March 2005 Archives

Very Frustrated!

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I am having a very difficult time right now. I need to vent. I have heard too many reports recently, and I have experienced too many incidents in classes, to believe this church has much of a future.

As much as I oppose the fundamentalists (be they conservative or liberal), they rule the day. Anglican comprehensiveness is practically gone.

Where are the people who still believe in the Via Media? Where are people who still believe in the Elizabethan Settlement? Where are the people who still believe in the Oxford Movement? Where are the people who still believe in the three-legged stool? Where are the people who still believe in the Nicene Creed? Where are the people who can still claim Christ without embarrassment? Where are the people who know that church growth means the hard work of prayer and hitting the pavement in evangelism? Where are the people who do not have defeatist attitudes and expectations of decline? Where are the people who believe that keeping the doors open means filling the pews with people who believe that this church has something worthwhile to believe in and experience rather than scheming and devising and attempting to change the church into a social services organization, psych-services, or community rental hall? Where are the people who believe that Jesus changes lives, and while psychotherapy, community counseling, and drugs certainly help, coming to Jesus is the first and most powerful means of new life? Where are the people who can stand and say that nationalism is not Christianity? Where are the people who can accept ambiguity and realize that we humans simply do not have the capacity to explain or understand everything about God? Where are the people who experience the mystery of God? Where are the people who experience the power of God? Where are the people who place the Gospel before their own prejudice, bigotry, and individualistic wants? Where are the people who realize that my own, their own, beliefs or inability for believe do not make Truth?

I am so frustrated. People in this church attempt to strategize their way out of decline, yet they do not realize that it is Jesus that causes the increase, not our beautiful plans. Yes, good programs and plans and vision are all important, but without the central figure of Jesus, Jesus, yes, there is that word, that name - Jesus - all those plans and programs and visions are nothing. Hear that - nothing. The social-gospel church has for more than thirty years attempted to remake central tenants and of Christianity, and all it has gotten them is absolutely decline and the very people they so wanted to help are not being helped because the money and the people have run out.

Taking care of the poor, the oppressed, the down trodden is a core element of the Christian faith and message, but without Jesus - there is that very embarrassing name again - there is nothing more that a social service organization. If we want to be social-workers, then be a social-worker. If we want to be a counselor, then be a counselor. If we want to be psychotherapists, than be a psychotherapist. All these things are good and important, but they are not the Church and the Church is not to be them! If the Church tries to be all those things, it is an affront to those professions and an affront to the mission of the Church of Jesus Christ.

Why?

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I do not know why we as a nation cannot learn that as a culture and as a nation that how we act elicits reactions. Perhaps it is just a minority that happens to be in power?

The ideals that cause so many people of the world to look to the United States for hope, for justice, for peace, for so many things, are being perverted, abused, squandered, and jettisoned for reasons of revenge and vindictive punishment. We are saying that we will force the world to accommodate us and abide by our desire. We seem to be bent on empire by force. This is nothing new, I know. Yet, there is a difference with this administration.

Some may claim that they and we as a nation will do anything to protect the United States and the American people. Why are our innocent civilians any more important or valuable than are innocent civilians in any other country – especially if we consider how God views us all? If what we do only causes more potential danger and more hatred among the world’s population for the United States, how are our actions and attitudes going to accomplish this goal of safety? Our actions work counter to our goals.

If our foreign and domestic policies continue on their current course, we may have short-term safety (even if only in our imaginations), but we will not have long-term peace or safety.

I cannot say they donÂ’t understand, because these are intelligent people. Yet, it seems they simply cannot see; they do not seem to understand. The crime, in my opinion, is that many of these same people claim Christ as their example - they attitudes, ideas, and actions are so contrary to the example and call of Christ that it is mind-boggling. The nation of the United States has become their idol.

The Disappearance

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"As we don't know what we are living, we don't know what we are losing."

Genevieve Jurgensen The Disappearance: A Primer of Loss

The implications of this little statement: Consider how far we fall away from our ability and potential as we insist on continuing in the "way of the world" rather than living fully into the Kingdom of God.

We do not know how to live the life God calls us to, therefore we completely miss the life offered to us by God through Jesus Christ. We do not even realize what we are missing - we do not know what we are losing every moment of every day.

From the House of Bishops/House of Deputies Listserv:

A priest wrote a post presenting a portion of writing from Dr. John R. W. Stott (see below) on substitutionary atonement (which brings worth much consternation here at General). A second person commented on "substitutionary atonement" and the way we do theology. Here is his comment:


"> A substitutionary sacrifice ... we are obliged to conclude ...

When we apply logic to metaphor, parable, poetry, image or symbol, we oblige ourselves to conclude strangely. That God first loved us is not logical. It is counter-intuitive, counter-deductive and counter-cultural. My gut, my head and my world each "conclude" in their own way that substitutionary sacrifice makes more sense than the no-strings, upside-down Good News of God.

Substitutionary sacrifice, however, is neither Catholic nor catholic
tradition. It was enshrined in popular piety by a tradition of preachers, long before Mel Gibson, who discovered how easy it was to preach and to use in a manipulative way.

We do well to observe the traditional distinction between positive and speculative theology. The former seeks to discover creedal kernels of the church catholic, e.g., Trinity, Incarnation, Atonement, Resurrection, Real Presence. The latter has to do with past and continuing attempts to gain some insight into those beliefs in our necessarily limited way. To canonize one or another way of understanding those beliefs is to conclude strangely.

"For us and for our salvation" I truly believe. That's positive theology.Substitutionary sacrifice? That's speculative theology... far from anything all are obliged to conclude... There's a huge difference. Destructive divisions occur when people don't get that.

Bill Lewellis, Communication Minister/Editor, Diocese of Bethlehem

Click below for the text of the origional post.

It is Easter

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Alleluia. Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Happy Easter!

The following is a portion of the Provincial Eastertide Statement by The Most Revd Gregory Venables, Primate of the Province of the Southern Cone commenting on the recent Anglican PrimatesÂ’ meeting in Ireland.


"You may also know that I continue to chair the Primates Commission for Theological Education for the Anglican Communion (TEAC). That has proven to be a very important group. The current crisis that assaults the Communion would not have risen if we had adequate theological education."

I find it quite funny, if not sad, to hear Venables make this kind of statement. I do not wish to denigrate the education of the clergy of his province, but the implication of this statement is that Canadian, American, and other Northern Hemisphere provinces are sorely lacking in theological education. In many provinces, priests do not have to undergo any formal theological education.

If only we had adequate theological education Gene Robinson would not be bishop, homosexuals would not be welcome in Anglican churches, and a strict and narrow fundamentalist interpretation of Scripture would be enforced as Anglican dogma. In other words, we would not be Anglican as Anglicanism has historically been understood and practiced, but just another fundamentalist denomination.

What he is talking about, of course, is not education but indoctrination.

Click below for his entire statement -

Whitewash

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We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. There is a difference, however, between recognizing the sin, admitting it, repenting, receiving forgiveness, and moving on, and reveling in the sin!

Frankly, too many of us who claim Christ spend far too much time justifying ourselves and reveling in our own sin rather than seeking God's will and freedom.

This is an affront to the Passion of Jesus, defames the cause of Christ, and is a rejection of the Kingdom of God. Hypocrites! We are all engaged in self-whitewashing. And the people who seek relief and freedom and fulfillment and self-actualization and joy and peace and honesty and integrity all yell HYPOCRITES. No wonder.

What happens when the taste for this world collides with the taste for the Kingdom of God?

The woman caught in adultery was dragged before Jesus by a bunch of self-righteous hypocrites who cared-less about the woman but only wanted to trip-up Jesus so they could, what? - humiliate him, kill him - anything other than caring about the welfare of the woman.

Jesus didn't say to them, "Men, where are your accusers?" He did not say to them, "Go and sin no more!" These were reserved for the woman, used as a pawn in the schemes of these addicted men, her accusers, religious leaders of Israel.

Surely she sinned. According to the Law, she was worthy of punishment and her accusers where justified – according to their understanding and application of the Law. Perhaps she was not without hope. Perhaps she could yet experience transformation and redemption. Perhaps a small taste of this Kingdom of God, which she had just received, would have so engrossed her that the taste for this world became like dung.

Jesus didn't even try with her accusers. Where they not worthy of his attention? Surely they were, just as this woman was worthy. Perhaps their taste for this world was so engrained that they could countenance no other. Perhaps they were so addicted to the drug of what? - power, attention, renown, pride, arrogance, indignation, this world - that they could not even begin to image anything greater, let alone far superior, to that of which they imbibed.

We are all given the privilege and ability to take a taste of this thing called the Kingdom of God. Many do and realize that it is that which they have sought all their lives, and that this taste draws them into a Kingdom of freedom, joy despite circumstances, and the presence of one who will never leave them nor forsake them. Many do not, perhaps because they are just fine with that which at the moment tastes so good (how could anything... anything... be greater), but in the end when the aftertaste comes, is but dung. Perhaps many do not because of their addiction to this world (and religion can also be one of these addictions).

I am so saddened when we see our religious leaders and they have no idea what we are talking about when we say we have tasted something so wonderful. They have no clue. I am so grieved when these men and women attempt to lead God's church and are so in love and addicted to this world. They are ignorant or possibly hypocrites at best, and charlatans at worst.

I learned yesterday of some of the internal goings-on of certain past leaders in a certain diocese of the Episcopal Church. There is no wonder why parts of this Church are dying. The Church of Jesus Christ cannot exist when it is lead by men and women who are so addicted to this world and have no clue of transformation/translation into that far better Kingdom. We all sin, but they revel in it. How can they proclaim the Kingdom of God when they know nothing of it? They cannot. They become religious leaders and accusers. All they can do is feed the addictions by which this world enslaves them. They far prefer the taste of this world at this moment. They are the accusers of the woman caught in adultery. The Kingdom of God is made available to them, because it is the property of God to always have mercy, yet they have never tasted and cannot understand – worse yet, they refuse to.

I hope that I am that woman. I hope that my own sin is revealed and that I can recognize that that sin, that addiction, is so pale and truly tastes so awful when compared to that which Jesus offers. God help me.

Deployment

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I have been having a difficult time these past couple of days. Today isn't so bad - just been working on finding a job. The thought of only a few short weeks left before I am out of seminary and having to support myself once again (aside from all the students loans that will come due), is trying. I'm in debt, have no care or home, nor any prospects for a ministry position. Things are very tight this year, at least for those just leaving seminary.

I have determined by some of my conversations during interviews that I may prefer to enter a parish setting as the deacon-in-charge. A little tougher, I suspect, but I think I could do a decent job in a smaller parish. Ideally, I would like to be in a university setting as a chaplain, but those positions are even fewer.

Yes, all the questions of whether this was a wise move, whether I've got what it takes, whether I can actually do this kind of stuff runs through my mind. I have a lot to offer, I know that. I especially have a lot to offer concerning evangelism (I'm not afraid or embarrassed by the concept or doing the work), the understanding of the Evangelical mindset (I predict many, many Evangelicals will be migrating to somewhere else as the Religious Right continues to politicize American Evangelicalism). I致e come into an understanding of catholic piety (which Anglicanism is well suited for younger generations who seek mystery, the ancient, and an allowance for questioning) and great appreciation for the daily offices. I am experienced with discipleship and Christian formation.

Anyone want to hire me? I know I can trust God, yet I've been a bit blue.

Movie

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Go see Off the Map. It is a wonderful movie directed by Campbell Scott.

Here are a couple posts in blogs of fellow Episcopalians worth reading (I think):

Father Jake Stops the World: A Closer Look at the Attempted Coup

and a response:

Drell's Descants: A Response to Fr. Jake - A Closer Look at The Attempted Coup

We sit back and watch. Those who are determined to "win" will do whatever is necessary to do just that, even if it means the Church is destroyed or looks nothing like a traditional Anglican church - whether the "who" is either conservative or progressive. It is beyond the Gospel, and those of us who care about this Anglican Way and this Church must call these individuals and their organizations back to the Gospel.

Bishop Catherine Waynick of Indianapolis sent a pastoral letter to all within her diocese discussing the Covenant Relationship document produced by the House of Bishops. In part of the letter, she relates portions of what Frank Griswold, the Presiding Bishop, said of his experience at the Primates Meeting last month.

Here is a quote:

"He said that several colleagues came to him and asked quiet and sincere questions about the nature of same sex relationships which revealed to him the profound misunderstandings in other parts of the world. Surprisingly, the most vocal outrage was expressed when they were told that in such partnerships either or both of the men actually cooked meals. This revelation was greeted with genuine horror;
men should not cook!"(emphasis mine)


If this is accurate, and the several bishops expressed horror at the thought of men actually cooking, how in the world can we understand the vast differences between our cultures and the effect of those differences on our understanding of what is and is not godly and of God?

I read this from the Focus-on-the-Family CITIZENLINK e-mail dated March 16, 2005. The two authors, Dr. Allen Carlson of the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society and Paul Mero of the
Sutherland Institute argue that the "first chore is to properly define 'family.'"

Read the description they propose below. The only things that would or could differentiate a straight household from a gay household is that they demand that a family must be defined as a "man and a woman" and procreation. Obviously, a gay "family" must adopt children, but so does a straight "family" comprising an infertile couple. All other aspects described below are absolutely possible whether the family is made up of a straight or gay couple.



"The two are Dr. Allen Carlson of the Howard Center for
Family, Religion and Society and Paul Mero of the
Sutherland Institute. In today's world, they argue, the
first chore is to properly define "family."

"(Family is) the union of a man and a woman through
marriage," Carlson said, "for the purposes of sharing love
and joy, propagating children, providing their moral
education, building a vital home economy, offering
security in times of trouble and binding the generations."

Natural Family Manifesto

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I read this from the Focus-on-the-Family CITIZENLINK e-mail dated March 16, 2005. The two authors, Dr. Allen Carlson of the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society and Paul Mero of the
Sutherland Institute argue that the "first chore is to properly define 'family.'"

Read the description they propose below. The only things that would or could differentiate a straight household from a gay household is that they demand that a family must be defined as a "man and a woman" and procreation. Obviously, a gay "family" must adopt children, but so does a straight "family" comprising an infertile couple. All other aspects described below are absolutely possible whether the family is made up of a straight or gay couple.



"The two are Dr. Allen Carlson of the Howard Center for
Family, Religion and Society and Paul Mero of the
Sutherland Institute. In today's world, they argue, the
first chore is to properly define "family."

"(Family is) the union of a man and a woman through
marriage," Carlson said, "for the purposes of sharing love
and joy, propagating children, providing their moral
education, building a vital home economy, offering
security in times of trouble and binding the generations."

Covenant Statement

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The House of Bishops has issued a "Covenant Statement" after their recent meeting.

I think it is a good statement and good movement forward for the U.S. Church. The suspension of all approval of elections and subsequent consecrations of new bishops until the next General Convention in 2006 in Columbus, Ohio is a strong statement that the Church will honor the Windsor Report by not consecrating new bishops who are openly gay and with partner and also respecting gay and lesbian people by agreeing to not consecrate any new bishops.

I am glad to see, also, that the bishops reaffirmed their dedication to and support of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. This is the statement that details the elements Anglicans and the Episcopal Church in the U.S. believe to be necessary for ecumenical relations, including intra-Anglican relations.

It seems that the bishops are taking seriously the need to present to the wider Anglican Communion a strong theological statement, along with biblical justifications, for why the U.S. Church in Convention during 2003 supported the election and subsequent consecration of Bishop Robinson and acknowledged that various diocese and parishes within the U.S. Church are moving forward on blessing same-sex unions. This will be good for all of us!

I have been saying for a while now that the "accommodationist" position is not well stated beyond appeals to emotion and victimization (among many other valid things). Accommodationists need to meet "prohibitionists" on their plain of understanding as much as prohibitionists need to acknowledge and address the justifications and understanding of the accommodationists. We need to talk with each other and strive to understand the position of our "opponents." Anyway, I look forward to the theological statement coming from the House of Bishops.

Get ready

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I am sensing quite strongly a migration that is coming. I just have a sense that there will soon be a large number of American-Evangelicals and Roman Catholics who are fed up with the politicalization of Christianity in this country by the Religious Right who will soon be searching for something else. New churches, and with them new denominations, will arise, I'm sure. Where will these people go?

Considering the demographic trends of young people and what they are looking for in faith/religion/church/spirituality, I am convinced more than ever that Anglicanism is a prime location for them. The liberal-theological bent will not be so attractive, but the sacramental and liturgical aspects, as well as the broadmindedness and openness, of Anglicanism as expressed in the Episcopal Church will be.

We have to be ready, however. I don't think we are any where near being ready. I want to be about getting ready - doing the work to be ready. I agree with many current observers of all things religious that there is a re-alignment of Christianity in this country and globally. I disagree with some who believe it will be between conservatives and liberals. In this country, I believe it will be between those who have politicized the Church and enmeshed faith with politics, both liberals and conservatives, and those who refuse to be co-opted by a political agenda. Again, I can see American-Evangelicals and Roman Catholics leaving their particular denominations and churches due to the demands of their leaders for adherence to not only dogmatic religious statements, but dogmatic political and social beliefs as well.

Rome is calling on all bishops and priests to demand adherence to Roman Catholic dogma by politicians, academics, and ultimately parishioners, or else they will be denied communion, excommunicated, or silenced. The Episcopal Church is already a repository for disaffected Roman Catholics.

Jim Willis and Sojourners is an example of the side of American-Evangelicalism that is fed up with the Religious Right. A reverse migration of Evangelicals back into the liturgical and sacramental Church began over a decade ago, and I believe it will only increase.

The Episcopal Church and Anglicanism are natural homes for these groups. A good portion of American-Evangelicalism can trace itself back to the good Father John Wesley, an Anglican priest even at his death. The Via Media needs to be reasserted over and against the reactionaries on the both the left and right, conservative and liberal, and the words "Evangelical" and "Anglo-Catholic" need to be rescued from the anti-church reactionaries.

We need to be ready!

One Down

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I was supposed to leave today for a second interview with Old St. Paul's in downtown Baltimore. Great church, great location, and I think very competent new-ish rector. I've been told that very few were called for an initial interview, let alone for a second interview. All set, car rented, shirts ironed, bags ready to be packed, and I got a call from the rector yesterday. It seems the search committee decided that they (and he) had found the perfect fit. I will not be going to Baltimore for a second interview. My first rejection on the long path of attempting to secure a ministry position within the Episcopal Church. (Unlike the Roman church, we have too many priests!)

I must say, however, that I had a great interview yesterday. Honestly, I think I would be better suited for the rector I interviewed with yesterday than with the rector of Old St. Paul's - not that I suspected there might be a mismatch between him and me. There is so much potential for that church and the surrounding area. I pray that the new person is a great asset and the church is a good place for the new person. I am a bit disappointed that I will not be able to interview with the committee. You just never know, as interviewers (I know from experience), what may come through the door next.

It was coincidental that I just had a rash of thoughts concerning the kind of place and/or ministry I would really love to be involved with. Old St. Paul's could have met some of what I ideally may want, but possibly not. How can I know right now? I can't, so let me just speculate all over the place.

In the interview yesterday, the rector asked what my ideal ministry situation might look like. Well, I honestly do want to work with young people - college students and the like. Ron, as he was describing what type of ministry each of us exuded around the lunch table a number of weeks ago, referred to me as the “Evangelist.” At the time, that struck me as so strange, but as I think about it and as I interview I do believe he might be right. "Evangelist" would not look quite the same as it does in the Assemblies of God or Chi Alpha, but evangelist nonetheless. I want to be with the people who are outside the church, allow God to use me to draw them, and then be involved in their discipleship.

Students

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Someone said the other day that Ohio had the largest number of college/university campus in the country. I know we have a lot, but not the most. Here is how Ohio lines up with some of the other states:

Number of Campuses:
1. California - 399
2. New York - 312
3. Pennsylvania - 256
4. Texas - 201
5. Ohio - 179
6. Illinois - 175

Number of students:
1. California - 2,380,090 students
2. Texas - 1,076,678
3. New York - 1,056,794
4. Florida - 753,554
5. Illinois - 748,444
6. Pennsylvania - 630,299
7. Michigan - 585,998
8. Ohio - 569,223
(Chronical of Higher Education, 2004-2005 academic year)

There you go.

What? Where? When?

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We are all in the fray. We are all scrambling to find jobs. I have a second interview for a church in Baltimore next week. Frankly, it is a great opportunity and the rector genuinely seems interested.

I have never had to navigate through this job search thing while also considering another person. It is hard to discern how to proceed, where to look, what to take seriously, etc., when I need to be thinking about Ashton's ability to move, be, grow, etc., in the place I may go. How long will I need to be at this place before I know whether it could be a good place to stay, and then whether Ashton will want to or can move there, too?

I just don't know how to do it.

That's Over

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Well, my final interviews before ordination concluded today. I have a psychiatric exam on Sunday, but I really don't foresee any problems there. Some may hope for the opposite reality, but that's okay.

Time to right a sermon for tomorrow.

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