What would Jesus do?

A quote from Sojomail:

It’s extraordinary to me that the United States can find $700 billion to save Wall Street and the entire G8 can’t find $25 billion dollars to save 25,000 children who die every day from preventable diseases.

– Bono, rock star and anti-poverty activist. (Source: The American Prospect blog)
My question to the Religious Right and Neo-Conservatives: “What would Jesus do?”
Hum, I wonder…

Who leaves whom? What?

I read a lot of statements that go something like, “Let’s be clear. TEC has left Bishop Bob Duncan.” Implying that those who are attempting to break away from The Episcopal Church are not at fault for trying to break away – it is really the fault of the other guys.
I want to touch on this. My sense is that in this kind of statement there is a misunderstanding of what it means to be Anglican (or a willful disregard for the Anglican Tradition). Priests, of which I am one, have done a terrible job over the last 40 years conveying the Tradition; to take seriously their teaching function with regard to the Cure of Souls and passing on the Tradition within both the Anglican-Evangelical and the Anglo-Catholic wings of this Church. I’m sorry if that offends some people, but it is the truth. For example, there has been historically a big difference between American-Evangelicals and Anglican-Evangelicals, but sadly the difference has been largely lost over the last few decades in the U.S. We are now acting like American-Evangelicals (the tradition of my early adult life).
One aspect of Anglican Tradition is a wide berth with regard to theological position and opinion even at the extreme ends, yet a remaining together ecclesiastically. Fight as we may, Anglicans still come together – and to know Anglican history is to know that those fights have been severe and the theological differences profound.
We are not like the Protestants that because of disagreements over piety or belief simply go off and start a new denomination (or at least we have not been like them in the past). We are also not like Roman Catholics that through their Magisterium dictate what will be believed by all (and in some quarters, we now want our own Magisterium). We are acting like we don’t know our own Tradition, or else we are being co-opted by those within Anglicanism that are determined to make us either more Protestant or Roman.
What we have done over the last 40 years is allow the extremes to take control of the Church – either extreme “conservatives” or extreme “liberals” – rather than the vast majority in the middle tolerating the extremes on the edges of Anglicanism and allowing their perspectives to challenge us and keep the whole Church in balance. The middle has remained silent and capitulated, sadly, and as a result we are being pulled apart by the extremes.
We are very out of balance right now, and herein lies our need for a “loyal opposition” that will remain. In time, the “conservatives” will again hold the levers of governance and the “liberals” will have to be the “loyal opposition,” unless of course we continue as we are by not acting like Anglicans and just shatter into pieces. We need to know our history and Tradition! There is no need to try to transform Anglicanism into being like other denominations – whether the Assemblies of God or the Unitarian Universalists.
Because of all this, saying that the current leadership of this Church “left Bishop Duncan” is not accurate in my opinion. Yes, of course the more liberal leadership has theological opinions that are definitely not in line with the theological opinions of the conservatives, and visa-versa. Again, this has always been the case within Anglicanism, although perhaps over different issues. The difference now is that some bishops and priests are determined to split away from the main body and form their own new and improved and purer denomination. This is very Protestant, very American-Evangelical, very Congregational, but not very Anglican.

Disposition of a Bishop

As most know by now, the recent Episcopal House of Bishops voted to support the judgment that the See of Pittsburgh, Bishop Robert Duncan, has given up his “communion with this Church.” The Presiding Bishop signed his disposition and has removed him from his See after the vote of the House of Bishops.
Information from the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s is found here. The diocesan Standing Committee is not(oops) now in charge of the diocese – here is a statement from the Committee. Of course, all this is in the game-plan. The leadership, bishop, clergy, and laity, of the diocese know that this would be the outcome when they started down the path. Nothing unexpected, IMHO, and they have their responses and plans all laid out. We shall see how it all plays out.
There is a link to “Statements of support for the bishop and the diocese are coming in from all over the world.” Such support came from a group of leaders from renewal movements within North American Mainline Protestant denominations. For example:

(Press Release) More than twenty Executives and Leaders of renewal movements and ministries within the mainline denominations of the U.S. and Canada sent a letter of support today to Bishop Bob Duncan, Episcopal Bishop of Pittsburgh who was “deposed” Friday by the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church at the insistence of Presiding Bishop Katherine Schori. In their letter they also issued a strong rebuke to The Episcopal leadership. Bishop Duncan has been a faithful advocate for Biblical Christianity in the Episcopal Church for over two decades.
The mainline renewal leaders wrote to Bishop Duncan, “We stand with you in solidarity as you endure this trial of your faith. Your patient, courageous, and steadfast witness has been an inspiration to all of us who desire to see our Lord Jesus Christ glorified in his church.” They went on to say, “It grieves our hearts to see those entrusted with church leadership such as Bishop Schori and the Episcopal House of Bishops, engaged in such divisive and destructive behavior. Like other denominational officials in the North American mainline denominations, they have acted with callous disregard for the authority of scripture, the witness of the historic church, and the sanctity of human life, sexuality, and marriage. We are most deeply grieved for the millions of Christian believers who have been forced out of the churches of their childhood by those they trusted to lead.”
Association for Church Renewal President, David Runnion-Bareford said, “This action is tragic for the whole ecumenical church. Katherine Schori and those who voted to depose Bishop Duncan are emerging as the new fundamentalists of the left. Their legalism and separatism appear to be birthed from much the same defensiveness that marked the fundamentalists on the right in a previous generation. Their disregard for faithful submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the authority of scripture, the unity of the church and holy living has divided and torn the church irreparably.”
Signatories included church leaders from the United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church USA, The United Church of Christ, The Church of the Brethren, The Presbyterian Church in Canada, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Disciples of Christ.
Hat-tip Titusonenine

This is all very sad, but seriously, all Bishop Duncan had to do is say (and mean) that he will not attempt to lead the diocese out of The Episcopal Church, whether he personally decides to stay and fight or resign his See due to the condition of this Church. There are those who try again and again to make this an act of Church’s leadership purging it of “conservatives” or Bible-believing-Christians. It isn’t. It is about a bishop who intends to end his relationship with the Church that ordained and consecrated him, but retain all the stuff of the diocese of that Church. I respect his theological position and his willingness to sacrifice for it, but I do not respect his attempts to act like a Congregationalist rather than an Anglican.
Of course, when it comes to the term “Bible-believing-Christian,” for certain groups within this Church – and the renewal groups within the other Mainline Protestant denominations mentioned – that term means agreement with particular interpretations of the Bible. If certain other people or groups do not agree with that specific interpretation of the Bible, then those other people are not considered “Bible-believing,” regardless of how those other people or groups claim to regard and handle Scripture. This is not the Anglican way, but the way of the American Culture Wars.

We aren’t the only “Episcopal” church having problems…

Well, it is easy to become myopic when thinking about the pressing issues we are facing in The Episcopal Church USA and not recognize that we aren’t the only “Episcopal” Church in the midst of chaos, infighting, splintering, and the like.
The Charismatic Episcopal Church (CEC) has been going through all kinds of problems of late. Some of their parishes have even decided to join our own Episcopal Church (example). The CEC is part of the Federation of Anglican Churches in the Americas, which is part of the Common Cause Partnership, which is leading the way in forming yet another “Anglican” jurisdiction in the U.S. and Canada (without the recognition of Canterbury at this point). Update: I was wrong about the CEC being a member of the FACA!
Here is a website/blog for CECEXODUS. Here is another: CECHEALING.

Where are they going?

REVOLUTION by George Barna — studies recent church trends and what the church of 2025 will probably look like. Published in 2005..
This description for a new book by Barna, who focus a lot on American Evangelicalism:

“World-renowned pollster George Barna has the numbers, and they indicate a revolution is already taking place within the Church–one that will impact every believer in America. Committed, born-again Christians are exiting the established church in massive numbers. Why are they leaving? Where are they going? And what does this mean for the future of the Church? Using years’ worth of research data, and adhering to an unwavering biblical perspective, Barna predicts how this revolution will impact the organized church, how Christ’s body of believers should react, and how individuals who are considering leaving (or those who have already left) can respond. For leaders working for positive change in the church and for believers struggling to find a spiritual community and worship experience that resonates, Revolution is here. Are you ready?”

I still contend that the exodus from American-Evangelical churches may well be because for over the last 20+ years the movement’s leadership has tied the movement to Neo-Conservative politics. The way the Culture Wars have been thrust upon American society does play too well any longer, particularly among younger Evangelicals.
Just as people fled the Mainline Protestant denominations when they became too closely associated with liberal politics, so now the same is happening within Evangelical churches. When power, dominance, control within the larger society overwhelms Christian organizations or individuals, the Gospel suffers and eventually people leave.

Summer of Harry Potter

Well, I finished it! On the subway to work this morning, I finished book 7, the last book, of the Harry Potter series. My “Summer of Harry Potter” has ended… well, almost.
I’ve been saving for the last couple of years and finally bought a large screen TV this past July (Sony Bravia, 52″ LCD-TV). I said that one reason I wanted to buy the TV was for the community aspect it could offer. Now, on a purely selfish level, the Olympics were fantastic in high definition – “just look at those water drops on the swimmers! Unbelievable!”
While reading through the last four books beginning last spring, when I knew that I was actually going to buy the TV, I said that when I finished the 5th book I would have a “Harry Potter Fest” and show all the current movies – all 5 of them – during one weekend. I put together the flyers, scheduled the movies, let the parish know, and this weekend is “Harry Potter Fest!” Three movies on Saturday, 2 movies on Sunday. (I bought the Blu-ray high definition DVD’s for the first 5 movies.) After hours and hours of Harry Potter movies, I suspect that I will be done with it!
Then, really, my “Summer of Harry Potter” will be completely over! Its been a fun ride.
At lunch today, I felt this loss. I was a bit confounded about what to do. No more sitting in Bryant Park, eating lunch, and reading Harry Potter. Funny… I suspect I need to re-engage with the real world.

What do we really know, and do we understand it?

I post the following because I know, from long experience, the attitudes and certainties of this way of thinking – the “mind-set,” as Rev. Howard Bess, the interviewee, states. From what I read and witness, this is the belief system of Gov. Sarah Palin.
By no means am I attempting to criticize her salvation (that is God’s business) or the right of any Christian to seek public office or influence society. Under the Constitution, this is the privilege we all share as Americans. Yet, I will pause and add my voice to the warnings that the theological framework (or lack thereof) held by this group of Christians will inevitably influence or determine the adherents’ estimation of current events or societal conditions and direct their responses to such things.
I have to also say, since I am not all-knowing (shocking, right?), that all of this may well be within God’s will – the rise to power of Sarah Palin and those in league with her (and I don’t mean Republicans). I doubt, however, if it is God’s will that it is for the reasons her supporters believe it to be – mainly the triumph of good (them) over evil (those who disagree with them).
I spent a good part of my life – from around age 10 up through age 32 or so – in the Evangelical-Pentecostal realm of the American Christian faith. I spent 8 years in direct campus ministry with the Assemblies of God, Palin’s long-time and now former church. This was before the overwhelming of the movement and it’s organizations/churches by the American-Christian form of fundamentalism and the unrelenting drive of some of it’s primary leaders to gain political power and social domination through the Culture Wars of the politicized Religious Right. I saw what was coming down the line, for it had already started. We are fully in the swarm of it all.
I’m very glad to have experienced much of the very positive and life-giving aspects of American-Evangelicalism and the strong faith and expectation of Pentecostalism. Perhaps because I worked in university ministry, the rampant dualism and extremism that are now hallmarks of the movement and its organizations/churches was not so apparent to me. I don’t know. But I do know all too well how the system works and the mind-set or world-view now held by the movement’s leaders and adherents.
For me, I think this is the takeaway quote from Rev. Bass: “Forget all this chatter about whether or not she knows what the Bush doctrine is. That’s trivial. The real disturbing thing about Sarah is her mind-set. It’s her underlying belief system that will influence how she responds…” (emphasis mine)
Here is first few paragraphs of the interview:

The pastor who clashed with Palin
By David Talbot
Sep. 16, 2008 | The Wasilla Assembly of God, the evangelical church where Sarah Palin came of age, was still charged with excitement on Sunday over Palin’s sudden ascendance. Pastor Ed Kalnins warned his congregation not to talk with any journalists who might have been lurking in the pews — and directly warned this reporter not to interview any of his flock. But Kalnins and other speakers at the service reveled in Palin’s rise to global stardom.
It confirmed, they said, that God was making use of Wasilla. “She will take our message to the world!” rejoiced an Assembly of God youth ministry leader, as the church band rocked the high-vaulted wooden building with its electric gospel.
That is what scares the Rev. Howard Bess. A retired American Baptist minister who pastors a small congregation in nearby Palmer, Wasilla’s twin town in Alaska’s Matanuska Valley, Bess has been tangling with Palin and her fellow evangelical activists ever since she was a Wasilla City Council member in the 1990s. Recently, Bess again found himself in the spotlight with Palin, when it was reported that his 1995 book, “Pastor, I Am Gay,” was among those Palin tried to have removed from the Wasilla Public Library when she was mayor.
“She scares me,” said Bess. “She’s Jerry Falwell with a pretty face.
“At this point, people in this country don’t grasp what this person is all about. The key to understanding Sarah Palin is understanding her radical theology.”

Read the entire enter interview here or below.

Continue reading

I’m flabbergasted

Well, I stumbled upon this today. A bit of background. Back in the mid-80’s when I was working as a campus pastor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio (my alma mater), we sponsored a “concert” on campus with Christian comedian Mike Warnke. Warnke was very funny and made all kinds of claims about being a former Satanist, etc. He was well known within American-Evangelicalism.
We had the concert in the University’s basketball arena, and despite a bad snowstorm on show-night, we still attacked 5,000 or so people coming from as far away as Chicago. The University administration thought it was going to be a bust. After all, who in the world comes to see a “Christian” comedian.
Anyway, in the planning stages we were looking for an opening act. The pastor of the Assembly of God church that we worked through at the time had a very good friend from Indiana who was a struggling contemporary Christian musician that was just about ready to hang-it-up. Reluctantly, we agreed to invite him to be the opening act. His style of music didn’t quite fit-in with our idea of what college students might want to hear. He performed before perhaps the biggest crowd in his life at the time, and he did well. There just so happened to be a Christian music record label person in the crowd. He introduced himself, and this musician’s career took off. We had a little part in his terrific success.
So, on the Web today I came across an link to a story in the Washington Blade about this singer/songwriter who has sold more than 4.2 million albums. If you know about the Washington Blade, you will know that it is a newspaper focused on the GLBT community.
Well, Ray Boltz is gay. I’m flabbergasted. Here is his interview with the Blade.
The pastor of the A/G church in B.G. was one of the first people I admitted to that I struggled with this particular issue. Of course, at the time I still believed that there was no way that a Christian could reconcile his/her orientation with his/her faith. Through the incredible struggle, I simply believed that at some point I would be healed, married, all happy like in the image of the American dream. I just never married, had a family, or waited as long as Ray did to admit to myself that no matter how much counseling, prayer, struggle, faith, Bible reading, more therapy, and anguished nights that I wasn’t changing.
I don’t know whether the pastor of the A/G church continued his friendship with Ray or not. Ray became a big star, so who knows. But, if they did I wonder how the pastor is taking this news. They were very good friends at one point. If they still are, it is certainly a challenge to the tradition line on homosexuality that most A/G (most of Evangelicalism) take.