May 2006 Archives

Stuff and priesting

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A very common sight on the streets of Manhattan is two people walking their dogs and as they meet they look down at their dog, then the other person's dog, and start talking to their own dog, "ooh, looky, another dog." The two dogs either do their normal sniffing or growl at each other. The owners normally speak to one another and at times neighborhood friendships develop.

Today, while sitting at a table outdoors in the suburb of West Orange drinking coffee, I saw to families each with 16-month-old babies. These two groups of parents did the same thing with their two babies that I've witnessed on the streets of Manhattan with dog owners. The babies did not sniff each other, by the way, nor did they growl.

While I was sitting there drinking coffee in a few stolen moments of being still, it suddenly dawned on me that in six days I will be ordained a priest. The next thought I had centered around the fact that I will not have the time to really think about this - no pre-ordination retreat, no time to sit and really think about what this means. I have a Medical Trust conference to help with all week.

This is really not the way to do this. Nothing over the past year has worked in a way that seems either normal or preferred.

At least there will be a conclusion to this seven-year quest. Since graduating from seminary, I just haven't had the time to think about what this means in a way I think I should.

I posted this very short article from the Anglican Digest back in July, 2003. I think I need to post it again. I think I am going to use it in my sermon today at St. Paul's - Orthodoxy and/or Orthopraxy, and when considering the two, what causes the world to hate us, today?

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This was written in 1991 by The Very Rev. George Back, then Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in Oklahoma City. It was reprinted by The Anglican Digest

Conservatives? Liberals?

I have heard rumors that conflicts between conservatives and liberals are tearing the Church apart. Don't believe it.

Few of these people exist. I have had letters and phone calls from some who claim to be one or the other. As far as I can tell, they are impostors. Of course, I can only judge from their behavior.

If the Church had many conservatives, the buildings would be packed on Sundays as they keep the Sabbath holy. Our Church would have money since they would tithe 10% of their income. Our Church life would be glorious as they would undertake all the traditional Sunday School, retreat, and holy day obligations. An authentic personal morality would be exemplified in their holy lifestyles.

If the Church had many liberals, they would be enthusiastically including people all the time. The Church would grow as they reached out to the poor and the isolated in various ministries. Our service ministries would be overwhelmed with volunteers and resources. An authentic social conscience would be exemplified in the compassionate lifestyles.

Judging only by behavior, the Church has too few religious conservatives and religious liberals. God bless the ones we have; they are doing wonderful work.

Then where is the problem? There are numerous anti-conservatives and anti-liberals. These are people who compare their particular ideology with other's actual behavior. Their convenient posture enables them to be both righteous and removed at the same time.

Both know that others need to change their bad habits. The sins, failures, hypocrisy, and mediocrity of these others provide a good reason not to attend worship and not to give money and not to serve energetically and not to love affectionately in the Lord's name.

Religion is behavior, not theology. To worship God with all one's heart, mind, soul, and strength is not an idea, it is a practice. To love one's neighbor as an _'idea'_ is an illusion. Love must take up space and time; it costs lots of money and much energy.

Church is a place for religious behavior, where one worships God and serves God's children. It is large enough to include true religious conservatives and true religious liberals, since they only emphasize one or the other aspect of religion.

The Church will never be at peace until the commitment to God and the Gospel of our Lord take priority over any personal warp to some left or right ideas. People who have a primary commitment to their own opinions and a secondary interest in religion always threaten to destroy the Church.

What good reason and right opinion do you have to excuse yourself from the costly practice of true religion?

Crazy

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The next month is going to be absolutely crazy. Tonight, driving to Baltimore for Gene's graduation party on Saturday. We probably won't get in until around midnight after a 31/2 hour drive. Not good for me since I tend to fall asleep when I drive at night! Drive back tomorrow and get in late.

I have to preach on Sunday. It will be an experience in extemporaneous preaching. Where is the time? I may also have to officiate, since Fr. Cullen won't be there and the supply priest has at times forgotten to show up. It will be an impromptu Deacon's Mass.

Then, on Monday May 29th, I fly to Ashville N.C. for the Medical Trust's Lake Logan Conference. Fly to Cleveland on Friday May 2nd. I've got to carry all the vestments I need from Newark to Ashville to Cleveland and back to Newark.

Friday, rehearsal for ordination and then the Bishop's ordination dinner. Saturday morning June 3rd, 10:00 am, I'm finally ordained priest along with the new transitional deacons.

Sunday June 4th, I fly back to New York. Work the following week.

Sunday, June 11, I fly to Columbus to attend General Convention with the Medical Trust. On Sunday, June 18th, I fly back to New York. This gives me two weeks to try to find a new apartment, since the one in which I've been living for the past 9 months in New Jersey has been sold to a new owner. I have to be out by June 30th. This is going to be a crazy month.

A good thing – as of Memorial Day, I am a full-time employee of the Medical Trust, after a year of being “Casual Part-Time.” I get benefits!

The saga continues. From Kendall Harmon's website, titusonenine, the summation of Controversy Involving the Bishop of Chelmsford, England, and the Primate of the Anglican Church in Kenya.

I posted a response, along with lots of other people. Here is my response:

# Bob G Says:
May 24th, 2006 at 12:22 pm

Whether anyone agrees with it or not, supports it or not, or will accept it or not, the Lambath resolution calls for us to be in dialogue and to listen to gay and lesbian Christians.

If those opposed to homosexuals in the Church want those in favor of it to abide by the Lambath resolution, then all need to abide by it equally. Those who demand compliance to one part and refuse to comply with both parts are hypocrites. That sounds harsh, but what other conclusion can be made - “we demand you comply, but we will not comply.”

A good many primates in the Global South will not be in dialogue, as called for by the second portion of the Lambath resolution. Their opinions on the interpretation of Scripture applied to homosexuality are set and they will refuse to consider that they may be wrong. There are many bishops, clergy, and lay in the North who agree with their Southern brothers. I cannot help but consider it hypocritical that the demand goes forth to those who support a rethinking of the homosexual issue to stop rethinking and conform to the traditional understanding because the Lambath resolution is the mind of the Communion, when they refuse to comply to the second part of the resolution, which is also the mind of the Communion.

To have integrity, and in my opinion to be faithful to Christ, there needs to be consistency and honesty on both sides. If there will not be, then I see no reason to give much credence to the other side, whether for or against rethinking the issue.

I’ve gotten to the point where I want to say to the 10% hard-core supporters on both sides of the issue to sit down and just shut-up for a while and let the remaining 80% deal with the issue forthrightly.

The Da Vinci Code

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It seems to me that if people have to protest something as "insignificant" as a popular, fictional movie in order to "protect" their faith, well there is a problem with insecurity goin' on.

If Christianity cannot withstand criticisms and attacks, whether true or perceived, than what is its worth? Poor God, what would he do without all of us diligent people protecting him?

I can't wait to see the movie! I enjoyed the book - and at no moment was my faith in jeopardy. Get a life people; it’s a book of fiction!

If suddenly vast numbers of people start looking to this kind of thing for answers, which seems to be the fear of the protestors, then the majority of the followers of Jesus certainly don't live lives that demonstrate the dynamic promises of God in the Gospel.

Here is an interesting article in today's UK Telegraph newspaper.

"Fundamentalist"

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I keep running into walls when trying to describe stuff in politics, philosophy, theology, etc., concerning what is or isn't "liberal" or "conservative" or "fundamentalist" or "evangelical" – and so on.

I think, for myself and for now, I will define a "fundamentalist" (little 'f') as one who will not or cannot honestly consider or accommodate that there could be alternative opinions/ideas/theories other than that which s/he already accepts as "fact."

So, when the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary makes statements like "no credible scholar" accepts the alternative interpretations of Scripture concerning what the Bible actually does or does not say about homosexuality, what he is saying is that a scholar can only be "credible," and therefore worthy of consideration, if s/he agrees with the president's already decided opinion of what is the truth. It is circular reasoning, and it is a hallmark of "fundamentalists."

By the way, a "fundamentalist" can be either a "conservative" or a "liberal!"

I will stand by the idea that if any of us truly want to know Truth we have to first acknowledge that what we have believed up to this point could be wrong. I am a fallible human and will always be prone to mistakes and deceptions. If we don't, all we want is confirmation of what we already believe to be true and the consolation that goes along with that pseudo-security. This isn't relativism. It is, I think and as much as I can determine, humility.

All we want to do is gather around us those who will scratch our itching ears - and to a "fundamentalist" this constitutes who is a "credible scholar" or not!

I really don't understand why this keeps happening. Over the last 15 years or so, I keep getting hired to do jobs that I'm not really very qualified to do, even when I keep saying that there are others who are far more qualified. How in the world do I keep finding myself in this position?

But, the jobs I really want to do (like a full-time ministry position - on a university campus, perhaps) I can't seem to get.

A very different take on the new movie than we hear from many in the Religious Right or Roman Catholic church. This came over Sojourner's e-mail updates.

Not too well

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I haven't been feeling too well these past couple of days. I went with Ashton to the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association national championships in Harrisburg, PA last Thursday through Saturday. (In the Alumni division, he came in third in the nation on the flats and fourth over the jumps.)

I really don't eat all that much beef any more. On Friday evening, I had a very good steak and a hamburger on Saturday. I think part of my not feeling too well has to do with eating too much beef in such a short period of time. Of course, that could be all in my imagination.

I fly to Ohio tomorrow for my final interviews with the Commission on Ministry. I should hear by the 15th whether they approve me for ordination to the priesthood. I hope I'm feeling alright by tomorrow. It will be nice to see my family!

Then, Saturday, we drive down to Columbus to attend my nieces' dedication in the church my sister has been attending. I don't know what to expect.

This is one reason I have come to love Anglicanism so much, at least in its broad understanding. We will stand by the historal ecumenical Creeds and in Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi.

Here is a recent statement from Emergent concerning its critics' call for a clear statement of beliefs or doctrine.

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From Tony Jones, National Coordinator, Emergent-U.S.

Yes, we have been inundated with requests for our statement of faith in Emergent, but some of us had an inclination that to formulate something would take us down a road that we don't want to trod. So, imagine our joy when a leading theologian joined our ranks and said that such a statement would be disastrous. That's what happened when we started talking to LeRon Shults, late of Bethel Seminary and now heading off to a university post in Norway. LeRon is the author of many books, all of which you should read, and now the author a piece to guide us regarding statements of faith and doctrine. Read on...

From LeRon Shults:

"The coordinators of Emergent have often been asked (usually by their critics) to proffer a doctrinal statement that lays out clearly what they believe. I am merely a participant in the conversation who delights in the ongoing reformation that occurs as we bring the Gospel into engagement with culture in ever new ways. But I have been asked to respond to this ongoing demand for clarity and closure. I believe there are several reasons why Emergent should not have a "statement of faith" to which its members are asked (or required) to subscribe. Such a move would be unnecessary, inappropriate and disastrous.

"Why is such a move unnecessary? Jesus did not have a "statement of faith." He called others into faithful relation to God through life in the Spirit. As with the prophets of the Hebrew Bible, he was not concerned primarily with whether individuals gave cognitive assent to abstract propositions but with calling persons into trustworthy community through embodied and concrete acts of faithfulness. The writers of the New Testament were not obsessed with finding a final set of propositions the assent to which marks off true believers. Paul, Luke and John all talked much more about the mission to which we should commit ourselves than they did about the propositions to which we should assent. The very idea of a "statement of faith" is mired in modernist assumptions and driven by modernist anxieties – and this brings us to the next point.

Man! Stop and think about this (and it has nothing to do with Socialism, Communism, or some other "ism").

From today's 'On the Way'


The Option for the Poor
Gustavo Gutierrez

"If I define my neighbor as the one I must go out to look for, on the highways and byways, in the factories and slums, on the farms and in the mines - then my world changes. This is what is happening with the "option for the poor," for in the gospel it is the poor person who is the neighbor par excellence....

"But the poor person does not exist as an inescapable fact of destiny. His or her existence is not politically neutral, and it is not ethically innocent. The poor are a by-product of the system in which we live and for which we are responsible. They are marginalized by our social and cultural world. They are the oppressed, exploited proletariat, robbed of the fruit of their labor and despoiled of their humanity. Hence the poverty of the poor is not a call to generous relief action, but a demand that we go and build a different social order."
Source: The Power of the Poor in History

New Music

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Its official

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Well, the date is set and all that is left to do is pass my final interview with the Commission on Ministry next Wednesday, which at this point shouldn't be a problem.

So, June 3rd at 10:00 am at Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland, Lord willing and the creek don't rise, I will be ordained to the Sacred Order of Priests, a Presbyter in Christ's One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church (aside from the fact that certain large segments of that Church don't recognize Anglican Orders. Oh the joy of it all!). I will be ordained along with the Transitional Deacons, one year after my diaconal ordination.

I regret that my ordination will not be at St. Paul's in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, where I now serve, but if I want to be ordained before General Convention, this is what has to happen. The next two months are going to be crazy, and I do hold a bit of anxiety about what will happen after General Convention.

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