Romans 2

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pas judgment do the same thing. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things,” list in chapter 1, “is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you towards repentance?
How easy it is for me, for any of us, to pass judgments on others. The fact is we all judge, and we must continue to make judgments on all manner of the things. I don’t think Paul was instructing us to stop making judgments, but to stop being hypocrites in our judgment of others. Who knows the heart of man, but God.
As years pass, I am much more willing to leave the judging to God. When I was young, zealous, and far more self-righteous, it was far easier to pass judgment on others and never realized that I was thinking, “thank God I am not like THAT person! See how much better I am than…” Over the years my own stupidity, my own hypocrisy, my own self-righteous pride have come home to me more than I want to admit. It is in our make-up to behave in such ways, but if we allow God to have His way with us then we are transformed and made new daily.
We, too, are more often than not blind to our own pride or need to pass judgments on others in order to boost our own sense of worth or worthiness. I think this is what Paul is getting at as he writes to the Roman Jewish Christians.

Order for the Benefit of College Students

A society or religious order focused on ministry to college students. Chaplains would be the monastics devoting their lives to the spiritual formation/direction and maturation of college students. There needs to be a vital presence of a Christian expression other than fundamentalism and cultic groups that sow and reap and minister to students during the most open and vulnerable period of their lives. There needs to be an Anglican presence in academe! Since the resources are not being committed to such ministry, maybe we need to approach this in a different way – perhaps to take things into our own hands for the time being. I wonder what this would look like?
I have been pulled for a long time in the direction of monasticism. I really don’t know where it comes from or what it may entail, but that desire for complete devotion and surrender to prayer, worship, service, and relationship between brothers/sisters of like commitment has always been present – and seems to be growing. It has taken different shapes during different periods of my life – as a college student, as a campus pastor and missionary, as a seminarian, and now as I begin my life as a priest the pull is only getting stronger.
In many ways, the intense experience of college student ministry mirrors a form of monastic living. Students involved in campus ministries are often the most “sold-out” they will ever be in their lives. The fellowship and the intense spiritual dynamic are profoundly experienced. Chi Alpha at the time of my involvement had a four-fold philosophy of ministry – Discipleship, Worship, Prayer, and Witness. A good foundation, I think.
Now as an Anglican, I understand far more of the history and contributions of monastics to the experience of the Church and for ministry to God and people. I want it all the more.
Ministry to college students, while rarified, is of vital importance for the Church and for the cause of Christ in the world. This focused period of students’ lives opens them to discovering their own faith for perhaps the first time. They are open and willing to newly investigate all manner of things, and these people will be the leaders in politics, science, religions, and business. How will they form their lives, their faith, their philosophies, and so on? Who will influence them?
Fundamentalist religious groups are all over college campuses, as are the cults. They are forming future leaders in their own narrow form and these people will be leading us – to where I don’t know. There are obviously many good ministries, too. So much of the current culture wars and ascendancy of Religious-Right fundamentalism can be directly attributed to the success of their campus ministries during the later part of the 20th century. I know, I was there and was one of them! The Episcopal Church abandoned campus in the 1970’s.
Now, where is the presence on campuses of a Christian expression that allows for open investigation and questioning, that has an ancient pedigree, which values the transformative powers of the liturgy and sacraments, that takes Scripture seriously, and allows for great mystery and experience? Where is Anglicanism on our campuses?
Since the Episcopal Church in general seems unwilling or unable to focus resources for ministry to college students, why not develop a religious order focused on ministry to college students? Men and women who have a passion for and a calling for ministry to college students can devote either part of or all their lives to this purpose. Chaplains will be the monastics (monks or nuns in some form) of such an order. They can live into this calling in a supportive and challenging fellowship that pools resources so that chaplains can be placed and supported in their ministries. Those who do not wish to live in such community full-time can financially and prayerfully (and a myriad of other ways) support the order/society. And so on…
Who knows? Anyone interested? College students of faith and those who are seeking need such a presence! They just do, and until the Church returns money and resources to our colleges and universities, perhaps we can take things into our own hands and begin the work in those places where chaplains and chaplaincies are missing. I’ll do it!

Thoughts

I made a vow to be obedient to my Bishop and to conform to the practice and worship of the Episcopal Church expressed in the Book of Common Prayer.
Taking and living into such a vow, which was very difficult for me, I did it with intent and sincerity as an act of personal humility. I have no problem trusting God with my life, but trusting other people with my life is an entirely different matter. Frankly, my experience has not led me to have much confidence in other people having my best interests in mind when decisions are made. Regardless, this is what I was called to do at ordination and what I determined to do.
All that for this: While I am confident that a right understanding of Scripture and the life in the Church that Jesus calls us does not forbid or restrict gay people (whether single or in life-long, mutual, and monogamous relationships) from being fully participating members of the Church at all levels, what I am to do as an ordained member of that Church is an entirely different matter. I have intentionally put myself in a different situation than are lay members of the Church. Ecclesiastical authority bears greatly upon me, whereas in our Episcopal understanding of things not so much on lay people.
The Church catholic, even within our Anglican expression of that Church, has not concluded that gay people in sexually-active relationships can participate in Holy Orders. The Episcopal Church has, for the most part, but we are only a small part of the Church catholic. Of course, issues concerning married priests have still not been settled universally nor has the issue of woman priests. I fully realize that the collective understanding of the Church catholic, or even majority parts of it, can be absolutely wrong! Where does protest rightly begin in pushing for needed reform and change? Have the Episcopal Church and other provinces of Anglicanism rightly initiated the process of change concerning gay Christian participation in Holy Orders, despite the vehemence of opposition expressed by other parts of the Church?
Considering all the debate within Anglicanism right now over this issue, if I understand what is meant by the Church catholic, then I cannot simply say – We in the American Church can do what we please as long as it is within our canonical regulations no matter what the rest of the Church thinks or does.
I relinquished my “rights” when I entered into Holy Orders. Frankly, I relinquished my “rights” when I became a Christian, period. This is oh so very contrary to American culture, which has come to the point were individual “rights” trump all things, even the general welfare of society as a whole. I can declare for reasons of justice and fairness that I have a “right” to be in a relationship with someone of my own gender – because I am constitutionally homosexual and because I believe Scripture does not forbid it – but I am speaking as an American, not as a Christian. As a Christian, I am incorporated into a larger body of people that requires me to maturely consider the wellbeing of my brothers and sisters first, and my own wants and needs second.
Of course, in considering the needs and wellbeing of my fellow Christians, I must defend and advocate for gay Christians. That does not mean, however, that I can demand that all of Christianity bend to my will (or to the will of a small minority of members) because I want to have a relationship despite what the Church catholic sets as requirements for ordained clergy.
If the decisions are made, if only for the present and near future, that clergy who are gay cannot be in relationships then what do I do? Rebel by doing it anyway and keeping it quiet – hypocrisy? Rebel by saying that this branch of the Church catholic has decided to do its own thing regardless of what the rest say? Be concerned about ME first? Or, do I submit to the decisions of the Church catholic – the majority – believing that God is working in ways I don’t understand and will being all things into conformity to His will? Or, do I renounce my Orders? OR… what?
As I have considered what it means to be a “catholic” Christian after being an individualistic “Evangelical” Christian for so long, the more I realize that it is not all about me, nor is it all about this or that particular group.

Down day

This is shaping up to be one of those down days I have every now and then. I’m feeling very inadequate right about now – how can I do any of this stuff. I know little about anything. It will pass, I know from experience, but it is here nonetheless. I need to take a retreat and find out what I am to do.
I am continually amazed at what one can witness and see in New York City – not as if these things cannot and do not happen in other places all over the world, but they taken on a different hue here in this City.

How to be different – 2

So, here is another example of how we as Christians need to be different than those “of the world.”
Have you heard? Pat Robinson, founder of the Christian Coalition, former Presidential candidate, chancellor of Regent University in Virginia Beach, suggests that it would be prudent, productive, and cost-effective to assassinate President Chavez of Venezuela. According to Robinson, probably not one drop of oil would stop flowing, and besides it would be cheaper than getting into another costly war over one two-bit strong-arm dictator spreading communism and providing opportunities to militant Islam.
Read the AP article here.
As a professed Christian, Robinson advocates murder of his fellow man for crass nationalist reasons. Robinson does not like what this man advocates economically, politically, or socially for his own country, so kill him. This is advocacy of pre-mediated murder – hardly what Christ calls us to do or be as His follower’s. What is so tragic about this statement is that most people “of the world” instinctively know this is an immoral proposal! So much for being “in the world, but not of it.”

To be different – 1

I’ve been preaching at St. Paul’s these past couple of Sundays and will the next few, too. The message I feel compelled to give, and frankly repeat, is that the life we live as followers of Jesus the Christ, as the ones “who join themselves to the Lord” (Proper 15, Isaiah 56:1-7), as those who “pursue righteousness” (Proper 16, Isaiah 51:1-6), as those who confess that Jesus is “the Messiah – the Christ – the Son of the Living God” (Proper 16, Matthew 16:13-20), the life we live should look very different on significant and fundamental levels than those who are “of the world.” It is not really a matter of doing or not doing, although our actions certainly are a reflection and outgrowth of our inner condition, but a matter of what is built upon our foundation of understanding pertaining to our relationships with God, our fellow humans, and with the culture of our day.
This coming Sunday’s epistle reading Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good, acceptable and perfect.” (Proper 17, Romans 12:1-8) What are the results of our thinking and actions not being conformed “to this world?” I want to periodically write down some ideas I have about being different – again, not just to be different in action or speech for the sake of difference, but because our lives are so infused with the Gospel of Christ that we cannot help but think differently, speak different, act differently in an intuitive way.
So, this morning as I sat in Au Bon Pain eating my apple croissant (which, by the way, has far less calories and fat than a cinnamon scone!)and drinking coffee before work, I read in USA Today a commentary on youth and sports. I’m only going to mention one small part of the whole article that deals with parents and their actions and reactions concerning their children and sports. Some parents are demanding their children focus exclusively on one sport throughout childhood so that the child may become champions in something and get scholarships, etc.
“Says sports psychologist Rick Wolff, author of Coaching Kids for Dummies: ‘Excelling in sports has become as much a part of the American dream for parents as getting their kids into the best school and living in the best neighborhoods.” What is their intent? Is it truly for the betterment of their children or their own sense of self-worth and success?
“‘Parents are using their kids as a lottery ticket,’ Sanders says. ‘Before all this money came along, moms and dads didn’t go crazy at games. They didn’t curse their kids and get on them to play better. It was just fun. Now, there’s a Yellow Brick Road, and parents think it’s their ticket.’ In making youth sports so specialized, so adult, we’re killing our children’s joy for the game.” The article goes on to touch on the physical and emotional dangers for the kids under such pressure.
Youth sport is developing into something no longer about teaching kids sportsmanship, the love of sport, team play, but to excel to win, win, win, so that they can get money and often so that parents can live vicariously through their children. Greed and self-centeredness (whether monetary or for self-something), in the name of their children. I realize these are generalizations, but the cultural current is certainly flowing in this direction.
What makes a follower of Jesus different? One example is selflessness! We are to live our lives not for ourselves and our own betterment, fulfillment, or enjoyment, but we are to live our lives for others – our children, our parents, our friends, the poor, our parishioners, etc. In so doing, we discover the ironic dynamic that exemplifies so much of life in the Kingdom of God. We find ourselves full in all aspects of life. “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” In our culture today, there is an expectation that we should not deny ourselves anything, and the expense or the effect on others should be no consideration! Christians are to be different, and the ability to be different – different at our core of being – in this sense comes from the transformation we experience as we yield our lives to God.

Final Days

I listened to an African American kid on NPR yesterday give an essay for Youth Radio about being spanked by his father. He hated being spanked, of course, but he said in hindsight he deserved it and it made him sure that his parents cared enough to do something “that hurt them more than it did me.” He said all we have to do is watch the kids in the mall to know the difference it makes. White parents with kids who are out of control are prime examples of parents who try to bargain with their kids and talk to them about not doing this or that, rather than disciplining them, which he said is what African American parents do with their unruly kids by spanking them. He and his friends would brag with each other about who go the worse “woppin’.”
I really don’t think this kind of story would have appeared on NPR just 10 years ago. Corporal punishment, after all, is nothing more than child abuse, or so conventional wisdom would have us believe. Of course, when conventional “wisdom” bears no resemblance to reality it will eventually be overturned, but not without a great conflict. Kids need boundaries and consistency that provide guidance. Kids also need to know that their parents are adults/parents and will go to whatever lengths necessary to guide the growth and development of their children in order to prepare them for the real world – and to protect them from the real world. Kids also need to learn that behavior has consequences – good and bad – and that they will be held responsible for their acts, with a good measure of mercy, grace, and forbearance thrown in for good measure.
We are seeing the final days of Modernism – or at least the “Age of Aquarius” generational zeitgeist. We all know that Modernism and the ideals coming out of the Enlightenment were shown to be unattainable and fundamentally flawed throughout the 20th century. Utopia born of humanity continually improving through education, yadda, yadda, yadda, is not the reality of the world as we live in it. It just isn’t. That is not to say that education, and all that, is not important or that such things do not help or contribute to the overall improvement of society.
We are also bearing the brunt of the misunderstanding of human nature and societal dynamics that propelled common thinking in academia, government, and the social sciences and services organizations from the 1950’s through the end of the 20th century. Common sense is coming back into vogue!
I have also heard and read more and more about the demise of current understandings of “diversity” and cultural relativism. We are seeing the resurgence of belief that we can make moral and social judgments about what is good, just, and better. Some cultures really are better and more advanced than others, not just “different.” It is okay to say to immigrants that they need to adapt to American culture and learn English as the national language (or the culture and language of any country) – a melting pot and not a mosaic.
The danger, of course, is that reactionary forces will attempt to pull society back into some kind of fantasy world of yesteryear. Hopefully, the pendulum will not swing too wildly.

No utopia!

This, from another Episcopalian blogger, Doghouse, commenting on conflict between those who hold to the Englightenment/Modernism and those who move in Post-Modernism. He writes about the need to come up with an alternative name for “Post-modernism,” but this paragraph caught my attention. I’ve been saying something similiar for a while now, but this guy says it much better than I do.
“It has been important to keep the term up until now to make it clear that the rationalistic assumptions of Modernity have been rejected. Despite impressive technological and medical advances, the utopian goals of the Enlightenment failed. The grand experiment where humanity shook off the fetters of religion and took up the reigns of existence only resulted in advanced bloodshed, world wars, the A bomb and now terrorism. What started with such loud promise at storming of the Bastille, finally died with a whimper two centuries later with the fall of the Berlin Wall.”
Read the whole thing here.