06 September 2008

Ackerman and Beckwith pontificate

As many of you probably know, on 30 August 2008, there was a join meeting of the Diocese of Springfield and Diocese of Quincy presided over by Bishops Ackerman and Beckwith.

The purpose of the meeting was a “forum for assessment rather than a decision making body.” However, it was a mandatory “joint meeting of the clergy and lay leadership” from both dioceses.

The meeting began with both bishops praising GAFCON and denouncing Lambeth. Both bishops are outspoken critics of TEC, so there is nothing new in their propaganda.

One of the interesting comments was made by +Beckwith who complained that the Episcopal Church (and the average Episcopalian) is “really congregationalist.”

This is news to me – I thought our name was the Episcopal Church, not the Congregational Church. We have bishops, Congregationalists do not, and each parish is answerable to the diocese and bishop, both things not present in the Congregational church.

I suspect what the bishop means is, “the polity of The Episcopal Church, does not grant me enough power to do and act as a prince.”

The reporter, whose name was not given, but was one of the participants, said

Strong evangelical Protestant themes reverberated throughout the roughly four hour session. "Turn it all over to Jesus", "Prayer and discernment of the guidance of the Holy Spirit' etc.

The reporter noticed an interesting contrast between the two bishops. While Bishop Ackerman's tone was pastoral, Bishop Beckwith's was confrontational. An example of that confrontational nature is the following from Beckwith:

"TEC and the Anglican communion are in crisis." Lambeth's statements tried to state where the communion is presently at. The Indaba groups while in some ways helpful - were clearly worthless - if listening meant listening to liberals.

GAFCON however, with over 1,000 invited participants and 325 bishops was wonderful to both bishops.

So, listening to the opposite views is “clearly worthless.” Now, how about that; the Windsor report recommends that we listen to one another and the fundamentalists refuse to listen to anything but their own bleating.

Beckwith kept up the vitriolic attack:

[What is the] Heterodoxy of the Episcopal Church - no Virgin Birth of Christ, no Physical Resurrection, Any way, Any truth, Any life. TEC and its leadership are obsessed with a New Age self-centeredness and exclusively preoccupied with Social Justices issues. TEC preaches an "experimental (or was it experiential) Jesus'. Truth is what you think it is, and we're invited to make God in OUR own images.

Bishop Beckwith concluded that he is growing less optimistic that the Anglican Communion will survive.

I wonder where Beckwith worships? Perhaps in his diocese the church does not believe in the virgin birth or the physical resurrection, but I can tell him that in El Camino Real that is taught and believed. There are some individuals and even pockets where these beliefs are doubted, but in TEC our catechism plainly states what we believe. And, each Sunday (at least Sundays) we all affirm that belief in the Apostles’ or Nicene Creeds.

I haven’t observed anyone in any congregation with which I’ve worshipped holding a hand behind their body, fingers crossed as they say the creed. Beckwith is just spouting the party line propaganda of the fundamentalists.

As for obsession, the “liberals” seem to be obsessed with listening to the Holy Spirit while the fundamentals are obsessed with sex – or rather, one particular form of sex. When was the last time you heard a liberal going on at length to describe what heterosexuals do in the privacy of their home?

During a general forum, several interesting questions were asked. Fr. Desmond Francis, Christ the King in Normal, IL, made four suggestions:

1. 'Stop reacting to the perceived enemy. Proact, and discern the leading of the Holy Spirit'.

2. 'Why don't we take the Risk of inviting Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori - who is banned from stepping foot in these dioceses - here, [ to this diocese] to speak. We would ask of her, what is her intention and mind for the Episcopal Church?; i.e. have a conversation with her’.

3. 'Take the following 60 - 90 days for prayer and spiritual discernment following that meeting with her'.

4. 'Then decide either to remain in the Episcopal Church or go under another province of the Anglican communion'.

The sound of crickets chirping was the answer as both bishops had no response whatsoever. They do not want “that woman” in their respective dioceses.

A layman asked about the possibility that both dioceses would be merged into one. Bishops Beckwith and Ackerman categorically stated that there would be no consolidation. Period. Bishop Beckwith predicted that there would be more dioceses that would merge, notably in the states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Kansas.

Now pay attention to this bit:

Bishop Beckwith further stated that 'we are really Anglicans, and only Episcopalians because we live here [in the U.S.] He elaborated at length about issues of Ecclesiology - 'What is the Church?" 'What is the role of Scripture?'

I must disagree with the bishop: we are Episcopalians because we belong to the Episcopal Church. We are not Anglicans. We do follow the Anglican tradition, though.

Following his logic, I am really British, I just happen to live in the U.S. and have U.S. citizenship by virtue of birth. Because I follow many British customs, I'm British. The reality is that I’m an American Anglophile. There is a huge difference.

Beckwith’s sympathies do not reside with Anglicanism. The sect which he extols is a fundamentalist sect. Fundamentalistism was rejected by Anglicans in the 1500s.

After stating that, Beckwith stated categorically that he will not leave TEC and remain canonically resident in TEC and the House of Bishops. That’s good; but his next statement was even better:

+Beckwith also stated that a Bishop of a diocese does not have the authority to take a diocese out of the Episcopal Church.

The reporter commented that Bishop Ackerman “uttered some agreement, not very loudly, and may have nodded his head.”

I believe the Rev. James Fackler, a retired Lutheran supply clergy in the Diocese of Springfield, asked the best question.

I have not once heard the word 'love' in the previous 3 hours' of talk. Where is love for the homosexual?

The answer came in “deafening silence.

Fackler continued by emphasizing the “enormous on-going damage that schism had caused in his own church, referring to it as having a 'killing effect' on both sides.”

Now, pay close attention to the answer given:

The episcopal response was that while God is love; that love is conditional; subject to repentance.

Did you get that? God does not love everyone. Apparently the bishops do not belive the bible. It plainly says God loves everyone without qulification. This means that the bishops are picking and chosing what parts of the bible are still valid. Oh, wait, isn't that what they accuse the liberals of doing?

A laywoman from a parish near St. Louis reiterated the call for an invitation to the Presiding Bishop, adding 'so I can hear her for myself' [the Presiding Bishop's views]. Once again, there was no response from the bishops.

So there you have it; no women, no gays, and God does not love everyone. That pretty much sums up all the GAFCON/FOCA theology.

Meanwhile, in Duncanland plans are moving ahead for the vote. The Pittsburg Tribune-Review has an article about the coming vote. You'll find that article here.

05 September 2008

Feast of Blessed Theresa of Calcutta

Today is the feast day of Blessed Theresa of Calcutta. There are no words to say about her -- her life speaks for itself.

I find Mother Theresa's life to be a relief because she said that for fifty years God had been silent in her life. However, she went on doing what he had called her to do. When I wonder why God doesn't answer me, I think of Mother Theresa.

I had the honour to met Mother Theresa on three occasions. TO be in her presence was beyond words to describe. She called me "my friend" (but she called everyone that). She stood about two feet tall but when she looked at me it was as if she were looking into my very soul. It is amazing to think I have met and been embraced by a Blessed. Of course she was blessed and a saint when I met her, but now she is a real Blessed. When the day comes that she is canonized, I plan to be in St. Peter's Square to see "my friend" declared a holy example for the world and a special wittiness of Christ.

O Almighty God, who has compassed us about
with so great a cloud of witnesses:

Grant that we, encouraged by the
good example of thy servant Theresa,

may persevere in running the race that is set before us,
until at length, though they mercy,
we may with her attain to thine eternal joy;

though Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith,
who liveth and reigneth with thee
and the Holy Ghost, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This is probably my favourite John Rutter composition. It's a fitting prayer for Mother Theresa.

03 September 2008

Rowan's Waterloo

For several months, I have been thinking about this post. I wanted to say all of this back when our friend, mentor and teacher, Fr. Jake, was still up and running. The time didn’t’ seem right and there were so many other interesting things to say. Now with a recent development in the United Kingdom, I believe the time for this post has arrived.

I must admit that I truly feel sorry for the Most Rev’d. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of All England, and pater Communio Anglicana.

When he accepted the historic see, he took the role seriously. So seriously that he put aside his personal convictions about many things and picked up the party line of the backbenchers in the Church of England. When he did so, I’m certain that he never saw the fundamentalist reformation that was looming on the horizon like a hurricane just waiting for a good excuse to come ashore.

First there was the Jeffrey Johns fiasco in 2003. Jeffrey was a friend and mentor of Rowan who was appointed Bishop of Reading in the Diocese of Oxford. A few backbenchers raised unholy hell and Rowan bowed to the pressure and asked Jeffrey to stand down, which he did.

Steven Bates of the Guardian puts it this way:

When five years ago, John was proposed as bishop of Reading, his appointment was endorsed – twice – by his old friend Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, announced by Downing Street and confirmed by the Queen, only to be challenged so vociferously by a coordinated international campaign of conservatives and evangelicals that Williams got cold feet and forced John unwillingly to stand down.

John's sin, of course, was honesty: he was discreet about his homosexuality and had certainly not flaunted it, but had argued, quietly and academically, for a more Christian understanding of gays. Evangelicals who assiduously sought evidence of promiscuity and sinfulness could not find it, even though they trawled the electoral register to see if he was living with his partner.

So they demanded repentance instead. But he would not ostentatiously renounce of his orientation, apologise for his views, or spurn his long-term partnership as they demanded. Of course, even had he done so, they would not have been satisfied: a motley collection of bishops said that if John asserted he was celibate, they would rejoice; but when he did so, it made no difference to them (nor did they disown or condemn those African archbishops who claimed homosexuals were the devil's work and worse than beasts). A vicar at whose vicarage bishops of Reading customarily parked their cars told John he would not be welcome to do so ("After all," his wife told me, "That's not the sort of person one wants to meet in one's drive in the morning, is it? It was nothing personal ..."). Welcome to the Church of England in the first decade of the 21st century.

If only John had kept quiet, if there had been no evidence in his writings to hold against him, he would have been a bishop already then. After all, at least two current bishops in the Church of England are widely understood to be gay, and there are almost certainly more.

I do not agree with the practice of “outing” but, perhaps that is what needs to happen for all the “quite” gay bishops.

Less than a month later came the canonical election of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. The fundamentalists went into the biggest celebration since the Nazi’s surrendered in August of 1945. Why, you ask? Because they now had the perfect cover to launch their putsch.

Events escalated from “bad” to worse as the Communion headed into Lambeth Conference. How could he keep “Peace in our Day.” So, he did the wrong thing and didn’t invite the Rt. Rev’d. Gene Robinson. But that wasn’t enough. The fundamentalists, focusing on the Episcopal Church in the United States, demanded TEC be expelled from the Communion. If that did not happen, they fundamentalists would boycot the conference. They would have their own conference. They would form their own communion.

They did have their own conference where they issued their Donatist manifesto. And then came Lambeth Conference itself, and all seemed to be well, or at least as well as could possibly be expected.

Then came the post Lambeth fundamentalist conference at the conclusion of which they released a “communiqué” which one fundamentalist blog said sent “chills” though Lambeth Palace and the Anglican Communion office. They announced that their ship has sailed, goodbye Rowan, Anglican Communion and apostate religion. They are off to “puritan-land.”

And now, there is a new headache for the Archbishop – it comes in the form of his friend and mentor, Jeffery Johns. Yes, the same Jeffrey Johns.

The Rev’d. Mr. Johns may be nominated for the see of Bangor in North Wales. And, he has the backing of all the senior bishops and clerics in the Church of Wales. The senior bishops of the Church of Wales have said they will consecrate a gay man, if that man is qualified for the role of bishop. Sexuality is not a bar to ordination/consecration as far as they and the Welsh church is concerned.

In the Welsh Church, the process of nominating a bishop is as secretive as the papal conclaves. No name is placed in nomination until the Welsh committee is sequestered and when it is over, they are not allowed to release details of the nominations or debate.

If he is elected, and from all indications, he well could (most likely will) be, Then Rowan cannot keep his head in the sand.

This will mean the churches in Canada, The United States, Scotland and Wales, and Ireland are or have been willing to challenge the “gays aren’t welcome” recommendation. Rowan will have to make one of two choices. He can accept the consecrations and anger the fundamentalist who are still in the Communion, or he can expel the four provinces. He is doomed whichever choice he makes.

What I find interesting is that, given the secrecy that the Welsh church places on the nominations, why and how was John’s possible nomination made public? Obviously people talk about possible candidates before the conclave. The delegates can’t arrive with no candidates in mind.

You’ll never guess who “broke” the story. The Rev’d. David Anderson. Yes, THE David Anderson who is one of the American conservatives who led the fight against the consents for Gene Robinson. The very same Anderson who ran around like a chicken with its head cut off, spreading assiduous lies about Robinson and never offered an apology.

You might ask what the appointment of the bishop of Bangor has to do with someone living in Atlanta, Georgia, especially given the church's supposed agreement not to trespass on events in other provinces, but of course, Anderson is part of an international coalition ever vigilant against gay clergy. One of Anderson's close associates is Canon Chris Sugden of Oxford, one of the campaigners against John in 2003 and now an organiser of the conservative coalition known as Gafcon whose member bishops boycotted Archbishop Williams's recent Lambeth conference. And, funnily enough, Sugden's daughter, Joanna, is employed as deputy to the Times' religion correspondent who broke the story. Of course, this may all be a coincidence.

Andersons “intervention” is a not so subtle attempt to invigorate fundamentalists once again to oppose Johns nomination/appointment and to give legitimacy to the fundamentalist's un-Christian actions.

Johns, who is currently Dean of St. Alban's, says “one should not judge God by his church.” Sometimes it is hard not to do so. When one examines the fundamentalist communion, it’s nearly impossible not to do so because the fruits are not of God.

Rowan’s handling of the appointment of Johns as bishop of Reading was William’s Waterloo. When he capitulated to the fundamentalists, he lost everything – it was the ‘time of death’ for the communion. The fundamentalists knew they "had" Williams and that they could do anything they wanted to do, and Williams would not stand up to them. Had he stood up for his own conviction and against injustice, we would not be where we are now. But he didn’t and everything that has happened since that moment has been just quibbling over the will.

My thanks to David Allen for pointing out that my Spell check confused Reading, England, with Redding, California.

02 September 2008

The ship of fools sets sail

I was given a wonderful laugh this evening when I received an “alert” about a new GAFCON posting. You will find it over on one of the hate sites. I will probably get into trouble for posting a portion, but I suppose it is worth it.

Make sure you ready the third paragraph very slowly.

Do not have any liquid in your mouth, or any open containers of liquid close.

Please move all the furniture with sharp edges so that when you fallout of your chair laughing, you will not injure yourself and litigate with me.

When the GAFCON primates met in London to decide how they would respond to the Lambeth Conference, they made their position abundantly clear - there will be no going back on what was accomplished in Jerusalem. The new ship of Anglican [fundamentalistism] has set sail. It will not turn back.

In a single breath, they rejected any overture by the Archbishop of Canterbury that would require them to compromise on the faith once for all delivered to the saints. They will have no truck with sexual behavior outside of heterosexual marriage between a man and a woman.

The finality in their communiqué must have sent chills around Lambeth Palace and across town at the Anglican Communion Office run by Canon Kenneth Kearon and his liberal staff.

I laughed until I had tears in my eyes. Talk about ego. Any road, sorry for another post today, but this one was too good not to tell you about.

The word in italics replaced a certain word I will not allow used about the fundamentalists. Read the rules for posting and you will know what word I replaced.

And notice that we are still hearing that “faith once delivered” nonsense. There was no faith delivered. It was developed and voted upon and changed repeatedly throughout the past two thousand years. They just refuse to recognise the truth when they see it.

Type the first few words of this post into a search engine and you’ll find the article. It really is worth a read. Once you have read it, please come back and tell me your reaction/opinion, please.

Bishop Atwood speaks on TEC

There is an interesting letter by the Rt. Rev’d. William Atwood, a bishop of the Anglican Church of Kenya. It is dated 30 August 2008.

His letter begins

The problem with Indabbaing your way through life without addressing the crises that are strangling life (and members) out of the church is that it is based on a post-modern fantasy that the atmosphere is more important than the true state of things. In the emerging train wreck, it is like focusing on the musical program in the ballroom of the Titanic. In the case of our crisis, there are plenty of life boats available for the people. The problem is that they are being lulled into thinking that the crisis is exaggerated.

Well, it is exaggerated, m’lord, despite the histrionics you used. It is a ‘crisis’ only because a group of puritans have latched onto Donatism as a means to further their political goals and lust for power. They do not wish be a branch, they want a hostile take over of the corporation, and they are going to have it come hell or high water. They have not hesitated to state that intention. That has been clear since the Chapman memo. The Chapman’s letter fires the first shot right from the beginning:

Our ultimate goal is a realignment of Anglicanism on North American soil committed to biblical faith and values, and driven by Gospel mission. We believe in the end this should be a “replacement” jurisdiction with confessional standards, maintaining the historic faith of our Communion, closely aligned with the majority of world Anglicanism, emerging from the disastrous actions of General Convention (2003). We believe this goal is now pressed upon us by the Holy Spirit as a result of the rejection of the historic Christian faith and the rejection of biblical and Communion authority by the leadership of ECUSA. We will lead our congregations and partners in making the adjustment to adopt this strategy. We seek to retain ownership of our property as we move into this realignment. – The Chapman Memo [Emphasis theirs.]

And here we have Atwood’s deception argument:

…But the heart of the question is whether or not it is possible to be eternally separated from the redeeming love of Jesus Christ. If (as the Scriptures present and the Church has always taught) it is possible, then we must assess the content of the current conflicts with the seriousness of Hell.

To take a "Decade of Generosity for the Spirit to lead us into all truth," is utterly inadequate. In order to do that, one MUST believe that there are no consequences in people's lives today. To accept the current state of affairs with the current innovations while waiting for a decade is to choose to normalize the things that have torn the communion. We have certainly seen this before. If we can "live with" the status quo for a decade then it will be impossible to restore historic faith and discipline. If one were to countenance even the possibility that there could be negative eternal consequences for those in same-gender sexual relations (however monogamous), then a "moratorium" is utterly inadequate.

Yes, let’s roll out the old argument that this is about faith and saving souls, not power. And, use homosexuality as the means to disguise the real purpose (as seen above in the quote from the Chapman Memo). Say it enough, and loud enough and everyone will believe it. Well, not everyone. But, continue to say it anyway and attack those who bring the duplicity to light. And, attacking TEC and ACoC is a great way to avoid discussing the real objective.

As for the separation from the Love of God, Paul has something to say about that:

But God commended his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath though him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only [so], but we also joy in God though our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. Romans 5.8ff

Notice there that it was accomplished without any action of our own. Whether we accept it or not, we have been redeemed, according to Paul, and there is no separation from God’s love though Jesus the Christ.

But, then, the bishop does attempt to deal with one aspect of the GAFCON crowd, the Donatism. But, he defends it:

[…] Years ago, the Donatist Controversy addressed the fact that the sacramental acts of a bishop were still valid even when the bishop had sinned. It is certainly no news bulletin to point out that bishops sin! The greater question is whether or not individual bishops are doing good things or evil ones.

What he fails to point out is that in the Donatist controversy, the church condemned the Donatists and said that whether a person is evil or good God is greater and works though and in spite of the person. Jesus said, “He that is not against you us is for us.” (Like 9.40) For the Donatists, that is not acceptable, even though it is what Jesus said.

But, for the fundamentalists, this does not apply bilaterally – it is only the North American bishops who are the evil ones, particularly TEC bishops:

The Episcopal Church is asserting that they have the right to make whatever changes to the faith they deem fit. They are claiming apostolic order as a cover for absolute jurisdiction over a given area. The "naked emperor" truth, however, is that Apostolic Order without Apostolic Faith is impossible. The two are intertwined. It is not possible to have one without the other. [Emphasis added.]

Many "moderate" clergy and bishops who disagree with teaching and direction of the Episcopal Church have refrained from speaking the truth. Some have said that it is too costly and they are afraid. Others try to maintain that the crisis does not directly impact them because their parish is OK and their bishop is not attacking them (yet).

This is of course an “everyone knows” argument. He offers no documentation to back up the claim. As such, it is a logical fallacy and not worth discussion. And, of course it is an appeal to emotion – “oh, those poor persecuted clergy and bishops! That evil TEC!” Note the Donatism in that first paragraph – “they are claiming apostolic order.” Donatism’s founding statement is “our orders are valid, yours aren’t.”

The question remains, however, "Is the teaching and practice of the Episcopal Church leading people away from Christ?" If the answer to that is "No," then sitting out the battle can be ethical. If the answer, however is "Yes," then the battle deserves our full energy, heart, and all the resources we can muster. Jesus said that all that we have is of less value than even one single soul. People are of great value and are worthy of rescue, but there is another truth, too:

Mark 9:42 "But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.

I heartily agree with Jesus. But the simple fact is, the Donatists are shunning people and excluding them. That is causing people to stumble, not to come to the faith of Jesus.

The fundamentalists want the world to believe that they are asking all to come join them. as they practice their version of Christianity. Unless, that is, those who are GLBT, live in the 21st century instead of the Victorian era, accept any form of science, and reject a literal and inerrant view of the bible.

The sad fact is there is a litmus test for membership in their new organization. And they want a litmus test for the whole Anglican Communion (it's called a 'covenant'.) It is based on human criteria not God's criteria. The criteria they are using a faulty understanding of the bible itself. The bible is a record of humans reflecting on encounters with things they consider divine. It was not a document forcefully dictated by God (which some call "hardcore fundamentalism) nor by inspiration of the Spirit (soft-core fundamentalism). It is simply a record of how God has been experienced by humans. The Holy Spirit was most assuredly involved, just not as a dictator.

When I hear the fundamentalists talking, I keep hearing those words from the gospel: "We have a law, and by that law this man ought to die." John 19.7 Then I hear Jesus' words, "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath." Mark 2.27 Thank God that Jesus brought us a life without the burden of oppressive man made law (and yes, "man made" since women weren't allowed any say in the law).

As is my practice, I will not link to a hate site, so you will have to Google “TEC and the Anglican Communion in a post modern fantasy."

UPDATE: Bonnie points us to a good article over at the Daily Episcopal.

01 September 2008

The bishop of Albany looks at the future

There is some debate about the coming “covenant” and its rejection by the vast majority of the Anglican Communion.

The Diocese of Albany has indicated that if TEC rejects the covenant (which it will do), his diocese will vote to accept it. Apparently, his rationale for this pre-secessionist act is the letter to Bishop Howell that seems to indicate that it is “communion” is between individual diocese and the Archbishop of Canterbury, not between provinces and Canterbury. This is an interesting innovation in the life of the Anglican Communion. Not surprisingly, it is only an argument that applies to TEC and perhaps the Anglican Church of Canada.

I would like to be in the room when someone in Nigeria tries the same argument there. I can see it now: “Bishop Y” tells Archbishop Akinola that Bishop Y’s diocese is staying with Canterbury because the relationship is between the ABC and the diocese, and, that the Province is not important.

No, the novel concept of a relationship between a diocese and Canterbury only applies to the North Americans. It certainly is not part of the Faith Once Delivered to the Saints!

Then there are those (including Albany) that are arguing that before there was a US province, the relationship was between the diocese and Canterbury. Well, that is one hundred percent true. However, before there was a U.S. province, there were no diocese in the new U.S. and the US was part of the Church of England. We were part of a missionary diocese of the Church of England. As such, whatever relationship existed was between a Church of England diocese and Canterbury. As soon as we had a General Convention following the War of Rebellion (War of Independence) we became an autonomous church and diocese established. There was absolutely no “connection” to Canterbury whatsoever. A relationship to the see of Canterbury is a Victorian invention when the Anglican Communion was established (in large part by The Episcopal Church).

The bishop of Albany has written a pastoral letter giving his opinion of the recently completed Lambeth Conference. It is, in reality, a letter about the future as he sees it. In one paragraph he states
The theological makeup of those attending [the Jerusalem Conference and Lambeth Conference] played a major role in setting the tone and ultimately determining what would be the outcome. The organizers of GAFCON restricted invitations, inviting only theologically conservative orthodox Anglicans. GAFCON was not intended to be a time to debate the issues that are dividing the Church, but rather to be a time to come together as a "fellowship of confessing Anglicans...a fellowship of people united in the communion (koinonia) of the one Spirit and committed to work and pray together in the common mission of Christ"... believing that "Anglicanism has a bright future in obedience to our Lord's Great Commission to make disciples of all nations and to build up the Church on the foundation of biblical truth" (GAFCON Statement on the Global Anglican Future). The decision to hold GAFCON in Jerusalem with organized pilgrimages to various holy sites throughout Israel helped reinforce the biblical heritage upon which the Anglican faith is founded and was one of the spiritual highlights of the conference.

I am perplexed by this part:
Anglicanism has a bright future in obedience to our Lord's Great Commission to make disciples of all nations and to build up the Church on the foundation of biblical truth.

Try as I might, I cannot find a single command of Jesus to build up the Church on the foundation of biblical truth. Jesus did not have the bible – he did not even have the “Old Testament.” He certainly did not have the New Testament. I wonder where the bishop got the idea that Jesus told his followers to teach “bible truth”.

There is another interesting paragraph in the pastoral letter. It concerns same-gender issues and illustrated the depth of the feelings on both sides.
… During one of the sessions, an African bishop made an impassioned call upon the West to restrain from blessing same-sex unions and ordaining individuals engaged in homosexual lifestyles, stating that the Moslem extremists in his country are looking for any reason to attack and kill Anglican Christians. He said the revisionist actions of the West are giving them all the reason they need, resulting in the death and imprisonment of many of his people. Equally passionate, but from the opposite perspective, two Episcopal bishops spoke about justice for their gay and lesbian clergy and people, proclaiming their strong unceasing support for gay rights and that they would not stop the blessing of same sex unions in their diocese.

I do not doubt that extremists have used this issue as an excuse for unholy actions. I cannot understand the mentality that would make me kill people here because something I consider immoral is going on in place halfway around the world.

We must to pray for the people of Africa and the rest of the world who are victims of persecution – persecution from extremists on both sides. This includes the GLBT who are victims of persecution by Moslem and Christian fundamentalists.

You may read the pastoral letter here.

Tomorrow I will post on a letter by the Rt. Rev’d. William Atwood, ‘bishop’ of the Anglican Church of Kenya. I intended this post to deal with the Atwood letter but I was sidetracked.

31 August 2008

The Dark Lord of San Joaquin strikes

For a rude beginning to the week, news comes to us from The Grapevine that Mr. Schofield has fired a priest who indicated he will stay with TEC. Fr. Trino Correa was given twenty-four hours to vacate his office and his residence. Talk about Christian love. Well, having known Dave for more than thirty years, he was never known for love for charity unless he was on the receiving end.

Pray for Fr. Correa, his Hispanic congregation, and all the priests who wish to remain Episcopalian but are in fear of their livelihood.

Almighty and everlasting God,
whom cometh every good and perfect gift:
Send down upon our bishops, and other clergy, espcieally Fr. Correa,
and upon the congregations committed to their charge,
the healthful Spirit of thy grace:
and, that they may truly please thee,
pour upon them the continual dew of thy blessing.
Grant this, O Lord, for the honor of our Advocate
and Mediator, Jesus Christ. Amen.

GO read Dusty's post here.

CORRECTION OF UPDATE: Fr. Davis was not fired, but reassigned to St. Paul's. He did not sign "TEC papers" and remains firmly in Dave Schofield's sect. Thanks to Susan O. for this information.


This evening, I am turning to the Russian Liturgy for an even song. This comes to us from Kansas City Chorale. It is the "Let my prayer be set before thee as incense." It has has the mark of Grechninov and of course, those wonderful Russian chords!. When I heard it, it make my soul almost weep for its beauty.

Pentecost XVI

Proper 17 - Year A [RCL]

By the Rev. Ken Kesselus

Exodus 3:1-15, Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c; or Jeremiah 15:15-21, Psalm 26:1-8; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28

Last Sunday’s gospel was really fun – Peter’s answering for the disciples that Jesus is much more than people were saying he was – that he was the Messiah. Fun because Jesus affirmed them and even told Peter he was a rock on which he would build the church. Fun for us, because we can hear that story and also feel affirmed as part of that church that exists as the very body of Christ.

Today, though, it’s not so fun. Today we hear Jesus telling Peter and the disciples the sacrificial cost of what he must do to carry out God’s will for all people – and the sacrificial cost of what they must do as the body of Christ.

Jesus said, “You are right in saying I am the Messiah, but since I am, I must go up to Jerusalem where I will suffer much and be rejected by the religious leaders. There I will be killed, and after three days rise again.”

Typically, Peter took the initiative again, speaking for the disciples: “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.”

In a sense Peter is boasting, “We will protect you. We will see that you are accepted and not rejected. We will never let you die.” Peter did not want for his leader to experience pain, unpleasantness, suffering, rejection, death. This did not fit the disciples’ idea of what it meant for their leader to be the Messiah.

Hearing this, Jesus became so angry that he took Peter to task and said to him, “Get behind me Satan!” Frustrated, Jesus was saying, “Peter, once more you do not understand what is going on. You are the one I am most counting on to provide leadership when I am gone. I need for you, above all, to understand, and you still don't know what God truly intends for his Christ and for you.”

Though Peter replied, “Oh, no, Lord, not you,” perhaps he was also saying, “Oh, no, Lord, not me!” It is easy for us to imagine that Peter knew that Jesus’ rebuke meant the same thing for himself and that he did not want to experience pain, unpleasantness, rejection, suffering, death.

We can imagine that it was natural for Peter to feel this way because we also tend to say “Oh, no, Lord, not me!” We do not want to experience pain, unpleasantness, rejection, suffering, death.

Wouldn’t we rather forget what Jesus had to go through? Wouldn’t we rather remember Christmas and Easter and forget Ash Wednesday and Good Friday? Wouldn’t we rather focus only on the pleasant side of the story?

With God, though, it had to be the other way. For through his life, suffering, death on the cross, and resurrection, Jesus saves us by showing us the way to a life of God’s forgiveness, love, and grace – given with no conditions, no strings attached. God provides for us the chance to live a life with a full range of the possibilities potentially present in everyone.

Jesus saves us by his death, by overcoming once and for all the power of sin. Sin no longer can have a death grip over us because Christ makes it clear that God will forgive the sin that we confess and from which we repent in the sincere desire to renew our lives. And because Christ makes us realize that we are the most precious in creation – even worth dying for.

Christ’s death and resurrection give us the hope and purpose to go on in life despite the difficulties or tragedies that may befall us. Jesus laid this out to Peter in telling him, “Let me do what I must do.” He did this by calling all his followers together to tell them once more in the clearest possible terms what was at stake for the world and what he was calling them to do. To truly follow him, they had to follow him all the way to Jerusalem. They had to deny themselves and take up their crosses and follow him.

This is Christ’s call to us, as well. To deny ourselves is to put aside thoughts of our own needs, forgetting ourselves, so that we may remember and care for others. Taking up our crosses is to be ready to endure the worst that may happen to us for being true to God and the values of God.

The Good News of today’s gospel is that being a Christian is not always easy, but it is always life-giving and meaningful. The Good News of today’s gospel is that we have the resources to give up or take on whatever we must for the sake of God. We can make the necessary sacrifices – the offering and giving of ourselves so that God’s work may be done.

The Good News of today’s gospel is that we have the resources to take up our own crosses. We can give ourselves away, not hording our resources, knowing that God gave us life not to keep it but to spend for the sake of God and God’s children. We can take up our crosses to follow Jesus by giving our time, our talents, and our treasure for God’s uses.

The Good News of today’s gospel is being truly faithful to traveling our own hills of Calvary, following Jesus’ steps, doing our utmost to live in his example, striving everyday to do what he would do in our particular situation.

The Good News of today’s gospel is also what Jesus tells us about the result of all this. He asks us to consider the reality that “those who want to save their life will lose it.” What profit is there in having worldly riches but lose spiritual life? But he adds, “Those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
It does not get much plainer than that.

We may sacrifice honor and honesty for profit and self. We may sacrifice principle and Christian values for popularity. We may sacrifice the values of God for the riches of the world. We may do all these things, but today Jesus makes us consider what such behavior will ultimately gain us. His assurance and his example make it clear that all it gains us in the end is a self-imposed exile from the greatest possible thing in life: God himself and God’s realm.

Unless. Unless we sacrifice ourselves to advance God’s purposes. Unless we seek to be one with Christ. Unless we first deny our selfishness and pick up the particular crosses God calls us to bear. Unless we follow Jesus on his journey, surrounded by God. Unless we join the faithful members of the body of Christ in heeding the Good News that is today’s gospel.

-- The Rev. Ken Kesselus, author of John E. Hines: Granite on Fire (Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest, 1995), is retired from full-time, active ministry and lives with his wife, Toni, in his native home, Bastrop, Texas. Email: Kesselus@juno.com.