05 September 2009

IT hits it big time

Our friend, IT has hit the big times! She has an atricle over on KOS about the civil partnerships in France leading to the decline of straight marriages. Make sure to go read the post.

02 September 2009

A new plan afoot from Lambeth?

In an interesting turn of events, the "Anaheim Seven" are meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Yesterday Dan Martins reported that
Seven diocesan bishops of the Episcopal Church are presently at Lambeth Palace for a brief--but, I'm sure, intense--consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury. All seven are members of the Communion Partners, and all seven are signatories to the Anaheim Statement.
Dan speculates that the talks center around the two tier plan that has been suggested by Lambeth observers.
I have no inside knowledge of the subjects under discussion, but it doesn't require any eavesdropping equipment to figure out that they're talking about how Dr Williams' "two tier/two track" plan might actually get implemented. More specifically, it is a safe bet that each of the seven is interested in what steps a diocese might have to take to remain on Tier/Track One even as TEC [The Episcopal Church] per se is assigned to Tier/Track Two.

The Archbishop's schema is going to happen; of that I am more certain than ever. It will happen too quickly and too decisively to suit the ruling party in the Episcopal Church. It is long since past happening too slowly and too subtly to suit those in what had been TEC's conservative wing, and who are now part of the GAFCON-ACNA axis. But the Archbishop has behaved with utter consistency and coherence since the advent of this crisis in 2003, and there is no reason to think he will deviate from that path now. He will never send the Presiding Bishop an email saying, "The tracks have been assigned. You're in #2."

He will say something like, "Here's the Anglican Covenant. Churches that adopt it as their own will remain in full communion with the See of Canterbury."
If that happens, and it might, then the ABC better be prepared from most of the Church of England to flee his No. 1 group for the safety of TEC, The Scottish Episcopal Church, Anglican Church of Canada and several other provincial churches. If it does happen, then TEC should close the purse and used that money on evangelism in the United States and humanitarian efforts throughout the world. We should have done that several years ago.

Dan goes on to say
The General Convention, of course, will never do so. In time, the consequences of that decision will be seen in the form of invitations to Primates Meetings that never reach 815, and registration materials for the Anglican Consultative Council that never make it to TEC's chosen delegates. It will not come with a bang. It won't even be a whimper. It will simply be the sound of silence.
Well, there won't be primates meetings - TEC foots a huge percent of the bill for the AC. Nigeria isn't going to put up the funds necessary to call all the faithful together to play king-of-the-hill. It's not going to happen. None of the schismatic organizations can find the necessary capital. It's also going to look bad when the African provinces spend thousands of dollars traveling to meetings with 99 percent of the Anglicans in their respective provinces can't feed their children. That will make a huge statement to the world about whether Jesus is first in the dictators' minds, or if power is foremost.
The wild card in the mix, of course, is the ACNA. Despite the word "Anglican" in their title (and on the signs in front of their churches), it could be plausibly argued that the ACNA, technically, is not Anglican. Not yet, at any rate. But they are aligned with GAFCON, which represents the overwhelming majority of the world's actual Anglicans. So they are part of a matrix that is capable of putting immense political pressure on Lambeth Palace. I suspect the seven bishops and Dr Williams are discussing this fact as well.
Sorry, Dan, but these people do not represent "the overwhelming majority of the world's actual Anglicans." They represent themselves. Period. Almost all of them were appointed by like minded men. They were not elected and they do not represent the sheep trapped in their dictatorships.

Mrs. Umbuto in Kenya doesn't have a say or a care in all of this nasty business. She doesn't care if women get to wear pointy hats or who sleeps with whom. She cares about her daily existence and how she's going to keep her children alive one more day.

The real majority of the world's true Anglicans (at least in name) are living on the brink of starvation. It is wickedly evil that their appointed leaders are more concerned with power, sex and keeping women "in their place" than than finding a way to feed the starving.

And Jesus Wept.

01 September 2009

Happy Orthodox New Year!

Today, 1 September marks the beginning of the Orthodox liturgical year. To all the real Orthodox out there in blog-land, I wish you Kronis Pola

From Archbishop Dimetrios, Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church in America
    Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

    We give thanks to God for the beginning of this Ecclesiastical New Year and for His abundant blessings, which fill our hearts with gratitude, deepen our faith, and strengthen our souls. The date of September 1 on our calendars marks the beginning of many things in our lives. For some, it presents the beginning of another academic year filled with worthy goals and challenges. For others, it is the return from summer vacation with refreshed bodies and minds, and renewed commitment to vocation and responsibilities. For those who work in agriculture, this date marks the beginning of the agrarian year and the tasks of planting, nurturing, and harvesting.

    For Orthodox Christians, September 1 begins a new liturgical year in which we participate in the life of the Holy Church through Her divine services. September 1 is also the date that has been designated by our Holy Ecumenical Patriarchate as the Day for the Protection of our Natural Environment. For more than one reason, the joining of our observance of this Day with the beginning of the Ecclesiastical New Year, is significant, as it guides us in understanding the important relationship between our world created by God and our Orthodox Christian faith.

    First, as human beings, it is within our world that we experience communion with God through our worship in the divine services of the Church. Our natural environment calls us to be in communion with God and with others. God brought the natural world into existence out of nothingness and He then created humankind within the natural environment for a harmonious coexistence and fellowship. While this harmony was interrupted through the sin and disobedience of man, our God, out of His great love for us, entered into His creation as flesh and blood in order to redeem us and all that is under the bondage of sin and death, restoring the harmonious fellowship.

    Second, through the liturgical life of the Church we are not only strengthened in our journey of life but we also become aware of the great spiritual significance of our natural environment. This happens through the usage of purely material elements, as the bread and the wine, in the most holy Mystery of the Divine Eucharist which as the Body and Blood of Christ unites us with God Himself. Here, the spiritual and physical relationship is significant. We are both physical and spiritual beings, created for life, and blessed with the ability, unique only to human beings, to worship our Creator within a natural environment that not only provides for our basic physical needs, but also enables us to experience perfect communion with God.

    Finally, our liturgical life and our life in the world cannot be considered as separate spheres of existence, but as one realm of living and relationship. In the services of the Church, we are called to liturgy, to a collective work as a people that will be our vocation for eternity. Within the Church, we strive for deeper communion with God, and we nurture our relationships of faith and love with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our natural environment is also dependent upon our faith inspired work as a people, specifically as stewards of what God has created. We have been called to oversee and protect the natural environment. This requires cooperation with others in a spirit of love and fellowship. It also requires that we appreciate the impact of our actions and in actions, and that we cherish the beauty, function, and purpose of all that God has created, consistent with the manner by which we invoke His holy name in our worship of Him.

    Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

    It is on this day of the inauguration of this Ecclesiastical New Year, it is at this time, that all of us are called to think seriously about what St. Paul said to the Corinthians: behold, now is the happily acceptable time, behold now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). Let us then, hear this apostolic saying as a call to an enhanced participation in the liturgical life of our Church, to a renewed relationship to our natural environment, and to a deeper understanding of the preciousness of the time given to us by our God and Creator.

    With paternal love in Christ,

    † D E M E T R I O S
    Archbishop of America

31 August 2009

It's a girl!

And the days were accomplished and she brought forth her second born child.

Mr. and Mrs. Hillbilly are the proud parents of a new baby girl. The wee thing was 5lb 3oz and 19 inches. Make sure to visit Arkansas Hillbilly for a photograph of the newest Episcopalian.

Congratulations from TTLS and readers!

30 August 2009

Trinity XII / Pentecost XIII

Trinity XII / Pentecost XIII
Respice, Domine
Proper 17
    Introit: Have regard, O Lord, to Thy covenant, and forsake not to the end the souls of Thy poor: arise, O Lord, and judge Thy cause, and forget not the voices of them that seek Thee. -- (Ps.73. 1). O God, why hast Thou cast us off unto the end: why is Thy wrath enkindled against the sheep of Thy pasture?

    Collect: Lord of all power and might, who art the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of thy Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Love received is love to be shared.

Life is short … and we do not have too much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us. So let us be swift to love and make haste to be kind, and the blessing of God will be with us.

In the early chapters of Genesis, God says to Abraham: “I will bless you, that you may be a blessing to others.”

How intimately these two are tied together, always: the act of our being blessed and the act of our blessing others.

The first way it is known, in our human experience, is in the embrace shared by parent and child. Can anything fill one’s hearts more completely than an earnest exchange of hugs with those just learning to offer them? Little children are so intent in their first expressions of physical affection, to be the recipient of such a hug just opens your heart. Unconditionally.

Who is blessing whom in that exchange? Love received is love that is shared. It’s as simple and profound as that.

As we grow and discover love in all its intimacy, what a miraculous experience it can be! The heartbeat quickens, the imagination anticipates even a passing encounter with the beloved, the sound of their voice, a smile crossing their face as they recognize your presence, a casual touch. Oh my!

Our first reading today is a compelling expression of the giving and receiving of such love. The Song of Solomon can be given many allegorical interpretations, but at its heart, its imagery is as simple as the blush of first love, ignited by the holding of one lover’s hand by the other for the first time.

We can sense in this passage a growing excitement in this poet’s response to even the thought of the approach of her beloved:

“The voice of my beloved! Look: he comes, leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills! … like a gazelle or a young stag …Arise my love, my fair one, and come away … the time of singing has come.”


The surging of emotions is echoed in the Psalm: “My heart is stirring with a noble song.”

The should’s and the ought’s, the coulda’s and woulda’s of such relationships can, in time, get very complicated. But the human soul revels in the simple, mysterious act of offering one’s heart to another for the first time, for no reason other than the joy that its giving and receiving bring.

Love received is love to be shared. It is that simple and that profound.

The writer of the epistle of James also builds on this theme. Religious practices can get as complicated as interpersonal relations. Over time, we become more concerned about how we are “performing” those practices, and find ourselves further and further from the original fervor of religious passion that once impelled our religious choices.

James has to remind those who are growing long in the tooth in their religious practice that we need to be “doers of the word and not merely hearers.” They need to be reminded that “every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift is from above.” It is a gift we are given, the very motivation, the compulsion of the Spirit to join God in the act of self-giving love. It is not an accomplishment in ministry but a natural response of one beloved to another.

Again, in the embrace of lovers: who is giving and who is receiving in this exchange? Clearly, both, or something other than self-giving love is being exchanged.

It is so simple, when the heart of the beloved is truly led by love, until complications set in. And those complications are born of fear.

In his first epistle, John writes, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.” And soon thereafter, he writes, “We love because God first loved us.”

Acts of kindness, patience, forgiveness – so many Christian virtues are second nature when one is in right relationship, and the sole motivation shared is love of the other. We are simply seeking to imitate God’s love for us as manifested in Christ Jesus.

It is only when one has replaced trust in such love with fear of rejection, that acts of charity become a chore. We all understand this, for as surely as we have all experienced the excitement of the first blush of love, we have experienced the onset of the more complicated swirl of thoughts and emotions that later infringe on that love.

I always remember the story told in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov, of the stingy old woman who sought, from the misery of hell, the lake of fire where she found herself after she had died, to be raised to the comforts and joys of heaven. “I wasn’t all THAT bad!” she asserts to an angel passing by. “What about the time when the poor beggar came to my door and I gave him an onion?”

The angel swoops down and hovers just above the old woman, as together they look back upon that scene from her life. The woman had resentfully come to the back door of her grand mansion to try to shoo the beggar away, complaining loudly about the filthiness of his hands and face. “You don’t even wash before you come to beg?” Nonetheless, the woman had reached down into the bottom of her larder and produced a rotting onion that she handed over to the beggar.

“Well,” said the angel, “that should be enough to open the doors of heaven for you.” The angel lowers to her a rope with that very onion tied to its end. The woman grabs on, but as the rope is lifted, others in the lake of fire climb on, hoping to be pulled out as well. The old woman, alarmed by this, cries out, “Let go! Let go! It’s not you who are being pulled out! It’s me! It’s not your onion! It’s mine.” And just when she says, “It’s mine,” the onion snaps in two, falls out of the rope, and she falls back into the lake of fire. The angel weeps, as she flies away.

If only the old woman had had it in her heart to say, “The onion is ours,” surely the onion would have been strong enough to have pulled all of them out together.

There is insight in this story, echoing the same wisdom as the teaching of Jesus in our gospel for today.

Here, Jesus is set upon by the Pharisees, who for all their earnestness and concern for the purity code, have traversed far from what James would call religion that is “pure and undefiled before God.” There are so many distractions for these too-well-practiced religious practitioners, the Pharisees. They care earnestly about their religion, but it is clear that only those who are equally obsessed with religious practices could relate to what they care about.

What Jesus is calling us to remains far simpler, and is, in the end, something that everyone, whether a professional religious practitioner or not, would understand and care about.

It is what comes from inside, from the center of our hearts, that will transform and quicken the heartbeat of our lives and the lives of those we encounter.

When one’s life is truly converted by God’s Spirit, the actions God yearns for us to know in our relationship with God and one another will be second nature to us. St. Augustine of Hippo once said, “Love God and do as you please.” If we are truly filled with love of God, what will please us will surely be what also pleases God!

Rumi, a Muslim mystic, spoke of the same phenomenon when he wrote: “Look inside and find where a person loves from. That’s the reality, not what they say.”

What does God require of us? What spiritual practices will open the gates of heaven to us?

It is, in the end, the return of the spirit to the place where love of God is born, not where it is mastered, that right relationship with God and one another will be found.

Remember that life is short. We do not have too much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us. Simply, very simply: let us be swift to love, and make haste to be kind. And the blessing of God will be received and given, in one fell swoop, in our relations with others and with God each day.

Yes. It is that simple.