Young Baptist preachers chart different courses

I know that the Episcopal Church and Anglicanism are not the only groups in the midst of controversy, competition, in-fighting, and the like. Most American mainline denominations are pulling themselves apart to one degree or another, not just the Episcopalians. The fight in many of the more conservative or Evangelical churches tend to be around the resulting different emphases and methods between Modernists and Post-modernists.
A couple decades ago, the “conservatives” in the Southern Baptist Convention gained control of the denomination and proceeded to purge the seminaries, colleges, churches, missionaries, and leadership of theological and social “moderates” and especially “liberals.” They succeeded. The Southern Baptists truly become a Fundamentalist denomination, and proudly so. There are groups within the mainline denominations that are trying to do the same kind of thing, although probably not to lead the Churches to Fundamentalism, but at least American-Evangelicalism – back to the “real Faith.”
This is the thing about those who believe that they stand up for and live out the “faith as it has always been” from the very beginning, free of cultural influences and capitulation – the reality is that none of us do! The truth is, and this is the Truth-on-the-Ground, is that few understand what culture does to us and few take the time to learn about how the Church’s understanding of God, its interpretation of Scripture, its sense of how to live godly lives has changed radically! A survey of history will make this assertion obvious. This does not mean that the essence of the faith is any different – God came to us to free us from sin and death and to re-enable relationship and reconciliation between God and Man and between one another.
All that to say that even within the Southern Baptist Convention, which experienced decline in membership and baptisms last year (which should be no surprise, because social-Christianity continues to decline in the U.S.), there are still fights and challenges to what the Faith is and means and how to best live it out. They are certainly not where the Episcopal Church is at, but it is only by degree and time span.
Here is an article entitled, “Young Baptist preachers chart different courses,” about the changes within the Southern Baptist expression of the Faith and controversy that results.

What Religion? Jesus Loves You?

I just came across these YouTube videos be “somegreyguy.”
The first considers what religion might be best to follow. As “somegreyguy” wrote on YouTube, “I’m getting older every day, and therefore closer to being dead, so I’m thinking that maybe it’s time to start sorting out my afterlife.” We hear all the time that when young couples have a baby, suddenly everything changes and there are considerations that they didn’t dwell on before, often resulting in a return to the Church. I wonder how many Baby-Boomer types as they approach the reality of their mortality will begin considering their own state with reference to the “afterlife.” After all, even Ted Turner now has a more positive regard for religion generally and Christianity specifically (and that is certainly a change!).
Here is the first video entitled: “Choosing My Religion”

Now, the second video takes up from the first (it seems). Someone did contact him about a religion to consider, and Christianity was (is) that religion. I sometimes try to put myself into the state of mind and cultural awareness of those who are unchurched or who have had a very negative experience with the Church or Christians. I try to see from the prevailing culture what they may see. This isn’t easy because I grew up within various segments of the Christian sub-culture in the United States (and a little bit in Europe – Germany more specifically and England by default).
This next video, I think, is a good representation of the perception many people have of Christianity in America – really come from the politicized Religious Right form of Evangelical-Fundamentalism and Roman Catholicism. For those who actually consider what is being said, I think there is a good bit of perplexity about what is claimed to be true and necessary by Christians and why.
Here is the video, entitled: “Jesus Loves You.”

Personal ecclesiastic fiefdoms

Recently, there has come to light a “gay wedding” at a Church of England parish in London. From what I read, it has caused quite a row. The policy of the Church of England as of now is that civil-union ceremonies or “marriages” are not allowed in CofE churches, although civil-unions are legal in England (and for priests).
In a recent Guardian Online (UK) story entitled, “Priest rebuked for ‘marrying’ gay vicars in church,” the Bishop of London, the Right Reverend Richard Chartres, is reported to have rebuked the priest, the Reverend Martin Dudley, of St. Bartholomew’s parish for conducting the “marriage” between two vicars.
The bishop’s rational for his rebuke is not what might first come to mind – anti-gay stuff. Here are a couple paragraphs from the article quoting the bishop’s letter to Fr. Dudley concerning his reasons for the rebuke:

In his letter to Dudley today, the bishop of London wrote: “I read in the press that you had been planning this event since November. I find it astonishing that you did not take the opportunity to consult your bishop. St Bartholomew’s is not a personal fiefdom. You serve there as an ordained minister of the Church of England, under the authority of the Canons and as someone who enjoys my licence.”
The point at issue was not civil partnerships or the relation of biblical teaching to homosexual practice because there was a range of church opinion on these matters and homophobia was not tolerated in the Diocese of London, he added.
“The real issue is whether you wilfully defied the discipline of the church and broke your oath of canonical obedience to your bishop.” [Emphasis mine]

I think the issue of “personal fiefdoms” and willfully defying church order, Canons, et cetera, is primary concerning so many of the controversies going on within not only the CofE, but also the Episcopal Church USA and all of the Communion. I like the term “personal fiefdoms.” Too many priests feel as if their parish is their own to do with and to whatever they “feel” is right, and to hell with vows, Canons, ecclesiastical rules, et cetera.
There are times when civil or ecclesiastic disobedience is important and justified. There are times when situations in organizations become so onerous to abide by that priests and/or people leave – quietly and peaceably (or at least they should). Civil or ecclesiastic disobedience should not be the norm, however. It has become the norm in too many places and we are all suffering the consequences of fiefdoms and disobedience.
Hat-tip: Thinking Anglicans
UPDATE: Here are the pertinent paragraphs from the bishop’s letter itself:

“The point at issue is not Civil Partnerships themselves or the relation of biblical teaching to homosexual practice. There is of course a range of opinion on these matters in the Church and, as you know, homophobia is not tolerated in the Diocese of London. The real issue is whether you wilfully defied the discipline of the Church and broke your oath of canonical obedience to your Bishop.
“The Archbishops have already issued a statement in which they say that “those clergy who disagree with the Church’s teaching are at liberty to seek to persuade others within the Church of the reasons why they believe, in the light of Scripture, tradition and reason that it should be changed. But they are not at liberty simply to disregard it.”
“St Bartholomew’s is not a personal fiefdom. You serve there as an ordained minister of the Church of England, under the authority of the Canons and as someone who enjoys my licence. I have already asked the Archdeacon of London to commence the investigation and I shall be referring the matter to the Chancellor of the Diocese. Before I do this, I am giving you an opportunity to make representations to me direct.”

The City #22

I got off the subway returning home a little bit ago after having dinner with a friend in Central Park (the trains were slow – took me an hour to get home). It had just stopped raining – the kind of quick downpour that leaves everything soaking wet, but the clouds part and the sun starts to shine as water drips from everything. A cool breeze, and the air smelled good.
As I was walking down the street a few brave souls resumed playing in the park, but instead of the voices of the kids playing catching my attention, I heard someone singing. I figured up ahead there was a car with someone sitting with the window opened listening to the radio, but I passed car after car and no radio playing. So then, I thought perhaps someone had a radio playing loudly in their apartment, window opened.
I started looking up at the brownstones, listening. The singer had a very nice voice – it sounded familiar, kind of a young, pop ballad kind of voice. It was nice. Then on the third floor of an old brownstone in the bay window I saw a girl with a microphone and another girl at an electric piano, barely noticeable. The voice I heard was hers – live.
I looked up and watched them through the window as I walked by. I decided to turn around and go back to listen a little more. I tried to be inconspicuous. I passed by, backtracked, but no where to hind. I just turned around again to continue home. At this point, looking up at the window, she saw me and smiled. I was caught. She was caught, and stopped singing for a New York minute. I don’t know whether she was caught off guard – not expecting anyone to see her or pay attention to her singing. Perhaps she was embarrassed. I don’t know.
The City is full of these little kind of things. So often they are lost in the noise and busyness of the City, but after a quieting rain a voice carries and I just have to pause and listen. I am fortunate when these little moments get through – kind of like stopping and smelling the flowers. I wonder what was going through her mind when she realized that someone heard her, someone was listening, someone discovered her and her friend practicing.
This neighborhood is a little too expensive at this point for struggling artists, but there are still some and the ones that have a little luck in their careers move here. I love this neighborhood and this City in all its dynamic craziness. Perhaps some day, this women will be famous and I will remember back to one rainy day when I heard a voice coming from a third floor walk-up in Brooklyn and think, “I saw her…”
A new Ikea just opened, yesterday. It is a 20 minute walk from my apartment. An Ikea 20 minutes away. Lord. Red Hook will never be the same. The Queen Mary docks, an Ikea opens, what’s next?

What are Libertarian conservatives to do?

From, a video conversation between Joshua Cohen of the Boston Globe and Libertarian Brink Lindsey of the Cato Institute about the problems Lindsey (representing many Libertarian conservatives) have with the Republican Party and the current administration’s policies concerning so many things about the three branches of government, civil rights, and freedoms. He comes to the point where he is looking to the Democratic candidate rather than McCain.
I think Andrew Sullivan is right when he writes, “The Bush administration has forced many people who thought of themselves as limited government, libertarian conservatives into the hands of the left.”
I can relate, and recognize this dynamic in myself.

A new kind of oil?

From: The Times Online – Scientists find bugs that eat waste and excrete petrol

“Ten years ago I could never have imagined I’d be doing this,” says Greg Pal, 33, a former software executive, as he squints into the late afternoon Californian sun. “I mean, this is essentially agriculture, right? But the people I talk to – especially the ones coming out of business school – this is the one hot area everyone wants to get into.”
He means bugs. To be more precise: the genetic alteration of bugs – very, very small ones – so that when they feed on agricultural waste such as woodchips or wheat straw, they do something extraordinary. They excrete crude oil.
Unbelievably, this is not science fiction. Mr Pal holds up a small beaker of bug excretion that could, theoretically, be poured into the tank of the giant Lexus SUV next to us. Not that Mr Pal is willing to risk it just yet. He gives it a month before the first vehicle is filled up on what he calls “renewable petroleum”. After that, he grins, “it’s a brave new world”.
Mr Pal is a senior director of LS9, one of several companies in or near Silicon Valley that have spurned traditional high-tech activities such as software and networking and embarked instead on an extraordinary race to make $140-a-barrel oil (£70) from Saudi Arabia obsolete. “All of us here – everyone in this company and in this industry, are aware of the urgency,” Mr Pal says.

Read it all here. I wonder whether this will end up like the hype around “cold fusion” that was in all the news a while ago?
Hat tip to: The Topmost Apple

So, I’m back

Okay, back to real life (for me – for a few, Saltaire is real life!).
Not that I’m any kind of example, because I well know I am not, but what has happened to priests simply being priests? What I mean is this: as I observe the workings and doings and sayings of priests, the question that keeps popping up in my head is this: Why are so many priests being so many other things rather than simply priests? Some priests seem to really want to be social-activists, some therapists, some want to be politicians, et cetera, but what about priests who want to be just priests and be about the “cure of souls?” Too many priests, it seems to me in my observations, are agenda driven – and the agenda is political and social, not really – what? – “spiritual,” religious, restoration of people’s relationship with God (otherwise known as salvation in some parts of the Church), the cure of souls. Could the same be said about lay leaders?
As I listen to and watch other priests, I see the difference. Those priests who are concerned foremost about the souls of people, regardless of their political persuasion or the side they take in the Culture-Wars, have a quality about them, and so do their parishes. Big or small, more conservative or more liberal, there is an aliveness that is all together different than those parishes that are agenda driven, cause du jour obsessed, and not really focused on some of the basics of a Christian life: prayer that is more than reading some sentences, worship that is more then doing some manual acts, loving that extends beyond those who are politically and socially like-minded, preaching that is not vialed dictation on how or what to believe (indoctrination – liberal, conservative, and everything in between), or teaching that is beyond opposition to the war, the evil of same-sex relationships, or why the MDG’s are so essential to being a relevant Christian – all issues that the Church needs to be aware of and address, but not the primary emphasis of the Church or her priests.
Priests I know who seem to want to be priests rather than social-activists or therapists (in the guise of a priest), or some such other thing, seem to be far more effective. They certainly have their opinions political and social, but their cause is not to bring people around to a particular way of thinking, but teaching them how to engage the Source of wisdom and understanding, the Source of love, teaching them how to discern and know God. They teach people to fish, rather than simply giving them fish, so to speak.
That’s just me. I hope to be a priest who really wants to be a priest and be about the cure of souls.

Saltaire, Fire Island

I left last Friday for Saltaire, Fire Island. I am serving this week as priest for St. Andrew’s-by-the-Sea, a summer chapel in Saltaire.
I am taking time during this week as sort of a retreat. I will be by myself all week with no real TV (2 so-so independent channels on a great flat-screen TV with no DVD… ugh). Internet access is intermittent and may go away after today (Sunday) if this hot-spot is no more during the week. I kind of really do feel isolated, although my phone works, thank God.
This is going to be a tough week. This is the weekend a year ago when I found out that I was to be single, once again. Believe it or not, this past year has been one of the worst in my life. It has been a hard year, but God keeps me and helps me and I know there is light at the end of the tunnel. It is difficult because as a priest there is a point where the stuff of life I’m dealing with cannot be put upon the people I serve. Being a priest can be hard in that way.
Years ago, when I was going through another very difficult summer, God gave me a few verses of Scripture that enabled me to hang on. These verses may at first sound a bit odd, but for me then and ever since they have been a mantra for me and sustenance during times of trial. The verses come from James, chapter 1:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (NIV)

Because I’m not a Calvinist, I believe that there is an openness to our lives as God deals with us in relationship and during all phases of our lives. His engagement with us is dynamic, in that way. The present and future are open. I hang on to wanting to be “mature, complete, not lacking anything,” and if trails and tribulations are a help in gaining such things, gaining wisdom, gaining the ability to understand myself and others better, gaining discernment, then so be it.
I would rather life be easy, of course, but we all know it is not. So, during the past year of trials and tribulations, of dealing with deep seated issues in my own life, as well as in the life of the one who I once called my partner, I know that my Lord will see me through and bring me to the other side where I will be made more complete.
Today’s readings talk about God calling Abraham and Sarah to a new country. Jesus calls Matthew to follow him, and Matthew does – leaving everything, even unto death. If my life is to somehow be a blessing to others, then my life needs to be purged of all that our prevailing culture and the systems of this world load on. I want to be wise, to be a blessing, to move in the whole realm of “peace that surpasses all understanding,” the fruit of the Spirit, and loving God with my whole being and truly, intuitively, sincerely loving others as God enables me to love myself, honestly.
In this new country where God calls us, this Kingdom of God, there is a bit of culture shock – trail and tribulation – as we are made new and transformed into citizens of this new country, this Kingdom. As we are inevitably changed, we become an example and a witness to a hurting and confused world of what it means to be a people living in the midst of God. As we are blessed, we become a blessing to others. All we have to do is look at this Church and the Anglican Communion to know how easily it is to be subsumed by the prevailing culture – the systems of this world – and to be pulled away from the new country and to be anything but good examples. We have not heeded His call, have we? Yet, we go on with hope and faith in grace. Thank God we are in grace!
This is what I am learning, even in the midst of heart ache, loneliness, doubt, confusion, and all that stuff we wade through in life before we come to that shore where all things are new.
Funny thing, too, I am reading Harry Potter for the first time. A balm for the soul.

Where is the Via Media

An opinion piece on “Catholic Online” concerning Anglicanism’s conflicts and the loss of the Via Media. It is an interesting look at what is happening with Anglicanism and our conflicts and what the author thinks is necessary for our return to the Via Media.
A quote:

The Anglican Church has given much to the Christian world. Beautiful English liturgies, priceless hymns, and great thinkers such as C.S. Lewis, are only a few of the great gifts we have all received.
May they regain a sense of their place in the broader Christian community, rediscover their historical foundations in Christian orthodoxy and make a true contribution to the work of the Holy Spirit in the work of recovery,renewal and communion.