20 March 2009

Friday, Third Week of Lent - The Way of Sorrow

This week's Stations of the Cross are found here.
We adore thee, O Christ, and we bless thee because by thy holy cross thou hast redeemed the world

Almighty and eternal Father, accept our prayer of thanksgiving for your Beloved Son, our Saviour and Lord. As we recall his Sacred Passion send the Spirit of Christ into our hearts, we beg You, so that whether we pray or work we might do all in union with Christ our Redeemer. Amen.

19 March 2009

Bible Study Online for Episcopalian

Last week while I was trying to die but couldn't get it right, again, one of my visitors was a member of the weekly bible study class I teach (we are doing the Elizabethan Settlement this week). She wondered why there wasn't more bible study in TEC. That is a good question.

This morning I stumbled upon a bible study blog for Episcopalians. I was rather excited. The study reflects the weekly Eucharistic readings. The blog is owned by Sarah Johnson of the Episcopal Church Center (815).

The format is really simple and the readings are included so one does not even need to have a hard copy of the bible at hand.

Sarah presents the readings and then presents two or three questions about each reading for the reader to ponder and post a reply.

Check it out here. There will also be a link on the sidebar to the blog.

Our friend Tim is need of major prayers

Tim, husband of our Fran, and for whom we have been praying, went into respiratory distress last night about 9 p.m. The cause is unknown due to the complexities of his disease. He as been intubated with a respiratory and placed in the ICU at Westchester Medical Center.

Please continue your prayers, friends. And remember Fran and their children in your prayers, too.

As this is the feast day of Blessed Joseph, step-father of Our Lord, I add this prayer: "Blessed Joseph, pray for Tim."

18 March 2009

California Supreme Court establishes binding precedent

Yesterday's post was somewhat confusing to many readers. Readers did not know if the post was about an old bit of news or something new. The 11 March ruling is new news, and it's good news: very good news.

In New v. Kroeger the Diocese of San Diego and TEC members of St. John's Episcopal Church, Fallbrook, brought an action against the schismatic majority of the parish who had resigned from the Episcopal Church yet claimed to be the owners of the parish. This included the clergy and vestry in their capacity as directors of a nonprofit religious corporation who, having left TEC, had reassigned the property to another eclesial community.

The plaintiffs asked for declaratory judgment that the newly elected vestry (those remaining in TEC) was the true vestry.

On 5 January the Court of Appeals released its decision in Episcopal Church Cases (2009) 45 Cal.4th 467. The judgment was for the plaintiffs (TEC). See this post for information about that ruling.

After the decision was handed down, the schismatics filed a petition for appeal.

On 11 March, the California Supreme Court dismissed the petition for review. In doing so, it upheld the appellate court’s ruling that a vestry may not vote to disaffiliate from The Episcopal Church and retain their power and control over the church property.

Furthermore, the Court ordered January's opinion to be republished making it binding precedent.

The Supreme Court has agreed with the diocese, the Episcopal Church, and the Appellate Court that:

  1. The former parish vestry members were disqualified from vestry membership by their resignation from the TEC;
  2. The parish vestry lacked authority to reassign the parish to a different church;
  3. That the courts were required to defer to the bishop's ruling that 'loyalist' vestry members were the true vestry;
  4. That even under general principles of law, 'loyalist' vestry members were the true vestry.

This is a major blow to the schismatics Although this case will not end litigation in other dioceses and states, the respective courts will look to this ruling when forming their opinions.

This is absolutely brilliant news for the faithful in the Diocese of San Joaquin. Why?

David nailed it in his comment on the previous post:

So logic says that a corollary would be-

When one leaves TEC, one ceases to be eligible to be on the Standing Committee. That invalidates all the schismatic Standing Committees, and thereby invalidates any decisions made by said Standing Committees including removing the diocese from TEC.

Standing committees are just glorified vestries They have no authority to "realign" a diocese under California Law. Folks, this is a monumental ruling, at least for California.

The Grapevine reports from the Episcopal news service on this decision.

Fred reported on this over last week at Off Topic.

17 March 2009

California Supreme Court denies schismtics new hearing - revised/updated

On Wednesday, March 11, the California Supreme Court dismissed the petition for review that had been filed by the former members of St. John's Episcopal Church in Fallbrook. The Supreme Court remanded the case with instructions for the Fourth District Court of Appeal to republish the opinion it previously had issued in favor of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego and St. John's Church. That opinion affirmed the right of the bishop to resolve intracongregational disputes over who is eligible to serve on a church board.

"This is a very important decision in favor of the Episcopal Church,” said Charles Dick, Chancellor for the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego and Partner with Baker & McKenzie LLP, who served as counsel to the diocese in this litigation. “It vindicates our position that the actions of the dissident congregation were extralegal and in excess of their legal authority.”

According to Bishop Matthews,

I am overjoyed with this result which will finally allow the Episcopalians of St. John’s to return to their church. It is now time to bring to a close this unnecessary legal proceeding. The Episcopal Church will continue its ministry of following Jesus as an inclusive, servant church. All are welcome at St. John’s; there is room enough in God’s house for everyone.

This is part of New vs. Kroeger decision which returned the property to TEC. A concise summary of taht case is here.

In this particular ruling the court ruled that when vestry members resign from the Episcopal Church they cease to be a representative of congregation and The Episcopal Church. That means they did not have the authority to remove the assets from the diocese or the National Church

For another take on the decision, ReligiousIntelligence.com has a report by George Conger. The Living Church's take is here.

Blessed Patrick, pray for us

As today is the Feast Day of Blessed Patrick, missionary bishop to Ireland, I thought I would share a photo I took while at Slemish, Northern Ireland. Slemish is the place where Patrick, as a young slave, tended the sheep. The photograph is of sheep on the very spot where Patrick tended the flock. If you click on the photo, you will be able to view it at wall paper size. Feel free to save it and use it.

There is speculation that Patrick is fictions and some scholars believe he is a conglomeration of three different people named Patrick. I'm not sure what I believe. But for that brief afternoon, the shepherd boy was a real person to me.

Oh, and a pox on the Hibernia Organization that refuses to let GLBT of Irish ancestry march in the New York Parade.

16 March 2009

A note from James

For the past six years, I have been undergoing a rather serious medical regiment that involves both toxic chemicals and aggressive surgery.

In addition to to some rather unpleasant developments in my life, last Monday I had a reaction to the treatment and was mentally and physically incapacitated the entire week. "Things" are still rather serious and I would appreciate it if you would spare a wee prayer for my situation both medical and situational.

While I was recuperating, a friend told me about a cool site. It has the largest listing of online bible translations I've ever seen. Some are "silly" translations, but it's worth a your examination. The URL is here.

15 March 2009

Oculi - Lent III

Lent III
Oculi Mei

Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22
    Introit: My eyes are ever towards the Lord: for He shall pluck my feet out of the snare: look Thou upon me, and have mercy on me; for I am alone and poor. -- (Ps. 24. 1, 2). To Thee, O Lord, have I lifted up my soul: in Thee, O my God, I put my trust; let me be not ashamed.

One driver sticks post-it notes all over the dashboard of her car to make sure she remembers each errand. Kitchen calendars fill up with family appointments. Many cell phones now include calendars so their owners can have instant access to appointments that are too numerous to remember.

Chronic stress accompanies an increasing number of Americans who feel busy beyond measure. It’s a common problem for the current generation, even among the retired. People are so overwhelmed that one of the greatest luxuries of the twenty-first century is free time.

Busy-ness intrudes on all of us because we have so many opportunities. And because we want everything – and more. We have become slaves to what we desire, not what we need. We have become possessed by our activities – our getting and spending and doing. Isn’t that part of the malady that infects us during this difficult economic period? Living beyond our means? Materialism and greed? No boundaries to keep us in check?

Obviously, we need to re-set priorities and follow them.

A classic story about a business management consultant is instructive. The CEO of a large company stared failure in the face as he floundered, trying to pull his workforce out of a production tailspin. Swallowing his pride, he called in a consultant and said he would take any and all advice. The consultant asked the CEO to list what he did in the course of a normal week. Once this was done, she told the CEO to rank the list in priority. This took a while, but when it was finished, she told the CEO what he needed to do. “When you come to work, complete item number one before attending to item number two, and complete number two before going to number three. The next day, take out the list and start with number one again and repeat the process. Do the same each and every day. Don’t worry if you fail to reach lower items on your priority list. That’s it.”

The CEO tried it and turned the company around. He lived into his own priorities and his workforce followed.

Emulating this would be a good way for Christians to amplify their Lenten disciplines – setting priorities and following them rigorously. This might free us from the busy-ness and overindulgence that we have fallen subject to – that enslave us. Heeding today’s reading from Exodus would make that task easier.

The Ten Commandments begins with a reminder that it is God who first leads us from that which enslaves us. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, you shall have no other gods before me.”

God’s commandments can free us from the confinement of excessive busy-ness, too much wanting everything and more, obsession with our cravings and desires. God’s commandments lay out boundaries and help us set priorities by God’s standards.

Look at the list in your Prayer Book on pages 317 and 318. This stripped down list of ten priorities provides us with a time-honored but too-often-neglected guide for daily living. The Ten Commandments provide simplicity in the midst of too much complexity and busy-ness that often confounds us.

Furthermore, the Catechism, on pages 847 through 849 in the PrayerBook, helps us even further by grouping the ten into two basic priorities. First is our duty to believe and trust in God. Second is our duty to care for and respect our neighbors.

For the initial priority, simply said, we put God first and putting nothing in God’s place. The Catechism helps us understand deeper meanings of not making idols, not misusing God’s name, and keeping holy the Sabbath day.

We show love for God and obedience to him in “thought, word, and deed.” We set aside special time for reflection on “God’s ways” through worshipping with our fellow believers, and praying and studying about the things of God that are our priority.

For the second priority, simply said, we put our neighbors first. Again, the Catechism expands our understanding of honoring parents and refraining from murder, adultery, stealing, bearing false witness, and coveting what is our neighbor’s.

We “love, honor, and help our parents” and others who exercise just authority. It is a partnership, for the sake of God, with those who teach us and lead us into the way of Christ. We respect the created order of humanity by accepting the righteous reality God has made. We honor human life, deplore war, work for peace, rid our hearts of hatred and malice, and seek to become one with what God has created.

We “use all bodily desires as God intended,” remaining faithful in human relationships. We deal with others honestly and fairly, and we work for justice in the world around us and far off. We seek freedom whether it does not exist. We share the precious resources of this planet and do not horde unnecessary surplus when others stand in need.

We do not simply refrain from lying, but we exercise the courage to tell the truth. We are careful “not to mislead others by our silence.” We resist the all-too-human temptation to have what is not ours. We guard against desires that lead us to “envy, greed, and jealousy.” Rather, we look with happiness and thanksgiving at the success of others and what they possess.

In the process of living into these commandments, we continue to expand this view and uncover for ourselves, in the particularities of our lives, the richness of what each means.

The list of Ten Commandments need not complicate our thinking, because each is a part of one whole: duty to and love for God and fellow human beings.

Our Lord Jesus Christ reminds us of this. We recall this teaching in the Penitential Order in our Prayer Book, so appropriate for Lent:

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all they soul, and with all they mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commands hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Here’s the place to grab onto the management consultant’s advice. At the beginning of each day, let’s lay aside or our calendars and day planners and lists of things to do. Rather, let us turn to this top item on our list of priorities, loving God and loving neighbor, and tend to it before we move on to the next thing.

Then maybe our problem of busy-ness, our rush to fulfill so many wants and desires, will cease to make us anxious, and the success of our personal lives will be secured.

-- 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 in his native home, Bastrop, Texas. Email: Kesselus@juno.com.