Saturday, February 28, 2009

Next time you complain about the church...

In Goya's great Third of May, the atrocities of the sinful world come front and center. Light shines only from the innocent victim, his arms flung wide as though on the cross with Christ.

The horror includes the lifeless, shadowy church in the background, and helpless monks covering their eyes as the triggers are pulled.

Remember this painting next time the preacher "says something you don't like," or you stomp out to "find a church that agrees with you."

Call it to mind when you crow about being "spiritual, not religious."

Ponder it when you curse a priest for speaking against abortion, or you dismiss a Christian friend who offers a Biblical answer to some difficulty in your life.

Think about it when a loved one challenges some ugly aspect of your life in God's name.

What happens when we make the church go dark? The shadows spread.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Would-be Bishop of Northern Michigan (or someone) circulates his cosmik debris - an effort to hide in plain sight

The title above borrows from a Frank Zappa song:

But I said look here brother
Who you jiving with that cosmik debris?
Now who you jiving with that cosmik debris?
Look here brother,
dont waste your time on me...

"Progressive" Episcopalian blogs are circulating a statement, reportedly from Kevin Thew Forrester, the would-be bishop of Northern Michigan. But since it is documented by media professionals that The Episcopal Church has hired public relations damage control specialists in place of its resigned news people, one has to wonder who is blowing this handy cloud of smoke.

You can go to the puffy link above to read the whole thing. Here are the key talking points, along with my responses in italics:

"I am honored to be the bishop-elect of the Diocese of Northern Michigan with the opportunity to serve and work with the Episcopal Ministry Support Team as well as the people of the diocese"
Keep in mind that Thew Forrester is part of the Ministry Support Team, and that pretty much these same people picked him as the only "candidate" for bishop. This was not an election at all.

"As a Christian, I owe my life to our Trinitarian faith."
Now, that sounds Christian, right? But if you read the whole piece you will find a very careful avoidance of how Jesus Christ is present in this Trinitarian faith. In fact, the statement avoids the specific name of Jesus. The cross and passion are missing - very odd for a statement released during Lent. Nor are there any but the most tangential references to the Biblical revelation. If he is consecrated as a Bishop in the church, these are Christian truths that Thew Forrester will have to affirm, publicly.

"Over the years my faith and spiritual practice have been largely shaped and profoundly imprinted by the mystics and the contemplative spiritual tradition. I have grown in my awareness that the grace of God, which is God’s very Presence, cannot be circumscribed. Because of my faith in the gracious goodness of the Godhead, I am open to receive the wisdom from, and be in dialogue with, other faith traditions; not to mention the sciences and the arts."
The conceit here is manifest. Haven't Thew Forrester and the PR folks listened to any solid Evangelical preachers or Catholic theologians? Both routinely draw illustrations and insights from sciences and the arts, and even from other religious traditions where there is something relevant, to exposit the message of the Biblical revelation. But notice that the Bible is missing, again, from the formula expressed in the "statement." Thew Forrester is styled as some kind of elite mystic, but John of the Cross, one of the greatest Christian mystics, wrote "I will not rely on experience or science, for these can fail and deceive us. Although I will not neglect whatever possible use I can make of them, my help in all that, with God's favor, I shall say, will be Sacred Scripture, at least in the most important matters, or those that are difficult to understand. Taking Scripture as our guide we do not err, since the Holy Spirit speaks to us through it." Remember, in the consecration rite Thew Forrester will be required to affirm and sign a declaration that he believes "The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, containing all things necessary to salvation." He (or whoever wrote it) ain't representin' in this here "statement"

"I am not an ordained Buddhist priest. I am an Episcopal priest eternally grateful for the truth, beauty and goodness, experienced in meditation."
The "statement" goes to great pains to make this talking point: Meditation is just a technique, not a belief system. But Zen Buddhism is more than deep breathing. It is a philosophical construct that cannot necessarily affirm much of what Thew Forrester will have to affirm as a Bishop - including the existence of God or any unique revelation of God beyond one's own experience. So we will have a "bishop" whose teaching is based in his own intuition, not any revelation open to the rest of us idiots. Ooh ooh - and note the crafty choice of "Episcopal" rather than "Christian" priest when he tries to make his mixing and matching more palatable.

"Literally thousands of Christians have been drawn to Zen Buddhism in particular because, distinct from western religions, it embodies a pragmatic philosophy and a focus on human suffering rather than a unique theology of God."
OOOPS! Who let that slip? Zen is "distinct" from western religion and has no unique theology of God (Theology of God? "Knowledge of God of God"???) So Thew Forrester is to be elevated and subsidized as an officer in a western religion which he thinks inferior to a distinctly eastern philosophy. Where can I send my checks? Oh, and by the way, the long history of western Christian contemplation of the cross, devotions to the Lady of Sorrows, and other ways of seeing God in human suffering never happened. Maybe Thew Forrester needs Christian PR people who can at least speak the language.

"My experience continues to be that through the grace of meditation I am drawn ever deeper into the Trinitarian contemplative Christian tradition."
My...I... and then the vague "Trinitarian contamplative Christian tradition." This is a guy who really believes we should all bend to his feelings. He will throw on some churchy sounding language to lower our guard, but he is an ambassador for himself, not God.

Kevin G. Thew Forrester
Ministry Developer
Diocese of Northern Michigan

Except there ain't much ministry developing there in Northern Michigan, where Thew Forrester has been mover & shaker for several years.

An Open Letter to the Bishop and Standing Cmte. of the Diocese of South Dakota: Deny Consent for the Would-be Bishop of Northern Michigan

Ash Wednesday, 2009

An Open Letter to the Bishop, Standing Committee and General Convention Deputies, Diocese of South Dakota

Dear Bishop, Committee Members and Deputies,

We write to request that you deny consent for the consecration of Kevin Thew Forrester as Bishop of Northern Michigan. Because this issue is of importance to the whole Episcopal Church, we send this as an open letter to open as many eyes as we can.

There are several significant reasons to deny consent for Thew Forrester’s consecration:

1) Thew Forrester, in comments printed in Northern Michigan’s diocesan newsletter, specifically denies that human beings need salvation. But if he is to be consecrated, he will be required to sign a public declaration declaring his belief that the Bible contains “all things necessary to salvation.” The Presiding Bishop will pray that Thew Forrester’s consecration serve “the plan of salvation.” (Book of Common Prayer, “Ordination of a Bishop.”) Thew Forrester cannot possibly participate in the consecration rite of this church with any kind of integrity. A review of sermons, liturgies and other statements by Thew Forrester reveal a complete disregard for The Book of Common Prayer and its basic, unifying expressions of our Christian faith.

2) The most recent General Convention of the Episcopal Church (2006) passed Resolution B033, which calls for restraint in consecrating bishops "whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church." Our South Dakota convention deputies reported that this resolution was a triumph of the middle way in the church. The consecration of a self-professed Zen Buddhist will violate any reasonable definition of a middle way and present a direct challenge to the wider church.

3) In contrast to the open nomination process we used here in South Dakota, the Northern Michigan process was tightly managed by a small group, of which Thew Forrester was part. He emerged as the only nominee – there was no true election.

4) This questionable “process” is being justified as “Mutual Ministry”, which corrupts an important model that we use here in South Dakota (and which has been a big success here at Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls). While we completely respect and participate in Mutual Ministry, we see it as totally inappropriate for selecting a Bishop. By definition, bishops serve the wider church, not just one part of it. This is why you are called on for consent, which you should not grant in this bizarre case.

5) In his 2004 address to the Diocese of Northern Michigan, the late Bishop James Kelsey stated that Forrester had received “lay ordination” in Zen Buddhism. It is the policy of our current Presiding Bishop to declare that clergy who assume roles in religious bodies outside of the Episcopal Church have “abandoned the communion of the Church” and to discipline them. A serious disciplinary precedent exists in the Diocese of Rhode Island, where Bishop Geralyn Wolfe has inhibited Anne Holmes Redding for claiming to practice the Islamic religion while functioning as an Episcopal priest. In this time of turmoil in our church, the worst possible message will be sent by favoring one kind of “mixing and matching” while applying strict discipline to others.

We regret the sad recent history in our diocese, in which sincere letters from concerned church members are often ignored. We regret that our heated disagreements on some issues have caused a perceived break in the circle of the diocese, and we hope to repair that in coming days. But we hope and pray that in spite of our various wounds, you will take seriously the well being of the church and your leadership responsibility for it. What is being done in Northern Michigan is not good for the wider church. And a bishop is not just a “local matter” – s/he serves the wider Episcopal Church and even the Anglican Communion.

As we enter this holy season of Lent, all of us are challenged to hear “the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith” (Ash Wednesday liturgy). We plead with you to help the church repent of provocative actions and help us find unity in Jesus Christ. We are asking only for the basic unity provided in the Book of Common Prayer – what is going on in Northern Michigan violates both the letter and spirit of our common life in Christ.

Please deny consent for the consecration of Kevin Thew Forrester, an ordained Buddhist and unelected “candidate”, as Bishop of Northern Michigan.


The Reverend Timothy L. Fountain
Rector, Church of the Good Shepherd
Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Melissa Fountain
Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

Mark Barker
Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

Rose Barker
Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

Father Warren Shoberg, SSC
Diocese of South Dakota (retired)

Ronald Briggs, Sr., DDS
Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

Dorothy Briggs,
Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

Ron Briggs, Jr.
Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

Tammy Briggs
Parish Administrator
Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

Christopher Haberman
Vestry Member
Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

Brad Olson
Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

Amy Olson
Vestry Member
Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

James T. Simmons, PhD

Christ Church, Yankton

Wyatt Boutwell
University of South Dakota Law School

Holli Burke
Iowa Resident
Baptized Confirmed Communicant, Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

Barb Miller
Iowa Resident
Baptized Confirmed Communicant, Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

Dale Dobrovolny
Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

Ingrid Dobrovolny
President, American Anglican Council/South Dakota Chapter

Clergy be damned

I've had a few blog skirmishes of late, mainly because I say that clergy who misrepresent the Gospel and mislead the people are at risk of hell. This is not my idea, it is from the Lord himself.

The blogger known as Still on Patrol has a good critique of current clergy corruption. It echoes Jesus' warnings:

Why is it, though, that we continue to see more and more "priests" at all levels of the organization who more clearly fit the definition of "poseur"? I suspect they are much less "called" to the priesthood than they are looking for an easy way to make a living and gain respect and power. They wear the clerical collars and the black or magenta shirts, and conduct services, but are in no way shepherds to their flocks. When they write a "pastoral letter" they make that term an oxymoron. They believe they are so intelligent and well-educated that they "understand" the Scriptures far better than anyone has in the last 2000 years of Christianity, and in their arrogance treat those of us who still read our Bibles and believe Jesus is "the Way, the Truth and the Life" as if we are superstitious fools. And they will debate religious or canonical terminology on an academic level until the proverbial cows come home, but have no grasp of the spiritual meaning, intent, or overriding purpose of such language, rendering them easy to cast aside in the path of their "larger" strategeries.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

157 Republicans and 23 Democrats stand up against Federal funding for abortions

You can read the letter and see all the signatures.

Sioux Falls hospitals show some nobility in the current ecomonic mess

Sanford/University of South Dakota Medical center executives will forgo bonuses for a second straight year, while increasing pay to the employees. In an email to all staff from Hospital CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft:

First, we remain consistent with the letter I sent you at Christmas that said we would enter our budget preparations with an assumption that we would have a general "increase" to your wages for all staff employees. Second, we remain consistent that since Sanford Health appears to be meeting its goals, that we would anticipate paying out our employee bonus again this year to you. Third, we remain consistent with what I recommended to the Trustees, that we would not provide bonuses to management or executives for the second straight year (even though our goals were met.)

Meanwhile, Avera McKennan Hospital staff will take pay cuts in order to offset the rising cost of charity care. As a Catholic Hospital, Avera McKennan excuses many patient bills when there is financial hardship.

Management is setting the example:

Fred Slunecka, Avera McKennan regional president, and other top managers will take a 6 percent pay cut. Other managers will take a 5 percent cut. Other employees will see a 4.75 percent reduction. Employees also will lose five days of paid vacation.

It is refreshing to see this kind of sacrifice when the news continues to report on the excessive and luxurious spending of some business leaders and politicians. Please take a moment to give thanks for our two great medical systems here and to pray for their work.

Representative Herseth-Sandlin responds to concerns about the "Freedom of Choice" Act

By e-mail. This presents her alternatives to anti-abortion legislation. She includes financial incentives for adoption. She also states the desire to "make abortion more rare."

Dear Timothy:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the Freedom of Choice Act. I appreciate hearing from you.

This legislation was introduced in the last Congress as (H.R. 1964), the 109th Congress as (H.R. 5151), and the 108th Congress as (H.R. 3719). In those congresses, it was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, but not acted upon further.

I believe there is widespread support in South Dakota for working in a bipartisan manner to make abortion more rare by reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies, strengthening the adoption system, and making it easier for families to raise young children. On this sensitive issue, I believe we must work to find common ground, rather than pursuing highly political and divisive approaches. I am convinced that we have much more to gain by working together.

I have also worked in Congress to help write and introduce legislation to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and support women who are pregnant, as well as young families. I have found common ground with a group of other members of Congress who agree on this important priority. In past Congresses, we have joined together and sponsored the Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act, and plan to reintroduce it this Congress.

This legislation includes a number of common sense provisions for prevention and support. Among these are provisions expanding the Adoption Tax Credit from $10,000 to $15,000 and making it permanent. This legislation also includes provisions recognizing the vital role of parents in preventing teen pregnancy and establishing a national center to assist parents in this role. This center would provide parents with information to enhance their communication with their children, for example, by providing alerts regarding recent trends among adolescents.

Working together, I am convinced we can reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies; support women who are pregnant and young families; and support and enhance adoption. I will continue my efforts to bring people together to accomplish these goals.

Again, thank you for contacting me about this important issue. I look forward to hearing from you again.

Stephanie Herseth Sandlin

Member of Congress

My disagreements with her response are:
  1. The "Freedom of Choice Act" still needs to be refuted. It will not fulfill what President Obama wants, which is an "end to the culture wars." It is in and of itself "political and divisive" in the extreme. If DC steps in and wipes out State laws with a one-size-fits-all, subsidized abortion-on-demand act, it will only make the culture wars more intense and bitter. State laws better accommodate the breadth of opinion on divisive issues like abortion. Roe v. Wade ignited the culture war by intruding the Federal government (via its Judicial Branch) into what really belonged in State Legislatures and Initiatives.
  2. Even if one clings to the idea that abortion is a "right", there is still a problem with subsidizing it with tax money. If you want the rest of us "out of your bedroom" and to "keep our hands off your body," then don't come asking for us to pay for your "birth control" abortion.
  3. It goes without saying that any of us who believe that abortion kills a human being will not be satisfied by bloodless appeals to bipartisanship and policy tweaks. Whether the laws are restrictive or permissive, the moral issue will still be out there. But if some of the policy ideas that Rep. Herseth-Sandlin puts forward do, in fact, make abortions more rare, that will be very good and welcome news.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

He's a Baptist. He's not watching a liturgical calendar. But darned if this isn't the Ash Wednesday sermon we need...

h/t AAC/SDK member Peter Hassenstein, who sent me the link via VirtueOnLine. You think Rick Warren's got a hidden Ordo Calendar or something?

America is in deep trouble right now. If God is going to judge America, he’ll start with us. He’ll start with his people. National healing will also start with us. America will not be healed because we passed a certain law. Healing won’t happen because we elect the right people to government positions. Healing won’t happen when those who don’t know God behave better. God will heal out land when his people – the church – confess, pray, seek him, and repent.

National healing will start with our churches, or it won’t happen.

Will it start with your church?

Will it start with you?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Message in the Masthead

The plant is datura. The harsh, stressed look conveys the back end of winter here and also the austerity of Lent, which begins this week.

There's a Lenten message in this plant. From the Wikipedia link:

Datura intoxication typically produces ... a complete inability to differentiate reality from fantasy (frank delirium, as contrasted to hallucination)... bizarre, and possibly violent behavior... painful photophobia that can last several days. Pronounced amnesia is another commonly reported effect.

Aren't these symptoms with which we struggle during Lent?
  • + We try to step out of the deceptions of the world, the flesh and the devil - all the "fantasy and delirium" in which we wander each day. We turn to walk the narrow, difficult but life-giving way of Christ.
  • + We try to mitigate our own eccentric and hurtful ways and express more love for others. The Book of Common Prayer 1928 offered I Corinthians 13, the Bible's great treatise on love, on the last Sunday before Lent.
  • + We try to come out of spiritual darkness ("photophobia" literally means "fear of light") and come into the truth of Christ. Yesterday's Gospel (Revised Common Lectionary), from Mark 9, presented Christ in dazzling light, and this morning's readings included the awesome prologue of John's Gospel, announcing Jesus as "the light that gives live."
  • + We try to recover from our spiritual amnesia and live in greater awareness of our identity as God's own people. Another of this morning's lessons, from Deuteronomy 6, warns us to "be careful not to forget the LORD."

The effects of datura ingestion, now recognized as maladies, were once valued as "visions" in pagan religious use. May a holy Lent purge us of such lies that deceive and sicken our souls. Just as withered weeds are crushed without a thought, so "may the God of peace soon crush Satan under your feet" and "The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you" (Romans 16:20).

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Lakota Priest launches CANA ministry on Pine Ridge Reservation

David Virtue posted Mary Garrigan's coverage from the Rapid City Journal.

When the Rev. Charles Montileaux showed up at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Kyle on Feb. 8 to conduct Holy Eucharist services, he found the electricity turned off and the altar stripped of its communion chalice, candlesticks and gold cross...

...Montileaux is a former Episcopal priest ordained by the South Dakota diocese in 1986 who recently transferred his clerical affiliation to the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a conservative group that belongs to the worldwide Anglican Communion....

...Montileaux contends that St. Barnabas is a "viable congregation" that is being persecuted by a diocese that "absolutely refuses to talk to us." He vowed to continue church services, even if the congregation has to wait for warmer weather and hold services outside under a shade arbor of pine branches.

"If needs be, we'll use a regular coffee cup for a chalice. We will continue the ministry somewhere, somehow," he said.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Light against our darkness, especially in the church

Sermon for Last Epiphany
Fr. Tim Fountain

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
(John 1:5)

Christ, who came into the world at Christmas, is the light of the world.
The way – only he opens the way to heaven and only he is a reliable guide to the presence of God, he is the light on our path.
The truth – “Jesus is the only perfect image of the Father, and shows us the nature of God.” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 849)
The life – we are baptized into Christ and we share his body and blood, “that we may dwell in him, and he in us.”

Various shadows attempt to overcome the light.
The world – personalities and earthly powers cast shadows in an effort to hide the personality and power of Christ.
The flesh – our own self-centered nature is a great shadow. We can obsess on our own pleasures or our own pains. We “can’t see past our own nose” when we walk in our own murky thoughts and urges and ignore the light of Christ.
The devil – the “Father of Lies” manipulates and convinces us that dark is light and light is dark. (II Corinthians 11:14).

This Sunday, we are given a last glimpse of “Epiphany” light – the “Aha!” of seeing Christ – to help us against the shadows.

Collect of the Day: “Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross…”
Mark 9:2-9, “The Transfiguration.” Jesus shows his glory to three apostles, just before they follow him to Jerusalem where he will suffer and die. This Gospel lesson comes up at the end of Epiphany, in order to strengthen us to do battle with the shadows during Lent.
(Beginning this Wednesday, we enter a season where we are asked to identify the shadows of the world, the flesh and the devil in our lives, and to seek the light of Christ to disperse them.)

II Corinthians 4:3-6 reminds us of the struggle to keep the light shining in the church. (Background: Paul and his missionaries are being undermined by a self-serving group of leaders, mocked by Paul as the “super apostles.”)

The devil seeks to cast shadows over the church. He is able to blind some people to the light of Christ – these people will fall for the sweet words and tricky arguments of the “super apostles” rather than hear the truth of the Gospel. “Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” This is why I do the boring and unpleasant work of warning you about false teaching by Episcopal Church leaders – unpleasant because no matter how much info is out there, many church people will prefer the darkness to the light. But this work is necessary –

The flesh seeks to cast shadows over the church, by exalting personalities at the expense of the Lord. Paul is clear that the preacher is not the light: “For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord…” This is why I am more likely to preach about my flaws and failures, so that you can see Christ in the positive things that are happening here rather than any illusion about me. As I preached last week, the church exists first and foremost to bring glory to God, and we receive our blessings when we do that.

The world seeks to cast shadows over the church, by creating “important” agendas that push Biblical Gospel aside. Paul says that ordained leaders are “your slaves for Jesus’ sake.” Slaves in the ancient world usually had a particular job, assigned by their owner for the good of his family or property. So Paul is saying that preaching the Gospel is his duty, assigned by the master (Christ) for the good of the master’s household (the church). Too often, the “slavery” of the preacher is misinterpreted to mean that the congregation, not Christ, is the master – so the preacher is rewarded for doing this and that to please the people rather than giving them the truth for the sake of Jesus Christ. II Timothy 4:3-4.

But Paul leaves us with good news: The light is with us. As we enter the shadows in Lent, we go equipped with the Word of God and the Sacraments of Christ. “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” May the light disperse your shadows. Amen.

But what about...?

From this morning's lessons:

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. I Timothy 6:6-8

My first reaction, every time I run into this verse, is "But what about...?"

What about my family's health needs?

What about my older kid's college?

What about the aging appliances?

What about what about what about what about...

Last night, I told a struggling parishioner to "keep the picture small, give thanks for daily bread, because the big picture is too scary." This morning's reading reminds me how much I need the same advice.

Friday, February 20, 2009

GOOD unexpected parishioner drop-ins

There are drop-ins and there are drop-ins. Some make you want to go home and pull the covers over your head, but others fill the work with joy. Had two of the latter this morning...

  • + When I got in, one of our home Bible study group leaders was already here. He'd brewed coffee and wanted to share how much he and others were getting out of Bible study, how it was "the best thing this church has done," and how much he hoped that I was planning to encourage a new round of study after the current one wraps up. He talked about how he and others were now reading the Bible on a regular basis, apart from the lessons assigned for their groups, and how much they appreciated the relationships that were being built up through the groups. He shared his excitement about really getting to know what Jesus said, and about applying it to life in the church and world.

  • + Right after this, an "8 o'clock" woman dropped in to review her funeral plans. She was decisive about it being a worship service, and she wanted her file to have clear notes ruling out eulogies, rote reading of an obituary, photo displays in the church or any other cultural trappings - "they can do all that the night before if they want," she said. She wanted hymns that expressed the joy of her resurrection hope - "For All the Saints" was at the top of her list.

Some days, you think you are wasting your breath. Other days, God sends wonderful people to remind you that "his word will not return empty" (Isaiah 55:11).

Thank you, Father, for these gifts today.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Northern Plains Relativism

by email, from our kinda Nebraska friend, "Bambi",


65 above zero:

Floridians turn on the heat.
People in Nebraska plant gardens.

60 above zero:
Californians shiver uncontrollably.
People in Nebraska sunbathe.

50 above zero:
Italian & English cars won't start.
People in Nebraska drive with the windows down.

40 above zero:
Georgians don coats, thermal underwear, gloves, wool hats.
People in Nebraska throw on a flannel shirt.

35 above zero:
New York landlords finally turn up the heat.
People in Nebraska have the last cookout before it gets cold.

20 above Zero
People in Miami all die.
Nebraskans close the windows.

Californians fly away to Mexico .
People in Nebraska get out their winter coats.

10 below zero:
Hollywood disintegrates.
The Girl Scouts in Nebraska are selling cookies door to door.

20 below zero:
Washington DC runs out of hot air.

People in Nebraska let the dogs sleep indoors.

30 below zero:
Santa Claus abandons the North Pole.
Nebraskans get upset because they can't start the Snow-mobile.

40 below zero:
ALL atomic motion stops.
People in Nebraska start saying...'Cold enough fer ya?'

50 below zero:
Hell freezes over.
Nebraskans public schools will open 2 hours late

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

North Dakota Legislature takes Pro-Life stand

North Dakota passes House Bill 1445, which says that life begins at conception and that abortion kills a human being.

Reversal of Fortune

Last night, I donned the red windbreaker and parked cars for major donors to the new Sanford Children's Hospital here in Sioux Falls.

It got cold as the night went on. From our spot on the sidewalk, we could look in and see folks having wine and hors' d'oeuvres.

I had a strange feeling that I couldn't quite identify (other than frosty ears and wanting a glass of red). The light went on and I realized that I used to be the one standing inside, even the featured speaker at such events.

At my last church, we held a multimillion dollar campaign to build a sanctuary and other buildings. Luxurious gatherings in toney places were part of my job description.

In SoCal, my wife and I were well compensated and maintained a subscription to the Mark Taper Forum in L.A., even attending cast parties and forums with playwrights.

So last night it was odd to be outside looking in, one of the hired help instead of a host or honored donor.

This season of my life continues to be marked by amazing and challenging reversals like that. I realize how far I am from what I am called to be:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Philippians 2:5-8

I'm a very strange man sometimes.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

And now for some housekeeping

Instead of the confusing and inefficient upkeep of two "Northern Plains Anglicans" sites, our AAC/SDK chapter will post news and comments here on the blog.

Note our new email in the masthead.

Also, we've enabled a feature at the bottom of each post, making it easier for you to share posts with your friends.

Thanks for your visits to Northern Plains Anglicans!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Diocese cuts off Pine Ridge chapels' utilities - is the "Minnesota Model" in play?

I have received several reports that the Diocese of South Dakota has cut off power to several of the disputed Pine Ridge Mission Chapels, and is asserting its claims on the property to prevent the utility companies from accepting payment from any other parties.

In addition, the Diocesan directory page has already removed the disputed churches. Tribal Courts on the Pine Ridge had issued an injunction, temporarily preventing the diocese from "disposing of" the churches as the Bishop had announced.

While I am working to get more detail, I am starting to get the impression that South Dakota will follow the model employed by the dictatorial Bishop of Minnesota, who is closing churches (or at least not providing clergy support) in many communities while bulking up his cathedral. I detailed some of this in analysis last October.

A look at the Diocese of South Dakota Staff Directory shows that positions have been created, even as diocesan Sunday attendance and membership decline and income is flatlined at about the year 2000 level.

South Dakota, which receives about 1/2 its operating budget via a grant from the Episcopal Church's General Convention, is also about to elect a bishop who will, for at least some period of time, serve alongside the current bishop. Questions remain as to how the two positions will be funded.

Another nagging question, given the efforts to shut down the Pine Ridge chapels, is how national church money for Reservation ministry is actually spent.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Left to the deer, antelope (and kangaroos): South Dakota and rural Australia have some similarities

An article from Australia * could describe South Dakota, or at least parts of the Rushmore State:

Once a sawmilling town that was a gateway to forests of mountain ash and waterfalls, it has also come to embrace tourist lurks, such as arts and crafts.

Still, it sags in the wider rural malaise. No jobs for young people. The footy and tennis clubs are gone. The local CFA (volunteer fire department) boasts a tanker, a pumper and about a dozen volunteers.

Reports this weekend show South Dakota with net population growth so far this decade, but this is skewed heavily by the growth of Sioux Falls. Without the influx of folks to Minnehaha and Lincoln Counties (Sioux Falls includes parts of both), SD would have experienced
a net loss of almost 15,000 residents between 2000 and 2007.

As in the Australian example, South Dakota population declines are most pronounced in rural communities. The key factor is what the University of South Dakota calls "out migration," much of which is fueled by younger people leaving to seek jobs. This points up a conundrum: South Dakota scores high for
"economic freedom", but its rural areas suffer from a lack of economic opportunity.

*h/t Anglicans Ablaze

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Did you preach on healing prayer?

Yes, I did. Our monthly healing prayer teams were on, and it just so happened that the Sunday lessons were heavy with healing. Here's my outline:

VI Epiphany
Fr. Tim Fountain
Healing Prayer Sunday

Does God intervene to heal human sickness?
A. Yes. This is the witness of the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, and the testimony of Christians all through church history, including our own time.
Psalm 30:2, "O LORD my God, I cried out to you, and you restored me to health."

B. In our own Anglican tradition, the first Book of Common Prayer (1549) included THE ORDER FOR THE VISITACION OF THE SICKE. There are prayers for healing in our 1979 Prayer Book and other books used in Episcopal churches today, such as Ministry With the Sick and The Book of Occasional Services.

Why does God heal?
A. First, God heals to display his own glory.
1. As in the healing of Naaman the Syrian (II Kings 5:1-14). If we read on into verse 15, we see the impact of the healing. Naaman says, "Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel" and, in verse 17, "…your servant will no longer offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god except the Lord." (LORD reflects the Hebrew way of expressing God’s unique name.)
2. As in the healing of the Galilean leper in Mark 1:40-45. Jesus tells the man to show his healing "as a testimony" to God’s work. The man’s witness causes people to come to Jesus in great numbers, as they recognize "the glory of God in the face of Christ" (II Corinthians 4:6).
3. We see how healing moves the Psalmist to glorify God (30:13), "Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing, O LORD my God, I will give you thanks for ever."
4. Often in the Bible, God explains that He is acting "For my (God’s) Name’s sake." Healings are one of various supernatural ways that God calls the whole creation back to its Creator and Master. This is not a comfortable way for us to think – it’s about God’s glory, not our agenda! We miss the point of the miracles if we ignore this.

B. Second, God heals because of who He is.
1. This is expressed clearly and beautifully in Mark: "Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand…" Healings show not only God’s presence and power, but reveal His personality. It is God’s nature to care about us and respond to our prayers.

Why does the church offer healing prayer?
A. Mainly because we seek God’s glorious and loving presence. Healing prayer is an opportunity to bring people to God and to let God’s kingdom break into their lives.

B. We pray because we need God – the church has no "magical" power to control who gets healed or when healing occurs.

C. We pray because we don’t have easy answers for why some are healed immediately, some later and some not at all – these answers are all in the mind and heart of God, and we go there by prayer.

D. We pray because the Bible itself tells us that there are times when we will not understand God’s ways. The Psalmist says (30:8-9), "Then you hid your face, and I was filled with fear. I cried out to you, O LORD… "

E. Our son, Joey, had another seizure this week. Tim, Jr. has undiagnosed shoulder pain and Melissa has chronic issues. We don’t understand why these problems persist. But we pray because God is both Lord of our lives and lover of our souls.

Let me end with some encouragement from Naaman the Syrian…
A. He did not "deserve" a miracle
1. He was an enemy of God’s people
2. He had a big ego
3. He wanted healing on his own terms, not God’s

B. But he was open to God’s possibilities
1. He listened to what the Israelite girl had to say
2. He listened to his servants’ advice

C. He had just enough humility to try things God’s way (as a combat officer, he probably had a realistic and practical personality, able to say, "This strategy is not working - I need to try something else.")

D. Naaman shows us that we don’t have to "earn" a miracle – but we might find one if we are humbly open to some possibilities:
1. The possibility that God’s glory is in this place, this morning;
2. The possibility that He knows our needs and is waiting for us to seek His help;
3. The possibility that the Creator and Master of the Universe cares about each little creature, each human being – each of us – personally.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

A blog on a roll

Julian Mann, aka Cranmer's Curate, continues to post some short, penetrating reflections on the cost of following Christ today.

This latest considers what an honest Christian recruiting ad might contain. Go check it out!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Thinking back on "The Handmaid's Tale" - it remains just a tale

I read Margaret Atwood's novel, The Handmaid's Tale, back in the 80s. (There was a truly crappy movie version - even with big talents like Faye Dunaway and Robert DuVall, it went to a quick and well deserved oblivion).

The novel's strength is Atwood's skill as a writer. She really nails the eccentricities of the fundamentalist/televangelist extremes of American Christianity. In the book's "Republic of Gilead", the authorized butcher shop is called All Flesh, and the leaders give everything a Biblical title, no matter how far the stretch to make the name fit.

The central fact of Handmaid life is a literal reading and grotesque application of Genesis 30:3, - all too evocative if you've ever had a fundy come at you with an out-of-context, misapplied Bible verse.

Atwood also paints some powerful scenes. In a horrific irony, an abortionist and a Catholic priest are hanged together as violators of the fundamentalist order.

The book's weakness is that it is a work of secular paranoia. It carries water for the folks who really believe that a bunch of fundamentalist Christians are about to take over the wonderfully tolerant Euro-American world and start the new Dark Ages. Just google some of Michelle Goldberg's stuff in the British press for some truly crazy examples - she writes in a stream of stereotypes and slogans, unable to find evidence to support her bizarre attacks on Christianity.

In the real world, Christians are infinitely more likely to suffer persecution than to inflict it. Visit Voice of the Martyrs or barnabasaid and you will find concrete examples from all around the world. And you need not limit your research to Christian sources. No less than the Times of London documented the widespread persecution of Christians going on right now.

Persecution of Christians is no longer limited to Communist or Islamic lands. There is an excellent blog post up this week at Cranmer's Curate*, in which Julian Mann writes,

Christians are falling foul of the growing dogmatic commitment to equality and diversity in the secular West. Christian prayer and evangelism in the workplace are now seen as serious sins against the new morality...

Of course, the post-modern establishment in the West is singling out Christians. And no, they will not treat Muslims or Hindus** or tree-huggers in the same way.

In the western world, Christians are the primary threat to their secular hegemony.

Recent examples include a British nurse who barely kept her job after offering to pray with a patient. In Scotland, grandparents (the husband in his mid-50s and his wife in her 40s) were caring for the child of their drug-addicted daughter - and social workers deemed them "too old" in order to hand the child over to a homosexual couple.

All of this is foretold in one of this Morning's readings:

Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. II Timothy 3:12-13

The Handmaid's Tale remains a work of stylish fiction. The truth of God's Word continues to be validated, even by those who despise it.

*h/t Anglican Mainstream
** really ironic, since the places where women live under conditions closest to The Handmaid's Tale are primarily Muslim or Hindu!

South Dakota legislators rebuff both pro-life, pro-LGBT advocates

The SD Senate, by a subcommittee action, stalled Senate Bill 92, which would have required doctors to meet with women seeking abortions one day prior to taking the life. This would have made abortions more difficult to obtain, since the doctors who provide them here come in from out of state (mainly Minnesota).

The full Senate voted down SB 156, which would have added "sexual orientation and gender identification" as protected classes under existing "hate crime" law.

The full array of bills before the legislature and other information are available here.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Is Christ the only way of salvation, and should He be shared with non-Christians?

In a pleasant surprise, the General Synod of the Church of England said "YES!" via a resolution this week (italic highlights mine):

That this Synod warmly welcome Dr Martin Davie’s background paper ‘The witness of Scripture, the Fathers and the historic formularies to the uniqueness of Christ' and request the House of Bishops to report to the Synod on their understanding of the uniqueness of Christ in Britain’s multi-faith society, and offer examples and commendations of good practice in sharing the gospel of salvation through Christ alone with people of other faiths and of none.

Leave this blog and go read something intelligent...

  1. The Reverend Doctor Leander Harding doesn't blog often, because he actually thinks before he types. He has a great reflection posted about the recent meeting of Anglican leaders and some suggestions about ways forward.
  2. Charles Krauthammer has this short, sharp analysis of the "stimulus" plan and how it dashes our hopes in the new administration. It is not a partisan piece - he shows how individuals, businesses and special interest groups of all persuasions come gruntin' when we all let government become a feeding trough. (h/t Sarah Hey.)
  3. And speaking of Sarah Hey, she has this provocative perspective on surviving the madness of the Episcopal Church.

How can Northern Michigan's "Buddhist Bishop" sign the required "Declaration" - and will anybody object to this travesty?

This is what Northern Michigan's lone candidate for Bishop has to say about salvation:

My soul-work has led me to see that the way of Jesus is the way of truth and life. Anointed by the Spirit, Jesus reveals to humanity that the way of God is the path of boundless compassion and of utter regard for all God’s creatures. I remember my astonishment upon first understanding that Jesus realized he was beloved by God at his baptism, and he had not even done anything yet. He had not achieved, changed, perfected, anything. He was loved by God simply because he was God’s child. We are beloved of God as we are, and nothing can ever change this. This is the simple truth so hard for each of us to know in our heart of hearts - at least it has been for me. Our hearts ache to know this love for ourselves. Awareness of belovedness, is, as I see it, the very life blood of the way of Jesus. For me it is sacred salve to the soul – salvific. It is the way of salvation – offering us healing from the fears, anxieties, and greeds of our own blinding egos.

I see now a Jesus who does not raise the bar to salvation, but lowers it so far that it disappears. (From right here, scroll down to page C).

Now, if he is elected (which should be a done deal since he took part in the nominating process and is the only candidate), the Book of Common Prayer will require the following of him (p. 513)

Check Spelling
...the Presiding Bishop requires the following promise from the Bishop‑elect

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, I, Kevin Thew Forrester, chosen Bishop of the Church in Northern Michigan, solemnly declare that I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church.

The Bishop‑elect then signs the above Declaration in the sight of all present.

How can he affirm a Bible that teaches "things necessary to salvation," when he has replaced it with his own "soul work" and the conclusion that nothing is necessary?

After he crosses his fingers and does whatever a Buddhian/Christist must do to get through public misrepresentation, the following is supposed to take place:

Brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, you have heard testimony given that Kevin Thew Forrester has been duly and lawfully elected to be a bishop of the Church of God to serve in the Diocese of Northern Michigan. You have been assured of his suitability and that the Church has approved him for this sacred responsibility. Nevertheless, if any of you know any reason why we should not proceed, let it now be made known.

Will anybody stand up and make an objection to this travesty? More importantly, is there any Christian brother or sister close enough to Kevin Thew Forrester to act on the word from today's Morning readings?

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, and that they may escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (II Timothy 2:24-26)

Link to pdf. of the Johnson/Schuler letter to Speaker Pelosi

You can read it here. The Representatives seek to protect "riders" that prohibit the use of federal funds for promoting or performing abortions.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Stand up for LIFE, for States' Rights, and for "De-Porking" Federal Expenditures

While there is at least some public awareness of the ghastly (in name and effect) "Freedom of Choice Act" (FOCA), which would wipe out all state laws on abortion and impose abortion-on-demand as the law of the land, there is less attention to the way in which FOCA might be foisted on us bit by bit through various funding provisions in the "Stimulus Bill" and other legislation.

Representatives Jim Jordan (R - OH) and Heath Schuler (D - NC) have composed a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, urging her "to keep the current pro-life laws in place or allow for amendments to restore them when a bill is debated."

You can support this letter by writing to your Federal Representative. Americans United for Life provides a contact link here, which will automatically identify your Representative by zip code and send your message of support for the Jordan/Schuler letter.

An Open Letter to Governor Rounds - Please Fund South Dakota's "Birth to Three" Program

February 11, 2009

Dear Governor Rounds,

We are writing to ask that you maintain funding for South Dakota's "Birth to Three" program. Although this is not a program that directly benefits our family, we are well aware of its value.

We have an autisitc son, age 14. Although he did not grow up in South Dakota or use "Birth to Three" here, we can say with confidence that such programs are of value to citizens and the State.

Autism diagnoses are on the rise, and early detection and responses are best for the children, their families and for local schools which will be their primary points of service until adulthood. The first three years of life are critical to the diagnosis of autism and to planning effective strategies for these children.

Although these are difficult days for the State budget, we hope you will give weight to the short and long term values of "Birth to Three."

This comes with our prayers and thanks for your public service.

The Rev. Timothy & Melissa Fountain
Sioux Falls

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

So many of you know this - share it with those who don't and read it well if you're grappling with denial

The American Anglican Council has a detailed report (pdf) of Episcopal Church corruption and the negative impact this has on Christians here and around the world.

Archbishop Peter Akinola (Nigeria) sent this (as well as a similar report on the Anglican Church of Canada) along with this open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury:

Date: February 10, 2009

Monday, February 9th, 2009
The Archbishop of Canterbury Lambeth Palace, London

Dear Rowan:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I am writing in regard to the recently concluded Primates Meeting in Alexandria, Egypt. Thank you for all of your contributions. I admire how you bear graciously the divergent views and enormous pain they impose. As I indicated at the time I was grateful that we were able to discuss core theological convictions and achieve considerable clarity about our differences. That we were able to do so in an atmosphere of respect and without rancour is not only an answered prayer but it is also a testimony and credit to your role in this outcome and something for which I am most appreciative.

In preparation for the meeting I asked The American Anglican Council to prepare the
attached report on the continuing situation of The Episcopal Church to enable people in the wider Communion to have a fuller perspective of the circumstances in North America. I shared it with my colleagues in the Global South but did not release it more widely in the hope that we would receive assurances from the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada that they were willing to exercise genuine restraint towards those Anglicans in North America unwilling to embrace their several innovations.

Sadly that did not prove to be the case. Instead we were treated to presentations that sought to trivialize the situation and the consequences for those whose only offence is their determination to hold on doggedly and truthfully to the faith once delivered to the saints. In addition I have learned that even as we met together in Alexandria actions were taken that were in direct contradiction to the season of deeper communion and gracious restraint to which we all expressed agreement. For example, in the days leading up to our meeting, the Diocese of Virginia declared the “inherent integrity and blessedness” of same sex unions and initiated a process to provide for their “blessing”. While we were meeting, The Diocese of Toronto also announced that it will start same sex blessings within a year and The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia filed further costly legal action appealing the court's decision in twenty cases favouring nine Virginia congregations. These and many further actions are documented within the report.

In our meeting we recommended that you initiate a “professionally mediated conversation which engages all parties at the earliest opportunity.” It now seems increasingly clear that without a radical change of behaviour on the part of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada the only possible outcome of such a process is acknowledgement of a bitter truth that the differences in the words of Archbishop Idris Jones are “irreconcilable”. I know that you are grieved by the continuing brokenness of our Communion but I believe that healing will only come when we face into the true reality of our situation. That is what I am endeavouring to do by releasing this report and a
similar document describing the situation in Canada. I assure you of my prayers and determination that we do nothing that will compromise the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus the Christ that is our only hope.

In Christ,
+ Peter Abuja

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Drowning people are dangerous

You wouldn't know it to look at me now, but I was once lifeguard certified. This was a staff requirement at an Episcopal camp I served.

In the training, we were taught to approach a struggling swimmer with caution, because a panicked person can indeed throw a death grip on a would-be rescuer. We also learned push-offs and escapes. If people can't be calmed enough to participate in their own rescue, you have to save yourself and let them sink.

This came to mind after chatting with a neighbor today. This person does work for a Catholic health care organization, and shared sad news about the religious order that runs the operation.

The nuns have been taking the managers on "retreats" with two themes:

  1. We (the nuns) are aging and dying and there are no replacements coming - the system will be in the hands of you lay managers.

  2. Everything you've been told about the Catholic faith is wrong.

The nuns are putting the managers through a short course in revisionism - a melange of uncritically accepted "higher criticism", Spongian slogans and "Da Vinci Code"/new agey claims of hidden knowledge.

Like the Protestant Mainline, revisionist Catholic religious orders are sinking. And like the mainliners, they are in a panic, flailing about to pull others down with them as they drown.

One of my best Senior Wardens was a guy with military, government, business and academic credentials. Along with a wealth of experience, he brought a critical view of our fellow baby boomers who held most leadership positions. "Problems are not going to improve until this whole generation lays down and dies," was his matter-of-fact summary.

When it comes to the baby boom leaders of revisionist religion, the sad fact is that they will take a good number of well intentioned folks down with them.

When in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout

'Twas the Cold War when I served in the U.S. Army, but many of our NCO's were combat veterans. The title of this thread is something I picked up from them. They used it to give us some sense of what it is like to be under fire for the first time.

It also describes the Anglican blogosphere right now. Heck, maybe it describes the whole Anglican Communion right now.

The thing that strikes me is that we have North American bloggers questioning the fortitude and leadership abilities of "Global South" Bishops. These Bishops are men who have millions of people in their care, and are planting churches that bring millions more to Christ. These are leaders who inspire people to commit to Christ in the face of poverty, militant Islam, hostile governments, AIDS and other problems that most of us couldn't handle for five minutes. And, let's face it, the impact of most of our little blogs doesn't equal ten seconds of what these Primates do for the cause of Christ every day.

I am as frustrated as the next guy. I have railed against and in some cases exposed the un-Christian antics of Episcopal Church leaders. The clunky, expensive and ineffectual response of the Anglican Communion is obvious. Yes, I would love to see apostates shut down in some way. But one of the captivating things about the Anglican Communion is that it models the non-coercive, vulnerable and painful way of Christ. Christ never forced anyone to follow him. He "rebuked" (probably a mild word for what he said) his disciples for asking if they could call down fire on unfriendly villages - yet kept those same disciples with him as they kept screwing up and misunderstanding him. He called on God to forgive those who killed him - and the church, in the person of St. Stephen and martyrs down to the present day, follows his example. (I can't help but note that The Episcopal Church, in the person of its Presiding Bishop and her inner circle, has adopted a coercive, punitive, un-Christlike leadership style to crown its manifestly un-Christian teaching.)

Things are a mess right now. There is manifest danger to souls and doubt about how to proceed. Isn't that true in every moment of every day, in every age of history? It is most certainly a fact of life where Biblically faithful Anglican Primates are serving and bearing amazing fruit.

But there is a helpful word for us in the daily confession of traditional liturgies:

"...Spare thou those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore thou those who are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind In Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen."

This says we must seek to be right (godly and righteous), but to be "right in the right way" (sober).* Despair will undo our godly living. So will cynicism. So will rage (although there is a place for righteous anger, it must not become a pot waiting to explode). Any excessive emotion or mood puts us in just as much spiritual danger as, well, a sermon full of Episcopalian falsehood. As St. Peter warns,

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." (I.5:8) If we live by "When in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout, " we make enough noise to invite the lion and are so distracted that we become an easy lunch when he arrives.

Phil Ashey of the American Anglican Council looks to the example of Daniel. Daniel and his companions were a "sober" bunch, stuck in a manifestly bad situation yet resisting it effectively with steady, composed choices:

"- by drawing a firm line in conformity with God’s word and not eating at the King’s table (Daniel 1:8),
- by learning as much as they could about Babylonian culture (Daniel1:3-4, 17),
- by being more excellent (“ten times better”) than anyone else in the kingdom (Daniel 1:18-20);
- by being consistent throughout many changes of leadership (Daniel1:21);
- by addressing hostile authorities directly, and with wisdom and tact (Daniel 2:14-16);
- by avoiding isolation, taking counsel and praying together (Daniel2:17-18);
- by asking God for discernment (Daniel 2:19);
- by resisting peer pressure, malicious accusations, the temptation to compromise, an unpredictable king, and even a delaying God (Daniel 3:1-18)"

Good counsel from a godly, sober Priest, who seeks his guidance from Holy Scripture instead of his emotions. Good counsel for those of us in the toxic swamp of The Episcopal Church, those who are in the bobbing life boats of ACNA, and for those who have, at least for now, walked away from Anglican church participation but continue to observe it from places of perceived safety.

* Don't separate orthodoxy and orthopraxis.

Amercian Anglican Council Commentary on the Most Recent Primates' Communique

Read Phil Ashey's analysis. He gives an accurate accounting of what's postive and what's inadequate in the Communique.

"Finally, we are grateful that in the Primates’ diagnosis of the sickness that threatens the soul of the Communion, they have called for a professionally mediated, face-to-face meeting of all the significant parties to the crisis in North America. For the first time they are including in Communion processes those orthodox and Biblically faithful Anglicans who have been sickened by the false gospel of TEC, and have fled to or sought refuge in other Provinces of the Communion.

Despite the accurate diagnosis for which we are thankful, the solutions set forth in the Communiqué fail to address the very “ecclesial deficit” the Primates described..."

Friday, February 6, 2009

Reality Check: how Western self-indulgence wastes Christian effort

The Communique from the Anglican Primates' Meeting is wordy (typical of British influence).

But here are some of the serious issues they faced:

We were moved while we listened to some of our members speaking first hand of the situation in Zimbabwe*, of the oppressive partisanship of the former Bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, and of the violence and persecution exercised against the Anglicans of Zimbabwe... We also heard from the Primate of the Sudan about the violence experienced by the people of Sudan and urgent needs of that nation... The Primate of Jerusalem and the Middle East also drew our attention to the ongoing crisis in Gaza.

This is not parlor discussion or abstract debate. Anglican leaders and their people live face to face with these situations and others every day.

Meanwhile, the Communion is sidetracked by the self indulgence of a few affluent, narcissistic baby boomers in the Euro-American provinces. The left is always quick to say, "Americans are a very few people using up a disproportionate share of world resources." The struggles of the Anglican Communion would tend to support that argument.

*The situation in Zimbabwe is so bad that even Anglican Archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Desmond Tutu has suggested military force to relieve it.

The Anglican Primates Meeting Wraps Up (Video)... Thanks for Your Prayers

Last month, I posted a call for invocation of the Holy Spirit for the meeting of Anglican leaders in Alexandria, Egypt. I also took part in the prayer campaign led by the folks at Lent & Beyond.

In all honesty, there are an array of reactions to the meeting. Some are calling it a waste of time and manipulative delay. Others see hopeful possibilities, even while acknowledging uncertainties and dangers.

Anglican TV got a post-meeting interview with two important leaders among the Biblically faithful Anglicans, Henry Luke Orombi of Uganda and Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone (Argentina). I found it heartening to hear them say that they sensed the Holy Spirit coming upon the meeting, "in response to prayer." The interview video is below (about 45 mins. long and worth hearing if you can make the time - btw ignore the title, which is incorrect.).

Right now, my human eyes of flesh see the problems. But my eyes of faith see the fact that "God works all things together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)." The Holy Spirit was there in Alexandria, in ways that we are not able to see or understand. Keep up your prayers..."keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry(II Timothy 4:5)".

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A Parish Prayer Request

Our annual Vestry planning retreat is tomorrow, Saturday February 7th.

Last year, the Vestry studied and prayed over Colossians 1:15-20,

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

Since then, we've been considering the vision we drew from this lesson,

"Helping one another put Jesus first."

Tomorrow's retreat will turn toward putting flesh and bones on the words - really looking to goals that are steps toward realizing this vision together.

Your prayers will be a blessing.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

President Speaks to National Prayer Breakfast - Implies that the Unborn aren't Human

WASHINGTON (AP) — Obama, in prepared remarks, said, "There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being."

Does he mean that we are not human in the womb? His policies and appointments certainly suggest that, or else this administration follows a god who does condone taking innocent life.

Credit Card (and other) Interest - None dare call it all Sin

One of my cards has a high balance due to some big family medical bills. I have paid on time and, as our situation has been improving, have been paying more than the minimum each month.

Well, the interest rate just jumped into outer space, almost doubling the expected monthly minimum.

I'm sure I'm not alone in this experience. And I've commented before on God's view of excessive interest - usury.

While the Bible certainly encourages financial prudence and avoidance of debt (here's a Proverb or two), God places heavier responsibility on those who lend. The Law of Moses contained elaborate teachings on debt forgiveness, and the Prophets had harsh things to say about usury.

Ezekiel, for example, celebrates the "righteous and just" man who

...does not lend at usury
or take excessive interest. (18:8)
The Prophet contrasts this man with a "son of violence" (18:10, Hebrew bayn-paritz, frequently translated "violent son") who
...oppresses the poor and needy.
He commits robbery.
He does not return what he took in pledge.
He looks to the idols.
He does detestable things.
He lends at usury and takes excessive interest.
Yeah, I know. I made my bed, gotta lay in it. Invisible hand, American way and all that.
But when it comes to usury, "conservative" Americans need to take an honest look and ask if we are every bit as "un-Biblical" in our ways as the "liberals" we love to lambast. Jesus doesn't have much use for hypocrites.