombers and more terrorism, this is a good way to do it.


Christians and Muslims need to talk. And the first item on the agenda ought to be the treatment of Christians in majority Muslim nations. As a Christian, I cannot believe that Christ would approve of deliberately insulting and angering others to the point of violence. But He would approve of Christians standing up for the basic human rights of their oppressed brothers and sisters.

Read it all.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

A further word on Lay Presidency


In 2008, after I made the comment on Stand Firm that I reprinted in my previous post, "What should We Think of Lay Presidency?" Prof. Stephen Noll (a long time friend and former colleague) called my attention to the book, The Lord’s Supper in Human Hands: Who Should Administer?, authored by Peter G. Bolt and Mark D. Thompson (who teach at Moore College, Sydney) and Robert Tong (an attorney and Chancellor for the Diocese of Sydney), together with contributions from Sydney Regional Bishop Glenn Davies and the Rev. Dr. John W. Woodhouse (the Principal of Moore College).

Regarding this book, Prof. Noll made this comment:
I am working on a review of this book, but I do want here to note that it seems to put forth different and possibly contradictory arguments for the new practice. The first argument, forwarded primarily by Dr. Woodhouse, is that it is an evangelical mandate. He writes: “We cannot be content with practices which obscure or distort the gospel” (p. 7), and he then lists 5 distortions:

1. That exclusive clergy presidency suggests a “power” which a lay person cannot have;
2. That higher qualifications are required for presiding than preaching (the comparison with lay preaching is a recurrent theme);
3. That the validity of the sacrament depends on the person presiding;
4. That ordination has more to do with the Sacrament than preaching (see #2);
5. That a priest is essential to the Lord’s Supper and no other practice.

This then leads him to identify the traditional practice with the BCP’s warning against “things that at first were of godly intent and purpose devised, and yet at length turned to vanity and superstition.”

So the argument would seem to go like this:
• Evangelical Christians must uphold the gospel.
• There is no basis in Scripture for priest-only administration of Communion
• There are historical developments in the idea of priestly power that raise the Sacrament over the Word.
• Therefore it is a gospel mandate to change the practice.

The itemization of the points led me to offer this response:

1. That exclusive clergy presidency suggests a “power” which a lay person cannot have;

No, clergy presidency suggests a function to which a lay person is not called.

2. That higher qualifications are required for presiding than preaching (the comparison with lay preaching is a recurrent theme);

In Acts, Stephen and Phillip (both deacons) were obviously preachers; and Phillip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch—whether it was a case of necessity, or whether deacons routinely baptized, we are not told. However, there is no scriptural evidence for diaconal or lay presidency at the Lord’s Supper. And the early Fathers, who were in the best position to observe how the Scriptures were applied in the matter of eucharistic presidency, always considered it reserved to the presbyterate.

3. That the validity of the sacrament depends on the person presiding;

The validity of the sacrament depends on the authority of the person presiding, which is made clear in the Preface to the 1662 Ordinal:
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.

4. That ordination has more to do with the Sacrament than preaching (see #2);

Our Anglican forebears were almost equally restrictive regarding preaching as they were the sacraments. Only clergy were to preach. It was to be done primarily by presbyters and only secondarily by deacons who had been licensed by the bishop. The fact that laypeople may be articulate teachers and speakers on many occasions and at many types of Christian gatherings does not mean that they should assume the function of the preacher in congregational worship. If someone shows that kind of calling to the task of preaching, the Church should ordain him. But (speaking hypothetically), if ordination did have more to do with the sacrament than with preaching, so what? It would be a matter of a calling to a function rather than elevation to a position of power.

In Article XXXVI. Of Consecration of Bishops and Ministers, the writers seem to have anticipated the concern that ordination created a special priestly caste:
The Book of Consecration of Bishops, and Ordering of Priests and Deacons… doth contain all things necessary to such Consecration and Ordering; neither hath it any thing that, of itself, is superstitious and ungodly.

In other words, one need not worry that the making of bishops, priests, and deacons is, in and of itself, a cause of superstition or ungodliness—though it often seems to me that members of the Sydney diocese view it as precisely that.

5. That a priest is essential to the Lord’s Supper and no other practice.

A physician is essential to the practice of medicine, and an electrician is essential to wiring a house. Both are pretty much interchangeable with any other human being, other than when they are exercising their respective callings. It is a matter of function. But what if priests (due to their being set apart for a particular function in the church) were more essential to the sacraments than any other function? So what? This seems to spring more from a superstitious aversion to clergy and sacraments than anything that is grounded in Scripture, Anglican tradition, or even sound reason.

What did Sydney do?

From the Church Times, October 24, 2008:
SYDNEY DIOCESAN SYNOD has affirmed that deacons — including women deacons — may preside at holy communion.

In a motion moved by a Sydney regional bishop, Dr Glenn Davies, the synod accepted arguments that there was no legal impediment to deacons’ presiding, given that, under a 1985 General Synod canon, deacons are authorised to assist the priest in the administration of the sacraments.

With respect to the Bishop, to "assist the priest in the administration of the sacraments" is not the same as administering the sacraments. (The Sydney folks use the term "adminster" to mean what Anglicans elsewhere mean when they say that a person "presides" or "celebrates" the Holy Communion or the Eucharist.) This manipulation of language to move the deacon from assisting the priest in the administration of the sacraments into administering them himself (or herself) borders on the disingenuous.

I trust that, if the Bishop ever has to have an operation, he would not want the nurses who usually assist the surgeon in the performance of the operation to perform the procedure on their own. To this the Sydney apologist will counter that I am saying that the presbyter has some education or superior ability to preside at the Eucharist that a deacon or lay person does not have. Yes, the presbyter has training, a depth of spiritual formation, and an authority given in ordination when he is set apart for the ministry of word and sacrament.

The report from the Church Times continues:
Another Sydney regional bishop, the Rt Revd Peter Tasker, supported an attempt to remove general af­firma­tion of lay and diaconal presid­ency from the motion out of concern for a potential adverse GAFCON re­sponse, but the amendment was lost.

Yes, the concern for orthodox unity and the future of the GAFCON movement is very real.
The motion was seconded by the Archdeacon for Women’s Ministry, the Ven. Narelle Jarrett, who wel­comed the opportunity the motion gave for women deacons to preside at services for women and children, as, for example, in “a girls’ school or a women’s prison”.

The idea of women clergy celebrating exclusively female Eucharists is a familiar one to Anglicans in the UK and North America. Trust me, Sydney, you don't want to go there. There is an iconography to the Lord's Supper, no matter how bare a sign a low churchman wants to make it. Eucharistic presidency is making a statement about the nature of God, whether you want to believe it or not. In this regard, I recommend William Oddie's book, What Will Happen to God?: Feminism and the Reconstruction of Christian Belief.

The Church Times continues:
The Dean of Sydney, the Very Revd Phillip Jensen, argued that allowing deacons to preside would turn the diaconate into “a real diaconate”. “We don’t want to specialise the presbyters in administering the Lord’s Supper . . . but we want them to specialise in their incumbency.”

While I would like to be respectful, honesty compels me to say that that statement (if reported accurately) is vacuous beyond belief. It is sloganeering and not theology. To say that presiding would turn the diaconate into "a real diaconate" presupposes that you know what "a real diaconate" looks like. And the only basis for a Christian knowing what the diaconate looks like is Scripture and Church history, neither of which offers a single example of a deacon ever presiding at the Eucharist.

The motion was passed un­amended, and, the Sydney diocesan website reported, “overwhelmingly”. It read:

Synod —

(a) accepts the report concerning legal barriers to lay and diaconal administration of the Lord’s Supper which was submitted to the 3rd session of the 47th Synod, and

(b) affirms again its conviction that lay and diaconal administration of the Lord’s Supper is consistent with the teaching of Scripture, and

(c) affirms that the Lord’s Supper in this diocese may be administered by persons other than presbyters, and requests the Diocesan Secretary to send a copy of The Lord’s Supper in Human Hands to all bishops who attended the GAFCON.

Now take that second point: "that lay and diaconal administration of the Lord’s Supper is consistent with the teaching of Scripture..."

How is it that Sydney can make such a bold declaration that this is the case and that Sydney apologists can claim that lay presidency is a "gospel imperative" when our Anglican forebears were so clear? Go back and read the words from the Ordinal again: "It is evident unto all men diligently reading holy Scripture and ancient Authors..."

The matter is due to come before the Diocese of Sydney convention again next month. As I wrote two years ago, I agree that we need to dialogue very earnestly with our brothers and sisters in Sydney about this. And I pray that they do not do something unilaterally that jeopardizes the unity of orthodox Anglicanism, when this unity has never been more important.

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…