Friday, November 30, 2007
Thursday, November 29, 2007
All of the listed institutions feature hands-on work or support by Anglicans in Sioux Falls.
I know, I know, it's Advent, not Christmas. But who ever heard of an Advent Mart?
My wife shared a recent dream in which she was in a church, seated uncomfortably between Biblically missionary people one one side and Bible-resisting or lukewarm folks on the other. There could be no real worship or mission in such a situation, as the competing sides couldn't be together or even face the same way.
The lessons* we have been reading have similar "in betweens":
Joel 1 and 2 present a time between divine judgment (a locust plague) and restoration (a bountiful new harvest and the blessing of a "remant" who remained faithful to God).
Psalms 137 & 138 speak to the time between despairing, angry exile and God's rescue in response to prayer.
II Peter 1 and 2 are a literal description of the corrupt Episcopal Church - arrogant, wordy, materialistic and full of false teachers who destroy their followers. God is with us now in an "in between" - we know that we cannot serve TEC's agenda, and we are prayerfully discerning "what's next."
* Lessons from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer lectionary, Last Week Before Advent.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Hat tips to Stand Firm and MWN
Just heard a commercial (commerce = commercial, get it?) on the local radio, imploring South Dakotans to shop local stores and not buy everything on the internet. An interesting challenge, given the convenience, variety and lack of sales tax on the net, and with the temps here falling into the teens and even toward zero when the wind blows.
Here's Jill's prayer, with "blanks" for you to name your community as you pray:
We lift up the godly business people on _____ Street and throughout _____. We pray that whatever work they do, they will do it all to the glory of God. You have entrusted them with talents and with money. Deliver them from the service of self alone. May they serve the common good in their workplaces and throughout the community, working to establish Your kingdom in _____. May You be pleased by their faithfulness in what You have entrusted to them and prosper them greatly. Amen.
1 Corinthians 10:31b, Luke 19:11-27
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Reaaallly worth reading...you might just as well pop in "South Dakota" or the names of many other dioceses. Problems like elitism, questionable priorities for church money, and unqualified people as clergy (especially bishops) are widespread.
Yeah, I know...clicking on some of the book covers goes nowhere. Just use the ones that work, cool?
Hat tip: Fr. David Handy
Monday, November 26, 2007
1. The Archbishop of Canterbury says some really negative stuff about U.S. foreign policy and about the U.S. in general.
2. Ruth Gledhill, religion writer for the Times of London, responds and lists her top 10 favorite things about America.
3. In the comments on her top 10 (still with me?), a bloke named Nigel mentions the American gap between rich and poor, contrasting The Hamptons (the very toney eastern shore of Long Island, NY) with Shannon County, South Dakota.
Shannon is one of the two poorest counties in the U.S., and includes a large part of the Pine Ridge Reservation and a chunk of the Badlands. Nigel mentions that the average male life expectancy in Shannon County is only 48.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Fr. Tim Fountain
On this Christ the King Sunday, I am honored to share my favorite passage of the Bible, and how I use it to shape my prayers.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
A. Prayed in praise of Christ, by adding emphasis
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
B. Addressed to Christ in adoration
You are the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in you all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through you and for you. You yourself are before all things, and in you all things hold together. You are the head of the body, the church; you are the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that you might come to have first place in everything. For in you all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through you God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of your cross.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Friday after Thanksgiving was "Black Friday", when many retailers reach profitability for the year.
Do you pray for commerce? If so, how?
I think that we are ambivalent about commerce, and not without reason. "Black Friday" can be seen as part of the pagan recapture of Christmas (which was at one time a Christian take-over of pagan winter festivities). And of course the Bible resounds with warnings about the temptations created by the quest for wealth.
I don't find a really good prayer for commerce in the Books of Common Prayer. There are prayers for success in agriculture, which I suppose we could adapt. And I've blessed businesses using adapted house blessing prayers (most fun was a pizzeria, although I was most uplifted by a family therapist who invited me to bless his new office).
The 1928 BCP has a prayer For Every Man in his Work. It is guarded, at best, in its attitude toward profit:
ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, who declarest thy glory and showest forth thy handiwork in the heavens and in the earth; Deliver us, we beseech thee, in our several callings, from the service of mammon, that we may do the work which thou givest us to do, in truth, in beauty, and in righteousness, with singleness of heart as thy servants, and to the benefit of our fellow men; for the sake of him who came among us as one that serveth, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
In this prayer, work reflects the Creator's image in our lives, but it also invites temptation to serve the false god of wealth. The prayer asks that we imitate the servanthood of Christ and never detach our wealth from the needs of those around us. But it almost makes one guilty for turning a profit.
The 1979 BCP offers a prayer For the Unemployed:
Heavenly Father, we remember before you those who suffer
want and anxiety from lack of work. Guide the people of this
land so to use our public and private wealth that all may find
suitable and fulfilling employment, and receive just payment
for their labor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This prayer also honors work and intercedes for those without it, but there is no real intention for the creation of wealth. Wealth seems to be a finite, pre-exisiting thing for redistribution.
So, what do you think? Should we pray for commerce? If so, how? (Here's your chance to write a Collect for Commerce).
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
His message is confirmed by the lessons for Thanksgiving Holy Communion, which are set out here. In these Bible passages,
- Moses warns that short-sighted self-centeredness will cost God's people their abundant blessings. And he tells us that our real life is found not in material stuff but in the word of God.
- James warns the church that words have meaning - we must "do" what God says, not just hear it. Again, God gives us every good gift to enjoy, but we will lose the blessing if we follow our own agenda and ignore God's will.
- Our Lord tells us that every need will be met if we seek God's kingdom and righteousness.
May we all enjoy Thanksgiving God's way, giving sincere thanks and appreciating all that we have as a gift from our Father in Heaven. And may we share of our abundance with those in need, as James teaches.
God bless you all. Northern Plains Anglicans will enjoy the holiday with family and friends, so comments won't likely be posted until Friday. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
November 15-16 I went to visit Nimili parishes in the diocese of Bor
along with the Acting Archbishop Nathaniel Garang. We travelled on a very rough road. IN twenty four hours we preached in three parishes and witnessed the living
faith of several thousand Sudanese Dika Christians.
After nine days in Southern Sudan I came out to Kampala on November 17
evening. The Archbishop of Sudan is still recovering from his serious illness in
Kampala, Uganda. I went to see him from the airport. I thought I would
spend not more than thirty minutes with him. We ended up spending three hours as
he wanted to know all about my visit. Archbishop has a very ordiary house
which he is renting in Kampala. He has about twenty orphan children he is
supporting their education. I told Archbishop about my visit to the dioceses of Juba,
Bor, At the end of our long meeting I knelt down on the floor and asked
Archbishop Marona to $450 stipend every three months from the Church of England. I
have come to know he spends most of this money paying tuition of the Sudanese
orphan children he and his wife have adopted. For the last twelve years I have
raised funds to assist him to provide education to these orphan children. This
year God provided generous harvest. My church treasurer wired $15000 to the ECS
Support Office in Kampala. The money was given for the education of
orphan children, to support the work of the Mothers Union. The day I arrived in
Kampla I learnt that several of these orphan children who are finishing
their school in Kampala were sent home as their schools fees were not paid for
the last several months. This was the semester for their final examination.
These children were sent home and were not allowed to appear for their final
exam. Archbishop and his wife had no money to pay their tution. I went myself to
their schools and paid tuition. These children are back in school. My wife
Myra bought food for these children and we left the food in the house with
Archbishop. Archbishop Marona will be retiring at the end of this year. He
and his wife requested me to continue to support the education of these
Sudanese orphan children. I hope you shall continue helping me to support the
education of Sudanese orphan children.
NOV. 18. Yesterday I came to the Entebbe airport in Kampala-Uganda at 12
In the morning I went to a very large Cathedral of the Anglican Church of
Uganda in Kampala. There were couple of thousands of people who had come
to worship there. I introduced myself to the Dean of the Cathedral. He never
raised any question about the Episcopal Church. He was very warm and
I left from there to the airport. I sat at the Entebbe airport from noon
to 11:00p.m. and then learned that our flight which was supposed to leave at
4:20p.m.was cancelled. Finally we were given a hotel stay after 1:00 am.
Nov,19. This morning at 10:45a.m. Emirate Airline put me on Kenya Airline
and I arrived in Dubai at 8:00p.m. I am now writng this letter to you from Dubai
airport and shall leave for Karachi, Pakistan at 1:30 am. I shall arrive
in Karachi, Pakistan at 4:30a.m. Then I shall leave by car from Karachi to
the city of Hyderabad. My wife Myra and I would go their to visit our future
daughter in law. We shall have a engagement ceromony on Nov.22. The bishop
of Hyderabad diocese and their pastor will bless the engagement between our
son and Sana Massey our future dauther-in-law. Gibran is not able to be
present at the engagement as he has only three days of his annual leave left. Gibran
our son and Sana have been exchanging e-mails and text messages for the last
six months. Next year by the grace of God we shall go with him to Pakistan for
marriage. Sana has just completed her school in medicine. We shall be in
Pakistan till Nov.26. We ask your prayers for our safety and peace in
Pakistan. We shall visit Islamabad from Nov.24-26.
God has really watched over us and blessed our peace pilgrimage to Sudan.
These are our brothers and sisters who have been persecuted for acknowleding
Jesus as their Lord. The Islamic government of Sudan tried to supress the faith of
the Sudanese Christians for twenty five years. 2.5 million killed in 25 years
and more than four million have been displaced. Hunger, death, torture, rape
and slavery could not separate them from the love of Christ. Sudanese Church
is alive and thriving with the power of the Holy Spirit. I thank you for your
prayers and support.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (I Corinthians 13:13)
This passage ends a chapter heard most often at weddings. Many assume that it is about romantic love and sentimental affection.
But the fact is that I Corinthians 13 shows up in a treatise on the life of the church. It is preceded by the New Testament's most detailed teaching on Holy Communion and sacramental worship (11:17-34), and by an amazing explanation of the church as the literal body of Christ at work in the world (12). It is followed by a chapter that harmonizes orderly, liturgical worship with the Holy Spirit's spontaneity and power (14).
In the midst of all this teaching, Chapter 13 embeds Paul's message that love must fill all aspects of church life. The absence of love is fatal: without it, "your meetings do more harm than good...it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else" (11:17, 19-21). Without love, the body of Christ is stunted - "If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?" (12:17) Without love, "personal spirituality" and self-gratification prevent the sharing of Good News - "You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not built up" (14:17).
The "love" described in I Corinthians 13 is agape, a Greek word that suggests self-sacrifice. Latin translators rendered it caritas, leading the King James Bible and other English sources (including Books of Common Prayer) to employ the word "charity." The sense is that love gives away what is "ours" in order to serve others.
Romantic love (which is a gift of God and not something to take lightly)is experienced as fullness (often described as "infatuation", right?), but agape/caritas/charity is first experienced as an emptiness or "opening" - open to others and open most of all to God. John of the Cross wrote, "Charity...causes a void in the will regarding all things since it obliges us to love God above everything. We have to withdraw our affection from all in order to center it wholly upon God. Christ says through St. Luke: Qui non renuntiat omnibus quae possidet, not potest meus esse discipulus (Whoever does not renounce all that the will possesses cannot be my disciple) [Lk. 14:33]." (The Ascent of Mount Carmel II.6.4, Kavanaugh/Rodriguez translation).
This is a challenge to our normal way of thinking, especially about "going to church." How often we judge a liturgy by "what we got out of it" rather than by what we put into it. Culturally, our disposition toward liturgy might not be much different from attending a movie, concert, play or sporting event - an effort to please ourselves rather than stand open to another.
Being "empty of self" and open to God is easier said than done, of course. The "world, the flesh and the devil" attack all efforts at spiritual growth and are expert at sabotaging love.
But worship is one of the great opportunities to attempt and practice Biblical love. It is significant that the Bible's great lesson on love is in the middle of instructions about sacraments, church order and spiritual gifts. Gathering with others creates that inconvenient place where our private agendas can be emptied out and God's agenda can intrude.
Such is our life in Christ:
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
"To suffer unnecessarily is masochistic rather than heroic." Viktor Frankl (Man's Search for Meaning, 1959)
I was thinking about these words as they applied to some seemingly fruitless endeavors of my own, then to life in TEC, but then, after reading Anglicat's comments here, I saw the quotes in light of the "open communion" debate.
The Bible is very clear that when we share Holy Communion, we "proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (I Corinthians 11:26).
So, what is the "death" that we proclaim? Was Jesus just another guy who threw his life away in a quixotic endeavor? Did he "give what is holy to the dogs", or, by giving himself away, did he actually transform some of us mutts? Unless his death was a sacrifice with power to transform our relationship with God, why bother to commemorate it? The Jesus of "open communion" seems to be Frankl's masochist.
If Jesus' death is, as the "open communion" advocates seem to think, a symbol of "radical hospitality" or a friendly face for people interested in religion, then why stay with Jesus? Why not open the newspaper, find an article about someone who died gracefully despite a terrible disease, and build a sacramental meal around him or her? If Jesus is just one among many martyrs, or just a loser, or unlucky, or a victim of injustice, then why build a sacramental system of faith and worship around him? After all, he did nothing exceptional. We can find better archtypes of hospitality (there are other Hiltons besides Paris) and of generally nice religion.
And then there is the "proclaim" part. If his death is not unique or even exceptional, and not the focus of what we are doing as a church, why invite people to a remembrance of his "body and blood, given for us"?
No, if we are going to "proclaim" something, we need at least some understanding of it. And in baptism, the Bible says, we share mystically in Christ's death and new life(Romans 6). That alone might not make us worthy to "proclaim" anything (and there's plenty of corrective stuff in the New Testament, written to people already baptized), but it at least establishes the right reference points for what we do at the Lord's Table. To be baptized at least confesses that Jesus' death is formative of Christian life, and we renew and proclaim that as we share Communion with other baptized disciples. "Open communion" has no reference points. By definition, it is about seeking . And without the reference points (Christ's death and resurrection) set up in baptism, seekers can come to powerfully and tragically wrong conclusions about Jesus (and are probably being guided to such by the kind of preaching most likely to accompany "open communion.")
Open communion is a hoax and harmful. Should have warning labels all over it.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Presented to the Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburghby the Rev. Jonathan Millard November 2, 2007
1. There is confusion concerning who God is:
Over the past 40 years there has been a drift away from orthodox ways of speaking about God. In some places in TEC instead of God being referred to as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, He is addressed only by function as creator, redeemer and sustainer, and not in personal ways. The problem with this approach is that it makes God more remote and the fact is God has revealed himself to us through the Scriptures not just by function, but in personal terms as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Another example is when the name LORD is replaced with “God.” So instead of the Liturgical greeting: “The Lord be with you” you may encounter in some parts of TEC “God be with you” or even “God is in you” with the response: “and also in you.” The word LORD apparently is perceived as too male, and too authoritarian. The earliest creedal statement was simply “Jesus is Lord.” And yes, it was meant to be authoritarian. I was very sad when I attended the Interfaith service at Calvary last week, to see precisely such a change had been made to the liturgy. When it came to share the Peace, the wording was not: “The peace of the Lord”, but rather “The Peace of God.”
2. There is a lack of clear teaching about the divinity of Christ:
In answer to a question referencing the divinity of Jesus, in an article published earlier this year, the Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Shori, said this: “If you begin to explore the literary context of the first century and the couple of hundred years on either side, the way that someone told a story about a great figure was to say ‘this one was born of the gods.’ That is what we’re saying. This carpenter from Nazareth or Bethlehem – and there are different stories about where he came from – shows us what a godly human being looks like, shows us God coming among us.”
At best that is ambiguous or confusing, and at worst it is false teaching. Jesus was much more than someone who “shows us what a godly human being looks like.” And the Church does not say that he was “born of the gods.” The biblical witness and the faith of the church is that Jesus is the Son of God: fully God and fully man. The Word became flesh (John 1). We proclaim this truth weekly in the Nicene Creed.
3. There is a lack of clear teaching about Salvation and Sin:
Questioned about selfishness and falleness, the Presiding Bishop said this:·”The human journey is about encouraging our own selves to move up into higher consciousness, into being able to be present in a violent situation without responding with violence ... “ and in the same interview she went on to say: “The question is always how can we get beyond our own narrow self-interest and see that our salvation lies in attending to the needs of other people.”
This is not the Gospel story of sin and redemption. The Scriptures teach that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom. 3:23). The Scriptures teach that salvation is not through our works, or our efforts to move up to a higher consciousness, or even through attending to the needs of others. Our salvation lies in Jesus, “who while we were still sinners, died for us.” (Rom. 5:8); and all who believe in the LORD and call upon his name will be saved. (Rom. 10:13)
4. There is a drift towards universalism:
The Presiding Bishop says of Jesus: “we who practice the Christian traditionunderstand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box” (Time Magazine: July 17,2006). Jesus said: I am the way the truth and the life no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).
When, some years ago, I first heard Bishop Duncan speak of us living in a time of Reformation of the Church throughout the world, I confess I wondered if that was a little grandiose. I now believe, without a doubt, that he was right. This was illustrated for me, once again, just last week. I was deeply saddened to hear Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu deny the particularity of the Christian Faith, mocking the idea that Jesus could possibly be the only way to God, and declaring that all religions are worshipping the same God, just by different names. The archbishop is a great man who has done wonderful work for reconciliation and peace. I salute him for all the good he has done, but I am sad and troubled that he would be so dismissive of the supreme work of love and salvation that our Lord Jesus Christ did for us on the cross.
5. There is a loss of confidence in the Gospel as Good News for all:
The official teaching of the Anglican Church on the issue of human sexuality is that which has been set out by the Lambeth Conference in 1998 (Resolution 1:10). But here’s the key point concerning the Gospel that I want to make:
[The Conference] “recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships.” [emphasis added]. It is that confidence in the transforming power of God that the actions of TEC now challenge. So instead of welcoming and loving all into the church so that they might experience transformation, TEC simply welcomes and affirms people just as they are – denying them the healing and hope and transforming power of God.
6. There is erroneous teaching and practice regarding human sexuality:
Over the past couple of decades there has been a serious rejection of the clear teaching of the Bible and the Church on human sexuality and marriage. The clear teaching of Scripture and tradition and of the one, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church is that sex is for marriage. The only sexually intimate relationships that are good and holy according to Scripture and tradition are those between a man and a woman, within an intended life long, faithful covenant of marriage. That means that pre-marital sex, extra-marital sex, gay sex, any sex outside of marriage is all contrary to God’s will. This is the clear teaching of the Bible and of Jesus.
7. There is a seemingly ‘social justice only’ view of the mission of the church:
I have struggled to find any clear statements from the Presiding Bishop about the basics of the faith. From her inaugural sermon through to all kinds of talks and sermons and interviews that I’ve seen or heard extracts from she seems to be concerned primarily with a political and social gospel. She seems to be concerned principally about the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. There is much to be commended about these goals and much to challenge us – but they are by no means the same thing as the message of salvation for those who are perishing. (John 3: 16). If the Millennium Goals are our gospel message it falls seriously short of the message of proclaiming “Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
8. There is contempt for the Authority of the Bible:
Bishop Bennison has said: “The church wrote the Bible, and the church can rewrite the Bible.” No, that is a serious error.
9. There is failure by Bishops to defend the faith:
The role of a bishop in the words of the 1662 ordinal is: ‘‘to banish and drive away from the church all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to the Word of God.” – Here in the States, the very opposite is true. Rather than drive away false teaching many of the bishops of TEC embrace it, celebrate it and declare to be good and holy that which God declares to wrong. To ordain an openly gay, non-celibate man – when the rest of the world urged TEC not to do this – is not only contrary to Scripture but is also an arrogant display of American intransigence.
10. There is a lack of respect for truth or unity:
There seems to be a cavalier spirit among many in TEC that disregards the mandate for unity with the one holy, catholic and apostolic church. Claims are made by ‘progressives’ that they are putting truth ahead of unity. However the ‘truth’ they claim is that it’s a matter of social justice and Christian virtue to bless same sex unions and permit practicing gay and lesbian people to hold any office within the church. This is, of course, is contrary to the truth as revealed in Holy Scripture. And the only unity they secure is among a tiny minority of the church worldwide.
Monday, November 12, 2007
The birds of all kinds continue to empty the feeders faster than I can fill 'em.
The lawn is going to winter dormancy (although it's still green!), so the mower is moving aside, with the snow blower now deployed closest to the garage door.
And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years...'" Genesis 1:14
Sunday, November 11, 2007
O LORD God of Hosts, stretch forth, we pray thee, thine almighty arm to strengthen and protect the soldiers, sailors, marines and air force of our country. Support them in the day of battle, and in the time of peace keep them safe from all evil; endue them with courage and loyalty; and grant that in all things they may serve without reproach; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Please pray for all military veterans, past and present.
South Dakota Division of Veterans Affairs
State Veterans Home
Ken Follett, World Without End
Friday, November 9, 2007
Values: Leaders Must Cherish Truth More Than Anything (2 John 1-4)
Leaders need to examine their professional relationships in light of their organization's vision. Energy follows when the leader's personal beliefs align with the organization's values. When leaders eliminate hypocrisy and deception from their organizations, liberty and power prevail. John uses the word "truth" five times in this short letter to underscore the necessity of integrity.
Leaders must value truth more than anything else. When truth presides in an organization, several benefits result:
- Trust is evident among staff.
- The leader has less mental clutter.
- People feel the freedom to be transparent.
- The leader has credibility when he or she speaks.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
In last Sunday's Gospel, our Lord told us, "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account." (Matthew 5:11). It is a high compliment to be called names IF we are speaking and acting "on Christ's account."
Yesterday, my morning reading included Titus 2:15, "...exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you." Other translations use words like despise, slight, question - in other words, "When you are speaking up for Jesus, let no one beat you down with dehumanizing, personal attacks."
It is important that we support one another. Paul's letters to Timothy and Titus are worth reading. They are full of affirmation for Christians in hostile environments. May such sacred writings encourage us and teach us to encourage one another.
- Present Anglican polity has severe design flaws.
- Our doctrinal boundaries are too vague.
- Current "Instruments of Communion" are not up to current challenges.
- Liturgical chaos prevents unity.
- Doctrine trumps polity and Scripture trumps tradition, not vice versa.
Dear Partners in the Defence of the True Gospel,
After Bishop Bob Duncan ("the Lion-hearted") made public on All Saint's Day his marvelous and bold reply to the Presiding Bishop's threats to depose him, echoing Luther's famous lines, "Here I stand. I can do no other," I waited a few days to see if anyone would take the bait and begin a new thread on how the Common Cause Partnership does indeed seem to be championing a New Reformation, with all the difficult questions that inevitably raises about the validity or necessity of schisms in the Church. No one did. So, taking the bull by the horns in my usual fashion, I am doing so myself. Although this post is quite long and complex, and although it represents a quite radical position in its advocacy of a New Reformation, I hope that even those who are deeply committed to an "inside" strategy, and in particular those who would call themselves "Communion conservatives" (similar to Bp. Howe or Sarah Hey), will at least pause and give it some consideration, As allies in the struggle for the soul of Anglicanism, we need to understand each other, even when we must in the end agree to disagree on tactics.
Indeed, as many observers have noted, this battle is much bigger than just an intra-Anglican quarrel and it extends far beyond the borders of Anglicanism. As those who contend together with orthodox believers of many ex-mainline denominations for the Faith once delivered to the saints and for the renewal of authentic, biblical Christianity in the post-Christendom West, we are waging this theological civil war on behalf of the whole worldwide Church, of all denominations (and none). So much is at stake... Although it would take a fairly long book to present adequately the case for a New Reformation, I will attempt to summarize that case here in relatively brief fashion. I will be contenting myself with simply providing illustrative samples of the major kinds of arguments that I would make in such a book (which I'm actually in the process of writing). I fully recognize that none of the five arguments that follow are conclusive by themselves. But when viewed cumulatively, I think the case is nothing less than overwhelming that a drastic, thorough-going 21st century Reformation, comparable in depth and scope to the original 16th century Reformation, is "a tragic necessity" (as the great historical theologian Jaroslav Pelikan famously said about that first one). So here goes.
REASON ONE: THE INADEQUACY OF CURRENT ANGLICAN POLITY STRUCTURES
1. First of all, Anglicanism is doomed to endure the agonies of a New Reformation because of severe design flaws in its current polity (or organizational structures). As we all know, Anglicanism started out as simply the Church of England. It gradually grew along with the British Empire into a worldwide network of colonial churches linked to the English mother church. In the post-colonial era it is slowly evolving in the direction of a truly worldwide "communion" of national/provincial churches who share the same heritage. But all along, it has evolved in a typically British way, sort of muddling through, with no clear constitution but rather in the English style of "common law." That is, unlike the Episcopal Church with its formal Constitution and Canons, Anglicanism as a worldwide fellowship of national churches has gradually developed its structures through the power of accepted conventions that avoid the rigidity of formal binding legal definitions. That has given us great flexibility, but it has also come at the very high cost of retaining so much ambiguity that it has left us vulnerable to the devastating, unending (and I believe unresolvable) conflicts we see today.
1A. My basic claim is that the modern Anglican Communion as we know it stands in need of drastic structural changes in both Doctrine and Discipline in order to allow it to continue to evolve into a true "communion" of churches (and not a mere loose world "federation" similar to that of the Lutherans or Methodists). That has been the goal of most Anglican leaders ever since the summoning of the first Lambeth Conference of bishops 140 years ago. But while the controversy over the skeptical teachings of Bishop Colenso in South Africa (a forerunner of Pike and Spong) was the presenting issue in 1867, that first worldwide consultation dealt with the problems of heresy and maintaining communion in a very different social context. The British Empire was in its heyday. And Christendom seemed not only as secure as ever in Europe, but it appeared to be destined to be utterly victorious all over the world. But that was then. Nowadays, it's hard for us even to imagine the Victorian world and how inevitable it seemed that "progress" would march on triumphantly and that Christianity and western civilization would completely dominate and rightly rule the globe. How radically things have changed! Today we live amid the tottering ruins of Christendom, which has totally collapsed in Europe, and is rapidly waning in America, and has almost completely disappeared in Canada. Mind you, I'm not talking about Christianity disappearing, but "Christendom," that union of Church and State which has characterized Europe for over 1,500 years. In other words, my basic claim is that the Anglican Communion as we know it was always designed and intended to function in a Christendom social context that no longer exists. The acids of secularism and pluralism have eroded the once-proud monuments of the former grand state churches of the West until all that's left in many cases is a largely empty shell. In order to adapt itself to the post-Christendom world in which we now live, Anglicanism will have to reinvent itself. And that involves such sweeping and drastic changes that this goes far beyond the mere "renewal" of Anglicanism. It amounts to nothing less than another Reformation, with all the regrettable confusion and bitter conflict that term implies. Many leaders have noted that without something like the proposed Anglican Covenant, there simply is no mechanism within current Anglicanism that would allow for the effective disciplining of a whole wayward province. As it stands, each national or provincial branch has virtually unlimited autonomy, for all practical purposes. That is, when a province like the American Episcopal Church simply refuses to heed the appeals of the Lambeth Conference or the Primates to cease and desist its promotion of the gay agenda, the rest of the Anglican Communion really has little recourse. This is a serious weakness. Indeed it is fatal. It simply must be corrected, no matter what the cost.
1B. Here are a few illustrations of what I mean. First of all, the Windsor Report pins its hopes on the Archbishop of Canterbury exercising his right to decline to invite scandalously wayward bishops to the Lambeth Conference or other pan-Anglican gatherings. It is plain, however, that this is an inadequate means of discipline. Even if +++Rowan Williams were much more willing to withdraw some of his invitations to Lambeth than he is, it would still be clearly inadequate. True believers in the gay cause (like bishops Chane, Bruno, Shaw, or Canada's Ingham etc.) would still flout the Communion leadership, take this minor slap on the wrist and continue on their merry way, even basking in the glory of being "persecuted" as all prophets are for their "prophetic" ministry. Much sterner measures are needed to be able to enforce discipline.
1C. Second, the proposed new Covenant is likewise plainly inadequate. It too has no real teeth. And the reason is obvious. It wasn't designed for the purpose of clarifying Anglican doctrinal boundaries (it doesn't even explicitly mention the issue of homosexuality and deliberately adds no new doctrine). Nor is it intended to enable the Communion to exercize real discipline. Instead, like the Windsor Report that recommended the adoption of such a Covenant, it was fashioned with one end in mind, namely, to maintain "the highest degree of communion possible." That is, the Covenant is heavily biased toward maintenance instead of mission, and in favor of insitutional unity over theological unity, and implicitly treats schism as worse than heresy. The Covenant is designed for fostering unity, not orthodoxy. The Covenant never even addresses the fundamental problem, the existence of two mutually exclusive and rival religions trying to co-exist peacfully under one organizational roof. Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia was indeed speaking for the broad central mainstream of western Anglicans when he made his infamous remark that if you have to choose between tolerating heresy and schism you should always choose heresy. The proposed Covenant, like the Windsor Report before it implicitly adopts the same outlook. When Archbishop Williams gave the Windsor Commission its mandate, he specifically made it clear that this blue-ribbon panel was not to rehash the question of whether Lambeth 1998's Resolution 1:10 was right and binding or not. Given the presence of theological liberals on that panel, they couldn't have produced a consensus document otherwise. So what else would you expect in democratically produced, committee consensus documents? The eight western provinces (England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the U.S.) have enough wealth and clout to prevent any truly meaningful Covenant from being adopted. To trust in such a futile, consensus-based approach that can never succeed in imposing real discipline on wayward provinces is to lean on a broken reed. It will never work. The process is guarranteed to prevent such discipline from happening.
1D. Third, the whole Windsor Report process (like the earlier Virginia Report process before it) still takes for granted the traditional role of the Archbishop of Canterbury as the focus of unity within the Anglican Communion. Alas, growing numbers of us are coming to the sad but inevitable conclusion that this is simply an obsolete idea that only perpetuates the dysfunctional nature of current Anglicanism. The problem isn't simply a personal one; it's systemic and inherent. Even if George Carey were still Archbishop of Canterbury, or another orthodox bishop like him, the fundamental problem would be that no one who is stuck in the position of upholding a crumbling national state church can simultaneously also lead a post-Christendom international fellowship of ex-state churches and non-state churches. It's a total conflict of interests. Moreover, it is grossly unfair and unwise. Why should the growing, thriving churches of the Global South have to look for direction and help to the leader of a sick and dying parent church? No Fortune 500 corporation would make the Chairman of the Board (much less the CEO) an automatic position that went to the head of its oldest division, even if it was a failing division that was losing money badly. That makes no sense at all. In other words, the problem isn't so much that the ancient throne of St. Augustine of Canterbury is occupied by a theological liberal like Rowan Williams, the problem goes much deeper than that. The problem is that Cantaur still represents the old Christendom world. Canterbury represents the old broken down marriage between the Church and the English state that has already ended in a de facto separation and will probably soon end in a de jure divorce in England, just as it already has everywhere else. And in a post-Christendom world, that is a FATAL weakness. We can't be dependent on a secular and increasingly anti-Christian English parliament and prime minister to choose the chief pastor of Anglicans worldwide. It's time to start thinking outside the box and to be more creative.
REASON TWO: OUR DOCTRINAL BOUNDARIES ARE FAR TOO VAGUE AND FUZZY
2. Historically, Anglicans have always been rather vague and fuzzy about the limits of orthodoxy. But it's never been nearly this bad. Even at the time of the Protestant Reformation, the 39 Articles of 1563 never had the clarity and internal consistency of the earlier Lutheran creed, the famous Augsburg Confession of 1530, or the precision of the much later and far more detailed Presbyterian creed, the Westminster Confession of 1648. Indeed, deliberate doctrinal ambiguities abound in our heritage. Take, for example, the famous (or infamous) compromise about the words of administering the bread and the wine in the Elizabethan prayerbook of 1559, which simply slapped together the quite Catholic-sounding formula of 1549 ("The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life") with the ultra-Protestant version of 1552 ("Take and eat this [undefined] in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thy heart, by faith, with thanksgiving"). The two were never synthesized, but have remained in constant tension ever since. That is part of the characteristic style of Anglicanism, the genius of English religion, so to speak. I welcome and relish that. But things have gotten out of hand.
2A. I contend that the problem is that this celebrated "comprehensiveness" was always more driven by political expediency than by authentic religious motivations. The historical record is quite clear, and exceedingly awkward and embarrassing to earnest Christians. The famed tolerance of Anglicanism has always been, at heart, based on the inherent political need of a state church to try to encompass the whole society, or as much of it as is humanly possible. The inevitable result of this marriage of convenience between church and state is that the church becomes swallowed up as a mere department of the state. In a Christian civilization, the secular realm ends up winning in the long run every time. It happened everywhere in the Old World, from the Catholic countries in southern Europe to Lutheran Germany and Scandanavia, Presbyterian Scotland and the Netherlands, or in Anglican England. The whole point of a state church (in the view of rulers from Constantine on) is to give religious sanction to the state and to help unify it. This was certainly true in the formational time of Henry VIII and "good Queen Bess" (Elizabeth I), and it has remained true ever since. From Thomas Cranmer's rather servile submission to Henry and his daughter Mary up to this very day, the English Church has been subordinated to the State and has been dreadfully conformed to the prevailing culture among the ruling elite. It was so here in Virginia from the start as well. The first Anglican priest came as a commercial chaplain, hired by the profit-seeking Virginia Company and he was closely allied with the aristocrats who were among the adventurers who landed in Jamestown 400 years ago. 'Twas ever so.
2B. But if the 39 Articles were themselves rather ambiguous (e.g., concerning the highly disputed nature of the sacraments and especially regarding the then vexing issue of predestination, which gets the longest treatment of any article of faith), their current status and authority is far more ambiguous still. As everyone knows, in our American BCP of 1979, the grand old 39 Articles are relegated to a mere appendix among other "Historical Documents." Suffice to say that since the famous Catholic Revival, beginning with the Oxford Movement of the 1830s and 1840s, the doctrinal boundaries of Anglicanism have expanded greatly and become far more blurred. Anglicanism has become a true Protestant-Catholic hybrid, and not merely a liturgical variation of pure vanilla Protestantism. Needless to say, Anglo-Catholics find a highly Protestant document like the 39 Articles quite unsatisfactory. But this has upset the delicate balance in classical Anglicanism, which carefully pitted a rather catholic liturgy against a quite protestant creed.
2C. I believe the real problem is that we have come to make a religious virtue out of a political necessity. The compromises of the 16th century are no longer necessary in our radically different social context. Liberated from the shackles of having to be a state church that futilely tries to include all citizens in one big roomy tent, we are now free to clarify our doctinal convictions as never before. Let's take advantage of this great opportunity. The inevitable result, of course, will be that by drawing a clearer circle, we will be excluding a lot of people who are currently within the Anglican fold. Well, so what? That is what creeds always do. All the first seven ecumenical councils, and many lesser ones of less renown, clarified the doctrinal boundaries of the Church by addressing the controversies of the time. It's time to bite the bullet and have the courage to do the same in our own day. As Karl Barth helped the Confessing Church in Germany to face the heresies inherent in Naziism by helping produce the famous Barmen Declaration of 1934, so we need to have the courage to stand up against the prevailing ideological currents of our secularized and relativistic culture, which is almost as hostile to real, biblical Christianity as was that of Nazi Germany or Communist Russia (though of course in more subtle ways). The instincts of the American Anglican Council were correct back in the mid 1990s when John Rodgers helped draft the well-known Statement of Faith that it has used ever since. This is the way the one, holy, catholic, and (not least) apostolic church has always acted. We have always clarified the continuity of apostolic doctrine with new and fresh statements that spell out the difference between orthodoxy and heresy as necessary from time to time. This is one of those times. 2D. We need a new Anglican creed! And the proposed Covenant doesn't even come close to doing the job. The whole Windsor approach is wrong-headed, because it aims at a very one-sided goal, namely promoting "the highest degree of communion possible," without simultaneously promoting the highest degree of theological clarity possible. "Possible" in this case means without excluding large portions of the present Anglican Communion. But that is to beg the question and assume the answer in advance to the very point in dispute. Bishop Tom Wright, an admirable man of integrity, a devout evangelical, and a world class biblical scholar, has called the famous Windsor Report "the gold standard" in contemporary Anglican thought. Of course he is hardly unbiased as a leading figure in the Windsor Commission on Communion that produced it. Unfortunately, it seems to me that Windsor just produced the kind of Anglican fudge that such international commissions always do. Such a compromise document can never resolve a deep seated conflict between two rival religions such as we are witnessing today. Oil and water simply don't mix.
REASON THREE: THE FOUR CURRENT "INSTRUMENTS OF COMMUNION" ARE INADEQUATE TO DEAL WITH THE CHALLENGE
3. The Virginia Report accepted by the 1998 Lambeth Conference identified four "Instruments of Unity" in the Anglican Communion. A review of their historical evolution is telling. The oldest of these and the most universally recognized is the Archbishop of Canterbury as the chief focus of unity. The next to emerge was the Lambeth Conference, which has met once a decade since 1867. Named for the palace of the Archbishop of Canterbury and summoned by him as "first among equals," this now traditional gathering has always been seen as a purely advisory group that meets for mutual consultation, but has no jurisdictional powers (i.e., it's not a synod or real church council). The other two have only emerged in recent times, during the last forty years. First came the Anglican Consultative Council after it was called for by Lambeth 1968, and then the Primates' Meeting, authorized by the Lambeth Conference of 1978. But though it emerged last, the Primates' Meeting is by no means least in importance. Indeed, the Windsor Report makes the Primates the key to future hopes of maintaining unity within the highly diverse Anglican Communion. And they were the group that Archbishop Williams summoned for consultation after the crisis over the election of Gene Robinson erupted in 2003. But can this plan possibly work? Can the Windsor proposal of relying on the Primates to accept "the enhanced responsibility" that Lambeth 1998 called them to undertake actually work?
3A. I submit that the Windsor proposal is completely unrealistic and unfeasible. There are several reasons for this. First, the Primates' Meeting is too large and diverse. It would be completely unwieldy as well as impossibly expensive for 38 leaders from around the world to morph into a real governing body. "The Primates' Meeting" is just that, an occasional meeting. It is designed, like the Lambeth Conference and the larger Anglican Consultative Council, simply for consultation. In other words, the current Primates' gathering has the modest purpose of fostering better communication, improving mutual understanding, and increasing cooperation. That's why it includes all 38 provinces on an equal basis, despite the tremendous differences between them in size, maturity, and strength. If all they are doing is consulting with each other, then it makes sense for tiny provinces like Korea, Scotland, Pakistan, Myanmar, or Wales to have equal representation along with the giant provinces like Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya. But this would obviously prevent the Primates from functioning effectively as a governing body; it would be grossly unfair to the large provinces. The leaders of the liberal western churches are well aware of this fact, and they will fiercely resist making the Primates body or the larger pan-Anglican ACC truly representative, because it would drastically dilute their numbers and reduce their already waning influence. The liberals are always complaining that the ACC is the only one of the four Instruments of Unity/Communion that includes priests and laity and is thus truly representative of the whole Church. They have a point, but the more important point is that the ACC, like the Primates' Meeting, is heavily weighted in favor of the smallest provinces. That ignoring of disparity in size especially works in the favor of the eight western provinces, which are dwarfed by the largest ones in the Global South (even the mother church, the Church of England is only half the size of the Anglican Church of Kenya when you consider actual communicants, and that leaves out massive Nigeria and Uganda).
3B. Perhaps we'll have to create some kind of bicameral legislative body someday, balancing one chamber where representation is equal and unrelated to size (like the U.S. Senate) with another more democratic one that represents Anglican believers instead of provinces or dioceses (like the Congress). But the real key is to move in the direction of trans-provincial legislative, executive, and judicial authorities. Many will object that the creation of such centralized international authorities would be Romish and "unAnglican." I say that this widespread fear is mostly a hangover from our state church heritage that is now obsolete. It isn't so much unProtestant as unEnglish and unChristendom-like, which is another matter completely. Above all, it can't be considered unbiblical, and there is ample precedent in patristic times for such international councils issuing canon laws and not merely meeting for mutual consultation. Personally, I earnestly hope some smaller elite body of Primates that is roughly representative of the whole fellowship of Anglican believers around the world will emerge out of this crisis that can take a MUCH "enhanced responsibility" for the life and welfare of the whole Anglican Communion. That would not be some sort of capitulation to a Roman style curia as a another recovery of our rich patristic heritage (from which we inherited the three-fold ministry and from which so much of the modern liturgical renewal movement comes).
REASON FOUR: OUR LITURGICAL CHAOS PREVENTS ANY REAL ANGLICAN UNITY
4. As mentioned earlier, classical Anglicanism, as defined by the charter documents of the English Reformation, features a careful balance between the Book of Common Prayer on the one hand, with its rather Catholic nature and leanings, and on the other hand, the quite Protestant 39 Articles and the two authorized Books of Homilies, which are likewise highly Protestant. Especially since the rise of Anglo-Catholicism over 150 years ago, this balance has been disrupted and largely lost. As the 39 Articles of Religion and the Books of Homilies have effectively disappeared from use in much of the Anglican Communion, the balance has tipped in the direction of the Prayerbook and Episcopacy, our more catholic elements. But this imbalance has been greatly aggravated by other modern factors. More than any other tradition in the Christian world, Anglicanism has become ever more dependent on our liturgical heritage to hold us together. More than any other denomination or fellowship of churches, the famous principle of lex orandi, lex credendi, ("the law of prayer is the law of belief") is applicable and determinative for us. In the absence of a functioning creed or a living magisterium (contemporary teaching authority), how we pray really does express and shape how we believe. Consequently, liturgical revision is absolutely crucial for Anglicans. The liturgy is not only our primary doctrinal authority, it's virtually our only one. Hence the passionate intensity of such matters among us.
4A. Yet as Philip Turner has often and rightly pointed out, a great deal of our trouble in the Episcopal Church stems from the fact that our public liturgy and our "working theology" no longer match. In fact, often they are glaringly at odds these days. By "working theology" I mean what people actually believe, as manifested in things like clergy sermons, parish newsletters, diocesan resolutions, outreach activities, or other forms of observable behavior. For example, clergy frequently preach sermons that simply give expression to the social platitudes of the era, which these days includes unabashed declarations of moral relativism and theological universalism. The appointed lectionary readings may have included a fierce denunciation of idolatry from the Old Testament or a difficult saying of Jesus from the Gospels that calls people to radical discipleship, but the preacher will substitute a bland message of "radical hospitality" that calls for the "full inclusion" of marginalized groups as if toleration was the greatest of virtues and intolerance was the worst of sins.
4B. For too long, the liberalizing leaders of the Episcopal Church have tried to deceive our fellow Anglicans around the world into thinking we weren't that different by pointing to the orthodoxy of our liturgy, and the continued use of the Apostes' and Nicene Creeds. The problem really isn't the 1979 Book of Common Prayer (contrary to the shrill cries of Peter Toon and the ultra-conservative Prayerbook Society types), the problem is that so many clergy and laity simply don't believe the words they pray anymore. This is particularly evident in the growing use of unauthorized liturgical materials, which is reaching epidemic levels in some places in the Global North (including Australia and New Zealand, which of course are geographically in the southern hemisphere). Prominent examples would include same-sex blessings (SSB's) in liberal dioceses, inclusive language liturgies of various sorts, and free adaptations such as the notorious bidding that shocked visiting Irish bishop Harold Miller when he ran across it out on the West Coast last year: "God is in you." "And also in you." "Let us pray." Such blatant pantheism is grossly contradictory to our Anglican heritage, but it is happening nonetheless. And "Sophia" (Wisdom in Greek) is increasingly worshipped in various places as a feminine alternative to traditional Trinitarian language that calls on God as Father and Son.
4C. This again points to a deeper, underlying problem, namely the utter captivity of so much of western Anglicanism to an increasingly unChristian and even anti-Christian culture. During the long reign of the state church in the West, we sought to Christianize the culture, but nowadays it's clear that the culture is shaping the former established churches more than vice versa. This has subverted the church in countless ways, not the least of which involves the corruption of our public worship by all sorts of syncretistic practices. For example, Gene Robinson is not the only cleric by any means who has devised his own divorce liturgy, to help people through that wrenching time of crisis. But can a Christian church, much less an Anglican one, actually celebrate a liturgy of divorce?
4D. Thus, the problem is at least two-fold. First, there simply must be a way of ruling out the kind of wild, unchecked liturgical experimentation that currently goes on in much of the western world, often with sympathetic liberal bishops turning a blind eye and implicitly encouraging it. This means there must be a way of restoring liturgical discipline, and thus putting the Discipline and Worship back in the familiar vows of commitment to "the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship" of the various Anglican churches. Second, there must be some kind of international check on the liturgical excesses of the member provinces of the Anglican Communion. Thus, for example, the Primates have stepped in and asked the American bishops to swear that they won't authorize any SSB's. But as we all know, the House of Bishops essentially refused when they met in New Orleans, hiding behind the linguistic loophole that no bishop has officially "authorized" any public rites for blessing same-sex unions but explicitly admitting that some bishops do in fact permit them and they only agreed "as a body" that they won't authorize such SSB's until General Convention may approve such rites in 2009! Since then, various liberal dioceses are now openly calling for outright defiance of the Primates' request (e.g., Ottawa and Montreal in Canada, and the Diocese of California [San Francisco]). In so doing, these North American dioceses have chosen autonomy over catholic order and interdependence. That is not true Christian freedom and responsible missionary inculturation, that is simply stubborn willfulness that insists on its own way (contra 1 Cor. 13) and a deplorable lack of true love. Liturgically, we are stuck in the miserable, untenable situation described by the last verse in the Book of Judges, when, because there was no king, "everyone did what was right in his own eyes." That's what happens when there is no real authority or discipline; anarchy prevails and utter chaos reigns. But as 1 Cor. 14 insists, God is not a God of disorder, but the source of peace and harmony.
REASON FIVE: DOCTRINE TRUMPS POLITY AND SCRIPTURE TRUMPS TRADITION, NOT VICE VERSA.
5. Over and over the same fruitless argument has been repeated. The leaders of the Global South (or the Younger Churches) will criticize the innovations gaining ground in the secularized West (or the Old Churches), seeing them as betrayals of biblical Christianity, and the "progressives" will reply that these young upstart churches need to mind their own business and take care of their own problems. Besides, they'll say, the (backward) Global South leaders just don't understand how our polity works, or how our enlightened cultural situation mandates these dramatic alterations in traditional morality or doctrine. This doesn't apply just to the homosexuality issue, but also to other disputed things like divorce and remarriage, or inclusive language, or whether Christ is actually the universal savior or there may actually be other ways to salvation than through faith in Christ. Whatever the presenting issue may be, the underlying issue is whether Scripture will become dominant once again, or whether the West will continue to stress church tradition or human experience instead. Put another way, will biblical doctrine finally trump eccesiastical polity or vice versa? It's a classic power struggle, the growing South against the dying North, and in a very significant way, it's also on one sense a replay of the old Reformation fight between Protestantism (Scripture) versus Catholicism (Tradition/Order).
5A. What will carry the day in the end, the Bible or contemporary secular post-modern culture? Since post-modernism privileges personal experience and rejects all objective, universal authorities, it is clear what direction western culture is heading. The question is, does western Anglicanism have the strength to resist those overpowering cultural currents or will it helplessly conform to the ways of the world? Given our accommodationalist state church heritage and the evidence we see all around us, the answer seems obvious. There is no hope, humanly speaking, of transforming the Episcopal Church by working from within. The rot and decay are too far advanced. At the national level, the battle is clearly lost, as the last few years have increasingly proven. So if the Old Churches are largely lost (though of course pockets of health remain in many places where orthodox parishes and clergy continue the fight faithfully, bravely staying at their posts), if, I repeat, most of the American, Canadian, Scottish, Australian and other western Churches are fatally compromised by a deadly infection of heresy, what then? Can the Anglican Communion as a whole yet be salvaged? That is now the great unsolved question. A very serious and lethal infection is attacking the worldwide body, and its theological immune system is very weak. Will the leaders of the Communion have the courage and necessary surgical skill to amputate the diseased limbs before the whole body is poisoned to death, or will the cancer/gangrene win the race and kill the patient first?
5B. At the moment a great deal hangs upon what the Archbishop of Canterbury decides to do. Will he continue to dither and delay, or will he finally, reluctantly decide to erxercise some kind of discipline on the recalcitrant liberals in the West? At this point, no one knows. But ultimately, there are powerful cultural forces at work that may simply make him irrelevant. To use a historical analogy, it was indeed tragic that at the time of the Reformation the papacy was in the hands of some incompetent and unworthy men, corrupt Renaissance patrons of the arts and rulers of a petty earthly kingdom (the papal estates). But even if Erasmus or Robert Bellarmine, the great Jesuit apologist, or the godly Francis de Sales (Bishop of Geneva) had been pope, the Reformation would still almost certainly have happened. Things had simply passed the point of no return.
5C. I believe the same is true today. For example, the consecrations of Martyn Minns, Bill Atwood, and John Guernsey, and the firm statements of CAPA about the conditions under which the African provinces will or won't come to Lambeth seem to show that the Rubicon has already been crossed. In the end, we aren't dealing with matters where personal factors are primary, so that the outcome depends on who is Archbishop of Canterbury, or Abuja, or Kampala, or whatever. No, there are extremely powerful cultural currents at work here, greater than any man (or woman). And behind these clashing cultures, these incompatible worldviews, there are ultimately the supernatural powers of heaven and hell, God and Satan, locked in their relentless war for the souls of humanity. 5D. Or to put it another way, using the terms with which I started, this is in many ways a hidden clash between the dying old Christendom (in the West) and the emerging new Christendom (in the South) that is rapidly taking over its place of leadership in the world. Philip Jenkins, the distinguished and prolific professor of religious history at Penn State (and a devout convert to Anglicanism) has described well the explosive growth of Christianity in the Global South as "The Next Christendom," in his rightly celebrated book by that title. The Christendom era is over in the West, though it may only be starting in the southern hemisphere. Thus, I see this as "A Tale of Two Christendoms." One is perishing; it is old and feeble, and it will not rise again. But the other is just getting going, and it's future is bright. If that sounds triumphalistic, I don't intend it that way. For it is also a cautionary tale. Just as Gentile Christianity soon supplanted Jewish Christianity, and then just as European Christianity came to dominate the Middle Eastern Christianity from which it had sprung, or just as Latin Christianity came to dominate Greek Christianity, or Protestantism supplanted Catholicism in northern Europe, so today we are witnessing a momentous and major transition that is unstoppable. Christianity is coming of age in the Global South, with incalculable consequences that are only beginning to appear. And who knows how long its run may last? In the end, however, Christians of all times and places have been citizens of a heavenly realm, and "resident aliens" (1 Peter) wherever they may live on earth.
CONCLUSION: THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA, AND A NEW CHURCH
But nowhere is that shift in the Christian center of gravity from North to South more visible than in the Anglican Communion. As Archbishop Henry Orombi of Kampala has proudly and rightly said, "The day of British hegemony is over." If so, that in and of itself means that a major Reformation is already underway in the tradition that looks to England as the mother church. Indeed, the appropriateness of the very name "Anglican" may someday be called into serious question (and perhaps sooner rather than later if Canterbury sides openly with the heretical liberals in the West and the Communion splits in half). The Ecclesia Anglicana is not what it was in the days of the Venerable Bede in his isolated medieval monastery,or in the days of the Elizabethan Settlement as England was just rising to world greatness, or in the heyday of the British Empire under Queen Victoria, when the sun never set on her dominions. Now that a majority of Anglicans worldwide no longer have English as their native tongue and aren't of Anglo-Saxon descent, a new name may eventually commend itself, though I can't imagine yet what that might be. Post-English, or post-western Anglicanism may perhaps catch on in a future transitional period. Global warming appears to be a verifiable scientific fact, though it remains quite debatable how much we humans contribute to it through the creation of greenhouse gases like carbon monoxide. We'd like to think, however, that we had some control over it, and so we prefer to convince ourselves that if we only cut back on car emissions and industrial pollution and such things that we can prevent the catastrophes that some foresee if the polar icecaps melt significantly. Al Gore even got a Noble Peace Prize lately for his high-profile crusade to reverse global warming. The Peace Prize? Come on. That may be a suitable illustration of how captive the cultural elite in western civilization is to the politically correct views of our time. How easily we award ourselves honors for being "prophetic" and for advancing social "progress!" In a similar way, I suggest that the polarization of Christianity between the post-Christendom Old Churches of the West and the pre-Christendom New Churches of the Global South is at least as strong and unstoppable asgobal warming. The last time we saw a change of this magnitude within the Christian world was in the 16th century, when the Protestant Refomration tore the fabric of Europe as well as Christendom apart. I firmly believe, with growing confidence each month, that we are in the early stages of what will likely prove to be another great reformation, of equal intensity and equally dramatic consequences. This 21st century Reformation may well create divisions that will be as bitter and deep as those between Protestantism and Catholicism. But it should also end up being just as life-giving and beneficial. People will naturally evaluate this New Reformation very differently, just as they do the first one. Some will regard it as a band and a great curse, while others believe it entirely justified and celebrate it as a blessing. Some will interpret it as a terrible tragedy, and others as a regrettable necessity, or even hale it as a divine victory. I believe it is both a grim tragedy and an utter necessity, but I choose to accent the positive side. In the final analysis, I prefer to echo Jaroslav Pelikan's balanced assessment of the original Reformation and to call this profound transformation now underway in world Anglicanism "a tragic necessity.".
Monday, November 5, 2007
The picture at the top of the page (Nov. 5-6, 2007) is the Sun Dance, a pre-Christian ceremony by which men offered their own suffering for the good of their people. It is useful for discussing Christ and the cross across cultures. It reminded me of the Beatitudes as well.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Known as the Beatitudes, Jesus' words are sometimes heard as sweet and sentimental. We imagine them pretty: better for crosstitch than for the cross.
But they are words for those willing to walk the ugly way of sorrows. All of the "blessings" are found by being out of step, on the outside, broken or on the bottom.
Contrary to paintings and movies, where Jesus announces these words from a mountaintop for all the world to hear, the Lord went away from large crowds and let only his committed disciples hear this teaching. His words are for the few who will start the journey and not turn back when it becomes ugly - those who will stay on the narrow, difficult path instead of the wide, easy road.
The poor in spirit are the "little people" who know their need of God - they can inherit the treasure God holds.
The mourners have hearts that break for others - they can feel God's touch soothing their hearts.
The meek are overrun by the proud and powerful - they will be gentle enough to tend God's new earth.
Those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness know their own emptiness and need - they can receive the fullness of Christ.
The merciful do not inflict their "justice" on others - they can expect mercy at the final judgment.
The pure in heart are not distracted by created things - they can see the Creator.
The peacemakers restore broken bonds - they can know the unbreakable bond of the Father's love.
Those persecuted for Christ receive the highest "compliments" of the world, the flesh and the devil - they have ears tuned to hear the final and eternal compliment from Christ, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master."