Friday, December 27, 2013


Armistice is the cessation of conflict
wherein warring parties
agree to stop their attacks
and live in peace forever more.

Only an armistice will rescue
The Episcopal Church from the path
to organizational suicide
that it currently pursues.

This requires that TEC renounce
its vindictive campaign to seize
church properties built and paid for
by departing congregations.

The excuse has been that
these properties must be held
for remnant groups to build upon
in succeeding generations.

That has not happened.
Again and again we read stories
of former Episcopal churches
lying vacant and abandoned.

Or worse, becoming mosques
or temples of holiness for
Christian groups antithetical
to Episcopal values and beliefs.

In some Episcopal dioceses
a few parishes have successfully
negotiated terms of release which
could be the model nationwide.

Removing the public relations disaster
should be the first step by TEC
in recognizing and relating to its
Anglican rival in a Christian way.

The prelates of the Anglican Church
bear no stated ill will toward TEC,
but reject its erroneous policy of
deposing them from the clergy.

As part of the armistice,
the Anglican media in the U.S.
must cease its criticism of
the actions of The Episcopal Church.

Local Episcopal parishes,
like their Anglican counterparts
must be free of the dead hand
of diocesan command and control.

Becoming free of constraints,
individual parishes of either persuasion
will find appropriate ways to proclaim
the gospel to the people they serve.

This is the essential message of
"People of the Way" by Dwight Zscheile
subtitled:  "Renewing Episcopal Identity"
which our book group just studied.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Quest for the Historical Jesus

The quest for the historical Jesus
is an academic exercise that
has been going on since the 18th century,
according to Wikipedia.

The usual approach is that
the author has a hypothesis
about who Jesus really was,
which he elaborates upon.

Then he highlights passages
in the gospels which seem
to prove his point.
He ignores evidence to the contrary.

Then he adds material not connected
with Jesus that adds to his hypothesis.
He blames the church fathers for not
writing history as he sees it.

His book is published,
to great acclaim, because most people
would rather not believe that Jesus
was who he was, and did what he did.

Debunking the life of Jesus
is still a pastime of academics
in theological schools, who must
publish something to attain tenure.

Marcus Borg, Dominic Crossan, and
Bart Ehrman come to mind.  Then there
is the grand naysayer, former Episcopal
Bishop John Shelby Spong.

I prefer "The Gospel According to Biff,
Christ's Childhood Pal."  It's a lot of fun,
yet still respectful of Jesus,
And is admired by real believers.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Flotilla of Lifeboats

A mild-mannered, soft-spoken prelate
Gave an hour-long address recently to a
Small New England audience on
"How it all fits together."

Robert Duncan, Archbishop of the
Anglican Church in North America,
Described the genesis of his denomination
As a flotilla of lifeboats coming together.

To the outsider, the result is a
Crazy patchwork of parishes and dioceses
With little discernible organizational structure
And independent-minded members.

How does one herd the proverbial cats?
Not by direction, not by fiat from the top.
Only by recognition that they are all
Guided by the Holy Spirit in their actions.

Few of the parishes function in
Conventional church buildings
With pews, altars, stained glass
And deadening hoary history.

And that is because those parishes
That left The Episcopal Church
Were evicted from their buildings
By a vengeful leadership.

If you peruse the listings of
Parishes in ACNA, you will find
They rent quarters in public buildings
Or piggy-back other denominations.

An exception is the long-established
Reformed Episcopal Church in the U.S.A.
Which has been in existence since 1873
And brought in 150 parishes and missions.

ACNA now boasts over 100,000 members
In hundreds of congregations, but who's counting?
That's not the important thing,
It's the growth that is meaningful.

ACNA has a goal to plant 1000 new churches.
Its finances and structure are a mystery,
As is the specific role of its bishops
In vast dioceses across North America.

One is reminded of the early church
As depicted in Acts and the epistles.
No one quite knows how it will work out,
But the drive to serve is paramount.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013



Mary Matalin and James Carville
Are well-known political strategists
Who met and married after working
For opposing presidential candidates.

They continue to pursue separate careers
While raising their two daughters in New Orleans.
They appear together only occasionally.
They say they never talk politics at home.

How can this be?
Doesn't a strongly held position
Alienate oneself from civil discourse with
Those who are of different minds.

Perhaps the Carvilles simply respect each other's beliefs
And do not let differences harm their affections.
Does the holding of opposing views
Require disdain for the other party?

Have we reached the point in our society
Where expressing a definite position on a current topic
May be regarded as a hostile act --
Even prosecuted as a hate crime?

A dichotomy is a mutually exclusive set of opinions.
Are those who hold opinions unable to, or forbidden
To try to understand the logic and the passion
Of their opponents in public debate?

We need to respect the opinions of others
Even if we cannot agree with them.
Out of respect comes tolerance,
Rather than hatred and verbal abuse.

Divergent opinion on hot button issues
Such as abortion or gay marriage
Can never be reconciled in compromise,
But they can be tolerated in the larger whole.

(Otherwise we experience the schism
That split our beloved church into
Two separate Anglican denominations
That can never be recombined.)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Christian Books II

Mary Eberstadt has written the definitive book
On the reasons for the decline in church attendance
At mainline Christian denominations in the classical "West,"
Entitled:  "How the West Really Lost God."

The title is a misnomer, probably dreamed up
By a publisher attempting to promote readership.
The subtitle is:  "A New Theory of Secularization,"
Which at least focuses on the principal conclusion.

And that is:  The decline of the traditional family
Has led directly to the decline of religious practice.
She sees the two as symbiotic, using the
Double helix of DNA as a metaphor.

She blames the sexual revolution, and all its manifestations,
And what is quaintly known as "womens' liberation"
As the proximate causes of church failure,
Without denigrating the merits of either social change.

This a scholarly work, bristling with references
That are carefully footnoted by chapter at the end.
But it is also an easy read, intelligible to anyone
With a modicum of education and interest in society.

Mrs. Eberstadt, wife, mother, and Roman Catholic
Critiques just about every relevant study of note.
She proves the universal fact about social science
Is that none of the applicable theories can be proven.

In the National Review of July 15, 2013,
W. Bradford Wilcox summarizes the book neatly.
Neither he nor the author propose any quick solution
Given the expanding trend of family dissolution.

One omitted element, which seems trivial at first,
Are the overwhelming demands on the time of two-earner parents.
Making church attendance a requisite for their children
Means giving up much of their unstructured time.

Eberstadt blames the mainline churches for retreating
From the proclamation of a moral code to their parishioners.
Perhaps they do not wish to chase anyone out of church,
Whereas fundamental churches center their faith upon it.

Neither Eberstadt nor Wilcox see a reversal anytime soon
In the "declining cultural and practical power of strong families."
And yet Eberstadt herself in a brief piece in First Things
Forecasts the possibility of reaction to the excesses of society.

Meanwhile, at our little church of modest means,
We cherish and praise the young parents in any family situation.
Our assistant pastor has revived the church school
To the point where it attracts more of them to regular attendance.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Community, Not Theology

A dear friend passed away last month
From Parkinson's disease.
He and his wife were our close friends
Until my wife died ten years ago.

When their older son died,
I suggested that they look for solace
In a church that offered "community,"
Relegating theology to later consideration.

So they joined the First Parish in Brewster
Where they found community
By plunging into church activities.
My friend managed the reconstruction
  of the historic meetinghouse.

The little church in which I now worship
Lost a third of the congregation to
  theological disputes.
It took our new pastor nearly four years
To rebuild a spirit of community.

Does that mean theology is not important?
Certainly not, but it does mean that
Splitting hairs about biblical interpretation
Results in conflicts that cannot be resolved.

Only God knows what is just and what is true.
A Christian denomination that stands on
Certain beliefs to the exclusion of everything else
Has arrogated to itself exclusive revelation
  from God.

The strength of the Anglican Communion
Has always been tolerance of diverse views
And different ways of worship among the
"High Church" and "Low Church" factions.

As Robin Williams has supposedly said:
"No matter what you believe,
You can always find one Episcopalian
Who agrees with you!"

To The Episcopal Church in the U.S.A., I wrote:
"You cannot force beliefs from the top down."
To the Anglican Church in North America, I wrote:
"You cannot build a church on being against something."

I have been to each, and survived by
Refusing to engage in theological debate,
Nor making my personal views known,
Instead, listening to what others reveal.

I have found godly people in each camp
And in churches that espouse no strong beliefs.
The principle that guides success for a church
Is respect for each person's discovery of faith.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Choral Works

The Outer Cape Chorale recently gave a concert,
"21st Century Choral Masterpieces,"
Featuring segments or short works by
Contemporary composers of choral pieces.

Choral works may be unknown to the general public,
But to the thousands of choirs and chorales,
They are the staff of life, so many of
Their composers are known to such groups.

Most choral composers are music professors
And conductors of their works to audiences.
A few have received broad recognition
And critical prizes and awards.

Wikipedia search will bring up the biographies of
Morton Lauridsen, Arvo Part, John Rutter,
Eric Whitacre, and Z. Randall Stroope.
Who are almost entirely choral composers.

Stephen Paulus and Frank Tichelli are
Multi-faceted, composing orchestral works as well.
Also featured on the program described above were
Selections from Abbie Betinis and Gyneth Walker.

Two rising young stars, to use an old expression,
Are Ola Gjeilo and Kentaro Sato, whose
Breadth and depth of composition astonish.
See their websites for their extensive repertoire.

The internet has made these composers
Commercially savvy in their activities.
CDs and sheet music are available directly
From their sites or from subscription sources.

To this Anglican Witness, choral works are
One of the three great pillars of our worship,
The others being the exalted language of the prayers,
And the interaction of celebrant and congregants.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Habemus Papem

Let us wish them well with their new pope.
He seems to be a nice enough fellow,
Sort of like a pillar of a small town.
Too bad he's another old guy.

The retiring pope was a tottering old man,
Too frail to tackle the problems of his church.
The RC's needed a dynamic CEO to
Bang heads, fire people, clean house.

The hierarchy resists change
But change forces itself upon them.
If your congregations are restless and diminishing,
What do you throw out to keep them?

They deep-sixed both limbo and purgatory,
They translated the liturgy into common tongues,
They introduced insipid praise songs,
And they no longer heard confessions in a phone booth.

None of this compensated for the hideous history
Of sexual predation by the parish clergy.
The RC resistance to abortion and gay unions
Sounded sanctimonious and hypocritical.

Two forces will break down the walls
Of the medieval Roman Catholic Church,
Which will be resisted bitterly by the old guard
As destructive of whatever they stand for.

Catholic priests must be allowed to marry,
Have children, and be normal human beings.
Women must be admitted to the priesthood
As full and equal in all offices.

A book and recent articles by George Weigel
Ruminate upon the church becoming more evangelical,
By encouraging the faithful to study the bible,
And forge a closer bond with Jesus.

Maybe that also means giving up on goddess worship
Which is what the Catholic emphasis on Mary has become.
Maybe that also means accepting the existence of
Contradictory lay views on social and behavioral issues.

One has to admire the Catholic faithful
Who have stuck with their church, though
Their voices have been squelched and
Lay participation in governance forbidden.