I’ve just posted the audio of my first Epiphany sermon on my sermons page. Have a listen and let me know what you think.
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[Note: You can download the PDF of this file here. Additionally Bishop Bauerschmidt has set up a web page where he is sharing sermons and other statements (this is a temporary page as upgrades to the diocesan web site continue.)]
I read with great interest this week the Communiqué from the Primates’ Meeting of February 19th, 2007, and their recommendations for a way forward for the Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church is a part.
The Primates spent time in prayer, bible study, and reflection on the mission of the Church. They had an opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist in the cathedral in Zanzibar, a place of worship built on the former site of a slave market. They heard, among other reports, about the Millennium Development Goals and about a study of Theological Education in the Anglican Communion. They assented to the initiation of a Communion-wide study of the methods of Scriptural interpretation.
It was within the context of these things that the Primates engaged the issues arising from the Episcopal Church’s response to the Windsor Report of 2004. Related to these issues, the Primates heard a report concerning the process of listening to the experiences of homosexual persons that was initiated by the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10, as well as a report on the work of the Panel of Reference established by the Primates in 2005 to monitor the adequacy of provisions made for groups in theological dispute with their own bishop. The Primates also heard a report from those charged with drafting an Anglican Covenant, the establishment of which they believe offers the possibility of more firmly anchoring the common life of the Communion.
A large part of this meeting was spent by the Primates in assessing the response of the 2006 General Convention to the requests made by the Windsor Report, as affirmed by the Primates in 2005. The Primates heard from the Communion Sub-Group of the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates’ meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council, as well as from three Bishops of our own Church with varying perspectives. The Primates also had the opportunity to meet with and hear from our own Presiding Bishop.
In light of all this, the Primates’ Communiqué judges the response of the Episcopal Church in 2006 to lack clarity in regard to the authorization of rites of blessing for those in same-sex unions. The Communiqué acknowledges that some of the Primates also believe that the Episcopal Church has not yet given sufficient assurances concerning a requested moratorium on the election and consecration to the episcopate of candidates living in a same-sex union. The Primates recognize the seriousness with which our Church has addressed the requests of the Windsor Report, and the apology that the General Convention has made. Still, in order to clarify these two issues, the Primates have asked the House of Bishops to “make an unequivocal common covenant” that they will authorize no Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions, as well as confirm that the passage of Resolution B033 in 2006 means that a candidate for the episcopate living in a same-sex union will not receive the necessary consents to be consecrated. They have asked for these assurances to be given by the end of September, 2007.
The Primates also engaged the issue of the need for healing and reconciliation that now exists in the Episcopal Church. The Primates recognize that a number of bishops, clergy, and lay people have made explicit their commitment to the proposals of the Windsor Report, judged the response of the Episcopal Church to date to be inadequate, and wish to remain a part of the Anglican Communion
(the main points among the so-called “Camp Allen principles”). The Primates recognize, as well, that the interventions in the life of the Episcopal Church by some Primates and bishops from other Provinces, contrary to the Windsor Report, have exacerbated a situation of recrimination and hostility. They also recognize that some dioceses and bishops are unable for a variety of reasons to accept the primacy of the Presiding Bishop, and have requested provision for “alternative primatial ministry”. These considerations call the Primates to undertake some exceptional provisions for the Church in this interim time, before its clarification in the longer term by the adoption of an Anglican Covenant by the Churches of our Communion.
The details of this interim solution are detailed in a schedule attached to the Communiqué. The Primates will establish a Pastoral Council to act on their behalf, in consultation with the Episcopal Church. The Council will consist of members nominated by the Primates, the Presiding Bishop, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Council will be working on a number of issues around the need for healing and reconciliation. To this end, the Council will also put in place a Pastoral Scheme that will rely on bishops of the Episcopal Church who are overtly committed to the “Camp Allen principles”, in consultation with the Council and with the consent of the Presiding Bishop, to nominate a “Primatial Vicar” who shall be responsible to the Council. The Presiding Bishop in consultation with the Council will delegate powers and duties to the Primatial Vicar. When these provisions for pastoral care are in place, interventions by other Primates will end.
I appreciate the very gracious way in which the Presiding Bishop has worked with the Archbishop of Canterbury and with the Primates to shape these proposals for pastoral care. I believe the Primates have offered us a way forward in a period of great difficulty for the Church in its common life. I rejoice that the Primates of our Communion, in spite of real differences, were able to reach a common mind and to offer a common interim proposal to us.
The Diocese of Tennessee is on record, at its most recent Convention, in stating that “the findings and recommendations of the Windsor Report represent the best way forward for the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Communion”. In addition, the Diocese remains committed to being a “full and active part of the Anglican Communion, in unity with the See of Canterbury, and the Episcopal Church USA; forgoing our own local desires for the sake of the greater Anglican Communion; and a conciliar approach to decision-making in the life of the Church and the Anglican Communion by working with and heeding the collective wishes of the Communion before making unilateral decisions”. As Bishop, I am committed to the “Camp Allen principles” that the Primates have looked to in their Communiqué as providing a way to care for the Church during this interim period. I hope that we can provide the assurances that are now being asked of the House of Bishops. I recognize that these assurances will come at some cost for gay and lesbian members of the Church.
One of the very important statements made in the Primates’ Communiqué is this: “We believe that it would be a tragedy if the Episcopal Church were to fracture, and we are committed to doing what we can to preserve and uphold its life”. I heartily concur with the Primates. We need to pay attention to this in our common life in the Diocese of Tennessee. The Primates have given us a Pastoral Scheme that allows us to move ahead, holding up before us the possibility of continuing as the Communion of Churches that I am convinced we are called to be.
– +John Bauerschmidt
Christianity Today has this hillarious response of Archbishop Williams to reports that there is a plan for Anglican-Roman Catholic union.
“What’s this we hear about the end of the world?”
—Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, in an uncharacteristically sarcastic response when asked, “What’s this we hear about you guys joining up with the Roman Catholic Church?” Williams went on to dismiss the widely circulated report of Catholic-Anglican union as overblown and garbled.
The following is a reflection I wrote for my first year “Spirituality for Ministry” class in Seminary. My professor didn’t like my understanding of the over-use of the word spirituality, but I stand by the gist of it.
What is Spirituality
The term spirituality is amorphous and defies definition, especially as concerns the individual experience of the divine. Despite this we are called as a community to define what spirituality means in our tradition. While we may not be able to specifically define what spirituality means for every individual, we must come to a consensus as to the meaning of spirituality in general and Christian Spirituality in particular. I want to suggest that spirituality refers to the way and manner that people seek, respond to and understand the experience of the divine in their lives and that this process in its fullness is best described as a lived or living spirituality.
Though there is an understandable reluctance to define spirituality there is a danger inherent in using spirituality in an undefined way. As illustrated by Marjorie J. Thompson in her book Soul Feast as she discusses the terms piety and devotion. Thompson argues that piety “now suggests to many a saccharin sentimentality or the delicate, easily shocked conscience of moral rigidity” and that “devotion has suffered a similar though less damaging fate.”1 Thompson wrote Soul Feast in 1995 and it is to be expected that terms have altered in their popular usage since then. Because of this it is hardly surprising that spirituality, once turned to as “the contemporary word of choice for expressing how we live with God in this world”2 has begun to suffer a similar fate as the terms piety and devotion in the popular mind, especially among growing numbers of young people. Words like piety and devotion are rarely used at all in popular discussion of religious or spiritual issues but in an ironic twist, spirituality–because of overuse and abuse–has reclaimed much of the baggage that it carried during the seventeenth century when it was “used in a negative fashion to describe elite forms of subjective religious practice.” 3 A growing number of people view the sloppy use of the term spirituality—when its use is detached from any particular tradition—as a warning sign that a heavy dose of pop-psychology, “feel goodism” and “self-helpism” is on the way. In short they look for the Amway card. For many people who are either still in or just out of college much of popular spirituality is viewed as another form of mid-life crises as experienced by the 60’s generation and, to use a good postmodern word, is viewed as inauthentic.
In defining spirituality the authentic or lived spirituality must be separated from the inauthentic and the sleekly packaged which can be termed dead spirituality. Dead spirituality can best be seen as referring to the grab-bag that exists, along with other more materialistic options, as a way of constructing a false identity while a lived or living spirituality is an outgrowth of an already stable and healthy identity. Because of its attachment to identity, a lived spirituality cannot be experienced apart from tradition and the faith community. Just as the basic “definition of spirituality is generic, but there are no generic spiritualities,” so people do not experience spirituality in a generic way, but instead rely upon some socially constructed lens through which the experience is filtered.4
Christians are blessed to have such a rich spiritual tradition with a multiplicity of ways in which to better their spiritual lives and interpret their experiences of the divine. As Thompson says, these traditions are a “feast for hungry hearts.”5 In seeking to better our spiritual lives we must not loose sight of what is important. “God’s spirit is continually challenging, changing and maturing us,”6 we must not begin to focus on actions or spiritual disciplines for their own sake or we risk failing to follow where the spirit leads. “Spiritual disciplines are those practices that help us consciously to develop the spiritual dimension of our lives,”7 and they are very much a part of a living spirituality. There is also a danger that people may become attached to the discipline or activity and loose sight of its purpose.
Just as Sufis do not dance simply for the sake of dance, Christians must realize that we do not walk the labyrinth for its own sake but because we have lost Jerusalem; we cannot become so attached to a mode of doing spirituality that we forget that the purpose is to come closer to God. Another good example of how attachment can change meanings is found in Cunningham & Egan, page 18: “To follow St. Francis of Assisi, for instance, does not mean that one must acquire sandals, a brown religious habit, and a rope for the waist. Such garb [. . .] might symbolize religion and not poverty. As a person who is deeply concerned by materialism, false identity and detachment from tradition it is easy for me to fall into the other extreme of tradition for traditions sake. Just as it is important for spirituality to be authentic, it is important that it truly be spiritual. Currently I think there are many people who lack respect for and understanding of the many spiritual traditions within Christianity; likewise there are those—myself included—who are uncomfortable with individualistic spirituality. We need to recognize the need for both or our spiritual lives will suffer.
I’m still taking my time and formulating my response to the Tanzania communique, but I can say that I was very encouraged by its final form, and I pray that its stipulations can be implemented and provide a way forward for the orthodox in the American Church. In the mean time, I thought I would direct everyone’s attention to the excellent analysis of Jordan Hyldan from First Things:
This new council could act as a significant check on the Episcopal Church’s internal authority, and it has been given great leeway to negotiate its own terms. In an especially telling line, it is given authorization under paragraph 157 of the Windsor Report to consider whether the Episcopal Church’s future actions merit further steps toward the withdrawal of the Episcopal Church from membership in the Anglican Communion. In essence, the new church-within-a-church stands ready to become a new American Anglican province in its own right if the Episcopal Church should decide finally to revoke its own current status in the communion.
In addition, the primates have encouraged but not required those who have already left the Episcopal Church to return under the new pastoral scheme, and they have left the door open for their inclusion in more-or-less their present form. The primates have also requested that all legal action currently pending against breakaway parishes come to an end, a significant repudiation of the Episcopal Church’s well-publicized strategy of filing as many lawsuits as possible. It remains to be seen whether the national church office will comply, but one certainly hopes that it will.
Timothy George offers the following reflections on why Evangelicals ought to pay more attention to Mary. It’s a wonderful article; I especially like his ending–but I won’t post it here, you’ll have to go and read it for yourselves.
Timothy George is an ordained minister in the Southern Baptist Convention and dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University in Birmingham Alabama.
Evangelical retrieval of a proper biblical theology of Mary will give attention to five explicit aspects of her calling and ministry: Mary as the daughter of Israel, as the virgin mother of Jesus, as Theotokos, as the ?handmaiden of the Word, and as the mother of the Church. Consider Mary’s first title, Daughter of Israel. Mary stands, along with John the Baptist, at a unique point of intersection in the biblical narrative between the Old and the New Covenants. When Mary cradles the baby Jesus in the Temple in the presence of Anna and Simeon, we see brought together the advent of the Lord’s messiah, and the long-promised and long-prepared-for “consolation of Israel.” The holy family is portrayed as part of a wider community, namely “all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38).
Mary appears in the infancy narratives as the culmination of a prophetic lineage of pious mothers: Sarah, Rachel, and Hannah-together with Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth, who appear in the Matthean genealogy. There is a sense in which any of them could have been the mother of the messiah. According to one interpretation of Genesis 4:1, when Eve exclaims at the birth of Cain, “I have gotten a man from the Lord,” she supposes that her first-born son was already the fulfillment of the prophecy of Genesis 3:15, the seed of the woman who would bruise the head of the serpent.
The second common title of Mary is Virgin Mother. The doctrine of the virgin birth emerged in America as one of the badges of evangelical orthodoxy during the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy. J. Gresham Machen, professor at Princeton and later founding president of Westminster Theological Seminary, published in 1930 a major treatise on the virgin birth of Christ. Machen was concerned to support the ancient Christian conception against the anti-supernaturalistic views set forth at a popular level by Harry Emerson Fosdick and supported in academic circles by scholars at the University of Chicago and elsewhere.
Though he was a straitlaced Presbyterian and could never be accused of “cozying up to Rome,” Machen rightly recognized that evangelicals had much more in common with Catholicism on this than they did with what he disdainfully called that “totally foreign religion-liberalism.” “Let it never be forgotten,” he wrote, “that the virgin birth is an integral part of the New Testament witness about Christ, and that that witness is strongest when it is taken as it stands. . . . The blessed story of the miracle in the virgin’s womb is intrinsic to the good news of the Gospel. Only one Jesus is presented in the Word of God; and that Jesus did not come into the world by ordinary generation, but was conceived in the womb of the virgin by the Holy Ghost.” Machen did not go so far as some in claiming that no one could be a Christian without believing in the virgin birth. He recognized that the biblical accounts may not have been known in some circles of earliest Christianity. But while one might conceivably be a Christian without affirming the virgin birth, there could be no true Christianity among those who denied it.
The virgin birth continued to be a celebrated point of difference between mainline Protestants and their more conservative counterparts during the neo-evangelical renaissance after World War II. In 1958, Christian Century published an editorial denying the historicity of the virgin birth: The virgin birth, the editorial said, presents Jesus as some kind of tertium quid, half God and half man. In reply, the Lutheran theologian Arthur Carl Piepkorn snapped: “To account so materially, so biologically, so cellularly for the uniqueness of Jesus is to land dead center on what is precisely not the point.” Such disdain for Jesus’ “miracle of entrance,” as Karl Barth called it, obviously belonged to the trajectory of theological liberalism, from Schleiermacher through D.F. Strauss to Paul Tillich, who wrote in the first volume of his Systematic Theology: “Apollo has no revelatory significance for Christians; the virgin mother Mary reveals nothing to Protestantism.”
For all their fervent advocacy of this doctrine, evangelicals may have missed two important aspects of this teaching. Modern evangelical preoccupation with the virgin birth arose in the context of post-Enlightenment skepticism and reductionism: Evangelicals were concerned to defend the miraculous character of the virgin birth because they saw it undergirding the deity of Jesus Christ. The prominence of the virgin birth teaching among the Apostolic Fathers, however, arose from a different Christological concern: as an affirmation of the true humanity and genuine historicity of the Son of God. “Away with that lowly manger, those dirty swaddling clothes,” Marcion had cried. Against all docetism and anti-materialism, Ignatius of Antioch declared in one of the early creedal expressions of the Christian faith that Jesus was “truly born, truly lived, truly died.” The adverb resounds like a gong through the writings of the second century.
It is a subject of the utmost importance to our souls. If the Bible be true, it is certain that unless we are “sanctified,” we shall not be saved. There are three things which, according to the Bible, are absolutely necessary to the salvation of every man and woman in Christendom. These are justification, regeneration, and sanctification. All three meet in every child of God: he is both born again, and justified, and sanctified. He that lacks any one of these three things is not a true Christian in the sight of God, and, dying in that condition, will not be found in heaven and glorified in the last day.
It is a subject which is peculiarly seasonable in the present day. Strange doctrines have risen up of late upon the whole subject of sanctification. Some appear to confound it with justification. Others fritter it away to nothing, under the pretense of zeal for free grace, and practically neglect it altogether. Others are so much afraid of “works” being made a part of justification that they can hardly find any place at all for “works” in their religion. Others set up a wrong standard of sanctification before their eyes, and, failing to attain it, waste their lives in repeated secessions from church to church, chapel to chapel, and sect to sect, in the vain hope that they will find what they want.
The following is a response I posted at On the Wittenberg Trail in regards to a question that was asked about who communicates at Baptism. The author of the Blog, Eric, argues that:
Disagreements over Baptism ultimately hinge on the answer to one crucial question: Who is communicating?
If Baptism is a symbol (and it is), and if a symbols are communication devices (and they are), who is communicating in the symbol of Baptism?
Matthew 28:16-20 gives us the unequivocal answer: In Baptism the Church is communicating to sinners on behalf of Jesus Christ. When we get the answer to this crucial question wrong, taking the view that in Baptism sinners made righteous by faith are communicating their faith to God and the world, then sacrament becomes sacrifice. And without restoring a correct understanding of who is communicating in its symbolism, there is no way to recover a Scriptural understanding of Baptism.
I wonder if this has to be an either/or. Certainly Baptism as a sacrament of God’s grace has been entrusted to His Church, and as such should ordinarily be administered by the ordained in an assembly of the faithful–though my tradition teaches, and I happen to agree, that any Baptized Christian can in turn Baptize in an emergency since what is ordinary is done for good order and not necessarily to ensure efficacy. So, on the one hand, the Church is “communicating” the good news of forgiveness of sins through the grace of God in the washing of the waters of Baptism.
On the other hand, I don’t think one can deny that in Baptism the person being Baptized (as an adult) or the family of the person being baptized (as an infant or young child) is communicating their faith in Jesus’ Christ’s saving action. So in Baptism the confession of the individual believer(s) is joined with that of the Church as a sign of God’s faithfulness towards us and to glorify his name.
I’m also not convinced that seeing Baptism as a sign of a person or family’s faith–at least not in addition to that of the entire Body–is somehow making it an action of sacrifice, at least not in any different way than the Eucharist is a sacrifice by virtue of the fact that we remember Christ’s saving act on the Cross for us and offer the only acceptable sacrifice of Praise and Thanksgiving and “our selves, our souls and bodies” in thanksgiving for what Christ has done.
I’m always amazed at the ability of Americans to be morally outraged about events in other countries but look with a completely blind eye on the actions of our own nation–and the cultural self-hatred of the left doesn’t count as true self reflection and critique.
In a truly stomach-turning report, CNN notes that a bag containing the skeletal remains of at least six babies was found on the grounds of a Christian missionary hospital in India. CNN notes that the bones could be from stillborn babies who were not buried properly, or they could be the remains of sex-selection feticides or infanticides.
This is hardly an Indian-specific problem. Would that we could blame such things on a “backward” civilization bereft of “progress” and “Enlightenment.” India is a rapidly industrializing country, a nuclear power with a cultural heritage and a Hollywood commerce that is surpassed only by our own. In the United States of America, the only reason we so rarely find such bones is not because of our moral “progress.” It is instead because our abortuaries have the technical “progress” to grind the babies to more unrecognizable bits.
I’ll have a fuller discussion of the recent events in Tanzania soon, but I wanted to comment on something I just read in an AP story over here. I don’t know if this is simply ignorance of the issues showing through, or willful misrepresentation, but it deserves comment:
Anglican leaders demanded Monday that the U.S. Episcopal Church unequivocally bar official prayers for gay couples and the consecration of more gay bishops to undo the damage that North Americans have caused the Anglican family.
In one sense the author is perfectly correct…the Episcopal Church was asked to bar “official prayers for gay couples…” but not any prayers they were asked to cease the specific act of blessing (which, at least tacitly provides the Church’s moral imprimatur) same-sex unions, which is a completely different thing. Everyone deserves prayer, and no one has said anything to contradict this.
I can’t wait to see what else is reported. Before long the press will be borrowing those UCC commercials to illustrate what the Anglicans are doing…