Monday, June 30, 2008

Mainstream media colludes with Episcopal (New York) propagandists on South Dakota news

Shame on the Rapid City Journal and reporter Mary Garrigan. Before the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Organization visited South Dakota, the paper ran this article by Ms. Garrigan, claiming that 3,000 (that's right, three thousand) people would show up for the event.

I emailed and phoned Ms. Garrigan, only to discover that she went on a long weekend while the Presiding Bishop was in SD. In other words, she and her paper ran an article and didn't bother to check or follow up on numbers and info given to them by Episcopal publicity folks.

Now, we find that attendance was much less - in the "hundreds" - and this included out-of-state Episcopal reps brought in for the event.

Shame also on the Sioux Falls Argus Leader (many locals call it the "Argus Liar" and one local radio host calls it "the newspaper whose name we do not speak"). The Argus declined to accept questions or press releases from the American Anglican Council/South Dakota Chapter, which contested some of the Presiding Bishop's propaganda and also raised questions about her lawsuits against Christians around the country.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Global Anglican Statement is here... what now, AAC/South Dakota? (updated with link to analysis)

You can read it at all at GAFCON's official site. (First posted at Stand Firm)

Along with the strong reaffirmation of Biblically orthodox Christianity and foundational Anglican teaching, several points raise big practical questions for the American Anglican Council/South Dakota (which meets today):

From The Jerusalem Declaration:

11. We are committed to the unity of all those who know and love Christ and to building authentic ecumenical relationships. We recognise the orders and jurisdiction of those Anglicans who uphold orthodox faith and practice, and we encourage them to join us in this declaration.

13. We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed. We pray for them and call on them to repent and return to the Lord.

And from the section called The Road Ahead:

We believe this is a critical moment when the Primates’ Council will need to put in place structures to lead and support the church. In particular, we believe the time is now ripe for the formation of a province in North America for the federation currently known as Common Cause Partnership to be recognised by the Primates’ Council.

What does this mean for us? One blogger called it "uncharted waters," even though the statement and the news from Jerusalem are great. Hills of the North offers a fine initial analysis on what this will mean short and long term. So does Captain Yips. Pray as we navigate, dear friends in Christ.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Dear South Dakota Episcopalians: WHY?

The 2007 Diocesan Journal is out, with final stats for 2006.

Why does this diocese, a very difficult mission environment with many needs, give almost $50,000 (and asking for more) to the Episcopal Church's New York bureaucrats? Why are the people's offerings given to:

  • Leaders who are spending millions of dollars on lawsuits while refusing to give exact figures or tell us what denominational budget items are being raided for the money?
  • Leaders who cut hundreds of thousands of dollars from funds for Native American ministries, including enough to fund a Reservation Mission Vicar in South Dakota?
  • An Executive Council that signed the Episcopal Church up as a sponsor of a radically pro-abortion group, despite this diocese's call for calm and balanced discussion and the generally pro-life position of the L/Dakota people?

And why, if this diocese is a missionary setting that can operate only with the national church providing 1/2 its budget, should South Dakota have to send anything at all back?

Anglicans prevail in VA court again - Judge tells Episcopal leaders to learn some English

From Judge Randy Bellows' ruling, which is here (thanks, Stand Firm):

It is not mere semantics to observe that there is a difference - a constitutionally significant difference - between a finding involving a religious organization and a religious finding.

That's just a capper on his rejection of Episcopal leaders' sweeping claims to own and define the universe.

To Episcopalians out there: How long are you going to let this Presiding Bishop, her lawyer, the gay-activist "Executive Council" and others in New York throw millions of your donated dollars into one lost case after another? How do you sleep at night calling yourselves a "peace and justice" church when you spend so much money on neither?

I say again: PRAY

Visits to this blog go waaaaaaaaay up when I post something about the current Anglican/Episcopal struggles and controversies. Visitor traffic is more modest when the posts involve prayer, devotions or discipleship.

That's OK as far as it goes - people are free to read what they want. But there are much bigger, better Anglican news blogs out there and NPA is not envisioned as one of those.

But what I would say as a caution is that one day, maybe far away or maybe closer than we can imagine, God is going to set a bunch of us free to be His Anglican disciples here on the Northern Plains. Not mere critics of the Episcopal Organization; but a vital witness to the treasure of Anglicanism as part of the total Christian mission in this part of God's world.

So do pray. Pray for the Global Anglican Future Conference in these critical days of forming its action plan and public statement - seems like everybody has thoughts or comments but what they need right now from all of us is prayer.

Same with the courts, the Reservations (see posts below), the Presidential election and everything else that you might care about. Keep up your spiritual life - God values you beyond all "issues" even as you seek his will within them.

Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever.
Ephesians 3:20-21

Praying for the Courts

The Supreme Court of the United States continues to issue significant decisions.

And today, we expect the ruling on the Constitutionality of the Virginia State code under which Anglican churches are voting to leave the Episcopal Organization.

Please pray for the courts:

ALMIGHTY God, who sittest in the throne judging right; We humbly beseech thee to bless the courts of justice and the magistrates in all this land; and give unto them the spirit of wisdom and understanding, that they may discern the truth, and impartially administer the law in the fear of thee alone; through him who shall come to be our Judge, thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
1928 Book of Common Prayer

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Senator Thune, others provide help for Indian Reservation crime woes

From a news release:

Senator John Thune [R-South Dakota] praised the commencement of Operation Dakota Peacekeeper, a Bureau of Indian Affairs project to increase the presence of law enforcement on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. This project was requested by Senator Thune and others in response to crime rates on the reservation, which are six times the national average. The Senator believes that this is a good proactive step toward reducing crime while giving tribal leaders and members a stake in the safety of the reservation. Operation Dakota Peacekeeper will supplement the local police force with additional BIA personnel. Victim assistance services will also be made available.

This operation builds on the continuing work done by Senator Thune on tribal justice. In February, the U.S. Senate passed S. 1200, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, which included Senator Thune's amendment to require a Government Accountability Office study of the tribal justice systems of North and South Dakota. Also, in March, the Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Resolution, which included Senator Thune’s amendment to authorize additional funding for police and prosecutors to address the growing problem of crime on American Indian reservations. He also recently testified before the Indian Affairs Committee concerning a bipartisan tribal justice bill he is working on with his colleagues. Senator Thune has also reached out to South Dakota tribal leaders and others to get their feedback regarding the draft legislation.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Cross-Shaped Story of the Good Samaritan

Jesus tells this story to flesh out the Great Commandment. The Great Commandment is like a cross, with vertical and horizontal beams.

The verticle beam is love of God.

The horizontal beam is love of neighbor.

Some try to break the beams apart, reading the story to say that the horizontal beam of "good deeds" can somehow float in the air all by itself.

But that horizontal beam, love for neighbor, must be held up and anchored by the vertical beam, our love for God. We love because God first loved us. (I John 4:19) The parable of the Good Samaritan is explained most fully at the cross.

  • The Samaritan's goodness is "mercy." He comes to the help of a helpless man. He expends his own treasure without concern for the worthiness of the recipient. For Christians, this takes its meaning from the merciful love of God: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

  • The Samaritan is an enemy. He is to be kept out of the Holy City, where Priest and Levite serve. And so he represents Christ, who the Priests rejected and consigned to a cross outside their walls. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. (Hebrews 13:12)

It is widely recognized that the church cannot represent God with an orthodoxy like that of the Priest and Levite, who ignored mercy to maintain a form of purity. They had a vertical beam with no arms reaching out. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (I Corinthians 13:2)

But we need to remember that the church does not represent God by churning out endless lists of causes and projects, which push God aside to enhance our own egos. This leaves us with a horizontal beam that just drops to the ground. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. (I Corinthians 13:3)

The Great Commandment must have both beams, our love made real in orthodox faith and in Christ-like action:

In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. (Matthew 5:16)

Reaching College Students with the Gospel of John

A very encouraging report from one of my parishioners. Reaching Philosophy students with the Gospel of John? How... well... New Testament! Read on, and your prayers and support are welcome:

“The harvest is great, but the laborers are few. Pray, therefore, for the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” - Luke 10:2

In 1806, five Williams College students prayed under a haystack in a rainy field. They prayed that God would reach the world and do it through them. Those five launched a missions movement that sent students all over the world. What if college students today began to pray and go into the world? This generation of students could transform the whole world with the good news that God loves each person and wants to be reconciled with them. Pray for these laborers.

Zach grew up in a mainline church but found little there that challenged him or that he could connect to. He has become very enthusiastic about the investigative Bible Study started at Augustana College and has invited other Philosophy students to study the gospel of John. They are fascinated by the ideas in the book – the Logos, what can be known, the networks by which the news of Jesus spread – and I am stretching them to apply the Scripture to their lives. Pray that the good news may spread through the networks of these students, just as it did through the networks of Jesus’ early followers.

I am overjoyed to have a coworker, Dave Stene, and his family moving from Mankato, MN to join me in pioneering work with students in Sioux Falls. Dave will attend Sioux Falls Seminary and work with me to plant small groups with a missions focus at the University of Sioux Falls and Southeast Technical College. Pray that we will work together well and discern how best to serve students.

Caring for the needs of students can be overwhelming. I am putting my Spiritual Direction certification to work by developing a plan for spiritual care of InterVarsity staff, promoting self-care, community support, and experiencing the presence of God to prevent burnout. Pray that this ministry to staff will be effective and helpful in restoring their souls.

This summer we are taking some time for Dave to write and for me to take a summer seminary class. There will be much family travel, the kids will do a week of camp at Ontario Pioneer Camp, and we will have a family reunion on Lake Muskoka. I have about 2 years to go in my MDiv work at Sioux Falls Seminary and feel like I am learning and growing tremendously. I continue to seek out support so I can put into practice what I am learning and can continue to minister to InterVarsity staff and students. If you would like to send a fiscal year-end donation to help make up a $1000 shortfall in my budget, you can pay online or mail it to the InterVarsity address below with a note designating it to my support. Thank you for prayers and your generosity!

In God’s mercy,

Christina O'Hara

Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship
PO Box 7895
Madison, WI 53707-7895

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

National Review's take on Anglicans and Episcopalians

Travis Kavulla at NRO:

National Review, June 24, 2008, 4:00 a.m.
Remaking AnglicanismIn Jerusalem, conservatives stage an ecclesiastical coup.

Jerusalem — The future of the Anglican Communion, the third largest Christian church in the world, has been in serious doubt since the 2003 election of Gene Robinson, an openly gay cleric, to be bishop of New Hampshire.

This week, some of that uncertainty is being resolved. The Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) convened in Jerusalem on Sunday, drawing 1,200 conservative Anglicans, including 304 bishops. One of their number, Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda, describes the event as “the beginning of a second reformation.”

Immediately in advance of the gathering, conservative church leaders issued a pamphlet entitled “The Way, the Truth, and the Life.” In it, they assert that on issues of sexuality the collective decisions by primates, as the leaders of the 38 Anglican provinces are known, have been “ignored” and conservatives “derided” and “demonized” by the U.S. Episcopal Church. “There is no longer any hope, therefore, for a unified communion,” the document proclaims.

GAFCON attendees have been reticent to use the word schism — they prefer “broken.” But this seems a preference without distinction. Most of those at GAFCON are boycotting the Lambeth Conference, the once-a-decade gathering on doctrinal matters — deemed “an instrument of unity” in Anglican theology — which will be held next month in Canterbury, the ancient seat of the Church of England. One of the pamphlet’s authors, the Oxford theologian Rev. Roger Beckwith, says that the move puts Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury and nominal head of the global communion, “in an impossible position.”

Homosexuality, and particularly the consecration of Robinson, will likely be known to history as the cause of this Anglican crack-up, just as schoolchildren remember the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand as the “cause” of the First World War. But, likewise, such an understanding is a dramatic oversimplification.

More crucial than the substance of any single issue to understanding recent developments in Anglicanism is the dramatic rearrangement that has taken place in the communion’s demographics and leadership over the past several decades. Today, the church is overwhelmingly African, and these Africans are overwhelmingly orthodox. That is, they believe Jesus to be the sole route to salvation, and that the Bible’s proscriptions are meant to be taken literally. As Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi preached at GAFCON’s opening service, “I come from Uganda, and my God performs miracles. This Bible is black and white. It is not a historical document.” (By contrast, a leading Western thinker has tepidly called for “creativity in our theology” as a means of holding the communion together, while Bishop Robinson has defended himself by saying the Bible’s proscription of homosexual acts applies to homosexuality as it was understood two millennia ago, which he says is different from today.)

The change in the church leadership’s consistency is manifest at Jerusalem’s Renaissance Hotel, where it is nearly impossible this week to turn around without seeing a Nigerian, a Kenyan, a Ugandan, or other African ensconced in the crimson robes that signify the office of bishop. This alone is something of a new development; there are more African Anglican bishops present here than there were on the planet a few decades ago.

Africans began to take control of their churches in the 1960s, and these have since grown rapidly, imbued with a vitality lacking in most Western churches. Even so, these churches frequently did not have the money to finance their attendance at the Lambeth Conference. “The American church simply thought it could get its way,” Beckwith says, “and very largely they did in the past for two reasons: They had money, and Africans did not.”

The vibrancy of African Anglicanism has started to be matched with the funds to support it. In 1998, Africans surprised Lambeth observers by showing up in droves, and turning the tide against the liberalism of the Episcopal, Canadian, and English churches by approving a strict resolution affirming the authority of scripture as written, and pronouncing again the immorality of sexual acts outside of the covenant of marriage.

Some Episcopalians have accused American conservatives of manipulating African bishops. Barbara Harris, an Episcopal bishop of Massachusetts, has even claimed that African bishops’ loyalty has been “bought with chicken dinners.” But it is clear that, at GAFCON, Africans are calling the shots. The event grew out of a Nairobi meeting of African bishops, and Africans are paying their own way. Peter Akinola, the primate of the Nigerian church and the chairman of the gathering, raised $1.2 million in three weeks for the conference. Indeed, his church even subsidized the attendance of a number of Americans, and Akinola has employed a young American priest as his private chaplain for the event.

At GAFCON, the African church — the largest church — is signalling that, by rights of dogma and demography, it should be calling the shots. Robert Duncan, the conservative bishop of Pittsburgh, says that the conference’s task is nothing less than to prepare for a “post-colonial” Anglicanism that has “come of age.” Certainly the choice to hold GAFCON in the Holy Land, and not in England, is a powerful statement about where conservatives see their origins and, too, their legitimacy.

There is, of course, a certain irony to all of this. The West once redeemed Africa for Christianity; now it is the Africans who seek to do the redeeming. African prelates see themselves as repaying a favor. Benjamin Nzimbi, archbishop of Nairobi, tells me that he sees GAFCON as a way of “reclaiming Anglicanism the way we received it.” Certainly Africans seem to have the advantage, as their churches grow and the Episcopal Church shrinks. (A recent Harper’s cover article on the subject, seeking to explain away this trend, lamely points to the fact that the American church’s pension fund is flourishing.)

Conservative Episcopalians see few prospects for themselves in the church. Jack Iker, bishop of Fort Worth, says, “We either make a place for ourselves, or we have no place.” He predicts that within a year after GAFCON, whole conservative-leaning dioceses in the United States will have sought an alternative arrangement outside of the American church.

The turn from the church’s seeming leftward trend is, in some sense, a surprise. But in some way it is merely a repudiation of the wrong-headed assumption, based on the American experience, that each year brings “progress” in the form of an ever more secularized, liberal church. Anglicans are beginning to show that this rule is not as firm as it might seem.

Travis Kavulla, a former associate editor of National Review, is a Gates Scholar in African History at Cambridge University and a 2008 Phillips Foundation Journalism Fellow.

The Mainstream Media Ignore Useless "Progressive" Religion, Attack Robust Orthodoxy

There are a number of news roundups, showing the hostile bias that the mainstream media is directing against the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem. Are we surprised? Some good analysis here, here (both from folks who are actually at the conference) and from a Canadian observer here.

But there's more to this story. While attacking this exciting gathering of global Christians, the mainstream types are ignoring the so-called progressive church. There was NO significant coverage of the Episcopal Organization's Presiding Bishop here in South Dakota. The Rapid City Journal, as posted below, did a preliminary story, but the reporter who filed it promply went away for a few days (got this via her voicemail). There's no significant follow up coverage so far, and the PB's visit ended on Sunday. South Dakota's other "big" paper, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, told one of our American Anglican Council members "We're not covering that - it's a religious event."

The secularists want the church to shut up and go away. The "progressive" church has already folded and accepted secularist points of view, so there is no longer any need to cover it. But orthodoxy challenges the secular worldview with the authority of Christ, a specific GAFCON topic. That's why the old mainstream media ignore the former and attack the latter.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Some more thoughts on "The Way, The Truth and The Life" - WORSHIP

I made it a point to reread Part 4 of GAFCON's official study document over the weekend, since that section is focused on worship.

I am thankful that GAFCON asserts the availability of the Gospel to all people, rather than an intellectual or clergy elite. With that orientation, my comments will probably seem pedestrian to some of you. I am not a "liturgical scholar" - I am musing about congregational worship issues. If that's where you're at, read on:

4.2.3 of The Way, The Truth and The Life lists "some current challenges" and questions.

1) How can Anglican liturgy best provide worship that leads us, both as a community and as individuals, to the experience of the transcendent and triune God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit? How can Anglicans best come to see worship as that which leads to holiness, and to an encounter with the holy God who calls us to be transformed in Christ?
  • In all of the questions, the leadership and teaching role of the clergy is essential. Clergy have to call the people to the right priorities, teach and reteach patiently, and nag.
  • In many of our aging American congregations, the highest priority of the people is "fellowship." We can scream about it and curse it and anathematize it, but it is there. Our leadership and teaching work must give them a taste of something greater, and stoke their hunger for it.
  • One practical step is to emphasize and reemphasize the entrance rite of the liturgy. It is perhaps the most God-focused part of the service if we are attentive. This is NOT about "starting the service on time" - it is about telling the people what we are doing and explaining to the habitual late-comers what they are missing/ignoring. The opening hymn or introit, a Penitential Order, the Prayer of Humble Access, the Kyrie or other liturgical piece - all of these point the gathered people toward the greatness and primacy of God. This part of the service isn't read to the people - it is offered to God. I like to face the altar during this rite in order to orient the people toward the Holy.

2) How can we best facilitate the effective learning of the Word, and ensure that we "read, mark, learn and inwardly digest" it?

  • Once again, the clergy must tell the people that this is important, and then give them tools to participate it the work. Right now, I am taking my congregation through a "Basic Bible Outline" as the summer sermon series. The Bible is a big book full of different styles of sacred literature. If you just say, "Start reading the Bible!", people will become frustrated - they will try to start reading it as a novel, which doesn't work. They will try to read it as "God's instruction manual", which certainly doesn't work when you are reading narratives and poems. They need some reference points by which to enter and navigate it.
  • Parish Bible studies are important. No, you probably won't find that perfect day and time when every last parishioner will come and bring their friends, pets and extended family. But you will get some of the parishioners and some of them will bring others... the main thing is that you will be helping more and more people read the Bible, and breaking down the idea that they can "absorb it through the liturgy" or get enough of it "to last me the week" by hearing your sermon.
  • Giving people encouragement to read on their own is important. You can do a bunch of this during pastoral visits or even at meetings - people often bring up what they are thinking about and you can connect them to relevant scriptures to read. You can give them examples of your own discipline - such as the Daily Office. (The Preface to the 1549 Book of Common Prayer extols the value of lay people hearing the Scriptures daily, and is emphatic about the clergy reading daily in order to teach "wholesome doctrine" and refute error.)
  • Preach from the Bible. Use "Bible to explain Bible" - showing the consistent themes (OK, don't shoot me - the "meta narrative") as well as specific points of doctrine and discipleship. That is, bring in other Bible passages that support and illuminate the readings of the day. If "impact" is a measure of good preaching, I can tell you without reservation that my preaching has improved ever since the time I stopped trying for artistic beauty and went instead for accurate Bible content.
  • Use the Bible in pastoral care. Before visiting, prayerfully consider what might be important issues for the person you are visiting - God's word has power if applied rightly to the situation.

3) Where is the Holy Spirit, and the spirit of celebration, encounter and response, in our worship?

  • I am terribly conflicted about the "passing of the peace." On the one hand, it is the only celebratory moment in some church's services. On the other, the "celebration" is a default back to "fellowship" - an intermission from all the God-stuff so we can visit our pals. We are using a service that omits it this summer. Instead, there is a time for "Thanksgiving Testimony" - folks are not taking to it very easily, but some weeks people get up and really share something meaningful about God's action in their lives. Again, it is up to the worship leader (and in most congregations this means clergy) to orient the celebration toward who God is, not just who we are.
  • The Prayers of the People is another part of liturgy worth opening up. In most churches, it stays pretty formal. My hope (another thing in a pile of things I want to get at) is to get people who have passion for the various biddings (world, church, healing, etc.) and encourage them to lift up prayers during the liturgy. Still on the drawing board, that.
  • The Way, The Truth and The Life mentions the obvious subject - music. I don't have all the answers - I'm not enough of a musician to lead that part of parish life. But then priests who impose their tastes on the people aren't always orienting them toward God anyway. My counsel would be: don't scrap the familiar in the life of a congregation. Use what they've been doing and gradually introduce other things. See what inspires them and what is actually useful to the particular musical gifts your people have. One of my churches, while maintaining the foundation of traditional hymns, actually turned out to have a knack for Gospel (we happened to have a choir leader and some musicians who knew how to play/sing it.) Find the gifts and use them.
  • Use silence. This is especially important after a call to confession... let the people sit with it. Many North American Anglicans are formal and introverted - you won't beat that personality into something it's not. Silence is a profound way for the Holy Spirit to move among introverts.

4) In the future, Anglican worship should flourish if Anglicans continue to use their worship as an instrument of mission.

  • Yep, right up there with "the passing of the peace" as an intermission from God is "announcements." But you know what? If you work at it, you can connect the announcements to what you said in your sermon or what the people heard in the Scriptures. This means your church needs to be about Gospel-relevant things that can be expressed in Gospel terms. You don't need to announce stuff that the in-group already knows: "The ECW will meet in the undercroft to discuss UTO." How much better to announce (as I was able to do this week) that "God inspired our quilting group to make, pray over and donate 8 new quilts for flood victims." You can use announcements to exhort the people to discipleship.
  • The offertory is a big mission moment. The '28 Prayer Book was explicit about gathering "alms" (money for the relief of human need). How badly we reduce it to "money to keep the lights on." Don't hit me for this, but it was ueber-revisionist hero George Regas who taught me about using the offertory to inspire mission. He pointed out that the offertory is one of the most active moments for the people in the pews during liturgy - they actually do something. They reach for their wallets, take out money and put it in a plate. What a time to connect that action with its impact! They need to know that, "Because of your giving, we are able to hire a youth minister." They need to hear about burdens lifted and mission initiatives, not just upkeep.

I am really profiting from The Way, The Truth and The Life. It is a study guide that I will use with lay people - it is that good and that accessible.

A priest visits the Garden of Gethsemane - his painful thoughts about clergy life today

This is by Todd Wetzel. He's part of the big pilgrimage to Jerusalem. I first spotted it on Baby Blue. I was in the Garden of Gesthemane in 1980. As Todd says, many holy sites are "traditional" or questionable, but the Garden is the real deal - an actual spot where Gospel events took place - where Jesus prayed in agony and was arrested by the powers of this world. Some of the trees there today were probably planted and present when Jesus was there in the flesh.

This part of Todd's article really got to me. I can tell you that it is so true of life in the Episcopal Church:

Not all sites are probable sites. This one, however, is thought to be genuine. So, it was especially touching to kneel down, touch the rock and pray. To pray for friends left behind: there have been so many casualties in the twenty years I have been the Executive Director of Episcopalians United, now known as Anglicans United. Clergy, bishops and laity. So many who have given up and joined other denominations. So many who have made choices based on political expediency, citing the need to educate their children and pay the mortgage over taking God at His word. For those who were afraid if they talked honestly and/or candidly with their bishop, they would never get another job, and may not keep the one they have. For those who made the great leap of faith, and their parishes threw them out, saying they were not Episcopalian any more. When Jesus said he came with a sword*, he wasn’t kidding. Taking Him seriously can cost you everything, a lesson I have learned personally. I wept for all of my lost friends and acquaintances today.

*That was in yesterday's Gospel lesson.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

UPDATED w/ link to transcript - Archbishop Akinola: Anglican Communion has been "abused and betrayed" by "Instruments of DISunity"

I'm listening to Archbishop Akinola (Nigeria)'s powerful address to the very diverse gathering of global Anglicans in Jerusalem. (The video shows a diversity of race, age and gender that Episcopalians yack about but can only dream of experiencing).

He is taking special aim at leadership failures, pointing out the way that the weak and manipulative Anglican response to North American innovation and apostasy has harmed the whole Christian family.

GAFCON "not a new church" - it is a "rescue mission" - the church must be rescued from "error and apostasy." Orthodox Anglicans are not the ones who "tore the fabric" of the Anglican Communion - the North American revisionists did so despite years of clear warnings. Those attending GAFCON "are Anglican Christians by conviction."

Stand Firm has a transcript of the address here.

Today at Noon Central Time... GAFCON live!

Live coverage from Jerusalem begins at Noon CDT.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

My Bible reading rips out my ego, laughs at it, throws in on the ground and stomps it.

My morning readings included the first chapter of Ruth and Luke’s account of the Transfiguration of Christ (9:28ff). Ouch.

In Ruth, a group of characters do little more than die. Elimelech, his wife Naomi and their sons Mahlon and Chilion go down to Moab to escape a famine. The boys marry Moabite girls, one of whom is Ruth.

Then the guys all die. That’s pretty much all that the Bible has to say about them.

I don’t know about you, but I want my life as a Christian to be heroic. “Triumphant and victorious” are appealing words. I want to be St. Rambo, not "Chilion, Bible trivia answer." The idea of God assigning me an unremarkable life and death does not appeal to me – my ego shrieks against it.

But even Elimelech, Mahlon and Chilion are parts of something great. No, they do not seem heroic, yet by their chasing after food and just being family guys, God is setting up the salvation of the world. We find out that Ruth stays with Naomi – “your God will be my God” – and that leads to Ruth’s marriage to one of Naomi’s kinsmen, and THAT leads to the birth of King David, and THAT sets up the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior.

The reading from Luke shows that I need not be the hero out in front of the charge. The lesson is filled with clueless disciples:
  • Peter and the others had fallen asleep.
  • Peter blurted out an idea, “not even knowing what he was saying….”
  • The disciples fail in their efforts to help a suffering boy (this one really hurt – a couple of weeks ago I looked on like an idiot as my autistic son suffered his first gran-mal seizure.)
  • Jesus tells them plainly what he will do, but “they don’t understand.”

Yeah, my ego wants to do something dramatic “for Christ.” But more often, his work seems to unfold when I am clueless and hapless – and his best work is probably stuff I’m not even perceiving.

My passionate side can be a gift – it is part of God’s factory issued package and from it comes some of my strength as a priest and leader. But my ego also gives Satan some solid footholds.

Thank you, Father, for roughing up my ego when I read your word. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for revealing Christ alone as the hero, the Savior, the author and perfecter of the plan. Thank you, Jesus, for loving my sorry, selfish soul enough to die for its salvation.

Trying to define an Anglican way...

Dean Robert Munday of Nashotah House Seminary points out a potential disagreement between faithful Anglican leaders.

It comes down to this: are Anglicans guided by confession (statement of belief) or by councils (gatherings of Christian leaders)? The Jerusalem gathering issued a document that emphasizes confession, while Bishop Robert Duncan's opening remarks emphasized councils. (I have links to both of these in various posts below).

Dean Munday goes on to harmonize the two perspectives, seeing the confession as setting boundaries in which councils deliberate. I think he's right - and I think we need a succinct statement of this idea. Here's a first try:

Our confession guides our councils, our councils minister our confession.

Anyway, what do you think? How would you express the relationship of confession and council in Anglicanism?

What really matters to Episcopalian insiders...

The Rapid City Journal's coverage about the Presiding Bishop's South Dakota photo-op is getting a few comments.

There are two groups critical of the visit: Traditional Indians remembering historic harm to their culture, and Christians pointing out Episcopal harm to faith.

A few TEC-loyalists pop in to defend the Presiding Bishop. Here is my favorite, show stopping, absolutely irrefutable argument in defense of Episcopalianism:

And to the rest of you who do not understand the basic constitutions and canons of the Episcopal Church, I suggest you not comment about that which you do not understand.

By the way, still no answers about how much is being spent on lawsuits, and what church funds are being raided for that money.

And in the Providence Journal, Bishop Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island offers some very perceptive comments about the current church mess. She reveals two more Episcopalian priorities, comparing them (unfavorably) to the struggles of Christians in other parts of the world:

Here in this country we talk a lot about sexuality and church buildings, while people there are trying to dodge bullets and find food and survive.

So, there you have it. By-laws, real estate and homosexuality. The mission priorities of the Episcopal Church.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Fr. Neo asks the right question...

A Matrix influenced priest nails the issue here.

Bishop Gesner of South Dakota made the same point in 1956.

Global Anglican leaders take aim at it.

Episcopalians just keep ignoring the problem - in fact, they seem proud to wallow in it.

The Presiding Bishop is in South Dakota: The Anglican Communion "smells like beer"

It's in the Rapid City Journal, but most media here just ain't interested.

This report anticipates "3,000 people", but that seems inflated in a diocese with ASA of about 2,000.

Nothing in this about the lawsuits... our AAC chapter is currently nagging the reporter to ask some real questions.

But this is my favorite:

“It’s a time of ferment, which can be enormously positively [sic],” Jefferts Schori said. “You look at a vat of beer and sometimes it doesn’t smell very good – but there’s a lot of good work going on there, and the product smells better than the process. Something like that’s going on in the Anglican Communion.”

Great. A booze metaphor at a Native American gathering. What ever happened to liberal sensitivity?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bishop Duncan: The orthodox need to confess, too...

From his address to GAFCON in Jordan, which is linked here.

"...the orthodox are not without blame. Over the last five decades we have made more than our share of compromises when issues of Scriptural Truth were debated or challenged. There were also countless times that we kept silence when we should have spoken. Moreover, the witness of our personal lives has been scarcely better than the record of those whom we now forthrightly confront: divorce and remarriage, sexual sin, addiction, material possessions, careerism, children who wander far. Further to our shame, we have sometimes as orthodox battled one another – splintering into factions and sects, competing with one another for territory or adherents, even at times condemning one another – publicly proclaiming the Truth while privately operating for our own advantage. So it is not just the progressives who have allowed sin to masquerade as righteousness, but sometimes the orthodox as well that have disgraced, disrupted and divided the whole Anglican Communion. I begin on this platform – I begin as this pilgrimage begins – by saying that I am profoundly sorry and that I beg the forgiveness of our God and of all of you from other parts of world. We North Americans, all of us here, whether still in the wayward official Provinces or in the several splinters of the continuing churches or in the extra-territorial Provincial outreaches of recent formation, express to you our sorrow and beg from you forgiveness. We have been lords, not servants, and we have distracted you from, and embarrassed you in, the telling of the story in your contexts, and among the peoples to whom God has asked you to bear the message of salvation in Jesus Christ."

Thoughts from my first read of "The Way, The Truth and The Life"

  1. My first reaction is that the document takes positions that were not remarkable when I was ordained just 20 years ago. The Vestries, Bishops, Commissions on Ministry, Standing Committees, national Board of Examining Chaplains - all of those who sponsored and evaluated me for ordination in the Episcopal Church (and in the Diocese of Los Angeles, no less!) would have expected me to be fluent in most of this material and to teach it to people as the Anglican way.
  2. This brought to mind the move to change the disciplinary canons of the church - one of the advocates of this made a comment about "having a say in who gets to be a minister in this church." Well, layers and layers of people already had that say in ordaining me. And now the "church" - or at least the little elite that's left in its bureaucracy - wants to say that nobody, for 2,000 years of church history, knew anything about anything.
  3. The clarity and consistency of the document is wonderful. It practices what it preaches - what God wants known, God will express in a way that any person can get at it. A striking contrast with most stuff spun out by the Episcopal Organization.
  4. Look for revisionist clergy, bureaucrats and bloggers to whine and moan about "anti-intellectual" and "fundamentalist" tendencies. What used to be "the thinking person's church" is now the church of name-calling. You know, ad hominem. You know, logical fallacy.
  5. Praise God for the awesome leaders He is raising up for this challenging time!

More from Jerusalem - The authority of Christ vs. "tolerance" so called

The Way, The Truth and the Life, pp. 60 & 36

Christian discipleship is fundamentally a recognition of Christ's lordship, his right to direct the life and thought of the redeemed people of God. There can be no church where the authority of Christ to call us to faith and repentance - to challenge our cultural commitments, our personal preferences and our traditions - is neglected.

Christ exercises this authority in the churches throughout these last days by his word through his Spirit...

Though it may be a virtue in secondary matters, tolerance can and does lead to an opposite vice: spiritual laxity, which manifests itself in pastoral laziness and doctrinal slovenliness... smug mediocrity... failure to enforce discipline on those who have spurned the faith.

More from Jerusalem - Orthodoxy and Secularism

The Way, the Truth and the Life, pp. 30 & 53

In its basic sense, orthodoxy means "holding correct doctrine" or, to use a phrase from the East African Revival, "walking in the light," as opposed to "walking in darkness" (I John 1:6-7), which is "heresy." This concern for Christian orthodoxy goes back to the time of the apostles...

...secularism is the world-view that seeks to exclude the Lordship of Christ from this world; by denying there is any reality but the reality of this world, it denies any Lordship to Jesus. A Christian response is not to repudiate this world, for the world continues to be God's creation, containing signs of his goodness to us. Since Christians are in the world, though they do not belong to it, their lives should be a demonstration to the world of God's goodness and love, and the Church should offer ministries that, uniquely, bring the touch of heaven to earth. There is not question of compromising the faith in this. Our light must shine in the world, so that non-Christians see the good deeds of Christians and glorify the name of God (Matthew 5:16).

More from Jerusalem - Debunking lies about "Bible scholarship" and "diversity"

The Way, The Truth and The Life, pp. 23, 27 & 70

While some say that the meaning of Scripture is so complex, and so contested, that it cannot be fixed, we argue that the heart of Scripture is plain, even though some parts are not simple. It is plain enough to call forth our faith and obedience, which together lead us to further understand the Bible's meaning. It is plain enough to be the basis on which we make a stand...

...The writings of the Bible emerged in contexts of religious plurality. But the challenge to the people of God was to share the uniqueness of their God in such a context...

There is still a valuable place for the work of Biblical and theological scholarship. It should not be dismissed as irrelevant, particularly when it encourages a careful reading of the text we have been given, and alerts us to features we might otherwise have missed.

More from Jerusalem - Does Christ love all people or just a small elite?

I hope that you will go to the link (post below) and take the time to download and read this amazing document.

It summarizes the real issues that are tearing up the Anglican Communion (and in fact widening the divide between Christian and non-believer).

These quotes (page 28 & 70) describe the struggle between the faithful follower of Christ and those who, like Episcopal Church bureaucrats, turn the Gospel upside down ("revisionists").

...the struggle today is to affirm that the plain truth [the Good News in Christ] is accessible to the ordinary person. Those who deny that this is possible then define everything in terms of power, in a situation in which they hold the upper hand and their power is being challenged by this very appeal to truth. Repeated attempts at dialogue have been made by those committed to the teaching of Scripture. However, experience has shown that the revisionists are not willing to listen...

The word of God is given to the people of God. It is not the private possession of either a scholarly elite or any ecclesiastical hierarchy. The New Testament insistence upon the public reading of Scripture assumes that the plain meaning of Scripture is accessible to all, and that it nourishes the faith of all believers regardless of cultural differences or educational background.

The Way, the Truth and the Life

Here's the link to the statement from the Anglican leaders gathering in Jerusalem, courtesy of the folks at Stand Firm.

A taste:
...[Anglicanism] sought to distinguish itself from both the practices of the Papacy and the excesses it associated with the more radical reformers. Now, after five centuries, a new fork in the road is appearing. Though this fork in the road may present itself publicly as a choice in relation to aberrant sexuality, the core issues are about whether or not there is one Word, accessible to all, and whether or not there is one Christ, accessible to all.

As we, in our time, face this dividing of the ways, we will need to depend absolutely upon God's guidance, discernment and judgement.

Why "IF" was in the previous headline...

More realistic evaluation of the news from Jerusalem is here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Whoa! If this is right (it's got tomorrow's date on it), the Anglican Communion is splittin' up

From the Telegraph (United Kingdom, where it's already tomorrow...)

Hat-tip: Transfigurations

Biblically Faithful Anglican Leaders Meet in Jerusalem, while The Episcopal Church & Its Flunkies Support Elite Interests Against Human Rights

“We have made enormous efforts since 1997 in seeking to avoid this crisis, but without success. Now we confront a moment of decision. If we fail to act, we risk leading millions of people away from the faith revealed in the Holy Scriptures and also, even more seriously, we face the real possibility of denying our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ,” writes the Most. Rev. Peter Akinola, Archbishop of Abuja, Primate of All Nigeria and chairman of the Global Anglican Future Conference [GAFCON].

You can read the whole GAFCON press release and other news here.

Meanwhile, The Episcopal Church (USA) and others who like its money, such as the Anglican Church of Canada and even Anglicanism's cradle, The Church of England, are enthralled with

Folks, you really need to wake up. This is not about nice people having nice little ceremonies. This is about a faction imposing its agenda on the majority, at the expense of long-cherished rights that protect all of us from government thought control and coercion. And it is about misrepresenting and degrading the witness of the church to the world.

In the public realm, homosexuals can use a variety of exisiting laws to obtain all the material benefits available to heterosexual couples. But having judges or bureaucrats declare this "marriage" is to ask for a moral, even religious judgment, and to force it on the public without recourse to persuasion and popular vote.

And as far as the church goes, this whole movement is a betrayal of what Christ teaches, what the Bible records, and what the vast majority of Christians believe.

To South Dakota's Libertarians and Progressives, I am more than a little curious: Would you give a small faction's symbolic demand more weight than the protections we are all suppossed to share under The Bill of Rights?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Second Morning Lesson - Hope in the Lord who knows us

The Second Morning Lesson (1928 BCP) is Luke 8:26-39. Jesus casts out a legion of demons to save the life of a man they had possessed.

What strikes me this morning is that Jesus Christ knows and shows mercy toward everyone in this incident.

Jesus knows the demons. The eternal Son of God was present in the creation of all things, seen and unseen. He was there when Satan and some of the angels rebelled against God, and He saw them cast out of heaven.

He knows them, and they certainly know him. But even as he exercises power over them by making them admit their name, He mercifully accepts their plea and delays their final destruction. He lets them inhabit and destroy pigs (see the previous post - pigs are "unclean.")

He knows the people of the region. He knows they need His Good News, but he is merciful because they are afraid. As we see throughout the Bible, people are terrified in the presence of God. So He leaves them, but gives them their familiar, healed neighbor to

"Return home and tell how much God has done for you."

He knows the healed man, of course. It seems as though the whole purpose of the journey across the lake was to reach this one man. But Jesus also has a purpose for the man, and in mercy says "No" to the man's request to follow Him. He leaves the man there to fulfill a great purpose.

We forget, sometimes, that Christ knows all. We get into danger when we substitute our own will for his wisdom.
  • Christ sees that some people will remain "unclean" and leaves them to the demons - we rush toward destruction if we continue to chase after them.
  • He sees that some people are just confused and sends us to bring His message - we put their eternal hope at risk if we turn away from them.
  • He sees a holy purpose for each of us - we jeopardize this joyful work if we follow our own desire instead of His.

Anglicans right now must pray for Christ's wisdom. We need to know if we are chasing demons into a lake by staying in The Episcopal Church or bodies like it. We need to know if the Lord wants us to stay in such bodies for a time in order to warn others of what is going on.

Most of all, we need to remember that He knows us better than we know ourselves. He has a purpose for us, and he is patient and merciful to bring it to pass. He left heaven to "cross the stormy lake" of this world, just to save us. Even when we've tried to push him away, He's left his human witness, the Gospel-bearing church, to tell us what He's done and call us to Him.

Let us pray for ourselves, and for one another, to do His will, His way, in His time, always thanking Him for His mercy when we get it all wrong.

From the First Morning Lesson: We are Samson

The first Morning Lesson (1928 Book of Common Prayer) is Judges 6:6-14. Samson begins to squander his God-given gift. He ignores the obvious and continues in his relationship with Delilah, who is colluding with foreign "lords" to destroy him.

Christians are very vulnerable to this same situation. Jesus teaches us to forgive, to seek reconciliation, to love in a way that "hopes all things, believes all things." So we play by the rules of our Lord, only to find that we are offering ourselves to people who serve other "lords" with very different rules.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches about this. Right after telling us not to judge others, He gives this warning:

Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.

We must not be like Samson. We are not to squander our God-given gifts - our own holiness that comes through Christ - by endless catering to those who are "unclean" (this is the meaning of dogs and pigs). There are those who are filthy spiritually, and we cannot make them clean by lavishing our service on them.

Jesus knelt to his flawed disciples and washed their feet. Even so, He told them,

"And you are clean, though not every one of you." For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

The Lord Himself knows that some will reject even the most tender ministry and "tear to pieces" those who offer it.

As the Anglican Communion breaks down, I can't help but admit that too many of us, for too long, made Samson's mistake. We ignored the signs of pollution and wasted our God-given gifts on those who were serving other "lords." It has weakened us, and we might rightly fear Samson's fate. As the compromised Anglican edifice crashes down, we might be crushed with those who have rejected God's Word.

But the Second Morning Lesson gives hope... (see the post above this one).

Monday, June 16, 2008

Bad News - Sioux Falls research project may evade State law and use embryonic stem cell research

The good news is (was?) that Sioux Falls - based Sanford Health will use its substantial research funds to seek a cure for Type One Diabetes.

The just-revealed bad news is that Sanford will partner with a California research group that experiments on human embryos.

Embryonic stem cell research is illegal in South Dakota.

Please pray that we not bring a curse on ourself by participation in evil.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Getting back to basics - the need to renew our Covenant

This summer, I've been taking the people of Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls through an outline of the Bible. The effort, in response to welcome requests from parishioners, is to give them some reference points so they can actually read the Bible. Those of us who value the Scriptures sometimes exhort people to dive in and read, much like throwing a non-swimmer off a boat and yelling, "Swim! Swim!"

Today we surveyed the Old Testament history books (Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I & II Samuel, I & II Kings, I & II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther*). I am teaching in a method called "canonical criticism". This looks at how the various books are arranged to work together in order to carry God's message.

Throughout the history books, which cover a turbulent span of at least 800 and possibly 1,000 years, the Israelite/Jewish people gather at key moments to re-read and renew their Covenant with God. Both parties in a covenant have obligations. God makes promises to His Covenant people, and they have responsibilites in return.

Joshua leads Covenant renewal ceremonies before the Israelites enter the land of Canaan and again, having conquered it, before he dies. God has given them the "promised land;" they are to live in it as a community governed by God-given laws.

King Josiah of Judah leads a Covenant renewal ceremony that brings him God's favor, but which comes too late to save the corrupt nation from military defeat and exile. The people do not take up their responsibilites toward God, so He removes His promised protection.

Ezra and Nehemiah lead a Covenant renewal ceremony when the exiles return, rebuild Jerusalem and reintroduce the worship and sacrificial systems that had been lost. God keeps His promise of mercy, and the people again take up the responsibility to live by His revealed law.

All of this is a getting-back-to-basics exercise for me, too. A few things that struck me in preparing this particular outline:
  • Covenant renewal takes place at all kinds of turning points, not just as a response to crisis. Changes of leadership and the achievement of goals call forth Covenant renewal in the Old Testament. How might a Christian congregation or larger church body practice communal renewal at key moments?
  • Covenant renewal often involves the rejection of practices which are inconsistent with the Covenant. As we read in Joshua 24:14, Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD." How might Christians gather to "throw away" false stuff that has compromised their Covenant with God?
  • Covenant renewal assumes that words matter. Nehemiah 8:1-3 shows how renewal begins with the preaching and hearing of God's revealed word to the community: …all the people assembled as one man... They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel…Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon…in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law. How might a Christian body give itself to neglected but foundational teaching? (I think that this Summer Bible Outline series is Good Shepherd's effort to do this).

All of this was made acute today because we celebrated Holy Baptism. We "renewed our Covenant" as we said the Apostles' Creed. There was rejection (renunciation, which in the early church involved overt prayers of exorcism) of the devil, of worldly corruption, and of our own sin. And there was proclamation of the word, connecting today's sacramental act to the Biblical message of God's New Covenant in Christ.

But I continue to think out loud - how can Christian congregations be more deliberate about Covenant renewal?

*Yeah, I know. It is among the "Writings" in the Jewish understanding...more a "Wisdom Book" than a history book. But in the canon of Scripture, it represents the on-going struggle of the Jewish people during the Persian period. Even thought they were able to leave exile and rebuild Jerusalem, they entered the long period of domination by great foreign empires. But I did teach the Wisdom application, in which the story of Esther gets us to reflect on God as a hidden, mysterious, even "absent presence" at times. So there.

Turned 50 on Friday the 13th

I was born on a Friday the 13th as well.

The wife totally surprised me by phoning pretty much the whole parish about it... by God's perfect sense of humor, 50 church folks showed up at Famous Dave's BBQ to frighten the staff and other patrons and generally bless my night.

Yeah, the shorts are weird. I threatened to get them in the colors of the church year...the red set would be especially troubling.
The Famous Dave's Menu makes for uplifting reading, by the way.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Honor Dads, Honor Marriage - dispel the myths of "no fault divorce"

A great article by Professor Stephen Baskerville of Patrick Henry College appears on Anglican Mainstream.

It is to-the-point and worth the read. As Fathers' Day rolls around, it is worth considering the harm our social policies do to the God-given vocation of dads...and by domino effect to their wives and children.

Investigating and revealing the unintended, destructive consequences of "no fault divorce" is not an ideological, conservative vs. liberal exercise. Yes, feminist groups helped advance the idea, but it became a legal reality in 1969 when signed into California law by then-Governor and conservative icon Ronald Reagan.

ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, who settest the solitary in families; We commend to thy continual care the homes in which thy people dwell. Put far from them, we beseech thee, every root of bitterness, the desire of vain-glory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh; turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers; and so enkindle fervent charity among us all, that we be evermore kindly affectioned with brotherly love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

OK, you want to be a good steward, but don't want your $$$ wasted... HELP FIGHT THE METH PROBLEM

Hal Perry is one of my parishioners. He serves on the staff of Glory House, a transitional facility for men and women seeking to turn their lives around after prison and/or addiction. Glory House is about to give thanks for 40 years of effective work.

Glory House is poised to expand its ministry to reclaim lives ravaged by Methamphetamine. Did you know:
  • 47% of all women and 39% of all men arrested nationwide are involved in Meth use, distribution or related crime?
  • South Dakota's Department of Corrections budget and its number of imprisoned women have risen to record levels, largely due to Meth?
  • Meth has added to the staggering social problems on South Dakota Indian Reservations?

Glory House will open its new Sands Freedom Center for Methamphetamine treatment in September. In addition, the White Bison Group is going to offer special training on using 12-Step Programs in the Native American culture.

This is a full community effort to bring new life where the enemy is laying waste. If you have abundance, or if you are one of those many folks who wants to give but doesn't trust your TEC church, or if you are in between churches and are looking for a way to be a faithful steward of what God puts in your hands, please consider a generous gift to Glory House. Their giving link is here, or you can mail offerings to:

Glory House

P.O. Box 88145

Sioux Falls, SD 57109-8145

Friday, June 13, 2008

Why the heck has this song always made me think of the Episcopal Church?

Broadway is dark tonight
A little bit weaker than you used to be
Broadway is dark tonight
See the young man sitting
In the old man's bar
Waiting for his turn to die

The cowboy kills the rock star
And Friday night's gone too far
The dim light hides the years
On all the faded girls

Forgotten but not gone
You drink it off your mind
You talk about the world
Like it's someplace that you've been

You see you'd love to run home
But you know you ain't got one
And you're livin' in a world
That you're best forgotten around here


You choke down all your anger
Forget your only son
You pray to statues when you sober up for fun
Your anger don't impress me
The world slapped in your face
It always rains like hell on the losers day parade

You see you'd love to run home
But you know you ain't got one
'Cause you're livin' in a world that you're best forgotten
And when you're thinkin' of a joke
And nobody's gonna listen
To the one small point
I know they been missin' round here


You see you'd love to run home
But you know you ain't got one
'Cause you're livin' in a world
That you're best forgotten
And if you're thinkin' of a joke
Do you think that they'll listen
To the one small point
I know they been missin' round here


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Honored to be just the tiniest part of this...

Yes, it is nice to be acknowledged.

But the greater compliment would be your visit to this site, and your prayers for the good of the church.

By the way, the American Anglican Council/South Dakota Chapter will be the prayer blog focus on Sunday, June 22nd.

AAC Member from Iowa asks prayers in wake of Scout Camp tornado tragedy

By email:

...please add the Little Sioux Scout Camp tragedy to the prayer list...4 fatalities (13-14 year old boys) and 40 or so injuries from this tornado; this is about 10-15 miles from my house; I don't know yet if I knew any of the campers, but I do know most of the local fire/rescue personnel, and I have been to the camp (years ago). Those boys (both campers and rescuers) are going to be dealing with alot of emotional (and physical) fallout from this, not to mention all the reconstruction that will need to take place to rebuild the camp. God bless all the volunteers who showed up immediately with tractors, trucks, chain-saws, etc. to help get those kids out and get them help.

Thank you for your prayers.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Why Moral Relativists get an "F"...

Great stuff, passed on to me by a Christian friend in the academic world...

A final note about ethics: [our assigned author], throughout the book, attempts to skirt the problem of absolutism versus relativism. He does this by focusing on those things that he thinks we can agree on, and on those areas where he feels most confident about our ability to argue constructively. You should not leave this reading thinking that it is a good thing to be a relativist, however. Recall what I said at the end of the last class: if you claim that there is nothing beyond us that we can appeal to regarding ethics, then you should be prepared to have your words fall on deaf ears when you say “it’s not fair.” For instance: if you are an absolute moral relativist, and declare yourself as such on this final exam, I will fail you, regardless of the quality of your work elsewhere. Got a problem with that? Good! How will you make your case? How will you argue with me? You have three choices:

(1) Give up on finding common warrants, and try to use force to get me to agree with you. (I do not recommend this option. It will go badly for you in the end.)

(2) Give up on finding common warrants, and hope that I will simply choose to value your opinion (Again, I do not recommend this option. It will go even worse for you here, unless you are extraordinarily lucky.)

(3) Find some common warrant to appeal to. But note: as soon as you do this, you are claiming that the warrants (i.e. the moral values we appeal to) are not relative to you, but are commonly held. This means you are not an absolute moral relativist. Congratulations! You’ve now won the right to have me grade your exam fairly, simply by conceding that “fairness” is an appeal to something beyond your ego. Well done.

My point in all this is that absolute moral relativism, besides being a remarkably obtuse case of self-contradiction, is unhealthy and probably dangerous. That being said, we must concede, as does [our author], that we do not always know what is the right thing to do in any given circumstance. But note: saying that we do not know what is the right thing to do right now is not the same as saying that there is no right thing to do right now. The latter statement is an abdication of your most important faculty, i.e. that of reason. If you give up your reason, someone else will reason for you, and it will go badly for you in the end, because some people are willing to do bad things to you if you let them. The former statement, on the other hand, is simple honesty and humility. Rather than being an abdication of reason, it is an invitation to begin to reason together. As it turns out, this is the whole upshot of this course: to pay closer attention to a faculty we already have, and so to hone and refine our skills at reasoning. To do so we must assume that this enterprise is possible, which in turn means we must assume that we can speak reasonably about the things we wish to discuss.

Questions? Email me or call me at home, or visit me in my office. I’m happy to talk more with any and all of you whenever I have time.

PRAYING what we believe...

Those who want to "revise" the Christian faith talk about throwing out the Nicene Creed. They quibble over all kinds of arcane arguments and assert that they are too smart to believe what a bunch of stoopid Christians thought in the past.

But Anglicanism, done well, encourages the healthy integration of prayer and belief. Our doctrines are embedded in our worship - they are part and parcel of our spiritual life.

And so what a blessing to find Torre Bissell's Praying the Nicene Creed over at Lent & Beyond. Torre is a great man of prayer and leads intercessory ministry in the Diocese of Albany (NY):

Praying The Nicene Creed

I believe in one God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, thank you for being one and thank you for your love for one another. Please help me, help your people live in the reality of your unity and love. Thank you.
the Father Almighty,
Father, thank you for being a father to me. Thank you that by your might you have made your son Jesus known to us so that we can become your children.
maker of heaven and earth,
Thank you, Father, for your creation. Please help us by your Holy Spirit to be better stewards of your creation.
and of all things visible and invisible;
Father, we know that we are surrounded by your angelic hosts and that whole company of heaven, that cloud of witnesses that has gone before us. Help us to be steady in you till we reach that place of rest. Thank you.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
Father, guide us by your Holy Spirit so that every other "lord" in our lives is brought under the sovereign rule of Jesus and he becomes our one Lord. Thank you.
the only begotten Son of God,
Father, thank you for sending your one and only son to us so that we might become your children.
begotten of his Father before all worlds,
Jesus, you have always been there; help us receive you into every part of our lives.
God of God, Light of Light,
Jesus, you are God and you are the light to take us through this time of darkness in the church. You are the word of God and are a lamp to our feet.
very God of very God,
Jesus, you and the Father are one; please help us come to know you and him better.
begotten, not made,
Father, thank you for choosing Mary to bring Jesus to us. Help us to respond as she did.
being of one substance with the Father;
Jesus, you came to us bearing the image of the Father so that we might know his love for us. You are one with him and there is no division between you. Please help us by your Holy Spirit to know the unity and character that you share with the Father.
by whom all things were made;
Jesus, everything we have was made by you, there is nothing that we can have that we can call our own except for your cross and resurrection. It is all a free gift of yours; thank you.
who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven,
Jesus, thank you for being willing to give up the glory of heaven to come and live with us. Thank you that day by day your Holy Spirit is willing to live in us in the midst of all our sin.
and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man;
Holy Spirit, thank you for Mary's willingness to receive your over-shadowing and her willingness to risk all to bear Jesus for us.
and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate;
Thank you, Jesus, for what you endured on the cross for us.
he suffered and was buried;
Jesus, thank you for dying for us while we were still sinners. You went to the cross and the grave for us because of your love for your father and for us. Thank you.
and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures,
Holy Spirit, thank you that you enabled Jesus to rise from the dead. Thank you for his victory over sin and death. Please bring us to new life in him.
and ascended into heaven,
Jesus, thank you for your ascension into heaven to sit at the right hand of your father. Thank you that you ever live to make intercession for us.
and sitteth on the right hand of the Father;
Father, thank you for giving Jesus such a place of honor; please help us honor him by our words and deeds and belief.
and he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead;
Jesus, you are Lord and you are judge; help us to fall into your hands and not the hands of men.
whose kingdom shall have no end.
Thank you, Jesus, for your endurance to the end on the cross. Thank you for establishing an eternal kingdom.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost the Lord, and Giver of Life,
Father, we desperately need the renewing power of your Holy Spirit in the life of the Episcopal Church
who proceedeth from the Father and the Son;
Holy Spirit, thank you for helping us know both the Father and the Son!
who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified;
Holy Spirit, please help us know you, worship you, and glorify you.
who spake by the Prophets.
Thank you for your word in Scripture and your words to us today.
And I believe one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church;
Holy Spirit, I believe that apostolic teaching which has been taught in all places and in all times. Thank you for the faith that you delivered to the saints. Help us to keep steady in your teaching and grace. Thank you.
I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins;
Jesus, thank you for washing away my sins. Thank you for baptizing me with your Holy Spirit. Please help me to live day by day in the hope of the resurrection. Thank you.
and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, please help us live in the hope of the resurrection and the life of the world to come. Thank you.

Monday, June 9, 2008

If not the Bible, then what?

I've been teaching an introduction to the Bible for our congregation.

During the Q & A time, a parishioner shared that one of her friends hit her with the objection, "The Bible was edited by a bunch of people over many years. We can't possibly believe it."

Here are a few responses for believers to consider:
  • The Bible's own writers tell us that they used multiple sources and editing to express God's truth. Luke 1:1-3 is a revelation to many people who've learned to dismiss the Bible without having read it. There's no big Da Vinci Code "Aha! Gottcha!" once you know that God's inspiration included interviews and research. And then there's John, who claims eyewitness status. Even he admits that he "edited" in the sense of leaving out lots of good stuff that wasn't essential to the Good News revealed in Christ (21:24-25).
  • Of course the Bible critic will respond, "Well, I didn't mean the people who wrote it at first - I mean that a bunch of monks changed it in the Middle Ages." Ask for the specifics of this - you'll probably get a response like, "Well, I heard that scholars say that." What you need to share is that the transmission of Scripture has been a reverent enterprise with high standards. Mention that the Torah Scroll in the local Synagogue is written by hand, and that a scroll is destroyed and the work started over when an error is detected. Mention that ancient scribes and monks were rewarded for faithful transmission, not creativity. Mention that the translation of the Jewish Scriptures from Hebrew to Greek (called the Septuagent) was done by teams of respected Jewish leaders. The King James Bible was rendered by the combined work of the best scholars of its time. Finally, have a look at the credits in your own handy Bible. You will see scholars of many disciplines and distinguished academic institutions who did the work of translation.
  • A question you might ask the critic is, "OK, if we ignore the Bible, then what is our source of teaching about God?" If the person is an atheist, then he/she can at least give an honest reply like, "Who cares?" If the person believes in some other religion, he/she can assert the teachings of that tradition. But if the person claims to be a Christian, the answer will be "The church tells us about God" or "Our experiences tell us about God." In which case, you can simply lay out all the ways in which churches and individuals have changed their beliefs and behaviors over time - they can't possibly be reliable based on the critic's own standard. If we can't trust human transmission of the Bible, why should we trust human transmission of anything religious?

For they so ordred the matter, that all the whole Bible (or the greatest parte thereof) should be read over once in the yeare, intendyng thereby, that the Cleargie, and specially suche as were Ministers of the congregacion, should (by often readyng and meditacion of Gods worde) be stirred up to godlines themselfes, and be more able also to exhorte other by wholsome doctrine, and to confute them that were adversaries to the trueth. And further, that the people (by daily hearyng of holy scripture read in the Churche) should continuallye profite more and more in the knowledge of God, and bee the more inflamed with the love of his true religion. But these many yeares passed this Godly and decent ordre of the auncient fathers, hath bee so altered, broken, and neglected, by planting in uncertein stories... (From the Preface to the 1549 Book of Common Prayer)

Which is to say, Anglicanism from its very foundation gives highest authority to the Bible, and places "all the whole Bible...God's worde...holy scripture" in a position of authority over the church, not the other way around.

That's the problem with this statement from an Episcopal Church leader to a group of graduating seminary students...

"We believe that God speaks uniquely through laity, bishops, priests and deacons. This participatory structure in our church allows a fullness of revelation and insight that must not be lost in this important time of discernment" (from here) ...

This position is not Christian, let alone Anglican. If we were true to our Prayer Books, Ordination Vows and other words and practices of the church, we would affirm the authority of Holy Scripture over clergy, church structures and human opinions.

If someone can convince you that the Bible is just a human invention, then expect that "someone" will step in where the Bible used to be and start directing what you must believe, what you should do, and who you should be.