Saturday, May 31, 2008
In the past, she's also shown the high percentage of Minnesota Episcopal Churches with part-time or even occassional circuit-clergy. And her post for today is about the closing of two historic Black congregations in The Twin Cities.
As I've been arguing for some time, the Episcopal Organization seems in a frenzy to get rid of congregations, clergy who can grow congregations, and other signs of human life. That frenzy is matched with a mania for grabbing inanimate buildings and other objects for an inside few, mainly diocesan and denominational bureaucrats.
Interesting to read what the Bible has to say about church compensation:
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain," and "The worker deserves his wages." I Timothy 5:17-18, emphasis added.
As usual, the Episcopal Organization does just the opposite. The Bible says that leaders who actually preach and teach others - fulfilling Christ's Great Commission - should receive higher compensation. The EO rewards "managers", even if the church shrivels on their watch. (BTW Bishops need not be bureaucrats - just look at their true job description here.)
The message of the Minnesota compensation data is, "The good jobs for the valued people are in the far off offices of the bureaucracy, and are not based on any measure of effective leadership."
Then the LORD said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have caused you to see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.”
He could only look at the promised land, not go in. This was because he had not followed God's clear instructions and guidance while leading God's people.
That speaks to me of my 20 years of ordained ministry, during which my church and my society have gone in awful directions - in large part because of me and people like me. Too many times when I chose to be acceptable to people by ignoring or covering over God's clear instructions. Too many years of compromises to placate people instead of honor God. Too much uncritical acceptance of sweet sounding religious words instead of "the pure Word of God." Too much of me and too little of Christ in ways too numerous to blog.
I believe that God is making a new heavens and a new earth, as the Bible says. He might even be reforming the Anglican Communion toward that end (or maybe He's eliminating it toward that end). Because God is kind and loving I will catch glimpses of what will be, but it will not be made real in my lifetime. That's OK. Good enough for Moses, good enough for me. God's will be done.
Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died. His eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished.
Can't say I'm holding up that well, but what this tells me is that God blesses and preserves even his imperfect servants. Just as I don't have room to blog all my failures, I don't have room to list all the joys, pleasures and other blessings that God lavishes on me. Jesus says that we who are "unworthy servants" are still his "friends." What comfort in knowing that my failures are not greater than God's mercy and goodness.
But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, in all the signs and wonders which the LORD sent him to do...
The New Testament says that God is not unjust - He will not overlook the good that we have done in those wonderful seasons when our faith and works came together. I give humble thanks - and I really do mean humble - for the ways that God has gifted me with the Holy Spirit and activated those gifts to His service. My offering has been imperfect; my treasure has been in a clay jar; pick your favorite Biblical symbol. Yet God holds honors and rewards I can't even imagine - not because I love him but because He first loved me.
So, sorry for the hoax. I ain't dead yet (at least as I type this). "...and though this body be destroyed, yet shall I see God; whom I shall see for myself and mine eyes shall behold, and not as a stranger."
Friday, May 30, 2008
Senator Thune [R-South Dakota] recently introduced the Flex-Fuel for All Americans Act of 2008, which would create a temporary consumer tax credit for the purchase of a flexible fuel vehicle. Flex-fuel vehicles are capable of running on either E-85 (85 percent ethanol), a blend of 85 percent methanol, or biodiesel.
This legislation would give consumers a tax incentive to purchase flex-fuel vehicles, thereby reducing demand for imported oil, as well as spurring innovation in flex-fuel technology. Additionally, the market for homegrown renewable fuel will grow as more flex fuels are produced.
Senator Thune's legislation would create a tax credit of $1,000 per eligible vehicle. If a flex-fuel vehicle is certified by the Environmental Protection Agency to get equal or better gas mileage on E-85 or biodiesel relative to regular gasoline, the tax credit would be increased to $1,500. The tax credit would begin on January 1, 2009 and expire on December 31, 2015.
I liked to describe the lawsuits over church buildings as leading to a "crazy quilt" of outcomes, as laws in some places favor denominations and others favor local congregations.
But a crazy quilt, when finished, is a unity. It is a funny looking but love-filled piece of work, that warms the heart and the body.
What we are seeing as these lawsuits go back and forth is an unraveling of North American Anglicanism. Traditional "bonds of affection" are being pulled apart.
Had the functional atheists who run The Episcopal Church and its wannabes (Canada and a few other places) allowed negotiated settlements, we might have a crazy quilt. A pretty frayed one, but one with possibilities for repair. The lawsuits guarantee nothing but destruction.
The latest report from Canada:
Anglican Network in Canada NEWS RELEASE
B.C. Judge Orders Congregation to Leave their Church Building
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 29 May 2008
A B.C. Supreme Court judge, Madam Justice Allan, has ordered the congregation of St. Mary of the Incarnation in Metchosin (St. Mary’s), to hand over their church building to the diocese of B.C. in the Anglican Church of Canada, pending the resolution of a trial over who is entitled to ownership of the building.
Like the two judges in the previous Niagara diocese’s hearings, Mdm Justice Allan found that “the beneficial ownership of Church property is indeed an issue for future determination”, and she was only deciding the issue of who should have interim use of the property while that process was ongoing.
Although there are two church buildings in the parish of St. Mary’s, the larger building which houses up to 230 people and the smaller heritage building that houses 90 people and has a parish hall, Mdm Justice Allan decided that the diocese should have exclusive possession of both properties. St. Mary’s congregation, which has a membership roll of 225 people, voted overwhelmingly (105 for / 14 against) to realign with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, something the judge acknowledged was “unprecedented in the history of the Church”. St. Mary’s has an average Sunday attendance of about 130 to 150 people and use their church building throughout the week for mission and ministry. The small number of those who voted against the realignment could easily have continued to meet in the smaller heritage church and parish hall while the issues of ownership were being determined. Now, that building will remain empty as some 14+ people meet in the larger church and the larger congregation is completely displaced.
This will cause hardship to the congregation, as they will be forced to find alternate accommodations for Sunday services and to support their weekly ministries in the Metchosin area. “It is a great disappointment that the judge did not feel it appropriate to allow both congregations to continue meeting in the two church buildings while the issue of ownership was being determined”, said Bud Boomer, spokesman for St. Mary’s. “Many of us have paid for the building of this larger church and all of us have certainly maintained and supported it for many years. Now, we are being asked to hand it over to the Anglican Church of Canada, which in our view and the view of majority of global Anglicans, has left Anglicanism and abandoned the historic faith once delivered to the saints”.
Rev Andrew Hewlett, associate priest of St. Mary’s, said “We know that the secular courts do not understand or appreciate the deep and profound theological differences that have brought us to this point. Our Christian beliefs are at stake in all this and we have felt no protection within the Anglican Church of Canada. We are saddened that our ministries will be disrupted as we try to find accommodations for worship and mission while we know one building will sit empty and another will be under-utilized”.
Cheryl Chang, Chancellor for ANiC, said they will be applying for leave to appeal the decision.
Members of the Anglican Network in Canada are committed to remaining faithful to Holy Scripture and established Anglican doctrine and to ensuring that orthodox Canadian Anglicans are able to remain in full communion with their Anglican brothers and sisters around the world. Since it launched its ecclesial structure last November under the jurisdiction of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, ANiC has received two bishops – Donald Harvey and Malcolm Harding – and 16 parishes.
Anglican Network in Canada
604 375-7358 cell
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Well, a congregation in Connecticut decided to walk away from their building and start over, away from Episcopal apostasy and corruption. And guess what an assistant bishop of Connecticut said?
In his announcement of the settlement with Trinity, Curry expressed relief that the dispute had ended — even though it resulted in the loss of a congregation."We're saddened that they've left the diocese," Curry said, "but we feel its very important to claim for the Episcopal Church those things that have been given to the Episcopal Church over the years."
(Emphasis added - source article is in the Hartford Courant. Hat-tip, TitusOneNine)
Back in about 258 AD, pagan authorities ordered a Deacon named Lawrence to hand over the "treasures of the church." His response, which cost him his earthly life, was to bring in a bunch of needy people and introduce them as "the wondrous riches of our God."
In Holy Scripture, the human being is the high point of God's creation. The Good News of Christianity is that Jesus Christ came into the world to give himself as a ransom for people, releasing them from bondage to the devil, the world and sin.
The Episcopal bureaucrats keep ignoring parts of the Bible in order to justify their sex lives, titles, power and perks. They don't realize that when you throw out what seem to be a few inconvenient verses of Scripture, you start to ignore the whole thing, including words like,
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Here are some good places to join in this work, as the Spirit leads you:
A powerful prayer for the Episcopal Church's Bishops, at Lent & Beyond;
40 days for prayer and fasting in support of global Anglican leaders, at Common Cause Partnership's Prayer Site;
A reminder to pray for Anglicans being sued, by Virginia's Baby Blue;
Regular updates on the prayer needs of persecuted Christians everywhere at Barnabas Fund.
Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. Revelation 8:3
The bureaucrats recently eliminated medical and travel funds for overseas missionaries. Then, they failed to deliver on about $400,000 in already budgeted funds for Native American ministries.
The New York leadership will not respond to requests by several Bishops for an accounting of the amount and sources of lawsuit dollars.
While the national church's New York bureaucracy spends millions of dollars on lawsuits and life support for itself, it is alienating and eliminating congregations.
Bishop David Bena offers an opinion piece on the continuing litigation in Virginia and all over the country, as the Episcopal Church leaders in New York insist on suing traditional congregations rather than negotiate with them. Bishop Bena writes:
Our churches were undergoing amicable property settlement negotiations with the Diocese in January 2007 when it and the Episcopal Church abruptly broke off those discussions. They then filed lawsuits against our churches, our ministers, and more than 100 volunteers serving on our vestries (governing boards)...
Pitting Christian against Christian in court does nothing to save one soul, strengthen one family, or help one person in need -- and literally millions of dollars that have been going toward legal fees would be much better spent in serving those true missions of the faith.
hat-tip: Baby Blue Online
Meanwhile, the Diocese of Newark (across the river from the NYC headquarters of the Episcopal Organization-or-whatever) is running out of money. This is a diocese where Bishop John Spong made a name for himself by denying just about everything that Christianity teaches and emptying the churches of people. You can read more over here. A taste:
Projected pledge income was below budget for 2008. Almost half of the outstanding pledges at the end of 2007 remain unpaid. Over 40% of 2007 pledge reconciliation forms remained outstanding. Council received $503,000 in income so far; this was against an anticipated income of nearly $952,000. This income deficit was $448,000, over 45% under the projected income for year to date.
A few dioceses are standing up for what's right and going on record against New York's efforts to eliminate people. You can read about some of those efforts here, here and here.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
A few things to note:
- Many of us have criticized the Presiding Bishop and her lawyer of playing fast and loose with Canon Law. In this case, they appear to have followed the procedures to the letter, and that is good news.
- Note how Bishop Smith exemplified humility and proper submission to church authorities. The Episcopal Church would not be such a mess if his habits were the rule instead of the exception. Too many clergy - especially Bishops - have been guilty of selfish, wilfull actions and led the church into chaos.
- On the down side, note that the Presiding Bishop's reply only affirms that Bp. Smith played by the procedural rules - it does not reference or affirm his right reading of the Bible and good stewardship of Christian tradition.
Please keep Bishop Smith, the Presiding Bishop and all church leaders in your prayers.
Hello my friends-
I just thought that I would pass along that my hometown of Parkersburg, IA was severely hit by a tornado on Sunday night and 1/3 of the town is gone. It appears that over 200 homes are completely gone and 400 damaged (town is under 2000 residents), with 4-6 people dead. I have been watching the details the last 24 hours and talking with friends who live there and it does appear to be devasting. There is a lot of information online if you search under "Parkersburg IA tornado".
It appears that our farm and home town chrch are still standing but it is a strange feeling to know so many people who have lost their home in an instant.
Please keep Parkersburg residents in your prayers tonight and if you hear a tornado warning take cover.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Doesn't seem all that long ago that I was getting ready to walk toward an altar that seemed an impossible distance away to undertake something that would seem impossible if one were to know all the twists, turns and falling rocks in advance. But here we are.
Ya know, our marriage license is from the State of California... does that make us honorary LGBT? Do we get any special entitlements if we go back there? If we are honorary LGBT, does that mean TEC will promote us to some special, perpetually funded position in some bureaucracy some place?
Well, probably no institutional perks - but we are blessed with the amazing marriage journey that can both break the heart and make it more into what God wants it to be.Toward a better marriage, I give my wife space for response or rebuttal:
Wow, and thank you for requesting that we memorize our vows. This Monday will be the 19th time we have said them to each other by heart, with heart, having begun with our wedding day (don't do the math - it means it's our 18th anniversary).
OK, now here's a question. Southern CA accepts LGBT, I know that. But if one of us is a homosexual, well, you know, we likely wouldn't feel the way we do about each other and probably wouldn't have had those wonderful boys. Furthermore, if one was not, the Californians would only accept one of us and the other would be SO left out!
Then, if we both were g/l then neither would desire the other and I doubt that we'd be celebrating our marriage, even if California loves us to pieces.
Oh my goodness, I am just, like, SO confused! Does anyone out there have any help? (not that it matters, can't teach an old dog new tricks - that means both of us).
Praise the Lord that we are together, we have weathered some very strange stuff.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Friday, May 23, 2008
Here's a quote:
I have always contended that anyone can be a Christian without the necessity of membership in any particular denomination. This statement horrifies some seminarians I know; one even told me I would go to hell if I didn't go to church. But what God requires of us is our faith and belief in him, that we try to follow the tenets of the faith He has given us, and that we earnestly ask for his forgiveness and eternal love.
The question about the necessity of "church" is always out there. When I taught a New Testament class for 7th graders in a parish school, it meant, "Does God expect me to do someting so BORING?" When asked by adults, the question usually comes from being burned by hypocrisy, corruption or some other sin of the institutional church.
Anyway, I would say "Yes" - that we do have to "go to church." Not as a check mark on some list of religious rules, but as part of living by and maturing in all that the New Testament teaches.
But what is "church" and what does it mean "to go"?
Let me start with a concise Anglican definition, and then flesh out the Biblical teachings from which that bit of tradition is reasonably drawn.
The Thrity Nine Articles of Religion came from the English Reformation and were adopted by American Anglicans (Episcopalians) in 1801. They contain this definition of "church":
XIX. Of the Church.The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.
As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, have erred, so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith.
Let's break this down, with an eye to answering our question about whether or not one must "go to church"
- The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men - OK, it is "visible," not just a nice spiritual sentiment. And it is a "congregation," an actual gathering of people. The Hebrew and Greek Biblical words for "congregation" or "church" mean a group of people, called together by God. This leads to "faithful" - as Still on Patrol affirms, the people must be about the cause of Jesus Christ, not just a human club with some by laws. The importance of the visible gathering of purposeful people is emphasized in numerous New Testament verses, perhaps best in Hebrews 10:25: Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. The people are urged to meet together as the church, as this is essential to prepare for "the Day" of Christ's return and His final judgement.
- in which the pure Word of God is preached - people might get a sense of God via a beautiful sunset or "on the golf course," but they will never get the Good News of Jesus Christ that way. Christians need to be taught from the Holy Bible. This might take the form of a sermon from a pulpit, or it might be a group of folks around a coffee table. At any rate, the Apostle Paul wonders out loud, How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Romans 10:14) Faced with all kinds of demands, the first leaders of the church prioritized: So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables." (Acts 6:2) One defining mark of the early church was that people devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship (Acts 2:42). Being there with others was essential to learning the message of Christ and applying it.
- and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same. Sacraments are, by definition, communal events. There might be just "two or three" together, but that's all the visible congregation that Christ requires for his presence. In Anglicanism, the two Sacraments of "Christ's ordinance" are Holy Baptism (Matthew 28:19) and Holy Communion (I Corinthians 11:23-26; also the narratives in Matthew, Mark and Luke; John 6:51). Both of these require a gathering of people, and both are given to unite us and transform us as part of a visible congregation. Baptism establishes Paul's great teaching of the church as Christ's visible body on earth: The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (I Corinthians 12:12-13). In I Corinthians 11, Paul warns that we drink judgment upon ourselves if we take Holy Communion without understanding the presence of Christ and the requisite equality and unity we are to have with others in a congregation that proclaims Him. Acts 2:42 tells us that the first Christians devoted themselves to the breaking of bread and the prayers - Sacramental, liturgical worship of Christ. That requires a gathering of people - the church.
- As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, have erred, so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith. Still on Patrol emphasizes this aspect of "church." He says, rightly, that there is no such thing as the one, true, perfect denomination. Anglicans used to assert that all Christian fellowships (including Anglicans!) make their share of errors and don't live up to Christ's expectations. (The Episcopal Church is now claiming to be above such mere human foibles, but that's another story well documented in other posts). But notice that nothing in this very realistic explanation exempts any person from finding a church - a visible congregation in which the Word of God and the Sacraments are shared to forward the cause of Christ.
So, yeah, man, you gotta go to Church. May you be blessed to find one where Christ himself runs things.
This morning's lesson included the death of Aaron, the brother of Moses and first High Priest of the Israelites:
22 The whole Israelite community set out from Kadesh and came to Mount Hor. 23 At Mount Hor, near the border of Edom, the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, 24 "Aaron will be gathered to his people. He will not enter the land I give the Israelites, because both of you rebelled against my command at the waters of Meribah. 25 Get Aaron and his son Eleazar and take them up Mount Hor. 26 Remove Aaron's garments and put them on his son Eleazar, for Aaron will be gathered to his people; he will die there."
27 Moses did as the LORD commanded: They went up Mount Hor in the sight of the whole community. 28 Moses removed Aaron's garments and put them on his son Eleazar. And Aaron died there on top of the mountain. Then Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain, 29 and when the whole community learned that Aaron had died, the entire house of Israel mourned for him thirty days.
Aaron (and later Moses) died outside of the promised land because they had placed their human egos and ways ahead of God's instruction:
7 The LORD said to Moses, 8 "Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink."
9 So Moses took the staff from the LORD's presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, "Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?" 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.
12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them."
Instead of simply speaking God's word to the rock, Moses and Aaron made a dramatic display of striking it, which implied that the miracle was by their own power. And so God sentenced them to die outside of the promised land.
The New Testament calls on followers of Christ to "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature..."(Colossians 3:5) Like wilfull Aaron, every aspect of our life that is not Christ-like will be left to die outside of our "promised land" - the Kingdom of Heaven. This is a painful and mournful process, always taking place during our life in this world.
But along the way, there is beauty and joy as we become new people in Christ. Like Eleazar, the son of Aaron, God invests us with holiness. We are "clothed with Christ" in baptism (Galatians 3:27), and from then on we are being made over into a "holy priesthood" (I Peter 2:5) as we come closer to Christ.
In the Book of Common Prayer (1662), the congregation prays this same Divine Death Sentence over people being Baptized:
O Merciful God, grant that the old Adam in these persons may be so buried, that the new man may be raised up in them. Amen.
Grant that all carnal affections may die in them, and that all things belonging to the Spirit may live and grow in them. Amen.
Grant that they may have power and strength to have victory, and to triumph, against the devil, the world and the flesh. Amen.
Grant that they, being here dedicated to thee by our office and ministry, may also be endued with heavenly virtues, and everlastingly rewarded, through thy mercy, O blessed Lord God, who dost live, and govern all things, world without end. Amen.
May we all accept the Divine Death Sentence when it comes to our old nature, and rise to new life in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Canadian blogger "Dr. Mabuse" applies this verse to traditional Christians in The Episcopal Church:
The sterile evil that now controls the Episcopal Church will never willingly allow Christian belief to remain unmolested. Conservatives who think that they can negotiate some sort of truce, or even a ghetto existence within the larger, demon-possessed church, are deluding themselves. As C.S. Lewis wrote, the sort of "agreement" these people come up with consists of saying "Oh, you can believe what you want, as long as you do it alone," and then they mutter under their breath, "and we'll see to it that you're NEVER alone." It's in their nature to try to eradicate every voice that answers their lies with the truth, because they rightly sense that it is the only way that they can survive.
Anglicanism has staked its entire 400-year existence on a dice game, and a bet that they CAN serve God and Mammon, they CAN build a church that is half-slave and half-free, and a house divided against itself CAN stand. Conservatives should not be putting themselves up as half of the stake.
Monday, May 19, 2008
2. Develop a renewed understanding of our identity as Anglican Christians.
3. Prepare for an Anglican future in which the Gospel is uncompromised and Christ-centered mission a top priority.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Had me thinking about how much "victim narrative" pervades our lives - baby boomers and our endless junk-psychologizing; poor, fly-over South Dakota; churches complaining about what they don't have instead of offering what they do have to God's glory; the bedeviling social problems on the Reservations; my own sorry list of complaints; etc. etc. etc.
What a contrast I encountered in my Morning Prayer readings. Consider this strange combo of "suffering confidently":
Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us. II Timothy 1:8-14
But the crowd rolled with it. Sioux Falls Arena was pretty well packed and there were lots of dark blue rally shirts seen around town.
Local news coverage is here.
Friday, May 16, 2008
I don't consider it my home state anymore, despite being born and spending 4o years of my life there. No nostalgia at all. No plans to so much as visit.
As far as "same sex marriage," it is something the state or very loud people can assert, but God simply does not recognize it.
After a marriage blessing, I tell the witnesses, "OK, don't leave before signing the license. God recognizes the marriage, but the state needs your signature."
"Same sex marriage" is the opposite - the state will slap a signature on it, but God doesn't recognize it. By what authority do I say this? How about the authority of Jesus?
Northern Plains Anglicans has no illusion about fixing The Episcopal Church. But Anglicanism is a worldwide Christian movement, not just a tiny, eccentric American sect. Tens of millions of people are finding spiritual treasure all over the world via Anglican Christianity.
So, here we are.
Let's bring back this lost treasure and share it with people all over the Plains. Welcome!
God bless all of you who've visited, thought about, prayed over and commented on this blog. Blessings on all of your inspired treasure hunting. And a blessing on all preparing to preach this Sunday...much easier to blog than to preach on the Trinity.
The blessing of God:The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you always. Amen.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
In response, a commenter named Grace apologizes for the site's rude behavior and also says,
He [the left-wing host] wants his blog to feel like a safe place for gay and lesbian people in the church.
A driving force in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and other behaviors) movement is the perceived need for a "safe place." Having grown up in Los Angeles and right around LGBT neighborhoods like Silverlake and Hollywood, I see two factors creating this need:
First, safety from hostility. Stories of family, community and church rejection are a strong part of the LGBT experience. So an LGBT neighborhood, even if it becomes an enclosed ghetto, provides some feeling of acceptance.
Second, safety from moral questions and restraints. This is an issue in San Francisco's Castro District: "Mark Walsh, 50, the manager of a gay sex shop called Rock Hard, said: 'There are always a few outspoken couples with children, both heterosexual and gay, who expect everything to be prim and proper. But this is the Castro and anybody who moves here knows what they are moving to. We are very sexual people and we do tend to flaunt it a little. I have cleaned up my windows to the extent I am willing to. This is the one place in the country where we can all gather and be ourselves and not have to worry. I don't like that people are trying to change our ways.'"
To the extent that The Episcopal Church (represented by the left-wing site that is so rude to Deacon Phil) has embraced this second kind of "safety" (safety from moral questions and restraint), it has become increasingly "homophobic." I don't mean a neurotic fear of LGBT people, but a neurotic fear of challenging their claims.
LGBT people are represented way out of proportion to the general population among the clergy and in the church bureaucracy, which increasingly runs things. I don't need to list all the official actions that the Episcopal denomination has taken to advance LGBT in both church and society, and the ways in which those who object have been demonized and pushed to the margins (and even out of) the church.
But the kicker is that the more the LGBT "safety" agenda is embraced, the less "diverse and inclusive" the church becomes. The more the denomination fears LGBT claims and gives into them, the more it becomes an LGBT ghetto. That's why Deacon Phil's comments are deleted. That's why the denomination is willing to sacrifice international Christian witness and unity in order to create press opportunities for a gay bishop. That's why the The Episcopal Church is not able to grow.
And what struck me this week is that the Episcopal LGBT ghetto isn't even bringing in very many new LGBT people. What we see is a small and shrinking "club" for the existing members.
Maybe that's what the LGBT safe place looks like: a small group of clergy and bureaucrats left with all the church property and money.
And this has come about because the church ignored its own teachings, lost its nerve and became "homophobic" - that is, afraid to say, "enough is enough" when it came to the eccentric claims of the LGBT "church."
P.S. the picture is from here.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
James Gibson at Sanctus has posted a really fine piece, Outgrowing Spiritual Adolesence. His piece is well worth reading, because he makes his case right from the Bible and because it shows the value of orthodox, traditional Christianity which avoids the Liberal error of ignoring fundamentals and the Fundamentalist error of editing the Bible into a few propositions.
Interestingly, both Liberalism and Fundamentalism veer into legalism. Liberalism says that one is not a Christian except by holding certain political positions and taking part in certain causes. Fundamentalism says that one is not a Christian unless one gives verbal assent to a list of statements.
Here's a sample from Sanctus:
Salvation, then, is not complete until we are reformed in the perfect image and likeness of Christ, who is "the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15). Jesus says that in order to see his kingdom, we must be “born again” (John 3:3). To be "born again" is to be "born" after the manner of Christ himself, "not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but born of God" (John 1:13).
Unfortunately, many in the Church today believe that being "born again" is the be all and end all of Christian experience; that once we are "born again," our salvation is complete. But this is not consistent with biblical teaching. Peter writes, "Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God" (1 Peter 1:22-23).
In other words, you have been born again. Now, grow up!
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
- Many, if not most of those Reservation churches sit empty and are used only for funerals. Historic Church of the Messiah in Wounded Knee recently closed.
- In another video clip at the Episcopal Life site, you can hear Bishop Robertson of SD say that national church budget cuts are costing the diocese a mission vicar position - that means no priest to serve at least one cluster of Reservation churches.
- The church's fading presence leaves much of Reservation Episcopalianism nominal - family traditions change slowly and Indian* people will list as "Episcopalian" when it means nothing more than "That's what my grandparents joined."
- Indian clergy and lay leaders are aging without a new generation of leaders coming up to take their places.
- The National Church, which is involved in multimillion dollar litigation against people around the country, recently cut $400,000 from programs to support ministry on the Reservations in South Dakota and three other states. (By the way - why aren't traditional Anglicans considered "relatives" by Episcopal leaders?)
At a preconvention meeting a couple of years ago, an Indian speaker chastised the Diocese for coming at the Reservations with "projects" rather than a spiritual message. He was ignored, and discussion returned to a diocesan finance question.
*"Indian" is used colloquially here in South Dakota - the D/Lakota people are not insistent about "Native American."
I've emailed to host to see if churches that just plain shut down will be counted as departures. For example, historic Church of the Messiah in Wounded Knee has simply disappeared from the Diocesan directory.
One of the tricks used by The Episcopal Organization leaders is to count any building as a "church", even if there's no congregation. As I've pointed out before, the Diocese of South Dakota claims some 90 churches, but with Diocesan average Sunday attendance at about 2,000, that would mean an average attendance of around 23. Since there are churches here known to have attendance much higher than 23, it means that a good number of the "90 churches" are empty buildings. (The Presiding Bishop uses this same word trick on a national level, claiming that only a small number of buildings have left the denomination rather than revealing the hundreds of thousands of people who've left.)
Hat tip: Innocent as Doves
Check out his gracious and practical ideas for how Anglicans/Episcopalians might stop the ugly fighting and walk apart without malice.
Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. I will sanctify my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord, says the Lord God, when through you I display my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land.
Lord Jesus, North American Anglicans have profaned your name. Your name is slandered by the false teaching of The Episcopal Church. People can't even hear your name over the fussy squabbling and factionalism that divides your church. Please bless Common Cause and all who labor for an Anglican witness that is true to your message and united in your name. We are not worthy of your attention, but we pray that you will act for the glory of your name, and make us a sign of your glory.
I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
Jesus, we received the gift of new life in the water of Holy Baptism. But we cling to so many dead and dying things instead of your promises. Make us holy again.
A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.
Jesus, your Apostles prayed over us in Confirmation, calling on the Holy Spirit to strengthen us for your service. But we've invested our efforts in other priorities, not submitting to your Summary of the Law, your Great Commission, or your New Commandment. Bring us back to life in the Holy Spirit. Help us to do what you want, when you want, in the way you want.
Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will save you from all your uncleannesses, and I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you.
Jesus, reunite us with the whole Communion of Saints, in heaven and on earth. When we share the bread and cup at your Supper, save us from play-acting and help us proclaim only your life, given for us.
We pray in your name, Lord Jesus. We thank our heavenly Father for the Holy Spirit, by whom we call you "Lord" and receive your word and your peace. Amen
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Let us pray for the missionary gifts and zeal that filled the first Christians. Let us open our churches to the Holy Spirit, not as mere emotion or vague justification for unbiblical teachings, but as God leading people to Jesus as Lord (I Corinthians 12:3) and Savior (Acts 2:21).
Friday, May 9, 2008
Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance,with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.’
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
Isaiah 35:3-6, emphasis added
So c'mon - drop a note, give a call, send an email, have coffee - reach out to one of your struggling Anglican friends this weekend. Speak of the Savior, who is so much greater than "the current unpleasantness."
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
There's been some lewd s**t assaulting my senses lately. It is symptomatic of a sick "culture" without much in the way of respect for self or other people. Here are some "highlights":
- Just saw a guy walking his wife into the ob-gyn clinic. He's sporting a t-shirt with a pheasant picture, headlined "Here in South Dakota we have the biggest c**ks." Since he's wearing this into a waiting room full of women, I hope he winds up like the jerk in Fried Green Tomatoes.
- I travel a few blocks behind a car with an array of rainbow, Earth Day and other obligatory liberal bumper stickers - inlcuding "Who Needs Men?" The temptation is to say, "Given how you look, you won't have to interact with too many of us."
- A guy pulls up to the hospital valet with his pregnant wife and preschool-aged daughter. As they climb out of the car, he's got a hip-hop song throbbing. It's about a guy watching a stripper's pole-dance, with a lovely refrain, "You know I wanna f**k you." Well, at least he provides medical care. Maybe he and the wife think the little girl should have an open mind on what to be when she grows up.
- Then there's "Billboard Butt Syndrome." What's up with girls in shorts or sweatpants with words printed across the backside?
The world can go its merry way down the wide, easy road to destruction. But as we heard Jesus pray to our Father last Sunday, "I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours" (John 17:9).
The Lord has a higher standard for those within his church. We are to be a new community trying to live by God's values: "But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips" (Colossians 3:8).
McGovern was the only major SD Democrat backing Clinton. All eight SD "superdelegates", including Sen. Tim Johnson, Rep. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, and State Democratic Party Chair Jack Billion, have joined with former Senator Tom Daschle to support Sen. Barack Obama.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Sermon for Easter 7, 2008 (Sunday after Ascension Day)
Try to imagine the confusion of the first Christians.
They had just received Jesus back from the grave at Easter
But then (Acts 1:6-14) he ascended into heaven, and "a cloud took him out of their sight."
He did not leave them specific timelines or details: "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority."
He just left them a promise: they would receive the power of the Holy Spirit and be his witnesses "to the ends of the earth."
So they stayed together and prayed.
Today we are together, praying, during a very confusing time in church life.
On the one hand, Good Shepherd is doing great.
On the other hand things in the diocese and the Episcopal denomination around us seem to be headed from bad to worse. Last month, a judge in Virginia, where the Episcopal Church is suing a group of parishes, rejected the Episcopal Church claim that that it is not divided. The judge wrote, …it blinks at reality to characterize the ongoing division within the Diocese, ECUSA, and the Anglican Communion as anything but a division of the first magnitude, especially given the involvement of numerous churches in states across the country, the participation of hundreds of church leaders, both lay and pastoral, who have found themselves "taking sides" against their brethren, the determination by thousands of church members in Virginia and elsewhere to "walk apart"…, the creation of new and substantial religious entities, such as CANA, with their own structures and disciplines, the rapidity with which the ECUSA's problems became that of the Anglican Communion, and the consequent impact-in some cases the extraordinary impact-on its provinces around the world, and, perhaps most importantly, the creation of a level of distress among many church members so profound and wrenching as to lead them to cast votes in an attempt to disaffiliate from a church which has been their home and heritage throughout their lives, and often back for generations.
I don’t like to bring these things up (and the Vestry doesn’t like me to bring them up) because it is like yelling "Fire!" in a crowded church – why create an ordeal when our stuff is going so darn well?
I do it because of what Peter says about fiery ordeals
1) Fiery ordeals are normal.
Peter says, "Do not be surprised."
The church has an adversary, the devil, prowling around like a lion seeking people to devour. There will always be ordeals.
2) Fiery ordeals test what we are made of.
The Greek word that Peter used for "test" is sometimes translated "prove" – how we respond to the ordeal proves what we are about.
Do we really rejoice that Christ cares for us, even though some situations are unpleasant?
Do we really stay humble when we think we are right and someone else is wrong?
Do we really discipline ourselves to do things God’s way, even when others aren’t playing by God’s rules?
Do we really resist the devil, even when that is painful or costly?
3) Fiery ordeals bond us with other faithful Christians.
"…for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering." One of the best things about all the current ordeals in the church and the world is that faithful Christians from very different races, cultures and backgrounds are connecting with one another for support. I find myself in touch with people in other states and even other countries, sharing prayer and encouragement.
At the end of our Gospel, Jesus prays for us: "Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one." As God preserves us in stressful times, we are built up in unity with God and one another.
4) Fiery ordeals make us run to the only true safety that exists:
"Cast all your anxiety on God, because he cares for you."
"After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever."
Like the first disciples, watching Jesus rise up into the clouds, I don’t know all the timelines and details of what’s next. But I believe what the Vestry heard when we studied the Bible at our planning retreat this year:
We need to put Jesus Christ in first place
We need to help one another do that
And somehow, in some way I don’t fully understand, the fiery ordeals of the church are the Lord’s way to make us do both. Let’s stay together and pray together and see how "God exalts us in due time." Amen.
Let us give thanks that we were passed by, but let us also pray for those in Virginia, Arkansas and other states who have suffered harm and loss from severe weather.
Please pray for those in the Black Hills and other western parts of South Dakota, who suffered a severe winter storm over the past week. Pray for those without power and those working to restore it.
Friday, May 2, 2008
The scattering of these folks is no comfort for the anti-Christian Episcopal Church there - TEC's franchise there is the same aging, declining mess as many other dioceses around the country.
And the same thing can happen/is happening here in South Dakota. As Greg Griffith at Stand Firm suggests, the Episcopal Church can die with a whimper instead of a bang.
I've spent plenty of time on this blog documenting the decline of the Diocese of South Dakota, and its refusal to confront the reality of the Episcopal Church's failed directions.
But I should note that traditional Episcopalians have little about which to gloat. Efforts to organize them often run into, "Oh, that's nice, but I'm really too old to get involved," or "Oh, that's nice, but I'm really tired of the whole thing."
In other cases, people won't cooperate because they can't agree about Women's Ordination or which version of the Book of Common Prayer to use. Some are wounded by past church events and just can't share the sandbox with the other kids anymore. Some are eccentric and just can't seem to be part of any organization.
Maybe this is all part of God's plan - perhaps the judgment of the Episcopal Church is final and profound. The liberal/progressives will wither away and the traditional/orthodox will scatter, moving on to other churches.
To which I can only echo Job 1:21,
"...the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Episcopal Church memo says Presiding Bishop is violating Church rules to attack other bishops; Meanwhile, $$$ for lawsuits = cuts for Reservations?
The memo says that Bishop Schori exhibited “willful violation of the canons, an intention to repeat the violations, and a pattern of concealment and lack of candor” in manipulating actions against Biblically traditional bishops.
Meanwhile, Episcopal Life has a couple of articles about ministry on South Dakota's Indian Reservations. The first shows the difficult circumstances and often inspiring efforts among Episcopalians and others who share mission work...
But the second article tries to conceal the damning truth about national church leaders. While Episcopal Life admits that hundreds of thousands of dollars were cut from 2008 ministry grants to South Dakota, North Dakota, Alaska and Navajoland, the article does not say a thing about the fact that the Episcopal Church is shifting huge amounts of money to sue dissenting bishops, clergy, lay people, congregations and dioceses that stand up for Biblical truth.
Denominational leaders have refused to answer calls for documentation of the amount being spent on lawsuits, and about which parts of the national church budget are being drained.
Traditional Anglicans have protested the corrupt national leadership for some time. When will progressive Episcopalians wake up and see that the elites in New York are not serving the church's best interests?