Why? Oh, that’s why!

Two interesting articles. The first comes from the Washington Post’s review of the new book, RELIGIOUS LITERACY: What Every American Needs to Know — and Doesn’t, by Stephen Prothero.
Here are a couple paragraphs from the review:

The United States is the most religious nation in the developed world, if religiosity is measured by belief in all things supernatural — from God and the Virgin Birth to the humbler workings of angels and demons. Americans are also the most religiously ignorant people in the Western world. Fewer than half of us can identify Genesis as the first book of the Bible, and only one third know that Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.
“The book’s main concern, though, is ignorance about the role of religion in American history. Prothero dates the beginning of the long decline in our religious literacy to the Second Great Awakening of the early 1800s. The fervor of America’s periodic cycles of revivalism, rooted in a personal relationship with God rather than in theology handed down by learned clergy, has always had a strong anti-intellectual as well as spiritual component.”

Read the whole article.
The second is an opinion piece that comes from the Dallas News about a renewed appeal of Tradition in religious observance, particularly among the younger folk. This is one reason why I chose an Anglo-Catholic parish to do my field-placement, and why I am still there as a priest. I need and want to learn due to the fact that I grew up in a religious tradition that did not keep Tradition, but it also appeals to that part of me that longs for the tried-and-true and that which is beyond me. The lived experience of millions upon million of people over 2,000 years and including some of the most brilliant human minds add to the Tradition that still speaks to the inner most part of us – Deep calls to deep. (I preaches a sermon on that, yesterday, Pentecost.) The last paragraph is vitally important when considering Tradition!
Here are a few paragraphs:

“What’s the least I have to believe and do to feel good about myself?
That’s the fundamental question modern religious seekers seem to be asking. For many contemporary Americans, religion is like a scented candle: The purpose of its light is to provide a comforting psychological ambience. But for a small, growing minority – for whom religion, properly understood, exists to illuminatethe challenging path to truth and holiness – there is an alternative: tradition… ”
“Traditionalists of any religion fundamentally differ from modernists in that they see truth as objective and delivered within the rules, rituals and teachings of the tradition. Truth, so considered, is something around which individuals must shape their lives. The modernist sees religious truth as subjective, something that can be shaped to fit the lives of individuals in different times and places. If they’re right, there’s nothing regressive about reclaiming attractive and useful elements of tradition within a modernist context.
Except that it’s a dead-end. Orthodoxy (right belief) cannot be severed from orthopraxy (right practice); both inform and reinforce the other, beholding the truth and embodying it in the rites and pious practices of individuals and communities. The writer and Orthodox convert Frederica Mathewes-Green warns tradition-seekers that the reason the outward manifestations of tradition – the chants, the icons, the liturgies – have such power in our fast-moving, throwaway culture is that their authority is embedded within a living and longstanding communal tradition. If you don’t accept the tradition whole, you cut yourself off from its transformative power.
‘It’s like gathering flowers: They look great when you bring them into your contemporary church, but they have no roots and they’re going to die,’ she says. ‘You’ll have to keep going out and getting more flowers. Eventually, the whole thing will feel stale. Unless you plug into the ancient-continuing church and let it form you, you’re just being a shopper.’
Modernists nevertheless make a point that traditionalists ignore at their peril. Tradition has to be flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances without abandoning its core principles. A tradition that loses touch with the needs of the living community is in danger of degenerating into rigid formalism. Some traditionalists make an idol of sacred tradition, as if it were an end in itself, not the most reliable and efficacious means to God.”

Read the whole article.
I got this stuff from: SARX

Continue reading


I was walking through Red Hook on Saturday to a new garden center on the tip of the Island called, Liberty Sunset. Why Liberty Sunset? Because the place has an incredible view of The Statue of Liberty and sunsets, that’s why. Anyway, this place is incredible (don’t think typical suburban garden center). So, I first walked to my new favorite little cubbyhole restaurant for a bit of brunch (if brunch can be had at 2:00 pm, rather than just having breakfast at 2:00 pm).
Oh wait, it wasn’t at the restaurant. Okay, so next I walk to the garden place that is owned by a couple people, one of whom is from Hungary. Since he is from Hungary, his partner told me on their grand-opening, he is really into hospitality. At a certain time on the weekends, they fire up the incredible grill in their amazing kitchen that is part of a huge warehouse room where they have waterfalls and grow lights and photography space and an enormous table in the midst of pots and scattered plant projects that was salvaged from some place, but is a horizontal slice from an ancient Redwood. They have like twenty chairs around this table. Mind you, this isn’t the tourist destination kind of disneyfied mega-garden center. This is the place of work of some unique people! So, since the Hungarian co-owner is really into hospitality, they cook up some food and open some bottles of wine and invite anyone shopping or looking around to have a snake (or a meal, depending on how hungry you are). People just grab some stuff (the day I was there it was Hungarian specialties of sausages, and the like). I didn’t eat, but thanked the other co-owner when she offered me some food and wine.
That’s hospitality!
But, it wasn’t at the garden center, either. This building used to be a warehouse. Red Hook is a port area of Brooklyn. The very modern Queen Mary II docks there now whenever it sails into New York City. I can see the smoke stacks from my living room window, and pretty much the whole thing when I’m on the roof. On one of my few runs these days, I ran through Red Hook and down by the dock to see the Queen Mary II in all its glory. (A bunch of us from General saw it sail up the Hudson on its maiden voyage along with a few thousand other people standing along the river at 6:00 am.) Anyway, I ran down by the docks and noticed a ton of police everywhere. I guess to guard against potential terrorist attacks. No problem. Well, until I ran down a deserted road that dead-ended on the bay and gave an incredible view of the front of the ship. I don’t think they trusted me. A cop car followed me all the way, sat there while I look at the boat and the Statue of Liberty, and then while I ran away.
Okay, so this garden center is in the warehouse building along with a few other business whose proprietors seem to be equally unique (don’t think hippy type, but just industrious, do your own thing, live a good life, hip-cool kind of people who are at stages in their lives where they can afford to do this kind of thing). Around the corner of the building is a Key-lime pie bakery. The most authentic key-lime pies in New York, its truck proclaims. After my breakfast at 2:00 pm, a nice little personal key-lime pie was in order. Refreshing on a hot, sunny day, before buying pots at the garden center. It was here that I saw it.
One of the owners of the garden center, I guess (I think they are all in cahoots with each other) fired up a new waterfall into a huge above ground custom built wooden pool that will be used for marsh plants right outside the door of the pie place; so one of the owners had on a t-shirt that had printed on the back P.E.T.A. I thought, great, it figures that one of this crew was a PETA member. But wait, I read on.
P.E.T.A, for this guy, meant, “People who Eat Tasty Animals!” I had to crack up. The shirt was from some b-b-q place in the South. Eating my little, personal key-lime pie, I thought, “This guy fits in perfectly with a garden center that serves up sausages and wine to his customers.” That’s the kind of place I would like to work. “People who Eat Tasty Animals.” Just too funny.

The Invitations have gone out

Most of the invitations issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury for the upcome Lambeth Conference in England have been sent. Read the press release from the Anglican Communion News Service.
It seems that Bishop Robinson and Bishop Minns have not been included, although according to the AP, Bishop Robinson may be invited as a quest. Read the AP/New York Times article, here.
We shall see how all involved will react and respond. I don’t think it will be pretty. Kind of like the Moscow Olympics! (Hopefully not like the Munich Olympics!)

Continue reading

They will know us by how we love one another!

The ending portion of a letter from Bishop Howe of the Diocese of Central Florida to his clergy, entitled, What Next?
It is an important message to hear during times of trouble when our tendency is to want resolutions now, because life is too stressful to wait, wait, and to wait some more. Yet, God tends to say to us – “be patient; be still and know that I am the Lord.”
Here is a portion of Bishop Howe’s letter:

I met with our clergy during Holy Week, and I told them (yet again) that I am committed to remaining both an Episcopalian and an Anglican as long as it is possible to do so. But ultimately, all of us may have to make choices. We will not all make the same choices, and we will not all make them at the same time. What is imperative is how we treat each other.
“By this will everyone know that you are my disciples,” our Lord declared, “if you have love for one another.”
It is not by all the sermons we preach, not by all the books we publish, not by the cathedrals we build, the missionaries we send out, the bold actions we take, or even the purity of our doctrine, but it is by the quality of our relationships with others who name the name of Christ that we will prove we truly belong to him.
We reflected together on what it means to “love one another,” and I suggested we use as a template the great “love chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13, and I shared four reflections with the clergy that I want to repeat today.
1) There is not a single “feelings” word in all of 1 Corinthians 13. The kind of agape love that Jesus calls us to, and that St. Paul attempts to describe, is entirely a matter of attitude and behavior; it is a matter of choice. I don’t have to feel a certain way toward you; I have to behave a certain way toward you. (There are a lot of feelings in eros; there are none in agape.)
2) The “love chapter” is a remarkable description of the Lord Jesus himself. You can actually substitute his name every time Paul uses the word “love.” (“Jesus is patient; Jesus is kind; Jesus is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. Jesus does not insist on his own way; he is not irritable or resentful; he does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hope all things, endures all things.”) The corollary is that when I run out of my own supply of agape love for you, I can ask Jesus to love you through me!
3) There are sixteen synonyms or synonymous phrases in the chapter, and nine out of the sixteen are negative: Love is NOT envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, irritable, resentful; it does NOT insist on its own way or rejoice in wrongdoing, and it never ends. Evidently, then, there are things I need to work on NOT doing toward you.
4) Notice how many of the synonyms are also synonyms for patience (or heavily dependent on it). You cannot be kind without being patient. You cannot bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things, without being patient. By my count at least eight of the sixteen words or phrases are synonymous with patience – which is to say that extending agape love toward someone is at least half a matter of being patient with him or her. The old phrased, “Please be patient, God isn’t finished with me,” is really a plea for an expression of Jesus’ agape love from each other!
I suggested that it is no accident that patience is the first word on the list; it is like getting the top button of your shirt right; if you don’t all the other buttons will be wrong, as well.
So, I say to you, as I said to the clergy: please be patient. Let’s trust the Lord. Let’s see what comes out of the meetings of the “Windsor Bishops” and the House of Bishops. Let’s hear what Archbishop Rowan has to say to us. And if and as we make difficult decisions, sometimes perhaps not in agreement with each other, let us do our very best to comply with our Lord’s instructions.
Jesus shared his Last Supper with the one who would betray him and the others who would desert him, and then he went to the cross for them – and us. And he said, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
My love to all of you,
John W. Howe

Scheming Swindlers

“The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.”
~ Soren Kierkegaard

Pronouncements from Archbishop Akinola

A couple weeks ago, Archbishop Peter Akinola of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) came to Virginia to install his new missionary bishop for “CANA” (Convocation of Anglicans in North America), his new church in the U.S. (or missionary diocese under his jurisdiction). Martin Minns is that new missionary bishop.
So then, CANA has a few parishes under its umbrella throughout the U.S., although primarily, it seems, in the great Commonwealth of Virginia. Since Archbishop Akinola is the Primate of this fledgling new “missionary diocese” or denomination in the U.S. (that is providing a safe-harbor from the evil Episcopal Church), he seems to presume he must speak out on American politics and social issues. For good measure, he throws in some comments about the state of things in the U.K. as well.
I wonder whether he honestly believes that the American and British public is going to pay any attention to his opinions or pronouncements. Maybe it is because we are arrogant imperialists, but I really think he is in for a rude awakening if he things he now has the ability to move American or British political or social policy. Then again, I am beginning to believe that Peter Akinola thinks he has been divinely commissioned by God to restore Christianity (as he understands it) and God’s kingdom in the West.
Here are some excerpts from his latest press conference:
Press briefing by Archbishop Peter Akinola on Sunday 13th May at the end of the Abuja Diocesan Synod
Gentlemen of the Press.
We welcome you to this press briefing at the end of our diocesan synod in Abuja
We met to study and discuss the theme “Be ye Holy” 1Peter 1:16. We examined God’s calling upon our lives to be holy and live exemplary lives. You will find in the distributed communiqué, our resolutions on this important issue. Allow me highlight some salient points.
Global Scene
Considering how the world is making it increasingly difficult for Christians to live holy lives, we ask:
Many people look to the USA as a Christian country and its leaders often assume the role of moral leaders for the world who are ready to point the finger at problems around the globe and yet we must not forget that there is another side to their story. The present generation of Americans would do well to remember their own history. While they and their forebears claim their nation to be a gift from God it is in truth a land forcefully taken with no respect for the human rights of the despised and dispossessed Indians – it is also a land where a great deal of its early economic foundation was built on the sweat and blood of de-humanized African slaves.
Americans seem to have forgotten the same LORD in whom they say “In God we trust”. Deuteronomy 7 and 8 are relevant biblical passages
“And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth” 8:18a
“Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the LORD your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish.” 8: 19
The God who has blessed so abundantly is also a jealous God who requires obedience and holy living. But instead of calling for obedience to the Word of God we now have the situation where those who call for faithfulness in holy matrimony or abstinence outside of it risk being accused of hate speech. The breakdown in marriages in the USA is a scandal. It is causing a massive crisis in their own society and the rest of the world. But instead of admitting the problem and finding creative ways to strengthen traditional families we see a relentless promotion and protection of so called ‘alternative lifestyles.’ Recent legislative bill H.R. 1592 (Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007) passed in the House on May 3rd 2007, and the H.R 2015 (Employment Non-Discrimination Act.) being discussed are worthy of note. God will not be mocked.
We see a similar crisis in the UK. The decline in marriages and the breakdown in families has become an epidemic. But instead of encouraging holy living and strengthening family life we read of a bishop of the Church of England called before tribunal to explain his refusal to hire a certain youth worker. His offence was ‘discrimination’, we were told because the job seeker in this case was a self-confessed homosexual and who said he had just ended a five-year homosexual relationship. Surely the Church has an obligation to promote holy living not apologise for it!
* Where is the Christian voice in all these?
* Why are Church leaders not concerned about this breakdown in society?
* Why are they ashamed of promoting holy living?
* Why have they lost their confidence in the Word of God?

Continue reading