Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How come SD's atheist blogger gets it (and the oldline church leaders don't?)

Apprised of a Nebraska Unitarian preacher's proclamation of atheism, Cory Heidelberger agrees but also asks,

"But church, as I understand it from my outsider's position, isn't about good conversation. You can certainly have good conversation at church, but church is about getting the Good News, and the Good News is the God News. You go to a church service to acknowledge and worship the Deity. A church can certainly host a speaker or a panel discussion on atheism or Judaism or Islam, but that's not a worship service. That's... something else."

Some will recall the widely reported retort by atheist Christopher Hitchens when confronted with the arguments of a "liberal Christian,"

"I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian."

Liberal Protestantism, despite its social justice stylings, runs on the old fumes of state religion. It believes itself capable of finding least common denominators that will let it speak as a kind of national chaplaincy. But it winds up at a distance from those it seeks to unify. Orthodox Christians aren't attracted to its claims that they are uninformed and unthinking; atheists are not turned on by its vague "spiritual" claims that evaporate in the face of intellectual inquiry.

Chris Johnson at Midwest Conservative Journal frequently headlines his posts about LibProts "Laodiceans," recalling Christ's warning to the church in that city,

“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth."

More documentation of budget-busting, unaccountable lawsuit spending by the Episcopal Church, and the deception used to justify it

Attorney Alex Haley offers a detailed investigative series exploring the history, justifications, budgets and unanswered questions of Episcopal Church property litigation. It is detailed, so give yourself time to read the four current analyses. Here are some amazing discoveries:

* As suspected, the denominational leadership has raided "mission" trust funds to keep cases in the courts. Haley discovers this in minutes of the "Executive Council."

* The known litigation spending in just two years - 2006-07 - exceeded $2,000,000, followed up with another $2.9 million in 2008 , even though the legal budget authorized by the church's General Convention, ostensibly its decision making authority, allowed for just over a million dollars total for six years (2004-10).

* Meeting minutes show that auditors raised questions about the use of mission trust fund income, but that these concerns appear to have been ignored at subsequent "Executive Council" meetings.

* In videotaped depositions, the Presiding Bishop justifies the litigation this way: "I understand it as a means to preserve assets of the Episcopal Church for the ministry and the mission of the Episcopal Church." This is not, in fact, what has happened. Beyond the out of budget spending, a number of retained church buildings sit vacant, unable to attract new congregations.The church property in Binghamton, NY, was sold to a Muslim group for 1/3 of what the original Christian congregation was offering to keep it.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A quiz toward regional awareness and enlightenment

A piece in our Sunday paper leads me to wonder:

When I ask for directions to your church, you reply,

A. "Go to Main Street and turn right."

B. "Go north on Main Street."

C. "It's over near Jerry's Steak House."

D. You insist on texting global positioning coordinates.

Nebraska man pepper sprays Phelps group at Marine's funeral

Caught this via a tweet @JulieBanderas. The Fox News reporter is back after having her first child.

Wonder if the guy has a legal defense fund? Share the news if you find out.

South Dakota County becoming "Las Vegas" for underage marriages

Yikes! We're still the frontier in many ways.

Sioux Falls was once a quicky divorce mill for rich Easterners, until the first Episcopal Bishop, William Hobart Hare, led a movement to stop the practice.

Now, Union County is attracting minors who want quick access to legal marriage - and adults who want to marry minors.

Union sits in the SE corner of SD, affording quick access to couples from Nebraska and Iowa.

Sioux Falls Argus Leader gives substantial coverage to Lutheran split

Kudos to reporter Jeff Martin for interviewing folks of different perspectives and letting them speak for themselves.

He also appreciates the hurt and havoc these disputes bring to the church.

African Anglican Bishop's Communique is Out: UPDATED

David Virtue was on the scene and has the scoop:

There's a gracious word on their interactions with the Archbishop of Canterbury,

4. We were very happy and appreciated that the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Dr. Rowan Williams, accepted our invitation to attend the 2nd All Africa Bishop's Conference. We were encouraged by his word to us. We also appreciated the opportunity to engage face-to-face with him in an atmosphere of love and respect. We shared our hearts openly and with transparency, and we have come to understand the difficulties and the pressures he is facing. He also came to understand our position and how our mission is threatened by actions which have continued in certain provinces in the Communion. We therefore commit ourselves to continuously support and pray for him and for the future of our beloved Communion.

Their priorities going forward are cognizant of the revisionist teachings and actions of the Episcopal Church and some other Provinces, but are not overly reactive to them,

A. In order to keep the ethos and tradition of the Anglican Communion in a credible way, it is obligatory of all Provinces to observe the agreed decisions and recommendations of the Windsor Report and the various communiqués of the past three Primates Meetings, especially Dar es Salaam in 2007. We as Primates of CAPA and the Global South are committed to honor such recommendations.

B. We are committed to meet more regularly as Global South Primates and take our responsibilities in regard to issues of Faith and Order.(5)

C. We will give special attention to sound theological education as we want to ensure that the future generations stand firm on the Word of God and faithfully follow our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

D. We are committed to network with orthodox Anglicans around the world, including Communion Partners in the USA and the Anglican Church in North America, in holistic mission and evangelism. Our aim is to advance the Kingdom of God especially in unreached areas.

E. We are committee to work for unity with our ecumenical partners and to promote interfaith dialogue with other faiths in order to promote a peaceful co-existence and to resolve conflicts.

F. We are committed to work for the welfare of our countries. This will involve alleviating poverty, achieving financial and economic empowerment, fighting diseases, and promoting education.

7. Finally, we are very aware of our own inadequacy and weaknesses hence we depend fully on the grace of God to achieve his purpose in the life of his church and our beloved Anglican Communion.

They use footnotes to catalog the warnings and indicate the harmful fallout of the Episcopal Church's unilateralism,

1. The Windsor Report Section 134.1 The Episcopal church (USA) be invited to express its regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached in the events surrounding the election and consecration of a bishop for the See of New Hampshire, and for the consequences which followed and that such an expression of regret would represent the desire of the Episcopal Church (USA) to remain within the Communion(2) the Episcopal church (USA) be invited to effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion energies.

The Windsor Report Section 144.3 We call for a moratorium on all such public Rites, and recommend that bishops who have authorized such rites in the US and Canada be invited to express regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached by such authorizations.

2. Windsor Report. Section D. 157 There remains a very real danger that we will not choose to walk together. Should the call to halt and find ways of continuing in our present communion not be heeded, then we shall have to begin to learn to walk apart.

3. The Communiqué of the Primates Meeting in Dromantine (2005) Section 14. Within the ambit of the issues discussed in the Windsor Report and in order to recognize the integrity of all parties, we request that the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada voluntarily withdraw their members from the Anglican Consultative Council for the period leading up to the next Lambeth Conference.

4. The Communiqué of the Primates Meeting in Dar es Salaam in 2007. If the reassurances requested of the House of Bishops cannot in good conscience be given, the relationship between The Episcopal Church and the Anglican communion as a whole remains damaged at best, and this has consequences for the full participation of the Church in the life of the Communion.

UPDATE: Two African Provinces dissent; do not recognize North American Anglican dissenters or any separation from Episcopal Church, however share in criticism of Episcopal unilateralism.

Interesting comparison of how Episcopal and Lutheran foibles are covered in the news

A no-big-deal church split » GetReligion

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The solemnity of sunglasses

I took our younger son to the park today. It is a bit windy but warm and the sky is what Jon Krakauer called "achingly blue" when he was up Mt. Everest.

Despite a warm forecast for the week ahead, a friend's assertion that his ankle says fall seems right. The big geese are practicing migration. They are doing what look like fighter pilot touch-and-goes off the golf course ponds. They take off, fly a lap in formation around the park, quickly execute changes of leader in the air, then land, rest and repeat.

I'm sure that's humdrum for the real Dakotans, but for an L.A. guy it is magical. The geese work the change of leader at low altitude on these test runs, and the up close view is rougher than I expected. The sub comes up and does an abruptly physical shoulder roll over the leader, who drops back without missing a beat. Other than that, the formation is all gentle unison, flapping and floating as one.

The beauty was welcome. Today is a moody one, as our family is in a bittersweet season. Our older son is off to college - driving across the Plains as I type this. He and mom said farewells at the house, and he came by the park for the guy farewells.

He's launched - it marks a season of success in our lives to send him out. But the house is emptier and that marks a different season. Autism isn't keeping his brother from feeling it; even the pets are making concerned faces as they poke around.

Thank God for the face-saving solemnity of sunglasses.

Why we have freedom of the press

I link to South Dakota's bloggers of left and right. In the last couple of days, they have both demonstrated why the Founders included freedom of the press in our Bill of Rights.

Before I give the examples, let me say that a "free" press is not an objective press. It is a diverse and competitive field, with partisan leanings in abundance. But that competitive, partisan zeal digs out truths that keep the political and other social powers challenged. In fact, it challenges itself. When the bulk of mainstream media became apologists for one political side, the blogosphere emerged to challenge it. And then the blogs proliferated with all points of view contending.

Nor is a free press a quality press. Ya hear me, Midcontinent Communications? The stuff I confront on your "news" page every time I open my email is crap. People can't get jobs and you want to show videos about Heidi Montag's implants and teen vampire movies. And people think religion is the opiate of the masses?

But then the Founders realized that we would have to make intelligent choices - no system can make us wise or virtuous if we decide to be passive idiots.

OK, the examples of free press in action:

From the left, Madville Times shows that a South Dakota "values" candidate is a significant scofflaw.

From the right, Dakota Voice keeps asking questions that the MSM won't ask about foreign interests in the Ground Zero Mosque.

Keep up the snarky, partisan good work. A free people benefit from it.

Irrefutable argument in favor of capital punishment

I watched about 15 mins. of Moulin Rouge (2001) yesterday. Somebody needs to pay for this crime against humanity. What a piece of crap. Hate to see Ewan MacGregor and Nicole Kidman go - after all, they were only following orders. Maybe some kind of extended prison time under international guard for them.

I will no longer watch any movie in which "visually" is used as a selling point. You know, teasers like "This visually stunning..." I haven't seen Avatar and won't for that very reason.

In contrast, I revisited 1963's Hud a few weeks ago. No CGI - it has that LOL effect of people sitting in a car pretending to drive while scenery moves on a screen behind them. B&W. It's just good adaptation of a credible writer (based on Larry McMurtry's first novel), a lithe plot and most of all strong acting. Melvyn Douglas, playing an old guy before he was really old, and Patricia Neal projecting haggard and sexy at the same time, both won supporting actor Oscars for their roles. Paul Newman masterfully undercuts his good looks with a repulsive character. I wonder how much he drew on this to help Tom Cruise pull off a similar effect in The Color of Money.

It is entirely possible to create film that has the impact of a good stage play. Rod Serling, later of Twilight Zone fame, did this with Kraft Television Theatre. Heck, he did it with Twilight Zone, for that matter.

OK, winding down from rant. Football season is at hand so I will be less inclined to blunder into "visually stunning works of imagination" or other capital crimes.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Reminder of a better way

Confessions of a Carioca: Update on the Pax Nashotah

I linked this way back in May when it first appeared. But it is worth revisiting as the Anglican Communion continues to polarize and pull apart.

There are Christians who, for the sake of Christ, create demilitarized zones in the culture war. Nashotah House, an historic, formerly frontier mission seminary in Wisconsin, is one such venue. God bless and prosper their work.

btw the linked blog host, Fr. Dan Martins, is a candidate for Bishop in Springfield, IL.

Wading in water or scattering bulls**t?

Stand Firm | Update: Bishop Benhase says to “wade deep into the waters” with those “with whom we disagree”

Stand Firm exposes more of the elitist hypocrisy in the Episcopal Church, where a bishop preaches on "wading deep into the waters" with people with whom we don't agree... then issues a policy manual to his clergy telling them - I kid you not - that they are forbidden to have contact with dissenters who've left the Episcopal Church for other Anglican bodies.

The best "liberal" argument against anything traditional or "conservative" is always to expose hypocrisy. "Free marketers" who keep certain groups out of the marketplace, for example. The lofty aims of the U.S. Constitution compared to its "Blacks are 3/5 of a person" content. Progressives do well to expose gaps between theory and practice, rhetoric and reality.

So it is about time some of our liberal betters got outed for their own hypocrisy: they preach about "inclusion" and "dialogue" when they are legalists, institutionalists and fear-mongers of the worst sorts.

This just in from the head of the church:

"Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."

Krauthammer: "undisguised contempt for the great unwashed"

He summarizes this nicely. Those of us in and around the Episcopal Church will recognize what he's describing in the body politic. Taking seriously the Episcopalian claim to be a "thinking person's church" is as foolish as, well, taking seriously your Constitutional rights to speech, religion and assembly in the presence of elitists who will simply say you're evil or mentally ill for failing to see things their way.

h/t Wannabe Anglican - the entire editorial is here.

"Pull out the bigotry charge, the trump that preempts debate and gives no credit to the seriousness and substance of the contrary argument."

Cold comfort

"We sympathize with his position as head of the Anglican communion suffering disunity on moral grounds and teaching of the scripture. It's like having unruly kids in his house and he can't sit down to eat food."

Henry Luke Orombi, Archbishop of Uganda, on the Archbishop of Canterbury's effort to deal with Anglican fragmentation.

Episcopal Church of the Sudan: "put the safety, livelihoods, and rights of the poorest and most vulnerable first."

The Bishops of the Sudanese Church issued a statement at the All Africa Bishops' Conference in Entebbe, Uganda. Anglican blogger David Virtue posted it this morning.

It is a sobering yet inspiring statement, as the church in The Sudan calls on the country to implement all provisions of its "Comprehensive Peace Agreement." The CPA was put in place to end a civil war during which "The Government of Sudan declared jihad against Sudanese Christians, and between 1983 and 2005, around 2.5 million people died, millions were maimed, and over 4 million more were displaced to camps—some of whom have not been permitted to return until this day." Displaced Sudanese have a significant community here in Sioux Falls, including an Episcopal congregation which has raised up clergy from its membership.

The Diocese of South Dakota has a continuing reconstruction relationship with the village of Pajut in South Sudan, detailed recently in the Church News (pdf - story begins on p. 4)

Psalm 17 was appointed for Morning Prayer today. I found some of its verses useful to pray for the Sudanese church:

Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me under the shadow of your wings,

From the wicked who assault me, from my deadly enemies who surround me.

They have closed their heart to pity, and their mouth speaks proud things.

They press me hard, now they surround me, watching how they may cast me to the ground,

Like a lion, greedy for its prey, and like a young lion lurking in secret places...

But at my vindication I shall see your face; when I awake, I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Count the cost of stamping out evil.

Neal Gabler has a fascinating column in the L.A. Times. He admits that regulation is not sure-fire protection from financial sector excesses:

"The (market) system malfunctioned because the human beings who ran it were greedy and saw a way to enrich themselves. That means the recession from which we still are reeling was primarily a result of human nature..."

That's a moral insight - maybe even metaphysical in that he goes after the intangibles of our existence.

Gabler still accepts the need for regulation. His central argument is that the law needs to be written shrewdly, to make the costs of accumulating "super-riches" outweigh the rewards. Simply making it more difficult to exploit a market is not enough, because the greedy will adapt "like a virus."

He's correct in attributing our harmful excesses to "human nature." His diagnosis is the same as the New Testament's. The human race lives according to "the flesh." We are animals, after all, concerned with our own pleasure and perpetuation.

I liked much of the article, but raised an eyebrow when Gabler went all partisan toward the end:

"It wasn't enough for the rich to be rich. Human nature being what it is, they had to be super-rich. Or put another way, tax cuts, including the Bush tax cuts, fed some of the worst aspects of human nature and led to some of the worst excesses. It was just a matter of time before Wall Street went wild."

It is fine to get moralistic and legalistic when we can aim our antipathy at a particular issue or group. But the New Testament says that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Is Gabler - are we - willing to go all in, and suggest moral legalism for any and all demonstrably harmful human antics? For example,

Alcohol abuse is manifestly destructive, not only to the individual but to all of us in terms of family destruction, business losses, roadway accidents and the attendent public services to list the most obvious.

There is mounting evidence that Facebook can contribute to family breakdown. I'm not talking just anecdotal stuff - legal journals have statistics about the prevalence of Facebook comments as evidence in divorce proceedings.

KELO radio had a report this morning about how texting activates the brain in ways similar to addictive narcotics.

Feminists argue that the porn industry degrades women; many religious groups would add family and social degradation to that indictment.

I could go on and on listing industries, products and groups that make plenty of money while harming the rest of us.

What evils, if any, do we propose to stamp out for the greater good? Will they be just the things we dislike about people unlike ourselves?

And what will we say when people unlike us decide that we are the ones to be controlled by law?

"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Yes, that's human nature. How shall a society of fallen humans respond?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Archbishop of Canterbury notes Anglican vitality shift from Northern to Southern Hemisphere

He offers some good thoughts about God's priorities, about the role of Bishops, about the need for "sacrificial and selfless political leadership," and about the shift of Anglican (and other Christian traditions')vitality to Africa and the "Global South":

"It has been said that this is going to be the African century of the Christian Church in terms of energy and growth and vision. Archbishop Mouneer [Anis of Egypt, North Africa and the Horn of Africa] has already reminded us of this and of its deep roots in Christian history. God raises up different countries and cultures in different seasons to bear witness to his purpose in a specially marked way, and it may be that this is indeed his will for Africa in the years ahead. And if the churches of Africa are going to be for this time a city set on a hill, how very important it will be for the health and growth of all God's churches throughout the world that this witness continues at its best and highest. In this meeting, God has given us the grace to come together for just this end, to reflect on how the bishop's ministry can best serve and show the new creation, the one great hope for men and women to be truly free and joyful as they work against all the terrible things that wound the image of God in us and hold back the potential of those whom God loves so passionately. We in the Church worldwide pray with you, with all our hearts, that your hopes and goals in this meeting will be wonderfully realised and that you will be able to speak a word not only for this continent but for all God's people, a word that all will hear and recognise as the calling of the eternal Word to the world he loves, the calling into fullness of life."

Using Mainline/Oldline Churches as Reference Points

P.J. O'Rourke does so after a quick trip to Afghanistan. h/t Red Stick Rant

"The quiet mullah was quietly dressed and modestly bearded, his close-cut hair topped with a simple turban. He was immediately recognizable as 'mainstream.' I don't mean he was hopelessly mainstream to the post-religious point like some American clergy. I'd compare him to a solid Methodist or Presbyterian or picket fence Baptist, not unwilling to make his sermons socially relevant but no Kumbaya singing."

And there won't be a perfect church...

...'til Christ comes again and makes all things new.

"The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe." John 6:63-4

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Back to the future?

The Living Church Foundation | review essay: Theology of Hope

"Both pre–Vatican II 'conservatives' and post-Vatican II 'liberals' were children of the Enlightenment. Both were rationalists."

The churches are stuck in a useless tug o' war over Godless forms of culture religion. Are there spiritual leaders who might end the pointless game? Are the best resources in early Christian writings?

Hey, liberals?

I say the following sincerely: Liberals taught us a bunch about the power of symbols to demean and oppress. Women are excelling in the work place (in fact, are emerging as majorities in numerous fields) in part because the kinds of "normal" office behaviors that demeaned them were outed and proscribed - because liberals made those insensitive behaviors an issue.

The same is true around issues of race and, in something immediate to my family, disability/special needs. My autistic son is not a "retard" or a "drain on society" because liberals make noise about that kind of demeaning language.

So, why are you liberals so damned insufferably dense about this Ground Zero Mosque idea? Do you not see how it causes pain, even if not intentional?

As a Christian, I am well aware that Christian hypocrisy is the main objection raised against what I believe. Liberals? When you go around applying standards like "sensitivity" to this or that favored group instead of as a unifying human value, rational people perceive hypocrisy, and that carries over into how your efforts are perceived on a whole range of issues.

You have your politicians in power for the moment. How about asking them to apply your professed values?

No wonder media get low "trust" scores in most polls

AP circulates opinion piece as news:

Mosque flap tests limits of US tolerance - AP Nation - Ledger-Enquirer.com

Ground Zero is a painful wound caused by intolerant, coercive would-be totalitarians espousing Islam. The symbolism of sticking an Islamic Center - one named for Islam's imperial efforts in Europe - into that wound is what people are protesting.

Other folks have pointed out other situations in which decency led to compromise. Confederate flags came down from Southern state houses, because the salute to history and heritage was outweighed by the symbol's impact on the descendants of slaves. Nuns took down their cross at Auschwitz, because their sign of redemption was outweighed by the location's stark testimony to "Christian" Europe's historic anti-Semitism and Holocaust.

There is no argument by any reputable person I can find suggesting that "Islamic centers and Mosques must be banned." The only protest is that Ground Zero is the wrong place. The fact that a national controversy is stirred up proves the point.

For an AP writer and his editors to put the majority on trial for "intolerance" is some case of projection. No wonder the "mainstream media" is a fading joke.

Good social profile of South Dakota...

...although it ignores one significant culture.

East-West River: The great divide | argusleader.com | Argus Leader

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Does the church really know its limits - and its responsibility?

In this morning's lesson from John 6 we hear Jesus say,

"No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me..."

I thought immediately of recent reports from Alabama, where youth ministers were advised,

"Doing fun things makes it [the Christian message] accessible, but if we get too caught up in entertainment and neglect the gospel, that's when entertainment doesn't have value..."

As churches seek members, there are practical means that can be used to attract attention and connect with people. But sometimes these means become ends in themselves, and attendance numbers replace measures of spiritual conversion and growth in Christ.

The fact is, nobody can come to Christ based on the knowledge, creativity or energy of any person or organization. The will and purpose of God are decisive as to who is called to Christ, not to mention when and how they are reached.

Church responsibility kicks in once the Father draws a person to the Son. Churches provide the teaching, sacraments and disciplines through which people grow by the Holy Spirit.

Within the last decade, a self-study by giant Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois led to just this conclusion. The church found that its emphasis on excellent and expansive programs to attract the unchurched was leaving sincere converts stuck in spiritual infancy. There was too much emphasis on programs to draw people (God's work) and not enough on efforts to make them into disciples (the church's work).

Right now, the traditional worship offered in Anglican/Episcopal churches is not broadly attractive. Why God has some of his sincere people carrying a witness that is not crowd pleasing is an open question. Some would say it is punishment for compromised teaching. Some would say it is a test of faith. Others might say it is a "wilderness" experience like Jesus underwent before he went out preaching - a painful preparation for something great.

The truth is in the mind of God. He will draw to himself those he chooses, by means of his own design and by timing that fits his purpose. The church's job - always - is to open the Word of God to them so they can grow to eternal joy.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The daily readings get challenging

As we move into the weekend, the readings for the Daily Offices include the beginning of Job, a 42-chapter reflection on the mystery of suffering that raises more questions than it answers (IMO if you are suffering and a friend says, "You need to read Job!", you will probably have a viable defense for shooting said friend, 42 chapters later).

The lessons also go through the sixth chapter of The Gospel of John, in which Jesus lays out the hard stuff that nobody, Christian or not, likes to engage,

"Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal." Then they said to him, "What must we do to perform the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."

These and other words are so scandalous that the Gospel itself admits that they repelled rather than attracted,

Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.

The breakdown of Western cultural Christianity means that those of us who want to be disciples will have to take on more of these hard lessons. The padding of nominalism isn't thick enough to absorb the blows that are to come.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Episcopal Roots in Philly

The congregation of Christ Church, Philadelphia was formed in the 1600s. William White was Rector there in revolutionary days, and served as Chaplain to the Continental Congress. Christ Church's bells rang to celebrate independence.

White would become the second Bishop consecrated for the Episcopal Church, and George Washington really did sleep at White's place (309 Walnut St.) from time to time.

After darkening his doorway, I decided to walk the few blocks north again to try for a pic of Christ Church's steeple, which is not easy in the now built-up city. The best I could do was sit on the Church Street sidewalk and work with the intrusive stop sign. But it hit me that White was an architect of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, which are really neglected and/or abused today. The "Stop" makes a nice commentary on a denomination that has strayed far from its roots.

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Some sabbatical shots...

Cute girl in Branson, MO pool... adventure on the high, uh, lake... flashing Lincoln High, Sioux Falls colors at the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall in Philly...

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The conundrum of "red" states hooked on "blue" bucks

Madville Times: Alaska, South Dakota Receive Most Stimulus Per Person

Brookings, SD seminary to train pastors for traditional Lutherans

As ELCA splits, S.D. seminary may benefit | argusleader.com | Argus Leader

Lutherans who are detaching from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)'s anti-Biblical, anti-confessional religion will form a separate denomination at a gathering in Columbus, OH later this month.

"The new church body will have a strong connection to South Dakota because the new Institute of Lutheran Theology in Brookings could help train some of its pastors and worshippers.

'We're doing what we think is right, and we're not trying to pull the ELCA apart, but we recognize that congregations are leaving," said Dennis Bielfeldt, president of the Institute of Lutheran Theology. "They are going to be looking for pastoral leadership. It seems to us like the thing to do is to create an institution that gives them the best leaders that can be produced.'"

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Christian, Muslim spiritual concepts to address the Ground Zero Mosque

In the early church, folks fought over meat. Not because of scarcity or nutritional questions, but because meat was frequently butchered, sold and prepared with dedications to various pagan deities or spirits.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul sets out an important response. He says that Christians are free to have burgers, simply by giving thanks to the one God of all creation. But, they should limit the exercise of their freedom if 1) it sends the wrong message to uninformed converts, suggesting they can mix & match gods or 2) to respect the conscience of a neighbor who informs you that the meat he serves is offered in the name of another god.

Applied to the Cordoba Mosque, this approach says three things:

1. Its leaders are free to build it under the noble Constitution of the United States.
2. Its leaders might choose a different location to honor their least informed converts, who might well understand the Mosque to be a sign of militant Islamic expansion if it is placed at Ground Zero.
3. It's leaders might choose a different location to honor the pain of those victimized on 9/11.

I am not an in-depth scholar of comparative religion, but in some discussions an Islamic idea called fitna is coming up. It appears that actions which disturb public peace are frowned upon, so this might be an Islamic reason to relocate the Mosque.

I've seen a couple of reports that Speaker Pelosi wants opponents of the Mosque location (and this is key - it is about where the Mosque goes, not if it can exist) investigated. If she means "the press should look into stuff like this," fine - but if she is at all suggesting that government power be used to stifle a public debate, she is unfit for public office. I can't imagine a worse abdication of the promise to "defend the Constitution of the United States."

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Healing Prayer works, US study finds: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 13, 2010 p 6.

Good of George Conger to get this out (you have to subscribe to get at the original CofE piece). h/t Kevin on Facebook for the link.

Healing Prayer works, US study finds: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 13, 2010 p 6. « Conger

Sioux Falls Runnin' High

It has been a wet summer. Notice also how green the grass is in Falls Park... should be less lush this late in the summer. The rain swollen Big Sioux River has water up into some of the Falls' viewing platforms and the Sioux quartzite cataracts are pretty well submerged from view. Props to some parishioners who took these...
Your pictures and fotos in a slideshow on MySpace, eBay, Facebook or your website!view all pictures of this slideshow

Thanks, Costly Grace, for the cube idea!

Diocese of South Dakota: some positive news worth seeing and supporting

The July/August Church News (pdf) has a couple of encouraging pieces.

On page 2, Bishop John Tarrant writes,

"We have shortened the length of Convention and centralized its location in order to make it more accessible by lowering the cost to individuals, congregations and the Diocese."

Now that might not sound dramatic, but there's a context that makes it worth reading. Last year, the Deaneries conducted open discussions on improving Diocesan Convention. When was the last time you saw church group discussions actually collated and turned into responsive action? So it is heartening to see that the Bishop's team really listened and then organized its work around what the people had to say.

Starting on page 4, there is a detailed article on the joint project with Pajut in South Sudan. Lots of great pictures along with the news. It is an inspiring story - and one involving sacrificial suffering. Please be sure to read onto p. 5, and led God guide your prayers and giving for Moses Joknhial's recovery and his work.

A tweak to Episcopal noses in a Black publication

EbonyJet Online Magazine | Black Politics & Religion Page (h/t Baby Blue)

For those on the Plains, where our churches serve small towns and Reservations, this might seem unfair. But for those who know the Episcopal Church in it traditional East Coast and Southern manifestations,

"Nobody questions your faith. Most of us Episcopalians are borderline atheists hedging our bets just in case all that God stuff turns out to be true. Who are we to cast stones?"

As usual, someone else says it better. Charles Krauthammer on the Ground Zero Mosque

I think he draws some sane comparisons with other situations. It is just insulting to stick a Mosque - especially one named for Islamic imperial aspirations - near Ground Zero. It perpetuates rather than ameliorates the harm. h/t Reformed Pastor

Sacrilege at Ground Zero - Article - National Review Online

Monday, August 16, 2010

'bout that Mosque

The government can't - really, shouldn't - do a thing about it. Religious freedom is our Constitution in action.

Stopping the Mosque is a test is for the American people. The critics of the offensively named Mosque are correct. The placement of this Islamic center is at best an insensitive bit of posturing, at worst a celebration of and incitement to triumphalist Islamic violence.

Will people march in front of the place in protest? Will media outlets catch and publicize unguarded Muslim quotes about the 9/11 attack being "the will of Allah" (that is street Islam, folks). Will people and businesses boycott firms that take part in funding and constructing the Mosque? Will someone run with Gutfeld's thought of opening a gay bar in proximity to the Mosque, to expose the limits of Islamic "dialogue"? These are all fair methods in our public square, and if Americans really believe that the Mosque is a big piece of concrete propaganda, they need to step up and be active.

Other fair methods include refusing support for or actively working to unseat politicians who support the Mosque's placement at Ground Zero, or who use any kind of police power to hassle Constitutionally protected forms of protest against the Mosque.

But if Americans sit back and want NYC to stop the Mosque with some bogus zoning trick, we really deserve all the Sharia we get. Let's stick up for our Constitution on this one. It allows the Mosque to be by Ground Zero, but it also allows an array of means to stop it or to out its hostile symbolism.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Not a bad image for the church

This is about a group of 30-something pals in a secular crime novel I took on my flight to PA:

"The recognition that each had felt in the other, that strange glow of assumed camaraderie that came from nothing but some inner certainty that here were friends, that whatever was to come, however they might fail one another, they shared this sense of newfound completion, of being made whole." Marcus Sakey, "The Amateurs"

Add Jesus as the reference point and this is not a bad image of what the church might be.

I give props to the author for getting in some decent moral reflection and even nudges toward sacrifice and redemption in the book. I understand from the jacket info that this and two other of his books are being made into movies.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Tears and light

I don't want to be melodramatic but today God put me back in touch with my life's purpose. It's late here and I'm too tired to write it all out at the moment - all I can say is that the constraints in my life - the challenges against which I chafe and complain - now make sense in light of II Timothy 4:17, a message from an apostle on lock down,

"But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed..."

It has been a day of tears - the good kind - and light for me. I'm sure I'll have more to say about things in coming weeks.

I'll close with a quote from Christian novelist Jeanette Windle, who spoke here tonight,

"Our safety is not in the absence of the storm, but in the presence of our God."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

At the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference

A rich, wonderful time. Thanks to all who are praying and supporting this. I am really getting refueled spiritually.

I'm sure I will have more to say in coming weeks (I am here thru the weekend), but a few impressions:

Focus: The governing theme of the conference is The Prophet Habakkuk 2:2,

And the Lord said to me, "Write my answer on a billboard, large and clear, so that anyone can read it at a glance and rush to tell the others."

The leaders are consistent on the idea that our goal is to share God's good news, not be best sellers, or celebrities, or rich.

Affirmation: I'm finding that my past editorials, devotionals and even this blog are nothing to sneeze at given the glut of written stuff out and about. I've actually done some fruitful work. In addition, some of the editors really like one of my ideas and that is a big incentive to keep working it. Good feedback.

Real live diversity: Wonderful mix of ages, men & women, races and Christian traditions present. I've met teens attempting to write fantasy or sci-fi with Christian content, a twenty-something sports writer (covered the Yankees - Jeter good guy, A-Rod not so much) with a novel ready to go, a woman who's spent the last 45 years living and ministering in El Salvador, etc. etc.

God-moments: lots of great connections to build one another up. I met one woman who grew up in a military family and has a passion for the war's impact on soldiers, spouses and kids. I was able to link her to my USC alumni news about the new MSW specialty in military family care. Met other bloggers and we shared ideas on ways to reach readers.

Great speakers. Will probably tease out more of this from my notes later - Rusty Wright did a great workshop on using the internet for evangelism. James Perkins and Tony Campolo were the two biggest names on a superb team teaching "Justice, Compassion and Advocacy Writing." Karen Whiteing really helped me tighten up my main idea for a book, and has been nudging me with affirmation to stick with the idea.

The social justice track has been quite good. They are really trying to bridge the sad gap between Christians who talk about good deeds and those who talk about decision for Christ...

Lisa Harper (a fellow USC Trojan - Fight On!) said, "What are our evangelical roots? How have we strayed far from them and what things are bringing us back?"

James Perkins said, "Let your heart be broken by the pain that breaks God's heart, then search Scripture for it and the principles to redeem it through obedience."

Tony Campolo, a self described "politically left guy," is somewhat on the outs with conservative evangelicals and now speaks to the old mainline churches, where he says "I don't have to tell you about social justice - you just don't know how to get people to make a decision for Jesus Christ."

Rick Marschall ended his workshop on "Writing to Transform Culture" with the reminder that Bach always took his first blank composition page and wrote "Jesus help me" at the top, and after the last line of music was penned always wrote, "Glory to God alone."

There was a somewhat funny, very challenging glimpse of our time and place, presented by World Vision's Geraldine Ryerson Cruz: Last year, the American Bible Society asked people to identify the source of

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Most respondents said: President Obama. Others said Bono. Angelina Jolie and the Dalai Lama got props. Only 13% knew it was from the Bible (specifically, it is Proverbs 31:8-9).

I'll end with a great moment from this morning's worship (yes, pan-evangelical = lots of songs and a prayer). The worship leader said, "I love all of our contemporary music, but let's not lose the great hymns of the church. I think everybody knows this one..." Up on the screen came the words to "Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!", and the chapel walls were vibrating as everybody sang it out.

Monday, August 9, 2010

"Even a caveman can do it"

Yeah, that's some insurance seller's tag line, but it popped into my head at Morning Prayer.

The Psalm was #89, which begins

Your love, O LORD, for ever will I sing;
from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness.
For I am persuaded that your love is established for ever;
you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens.

But this was followed by another bloody reading from the current cycle in the Book of Judges, one of those parts that make people stop reading the Bible and raise the fair critique, "How can a God described as 'loving' be behind this other stuff?"

For me, the answer is that God's love meets and works with our flawed race wherever we are. Sometimes, God has to work with bloody, primitive people. Sometimes, he has to work with people who think they are the apex of civilization while behaving in ways that would disgust their bloody, primitive ancestors. God's love is "faithful in the heavens," but must infiltrate a world that "prefers darkness to light" and does not receive its own Creator.

"Even a caveman can do it" - even a caveman can feel the wonder of a greater reality, exult in the grace of unexpected good things come his way, interact with the love of God even if he thinks it's emanating from a magic rock. Even a caveman can receive some measure of God's love, because God's love is not contingent upon some attainment of human development. For which I am very thankful, especially on days when reality breaks in on my most comfy ignorance and illusions.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

More guest weather coverage

The late Miss Lena Horne with tonight's Sioux Falls outlook

It's been a wet summer - stuff's still green and the cow ponds still have water!

The spread of reason and tolerance continued while I was gone

Got back to see

KABUL, Afghanistan - Taliban terrorists have declared they shot and killed a team of missionaries, including six Americans, because they were 'preaching Christianity.'


It's Tebow's eagerness to share his Christian values and beliefs that really irks her.

"That's why I hate him," she said.

Oh, &

Thereafter, John could never get better than a C for papers without any marked errors or corrections. When he asked for a reason why yet another grade was so poor he was told that it was inappropriate to quote C. S. Lewis in work for an English class because he was “a pastor.” (Lewis, of course, was actually an English professor at Cambridge University. Perhaps it was wrong to quote Lewis simply because he had said something recognizably Christian.)

h/ts Stand Firm, Get Religion and TitusOneNine

"... clergy have seen their job descriptions rewritten..."

h/t former parishioner and now FB friend RS:

Op-Ed Contributor - Congregations Gone Wild - NYTimes.com

"...the advisory committee of my small congregation in Massachusetts told me to keep my sermons to 10 minutes, tell funny stories and leave people feeling great about themselves. The unspoken message in such instructions is clear: give us the comforting, amusing fare we want or we’ll get our spiritual leadership from someone else...

Ministry is a profession in which the greatest rewards include meaningfulness and integrity. When those fade under pressure from churchgoers who don’t want to be challenged or edified, pastors become candidates for stress and depression."

Back in Sioux Falls: unpacking and then repacking for Philadelphia. Muzak available.

Pray for a fruitful time at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Things learned in Missouri

1. Armadillos appear to be the top road kill, at least on the SW side of the state.

2. As you get into Kansas City, Kansas drivers float in front of you at very low speeds while local w/MO plates tailgate you with great hostility.

3. Anti-Obama billboards which came down under protest in Iowa stay up in MO.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Paging Dr. Mabuse

The Anglican blogger in Canada is raising three autism spectrum kids... we have just the one. But today ours decided that he didn't like his wet bathing suit and would simply remove it at the pool where we are staying. Only marginally cute when toddlers do that... totally mortifying when a 16-year old does it. I figure if Mabuse can handle three of these space invaders, she won't even notice if a fourth shows up.

But seriously, folks, we are having a great trip and I want to thank all who have been praying. This heat should have done in the autistic kid, but he's had no seizures and he's been happy and engaged, public nudity excepted.

We kayaked on Table Rock Lake today. Restful and beautiful. Horseback trip in the Ozarks tomorrow, and then an "Amazing Pets" live show in Branson on Friday.

Blessings on all who have contributed to this sabbatical - money gifts, lodging, prayers, time... so much generosity has come our way and we are grateful.

MO ballot prop advocates were outspent 4-to-1 and still prevailed...

Picked this up via real Missouri denizen Chris Johnson:

Reflections And Congratulations On Prop C - 24thState

Prop C, which would effectively negate the Federal health care plan in Missouri, passed almost 3-to-1, despite total MSM disdain and much more money raised and spent in opposition.

Fascinating analysis at the link, including Democratic votes in support, evidence of better grass roots organizing by the proponents, and much more.

Remembering the mild South Dakota weather

My dad grew up in the Ozarks. I'm starting to get why he settled in SoCal after the war. Today's plan is kayaking on Table Rock Lake... but I might just have a little, uh, accident and fall into the water. For several hours.

Weather - Branson.com : The Official Branson Website

Branson, Missouri 65616 Lat: 36.64N, Lon: 93.22W
Wx Zone: MOZ104
Warnings, Watches and Advisories:

Warning Issue Date: 401 AM CDT TUE AUG 03 2010


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Live from Missouri... health care opt out measure is passing

I happen to be in Branson, MO this week, and the people here are holding their primary elections. On their ballot is Measure C, which (if I understand it) effectively opts MO out of the Federal healthcare plan.

An hour after polls closed here, the measure is getting a 75% favorable vote with just over 10% of precints reporting.

"Old Money helped define, and unravel, the Episcopal Church."

h/t Kendall Harmon's TitusOneNine for this link:

The American Spectator : Killing a Church

This a review of Mortal Follies: Episcopalians and the Crisis of Mainline Christianity, by William Murchison. If Mark Tooley's summary of his argument is any indication, he's gone beyond some of the usual ideological slogans and toward some honest analysis of his own denomination:

...Episcopalians and all Mainline Protestant denominations, all of which have been losing members since the 1960s, between 25 and 40 percent. Former Presbyterians and Methodists and Lutherans either gave up on organized religion, or they joined evangelical or Catholic churches, or they, more permanently, died (!), leaving few if any descendants, as Mainline Protestants, especially Episcopalians, have notoriously low birth rates. The current Episcopal Presiding Bishop even celebrated this demographic collapse, claiming that Episcopalians were protecting the planet by abstaining from children.

Sixty years ago, Murchison recounts, the first president of the National Council of Churches was an Episcopal bishop whose robust goal was: "a Christian America in a Christian world." Somewhat presciently though, Jewish theologian Will Herberg noted of 1950s spirituality, despite the crowded churches, that it all seemed a "secularized Puritanism, a Puritanism without transcendence, without sense of sin or judgment." Middle class religious complacency gave rise to impatient 1960s radicalism...

The embodiment of this decline was Bishop John Shelby Spong of Newark, whose best selling books deriding the Virgin Mary as a possible prostitute and speculating about St. Paul's sexual preference got him on Phil Donahue. But the years of his progressive leadership, which included the ordination of actively homosexual clergy in defiance of church policy, saw a 40 percent decline of his diocese's membership. "Why Christianity Must Change or Die," was the title of one Spong book. But the form of doctrine-less Episcopalianism attracted only white, upper middle class, highly educated suburban liberals, and not very many of them. In recent years, respective Episcopal clergy have professed to be a Druid, a Muslim and a Buddhist. The first two ultimately left the ministry, and the third was denied election as bishop. But who's to say their bi-faith choices were necessarily wrong?

And my favorite,
Murchison argues that Old Money helped define, and unravel, the Episcopal Church. Growth and dynamism require entrepreneurship and risk. But who wants that when you have endowments and beautiful buildings?

Even MORE on time for sabbatical: a call to protect clergy with prayer

Great piece by a North American Anglican bishop... and built on a football analogy! Gotta love it...

Treading Grain » Post Topic » Guest Blogger: +John Guernsey

h/t blog pal Karen

Right on time for sabbatical: The NYT on clergy burnout!

From parishioner and soon-to-be ordained minister Christina...

Evidence Grows of Problem of Clergy Burnout - NYTimes.com

Here's some of what I pondered over on Facebook:

"...wonder if burnout comes from the clergy work itself, or the fact that the work has become a chaplaincy to deadening worldly concerns rather than a witness to the vital kingdom of God...? Then there are figures like Jeremiah to consider... maybe inner suffering comes with a faithfully executed mission. Dunno. That's why I'm away for awhile."

What church conventions could be

Caught this via a Facebook friend:

The Suburban Christian: Evangelical Tribalism: The Big Sort or The Breakfast Club?

I think that possibilities for catholic (small "c" intentional) gatherings, such as diocesan or denominational conventions, lurk within this piece by Al Hsu, who serves an Anglican mission near Chicago.

He faults churches for the same "tribalization" that governs politics and neighborhoods - like gather with like and only hear from like. People who want "spirituality" go to prayer conferences, cause activists go to social justice seminars, etc.

I think that denominational, diocesan or other gatherings have the opportunity to gather members of varied interests, gifts and perspectives to pray, learn and work together. They don't necessarily do this, of course. They are notoriously susceptible to activisits with the leisure time, focus and often the funding to take over for a narrow agenda.

Hsu raises the challenge of I Corinthians 12, in which God gives Paul the vision of the church as the living body of Christ, with each member a vital part contributing to the work of the whole.