Tuesday, September 30, 2008

No Bible and without a prayer

Making international news, in June 2006, the Episcopal Church, in General Convention, elected Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, "Bishop" of Nevada to be the new Presiding Bishop, making her their Primate. Beyond the fact that many Anglicans in the official Communion could never accept her as any sort of clergy, including all of the bishops of the largest Church in the Communion (Nigeria), the overt expressions of her post modern brand of liberalism show that the majority of bishops and delegates in the Episcopal Church made their statement by choosing a clear direction for the denomination. Ms. Schori was a very strong supporter of the divorced and openly “gay” Gene Robinson’s election to the epsicopate in New Hampshire; and far from relenting from that stand, she has spent the last two years as Presiding Bishop reasserting her position. Loyal conservative Episcopalians have voiced their sorrow and opposition. It is in the nature of the conservatives of the Episcopal Church to be holding firm against whatever the latest innovation or error happens to be. At this time, the most outspoken organizations within it are making very clear their opposition to acceptance of what we must call Homosexualism, which means an acceptance of what some call the “gay life style.”

The problems in that particular denomination have a long history, much of which I lived through from my baptism in 1958 until my departure in 1997. It is not apathy that has placed its further decline beyond my immediate concern, but rather faith in the law of gravity. Not only must things that are in free fall complete their journey, but each stage in the descent is obvious and predictable. (this is not simply a criticism of people who, in their misguided optimism, really believe they must hold firm under such circumstances, but rather a belief that if they remain in such a denomination they may be endangering their own souls and the souls of their children. Any suffering that they go through is due to a decision, and one can have only so much sympathy for a man who, having long ago reached the age of reason, is nonetheless surprised that banging his head against a stone wall results in pain, and that it does not move the wall).

As dramatic an example of apostasy as the Episcopal Church tends to be, its sordid behavior is not exclusive property. They have no monopoly on errant innovations. Although similar kinds of problems seem to exist solely in the mainline Protestant denominations, it is very dangerous for any church body to feel secure to the point where they can ignore the history of which I speak. Rarely does a week go by without a report about various American or European Roman Catholics who set themselves against the teaching of Rome. In addition we often read reports about attacks on the faith of Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans and others that come from within their own denominations, often from the highest levels. For this reason, it is worth the time to look at a documented history of major events in the Episcopal Church over the last few decades, the whole time considering lessons that apply elsewhere. For the major problem that we shall diagnose is a threat that spills over into many other ecclesiastical venues, including non-denominational Evangelicalism as well as American parishes in the Catholic Church. The major flaw has been one that seems innocent, and that is practiced by many well-meaning and sincere Christians, especially when they try to reach out in evangelistic endeavors. That flaw, that deadly virus, is contrived relevance that accommodates and changes established traditions. In extreme cases it changes the substance; but it is nearly always perceived to be an adjustment in terminology and methods of communication with the decidedly meritorious intention to make the Christian message come across to a new generation. The result, however, is that all too often the message itself becomes subjected to an unforeseen transformation, with a corresponding effect on liturgy and translations of the Bible. Changing the traditions, including the traditional use of language, may appear to make the message more relevant. But, the cost needs to be weighed.

In the case with which I am most familiar, the one that I have lived through, we began to be subjected overtly to new ideas and changes in the once very conservative and traditional Episcopal Church, in the early 1970s. This was preceded by instances of apostasy, such as the strange life (and death) and heretical teachings of Bishop James Pike of the Diocese of San Francisco, and by earlier ideas that had been floated by such writers as the Church of England’s James Robinson, author of Honest to God. For people who paid attention to affairs in the realm of theology, the critique of C.S. Lewis already rang true, namely that the modern man suffered from the opposite problem of the Medieval man, concerning the Church. Lewis observed in the 1940s, that whereas the Medieval man believed that the clergy were more orthodox than most of the laity, the modern man believes the clergy are less orthodox. The Episcopal Church had within it people who had been pushing apostasy for several years, but for the average layman the problems were off in a corner out of sight, until about 1970. That year I was only twelve years old, and was directly exposed to contrived relevance for the first time at a church camp.

Every year on the last night of the church camp, held in Maryland at the Claggett Diocesan Center, we would have the service of Holy Communion. That year a middle aged priest emerged “vested” in a colorfully painted t-shirt and blue jeans, and wearing a stole that had every color of the rainbow (only a stole that is clearly distinguishable as white or red or green or violet has any meaning. Mixtures that seem to mean everything, consequently mean nothing). The opening “hymn” was George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” from the Beatles album “Abbey Road.” The intention was obvious; the priest was trying to make the service relevant to young people. The Beatles song was followed by Cranmer’s wording from the only Prayer Book we had, as the colorfully t-shirted priest turned around to the altar (for they still required a turn round to the East back then). “Almighty God, unto Whom all hearts are opened, all desires known, and from Whom no secrets are hid…” The service had been made relevant, but not by the Beatles song, not by the “hippie” t-shirt and flashy stole, or any other remarkable distraction. For the service was relevant in its structure and meaning long before we had been born. And, its meaning and relevance were not destroyed by the comic exhibition of the well-meaning priest, though he most certainly created obstacles which failed to impress our young minds.

Now, as innocent as this may have been, it was symptomatic of the troubles that soon followed, and that have led to the most recent and extreme consequences of “gay friendly” General Conventions of 2000, 2003 and now of 2006. The assumption, back then in 1970, shared by hundreds of priests and bishops who very probably wanted to do the right thing and reach more people, was that something had to be done, a new course taken to change how the Church is perceived, and to improve the experience of those in the pews. It was meant to aid their understanding. The “Green Book” titled Services for Trial Use was sent to the congregations. It contained new liturgies that anticipated those that would appear later in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. The assumption was that the Church needed to change if it was to survive. It needed to change if it was to reach a new generation and so be relevant. This was not done with the obvious intention of leading the Church to a time when “same sex unions” would have a formal liturgy with the approval of the Diocesan Ordinary. The perceived need to change the Church was in order to help people enter it, and to help make its message understandable to the young. And, at the time that the "Green Book" and the "Zebra Book" appeared in the pews of the Episcopal Church throughout America, several new versions of the Bible came out in trendy modern English, such as Good News for Modern Man, and (the most pathetic and unfortunately popular version of that time), The Living Bible.

The Charismatic Movement

The 1970s was a time in which people were seeking the reality of spiritual experience, and in mainstream Christianity this need was met by the Charismatic Movement, a very strong revivalist movement that had begun in the previous decade to enter the mainstream Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic Church, due to the ministry of a Dutch South African Pentecostal preacher named David du Plessis, called by the nickname “Mr. Pentecost.” In the Episcopal Church the early leaders of the movement included priests such as Dennis Bennett, Phillip Zampino, John Howe and others. By far, the most important teaching voice of national significance was Everett L. “Terry” Fullam. The Charismatic movement was a more sophisticated form of Pentecostalism. If George Gershwin dressed up Jazz and took it into the concert hall, Mr. du Plessis dressed up Pentecostalism and took it into the finest churches.

It is very often the case that writers present a picture of the movement so inaccurate that it cannot even be called a caricature. The average tongue-speaking Charismatic was not overcome by emotion to the point where he lost self-control like some ancient Montanist. He would turn his Glossoalia off and on at will (after the first experience). Many of them were among the most educated and financially successful, unlike the early Pentecostals. Furthermore, the notion that the movement was obviously un-theological is, at best, questionable. The whole movement was based on a theological proposition, namely that the gifts of the Holy Spirit had not died out in the Church, a proposition that made the movement attractive to Episcopalians and Roman Catholics whose belief in the sacrament of Confirmation already contained this same theological principle. The difference was that the Charismatics treated these gifts only as experience rather than recognizing their connection to the sacrament in any but the vaguest way. For, as much as this theological principle was at the heart of the movement, so was personal religious experience, almost to the complete exclusion of any disciplined learning.

Nonetheless, the movement abounded in teaching ministries, so much so that most of its events were centered on hearing a speaker who, far more often than not, was billed as a teacher. Healers were around, and so were a few important figures who “testified” about their conversion, and their “baptism in the Holy Spirit.” Mostly, however, people attended events to hear a teacher. Furthermore, the movement spawned an industry of recording and selling cassette tapes of just about everything these teachers had to say. To characterize the movement as non-theological is simply misleading. Nonetheless, even with theology for the common man being pumped out in accessible, often trendy, vernacular, the movement had no real theological center, and the teaching ministries were self-styled, possessing a celebrity quality. The idea of formal study was often rejected by people, but perhaps for a very subtle reason all too easy to miss. After Charismatics had heard hours and hours of teaching from all sorts of ministers of just about every church tradition in the West, it was far too easy for each of them to think himself an adequate theologian. Much of the Biblical teaching was influenced by the jargon and trends of popular psychology. The movement had a large share of contrived relevance, very innocent and well-intended, and these quasi-celebrity teachers were sometimes especially culpable.

This popular round of teaching crossed every denominational boundary, so that a kind of ecumenism emerged that was at once sophisticated and terribly vague. The people were sophisticated in their spiritual experience as Charismatics, knowing how to come together across religious lines for a shared experience of worship, singing “in the Spirit”, and the utterances of prophecy. The largest of these events was at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City in July 1977, where the two churches represented by the largest numbers were the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention. With them were Lutherans, non-denominational Evangelicals, Pentecostals of every stripe, and, of course, Episcopalians. But, the movement was vague about many important theological and moral issues. The kind of ecumenism that the Charismatic movement engendered was based upon trying very hard to ignore doctrinal conflicts. The result was that important convictions about the truth were glossed over in a superficial way. The conclusions and deepest convictions of various church bodies were treated as an embarrassment, tolerated without comment.

In some places communities were set up among people who were not joined ecclesiastically, such as the Lamb of God Community in Catonsville, Maryland, where many non-denominational Evangelicals tried to form a “community” with Roman Catholics and a local Reformed Episcopal Church (not to be confused with the Episcopal Church). It was not always clear to the people just who possessed authority, the Bishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, or the lay leaders of this “community.” Such an indifference to people’s devotion and convictions was all too common in the movement. Among Episcopalians, the clergy often faced a congregation mixed with genuine Anglicans but also with many self-appointed apostles who came to convert their Parish into something new and different. Assertion of duly appointed authority could be met with the utterance of “prophecy.” A Rector’s parishioners were influenced by many sources, from traditional Anglican thinkers to outright heretics and conmen on the Televangelist circuit. The good elements of the movement were easily compromised, as a very unprincipled form of ecumenism, all too often, undermined theology, and with it, morality. The Charismatic movement was riddled with all these problems. The good that it did in the lives of people whose faith in Christ was awakened by the grace of God, should never be forgotten. But, we benefit by learning lessons from the defects of the movement.

Among Episcopalians, the Charismatics were the leaders of the Pro-Life movement throughout the 1980s, specifically Rev. John Howe when he was Rector of Truro Church in Virginia (now Rt. Rev. John Howe Bishop of Central Florida), as the leader of N.O.E.L. (the National Organization of Episcopalians for Life). This was one of the best features of the movement, a case where it stood for truth and morality. On other fronts, the Charismatics were hopelessly compromised on the issue of women’s “ordination.” Despite outspoken opposition by some leaders, such as Fr. Phillip Zampino (later Bishop Zampino of the Charismatic Episcopal Church), among the leaders of the Charismatic movement in the Episcopal Church were prominent women “priests.” The reason is not too difficult to comprehend, as we shall see.

Women priests to blessed sodomy

In 1976 the hitherto illegal “ordination” of women was approved in General Convention in Minneapolis by simple majority vote. The effects were many, including the departure of many Episcopalians to the Continuing Church (along with members and clergy of the Anglican Church of Canada). In 1977 The Affirmation of Saint Louis was composed and accepted as a constitution for the Continuing Church. At first, as the Affirmation states, they tried to remain in communion with Canterbury and to continue to be Episcopalians and Anglicans (that second name signifying at that time the representatives of the Canadian Church who were present). By February 1978, it was clear that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Donald Coggins, would not recognize the “Continuing” Anglicans as part of the Communion, but this did not prevent four priests from being consecrated to the episcopate.

Others who rejected women's "ordination" remained in the Episcopal Church, and protested with apologetics. Eventually they formed “Forward in Faith U.S.A.” (a sister organization of “Forward in Faith United Kingdom”), after going through various different stages with the “Evangelical and Catholic Mission” and then the “Episcopal Synod.” By sticking to a principled rejection of women’s “ordination” they were very much alone. Other conservatives formed “Episcopalians United” and similar efforts, because they were willing to accept the “ordination” of women, and did not see it as part of the overall problem of accommodation and contrived relevance.

The “ordination” of women deserves to be rejected on theological grounds, and on practical grounds as well. Nonetheless, its appeal takes us back to the issue of contrived relevance, where the spirit of the times requires not genuine equality of person, but sameness of function . This kind of egalitarianism is about trying to overcome limitations in the nature of both men and women, not about recognizing complemetary strengths. Ordination is a sacrament in the Anglican tradition, not simply a ceremony that bestows a license for a certain kind of work. So too is marriage. If the sex of a person has no sacramental meaning at the altar, then logic must take us from ordination to marriage. The approval of the Blessing of same sex unions (General Conventions of 2000 and 2003) has never required any sort of argument or new kind of reasoning. Neither has it required a new vocabulary. It has required nothing more than a strange combination: Prophetic claims borrowing the use of Biblical terminology from Charismatics, and a reassertion with that vocabulary of every argument previously made in favor of women’s “ordination.’

Many years after the dramatic sweeping of charismata through the mainline churches, the “liberals” in the Episcopal Church are using a quasi-Biblical vocabulary that was quite popular within the Charismatic movement. Charismatics often spoke about the leading of the Holy Spirit, and about how God had told them that he would do a new thing. These phrases, easily borrowed from Scripture without any context to provide a solid foundation, not rooted in Tradition or Right Reason, have been learned well by the innovators of everything from women’s “ordination” to the libertine promotion of sexual immorality, including the greatest current bone of contention for conservatives, Homosexualism. In 2003, after the General Convention had made news with its election of the divorced and openly “gay” Gene Robinson as a bishop, the bishops and delegates who had voted in favor of this event, along with other supporters, presumed the role of prophets by asserting that the Holy Spirit had led them to do this deed. God had done “a new thing,” and the innovators were “led by the Spirit,” and it all sounded much too familiar.

The “liberalism” of the leaders of the Episcopal Church has become very overt and obvious to the average layman, as it was not in the late 60s and 1970. In those days, when it was easy to ignore, honest evangelistic motivation created a place of innocence in which the most contrived kind of relevance flourished for what seemed to be only the best of reasons. Later, when women were “ordained” a certain amount of that innocence remained, making it possible for many Charismatics and Evangelicals to accept the new lady clergy in all sincerity, and to castigate traditionalists for being divisive. Even now, when these same innocent and sincere people are the nucleus of conservative Episcopalianism, trying to restore their church to some earlier condition, they truly believe that they can accept women’s “ordination” as they try to overcome Homosexualism, not considering that to argue against one, they argue against the other; if they accept one they accept the other. These are not two issues but one; and the apparent innocence in all of the contrived relevance of which I have written, was hiding a real agenda.

New Bibles and liturgies

These days, the Episcopal Church uses the 1979 Prayer Book, and reads its lessons mostly from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. When the Episcopal Church introduced a new Prayer Book in 1979, their tradition of English Prayer came to an end. No longer was the Prayer Book a simplified Regula by which the Anglican faithful were called to live, but simply a book of public services. Most of the services were not revised editions of the Book of Common Prayer, with a powerful and majestic language rooted in the entire Christian Tradition, drawn from the scriptures according to the understanding of the saints of past ages. These new services were contrived to be relevant in their use of modern idioms and words. And, the Psalter was translated into the most (for the time) politically correct language. As Dr. Peter Toon pointed out, speaking near Baltimore in or around 1988, with the use of the mis-translated Psalms “there can be no revival; because this is not the word of the Lord.” He pointed out that the first error was in Psalm 1, where “the Man” was now “they who.” The Man, as the Fathers of the Church taught, was Jesus Christ. But, the Man was thrown out in favor of "Gender Inclusive Language,"1 and replaced with the ever banal plural, “they” for an individual of either sex (often used despite the fact that it is grammatically wrong).

The 1982 Hymnal would prove to be every bit as bad, in one modern hymn rewording the Lord’s own promise from the sixth chapter of John: “I will raise him up on the last day.” The classical use of language meant that the Lord’s promise was that the individual who truly believes and partakes of the food of eternal life is given this promise. The “Gender Inclusive” version, “I will raise them up on the Last day” gives no promise to the individual of faith about his own soul- or even about her own soul as the case may be. It speaks of a collective, and just how many of “them” will be raised cannot be known. As for the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, it is riddled with this same political correctness. Near the end of his little book, the Old Testament prophet Malachi said that the new Elijah would “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children.” But, the NRSV mis-translates the word “fathers” as “parents.” It does many other such things throughout (in fact the first mistake is in combining the first two verses of Genesis into one sentence, making it seem as if the world may have existed before God’s creation. “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was without form…” The Hebrew simply does not justify this “translation.” The first two sentences are not joined in the original. The older “And, the earth was without form and void...” is literally correct, and it cannot be used to suggest Pantheism).

The English language when translated into the dialect of contrived relevance, with extremely modern usage, cannot be used for the Bible or for liturgy. The effort to make it a language for prayer and scripture is futile at best, and unavoidably deceptive in its effect. Political correctness, Feminism, and "Gender Inclusive Language" combine into a tongue that defies interpretation. As Gandalf was hesitant to speak the language of Mordor in Rivendell, no one can proclaim the word of the Lord in Extreme Modern English. Saint Paul could speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but this seems more like a tongue of demons; it has no word for caritas. All Christians everywhere do well to take warning from the example of the Church into which I was born, in which I was raised from the cradle. Do not try to pray in this tongue, and do not try to translate the word of God into such a dark and imprisoned language. For it distorts truth and destroys beauty, muddles all true communication, and twists everything into a lie. It has no word for caritas, because it has no usage of “Father” as the One Who defines love by everything that He is.

The scriptures are very old, and to learn them requires that we submit to rigorous study, and that we make ourselves flexible enough to adjust to very ancient ways of thinking. Saint Jerome wrote about his time in the desert: “The flesh I might try to break with frequent fasting: but my mind was seething with imagination: so to tame it, I gave myself up for training to one of the brethren, a Hebrew who had come to the faith. And, so after the subtlety of Quintilian, the flowing of Cicero, the gravity of Fronto and the gentleness of Pliny, I began to learn another alphabet, and meditate on words that hissed and words that gasped.” As it was in ancient times, so it ever shall be, that the gift of the Holy Scriptures has been preserved by learning tongues of old, from before the times of our fathers. We possess numerous translations, words that cannot exactly haunt us because they are always fresh and alive, though coming from generations long fallen asleep in the dust of the earth.

The discipline used when translating the King James Bible, for example, flowed naturally from the reverence for God that had motivated Christians of earlier generations to choose words carefully. “Translated out of the original tongues, and with the former translations diligently compared and revised.” The first part we understand, but the second requires effort to learn. In other words, the translators were quite able to correct any mistaken notions, because they knew Hebrew and Greek. But, they did not take it upon themselves to disregard former translations, which involved a careful handling of the Bible with respect for a whole tradition of understanding its meaning. Where they felt compelled to make changes, it was never arbitrary. But, modern translations, to the extent that many of them can rightly be called translations, too often enter the most dangerous ground of contrived relevance. If there is one place above all where we must turn the issue of relevance around, and learn again to apply discipline to our minds so that they become relevant to Another’s instruction, it is in hearing the word of the Lord. And, if there is one place where our words must be thoughtfully chosen and based upon revealed truth, it is in bearing our souls before the throne of the Almighty as we pray.

To translate the first commandment literally, we are forbidden to have other gods in the Lord’s presence- that is before His face (al-Peni). The only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, along with the other Comforter, are revealed in the Name spoken by the risen Christ: The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is the Name into which we are baptized. But, this Name is regarded as offensive to the speakers of Extreme Modern English, and in the name of contrived relevance we are bidden not to utter the revealed Name. Early on I said “changing the traditions, including the traditional use of language, may appear to make the message more relevant. But, the cost needs to be weighed.” Here we see that the cost is that of knowing God as He is revealed. Which means the cost of contrived relevance is life eternal (John 17:3), a cost that we must decline to pay.

Conclusion

The history of the Episcopalian apostasy could fill many pages, and we could write thousands of pages about Pikes and Spongs and other dangerous implements. But, the real tragedy is not that the revisionists with an agenda should have been stopped, but rather that at one time they might have been. The road to Hell was paved with the good intentions of sincere clergy and other well-meaning “spiritual” people who wanted very badly to present the message of Christ in a way made relevant to their time. In the process they allowed themselves to be manipulated, and to have their own vocabulary appropriated, by forces that were far more aggressive than they, with an agenda far more rigorous than their un-Christlike mildness (it takes steel to turn the money changers tables and to face the cross). The perception that we must find a way to make the word of God relevant, and to make the liturgy meaningful, is flawed to begin with, since a faithful Church cannot fail to be relevant and meaningful. Beware the urge to become relevant, to adapt to the fallen world. Let the modern Episcopal Church serve as an example and take warning.

1. By "gender" they mean sex, a misuse of language we have addressed before.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Welcome to the ACC's Newest Bishop



On September 20, the Right Reverend Rommie M Starks, representing Archbishop Mark Haverland, was Chief Consecrator at the Consecration of The Right Revd Damien Mead and enthroned him as 2nd Bishop Ordinary of the Diocese of the United Kingdom of the Anglican Catholic Church in a magnificient ceremony at the Chapel of St Augustine's College, Westgate on Sea, Kent.

Bishop Starks, Bishop Ordinary of the Diocese of the Midwest, USA, and Episcopal Visitor to the DUK was assisted by The Right Revd Roger Dawson, Retired Bishop in the Patrimony of the Metropolitan, and The Right Revd Dennis Hodge, Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand.



On September 21, Bishop Mead celebrated his first Mass as Bishop at St Augustines Church, Canterbury, Kent. In his word of welcome before Mass, Bishop Damien said "In this tiny church, you will find the faith once delivered to the Saints; taught, believed and lived". The Venerable Joseph DeHart, Archdeacon of the Diocese of the Midwest, USA, was guest preacher and the church was packed with people spilling on to the street.



The election of Damien Mead as bishop of the United Kingdom was particularly poignant for me. As vicar general of the diocese, the then Fr Damien was instrumental in my joining the ACC two years ago. He has been a good and faithful priest to me, wise in counsel as I have sought to discern my vocation within the Church, and light of heart. I consider him a good friend, and I rejoice for the people of his diocese that he has now become their shepherd.

Sing With a Hearty Voice

Sadly, I cannot read music, so I cannot take a piece and its score and teach others to sing it. I must know the piece first, after which I can usually follow the music.

After Morning Prayer this morning, I was doing a bit of research on the internet, looking for uncomplicated Anglican chants I might learn and use as and when I have enough people to warrant singing the psalms and canticles.

In the course of my research, I encountered the following, which was good for a hearty laugh. Have a listen here.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Christian girls beheaded by Islamist radicals

Fr. John Roddy has sent me a link to the story, which you may read by clicking here.

St. Michael and All Angels September 29th


Click on the icon and it will take you to a sermon for the feast day.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Presumption

More than twenty years ago, while yet a layman, I belonged to a church that decided to use several new songs in worship. You know the type: Unproven songs containing a contemporary notion of the profound and meaningful. Among the worst was one that contained these lyrics directed at the Almighty: “There are many, many reasons why I love you like I do; But most of all, I love you because you’re You.”

Perhaps the sensational nature of such a tale of horror sends you reeling into incredulity for emotional cover. After all, how could this be true? A few years later I took over as organist for a while at the same church, and this song died a mysterious death (until now some people may have thought there was no connection). Bad taste was not the only reason I saw this ditty as requiring extinction. It carried within it a far worse problem.

To express that problem, I shall relate the thing I used to imagine when being subjected to that song. I imagined that, due to some time warp (to use sci-fi lingo), some members of that congregation were able to sing this song in the presence of one of the Desert Fathers of ancient Egypt, and to ask him, beaming with smiles, how he liked it. And so I imagined his reply:

Upon hearing the song, the old man began to weep. “I cannot sing with you this song,” he said. “It would serve only as a means to flatter myself in the pretense that I worshiped God. Or, I would foolishly believe that my love for God was so pure, and myself made so perfect in charity, that when next the demons would tempt me I should prove to be off my guard, and fall. Better than your song is the prayer of the Publican.” And they went away edified at the old man’s humility, and resolved never to sing so foolishly again.

I imagined the last part out of hope.

Humility and honesty

In those days, over twenty years ago, the same church made a point of hiring a bus to drive from the Baltimore area to Washington D.C. every January 22nd for the Annual March for Life (this is still an annual event, and worth attending). On one of those occasions some of us arrived early at the church to pray together. Not everyone there was a member, since others came as welcome guests for the bus ride. So, during these prayers a woman began to pray out-loud spontaneously, revealing quite obviously that she was a Pentecostal or Charismatic. She claimed victory, bound every demon in the world, and put the Devil himself on notice in the most triumphalist, scripture quoting prayer I had heard anyone utter in a very long time.

When she was done, and the smoke had cleared, the Devil apparently vanquished because she was, as I am sure she would be quick to point out, a "prayer warrior," I recalled a previous year in which, after the ride to Washington, and after President Reagan addressed the crowd by telephone, a Rabbi led all the marchers in prayer. He said, "Lord, it is not our hands that have shed this blood." Recalling that Pharisaitical prayer (Luke 18:11), and after the triumphalist Pentecostal intercession as we were yet kneeling inside the church, I suggested to everyone that we open the Prayer Book to the General Confession. We began after getting a nod from the Rector, who pulled out his stole in preparation to speak the Absolution. We confessed, for prayer about the nation's sin of abortion seemed more appropriate as penitential rather than triumphalist, and it seemed to be a more effective intercession as well.

"And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God..." (Dan. 9:20) The prophet Daniel understood how to approach God effectively, humbling himself in prayer, humbling his soul by fasting, confessing sin as a member of the nation.

St. Paul said: "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing." (Rom. 7:18)

In our Common Prayer tradition we have no room to flatter ourselves. We are miserable offenders who expect absolution because God is good; we are sinners who expect forgiveness because Christ died for us. If we engage in spiritual warfare it is not with our own power, but in confidence that the Holy Spirit has not abandoned the Church. Our Common Prayer tradition is based on the honesty and humility that scripture teaches, indeed, that it creates within those who "read, mark, learn and inwardly digest" the word God has inspired. If we love God it is not because we ourselves are spiritual and holy: Rather, "We love him, because he first loved us." (I John 4:19)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Forty days for life

Every Christian anywhere in the world, not just the United States, can join this American pro-life effort: Forty days of prayer and fasting for the pro-life cause.

(I included the Ohio link, among many options, because of the emphasis on spiritual warfare; very fitting with the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels just around the corner.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Don't hold your breath

Bishop Leo Michael of the so-called Holy Catholic Church Anglican Rite (a name that was wrongly taken from the old ARSA without permission) has made a public comment suggesting that I am a liar. In order to understand his complaint you need to read the following stories here and here and here: In addition you can read the reports on Virtue OnLine, and The Christian Challenge. (Bishop Michael also makes bold claims to an understanding with the APCK simply on the basis of what a few of its members did at a service-revealing a very interesting need to grasp at straws). He writes:

The HCCAR is very active and well with bishops who are faithful to God and His flock and continue the work entrusted to their care. By the way, true to the Affirmation of St. Louis all of our churches are and always have been owned by the individual congregations, contrary to those false tabloid story on St. James in Kansas city, especially on VirtueOnline, the Anglican Continuum website and the UECNA website. All that one has to do is to check the local county or state records of incorporation or speak with the founding and long standing members who are very much present...

We hope and pray that those who have published falsehoods would consider undoing the damage they have done to the body of Christ and move forward in tending to the care and cure of their flock. Any talk about collaboration becomes a doublespeak, while actively engaging in slander against one of the legitimate bodies in the Chambers' Succession or remaining silent at such talks.

As the man who reported this story, I advise Bishop Leo Michael not to hold his breath. The actions taken in Kansas City by him and his colleagues were tyrannical and completely contrary to the principles of the Affirmation of St. Louis. They simply took church property away from the vestry and congregation, and sent their clergy packing; then Michael moved in and took possession of the real estate and other assets that include an endowment. The congregation was worn out and folded, and their capitulation was contrary to the advice of their lawyer, since the judge was leaning in their direction. It was the bishops, Leo Michael and James McNeley, who sued one of their own congregations, clearly imitating the worst behavior of the Episcopal Church; the congregation was the defendant. This action has a unique place in the history of all the jurisdictions (to what extent they may be considered a jurisdiction).

We have never provided a link to the HCC-AR on this blog.* Not every group that has broken off on its own can be recognized simply for maintaining the Chambers Succession, or paying lip service to the Affirmation. Claiming to hold to the Affirmation of St. Louis is shallow if the principles in it are cast aside for convenience.

We published no falsehoods, and we stand by our reports.
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* Not a reflection on many priests and congregations-potential victims all- who have our sincere prayers.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Forewarned

One of our readers who goes by the handle Fr. John, namely Fr. John Roddy, has posted his analysis of the latest news about TEC.

As long as the Episcopal Church had to contend with those in their ranks who opposed their political agenda, they were kept busy ordering their own house. Now they are free to direct their energies outward, and what damage they will do. They will use all of their considerable treasure to eradicate the parishes and dioceses that managed to slip their grasp by "civil rights" and "hate crimes" initiatives. Those of us in the Anglican Continuum will be targeted as well. They have not forgotten us.

You can read the entire piece by clicking here.

Feast of St. Matthew September 21st

For a sermon on the Feast of St. Matthew, click on the picture above.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

C.S. Lewis and Roman Catholicism


The following is from a write up about a book currently on the shelves of bookstores.
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“There are many Protestants and Catholics who have been deeply affected and spirituality changed by the writings of C.S. Lewis, including many converts to Catholicism who credit C.S. Lewis for playing a significant role in their conversion. But the ironic and perplexing fact is that Lewis himself, while 'Catholic' in may aspects of his faith and devotion, never became a Roman Catholic. Many have wondered why.”
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The presumption that underlies this alleged mystery reveals a heavy dose of ignorance. The presumption is simply that having Catholic beliefs ought to lead every serious thinker to Rome. But, the question is not ironic or perplexing at all. Traditional Anglicans who are of a serious Catholic mind see no mystery here, much less "an ironic and perplexing" one. C.S. Lewis did not become Catholic because, as an Anglican, he already was Catholic.
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It helps to understand the words “Catholic” and “Protestant,” and how these words relate to Anglicanism. We have ancient Creeds, two of which speak of the Catholic Church, and one that speaks of the Catholic Faith. The Apostle’s Creed says, “I believe in… the Holy Catholic Church.” The Nicene (or Nicene/ Constantinopolitan) Creed says “I believe one [Holy,] Catholic and Apostolic Church.” The Creed of Saint Athanasius, or Quicumque Vult, says, “Whosoever would be saved needeth before all things to hold fast the Catholic Faith.”
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The very word “Catholic” is a creedal word, and therefore we cannot remove the word, or its meaning, from our life of Faith. It is forever fixed in our doctrine about who we are as the Church, and about what we believe concerning the Church. We cannot, out of politeness, give it up to any other Communion as its exclusive property, no matter how large that Communion is. That the Church of Rome and the churches under its obedience call themselves the Catholic Church, creates a problem of communication, because we cannot give up our own beliefs and identity. Furthermore, with all due respect, we do not believe in the exclusive claims made by that large Communion. Therefore, our position is due not to disrespect, but due, rather, to our own sense of identity and of the truth. To be Catholic is to be Christian, and the opposite of being Catholic is not to be Protestant, but to be unbelieving.
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There is no such thing established by God as the Protestant Church. Our relations with the many and various Protestants bodies are different in nature from our relations with other Catholics (be they Roman or Orthodox). Furthermore, in modern times especially, it makes more sense to speak of Protestantisms, using the plural, than of Protestantism, because the word has many different meanings and speaks of many various different traditions that have existed over about the last five hundred years, as well as many new ones that have continued to pop up. It has no theological definition, because a Protestant can be a Calvinist, a Fundamentalist, a Pentecostal, a Lutheran, an Evangelical who is either a traditional Evangelical, a modern Evangelical or some other kind. He may be a genuine believer who is firmly committed to Christian basics, such as the Virgin Birth, the Trinity, Christ’s death and resurrection, etc.; or, a Protestant may be a “Liberal” theologian, such as John Shelby Spong, who denies every major tenant of the Christian faith. The word “Protestant” is not the opposite of the word “Catholic,” and, frankly, may have become a useless word meaning so many things that, to many people today, it means nothing.
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In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, however, the word had an understood meaning in England. In those days the question for members of the Church of England was never whether or not they were Catholics, but what kind of Catholics they were. Were they Protestant Catholics or Papist Catholics? Those were the terms of that time, a fact which demonstrates very clearly the shifting definition of words. Anglicans who are truly learned about their own patrimony have much in common with Roman Catholics and the Orthodox that we do not have in common with even the most sincere and faithful of Protestants. Above all, we have a valid Apostolic Succession and Eucharistic theology.
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Lewis himself
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Far from it being a perplexing and ironic question, about why the Catholic beliefs of C.S. Lewis never led him out of Anglicanism, it is perplexing that the question is asked at all. C.S. Lewis did not have Catholic beliefs despite being Anglican, nor did he have them in addition to being Anglican. He had Catholic beliefs because he was Anglican. As an Anglican, he held to the ancient Creeds of his Church.
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Recently we drew attention to the implications made by the Anglican Use Society of the Roman Catholic Church concerning great men who were leaders of Anglo-Catholic thought; that is, the implication that the correct way to follow them is to swim the Tiber. And, indeed, Lewis was one of those names mentioned. In spite of Lewis' own testimony to the contrary, it has become common knowledge, of the sort that once contained a flat earth, that J.R.R.Tolkien had converted him to a life of faith, and simply came up a bit short. However, anyone who has read Surprised by Joy,1 Lewis' own account, is aware that he told a different story. He does mention Tolkien, but no more than he mentions H.V.V. Dyson. He mentions the influence of G.K. Chesterton's book, The Everlasting Man, but not over and above writings of George MacDonald. Surprised by Joy is about the whole process that led to his awaking as a man out of sleep during his famous ride to the zoo.
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"I was driven to Whipsnade one sunny morning. When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did. Yet I had not exactly spent the journey in thought. Nor in great emotion. "Emotional" is perhaps the last word we can apply to the most important events. It was more like when a man, after long sleep, still lying motionless in bed, becomes aware that he is now awake." p.237
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Without losing appreciation for the aid of Tolkien and Chesterton's classic book, the seed of faith in the soul of C.S. Lewis was planted much earlier. It was planted by Anglicans who knew how to teach the Faith with conviction. Speaking of childhood years at school, he mentioned, as early as page 34, "the most important thing that befell me at Oldie's."
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“There first I became an effective believer. As far as I know, the instrument was the church to which we were taken twice every Sunday. This was high ‘Anglo-Catholic.’ On the conscious level I reacted strongly against its peculiarities-was I not an Ulster Protestant, and were not these unfamiliar rituals an essential part of the hated English atmosphere?…What really matters was that I here heard the doctrines of Christianity (as distinct from general ‘uplift’) taught by men who obviously believed them…I feared for my soul…The effect, so far as I can judge, was entirely good. I began seriously to pray and to read my bible and to attempt to obey my conscience. Religion was among the subjects which we often discussed; discussed if my memory serves me, in an entirely healthy and profitable way…How I went back from this beginning you shall hear later.”2
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In the words of St. Paul: "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase (I Cor. 3:7)." Lewis was not an atheist converted by J.R.R. Tolkien. He was a backslidden Christian trying to be an atheist as a young man; and he was brought back to a lively faith by the Holy Spirit Who made use of many influences to bring His lost sheep home.
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Had Lewis ever been convinced by his close friend, J.R.R. Tolkien, to swim the Tiber, he would have done so. It requires a kind of blindness or a mighty stubborn streak to suppose that a man, who made his most important decisions with very clear thought and in accord with his conscience, simply failed to get around to something he meant to do- especially about his soul. The fact is, the life of C.S. Lewis is a testimony first of all to Christianity, and in particular to the valid sort of Anglican Christianity that he embraced, lived by, and in which he remained for the rest of his days.

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1. Originally published, 1956 London. This book is currently available, like most of Lewis' work.
2. I have never forgotten my first reading of this passage long ago. It has influenced my manner of preaching, and made me more appreciative of the need to follow the advice of Solomon: "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (Prov. 22:6)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Atonement and Theosis

“I see this going on in Orthodoxy all the time. The continuous discovery of new and improbable ‘differences’ between East and West has become virtually a cottage industry among some Orthodox Christians. Many of these alleged differences, however, seem not to have occurred to most Orthodox Christians who lived either before the Russian Revolution or outside of Paris.”
-Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

In any discussion about East and West, no one can speak with more authority than the pastor of All Saints Orthodox Church in Chicago, Father Patrick Henry Reardon (who also is a senior editor of Touchstone, and the author of several good books). In one lifetime, he has done what it has taken all three of the Hart brothers to do: he has been Roman Catholic, then Anglican and is now Orthodox. What sets him apart is the depth of his learning, since his knowledge of the entire Christian Tradition is about as exhaustive as any one man can possess. After all of his decades of scholarship, he has been able to speak in terms that all Christians can appreciate, demonstrating the reality of our common ground. Fr. Reardon has stated more than once the threefold separation between man and God that has been overcome for us in Christ, the separation by nature, by sin and by death. We are saved from our separation by nature in Christ’s Incarnation. We are saved from our separation by sin in Christ’s death, and we are saved from our separation by death in Christ’s resurrection.

I want to use this to answer a common assumption held by some of the modern day Orthodox, especially converts, in the words of one of their own: “The West's concept of God, salvation, human nature, even sin itself, are near 180 degrees off that of the early Church, but are in many ways quite consistent with Greek pagan philosophy.” Before addressing this in terms of Christian theology, we should notice that this idea exalts Greek Paganism beyond measure. If the “Western” “concept of God” is consistent with Greek Paganism, then the pagans must have believed in a transcendent God who is Wholly Other from every created nature, dwelling in eternity, unknowable and unapproachable. Somehow, this does not fit the notion of Zeus on Mount Olympus, or of the gods who were subject to passions. It is simply another empty charge and invented excuse for maintaining and deepening division at any price.

About salvation, just how different is the “East” from the “West?” I believe that Saint Paul, unless he was capable of time travel, never read Cur Deus Homo by Saint Anselm. And, yet, he summarized the entire concept of the Jewish sacrificial system in the Law, and the Suffering Servant passage of Isaiah, with the words “Christ died for our sins, according to the scripture (i.e. in fulfillment of those scriptures about sacrifice).”– I Cor. 15 : 3. Much is made of whether this was simply by passing from death to life, or if the death itself was juridical. In fact, the scriptural language about the One and the many is quite consistent, whether the last verse of the Suffering Servant passage, the fifth chapter of Romans, or the statement in the second chapter of I John: “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” The One and the many is a simple concept: The One who did not have any sin, and therefore no obligation to die, gave his life. The sinless one died. The scriptural image of sacrifice fits the reality of how this relates to justice, righteousness, and holiness; not to mention the words of the Apostles, that “Christ died for our sins” and that he is “the propitiation for our sins.”

Here we look again at those three ways in which salvation is offered to us in Christ. By dying He took away the sins of the world. Can this really have no relationship to Divine Justice? Is God so immoral or a-moral? Christ overcame death, but in His cross He conquered both sin and death. Furthermore, in order for the Incarnation to save us from death and open to us the hope that we become “partakers of the divine nature,” (II Peter 1:4) sin must first be taken away by the Lamb of God, the “propitiation for the sins of the whole world.” In order for His resurrection to give us immortality, sin had to be removed first. In order for us be given the grace to partake of the divine nature by theosis, we first needed this redemption from sin/ death (really one thing for us, not two).

The caricature of a wrathful Father taking delight in Christ’s suffering ought to be spotted for what it is by converts to the new version Orthodoxy. It is a straw man argument, created to establish yet another false division. The scriptural use of metaphorical language about wrath has never been taken literally by learned theologians in either east or west, but understood rather as a warning to be reconciled to the eternal and unchanging, impassible, God. The words in our General Confession, “provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us,” speak not of an angry God, but of the injustice of our sins. They rightly do provoke such wrathful justice from the human side: yet the whole prayer is based on our belief in God’s mercy, a certain hope of Divine compassion. The prayer speaks of repentance, by which we seek to be on the right side of the divide with God who never changes.

Pitting atonement against theosis is bad theology. It sets the cross against Easter, instead of proclaiming the full truth of our Passover from captivity to sin and death to the freedom of life and immortality in Christ. The Fall should be understood in terms of what we lost: we lack the grace to become what we were created to be. Our only hope is in Christ, His Incarnation, His cross, and His resurrection, by which grace is restored. Before we can “become partakers of the divine nature” we must receive mercy as the objects of Divine compassion.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Anglican Church facing foreclosure

The video is self-explanatory; however, the $6,500.00 per month figure is the total overdue figure that has caused the Talbot Bank to begin foreclosure against our church. We have been unable to meet the mortgage since early this year.

St. Andrew's Anglican Church
215 Goldsborough Street
Easton, MD. 21601



video

Monday, September 15, 2008

Smell the Meltdown

Down, and down, and down we go, and where we stop don't nobody know.

I spent much of my working life as a financial journalist, and thank God I'm not still in the business today. I don't think I could take the stress.

The American economy is on the verge of disaster. Do the mechanisms exist to stop a meltdown? I don't know.

Is there the leadership? I think not.

It never occurred to me before to bid prayers for financial regulators, or Fed and Treasury officials, but they certainly all need them now.

Meanwhile, I want to share with you something passed on to me earlier today by one of our more thoughtful and philosophical readers, Millo Shaw, The Gods of the Copybook Headings, by Rudyard Kipling.

"As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

"We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

"We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place;
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

"With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

"When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."

"On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."

"In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."

"Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four—
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

"As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man—
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began:—
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

"And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!"

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Padre Braves a Jager Bomb

I want to share with you a moving account by an ACC priest in Alaska, Fr Terrill Heaps, who visited some young soldiers on Saturday night to say good-bye to them as they prepared to leave for Iraq.

It is now way past Midnight. I just got home a few minutes ago. Here in Fairbanks, Alaska we are home to Fort Wainwright. This Army post is where the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division is based.

I had the privilege of spending this evening with about 16 of these fine soldiers. They are deploying to Iraq on Sunday. When I walked in, one of them spied me and called out, "Hey, Padre! You actually came to our place. Hey everybody, the Padre's here!"

The bar was crowed with these guys having a little merriment. They played pool, they fed money into the juke box, and some of them -- well most of them -- had a little too much to drink. And a few were really sloshed. One guy got emotional and misted up, and said, "Hey Padre, it's just so great that you'd come out late on Saturday night to our bar to be with us--I mean, you being a priest and all."

How could I not go out to be with them. Sure, it was late on a Saturday night --
and a cold rainy one at that -- but these guys are going to Iraq in just a few hours.

"Hey Padre, how bout havin' a shot with us?" I was presented with something called a Jager Bomb. It is a mixture of something called Jagermeister and Red Bull. One is supposed to quaff it down in one gulp. It tastes sort of like cough syrup flavored with turpentine. But, that was what these guys wanted. They seemed to think that I had done a favor to them because I drank the thing with them. Fortunately, I had a mug of draft beer in front of me to sip, to get the taste of the turpentine tasting stuff out of my mouth.

There was a lot of boisterous bravado. They were going to go over there to "take names and kick ass." One guy took me aside and told me he was scared. We shared a few moments and had a few words together.

All of these soldiers are from places other than here, and none of them has any family or relatives here. I am just so honored that these Soldiers sort of "adopted" me, and wanted me to be with them on their last night, before they deploy. When I walked in with that white collar around my neck, they were glad that I came. I guess it's like when Teddy Roosevelt sent the Great White Fleet around the world, to show the American flag and the power of America to the world. That white collar shows the flag for God, and for the Anglican Catholic Church.

Odd, you know. None of these guys is Anglican Catholic. I don't know what they all are. I do know that one is a Baptist, and I think that another one is a Roman Catholic. I know the one is a Baptist, because he said that his Baptist preacher would never darken the door of a bar that a bunch of Soldiers were having a party at. I felt so honored that they asked me to come. Yet, they indicated that they felt honored that I came. How could I not?

This is the second deployment to Iraq for a few of them. The last time the 1st Stryker Brigade went over to Iraq, not all of them came back alive. Gee, I remember Joe. He was sent back early. For medical reasons. This was in early 2006. Joe and I were chatting. Joe said, "I'm still on light duty, since I got shot." Yes, Joe got shot.

He told me all about what he and his squad were doing, what happened, and then he said he felt a hit and he had been shot. Fortunately he was recovering. He wanted to get back over to his unit to be with his buddies. It didn't happen. His unit returned here, before he was finished with his physical therapy.

I wonder if any of these guys I spent the evening with will be killed or wounded.

This was a special night for me -- in more ways than one. I got to spend this evening with some of your sons, brothers, boy friends, or husbands, who are on their way to Iraq. The pride of American young men. It was a special night. It was special too, because this is the 28th anniversary of my ordination as an Anglican Catholic priest. I'm glad I was asked to spend my special day with these Soldiers, on their last night. It seems like such a short time ago that I was their age, and wearing my Country's uniform.

We should be praying for all of our Armed Forces. But, now that it is past Midnight, and it is already Sunday, please pray especially for the First Stryker Brigade (of the 25th Infantry Division), as they leave Fort Wainwright, here in Fairbanks, Alaska, and deploy to Iraq.

More of them will be deploying over the next several days, until the whole Brigade is in Iraq.

Tonight, these guys were rowdy; these guys were loud and full of bravado; these guys were a little drunk; these guys are a little scared; these guys are American Soldiers; and these guys are wonderful.

Thanks be to God for having me spend the evening with them. May God watch over them.

Terrill Heaps +

Glory to God in All Things


I am happy to report that the mission of St John the Evangelist of the Anglican Catholic Church in Nicosia, Cyprus held its first public services on Sunday, and for that I give glory to God.

I was joined by one person at Morning Prayer and by another person at Evening Prayer. The two of us at each service, joined by the whole company of Heaven, made a wonderful assemblage. With God's help, next week I shall be joined by at least two members of the Church Militant, if not more.

Συγα, συγα as we say in Greek. Slowly, slowly.

Please pray for us.

Index of Fr Kirby's Apologetics

Often at The Continuum we find ourselves repeating the same responses to the same questions or challenges over and over again, month after month. So, I have decided to make a post linking to past articles written here or on my own website. And, if I do this correctly, this page will be permanently linked to on the right side of this page (under the heading Resources). Rather than temporal order, I will list the articles in a kind of "hierarchy of truths" order below, presented in "FAQ" format.

A. The Existence of God

1. Does science disprove God?
2. Does science disprove God? Part II
3. Why should the Universe even need a Creator? Why can't it just be "all there is"?
4. Doesn't modern science of the brain show religion is illusion?
5. Do multiverse theories contradict or take away the need for Divine design?

B. The Truth of Christianity

1. Who was Jesus and what is the evidence? (For consideration of the Resurrection, see Appendix 1.)
2. What has God done for us?
3. How do I become a Christian?
4. Is Christian faith intrinsically irrational?
5. How can modern science of the brain allow for free will, a Christian belief?

C. The Validity of Anglican Catholicism

1. How do we identify the Church?
2. How can you call yourselves Anglican Catholics? Aren't Anglicanism and Catholicism contradictory?
3. But hasn't recent scholarship shown that the Church of England was originally no different to other Reformed churches?
4. You claim to be only part of the Catholic Church, are not united to either the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Churches and yet say you believe in the unity of the Catholic Church. Isn't this contradictory? What is your ecclesiology?
5. Over the years Anglo-Catholics have become more like Roman Catholics. Why not just admit the Reformation was wrong and rejoin the Roman Catholic Church?
6. Do you have any good reason to deny that the Roman Catholic Church simply is the One True Church?
7. What might it take for honest reconciliation and restoration of full communion between Anglican and Roman Catholics? Is the Council of Trent an insuperable barrier to such reconciliation?
8. What do Anglican Catholics say about the Pope? About the Roman Catholic Church? What is an Anglo-Papalist?
9. Do you even have real bishops, priests and deacons?
10. A final word on Anglican origins and identity.
11. Postscript: What are your main objections to Anglicanorum Coetibus? What is your personal assessment of the movement by some Continuing Anglicans towards the proposed Ordinariates?

D. Controverted Catholic Teachings

1. Why do Anglican Catholics pray for the dead and ask for their prayers? Isn't that unbiblical?
2. Why do Anglican Catholics have prayers expressing the belief in the Immaculate Conception of Mary in their authorised liturgies? What reason is their for accepting this belief? (See also Appendix 2 below.)
3. Why do Anglican Catholics also liturgically celebrate the Assumption of Mary? Isn't this just an unbiblical myth? (See Appendix 3 below.)
4. What is Apostolic Succession? How can you say bishops are different to and above elders when the Bible uses the terms interchangably?
5. What do Catholics and others agree and disagree upon when it comes to salvation?
6. How should we understand the Catholic doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration, and how it relates to the necessity for conversion and faith?
7. How can Catholics say Holy Communion or the Eucharist is a propitiatory Sacrifice when the book of Hebrews in the Bible says our only Sacrifice for sin is Christ's, which was offered once for all at the Cross, never to be repeated?

E. Moral Questions

What is wrong with abortion and embryonic stem cell research?

F. Life in the Spirit

Faith and awareness of reality
What about the Charismatic Gifts?
What is it to be filled with the Spirit?

Appendix 1 (From a 2006 sermon)
· There are two important questions people need to ask about the Resurrection of Christ. First, given the astonishing nature of this miracle and the fact that this claim – Christ is indeed risen – is central to Christianity, is it really true? Second, what does it mean for us if it is?

· The first question can be answered with a hearty yes, not due to blind faith or wishful thinking, but due to the evidence. It is a historically undeniable fact that the disciples of Jesus and earliest Christians all claimed Christ died on a cross and rose from the dead. (Some complain that we can’t be sure of what the earliest beliefs were, since the Gospels were written decades “after the event”. But all accept that many of St Paul’s letters were written earlier than this, and they reveal that the earliest beliefs of Jesus’ friends and followers were as I stated.) In other words, there were many who said they had seen him alive again and, very soon after, many who believed them.

· But why did they believe them and why should we? Well, there were a number of reasons their claims were believed. The one that echoes down through history like a resounding trumpet is this: the men who publicly made these claims were willing to undergo persecution, even torture and execution, for the sake of those claims. If they had been making it up, then admitting this would have saved them much suffering and their lives. If they had been making it up, then their boldness and joy after Jesus’ execution is psychologically inexplicable. Human beings do not live in such a positive way and are not able to accept horrible pain for the sake of something they do not really believe themselves. So, those who said they had seen the risen Jesus clearly believed they did.

· That only leaves us with a few possibilities. If they thought they saw Jesus risen from the dead, and not just risen but healthy enough to come across as the Lord of life, then they must have either seen what they said or been hallucinating. They could not have been deceived by Jesus pretending to have died on the Cross and then recovering from his failed crucifixion to hoax a resurrection. Even if he hadn’t been killed, the crucifixion and the treatment before it would have left him a sorry sight and in a sorry state. The hoax would have failed as completely as the crucifixion. So that must be ruled out. It couldn’t have been someone pretending to be him. These are his friends, they know him too well. Thus we are left with hallucination or reality. The problems with the hallucination theory are many. Hallucinations do not affect so many people at once and over an extended period so, for example, a group can see and have a meal and conversation with one phantom person! And this kind of thing happened more than once (1 Cor. 15.3-8, Gospels). Also, hallucinations would not explain why the tomb was empty, and Jesus’ enemies could never produce his body to put an end to the belief.

· Therefore, we can say with confidence that Jesus rose from the dead. The amazing claim is true. Christ IS risen. He is risen INDEED!

· Which brings us to the second question: What does this mean? It means Jesus was who He said He was, “the son of God”, “the Life”. It means miracles are possible. It means God is real and has inserted Himself into human history. It means that when Jesus and his earliest followers say we can have new life if we trust in and obey the Risen Christ, we can know that He has the power to fulfil this promise. It means the Christian Gospel is true and that, once we are shown this, we have a responsibility to respond. The resurrection of Christ is not just a fact like other facts, to be put on a shelf of ideas and forgotten, like a dusty book. Clearly, if it’s true, it’s incredibly important and matters to each of us personally. And it is true.Jesus has died for us and then taken up his life again. And he has demanded we repent of our sin, turn away from evil, and trust in Him to give us God’s goodness and life within through that Crucifixion and Resurrection. If others had made this demand we might be able to dismiss them, but Jesus has backed up his words with actions, supernatural and stupendous actions. Our choice then is to accept the truth and let it become the Truth within, or to reject or ignore the truth. May God grant us the wisdom to accept, that we might experience the joy of the resurrection.

Appendix 2

But doesn't assuming Mary's immaculacy take away the virtue of her obedience, making it robotic or automatic? If Mary's obedience becomes robotic because she was immaculate, so does Jesus' obedience because he is immaculate. Similarly, on this premise, the sinlessness and freedom from concupiscence of Adam and Eve before the Fall would mean they were incapable of falling at all. And the obedience of those glorified in Heaven would be morally insignificant. Since this is all nonsense, the attempt to deny Mary's immaculacy on this ground fails.

If we posit a sinless human nature of Mary so as to have a sinlessly human Jesus, why do we not then need to make Mary's parents sinless too, then her grandparents and so on? A theological reason that there is no need for infinite regress is that we want Jesus' human nature, which the Athanasian Creed implies is directly consubstantial with Mary's, to be sinless by nature. Thus its source should be immaculate, otherwise it would have to be cleansed in its formation as a distinct entity and thus would, in a sense, be the object itself of cleansing grace. This is not at all fitting. Jesus is the Redeemer, not the redeemed, even in his human nature considered on its own. However, Mary is, according to the doctrine of the IC, redeemed (though uniquely by "prevention"), not the Redeemer. Therefore it is not necessary that she be "naturally" immaculate. On the contrary, it is necessary that she be immaculate by being the object of purifying/vivifying grace. So, not only is St Anne's immaculacy not necessitated by this line of reasoning, her "normal" fallen nature is.

Do Scripture and Tradition really support this teaching? Mary's immaculacy was consistently and repeatedly assumed and affirmed in Ecumenical Conciliar documents (though it was not the subject of a formal definition) and in ancient liturgies. Its place in the Tradtition is assured. While some Fathers taught inconsistently with the concept of Mary's freedom from actual sin, they are a small minority, not overthrowing the consensus. The patristic evidence on the IC itself, however, is far less weighted to one side, and is virtually all implicit on either side.

As for the Scriptural evidence, I have presented some of it before on this weblog. Could a sinful BVM have the same blessedness as her Son (in his humanity), as clearly taught by the perfect parallelism of Luke 1.42? Look at Mary's universally patristically accepted role as the New Eve, based on Genesis 3.15 as messianic prophecy. Note again the perfect parallelism between the Woman and her Seed, here a parallelism of enmity with the Devil. The literal sense of this passage refers to the enmity of fear shared by vulnerable, fallen Eve and her vulnerable, fallen offspring, the animosity with hostile nature and hostile spiritual forces. But the prophetic sense refers to positive, triumphant (despite the injury suffered) and pure enmity of the new Woman and Seed towards the Devil. We have the very same enmity with evil for Mary and Jesus, which is not possible unless the immaculacy Jesus has, Mary has, though for different reasons and through different causes, as shown above.

Does her immaculacy necessarily imply her immaculate conception? When we accept the immaculacy of Mary, then we have to ask how she could have persistently avoided all sin and been uniquely pure in her human nature unless she was entirely free of concupiscence. And then we realise her redemption had to be different to and more immediately complete than ours, but was still an act of saving grace. She had no concupiscence, which is the stamp on our nature of Original Sin, and is both a deficiency and a corruption because the deficiency and the way it eventuated inevitably caused such corruption. If she was cleansed as we were, she would have retained, like us, concupiscence and been unable to avoid at least venial sins. Her salvation therefore was more radical (in the proper, original sense of this word) and prevented the onset of concupiscence. She was the New Eve in that she was, like Eve before the Fall, innocent. She was the New Eve because she, unlike Eve, made her life-choice an unconditional "yes" to God.

Should this be dogma? If by dogma we mean a statement clearly revealed in Scripture, satisfying the Vincentian Canon, and intrinsically related to saving faith such that it has a status properly equal to Creedal statements, then perhaps not. But thi is no longer the way the Roman Catholic Church uses the word dogma, unfortunately. Now dogma just means anything true that can be supported successfully (even if not very clearly) from Revelation, comes to be widely prevalent in the Church, and their Magisterium decides to impose on pain of excommunication. The main difference, thus, between a true opinion or belief that is dogma and one that is not in this Roman approach is no longer its soteriological importance, clarity of Revelation or universality of consent. Instead, the key and determinative difference is an act of power superadded to the belief, not necessarily prudently or justly. That is why I can accept the "dogma" of the IC but criticise anathemas accompanying it. These anathemas are effectively a way of saying "We are infallible and that infallibility should in practise be the core and motive of your faith: no matter how far we stretch to the limits of that infallibility and how superfluously, you must submit to us, that is the essential virtue." I cannot help but think that this may be shifting the balance of piety ecclesiocentrically rather than Christocentrically and displaying poor spiritual parenting.

Appendix 3

This teaching of the bodily Assumption of the Bleesed Virgin after her death has a more general acceptance than that of the Immaculate Conception, in that the Eastern Orthodox Church also accepts it, though declining to give it dogmatic status. A number of scholars have pointed out that evidence for the doctrine in the Fathers is missing for the first few centuries of church history, and that when it does first appear in the literature a bodily assumption is not explicitly mentioned, but one of the soul. Also, the accounts we have are normally assessed as apocryphal. Nevertheless, the absence of a tradition of relics or a burial site associated with the Blessed Virgin’s body is extremely suggestive when compared to the traditions associated with many other less important Saints, despite this being an argument from silence.[1]

Even more significant is the evidence in Scripture, particularly that in Revelation 11.19 and chapter 12. While implicit, it clearly paints an image of a heavenly, glorified yet corporally present Woman who “brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne”, and who may also be called the Ark of the Covenant, that is, that which is overshadowed by the divine presence and bearer of the physical manifestation of the Covenant (Cf. Exodus 40.32-33 & Luke 1.35, 2 Samuel 6.14-16 & Luke 1.41,44). The fact that the Woman can also be interpreted as the Church or Israel does not cancel out the Marian connotations, since this is a prophetic genre, which often contains many layers of meaning.

The confluence of Scriptural, patristic and liturgical testimony, and the overwhelming and broad-based acceptance of this belief in the hearts and minds of the faithful entitles it to be recognised as an inalienable part of Holy Tradition.[2]

[1] Some scholars believe there is additional artistic confirmation of the belief from a period earlier than the relatively late-appearing written tradition.
[2] Importantly for Anglicans, it was also taught in the Seventeenth Century by Anthony Stafford in a book entitled The Female Glory; or the Life and Death of Our Blessed Lady, the Holy Virgin Mary, God’s Own Immaculate Mother. When he was attacked by Puritans, Archbishop Laud defended the author.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

17th Sunday after Trinity

Ephesians 4:1-6, Luke 14:1-11
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People today love to use the word "spiritual” as a substitute for genuine religion that makes moral demands. Saint Paul uses the word “spiritual” to mean overcoming the temptations of the world, the flesh and the Devil by walking in the Holy Spirit. The most practical thing we see in today’s Gospel and Epistle is that humility is essential for those who want to be spiritual. Also, since humility is necessary in order to be spiritual (as Saint Paul uses that word), it is also the key to peace among believers. Not only that, but it is the key to remaining orthodox. It is the element of character that we must have in order to bend our ears to hear, to be able to learn. For, the Christian must be someone who, as G.K. Chesterton observed, knows that there is in the earth something smarter than himself; and that something is the Church. Frankly, if we ever think that we are smarter than the Church, we will be lost. The Hebrew word for hear, and for obey, is the same word: That word is Sh’mai. It takes humility to hear, and it takes humility to obey.

Long ago in a sermon I told you that I would not feed you my own stupid ideas, but only the word of God. You see, the word “heresy” comes from a root that means “opinion.” Yes, the word “heresy” carries the ideas of false doctrine and of church division. Yet, all of that destructive power, unleashed by a terrible combination of carnal and demonic motivation, comes from the exaltation of one’s own opinion above the revealed truth of Scripture as known by the Church’s Tradition- in fact, its infallible Tradition, built upon the Rock of revelation that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Against that Tradition of revealed truth, you and I can choose our own ideas. But, when we do that, it is pride, both in its base carnality and in demonic motivation. Pride welcomes the spirit of error into the heart and mind. St. Pauls' list of "The works of the flesh" (Galatians chapter 5) are not only sexual lusts, but also many other things. Even political sins, which include the use of manipulation -even within the Church, are included in Paul's list of "the works of the flesh." Pride is one of those “works of the flesh” that wars against the spirit and the knowledge of God. It desires glory to be given to oneself. It desires power and prestige, position and honor. But, in order to hear and obey God we must be humble. We must take up the cross and follow Jesus Christ.

So, humility is also the key to peace among believers, to peace in the Church. Divisions are not always caused by false doctrines. Many times they are caused by strong and imposing personalities, by uncharitable deeds and words, by politics and gossip. All of these things are works of the flesh, and they are also tools of demons and the lure of the world. When they find their way into the Church, it is, more often than not, due to pride. The words we have read today tell us why we must strive to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. It is because “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” The Church is one Body with one doctrine and one God. There is only one Body of Christ and One Holy Spirit.

When Christ prayed that “they all might be one” this was one Person of the Trinity speaking to another Person of the Trinity. The Son asked it, not of us, but of the Father. And, as Saint Paul’s words tell us, there is only one Church. But, just as a man and wife are one flesh, and are made one flesh by God Himself, it is no guarantee that they will have the love and humility it takes to get along with each other. Where pride motivates us to seek our own satisfaction in life, love is cast aside. Indeed, many churches have been built because of doctrinal errors due to the very thing I have mentioned, the exaltation of opinion over the faith that was revealed once for all to the saints. And, we cannot pretend that these things do not matter. But, in addition to the problem of bad theology, we must avoid those other things that divide the Church; politics, gossip, ambition and so forth.

Look at where we came from. Most of us awoke one day to the terrible fact that the official Episcopal Church- the one headquartered in New York- had left us behind. We had not left it; it had left us. It was all because of that terrible combination of carnality and demonic motivation. Because of pride, that very first sin of the Devil that caused his fall, many of the leaders of that once solid denomination, that for many years had upheld the best of the Catholic Tradition and the best of the English Reformation, began teaching their own ideas in an attempt to be chique’, and to be acceptable to a fallen world that hates God. Doctrine became more a matter of being fashionable than of being true and faithful. Many of us held out until we saw that it was a waste of time. For me, the truth hit hard when I came to see that any person that I might evangelize into the faith of Christ, I could not, in good conscience, bring into my own church. Not even the Parish I was in; yes, it was still fighting the good fight (or trying to). But, ultimately, it could not win because of the power of apostate bishops. Our life in the Church should be one of a positive mission to the world around us, not of a negative drain on our energy due to a constant battle against prelates and General Conventions. How could I, in good conscience, bring anyone into that? But, now we have found that, by God’s grace, our faith still lives just as it was taught to us from the beginning; that others can keep the endowments, the real estate and the social position that came with being Episcopalians. We will keep the faith, thank you.

But, let us take heed that we learn a few lessons in light of the scriptures we have read this day. I suggest that we must unlearn some bad lessons that we learned from being in a constant battle (that is, for those of us who were struggling for orthodoxy in the Episcopal Church, before realizing the futility of wasting our alloted time in this world). The first lesson to unlearn is about the whole idea of what a diocese is. In our old days, a diocese was simply a legal entity which gave us a legitimate existence as a local church, and it became for many of us a necessary evil. The reason is obvious. Bishops were the enemy. More often than not, we just did not trust them. As C.S. Lewis said about the clergy and the laity, in the Middle Ages the laity were sure the priests were more orthodox than themselves. But now, they are sure that they are more orthodox than the priests. Well, that applied double for bishops.

But, if we go back to the Bible we see apostolic ministry as a gift that was appointed by God, the extension in this world of Christ’s own ministry. If we look at Saint Paul’s epistles to Timothy and to Titus, we see that he had laid his hands upon both of those men in order to make them into shepherds of the flock, and to be his successors in the apostolic college with the authority to ordain men for the priestly ministry. The apostolic succession is in scripture, described rather than explained, but clearly in scripture nonetheless. And, we can read about the ministry of the bishops in great detail, in epistles to various churches, by Saint Ignatius of Antioch, who wrote in the very early years of the Church.

I remember a very unfortunate and inaccurate TV presentation about Church History in which some scholar, a woman from a University somewhere (oh my, it was Elaine Pagels), was theorizing that Ignatius wrote his epistles in order to add to his own power as a bishop. The truth is, however, that he wrote them after being sentenced to death while on his way to Rome in chains to die in an arena, expecting to be killed within a very short period of time; so I am not sure how his teaching on the subject of the epscopacy, that is the office of bishop, was supposed to increase his power. These letters were his legacy, given to the whole Church out of love. He tells us in those letters that where the bishop is present, there is Christ; and where Christ is present there is the Catholic Church. We need bishops for that reason. That is why we belong to a diocese. It is so we can belong to the Church, and so we can have valid sacraments. The apostolic succession is more than a legal matter of canons, and more than a relay race. It is the continuation of apostolic ministry; it is not a necessary evil. It is a blessing.

If you want to see chaos it is easy to find. You can find crazy doctrines and personality cults tearing apart churches all around us. We need to be humble if we want to avoid those things; that is, we need the humility of which St. Paul wrote in the Epistle read today.

Of course, the great example of humility is that of Christ Himself. While always being equal to God, He took human nature into his Person, and humbled Himself to be, as the scripture says, obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. He had, as a Man, always an ear to hear the Father’s will. So, He humbled Himself as a servant and took away the sin of the world, and was exalted after His resurrection, revealed to be the Lord of all heaven and earth. That is the most astonishing thing. God the Son had an ear to hear. Humility was good enough for God. How can it be less so for us?