August 2007 Archives

What to pray?

I went for a run last night. I'm trying to be more disciplined physically and run more often - get back into, and all that.

Anyway, I was running last night and on my more common route I run past four Episcopal churches. Now, in most parts of the country some may think that I run for miles and miles and miles in order to pass by four Episcopal churches. Not so; I run a couple miles. Years ago, I would have passed by five churches, but two merged. There you go.

Last night as the endorphins were kicking in, I started praying for the churches. Then I thought, "What shall I pray?" What do they need? I mean, what do they REALLY need? Not just the outside stuff, the obvious, the worldly, but that which they truly need - the "draw all people unto me" kind of need.

I preached this past Sunday. The Epistle reading from Hebrews struck me as timely as I ran.

Hebrews 12:18-19,22-29

You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them. But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

This is what I pray people will sense and know without doubt whenever they enter and leave one of these parishes. The physical structures are what they are. The liturgy, the music, the words are what they are. But, I hope all of it will only contribute to people's ability to encounter the risen Jesus, the Christ! I have been praying something like this for St. Paul's for a while now.

See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven! At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, "Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven." This phrase, "Yet once more," indicates the removal of what is shaken-- that is, created things-- so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire.
Then, I thought as I ran, this is what I pray will happen for those of us who are charged with the responsibility of caring for the Body of Christ - that we will be shaken to the core, that our will and lofty ideas will be crushed, that we will be brought low by the kind of loving hand that only brings low in order to reveal the true, the beautiful, the good, and the lasting.

All manner of schemes and programmatic solutions float around to save the Church (whether Episcopalian or Roman or Baptist or Assemblies of God) from the controversy du jour, but it is only in the meeting of the soul with the creator of souls is the soul renewed, satisfied, stirred, shaken, awaken, and granted entrée into the very throne room of the great King.

Most of the time, all of us need to be continually shaken to the core so that all that remains is that which gives life and peace and freedom - all that remains is the essence of relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The accoutrement can aid, but can never replace. Too often, we think the accoutrement is the end goal and in some way will make everything good and right, again. The accoutrement will only be shaken away, and when that happens to our churches, our souls, our leadership, what will hopefully be left is the essence of the faith that Christ calls us to. I fear, too many of us will be brought up short.

So I pray, “Shake us Lord!” Shake the priests, the vestries, the Sunday School teachers first, that we will know, so that we can understand, so that we can lead. Then, shake our churches so that what remains will be that which enables people to come in and go out knowing that they have encountered the living God.

Second Life

Okay, so let's really talk about Second Life. It is fairly incredible and will only continue to grow, like virtual worlds, as the technology makes them all the more real. Apple's "E-World" was before its time! From the beginning, I think virtual-worlds are morally neutral – just like the real-world. What we do and how we are within either world is where issues of morality and ethics and appropriateness come into play. What is the good, the beautiful, and what contributes to the banal or lesser instincts within us all no matter what world we inhabit?

Several years ago when I was at the beginning stages of postulency, I e-mailed my then bishop and said that I was playing with the idea of being a "cyber-priest." He shot back an e-mail saying, basically, "I'm not sending you to seminary to play around in some cyber-world. The faith, because it is incarnational, can only be experienced in a tactile community. Community is impossible outside of the 'real world.'"

Well, I thought, I'm not sure why I received such a rebuke, but it isn't up to me or the good bishop to determine what is possible and what is not and what people consider "community" to be or where it can happen. It will be.

Fast forward and we all know that "community" happens in the ether. Second Life is the more recent expression of it. It is "real" and will only become more "real," particularly for those who have a very difficult time in the "real-world." It is often easier to create yourself in a virtual-world where others cannot see the "real" you, than it is to deal with the very difficult issues of "real life" so that you can be that very person you desire to be actually in real life.

What does this mean for people of faith? What does this mean for Christians? I know all too well it is all to easy to be the alter-ego of the real-life-self in the virtual-world were you make yourself out to be beautiful, when your are not, where you make yourself out to be svelte when you are actually 200 pounds overweight, where you are the life of the party when you are truly very shy, where you do the nasty like a perv because it isn't "real."

It is often easier to live in a fantasy than in reality. It is easier to make an avatar than to accept ourselves and learn to love ourselves as Christ loves us. It is easier to attempt to create a new "reality" then to confront the force of the "real-reality" that won't let you be who you want to be or who you fantasize about being.

Second Life, and such virtual worlds, can be a lot of fun. It can be great to express ourselves in ways that we might be a little afraid to express ourselves in the real-world. People can learn in virtual-reality to be more "themselves" in the real-world.

The caution is, and we have to face this, that any of us can descend into falsehood, into lies, into psychosis because of it all - just like real life. We also have to face that as we give ourselves over to ways of behaving or thinking in the virtual-worlds, we are affected in the real-world. What we entertain even if in a virtual-world, it is still our minds in the real world that is doing or thinking the thing. Whatever we give ourselves over to and whatever we allow to influence us, well, even if only in the virtual-world it will affect us and will bleed from the virtual into the real.

What do we do with this? It certainly isn't evil, but if we aren't careful evil will be realized. As priests, as counselors, as Christians, how do we navigate the virtual?

Hole in the Universe?

Astronomers have found a big cold spot or hole in the Universe.

Reuters

National Radio Astronomy Observatory

Hum, what to make of this?

The Stool is really a Ladder!

Tobias Haller writes an interesting little piece about Hooker and the Three-Legged-Stool associated with Anglicanism. Here is the ending: It is really more like a ladder.

"Hooker's Ladder" from In a Godward Direction

The City #17

I'm getting ready to run this morning. I look outside and the streets are full of fog. Whitish gray light in these morning hours. Everything is still and quiet.

I can hear, can feel, the sound of a fog horn blowing. Now two. Low rumbling fog horns from the bay and the East River - the atmosphere and the sound could be from 100 years ago.

This is the City, even if only rarely experienced these days.

Oh, those kids!

From the July/August edition of The Atlantic, the Society column:

Generation Me

"Young people are generally full of themselves, but a new study suggests that today's kids are far more self-centered than preceding generations. A team of five university psychologists analyzed the results of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, a 40-question survey administered to 16,475 current and recent college students nationwide between 1982 and 2006; the test asked students to agree or disagree with statements like 'I think I am a special person' and 'If I ruled the world, it would be a better place.' The results, the authors argue, illustrate a steady increase in narcissism - a 'positive and inflated view of the self.' Overall, almost two-thirds of the most recent sample display a higher level of narcissism than the 1982 average.

Why the increase? The researchers speculate that technology may have something to do with it. Narcissism is especially acute among students born after 1982, the cohort most likely to use 'self-focused' Web sites like MySpace and YouTube.

Whatever the cause, the researchers argue that increased narcissism can have pernicious effects, on the individual and on society. They cite previous studies showing that narcissists have trouble forming meaningful relationships, tend to be materialistic, and are prone to higher levels of infidelity, substance abuse, and violence."
("Egos Inflated Over Time: A Test of Two Generational Theories of Narcissism Using Cross-Temporal Meta-Analysis," Jean M. Twenge et al.)

To be honest, from my experience, I think they are right.

The question for us: What do we do about it? For those of us who work in Christian formation, the whole idea of giving up oneself, loving others more than oneself, dying to self in order to have real life - all of it - will be even more profoundly counter-cultural. The whole notion of being content in all things, as Paul writes, will be impossible. When people have an “…inflated view of self,” there is little impact we can have, until the stark reality of life (their own life) brings them crashing down. But, then, will we be there to help them get over their bad self and begin truly living or will we be encouraging them in their spiritual dysfunction by acquiescing to the zeit-geist? The two acrimonious sides of the Church universal either deny reality or give themselves over to anything the culture lifts up as good. We must be wise to not fall into those traps.

It will no longer be a concern about how we might compete with the prevailing culture, which infuses so much of current religious-talk and strategizing, but how do we present the counter argument in a way that those who can hear will hear.

It will be by demonstration – living a life that is full of integrity, content, and not hypocritical - starkly different and not simply by words. This is the failing of the one side of the Church – there is little difference between them and have no consideration for God. There is so much difference between the other extreme in the Church and the experience of regular people that non-Christians cannot hear the Gospel through that side’s rhetoric and hypocrisy.

Can we be strong enough and wise enough to make plain that this Way of ours is not easy, is not broad in relation to the dysfunction of the culture, and is not like the world? If we cannot, then narcissism and like attitudes and conditions will reign, thus making "loving God with our whole self" and "loving our neighbors as we love ourselves" impossible, let alone truly and utterly loving our enemies. (Well, because the "its all about me" will be so absolute, we will have far more enemies individually and socially. We will end up being very isolated and lonely people.)

Now, can we talk about Second Life?

Why College Doesn't Turn Kids Secular

An interesting interview with one of the authors of a new study on higher education's role in the "secularization" of young people, or its lack there of.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/augustweb-only/133-42.0.html

Blast from the past

I was given the book "The Practice of Religion" last year by a good friend. It is an older and little Anglican book that sets out the Faith and the practice of it, particularly the Catholic expression of Anglicanism. The rector of St. Paul's said that he wished the book was still in print, because it is this book that he would give as a gift to all those kids who prepare for their first communion.

Three sections in the back of the book:

Spiritual Growth:

Life shows itself in growth. It is so in the practice of religion. "We go from grace to grace and from strength to strength." This implies being ever ready to receive the truth. Many persons make no progress because of pride, prejudice and ignorance, which oppose anything which they do not understand or in which they have been imperfectly instructed. To advance spiritually one must follow the guidance of the Holy Ghost and especially welcome any new blessing or privilege which the Church brings out of her "treasures of things new and old." In the restoration going on in our part of the Church today, all souls should gladly receive and follow anything that helps to develop their spiritual life and bring them into closer union with God.

Manners and Morals:

"Manners maketh the man." Character shows a close connection between Manners and Morals. Not necessarily the polished Manners which should be the "noblesse oblige" of those of birth and education but those possible in any walk of life where there is consideration of others and a refinement bred of high ideals and standards. As "a face is the index of the soul" and "one is known by the company he keeps," Manners reveal Morals, as Character expresses itself. The coarseness and vulgarity so common today are but the evidence of the decline in Morality and Religion.

True Joy:

God wills us to be happy, but happy in the things of God more than in those of the world. True Joy comes in pleasing God not self. Live for self and happiness is never found, for all the lavish gifts of the world. Live for God and true joy is found, in trouble and trial, in sickness and sorrow, as well as in joy, peace and prosperity. Without God, nothing is really worth while. With God, naught else is necessary, yet all that God sends is welcome. He who has True Joy in God is always thankful. For as Saint Augustine wrote, "When God gives earthly blessings, give thanks; when God takes away earthly blessings, give thanks; for it is God Who gives and God Who takes away but God never takes Himself away from one who gives thanks."

The Lord preserve thy going out,
The Lord preserve thy coming in.
God send His angels round about
To keep thy soul from every sin;
And when thy going out is done,
And when thy coming in is o'er,
When in death's darkness all alone,
Thy feet can come and go no more,
The Lord preserve thy going out
From this dark world of grief and sin,
When angels standing round about,
Sing, "God preserve thy coming in."

The City #16

What's the difference between walking to work in New York City on Wednesday, August 8th and swimming?

Swimming is pleasant!

My gosh, the humidity and heat after the storms this morning where horrendous. You get wet not because of rain or sweat, but simply because of the humidity in the air. I found out once I finally got to work that there was a tornado warning for Brooklyn until 7:45 am. In Brooklyn? There was a lot of thunder and lightening and lots of rain, but a tornado in Brooklyn?

Of course, the amount of rain that came down in such a short period of time flooded a lot of the subway tunnels. This is not the beginning of a pleasant day in the City.

I don't know whether this is simply spin in order to rile the "faithful" to action, or whether it is simply ignorance by a group of American Evangelicals/Fundamentalists commenting on the actions of a Church Catholic (meaning the ecclesiastical structures and workings of the Episcopal Church USA). My better side wants to believe that it is ignorance of the how and the why we do things, but I have too much experience with the distortion and misrepresentation of facts dished out by this and other politicized Religious Right groups in order to attempt to prove or bolster their arguments to think that it is purely ignorance.

Anyway, from Focus-on-the_Family's daily e-mail update, CitizenLink, this comment on the dismissal of 20 Episcopal priests in the Diocese of Virginia by Bishop Peter Lee. The article refers to Lee as a "liberal revisionist bishop." Anyone who knows Peter Lee knows he is not a "liberal revisionist," so is the statement spin, intentional misinformation, ignorance, blatant lie, or what?

Plus, the priests were not inhibited and deposed because they are against homosexuals being bishops (or priests or deacons or even lay-leaders of the Church for that matter), they were deposed because the "abandoned communion with this Church." They could have asked Lee for Letters Dismissory (the canonical way to do rightly what they attempted to do rebelliously) and joined the Nigerian Church, but they didn't. They chose to follow a certain path and this is the result. Plain and simply. Again, lies, misunderstanding of the workings of an episcopal church, spin, or what?

It sure sounds good, doesn't it? It sure makes their followers all the more fearful of the evil they perceive as attaching them, the true holders and defenders of the Gospel of Christ, and the Gospel itself, doesn't it? It sure makes the leadership of these organizations all the more powerful - send more money, do what we tell you to do, and all will be well, doesn't it?

I don't know. I am immensely frustrated with what passes for Christianity in this country, particularly as presented and lived-out by those who have a high responsibility to the non-Christian world due to their visibility - they are examples and prophets of a very deficient kind of Kingdom of God.

Anyway, here is the short comment from Focus-on-the-Family:

Twenty Priests Defrocked over Opposition to Homosexuality (8-30-2007)

Virginia Episcopal Bishop Peter J. Lee ejected 20 of his former clergy from the priesthood this week after they quit the denomination in December over the 2003 consecration of New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, who is openly homosexual.

The Washington Times reports that the move comes seven months after 11 churches — along with their clergy — voted to leave the diocese and the denomination. The departing churches have formed the Anglican District of Virginia.

Most mainline Protestant denominations, including the United Methodist Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, take the opposite tack by defrocking sexually active homosexual clergy.

"The action by Bishop Lee comes as no surprise," said Caleb H. Price, research analyst for Focus on the Family. "In diocese after diocese throughout the United States, liberal revisionist bishops like Lee are persecuting priests, vestry members and the laity for seeking to faithfully adhere to the historic and apostolic faith once delivered.

"The fact of the matter is that it's not these priests who have abandoned the church, it's Lee and the hierarchy of the Episcopal Church USA who have abandoned the faith."

It makes me think of -

Micah 6:7-12 (New International Version)

7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

8 He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Our Anglican forms

A lot has been going through my mind over the last months concerning the proposed changes to our Anglican understanding of church structure, authority, mutuality, and communion. It is true that we are not at all Roman Catholic - no Pope, no Majesterium, no Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, et.al, yet we are in our ecclesiology Catholic, albeit in an Anglican form and locally adapted (as the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral specifies).

Within the Anglican Communion, our traditional and juridical basic unit is the "province" or "national church." The structures that have developed over the last hundred years or so (Instruments of Unity) have been to enable all those national churches to come together for support, encouragement, cooperation, and thinking together, but not to adjudicate (with the possible exception of the Anglican Consultative Council). The more recent calls for a fundamental change in our Anglican-Catholic structures would move us to be far more Roman.

It is odd that the Protestant pungent for rebelling against order, breaking away from established structures, ignoring the hierarchs, creating one's own rules, et.al., has taken over in the minds of so many even though the solution proposed by them is far more internationally hierarchical and Roman.

One can easily say that the American Church did not have the authority to change the Communion's understanding of morality or discipline or Scriptural understanding by consecrating bishop Robinson, or women for that matter. It is true, we didn't and we don't. However, and despite the assertions otherwise, we are not demanding such acceptance by all the other provinces - we haven't the authority. No other provinces must agree with us, associate with Robinson or women bishops, or accept their authority. It is messy within Anglican ecclesiology, of course, but this is the reality.

None of our recent troubles had to happen. The same course could have been followed that occurred with women's ordination. Agitators agitate for the purpose of agitation. They can't help it and will find any reason that enables them to exercise their lust for agitation and division and to have their way.

If we talk about straw-men arguments, then it seems to me that the assertion that the American Church is trying to foist upon the communion homosexuals and women bishops is certainly a straw-man argument! We cannot do such a thing within our current international structures. It isn't possible.

If, however, our structures change and we do take on a more hierarchal and Roman form (the Covenant, perhaps), then it can be easily understood that at some point in the future our new international body(ies) (our own pope or majesterium or congregation-for-the-doctrine-of-the-faith, or some such thing in Anglican form), will deem this or that idea, activity, or theological perspective to be normative for the whole Communion, and we will have no recourse but to obey in our various provinces. What then?

What happens when these new international authorities make a decision in thirty years that this or that groups detests (like declaring that Charismatic forms of worship be infused within the liturgy, or like opening the way for faithful homosexuals to be full members once again, or that all provinces must accept women bishops)? Those that hate the decisions will do what they are doing right now - being very American, individualistic, and Protestant by rebelling against current structures and breaking away to be more pure and creating a whole new set of structures that are "really" and "truly" "Anglican-Christian."

The presumption that because right now some primates in various parts of the world agree with our reactionary American members - that they working their newly found power will "restore" right thought, faith, and practice throughout the Communion as a whole and always and forever, amen, is a deception of the Enemy of our Faith, particularly in its Anglican form.

Just because one group may haven the upper-hand now, does not mean they will later! The proposed structural changes could well be used against you in the future!

Anglicanism has understood this and has developed a means of being together in communion in a way that has allowed the various forms to remain one, even in tension and argument and while attempting to persuade all others that their party is more right about whatever. We are in the midst of tearing down those very forms and ourselves over demands for all to acquiesce to particularly sectarian theological and interpretive understandings.

Change or continuation

Tobias Haller has written an interesting blog-post after his return from retreat. His blog is: In a Godward Direction.

http://jintoku.blogspot.com/2007/08/plus-change.html

The Harry Potter experience

I saw the latest Harry Potter movie this past week. I see in Harry as he moves into his teen years this frustration and loneliness - "you don't understand! I can't take this anymore!" - that alludes kids who don't know yet that there could be something different. He is growing up. We watch and wait in anticipation of the process and the journey.

I missed the cultural excitement of a generation of readers who had to WAIT, sometimes years, for the next installment of the story. What would happen next? For the kids reading the books, who happened to be around same age as the characters, they see the images of themselves and what they have to go through in life. They relate, even if but a little, to the trials and tribulations, the friendships and the loves, that the characters must endure - for good and for bad. (And, the bad is never glossed over - it can't be avoided!)

Such excitement. Such anticipation. Wait. Wait, and don't tell me about it before hand because I want to experience the discovery myself!

I just read an article about the Harry Potter phenomena and some parallels (or anti-parallels) with the Christian faith and the culture. Interesting points. Here is an excerpt:

Those of us who have been reading the Harry Potter novels as they were being published were able to experience something special that future generations of readers won't — the anticipation and suspense of waiting several years between each book. From now on, new readers can read all seven books straight through if they want to. But for the past decade, Harry Potter readers have been part of a global community that has experienced the dramatic tension of waiting for the next installment.

I wonder what it would look like for the gospel story to be more suspenseful. I think one of the most significant aspects about the experience of reading the final Harry Potter book is that we didn't want to hear spoilers. We had come to know and love the characters so much that we wanted to journey with Harry and his friends. We needed to experience and discover for ourselves what they were going through. We didn't want to find out in chapter two of book one how it was all going to turn out. Instead, we read seven books and thousands of pages, staying up into the wee hours of the morning, because the journey is every bit as important as the ending. Indeed, without experiencing the adventure of the journey, there wouldn't have been as much dynamic power to the ending.

Are Christian "gospel presentations" less like the adventure of a Harry Potter novel and more like spoilers that tell you what happened but take all the suspense and delight out of the journey? Maybe Christians have been so intent on getting to the point and bottom-lining things, for the sake of saving souls, that they've taken the mystery and surprise out of the narrative. We jump to the end. God loves you, Jesus died for you, pray this prayer, yada yada yada.

It's well-intentioned but self-defeating. We don't get to know the characters, so we diminish the experience and the power of the biblical narrative. Often we are so concerned about getting people from here to there that they don't experience the journey enough to really make the faith their own. We have short-circuited the narrative imagination. What a loss.

I couldn't agree more. What have we done in the name of religion - or power, or prestige, or insecurity, or fear, or...

This thing called Christianity, this faith, this way of life, this way of being and thinking, is a journey that necessitates personal discovery. It cannot simply be told to us or demanded of us with the expectation of honest and real understanding - the kind that satisfies our inner-most being. Most of all, it takes a whole heck of a lot of waiting, anticipation, and more waiting - and work. This is how it is, no matter how we want it to be. Rawlings was not going to write any faster, no matter how much her fans demanded it. "Make me whole, right NOW!" "Solve all my problems, right NOW." "Make me feel good, right NOW." "Make me a millionaire, right NOW!" "Make me popular, self-assured, healed, powerful, funny, straight, ruler of all things, NOW!"

Christianity doesn't work this way. It just doesn't, and because the form of the faith that is now in the ascendancy says that it can, we all experience a very deficient faith. And you know what? Most people realize it and have said, "We don't want anything to do with you all and this Christianity of yours'." They see the superficiality, the hypocrisy, and the self-deception that runs rampant within American Christianity. It is empty, it is bland, it is irrelevant to the deep calling to the deep. I'm telling ya, the monastics have it right (or as right as possible this side of the divide), even though we cannot all be professed monastics. What then can we be?

Ah, youth

We, individuals in my parish, have been going through the discernment process for a program to engage and connect young people with their faith, life, and parish called "Journey to Adulthood," or J2A for short. I must say that I think this is one of the best of numerous curricula or programs I've seen. It is based on solid developmental principles, thorough, flexible, and hits what I think are all the right targets. The question, of course, is whether this particular "system" or program is for us. The overall emphasis is for adults to enter the journey with young people as they navigate their movement into adulthood. Simply to be with them, offer guidance, be real and honest - nothing done to the young people, nothing but high expectations of honesty and forthrightness, and within the Faith.

One of the questions I put to the discernment committee is this, "What does a youth ministry in an Anglo-Catholic parish look like?" (To clear some things up, this particular parish is traditionally Anglo-Catholic, not because of some misplaced love of ceremony or desperate clinging to tradition, but because of a lived ethos that comes only from the ancient and deep practice of the Catholic faith in its Anglican expression.) What does a youth program in an urban setting, with young people who are scheduled to death, that have every opportunity and cultural expression available to them, in a church that has a lived tradition of the faith development of young people taking place primarily in the home (which isn't really happening these days, for a variety of reasons), in a physical plant that was not designed for a "youth group?"

Our common notion of "youth programs" or "youth groups" come from a programmatic point-of-view that is not very old - perhaps from the 1950's onward. Our expectations of a youth group and the Christian formation of young people come from the same place where we developed our misplaced expectations of education in general - parents have given over to the schools the responsibility of raising their children for things temporal, and in the same way they have given over to the Church the responsibility for the faith development of their children. Both are misplaced! Both will and are resulting in failure, but only time and a complete collapse will bring us back to reality and from our adult self-centeredness.

Anyway, parents, for the most part, have reneged on their primary role of overseeing the adult development of their own children (educationally, professionally, emotionally, and spiritually). That is a hard thing to say, but having worked for over 20 years with young people in higher education and faith development, I find it to be true in far too many cases (with definite and numerous exceptions, of course). So what do we do as a parish? Try to take the place of family and parents? It doesn't work, or at least it doesn't work very effectively. Kids aren't stupid. They see too many parents that do or say one thing, yet expect differently of their kids. This is their example, and the follow it.

So, in this parish, with its history, and the trajectory of youth in this day and place, I don't think an idea of "youth group" is the direction we should go. Not that J2A isn't excellent - it is excellent for a time and place, which I don't think is here and now. Perhaps an adaptation? I don't know.

Whatever we decide to do, a re-emphasis on home and family-based youth faith development/Christian formation is essential. We, as a parish, must provide support and help for the parents, but the primary locus of development must remain in the home and by the parents/family. We also must do what is necessary to make younger parents feel capable of working with their kids - teach them, guide them, support them, hold them accountable.

The question remains - How do we do this? I keep coming back to some form of the monastic tradition – of postulants and novices and vows and Rules of Life. To something that is real, ancient, mysterious, honest, and quite counter-cultural.

Who am I to think such things...

An infection that invades our thinking is impatience and pride - thinking that we are the all-knowing ones who must act NOW in order to save God's Church (or our little Anglican part of it). Come on. Why do we think (in all our various forms - liberals and conservatives - political or theological) that we now know God's mind well enough to act as we do? We like our ways, frankly, better than God's ways, don't we? You know, love you enemy and all that.

God is in control and He doesn't need our impatient hubris to accomplish anything, particularly the reform of The Episcopal Church - again, either liberal or conservative reform. It is His!, not ours' (liberal or conservative)! He will do what He deems best and at the right time - even if that time is beyond our lifetimes'. The solutions to our current problems may well be beyond our lifetimes. So? God is still God and His Church is still His Church.

Sometimes I think we act so hastily and arrogantly because we don't think God is doing what He should be doing (like casting into utter darkness the people with whom we disagree), so we have to help the poor guy along. My goodness.

Live faithfully. Live consistently. Most of all live humbly and seek wisdom - God will provide without our feeble strategizing and politicking. Boy, God, am I glad I am not like one of THOSE people! ;-)

Lack of understanding

I was watching a video from the Network in the U.S. meeting in Texas this week. The “Network of Anglican Parishes and Dioceses," otherwise known as the "Anglican Communion Network" is the reactionary group of people who oppose the direction the Episcopal Church has been heading over the past 30 years. The issues generally revolve around women’s ordination, the whole gay issue, the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, and the theologically and social liberal tilt of the Church. I am sympathetic to some of their concerns, even though I absolutely do not agree with their tactics to force a narrowly defined conformity upon the entire Communion and to attain power and control.

I watched an interview with three of the bishops who are big in the Network, Bishops Duncan, Iker and Ackerman - lead by the Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh Bob Duncan. What struck me most is an early statement by Bishop Duncan that it is a true shame that due to the lack of leadership by the Archbishop of Canterbury (the traditional determiner of who are members of the Anglican Communion), that the two "instruments of unity" - The Archbishop of Canterbury and the decennial Lambeth Conference - no longer function as such. His statement indicates that these Episcopal Church bishops (and many others, I'm sure, around the world) will no longer look to the Archbishop of Canterbury as the source of unity or the Lambeth Conference as the gathering of all actual Anglican Communion bishops.

These folks are infected with the same virus as are many of the "liberals" in the American Church and the lackeys of both groups. Duncan and his followers and co-religionists make decisions over things they do not have the authority to decide. They make grand pronouncements. (Now, I recognize that similar arguments can be made against the American Church's decision to ordain women and consecrate a gay priest in a relationship to be a bishop of the Church, but I don't expect "liberals" to abide by the similar traditional understandings and standards that the reactionary "conservatives" propagate and demand compliance to. The liberals simply do not believe in the same way.)

Regardless of anything American or other Anglican bishops what to declare, they do not have the authority in themselves individually or as a group outside of an intentional and Anglican ecumenical Council to redefine what constitutes the symbol of Anglican unity or who decides such things. (Despite the fact that I don’t have a problem with Robinson being bishop of New Hampshire, I also do not think the American Church acted prudently in the way it handled the new Bishop of New Hampshire.) In Anglicanism, it is the Archbishop of Canterbury who determines who is a member of the Communion, period. They can split off or declare they are the true expression of Anglicanism all they want, but they then end up being a break-off, a sect, a denomination. They won't call themselves that, but that is what they will be.

Now, the "liberals" in the American Church who are determined to press forward with their agendas and who say such things as, "let them have it" or "we don't need the Communion," are just as guilty and liable for the demise of the unity of the Communion. Yet, for the liberals, since many of them no longer believe in all this mystical stuff anyway (after all, religion is devised by humanity anyway, as some are prone to think), it is consistent for them to say such things. What differences, in the final analysis, does it really make?

For the "conservatives," (who accuse the "liberals" of disrespect for discipline and tradition, heresy, abuse of authority, lack of a moral standard, and the like) they make statements like Bishop Duncan's that suggest that they are taking upon themselves an authority they do not have, well, they too are infected with the virus of American hyper-individualism and they are as profoundly blind to their central role in the demise of the catholicity and unity and the Communion. To claim that this Church is Catholic, part of the One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, they are certainly acting in a very Protestant and really congregational way. They do not have the authority to declare the Archbishop of Canterbury or Lambeth to be irrelevant to what constitutes actual membership in the Anglican Communion because these two entities will not do or declare what they want them to.

It is funny, really, childish, despite being very sad and profoundly frustrating. It is very American. It is diseased thinking and acting. It is not Catholic. The way things have been going, none of this is very Christian, period.

UPDATE:
Ephraim Radner, from the Anglican Communion Institute, has resigned from the Anglican Communion Network as a result of Bishop Duncan's recent statements. Read his letter here:

http://www.kendallharmon.net/t19/index.php/t19/article/4770/#more

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