Musings of an Anglican/Episcopal Priest

Month: July 2009

A Cross Shattered Church: Reclaiming the Theological Heart of Preaching

A friend recently mentioned Stanley Hauerwas’ new sermon collection, A Cross Shattered Church to me.  I was taking a look at it tonight, trying to decide if I wanted to order it for myself when I came across this section, which sort of serves to whet the appetite.  What do you think?  It’s next in line for my library shelves I think…

An American evangelical philosopher once asked me if I did not think that hell is best conceived as being hated by God.  I responded by saying that is surely wrong.  If I know I am hated by God, I at least know I exist.  Hell is to be abandonded by God.  Dante surely had it right that at its lowest depths hell is where we are frozen in ice in a manner that those so condemned are unable to see anyone else.

Robert Jenson puts it this way:

What makes death the Lord’s enemy, and fearful for us, is that it separates lovers.  Were my death simply my affair, the old maxim might hold, that since my death will never be part of my experience, I have no need to fear it.  But death will take my loves from me and me from them, and that is the final objective horror, for it decrees emptiness of all human worth, constituted as it is by love.  Having no more being woul dbe no evil were being not mutual.

But being is mutual, because mutuality is the very character of God–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The Father desires friendship with the Son through the agency of the Holy Spirit.  Which means speculation about dying and death that is not governed by Jesus’ cross and resurrection only tempts us to narcissistic fantacies.  What we know is that the crucified Jesus has been raised, making possible our hope that death cannot defeat God’s love for us.  We were created for God’s enjoyment and through the Son’s obedience even to death he has reclaimed us so that we may regard our deaths not as an end but as a beginning.  In short God does not give us explantions that can make our dying something less than death.  He does not give us an explanation; he gives us his Son.

Check it out:

A Cross Shattered Church: Reclaiming the Theological Heart of Preaching

Jordan Hylden: Brave New Church

Covenant Communion

Jordan Hylden hits one out of the park with this:

The seventy-sixth General Convention of the Episcopal Church made headlines last week for moving forward on same-sex blessings and officially opening its doors for partnered homosexuals to serve as priests and bishops. Stacy Sauls, the Episcopal bishop of Lexington and a close associate of the presiding bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori, argued that it was long past time to do it: Over thirty years ago, he said, the church had placed pastoral compassion over Scripture, tradition, and the teachings of Jesus to permit remarriage after divorce, and it would be nothing less than hypocritical for the church not to do likewise for gay and lesbian people.

There is a certain logic to this, of course. If we’re going to set aside the teaching of Jesus for ourselves, shouldn’t we do the same for others? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” as someone once said. According to Bishop Sauls, this was the most important point he made at the convention. Arguably, it was the most important point anyone in attendance made. The Episcopal Church has now, quite definitively, decided to step out on its own, away from Scripture, tradition, and the rest of the Anglican communion. It was a bold and brave step, for with it the church has decided that it is now a church that takes its own counsel, answerable only to God. No doubt it was a matter of prayerful discernment and conscience for many, and no doubt many will shy away from drawing out the full implications of their decision. But the implications are there nonetheless. It is a brave new thing for the Episcopal Church, a brave new church on its own in the world.

The two key resolutions, D025 and C056, were passed by overwhelming majorities in both houses of the convention, the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. The first resolution, D025, effectively gave dioceses the green light to elect bishops in partnered homosexual relationships, thus overturning the commitment of the 2006 convention to “exercise restraint” in doing so. The second resolution, C056, committed the church to develop rites of blessing for same-sex unions with the goal of bringing draft versions for approval at the next convention in 2012. In the meantime, the resolution encouraged dioceses to develop and use rites of their own, with the expectation that such on-the-ground experience will be of value in creating a set of official, churchwide liturgies in the near future.

As such, the two resolutions represent a clear and purposeful departure from the requests made of the Episcopal Church by the rest of the Anglican communion, as expressed repeatedly by all of the official bodies of global Anglicanism over the past several years. Contradicting requests for a moratorium on bishops in same-sex relationships, Resolution D025 asserts that “God has called and may call” persons in such relationships to all of the ordained ministries of the church. And, in the face of requests not to authorize public rites of blessing for same-sex unions, Resolution C056 explicitly calls for their development and authorizes bishops to perform them on a trial basis in their dioceses. It is, in short, a clear victory for those such as Bishop Sauls who have argued for the national autonomy of the Episcopal Church and the need to move forward regardless of Anglican communion requests.

That is, at least, the straightforward interpretation of the resolutions, as understood by media outlets such as the New York Times (“Episcopal Vote Reopens a Door to Gay Bishops,” “Episcopal Bishops Give Ground on Gay Marriage”), the BBC (“US Church Drops Gay Bishops Ban”), Reuters (“Episcopal Vote Widens Anglican Split”), and the Washington Post (“Episcopal Bishops Can Bless Gay Unions”). It is, additionally, how they were understood by Anglican bishop N.T. Wright (“The Americans Know This Will Lead to Schism,”), conservative groups such as Fulcrum and the Anglican Communion Institute, and the ECUSA gay rights lobby, Integrity. Susan Russell, the president of Integrity, celebrated achieving a “clean sweep” on their legislative goals, and justifiably so.

But be that as it may, the official organs of the Episcopal Church have insisted that no matter what it might look like to everyone else, actually nothing much has changed. The two ranking officers of the church, presiding bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies president Bonnie Anderson, wrote in an open letter to Rowan Williams that “nothing in [Resolution D025] goes beyond what has already been provided under our constitution and canons for many years.” By that, they mean to say that since church canons already stipulate that the ordination process is open to all persons regardless of sexual orientation, and since Resolution D025 asserts that future bishops will be considered by following canonical guidelines, they have done nothing new. The 2006 resolution, they note, asked for restraint in granting “consent” to the election of partnered homosexual bishops, and since the new resolution does not mention consent, this has not actually been overturned.

If that sounds like a distinction without a difference, that may be because it is.

via Covenant

Interview with +Mark Lawrence of South Carolina

I very much appreciate Bishop Lawrence’s perspective, especially on these points:

  • Christians need to face our demons around marrital breakdown and sexuality (pornography, sexual abuse etc…)
  • Our struggle is a cultural one and there is no place that one can go to get away from it, since we are all part of the culture.  The Episcopal Church has just been on the front lines of a struggle coming to a church (or at least, neighborhood) near you
  • Finally, the fact that “the anger of man cannot work the righteousness of God.”(James 1:20) We need to let go of anger and vitriol if we hope to work for the good of the Kingdom.

Click below to watch (or, if you’re receiving this via RSS or email, you’ll need to visit the site).

Continue reading

Shared Items from around the web

Here are a few interesting things I ran across in my RSS reader over the past week. Take a look and see what you think:

Thoughts from General Convention

One of my friends, Dr. Christopher Wells, was recently interviewed reguarding his views of the latest resolutions passed by General Convention. I believe he rightly states the predicament that those of us in Communion Partner dioceses find ourselves in. We are in a much better situation than many of our brothers and sisters who are Communion Partner rectors in non-communion partner dioceses, but we are still in the uncomfortable position of being a distinct minority within the scope of the Episcopal Church. My belief is that our position will only become more uncomfortable as time wears on, and that we may be called upon to make some significant choices in the not too distant future.

The video interview is below the fold:
Continue reading

Shared Items from around the web

Here are a few interesting things I ran across in my RSS reader over the past week. Take a look and see what you think:

BBC NEWS | Special Reports | Historic Bible pages put online

Very Cool:

Codex Sinaiticus

About 800 pages of the earliest surviving Christian Bible have been recovered and put on the internet.

Visitors to the website can now see images of more than half of the 1,600-year-old Codex Sinaiticus manuscript.

Fragments of the 4th Century document – written in Greek on parchment leaves – have been worked on by institutions in the UK, Germany, Egypt and Russia.

Experts say it is “a window into the development of early Christianity”.

via BBC NEWS | Special Reports | Historic Bible pages put online.

An Interesting Comparison

Recently the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katherine Jefferts-Schori was in Nashville

International Marriage Sign

International Marriage Sign

for the anniversary celebration of St. Anne’s Episcopal Church. While she was here she spoke at a clergy forum (which I was unable to attend). At some point during her visit, the Tennessean covered some of her comments about the theology of marriage as presented in the Book of Common Prayer. According to the report, she stated that the primary end of marriage as presented within the BCP is companionship (of course, the fact that the BCP states that Christian marriage consists of the union of a man and a woman was conveniently overlooked), and not a remedy against sin. While it is true that the 1979 BCP removes the notion of marriage as a remedy against sin from the text of the preamble, I would argue that it is wrong to read the BCP outside the context of its predecessors. Indeed, what is interesting–given the strong criticisms some conservatives have of the 1979 BCP–is that the preamble to the marriage service in the 1979 is actually a fuller description of Christian marriage than is the one in the beloved 1928 Book of Common Prayer, and it hearkens back even more to the marriage service of the 1662 English Book of Common Prayer. While it’s a shame neither those married with the 1928 or 1979 heard the phrase “like brute beasts that have no understanding,” at least the 1979 makes reference to the “purposes for which it was instituted by God,” that is, the purposes mentioned previously as well, I would argue, as the traditional ends of marriage as explicated in the history of Christian theology.

1662 BCP 1928 BCP
Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee; and is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men’s carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained.

First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.
Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body.
Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Into which holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. Therefore if any man can shew any just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace.

Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this company, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church: which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence and first miracle that he wrought in Cana of Galilee, and is commended of Saint Paul to be honour-able among all men: and therefore is not by any to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, dis-creetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God. Into this holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. If any man can show just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace.
1979 BCP:

Dearly beloved: We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony. The bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation, and our Lord Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. It signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and Holy Scripture commends it to be honored among all people.The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord. Therefore marriage is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God.

Related Reading Material:

Going to the well too often…

seraphim_greek_churchI’ve had some interesting experiences since I’ve been ordained, many of which have involved people in need (or who claimed to be in need) of assistance.  I always try to give the benefit of the doubt to folks, and to follow the injunction to give to any who begs from you (Luke 6:30).  At the same time, good stewarship means that I–or anyone else–can’t just go around enabling people to lie or steal.

In light of the above, several weeks ago I was at a local restaurant when someone approached me in the parking lot.  The man explained that he and his wife were from Pensacola Fla and were stranded in the area, and needed X amount of money to get gas/have their van fixed (I can’t remember which).  Now, being the son of a retired Highway Patrolman, I know that most of these sorts of stories are just that–fictions concocted to get money out of folks.  However, on the off chance that the story was honest, and because I always tell people that if they are lying the burden is on them, I went ahead and gave the man the money he needed, plus a little extra for some lunch.  Fast forward two weeks.  I was back in the parking lot of the same local restaurant and I see the same man–keep in mind he’s told me he was from Fla–in the parking lot walking up to people asking for money.  I watched him walk purposefully around the lot and speak to an older man in his truck.  When I saw what scammer was doing, I got out and walked over, but not before the older man had turned him down and the scammer had moved on across the lot.  When I got to the truck, I asked the older man if the guy had told him he was from Fla and needed help etc…  Sure enough, the guy was telling the same story.  Since this restaurant is in a fairly busy area, I’m certain he was doing pretty well for himself going from lot to lot with his tale.  After talking to the older man for a few minutes, he suggested calling a local law enforcement agency.  I only thought about it for a moment–I gave them a call and a description of Mr. Scam Artist, as well as telling them which direction he left in.  I have no idea whether they caught him or not, but I at least felt like I’d done my part to prevent scammers from taking assistence out of the hands of those who actually need it, and are honest about it.

Another story:

During my first summer at St. Francis a gentleman called my cell phone one day while I was waiting in the lounge of a local Toyota dealership waiting for my truck to be fixed.  “Pastor” he said when I picked up, “I wanted to talk to you about something.  One of my mom’s friends goes to your church and I got your number from her.  What I’m wondering is, is it wrong for a man to feel like he should take his own life?”  I proceeded to talk to him for a half hour, then for about another hour later in the morning about the various problems in his life, his feelings of failure, sadness at being a bad father etc… but was unable to go see him in person because my truck was in the shop and I had no transportation.  Later the same day I got a call from the Diocesan office indicating that this guy had shown up there asking for assitance and talked with one of the Canons, who had then suggested that he contact me, once he mentioned what area he lived in.  Well, I worked with the guy a bit; he said he wanted a job, so I came up with something for him to do around the Church.  When I paid him, he asked me to make the check out to his land lord to help with his rent.  Later on, his “land lord” called to thank me–lo and behold he sounded exactly like the man who was supposedly his tenent.  In fact, I even said as much when he first called, referring to him by the “tenent’s” name before he told me he was actually the “land lord.”  The funny thing is, about two minutes after I got off the phone with the “land lord” the original guy calls back, wanting to know if the “land lord” had called.  Of course, “they” were calling from the same number.  Not only that, but I had a note the guy had given me to proove something about a medical problem–guess whose hand-writting mached the “land lord’s” signiture on the back of the cleared check when it came back from the bank?   You got it.  The land lord and Mr. Suicidal were one and the same.  But that’s not the best part.  The best part is that about four months ago, I got a phone call, “Hello” I said as I picked up.  “Pastor, I was just wondering if it’s wrong for somebody to think about taking their own life…”  Oh Brother.  Same voice, same number (I keep records), using a different name–denied we had ever spoken.

There is such a thing as going to the same well once too often.

Mid-week random music play list

I just intalled a new plugin that should allow me to share specific tracks of music in my posts.  I’m trying that out in this one.  Here’s a few random songs.  Enjoy, and let me know if you encounter any problems.

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