One of the benefits of the Christian Church in the world, or
a benefit that we should provide but in these days often don’t, is that we call
society and culture to higher standards of discourse, politics, education,
ethics, and culture, and call individuals to their better selves.  God desires us to live life to the full – in
sane, healthy, altruistic, and responsible ways that are beneficial to not only
ourselves, but to all of society.


In times past, if people wanted to be educated they went to
the Church. If you wanted to be cultured, you came to the Church.  If someone wanted to help “the least of
these,” s/he went to the Church. 
Not so much, anymore.  And, of
course, there are plenty of examples throughout history where the leadership of
the Church exploited, tortured, killed, maimed, impoverished, etc., people and
societies.  Yet, the negative exploits of
those who used (and continue to use) religion for their own gain does not
diminish what the Church is supposed to be and do and what we as Christians are
called to be and do.


In these days, we tend to align ourselves with the
prevailing culture that too often wants to dumb things down – because that is
what people in the general culture have come to expect. The banal, the lowest
common denominator, the most profane or perverse, the most demeaning, the most
dictatorial, the most arrogant, the most selfish, and so forth, has become the
norm.  We make little effort to truly teach
and to call people to move beyond and above the crass, sterile, and
manipulative norm that invades all of life. 
The perception many younger people have of the Church is that it is just
yet another cooped institution or group of people that wallow in the cultural
morass and that offers no real escape and alternative way forward.


As a Christian, I take upon myself to be educated, to seek
understanding and wisdom, to be forgiving, to be giving of myself, to be
respectful, to love beauty, peace, and freedom. I also understand that in order
to do all of this in God’s economy of things, my first and primary motivation
and goal is to love God with all of myself – my intentions, my devotions, my
perceptions, and my thoughts. It is tough to do in our culture, but we in the
Church must stop giving into or aiding the dumping down of everything.

How Shall We Then Live?

So, as part of my “Ministry Portfolio” that is needed as I look for ministry positions within the Church, we are supposed to post a link in our online portfolio to examples of sermons.  Most Episcopal Churches do not record the sermons of preachers, although more are doing so.  There isn’t the “tape ministry” turn “.mp3” recordings of preachers sermons culture within the Episcopal Church as has been common for a long time among Evangelical churches.

Anyway, I’ve started recording some of my sermons… because that is what is expected these days by those who make up search committees.  Here is my sermon at St. Paul’s Church Carroll St. in Brooklyn, NY.  The text comes from James, Proper 20 of the Revised Common Lectionary.

Communion Without Baptism

Considering what is going on in the 2012 General Convention of the Episcopal Church right now with regard to resolutions related to changing the Church’s reaching to official acceptance of the unbaptized being given Holy Communion, I want to make more accessible the piece I recently wrote on the topic.

The piece that I wrote focuses to how emerging generations (younger folks) may or may not engage this issue (topic, point of contention, disagreement, fight, or whatever-else-it-might-be-called).  Primarily, what I say is that if we make this change for reasons related to “welcome” or “inclusion” or the removal of supposed “obstacles” to new people coming to our churches, that such reasons for such a fundamental change may play well with liberal-minded, Baby-Boomer sentiments, but it will be irrelevant for younger people.  Younger people deal with such issues from very different perspectives.

So that anyone who may want to read the essay/commentary without wading through irrelevent stuff, I have made a “Page” for my 2-cents worth of commentary.  Of course, you could just scroll down.

Here is the link:

Communion Without Baptism

The Millennial generation does not imagine they are accepting or rejecting the Christian Faith–they imagine they are entering into formation for a new way of life, and they expect the Church to initiate, guide, teach, equip, and send them. 

What follows delves into how this may play out when considering the practice of “communion without baptism.”


The Lord GOD has given me

the tongue of a teacher,

that I may know how to sustain

the weary with a word.

Morning by morning he wakens–

wakens my ear

to listen as those who are
taught. (Isaiah 50:4-9a)


Isaiah’s words ring loudly if we take up the challenge to understand our times forthrightly and consider candidly the looming debates within the Church. I humbly pray that we as a Church may be as one who knows how to “sustain the weary with a word.” I pray that we all are awakened daily by the Lord with ears “to listen as those who are taught.”

We should recognize, even if unable at present to understand, that within Western culture and particularly American culture, we are undergoing a profound, long-term change.   This is absolutely true for the Church and Christianity in general, also. One advantage we have in the enduring Christian Church is that we’ve been around for a very long time and have seen this all before. The question is whether we will learn from the past or whether we will simply repeat the past mistakes and be subsumed by the present, temporary, and thin zeitgeist. Change is inevitable, and can be very good, but we have to question and examine the reasons and means for change – why, why now, how, to what degree, what might be the unforeseen consequences?, and so forth.

One of the current travails within the Church is how to stem the tide of decline so that we might again thrive. One of the aspects of change we are examining for the Church (and here I am speaking specifically of the Episcopal Church, the institutional expression of Anglicanism in the United States) is how to engage younger generations (really, for too many people it revolves are how to “appeal to”) younger generations.  One way proposed to appeal to younger folks is to remove all assumed “barriers,” including the need for baptism before the reception of Holy Communion, the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Who are we, after all, to deny them something that doesn’t belong to us, anyway, right? The problem is – that plays well with Baby Boomer sentimental thinking, but not particularly well with younger generations in the aggregate.

So, what follows are some thoughts I have about “communion without baptism” as the issue plays out in the upcoming General Convention of
the Episcopal Church USA this summer.



communion from the cup2.jpgThe focus of this commentary deals with how the debate within the Episcopal Church over “communion without baptism” may be conceived of within the cultural melee experienced by “emerging generations”[i] and the place, needs, and hopes of younger people. The demographic we are primarily considering is the generation known as the “Millennials” or “Generation Y” – those who are roughly 11-29 years-of-age. This is a complex generation, and even while we are all still figuring out what makes them a coherent generation, there are reliable generational characteristics that can be generalized.

When dealing with the many theological, sociological, and pedagogical considerations concerning communion of the unbaptized, within the context of Millennials there are additional considerations that need to be taken into account: 1.) The influences of previous generations on the upbringing of this group of people; 2.) The general cultural context that this generation now inhabits and how they function within it; and 3.) The foundation upon which this generation builds its understanding of life, humanity, personhood, and the world and their engagement with it – their default “faith” or worldview. Each of these will be briefly dealt with below.

These additional considerations are couched within the overarching goals of being present with young people within their constantly changing contexts so to be a witness of God’s reconciling and regenerative presence and love, to learn how to translate the enduring,[ii]
living Christian Faith in ways that will resonate with them, and to discover the best means for bringing the emerging generation into the mystical Body of Christ and ultimately the parish community.

Finally, over the last ten years, I have repeatedly heard and read from young people that the older “leadership of the Church does not listen to us!” We are continually trying to reconfigure the Church and its worship attempting to be relevant and accessible in ways we presume younger people will like. Yet, they are not impressed, literally. We recognize this by their growing absence. What they are seeking is something worthwhile to live for – something that proves to them that it is important enough, big enough, and hopeful enough for their consideration and devotion.[iii] Many are finding this in other expressions of Christianity, even as studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that the hope and life of historic Anglicanism is primed to take advantage of the spiritual disposition of Millennials.

“The mind of a person with understanding gets knowledge; the wise person listens to learn more.” (Proverbs 18:15)


Influence of Previous Generations:

It has been said of Baby-Boomers (born between 1946 to around 1960[iv]) that they are the first generation to reject lessons learned from the past. There was and continues to be a generational suspicion of, if not outright rejection of, established institutions, convention, and what came before them. The generation untethered itself from the past in order to create a new world. A continuing example of this can be seen in TV commercials extolling how the Baby-Boomers are overthrowing traditional thinking and remaking retirement for themselves. Yet, Baby-Boomers were enculturated and formed as children within a society that still valued the sense of continuity and understanding that rests
with tradition and elder-wisdom. There was a collective rejection of how they were raised.

It has been said of Generation X (those born around 1961 through 1981) that they are the first generation to draw meaning from popular culture. They are the “MTV” generation. This seems to be a natural progression from the Baby-Boomer rejection of lessons learned from past generations and their values. Where else are GenX’ers to find meaning, if the past is moot and untrustworthy – even dangerous? They find meaning from what is – now. Of course, the “now” is constantly morphing, particularly when considering the advent of the Internet and the continual re-framing of what is and can be known as true or final or valid – all ideas, all theories, and all concepts are equal on the Internet. Generation X is the first generation to be raised with the growing sense of being unconnected to anything sure and trustworthy.

Research reveals that the Millennial Generation (those born after around 1982 until somewhere from 2001through 2004) is the first generation where social networking and technology predominate in their everyday lives. They have access to more information and the ability for connectivity than any other generation. Members express a strong sense of abandonment by adults. As a result, Millennials have created for themselves a hidden subculture that
most adults do not see or understand.[vi] Their lives revolve around fast changing, capricious, and often-manipulative fads perpetuated through a pervasive media. Underneath all the hype and hoopla, our young people are weary and wary even as they express hope for the future.

Consider that in the aggregate, the parents of Millennials
(generally Baby-Boomers) are not raising their children in any particular kind
of faith.  Many parents do not want their
kids to be unduly influenced by what they consider to be antiquated and
confining past religious expectations. This generational sensibility continues
to compel adults to want young people to develop their own personal religious
faith in their own time, if any religious belief at all. Yet, parents do not
give much guidance or instruction to their children with respect to spiritual
development generally or Christian formation specifically. A consequence is
that adolescents without any formal religious education or experience arrive on
college campuses or into the adult world without an understanding for making
sound judgments of what is a legitimate faith expression or what is cultic,
spiritually manipulative, or emotionally harmful. Thus, it is reasonable that a
default, culturally generated faith such as “Moralistic, Therapeutic, Deism”[vii]
has developed to fill the void.

Consider that even for the Millennials who are being raised
within institutional religious settings, particularly Mainline Protestantism,
the general zeitgeist compels parents and adults to attempt to be more like
coordinators who want to help young people discover their own beliefs rather
than teachers of an enduring, consistent Christian faith. For their own good,
we make our children take music lessons or attend athletic practices, but we do
not make them be a part of the church. Thus, the example set by Baby-Boomer
parents and adults generally does not convey to young people that this
Christian Faith is important enough to teach and pass-on to the next
generation. They believe Christian life is, therefore, not worthy enough for
their consideration and involvement.

Consider that Millennials report having very good and
important relationships with their parents. They believe in a positive future
and have a sense of confidence in their abilities. They believe that the
existence of the institutional Church is good and important, yet they do not
believe that the Church has any relevance for their own lives. Ironically, part
of the reason for this is that young people do not believe that most of those
who go to church are in fact particularly Christian.[viii]

Adults rarely perceive their engagement with young people in
these ways, but this is what younger people generally report experiencing.

Questions that might be helpful to ponder: Have parents
abandoned their responsibility to be engaged as the primary movers in the
spiritual formation of their children? Has the institutional Church relinquished
its obligation to teach the enduring Christian Faith handed down from
generation to generation? Has the institutional Church itself been overwhelmed
and usurped by prevailing culture?  Why
do we find ourselves in a situation where fewer people among the emerging
generations find any relevance or alternative within the Church to what they
experience in the world? 


The Cultural Dynamic:

The cultural environment within which Millennials have and
are growing up is substantially different than any other generation in the
history of the U.S. Family dynamics, the ubiquitous use of technology that
enables instantaneous access to entertainment and communication, relationships
that are not bound by geography or tactile presence, and the omnipresence of
information and opinion are but a few significant considerations. There is the
extension of the “latch-key” phenomenon of the 1980’s and 90’s where parents
exert less and less formal oversight of and casual engagement with their
children. For many Millennials, the parental project of raising their children
and instilling an ethical system has been turned over to the schools. This same
dynamic is occurring as parents turn over the Christian formation of their
children to the institutional Church, if they engage any religious practice at
all. Children are less likely to have family traditions, generational wisdom,
or religious beliefs passed on to them by their parents. Finally, constant
change has bred a sense of being disconnected to anything sure and a chaos that
seems to rule their lives.

We are all enculturated from birth into ways of thinking and
being within our social environs and within common culture. Enculturation
normally occurs unconsciously as the prevailing social norms and expectations
are conveyed through media, educational systems, family influence, and peer
relationships. Religious institutions are playing far less of a positive role
than in the past. Enculturation can “form” us positively and negatively. We are
“formed” unknowingly, but for the Christian a process of intentional
“re-formation” is important in order to identify and heal those aspects of
enculturation that are negative and harmful to our individual and social good.

The reality we face as Christians living in the second
decade of 21st Century America is that young people are “formed” by
aspects of popular culture that work contrary to their spiritual health – the
way of life we are called to by Jesus Christ that enables a sustainable society
full of beauty and at peace. This is most significant because they lack basic
understandings of Christian truths formerly communicated through the common
culture of Christendom that mitigated aspects of negative enculturation.

Taking into account the coming and going of various
Christian movements over the past sixty-odd years, we have seen great change in
American Christianity. We are now reaping the results of Mainline Protestantism
of the ’60’s through 70’s and American-Evangelicalism of the 1980’s with the
resulting politicization and polarization of religion coupled with the ending
of Christendom.[ix]  Church practice has developed into a kind of “therapy” church – within the churches it has become more important to try to
make people feel good about themselves (and the Church) than to teach the enduring
Faith tradition or challenge people to strive for the amendment of life through
Christ. This kind of “church” has resulted in little Christian growth and

We are well past the “Seeker/Church Growth Movement” of the
1990’s as a phenomenon primarily among Baby-Boomers with its reaction against
institutional Christianity and tradition. We are now beyond the “Emergent
Movement” coming into its own during the 2000’s, which was and continues to be
a phenomenon among primarily GenX ‘ers engaged in figuring out how to be the
Church within Postmodernism, which among other things opens again an acceptance
of mystery. 

Among Millennials, we are realizing the phenomenon of the
end of the “Constantinian-Era” of Western Christianity – a “Post-Constantinianism.”
Aside from changes in technology and some social structures, we have entered
into a social construct that has much in common with the way early Christians
experienced life within prevailing cultures that were at best indifferent and
at worst hostile to Christian faith and life.

The questions to ponder within current cultural contexts are
these: How does the Church respond within a culture that no longer supports
Christian notions of the human being, of ethics, of our world, and of our place
in the world?  How does the Church
respond to a generation of which the majority of members have no formal
religious education and very little meaningful religious experience? How should
the Church respond to younger people who seek a kind of “spirituality,” but
have little notion of what that means or how to attain it outside of cultural
trend, whim, or fickle personal feelings?


The Default Faith of
the Millennials:

The “National Study of Youth and Religion”[xi]
reveals that younger people have developed a sense of spirituality that the
authors define as “Moralistic, Therapeutic, Deism.” This is not just another
variant of the Christian Faith, the authors stress. It is an uncritical
something-else that has developed among younger people as a result of their enculturation.
They are usually not able to coherently articulate this as a spiritual
belief-system, yet it well describes their sense of a supreme-being and how
they engage with such a supreme-being and how that supreme-being engages them,
including how they are to behave. This god is out there somewhere, doesn’t
really have concern for human affairs, but is expected to hopefully bail us out
of trouble when we need it, and the highest moral ideal is to be nice (which is
not the same as loving your neighbor as yourself).

Regrettably, the authors write that this default “faith” of
younger people is not a result of churches teaching the Christian Faith badly.
This is, in fact, the “faith” that primarily Mainline Protestantism is now
teaching by example to its young people.[xii]
As a priest recently said, “My church is full of unconverted people.” It is
very difficult for those who do not effectively know the Christian Faith and
the life resulting from such a Faith to instill in the emerging generation a
meaningful and consequential Christian understanding and experience. We are
collectively living a deficient form of Christianity, and young people know it.

Consider that with respect to religious or spiritual
beliefs, an understanding of the self, and knowledge of Christian faith and
praxis among emerging generations, research reveals the dire need for clear and
consistent teaching from the Church. We need to reengage our teaching ministry
– the process of catechetical formation among people who know little about the
Faith. In these days, an institution that cannot clearly articulate its
beliefs, its purpose, and its uniqueness will quickly lose the interest of
younger people. Too many other things are gaming for their attention.

Questions to ponder as we think about faith development
among younger people: If the culturally inspired, default spiritual
understanding of a growing majority of Millennials is no longer built upon a
foundation of historic Christian thought and practice, how must the Church
respond? What is the teaching responsibility of the Church when approached by
those who know little or nothing about the Christian understanding of humanity,
the world, and God’s call to us? How do we live in ways that bear witness to a
God who is personal and comes among us, who is engaged with us through history,
and who desires us to come into the fullness of Christ?


Final Considerations:

Consider that there is a difference between respectful
listening so to learn how to better engage and teach emerging generations and,
alternately, a kind of listening that ends up relinquishing the obligation to
teach so to avoid controversy or perceived affront. It is always easier and
less controversial to be an impassive spiritual guild rather than a forthright
teacher.  We tend to think that being
less demanding and more vague will mean more interest and participation. This
way of thinking is continually shown to be false.

Consider, too, that there is a difference between giving the
consecrated elements of Holy Communion to unbaptized people for pastoral
reasons and the giving of the elements to unbaptized people as a matter of
course for reasons surrounding hospitality or inclusivity. As is evident in the
aggregate, that emerging generations are not responding to an increased focus
on “hospitality” and “inclusivity.” There is a desire for community,
fellowship, and diverse environments assuredly, but these things are not
understood by Millennials within the same concept of “hospitality” or
“inclusivity” that is proffered by many leaders within the Church at this time.

Consider that notions that emerging generations are not
interested in their spiritual lives, in church attendance, or learning about
the enduring Christian Faith are all simply myth, often used by leadership to
make excuses for the absence of young people from the Church. There are a
plethora of churches and Christian groups that are growing and thriving among
Millennials. The problem is that our Church, along with many, have all lost the
collective ability to not only experience the fullness of the Life in Christ
among present members, but have relinquished the project of learning how to
translate and pass on the enduring Christian Faith and practice to the next
generation in ways that resonate with them.

Could it be that we no longer listen to learn, effectively?
Could it be that we no longer are able to give comfort with a word in ways that
emerging generations can receive?


Conclusion: Bringing
it all together –

The churches in which I grew up considered both baptism and
the Lord’s Supper to be only symbolic. We were baptized at an age of
accountability only as an outward sign of a decision already made. We received
communion crackers and grape juice only as a remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice
and resurrection. There was no sacramental understanding and no “means of
grace” held within the elements. The church in which I spent eight years as a
lay campus pastor before becoming an Episcopalian is growing with over a
million more members in the U.S. than the Episcopal Church (with probably two
million more showing up on Sundays) and approximately 70 million members
worldwide – nearly as large as the entire Anglican Communion. Yet I can say
authoritatively that the continued growth in these kinds of churches is not
because people have a warm feeling of welcome as a result of being allowed to
take communion regardless of where they are in their personal or spiritual
lives. And, these are not churches where the members leave their brains at the

Most all indicators among younger people point in a
direction where clear teaching, rigorous yet fair expectation, and deeply held
beliefs-proven-over-time are what they are seeking. They do not want to be told
what to believe out-of-hand. This can help explain their declining interest in
Evangelical and Roman churches. Yet, they seek something efficacious by which
to be challenged – not just the same, old thing they experience in a wearying
common culture.

We know that there is an increasing sense of loneliness and
narcissism among emerging generations.[xiii]
Technology is passé. Moving forward, an important ministry of the Church will
be to re-teach in word and by example how to have and maintain low-tech,
tactile, supportive, and multigenerational relationships.

Millennials are seeking something that is not bound by the
chaos of constant change. Those who are truly trying to find God and develop a
spiritual understanding of life are seeking examples of real alternatives to
the morass of prevailing culture among people who claim this enduring Faith.
They are seeking something that is not trite or superficial and something that
proves to be profoundly consequential.

Changing the Canons and teaching of this Church to provide
as normative communion without baptism will have profound consequence concerning
what this Church has taught and lived for centuries as part of the One Holy
Catholic and Apostolic Church and for our ecumenical relationships, but such
change will not cause a re-engagement of Millennials with this Church. It will
not provide for younger people collectively an example of vibrant and
significant belief. It will have little consequence for the Church as it tries
to attract a new generation of faithful Christians.

By providing an open invitation to come and explore this radical
Christian reality, we give young people who have little real knowledge of
Christian belief and practice the freedom to seek and question and wrestle with
the implications of this Faith. When they believe themselves ready to heed the
call of Jesus to enter into more formal relationships with God and other
parishioners in the context of the mystical Body of Christ, we make available
to them baptism – the initiation into the Church. Finally, when they believe
that they are ready to take upon themselves the profound significance of
Christ’s death and resurrection through the reception of the consecrated
elements of Holy Communion, they have a good understanding of what they are getting
themselves into. They have then determined for themselves that this life in
Christ is truly what they seek.  This is
not an effort to usher them into an exclusive club, but to meet them where they
are as they seek that which remains sure and true over time and demonstrates a
way of being that is life altering, with immense and eternal consequences. Centered
on Christ, this is a word that sustains the weary.

(Special thanks to The Rev. Amy Coultas for the beginning summation!)

Respectfully submitted for consideration by:
The Rev. Robert Griffith, SCP
Imago Dei Initiative
Brooklyn, NY

[i] By using the term “emerging,” there is recognition
and expectation that the process of understanding a new generation is forever a
process in flux, always emerging along with the young people who are growing

[ii] By using the word “enduring,” there is the
recognition that within the deep and ancient stream of Christian Tradition are
aspects that remain constant over time, through trial and persecution, within a
plethora of cultures and languages, and that always inspire the worship of and
relationship with Almighty God.

[iii] Research studies are numerous, but consider the
“National Study of Youth and Religion” (NSYR) and the Barna Research Group
findings as examples. For a brief list of research organizations and for a
short bibliography of articles and books pertaining to changing culture and
emerging generations, see  (Last accessed April 19, 2012)

[iv] Dates based on Strauss-Howe Generational Theory. See
for more information:
(Last accessed April 19, 2012)

[v] See the research findings reported in the books:
Clark, Chap (2005). Hurt: Inside the
World of Today’s Teenagers;
and (2011) Hurt
Grand Rapids: Backer Academic.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] See below for a fuller explanation of this default

[viii] See the report from the Barna Research Group:
Kinnaman, David, & Lyons, Gabe (2007). 
unChristian: What a New Generation
Really Thinks about Christianity and Why It Matters
. Grand Rapids: Baker
Books. See: (Last accessed April 19, 2012)

[ix] For our purposes, we are defining: “Post-Christendom”
as the end of official social institutions supporting and encouraging a
Christian worldview; “Postmodernism” as the philosophical system that has come
to predominate educational and social understanding, but more specifically
expressed on-the-ground and within everyday life; and “Post-Constantinianism”
is recognized when even the culture and social-fabric no longer support or encourage
a Christian worldview and when within local contexts Christianity becomes the
minority belief system.

[x] See the article: “When Are We Going to Grow Up? The
Juvenilization of American Christianity,” Christianity Today Online; posted
June 8, 2012.
(Last accessed 6/16/12)

[xi] NSYR website: (Last
accessed Apirl 19, 2012)

[xii] See – Dean, Kenda Creasey (2010). Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our
Teenagers Is Telling the American Church
. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
For more information: (Last accessed April
19, 2012)

[xiii]Marche, S. (May 2012). 
Is Facebook Making Us Lonely? Atlantic
. Retrieved April 13, 2012, from

When does it all end?

When God sets about renewing his Church (whether a part of the One, Holy and Apostolic Church or a Protestant denomination – or all of it as the Body of Christ), it is more often than not a very messy, nasty undertaking. Entrenched interests, “conservative” or “liberal”, fight mightily to stop it (look how the religious leaders of Jesus’ day tried to stop him and the Apostles). There comes a point through the name calling, the casting of dispersions, the casting into outer darkness, and the utter unChrist-like actions, when those most entrenched in the fighting become irreverent to the new thing that God is doing. This happens because, I think, those most enamored with their own positions become blind to what is really going on around them, under them, above them – anywhere but with them. Renewal may mean the death of everything – the end of it all. No more money! Then, perhaps, the reshaping – starting in the very hearts of very real folk – can begin in earnest.

This little rant of mine comes out of this news report of a parish that was once an Episcopal parish that decided to pull-out of the Episcopal Church, tried to keep the property that did not belong to them (according to the very Canons that they agreed to and lived under for for nearly 30-years, particularly considering the vow taken by the then Episcopal priest in charge).  They lost the court battle, were told to vacate the original Episcopal congregations building, but couldn’t leave it at that.

Now, I think that much of the way all this has been handled by the national Episcopal Church, dioceses, bishop, priests, and the laity in many of these conflicts has been terrible, but this kind of thing takes the cake, so to speak.

Here is an article describing what happened in: Diocese says Elm Grove’s church’s alter vandalized by evicted group ( ElmGroveNow)
Here is the photo on Facebook of the proud perpetrator of the action: the apse and alter – (Kelsie J. Wendelberger)

Continue reading

Religion vs. Faith

I’m starting to make a distinction between the “Christian Faith” and the “Christian Religion.”

The “Religion” deals more with cultic practices and asking what I must know about stuff. The “Faith” deals with being – who must I be & how must I be with God, with one another, and with myself.

Perhaps, too, this deals with a too intense focus on “revelation” in our understanding of God’s dealing with humanity (or even if there is anything to such statements). Too much of a focus on revelation can too easily lead us to simply asking the question of what we must know in order to be right with God, rather than how we must be or what we must do to be right with God. I think the focus on being is much more in line with the great commands of Jesus – and even the Law.

“I am a practitioner of the Christian Faith,” which in my mind places the emphasis on being and relationship. I don’t think it is the same as saying, “I am a practitioner of the Christian Religion,” with all is rituals, dogmas, etc.  (Believe me, this is not an attempt to downplay the importance of such things as ritual or doctrine, etc., in human life or in the practice of the Faith.)

This may touch on the divide between being “spiritual” vs. being “religious.”

More rambling thoughts about the economy and our future

I find it a bit ironic that during the mid-1980’s and ’90’s when businesses and the financial industries clambered for deregulation to allow us to “flourish” and better compete on the world stage, that they now find themselves devastated and on the eve of far greater government scrutiny and control then before deregulation. Government has been complicit. On the whole, have we really flourished? Some have made lots of money, but have even they “flourished,” regardless of the rest of us? When wealth and materialism are equated to “flourishing” in the minds of people, we become lessened, diminished, and made less hole.
In the end, I think, they were coming not from a place of reasoned, philosophical, economic argument, but frankly greed. Yes, competition, but the financial industry wanted to do whatever it wanted to do without accountability or government oversight. “The market will take care of itself,” they might have said.
Well, yes, and now we see it. The problem is that if we really want the market to take care of these kinds of the things then the swings will always be dramatic, the consequences dire. We are seeing the result. Great wealth and great disaster – the problem is that the “lest of these” are always the ones how suffer the most. Government, while not acting judiciously or often wisely, has to step in to avert even greater disaster. Now, the re-regulation or out-right control of the industry will be profound. I wonder, truly, how long it will be before the U.S. will be in the same kind of state as is Iceland?
Coupled with all this is the assertion, which I frankly find as near fact, that greed will not and does not provide for a good foundation upon which to base a sustainable and ethical economy. “Greed” is considered one of the Seven Deadly sins for a reason.
I think that we really are in a new “time,” entering a new “era” of some sort. On the grand scheme of things, there is nothing new under the Sun even if the repeating-of-all-things takes centuries. We are reaping what we have sown – every one of us! Financial, political, social empires always collapse under their own weight and hubris.
I think Bush will be remembered as the President that presided over the downfall of the American Empire. I never wanted Empire, despite on the insistence by the Neo-Con’s that this is exactly what Ameeeericans want or on the politicized Religious Right’s insistence that this country has a divine mandate. It all is akin to the “divine right of Kings,” in a new sort and by new “kings.” I don’t mind if this empire falls (and that does not mean that I do not want to live in a free country; just look at Canada, Switzerland or the Scandinavia countries: free, independent, and economically secure, but not empires).
So, we are in a financial crises, the latest manifestation of our deep cultural problems. We are in an ethical and moral crisis (although not as the Religious Right asserts). Because of the greed of people and the financial industry and the government’s complacency or even their culpability, we find ourselves in this situation. (Yes, I know it is all very complex.) Government steps in when it is too late. We are all worse off.
Is government regulation the answer? No, not necessarily. Is laissez-faire capitalism the answer? No. Social or economic-Darwinism is not the answer, but that is were we are headed. Will we end up in a new form of barbarism? Nothing guarantees that we can remain a civilized people, nationally or world-wide. The Modernist notion of constant, forward-progression of humanity continues to be shown to be unfounded.
All of this does not mean that I or we should not be without hope. I am hopeful, I look forward to the future and come what may. But, my sense of hope does not rest in wealth or poverty, freedom or oppression, weakness or might, self-actualization or defeatism, and whatever else may fit here. As a Christian, my hope does not rest in the Systems-of-this-World. Nothing that I have witnessed or personally experienced leads me to believe that my hope is unfounded or placed in the wrong place. Life may be far more difficult, far more oppressive and I don’t want that, but my hope does not rest is such things. Easy for me to say, I know, in my profoundly privileged American existence.


The Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon, the Bishop over the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, is blogging about his experience at this decade’s Anglican Lambeth Conference.
A couple days ago, he wrote this, and I think it is just about my favorite quote so far:

I must say I awaken to think, “Oh boy, Bible study!” (Really!) Each day has brought new learnings from my brothers (the boys’ club), the study guide, and of course, the Scripture itself.

Speaking of Faith” on NPR and the topic was “Play, Spirit, and Character” and the importance of play to good human development. Krista Tippett interviewed play researcher Stuart Brown. The point was made that in real play risk needs to be possible in order for us to realize our abilities and potential, particularly for children to learn.
Whenever we delve into Scripture, we put ourselves at risk if we take seriously the lessons for life and love that God brings to us through the written Word of God. If we move within Scripture for the purpose of learning, changing, growing in wisdom rather than attempting to find proofs or justifications for what we already believe or want to believe, the cannot help but be made into a new creation. In the lessons for tomorrow, Jesus keeps saying, “The kingdom of God is like…” We will not move from the confusion of parable to the realization of God’s lesson unless we are will to risk, willing to play with this thing called “life in the Kingdom of God.”
This is not frivolous – all one needs to do is watch children play can be a very determined endeavor. Kids can be dead serious in their joyful play. So should we. Bishop Whalon – read again what he wrote and realize what joyfulness is present. He is playing for his benefit, for the benefit of those in his bible study group, and for us all in the Church.
How better to approach God, our Father in Heaven, with a joyful playfulness. For those who have had bad fathers or no fathers, this may be difficult to accept/understand, but the Father we have in heaven is as a father should be (as much as fallible, human fathers can be)! After all, Jesus said that we must be like the children if we are to realize the Kingdom of God. ” The Kingdom of God is like…”
My prayer is that we WILL has such an attitude (I didn’t use the word CAN, because all can if only we are willing). I pray we all can wake up in the morning and say, “Oh Boy…” bible study… or worship… or discipleship… or feeding the hungry… or being a witness for the sake of our friends and co-workers that do not know the love of God.
The Kingdom of God is like children playing in free revelry. Are we willing to take such a risk? A risk for the sake of the world and our own souls.
I must confess that I’ve lost much of this playfulness. I’ve actually thought a lot about this of late. I’ve come to live in my head and am far too serious, far too busy for my own good. I’ve always been a serious kind of person, but before seminary, before the battles that are tearing the Church apart, I was able to have balance and simply have fun. I recognize that to a great degree I’ve lost that. I need to get it back.

Spin or misunderstanding (maybe lies)?

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.

The City #14 & Thoughts

I was getting ready to exit the subway this morning on 32nd St. A small crowd of people was waiting to get into the train car, but instead of standing back and waiting for everyone to get off and then getting on, they held back for just a moment and then began to push their way in.
Entering and exiting subway trains has always been problematic, but the problem is getting worse, particularly as the population increases and more people ride. Unless there is a return to a common sense understanding that all things will be much more efficient and expedient if those wanting to get on the train wait until all those getting off are in fact off. As it stands, the chaos and gosling that results from everyone trying to do their OWN thing all at the same time accomplishes nothing but frazzled nerves and longer waits. (Just to let you know that I am not venting because I feel put upon, this incident really didn’t effect me. This is just an observation.)
Here is the problem, and the worst is yet to come. As the result of the drive for rabid individualism marches on in this country, ideas of the common good and a community sense are lost. Selfishness, self-centeredness, personal greed, narcissism, and the loss of concern for anyone else are the outcomes of hyper-individualism. Much of our pop-culture, including the almighty advertising dollar, have encouraged hyper-individualism for the past 35 odd years. Get what YOU can, get what you DESERVE, YOU can have it ALL and to hell with those who don’t, these ideas represent the mantra of the past few generations. We get what we deserve.
There comes a point where the common cultural understanding of the common good, of altruism, of concern for the welfare of the other person becomes alien – this common sense has been breed out of us, so to speak. The outcome is chaos and a world that will not look much different than the Mad Max movies of the 1980’s.
I know that people not waiting for others to get off a subway car is a minor kind of incident, but it represented to me this morning the outward manifestation of the virus of hyper/rabid-individualism. This virus will destroy our ability to function as a civil society all being together under the rule of law, common decency, and life-sustaining community.
What will happen? A loss of personal liberty – it has already begun (the Patriot Act, for example). When we no longer know our neighbors and when our personal, individual safety is threatened without a strong, inbreed culture sense the wellbeing of the whole community rather just the self, everyone becomes suspect. Well, we won’t abide chaos for too long. What will happen is a clampdown on “rule breaking” and personal liberty. The end result will be far less freedom than when the whole “libertine” movement escallated beginning in the 1960’s. They thought the 1950’s were oppressive, just wait!
I thought this morning, “each subway car has a few burly men standing at each door. When the doors open, these men form a barrier to open a path for everyone to get off the train. Once everyone is off, then they allow people to get on. Now, some hyper-individualists will balk and try to fight their way through, but these burly men will have to basically beat then down. Taser, anyone? Kick in the groin?”
A far-fetched scenario? Perhaps, but in order to restore a sense of order intense means will have to be employed. We loose our liberty. We lose balanced individual expression, because during such times conformity becomes paramount. We lose it all in the name of hyper-individualism and the encouraged selfishness and greed that has always plagued humankind, and of which the zeit-qeist strives to deny the outcome.
The world changes, yes. Change is not a bad thing by any means. Yet, we have to be honest in perceiving and discerning the direction in which change is moving and whether that direction is beneficial or not. The end result is not guaranteed.