21 February 2009

A true witness for Christ

Today is the Birthday In The Lord of Eric Liddel "The Flying Scotsman," the son of Scottish missionaries.

Liddell was born 16 January 1902, Tientsin, China and died 21 February 1945, Weihsien, China.

A gifted athlete, he excelled at rugby as well as running. He first gained national recognition by winning the 100- and 200-metre runs at the Amateur Athletic Association championships in 1923.

At the 1924 Olympics, Liddel dropped out of the 100-metre run—his strongest event—because the final was scheduled for a Sunday. Instead, he trained for the 200- and 400-metre runs. At the Games, he finished third in the 200-metre run and turned in a remarkable performance to win the 400 metres. Starting in the outside lane, Liddell sprinted out of the blocks and set such a blistering pace that two racers stumbled trying to keep up. He won the race in a record time of 47.6 sec.

The experiences of Liddell and his teammate Harold Abrahams were portrayed in the film Chariots of Fire (1981)

A year after the Olympic Games, Liddell returned to China to do missionary work with his father. Eric died of a brain tumour while interred in a Japanese camp during World War II.

In an interesting bit of trivia, the brilliant Scottish actor who played Liddle, in Chariots, Ian Charleson was a respected Shakespearean actor. Mere moments after completing a performance of Hamlet, Charleson collapsed and died from complications of AIDS. He was forty years old - just three years younger than Liddle was when he died in the Japanese concentration camp.

In preparation for the role, Charleson read the bible from cover to cover. The clip below, from the film, was scripted by Charleson himself.

19 February 2009

Stupid statement of the week

May of us with an interest in the Lutheran debate over spirituality and sexuality have followed their agonizing struggle over human sexuality with some sense of sympathy as we Episcopalians understand the passions involved.

Today it was announced that the compromise proposal to be deliberated by the ELCA will be to allow individual congregations to chose to accept partnered GLB clergy. The report is here

I actually think that's a very good decision. It is a victory for the GLB community.

Of course things aren't all happiness in Lutherland. The conservative group is not happy about the proposal.

I really should have business cards printed up that say simply, "I am a member of the stupid person of the week club." That way, I could simply hand one to every person who reveals his/her brain death.

This week the card would go to The Rev'd Erma Wolf, associate pastor of the Split Rock Lutheran Church (ELCA) in South Dakota and vice chair of the conservative group in the Lutheran Church, Coalition for Reform (CORE).

I laughed aloud when I read this
When any church finds itself accommodating its teachings to the ways of the culture, that church is in trouble. No Church has the authority to overturn the Word of God.
Imagine that! A female pastor telling the church that it cannot reinterpret the Word of God in light of modern understanding and that tradition must triumph.

I remember that day in November 1970 when the first woman was ordained a pastor in the Lutheran Church. That overturned the World of God which tells women, like Wolf, their place is to keep silence in church and that they are to be subordinate to men in all things.

This idiot, Erma Wolf owes her livelihood and ministry to the accommodation of culture and overturning the World of God. This is a good example that fundamentalists all suffer from same lack of morality and that the Anglican Communion doesn't have a monopoly on cherry picking presbyters.

Erma, here's your card.

Read the AP report here.

16 February 2009

Duncan, membership and falsehoods

It's always interesting to surf the web: one never knows exactly where one will eventually alight nor what one will find.

What I found was some interesting "misrepresentation" of facts on the ecclesial community of deposed bishop Robert Duncan's web page. What I found was that Duncan and his minions are incapable of understanding The Queen's English.
We are members of the worldwide Anglican Communion, a fellowship of more than 70 million Christians that developed from the Church of England . . . we are united not only by our historical ties, but also by our form of worship, which is based on a common prayer book, and our system of church government, which is ordered around an overseer, called a bishop.
Apparently no one bothered to tell Bob that the "Four Instruments of Communion" disagree with his assertion for the moment. The primates just said that Duncan's Folly is not part of the Anglican Communion. Apparently individual Episcopalians are, but Duncan's group is not according to the Primates' press release.
  1. The Windsor Continuation Group Report examines in Section H the question of parallel jurisdictions, particularly as raised by the Common Cause Partnership . . . Significant concerns were raised in the conversation about the possibility of parallel jurisdictions. There is no consensus among us about how this new entity should be regarded, but we are unanimous in supporting the recommendation in paragraph 101 of the Windsor Continuation Group Report. Therefore, we request the Archbishop of Canterbury to initiate a professionally mediated conversation which engages all parties at the earliest opportunity.
The Blog-father called it in a 2007 post.
I can't imagine that they will gain such approvals from the Primates, let alone the ACC. This collage of organizations include some that have been declared "not in Communion" for some time. To simply graft them in without serious study of the theological difference that divide them from the larger Communion would seem to be foolhardy. Beyond that, if the Primates allow this splinter group full membership, they will have also given permission for similar groups to form in their own backyards. That should be enough to give most of the Primates reason to have serious reservations about this new structure.
Either Duncan is correct and the primates are liars, or the primates are correct and Duncan is a liar. There is no consensus as to how this new entity should be regarded. It is not a province,; it is not a church; it is not part of the Anglican Communion. Apparently individuals attending these ecclesial communities are considered Anglicans, but the organization is not.

The AC web pages do not list Duncan and his cohort of deposed/irregular bishops as bishops of anything.

Duncan's site then turns to the numbers game:
Since its founding n January [2007], the Network has grown to include 10 dioceses and scores of individual parishes and ministers. There are some 200,000 Episcopalians, more than 2,200 Episcopal clergy and 900 parishes with some relationship with the Network. Already, Network affiliates make up more than 10 percent of all Episcopalians. [Emphasis original]
Even if we include all the people and groups that have split from TEC since 1830, it would be very difficult to arrive at a figure of nine hundred ecclesial communities and 200,000 members. Their December 2008 figures are not to be trusted. When one subtracts the Canadians and the REC membership, Duncan's group has at best about 60,000+.

But just supposing their figures are correct that means the Network has not grown in two years. I find that very interesting.

After I wrote this post,* Thinking Anglicans also posted on the numbers game. It appears that not only have the schismatics not grown, but they have actually declined. According to February 2009 Network figures, (from deposed bishop Iker's site)their weekly attendance is 81,000+ and the ecclesial communities in Canada is down to twenty-four from thirty-four.
On every Sunday morning, some 81,311 people worship at the 693 congregations of the Anglican Church in North America.
I thought Duncan said 200,000 communicants and nine-hundred ecclesial communities. That means an attrition of about 120,000 communicants about about 200 ecclesial communities all in two months.
But we must remember that the schismatics have always inflated their numbers and importance.

You might want to read this and this.

[UPDATE] Fr. Jake points us to Mark Harris post at Preludium on the numbers game.

* I usually write my posts a couple of days in advance of posting. That allows me to work out most of the bugs, add or subtract, and catch most of the spelling/grammar errors.

15 February 2009

Schofield to ignore WR and Primates' request

This will come as absolutely no surprise, but it took less than two weeks for the dementors to make their first move. It comes in the familiar form of deposed bishop Dave Schofield.

His plans for a Schofieldreich are moving forward and will open a mission in Nevada, according to his ecclesial community's web page.
Fr. Howard and Deacon Erin Giles, clergy in good standing of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin, are forming a core group to plant an Anglican church in the Las Vegas/Henderson area of Southern Nevada. A group of twelve is planning Ash Wednesday and Lenten Soup Suppers in private homes. Please contact us so that you can join us in fellowship and in seeking the Lord.

Our first Sunday worship will be on Palm Sunday with a full schedule through Holy Week at an undetermined location.
I love this part of the "mission statement":
We will seek those who are lost, and bring again those who were driven away, and will bind up those who are broken, and will strengthen those who are sick (Ez. 34:15,16a), by continuing stedfastly [sic] in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers (Acts 2:42); holding fast the profession of our faith without wavering, provoking one another unto love and to good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, but exhorting one another as we see the day approaching (Heb. 10: 23- 25).
There it is again, the poor persecuted "real" Christians who were driven away. They will all be called back to the "profession of our faith without wavering, provoking one another ...."

All that in the what is arguably the divorce capital of the world. Oh; I forgot - they threw out what Jesus said about divorce. So much for not wavering from the faith. (Interestingly, 82+ percent of the population say they are religious.)

And, they aren't going to provoke anyone. I laughed aloud when I read that bit of propaganda.

All this would really be funny except they are serious about this. They really believe their own press releases and propaganda. I guess it's true: Tell a lie often enough and you'll believe it.

The question to be asked is: "Why move into Nevada?" I think part of the answer is that Schofield knows he is going to lose a huge chunk of "his" faithful for two reasons.
  1. The primates do not recognize a new super province of North America. They had all their eggs in the new province basket and the store keepers wouldn't buy them - yet. That has created a certain amount of delusion to set in among the "persecuted."
  1. The courts will rule in favour of The Episcopal Church. When the buildings are returned to TEC, those who were too attached buildings and stayed in the pews (without a theological change) will remain with the buildings again.
Dave has to replace those people and Nevada is a logical place to deceive them into joining the quasi ecclesial Reich.

Dave knows this game too well. There are few Episcopal Churches in Nevada and there are miles and miles of sand between each parish/mission. Does that sound familiar? It's how he stole (temporarily) most of TEC's property and other assets in San Joaquin.

He will move in preaching his twisted gospel of hate and spread his lies about TEC. So there you have it. A repeat performance of San Joaquin.

But, remember, it is the Episcopal Church that refuses to abide by the Windsor Report. The schismatics are toeing the Windsor line.

What I would like to know is, what censored words escaped the lips of Duncan, Iker, Minns and Alinola. Schofield is definitely the weakest link. He has always been a bull in a china shop. He cannot be controlled - ask three Diocese of California Bishops about that. He is a law unto himself. Once he get's an idea, he cannot be reasoned with (as if he ever could).

After the primates' meeting and the "lay low" facade of the GS primates, I can bet this went over like a lead balloon. I'll venture a guess that they want to give Dave a gentle shove overboard and cut the rope on the life preserver.

By the way, as you may have noticed (if you followed the links in this post) our Blog-Father, Jake, has acquiesced to our pleading and made the home place public again. He is not and will not blog there, but will allow us to revisit the great posts of the past.


The Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany - B

2 Kings 5:1-14; Psalm 30; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Mark 1:40-45
    Introit: Arise, why sleepest Thou, O Lord? arise, and cast us not off to the end. Why turnest Thou Thy face away, and forgettest our trouble? our belly hath cleaved to the earth: arise, O Lord, help us and deliver us. -- (Ps. 43. 2). We have heard, O God, with our ears: our fathers have declared to us.

“O how I love Jesus, O how I love Jesus, O how I love Jesus … Because he first loved me.”

These words from Hymn 95 in our Life Every Voice and Sing hymnal come to mind as we think about the amazing miracles of Christ. Today’s story, about the healing of a leper, reminds us of why we love Jesus, why we’re so moved by who he was and what he did – why his story is the focus around which we have built our religious and spiritual lives. Jesus must have been an incredible person – courageous, compassionate, committed. And we love him because he loved us first.

To understand what this story really says about not only how great Jesus is, but about how much he loves us, we have to talk about leprosy and about the cultural norms of those times. The term “leprosy” in the Bible was used to name a number of different skin diseases. And according to the religious law of the Jewish people, a person with any one of these so-called leprous diseases was considered unclean, untouchable, unwanted.

Here’s how the code of Leviticus puts it:

“The person with the leprous disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be disheveled; and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean!’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He shall live alone, his dwelling place shall be outside the community.”

Leviticus also tells us that anyone who touched a person with leprosy was considered unclean. Being unclean meant being removed from the community, barred from the Temple, and an elaborate and potentially expensive series of rituals and sacrifices was required to be made clean again.

Now, not only was the person with leprosy considered unclean, but the disease was also seen as a sign of God’s punishment. Moses conveys these words to the people in Deuteronomy 28:

“If you will not obey the Lord your God then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you: the Lord will afflict you with boils, scurvy and itch, of which you cannot be healed; the Lord will strike you with grievous boils from the sole of your foot to the crown of your head.”

People with skin diseases were society’s rejects – shunned and cast out, stigmatized with the mark of God’s punishment, abnormal, unacceptable, unclean. From the “festering boils” of the sixth plague in Egypt to the “loathsome sores” endured by Job, burning itch and open lesions were taken as signs that an angry God wasn’t kidding around.

In our reading from the second book of Kings this morning, we hear the story of the great warrior, Naaman, who suffered from leprosy. And in the story, Elisha, the legendary prophet and holy man, heals Naaman. We should note that immediately prior to this healing, in the previous chapter of the second book of Kings, Elisha restores to life a young boy who has died. And he does so by lying on top of the boy, putting his lips on the boy’s lips and his hands on the boys hands. But following the religious law of the day, Elisha wants no part of Naaman’s leprosy, no physical contact with the afflicted hero. Instead, he sends him to wash himself in the river, preferring to let the water do the dangerous work of healing.

We must keep these social mores in mind as background for what Jesus does when he encounters the leper. “If you choose,” the man says in the Gospel of Mark, “you can make me clean.”

This unclean man, cast out, probably rejected from healing by the priest, comes to Jesus in faith, asking to be healed. And Jesus, we are told by the evangelist, is moved with pity. So moved, in fact, that he stretches out his hand and touches the man, proclaiming, “I do choose. Be made clean!”

Only by understanding the place of leprosy in the minds of the people can we grasp what a courageous and compassionate action this is. Jesus, moved with pity, stretches out his hand and touches the leper. In doing so, he ignores an entire category of religious law and social acceptability. He overthrows generations of commonly held beliefs about people who’d been rejected and cast out. He touches the man, and instead of becoming unclean himself, he heals the leper. Jesus, in an act of mercy and grace, takes away the leprosy and thereby restores the man physically, socially, and religiously to the community.

That’s why we love Jesus – because of the breadth of his love for us. Jesus did this amazing thing at great personal risk. He knew, from the start, that his message of repentance and of love as the underpinning for all the commandments would invite a lot of enemies, would invite a lot of resistance. Healing a leper by touching him, declaring him clean, which only the priest was supposed to do, could get Jesus into a lot of trouble. In fact, Jesus instructed the healed man not to tell anyone. And when the man disobeyed, Jesus had to go into hiding, at least for a little while. But here in the first chapter of the first gospel, at the very beginning of his public ministry, we see that Jesus had come to challenge the customs of the day with his boundless love for humanity.

Now, the story of the healing of the leper is wonderful not only for what we learn about Jesus, but also for the example set by the man who is healed. His openness to Christ’s healing touch, his desire and confidence, provide a model for us. Because we all have leprosy. Some people suffer from modern-day equivalents – AIDS, drug addiction, homelessness, mental illness – conditions that put them on the margins of society. But we all have something; we all have those places in our lives where we feel disconnected, rejected, alone. We all may have those times when we feel ashamed or unclean, perhaps even as though we are being punished by God. We don’t necessarily have outward signs of it, such as boils and scurvy, but we carry around those boils and open wounds in our souls: old hurts, private fears, anxiety, anger, loneliness. These are the leprous tumors disfiguring the tender flesh of our inner being.

Can we be made well? Can we let Jesus stretch out his courageous and compassionate hand to touch us, even in those secret places we don’t want God to see?

Our healing, our cleansing, begins in our life of prayer, where we must be willing to try to show God everything. The leper in the story is our example. Outwardly bearing a shameful disease, he nonetheless goes to Jesus in faith, begging him and keeling down before him, saying, “If you choose, you can make me clean.”

Like the man, we have nothing to hide from God. When we present ourselves to Jesus in faith, the Lord will also respond to the leprosy of our souls with the same grace and generosity which he shows to the man in the story. We can pray for mercy, showing those open wounds and allowing ourselves to accept God’s forgiveness. We can pray for strength, exposing our boils and our itch and allowing ourselves to receive Jesus’ healing touch.

If we can approach God in that open, humble, yet confident and faithful way, the Lord will help us to know that we are clean, restored, forgiven and beloved. Then we may recognize in our hearts the joy of today’s psalmist: “You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.”

From the sense of healing and trust in God’s presence that we find in our spiritual lives, we move out to the community – to the world around us. And there, we reach across the leprous barriers of our modern world, the dislocation of our daily lives, putting aside fear and prejudice to reach out with courage and compassion to touch our sisters and brothers. In other words, we have to be Christ for each other, and we have to pray for the grace to let others be Christ for us.

Forgiveness. Compassion. Love. It begins in our hearts, in our own spiritual lives, and moves out to the world around us. We love Jesus because he first loved us – boils and all. And in loving us, he gives us power to do the work. He taught us what we need to know to be his disciples, giving us the example of his limitless love.

As Hymn 95 says of his holy name: “It tells of one whose loving heart can feel my deepest woe, who in each sorrow bears a part, that none can bear below. O how I love Jesus, because he first loved me.”

Praise be to God for both inviting us to come forward and show our true selves, and for healing us and sending us out to our sisters and brothers with the power of his Spirit.

-- The Rev. Timothy Crellin is vicar of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Boston and founder of the B-SAFE program, which serves more than 500 children and teens in Boston every summer, and the St. Stephen's After School Program, which serves more than 125 young people every afternoon. E-mail: TECrellin@aol.com.