November 2005 Archives

What to say?

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I'm not really sure what I want to write right here, right now. Over the past three years, plus some, I've been watching, reading, and listening to all sides in this great big debate within world Anglicanism over the right place of people who are homosexuals, over how we are to live as a society or as Christians within society, or how we are to engage one another as we attempt to discern God’s will.

I have been swayed by those who argue that our Church should not have proceeded in consecrating the current Bishop of New Hampshire due to notions of "catholicity," even though I do not thank Scripture forbids all same-gender relationships. I have made a decided attempt to understand "Catholic" piety as I serve in a non-reactionary and non-fussy Anglo-Catholic parish, and as I have learned and experienced I think there is certainly a legitimate argument that what we did we did prematurely. Yes, all changes in doctrine and practice begin somewhere - generally to violent opposition. Yes, there must be someone or some thing that pushes for the change. Yes, we only know in hindsight what is truly a move of God or what is truly contrary to God's will and our own benefit. As Arthur Schopenhauer states, "All truth passes through 3 stages: First, it is ridiculed; Second, it is violently opposed; Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

The question is why! Why change? Why take the first step? Why fight? So much of what happens in the United States happens not because of thoughtful consideration and common, deliberate movement towards anything, but because of notions of individual "rights," because of the anti-establishmentarianism of 1960's Baby-Boomers who think change in-and-of-itself is intrinsically good and needs no justification, or because of the determination for the supplanting of Tradition by trendy and untried theories and all currently held norms of practice and belief. “I have a right to demand, agitate for, and cause change no matter how destructive to individuals or communities because I have the right to express my own want and no one can deny me that right,” so say many. When I take upon myself the mantel of Jesus (as if that were truly possible), when I make a decision to follow the Way of Christ, these late 20th century notions of "rights" go out the window. Everything ceases to be “all about me!” There is no longer just “me and Jesus.”

Okay, so, listening and reading to all sides, I have come to the conclusion that Americans in general (and those they influence around the world) do not want to engage in the very difficult, time consuming, and challenging job of really thinking through proposed changes and the results of such change. We want to live in ignorance as long as it makes us feel good and comfortable and superior to someone else. "God said it, I believe it, and that's good enough for me," is the mantra. Scripture is what God said, right? Yes, but too many of us do not want to do the hard work of study, too many of us do not want our comfortable notions challenged, and too many of us would rather live in a lie than have our world turned upside down by the Truth.

The ability to rationally and civilly interact with one another in our differences - to even be challenged by and learn from those who thinking differently - is being quickly lost. Politics, diplomacy, religion, theology, social theory - we have all become ideologues and fundamentalists, no matter what position we take. Death to anyone one who disagrees with me! Banishment for anyone who acts differently than I do! Damnation for anyone who does not believe my way, my particular and narrow understanding of God, God's requirements, and God's book!

Civility has gone by the wayside. It is a zero sum game. All or nothing is the only option. It is all too, too sad. Lord have mercy. Lord help us.

There is little chance right here, right now, that our Communion will decide to be civil and determined to work through out disagreements. Schism is the order of the day. Draconian obedience is the demanded from all quarters. Why should our Church act in such ways (which has been its history) when our culture encourages just the opposite?

I wonder, considering my last post, whether we would all rather not grow up and be adults! By our actions, we seem to be acting like children.

Adulthood

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In college student development circles, the term "PAPA" (Post Adolescent/Pre-Adult) is applied to those students who seem to postpone adulthood for whatever reason. Chronological age is not the determining criterion that designates these students from their cohort-group, but rather their unwillingness to take responsibility for their own lives and decisions. The sad thing is that some students do not know HOW to make decisions or HOW to be responsible like an adult - they have not been taught in the home or schools. This is a different kind of person than those who simply refuse responsibility. The following news blurb from Netscape presents some interesting ideas and findings.

From Netscape News:

Only 31% of Men Achieve This By Age 30

The true measure of adulthood is not 18 or 21. The true measure of adulthood is reaching these benchmarks: leaving home, finishing school, getting married, having a child, and being financially independent. By that standard only 31 percent of men and 46 percent of women have reached adulthood by age 30, reports The Washington Post of a study from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1960, fully 65 percent of men and 77 percent of women had achieved these accomplishments by age 30.

Why the incredible delay for young people today? One simple reason. (And it's not because the kids are slackers or their parents coddle them far too long.) "The primary reason for a prolonged early adulthood is that it now takes much longer to secure a full-time job that pays enough to support a family," lead researcher Frank J. Furstenberg Jr. writes in Contexts, a journal of the American Sociological Association. Baby boomers and their parents had much greater access to well-paying jobs with good benefits than do today's twentysomethings. In addition, the oldsters enjoyed more government assistance for higher education and affordable housing.

How then does this affect the Church and the Church's desire to incorporate younger people into the life and decision making processes of the Church, whether in the local parish or higher levels within the denomination?

Community

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From the today's Bruderhof Community's Daily Dig -

Excerpted from The Violence of Love, available FREE in e-book format.

The mission entrusted to the church community is a hard mission:...

A community is a group of men and women who have found the truth in Christ and in his gospel, and who follow the truth and join together to follow it more strongly. It is not just an individual conversion, but a community conversion. It is a family that believes, a group that accepts God. In the group, each one finds that the brother or sister is a source of strength and that in moments of weakness they help one another and, by loving one another and believing, they give light and example.

In such a group the preacher no longer needs to preach, for there are Christians who preach by their own lives. I said once and I repeat today that if, unhappily, some day they silence our radio and don’t let us write our newspaper, each of you who believe must become a microphone, a radio station, a loudspeaker, not to talk, but to call for faith.

Disagreements

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It seems in fact that the history of disagreements, of seperating, of going one's own way, of schism (sort of), of a common faith that was not all together consistent and unified, and of difference has been apparent for a very long time - from the beginning. The Church has never been "one" by any visible or discernable way, but we are only "one" by way of what Jesus did and continues to do and our intentional following of the Way of Christ.

Acts 15:36-41

Disagreement Between Paul and Barnabas

"Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing." Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches."

Diocese of Ohio

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Four churches in the Diocese of Ohio, my home diocese, intend on leaving the Episcopal Church. Bishop Hollingsworth issued a press release, and it follows. I am thankful that there is a willingness on all sides to work this out amicably.


November 9, 2005

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

This afternoon I have released to the press the following joint statement with the rectors of the congregations involved:

"Four congregations in Northeast Ohio have voted to disaffiliate with the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) and the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio. They are St. Luke's, Akron; Church of the Holy Spirit, Akron; St. Anne's in the Fields, Madison; and St. Barnabas, Bay Village.

"The four parishes held congregational meetings Sunday, November 6, 2005 to ratify the unanimous decisions of their vestries (elected church boards) to affiliate with the Diocese of Bolivia in the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. Their decision results from a
theological dispute with the Episcopal Church over divergent understandings of the authority of Scripture and traditional Christian teaching.

"The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Jr., Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio, was informed of these decisions at a meeting with the clergy leaders of the four parishes the following day. Together they discussed seeking a constructive way forward that will be
supportive of all involved. The bishop and the four parish rectors are committed to negotiating a mutually beneficial resolution and have agreed to continue working together toward that
end.

"The rectors of the four congregations are as follows:
The Rev. Roger Ames, Rector, St. Lukes', Akron
The Rev. Kelly Irish, Rector, St. Anne's in the Fields, Madison
The Rev. Scott Souders, Rector, Church of the Holy Spirit, Akron,
The Rev. Dr. James Tasker, Rector, St. Barnabas, Bay Village"

I have informed both the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Ohio and the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church about the actions of these parishes, and I wanted you to hear
of it directly from me. As well, I want to assure you that I am committed to working collaboratively with these congregations toward a faithful and just resolution.

The clergy of these congregations have agreed with me to say nothing more publicly about this situation, and I ask that you support our efforts by doing the same.

We are given in this an opportunity to move forward in a way that is worthy of our common vocation as Christians. Know that appreciate your prayers, just as I keep you in mine.

Gratefully,
The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Jr.
Bishop of Ohio

This paragraph from Jim Willis and SoJo.net, of Sojourners, concerning the proposed budget cuts before the House and the death of the idea of "Compassionate Conservatism:"


The House is scheduled to begin debate tomorrow on its budget bill, which includes $54 billion in cuts. On the table are cuts of $9.5 billion in Medicaid - by requiring co-pays for pregnant women and children for the first time; $8 billion in foster care, child support enforcement, and aid to the disabled; and $844 million in the Food Stamps Program, which would prevent 300,000 people from receiving food stamps. Forty thousand children would be cut from reduced-price school lunches. Lawmakers intend to follow these with a further cut of $70 billion in taxes that will primarily benefit the top 3% of taxpayers. The message from Congress is that in response to Hurricane Katrina, we're going to cut services for the poor, cut taxes for the rich, and increase deficits for our children and grandchildren.

Moderation in all Things

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I grew up in the Foursquare Gospel Church for most of my developmental years, after a short and irregular stint in the United Methodist Church. I am glad I grew up in this tradition, although there were the same problems inherent in all organizations.

One of the tenets of the Foursquare Church is "Moderation in all things." I never really thought much about this growing up - frankly, I never even knew there was such a thing as a list of tenets for the church. In my adult years, however, thinking about this very simply statement of intent and believe causes me to pause as I look at what our country and government have become.

None of the vises and proclivities we recognize and find ourselves in this country is new. They are the same things humans have fought and wrestled with from the beginning, yet some of these things without question work counter to good societies, good environments for children, and for peaceable and fruitful living as individuals, families, and communities.

I was thinking this week about greed. We know that our economic system, Capitalism, is based on a form of greed. Greed run amok is counter, however, to a civil and altruistic society. We can see that even in this country the line between barbarism and civil society is thin and becoming thinner. Greed - for money, for fame, for advancement, for attention, for love, for sex, for altered states/drugs, for crass selfishness - greed is destroying society, culture, and communities, aside from the most profound destruction that takes place in the human spirit.

I do not see anything inherently wrong in the above, except perhaps for self-centered selfishness, but when we become greedy for any of them we stray into excess even to the point were we destroy ourselves, our families, and our communities to fulfill our greedy desire and want.

By practicing the disciple of "Moderation in all things," we can avoid the illicit and alluring call of greed.

A quote from the Bruderhof Community in today's e-mail. This is what I need to hear, because this is where I am!

Plunge In
Martin Luther

"Discipleship is not limited to what you can understand – it must transcend all comprehension. Plunge into the deep waters beyond your own understanding, and I will help you to comprehend.

Bewilderment is the true comprehension. Not to know where you are going is the true knowledge. In this way Abraham went forth from his father, not knowing where he was going. That is the way of the cross. You cannot find it in yourself, so you must let me lead you as though you were a blind man.

Not the work which you choose, not the suffering you devise, but the road which is contrary to all that you choose or contrive or desire – that is the road you must take. It is to this path that I call you, and in this sense that you must be my disciple.

Source: Martin Luther (1483-1546), quoted in Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "The Cost of Discipleship."

This is The Christian Paradox

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My good friend Amy Quillen sent this to a number of people - me being one of them. How about that...

Click below to read the whole article. It is long, but worth of reading. Here is just a paragraph:


I confess, even as I write these words, to a feeling close to embarrassment. Because in public we tend not to talk about such things - my theory of what Jesus mostly meant seems like it should be left in church, or confined to some religious publication. But remember the overwhelming connection between America and Christianity; what Jesus meant is the most deeply potent political, cultural, social question. To ignore it, or leave it to the bullies and the salesmen of the televangelist sects, means to walk away from a central battle over American identity. At the moment, the idea of Jesus has been hijacked by people with a series of causes that do not reflect his teachings. The Bible is a long book, and even the Gospels have plenty in them, some of it seemingly contradictory and hard to puzzle out. But love your neighbor as yourself - not do unto others as you would have them do unto you, but love your neighbor as yourself - will suffice as a gloss. There is no disputing the centrality of this message, nor is there any disputing how easy it is to ignore that message. Because it is so counterintuitive, Christians have had to keep repeating it to themselves right from the start. Consider Paul, for instance, instructing the church at Galatea: "For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment," he wrote. "You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"

Oldest Holy Land Church?

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The mosaic flooring of what could be the oldest church in the Holy Land was recently found by prison inmates preparing a site for an expansion of the prison. It is believed, yet to be proven, that the church may be from the second century, and have existed before Constantine legalized the religion of the Christians throughout the Empire in the early 300's.

Read the story: http://cnn.netscape.cnn.com...

Foundations

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Once again: A primary problem Americans have, whether deciding issues of theology, sociology, politics - whatever, is our propensity to view the world, and all things of/in the world, through the very narrow lens of our American culture. All cultures and nationalities are prone to this mistake, but we are overwhelmed by it. This is not simply an issue of believing we are the best, but about an inability to perceive that we do in fact look through a "colored" lens - many of us cannot even comprehend that there is such a thing as a culturally "colored" lens.

This has a devastating effect on the American Christian Church, and individual Christians in this country.

We must understand that we have to put aside, as best we can, our culture peculiarities in order to get to the heart of what God intends to teach through Scripture. If we do not, we are letting cultural bias interfere with our knowledge of God and God’s ways. If we refuse to even consider our propensity for cultural myopia, we are guilty of cultural pride and arrogance. Maybe some of us do understand and determine that our particular lens is in fact God's lens!

If we are to know timeless truths, we must comprehend Scriptural teaching from the perspective of the original writers. Only then can we get to the heart of what is required of us and promised to us – rightly dividing the Word.

Loss of Members

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Brad Drell (Drell's Descants) responded to numerous posts on the Episcopal House of Bishops/House of Deputies Listserv concerning the continuing loss of membership in the Episocpal Church with the following timely, true, and hard hitting post. I have his permission to re-post it here:

Church Growth - A Post To The HOBD Listserv

[HoB/D] TEC Continues To Hemorrhage-

I am going to play a little game with all of you here on the HOBD listserv. It is called the truth. I am going to absolutely tell the truth, as I see it in this post - no holding back. It is rather ugly, and I apologize in advance. But, reading this stuff about decline in our church, I’ve basically decided that my church seems to be ignoring some obvious problems.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this whole church growth issue in terms of who is growing and who is not. The Catholic and Mormon churches are really growing. I think it is because they are birthing more members of their churches. Episcopalians I think have plenty of children, although probably less than most. The big difference seems to be that a lot of Episcopalian parents didn’t and don’t MAKE their children come to church. Children shouldn’t have a choice in the matter. I never did. Many of my friends did, however. I’m still in the church; they aren’t. Not a big surprise. Since we’ve skipped a generation of making children come to church, what are we going to do about it? Well, we might have to do some serious work to bring them and their children back.

There is a tremendous disconnect in our church. Much of it is the egotism of the baby-boomers. Yes, egotism on the part of a generation that was given everything by the great generation. It is driving Generation-X off. We have a tremendous gap in clergy, because people of my generation weren’t encouraged to go into the priesthood, but told to go get some “life experience” by the baby boomers. The baby boomers have produced a huge number of second-career priests. It was what I was told when I was looking at the priesthood before college. I think it is fine to have more women in seminary now than ever before. But, look at the ages of your average seminarian. I realize a number of the baby boomer generation ladies weren’t allowed to go to seminary when they were younger, granted, but where are the younger folks? **********’s Diocese of ************** is apparently doing something about this. Anyone else? No one said anything about what ********* has had to say about growth. He’s right on target.

From Today's Daily Dig

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From today's Daily Dig, from the Bruderhouf Communities:


Wisdom of a Sadhu

Sundar Singh (1889-1929)

Both water and oil come from the earth. And though they are similar in many ways, they are opposites in their nature and their purpose. One extinguishes fire, the other gives fuel to the fire. Similarly, the world and its treasures are creations of God along with the soul and its thirst for spiritual truth. But if we try to quench the thirst of our soul with the wealth and pride and honors of this world, then it is like trying to extinguish fire with oil. The soul will only find peace and contentment in the One who created it along with its longing. When we turn to the living Master, we receive water that satisfies our soul. This water is a well of spiritual life that springs up deep within us.

Source: "Wisdom of the Sadhu: Teachings of Sundar Singh" (Plough, 2000)

New Form for Community

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The more things change, the more they remain the same.

There is a group of us, former students at General Theological Seminary (GTS) that are in discussion about a new form of Christian community that allows us to work together for an authentic Christian life. Interestingly, Christian Century magazine recently published an article on "The New Monastics: Alternative Christian Communities" being expressed by many young people in the U.S. Taize may be another example of this, although the Taize Community has been around for some time, relatively speaking. We can also see similar examples in intentional Christian communities like Jesus People USA near Chicago, or the Sojourners Community near Washington D.C. Likewise, we see similar desires expressed in the Bruderhof Communities. This desire within us for intentional Christian community is nothing new, today or in centuries past.

Yet, here we are with our desire to experience more than what we have thus far. What do we do with this desire? My living situation at GTS expressed some form of this desire and its possible reality. I lived with two to three other guys in an experimental "co-op" living arrangement in a very large apartment at GTS. Basically, the administration put people together who did not know each other beforehand and who wanted to be in such a living arrangement. So, different groups of us - four at most - lived intentionally in community for three years. Three of us stayed together for two years. Two of us, Nick and I, remained in the apartment for all three years, with two new guys our last year. Honestly, we were basically roommates, but all of us were at GTS for the same purpose of being formed for the priesthood, so we shared unique things that normal roommates may not. It was good. I miss it, even though what those of us in this conversation are thinking suggests a much higher level of commitment and community.

So much of our culture is so antithetical to what I sense, as do others, to be a more highly authentic Christian life which incorporates simple living, prayer & worship, fellowship, accountability, challenge & support, ministry and service. I suspect this might at one time have been rightfully called "community." All around us, our culture encourages crass materialism as a standard form for life, hyper-activity, hyper-individualism, gratuitous violence, inconsequential sex, uncritical trendiness & superficiality, irresponsibility, and the culture does not encourage deep and critical thinking. I'm not fearful of any of these things - there are positive aspects held within each, but our culture is taking them all to the extreme. They get in the way of a peaceable life, a life centered on the Christian disciplines surrounding the being and doing of "loving mercy, doing justly, and walking humbly with God."

The local church, the parish, might seem to be the place where this desire can be worked out. Perhaps. Yet, as my friend John states in his rendition of these thoughts, the local parish church is where the world meets the Gospel. As such, the parish church is generally very broad as it tries to accommodate such a wide spectrum of belief, desire, and spiritual maturity. The parish church introduces people to the Gospel and starts them down the path of Christian formation. What is the next step for those wanting more - a deeper sense of community, a deeper devotion to God, and more intense and intentional experience of the authentic Christian life? Generally, this next step is very difficult to accomplish and experience in a local parish church.

Monastic communities have traditionally been where those wishing for such an intense experience have gone. What if some are not given the gift of celibacy or feel called to a solitary life? I envision a very similar kind of experience, but where there may be single people, families, men and women, young and old, people who work full-time, people with vocations of prayer like a traditional monastic, and people who may just be passing through for a time.

There are examples of such living out there, I know. I am curious what those of us in this conversation will come up with.

I have said to a few that since this particular Church does not put its money where its mouth is concerning campus ministry, that we begin a society or monastic-like community that dedicates itself to ministry to college students and the secular university. We pool our resources, we raise funds, we pioneer new works, and provide for those called to such a ministry - we live intentionally in community for the furtherance of the ministry, and to provide a place for training and discernment for those considering campus ministry as their vocation. We provide a place where those in direct ministry and those in supportive roles can be together.

I don't know how this might work.

What I do know is that I want to live in community. I need the support, encouragement, wisdom, and challenge of other like-minded fellow sojourners as we strive to be conformed to the image of Christ and be with Him in all things.

Nothing New

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This is nothing new, but the reality of what I do not know is astounding.

Heretic

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Throughout my life, I have been accused of being woefully misguided as a so-called Christian at best or a heretic and not even a Christian at worst. I have learned to not have my faith and relationship with God determined by what others may think of me or my beliefs as a believer in Jesus Christ. I've developed a tough skin, which is a bit remarkable for someone who for many years experienced a whole lot of personal insecurity.

Why, a heretic?

As a youngster growing up in the Foursquare Church, and then during my campus ministry days in the Assemblies of God, I was accused of not being a Christian or a heretic because I was a Pentecostal and believed in the continuing work of the Holy Spirit through the supernatural Gifts in our day. Scripture is absolutely clear, they claimed, that the supernatural Gifts of the Holy Spirit ended with the establishment of the Canon of Scripture, or with the death of the Apostles, or sometime during the first century (whichever version the person claimed to believe). I still don't believe that. So, perhaps I am a heretic or not even a Christian because I believe in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. I will to let God be the judge.

Generally, if one grows up within Pentecostalism, one's heritage comprises Fr. John Wesley's Evangelical-Arminianism, which was passed through the Holiness Movement. So, because I am an Arminian rather than a good Calvinist, that is another proof positive that I am horribly misguided at best or a heretic and not even a Christian at worst. After all, we all know that only through Calvin and Reformation Theology do we find the fullness and truth of God's will expressed. To believe otherwise is to deny the authority of Scripture.

So now, today, because I do not believe that the traditional interpretations of Scripture applied to the homosexual condition to be correct, I am horribly misguided at best and a reprobate heretic at worst.

For me, it is not about Scriptural authority. Of course Scripture is my authority. I just think the theological, exegetical, and hermeneutical arguments against the traditional anti-homosexual interpretations are better, more thorough, and more accurate than the Prohibitionists' views. Prohibitionists want to force the belief that if anyone disagrees with their particular interpretation of Scripture, then those people deny the authority of Scripture. This is a false premise, but if a lie is repeated often enough...

I've been called a heretic because I was a Pentecostal (and still am in many ways). I did not let their accusations dissuade me from my relationship with God. I've been called a heretic because I am an Arminian. I have not let those accusations hinder my relationship with God. I am now referred to as a heretic because I do not completely support the inappropriateness of any form of same-gender relationships.

I am not going to let this latest accusation interfere with my relationship with God, my desire for God's will to be done in my life, and my honest desire that all people be reconciled to God.

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from November 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

October 2005 is the previous archive.

December 2005 is the next archive.

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