Saturday, May 29, 2010

Trinity Sunday

From 2009

Isaiah 6:1-8, Psalm 29, Rev. 4:1-11 (i.e. the entire chapter), John 3:1-17

It is fitting that we should read about new birth on Trinity Sunday, and be reminded that, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." Nicodemus asked the question,"How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?" The answer that Jesus gave him was about the invisible work of the Holy Spirit. Invisible and yet observable in effect; for the Holy Spirit's working cannot be seen, but his work can be seen when a man is born of water and of the spirit; for he is a new man in Christ, literally a new creation. "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (II Cor. 5:17) Adam was a creature, and his offspring are creatures, but not individually created as much as creatures by derivation, in that each new human being is the result of a man knowing a woman (one hopes, his wife). But, in the new birth, each person is a new creature, individually created by the breath of God with that new life that we receive from the Risen Christ, that new life that is eternal and will survive our death, so that our mortal nature becomes a seed planted to be raised as Christ is risen, that is life immortal. "Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him." (Rom. 6:9)

Currently, among the Reaaserter camp, we find that some who call themselves "Anglican" do not understand that John chapter three, where Jesus speaks of the new birth, is referring to baptism. No doubt, they have never learned the genuine Anglican Catechism, embracing, as they do, over the last thirty years a book that has new things instead. But, here is what the authentic Anglican Catechism says:

QUESTION. What is your Name?
Answer. N. or N. N.
Question. Who gave you this Name?
Answer. My Sponsors in Baptism; wherein I was made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.

In baptism we were adopted through Christ, born of water and the Spirit as children of God.

This is clear from the sixth chapter of Romans:

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (vs. 1-4)

Well I understand why the Evangelicals interpret the new birth as that moment of conscious conversion, for in a sense it really feels like a new birth of sorts: This I know from my own experience. And, it likely completes something valid and real that was planted in baptism, even though it may appear to unsympathetic critics as merely subjective. I understand why they resist the ancient teaching of the Church that the new birth is in baptism, because their experience of conversion just had to be what Christ spoke of. But, the new birth is objective, and we must interpret John chapter three by Romans chapter six. The new birth is into the newness of life, having been buried with Christ by baptism into death, and raised to walk in the newness of life. That is objective and real; and for an Anglican it should contain no contradiction that we accept the teaching of the Catholic Tradition regarding the meaning of Scripture, and that we rejoice when a person's dormant faith comes so alive in his soul that he can mark it as a beginning. But, it is the grace of his baptism awakened by the Holy Spirit, so that his conscience, with all his heart and soul, renders him like the prodigal son who came to himself, and went home to his father.

And, baptism brings us to the nominal theme of Trinity Sunday.

We must look at the words of the Risen Christ at the close of the Gospel According to Matthew, where we read the Great Commission:

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach (μαθητεύω, mathēteuō, make disciples of) all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matt.28:18-20)

This new birth involves the full revelation of the Name of God. And, before proceeding, we must answer yet another objection some have. They have noticed, as have we, that in the Book of Acts baptism was said to be in the Name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38), or the Lord Jesus (Acts 8:16, 10:48, 19:5). But, they do not understand. They make the mistake of assuming that Luke's designation of Christian baptism reveals the formula, or the actual words that were spoken, which is not at all what the text actually says.

When the Book of Acts reveals what happened in those earliest days, Luke is making clear that the baptism was not that of John the Baptist, but rather it was Christian baptism. Since the word "Christian" appears only once in that whole book, as something that came about after many people were baptized (11:26), it was not yet customary to say "Christian baptism" as opposed to "the baptism of John." But, that this is the meaning is clearly drawn from the nineteenth chapter. "Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus." Would those who think they are using the formula of Acts by rejecting the commandment of Christ at the close of Matthew's Gospel, not have made the same argument if "Christian" had been a more fully established word from the start? Would they not likely insist that the formula should be "I baptize thee a Christian?" Dom Gregory Dix discovered an ancient baptism liturgy in which the Trinitarian formula appeared as part of a long prayer that was, as a whole, in the Name of Jesus Christ. This makes perfect sense.

The formula for baptism is "In the Name of The Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost (or Holy Spirit)." The revelation of this Name, indeed, this One Name, is the end result in Matthew's Gospel, of all that Jesus did and said. Now, we know God. The revelation of this One Name of The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, could not be given to us before the Incarnation of the Word; the Name could not be revealed before Christ's atoning death in which he took away the sins of the world; the Name could not be revealed until after he defeated death itself and rose from the grave. The Name could be revealed only after we see the full picture of the Son, in his complete victory for our sakes over sin and death, having cast out the prince of this world in his Passion and Resurrection. And, it had to be revealed right then, just before the Ascension and the ten days when the disciples were about to stand on that bridge between the coming of the first Comforter and the coming of the other Comforter; that is, between the coming of Christ our Advocate (παράκλητος, paraklētos I John 2:1), and the coming of "the other Comforter" (same word, παράκλητος, paraklētos, John 14:16,17), the Spirit of Truth.

God the Father has been perfectly (Heb. 1:1f) revealed by the Son; and the Father and the Son are known only through the Holy Spirit (John 15:26). Therefore, the revelation of the Divine Name is also the revelation of our salvation, for the revelation of the One Divine Name of The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit came only out of the mouth of Jesus Christ after he had accomplished all things, and was ready to go back to the Father in order to send the other Paraklētos. The new life, into which we are born again in baptism, is eternal life; that eternal life is to know the God of this revelation intimately.

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world can not receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. ..And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 14:16,17; 17:3)

Eternal life is to know the Spirit of Truth, for he alone reveals the Son. It is to know the Son, for he alone reveals the Father. It is to know the Father. Our salvation and eternal life is to know the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Hear what the Prophet Jeremiah foretold, as the substance of the New Covenant:

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jer. 31:31-34)

This is salvation and eternal life.

This is also universal, to be proclaimed in all nations; for it is in all nations that we are to make and baptize disciples. "For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea." (Hab. 2:14) In recent years we have read of false teachers (such as one Bishop Swing of the Episcopal "Church") tell us that Christianity should no longer be a missionary faith, and that we should respect the alleged right of all people to have their ancestral gods. Thank God St. Patrick did not think so, or my Irish ancestors would have continued the practice of human sacrifice, burning people in the Wicker Man. The Gospel is not a form of oppression, but the only way out of the darkness into the light. "But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire...And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place. " (Deut. 7:5, 12:3). It is a service, it is compassionate, to liberate people from the cruelty of paganism, and to bring to them knowledge of the true God. When the Church built its new shrines on the sites of old pagan shrines, it practiced wisdom; for the old ways of darkness were replaced by the worship of the loving God of salvation. In the old places of dread and darkness the Church built new places of joy and light.

We have been given a mission, whether or not the world and its defeated prince approve. The Church has that same mission in all the world that Christ gave in a special way to St. Paul: "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 26:18)

Baptism in the One Name, revealed by the Risen Christ, is entrance into the New Covenant, into death to sin and the newness of life, into the knowledge of God. It is for all nations. To proclaim the Name of The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit is to proclaim our only hope and our only salvation. Only the Risen Christ could reveal it, and so prepare his Disciples to receive the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. We know the Name not in some academic or theoretical sense, but rather because The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit have been revealed in the coming of one Paraklētos, Christ our Lord who defeated sin and death in his passion and resurrection, and the coming of the other Paraklētos, the Spirit of Truth who gives life and power to the Body of Christ. The revelation of the Trinity is the seal of our salvation history and it is our life here and now.

From 2008


We are given glimpses and indications about the Trinity all throughout the Old Testament, beginning with the fact that God is one, but is spoken of in the plural nonetheless. For the word translated most often as God is rendered in the plural. Elohim (אלהים), the plural, is used rather than simply El (אל), which is singular. This is consistent with many things that appear quite mysteriously in the Book of Genesis, and continue throughout the writings of the Old Testament. The most famous of statements that declare this truth, that there is only one God, is in the Book of Deuteronomy: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD." (Deut. 6:4) When the holiness of God is proclaimed to the prophet Isaiah by angels in the temple, he is "Holy, Holy, Holy" (Isaiah 6:3). Nonetheless, we are told many times that God is one, and there is no other beside him. "Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour." (Isaiah 43: 10, 11). In this same book God often reveals his relationship with Israel in various triads, such as: "I am the LORD, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King"(43:15). God is one (אחד) and plural (אלהים). God is invisible, and yet was seen in visions by prophets.

But, let us never imagine that the Trinity presents us with a problem of mathematics. The mystery of the Trinity is not a mystery of how he can be three in one, and one in three. That, in itself, is really not so hard to understand; and so St. Patrick used something as simple as the shamrock, one leaf that is also three leaves, to illustrate the unity of the Trinity.1 Without being mathematicians, we can understand that one may equal any number. That is not the mystery. The mystery is God, a mystery so great that the joy of eternity is growing in the knowledge of God forever, ever deepening knowledge that cannot be exhausted, for "his greatness is unsearchable." (Psalm 145:3) Infinity is too small a concept to weigh against God.

Like all revelation, the doctrine of the Trinity is filled with mystery to such an extent that we can be sure of one thing: No human mind dreamed it up. No human mind can contemplate God except by some use of created things, for the human mind is part of creation, lives in creation, and cannot leap out of that into the uncreated reality we call God. We can know God, nonetheless, because God has taken the initiative to reveal himself. And, this revelation cannot be separated from our salvation from sin and death.

The salvation which we celebrate, as God has given it to us, is historical and it is future. It is also iconic and sacramental. We must turn to readings for the Mass of Christmas on this Trinity Sunday, to grasp the point.

"God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." (Hebrews 1:1-3)

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." (John 1:1-14) 2

The Fathers who gathered for the second Council of Nicea knew that the heresy of the Iconoclasts was very dangerous indeed. The Iconoclasts failed to understand the difference between Christian icons and pagan idols. Christian icons are based on revelation, especially the ultimate revelation, the Incarnation: "The Word was made flesh." Pagan idols are a deception, taught by human imagination at best, by demons at worst, to lure men away from the true God. The true God is known only through the Son (John 14:6, 17:3). The Fathers at that Second Council of Nicea (787 AD) knew that if the Church rejected icons they would reject the iconic nature of revelation, the truth that the Word was made flesh. In time, they could refuse to believe in the Son, as he has been revealed through his human nature. In time, the knowledge of God could be lost, if the Iconoclasts were to prevail.

Iconoclasm had come from a new religion, a brand of Unitarianism known as Islam. A god who is alone cannot understand love, because he is not the One-Elohim of Israel, known more fully by the Church as "the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." The doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that "God is love," as St. John put it (I John 4:8,16). But, about a god who is one and only one, through and through, with no plurality of Persons in him, we cannot speak of love; rather of an emptiness, a void in which eternity knows no compassion. G.K. Chesterton contrasted the God of revelation against the god of Islam very well:

"To us Trinitarians (if I may say it with reverence) -- to us God Himself is a society. It is indeed a fathomless mystery of theology, and even if I were theologian enough to deal with it directly, it would not be relevant to do so here. Suffice it to say here that this triple enigma is as comforting as wine and open as an English fireside; that this thing that bewilders the intellect utterly quiets the heart: but out of the desert, from the dry places and the dreadful suns, come the cruel children of the lonely God; the real Unitarians who with scimitar in hand have laid waste the world. For it is not well for God to be alone."3

Our salvation is iconic, because to know the Son is to know the Father also. Apart from the Word made flesh we cannot know God.

"But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (II Corinthians 4:3-6)

We know God because we know the Son, and we know him because he is also a man.

The Word is spoken of by St. John in the Trinitarian opening of his Gospel, where God is thrice named, and where, when God is named the second time, "the Word was God." Further on we see, "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." What did we behold, even as it was disguised in his human features? We beheld "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (II Cor.4:6) And, what we beheld in that face was compassion, such compassion as a lonely god would not have. We beheld love, the love of the Father in the love of the Son, expressed most clearly on the cross when he poured out his soul unto death to redeem fallen mankind, to save us from sin and death. And, we behold him, after death, rising again and forever keeping our own human nature within the very Godhead. The revelation of God in Jesus Christ is entwined with the revelation that God is three in one and one in three.

Our salvation, as revealed, is sacramental. It stems from the Incarnation, and depends on the death and resurrection of Christ, from which flow the power and grace that are given to us by the Holy Spirit, as he uses the means of grace through his Church. Without the atonement Christ worked for us on his cross, and by his rising again, we would have no absolution, no baptism, no Communion. Without the Holy Spirit present and active in the Church, this grace would never be imparted through the preached word and through the sacraments. For, it is the Holy Spirit, the other Comforter (παράκλητος, paraklētos), who imparts every grace that flows from the Incarnate, crucified and risen Son.

The risen Christ gave commandment to baptize "in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 28:19) St. Basil reminds us, in his book On the Holy Spirit, that this trinitarian Name is one Name, not three names. We do not baptize in the names, but in the name. Comparing the 17th chapter of the Gospel of John to the 28th chapter of Matthew, we see a progression. In John, before his death, he says: "Father...I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them." (John 17:26) And, in Matthew, the Name of God is more fully revealed when he commands the Church to baptize, by telling us the name into which we baptize. "The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." This ultimate revelation of the name of God came from the mouth of the risen Lord Jesus Christ after he had perfected the work of our redemption, salvation and justification. (How fitting that we read the conversation between the Lord and Nicodemus on Trinity Sunday, since baptism, the new birth, is part of the revelation that God is the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost).

The correct pronunciation of the mysterious Name of God has been lost, despite fruitless efforts to figure it out. We may have an indication from the prophet Jeremiah that this loss was God's own work, a loss indeed, but to the end that we gain something greater (Jeremiah 44:26). For in place of a name that is only mystery, we have a greater revelation of a name that declares who our God is. We may not know how to pronounce the name spoken by Moses and the prophets; but, we know the God of Moses and the prophets more fully by the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. And, we have learned this name through the human life of the Son of God, his personal history of being conceived in the womb of his mother, Mary the Virgin, the Theotokos. We know his history of going about doing good, healing all who were oppressed by the devil, teaching and preaching the kingdom of God, preparing his disciples, dying for the sins of the world, rising again from the dead, ascending to the Father and pouring out the Holy Spirit. We have learned the revelation of the Trinity because God is our salvation.

1. See my article Threefold Chords about how J.S.Bach used music to present a theological demonstration of the Trinity.
2. John used the phrase "in the beginning" to remind us of Genesis, and to get behind the opening of that first book of the Bible. What we call "Genesis" is called, in Hebrew, בראשית (B'Rasheet). It is simply the first word, which we translate into English with three words: "In the beginning." John used the Greek translation that opens this same first book of the Bible in the LXX. It was popular years ago to emphasize the first four words of the English translation. "In the beginning God." But, in fact, the word for "created," ( ברא, bora) is the second word in the Hebrew text, and the word we translate as "God" (that plural word, אלהים, Elohim) is third. In the Hebrew syntax the word for "created" directly follows "In the beginning." It is the opening of John's Gospel that moves the emphasis from the work of God to God as God. The apostle goes behind the scene of Genesis 1:1 to draw our attention from creation to God. This is because the New Covenant gives the knowledge of God in greater glory.
3.From Orthodoxy, by G.K. Chesterton. (chapter VIII)

Fr. Wells' bulletin inserts


If the Epistle and Gospel assigned to this unique feast do not seem to have much to do with the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, there is a reason for it. These passages were assigned long before there was such a thing as Trinity Sunday. Unlike Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost (which go back to the earliest centuries), Trinity Sunday was an invention of the late Middle Ages. When the Bishop of Rome, after some hesitation, made Trinity Sunday a universal feast throughout the Church, the English portion of the Church simply kept the same Epistle and Gospel. So to find a good preaching text for Trinity Sunday, should we look elsewhere?

But is there any text of the Bible which does not contain this precious truth? While the word “Trinity” happens not to occur in Holy Scripture, we need look no further than the very first chapter of the very first book, “The first book of Moses called Genesis” (to use the title in our Authorized Version). There we read: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.... And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said...”

In those crisp and succinct words we have the whole doctrine of the Trinity before us. Here we learn that God is greater than all things, before all things, surpassing all things. We rightly call Him Father. But God is nonetheless present and active in His creation, invisible as the wind but far more powerful. Therefore we know Him as Spirit. The Hebrew word translated “Spirit” also means “wind,” and likewise means "breath." This "Spirit" of Genesis 1 is echoed both in the reference of the “mighty wind” which accompanied the Spirit on the first Whitsunday and to the "breath" with which Jesus breathed upon His disciples on the evening of the first Easter Day.

We must not overlook the significance of that little word “said” in the Creation account. Each creative act through the Six Days begins with “And God said.” In that simple verb, we learn “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This “And God said” is what the Psalmist had in mind when he wrote “And He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:9).

This creative Word, by which the Father made all things at the beginning, was the very same Word which took on our very nature in Jesus Christ, God Incarnate. God's great Self-revelation which became perfect on Pentecost had been true all along. Trinity Sunday is a salutary reminder of how great a God we serve and adore. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!” (Rom. 8:33). LKW


Today's feast celebrates not an event but a dogma. Christmas, Easter, Ascension Day, Pentecost, and even All Saints Day are our annual reminders of the mighty acts of God in our world of time and space. But Trinity Sunday comes not as an anniversary but as a lesson-plan. We need to be instructed at least once a year that the One unique God, who demands our exclusive allegiance and worship, has existed from eternity as a unity of three persons, and so He will always be.

If this seems to be abstract and irrelevant to our lives here and now, we need to be reminded of one critical event in which the Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost has profoundly touched each one of us. That critical event was our Baptism, when each Christian individual was washed and marked “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” This Dominical formula, found in Matt. 28:19, is absolutely necessary for a valid baptism to occur (along with, of course, the use of water). Matt. 28:19 is the only place in the whole Bible where the threefold nature of God is stated so precisely. Note carefully that there are not three “names,” but only One Name.

Our salvation (and this is the salvation of each of us, considered one at a time) is rooted in God's plan for our salvation. That plan was not merely an emergency measure which God contrived after man fell into sin; in the words of the psalmist, God's saving love for us is “from eternity, to eternity.” This proves to us that God is truly our Father, and has been our Father from before all time.

But at a certain moment in time (as time is measured by a clock!), God stepped right into our fallen world and became active on our behalf, to redeem and restore us, to defeat the powers of evil which enslave us, to re-establish His kingship in our hearts, our lives, and our world. That all happened when the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who is truly God the Son, was made man in Palestine.

This eternal God, who created us and redeemed us, is still present with us. This presence we call God the Holy Ghost. As the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit, God penetrates and pervades all things. But most important for us, He applies to us now that which God the Son has done for us long ago. As Jesus said, "He will glorify me, he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine, therefore I said he will take what is mine and declare it to you" (John 16:14-15). The Spirit unites us to Christ and engrafts us (inserts us!) into Him, so that even our dull and unglamorous human existence is already shot through with the Divine life of God.

Scripture's deepest probing of the Trinity is found in those "Farewell Discourses" in John, which we have read incessantly since Easter. What sort of Man would spend the last evening of His earthly life, the evening before a clearly foreseen death, discussing the doctrine of the Trinity? Only a Man in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwelt bodily, one in whom the Spirit of God rested. LKW

Thursday, May 27, 2010

About Growing Churches

The conventional wisdom is as follows: Continuing Anglican churches consist of five to seven members, all very aged, and there is no potential for anything else. We should expect nothing more, and prepare to die away any day now. In fact, it is terribly bad manners to do otherwise (where was you brought up anyhow?).

The good thing about conventional wisdom is that it is generally wrong. Nonetheless, it appears that a fairly significant number of Continuing Anglicans believe it anyway, and some try to prove it. Those who do make life easy for themselves, willing to pay the price of occasional depression, and pretending that their lethargy is humility. Their version of humility, which is defined as accepting the inevitable and never asserting that we have a better way, provides an excuse for this laziness. "Our numbers must always be small, and that's just the way it is." If you believe that, it will happen to you according to your faith. But, allow me to part company with you, at least far enough away to be at a safe distance if the earth opens under your tents.

I have seen growth at St. Benedict's since arriving here, the count of new members since arriving fourteen months ago standing at twenty-seven, bringing the parish membership up close to one hundred. That is small compared to other parishes I have seen. I am not the number one expert on church growth, and I don't pretend to be; but I have tried and proved a few ideas that I want to float out there.

1. Assume you can grow. This is a matter of faith, if you put your trust in God, that He will do the work if you want Him to.

2. Make room. If you have only the highest of services then consider adding something a little lower in addition, such as a straight Prayer Book Holy Communion and Morning Prayer. The low church people looking for a home should not be left out in the cold.

3. Use the pulpit to preach the Gospel. This is the most important advice of all for readers who are among the clergy. Do not give some mild presentation designed to go largely unnoticed. Prayer for the fire of the Holy Spirit, and go at it simply, directly and powerfully (see this and this).

4. Demonstrate due diligence. Continuing churches need to keep proper records to ensure that people have the basic sacraments of baptism and confirmation.

5. Do not be an underwriter or gatekeeper. Point 3 above should never come across as unwelcoming or restrictive conditions for membership, but as evidence that the priest is diligent in his pastoral duties for the good of each person.

6. Have user friendly bulletins, inasmuch as people who are not accustomed to liturgy do not need to feel stupid.

7. Seek the lost, not only by trying to have evangelism programs, but also looking for those who have wandered off or drifted away.

Damn the conventional "wisdom," and full speed ahead.

The floor is open in comments for additional thoughts.

Bach vs. Arius

With Trinity Sunday coming, here is a little something to chew on as an appetizer.

This article was published as “Three-Fold Chords” in the October, 2004 issue of Touchstone, a Journal of Mere Christianity.

Robert Hart on the Trinity in Bach

Whether his art is visual, musical, or verbal, the Christian artist presents an apologetic. He does more than refute error; he transcends the mind that holds error. Whether or not he explains the truth, he shows it, that we may see and hear it also.

Theology in Music

Johann Sebastian Bach wrote many a choral piece for the Church, and the words of those pieces reflect his deep faith. Some of the cantatas have texts by an unknown poet, which I suspect was Bach himself, for he wrote poetry as a pastime. Every part of Christian devotion is expressed in his music, from the lofty grandeur of his Sanctus in the B-Minor Mass, to the simple expression of grief at the end of the St. Matthew Passion:

Wir setzen uns

mit Tranen nieder

Und rufen dir im Grabe zu:

Ruhe sanfte, sanfte ruh!

(We prostrate ourselves with tears

and call to you within the grave,

Rest gently,

gently rest!)

And yet, Bach’s music expresses the truth even when no words are used. The very order and logic of it speak of a universe ruled and governed by its Creator. Even more, Bach was able to put theology into the music itself. He did so without any loss to the musical art; for the piece of which I am about to speak is a masterpiece, as moving and inspiring as any can be for the sheer joy of the listening ear. To those who pay attention, a very clear demonstration of the truth is presented in the “St. Anne” Fugue in E-flat Major for organ (BWV 552).

The fugue is a contrapuntal form of music, which means that different lines of melody are played against each other, without strophic chords. A fragment of a melody is stated, which is called the “subject,” in one voice. It is answered and repeated in another voice, which enters, usually in the interval of a fifth, while the first voice plays what is called the “counter-subject.” A third voice enters, usually returning to the “root” key, and so on. Most fugues have four voices.

The art of the fugue lies in the development of the piece, with its subject always being repeated, as it modulates into different keys and keeps the lines of melody moving with good harmonic flavor throughout. Sometimes the subject disappears very briefly and we are treated to what is called an “episode.” The purpose of the “episode” is to lead us into the next statement of the subject.

The “St. Anne” Fugue is a triple fugue. Each of the three sections, which I will identify as A, B, and C, is part of the fugue and yet is at the same time itself a complete fugue. The opening notes of the hymn “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” are clearly stated as the subject for A. It develops as all fugues do, as each voice comes in and the fugue modulates from key to key, but then it resolves rather quickly in an unsatisfying conclusion. This is because we are not done, and are meant to anticipate more.

B starts, with its mysterious-sounding subject, and we are treated to the typical fugal voice entries; but when it starts to develop, we hear suddenly that the subject of A has reappeared. Is it being used as a counter-subject to each subsequent entry of the B subject as it develops and modulates, or is B an “episode” rather than a new fugue?

But still we are not done. For this section also concludes too suddenly for us to feel that it is over, and the entrance of a very joyful-sounding subject introduces the third fugue, or the third section. Again, C goes through its entries of voices with subject and counter-subject, and then we hear the subjects of A and B played together in counterpoint as an “episode.” In fact, this combination provides an “episode” between entrances of the C subject a few times, until the whole piece ends with the clear statement of the A subject.

The fact that the piece ends with the subject of A unifies it and makes it one fugue, but it also sounds like three fugues. Also, B and C both derive from and depend on A, yet each of them is equal to A. Is the “St. Anne” Fugue one piece or three pieces?

Bach Against Arius

It seems that we have a problem similar to that which confronted Arius, the fourth-century heretic who made the Council of Nicea necessary. He could not believe that it made any sense that Christians worship a God who is three Persons. The doctrine of the Trinity offended his sense of mathematical purity, a purity based upon a simplistic, undeveloped understanding.

He did not deny that the Word is a Person to be worshiped, and so he made of him a god, but one who is a creature of the One God. He also denied the existence of the Holy Spirit as a Person. His devotion to pure monotheism had the ironic effect of leading him into advocating a kind of polytheism. At the root of it was a simple inability to appreciate the complexity of divine transcendence, combined with an inability to appreciate that complexity as reflected within creation, as a genuine student of mathematics should be able to do.

One of the heroes of the Council of Nicea, St. Athanasius, spent a lifetime refuting the error of Arius, and did so at great personal expense, going more than once into exile. For centuries, Christian theologians have refuted the Arian heresy, mostly by proving that the Trinity is a doctrine revealed clearly in the Scriptures and understood to be true by the Church in every age. No one claims to understand the Trinity fully, but rather to understand the doctrine of the Trinity that has been revealed to the Church, for the first would be to fully understand God, which we cannot do, and the second is to understand what he has said, which we can.

The Christian artist Johann Sebastian Bach did something, however, that theologians and scholars cannot do with all of the words of every language. Bach did not refute Arius; instead, he showed musically how the problem that vexed Arius could be solved. The “St. Anne” Fugue does not explain the truth; it demonstrates it with mathematical complexity, and yet with the simplicity of genius.

Is the “St. Anne” Fugue one or three? The answer, which every ear can hear for itself, is that “these three are one.”

The author recommends Jaroslav Pelikan’s Bach Among the Theologians as a treatment of Bach’s religious music.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Trending away

In the late 1960s I was embarrassed, being a fan of the Beatles (who, of my generation, wasn't? or rather, isn't?) almost every time John Lennon got himself in the newspapers that my parents read. Drugs, including LSD (briefly as it turned out), the weird second wife, the album cover that disappeared almost as soon as it appeared, are almost forgotten compared to this one little, out of context quotation that enraged Americans, but that was practically unnoticed in England and Europe, originally published in an interview for the London Evening Standard in 1966:

"Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue with that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first - rock 'n' roll or Christianity."

Before judging Lennon harshly, especially for those who have come across these words for the first time, he later said that he did not approve of that much popularity, and could as easily have said "television is more popular than Jesus now" as "we're"-presumably the Beatles - "more popular, etc." More importantly, he said over and over again that he was talking only about his native country, England, and nowhere else. (In fact, three years later he said, "I'm one of Christ's biggest fans, and if I can turn the focus on the Beatles on to Christ's message, then that's what we're here to do." Sadly, his understanding of that message appears to have been terribly muddled.) That he was naive, and honest almost to the point of psychosis, is also to be weighed among other factors, such as having, in cognitive terms, an earliest memory of German planes in the sky over Liverpool, the harsh whistle of falling bombs and ground-shaking explosions while his mother, in a state of panic, rushed him to the closest bomb shelter. Added to an IQ known to have been well above genius level, and a lifetime of artistic endeavor, he was predestined not to be boring. This complicated man died, quite tragically murdered, in 1980, having said the same day that he was a "Zen Christian." He left us confused about his meaning, as always.

The element of truth

The real problem about what John Lennon said in 1966 is not what so many were quick to assume, as expressed in knee jerk reaction. The real problem is the element of truth in what he said. The Beatles were more popular than the Lord Himself among youth in England, as was Frank Sinatra among an older set of Americans, as is television, as are video games, and as are many things of this world to very many people. The eccentric artist spoke all too accurately.

As another man, also named John, wrote centuries earlier about Jesus Christ: "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not." (John 1:10)

Another problem with John Lennon's statement in 1966, when read in America, was that a thing called religion was still a necessary element of respectability. "Good people" went to the church of their choice, whether or not they believed. It was expected, and not bad for business. But, throughout Europe and England, the decline had set in. The only people going to church anymore were those who went for a reason deeper than mere respectability (as had Lennon himself until, as a teenager, a "bad vicar" of the C of E banned him from coming back to his church because he had laughed during a service).

Post Christian cultures

However, America has become very much like Europe where religion is concerned. Forty percent of American children, according to a Washington Times report last year, are now born out of wedlock. And, the good news for them is that they were spared the ravages of the abortion holocaust to be born at all. Meanwhile, Christianity is constantly growing in Africa, including growth among Continuing Anglicans, even though many African Christians live with persecution. What they have going for them is the joy of their faith and belief that the Holy Spirit is the One who still breathes life into the Church everyday.

About Europe I have written before in Touchstone:*

"We know the story of the Prodigal Son, and its message of repentance and forgiveness. The opening of the story focuses on the beginning of his fall, the waste of his inheritance, by which he is known forever. Prodigality in this case was about extravagance, and the satisfaction of lusts.

"It seems that another kind of prodigality can take hold of people, just as wasteful and disrespectful of a father’s labor. It is the throwing away of a valuable inheritance in return for nothing at all, as if it were, itself, spent on the husks that the swine did eat rather than on something alluring. This kind of prodigality is the waste and ruin of modern Europe."*

And so also of modern America.

But, for those of us living in what may be described as post Christian cultures, we need to see our position in terms of an opportunity. Is it really Christianity that has declined, or is it the respectability of religion? If it is the latter, then perhaps we may become better acquainted with the cross of Christ as a result, just as our persecuted brethren are acquainted with it in a different way. Should we approach the decline of respectable religion as a disaster or as an opportunity? Considering that we are stuck with the decline as a fact on the ground, let us take the opportunity, namely the opportunity for evangelism in terms that cannot help but have authenticity because only genuine and sincere believers bother.

Of course, we have seen the dangers also, that some resist the decline by altering the Christian Faith into something that an unbelieving culture might still treat as respectable. These are the ones who think to create a new and improved Christianity, by their amoral/immoral standards, and by strange doctrines. That, too, we cannot remove from the picture.

The decline is very real, and therefore so is the opportunity.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pentecost commonly called Whitsunday

Acts 2:1-11
John 14:15-31

This is the day in which that small band grew very suddenly from five hundred eyewitnesses of the resurrection, to thirty five hundred people, only to continue growing. Men who, just a few weeks earlier, had argued over who would be the greatest, who had hidden in fear, who briefly had doubted Christ’s resurrection until seeing Him face to face, stood tall and unafraid as leaders and as fishers of men. St. Peter, who only a few weeks before had denied the Lord for fear of his life, now rose up as fearless as any hero in battle. Through these men the very same miracles that Christ had wrought, and greater in number than He had done, gave proof of His Gospel; the lame walked, the blind saw, the dead were restored to life, demons were driven out of the afflicted and possessed. What gave such power and courage to these same men who, in the four Gospels, had never come across as impressive?

The answer is simple, but it is so hidden to the eyes of those who cannot believe that it may as well be very complicated. The simple answer is, they were filled with the Holy Ghost.

The very first thing that becomes evident is the sound of them preaching the truth of Christ in foreign languages that they had not learned. We would expect them to speak Aramaic, and to speak and read Hebrew. We would expect that they could address these same people in the Lingua Franca of their day, that international language, Greek. But, they spoke directly to men’s hearts in the local languages of their various homelands, the apparent mastery of the tongues themselves serving as a sign, a miraculous sign that the Logos, the Word made flesh, is the Master, as in the Lord, of all communication. His word is for all people, for every kindred and tongue, people and nation. As man, in his sinfulness, was divided by the sentence of God at Babel, so the scattered peoples of the earth are gathered as one in Christ, who speaks to all in their own tongues.

When we look at today's reading from the Gospel of John, we learn that the Church was not designed to function without the Holy Ghost. He is the Comforter, which is Paracletos (παράκλητος) in Greek; that is He comes to our side, pleads for us and gives us aid. “Comfort,” in the mind of the readers of the King James Bible when it was translated, did not speak of a cushion that helps us to relax and go to sleep. The meaning of the word is found, really, in the second syllable, in fort, as in fortify- to strengthen. We see that fortification in St. Peter, who, knowing the sentence of death that only weeks earlier had been passed on Christ, nonetheless had the courage to rise to his feet and preach. We hear, in his sermon, wisdom from God, as he opened and explained the meaning of the Scriptures, unraveling the mysteries of the ancient prophecies with ease and conviction. This simple fisherman had the power to persuade men’s hearts, suddenly transformed into a master orator. Just as he had, years before, thrown out his dragnet and hauled in large catches of fish, so now he is a fisher of men, converting three thousand people by preaching the Gospel with power and authority.

In St. Peter’s sermon we see, as in every other utterance of the Holy Ghost through the apostles, the clear and straightforward doctrine of Christ exactly as we know it to this day, as we say it in our creeds, as we pray it in the whole of our liturgy, as it is found on every page of scripture, and as it is especially clear, with perfect focus, in the New Testament. This, that we believe today, is the same Gospel that was preached on that day.

Right here, we need to understand what tool the Holy Spirit used to draw in three thousand people in one day. Peter did not erect an altar and celebrate a Mass. He preached the Gospel. Why am I saying this? I am saying it because we need to see what a powerful and effective tool true preaching is. Like Archbishop Thomas Cranmer who gave us our Book of Common Prayer, I believe that it is necessary to have Holy Communion every Sunday and good for the Church to have it every day so that people may have frequent Communion. I would like to see us achieve that ideal some day. But, somehow over the last century, some Anglo-Catholics have decided to embrace the fallacy that the Word and the Sacrament are in opposition, or tension, and that the truly "Catholic" thing is to place an underemphasis on preaching in order to highlight the sacrament. They have accepted a romantic notion in which the Christian priesthood is only about celebrating at the altar. I have news for anyone who believes that: It is not, and never was, the Catholic Tradition of the Church. Read the sermons of the Church Fathers in Antiquity, such as St. John Chrysostom. Good, sound diligent preaching is the Catholic Tradition, not light little seven minute homilies.

And, beginning with St. Peter's Pentecost message, the stuff of proper sermons is the story of who Jesus is, and what He did when he died for our sins and rose again, and that he is Lord and Christ, and will come again. We see, also, beginning with Peter's sermon, that the meat and substance of effective and powerful preaching is Holy Scripture. He showed that the Scriptures of the Old Testament were about Christ. He unraveled from Scripture the meaning of the events he had witnessed, opening the mysteries formerly hidden, of Christ's betrayal, passion and death, and of his having risen again. He showed that the Scriptures are about Christ, and that by them we know the Gospel. Good preaching is not drawn from personal anecdotes, and it is not designed to impress people with worldly wisdom from academe. It is aimed at the mind and at the heart, calling all men everywhere to repent, and it is the means by which faith comes, for it is the proclamation of the Word of God.

Peter had changed. He had been a natural man (ψυχικός psychikos-soulish) unable earlier in his life to understand why the Christ, the Son of the Living God, was ready and willing to take up the cross; later he was afraid and denied the Lord three times. But, now he stands on his feet boldly, not afraid of death, having his mind focused on the truth, able to understand and know from Scripture everything that had unfolded and was unfolding. He had been a disciple for more than three years, but now was closer to Christ than at any time when he beheld him with the eyes; for he was now part of the Body of which Christ is the Head. Many a time Peter had stumbled and tripped over his own tongue, and had failed to speak the right words on the night in which his Lord was betrayed. But, now he spoke with more clarity, more power and more authority than any prophet of the Old Covenant. He delivered the first Christian sermon, as he was now the fisher of men Christ had foreseen; for his dragnet of words brought in about three thousand souls.

None of this was man-made. The best efforts of organization could not have produced it; the most detailed planning could not have pulled it off. No human effort could have brought it forth in a day, because the New Covenant people, the Church, manifested on the Day of Pentecost, was chapter two of the Word made flesh. The Body of Christ now came into the world.

Frankly, in light of the foolishness of sinful men, it is very obvious that God's power and grace have never depended on anyone less than God himself. Never think that we, as the Church, have succeeded in anything simply by our own human cleverness, or our best laid plans, or our own strength. We have an organized structure, but the permanent shape of that structure was revealed and enacted by the Holy Spirit. The whole life of the Church is charismatic (χάρισμα); from the receiving of Scripture to the Sacraments, from the Apostolic Succession to the faithful service of each member.

Indeed, St. Paul, speaking in the context of spiritual gifts, even goes as far as to call the Church by the name of Christ himself: "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ...Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." (I Cor, 12:12, 27) So, I have not spoken carelessly in saying that the Church is part two of the Incarnation. The Jesus who goes about now doing good and healing is none other than the Body of Christ and members in particular. He does his work through you, through his Body the Church, by the Holy Spirit, the other Comforter who is with us and in us.

We know from the end of the Gospel of Luke that the disciples were forbidden to take this new work on themselves prematurely, as if it depended simply on human power and wisdom. What is the life of the Church? It is the Holy Spirit present within us. What is the strength of the Church? It is the power (δύναμις) of God by his Holy Spirit, present within us. Who is it that takes fallible and failed human beings, lifts them up from the ground and sets them on their feet? It is the Holy Spirit present within us. Who is it that puts his word of eloquence and power on their formerly unclean lips? It is the Holy Spirit present within us. Who is it that fulfills his own purpose and will with flawed human instruments? It is the Holy Spirit present within us. Who makes Christ known among all nations of the earth, making one redeemed people from every race and tongue? It is the Holy Spirit present within us. Who has unlimited power, and works most effectively through us after we have come to the end of our own strength, and can go no further? It is the Holy Spirit present within us. Who makes us into children of God accepted in the Beloved Son? It is the Holy Spirit, at work in us, present here and now as Lord of the Church.

Fr. Wells' bulletin inserts


This great holy day is graced with one of the Church's greatest hymns, the Veni, Creator Spiritus. One of the oldest hymns in our Hymnal, it is the only metrical hymn contained in the Prayer Book itself, and has been there in the Ordinal since the original edition of 1550. This noble hymn occurs no fewer than four times in as many translations in our Hymnal (Hymns 108, 217, 218, and 371).

The two opening words are striking. The Holy Ghost, the Third Person of the Undivided Trinity, is addressed as “Creator.” This carries us right back to Genesis 1, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Then Moses proceeded to declare that the original creation of the universe was the work of the entire Trinity. “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Here, in the Bible's opening chapter, is a picture of the Holy Ghost, the same Wind or Breath which our Saviour exhaled upon His disciples on the evening of Easter Day. That Spirit active in the beginning is the same Spirit which came with great power (and the sound of a "rushing mighty wind") upon the helpless infant Church on the following Pentecost. These two givings of the Spirit are two phases of one great gift which ties together Easter Day and today's great feast, exactly fifty days later. What began with a gentle breath on Easter Day has turned into a powerful windstorm on Pentecost.

But this powerful and mysterious Spirit, we must repeat, was already there at the beginning. This Spirit can be traced throughout the Old Testament. But what happened in the ministry of Jesus, a ministry finished once for all when He ascended, but still continued in the work of the Spirit here and now, is not just a “change for the better,” or a “fresh start,” but nothing less than a New Creation. In our Baptism (where the Spirit of God still moves upon the face of the waters!) we are miraculously made a part of this New Creation.

But the very first word, Veni, which means “Come,” should be the key-word of this holy feast. Why implore the Spirit to “come” when He has already come long ago? Unlike the events of our Lord's life, death, and resurrection, Pentecost celebrates an event not yet complete, an event still in process. The Holy Ghost, God Himself, has come and continues to come. As He came into the hearts and lives of the earliest disciples in AD 30, so He is coming now into our hearts and lives as well. As the fragile Church, just a few weeks from Calvary, was empowered, so our equally fragile Church continues to receive power to become witnesses to Jesus, His victory and His kingdom.

In AD 30, this day almost seemed to be the birthday of the Church. And in AD 2008 it proclaims our rebirth into God's New Creation. As Charles Wesley wrote,

“Finish then thy new creation, Pure and spotless let us be;

Let us see thy great salvation perfectly restored in thee.”


Commonly Called WHITSUNDAY

This Holy Day is frequently but erroneously called “the birthday of the Church.” as if the sudden powerful visitation of the Holy Ghost, the third person of the Trinity, had created the Christian community where none had existed before. No, there was already a Church there on that Pentecost morning. It had existed at least from the time that the Lord Jesus had begun to collect disciples, when He gave the invitation, “Come, follow me.”

But today does mark another birthday, an important milestone in the history of the Church, at least in our Anglican branch of the Church Catholic. Today and every celebration of Whitsunday represents the birthday of the Prayer Book. Today our beloved Book of Common Prayer is 461 years old. We speak all too frequently of “the 1928 Prayer Book” and create the false impression that our liturgy sprang into existence in the era of the roaring twenties. What happened in 1928 was only a light revision of a Book which was already ancient.

On Whitsunday in the year 1549, when the boy king Edward VI was on the throne of England, the very first edition of the Book of Common Prayer came into use throughout the land of England, in all cathedral and parish churches. The book had been in preparation for several years, under the guidance of Thomas Cranmer, then Archbishop of Canterbury. Some parts of it (particularly the Litany, and also the Bidding, General Confession, Absolution, Comfortable Words, and Prayer of Humble Access) had been in use already. Most of the Book, especially the Collects, Epistles and Gospels, was even in 1549 about 1,000 years old. The original Prayer Book was no new creation, but a careful compilation of the Church's worship, with many elements handed down from the time of Christ and His Apostles.

Our Prayer Book is not only a precious family antique but still serves us well as the clearest statement our common faith as Anglican members of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. If you have a question, What do Anglicans believe about almost any topic, the place to find an authoritative answer is in the Prayer Book.

After its original edition in 1549, the Prayer Book has been tweaked gently several times in its history, most recently in 1928. But the book from which we pray this Pentecost is essentially the same as that compiled and published nearly half a millennium ago. We give thanks to God today of this essential part of our holy heritage. LKW

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Who is Christ?

Christology as the driving issue of the English Reformation

In a recent essay posted on virtue Online, the retired Episcopal Bishop of South Carolina, Rt. Rev. C. FitzSimons Allison wrote:

Roland Bainton once quoted Jacob Burckhardt to the effect that "Luther saved the papacy," by forcing its reluctant leadership from its unbelievable corruption as a secularizing Italian city-state to something of its spiritual identity. Modern secular power has curtailed any lingering tendency to ecclesiastical coercion on the part of the church forcing her to evoke what she cannot command. But this requires friendly and respectful critiques from the Protestant principles, not merely from secular unwillingness to obey the pope.

The crucial contribution of non-Roman Catholic Christians should be to help Rome recover the defeated teaching of Cardinal Seripando and Reginald Pole at the Council of Trent. They objected to the claim that our given righteousness before God is the single (only) cause of our justification which thereby denies any sin in the regenerate (simul justus et peccator).

This is what Richard Hooker called the "grand question that yet lieth between us and the Church of Rome." Diego Lainez, General of the Jesuit Order, claimed that the position of Seripando and Pole "would undercut the structure of satisfactions, indulgences, and purgatory" as indeed it would. There remains some Christianity Heavy today when even the wise and cogent voice of Pope Benedict can today issue plenary indulgences.

Although I have a few areas of respectful disagreement with Bishop Allison (for I respect the man quite a lot), I agree completely with his assessment of what he calls, in the essay, "Christianity Heavy." In this context he employs the term to label the opposite error of what another writer had called "Christianity Lite," reminding me of St. John Chrysostom's advice that, when preaching or teaching against a heresy, to be careful not to appear to endorse thereby the opposite error.1 In this context, the opposite error of "Christianity Lite" as embraced by such Canturian Anglican bodies as the modern Episcopal Church, is a wholly unreformed Roman system of thought that developed during the medieval period.

The question of justification was not invented by Protestants in the sixteenth century, but was, rather, the doctrine of the Church dating back to the time of the Apostles, which is why it is taught clearly in the New Testament. Whatever mistakes one may want to ascribe to Reformers, whether Continental or the more thoroughly Catholic (in the Creedal sense) English Reformers, the issue of justification by grace through faith is not negotiable. It is the teaching of the Apostolic Church, and is therefore the only position genuinely Catholic in the true sense of the word.

Justification is not dependent on the process of sanctification, but rather the reverse. Sanctification is a process dependent on justification, that the Holy Spirit gives grace to believers to become holy in their manner of life because the objective fact of justification has already taken hold. For this reason, St. Paul assures each baptized person who has turned to God by faith in His Son, that our new identity is summed up in that simple two word phrase, "in Christ."

When I speak of justification as an objective fact, it is from the perspective of Christ's finished work on the cross, with the emphasis on the word "finished" as in "it is finished," from John 19: 30. That three word phrase in English is one word in Greek (τελέω), and it implies a debt fully paid: "It is paid in full." As our Book of Common Prayer teaches us in Morning and Evening Prayer and in Holy Communion (and the Communion of the sick), far from meaning that we need no regular repentance and absolution, it is the basis of our confidence that, truly and in fact, we can repent and be forgiven. This is why "the Comfortable words" are recited after each General Absolution in Holy Communion, comfortable in the old sense of strengthening us, in this case fortifying our faith in God's mercy as given only through his Son by his atoning death.

The reason we may approach God in confidence is because we are in Christ, and therefore able to draw near to God and be accepted by Him. God has answered the ancient prayer of the Psalmist:

They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.
O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah.
Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed.
(Psalm 84:7-9)

"Thine anointed" means "thy Messiah," or "thy Christ." All are acceptable translations of מָשִׁיחַ.

The New Testament response to this prayer is summed up in the Epistle to the Hebrews:

"For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.2 Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." (Heb. 10:14-22)

Full assurance of faith in what, if not that God accepts us in the Person of his Son, and therefore imputes no iniquity to us, just as if we had never sinned? The issue is, therefore, the Person of God's Son.

One simplistic but meritorious summary of Christology is that the conflicts of the fourth and fifth centuries were about the person of Christ, whereas the conflict of the sixteenth century was over the work of Christ. However, upon deeper examination, conflict about the work of Christ, whether or not it was "full, perfect and sufficient," cannot be divorced from the conflicts about his Person. The Councils of Nicea, Constantinople, Ephesus and Chalcedon defended the Apostolic teaching that Jesus Christ is One with the Father and the Holy Spirit, fully God and fully man.

"The Word was made flesh" (John 1:14) means the same thing as "Begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God, Begotten, not made, Being of one substance with the Father, By whom all things were made: Who for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man." This gives the fullest meaning to what follows: "And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures." If the Lord Jesus were merely a man like all others, his work on the cross could not "undercut the structure of satisfactions, indulgences, and purgatory."

But, if he is fully God, the Word made flesh, Himself infinite and eternal, holy and separate from every created nature in his native Divine nature as one with the Father, made man by taking human nature into his eternal, infinite and holy Divine Person, then nothing can be added to the sufficiency of his "sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world." To suggest that we have any need of a treasury of saintly merits from redeemed sinners and objects of the same mercy we have received, as if God owed a credit to sinful mankind due to alleged merits by the objects of his mercy and grace, is a frank denial of the Faith of the Church concerning Who is was that died for us and rose again.

In the final analysis, the English Reformers were contending for the Faith which was once delivered to the saints (Jude 3) concerning not simply the work of Christ as an isolated subject. The entire understanding that nothing needs to be added, and therefore nothing can be added, to the sufficiency of Christ's work, is directly because of our belief that he is God of God, light of Light, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father...and that the Word was made flesh. If he is fully God, then who dares to teach that we have need of "the structure of satisfactions, indulgences, and purgatory" as if his work needed some supplement? What Bishop Allison calls "Christianity heavy," 3 namely an unreformed Roman doctrinal system, denies the sufficiency of Christ's work, and thereby denies the Divinity of His Person, an inherent self-contradiction in their doctrinal system, and far worse.

The emphasis of our Book of Common Prayer is no mere poetic flight, stating boldly that Jesus Christ upon his cross "made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world." Until Rome reforms its doctrinal system and cleanses it of "the structure of satisfactions, indulgences, and purgatory," justification as the "grand question that yet lieth between us and the Church of Rome" remains as a gulf that cannot be crossed.

1. St. John Chrysostom, Six Little Books on the Priesthood.
2. The Epistle quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34 about the New Covenant.
3. "Christianity lite" implies something too light, perhaps missing the commandments of God, the call to repentance, the call to carry the cross as disciples. "Christianity heavy" implies that too much weight has been added, turning the joyous life of faith into an impossible burden of law. See
Matt. 11:28-30, Acts 15:10.

The Bishop Garang Episcopal visit in Democratic Republic of Congo

I. Introduction

The Anglican Catholic Church in Democratic Republic of Congo joined the Anglican Catholic Church Original Province and was welcomed at November 2009. The first plan of Archbishop Mark Haverland Metropolitan of the ACC-OP was to endeavour to send a bishop to perform confirmations and ordinations which were waited for five years ago in the former Church. This act has convinced Congolese Church to conclude that the ACC is very friendly to missions in general and to work in Africa particular; because for a length of six months as a member church of the ACC-OP a dream has become a reality.

II. Bishop Garang Episcopal visitation in DR-Congo

Archbishop Mark Haverland has made it a reality by sending Bishop Wilson Garang from the diocese of Awiel South Sudan to perform confirmations and ordinations. On Saturday May 8th the Bishop, accompanied by Father Phanuel Munezero, was welcomed in the border of Rwanda and DR-Congo by Father Steven AYULE-MILENGE, the Administrator of the ACC-Congo.

1. Saint Trinity Parish- Bukavu

- Sunday May 9th: Bishop has confirmed 5 persons at Saint Trinity Parish Church Bukavu named: Abumba Alaka, Eca Alaka, Makeci Komite, Mmasa Komite and Mwetaminwa Atebeta.

- In the same day bishop has ordained in the Saint Trinity Parish Church 3 persons to the diaconate, Reverend Deacon Abumba Alaka, Reverend Deacon Ntakubajira Cirimwami and Reverend Deacon Mmasa Komite. Deacon Abumba Alaka will serve as curate in the Parish of Saint Trinity- Bukavu; Deacon Mmasa Komite will serve in the new Parish Saint Francis of Assise- Mosho; and Deacon Ntakubajira will serve in the Saint Nativity- Goma newly opened in the Province of North Kivu.

2. Saint Francis of Assise- Mosho

Monday May 10th: Bishop has confirmed 15 persons at the church of Saint Francis of Assise- Moshi: Amani Alliance, Baderha Gislaine, Bahizire Déogracias, Bikubanga Jeanette, Byandike Franck, Feza Josiana, Furaha Rachel, Kalimurhima Ariette, Kujirabwinja Maria, M’bwazire Odile, Mugisho Innoncent, Mungu Akwokwa Olivier, Ndamuso Angeline, Nzigire Adeline, Ziharirwa Cesaire.

3. Saint Andrew Parish- Mboko

Tuesday May 11th: Father Steven AYULE-MILENGE and Bishop’s delegation were welcomed by Father Mamba Itongwa in the township of Mboko, at the parish of Saint Andrew- Mboko Bishop Garang has confirmed 22 persons: Amida Mwilemo, Asa Ngyuku, Butunga Georgieta, Bwami Makutano, Clementine Komite, Ecimbo Ngini, Espoir Polepole, Gelta Magayane, Machozi Nalenge, Maneno Mubiho, Mukandja Ngokero, Mtemanwa Kika, Musengo Sephania, Rashidi Mwamba, Ramazani Amuli, Safari Mwanza, Safi Anjela, Salumu Akili, Shukuru W’Elongo, Wabikwa Rebeka, Wakilongo Aliyabu and Zaina Safi.

4. Saint Peter Parish- Baraka

- Wednesday May 12th bishop confirmed 16 persons in the Parish of Saint Peter- Baraka named: Abea Bibikwa, Abengwa Ekyekekyeke, Ebuela Ecimbo, Eto Neema, Kalenga Kibasomba, Katiba Musobokelwa, Kitungano Mabruki, Lambert Mkongomani, Lubyula Mnyololo, Masoka Balongelwa, Matunga Lutakengwa, Msaseca Lubunga, Mseko Sibwela, Mbeleci Basilwango, Salifu Ezekiel and Tangazo Mkoko.

- In the same day Bishop has ordained 14 persons to the diaconate: Abengwa Ekyekekyeke, Bitangaca Etambala, Byaombe Ungamweko, Ishibatende Mialano, Katiba Musobokelwa, Kitungano Mabruki, Lambert Mkongomani, Lubyula Mnyololo, Matunga Lutakengwa, Mialano Wilondja, Mmokywa Mtundu, Mmunga Salehe, Mseko Sibwela and Mukandja Ngokelo.

- And then three deacons were ordained to the priesthood: Abengwa Ekyekekyeke, Bitangaca Etambala and Mmokywa Mtundu

5. Saint Matthew Parish- Malinde

Thursday May 13th , in the morning at the church Saint Luke- Sebele of the parish of Saint Matthew- Malinde bishop Garang has confirmed 24 persons named: Ana Bachinge, Baachana Pendelelwa, Bakajane Louise, Balelwa Chantal, Bawili Nyota, Bilemanga Nyasa, Binwa Nyasa, Bitendanwa Eda, Debora Nabalongelwa, Ebanda Fisto, Kamili Wayule, Kyuku Nabalongelwa, Lavika Kajiweka, M’mambelwa Welongo, M’masa Lesa, Mahango Anastazia, Masoka ‘Yala, Mawazo Na’yenge, Mlake Dewayo, Mmbumu Akili, Mwenehitanda Mwaminifu, Nyota Riziki, Safari Mungumwema and Zawadi Siyapata.

6. Saint Paul Parish- Fizi

Thursday May 13th , in the afternoon at the at the Parish of Saint Paul- Fizi: Bishop has confirmed 10 persons named: A’aleelwa Miambo, Aliabu Itutu, Furaha Nanyota, Lusekea Maenda, Mngeleza Nongo, Mwalihasha Mandami, Namtengya Mandami, Nasu’wa Safi, Nawitambya Abengwa and Welongo Mwenebatu.

III. The Parishes who missed the Episcopal Visit of Bishop Garang

These things were done by Bishop Garang and many remain to be done. The following parishes missed the Episcopal visit of the Right Reverend Wilson Garang due many reasons of the area where the parishes are situated and distance from the ACC-Congo’s headquarter.

  1. The 330 Faithful of the 6 congregations of Saint Luke- Katenga Parish didn’t get confirmation because they live on the mountain where the vehicle can not reach the parish even motorbike and Bishop didn’t get time to do the confirmations.
  2. The 329 Faithful of the 9 congregations of Saint Barnabas- Ubwari Parish didn’t get confirmations because they live on the Ubwari peninsula where the vehicle can not reach Parish (accessible only by boat) and Bishop didn’t get time to do confirmation.
  3. The 308 Faithful of the 7 congregations of Saint Jacques- Lwiko Parish didn’t get confirmations because they live in the villages situated on the mountain in Equatorial Forest where a four wheel car can reach the Parish and walk 29 Km for other congregations.
  4. The 175 Faithful of the 5 congregations of Saint Thomas- Kipupu Parish didn’t get confirmation because they live in the villages situated in Equatorial Forest where even four wheel car can not reach only airplane and walk 87 Km.
  5. The 230 Faithful of the 6 congregations of Saint Joseph- Kabandja Parish didn’t get confirmations because they live in the villages situated in Equatorial Forest where even four wheel car can not reach, but only an airplane, and walk 49 Km.
  6. The 324 Faithful of the 8 congregations of Saint Mark- Kisanya Parish didn’t get confirmations because they live in the villages situated in Equatorial Forest where even four wheel car can not reach, but only an airplane, and walk 75 Km.
  7. The192 Faithful of the 7 congregations of Saint Jean- Misisi Parish didn’t get confirmationsbecause they live in Border of Province of South Kivu and in one territory of Katanga for a distance of 450 Km from Bukavu town, but a four wheel car can reach parish.

IV. Conclusion

The Right Reverend Wilson Garang arrived on Saturday May 8th with Father Phanuel Munezero were welcomed in the border of Rwanda and DR-Congo by Father Steven AYULE-MILENGE, the Administrator of the ACC-Congo. Our programme has undergone some modification because Bishop has chosen to work very hard for confirmation and ordination for those who were ready during his passage in the parishes. This led us to finish the visit before the schedule established. Thus, Bishop returned Friday May 14th escorted by Fathers Steven AYULE-MILENGE and Phanuel Munezero to Bujumbura capital city of Republic of Burundi because Bishop lacks entrance visa for Rwanda. On Saturday May 15th, 2010 bishop gets his airplane at 11 Pm to fly up Nairobi- Kenya.

Bishop confirmed 92 persons adults and children, who were ready, from congregations of 6 parishes situated on the main road of Bukavu to Fizi where we drove 758 Km for our trips. He has ordained 17 persons to the diaconate, and 3 of them were ordained to the priesthood. Now, the ACC-Congo has 5 priests and 14 deacons. Thanks to His Grace Archbishop Mark Haverland for sending Bishop Wilson Garang to do confirmations and ordinations on his behalf. For a length of six months we joined the ACC-OP as member a dream has become a reality.

The 7 parishes with their 48 congregations missed the Episcopal visit of the Right Reverend Wilson Garang because they are situated in Equatorial Forest and mountain where even four wheel car can not reach. Also we can not bring our guest in unsafe area where Rwandan Hutu militia forces (Interahamwe), who had fled Rwanda following the ascension of a Tutsi-led government, had been using Congolese Equatorial forest in eastern DR-Congo as a basis for incursion against the government of DR-Congo who had signed peace accord with the Republic of Rwanda. Much of the conflict was focused on gaining control of substantial natural resources country, including diamonds, copper, zinc, gold and coltan.

Two ordinands from two parishes situated in Equatorial forest and mountain missed their ordinations to diaconate during the Episcopal visit of the Right Reverend Wilson Garang because our letter reached them when the fighting was done in the area. Even in the parish of Saint Paul- Fizi, we arrived when government forces and militia were fighting two weeks ago. This was the reason that pushed us to make Fizi as our last step where Christians met with Bishop Garang for confirmation when they are coming from in the forest where they fled during the fighting and still now waiting for the peace.

We thank Bishop Garang for the work he has done very hard and Father Munezero for his best interpretation of English- Swahili during confirmation and ordination service. Again we thank His Grace Mark Haverland and all ACC-OP bishops who has allowed this Episcopal visitation to be done in the ACC- Congo because a dream has become a reality. God bless all.


For the Anglican Catholic Church in Congo,

+Reverend Father Steven AYULE-MILENGE

Administrator of ACC- Congo