Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Let God do the decor

My wife was hoping to see the garland and tree decked out with some color on Sunday, but I was bone tired and it just didn't get done. She and I managed to get lights and a star on the tree - and last night God's work on the garland was much better than the doodads I might have hung on it...

Post-power failure prayer (maybe pray it more pre-problems!)

Our neighborhood had a power failure this cold morning. Although it was kinda nice to start the a.m. with candlelight and the fireplace, I was certainly relieved when the unseen workers got the power back on (and I could brew my coffee).

There's a little prayer in the service of Compline, the last office of the night, that came to mind,

O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we live
in and the life we live: Watch over those, both night and day,
who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never
forget that our common life depends upon each other's toil;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Not sure if our problem was remedied by private utility, public services or both, but I give thanks for all.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Rabbis and the Christmas Tree

Here's the kid working on a Black Hills Spruce at our annual trip to Riverview Christmas Tree Farm near Canton, SD. Lots of people were there on Saturday, as it was a balmy 44F in advance of today's likely snow and wind.

Advent/Christmas/Epiphany decor takes me back to one of the churches I served in Southern California. It was part of a very diverse interfaith community. We had an especially good representation of Synangogues.

At one of the clergy gatherings, the theme was "Tell Us About Your Winter Holidays." As you might guess, Christian clergy moaned and lamented about sentimentalism, commecialism and too much busyness.

The Rabbis weren't impressed. "It's the only time of the year your people transform their homes," one said. Then a group of them laughed and said in unison, "A good Jew is made in the home, not the Temple."

That stuck with me. Advent calendars and wreaths, Christmas Trees, garlands, creches and other decor are means to convey the message and spirituality of church seasons. And study after study in aspect after aspect of life tells us that what children experience in the home is formative. Churches and other settings can have input and influence, but the most significant formation of a soul takes place through its most significant formative relationships.

Winter weather on the way here - good days to stay in and decorate. And to talk up the decor:

“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth." Deuteronomy 11:18-21

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A reading for the turn of the Church year

From the Daily Office Lectionary, Year Two, for Saturday of Proper 29 (in other words, the last day before the First Sunday of Advent launches a new Church year):

Philippians 2:1-11

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

The end of last year's telling of the story, knowing the glory and exaltation. The start of a new year, learning again to appreciate the costly gift and the humble giving.

"Our King and Savior now draws near: Come, let us adore him."

Maybe rural South Dakotans can help the city folk with Black Friday

My wife got this by email and shared it with me... now it's yours, too. email was titled "Traffic Control in Rural South Dakota."

South Sudan independence - you can give help in your own community

The people of South Sudan will be able to vote on their homeland's proposed independence on Sunday, January 9th.

The Sudanese people scattered internationally by persecution and civil war will be able to vote at cites in some host countries. There is a regional voting site in Omaha, NE for this region. THE REGISTRATION DEADLINE IS THIS WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 1.

It might be a worthwhile act of service to offer rides to a regional registration site this week and/or to the voting on January 9. Many immigrants are establishing their financial stability and not all have cars - in some cases, cars are shared and whoever is working on a given day has the vehicle.

Most South Sudanese are Christian or practice traditional African religion. They have been under great pressure from the forces of the Muslim north that runs the current nation from Khartoum.

Thoughts on Commerce and Christmas (Advent, really)

The reality is that many people in our communities, especially retailers, depend on what they sell around these winter holidays to make ends meet for the year. For these neighbors and their families, this is the time of the year most like what farmers deal with. Trends in taste and the economy, like too much or too little of something in the farmers' weather, can be the difference between bust and bumper crop for retailers.

Society's shift from field to city is reflected in the placement of prayers in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer (BCP). The first English Prayer Books served a culture that was largely agrarian, and were rich with prayers for farmers' concerns. There were "Rogation Days" and prayer processions around farm fields. In the '79 BCP, the traditional prayer for agriculture is accompanied by a prayer for Stewardship of Creation and a prayer for Commerce and Industry, which we might well offer for our neighbors in retail,

Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ in his earthly life
shared our toil and hallowed our labor: Be present with your
people where they work; make those who carry on the industries
and commerce of this land responsive to your will; and give
to us all a pride in what we do, and a just return for our labor;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with
you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for
ever. Amen.

I think most clergy and many lay Christians are ambivalent about this time of the year. A new church year is just beginning and the telling of Christ's birth is near, but the busyness, especially all the shopping and spending, have displaced the traditional Advent call to contemplation. Church activities seem like the straw that breaks the camels back for many overextended families.

At the malls, muzak versions of great Christian hymns are white noise for a relentless buying and selling, the kind of commerce that troubled several great people in the Bible.

That is to say, "So has it ever been." It is no surprise that Jesus, in Jerusalem during a sacred season, found money-changers' tables to flip, down and out seasonal workers and prostitutes to comfort, and religious leaders to yell at. The sacred and the profane, liberation and exploitation, good and evil always intermingle in our daily lives. God's people need not sulk, even as we seek to be a holy counter-culture,

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Friday, November 26, 2010

As if Northern Plains Anglicans weren't enough of a stretch...

Check out North Dakota's Father Oliver,

Frontier Orthodoxy | Orthodox Christian Historical Theology, Ethics, and/or Philosophy of Religion

Fr. Hall in Brookings turned me on to this blog. Some really good articles from the Priest of Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church in Fargo.

"A community centered around hustle, bustle, texting, and plastic is not a real community. Community is embracing someone who isn’t always “put together,” listening to the music of someone willing to play for dollars each day, watching out for the elderly around you, getting to know your neighbors in that cookie cutter house next door, owning a house that isn’t “cookie cutter,” sitting on your FRONT porch, fishing with your children, and having to take off work boots with dirt and/or manure in order to walk in with your sweaty socks and enjoy pumpkin pie made from real pumpkins from the garden–not a can–they didn’t grow in there, though mold could. Community is being connected to nature, because you see God at work, because it requires the efforts of more than one person, because nature IS community. We just happen to be God’s representative on the top (would that we gave thanks like it!). Community is Thanksgiving."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Peace be with you

O gracious Light, Lord Jesus Christ,
In you the Father’s glory shone.
Immortal, holy, blest is he,
And blest are you, his holy Son.

Now sunset comes, but light shines forth,
The lamps are lit to pierce the night.
Praise Father, Son, and Spirit:
God who dwells in the eternal light.

Worthy are you of endless praise,
O Son of God, Life-giving Lord;
Wherefore you are through all the earth
And in the highest heaven adored.

Greek evening hymn, 3rd century

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy."

President Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863 is fascinating. There's so much of current America in it.

On the one hand, he categorizes an abundance unimaginable to most people who've ever lived on the earth.

On the other, he laments the "waste made in the camp" by a nation so polarized as to be at war with itself.

Most magnificently, he ascribes honor to God for the blessings and does not assign blame to one "side" but to all for "the wounds of the nation."

As with Lincoln's great speeches, there is brevity, artistry and an amazing theological depth. I say that last with deep appreciation, because Lincoln's spirituality remains elusive and his views on the church ran from guarded to critical. Yet his statements often had theological insights that even fine preachers would envy, stitched thoroughly with Biblical language and allusions. They are such a contrast with the bland, generic, obligatory, PC and otherwise empty invocations of God that we expect of our politicians today.

May you and yours enjoy an abundant and peaceful Thanksgiving.

"The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

A. Lincoln"

Fr. Ryan Hall, Brookings, SD - on Thanksgiving

Costly Grace: Thoughts on Thanksgiving

"We have grand hopes that often fall far short of what God would have us to be. The catechism in the back of the prayerbook teaches us that the Communion of Saints 'is the whole family of God, the living and the dead, those whom we love and those whom we hurt, bound together in Christ by sacrament, prayer, and praise.' Therein, I believe, is the beauty of hope in the image of the traditional Thanksgiving Day story.I very much like the traditional story of Thanksgiving, apocryphal though some of it may be, because I believe that story offers Christians a time to reflect on the meaning of giving thanks in a world our forebearers made imperfect. Maybe the traditional story of the first Thanksgiving is not the way it really happened, but that image can be an icon of the way it should have been and will be again one day."

Read all of Fr. Hall's reflection at the link.

For Thanksgiving: a thought on togetherness

Fred Borsch was my Bishop in Los Angeles for about ten years. He was a self-described "unreconstructed 60s liberal," but he managed to hold together some very polarized folks for the duration of his episcopacy.

His primary academic focus was in The New Testament, and he wrote this engaging chapter on the Greek word allelon, "one another." (p. 260 in the embedded preview) May the blessings of this word find their way into all our gatherings over this holiday weekend.

Which illustrations of truth are OK, and why?

Cigarettes to carry grim warnings - Los Angeles Times

The government (FDA) is mandating new warning material on cigarettes:

"The labels will feature either drawings or photos illustrating graphically the dangers associated with smoking and will be accompanied by text stating that smoking is addictive or that it kills. The pictures feature such things as a diseased lung, a corpse and a man smoking a cigarette through a tracheotomy tube."

I'm no fan of smoking. It shortened my dad's life and I never even dabbled in the habit. I was emphatic in teaching my son to stay away from smoking (he's a non-smoker, thank God).

Politically, smokers are on the "outs" as a group and we can pass pretty much any law, tax or fee we want on them.

Which has me wondering: why so much resistance to ultrasound and to risk warnings when it comes to otherwise legal abortion?

There was a campaign awhile back (maybe it is still going around - I don't know) of people driving around in trucks displaying pictures pictures of abortion's result. Most people - and people with different positions on the practice of abortion - were horrified and reacted negatively.

So why is it OK for the government to put somebody's diseased lung on an over the counter consumer item?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Indulge me just a minute: Dancing With the Stars and our inconsistent ideologies

IF you're a conservative calling in your full load o' votes for Bristol Palin, you are saying that the emotional, collective action of your group trumps individual hard work, measurable achievement, and objective standards.

IF you're a liberal coming apart at the seams over Palin's continued presence (and possible victory), you are saying that standards (Len suggested "justice" based on the point system) ought to trump feelings and group interests.

"Why do you [NPA includes self here] see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?"
Jesus, Matthew 7:3

Prayer for Peace (North and South Korea have exchanged fire)

"Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn
but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the
strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that
all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of
Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and
glory, now and for ever. Amen." Book of Common Prayer, 1979

Speech and spirituality: Brit Bishop disciplined for Facebook rant about the Royal engagement

Bishop Pete Broadbent has been suspended from active ministry by the Church of England's Bishop of London.

Bishop Broadbent was snarking on Facebook about the announced engagement and April Royal Wedding. Among other things, he made sarcastic comments about the expense and inglorious failure of high profile marriages.

The only point I want to draw from this is how easily any of us - speaking to Christians in particular - can be seduced by "the world, the flesh and the devil" and lapse into their habits.

The Bible's Letter of James tells us to "tame our tongues," which of course means our fingers as well. Verses like "You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry" apply just as much to our fingers twitching over the "enter" or "send" keys.

The Bible also gives us affirmative instruction on the use of language, in particular finding words that "encourage and build up."

Bishop Broadbent might have made his point by typing, "I do pray for this couple and hope their marriage endures in stability and happiness. Our people need examples of this, as family life is so unstable today. We invest perhaps too much on ceremony and not enough in one another." Instead, he fired off some mockery that undid the points he was trying to make.

As a blogger, emailer and social media user, I fall into the same behavior that has Bishop Broadbent in trouble. It is a spiritual failure on my part. Internet and other technology are the venue, but they don't cause the problem. The problem is the basic human conflict that is present in all ages and places: my ego (more accurate to Freud, my Id, or to St. Paul, "the flesh")calls out against the Holy Spirit's guidance, and that I give in to the pleasures promised by that corrupt voice.

Those of us who follow Christ need to take extra effort to choose words that glorify God, encourage and build up others, and communicate something more than our own passing emotions and interests.

In a moment of happy accord, I see that our good village atheist was blogging on the language we use and wrote, "Dang. That probably means I need to be nicer to Kristi Noem. Civil discourse is hard."

May we be blessed with guidance that keeps us on the hard but life giving path.

Promised Pics from the Capitol Christmas Tree stop in Sioux Falls

My wife signed the banner for us. Tree height is 67 feet; absorbs about 65 gallons of water per day on its trip to D.C.

KELO's Belfrage: A (Vikings) fan of sorrows, well acquainted with grief

KELO AM morning host Greg Belfrage was lamenting the travails of the Minnesota Vikings, and wondered out loud if he could go on as their fan, having his heart broken year after year.

On his Facebook wall, he wrote

"I'm donating my Vikings wear to charity. Who else is with me??"

Which troubled some of us

"Why would you shame those who are in need?"

"You surely can't hate poor people that much. They have some pride left."

If it is any comfort, Greg, I grew up as an L.A. Rams fan. Same deal. Plenty of talent, no rings 'til they moved away and got that one in St. Louis much, much later. How many seasons I watched Fran Tarkenton running around and beating them, only to go on and lose the big game.

There's a kinship in this somewhere.

Monday, November 22, 2010

"The pain now is part of the happiness then" - commemoration of C.S. Lewis for the end of your Monday

Sir Anthony Hopkins portrayed the scholarly Anglican and Christian thinker in Shadowlands.

Here's the prayer for Lewis' day from Holy Women, Holy Men, the Episcopal Church's Calendar of commemorations:

O God of searing truth and surpassing beauty, we give you thanks for Clive Staples Lewis, whose sanctified imagination lights fires of faith in young and old alike. Surprise us also with your joy and draw us into that new and abundant life which is ours in Christ Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

More about Lewis posted at NPA on Facebook.

Westboro Baptist bunch visits Sioux Falls... are outnumbered by counter-protesters

So you still think South Dakota is full of intolerant cracker flyover know nothings?

The Westboro Baptist group from Kansas did their thing here yesterday and today - and were completely outnumbered by several hundred counter-demonstrators from our city and region.

One of the counter-demonstraters posted an FB report.

We knew for several days that WBC was on the way. The consensus was to deny them advance publicity. That's why I didn't blog on it until they left.

Apparently SD was the last of the contiguous 48 states they hadn't visited, which is a surprise because our folks have had their share of military funerals (WBC's favorite target).

Shirley Phelps-Roper, a WBC member, reportedly said, "There is a God. There is a standard in this earth and if you're not gonna obey him, his promised blessings are not for you. You only get his promised curses."

Well, one of the standards God expects us to obey is to refrain from gratuitous insults and name-calling,

"But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire." Jesus, Matthew 5:22

So WBC, whose speeches, website, placards and actions are all aimed to insult and belittle, oughtta know about disobeying God and "getting his promised curses." "The measure you give will be the measure you get," Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount.

Considering your stewardship for 2011? Help me support a Christian community in South Sudan.

A good part of my giving for the coming year will go to the work of God's people in Pajut, South Sudan.

In a joint effort with the church in South Dakota, Pajut is well into its rebuilding efforts. Water wells are working, new milling equipment frees the village girls from hours of subsistence labor so they can attend the new school, and the Episcopal Church of the Sudan congregation has new Dinka language Prayer Books and Hymnals, thanks in good measure to Bishop John Tarrant's request that each congregation in the Diocese of South Dakota send $15 to buy a book.

The village wants to start compensating its volunteer school teachers. I received the following email when I sent a query about needs,

"Presently, the teachers are volunteering Our 'Wish List' includes being able to pay each one $400/month. They will, however, appreciate any pay we can give them as anything is better than nothing! And, they are truly appreciative of whatever we are able to provide to them."

There are several ways to give:

1) You can use the PayPal feature on this blog page (right side, toward the top). I have established a designated item in my parish budget for this project, so you will receive an acknowledgment from Church of the Good Shepherd. Be sure to note "Sudan Project" on the note line of your PayPal donation.

2) You can send checks to
Church of the Good Shepherd
Sudan Project
2707 W. 33rd St.
Sioux Falls, SD 57105

3) You can also send checks to
The Diocese of South Dakota
Moses' School Project/Teacher Salary
500 South Main Avenue
Sioux Falls, SD 57104-6814

All gifts are a blessing. Even modest gifts, given regularly, can add up to make a big difference in Pajut.

Thanks in advance for all prayers, gifts and encouragements, and for beings brothers and sisters in Christ across this land and around the world.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Lighting up the Falls of the Big Sioux River

Well, my night vision and photo skills are limited, so I'm not doing justice to the total illumination of every tree, bench, and other inanimate object in Falls Park, Sioux Falls. But we were there when the Mayor counted down and flipped the switch last night.

I did get these two decent pics of the Falls themselves on a very cold but very festive night.

Local news and video are here.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Advent and "Putting Jesus First"

Another church year ends this week. We celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, and hear the Bible passage that inspired our parish vision:

Helping One Another Put Jesus First

“[Jesus] 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.” Colossians 1:15-20

We’re on the verge of a new church year, which as always begins with the season of “Advent.” This season puts Jesus first in our worship in two ways:

1) Advent prepares us to exalt his birth. We prepare to put Jesus first and say, “…the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Advent prepares us with God’s promises of a Savior who will be the turning point of all history, and Christmas lets us burst out with our first joy, “The Lord is come!”

2) Advent prepares us for forever. We don’t always feel it in the limits of our flesh and blood lives, but Jesus is “first in everything.” He has conquered sin and death and all that can separate us from God, and is crowned as Lord of all. Advent reminds us that “Christ will come again,” to gather those who put him first into his kingdom where “sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting.”

As a Morning antiphon for Advent says, “Our King and Savior now draws near: Come let us adore him.”

Timothy +

Updated...Nat'l Christmas Tree makes stop in Sioux Falls

Of course my camera batteries died... but we got some pics on a throw away camera and will have them up during the week.

The U.S. Forest Service took this year's tree from Wyoming, and it is making a number of stops across the country en route to the capitol.

UPDATE: The tree project has a Facebook page with pics from various stops, including Sioux Falls.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thanks for the prayers and encouragement - update on our son

Hard headed guy, I guess. His nose is not broken. Because he wouldn't let the ER folks suture the cheek gash, it will leave a mark as it heals. But that's it.

I'm still trying to get all the blood out of his room, though.

Some clarity came out of all this. My wife and I realized that the status quo isn't working. There's just the two of us trying to provide what is essentially a 24/7 care need, and he's getting bigger and we're getting older. So we will begin looking into ways to secure more elaborate care for him.

We are blessed with good schools here and some good public and private agencies serving special needs. Our parish is supportive, and several women took my wife out for lunch the other day. It was welcome respite for her.

I'll get back to some blogging soon - there are some positive things to share on the ministry front. For now, my wife and I need to attend to "domestic policy" matters. Your prayers are felt here. God bless you.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Prayer Request and Reduced Internet Blather

Our autistic son had a nasty seizure today. He hit is head going down - evidently he is hard headed like yours truly. Lots of blood from a deep cheek gash and probably a broken nose, but the doctors checked him out and that seems to be it.

My wife and I have been in conversation with the medical people, some parishioners with similar experience, and social support folks - our home is not a clinic and we might need to look at better options for his care. This is where our energy and attention needs to be.

Add to that the most recent blogging here, in which I see again that we in the Episcopal Church are simply talking past one another. Most of this conversation is wasted. I say, "Why is the church badly led?" and the reply is, "Why do you hate gay people?" It's not even a conversation.

As I said to a parishioner off-blog, I've sounded all the warnings, and that's all God asks. There's nothing new to add that people haven't already understood or denied when it comes to this sad little denomination.

So I'm not closing the blog, but I won't be posting much for a bit. I've closed comments because I don't want to come back to a clean up project. For POSITIVE Anglican perspectives, I encourage you to visit the Northern Plains Anglicans Facebook page. Some really sharp people are posting there, not about controversy but about some of the spiritual treasures Anglicans of many perspectives might be able to share.

I do ask your prayers for my family as we see to our son's needs - that's where my energy is needed, useful and welcome. God bless you.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A gay man's hurt, honestly expressed

Responding to my comments of October 21, a gay man posted this comment:

"I came across your blog and I felt I need to tell you that your words are very hurtful, and seem to lack empathy of any kind. I understand that you enjoy things a certain way, we all do... but as a gay man who was bullied in Churches and scared to enter a church for fear I would be singled out as the lone sinner, I can now say I have found comfort and the love of Christ in an Episcopal Church (not a super "liberal" one either). I really can't understand why you are so angry about things, or so mean about it. You sound like a holy man, isn't that enough?"

Here's my reply,

We are talking past each other, anonymous. That is the position in which TEC's put us.

I'm no more holy than you are. I am, like you, seeking that same comfort in love of Christ. Because of Jesus, you are my brother and I am yours, even in disagreement or even in estrangement or conflict.

Bottom line, I am not asking the church to toss out people like you or congregations like the one that nurtures you in Christ.

But you will one day have to see that LGBT people have been marched out as human shields for a mixed agenda because right now you are the object of public sympathy. It costs too much to be sympathetic when that requires me to accept radical abortionists, a centralized church autocracy, liberal protestant disdain for the Bible and all kinds of other stuff the various "consultation/coalition" groups bundle in with "inclusion."

As an ordained person I am expected to look out for the well being of the church. TEC leadership promised growth by advancing LGBT activists; now that there's no growth (there is, in fact, accelerated decline), the PB is saying, "Well, numbers don't matter. We're a small church."

You probably won't experience great empathy in people like me who have been lied to again and again and again in the purported "dialogue" about LGBT concerns.

Less than a generation ago, I graduated from General Theological Seminary, NYC and passed all seven required areas of the General Ordination Exams on the first try. Today, I couldn't get into the ordination process, let alone pass the tests.

TEC doesn't pass the smell test. Not because gay people come to seek Christ like the rest of us, but because TEC lies about what that means and what it is doing.

And brothers though you and I be, that kind of church is going to warp our relationship.

Because the issues expressed by the commenter were delicate and personal to him, I am disabling comments for this post. I will accept comments by email and, if I think they enhance the public discussion, I will post them.

Michael Craven: historic church violence set stage for secularism, "atheological" churches

A worthwhile summary and challenge:

However, in the seventeenth century a much more pernicious secularism appeared that emphasized the complete exclusion of religion from every aspect of public life. As to the cause of this shift, the church need not look to anything other than itself. Following the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century and the later Catholic Counter-Reformation, Europe was thrown into political, military, and economic upheaval as nations descended into wars of religion over doctrinal and theological disputes. The Thirty Years’ War (1618–48) was both an international religious conflict and a German civil war, involving Lutheran, Reformed, and Catholic regions and nations. In direct response to theological disagreements, these wars were carried out by the unholy convergence of church and state. By 1700, Europeans had had enough. The resulting carnage, social disintegration, and economic hardships would open Europeans to an “age of reason” over and against their religious past. As Alister McGrath, Christian theologian and Oxford scholar, points out, “The scene was set for the Enlightenment insistence that religion was to be a matter of private belief” (McGrath, Christianity’s Dangerous Idea, [HarperOne: New York, NY, 2007])...

...As a result, theology and doctrine—the foundations of our faith—have taken a backseat in the daily life and practice of the church. Many churches have simply become atheological and proud of it. We have opted for personal and corporate experiences rather than intellectual rigor and discipleship that may contest one’s personal theological notions. I use the term theological rather loosely here. The facts are, many American Christians either don’t know anything related to historic orthodox Christian theology or they have accumulated a collection of inconsistent notions about God that blend various theological positions into one that best suits them.

Read the whole article at Dakota Voice

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Seasons and Spirituality

Anglican Christianity's Book of Common Prayer weaves Christian spirituality into the seasons of life and nature.

English composer Ralph Vaughn Williams, who wrote a good deal of sacred music still in Anglican use, was moved by Christian faith and taken with the splendor of creation. He wove this arrangement of a traditional carol into the Winter pieces in his Folk Songs of the Four Seasons:

I think this arrangement captures the season beautifully. Winter blankets the Northern Plains in simultaneous silence and majestic power; Advent brings both quiet anticipation and mighty prophecies of the Savior's arrival.

God bless your home and loved ones in all your seasons.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Price of Pigheadedness

Kendall Harmon has posted a set of links to The Episcopal Church (TEC)'s membership & attendance numbers from 2002 and 2009.

2002 is significant because that was the year that the Diocese of New Hampshire announced an actively homosexual man as a candidate for bishop. 2009 is the last full reporting year for church stats.

Although the candidate was not actually elected until 2003, and not consecrated as a bishop until 2004, his 2002 nomination had people sounding warnings and started some toward the exits.

There were three main groups sounding warnings:

1. People who could not in conscience support so great a departure from the church's historic belief and practice.

2. People who were willing to talk about change, but did not believe that the denomination was ready to make such a move.

3. People of various positions on LGBT issues who believed that such a move would damage relationships with other Christians.

The warnings, singly and in combination, were ignored.

In 2002, TEC membership was at just over 2.3 million, with average Sunday attendance (ASA) at 846,640.

By the end of 2009, membership had fallen to barely over 2 million, with ASA down to 682,963.

The numbers are probably worse because TEC continues to count as members/attenders some congregations that have disaffiliated from the denomination.

Winter is here again, O Lord*

Winter and Summer, glorify the Lord,
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O chill and cold,
drops of dew and flakes of snow;

Frost and cold, ice and sleet, glorify the Lord,
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Morning Canticle

Here's a view from my deck this morning...

Same trees just last month...

* And here's Journey singing Wheel in the Sky in August, 1980. The next month they would do the same set, same way just outside of Nuernburg, (then West) Germany - the last concert I would attend before ending my Army active duty and coming back to the USA...

Friday, November 12, 2010

AND ONE MORE bit of encouragement for those preaching, teaching and leading worship

There is a good piece "In Praise of Ordinary Pastors,"

"I think of pastors who see a hundred faces stare back at them in the pews, maybe 130 some years, maybe 85 in others. These pastors can’t help but wonder if they’ve gotten something wrong or if they just aren’t as gifted as other men. Both are possible. But more likely, it’s just one of those things, one of those 'the Spirit blows where he wills' kind of things. I know of pastors who work just as hard as I do. They preach good sermons. They love their people. They probably shepherd better and counsel better and visit the widows better than I do. They endure more hardship and face more obstacles. And yet they keep rowing their spiritual oars Sunday after Sunday, elder meeting after elder meeting, budget after budget, funeral after funeral, all the while with little fanfare and perhaps even little visible fruit. Who’s ordinary now? Are not they the extraordinary ones?"

h/t Treading Grain

This week the Church commemorates Charles Simeon. In an understatement, one profile says,

"Simeon's enthusiasm and zeal brought him much ridicule and abuse, which he bore uncomplainingly."

Yet because he stayed in place, preaching and teaching where he sometimes wasn't even wanted,

"His ministry helped to transform the lives of many undergraduates, of whom we may mention two in particular. Henry Martyn (see 19 Oct), inspired by Simeon, abandoned his intention of going into law and instead devoted his life and his considerable talents to preaching the Gospel in India and Persia. William Wilberforce (20 July), also led in part by Simeon's ministry of teaching and example, devoted his life to the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire."

The Rule of St. Benedict endures for emphasizing "stability." Staying in place means putting up with and forgiving others, in other words, being whipped into shape as a durable Christian.

Priests, preachers, teachers and others who stay in place in settings that don't "feel" as fruitful as we would like may well be nurturing amazing fruit in God's plan. This is a great encouragement - famously fruitful harvests won't emerge save from trudging, trustworthy labor.

Jesus sent out missionary teams to launch the church. But even on the move, they practiced stability wherever they were received,

"And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house." Luke 10:7

They didn't go chasing more favorable or flashy settings - they just stayed in place for as long as was needed to share the Good News in a community.

There is value in what you do. Stay in there.

For those who will preach, teach or otherwise minister the Word of God this weekend

Here's a worthwhile thought from Christian writer Marlene Bagnull:

"Do you feel called to 'write His answer' and yet struggle with self-doubts? Truthfully, through working with hundreds of writers through the years, I find that the those who really have a gift with words and a message that needs to be published are the ones most likely to be crippled by self-doubts.

I shudder when I think of how many times I almost gave up because my self-doubts were so loud and insistent. Why would anyone want to read what I wrote? I What made me think that I could write for the Lord? I wasn’t qualified! How could He possibly use someone who was only a high school graduate? I felt ashamed and woefully inadequate.

How it must have grieved the Lord when I failed to see that the Cross turns my minus into a plus – when I believed the lies of the evil one instead of His promises. And how much time I wasted in my self-centered and selfish focus on my doubts instead of on the needs Father was calling me to address through the words He would give me if I would just trust Him."

The devil attacks preachers and teachers the same way he comes at writers, hissing in our ears at every opportunity, "You don't live up to these words you're using." He's right, of course, and we can let that become the despair he desires.

Earlier in the week, those of us who keep at the Daily Offices read several chapters of The Revelation, including these verses from Chapter 19,

"And the angel said to me, 'Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.' And he said to me, 'These are true words of God.' Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, 'You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your comrades who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.'"

No creature - angel, visionary, Gospel writer, preacher, teacher, pew-sitter - is worthy of worship. We are all just servants, and unprofitable servants at that.

Yet we are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb. Jesus is greater than our frailties, faithful when we are faithless and his strength is made perfect in our weaknesses. He is true, and his testimony is true even when held in our feeble grasp.

So worship God! It is wasted effort to evaluate yourself for a perfection of which your flesh is presently incapable. Look to Jesus and share the truth he gives you to hold.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans' Day (and the dream of Armistice Day)

November 11th was at first a commemoration of the end of WWI, called "Armistice Day." When hopes that it was "The war to end all wars" were dashed, the day was dedicated to all veterans of military service.

Here's an old pic of the front gate of the base where I served in (then West) Germany during the "Cold War." I am happy to say it is long gone, turned to civilian sport and commercial use as part of the "peace dividend" when the NATO - Warsaw Pact standoff ended.

My service was not dramatic - it was, after all, a "cold" war. My dad was in the U.S. Army Air Force in WWII, and never took a life but was decorated for saving the crew of a plane when it went down at sea.

When we give thanks for veterans, we give thanks for all kinds of service, a larger formation than the elite ranks we remember on Memorial Day, who gave "the last full measure of devotion."

But we also pray that all service and sacrifice will bring rewards of freedom and peace, and we pray for a day when "armistice" will stand and we won't need to produce new commemorations of conflict.

Thanksgiving For Heroic Service (Book of Common Prayer 1979, p. 839)

O Judge of the nations, we remember before you with grateful
hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of
decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy. Grant
that we may not rest until all the people of this land share the
benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines. This
we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Prominent UK Psychiatrists: women should "be informed of all the physical, psychological and emotional risks associated with abortion"

From The Telegraph (UK) 11/10/10

They are not objecting to the legality of abortion, but to the concealment of medical information from patients.

Religion is often faulted for ignoring science. Here is a case where ideology, not based in religion, is not only blind but wants to keep others in the dark.

I hope these brave Doctors can continue to practice after being so non-PC.

Information on abortion


We welcome last night's parliamentary debate on government policy surrounding the provision of information to women seeking a termination of pregnancy.

In March 2008, the Royal College of Psychiatrists issued a position statement in which it recognised that good practice in relation to abortion should include
informed consent, involving the provision of adequate and appropriate information regarding the possible risks and benefits to the physical and mental health of the woman.

A major 30-year study that was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2008 showed, after adjustment for confounding variables, that women who had abortions had rates of mental disorder that were about 30 per cent higher than their peers.

Moreover, the notion of ?informed consent? enjoys massive public support. A ComRes poll published on the anniversary of the Abortion Act last week showed that 89 per cent of British adults supported "a woman's right, enshrined in law, to be informed of all the physical, psychological and emotional risks associated with abortion".

As consultant psychiatrists, we strongly urge Parliament to introduce legislation ensuring that women seeking abortion are fully informed about the possible consequences of their abortion decision.

Professor Andrew Sims
Past President, Royal College of Psychiatry
Professor Patricia Casey
University College Dublin
Christopher Findlay
Consultant Psychiatrist, Cheshire
Nick Land
Consultant Psychiatrist, Middlesbrough
Sunil Raheja
Consultant Psychiatrist, London
Adrian Treloar
Consultant Psychiatrist, London
London W1

h/t Anglican Mainstream

Prayer Books for Pajut (South Sudan)

From the November Epistle, Church of the Holy Apostles, Sioux Falls:

"At the 2010 Convention, Bp. Tarrant challenged each congregation to donate $15.00 for the purchase of a prayer book/hymnal in the Dinka language for the Episcopal Church in the community of Pajut, South Sudan."

If you are moved to add to this, or to the general building and educational efforts in Pajut, you can use the PayPal feature on this blog page. Your donation will be tax deductible and acknowledged through Church of the Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls. Please be sure to note "Sudan" in your PayPal donation.

Photos from Diocese of South Dakota website

"Genocide belongs to humanity"

The University of Southern California's "Problems Without Passports" program reports on research in Cambodia and in the universal questions about evil.

"The weary oak carries the burden of a hideous past.

Against its trunk, Khmer Rouge soldiers bashed the delicate skulls of infants and small children, tossing their lifeless bodies into open pits.

As if weeping, a deep crimson stain runs down the oak. It is marked forever as the Killing Tree....

...When it comes to the perpetrators, however, it’s not always that black and white. During the trip, students interviewed both perpetrators who were not leaders, and victims, and at times the lines blurred between the two groups.

'It was kill or be killed,” Mangione said of the Khmer Rouge soldiers. “I started thinking about how good people could do terrible things...'"

The thoughts of those who did terrible things and of those who suffered them fill the article. Many perpetrators and victims still live in the same villages.

Kosal Path, who lectures in International Relations at USC, is a driving force in the research. The genocide unfolded around him when he was a small child,

“I lived through this and I don’t remember,” Path said. “I don’t know how I survived.”

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"Coexist" - Right intent but wrong execution?

Treading Grain » Post Topic » COEXIST?

As this parody shows, waving a superior hand to say, "All you brats just get along" doesn't pay attention to some serious realities, and doesn't really seek to understand or address the core concerns of the vast majority of the world's population. It's condescension, not coexistence.

The intent that religions with very different views should coexist in peace is laudable. Sane models of government carry that ideal. The New Testament itself says,

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."

But I don't think bumper sticker spirituality is all that helpful to the effort.

For example, why leave out Buddhism, Hinduism and Humanism just to make a cute word symbol? Isn't complete disregard an insult and a detriment to coexistence?

And then there's "Gay Rights" - how the heck did that become a world religion? And why co-opt a symbol for gender equality as a pennant for a faction?

"Pacifism" is not a belief system, but a practice within various belief systems. And does that symbol show up anywhere except hippie-themed retro parties anymore?

Coexistence, as some of the grand experiments of both religion and government (including secular governments) have shown, is not achieved by disdaining and seeking to stamp out the profound differences of cultures, faiths and traditions. That only creates the bitterness for future conflict.

"God bless everyone - no exceptions" is another slogan I see on bumpers. It shows ignorance, at least of Christianity (I don't claim to speak for all the other faiths). The vast majority of Christians (yes, there are nutty exceptions) don't get together and pray, "God, please bless us and damn everybody else." Heck, even Christians who do believe that everybody else is headed for hell cry out to God to save the lost and ask God to provide for their material needs here and now. And Christians who most assertively evangelize are making more human contact with others than are people who flash the world by bumper sticker.

Jesus says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God." The challenging thought is that he didn't stick his message on a bumper sticker, but hung it on the cross. Our efforts to make peace will be the real investment of our lives in others, sometimes at painful cost.

Once we've gone to slogans and graphics, we've probably stopped our peacemaking efforts.

More of the global Anglican Presence on the Plains

Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota: Welcome: KaRen update

Ed Kopietz, a member of Messiah parish in the Twin Cities, supplied the link above via our NPA Facebook page. Here's a bit of the report:

"Several Anglican KaRen refugee immigrant families have made Messiah Episcopal Church their faith home over the last year and a half. In response, Messiah members mobilized to provide rides to church services and a weekly English Learner conversation class. KaRen children and youth joined catachesis and confirmation classes, as well as youth group activities. There have been many baptisms, combining the KaRen and English languages. Several KaRen families attended a June all-church retreat in northern Wisconsin, where everyone enjoyed an English and KaRen sing-along.

In June, Messiah welcomed Bishop Saw Noel Nay Lin, of Mandalay, Burma, who presided at a KaRen-language baptism and worship service. Joining him was Father Samuel Lynn, a KaRen priest studying at Nashota House Seminary in Wisconsin..."

Another report on the KaRen made it into the secular media,

"Henerry is among a growing number of Karen students in St. Paul public schools who bring new cultural, linguistic and academic challenges and also have to translate their native alphabet to the English language. In just three years, enrollment has zoomed from 100 to more than 1,100. At least 4,600 Karen immigrants have received refugee status in St. Paul -- a number that is expected to climb with Sunday's election violence between Myanmar troops and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army in the border town of Myawaddy. Thousands of Karen families are reported to have fled to Thailand refugee camps, but it's too early to say how many of those children might come to Minnesota schools."

Visit NPA on FB for more of Ed's insights from his parish's experience.

Highbrow or Lowbrow, stupid is as stupid does

I was all set to emote about a UK opinion piece, which advocates establishing a state agency to monitor religious teaching of children:

"The proposal that I would like to make thus falls far short of this. I believe a public commission should be established that issues non-legally binding guidelines on the forms of doctrines that it is desirable that children are taught. The preaching of hellfire or of divine faith healings to children could form part of such guidelines. Non-compliers could be 'named and shamed' by such a commission."

(h/t Bably Blue)

His premise is that children retain stuff they hear from adults. Certain things they might hear, he's decided, need to be monitored.

But why stop with "religious doctrines"? How about fairy tales - plenty of feminist writers have pointed out damaging ideas that young girls take in via those. Or violent moral tales like "The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf"? Certainly must cause it's share of neuroses, what with people growing up expecting to be eaten alive for excessive fibbing.

But then Fr. Ryan Hall of Brookings, that troubler of the internet, posted a Facebook note linking to a revolting "Christian" tract. It basically argues that the Communion wafer used in many (cough*Roman Catholic*cough) churches is full of Satanic power to deceive people away from "true" (cough*cracker*cough) Christianity.

My favorite error (cough*lie*cough) in the tract is the assertion that the letters "IHS," commonly appearing in the texture of Communion wafers, are the initials of Egyptian deities Isis, Horus and Seth (Ra got jobbed).

IHS are, in fact, the consonants for the name of Jesus in Latin. So the tract, claiming to contend for the ever elusive "true Christianity," blunders into blasphemy.

You can write opinion for a veddy British periodical, rant on a blog or hand out cheesy tracts - there's always abundant opportunity to circulate stupid ideas.

Which of course means we all - me included - need a big dose of humility as we navigate life's big questions and provisional answers.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sioux Falls Argus Leader begins 8-day feature on "Growing Up Indian"

It begins today with "Culture in Chaos Steals Promise of Youth."

Check the "Voices" section as well for Tim Giago's recollection the prejudice encountered in his youth.

These are unsparing looks at pain lived out in South Dakota but produced through actions of the United States - and there's historic church complicity as well.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Is the Church Christ's tomb or his living body?

"...the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead..." From Ephesians 1, Lesson for All Saints' Day

The Communion of Saints, the church of all Christ's faithful in all times and places, is filled with the power that God unleashed in the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb. This is why Jesus is confident to give his followers tall orders,

"But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you." From Luke 6, Gospel for All Saints' Day

But the church so often fails to use this power. It is as though the life of Jesus is placed in the church, only to be left there inert as though in the tomb.

Let's not forget that Jesus' tomb had many of the positive marks of the church. There was sacrificial stewardship through Joseph of Arimathea's donation of his own burial niche. There was reverence as the loyal women came to anoint Jesus' body.

The "normal" ways of "doing church" can feature astounding generosity and reverence, yet the power never gets "put to work" by going out into the world, into unexpected places, like its risen Lord.

The lesson for All Saints' tells us that this power is "immeasurably great" because it is the power of God at work - the same power that raised Jesus from death to eternal life. But first of all the lesson says that this power "is for us who believe" - for the church.

So we pray that we, who are the Communion of Saints, the church, will not be just a donated and reverent tomb where Jesus is laid to rest, but his powerful body, striding out to fill the world with the Good News of God, who "has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all."

We are his living body, because his power is for us.

The Communion of Saints: they receive but they also believe

All Saints' Day is November 1st, but it is common to celebrate the Feast on the first Sunday following.

All Saints' Sunday is one of the days favored for Baptism, emphasizing the addition of new people to the Communion of Saints.

Many churches using the Revised Common Lectionary will hear this lesson:

In [Christ] you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God's own people, to the praise of his glory.

This is expressed in the Baptismal action itself, as the newly baptized are anointed on their foreheads with the words, "(Name), you are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ's own for ever."

The danger is obvious: Baptism is misunderstood as a free pass. We forget that the action is effective in those who "hear the word of truth and believe in Christ." The traditional Anglican/Episcopal model, in which the Baptized did not receive Communion until after being Confirmed at an age of decision and consent, understood Christian initiation in full, God's gracious gift and our transformation through response.

The Gospel for All Saints' this year expresses this fullness:

Jesus looked up at his disciples and said:

"Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
"Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
"Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
"Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
"But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
"Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
"Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
"Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

"But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you."

We are "blessed" because the Lord looks at us and says so; we inherit future glory by letting his life transform ours into something scandalously new.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Folks on the Left: If you don't like the Tea Party people, tell your spokespersons to quit creating them

This is What They Think of You; Prove Them Wrong

I'm not part of the Tea Party. But the video posted by Bob Ellis at Dakota Voice certainly shows why it has some traction.

When you write people off and dehumanize them, they will at some point organize against you. It might be active or passive aggression, but they will resist. Folks on the left are good at seeing this in the experiences of various minorities or disenfranchised groups; they're just not able to see the way in which they play into the same scenario.

I mean, really. "You disagree with me so you must have a neurological problem." A monstrous thought worthy of the worst totalitarians.

Madville Times: Who Needs Two Parties? GOP Cognitive Dissonance Covers All Philosophical Bases

h/t Pastor Shel

Madville Times: Who Needs Two Parties? GOP Cognitive Dissonance Covers All Philosophical Bases

"A paltry plurality of South Dakotans (with the assistance of Dem-leaning voters who tended to abstain for lack of choices) just elected to Congress Kristi Noem, a woman who stirs our local Sarah Palin fantasies by promising to cut big government even as she and her family make a living selling federally subsidized crop insurance and collecting more farm subsidies than all but 17 other South Dakota ag operations...

...just acknowledge that South Dakota is a welfare state and that you, your family, and our whole state rely on socialism, on collective community effort, to survive. Either way, end the cognitive dissonance. After all, we in the loyal opposition can't loyally oppose you if you're occupying both positions at once."

South Dakota Politics: The Sad State of South Dakota Democrats

h/t Madville Times

South Dakota Politics: The Sad State of South Dakota Democrats

"One party states encourage corruption and diminish the power of the voters to punish it. Voters can rarely get a grasp of the powers that work around the tables, day to day, in their state government offices. When there are two competitive parties, voters can punish large blocks of legislators. With each party hoping to gain on the other in the next election, there is some general incentive for reducing corruption and promoting good government. When there is only one effective party, the worst excesses result in a few individuals taking all the blame. The larger body of scoundrels remains immune to censure...

There is a tragic flaw in the South Dakota Democrat. The best of that species tend to look beyond our borders for greater things. The voters frequently recognize that, and in an act of grace, set them free. Meanwhile, the party withers. This is not good for Democrats in the state, or for the state itself."

Indebted and Unrepentant by Fred Siegel, City Journal 3 November 2010

h/t Pastor Shel of Sioux Falls...

Indebted and Unrepentant by Fred Siegel, City Journal 3 November 2010

"...the split between, on one side, California and New York—two states, deeply in debt, whose wealthy are beneficiaries of the global economy—and, on the other, the solvent states of the American interior that will be asked to bail them out. This geographic division will also pit the heartland’s middle class and working class against the well-to-do of New York and California and their political allies in the public-sector unions."

Anybody wanna guess where Episcopal Church resolutions will come down?

Fundamentalists Anonymous (Who?) sing "Glory Days...

...well, they pass you by..." (thanks, Bruce Springsteen)

I don't know why, exactly, I googled these guys recently, but the result was pretty humorous.

Basking in a long ago debate against the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, they return to those thrilling days of yester-year when "Fundamentalists Anonymous" came to save us from the "Fundamentalist mindset."

In their material, they always tried to say that the mindset could be any religion or any ideology. Using the model developed by Alcoholics Anonymous, they sought to help people recover from a form of thinking they deemed toxic.

Now, they are being congratulated (congratulating themselves?) as "prophets"... because the world is in a deadly war between Fundamentalist Islam and... Fundamentalist CHRISTIANITY (cue scary music)!

How many absurdities can you find at the link? I warn you, you might spew a beverage on your keyboard or hurt your ribs laughing. Or you might punch your monitor in reaction to the idiocy you will encounter.

Let's see things as they are - isn't that a goal of sobriety, after all? - and admit that various Islamic groups are stirring up strife and resistance in the secular West, Communist China, Islamic states - pretty much every setting on the planet.

Nowhere - NOWHERE - is Christianity being imposed upon the world by force. If anything, Christians in the West are for the most part allied with secularists in resisting Islamic social influence. Here in the USA, there's little difference between Oklahoma's new anti-Sharia law, Bill Maher's anti-Islamic opinion and The Rev. Franklin Graham's commentary.

Maybe we're all a bunch of Western Civilization Fundamentalists. Or Democratic Capitalist Fundamentalists. Or Human Rights Fundamentalists.

But we have hope. FA can help us find our way to sanity.

Ya think they have groups meeting in Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran or Saudi Arabia?

About showing up...

Yuck - an overheated week of politics and church melodrama in the blogosphere.

It's a good time for worship. Being in God's presence is like - I dunno, pick your metaphor: a reboot, a hot shower, a massage, a favorite beverage break, dinner 'round the campfire...

NOT an escape from the world, but the right rest and refreshment to step into it whole.

The final verse of this morning's Psalm is a word of worship and an encouragement to seek God's presence,

How wonderful is God in his holy places! The God of Israel giving strength and power to his people! Blessed be God!

Last Wednesday I celebrated Holy Communion over at Calvary Cathedral. An attorney who attends that midweek service came up after and remarked on how easy it is to perceive "church" as just another obligation and not show up, but how much is missed - he held up the sheet with the prayers and lessons we'd shared - when that happens.

As I admit in my sermons now and again, if I didn't HAVE to be at church, I might not make it that much during football season. I'd skip the exposition of Jesus' words for a 9 to 3 yawner between .500 teams.

May the Spirit encourage and guide you to inspiring, renewing and transforming teaching and worship this weekend.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A sad, sterile symbiosis

What hit me during discussions of the latest Episcopal/Anglican/Cosmic caucus or coalition or co-op or whatever or is that there is a symbiosis shaping the leadership, formal and informal, within The Episcopal Church (TEC).

The two organisms that coexist to lead are

A. The overwhelming majority of members who are elderly, who have endured life's labors and whose primary interests are comfort and familiar fellowship for their remaining years. They are likely the last generation we will experience that can leave substantial financial and material assets to others. They will give generously to keep the church going, as long as it is somewhat predictable (even in decline) at the local level. They will not engage what they perceive as distant church conflicts and they are prone to believe quixotic claims about "getting the young people back into church."

B. The LGBT (lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgendered & other) activists. This is a very small faction, numerically, and does not include all or maybe even most of the LGBT people in TEC (there are many in group "A", for example). The activists are taken with the drama of politics and public symbolism, church pageantry and rituals. They do not care about the overall well being of the church as long as they win symbolic battles for their own group insiders.

The symbiosis has several features:

1. The activists are destroyers, not builders, and as such cannot produce resources to carry on their work. Thus, the donations, buildings and other institutional infrastructure of the elderly members are essential for the activists' public political theatre to continue.

2. The elderly members want to hear that the church has a future, and the activists confidently, unashamedly and in spite of all contrary evidence claim that they will fill the church with young people.

3. The activists thrive on politics and win their victories in the distant venues (church conventions, boards and bureaucracies) that the elderly majority no longer wish to engage.

4. The elderly members don't get too exercised by the absurdities carried out by the activists in far off venues, so the activists are free to function as a ruling elite.

5. The activists tell the elderly members that "all is well" and the elderly members continue to send money.

6. The activists offer the hot attacks on any who question the direction of TEC, and the elderly majority offer cold attacks - "Why are those people making so much trouble? We just don't understand all the fuss!"

The product of this symbiosis is an amazing sterility. Neither the elderly majority nor the activists, as made clear by TEC's own internal reports and by common sense, are able to add to the church through reproduction, intergenerational transmission of faith or evangelism among the unchurched.

The symbiosis is a "one generation strategy", seeing to the pleasures and perks of the current members of TEC. It has no vision and certainly no plan for a missionary legacy to the church or the world.

So the final feature of the symbiosis is that both organisms support each other in a big lie about "doing the church's mission."

No three-legged stools, split-the-difference "middle way" or other Episcopal urban myths...

Go to our Northern Plains Anglicans Facebook page (badge is over to the right on this blog). We have a series of detailed posts on Richard Hooker, who was commemorated on the church calendar this week.

Lots of distortions of what Hooker wrote have become common jargon among Episcopalians. The posts by Fr. Ryan Hall and a link to a piece by Benjamin Guyer will give some serious insight into what this foundational Anglican thinker was about, theologically and in historical context.

Some of what Episcopalians know about him is accurate, but some major ideas have been misrepresented to our denomination's harm.

Go have a look, and some good reads!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Episcopal LGBT activist sends email for group seeking to break up the Anglican Communion

The email floated into my inbox from somebody's e-blast. The language is all sweetness, tradition and kitty kats but this is basically a narrow interest faction breaking up a global Christian witness:

I share this mailing with you at the request of friends in the No Anglican
Covenant Coalition. -- Louie Crew


Dear Christian concerned for the vitality of the Anglican Communion:

Included in this letter is a news release from an emerging coalition
of Anglicans opposed to the current form of an Anglican Covenant.

We believe that acceptance and approval of the current proposed
Covenant will:

o Bring historic changes to the nature of Anglicanism.
o Trade a vibrant and colorful Anglicanism for drab uniformity.
o Impede local mission and destroy creative evangelism.
o Trade local oversight for centralized decision making.

Thank you for your consideration of this message.

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition


[The release below also appears at


No Anglican Covenant Coalition
Anglicans for Comprehensive Unity



LONDON - An international coalition of Anglicans has been created to
campaign against the proposed Anglican Covenant. Campaigners believe the
proposed Covenant constitutes unwarranted interference in the internal
life of the member churches of the Anglican Communion, would narrow the
acceptable range of belief and practice within Anglicanism, and would
prevent further development of Anglican thought. The Coalition's website
(noanglicancovenant.org) will provide resources for Anglicans around the
world to learn about the potential risks of the proposed Anglican

"We believe that the majority of the clergy and laity in the Anglican
Communion would not wish to endorse this document," according to the
Coalition's Moderator, the Revd. Dr. Lesley Fellows, who is also the
Coalition's Convenor for the Church of England. "Apart from church
insiders, very few people are aware of the Covenant. We want to encourage
a wider discussion and to highlight the problems the Covenant will cause."

The idea of an Anglican Covenant was first proposed in 2004 as a means to
address divisions among the member churches of the Anglican Communion on
matters ranging from human sexuality to the role of women. The current
draft of the Covenant, which has been unilaterally designated as the
"final" draft, has been referred to the member churches of the Communion.
The proposed Covenant establishes mechanisms which would have the effect
of forcing member churches to conform to the demands and expectations of
other churches or risk exclusion from the Communion.

Critics of the proposed Anglican Covenant, including members of the new
Coalition, believe that it will fundamentally alter the nature of historic
Anglicanism in several ways, including the narrowing of theological views
deemed acceptable, the erosion of the freedom of the member churches to
govern themselves, and the concentration of authority in the hands of a
small number of bishops. Two English groups, Inclusive Church and Modern
Church, ran anti-Covenant advertisements in last week's Church Times and
the Church of England Newspaper aiming to make more members of the Church
of England aware of the dangers of the proposed Anglican Covenant.

"If the Anglican Communion has a problem, this is not the solution,"
according to former Bishop of Worcester Peter Selby. "Whether those who
originated the Covenant intended it or not, it is already, and will become
even more, a basis for a litigious Communion from which some will seek to
exclude others."

The launch of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition website coincides with
the commemoration of the sixteenth-century theologian Richard Hooker.
"Hooker taught us that God's gifts of scripture, tradition, and reason
will guide us to new insights in every age," according to the Canadian
priest and canon law expert, the Revd. Canon Alan Perry. "The proposed
Anglican Covenant would freeze Anglican theology and Anglican polity at a
particular moment. Anglican polity rejected control by foreign bishops
nearly 500 years ago. The proposed Anglican Covenant reinstates it."

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition began in late October with a series of
informal email conversations among several international Anglican bloggers
concerned that the Covenant was being rushed through the approval process
before most Anglicans had any opportunity to learn how the proposed new
structures would affect them.


Revd. Dr Lesley Fellows (England) +44 1844 239268
Dr. Lionel Deimel (USA) +1-412-512-9087
Revd. Malcolm French (Canada) +1-306-550-2277
Revd. Lawrence Kimberley (New Zealand) +64 3 981 7384


All of which is to say, "We want to do our own rich, White, seniors club thing and don't want to have to sit down to find consensus with a bunch of Africans. We don't care that they are the growing part of the Anglican world and that our churches are in total decline - WE are the "vital" ones because we are better than other people."

Still in the closet. Why?

"Jefferts Schori said that research shows that when the Episcopal Church tells its story well, it attracts young adults for its liturgy, social-justice stances and passion for mission; immigrants and women at transition points in their lives."

Did you notice the missing constituency?

The Episcopal Church has gone out of its way to advance LGBT activists. The very public narrative - TEC's most public story - went into the consecration of LGBT clergy as bishops. This was accomplished, even at the cost of global Christian discord.

So why can't/doesn't the PB (or at least the TEC coverage of her remarks) include the LGBT in the list of those attracted by the TEC "story?"

Might it be that most LGBT people could care less about playing church, and that those who bought into TEC were of the activist fringe caught up in the symbolism and drama of public rituals? In which case, the whole strategy was a massive misread of the culture and a mission failure, one which the PB or someone in the elite needs to own.

Or might it be that the whole LGBT agenda had nothing at all to do with "a new thing of the Holy Spirit," or fostering church growth among waiting masses, or any of the other sundry explanations flung out as needed? Might it be that it had nothing at all to do with the well being of the whole church and everything to do with a very small group's interests?

Worst of all, might it be that TEC leadership is now habituated to obfuscation, deception and manipulation, suiting "the story" to particular audiences to reach particular interest group outcomes?

And speaking of being in the closet, did you read the whole article and notice the conspicuous absense of a significant church figure?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Prayer for Election Day

Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of the United States (or of this community) in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer

Monday, November 1, 2010

Episcopal Life Online reports on groundbreaking South Dakota event (good piece for All Saints' Day!)

Episcopal Life Online - DIOCESAN DIGEST

Several of our parish young people were able to attend the event in Vermillion.

Our state's tourism tag line is "Great Faces, Great Places." I guess the story shows that the Communion of Saints can be described as "all kinds of faces, not bound by places."

"Brother John's visit worked as a catalyst to get different church groups, ages, and cultures together in an unusual and wonderful way, completely in tune with the Taizé mission of reconciliation among Christians," said the Rev. Rita Powell, coordinator for youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of South Dakota.

Episcopal Church Executive Council Finance Chair: "those who now have the most power and resources in the system" will resist needed changes

The following comments by Del Glover first appeared on a closed House of Bishops & Deputies (HoB/D) listserve, but were subsequently shared with his permission in other venues.

Some of what he says lends to "reading between the lines," especially his last paragraph. But many who hold power and resources in The Episcopal Church perceive themselves as powerless victims, which creates no end of confusion and frustration for efforts to heal the crippled denomination.

While I share some of his analysis of church decline being a decades long trend rather than a sudden emergency, the folks currently holding the denomination's systemic "power and resources" ascended on promises that their agenda would reverse the decline. They were either wrong, misleading or both and have exacerbated the decline. They should not be holding power and resources.

His call for "change of direction" is welcome, but he doesn't put enough flesh and bone on it to tell me what he has in mind. If he is arguing that the Presiding Bishop, or the Executive Council or some other elite should have unaccountable executive authority over the church, he is certainly arguing for "systemic change" but in a form so alien to this church's historic, spiritual, intellectual and organizational identity as to erase them. And authoritarian religion, or cult of personality, or unaccountable bureaucracy are not exciting new models, but old, discredited ones.

See what you think:

"There have been a number of posts concerning the finances and leadership of the Episcopal Church. As the chair of the finance committee and a member of the audit committee, I want to address what I understand to be the key issues and the steps we are taking to address them.

The first issue is the money we have borrowed to pay for the renovations to the Church Center [in New York City] and the purchase of a parking lot [in Austin, Texas] as a future site for the national archives.

When those needs arose, the staff and Executive Council chose to borrow a combined $47 million dollars from our $50 million line of credit. The terms allowed us to pay as much or little principal as we chose - and we have made primarily interest payments and only about $500,000 in principal payments over the past six years. I and other members of finance and audit committees as well as previous members of those committees with extensive financial expertise whom we have asked to advise us, believe that a loan of that amount should not be made with a line of credit. It is not a standard financial practice to use a line of credit for major capital expenditures. The purpose of a line of credit is to cover cash shortfalls for small amounts of time and is normally repaid as soon as possible (generally within a year).

In retrospect, this loan was undertaken at the time when banks encouraged all of us, individual homeowners and organizations, to over-extend ourselves and to take on loans that were not adequately secured. I believe that is what happened to us. But now the time has come for us to put our financial house in order.

It was entirely appropriate and necessary for us to do the renovations at the Church Center and some of the costs were a result of the need for asbestos abatement and not optional. Concerning the proposed future site of the Archives in Texas, (the parking lot), some of us were convinced that the availability of the parking lot was a good purchase at the time, especially since the Archives had been asked to vacate the space to the Seminary of the Southwest, the current home of the Archives. The parking lot is a functioning enterprise and its income is sufficient (at the currently low interest rates) to make interest and some principal payment. If interest rates increase, as well they may, this situation would change. In any case, we need a new site for the Archives and the current parking lot is oneoption for that.

I and others believe we now need to obtain mortgages or private financing, using the properties as collateral, just as most of us use our homes as collateral for our mortgages. With interest rates at record low levels, we believe we should secure loans and make both interest and principal payment to service our debt - preferably paying principal at an accelerated rate, so less of the church's funds goes towards interest payments and we can again be debt-free.

Several posts have suggested a conflict between the Treasurer, Kurt Barnes, and me. That assessment diminishes the importance of the issues before us [and] undermines the commitment both Kurt and I feel for this Church. We simply have a difference of opinion as to how we should address these questions. Kurt, and others, including members of the staff, want to have the maximum amount of flexibility so if there is a shortfall in income from the dioceses, they can use more of the line of credit to fund the operations of the church and Church Center programs and pay less or no principle. That is understandable - the staff of an organization normally wants this kind of flexibility to do the work they have been given to do.

On the other hand, I believe that we should pay our debt first and make whatever cost reductions are necessary to allow us to do so. That is also understandable - he role of the finance committee is to look at the big picture and the long view.

Another recent thread that has been on the HoB/D list is reflections on the decline in members. I share these concerns. If we project the decline in members and income into the future, it is clear that we can not maintain the size of the operations we currently have. We have lost about 1/3 of our members in the last 50years - but we have a structure that has stayed pretty much the same. We need to "right-size" our structures and reduce about 1/3 of our costs. That includes General Convention, Committees/Commissions, as well as Church Center programs. And it probably also will mean combining dioceses, reducing the number of bishops and committees, on the diocesan and parish levels as well. I believe these are the points Bishop Jefferts Schori was making in her comments to Executive Council.

If we begin to make those structural and organizational changes expeditiously now and focus whatever savings we can generate on our true "mission" of building the church (by which I mean, making disciples for Christ), we can turn this matter around. I keep a copy of Claude Paine's book, "Reclaiming the Great Commission" on my desk to remind me of our mission. (after all, my wife is a priest!)

If we all continue to focus on our dwindling resources, we will simply continue down an unhealthy slope. While the most current manifestations of this have focused on declining membership and finances, it is, at the end, really about vision. The system we are now in is producing what it is designed to produce. I believe we need to challenge what we are doing, change direction and ultimately change the system. That will need the hard work of many, so I hope others will do their part.

I expect these comments will generate resistance - especially from those who now have the most power and resources in the system. I hope they and we all can stop, listen to what God is saying to us and refocus on what our Book of Common Prayer says so well about God's church (i.e., God's people) existing to be the arena by which God restores all people to God and each other in Christ. If we are not about doing that, we have truly lost our way!

Del Glover,
Chair of the Finance Committee of Executive Council"