Monday, March 31, 2008

Warning to South Dakota's Senators re: Messages from the Presiding Bishop and Episcopal Bureaucracy

The following is a message I sent to Senators Tim Johnson (D) and John Thune (R) of South Dakota on March 31st.


Honorable Sir,

You recently received a letter from Katharine Jefferts-Schori, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, in reference to global warming.

As you make up your mind on the issues, I want to alert you to the reality of this individual and the constituency she claims to represent. I think this vitally important, as your colleague Senator Obama has recently suffered embarassment by his association with an extreme religious personality.

Bishop Schori holds office in a denomination which has fallen from millions of active members to about 800,000 nationwide on most Sundays. The church has, according to its own national staff, suffered "precipitious" declines in recent years. The staff calls this downward spiral "systemic."

Here in South Dakota, the historic Episcopal Diocese has suffered years of decline, to the point that only 2,000 people attend its churches, state wide, on Sundays.

Meanwhile, Bishop Schori has made a habit of denigrating faith positions held by the majority of Christians, in the process suggesting that Roman Catholics and others lack intelligence.

Over a number of contentious issues, whole dioceses, congregations and thousands of clergy and lay people have disaffiliated from The Episcopal Church. In response, Bishop Schori is using millions of church dollars to sue dissenters, and most recently took actions which are widely interpreted as inconsistent with the constitution and canons of the church in order to eliminate bishops who are critical of the national church direction.

The fact is, she represents a very small elite within a very small and sadly declining sect. "The people" for whom she claims to speak are often bureaucrats at the denomination's New York offices. As an example, The Episcopal Church now "endorses" a radical pro-abortion group - a position that was taken by one small committee but is now stated as the position for all members of the church.

As a clergyman in the Episcopal Church for the last 20 years, and the rector of a church in Sioux Falls that has more than doubled its active membership since my family moved to South Dakota in 2004, I warn you that statements from purported leaders or official offices of the Episcopal Church should be understood as a form of activist "spam" rather than the position of any significant number of people. And including these endorsers in your decision making or statements could load you with baggage that hinders your public service.

The Rev. Timothy Fountain

Sunday, March 30, 2008

BREAKING - South Dakota Pro-Life initiative has needed signatures for November ballot!

I'm just back from the celebration, having dropped off a stack of signed petitions. This is an initiative to end abortion as a means of "birth control" here in South Dakota.

The Secretary of State required just under 17,000 signatures to get the initiative on the ballot... as of today there are

46,000 and adding!

Please visit the VoteYesFor Life site. Pray for this initiative and, if you are able, give support.
A couple of great things at the celebration today: the diversity of ages, races and social backgrounds represented, and the manifest Christian leadership in this effort.

Change in Comment Format

As an experiment in building momentum and keeping conversations flowing, I have taken the risk of disabling comment moderation - what you post will show up right away.

You will need to type in a set of letters in a special field - this knocks off some of the "spambots" that spew "comments" and give you links to porn sites and other such garbage.

I reserve the right to delete any comment that I find inappropriate to our discussions here.

Friday, March 28, 2008

South Dakota Anglicans - Take Pro-Life Action this Weekend!

This is the last weekend to sign petitions for a November ballot initiative to eliminate abortion-as-"birth control" in South Dakota.

Notarized petitions must be submitted by Monday, March 31st. Petitions are available at Church of the Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls this Sunday. My wife and I will be helping verify signatures this weekend - if you want to help you can find out more from Vote Yes For Life. You can also call them at (605)271-7581 or 866-738-0033.

The Great White North - UPDATED

Up here on the vast Northern Plains, we need all the connections we can make!

There are Anglican Christians in Canada who are only a mouse (moose?) click away... and they're actually closer in miles than many of our American friends.

You can check out "Common Cause" in the Useful Links to the left of this page. There you will find links to Canadian Anglican groups.

And here are a couple of worthwhile blogs from Canada:

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A new Bishop gets to the heart of the matter

You should find this news inspiring! Here's a sample:

“Our preaching needs to be faithful to the gospel of the lordship of Jesus Christ. When our preaching is faithful, the Anglican/Episcopal tradition is more than capable of reaching our culture for Christ.”

It was our request that the Bishop and Standing Committee of South Dakota give consent to this new Bishop's election that brought down Episcopal scorn and moved us to form the American Anglican Council/South Dakota.

Praise God that Bishop Lawrence is consecrated - despite procedural manipulations and other roadblocks thrown up by anti-Bible Episcopal leaders.

A Candidate for Bishop looks at reality, asks the right questions

Just like South Dakota, Dallas is electing a bishop soon. One of the candidates writes about the opportunity and responsibility for informed voting.

His main point is, "Ask the right questions." You might be surprised...check it out right here.

Hat tip Stand Firm

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Jeremiah Wright, John Hagee, Jurassic Park

In Michael Crichton's novel (AKA Steven Spielberg's movie), Jurassic Park, people are able to bring back dinosaurs by finding and manipulating fossilized DNA. The humans soon find themselves in hot water.

Democratic Presidential hopeful Barack Obama is in some hot water over the preaching of his pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Wright spews phrases like "God d--n America" in his version of Black Liberation Christianity.

Democrats point out that Republicans buddy up to preachers who say some wild things, too. One such preacher is John Hagee of San Antonio and TV, who has called the Roman Catholic Church "the great wh-re."

Religious figures like Wright and Hagee are like the dinosaur dabblers in Jurassic Park. Preachers like these dredge up, manipulate and bring back to life issues that are, in some very real ways, extinct. They play God by refusing to accept changes that God has guided.

In Hagee's case, he is using language from the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s, mainly from Martin Luther. Luther used the Biblical symbolism of "Babylon, the great wh-re" to attack the corrupt church of his time.

But you would find very few contemporary Lutherans (and we have tons of them here on the Northern Plains) who would use Luther's sarcasm about Roman Catholicism. Yes, there remain serious differences, but God has guided these estranged Christian tradtions to make some amazing progress together.

Hagee and other free-form Christians have a big investment in dredging up and reanimating 16th century European DNA. To have the Vatican as "Babylon" props up a symbolic reading of the Bible to support Hagee's and others' "end times" models. By showing how various churches, nations and events fit a manufactured Bible code for the end of the world, Hagee stands in a long tradition of preachers who have stirred up and mobilized followers with promises of the end, only to leave them disappointed and the Christian message discredited.

By turning the church into Jurassic Park, Hagee does violence to centuries of Christ's work. The excesses of the pre-Reformation church have been, well, reformed in many cases. And fractured Christian denominations have become, if not reconciled, at least better neighbors and more humble in their criticisms of one another. (This is especially true of lay people - but just as the dabblers in Jurassic Park were a small group of "experts", it is usually clergy who keep old conflicts alive).

Jeremiah Wright manipulates in a similar way. He reanimates historical mistreatment of Black Americans. He ignores centuries of God-given healing and progress. He pushes aside the sacrifices of those who gave up their lives as Civil War casualties and Civil Rights martyrs. He is blind to the fact that Americans for the most part war against their own racism. He does not see good news when intermarriage becomes ever more unremarkable. He does not see the meaning when government programs of questionable impact persist: they are there because America confesses racism's historic reality and is willing to try for a better future.

Wright is "right" to say that racism is here - but it will be here whenever different races live together. It is a persistent symptom of human sin, just like murder, adultery, theft, perjury, envy and other signs of our distance from God. But the kind of racist America Wright describes died decades ago (and some of his statements seem to describe a science fiction place like Jurassic Park rather than history). Wright digs up racism's DNA and uses it to build a following, ignoring all the evidence of God's very real transformation and redirection of American race consciousness.

Now, I am an Anglican blogger, so I better say some things about my own tradition if I want to obey Jesus' warning about hypocrisy.

The Episcopal Church (TEC), with its love of tradition and aesthetics, is especially prone to dabble in dinosaur stuff. We fight too much about moving people from one historic "style" of worship to another. We've tried to build a "church" on getting existing Christians to change from one style of church to another - but we don't reach non-Christians and help them meet Jesus Christ. We try to dig up churchy DNA and revive a style of church that is dead and gone, and we are in hot water as a result. According to Pew Forum research, TEC is America's fastest declining (a nice word for "dying") denomination.

I might have to add to the "J" words in my title: Jeremiah Wright, John Hagee, Jurassic Park and Katharine Jefferts-Schori, Presiding Bishop of TEC.

Easter Gifts - Christ makes us God's children

To help pay the bills, I do some part-time hours as a parking valet at a large medical center.

Most patients and their families are genuinely thankful for the service - some even bless us in the Lord's name.

But I've also noticed that taking off my clergy collar and putting on a valet's windbreaker changes some things. Delivery people, custodial staff and other "blue collar" folks are more friendly and talkative, while some doctors and adminstrators pass by without eye contact, let alone words. The distinctions and preferences of the world, the flesh and the devil are always with us.

But Easter tells us that someone greater is always with us, too. Jesus announces that we are his brothers and sisters, equally loved children of the heavenly Father. Risen from the tomb, Jesus tells Mary Magdalene to carry his message, "I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." May the church exult in this gift and practice what one Anglican group calls "radical inclusion." (But go to the link and read what it says... "inclusion" is a term that can be misrepresented and lead us away from the Father's love.)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter encouragement

(Jesus, risen from the dead) promised to be not only with these disciples, but also with all who would subsequently believe after them. Jesus speaks to all believers as if to one body. Do not speak to me, he says, of the difficulties you will face, for "I am with you," as the one who makes all things easy. Remember that this is also said repeatedly to the prophets in the Old Testament. Recall Jeremiah objecting that he is too young and Moses and Ezekiel shrinking from the prophetic office. "I am with you" is spoken to all these people.
St. John Chrysostom, The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 90.2

Please pray for yet another good Bishop under attack

Bishop Michael Smith of the Episcopal Diocese of North Dakota is under attack from the homosexual lobby. This attack is slick - it uses a "victim" playing to the press rather than the usual chuch bureaucrats.

Inform yourself at the Diocese of North Dakota weblog. And please pray for Bishop Smith.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

NOW let heaven and nature sing...

No disrespect for great Christmas hymns, but nature don't sing so good on the Northern Plains in December...
But now, at Easter, the early mornings are filled with birdsongs. Although the cold and dark make a big scene (March is our heaviest snow month), the light prevails, the deep freeze is over, and brown grass turns green. Nature sings - and the church on earth and in heaven sings the glory of the risen Christ...
From the agony of the cross and the dark of the tomb, Christ comes forth in eternal power. And those of us who struggle in his way of the cross receive hope: For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. (Romans 8:19, NLT) The world, the flesh and the devil make their scenes, but because Christ defeated them, those who find life in Him will rise victorious with him...
We live in this stuggle between the light and the dark - but our Easter ever proclaims the truth: And the Light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it [put it out or absorbed it or appropriated it, and is unreceptive to it]. (John 1:5, Amplified)...
Alleluia! Christ is risen! And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. (Romans 8:11, NIV)...
A blessed Easter to you, from Northern Plains Anglicans.

Holy Saturday - A Prayer Request

The Christian community all over Sioux Falls is praying for Justin, a Christian student who is in the hospital. His wife, Bethany, keeps a daily log of his progress here (Caring Bridge).

Like Saul in Damascus, Justin is confined in a tomb-like situation. Please join the prayers of many for the glory of God to be revealed.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Self-gratification or God's glory?

Ziya Meral is a Turkish Christian, a convert from Islam.

His recent article in Christianity Today, (which I encountered via the Anglicans Ablaze site in my Useful Links) is a challenging read. In North America, "carrying the cross" can be little more than giving up chocolate for Lent. Consider these thoughts from a persecuted Christian, and read his whole article (4 pages):

...[Western] answers point to self-gratification as the ultimate goal of life. This is parallel to our modern conceptions of the good life, for which the ultimate end is self-satisfaction and glorification (although self-discipline was long ago discarded as a means to that end).

At this point, the incapacity of the modern church to reconcile the suffering of the global church with the God of love is evident. But, our highest good is not a problem-free life; it is to be like the Son...

...The greatest glory Jesus brought to God was not when he walked on the water or prayed for long hours, but when he cried in agony in the garden of Gethsemane and still continued to follow God's will, even though it meant isolation, darkness, and the silence of God. Thus, we know that when everything around us fails, when we are destroyed and abandoned, our tears, blood, and dead corpses are the greatest worship songs we have ever sung...

...The promise of sharing his resurrection and glory gives us a great hope: that our sacrifices are not in vain and do not go unnoticed, even though no other human being nor the global church may know or care about what we are going through, even though we may not see any apparent rhyme or reason in our suffering now...

...We do know where God is in the midst of persecution. He is there, right with us, in us. He is present through our lives, words, pain, and deaths. He has not forgotten us or turned away his face from us. He holds back his power so that we can accomplish his work, so that our sacrifices can be sources of life and healing to the world. He is not distant from our pain; he is in prison with us, he is naked, he is beaten, he is raped, and he is killed! We know that he is not quiet, but is speaking powerfully through the lives, suffering, and death of his children.

As Christ prayed in agony in the garden during that dark night, he knew that he had to carry on his calling even though it would cost him his life. He knew that it was the only way to bring life. He knew that his brutal death would glorify God. History changed during that night, even before the cross. It changed when the Son of God chose to not give up, to hold firm to God's calling and promises, even though it meant bearing the silence of God.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Cross in the Dakotas - Worth Remembering In Spite of Current Church Agony

"Certificates of Baptism and Confirmation meant nothing to Indian converts who could not read. Bishop Hare desired to give to those who took upon themselves obligations as Christians some token that would not only mark them as communicants, but also serve as a constant reminder to them of their Christian calling. He, therefore, in 1874, designed a cross to serve this purpose. It was his custom to give a cross to each Indian candidate he confirmed, just before he made his address to the confirmation class.
In June 1975, the Niobrara Deanery during their 103rd annual Convocation, voted to share with the whole Church in the Diocese the Niobrara Cross. To this day, all confirmands receive the Niobrara Cross as a symbol of their confirmation in the Episcopal Church.
The oval in the center of the cross is the Episcopal seal of the Diocese of South Dakota. The Greek letters on the cross which quarters the oval read, "That they may have life." In each angle of the cross is a tipi surmounted by a small cross. The seal signifies that Christ has come to the Dakotas and gathered them under the protection of the Cross, that they have accepted Him, and their homes have become Christian homes."
(That They May Have Life, Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve),
Diocese of South Dakota (TEC) website.

(Highlights by Northern Plains Anglicans)

By the way, if you are moved by this vision of Christ and His cross protecting your home, you might like David Ould's Bible insights here.

May God's own touch mold and shape you anew during the Triduum.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Coming in 2009 - The Episcopal Church Bans Disagreement With Its Glorious Leaders

Check out the editorial by Steve Waring. (I got the link from Stand Firm, where Matt Kennedy posted it.)

As I have been trying to warn folks, the new "disciplinary canons" will allow church bureaucrats to silence any clergy who disagree with them.

Psychiatric Professionals Now Concede that Abortion Damages Women - Still Time to Sign South Dakota's Pro-Life Petition!

I spotted this at fellow-blogger Hills of the North (see Useful Links down to the left of this page). The report in The Times of London is a real eye opener.

Pro-life work is having some success here. The South Dakota legislature just passed and the Governor signed) an act requiring would-be abortion providers to offer women an ultrasound before any "procedure."

And registered South Dakota voters can sign a petition to put a pro-life proposition on the November ballot - a law that would end abortion as a means of "birth control" in SD.

If you are registered to vote in South Dakota, stop by Church of the Good Shepherd, 2707 W. 33rd St, Sioux Falls 57105 and sign. Time is important - you have only until the end of March to sign! Consider attending Good Shepherd's Holy Week and Easter Services - petitions will be available at the church.

We also have the petition to the Anglican Communion, sponsored by Anglicans for Life. Or you can sign it on-line right here.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Holy Week Thought - Christians on Trial Here and Abroad

On Palm Sunday and on through Holy Week, Christians around the world will hear The Passion Gospel, including the sham trials used to convict and execute Jesus. These were conducted by both religious and civil authorities, who ignored some of their own rules in order to get their desired results.

In U.S. news this week, bishops of what was once a church but is now the Episcopal Organization began procedures to inflict penalties on other bishops who stand for the Gospel of Christ. Only problem: the EO ignored its own Canon Law and held a kangaroo court. Like the Sanhedrin, which tried Jesus at night and without the presence of some key members who believed in him, the EO bishops voted without the legally required number of members present in order to attack those who stand up for God's Word in the church.

I suggest you look at Brad Drell's site, here, here, and here. Brad is an attorney, a Deputy to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, and a participant in Reconciliation Seminars in the Diocese of Western Louisiana. This is a guy who has worked hard for and within the Episcopal Church. If he sees these "legal" actions as corrupt, that's saying something.

At this writing, I do not know if Bishop Robertson of South Dakota took part in these votes. The voting took place after a number of bishops had flown home. However, his published calendar (pdf file - scroll down to p. 2) included the House of Bishops meeting.

Please pray for God's strength and support for the bishops who are under attack, William Cox, John-David Schofield, Edward MacBurney and Robert Duncan.

  • The EO also decided to stop sending needed funds to overseas missionaries, and continues to spend large sums (at least a million dollars and probably much more) to sue clergy and congregations which dissent from EO's rejection of the Biblical message of Christ.

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

And please, please pray for persecuted Christians around the world.

  • I ask you prayers for Bishop Ijaz Inayat and Christians in Pakistan, especially for their safety. For the repose of the soul of Zahid Masih, recently hanged by a military court, and for his grieving family. Our brothers and sisters in Christ also ask our prayers for the judicial system there.
  • I encourage you to visit the The Barnabas Fund and use their prayer resources. Consider sharing information in your church to build understanding that Christians are the most frequently persecuted group worldwide.

Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

Hebrews 13:3

Friday, March 14, 2008

They messed with our missionaries, man...

Well, the House of Bishops (HOB) of The Episcopal "Church" (some now call it "EO" - the Episcopal Organization) all flew to Texas and decided to end most financial support for missionaries.

Thank God these weren't the folks in charge when Bishop Hare was riding around the Dakotas by horse and buggy, confirming thousands of Whites and Indians, and appealing for funds to build up Christian ministry on the Northern Plains.

A Tribal Member from North Dakota on Apologizing to Native Americans

A few days ago I posted news about Congress' proposal to apologize for the United States' historic mistreatment of Native Americans.

A friend in North Dakota pointed me to this editorial by Cheryl Long Feather (Hunkuotawin) of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. She comments on what a verbal apology might (or might not) mean to American Indians.

An excerpt:

The wording of the act is actually quite elegant in affirming the perspective of Native peoples. The act "recognizes the special legal and political relationship" between the U.S. and tribes; commends and honors Native peoples for their stewardship of the land; recognizes the "years of official depredations, ill conceived policies and the breaking of covenants" by the U.S.; apologizes on behalf of the people of the U.S. for instances of "violence, maltreatment, and neglect"; expresses "regret for the ramifications of former wrongs"; urges the president to "acknowledge the wrong of the United States against Indian tribes in the history of the United States in order to bring healing to this land"; commends "state governments that have begun reconciliation efforts"; and "encourages all state governments to work toward reconciling relationships with Indian tribes." As far as apologies go, this is a good one.

But the nearly universal response from American Indian people has been skepticism. Like a battered spouse, the American Indian collective knows that an apology - even a heartfelt one - doesn't necessarily mean the abuse will end.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

We get letters...

The American Anglican Council/South Dakota chapter sends out info letters, and we get some interesting responses, pro and con. Here's an excerpt from one of the critical letters:

"I seems someone is always taking a narrow point of view instead of looking at the whole picture. Sioux Falls, home of the Cathedral, needs to be an example of unity!"

The writer alludes to Calvary Cathedral, which managed to reduce unity at its altar by close to 100 people per Sunday over the last five years... although it added a special service to serve gay and lesbian activists (nothing narrow about a service like that, right?)

Anyway, the writer objects to our letter, which contained quotes from Episcopal Church leaders and statistics from the Episcopal Church and Diocese of South Dakota. There was no editorial argument on our part. But we are "narrow", and those who shrink the church and cater to special interest groups are unifiers. Got it?

Meanwhile, the Easter Letter from the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church is out. You can find a link to it, along with an entertaining commentary, here.

I got an anguished email from a colleague who read this so-called Easter letter:

"I do not know what to make of this mailing. This is the Presiding Bishop’s Easter letter to the church. I am more than a little dumbfounded that the letter has mere incidental references to Jesus Christ and the Resurrection, and ignores any substantial part of its message as we celebrate it, and use those holy truths merely for the purpose of staging an awareness raising, for a pseudo-prophetic message about the poor use and stewardship of creation. Apparently the MDGs are the real and tangible gospel we are to proclaim; and the new sins are now defined by the UN. This letter has the prerequisite soft-peddled guilt-mongering that passes as enlightened wisdom; but nothing of the grace, wonder, and hope of the God we call the author of life."

Folks, let me be honest with you. The Episcopal Church has lost the Good News of Christ. Be very careful for the good of your soul and the souls of those you love. My brother and his family moved to an especially bad Episcopal diocese, and I convinced him to check out other, more faithful churches. They now attend a non-denominational church that preaches the real message of the Bible. It is a sad day when I, an Episcopal priest, must fulfill my duty as my brother's Godfather by urging him to get out of the Episcopal Church.

But to end on a happy note, the letters and emails I get from my brother these days are full of Christ's truth and light.

May your Holy Week and Easter be filled with the same.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Across Time and Place: Seeing is Believing

And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.
Acts 4:29-31

When [King Ethelbert] among the rest, induced by the unspotted life of these holy men and their delightful promises, which, by many miracles, they proved to be most certain, believed and was baptized, greater numbers began daily to flock together to hear the word and, forsaking their heathen rites. to associate themselves, by believing, to the unity of the Church of Christ.
The Venerable Bede: The Arrival in Kent of the missionaries sent By Gregory the Great (597)

...if the new religion [Christianity], with invocations to the Great Spirit, would prevent [a Lakota/Dakota man's] blankets from being stolen, or the grasshoppers from destroying his corn, or disease from attacking his children... he would join the society [the Christian church]; but he would wait and see how it acted upon others, before he renounced the practices of his fathers.
Bishop William H. Hare, first Bishop of the Dakotas, reported by The New York Times, February 2, 1880.

In South Australia, what struck me were the stories told by our missionaries about the capacity of the Scriptures to cross boundaries and to make new Christians. Some unbelievers even put it about that Christians have put a curse on the Bible to fascinate the unwary! We know that this ‘curse’ is actually the work of the Holy Spirit in inspiring Scripture and then illumining us as we read it.
Archbishop Peter Jensen, Anglican Diocese of Sydney

THE Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty, and glory with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God.
Articles of Religion V

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Should we preserve Anglicanism in fly-over country?

Despite ever worsening budget problems, The Episcopal Church maintains an aging spy satellite over The Northern Plains. This captured surveillance picture shows several active Anglican bloggers. If you squint you can see Montana Anglican waving in the top left corner; Anglicat of Minnesota is walking her dogs just under the clouds at center-right; yours truly is fording the Big Sioux River under the smokescreen just below dead center. Wyoming's Eclipse was building a hardened position over to the left, but as you can see TEC's robotic intern from EDS got its robotic thumb in the picture. Fr. Chip Johnson managed to evade detection in the Black Hills (dark spot just right of the robot's thumb) - of course, most of us have trouble finding him sometimes.

Oh, back to the theme of this post, Katherine Cook at Montana Anglican says yes, Anglicanism is worth the witness. Here's an excerpt from her fine essay:

...Anglicanism still is a great bridge between the traditional Christian branches of the Faith and the evangelical Christianity of today. The beauty of Anglican liturgy is that it does reach back to the Churches’ foundations by recalling our Jewish and Catholic roots in its order of worship and readings. We are part of the temporal church ‘universal and triumphant’ when we worship as so many of our other brothers and sisters do in the Faith. Counter-balancing this history is a openness in Anglican worship to the music and worship of our evangelical brothers and sisters. Anglicans can worship traditionally and charismatically, without music or with electric guitars. They can kneel and stand, mediate quietly or hug enthusiastically. This ability to have strong ties with the past, inclusion of current Christian worship, and an openness to what God may lead us too for the future, is a wonderful aspect of Anglicanism. It is a blend I’ve never found in another church.

Friday, March 7, 2008

An apology to Native Americans on the way?

South Dakota's Congressional delegation, including Representative Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin and Senator Tim Johnson (Democrats) and Senator John Thune (Republican) are supportive of a proposed national apology to Native Americans for their mistreatment at the hands of the United States.

It is worth reading the Argus Leader article in detail, as well as the blog comments.

The history of South Dakota, including the Wounded Knee Massacre, is intimately linked to the displacement of the D/Lakota people and the destruction of their culture by U.S. Government design.

The Episcopal Church has a noble history in attempting to build a respectful Christian presence among the Indians here. There are episodes of loving and heroic service and advocacy; there are also actions that contributed to the pain and chaos on the reservations. (Examples of both can be found in the writings of South Dakota author and Episcopalian Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve.)

The breaking of treaties is a big part of the history here. There are open legal questions about Tribal claims and how they might be addressed justly.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Deep into Lent

Gray and snowy just now in Sioux Falls. Had an electrical guy over and he can't work on some outdoor lights until the ground thaws.

But spring is dropping hints. The cardinals are up early, whistling to one another.

I started Lent in the gloom of Amos. "How can Jacob/the church/my family/Tim Fountain stand? We are so small!"

Over the weeks, God led me to pray more like Amos. The prophet "cried out." I went to God more personally and passionately than I have in awhile. And Amos' words led me into the painful self-examination of which Lent is made, "O Lord, I beg you! Forgive!"

By Lent 3, my heart was ready to hear the beginnings of an answer - a cardinal's whistle in the bare trees. The Apostle Paul's encouragement to the Romans struck me as the beginning of God's answer to "How can we stand?":

"...suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us." (Romans 5:3-5)

This season of my life has had its share of suffering - situations unpleasant and out of my control. The unavoidable necessity to live with some nagging problems without any "program" to solve them. I was drawn to Amos 7 because of this stuff.

But suffering has improved my character. I hate to mimic, say, Stand Firm, but I found that disciplines like "submitting to Scripture" and trying to understand situations by meditating on the cross were most helpful. Less trying to change painful things and more trying to respond to them according to God's Word. And by sticking with this for a few weeks, I'm actually having some of the most clear headed and calm reactions to adversity that I can ever remember, and finding my ability to thank God greatly expanded.

And this God-given tweak of my character is, as Paul says, producing hope. Not in any outcome I might crave (and I have a long wish list), just in assurance that God is faithful and loving and leading me into something "greater than I can ask or imagine."


I can't close this without sharing some of those "God things" that have filled this season with wonder. Some out of state friends who, moved in prayer, sent generous checks the week before I was hit with an unexpected and large expense. A local prayer leader who wrote to tell me, "God is blessing you for your faithfulness. I just heard,'He is a delight to my heart.'" A more prestigious blogger who took a moment to say, "Timothy -- I hope you'll be good to yourself and gentle with yourself."

I call people like this my "Simons of Cyrene." When Jesus was at his weakest and the weight of the cross drove him to the ground, Simon was dragged in to take the burden for him. As I've meditated on the cross and tried to submit to its message, it's been too heavy from time to time. I've fallen down - a lot. But along come these Simons, deep in my Lent, to share the burden so I can take one more step on the road that leads to life.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Why Anglican Bloggers are Around

Our brothers and sisters at Montana Anglican (see "Useful Links" down to the left) picked up on some news about the Episcopal Bishop of Montana. A full report and analysis appears at Stand Firm. Basically, it is another example of a denominational leader claiming that church shrinkage is good and church growth is bad.

What's sad is that the Episcopal Church believes its own propaganda. I used to think that it was just cynical manipulation of information, but I think that TEC is actually in the spiritual snare of the one who wants to destroy them and the whole church.

In New York City (Mecca for Episcopalians), it is revealed that the late Bishop Paul Moore, a leading "liberal" in the church, was a closet homosexual who hooked up with a guy he was supposed to be "counseling." So, it turns out that Moore's advocacy of the gay cause wasn't just a quest for justice, but a case of self-justification and crass self interest. Oh, and sleeping with people you counsel is a maximum betrayal of trust and anything resembling ethics.

And, from Los Angeles, comes this quote from an Episcopal Priest: “There are enough Christians in the world.” She said this to support Hindus who don't want Christians to convert anybody from...well... stuff like this.

Anyway, that's why Anglican bloggers exist. You won't get this news from your parish priest, diocesan newsletters or any of the wretched national church news.

As we heard from Ephesians 5 last Sunday,

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
"Sleeper, awake!Rise from the dead,and Christ will shine on you."

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Praise report - from the parent

Our older son, Tim, took a medal in the 181 lb. weight class at the South Dakota High School Power Lifting tournament in Madison yesterday. My back still hurts from watching his 400 lb. dead lift.

We are really blessed by our son's good will, work ethic and kindness (even if he plays the angriest rock and roll he can find). He is well read in the Bible and something of a formal Anglo Catholic in his spirituality. He's been a blessing since he was born at the moment the sun rose on Nov. 29, 1991 - a constant source of thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father.

There were some other great moments at the tournament, by the way:

  • A heavyweight lifter from Watertown High set two new state records (a deadlift way over 600 lbs. and a combined total in three events that was amazing).
  • Kayla Frank of O'Gorman Catholic High (Sioux Falls) won the girl's division with some impressive lifts.
  • The coach of the year is from the Pine Ridge Reservation, where he's built a competetive team of boys and girls who made the long trip across the state.

All in all, an exciting, inspiring and LOOOOOOOOONG day. Yours truly got his ticket paid and a Lincoln High t-shirt from our team's coach for driving and supporting the event. And I didn't even have to lift anything more than a chili dog or two.

Praise Report - from the pastor

I praise Jesus Christ because he sent his Spirit on my parishioners for some special service yesterday.

First, the new Moving Assistance Program went into action on Saturday. God put this ministry in our hearts last year and has pulled together the organization, resources and most of all people to serve an unmet Sioux Falls need. The team did two (FREE) moves yesterday: one was a middle-aged disabled man, going to assisted living. The other was a blind man whose home had been damaged by winter weather. Also, God provided a major need, a trailer, just in time for the weekend. Glory to God in the highest! 18 volunteer movers took part - including 6 Augustana College students recruited by a parishioner who is a Resident Adviser.

Then, a parishioner provided key leadership at an Intervarsity training day. She was one of the key leaders in training 50 college students in evangelism and building Christian communities at their schools. Women from Good Shepherd provided sandwiches and other church members came up with baked good, chips and cash to support the day. Praise God for using our little church to grow the kingdom, and for sending us people with the gift of evangelism.