March 2006 Archives

Change

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I should write a book - "The Making of a Current-Day Anglo-Catholic."

One of the many reasons I moved away from the Evangelical/Pentecostal side of the Church and into a more liturgical/sacramental side (into The Episcopal Church) begins with what I foresaw in the later 1980's as the co-opting of Evangelicalism by the American cultural phenomena of hyper-individualism. "It's all about ME!" "Me and Jesus!" While lip-service is given to the communal nature of the Body of Christ, the reality is that the individual, even in the midst of a mega-church crowd, is focused on his/her self and concerned with what s/he "gets out of the service." The consumeristic nature of modern American-Evangelical churches, the willingness to engage in schism, a worship service that is basically entertainment oriented (despite the denial of such an orientation).

This infection of American hyper-individualism in the Church will only lead to further overall ecclesial chaos and separation into ever smaller groups of narrowly focused and like-minded individuals, who will be willing to separate even more once they find yet another point of disagreement.

An essence of the "catholic" nature of the Church, this side of it anyway, is that we are bound to Christians past, present, and future, and that we as individuals and even as congregations or denominations are not isolated, are not self-sufficient, are not separate from the Great Cloud of Witnesses all around us. We, also, are not free to do whatever we want - we bring ourselves into the discipline of submission to continual-community within Tradition. This aspect of the Church universal, its "catholic" nature, is what draws me to Catholicism, particularly the Anglo-Catholic expression of it.

I am not on a path leading to the Church of Rome. I do not believe that in the Vatican is the final authority. This may smack of the same "individualism" that I am moving away from. But, I think in the various pendulum swings we go through the ecclesial structures of the Church of Rome long ago swung too far into the denial of the individual. Too much authority rests in the hands of too few men, and that authority is absolute if exercised.

In Anglicanism, in Anglo-Catholicism in particular, there is more of a balance between individualism and authoritarianism (is that the right word?), at least as I've experienced it thus far. There is the emphasis on the universal nature of the Church and our connection and responsibility to one another, but not to the point of demanding absolute conformity or obedience. I do know that in the current Church of Rome that there is no longer the draconian authoritarianism of times past.

So, I am in the process of becoming more "catholic." I am being formed into an Anglo-Catholic. It is a very different way of approaching the faith, God, the Church, and one another than I experienced growing up within American-Evangelicalism. It also has some great implications concerning the controversies Anglicanism is wallowing in right now. It isn't "all about me." It isn't even "all about us" as in just this part of the Anglican Communion - The Episcopal Church. There has to be balance, though, and an acknowledgement that some parts of the Church will begin the move toward right change before other parts are ready for such change.

A difference

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Today, I am wearing my clerical collar to work. Frankly, it has more to do with undone laundry rather than any particular ecclesial responsibility I have today.

I was walking from Penn. station to the Medical Trust and came near one of the hundreds of people passing out hand-bills for this or that restaurant or bodega. He was a Latin-American Indian, as are most. All the implications of strange cultures and languages and customs come to bear on anyone who is a foreigner (this was made all the more apparent to me when I lived in Europe).

He was standing back against the wall of a building and not handing out many hand-bills as I approached. He saw me, or perhaps he saw a white clerical collar on this person who was approaching, and came forward to give me a hand-bill. It was obvious that he approached this collared person and not all the other people passing by him. How could I not take it, even though I knew I was not going to go to this particular restaurant-bodega? I thanked him and went on my way.

People notice. People have impressions of those in white collars, whether good or bad impressions. What are we all, we who call ourselves Christians and more particularly those who have entered Holy Orders, doing in our everyday lives that add to the sense of honor and trust of those who wear such collars so that the people feel safe coming to us, as this young guy did with me - this person in white clerical collar - in the midst of hundreds of other Mid-town people? What are we doing that may cause people to avoid us, to revile us, to mistrust us?

This is the responsibility of the clergy - to be holy even as Christ was/is holy despite the fact that we will fail more often than not. We who are the representatives of Christ on earth have this high-calling to put aside ourselves and take upon ourselves the Cross, so that when people see someone in a clerical collar they know that they are safe and free to approach us, even in confession, even in a plea for help, even in passing out a hand-bill when one is shy or afraid. This is what it means to be one who points to God.

Stick it to the MAN

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I love the way Jesus handles people - sometimes with the utmost compassion and gentleness and other times with withering sarcasm, accusation, and challenge.

Take, for example, this bit of writ:

The Authority of Jesus Questioned

Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. "By what authority are you doing these things?" they asked. "And who gave you this authority?"

Jesus replied, "I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John's baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men?"

They discussed it among themselves and said, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will ask, 'Then why didn't you believe him?' But if we say, 'From men'—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet."

So they answered Jesus, "We don't know." Then he said, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."
(Matthew 21)

Doing things "right"

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I read this morning a press release from the Anglican Communion Network, the organizational network of several churches and a few dioceses opposed to the controversial decisions coming out of The Episcopal Church's 2003 General Convention (basically, the full inclusion of gay people in the life and leadership of the Church). The Network announced their initiative for planting new churches.

As I have written (and said) many times that so much of my life and focus is in agreement with a lot of what the Network holds to, but on some very important and strategic issues we are in disagreement. Regrettably, in those disagreements the division seems almost insurmountable (at least for them - as much as it is possible with me, I will be at peace with all people despite how they respond to me).

Here, in this announcement, I have to say that the Network seems to be doing things right. Time will tell. The Episcopal Church Center has their “20/20 Vision” project to double the attendance in Episcopal churches by the year 2020. From what I can see, despite the good efforts of well intentioned people, the project is going nowhere (which may be unfair of me to say, but that is the way I perceive it). The Network at least seems to have "in its genes" the understanding and desire to expand and spread the Gospel through the pioneering of new churches.

Good for them - go for it. I wish, however, that a more open attitude with less triumphalism was also "in their genes." Only hindsight will tell us whether their effort will be a success. Much of the leadership of the Network still seems to be more intent on division and "winner take all" then on working together for the advancement of the Gospel to all people. They would disagree, of course.

Jesus loves porn stars

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Julie posted a comment on one of my previous posts about mercy, and in it she mentions a company that makes t-shirts with one of the printed sayings being "Jesus loves porn stars."

"Mercy," "Grace," "Love," "Forgiveness," and all such notions are profoundly beyond our ability to comprehend. Truly, Jesus does love porn stars - and the vilest sorts we can imagine. Jesus loves the Hitlers, the Pol Pots, the Jeffrey Domers (sp?) of the world; He loves the multinationlists, the corporate raiders, the CEOs; He loves the child molesters, the rapists, the murderers; He loves the liars, the cheats, and the selfish - and Julie and I. In our self-righteousness, we can hardly conceive of it, even though with our words we profess it and condescend to it.

We grapple to accept it. We try. We fail. Yet, it is always present with us.

Doug Burr

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From the vestiges of Home-Group (St. Paul's Carroll St., Brooklyn)
Spy on Doug Burr in iTunes!
New stuff to obsess over...

Still obsessing over...
Sufjan Stevens
Eastmountainsouth
Bird York

St. Patties Day

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Manhattan is a sea of green - lots of people. I am only four blocks from the beginning of the St. Patrick's Day Parade, but alas I will not be able to see it.

A New Catechumenate Process

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I've been thinking for a while now that we need to institute a new catechumenate process within the Church that moves us away from "punch your card" kind of emphasis on "salvation," and moves us to a more ancient pre-Constantine notion of journey and process leading up to a mature and informed decision to join the Church, to become a Christian, to devote one’s life to Christ.

I came across this blog entry from Tim Neufeld, a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, via Kendall Harmon's website, Titusonenine.

Here is the blog entry:

This Side of 313

"Something remarkable happened in A.D. 313: Our understanding of conversion was radically shifted. When Constantine granted most-favored status to Christianity, social frameworks and religious paradigms shifted almost overnight. Those who were once persecuted, the Christians, were given status in the new world, and those who once held positions of power, the pagans, became the outsiders. Everything that was once at the center was now at the margins of society, and all that was on the edges was now given status. Christendom was born.

"In a pre-Constantinian world conversion was a long, extended process. It typically took three or four years to gain membership in a church. Early church fathers developed a four-phase catechism that moved the initiate on a journey of discipleship. While there were elements unique to the different geographic areas of the second and third century church, a general pattern did emerge. At the beginning of the journey a young candidate would be mentored by an older believer, often two or three times a week for up to two years. Not until the disciple had proved faithfulness through mentoring would he or she be allowed to join the local house church. Even when admitted to a congregation the new attender was dismissed before the Eucharist (communion); only baptized members could participate in this most sacred of rituals. The next phase of the catechetical experience was a series of classes and exorcisms that led to the culminating act of baptism on the night before Easter. Finally, the believer was allowed to participate in his or her first communion on Easter Sunday, enjoying the full membership of the body of Christ.

Discontent

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For whatever reason, today is a day of discontent. Not that anything is particularly bad; I just don't feel like looking up people and correcting wrong information.

Tired. Bored. Just tired. And so it goes...

The Return of Patriarchy

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An interesting article on the future of societies from Kendall Harmon's blog.

Watching

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I watch the tides come in and go out as I am riding the train into the city and back home again. Between Newark and New York City, there are large stretches of marshland, rivers, and water-ways. The marshes are all brown and tan this time of year and when the sun is setting or rising, they are golden. It seems strange to see these marshes full of reeds and other water-plants in such urban settings - bridges, trestles, tracks, some abandoned factories, stranded boats sitting cockeyed on the banks of rivers. Yet, here are wetlands and in the spring the green pushes up and it is quite striking.

In the summer months when the wind blows, these stretches of land remind me of wheat fields in the plain states that cover acres and as the wind blows waves move across the landscape. It is like that.

In the wetlands - the marshes - as the tide comes in new "rivers" or "creeks" appear where water runs in to fill the marsh and again when the water drains away as the tide goes out. Nature moves in her own rhythm - coming and going, change, death and life. Creation.

Mercy Me

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What is "Mercy?" Really? If one where taking a photograph of "mercy," what would it be? What would be the tableau?

Good comments

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Mark Harris, an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Delware, has written a couple new comments on his blog, Preludium, concerning world-wide Anglicanism. The posts are for March 7th & 8th, entitled, "Hold the Anglican Church of Nigeria to Account" and " Not a Worldwide Church, but a Fellowship", respectively.

Read them here.

Great Days & Stuff

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It is days like today that make me glad to still be in New York City. Over the last couple of months, what I wanted most of all is to be in a much less populated area - and to chop wood! I used to chop wood every now and then when I was a kid, and that is simply what I thought about doing. Good, physical work, good exercise, good time to think - yup, give me an axe, some wood, and let me go at it.

Today, however, the weather is beautiful and I walked over to Bryant Park in Times Square for lunch. I love being there in nice weather - so many different kinds of people, so many different things to observe, to see, to experience. While eating my salad and watching all the people go by, suddenly someone decided to practice his bagpipes during his lunch break - just for a while, but it was very nice. Today, I am glad to still be in New York!

I missed an episode of "Lost" two weeks ago. I've waited until iPods were able to show video before buying one, so now I did as part of my birthday and Christmas presents. I downloaded the episode from iTunes for $2.00 and watched it commercial free. (Okay, either pay or suffer through commercials, I know, but sometimes paying is worth it!) Oh, technology!

The SLVR is a mighty fine cell phone!

Sufjan Stevens is a mighty fine tunesmith!

N.T. Wright's book, The Last Word: Beyond the Bible Wars to a New Understanding of the Authority of Scripture is excellent.

Our Lenten project for St. Paul's youth (and a couple adults) is going well. "ImageFaith" is the project I came up with - during Lent, we take foundational concepts of the Christian faith, like Grace, or Mercy, or Hope and we learn a little more about them, discuss them, and then for the coming week we take our little disposable cameras and by noticing the "noise" all around us (all the stuff we miss in our incredible busy lives - stop and smell the roses kind of thing) we find "images" that connote the concept.

This past week Grace was the concept. It dawned on me that a wonderful image of "Grace" is sunlight falling on leaves. I took pictures of sunlight streaming down on plants. Unmerited favor, freely given by the sun, is "received" by the plants and made into substance. We receive unmerited favor from God, engage with it, and we are changed.

There were some great photos! It is a fun and interesting, and very challenging, project.

We hear so much about "experience" being an "authority" in our lives - we use experience to justify all manner of things. It often trumps all other authorities as if my own personal experiences can determine the right or the wrong, proper or improper, acceptable behavior or unacceptable behavior, right thinking or wrong, etc. I'm just not "all that," as if I am competent to always make sound judgments all on my own.

There are two sides of experience, I think. Well, actually many sides, but these two are the particular ones I am thinking about right now.

First, there is the healthy aspect of personal experience that does inform our understanding of things. Most certainly our personal experiences lead us to and away from many things - thoughts, ideas, behaviors, places, etc. - often depending on whether our past experiences of those things brought harm or enjoyment to our lives. We are not, however, islands unto ourselves.

There is also a very unhealthy aspect of person experience due to the fact that we are creatures who so easily engage in self-deception. "If it feels good, do it" is not really a good motto to live by, despite what so many '60's generation baby-boomers want to believe. Sex, for example, in free-love with anyone we want any time we want does not bring us sexual-freedom or long-term fulfillment, does not contribute to healthy relationships where we are able to love and be loved in an environment of trust and vulnerability, does not contribute to healthy families in which children are raised to have a good sense of self-worth and self-respect, but it does help created isolation, lack of concern for the wellbeing of the other, and contributes to unwanted pregnancies, STD's, and HIV infection. Is titillation really the best consideration? The same can be said for drugs, pornography, money, and so many other things. We are very creative in the ways we justify our self-destructive/deceptive behaviors and ways of thinking - and we compel others to join us.

It isn't a question of whether sex (or any thing else in-and-of itself) is a good thing or not - of course it can be, is! The question is always about the responsible experience of such things, which brings me to my second thought about experience - our collective experience.

A better judge of what is good for us and what is not is the collective experience of many people over many generations. This may also be termed, "Tradition." Because we are prone to self-deception within our own narrow bounds of maturity, education, and understanding, we will be wise to consider tradition regardless of whether it agrees with what we want to be or do at any given time.

There must be a balance between individual experience and collective experience - tradition. The '60's generation has made an art of elevating personal experience over collective experience and declares it a most important "authority" in our judgment of what is right or wrong for us individually and for society. Later generations have followed along, with corrections as they move from Modernity to Post-Modernity and rebel against the conventional doings of the preceding generation. And, of course, we Americans have so little regard for tradition. Well, we also are losing our ability to think collectively as our society fragments into individualistic isolationism - rugged individualism run amuck.

The tradition is not always right. Sometimes correction must be made, and it is a very messy time when correction takes place. We must avoid the pendulum swings that move us too far into individualism or too far into collectivism. There are times when I (we) must yield to tradition and the collective wisdom, because I am limited and narrow and inexperienced. There are other times when I (we) recognize something isn't right and fight the majority opinion found in the tradition. Again, balance and a realization that my own opinion is not paramount are needed.

It is funny how the hard-conservatives and hard-liberals both rely upon extreme individualism when making their claims. We see the result in the polarization of our politics and in the culture-wars, which have intruded upon the Church. It seems that individual experience speaks to the authorities we use to make judgements, in relationship with tradition, but is not an authority all by itself.

Spongeback Mountain

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I've seen a couple spoofs on Brokeback Mountain, but I just heard of and found this one - Spongeback Mountain, staring Spongebob Squarepants and Patrick.

Watch it - Spongeback Mountain

New Purpose

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I used to us blogger for my weblog until a year or so ago when I switched to Moveabletype. My original blog was still available.

I've decided to rechristen my original hypersync blog - "hypersync :: reconciled." I am posting to that blog once again as a place to delve more deeply into the whole "how to live life as a Christian who is also gay and what that all means..." kind of thing.

The ironic aspect of it all is that I am not particularly reconciled with all of it - questions linger. There is always the big question of how to navigate through all the cultural and sub-cultural minefields that plague anyone trying to live out a faithful life, be a witness, and still believe that honest and true relationships are possible. There is always the reality that most gay people have to play catch-up in terms of discovering how to have a relationship, which most straight people learn in their teens and early twenties.

Alan Chambers and Exodus are commenting once again on Brokeback Mountain.

Here are a couple links you might want to go to for the lastest:

The press-release

Ex-gay Watch

Peterson Toscano's A Musing for some more and good commentary

Oh, brother.

Here's the latest

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Christian anti-gay and Religious Right groups are demanding that a ban on HIV+ people from traveling to the U.S. (which, frankly, I never knew existed) be reinstated before the 2006 Gay Games in Chicago. It seems the organizers of the 2006 Gay Games petitioned that the ban be waived for the upcoming athletic competitions, and it was.

I continue to be amazed that the propaganda and miss-information that the Religious Right and anti-gay activists use in their attempt to foist upon unsuspecting common folk an unabashed fear of homosexuals. Well, it does bring in millions of dollars for these groups! Greed, whether for money or for power, does terrible things to people.

Of course there are a percentage of homosexuals who are sex-addicted, irresponsible, and dedicated to whatever, just like there are a percentage of heterosexuals who are and do the same. But, these groups attempt to convince Jane and Joe Public that all homosexuals are sex-crazed, HIV+, radicals that are dedicated to destroying marriage, Mom, apple-pie, and the American way of life. It is absurd, and these people are intelligent enough to know that they are out-and-out lying! Christians? For them, the end justifies the means and the call of Christ falls flat.

Here is the latest "news" update from CitizenLink, a Focus on the Family daily e-mail update:

HIV Travel Restrictions Lifted for Gay Games

Pro-family advocates are asking President Bush to reinstate a federal ban that prohibits HIV-infected travelers from coming to United States. A lobbying campaign succeeded in getting the ban lifted in time for Chicago's 2006 Gay Games.

Homosexuals from around the world will travel to Chicago for the event slated for July 15-22. The official Web site claims 8,000 people have registered.

Gay advocates, with the help of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, convinced the federal government to waive restrictions on international travel for those with HIV so they could attend the games. Pro-family analysts argue that such a move is counter to the goal of stopping the spread of the disease.

Peter LaBarbera, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute, is calling on the president and Congress to reinstate the ban. He said the people of Chicago should not be subjected to activities that facilitate immoral and reckless behavior.

"Mayor Daley has forgotten his role as 'chief protector' of the people of Chicago," he said. "The public-health goal of stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS must take precedence over the political wants of homosexual advocates."

The Gay Games Web site promotes dangerous sexual activity, LaBarbera said. For example, Steamworks, a gay bathhouse that offers anonymous sex for men, is listed as a business sponsor and under "Parties and Events."

"The evidence is clear: the extracurricular activities surrounding the Gay Games present a real health hazard to those involved and the surrounding community," he said. "Inviting thousands of HIV-infected visitors to a Gay Games celebration that officially promotes promiscuity will only put Chicagoans at risk and help spread HIV."

Thousands? Come on.

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This page is an archive of entries from March 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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