Monday, October 30, 2006

In Life, In Death, In Ecstasy

Tonight the trick or treaters have been running about in my city. Tomorrow is Halloween, then All Saints' and All Souls'. This complex of days leads one to think on life and death, which brought me back to a poem of a month ago.
Monday, September 18, 2006, shortly after midnight. A couple of days ago Jonathan (of O Cuniculi... linked here) posted a brief article on how tradition has often compared sex and death. Something resonated in me. I knew a poem was struggling to emerge. I wrote a bit of an outline of what it might look like, and a working title. I sat in front of my screen, thinking, but not typing. Something wanted to come, but wouldn’t. I gave up and went to bed. Lying there, reading something altogether unrelated (actually, a Stephen King book), I was just about ready to shut off the light and go to sleep, when I just had to get up and write. I powered up, looked at my outline, and deleted it. All I had left was a title (which also became a line in the poem). Words just began to come, entirely unlike what I’d been trying to produce, and here it is, and I’m satisfied with it as it is, and I’m not at all sure I want to take credit for writing it . . .

In Life, In Death, In Ecstasy

The stopping of a heart,
the ceasing of a thought,
the cent’ring of existence on a change,
a death,
a darkening of the world around,
a bursting in of light that was unknown,
a birth into another world,
an ecstasy beyond what has been known,
the greater death has come,
and to the Christian greater life.

The pausing of two hearts,
the stilling of two sets of thoughts,
the concentration of the world upon an act,
like death,
like change,
a dimming of reality that lies upon them,
a bursting in of light that blinds them,
a birth that may begin within their life,
an ecstasy exploding with the light of life
the lesser death that lifts them out of life,
with life has burst into the world.

In life, in death, in ecstasy,
in birth, in death, in passions of the flesh,
in beauties known by eye and ear and soul,
in raising sound in voice and singing instrument,
in making music by the dance of words,
in sitting silent in the house of God,
in listening, hearing, seeing that which is not known,
to those whose hearts reach heavenward and thirst,
to those immersed within that living Blood,
to those the blessed lesser death has come,
and release, though brief, from this world’s bonds is known,
and foreshadowed here the Christian soul may taste
that blessed greater death that leads to greater life,
and know and feel and touch the shape,
the shape of eternity.
ed pacht

Saturday, October 28, 2006


Colossians 1.12-20
St. John 18:33 – 37

In my own experience the very real clash of two kingdoms has been visibly portrayed in a scene very much like something right out of the Gospels, and even more directly from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. Several years ago I was teaching a lesson from the scriptures as part of a regular Friday evening service of prayer in a chapel, part of church just outside of Baltimore. When I had said my bit, and we were closing in prayer, a woman in her thirties who had been coming to church regularly with her parents, began to be tossed around by an invisible power that controlled her. She was levitated a bit off the floor, and looked very much like a marionette on strings being jerked about by a mad puppeteer, twisting and bending in movements that no trained dancer could imitate. She landed on the floor, telling everyone that the Messiah was present, speaking in the Hebrew language that no one there but I could understand. She landed on the floor crying out, finally, "Meshiach! Meshiach!” over and over.

The demon, or unclean spirit, was right about that, because the Messiah was present with us as we were praying before His throne, just as He promised in scripture. I was reminded that the demons, who, as Saint James informs us “believe and tremble,” would often cry out accurate things, such as that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, or, as in the sixteenth chapter of Acts, that the Apostles had come to show the way of salvation. While she was lying on the floor in a state of bondage to an evil bullying spirit, I knew that this thing inside her was panicking, and that the presence of Christ with us that night was the cause of it. I learned later that this woman had for a while departed from the faith and involved herself in occult practices, and that she was now, in this service, praying for the first time in years. This explained why she always looked gloomy and depressed since we had first met her.

I did not know any of this at the time, but I knew what I was dealing with. So did everyone else, because all of those people who had been praying and holding their standard service that was held every Friday night at that church, were huddled next to each other at a safe distance across the chapel. Diane was standing right behind me, as I recall, pregnant with David (now 21). I spoke directly, just as Saint Paul did in the sixteenth chapter of Acts: “I command you, in the Name of Jesus Christ, to come out of her.” I said this a second time, and added the word “now.” The woman looked up at me, suddenly as if awaking, and began to weep. All she knew was that one moment she was praying for the first time in years, and the next moment was lying on the floor looking up at me, with no idea what had happened in between. After several months her parents moved to Florida, and she went with them. From the time of this impromptu exorcism until she moved away, never again was she a depressed or gloomy sight, but rather always vibrant and appearing to be quite joyful, like someone back from the dead.

In today’s Epistle Saint Paul tells us that God “hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son: in Whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” The real fight is between the kingdom of God and the usurpation of the Devil; and in this fight there can be no contest in the ultimate sense, because God’s power is unlimited, and even the powers of darkness are merely creatures who cannot withstand Him. But, for us, the battle goes on because we have to deal with those three enemies, the world, the flesh and the Devil. Furthermore, only those who have been translated into the kingdom of Jesus Christ and who appreciate something of what that means, are in the fight at all. “The world,” says Saint John, “lies in the lap of the evil one.” When the term “the world” is used in this very unpleasant way, it is a specific use of that word that is different from what that word normally means, different from such statements as “for God so loved the world…” In that sense it speaks of God’s creation, and especially of the human race made in His image. But, in the sense that our Lord uses it in today’s Gospel: “My Kingdom is not of this world,” it means something else. For that definition we go to the first chapter of the Gospel of John, and see that it says, “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.” The world, in that sense, speaks of the fallen condition of man under the dominion of the evil one, also called “the prince of this world.”

So, Saint John tells us, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” (I John 2: 15-17) In that one category, “the world,” we come face to face with the flesh and the Devil. The flesh because we are fallen from grace, as sinners, and the Devil because he dominates the world of sinful humanity. I know this as a theologian, and I believe that no historian could dare to contradict the fact that the world is subject to evil.

The world is not what it should be, because man is not what he should be, but is, rather, fallen and in need of redemption. It has been stated by many religious folk that life is a test. What a horrible lie that is. If it were a test we would all fail. Life, due to the Fall, is not a test but a shipwreck. And, the One Man who saves us from the shipwreck of sin and death is none other than God in the flesh, Jesus Christ the Son of the Everlasting Father. He does not receive His authority from the realm we call the world. “My kingdom is not of this world,” He told Pilate. Earlier, the Lord had said to the people: “Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” (John 8: 23, 24) Little phrases in scripture mean so much, and very easily we overlook their significance. Jesus spoke of Himself as the One who has come into the world. He alone can say that. We did not come into the world. We were conceived here, and this is our native home. But, the Son of the Everlasting Father is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of Very God, begotten not made.” This world was not the origin of the Word who was made flesh and dwelt among us. Into His eternity He took time, into His divinity He took humanity, into His uncreated Person he took a created nature, a nature alien to His true identity as Wholly Other from every created thing. And the King allowed His rightful subjects to beat Him, humiliate Him, and crucify Him so that the Lion of the tribe of Judah Himself could be for us the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world; so that we could be translated out of the power of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, in whom we redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of our sins.

What does the king give to us so that we can go forth in His name and conquer the power of evil, and deliver captives from the power of sin and death? Not the sword. “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” If not military might, then what? As said the prophet Zechariah: “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Zech. 4:6) On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit empowered the Church for its ministry in hostile territory, to take ground in the word, to bring the Gospel to every nation under heaven. And, the power of the Holy Spirit is present when we care about the truth. The power of evil is in the lie; it is in deception. The powers of darkness do not care what you believe just so long as you do not believe in the truth of Jesus Christ and His Gospel. The authority of Jesus Christ as the King is found, here and now until he comes again in glory, by proclamation of the truth. “Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.”

No matter what your political persuasion, no matter what turns the tides of history take, the whole structure of the fallen world is the power of deception, of the lie. “Yea, hath God said?” and, “Ye shall not die.” The lesson early on in Genesis is that deception, the lie, was used to bring man into bondage to sin and death. In Genesis chapter three we read: “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” “Good for food…pleasant to the eyes…desired to make one wise.” From this, no doubt, Saint John taught us that which we have heard already, “all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.” These three elements of the world that knows not Christ, were the method of the lie, the essentials of deception. And, so it remains to this day. The lie is always drawn from these three things, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. These have brought about every destructive habit of sin by which people ruin their lives, these have brought about all the wars and bloodshed throughout time, and these will taper off into a quiet complacence to lure you into apathy about your own soul and those of the people around you.

Against these essential elements of the lie is the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Word made flesh. Against the lie is the truth that the Son of God has been manifested to destroy the works of the Devil. Against the deception is the truth that Jesus Christ has taken our sins on Himself and nailed them to His cross, that by death he would destroy him who has the power of death, and by His resurrection deliver to us His gift of immortality, making us able by grace to live and reign with Him forever. His kingdom is not of this world, and in Him we are not of this world either, though for the time being we are in the world to occupy until He comes.

Friday, October 27, 2006

+Duncan on the Future of Anglicanism

The Rt Revd Robert Duncan, the Episcopal bishop of Pittsburgh and moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, recently made the following address at Nashotah House seminary on the occasion of being awarded an honorary doctorate of divinity. While we may disagree with him on some points, I think he has a great deal to say to us in the continuing movement as we endeavor to live out our faith in the world and as we reflect on Christ's prayer that we may all be one.

Read it here

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Lambeth Look Out?

Regular readers of The Continuum will have seen a comment recently by Bishop Barry Peachey of the Anglican Independent Communion. Having never heard of the AIC, I wrote to Bishop Barry, and the following is the result of our correspondence. I have a sneaking suspicion that the presence of the good bishop on these pages may be occasion for controversy. If that is the case, so be it. Let me just remind you all of the one, simple rule of the game here: robust, but polite, discussion.

Having read the 'No News is.....No News' piece from 15th October 2006 it seemed to me to be fairly obvious what the problem is, at least here in Britain. I can't speak for the rest of the world but the British position with the Continuum is that most of the churches that would claim to be part of it are simply not doing anything to report. The Traditional Anglican Communion under Archbishop John Hepworth has a presence in Britain of about twenty clergy, but no Bishop. +David Moyer from America is their Episcopal Visitor. Beyond that there are three or four other Continuing Churches with clergy numbers that can be counted on the fingers. One of them has six, five of whom are bishops! Unsurprisingly, no-one takes them seriously. They show no signs of growth, and the potential for the growth of the TAC here is limited by the fact that they are all Anglo-Catholics, and Archbishop Hepworth is committed to re-union with Rome. That does not sit well with the mainstream of traditional Anglicanism in Britain, which is a very broad church..

The largest Continuing Church in Britain by far, and possibly by now the world, is the Anglican Independent Communion, with 7 bishops (two of them retired) and a further 40 ministry staff, clergy, deaconesses, and Lay Ministers in Britain. I am the Metropolitan Chancellor, one of just two Metropolitans, that is bishops with worldwide authority. As such, I am Head of Legal Affairs of the AIC Worldwide, and deputy to the Metropolitan Archbishop, the Most Revd Dr Norman Dutton.

The AIC was founded in 1997 in the USA by +Peter Compton-Caputo, an American-born former Church of England Vicar in Devon. He consecrated to the episcopate +Norman Dutton from Cheshire, who arrived back in England newly consecrated as the only AIC clergyman in the British Isles. What has happened since then is truly a miracle, and one that may be seen on our web site. In the first few years things grew very slowly, and the AIC was just one of the one-man-and-his-dog churches that comprise most of the rest of the Continuum here. Then three years ago, as the Church of England started to really rampage down the path to destruction, things started to change. Since then the AIC has exploded across the world, and now has about thirty bishops in twenty dioceses around the world, in Europe, the USA, the Caribbean, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, India, Pakistan, Australia, West Africa and East Africa. A Theological Institute has been opened in Britain and also in Brazil, where the AIC has entered into the Anglicans for a Common Cause agreement with +Robinson Cavalcanti of the Diocese of Recife (Southern Cone). AIC Worldwide is also in active discussions with the Global South movement, and friends in Forward in Faith about the way forward in Britain. Previously in Britain the C of E ignored the Continuum, which it saw as no threat, and a bit of a joke. Well, I can assure you that the joke is over.

We are often asked why we do not get together with the TAC. Well, the essential problem is churchmanship. Whereas the TAC is exclusively Anglo-Catholic, the AIC is the same broad church that the Lambeth Communion always was. We have many Anglo-Catholics, including me, but we also have Pentecostal and Charismatic Anglicans, and everything in between. It is that breadth and openness that makes us attractive across the Reformed tradition. What we have in common is Scriptural truth. We do not ordain women to Holy Orders, although we have an active Lay Order of Deaconesses. We do not ordain practising homosexuals or appoint them to any position of responsibility in the church. We do not permit the teaching of pluralism, syncretism or any other popular Lambeth heresies. The other reason that we are not in communication with the TAC is that they won't answer our correspondence! The reason for that is a mystery to us, as there is no reason for us not to work together so far as AIC is concerned.

The Continuum in Britain is of a rather different origin than in the USA. The Traditional Anglican Communion, the Anglican Catholic Church and the Province of Christ the King have their roots in the Affirmation of St. Louis (1977) which was an American/Canadian initiative, put together by what have been referred to as 'Amer-Anglicans'. The AIC has it's roots in original English Anglicanism which stems straight from the English broad church tradition in its purest form. We are told by our overseas dioceses that it is this fact, the genuineness of our English heritage in the home of Anglicanism, that makes us their choice of Communion. Early attempts at a Continuing Church in Britain were an abject failure. The AIC has 'broken the mould'.

We believe that the growth of AIC Worldwide is in large measure due to the efforts of a very professional Webmaster, and a willingness to transparently communicate everything we do to the world. Communication is everything. On the website is a Notices page which is constantly updated, and we publish a Newsletter periodically, which is also mounted on the website. There is a huge amount of information, and hundreds of photographs of our clergy and people. We work very hard to be spotlessly efficient. If you send me an email, you get a reply very quickly, and you get it from a senior bishop, not an administrative assistant.

We would like to disseminate our news more widely, but we are severely persecuted by the Church of England which keeps us out of Church Times as best as it can, and denies us access to anything that it can control by fear or force. The Church Times claims to be an independent voice for Anglicans, but this is patently untrue as our experience has demonstrated. Whilst we do not sympathise with them, the fact that they have published just one item on the AIC, when they have been sent many, speaks for itself. We feel that it is our duty to try to contact faithful Anglicans by any means.

We have suffered tricks from C of E bishops which include Diocesan circulars calling our staff 'bogus priests', letters to Undertakers saying that if they use us, they will be boycotted by the C of E, and threats to Methodists that if they let us use their premises they will forfeit their ecumenical agreements with the C of E. One C of E priest offered his church to us for an ordination, and was told by his Archdeacon that if it went ahead, his career in the C of E was over forever!

We won't be put off by a political correctness-motivated state church that has abandoned the faith, no matter what. Except for the fact that the state church owns its buildings, and can give its staff pay and pensions, scores of local parishes would have come over to AIC by now. We believe that in time the future of true Anglicanism in Britain is for each church to be an independent Trust, which is self-supporting, and can hire clergy according to its means. The parishes can then have clergy of their choosing, under a bishop of their choosing. They can choose to keep the Faith, and not be forced down the communal road to Hell that is the current choice of the Lambeth Communion. In the meantime we are building for the future and biding our time.

Rt Revd & Rt Worshipful Prof Barry Peachey

Monday, October 23, 2006

Would That It Were So

On October 12, thirty-eight leading Muslim scholars sent an open letter to Pope Benedict XVI.

According to a press release in Islamica Magazine, the letter "was sent, in a spirit of goodwill, to respond to some of the remarks made by the Pope during his lecture at the University of Regensburg on Sept. 12, 2006.

"The letter tackles the main substantive issues raised in his treatment of a debate between the medieval Emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an 'educated Persian', including reason and faith; forced conversion; 'jihad' vs. 'holy war'; and the relationship between Christianity and Islam. They engage the Pope on an intellectual level concerning these crucial topics—which go well beyond the controversial quotation of the emperor—pointing out what they see as mistakes and oversimplifications in the Pope’s own remarks about Islamic belief and practice.

"The Muslim signatories appreciate the Pope's personal expression of sorrow at the Muslim reaction and his assurance that the words of the Byzantine emperor he quoted did not reflect his personal opinion. By following the Quranic precept of 'debating in the fairest way', they hope to reach out so as to increase mutual understanding, reestablish trust, calm the situation for the sake of peace, and preserve Muslim dignity."

I have read the letter in its entirety, and strongly urge readers of The Continuum to do the same.

The tone of the letter is eirenic and the content is reasoned and reasonable (though there are certainly historical assertions that require some serious challenge, particularly with respect to Muslim conquests.)

And that is what troubles me. Why is it that such voices as these are not heard on a regular basis? Where are they every time some Islamic fundamentalist gets a bee in his bonnet over some perceived slight to Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful, or to the Muslim prophet Muhammed, and starts demanding that heads roll, literally?

Why are these voices not crying out in condemnation of that, or of the kidnappings and forced conversions of Christians in Egypt? Or trumped-up criminal charges against Christians in Pakistan, Indonesia and elsewhere?

What have they got to say about the issue of apostacy, which they sadly overlooked in their letter, and which leads to persecution and even death?

I am also troubled by what, to my admittedly amateur knowledge of Islamic institutions, would seem to be the absence of some of the big guns. I do not see, for example, the signature of Muhammed Tantawi, sheikh of Al-Azhar University, which is considered to be the greatest center of Sunni theology and jurisprudence. Nor do I see any great lights from Saudi Arabia, which prides itself as the guardian of the holy sites and an opinion leader in the Islamic world.

Furthermore, unless I have missed something, I do not see any representation from the clergy of that most strident Shiite Muslim power, Iran. This, a country whose president speaks with glee about hastening the Apocalypse. Perhaps the signatories could speak to that.

I would like to take this letter on face value, as an effort by leading thinkers in the Muslim world to open a broad and reasoned dialogue with the Christian world, with a view to arriving at some sort of entente. If it can serve as an opening gambit in that dialogue, then God be praised.

But I would certainly hope that in any response to the letter he might write, or any future discussion he might engage in, His Holiness will raise the same questions that I have done.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Read It and Howl

The pope lands at the airport and is met by a chauffeur.

"My son," says His Holiness, "they never let me drive at the Vatican. Would you be so kind as to do an old man a favor?"

The chauffeur has horrible visions of losing his job, but says to himself "well, this is the pope. I can't really say no."

"Here are the keys, Your Holiness."

The pope climbs into the driver's seat, and tells the chauffeur to make himself comfortable in the back."

He switches on the engine, guns it, and roars out of the parking lot onto the motorway.

Ninety, 110, 150 kilometres an hour!

The chauffeur is beginning to say a Hail Mary when he hears a siren.

The pope pulls over and meekly awaits his fate.

The patrolman walks up to the limousine and is about to demand a driver's license, when he stops short and panics.

He rushes back to his car, and radios headquarters.

"Sergeant, I've just stopped someone going 150 on the motorway."

"So book him. What's the problem?"

"Well, you see, sergeant, I think he may be someone very important."

"Who is it, the mayor?"

"No, sergeant, I mean VERY important."

"The governor? The president?"

"No, sergeant. I mean REALLY important."

"Well, who is it?!"

"I think it's God, sergeant."

"God! Why do you think that?"

"Because he's got the pope as his chauffeur."

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Shameless Self-Promotion

My house in the south of Spain is now officially on the rental market.

Please rent it.

It is available for a weekend, a week or even three.

Have a look at the advertisement on here


Monday, October 16, 2006

For first time, unmarried households reign in US

For first time, unmarried households reign in US
by Maxim Kniazkov Sun Oct 15, 1:02 PM ET

It is by no means dead, but for the first time, a new survey has shown that traditional marriage has ceased to be the preferred living arrangement in the majority of US households.

You can read the rest of this story on the news page of Yahoo.
It is difficult to know quite what to make of the report, because the election year has a way of creating overtly political spin. Two parts of the story stand in apparent contradiction. First we are told: "Unmarried couples gravitated toward big cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, while the farm states in the Great Plains and rural communities of the Midwest and West remained bastions of traditionalism, according to the survey." In other words, throughout most of the Country this new trend is not the normal way of life.
But then: "It indicated that efforts by President George W. Bush and his allies, who over the past five years have made a concerted effort to shore up traditional marriage and families through tax breaks, special legislation and church-sponsored campaigns is bearing little fruit. The shift, experts said, also raises the question about the future effectiveness of so-called 'family value' politics currently played by both Republicans and Democrats."
To begin with, I do not believe that most Americans see the Democrats as standing firm on what is called "family values." More to the point about the political side, nothing in American politics is completely national. Even Presidential races have a local nature because of the Electoral Vote system in the U.S. Constitution. So, to make this into much of a political story is quite unrealistic.
However, the fact that the larger populations that bookend "Flyover Country" contain, along with Chicago, so many unmarried couples, and unmarried single parent households, shows that Christians in modern America have more in common with ancient Christians who lived in a Pagan empire, and with Christians who live in what were once called missionary lands, than we do with anything that our parents and grandparents knew.
Our society is so post Christian that it is becoming unnatural even by Pagan standards. In the recorded history of the whole world, and according to the data of Anthropology, no civilization is known to have existed in which marriage, at least in some recognizable form, has been cast aside in favor of informal cohabitation arrangments. The conservatives in such denominations as the Episcopal Church are very concerned about the acceptance of homosexual unions. It is time to diagnose accurately the motivation for such "liberal" embrace and tolerance of what they call the "gay lifestyle." The reason is the same as the reason for promotion of abortion: the reason is because our whole society has veered away from normal human sexuality in favor of an illusiory freedom, a lack of responsibility and accountability. Fathers do not protect daughters, and families do not bring up children, at least not in the life that many people know today. Copulation is practiced between men and women without any standards of behavior, without any pressure to live up to responsilbility, without any accountability to the families of the women involved. It is very hard to live by such an unnatural "standard" for men and women without accepting every other unnatural thing as well.
No wonder that in 2000 the General Convention of the Episcopal Church could not vote to pass legislation in favor of allowing the blessing of same sex unions without first allowing their clergy to bless unmarried couples in general. Not only was the legal problem of marriage involved, so was the core issue itself. The idea was to bend the Church according to the spirit of the times, specifically, to the acceptance of an unnatural society all around.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

No News Is ... No News

No news is, simply, no news.

Repeatedly we discuss and lament the fact that so few people know the continuing churches even exist, and that so many of those who do seem to have a wrong (hopefully) impression of us.

So let's get off our backsides and do something about it! Here are some musings from me, which I offer as a discussion starter.

I think it would behoove each of the continuing jurisdictions to have a public affairs/media relations officer, and perhaps worth consideration by the FACA that it have one as well. The job of these individuals, indeed part of their ministry, should be to present the jurisdiction to the public.

I have just done a quick and dirty survey of the four jurisdictions that I link on The Continuum -- the ACC, the ACA, the APA and the APCK. And it's not a pretty sight, or should I say "site"?

The ACC, as best I can tell, has no news site. The last news I could find was of the provincial synod and election of the new metropolitan ... a year ago! The same is true for the ACA, though the TAC does have a newspaper and accompanying web site. There doesn't seem to be a site at the APA, either.

Then there is the winner, as it were -- the APCK. It does have a site. Well done. And there have been a massive number of four items published in the past year!

I said this was quick and dirty. If I have missed something, I apologise. But if I have missed something, then the likelihood is that many other people have as well.

I cannot see what coverage indvidual parishes, or even dioceses, may get in their local press, but there needs to be a strategy there, as well as nationally, and even internationally. This would entail deciding first what you wish to communicate, then who your audience is and how to reach them.

First and foremost, of course, is to communicate the fact that we are here, who we are and what we stand FOR, not only what we stand against. The second should be to demonstrate that we are not isolated pockets, but active nationally and worldwide. Thirdly should be to be a public voice in societal discussions about religion and morality.

As for the audience, I think it goes without saying that the primary target should be individual souls -- the churched, who are wavering, or feeling lost, and looking for a haven, and the unchurched. Secondly should be opinion makers -- people who, in the process of commenting can provide us with what is effectively free advertising.

How to reach them? Presumably you are already doing this on a local level, though undoubtedly there is more you could do. If you don't know who it is that covers religion, or society, or whatever it is in your towns and cities, in both the print and broadcast media, then you should. Find them, introduce yourself and develop a working relationship.

How often do you see local newspaper articles quoting people speaking a load of rubbish, or the reporter missing the point out of ignorance or the pressure of a deadline? Make sure that when a story breaks, you are one of the people called for comment. And when an issue arises that you think worthy of comment, phone your contact. Propose a story. If a letter to the editor needs to be written, write it. If there is call for an op-ed piece, propose it.

In the field of journalism, we have what we call "talking heads" and "rent-a-quotes." You see them all the time on CNN, Fox or BBC.

Journalists work under great pressure to get a story written, and to follow up with reactions. There is nothing more welcome than to know that when a story breaks on your beat, your phone will be ringing before you even have a chance to start thinking about whom to call.

The approach at the national and international level is really no different. What newspapers, magazines and radio/TV outlets in your country make a difference in the national or international dialogue? Identify them, then follow the same process as outlined above.

Remember: No News is Bad News

Trinity XVIII

Trinity XVIII (2005)
I Corinthians 1:4-7
Matthew 22:34-46

In today’s Gospel we have heard that familiar summary of the Law, the two greatest commandments of which we hear in every Mass, or as we also call it, Holy Communion service. We know by heart the quotation, in which our Lord Jesus Christ singled out two commandments from the Old Testament scriptures, one from Leviticus and one from Deuteronomy, as being that upon which hangs the entire moral teaching both of Moses and of the prophets. If we take to heart the point He made, we cannot go about life in a way that the world regards as normal. If we love God with all of our being, our whole heart, soul and mind- and all of our strength as well - then we cannot go about a well balanced life in which we include just enough religion, and no more, as part of our complete diet.

Let me be practical about this and give you a little better knowledge of what to expect from me as your priest here. One thing I know is that God’s commandments have never changed. I made a rule for myself long ago, and I am mentioning it only by way of example, that is, an example of how I apply the word of God to myself and to the church where I minister. If a couple comes to me seeking to be married by me, and that couple is already living in a sexual relationship, enjoying the intimacy of married life before being married, I will require that they abstain from sexual relations until after the wedding. That is a rather basic thing, and it is called repentance. They will need to confess their premature consummation as the sin that it is. If not, I will not marry them, nor will I allow this church to be available for their wedding. Period, no exceptions. Why? Because I am mean? The truth is, simply put, if I cannot first teach them to live as Christians, I cannot teach them to live as a Christian couple. I am not going to set people up for heartbreak and divorce just because our society has decided to become immoral – and stupid. That is a practical example of what it means to love God and our neighbor. If I love God I cannot ignore His commandments; and if I love my neighbor I must teach the truth, rather than aid people in embracing the deception of this present age. Yes, maybe “the times, they are a’changin’ ” – but not for those of us who are Christians. We do not live by the rules of the times, or the spirit of the age. We live by eternal truth that has been revealed.

It is not only a homosexual, who was wrongly made into a bishop, for whom the word of God has not changed (and we are right to object to the fact that such a thing was done). But, it is for all of us that God’s commandments have never changed. It is written in the book of Isaiah: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever (Isa. 40:8).” And, our Lord Jesus Christ said: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away (Matt.24:35).” If we love God and our neighbor, then we do not run over the cliff like lemmings, nor do we help others run with the lemmings. Whatever the world accepts as normal is completely irrelevant to what we must live by. We must live by the eternal and unchanging truth revealed by God in every area of faith and morals.

The Epistle and the Gospel complement each other today. In fact, the Epistle we heard comes in a rather shocking context. That context is in the verses which immediately precede where we came in. This is what those opening verses say:

“1: Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2: Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: 3: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”

If you are wondering what is so shocking, let me draw your attention to these words: “…called to be saints.” Who are the people called to be saints? Everyone in the church to which he wrote. What does that mean for you here today in the Church of the Atonement in Fountain Hills, Arizona? It means that if Saint Paul were writing this letter to us, he would say the same thing. Everyone who belongs to the Church is called to be a saint. You, whether you like it or not, are called to be a saint. Your vocation is holiness, without which no one shall see the Lord. That is what the first and great commandment means. And, the problem is, if you don’t like the first product the Church has for you, namely to become a saint, we have nothing else to offer. Real Christianity is radical, and calls for total commitment in every area of life. That is why we need the Holy Spirit.

Because I am a priest, you have every right to demand of me that I live a life devoted to Jesus Christ. That I read the scriptures daily, pray daily, be in Church and receive the sacraments regularly, and that I live in this world with God never far from my thoughts. You have every right to demand that I love my neighbor and seek to represent Jesus Christ to every person. And, as your pastor and priest, I have the right, in fact I have the duty, to demand all these exact same things from each and every one of you. And, if I don’t call you to live up to this standard, I am not doing you any good.

However, let me assure you, I am preaching as much to myself, if not more so, than to you.
We need the grace of God, and a spirit quick to forgive, because we all fail. But, the only people who can fail are the people who are making genuine effort to succeed. It is impossible to fail at something that you do not even try to do. Which means, once again, in the clear teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ as we heard it read today, God can offer no place in His kingdom for people who want just enough religion and not too much, sort of like a mere part of a healthy diet. A little Christianity, not too much thank you, to make us immune to catching it for real. Don’t look for such people in heaven; rather, as Hamlet advises, seek them in the other place.

None of us can live as Christ requires, and accept His call with courage, unless we have the grace of God from the Holy Spirit; unless we pray often never giving up, unless we take the time to know and understand the scripture, and unless we remain within the Church and receive the sacraments. But, if we are willing to love God with our whole being, life will begin for us, and will never end. To whom else can we turn? Only Jesus Christ has the words of eternal life. By God’s grace, each of us is called to be a saint, if necessary, to be a martyr. Oh yes, and thank God the ancient Church accepted this fact, or we would not be here today. And, it is not just the ancient Church that had to accept the call to martyrdom. In many parts of the world right now, it is not safe to be a Christian.

Just a few months before I moved away from Maryland to come to Arizona and this church, I met some Egyptian Copts; that is Christians who are part of the ancient Coptic Church. One of them, an elderly man, has refugee status in this country. Another of them said to me, “in our country the routine mass killing of Christians by Muslims has been commonplace for a long time.” I can well imagine some people wondering why they cling to their faith in Christ when it can get them, and their families, killed. It is because their priorities are right. Our faith in Christ is worth more than our lives in this world. If Christians had not known that all along, the Church would have died out before the Roman Empire did. Jesus Christ had the Chutzpah to call His followers to be willing to die for Him, should it come to it. And, why not? Only He gives us the one thing we really need: Eternal life, the promise that we will survive death if we follow Him, the One Who died for our sins and rose again.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

George Herbert on Preaching

As Sunday approaches, and as I have a long quiet afternoon, I have begun reading George Herbert's Countrey Parson, courtesy of Project Canterbury. The following is Chapter 8, The Parson Preaching.

"The Countrey Parson preacheth constantly, the pulpit is his joy and his throne: if he at any time intermit, it is either for want of health, or against some great Festivall, that he may the better celebrate it, or for the variety of the hearers, that he may be heard at his returne more attentively. When he intermits, he is ever very well supplyed by some able man who treads in his steps, and will not throw down what he hath built; whom also he intreats to press some point, that he himself hath often urged with no great success, that so in the mouth of two or three witnesses the truth may be more established. When he preacheth, he procures attention by all possible art, both by earnestnesse of speech, it being naturall to men to think, that where is much earnestness, there is somewhat worth hearing; and by a diligent, and busy cast of his eye on his auditors, with letting them know, that he observes who marks, and who not; and with particularizing of his speech now to the younger sort, then to the elder, now to the poor, and now to the rich. This is for you, and This is for you; for particulars ever touch, and awake more then generalls. Herein also he serves himselfe of the judgements of God, as of those of antient times, so especially of the late ones; and those most, which are nearest to his Parish; for people are very attentive at such discourses, and think it behoves them to be so, when God is so neer them, and even over their heads. Sometimes he tells them stories, and sayings of others, according as his text invites him; for them also men heed, and remember better then exhortations; which though earnest, yet often dy with the Sermon, especially with Countrey people; which are thick, and heavy, and hard to raise to a poynt of Zeal, and fervency, and need a mountaine of fire to kindle them; but stories and sayings they will well remember. He often tels them, that Sermons are dangerous things, that none goes out of Church as he came in, but either better, or worse; that none is careless before his Judg, and that the word of God shal judge us. By these and other means the Parson procures attention; but the character of his Sermon is Holiness; he is not witty, or learned, or eloquent, but Holy. A Character, that Hermogenes never dream'd of, and therefore he could give no precepts thereof. But it is gained, first, by choosing texts of Devotion, not Controversie, moving and ravishing texts, whereof the Scriptures are full. Secondly, by dipping, and seasoning all our words and sentences in our hearts, before they come into our mouths, truly affecting, and cordially expressing all that we say; so that the auditors may plainly perceive that every word is hart-deep. Thirdly, by turning often, and making many Apostrophes to God, as, Oh Lord blesse my people, and teach them this point; or, Oh my Master, on whose errand I come, let me hold my peace, and do thou speak thy selfe; for thou art Love, and when thou teachest, all are Scholers. Some such irradiations scatteringly in the Sermon, carry great holiness in them. The Prophets are admirable in this. So Isa. 64 [:1]. Oh that thou would' st rent the Heavens, that thou wouldst come down, &c. And Jeremy Chapt. 10 [:23]. after he had complained of the desolation of Israel, turnes to God suddenly, Oh Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself, &c. Fourthly, by frequent wishes of the peoples good, and joying therein, though he himself were with Saint Paul even sacrificed upon the service of their faith. For there is no greater sign of holinesse, then the procuring, and rejoycing in anothers good. And herein St Paul excelled in all his Epistles. How did he put the Romans in all his prayers? Rom.1.9. And ceased not to give thanks for the Ephesians, Eph. 1.16. And for the [II] Corinthians, chap. 1.4. And for the Philippians made request with joy, ch.1.4. And is in contention for them whither to live, or dy; be with them, or Christ, verse 23. which, setting aside his care of his Flock, were a madnesse to doubt of. What an admirable Epistle is the second to the Corinthians? how full of affections? he joyes, and he is sorry, he grieves, and he gloryes, never was there such care of a flock expressed, save in the great shepherd of the fold, who first shed teares over Jerusalem, and afterwards blood. Therefore this care may be learn'd there, and then woven into Sermons, which will make them appear exceeding reverend, and holy. Lastly, by an often urging of the presence, and majesty of God, by these, or such like speeches. Oh let us all take heed what we do, God sees us, he sees whether I speak as I ought, or you hear as you ought, he sees hearts, as we see faces: he is among us; for if we be here, hee must be here, since we are here by him, and without him could not be here. Then turning the discourse to his Majesty, And he is a great God, and terrible, as great in mercy, so great in judgement: There are but two devouring elements, fire, and water, he hath both in him; His voyce is as the sound of many waters. Revelations 1 [:15]. And he himselfe is a consuming fire, Hebrews 12 [:29]. Such discourses shew very Holy. The Parsons Method in handling of a text consists of two parts; first, a plain and evident declaration of the meaning of the text; and secondly, some choyce Observations drawn out of the whole text, as it lyes entire, and unbroken in the Scripture it self. This he thinks naturall, and sweet, and grave. Whereas the other way of crumbling a text into small parts, as, the Person speaking, or spoken to, the subject, and object, and the like, hath neither in it sweetnesse, nor gravity, nor variety, since the words apart are not Scripture, but a dictionary, and may be considered alike in all the Scripture. The Parson exceeds not an hour in preaching, because all ages have thought that a competency, and he that profits not in that time, will lesse afterwards, the same affection which made him not profit before, making him then weary, and so he grows from not relishing, to loathing."

Full text of book here

In All Things, Charity

I would like to draw readers' attention to a pastoral letter here,
jointly signed by the bishops of the Anglican Province of America and the Reformed Episcopal Church in which they plea for greater unity among traditional Anglicans.

In particular, it draws attention to the Federation of Anglican Churches in the Americas here, which it says "has been created to allow separate organizational structures.

The letter says that, "through FACA we want to forge a deeper union between us. It will facilitate growing into the unity that we possess."

In addition to the APA and the REC, the federation also encompasses the Anglican Church in America and the Anglican Mission in America.

I am not nearly the theological expert that are Fathers Hart and Kirby, but it would seem to me that the FACA might provide the vehicle for the unity we so desperately need within the continuing movement, at least in terms of full inter-communion and cooperation in evangelistic and charitable works, if not full structural unity. In short, that it might prove to be the haven to which those now preparing to flee the apostate Episcopal Church might flee.

In that respect, I direct your attention to a recent speech">details here to the Forward in Faith synod in London by the Rt Revd Keith Ackerman, Bishop of Quincy.

This piece says, in part, "outlining the difficulties Anglo-Catholics face in North America, Ackerman said there were 53 separate denominations of continuing churches, with some wanting to be in communion with Canterbury, but not all. 'It is difficult for us to know the path we are to take.' (my emphasis)

"The Anglo-Catholic bishop said that half of his class from Nashotah House is now with the Roman Catholic, Antiochian and numerous continuing churches. "There is not a place for the Anglo-Catholic."(my emphasis)

Bishop Ackerman's lament is not the first such comment I have heard, particularly within the Church of England, where there seems to be little awareness even of the existence of the continuing movement. But I have also heard it from America. A very orthodox TEC priest I know there recently commented that he saw his only options as Rome and Constaninople, because there was "nowhere else" for him to go.

I am raising two questions here, the first in two parts. Could the FACA serve as a prototype for a sort of Alternative Anglican Communion, and are the Anglican Catholic Church and the Anglican Province of Christ the King giving thought to joining it? Secondly, as I so often ask, without ever getting much response, why is it that the continuing movement is so poorly known, and so often belittled when it is known?

British Airways ... Repent!

I was tempted to head this post "Boycott BA!", but that would have been unfair.

Instead, perhaps justice might be better served by expressing profound disapproval of what the company has done and calling on BA to publicly announce a reversal of its policies.

I refer here to a story in the Daily Mail entitled Christian BA employee suspended for wearing cross necklace. Read it all here

The story reads, in part:

"The airline's uniform code states that staff must not wear visible jewellery or other 'adornments' while on duty without permission from management.

"It makes exceptions for Muslim and Sikh minorities by allowing them to wear hijabs and turbans.

"Under rules drawn up by BA's 'diversity team' and 'uniform committee', Sikh employees can even wear the traditional iron bangle - even though this would usually be classed as jewellery - while Muslim workers are also allowed prayer breaks during work time.

"But Miss Eweida, 55, from Twickenham, insisted her cross, which is smaller than a ten pence piece, was not jewellery but an expression of her deep Christian faith.

"She questioned why she was being forced to hide her religion when BA's Muslim and Sikh workers could express theirs.

"Miss Eweida said last night: "I will not hide my belief in the Lord Jesus. British Airways permits Muslims to wear a headscarf, Sikhs to wear a turban and other faiths religious apparel.

"Only Christians are forbidden to express their faith. I am a loyal and conscientious employee of British Airways, but I stand up for the rights of all citizens..."

"Miss Eweida is suing BA under the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003.

"Her case is being supported by her union, the TGWU, and she has hired Paul Diamond, a barrister specialising in religious affairs and an adviser for the Keep Sunday Special campaign, to represent her at her employment tribunal.

"And a petition of support has been signed by more than 200 fellow workers."

Monday, October 02, 2006

Trinity XVI and more on the clash of civilizations

Having returned late on Saturday night from Fond du Lac Wisconsin, my Sunday sermon was ad libbed. But, as I read my 2005 sermon for the same Sunday, I saw its relevance to a topic that is of very immediate concern. The date of the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity in 2005 just happened to be September 11th, and my thoughts were very much on the contrast between Christ's compassion, and the madness of Islamic mass murder. Relevant to this are words from the introduction to the first encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI (now available in book form, and adding to the Ratzinger theological corpus), Deus Caritas Est (God is Love). I quote: "In a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence, this message [of God's love] is both timely and significant." Amen to that. The compassion of Christ that moved Him to overturn the death of a young man in order to relieve the grief of one widow teaches us the nature of our faith. And, it stands in contrast to the spirit of evil, the teaching of antichrist.

Trinity XVI (2005)

Eph. 3:13-21 Luke 7:11-17

Anyone can speak death, and anyone can inflict death; but, only the word of God has the power to give life. Among the many things we see in today’s Gospel, we see life being given to the dead, and we see compassion. What a stark contrast we see between true and false religion. In Christ we see compassion and the giving of life. We see the opposite, the spirit of Antichrist, in Islamist terrorists who think that by killing us, they do God service. It is fitting to remember that today, only the fourth anniversary of that painful day when over three thousand people were killed in New York, and several more at the Pentagon; and more died heroically by making sure their plane crashed in Pennsylvania instead of hitting its target. It is fitting to remember them in our prayers on this day, September 11th.

We need to know that a false understanding about God has terrible consequences. No wonder, in the first chapter of his Epistle to the Galatians, Saint Paul told his children in the faith that anyone who would preach to them a false gospel is under a curse. That is, such a one has no true power. For true power is not the ability to curse, to inflict death and suffering; and we need not fear those who can do these things. Neither is true power the ability to deceive. If we grant power to such people, we are joining them in a cursed and barren existence. False ideas about God can be fatal. Just ask anyone who has seen a Jehovah’s Witness die an unnecessary death rather than receive something as simple and available as a blood transfusion.

We need to know why the first commandment is against worshiping any god other than the true God. In the long history of false religion, everything from paganism to pseudo-Christian cults, the terrible reality is that cruelty has been quite the normal thing. The ancient idols, spoken of in the Bible, were served through such things as human sacrifice, especially the sacrifice of children. When people shun the story of Abraham offering Isaac, and speak about how terrible the story is, they miss the whole point. Aside from the obvious theological truth in which Isaac carries the wood up the hill, and represents the Lord Jesus Who offered Himself for our sins on the cross, is a practical point as well. When God put Abraham through that ordeal, and then told him not to harm Isaac, the point was made to the people of Israel that the true God does not want the blood of children to be offered to Him; that such tragic sacrifices as were made to Molech of the people’s infants, and that are made today whenever children are murdered by abortion, are an abomination to God. It never entered His mind. He has never wanted any such thing to be done. And, since suicide and mass murder are a kind of sacrifice offered by Muslim terrorists to their god, these violent acts belong to the same category of religious abomination.

False religion brings death. And, contrary to the spirit of error and violence, in today’s Gospel Christ acts out of compassion to give life. The difference between true religion and false religion is the difference between revelation and error. The ultimate revelation is the Incarnation; the Person of the Son of God among us as a human being; someone we can see, hear and touch. If I may digress, the entire message of Mohamed was a rejection of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Mohamed came along in the 7th Century and created a religion in which God has no Son, and in which the word “Antichrist” achieved its most appropriate usage. For Islam really is Antichrist in the most accurate sense of that word. It rejects the truth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, that is, that He is both fully God of one substance with His Father, and fully man, taking human nature from His blessed Virgin Mother (I John 4:1-3).

They call us idolaters, because we worship Christ. But, the difference between true religion and false religion is the difference of revelation- that is, what God has revealed. And, the greatest revelation is Jesus Christ, God with us, the Word made flesh. So, you see, now that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, and we have come to know the truth of His two natures in one Person, what we embrace in Jesus Christ is the revelation of God. Once we know that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, it would be idolatry to worship only a god that cannot be seen, heard and touched. Let me quote to you the opening of Saint John’s First Epistle:

1: That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
2: (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)
3: That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
4: And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”

When God took Abraham up the mountain and taught against human sacrifice (while foreshadowing the crucifixion of His own Son), and later, when He told the people, through His prophet Moses, that they were to worship no other god, these things were done out of compassion for mankind. That compassion reached its highest expression when God the Son appeared in human form. It continues to this day through the Church, which continues the same mission given to Saint Paul, the mission to bring people out of darkness and ignorance into the light of the Gospel. That is your mission and mine. When the Lord Jesus appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus, and began to transform him into Saint Paul the Apostle, He called him to take his part in this mission of compassion. The Lord spoke to him about “…the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me (Acts 26: 17, 18).”

Because Jesus showed His compassion for a grieving mother by restoring her dead son to life, we see in this story what the Incarnation means. It means that Christ is, as the Orthodox Church has always put it, “the Lover of mankind.” God is among us in His love and compassion, if we will but free our minds of petty things that reduce our religion into something small. This very day, when you come to the altar rail for the sacrament, you will be touching and tasting Jesus Christ. This is not idolatry; it is the revelation of God. He is among us to give life, as the One Who has the power to give life when others can give only death. He gives us His own life, for His flesh is food indeed, and His blood is drink indeed. The Word, the Life manifested who our eyes will see, and our hands will handle, has come and will come to do what only God can do. He gives life to the dead.