Monday, May 31, 2010

Catholicanarchy: "Memorial Day and the religious syncretism of the state"

Memorial Day and the religious syncretism of the state |™

Tweet @frjonathan

A challenging perspective:

"I know that, had I become a priest, I would not have been able to celebrate Memorial Day or Independence Day Masses in good conscience. And I know that, as a result, I would run into congregational resistance and be reviled by my 'good, patriotic' churchgoers. But, I would remind them, the days are not on the liturgical calendar for, as much as we tend to forget, they are not part of our Christian story of salvation. The ministry of the priesthood, like the ministry of ecclesially-committed theologians, is to proclaim the Gospel, the Church’s alternative story of salvation. It is a story that exposes the lie of imperial mythologies and narratives through the distinctive life of citizens of an empire not of this world, the history-spanning community of 'resident aliens' within the belly of the world’s empires."

The question of how to be "in the world but not of it" always challenges the church. How do we be good neighbors and fruitful "ambassadors" of Christ, while saying "no" to cooptation and "friendship with the world"?

Anglicans come from a "state church" tradition, and have a long history of providing chaplaincy to culture. Even with that available history, I chafe when it comes to preaching on "Hallmark Holidays." An event like Mother's Day can blow the Christ content out of a service, and the people are likely to be just fine with that. The temptation to kitsch and sentiment is strong - you get stroked for indulging.

The practice I currently embrace is to keep the Christian day intact, especially in the sermon content, while including the national or sentimental day in the Prayers of the People. Yesterday was Trinity Sunday, for crying out loud, Christianity's annual focus on the very name and nature of God. That's what we sang about and what I preached - but in the prayer intentions I certainly offered up thanksgiving for those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom (freedom to worship and call on the Trinity included), and for those in the Armed Forces of the nation today. Prayers for peace are always part of the liturgy, and free intercession is invited - I don't control what people want to lift up to God.

The Catholicanarchy piece has many commendable points. But "Peace fellowships" and other church groups often create ideological conditions that limit prayer and artificially tidy up the ambiguities in the difficult distance between sinful humanity and the Holy God. Some Christian peace groups are militant about eliminating military chaplaincies - which to me makes about as much sense as banning prison chaplains to reduce crime or hospital chaplains to improve health.

Yes, we fall into a trap if we uncritically "baptize" the nation or culture. But our theology and spirituality are pretty pathetic if they define God out of whatever aspects of reality we don't like. A quest for ideological purity won't lead people to the joy of the famine-facing prophet, or the world-weary wisdom of the Teacher, or to the peace of Christ, which passes understanding.

Body of soldier killed by IED returns to S.D.

Body of soldier killed by IED returns to S.D. | | Argus Leader

Governor Rounds has asked that flags fly at half staff on Wednesday.

SSG Barnard was from DeSmet, the town know for author Laura Ingalls' family's homestead.

Ultimate sacrifice shaped Dakota identity

I posted this quote as a Facebook discussion & note...

While the American founders and the Constitution provided powerful images and precedents for many Dakota settlers, the more immediate and personal cultural reference point was the Civil War. One U.S. Senate report noted of Dakota that it was “safe to assert that in no State or Territory can there be found so large a proportion of the people who fought the battles of the Union.” A large percentage of Dakota settlers, a pioneer fondly recalled in his memoirs, “carried the musket to the front in the darkest days of the rebellion.” Arthur Mellette [first Governor of SD] said that many Dakota settlers had been “scarred and maimed in defense of the Union which they helped to preserve.”

Jon K. Lauck, Prairie Republic.

Sioux Falls Argus Leader: Mystery of S. Dakotan's WWII death unraveled

Mystery of S. Dakotan's WWII death unraveled | | Argus Leader

"For 66 years, the only truth the retired Brookings teacher knew about his brother's death in Word War II was what the War Department had told his family - that Cpl. Henry Kluess was killed Aug. 14, 1944, in France.

But where in France? Under what circumstances? And what of his final days and moments?"

The Military Oath of Enlistment

I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

Memorial Day

"Soldiers will be called upon to make personal sacrifices - including the ultimate sacrifice... In putting the needs of the Nation and their comrades before their own, they forego some of the rights enjoyed by those outside the Armed Forces.

In return for putting the needs of the Nation before their own, and for being ready to make the ultimate sacrifice, members of our armed forces should always expect just treatment and respect by (the) Government and by us all. They have a right to believe that they (and their families) will be sustained and rewarded..."

Dr. John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, on Great Britain's Armed Forces Day

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Trinity Sunday: The Athanasian Creed

These are the things that many preachers will avoid today. But these are the things about which the church should know something, if it knows anything.

The church has no better insight into how to fill potholes, grill a brat or any other agenda than any other group of people of any belief system. So if it's not saying something about these things that follow, it's probably not worth hearing.

The Creed of Saint Athanasius

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith.
Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
And the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance.
For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one, the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.
The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate.
The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost
The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal.
And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal.
As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated, but one uncreated, and one incomprehensible.
So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty.
And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty.
So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God.
And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord.
And yet not three Lords, but one Lord.
For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by
himself to be both God and Lord,
So are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion, to say, There be three Gods, or three Lords.
The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten.
The Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten.
The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son, neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts.
And in this Trinity none is afore, or after other; none is greater, or less than another;
But the whole three Persons are co-eternal together and co-equal.
So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.
He therefore that will be saved is must think thus of the Trinity.

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man;
God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man of the substance of his Mother, born in the world;
Perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.
Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father, as touching his manhood;
Who, although he be God and Man, yet he is not two, but one Christ;
One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh but by taking of the Manhood into God;
One altogether; not by confusion of Substance, but by unity of Person.
For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ;
Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead.
He ascended into heaven, he sitteth at the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from whence he will come to judge the quick and the dead.
At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies and shall give account for their own works.
And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.
This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.

Trinity Sunday: The very first Anglican Article of Religion

I. Of Faith in the Holy Trinity.

There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in the unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Muzak for when the server at Midwest Conservative Journal is down

Had to dig around the memory banks for this one, but it works. Or even if MCJ is up and you're just sitting around in a fog...

Eve of Trinity Sunday

The lyrics here are translated from a Greek 3rd century version. Next time Dan Brown or somebody tells you that the church made up Jesus' divinity or the Trinity in the 4th or 5th century, sing 'em this (tune link follows lyrics),

O gladsome Light, O grace
of God the Father's face,
the eternal splendor wearing;
celestial, holy, blest,
our Savior Jesus Christ,
joyful in thine appearing.

Now, ere day falleth quite,
we see the evening light,
our wonted hymn outpouring;
Father of might unknown,
thee, his incarnate Son,
and Holy Spirit adoring.

To thee of right belongs
all praise of holy songs,
O Son of God, Life-giver;
thee, therefore, O Most High,
the world doth glorify,
and shall exalt for ever.

#36 in The Hymnal 1982

Thanks Ron Howard, Jennifer Connelly and Russell Crowe

God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
Romans 5:5, reading for Trinity Sunday

Then what's the Episcopal Church's problem? Why are we decaying? (And what can a director and two actors do about it?)

One reason for decay is our uncritical acceptance of a weak, cultural view of "love." We believe that love is a kind of blanket endorsement. One cannot love without approving - the awful term we endured in seminary was "affirming" - every aspect of the other party. Any limit or objection is "control," not love. God's love is a given, with no relational response required.

Last night my wife and I caught the movie A Beautiful Mind. No, we hadn't seen it yet. The long-suffering, amazing love that Jennifer Connelly's character invests in Russell Crowe's rejects much of who he is. He is not immoral, he is schizophrenic, and she loves him faithfully and passionately while fighting against perceptions that seem necessary and real to him.

The love of God has been poured into our hearts in Holy Baptism, and the Holy Spirit groans within us, passionately and faithfully working to unite us with the heavenly Father's unbounded love, by guiding us in the loving Way set for us by God the Son, Jesus Christ.

But our transformation in love is not mechanical or automatic, because perfect love, in St. Paul's great teaching, "does not insist on its own way." God is not "controlling" in that sense, and the love we've been given is a gift we can decline.

The love of God has been poured into our hearts, where it can freeze as if on lifeless stone. It can evaporate in our overheated self-will. It can leak away through our inattention to the things of God. It can be polluted with toxins from the world, the flesh and the devil.

And so the efforts of some to say that "love" is an entitlement to anything anybody claims do a great disservice to people who seek God. To truly love, the church will have to disappoint people from time to time. Frustrate them, hurt their feelings, keep them close while rejecting their actions, let them wander off and come back - love them as God loves the human race.

I serve a number of people who were raised by permissive parents, in most cases single moms and disappearing dads. These were folks who, in one parishioner's words, "Wanted to be my buddies, not my parents." The grown children of that upbringing feel slighted at best, abandoned at worst. The find themselves struggling to form their own relationships and under equipped for life's challenges. They did not have the challenge of love - faithful and passionate love - and their lives seem precarious.

But into just such hearts, the love of God can be poured and the Holy Spirit given. Not as a magic pill, but with all that goes into a new relationship. Renouncing old ways, obligating to a new Way.

The church that equates love with "We tell you what makes you feel good so you can make us feel good" is not loving at all. It is not surprising to find the Episcopal Church and others like it decaying. They have frozen, evaporated, spilled and polluted the true love they were given.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A nice South Dakota political parable for the Anglican Communion and those who just don't get it

South Dakota's lone U.S. Representative is Democrat Stephanie Herseth Sandlin.

By all accounts, she's really nice.

But her long-assumed safe seat seems more and more precarious in this year's midterm elections.

It's not because she's nice or not nice.

She might lose her seat, in part, because Democrats are mad at her for voting against Pres. Obama's health care plan. They don't care about her reasons, they are mad because she is a member of their party and she ditched them on something their party endorsed and fought for.

"Stephanie has crossed some line where she has opposed the majority of Democrats too many times," Davis said. "I voted for Stephanie, gave her money, wrote letters to the editor and went door to door for her. And I profoundly regret that."

The Episcopal Church (TEC) is Anglicanism's representative in the United States.

By all accounts, it's full of nice people, disproportionately gays and lesbians.

But TEC's long-assumed secure seat at the Anglican table seems more and more precarious after the Archbishop of Canterbury's most recent pastoral letter.

It's not because the gay and lesbian Episcopal Church people are nice or not nice.

TEC might lose its seat, in part, because most of the Anglican world is tired of TEC betraying a stated church position* onto which TEC signed. The other Anglicans don't care about TEC's reasons, they are fed up because TEC claims to represent them yet betrayed them after they discussed and then addressed a major issue in front of God and humanity.

"...when a province through its formal decision-making bodies or its House of Bishops as a body declines to accept requests or advice from the consultative organs of the Communion, it is very hard (as noted in my letter to the Communion last year after the General Convention of TEC) to see how members of that province can be placed in positions where they are required to represent the Communion as a whole."
The Archbishop of Canterbury's letter

* Lambeth Resolution 1:10, 1998: view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage... while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture... cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions...

Initial responses to the Archbishop's letter: WWHVIIID?

Initial Anglican blog buzz, as I should have expected, is not about the Biblical content or spiritual challenge of the Archbishop's letter, but about church politics. We're all wearing our "What Would Henry VIII Do?" bracelets now.

Here, links to here.

Archbishop of Canterbury's Pentecost letter to the Anglican Communion: "We have not fully received the Pentecostal gift"

The Archbishop of Canterbury - Archbishop of Canterbury's Pentecost letter to the Anglican Communion

There's an executive summary, some notes to the press, and a link to the entire letter.

The letter is five pages long, written in five sections. Here are some excerpts from each (headers are my interpretation):

1. What the Bible calls the church to be:

And so the Holy Spirit is also the Spirit of ‘communion’ or fellowship (II Cor. 13.13). The Spirit allows us to recognise each other as part of the Body of Christ because we can hear in each other the voice of Jesus praying to the Father. We know, in the Spirit, that we who are baptised into Jesus Christ share one life; so that all the diversity of gifting and service in the Church can be seen as the work of one Spirit (I Cor. 12.4). In the Holy Eucharist, this unity in and through the self-offering of Jesus is reaffirmed and renewed as we pray for the Spirit to transform both the bread and wine and ‘ourselves, our souls and bodies’.

2. Where the Anglican Communion is today, well short of that Biblical calling:

Our Anglican fellowship continues to experience painful division, and the events of recent months have not brought us nearer to full reconciliation. There are still things being done that the representative bodies of the Communion have repeatedly pleaded should not be done; and this leads to recrimination, confusion and bitterness all round. It is clear that the official bodies of The Episcopal Church have felt in conscience that they cannot go along with what has been asked of them by others, and the consecration of Canon Mary Glasspool on May 15 has been a clear sign of this. And despite attempts to clarify the situation, activity across provincial boundaries still continues – equally dictated by what people have felt they must in conscience do. Some provinces have within them dioceses that are committed to policies that neither the province as a whole nor the Communion has sanctioned. In several places, not only in North America, Anglicans have not hesitated to involve the law courts in settling disputes, often at great expense and at the cost of the Church’s good name.

3. A frank admission that the Anglican Communion is resisting the Holy Spirit:

We are at a point in our common life where broken communications and fragile relationships have created a very mistrustful climate. This is not news. But many have a sense that the current risks are greater than ever. Although attitudes to human sexuality have been the presenting cause, I want to underline the fact that what has precipitated the current problem is not simply this issue but the widespread bewilderment and often hurt in different quarters that we have no way of making decisions together so that we are not compromised or undermined by what others are doing. We have not, in other words, found a way of shaping our consciences and convictions as a worldwide body. We have not fully received the Pentecostal gift of mutual understanding for common mission.

4. Those most resistant to the Spirit - the Episcopal Church in particular for its formal actions against global Christian consensus - need to stand down as public representatives of Anglicanism:

And when a province through its formal decision-making bodies or its House of Bishops as a body declines to accept requests or advice from the consultative organs of the Communion, it is very hard (as noted in my letter to the Communion last year after the General Convention of TEC) to see how members of that province can be placed in positions where they are required to represent the Communion as a whole. This affects both our ecumenical dialogues, where our partners (as they often say to us) need to know who it is they are talking to, and our internal faith-and-order related groups.

I am therefore proposing that, while these tensions remain unresolved, members of such provinces – provinces that have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and recently reaffirmed by the Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) – should not be participants in the ecumenical dialogues in which the Communion is formally engaged. I am further proposing that members of such provinces serving on IASCUFO should for the time being have the status only of consultants rather than full members. This is simply to confirm what the Communion as a whole has come to regard as the acceptable limits of diversity in its practice. It does not alter what has been said earlier by the Primates’ Meeting about the nature of the moratoria: the request for restraint does not necessarily imply that the issues involved are of equal weight but recognises that they are ‘central factors placing strains on our common life’, in the words of the Primates in 2007. Particular provinces will be contacted about the outworking of this in the near future.

5. Anglicans are not "postmoderns" who say that all claims are the same. We can respect differences while recognizing some claims as eccentric and beyond the identity of the whole Communion:

In our dealings with other Christian communions, we do not seek to deny our diversity; but there is an obvious problem in putting forward representatives of the Communion who are consciously at odds with what the Communion has formally requested or stipulated. This does not seem fair to them or to our partners. In our dealings with each other, we need to be clear that conscientious decisions may be taken in good faith, even for what are held to be good theological or missional reasons, and yet have a cost when they move away from what is recognisable and acceptable within the Communion. Thus – to take a very different kind of example – there have been and there are Anglicans who have a strong conscientious objection to infant baptism. Their views deserve attention, respect and careful study, they should be engaged in serious dialogue – but it would be eccentric to place such people in a position where their view was implicitly acknowledged as one of a range of equally acceptable convictions, all of which could be taken as representatively Anglican.

Yet no-one should be celebrating such public recognition of divisions and everyone should be reflecting on how to rebuild relations and to move towards a more coherent Anglican identity...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Feelin' defective

The Anglican renewal leader John Henry Newman, later a celebrated convert and Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, wrote this about the concept of "indefectibility,"

The idea that Christ's presence is indefectible from the church is a comforting counterpoint to implications from claims of infallibility or inerrancy. It is not that the church is made up of superior beings of some sort, but that

if we are faithless,
he [Christ] will remain faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.

II Timothy 2:13

The church, the gathering of people faithful to Christ, is his strange choice of a body to preach his message and minister his "means of grace," as the Book of Common Prayer puts it in the General Thanksgiving.

It is historically and anecdotally obvious that the church finds many ways to be faithless, to "defect" from Christ's authority and purpose. It is filled with entirely defective individuals, whose "membership" will not keep them out of hell:

Matthew 13:24 He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, 'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?' He answered, 'An enemy has done this.' The slaves said to him, 'Then do you want us to go and gather them?' But he replied, 'No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.' " Matthew 13:24-30

I am in a middle stage of earthly life in which almost every personal defection seems to have a spotlight on it. I seriously wonder if I am a weed planted amidst wheat. And the frustration I experience with myself makes me more harsh about other folks' defections.

The idea of indefectibility challenges that grim point of view with the exaltation of Christ alone. It is Christ who is without defect and is never a defector. As one hymn expresses it,

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

Feelin' defective this season, Lord. My soul's feeling shaken, big time. A little sign that I'm in on your indefectibility, please?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Today is our 20th Wedding Anniversary

I will simply share this awesome expostion by John Richardson.

Two decades is not easy today - I doubt it was for any generation of marrieds but today the default is "cut and run." So here we are and, as "The Ugley Vicar" says,

"Perhaps, however, our problem is not with marriage, much less with understanding the biblical text, but with trusting God."

When that basic bond of husband and wife can't trust God and can't "bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things," is it any wonder that our politics are polarized and intolerant, our "entertainment" coarse and cynical, our world a much harsher place?

We renew our vows today - somewhere. My wife's been in the hospital for a week and as I type we're still not sure if we'll be at home or there. Wherever YOU are, your prayers for Tim & Melissa, and all husbands and wives, are always a blessing.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

One last thought and then I'll try sleep

The church has a traditional night canticle called The Song of Simeon:

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace,
according to thy word;

For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
which thou hast prepared before the face of all people,

To be a light to lighten the Gentiles,
and to be the glory of thy people Israel.

It's sung or said after the New Testament lesson of the evening, which is perfect because the old man Simeon said it after meeting baby Jesus, God's New Covenant in the flesh.

Simeon waited many years to see God's promised Savior, and his little song expressed the peace and relief he felt, seeing the world pass into good hands.

There's plenty I might take to bed tonight for some tossing, turning and heartburn. My wife is just out of the hospital, with enough question marks about her condition to keep me on edge. I worked on the kid's college financial aid (parent impoverishment) package tonight, and those numbers are poised to dance in my head 'til dawn.

But then old Simeon sings this cool lullaby, and I know that the world is in good hands. So I depart for bed in peace.

Goodnight and God hold your world for you, too.

* Painting: "Simeon in the Temple" by Rembrandt

Fun while it lasted

It's fixed, but this was still kinda fun for a few minutes...

Chris Johnson of The Midwest Conservative Journal typed "Seppuku" as a post title, and his server appears to have killed itself. Tuesday, 1837 CST. (Not only that, but every time I click his link I wind up with links to "Oriental Trading Company.")

Inclusion plus assimilation = just immigration?

"The convention ordered 10,000 copies of the [1883 South Dakota draft] constitution to be printed and distributed to voters and, in order to appeal to the main body of European immigrants, also ordered 1,000 copies printed in German and 1,000 printed in Norwegian." Jon K. Lauck, Prairie Republic, citing the September 25, 1885 Yankton Press and Dakotaian. The 1885 printing (second draft) was even more generous: 100,000 copies plus 10,000 each in German and Norwegian.

Folks on the right sometimes howl when public documents are printed in foreign languages. The above is an example of such public effort and expense from Dakota Territory days. Efforts to include are not unknown, even in very traditional places.

But I think that the howling is justifiable if such efforts are not aimed at assimilating people into American civic values and life. Too often, those on the left are willing to offer entitlement without responsibility. The weird message is that "Our material stuff is worth sharing, but the rights and responsibilities that allow for abundance are not."

In related news, The Episcopal Church House of Bishops has decided to hold its fall meeting in Arizona, despite calls to move it as a protest. You'll still see all kinds of silly theatre, this being the Episcopal House of Bishops 'n' all. But I'm glad they didn't kiss the "shun Arizona" fetish, at least on first pass.

There's information to be shared. Jackie Bruchi at Stand Firm linked these two mainstream media reports on the AZ border situation:

Part 1

Part 2

The oath I took when I joined the U.S. Army shares language with the oaths taken by all Federal office holders,

"I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic..."

It is a pledge to defend the Constitution, the defining document and legal standard of our civic life. It is certainly not defended by inattention to hostile infiltrators, nor is it supported by shrugging and creating enclaves of immigrants acculturated in the fatalism, injustices and corruption of a system like Mexico's. Neither exploitable, disposable workers nor entitlement-dependent, illicit voting blocs lift the dignity of our national life.

No, our system isn't perfect. There isn't a perfect order this side of the City of God. But a helping hand to those who seek a better life here, plus their responsibility to support life here by becoming part of who we are, is the substance of just immigration policy.

Biblical Law revealed this balance, requiring compassionate provision for aliens...

Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Exodus 22:21

Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 19:10

...along with their accountability to the standards of the host nation...

This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work—whether native-born or an alien living among you- because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Leviticus 16:29-30

You are to have the same law for the alien and the native-born. I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 24:22 hope for the common good:

And you and the Levites and the aliens among you shall rejoice in all the good things the LORD your God has given to you and your household. Deuteronomy 26:11.

The West used to have missionary Anglicans - Might we have 'em again?

How remarkably peculiar, how vastly important is the position Of our Church! Possessing as we fully believe all those characteristics which distinguished the primitive fold:--A scriptural Liturgy--evangelical doctrines--and the apostolic succession--having the form of godliness and the power thereof--free from the false and worldly scruples and the time-serving policy of civil governments--independent-- respected and influential--in the midst of an intelligent, enterprising and commercial people--Brethren! may it not be Our duty to convert the world--may not this high, this inestimable privilege be offered to Us! And are we prepared--are we doing at the present moment Even One Tenth part of what we are capable? Our means and our power are extensive--and under the blessing of Him, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy, our aim--our constant, undeviating, untiring aim should be great and lofty. "Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God." Bishop Jackson Kemper, 1841

Kemper founded Nashotah House Seminary in Wisconsin (see "USEFUL LINKS" to the right) to train clergy for what was them a frontier mission. The church calendar commemorates him on May 24.

Anglicans/Episcopalians tend to move quickly from mission field to country club, from preaching the City of God to perching among the elites of the earthly city. But you still see a bit of that missionary spirit in places like South Dakota, especially the clergy who serve the Reservations and the far flung small towns.

While Rector of Trinity, Pierre, South Dakota's new Bishop John Tarrant showed some of this effort by covering many miles to link up with other congregations in that part of the state.

At a recent meeting with Sioux Falls clergy, he opened up a similar vision for this corner of the state. My favorite idea, "But we have to keep it a movement, not a program. Once we turn it into a program, we kill it."

My interest is in bringing all three aspects of the Christian movement as Jackson Kemper preached it: worship built from the words of Scripture, preaching and teaching that rightly presents the New Covenant in Jesus Christ, and Bishops "sent" (the root meaning of apostolic) to preach, spread and contend for that faith.

Southeastern South Dakota has a number of Reservation and small town churches in need of missionary clergy support. I find some excitement in the thought of regional clergy and congregations operating as missionary teams to build up the church . But honesty requires me to confront some of the barriers we will face:

1. The lingering "pastoral model" of the church. The American Christianity of my parents' generation and with which I grew up was about small, familiar congregations with a pastor who was there to "do a nice service" and "take care of" the members. Lay people showed up, payed the bills, got mad about this or that, got attention from the pastor, and contained church to Sunday morning as much as possible. There was no movement, no message to spread, no missionary fire. Everybody was Christian, nominally, and the presence of the church was a given. And it was given to take care of those already on the inside, not to reach out. With the membership of our current churches made up of aging folks steeped in those assumptions, the raw material for a missionary movement seems scarce.

2. Lack of spiritual and theological unity. For many, maybe most of the clergy, Jesus is a mere man, myth or symbol who can be invoked to throw some pixie dust on this or that cause. Anything more than that is dismissed as "fundamentalism." Most Episcopal clergy, if pushed hard enough, will reveal that they don't think Christianity has anything unique or urgent to say to the world - all religions and no religion come to the same truth eventually, because everybody's already holy just as they are. A recent Episcopal service - the consecration of a new bishop, no less - featured a Native American solemnly intoning a White liberal fantasy about how "My people lived without sin." The denomination has made room for stuff way beyond cultural tolerance, moving into direct rejection of the New Testament and spiritual chaos. Hard to get a movement going on that kind of surface.

3. The loss of what Kemper called "the blessing of Him, without whom nothing is strong." Writes one Episcopal priest (a long time Deputy to the denomination's General Convention and a current candidate for bishop), "The disintegration quietly continues but the contending parties have long since pretty much quit talking to each other. They wonder what the point is. Meanwhile, average Sunday attendance in the Episcopal Church continues to skydive." By almost any sane measure, God has removed His blessing from The Episcopal Church (TEC). There's little energy, little hope and, worst of all, very little love.

4. The abysmal "leadership" asserted and practiced by the "national church." Those who have the free time and resources to go to confabs all year long figured out that they could sit in the bureaucracy of the church, have their hands on all kinds of money, keep jobs and pensions without being responsible for anything, and turn the denomination into a club for people they like. Christian missionary work is irrelevant - even repulsive - to them. They serve a very small, self-referencing, self-congratulatory and self-serving niche. They have the bank accounts to maintain it without a thought to the collapse of the rest of the church. The Diocese of South Dakota depends upon these very people for mission money. There isn't going to be much support for a "missionary movement" that does anything more than affirm "public statements" issued in New York. A movement to preach the necessity and urgency of faith in Jesus Christ is not going to get support. In fact, it might be shut down by this type of religious leader. The most missionary Episcopalian clergy and people are the ones who have left the denomination, and the "national leaders" are fine with that.

Formidable barriers, those. And greater collapse might well have to precede rebuilding. But as the Apostle Peter preached to an ambivalent crowd when the Holy Spirit ignited the church at Pentecost, God's surprises are out there to be had,

“In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Monday, May 24, 2010

South Dakota's public indebtedness restrictions

"In response to the perceived profligacy of federal appointees and the territorial legislature, delegates also limited public indebtedness..." Jon K. Lauck, Prairie Republic

Article XIII of the State Constitution establishes the limits for the state government...

Section 2. Maximum state debt--Irrepealable tax to repay. For the purpose of defraying extraordinary expenses and making public improvements, or to meet casual deficits or failure in revenue, the state may contract debts never to exceed with previous debts in the aggregate one hundred thousand dollars, and no greater indebtedness shall be incurred except for the purpose of repelling invasion, suppressing insurrection, or defending the state or the United States in war and provision shall be made by law for the payment of the interest annually, and the principal when due, by tax levied for the purpose or from other sources of revenue; which law providing for the payment of such interest and principal by such tax or otherwise shall be irrepealable until such debt is paid: provided, however, the state of South Dakota shall have the power to refund the territorial debt assumed by the state of South Dakota, by bonds of the state of South Dakota.

...and for municipalities

Section § 4. Debt limitations for municipalities and political subdivisions. The debt of any county, city, town or civil township shall never exceed five per centum upon the assessed valuation of the taxable property therein, for the year preceding that in which said indebtedness is incurred. The debt of any school district shall never exceed ten per centum upon the assessed valuation of the taxable property therein, for the year preceding that in which said indebtedness is incurred. In estimating the amount of the indebtedness which a municipality or subdivision may incur, the amount of indebtedness contracted prior to the adoption of the Constitution shall be included.

Provided, that any county, municipal corporation, civil township, district, or other subdivision may incur an additional indebtedness, not exceeding ten per centum upon the assessed valuation of the taxable property therein, for the year preceding that in which said indebtedness is incurred, for the purpose of providing water and sewerage, for irrigation, domestic uses, sewerage and other purposes; and

Provided, further, that in a city where the population is eight thousand or more, such city may incur an indebtedness not exceeding eight per centum upon the assessed valuation of the taxable property therein for the year next preceding that in which said indebtedness is incurred for the purpose of constructing street railways, electric lights or other lighting plants.

Provided, further, that no county, municipal corporation, civil township, district or subdivision shall be included within such district or subdivision without a majority vote in favor thereof of the electors of the county, municipal corporation, civil township, district or other subdivision, as the case may be, which is proposed to be included therein, and no such debt shall ever be incurred for any of the purposes in this section provided, unless authorized by a vote in favor thereof by a majority of the electors of such county, municipal corporation, civil township, district or subdivision incurring the same.

“All in all, it’s been a good life.” A thought in tornado season.

The folks who attend our early service on Sundays are an intriguing little group. They can make visiting preachers sweat, because they sit stoically through sermons, giving little emotional reaction to what’s said.

But after that they gather around the kitchen counter downstairs and shake the place with laughter, community gossip, short stories and tall tales. They tease one another at a level only tolerated among sincere friends.

A few Sunday’s ago, with multiple conversations ping-ponging around the counter, one of them turned to me and began to reminisce. He gave my outsider’s eyes another precious glimpse of Northern Plains life.

He’s a retired educator, now in his early 80s. He was just back from his High School reunion in – rather near – Spencer, SD.

“There were 16 in my graduating class. There are only 5 of us left now. But we have such a great time.”

He talked about all the farm work he picked up as a boy, when all of the men were gone to war. He shared some other pre- and post-high school memories. “All in all, it’s been a good life,” he said with a smile and bright eyes.

I asked him if they hold the reunion at the school itself.

“Oh, no, because Spencer’s not there anymore,” he said.

“You mean they tore down the school?”

“No, the town’s gone. Spencer was destroyed by a tornado a few years ago. Everything’s gone – we have the reunion at a community center in another town.”

Later I would Google “spencer south dakota tornado.” It was at this time of year, late May, in 1998. South Dakota Public Broadcasting maintains a site all about it – “the deadliest and most destructive tornado in South Dakota history.” Plenty more details but really it was enough to hear my parishioner’s simple statement that “Spencer’s not there anymore.”

And at the same time to catch the glow from his face as he affirmed that “All in all, it’s been a good life.”

Saturday, May 22, 2010

"What a skilled worker this Spirit is!"

(Holy Spirit Window, St. Paul's, Brookings, SD - the Spirit ignites even the earth tones of the Plains)

"What a skilled worker this Spirit is! There is no question of delay in learning what the Spirit teaches us. No sooner does the Spirit touch our minds in regard to anything than we are taught; the Spirit's very touch is teaching. The Spirit changes the human heart in a moment, filling it with light. Suddenly we are no longer what we were; suddenly we are something we never used to be.

Let us reflect on the condition in which the Spirit found the holy proclaimers of our faith on this day of Pentecost, and what became of them. There is no doubt that they remained in the upper room out of fear. Each of them knew only his native tongue, but as yet none of them had ventured to speak openly of Christ even in the language they knew. The Spirit came, taught them to speak in a variety of languages, and made them strong of heart by filling them with God's own strength. They began to speak openly of Christ, even in foreign languages, when formerly they were afraid to speak about him even in their own. Their hearts were on fire, and they disregarded the physical sufferings which they had formerly feared. They overcame their fear of physical pain out of love for their Creator. Formerly they had given way to their adversaries out of fear, but now they excercised authority over them. Since the Spirit lifted them to such a height, what can I say but that the Holy Spirit made the hearts of earthly people a heaven?"

Gregory the Great, The Crown of Redemption
Leinenweber translation

For a real look at the Plains...

Dennisranch’s Weblog

The blog of a working rancher in South Dakota, with great pics he takes while riding the range. Many blessings upon him,

May the graciousness of the LORD our God be upon us; *
prosper the work of our hands;
prosper our handiwork. Psalm 90:17

The LORD shall watch over your going out and
your coming in, *
from this time forth for evermore. Psalm 121:8

Friday, May 21, 2010

UPDATED: A review of "Prairie Republic" - looking at values we forget at our peril

South Dakota Dreamin’ | First Things

UPDATED: Check out the Facebook page.

A Creighton University (Nebraska)prof reviews Jon Lauck's book. Both the book and the review point to political values we take for granted and which we stand to lose.

From the review:

"A tradition of local governance that resists both a supine dependence on Washington, D.C. or dominance by remote corporate interests; a patriotism that believes in the noble possibilities of the American experiment; vibrant churches and church leaders who remind us that life is more than our economic or political self-interest—it’s not surprising that Lauck finds these features of Dakota life attractive. After twenty years living in Nebraska, I certainly have as well. But does this political culture, what Lauck calls 'republican citizenship,' have a future?"

From the book:

"In addition to the American democratic tradition, republican ideas, and agrarianism, statehood advocates maintained an intense respect for Christianity. At a June 1883 conclave called to debate the merits of a constitutional convention, Episcopalian minister Melancthon Hoyt, the 'oldest pioneer clergyman of Dakota,' blessed the work of the convention and called on God to bless conventioneers so that 'they may glorify Thy holy name and perpetuate the best interests of the citizens of this territory...' The Jamestown Alert noted that the 1883 constitutional convention had 'prayers every morning' and 'no one knows but that what is now a political gathering may be transformed into a great religious event...'

The Dakota constitution's bill of rights, noteworthy for the degree of consensus it generated during the convention and for its extensive use of the American constitutional heritage, even included a provision stating that the 'blessings of a free government can only be maintained by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality and virtue and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles...'

The statehood advocates and framers of the South Dakota constitution relied on republicanism and the history of U.S. democratic practices when they criticized and rebelled against the territorial system... (under which) the president of the United States chose the governor and judges for the territory, and Congress established the territory's organic law...

In 1880 Nehemiah Ordway was appointed governor of Dakota Territory, and he quickly set in motion plans for plunder...

The settlers' disgust with figures such as Ordway and the territorial system in general was effectively summarized by the prominent Congregational minister Joseph Ward, who argued that the people in the territories were 'treated, not simply as aliens, but almost as enemies...' Promoting local control and statehood would make Dakotan democracy 'pure' by ending 'the demoralizing influence of Federal patronage,' which excluded 'decent' men from political life and brought in a breed of 'toadying' hacks equivalent to those 'that appeared in any remote Roman province in the bad days of the Empire.'"

2 1/2 traditional Episcopalians on staying in a messed up denomination

Ah, the days of our exile in The Episcopal Church (TEC). The last week featured at least 2 1/2 good reflections on same.

There was the Elder Oyster in Ohio, but he only counted as 1/2 'cuz he's reflecting on thoughts from The NonJuror, who's shrouded in mystery.

Then there's The Underground Pewster in South Carolina. You have to read down to the end to get his pensees on staying in TEC. He starts out kvetching about a service he attended but then, in his distraction, finds possibilities in a lesson about imprisoned Apostles.

All 2.5 bloggers, as is right, look to God. 1.5 assume that God has a purpose for them to stay (Oyster = "bear up & clean up"; NonJ = caring for the congregation that God has given him) and will not leave until God clearly removes that purpose. The other one, UP, sees our time in "jail" as rich with possibilities for demonstrations of God's power.

Since I'm just musing on their ideas I'll count myself in as a .5 and round this up to an oh-so-Trinitarian 3. The classical Anglican definition of "church" is really quite simple, spiritual and of limited trust for institutional religion:

Article XIX (of XXXIX, 1549 in the Church of England and, in 1801, formally "established by the Bishops, the Clergy, and the Laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, in Convention...").
Of the Church.

The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.

As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, have erred, so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith.

That is to say, it's not the particular organization, tradition, branch or judicatory that matters. All are made up of human beings, and all will slip into errors. The true church is present when:

Some people, minimum two and no maximum, get together;

share faith in God;

hear reading and teaching from the Old and New Testaments, in witness to Jesus Christ who is the "Word of God;"

baptize others into Christ and, as possible, share Christ's presence in Holy Communion.

One can stay in a nominally "Episcopal" congregation and still be "the church." It is not without risks - but all churches can "err" in matters of morals, worship and even faith.

The key is to see if the markers of "church" are present when I gather with others in Christ's name. The setting need not be friendly, but the friends need to be faithful.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Maybe the Carmelite Nuns should have threatened to Crusade...

In 1998, Jews protested the display of crosses around a Carmelite nunnery on the grounds of the Nazi death camp at Aushwitz. The nuns were moved to a new site and the crosses set up so as not to be seen from within the camp. Although many Polish Catholics died in the camp, including one recognized martyr, Fr. Kolbe, Jewish discomfort centered on nagging historical questions about the Church's contribution to anti-Semitism and lack of resistance to the Holocaust.

Today, Muslims are using Saudi Arabian funds to build an Islamic Center near New York's "Ground Zero," where the World Trade Center Towers and almost 3,000 lives were destroyed by Islamic terrorists. In fact, the building under consideration was damaged in that attack. But as a New York Times article shows, there is every effort to explain why a Muslim presence there is a good thing.

In the first case, the wounds of the Jews were given honor (rightly, in my opinion) over the symbolic presence of the Church. In the second case, a symbolic witness by Muslims seems poised to take precedence over a deep American wound.

There was nothing illegal about the Carmelite crosses, nor is there anything illegal about the planned Islamic Center. This is a question of freely practiced values and behaviors. The Church recognized that it was giving offense and moved its nuns; the Islamic Center, however benevolent its intentions, rubs salt in a wound.

It is a double standard based in fear. Nobody was afraid to evict a group of nuns, but many are afraid to criticize Muslims. Some of that is social fear - not wanting to be called names and marginalized as a bigot. But much of it is just plain primitive animal survival fear - the recognition that being on Islam's bad side can be a death sentence. In either case, ostensibly broad minded, Western liberal thought devolves into "might makes right."

New branch of social work seeks to break out of ideological straitjacket, serve military personnel and families

A fascinating article from my alma mater. Large pdf to download, then go to page 36.

"There are some folks that still don't want to touch this... If you develop a military social work program, will the faculty support it? By creating the program, are you somehow endorsing the military, endorsing the wars?"

Some of the creative teaching strategies include "virtual patients" who manifest Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Amer. Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement on Female Genital Cutting - a concession to Islam?

Policy Statement--Ritual Genital Cutting of Female Minors -- COMMITTEE ON BIOETHICS, 10.1542/peds.2010-0187 -- Pediatrics

FYI The report has clinically explicit diagrams and language.

There's some internet buzz around this report, with conservatives , moms and lefty feminists all seeing another Western concession to Islam.

On first read, the bulk of the paper is against the practice, even citing the physicians duty to "do no harm." It surveys various approaches that have been taken around the world, noting honestly that Scandinavian criminalization of the practice pretty much eradicated it in one Somali Muslim immigrant community.

But those of us who've endured manipulative Episcopal/Anglican "dialogue, education, sensitivity" and other such "process" based politics will find ourselves twitching and cringing as such terms pop up again and again in the report. Likewise, the moral parity effort to say, "It's been done in all religions and cultures, not just Islam" has a familiar and unwelcome ring.

Read it and see what you think.

Props to Sioux Falls reporter's coverage of faith

The May 9th Sioux Falls Argus Leader carried a feature on Jake Weiss, a Roosevelt High football standout who went on to South Dakota State, where he was expected to make an impact as a Division I player.

His plans were undone by clinical depression, and Argus reporter Terry Vandrovec does a wonderful job showing the breadth of help Weiss had to seek out to get his life back.

Medical care was very important, including meds and in-patient behavioral care.

Family was crucial, so much so that Weiss returned to Sioux Falls and enrolled at Augustana College.

Mentors with values had an impact, especially SDSU's coach, who put Weiss's personal and family health ahead of any sports program issues.

And then Vandrovec reports this:

"With nowhere else to go, (Weiss) turned to God. He believes faith has helped, given comfort in a way that counseling sometimes hand't. The cross around his neck is a gift from his girlfriend, a constant physical reminder of a greater power.

'I'm still young,' (Weiss) said. 'I have a lot to go through. I haven't experienced life's worst yet. It's important to get this figured out at a young age.'"

There was no silver bullet, and Weiss continues to work out his life. But what a wonderful article to show the complexity of our humanity, and to allow for the divine help that can lift us to the fullness of life we seek.

One man's intellectual and spiritual quest for healing

Beautiful reflection from a grad of my alma mater:

I am still on a journey of healing, while at the same time trying to help others in need — which, in itself, is healing. I continue to spend time in various monastic settings, seeking peace, pursuing insights that will reframe the tragedy of losing a son.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Fruitless trees wind up firewood - UPDATED

What Jesus said: Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits. Matthew 7:15-20

Here's what the Episcopal Church's self-declared prophets say:

"We are spending millions of unbudgeted, donated dollars on lawsuits to keep church buildings for future generations of Episcopalians."

Here is the fruit of their effort, the proof of who they are:

Good Shepherd offered to purchase the property for $150,000 in cash plus a large bequest. A verbal agreement was reached. Several more meetings were held throughout 2008 which were cordial and positive.

Then, as Fr. Kennedy told me, things suddenly changed. The verbal agreement to purchase the property was rejected, and they were slapped with a lawsuit by the Diocese. Even throughout that process, Fr. Kennedy explained, Church of the Good Shepherd made efforts to resolve the issue out of court. But to no avail.

On Thursday, January 8, 2009, the Diocese won its lawsuit allowing them to seize the church and all its property, including the rectory [the house where the clergy couple and their children lived]...

In February of this year, the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York sold the building to Imam Muhammad Affify. The cross has been removed from the top of the bell tower, the red doors have been repainted green, a windowpane cross has been painted over, and all Christian symbols have been eradicated. That is symbolic in itself considering that the building now houses the Islamic Awareness Center...

For the record, the Diocese of Central New York sold -- or perhaps sold out -- to the Imam for a mere $50,000. It is astonishing to note the lengths the Episcopal Church, under the leadership of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, went to in order to keep a "traditional" congregation from remaining in its buildings.

Thanks to them, #74 Conklin Avenue is no longer a house of Christian worship.

Same is going on in the Anglican Church of Canada, the lemming following TEC's rear over the cliff. It's Diocese of New Westminster rejected the following plea for Christian conflict resolution:

Whereas we being a Christian Community are obligated to prevent the very public and acrimonious legal dispute between the Diocese of New Westminster and the Churches in dispute from further embarrassing and diminishing the whole Christian Community; and because such disputes are:
- Contrary to Scripture.
- Detrimental to Christ’s Salvation Gospel to the world.
- Confuses and saddens our Brothers and Sisters in both the world wide Anglican Church and other Denominations.
- Trivializes our voice in the World.
- Are both irrelevant and counter-productive in a time of actual and planned Church closures in this Diocese.
- Are a total waste of scarce Time, Talent and Treasure, better used in other activities.
Therefore it is moved that the 2010 Diocesan Synod respectfully direct the Bishop to, faithfully and earnestly negotiate a just and timely solution that will allow the Churches in dispute to indefinitely continue Ministry and Worship in their existing Facilities’.

And how is that Canadian diocese doing with preserving stuff for its "future generations"?

The fruit ain't so good.

I really wish that some of these religious leaders would simply be honest.

"We want our pound of flesh."

"We hate Christians who don't endorse our new agenda."

"We need assets to fund our pensions and employ our friends and 'partners.'"

"We want to hurt and destroy those with whom we disagree."

Instead, their words are full of peace, love, justice, inclusion - all of which shrivel at their touch.

You will know such religious leaders by their fruit, says the Lord, the true head of the church. Their words are false. They destroy others to serve themselves. And while they will afflict God's people and God's world for awhile, the truth will come out when God "cuts them down and throws them in the fire."

Their piles of money and boxes of deeds to empty buildings are good kindling.

UPDATE: There's a current case where a bishop has imposed discipline on a very liberal Episcopal priest. It seems more like a test of wills than much else, not so much a clash of ideas as personalities. But because the bishop has yanked the priest's license to minister, a TEC leadership insider has called people to join a Facebook group in support of the priest. Says the TEC insider on Facebook:

"I am in no position to evaluate the conflict between (the priest) and the bishop. I hope that the two of them will reconcile.

That is not made easier by resorting to the canons. As Jesus discovered, the chance of reconciliation reduces dramatically when authorities call in the temple police.

Scripture frequently is concerned about prophets when they are in conflict with religious authorities. We should be too. It is not merely a backroom affair.

May grace abound. All of these ministries are important to the church and to the world."

This, from a courtier of the Presiding Bishop who "resorted to the canons" and yanked more clergy licenses than in all preceding TEC history. This, from a one time member of the "Executive Council" that appropriated millions of donated dollars to sue other Christians and grab up buildings and bank accounts rather than work at mutually agreeable settlements or "reconciliation." This, from an insider's club that said "good riddance" to the denomination's evangelicals and charismatics, among others.

Sweet, lamb-like bleating through fangs. A hint of fig from a bundle of thorns.

Against their denomination's incoherence, Lutherans gather in Huron, SD to seek a Biblical way forward

Gay clergy issue to be confronted The Daily Republic Mitchell, South Dakota (Short sign in may be required to access article).

Posted using ShareThis

Are the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) leaders surprised that their incoherence is fragmenting their people?

The ELCA tried to assist congregations by having Zellmer speak at five meetings statewide last January, Marone said. Synod officials created fact cards about four positions that the national assembly voted on regarding homosexuality last August, aside from the gay clergy position. Congregations could take those positions and remain in the ELCA, she said.

The positions are:

* Same-gender sexual behavior is sinful.

* While homosexuality may not be sinful, it does not follow God’s original intention.

* Lifelong monogamous, same-sex relationships should be supported but not equated with marriage.

* Same-sex relationships should be supported and held to the same status as heterosexual marriage.

She said it’s up to each congregation to determine its own position and whether to stay in the ELCA.

Meanwhile, The Episcopal Church "consecrated" another unmarried, sexually active, same-sex attracted bishop. Didn't hear about it? Fr. Matt Kennedy's right there with you:

That the Episcopal Church--an evaporating pond already overstocked with committed Muslims, witches and wizards, Sufi dancers, labyrinths, cosmic techno masses, Buddhists, John Spong, Marcus Borg, John Chane, and, yes, many people who engage in sex acts with members of the same sex--tosses an episcopal lesbian into the stagnating water just isn't news. Its sadly obvious that they desperately wanted the attention. They rented an auditorium that seats tens of thousands of people. They were preparing for a vast media presence. You get the sense that they really wanted to recreate that old magic civil rights breaking the barriers feeling--that rush of exhilaration: "Look at me world! I'm a brave revolutionary! I am defending the downtrodden, upholding the outcast, including the excluded!" They wanted the crowds. They wanted the coverage. "Everybody look! Here we are, an historic church. And look what we are doing. We're consecrating a lesbian! Isn't that grand? Aren't we the embodiment of all that the masses long for?"

How disappointing it must have been when no one took much notice.

Going WAY Northern... a Canadian pov on the useful idiocy of The Episcopal Church

What if they gave a big, dramatic gesture and nobody came? That's what happened this weekend...

...The liberals in TEC were never important to the press; the only people who ever were important in this story were the conservatives. What would WE say? How would WE react? No story about the ravings of the Madwoman of Second Avenue or the Simple Country Bishop of New Hampshire was complete without the quote from an appalled or saddened conservative. The fashionable liberals only mattered as goads and weapons to be used against the real Christians. Now that those people are gone, the tools are carelessly dropped on the ground and abandoned.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Some lessons imparted to our younger guys in the Black Hills

ATVs roll over when driven too fast. Hospital trip detracts from enjoyment of nature.

Throwing all of your matches at a soggy log does not create a campfire.

Fishing without a catch and hunting without a shot are still better than many alternative uses of time.

Deer and antelope still play on the Northern Plains - but don't buy that bit about "skies not cloudy all day."

When hamburger buns are the bread of life on Friday and Saturday, it is fair for the priest to bless one for Holy Communion on Sunday.

I'm sure there are others...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What I said to our church men in the Black Hills this morning

The rock holding us up from under this ground or thrusting up for us to see in some of the formations here comes from a geological core estimated at over 2 billion years of age. That's such a big number that our minds usually stop thinking about it and just say, "Hmmm, that's a big number."

Compared to such elements here, or to the plant and animal life, or the prehistoric people, or the people we now call Native or even to the few generations of our own culture that have come here, our little group is just a dot on something much greater.

But some dot we turn out to be. We hear Jesus pray for us, saying "Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world."

By the plan of the one who made all this, we are desired for a glory to which even this natural splendor can't compare - a glory it was created to point to for us.

By the love of the one who made all this, our little dots of life have had eternal meaning since "before the foundation of the world."

Billions of years may be a lot, but at least there are numbers and ages and rocks we can test around us here. But "before the foundation?" That goes where all of our senses and reference points fail. Jesus tells us that if we push on into that wilderness, the glory of God, we will find the true greatness, purpose and love for which we were made.

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

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Men's Retreat in the Black Hills

I won't be around the computer 'til Monday. The men of our church are heading out to the Black Hills for a weekend of wild turkey hunts, fishing, hiking and any other blessings God sends our way.

Nice chance to be out with my son a bit before he graduates from high school and heads off to college - although he's headed to a place that gives me all kinds of excuses for trips to the Hills.

One of the blessings already received is that several father/son pairs are going on the trip. Also a number of younger men - this bunch is well below our parish average by age.

Pray for our safe travel, hunting and fishing (yeah, fumbling with fish hooks can mess up one's weekend). May God rest, refresh and inspire us.

Ascended, not lost [UPDATED]

"Today the present ascended ministry of the vicarious humanity of Jesus Christ and the ministry of the Spirit joining us to Christ's present ministry are largely lost to ministers' experience. The loss has two consequences: (1) the collapsing of ministry into a response to the moral influence of Jesus and (2) the reduction of ministry to programs, strategies and techniques that are theologically ambiguous. When the continuing and present ministry of Jesus Christ is lost, we are cast back on our own resources, and ministry becomes what we do."

Andrew Purves, The Crucifixion of Ministry (IVP 2007)

It's a dense quote so let me add a bit of explanation. Today is the church's Feast of the Ascension. Christ lives and by the power of the Holy Spirit continues his work on Earth and throughout the whole creation. He is not a dead historical figure. He is not a symbol upon which we draw. He is "the head of the church," although often ignored by that earthly body.

When the church lapses into language like, "If Jesus were here, he would probably..." it is no longer acting as his living, working body. When the church can't say, "Jesus is here, here's what he's doing, this is what he's calling us to do" it needs to shut up and listen.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Is there a nice way to say "Liberal"?

"It's telling that even liberals don't use the word liberal any more." Leonard Pitts

Some Bible verses use that "L" word in a flattering way. I first consulted the New Revised Standard Version on this, but even the venerable King James Bible makes, well, liberal use of the word in renderings like Isaiah 32:7-8,

The instruments also of the churl are evil: he deviseth wicked devices to destroy the poor with lying words, even when the needy speaketh right.

But the liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand.

Here liberal stands in direct contrast to evil. Liberalism is a defining quality of the righteous, a way of thinking and acting, and a source of divine reward.

The Hebrew word translated "liberal" is rooted in the word for "blessing." A liberal provides material blessing to others, expressed memorably in Proverbs 11:25,

The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself. (KJV)
A generous person will be enriched, and one who gives water will get water. (NRSV)

The New Testament Greek word that appears as "liberal" in English expresses simplicity or sincerity. The Apostle Paul uses the word in his Letter to the Church in Rome, 12:1-8,

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity[KJV - "simplicity," New American Standard Bible - "liberality"]...

The liberal here is someone blessed by God with material abundance, and transformed spiritually to share it for the common good. The liberal giver is but one God-given part in a complex body of interdependent parts doing Christ's work.

What degrades the word liberal in our current use (or, as Pitts pointed out, our current non-use)?

1. Liberalism is associated less with personal, sacrificial generosity than with coercion, through confiscation and redistribution of others' means.

2. Liberalism is associated less with simplicty than with elitism. To use Paul's idea of the body - liberals are perceived as bored with being the hands, and are trying to take over as the head. They want to take Christ's place and run the body, not be just one part among many. They consider themselves better than the other parts.

3. Liberalism is associated less with common good than with interest groups and entitlements.

Whether or not you agree with those perceptions, they exist and certainly some well intentioned liberals slip into degraded thoughts and deeds. But there's always hope:

As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous [LIBERAL], and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life. I Timothy 6:17-19, NRSV

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Self-writing jokes right here

A real headline:

Tiger's swing coach resigns

Anglicat: TEC's New Tool: "Public Narrative" over Biblical Narrative

Kathryn is an Episcopal priest in Minnesota, and sounds a valuable warning in this piece.

Anglicat: TEC's New Tool: "Public Narrative" over Biblical Narrative

She's tuned into the way that the self-proclaimed Episcopal "hierarchy" is deconstructing everything that used to be distinctive about the Episcopal church:

"The Rev. Anderson, quoting Public Narrative trainer Marshall Ganz, explained recently, 'Making moral choices in the absence of emotion is pointless.' The effective path to inspiring action, she emphasized, travels from values through emotion to action. Note the decidedly un-Anglican absence of reason in this trajectory. It's as if Hooker's famous 3-legged stool of scripture, reason, and tradition is being replaced solely by emotion. Can a stool with one leg stand?"

Likewise, Kathryn catches this quote, which reveals a church more caught up in its own press and propaganda than in proclamation of the Gospel:

"According to EGR's Devon Anderson in a recent training session, the art and technique of Public Narrative enables the user to 'keep control of the narrative.'"

Add to this recent Episcopal leader comments about "peer review" for blogs and other forms of communication, and you see that what used to be "the thinking person's church" is now one long, screechy appeal to ignorance.

While the Episcopal Church remains in a state of disarray and decline - an increasingly small club for self-refrencing, self-congratulatory and self-serving elitists - Anglicat's warning remains worthwhile for any person considering any church: if the message is too much about the institution or its personalities and not enough about the Gospel of Christ, run for the door and visit some other place.

Once Upon a Time in the West

From Jon K. Lauck's Prairie Republic

When the Episcopalians established their first church, the same year Dakota Territory was established, they immodestly called it "The Mother Church of the Dakotas." The church's founder, the Reverend Melancthon Hoyt, traced his lineage back to Simon Hoyt, who migrated from England to Salem, Massachusetts, in 1628. Born in Connecticut in 1809, Reverend Hoyt attended Yale University, was a member of the first graduating class of Yale Theological College, and then quickly began his work building churches in the West. Hoyt and other Episcopalians were active in politics and civic affairs in Dakota. The historian Herbert T. Hoover argues that the members of the Episcopalian Church in Dakota Territory "became as much a political caucus as a religious group." Howard Lamar similarly noted that a "large number of the leading figures in Dakota were Episcopalian." Historians believe a notorious defrauder of Indians was found innocent of corruption charges due to his connections to the influential Episcopal church in Dakota. President Grant's "peace policy" toward Native Americans allowed the Episcopal church to appoint many Indian agents. Hoover notes that this appointment "privilege brought enormous economic benefits to Episcopal caucus leaders and their friends at Yankton," since by "far the best full-time jobs in the territory existed at Indian agency jurisdictions." The Episcopalians also had important supporters on the national level. John Jacob Astor funded the construction of Calvary Cathedral in Sioux Falls, which displayed pieces from three historic crosses, including ones carried by William the Conqueror and Richard the Lion-Hearted.

One True Church

Sarah Hey has fun and makes a good point, or has a good point and makes it fun.

In this case, she's taking on the inconveniently-still-on-the-books Roman Catholic claim to be the One True Church of Christ. In all fairness, she frequently pokes fun at those Protestants she calls "The Truly Reformed."

In other words, she's a traditional Anglican, allowing for a breadth of Christian expression while noting that some expressions cannot be binding upon the whole church. On to the fun:

It is either the Truth or not the Truth. If I am indeed Queen Cleopatra, than my behavior—my insistence that all bow when they enter my room, my expectation of men falling at my feet, my wondering where my royal mahogany and silver-engraved chair is, my claim of the title Last Pharaoh of Egypt, my demand that my image be stamped on gold coins, other people’s mention of my wit, charm and “sweetness in the tones of her voice” and so on and so forth are perfectly reasonable and acceptable. If the breathtaking claim is actual reality, then many things become clear and reasonable.

If it is true that I am Cleopatra, men of power should gravitate towards me like flies to honey.

On the other hand . . .

If I am not Queen Cleopatra, then not only are my pretensions unreasonable and foolish, but men should flee as hard and as fast as their legs can carry them from me, as I am in the grip of a serious delusion and fantasy that makes me mentally ill and highly dangerous to others’ happiness and well-being.

Sadly, our own Episcopal Church has positioned itself as a One True Church, coupling claims of unique spiritual revelation with once-rejected-now-asserted claims of bureaucratic "hierarchy." We've united the worst of Upper and Lower Egypt, Red and White Nile. But at least Presiding Bishops will have some memorably cool tombs in the future.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A mom who had it all

We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home." And she prevailed upon us.

The reigning ideology is that faith in Christ is "partriarchal and mysoginistic." Yet the Bible's first named convert on European soil is a woman of power and means: this is "Lydia's household" and she deals in purple cloth, one of the lucrative commodities of the time.

Nor does her baptism in Christ diminish any of that. The strength of her personality "prevails upon" the strong willed Apostle Paul and his missionary team. Her whole household follows her into the water of new life. Her ample means are shared in generous hospitality.

She had an open heart, was searching for and responsive to God, and able to hear and engage new ideas.

Happy Mother's Day. And may God bless his children with many more moms like Lydia.

STILL a place for that tax refund!

Continuing shameless plug:

After 20 years of ordained ministry, I'm taking my first ever sabbatical. I will be away all of August and much of September, getting at some writing projects that have been on hold and heading to a Christian writers' conference. I will keep blogging, of course.

There will be some travel and family care expenses. I've budgeted well and covered much of this, but any and all help is appreciated. If you like the blog, here's a chance to say "Thanks and keep writing!"

You can use my PayPal donation tab up to the right side of the blog --^

If you want to send a check, make it out to "AAC/SDK Sabbatical" and mail to:

Church of the Good Shepherd
2707 W. 33rd St.
Sioux Falls, SD 57105

Donations will run through the American Anglican Council/South Dakota chapter account for those with concerns about Episcopal Church budgets. AAC/SDK is a South Dakota non-profit, so your gifts will be acknowledged for tax purposes (and because I'll be darn thankful!)

God bless you for your generosity.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Wonder if "Sex and the City 2" can be the new "Ishtar"?

Happened to catch a commercial for yet another episode - uh, feature length film - of "Sex and the City." For those with lives, this was a show that made basically one episode and kept showing it over and over 'cuz people seemed to laugh at the same jokes. Matt Groening had fun with it on "The Simpsons," as Marge's bitter spinster sisters hear an announcer say something like "And now back to 'Sex and the City,' a show about middle aged women acting like gay men." "Their lives are so much like ours," intoned one sister.

Anyway, time is not being all that kind to some of the show's stars, and the new version appears to have a desert interlude, and these things reminded me of Ishtar, a film in which once dashing-but-then-midlife Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman did a desert buddy comedy. It was a bomb, even becoming a colloquialism for awhile ("This film turkey could be the next 'Ishtar.'")

Cynical exploitation of pro-life message by abortionist church?

Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) is a well respected relief agency. They do lots of good stuff domestically and abroad, and are efficient, low-overhead movers of resources in times of disaster.

So why are they running what looks like a pro-life ad in a traditional Episcopal publication? When you go to the link, it is about a good project. But it's revolting when a sold out, "abortion is holy" , way-off-on-the-fringe denomination invokes "Mother's Day and Life" in an ad.

Really beneath you, ERD.

Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast information on oil spill response

Gulf of Mexico oil spill updates, cleanup information, pastoral resources Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast

Volunteer opportunities, special prayers and other material at this site. We've been praying for the Gulf Coast at our services.

How ideology blinds scholarship

"...the sources relating to Dakota Territory... (reveal) the ubiquity of Christian symbols, structures, practice, and belief. Early-twentieth-century progressive historians, in contrast, did not take religion as a social force very seriously... Henry F. May commented that the ideology of progressive history included the 'assumption that religion was and must be declining.' Research on the history of religion in the United States in recent years has helped to emphasize its importance to earlier generations of Americans, as has a raft of books arguing that religious and ethnic factors were more important influences on the behavior of voters in the late nineteenth century than were economic concerns."

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bayou Bazaar as Raiders trade Russell for Alexandria Attorney

After reports that the Oakland Raiders had released former #1 draft pick JaMarcus Russell, news has surfaced that the former LSU quarterback was actually traded to the Alexandria, LA firm of Gold, Weems, Bruser, Sues & Rundell for Attorney Brad Drell.

Contacted by satellite, Raiders owner Al Davis said, "Drell has an impressive record, isn't afraid of anything and with enough good Bourbon will put on pads and take the field. Get him going and he don't care if it's gold and purple or silver and black."

A spokesperson for the law firm sent the following email:

"JaMarcus doesn't have a license to practice law, but he's still big and scary and we'll simply have him at our table for that impact. And he can throw a case of legal briefs a mile, so we'll save on courier services."