Monday, June 30, 2008

Why Women's "Ordination" is a salvation issue

I am going to repost a comment I made on an earlier thread, not to blow my own horn, but to highlight vital theology that is often brushed aside. Zeroing in on the relationship between two of the sacraments (called also the Dominical sacraments) and salvation, requires this clear, to the point presentation. We welcome polite if robust dissent, because this is worthy of discussion, such discussion as it will not receive on just any blog. ______________________________________

The only theological position about sacraments and salvation that has ever been officially taught as the stated doctrine of both the Church of England and of Anglicanism everywhere, is in the Catechism. Whether the Reasserters like it or not, they cannot reject this and still believe in Anglicanism. Furthermore, whether or not it fits the SF and Reasserter unlearned "Young Life-Quasi-Baptist" theology or not, the Anglican position is based on scripture.

Now, the position I refer to, from the Catechism, is stated rather simply:

HOW many Sacraments hath Christ ordained in his Church?
Answer. Two only, as generally necessary to salvation, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord."

(By the way, that is, "Two only as generally necessary to salvation," not "two only." A subject for another day)

These words "generally necessary" imply that God is not bound or limited to the sacraments, but that, in general, these two are necessary. Therefore, to treat them otherwise is dangerous to the salvation of souls.

The role that baptism generally has in salvation is explained in Romans chapter six, which chapter also clearly teaches that it is in baptism that one is born again- raised to new life with the risen Christ. The meaning is not hard to see, but it can be avoided by willful neglect.

The role that Communion generally has in salvation is clearly taught in John chapter six, particularly vs.53-57:

"Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me."

Those who deny that baptism and Communion are salvation issues, deny these portions of the Bible. Their claims to be standing firm for the faith of God's word should include a defense of these two portions of that word, which portions they simply do not seem to believe. They do not defend them as scriptural or as stated Anglican doctrine, when, in fact, they are both.

The sacrament of Communion, by which we feed on Christ's Body and drink his Blood, the food and drink of eternal life, is a vital part of the sacramental life that is generally available, and generally necessary. If this sacrament is rendered null and void by the corruption of Holy Orders, then people are not feeding on Christ, but rather they are neglecting the food and drink of eternal life.

The Reasserters may argue with this interpretation if they want (and they find it easier to silence then to argue), but how dare they say "it is not a salvation issue?" Like it or not, in the world of theology, where grown-ups talk about serious things, it is a salvation issue- at least in terms of the debate. That is not simply our view; it is a fact.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Jerusalem Declaration

For those of you who might be interested, herewith is the final declaration of the "conservative" clergy and laity of the Anglican Communion who met in Jerusalem this week for what they call the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON).

In the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit: We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, have met in the land of Jesus’ birth. We express our loyalty as disciples to the King of kings, the Lord Jesus. We joyfully embrace his command to proclaim the reality of his kingdom which he first announced in this land. The gospel of the kingdom is the good news of salvation, liberation and transformation for all. In light of the above, we agree to chart a way forward together that promotes and protects the biblical gospel and mission to the world, solemnly declaring the following tenets of orthodoxy which underpin our Anglican identity.

1. We rejoice in the gospel of God through which we have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because God first loved us, we love him and as believers bring forth fruits of love, ongoing repentance, lively hope and thanksgiving to God in all things.

2. We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation. The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading.

3. We uphold the four Ecumenical Councils and the three historic Creeds as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

4. We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.

5. We gladly proclaim and submit to the unique and universal Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, humanity’s only Saviour from sin, judgement and hell, who lived the life we could not live and died the death that we deserve. By his atoning death and glorious resurrection, he secured the redemption of all who come to him in repentance and faith.

6. We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture.

7. We recognise that God has called and gifted bishops, priests and deacons in historic succession to equip all the people of God for their ministry in the world. We uphold the classic Anglican Ordinal as an authoritative standard of clerical orders.

8. We acknowledge God’s creation of humankind as male and female and the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family. We repent of our failures to maintain this standard and call for a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married.

9. We gladly accept the Great Commission of the risen Lord to make disciples of all nations, to seek those who do not know Christ and to baptise, teach and bring new believers to maturity.

10. We are mindful of our responsibility to be good stewards of God’s creation, to uphold and advocate justice in society, and to seek relief and empowerment of the poor and needy.

11. We are committed to the unity of all those who know and love Christ and to building authentic ecumenical relationships. We recognise the orders and jurisdiction of those Anglicans who uphold orthodox faith and practice, and we encourage them to join us in this declaration.

12. We celebrate the God-given diversity among us which enriches our global fellowship, and we acknowledge freedom in secondary matters. We pledge to work together to seek the mind of Christ on issues that divide us.

13. We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed. We pray for them and call on them to repent and return to the Lord.

14. We rejoice at the prospect of Jesus’ coming again in glory, and while we await this final event of history, we praise him for the way he builds up his church through his Spirit by miraculously changing lives.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

St. Peter June 29th

Acts 12:1-11
Matt. 16:13-19

One of the marks of Divine Inspiration is the honesty of scripture concerning the heroes of our Faith. Instead of the sort of whitewashing that appears in folk legends, like George Washington and the cherry tree, we see real human beings who fall, get up again, and receive the grace of God. We see St. Paul calling himself the chief of sinners, and the least of the apostles because he had persecuted the Church before his conversion. We see the confusion and misunderstanding of the apostles, their lack of faith when they could not drive the demon out of the boy, so that Jesus had to do it himself. So too the Old Testament, where we see the faults of Moses himself, losing patience and striking the rock twice. The sins of David are recorded, and the pain he expressed as he repented and wrote the fifty-first Psalm. We see the sins of Solomon, and indeed, of the whole nation of Israel, telling on itself in the words of the prophets.

So, when we see the ministry of St. Peter in the Book of Acts, and how much he begins to resemble Jesus himself, it is only after the Gospels in which we have seen him fall, crash into the cliff, and then repent. He denied the Lord three times before the rooster crowed, and he repented with bitter weeping and tears. This should comfort all of us, because the story demonstrates the mercy of God, the grace of God and the power of God.

It demonstrates the mercy of God, because Peter was forgiven. It demonstrates the grace of God because Peter was restored and transformed. It demonstrates the power of God, because Peter fulfilled the ministry to which he had been called.

"The gifts and callings of God are without repentance (Romans 11:29)." St. Paul wrote those words in a long text about why God has not cast away his people Israel (to this day), and grafts back into the tree every branch that abides not still in unbelief. The gifts (χάρισμα, charisma) and calling (κλῆσις, klēsis) given to Peter follow the same general pattern, as do all gifts and callings that come through the means of indelible sacraments.

The Lord called the restoration of Peter his "conversion." Hear these words from the Gospel of St. Luke:

And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me. Luke 22:31-34

The word "conversion" does not mean that you change your religious affiliation, and it simply does not mean that you leave one part of God's One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church for another. It means that you are turning, whether quickly or slowly, away from sin, unbelief and weakness to God, who alone gives holiness, faith and power. In the case of Peter, he turned from the weakness of confidence in his own strength, so that he could be empowered by the Holy Spirit.

"Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death." Simon Peter was confident in the flesh, his own estimation of his love and courage blinding him to the truth about himself. This brings us to today's Gospel. For, shortly after Peter declares the truth, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God," and is told that he is blessed for the revelation given to him, what immediately follows comes across as a shock, a story of just how complicated a bag of walking contradictions one man can be.

From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. Matt.16:21-24

This is the same man who was just given the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, praised by God himself, the Lord Jesus, for receiving the truth that the Father had granted to him. Here he is called "Satan," that is an adversary; the words he had previously spoken were from God's own revelation to him, and then his words came from the Devil and from the flesh; from Satan and from "the things of men." That is, fallen sinful men who live for gratification and survival, knowing nothing higher and better.

How can this be? The same man, within seconds, is both the blessed rock upon whom Jesus will build his Church that conquers the very gates of Hell, and then corrected with the most sharp and painful words Christ ever spoke to any disciple other than Judas. What is even more astonishing is this: Jesus had spoken highly of Peter's faith, his willingness to hear from the Father, and told of the future place he would have in God's work to build the Church, even though he knew that Simon yet possessed the kind of flaw that would lead to his next statement.

The key to understanding why the apparent contradiction did not confound Jesus is found in these words: "Upon this rock I will build my Church." The faith that God has is faith in himself. Jesus Christ builds his Church, and nothing will stop him from kicking in the gates of Hell through His Church. He first binds the strong man, and then plunders his goods. He it is that leads his Church terrible as an army with banners when it assails the gates and defeats the enemy. We may think it is our efforts, gifts or talents that build the Church. But, Jesus Christ builds his Church himself, and gives us the wonderful privilege of being a part of his work. Jesus was not placing his faith in Peter's ability, or even in his faithfulness. The Lord knew what lay ahead, as St. John wrote, "But Jesus ... knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man." (John 2:24, 25)

Jesus knew what was in Peter. Jesus knows what is in me. He knows what is in you.

He knows whether the deposit of rich faith is in a person's heart, and if it is there, he knows that after falling his servant will stand up again; that, after crashing against reality his servant will be converted. He knows that his true servant will always convert, always turn ever more and more to his Lord, no matter how hard his fall may have been. Eventually, the servant will be like his Lord, the disciple like his Master. He praised the faith of Peter, and the ears that Peter had, for they were ears to hear. Because of that true faith, Jesus could predict a time when this man would unlock the Church of God to the Jewish people, to Samaritans, and then to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius, making use in this world of the keys of the kingdom of heaven; that Peter would become the rock upon which he, Christ, would build his Church. He would, as Jesus commanded, strengthen his brethren, acting as the obvious leader in the earliest days of their ministry after Pentecost. This was also in line with what Jesus had said to them all: "Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."(Matt. 18:18, "Ye," a form of "you," is always plural)

The Simon Peter we see in the Book of Acts is not the same man anymore, except for the richness of his faith and his ears to hear. And, even that is greater than before. After seeing his Master risen from the dead, and then after being filled with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, this servant was like his Lord, this disciple was like his Master. No longer did he boast confidently, "I am ready to go with thee to prison and to death." Instead of confidence in the flesh he truly had power from the Holy Spirit. He did follow his Lord, eventually even to his own cross, nailed upside on Vatican Hill in Rome to die as a martyr.

Peter began his relationship with the Lord, after an initial introduction, with words of fear: After the miracle of the great catch of fish "he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. " (Luke 5:8) The Lord responded with a call to ministry: "And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. " (v.10) Years later Peter had denied the Lord out of fear for his own life, that same fleshly concern that had earlier prompted him to persuade Jesus away from his cross, in those words we heard for which Jesus rebuked him. But, with bitter crying and tears he turned, he was converted.

Peter's life demonstrates God's mercy, God's grace and God's forgiveness.

In the last chapter of the Gospel of John, the Risen Lord Jesus Christ gives Peter the chance to affirm his love for him three times, three affirmations to cleanse his heart of the three denials. Three affirmations, as Jesus demonstrates the heart of pastoral ministry in healing Peter's agony, providing a genuine penance to help his servant refocus his attention on his Lord, and express his love .

So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. (John 21:15-17)

The Lord began their time together by answering Peter's fear with the call to catch men, and now he heals Peter's inner suffering with the call to feed his sheep. Not only does Jesus forgive, but he calls him to work. This was a gift to this man, and it was the gift of this servant to every generation of the Church that would follow.

I know that many times I have failed Christ my Lord, and you know in your heart that you have failed him too. But, you and I know also that he is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Like Peter, you and I have heard this from the Father, for no one comes to the Son unless the Father draw him (John 6:44). By the Holy Spirit, the Father told you that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. And, he is the one who told me that. Whatever process he used, whatever faithful Christians who declared the Gospel to you and taught you, be sure of this. If you believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God, you have heard from the Father. This is the rich deposit of faith that God himself has invested in you. This is why you have been converted, are being converted, and will be converted. This is why you may strengthen your brethren.

Peter is a demonstration of God's mercy, shown by Jesus who gives him the chance to make his three affirmations of love. Peter is a demonstration of God's grace, because he was restored and resumed his place to receive the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Peter is a demonstration of God's power, because he did open the kingdom of heaven with the keys, become like his Master in going about teaching and healing and building the Church, and finally, without any fear of death, going himself to his own cross to die in victory as a martyr.

The story of Peter's whole life is summarized in these words: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Single issue theology

Following last week's analysis of the weakness of the Reasserter position, an unanswered question in the comments deserves to be repeated. A reader wrote admirably to defend the Stand Firm blog in response to my criticism (and the criticism of others), about their intolerance of honest discussion. The reader told me that the contributors there do not care only about the homosexuality crisis. Their main concern is the authority of scripture. I replied with a question, and for all I know that question might receive a genuine answer. The question, as I said and meant, was not hypothetical, but real: On what issue other than the homosexuality crisis do the Reasserters exert time and energy to defend the authority of scripture?1

Nonetheless, if the charge of single issue theology is to made, I for one plead guilty, and glad of it. Let me explain.

It has been argued by some that Continuing Anglicans care only about Women's "ordination," and by others that Continuing Anglicans care only about the Prayer Book. But, the Affirmation of St. Louis was written in 1977, before the 1979 book was finished, which book did not hit the pews until 1980. And, although the Affirmation was written because the "ordination" of women had produced an emergency by nullifying Holy Orders (and therefore nullifying the sacraments of Holy Communion, Absolution and Confirmation), the substance of the Affirmation was a long time in the making. The movement that produced it began its work in the 1960s, during which decade the Bishop of San Fransisco became the lasting symbol of heresy.

Some history

Bishop James Pike was more than a symbol of heresy. The failure of the House of Bishops to hold a heresy trial, or take any action, paved the way for all that would follow, including the nod and wink given to the rebellious bishops who defied Canon law in 1975 and "ordained" women. Instead of the Episcopal Church taking a stand for any sort of order, the General Convention of 1976 rubber-stamped an illegal and defiant act, inserting its approval into Canon Law by nothing more authoritative than a majority vote (no theology).

After being lenient with Pike, however, how could they take a strong stand anymore on anything? Pike's life of immorality and alcoholism also went by without church discipline of any kind. By the time of his son's suicide in 1966, Bishop Pike had already perverted evidence in the death of his secretary mistress, and had his first divorce. When I was in Berkeley California in 2005, retired Archbishop Robert Morse of the APCK told me about the days when he was Fr. Morse, a priest who was ministering to the distraught first wife of Bishop Pike, while Pike himself was on wife number three, and was influenced by a medium who supposedly helped him communicate with his dead son.

Pike finally resigned his position. But, he had already denied the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and every other miracle during his time as bishop, a credo of unbelief that he summarized in his final sermon. In 1969 he went to the desert in the holy land, because the medium told him he would find the tomb where Jesus was buried. His car broke down, and though wife number three made it out of the desert alive, he died there of dehydration, and his body was found days later.

Pike's life and death were a tragedy, partly because he had been quite orthodox and none too shallow a scholar in his early years. Also, partly, because it seems that he was not suited, due to personal weaknesses and apparent psychological instability, to the position he attained. But, more tragic was the Episcopal Church. The House of Bishops failed to take action, and never again seemed able to regain its lost authority on matters theological or moral. They exert a lot of authority on matters canonical, but on nothing to do with God.

Toleration of orthodoxy

Yes, the issue is one of rebellion against the authority of Almighty God, and the denial of his word. But, that rebellion did not begin when Gene Robinson's consecration was approved in 2003. It began when orthodoxy went from being taught authoritatively to being merely tolerated as one option among many. In fact, that is how Robinson was done a disservice by the priest who led him into the Episcopal Church. When Robinson objected that he did not actually believe the Nicene Creed, he was told that he did not have to believe anything at all (justified by his mentor priest with a completely ridiculous version of the Elizabethan Settlement and "Anglican Comprehensiveness"). Robinson joined the Episcopal Church because he was led to think that no beliefs would be required of him. And, it turned out that he was right.

At a meeting in September 2003 (that I have written about before), I found myself surrounded by distraught Episcopalians who were in a state of shock from the approval of Robinson's consecration during their General Convention in August. Exactly why they invited me to speak, a priest who was not a part of their denomination, has remained a mystery to me. A speaker from an organization then called the American Anglican Council, took the floor as if he was the main attraction (when he was merely one of three speakers, an Episcopal priest, this AAC fellow, and me. The Episcopal priest urged everyone to stay in the Episcopal Church because, he said "we have a church worth fighting for!"). The AAC spokesman stated the goal of his organization. That goal was, in his words, to take the Episcopal Church back to "where it was the day before the vote on Robinson's consecration."

I could not sit through this quietly, as I watched heads nodding all around the room. I stood up and asked what the gain would be in going back in time, instead of being the "church" that had done the deed, to being the "church" about to do the deed. I tried to make them understand that their "church" had not suddenly gone off the rails, and that this was but the latest symptom of a fatal disease that had been diagnosed by my kind of Anglican long ago. 2

Just before leaving Arizona last year, I sat with a group of clergymen from various alternative Anglican bodies who wanted to give each other the support of prayer, and to have a level of communication. At the time I was with the APCK, and the group included clergy from the ACA, the CEC, the REC and the AMiA. One of the AMiA clergy made a remarkable statement, in the form of a hypothetical question. "Who would have thought, just five years ago, that the Episcopal Church would be in the state it is in today?" I was seated next to an elderly ACA priest, and we just looked at each other in a state of amazement. Turning my attention to the AMiA clergyman, I said, "those of us in the Affirmation of St. Louis churches are not surprised. Our people were aware of the problem thirty years ago."

It is all the same problem. What the Reasserters seem blissfully unaware of, with their unenlightened chatter about "salvation issues," is that the authority of God's word has been denied repeatedly for a long time. If the articles of faith in the Creed were not worth fighting for, everything to do with the Incarnation and the Trinity, the revelation of which doctrines provides our Gospel and the mission of the Church, why should they be shocked, shocked, that it gets around to same sex blessings and openly "gay" bishops? How could that not happen?

And, yes, that includes women's "ordination." Can they not see that the confusion of sexual identity comes from the world, not from the Holy Spirit? Can they not see that if a person's sex is irrelevant to the sacrament of Holy Orders, they cannot then make it relevant to the sacrament of Matrimony? If Connie can be a priest and father to God's people, why can Adam not marry Steve? If the entire Tradition of receiving God's word as taught from the beginning, when the earliest Fathers interpreted scripture, can be overthrown for the first, how can it hold its authority for the second? In fact, for anything?

I believe in the word of God, as revealed by the Holy Spirit and received and understood by the Church Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est- "What has been believed everywhere, always and by all."

I believe in single issue theology.
1. It would be higher and better to speak of Divine Authorship of scripture, which automatically carries the idea of authority, but so much more.
2. The AAC speaker had also mentioned that Archbishop Peter Akinola, Primate of Nigeria, cared deeply about the Episcopal Church, and that his organization was grateful. This too I challenged. "Archbishop Akinoal does not care about the Episcopal Church as an organization at all. He cares about the salvation of souls."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

St. John the Baptist June 24

June 24, is the Feast of St. John the Baptist (in the Missal it is the Feast of his nativity).

I have a few thoughts for today.

In the Eastern tradition icons of John often show him with angel's wings. This is because of the book of Malachi. "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to this temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts." (Malachi 3:1)

The term "My messenger" is actually the name of the book and of the prophet whose words are recorded in it. Malachi (מלאכי) means "my messenger" or "my angel." This is significant, because Malachi was thought of as the last of the prophets, not last as in final, but the last to have appeared. The book is telling us that the final Old Covenant prophet, the true Malachi, will appear. So we see the ending of the book, the last part of chapter 4: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."

But, we know that the prediction about Elijah referred, rather, to the one whose coming would be "in the spirit and power of Elijah." So we hear the words of Gabriel to the priest Zechariah, John's father: "And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (Luke 1:17) This is why our Lord said, "Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist." (Matt. 17:11-13. I have never understood why so many Christian eschatology enthusiasts simply don't believe what Jesus said).

John's parallel with Elijah is stunning. Ahab and Jezebel could not kill Elijah, but the Ahab and Jezebel of John's day, Herod and Herodius, "have done unto him whatsoever they listed." John turned the hearts of the people back to the God of their fathers, just as Elijah had done when confronting the prophets of Ba'al (I Kings chapter 18, especially v.37: "Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again."). This was done by restoring the hearts of the children to the fathers, a unique phrase in scripture since it is the only verse with the commentary, or interpretation, of an angel from heaven. To have our hearts turned to the fathers means that they are turned to "the wisdom of the just."

To be turned to the wisdom of the just, to the fathers, requires the humility that it takes to learn from those who have known God and have gone before us. It means to learn from the Tradition that teaches the meaning of scripture, rather than arrogantly dismissing it in favor of our own ideas. It means to accept the "democracy of the dead" as G.K. Chesterton put it:

"Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around." - Orthodoxy, 1908

It means also that Christians bend an obedient ear to learn from those whose office it is to teach the word of God. "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you." (Hebrews 13:17) Even if you really think the priest to be unworthy, bend your ear to the Tradition of the Church when he teaches the word of God.

John's baptism, the ritual bath from the Law of Moses, was applied to every Jewish person who came to him to confess and repent, and be forgiven. This ritual bath, baptism, was part of the process of conversion for Gentiles to Judaism, to wash away uncleanness. His message to his own people was clear: Convert back to the God of your fathers. John was a priest by birth, but his life away from the earthly temple in Jerusalem, as a prophet in the wilderness, spoke of the New Covenant that was soon to be established in the blood of the Son of God (Hebrews 8:13). A people prepared for the Lord will not be harmed by his Real Presence when the Lord suddenly comes to his temple, that new place where "we have an altar" (Hebrews 13:10). Rather, they will feed on his Real Presence as the food and drink of eternal life.

For the Love of God

The following article appears in the July edition of GQ magazine, and is reprinted with kind permission of the publishers, Conde Nast. Sadly, it appears that, rather than cross check with third parties what he wrote about theology, author Andrew Corsello swallowed Gene Robinson's post-modern version of Christianity hook, line and sinker.

I anticipate that this article will generate some heated discussion, so let me remind our readers that commentary must be civil. I will not tolerate ad hominems against anyone, and I will be ruthless in rejecting those comments that do not meet our standards of Christian decency.


Five years ago, Gene Robinson was elected the first openly gay Christian bishop, causing the greatest crisis the modern Protestant community has ever faced. Will his love for another man rip the church in two? We’re about to find out

By Andrew Corsello; Photograph by Gillian Laub

Even before he could speak, he knew it and felt it: knew he would never be separated from it; felt it in the form of light and heat. actually, light and heat belittled what he felt. They were just words, and words were small, man’s way of knowing; words could point and suggest, but never apprehend. When he was old enough to search for better ways to convey what he felt when the love of God came upon him, he would tell his mother and father and minister and anyone else in Nicholasville, Kentucky, that it was like butter, liquid-warm, luminous, drizzled atop his head and descending over and through him in a seamless golden coat to his feet.

As a child, he prayed the way he breathed, and for the same reason. His Sunday-school attendance record was unblemished, from toddlerhood to the time he left for college. One Sunday morning, he woke feeling that his insides were being dry-baked. “Nothing’s wrong,” he told his mother when she saw the color of his face. “Let’s go to church!” So off they went, where he passed his measles on to every student in his Sunday-school class. Weighed against the prospect of not getting his Sunday fill of Jesus, the reprobation that came from being a Patient Zero was a small price to pay.

Read on

Whose alphabet soup? That is the question

It is true that the Continuing Anglicans have a few differences yet to be worked out, regarding matters of jurisdiction. But, let us look at the other folks in the Anglican Diaspora and count the initial confusion there. These are the letters: AMiA, FiF, CANA (divided into Kenyan, Nigerian), ACN, CEC, CEEC, CCP, etc. (as I know there are more). Since we are all in a glass house, there is no point in throwing stones of division. The others have their alphabet soup too.

Communion Partners Plan

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! -Matt. 6:22,23

From a report in The Living Church:

The rectors of 17 large Episcopal parishes have formed Communion Partner Rectors (CPR), the clerical counterpart to similar organizations for bishops and primates. “We are a group of rectors who share a common commitment to the authority and traditional interpretation of holy scripture, the creedal and historic faith, orthodox theology with an evangelical fervor to faithfully live and preach the Good News of Jesus Christ,” the group said in a release. “We are also firmly committed to remain in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, respecting and honoring the proper authority of our bishops and working in concert with them to strengthen our voice within the church.” The Rev. Russell J. Levenson, Jr., rector of St. Martin’s Church, Houston, a spokesperson for the group, said the organization will provide traditionalist-minded clergy with a way to differentiate from the “revisionist” drift of the national church without actually leaving it.

As I was seated on a stair

I saw a man who wasn't there.

He wasn't there agian today

I wish that man would go away

This is about the plan that wasn't there again today. It is a perfect example of why Continuing Anglicans have a message that the rest of the Anglicans need to hear

In March 2007 the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church rejected a plan for Alternative Primatial Oversight. APO, proposed in the Communiqué from the 2007 meeting of primates in Dar es Salaam, was meant to allow a diocese or parish the option of receiving both episcopal ministry from someone other than the diocesan ordinary, and the protection of primatial oversight from a primate other than the presiding bishop. Therefore, the three Forward in Faith bishops in North America (joined shortly afterward by Bishop Robert Duncan) began the process that has led to the ongoing realignment battles. A less spectacular result was the Communion Partners Plan, announced in a meeting of the HOB in September 2007 by Katherine Jefferts-Schori, Presiding "Bishop" of TEC.

The Rev. Dr. Charles Robertson, canon to Ms. Jefferts-Schori, described the Communion Partners Plan (CPP) as a way "to give dioceses the pastoral guidance and care they need while remaining faithful and loyal members of the Episcopal Church." The plan is reminiscent of the English “flying bishops” proposal, allowing bishops to give ministry to conservative parishes, in this case for people who do not accept the current trend of TEC toward same sex blessings, and the ordination of practicing homosexuals and lesbians.

Single Issue Reasserters

This raises the question, once again, apart from that one issue of homosexuality, what do Reasserters care about? The authority of the Bible, or so we are told (the Divine Authorship of Holy Scripture is far more than mere "authority"). If so, concerning what other issues do they even seem to notice a departure from Scriptural teaching? Where have they been on denials of the Virgin Birth, Christ's atoning once for all sacrifice on the cross, the historical, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Trinity, and a whole host of apostasies by their denomination? Where are they on the right to life of children in the womb? The multiple marriages of their clergy (many of whom have been the husband of one wife, as in one at a time)? And, yes, the corruption of Holy Orders?

If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness...

The report in The Living Church stated:

“I’ve never signed any of these kinds of statements before,” Fr. Levenson said. “At the same time, I’ve become increasingly frustrated by two sides: orthodox Anglicans who say the only solution is to leave The Episcopal Church, and revisionists who insist on pushing their position to the point where it becomes almost a form of liberal fundamentalism."

The Communion Partners Plan is for bishops to extend ministry to conservative churches, and for Anglican primates outside of TEC to act as advisors. The plan is intended to satisfy conservative members of TEC so that its members will not continue to leave in droves (trying to cling to all that valuable Real Estate). So far, 13 bishops of TEC have volunteered to be part of the plan, and so have three primates from other Anglican churches. On May 9 of this year, Katherine Jefferts-Schori wrote a personal letter to Bishop D. Bruce MacPherson of Western Louisiana, one of the 13 CPP Bishops, declaring her appreciation of the spirit in which the project has proceeded and its apparent good will; however, she also wrote that it is not appropriate for her to give any official sanction to the proposal.

Canon Robertson also said:

The revised 'Communion Partners' initiative proposes to provide “a visible link to the Anglican Communion” for concerned dioceses and parishes, “to provide fellowship, support and a forum for mutual concerns between bishops,” and establish “a partnership to work toward the Anglican covenant and according to Windsor Principles.”

The reality is this: The plan provides the feeling of distance between one’s own parish and the libertine drift of TEC. Nonetheless, for the plan to go into effect anywhere requires the permission of the diocesan bishop, permission that may be granted, refused, or withdrawn for any reason; for that matter, without stating any reason. Bishop John Howe of Central Florida has called CPP “a step forward, albeit a small one.”

Three Monkeys on the shelf

The Communion Partners Plan is not a small step at all. It is a major step into self-inflicted delusion. It is like the three monkeys on the shelf: "Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil." It is worse for conservatives when a limited amount of orthodoxy is tolerated rather than denied outright. For, a mark of the Church is that the truth is taught authoritatively, not tolerated as an option. The reason it is worse for conservative Episcopalians is that they fail to hear, mention or see the urgency. The Communion Partners Plan is about as helpful to these weak-minded people as an enabler is to an alcoholic.

The bad voting record of some Communion Partners Plan bishops

The 13 Communion Partner bishops are: William H. Love, Albany; John W. Howe, Central Florida; James M. Stanton; Russell E. Jacobus, Fond Du Lac; Michael G. Smith, North Dakota; Edward S. Little, Northern Indiana; Geralyn Wolf, Rhode Island; Mark J. Lawrence, South Carolina; John C. Bauerschmidt, Tennessee; Don A. Wimberly, Texas; Gary E. Lillibridge, West Texas; James M. Adams, Western Kansas; D. Bruce MacPherson, Western Louisiana.

The only bishop of the 13 who announced that he would attend GAFCON is Bishop Lawrence of South Carolina, who was also the first to object to the depositions of Bishops Cox and Schofield.

As for some of the other bishops, Bishop Howe* voted in favor of same sex blessings in the Book of Occasional Services at the General Convention in 2000, and consented to the consecration of Gene Robinson at the 2003 General Convention. Stanton voted in favor of same sex blessings in the Book of Occasional Services in 2000, but he was very much against Robinson’s consecration in 2003. Jacobus voted in favor of same sex blessings in the Book of Occasional Services in 2000, and consented to Gene Robinson’s consecration in 2003. Little voted for both same sex blessings and Robinson’s consecration. Wolf also voted in favor of both. Adams also consented to Gene Robinson’s consecration. MacPherson also voted in favor of same sex blessings in the Book of Occasional Services, and consented to Robinson’s consecration.

If these two things together make the issue, namely same sex blessings and "gay" clergy, just what is going on here?

(The three Communion Partner primates are Archbishop Valentino L. Mokiwa of Tanzania, Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi of Burundi and Archbishop Drexel Gomez of the West Indies, all of whom represent the Global South.)

The Reasserters, both in and out of TEC, continue to be quite a puzzle.

* John Howe? As a one time member of NOEL, and having a history in the Charismatic movement myself, that hurts.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Anglican Bishop Baptizes Child with Previous Invalid Episcopalian Baptism.

EASTON MD, USA — The Rt. Rev. Joel Marcus Johnson, Bishop of The Diocese of The Chesapeake, an orthodox Anglican diocese, has baptized a four-year-old boy who had received a vague rite of washing during infancy by a minister of the Episcopal Diocese of Easton, Maryland. The new baptism was conducted during the annual Pentecost Baptisms and Confirmations administered at St. Andrew Anglican Church in Easton.

Bishop Johnson explained that it has been and continues to be diocesan policy that Christians from other churches are welcomed into the Chesapeake diocese if their baptisms are determined to have been valid.

"It is our desire to honor the convert’s heritage in the Faith," Bishop Johnson said, "rather than to suggest the past be open to ridicule."

The Bishop emphasized that this was not a conditional baptism, but fresh, the previous event determined to not have been valid.

"In this instance," Bishop Johnson said, "I had to make an exception because in the original event there were gaping discrepancies over the tests of form, matter, intention and minister. The most obvious were that three different persons had poured the water, and a fourth person (an Episcopal priest) said the words; and there is genuine doubt as to whether the Dominical Words, that is, Jesus’ given formula, had been said at all. It is ambiguous as to just who the minister was."

Bishop Johnson said he is worried that more baptisms of former Episcopalians will fail the same scrutiny.

It already is his protocol that former Episcopalians who have been confirmed after that denomination’s 1976 General Convention must be confirmed a’new, for two reasons. The first is that it is nearly impossible to know which bishops have been consecrated by other bishops who have capitulated to the ordinal of that denomination’s 1979 worship manual. The second reason is that the same manual has replaced the Bible’s theology of confirmation with a rite of passage, coming of age type of event, and that the "Gifts of the Spirit" no longer are conferred.

The names of the child and his family have been withheld.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

SAN JOAQUIN: Episcopal Church Seizes Property in Anglican Diocese

The following story was posted by David Virtue. I seems to me that the action of TEC in this matter is probably a violation of criminal statutes.

By David W. Virtue

The Episcopal Bishop of San Joaquin, Jerry Lamb has seized the property of the 18-member St Andrew's Church in Taft, California. He appropriated it from the Anglican Bishop of the diocese, John-David Schofield, changed the locks on the parish doors and told the priest-in-charge that he was out and not to return.

Schofield described the act as illegal as no court order has been issued for such a seizure. "They prevented Anglican members from entering freely, as they had been able to before," he told VirtueOnline.

Lamb sent in Canon Hall to preside at services on Sunday, June 8th.

Eleven members of the St. Andrew's Mission, Taft, held an unpublicized meeting in late May with The Rev. Canon Mark Hall, Canon to the Ordinary for Bishop Jerry Lamb. A majority (9-2) voted illegally to join the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin.

The Jr. Warden discovered that the meeting was to take place only one hour prior to its occurrence.

"Neither the priest, nor the wardens nor Bishop Schofield were advised of this meeting, and therefore the gathering, held on church property, was without the authority reserved to the Priest-in-Charge. New by-laws were signed March 2008 declaring this an Anglican Mission of the Diocese of San Joaquin This was confirmed in a document sent to the Diocesan Chancellor from the Bishop's Committee Clerk," said Schofield.

Following the meeting, the Junior Warden and Treasurer both resigned. The Priest-in-Charge (appointed there by Bishop Schofield many months earlier) got a call from Canon Hall, informing him that he had been terminated.

The priest immediately notified Bishop Schofield. Lamb also re-appointed the Treasurer who had resigned just days before, despite the fact that this person is no longer a member of St. Andrews. She transferred her membership to the Diocese of Hawaii, said Schofield.

"I am grieved by the aggressive and disturbing behavior exhibited by Bishop Lamb, his agents, and the leadership of the Episcopal Church in the USA. Established protocols exist within the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin to assist churches to rightly discern the mind of their members, yet none of these seem to have been considered and Bishop Lamb appears to follow no protocol at all as he reached out to seize this Church. It might be considered abusive behavior that many of the members of St. Andrews received no knowledge of that meeting about to take place."

This was not an informed congregation nor could an informed decision be made as, apparently, two strong personalities, within their body, manipulated the situation so that only those who could be counted upon for affirmation were notified of the meeting and called upon to vote accordingly, said Schofield.

"No Canons or By-Laws were followed to provide the congregation proper notification of a Parish Meeting (normally 30 days notice), to confirm the qualifications of those voting, minutes of said meeting, or any other ecclesiastical standards. While this is a very small congregation averaging only 18 in attendance on a Sunday (according to 2007 parochial reports submitted), it appears that a vote of 9 to 2 is not a simple majority of those qualified to vote, but only a majority who had the select knowledge and opportunity to be present at this secret meeting of church members.

"We mourn the fact that leaders within The Episcopal Church continue to behave in ways that cause damage to the Body of Christ by initiating ecclesiastical actions and litigation against Bishop Schofield and this Anglican Diocese, and proceed to further tear the fabric of the world-wide Anglican Communion."

Schofield condemned the behavior of Lamb who, he said, verbally claims to seek reconciliation, while his actions say otherwise.

At their diocesan convention held December 8, 2007, the people of the Diocese of San Joaquin withdrew from membership in the Episcopal Church and realigned with the Province of the Southern Cone. The vote of the people of the Diocese was overwhelming; nearly 90 percent were in favor of the realignment. Special provision was made for those who disagreed with the majority's decision: each parish in the Diocese was given an indefinite period of discernment and the option of staying with the Episcopal Church. Those who did so, were permitted to keep all of their real and personal property with the blessings of the Diocese and its elected bishop of nineteen years, The Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield.


Second marriage thread

In the thread that followed my article about marriage last week, most of the comments have focused strictly on sexual relations within marriage. That is important, but I want to open a thread in case anyone wants to discuss the sacramental theology of marriage that I brought out, especially in the last paragraphs, which I quote below.

Christian marriages have to them more than human commitment. The Holy Spirit works by means of this union. He gives grace through faithful spouses to further growth in virtues and sanctification. Daily activities and all of the changes of this transitory life, are the context of that ministry to one another over a period of years.

The husband and wife are God’s agents to one another, to aid salvation, and sanctification. Furthermore, all spouses are called to aid each other’s gifts and vocations in this world, and in a special and obvious way in their joint responsibility should they be so blessed as to become parents. Such a life, in turn, may often lead to a Christian couple being a witness to the world of the love between Christ and his Church (Ephesians 5:32).

My advice to Christian couples is to pray together often (which is best when it is initiated and led by the man), perhaps as part of the daily offices of prayer, according to the practices of specific church traditions. The end of marriage, as we know it, is that the husband and wife love one another as aids to everything good and eternal by the work of the Holy Spirit. Then the blessing applies. “That ye may so live together in this life, that in the world to come ye may have life everlasting.”

Revd Prof Henry Chadwick, RIP

Cambridge University is sad to announce the death of former Master of Peterhouse and Fellow of Trinity College Reverend Professor Henry Chadwick, FBE, KBE who died on Tuesday 17 June at the age of 88.

Professor Chadwick was born on 23 June 1920 in London. He was educated at Eton and Magdalene College, Cambridge where he was a music scholar. He was briefly an assistant Master at Wellington College before becoming a Fellow of Queens’ College Cambridge from 1946 to 1958.

He became Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University and a Canon of Christ Church in 1959, then Dean of Christ Church in 1969.

In 1979 he returned to Cambridge as the Cambridge Regius Professor of Divinity until his retirement in 1983. He was a Fellow of Magdalene College from 1979 to 1987 and thereafter an Honorary Fellow He was an Honorary Fellow of Trinity College from 1987 and a Fellow of Eton College from 1976 to 1979.

In 1987 he was elected Master of Peterhouse where he served until his retirement in 1993.

Professor Chadwick’s academic career started with an article on Origen, an early Christian scholar and theologian. Soon after in 1953 he wrote a new translation of Origen’s Contra Celsum which became a classic in its field. Overall he published over 125 books and articles. He maintained his role as editor of the Journal of Theological Studies for more than three decades.

His interest in religion spread among many issues of Christianity and especially ecumenism which he described as ‘a good cause to die in’. Professor Chadwick worked on the Anglican-Roman Catholic and Anglican-Orthodox Commissions.

His contribution has been so significant that he was presented with two Festschriften, each being a collection of writings, to honour his work in Church history and ecumenism. Professor Chadwick was a Fellow of the British Academy, a member of the American Philosophical Society and the French Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres, and Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and held honorary doctorates from Uppsala, Harvard, Yale and Chicago universities and Rhineland and Göttingen academies.

Professor Chadwick had a lifelong passion for music in general and Church music, particularly interested in the role music plays in religious practice.

His funeral will take place on Wednesday 25th June at 11 am in Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Like the Swiss

About the following news, I find myself like the neutral Swiss.

The Pastor of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Rev. Matthew Kennedy, renounced his orders in the Episcopal Church (TEC) and realigned with the Anglican Church of Kenya, and Good Shepherd went with him. In April the diocese filed its suit in State Superior Court to seize the property, even though the parish had made two offers to purchase it. The Attorney for Good Shepherd, Raymond Dague, has denied that this is only about homosexuality. He said, “It's about the idea that the diocese can just ignore parts of Scripture and rewrite Christian morality to its own liking,” In a sermon, Matthew Kennedy said: "Homosexual behavior is considered so offensive to God that those who engage in it and do not repent cannot enter his kingdom…If we compromise on this matter, I think we also compromise our integrity, our faith and the Gospel of Jesus Christ…These things are far more important than buildings or assets or furniture."

Kennedy is known mostly for his writing for the blog, Stand Firm in Faith, and is part of that company of conservative Christians calling themselves Reasserters. Currently, the website for Good Shepherd provides a link to a legal defense fund, and lists Rev. Matthew Kennedy as Pastor, and his wife Rev. Anne Kennedy as Assistant Pastor.

Why am I neutral? First of all, I am not strictly neutral, inasmuch as TEC is resorting once again to filing lawsuits. However, even though TEC has progressed further into error and sin than the Reasserters can stomach, the simple fact is that any church with a woman "priest" has started down the same road as TEC. Dague is correct that we have no right simply to ignore scripture and rewrite Christian morality. But, as long as they ignore any portion of scripture, and rewrite any doctrine, they are simply on a time delay. They are not standing firm in faith, but dragging their heels into further error.

There remains, however, one important difference. At least the Reasserters appear to have retained one crucial desire. It appears that they want to have a good conscience toward God- or so we hope. TEC is guilty of willful sin, and these Reasserters seem to be suffering blindness in part. Whereas it remains a matter of no importance to me whether Good Shepherd is TEC or Kenyan (since the confusion and disorder caused by the presence of a priestess makes it six of one against half a dozen of the other), nonetheless, the partially blind Reasserters have my prayers that their eyes may be opened.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Abomination: C of E Priests 'Marry'

By Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Religious Affairs Correspondent
The Telegraph

An Anglican church has held a homosexual "wedding" for the first time in a move that will deepen the rift between liberals and traditionalists, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.

Two male priests exchanged vows and rings in a ceremony that was conducted using one of the church's most traditional wedding rites – a decision seen as blasphemous by conservatives.

The ceremony broke Church of England guidelines and was carried out last month in defiance of the Bishop of London, in whose diocese it took place. News of the "wedding" emerged days before a crucial summit of the Anglican Church's conservative bishops and archbishops, who are threatening to split the worldwide Church over the issue of homosexual clergy.

Although some liberal clergy have carried out "blessing ceremonies" for homosexual couples in the past, this is the first time a vicar has performed a "wedding ceremony", using a traditional marriage liturgy, with readings, hymns and a ­Eucharist.

Both the conservative and liberal wings of the Anglican communion expressed shock last night.

The Most Rev Henry Orombi, the Archbishop of Uganda, said that the ceremony was "blasphemous." He called on Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to take decisive action if the Anglican Church were not to "disintegrate". Archbishop Orombi added: "What really shocks me is that this is happening in the Church of England that first brought the Gospel to us.

"The leadership tried to deny that this would happen, but now the truth is out. Our respect for the Church of England will erode unless we see a return to traditional teaching."

The Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, the Bishop of Winchester – a powerful conservative figure – said that the service represented a wedding "in all but name". He said: "Strictly speaking it is not a marriage, but the language is clearly modelled on the marriage service and the occasion is modelled on the marriage service. This clearly flouts Church guidelines and will exacerbate divisions within the Anglican Communion."

The bishop said that it was up to the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, to act, adding that it would become a high-profile test case of Church authority.

"Can we stand for the clear teaching of the Church of England or are we powerless in the face of these actions, which I regret enormously have taken place," he said.

The service was held at St Bartholomew the Great in London – one of England's oldest churches, which featured in Four Weddings and a Funeral – and was conducted by the parish rector, the Rev Martin Dudley.

The couple, the Rev Peter Cowell, who is a cleric at one of the Queen's churches, and the Rev Dr David Lord, had registered their civil partnership before the ceremony.

Mr Dudley opened the service by saying: "Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God to join these men in a holy covenant of love and fidelity. Such a covenant shows us the mystery of the union between God and God's people and between Christ and the Church." In the vows, Mr Cowell and Dr Lord pledged to "hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part".

Mr Dudley blessed the union with the words: "As David and Jonathan's souls were knit together, so these men may surely perform and keep the vow and covenant betwixt them made."

Leading church figures expressed astonishment at the language and grandeur of the service, claiming that it was a highly provocative act. Although, the use of such a traditional ceremony does not constitute a marriage in the eyes of the law, Church figures on all sides said the event went further than any gay blessing ceremonies that had gone before.

The "marriage" will revive the war over homosexual clergy that has engulfed the Church since 2003 when Gene Robinson was made Bishop of New Hampshire and Jeffrey John, another gay cleric, who was about to become Bishop of Reading, was made to step down.

It is likely to embolden liberal clergy who have been reluctant to offer a full "wedding service" and will open the floodgates to other homosexuals who want a traditional ceremony.

Mr Dudley agreed to conduct the service despite Bishop Chartres warning that Church guidelines – drawn up when the Civil Partnerships Act was introduced – do not allow formal blessings of gay relationships. He argued that it was not a wedding but a blessing and that he was not "offering" blessing services, but responding to personal requests from friends. "I believe that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, but I see nothing wrong with blessing a couple who want to make a life-long commitment to one another."

A Church of England spokesman said: "Where clergy are approached by people asking for prayer in relation to entering into a civil partnership they should respond pastorally and sensitively in the light of the circumstances. But the House of Bishops affirmed that clergy should not provide services of blessing for those who register a civil partnership."

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Fourth Sunday after Trinity

(In this diocese we use the Psalm appointed for Morning Prayer both at Matins and at the Mass that follows)

Psalm 91

The Epistle. Romans. 8:18-23

The Gospel. St. Luke 6:36-42

Were it not taught to us that we can only understand the truth rightly in eternal rather than temporal terms, we should find some of the statements from today’s scripture readings to be quite fantastic, if not scandalous. I mean, specifically, Psalm 91. If read from a purely temporal point of view it makes no sense, promising long life and complete freedom from the very things which bring death and sorrow to ordinary men. Are Christians not ordinary? Are we not mortal, and subject to suffering and death? How could the Psalmist write such things?

Thou shalt not be afraid for any terror by night,* nor for the arrow that flieth by day.

I recall having a certain kind of misgiving and worry when the crazy snipers were terrorizing the DC area a few years ago, not only for myself, but for loved ones who might travel through Northern Virginia, or around Washington. I even recall wishing to avoid Montgomery and Prince George’s County- I certainly had no intention of needing to fill up my tank there. I admit that I was in a certain sense, afraid of the arrow that flieth by day.

For the pestilence that walketh in darkness, * nor for the sickness that destroyeth in the noonday.

Yes, but when I visit people in hospitals, and come across signs that require that I suit up in a surgical mask and gloves I do so. Let us remember that the devil himself used this very Psalm to try to tempt the Lord into leaping off the temple roof to make a big show. This Psalm can be misused, as anyone who has met the “faith and prosperity” crowd among the Charismatics surely can testify. Their error is the same in its effect as the pathetic “Christian Scientist” who, refusing to use medicine, sentences himself to an early grave.

The “faith and prosperity” teaching, for those who do not know, is a popular heresy which teaches, essentially, that anyone who has true faith will not be sick, or poor, or in want. Therefore, people who suffer illness, financial shortage, or any other inconvenience of this mortal life, are led by the spirit of error into believing that their own faith is insufficient to please God, be it in reality perhaps even larger than a grain of mustard seed. Nonetheless, woe to any who “in this transitory life are in sorrow, need, sickness or any other adversity.” Sadly, they are used to such theological cruelty, having been taught long ago that their love for friends and relatives cannot extend beyond this world, for they cannot even pray for the departed.

Their interpretation of scripture is very like the devil’s, as I said before, when he misquoted this Psalm to our Lord. In fact, come to think of it, it is more than simply like the devil’s interpretation.

A reading of this Psalm without an eternal perspective can become even worse, if we read it with such blindness, in the verses that follow:

A thousand shall fall beside thee, and ten thousand at thy right hand; * but it shall not come nigh thee. Yea with thine eyes shalt thou behold, * and see the reward of the ungodly.

This is the Psalm read often by men going into combat; my father was greatly comforted by this Psalm as he was on his way to France to fight the Germans. But, if you were to ask him, or any man who has seen war, do only the worst of sinners fall in battle? The answer would be a very quick “no.” Indeed, it is often some of the best and bravest, indeed some who, having possessed true charity, gave their lives for their friends. Was he comforted, then, because he imagined that the Psalm promised him survival? I think not; he had no idea whether he would live through the war, or die. As every soldier entering his nation’s service in time of war, he gave his life when he enlisted. It was up to God whether or not he would receive it back.

Is early death, and suffering, a sign of God’s wrath- is it the reward of the ungodly? The enemies of our Lord Jesus seemed to think so, as they dared to enjoy His suffering and to mock Him with vicious insults. He was not only dying, but was clearly under a curse, as Moses taught in the very Law of God, for He was “hanged upon a tree.” And, yet in this we see, with St. Paul who wrote about it to the Churches of the Galatians, that He became a curse for us, so that we may receive the blessing of God.

In his days as a Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus was convinced that Jesus, Who was so cursed as to hang upon a tree, must have been an ungodly man, and a pretender. Young Saul’s great act of righteousness, therefore, was to persecute those who proclaimed Jesus as the Christ. He had considered it so, and wrote that he had, later as St. Paul the Apostle, in a passage in his Epistle to the Philippians. On the road to Damascus he met the Risen Christ. Only in the blinding light of revelation, could Saul of Tarsus see that his great work, by which he felt extraordinarily righteous, was the worst of sins. Yet, in the same moment, he began to understand the mercy and grace of God which he would ever proclaim for the rest of his life.

Our only hope of true understanding, the eternal perspective, begins with the cross. The prophet Isaiah foresaw the redemptive suffering of the Servant of the LORD.

But He was wounded for our transgressions,

He was bruised for our iniquities,

the chastisement of our peace was upon Him,

and with His stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray:

We have turned everyone to his own way;

And the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

...He was cut off from the land of the living;

For the transgression of my people was He stricken.

(from Isaiah 53)

Here we see the reward of the ungodly; but what? It has fallen on the head of the One Man who lived a perfect life, and Who was in every point tempted as we are, yet was without sin. The plague and pestilence, the arrow that files by day, the sickness at noon day, the falling into early death, the reward of the ungodly, borne and suffered on the cross by the Righteous One, the One Who became poor for our sakes. Remember that I read to you from The Republic of Plato a while back, how the philosopher rightly saw the world as so evil that if a perfectly just man were to live in it, he would be sentenced to a cruel death by torture. The reward of the ungodly was handed to, and willingly accepted by, the only Just Man ever to have come into the world.

Yes, the cross is where our understanding in the eternal perspective must begin; indeed, it can begin no where else.

What then of our sorrows? What of the trials and sufferings of this time? St. Paul has already answered this for us. They “are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Our death may, for all some of us know, be early in worldly terms, but it is no death at all; for in Christ we live for ever. We may fall sick, or into troubles, though we pray not. But, we shall have a long life nonetheless, if we are in Christ. For what can be longer than eternity?

It is in this light, and only in this light, that we can hope to become obedient to the seemingly extraordinary commands given to His disciples by our Lord in today’s Gospel reading. How can we be so merciful, and so generous in spirit, so humble and quick to repent of our own failings, if it is not because God has given to us the gift, as our “Ruler and Guide,” that “we may pass through things temporal” in such a way “that we finally lose not the things which are eternal?”

And now unto God, the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, be ascribed, as is most justly due, all might, majesty, dominion, glory and power, now and forever.


Friday, June 13, 2008

A Parish in Distress

This from Canon Hollister:

Saint Andrew's, located in Franklin, Indiana, was badly flooded in the recent storms near Indianapolis, pictures of which appeared on the national news.

Fr Keith Coyner, who is in charge of Saint Andrew's, reports that the undercroft was flooded to a height of three and one half feet. The configuration of the building means that most of the Parish's belongings including vestments were flooded; the furnace, refrigerator, etc., were also probably destroyed.

The Bishop suggested that Fr Coyner and his people would undoubtedly appreciate any messages of support we might forward through Fr Coyner, whether offering our prayers or any other support that we might be able to offer.

His email is; his phone is 317-783-4108. The address is 4705 Citation Circle, Indianapolis, IN 46237.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The End of Marriage as we know it

The Traditional Anglican service of Holy Matrimony from the Book of Common Prayer reflects the holiness of marriage with solemnity and dignity, including the final blessing: “God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, bless, preserve, and keep you; the Lord mercifully with his favour look upon you, and fill you with all spiritual benediction and grace; that ye may so live together in this life, that in the world to come ye may have life everlasting. Amen.”

The end of the marriage service was altered in 1979 for the book that is used by the Episcopal Church. Their book says: “…that you may faithfully live together in this life, and in the age to come have life everlasting. Amen.” Changing the words of this blessing has changed the meaning, even if it was unintended. This difference, signified by the word “and” instead of “that,” is unfortunately consistent with a wide gulf that radically separates two understandings of what marriage is.

Need for clear teaching

For those who have only a worldly concept of marriage, how the couple will live together has no relevance to eternity. Of course, the end of every marriage must come since everyone dies. But, the end for which a Christian man and woman marry does in fact have eternal significance. So then, how do we protect Christians from a worldly concept of marriage?

Not by silence. No longer can we simply assume that every Christian has learned properly, or that they even know that fidelity in marriage is a moral issue of grave consequence. Christians ought to be well acquainted with the commandments of God against fornication and adultery (and what is fornication, if not adultery before the fact?). And, also they ought to know that divorce is an evil thing.

None of these things should be controversial for any Christian who believes the things that Jesus said, and said clearly. Nonetheless, we have come to a time that requires us to teach Christians, even some devout Catholics and born again Evangelicals, to see the difference between ideas that prevail in this age, and the truth about marriage.

It is wrong to assume that people know how to live together in this life, as man and wife, simply because they are Church people. Pastoral experience has taught me, over many years, that we can no longer assume that children are being taught by their parents at home. Gone are the days when the Church can expect younger parents to be aware of their responsibility. If pastors and religious teachers simply assume they can build on a foundation already laid, they will often be in for a shock. It has not been business as usual for many years now.

And, since nature abhors a vacuum, bad ideas can be found wherever teaching has been neglected, especially in the minds of many who have already reached adulthood. Might the following things need to be spelled-out for some modern Christians, especially those under 40? I am sorry to say, yes they do. Experience teaches me this. What goes unsaid goes unlearned.

Preparing people for marriage highlights this in a special way. Certain things have to be taught, because when they go unsaid, the vacuum fills up with error. We cannot assume that Christians have no need to hear the following, or that the Church has no responsibility to teach them.

The end of marriage is, all too often, the gratification of desire. And, added to this insufficient understanding, uncouth practices are treated as normal and healthy by modern people. This is because they have been indoctrinated by the spirit of the times to accept almost any sexual practice, as if gratification is, itself, moral justification.

For example, it would be wrong for the Christian bride to find herself being treated as a “sex slave.” She should not expect a Christian husband to request or demand “service” that is humiliating and degrading, even if one such practice was popularized by a president in the Oval office, and falsely justified by his warped idea of how to study the Bible.

We should not assume that younger Christians know that marriage gives moral rightness to copulation, and adds blessing to wholesome pleasure, but that marriage is not a license for just any kind of sexual activity that has dawned on the human imagination. “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for God will judge the immoral and adulterous.” (Hebrews 13:4, RSV)

To others, of all ages, the end of marriage may be larger than gratification, but still not good enough. Based on a need for love and companionship, and in some cases security, the end of marriage may be happiness based on what can be received. That may be bigger and nobler than gratification alone, and emotionally more rewarding.

Nonetheless, the desire to be made happy is insufficient as the end of marriage for a Christian. For, this kind of love may be in keeping with eros, and even with phileō. But, it falls short of agape. That is, though it may include all of the emotions we associate with romantic love, and with friendship (both good and necessary things in married love), it falls short of the love described by St. Paul in I Corinthians chapter 13.

A means of grace

Modern Christians need to be taught in order to truly understand the good things that God the Holy Spirit can give to a husband and wife through one another. Not every Christian is comfortable using a word for marriage that we, as Traditional Anglicans, use. That word is “sacrament.” It may be a waste of time to try to sell everyone simply on that word; but, we should not hesitate to make an effort to sell all Christians everywhere on some of the theological meaning of that word as applied to marriage.

First of all, to put it very simply, when an unmarried Christian man and an unmarried Christian woman say their vows before God and human witnesses, this constitutes a form of words that state the clear intention of entering into a union that is, itself, God’s own doing. The fact that marriage is the work of God himself is the teaching of Jesus (e.g. Matthew 19:6: “What God has joined together”). After the consummation, the joining is complete.

Contrary to the spirit of the times, since the body is holy, the occasions of coming together in intimacy have their place in grace and sanctification also. Happiness and pleasure do not, in themselves, contradict holiness. Always, respect for the body includes respect for its nature and power of procreation.

We need to consider the Greek word charis (often in the form charisma) that is usually translated “grace,” and in many places as “gift.” The New Testament usage of this word consistently refers to both special and extraordinary graces given by the Holy Spirit. St. Paul teaches Christians to desire the gifts that best fit the need or occasion (I Corinthians. 12:31), and this leads directly to the famous chapter on charity. We should want the graces or gifts that are most beneficial to others, consistent with divine love.

Christian marriages have to them more than human commitment. The Holy Spirit works by means of this union. He gives grace through faithful spouses to further growth in virtues and sanctification. Daily activities and all of the changes of this transitory life, are the context of that ministry to one another over a period of years.

The husband and wife are God’s agents to one another, to aid salvation, and sanctification. Furthermore, all spouses are called to aid each other’s gifts and vocations in this world, and in a special and obvious way in their joint responsibility should they be so blessed as to become parents. Such a life, in turn, may often lead to a Christian couple being a witness to the world of the love between Christ and his Church (Ephesians 5:32).

My advice to Christian couples is to pray together often (which is best when it is initiated and led by the man), perhaps as part of the daily offices of prayer, according to the practices of specific church traditions. The end of marriage, as we know it, is that the husband and wife love one another as aids to everything good and eternal by the work of the Holy Spirit. Then the blessing applies. “That ye may so live together in this life, that in the world to come ye may have life everlasting.”