Sunday, November 16, 2014

Anglican Evangelicals

We know who we are
even though we may not be
completely clear as to what 
an evangelical is or does.

Basically, we try to reach
the unchurched, to bring them
to the saving grace of Christ
and enlist them in His service.

Anglican Evangelicals do not
have a named church as such.
We worship in a variety of
Christian churches everywhere.

The distinguishing feature is our
heritage in the great history of 
The Church of England and its
Anglican and Episcopal successors.

Thus our doctrines are an 
amalgam of catholic and 
reformation theology, bent to
suit out worldly outlook.

Thanks to a simplistic reading
of the writings of Richard Hooker,
we value reason and tradition in
interpreting the revelations of the bible.

Individual salvation is our 
primary goal for all, to be
attained through example,
exhortation, and education.

Outreach, the good works
of modern culture, is secondary
to the fulfillment of the 
Great Commission in our actions.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Four Little Churches

Four little churches in a
large Episcopal diocese
are in  transition, searching
for the next rector.

None of them have 
sufficient means to pay the
compensation for clergy
required by the diocese.

The diocesan consultsants
recommend that each church
withdraw large sums from 
endowed funds to cover.

Inasmuch as the attendance and
collections at each church have 
been declining for years, there
is little chance of replenishment.

The diocese pursues two aims:
Keep clergy employed while
insuring that the assessments
continue to flow to the diocese.

The consultants have suggested
paying only 3/4 of the prescribed
compensation for clergypersons
but retaining full assessments.

Faced with little prospect
of expanding their congregations,
the little churches will eventually
run out of endowed funds.

When this happens, and the
church closes its doors, the
remaining assets and buildings
revert to the diocese.

Not only does the church vanish,
but the buildings which the 
people paid for over the years
are sold on the open market.

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Sin of Omission

You may not rewrite the Bible.
you may disagree with a passage,
you may question its applicability,
but you may not remove it.

Biblical scholars are always careful
to footnote the provenance of a
questionable story such as the meeting
of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well.

But they never say something
was never written or never said;
that someone must have added
it at a later time for selfish reasons.

We react negatively to a passage
that is ludicrous in our time,
such as Paul's admonition to women
to keep veiled and silent in church.

Therefore, that particular segment
is omitted from the daily lectionary
of The Episcopal Church in the
1979 Book of Common Prayer.

All of Romans is read daily in the
Year One except verses 26 and 27
of Chapter One, which details sins
deserving the Wrath of God..

In the 1928 Book of Common Prayer,
only the first half of Romans One
is accessed, leaving the Wrath of God
prevented from harming delicate sensibilities.

Thus we must conclude that
sins of omission are perpetrated
by the pious souls who decide for us
what we may read from the bible.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Christian Education

Christian Education

J.I. Packer, renowned evangelist, and
Gary Parrett have put together
an exhaustive prescription for
reviving the practice of catechesis.
(Grounded in the Gospel, Baker Books, 2010)

Catechesis is a forgotten word
meaning instruction in the Christian religion,
comprising basic principles for beginners,
and deeper exploration for the faithful.

A better term for inquirers
would simply be:  Christian Education..
The authors are accurate in that
it has become a neglected practice.

Where it is a dominant feature
of a Christian parish life,
people are drawn further into
following Christ's teaching.

Survey after survey concludes
that young people are interested
in hearing and learning tough stuff
when they consider joining a church.

Praise songs and feel-good messages
do not prepare them for facing
the choices and obstacles they
encounter from demands of today.

Packer and Parrett emphasize using
the gospels to teach the faith because
that is what they were written for
in the early years of Christianity.

Sermons from the pulpit of Sunday
are useful adjuncts to education,
but are not substitutes for the
focus and depth of organized teaching.

Christian pastors were once expected
to teach, and some still do, but more
often we see education in the faith
as a specialized ministry.

Christian education should be
a feature of Sunday attendance,
as well as weekly programs
for small groups in homes.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

On Latitudinarianism

During the seventeenth century,
a number of Anglican divines
sought to combine faith and reason
into a comprehensive doctirne.

They were pilloried for having
too wide a latitude in their search,
going back to Plato's philosophy,
hence the term, "latitudinarianism."

While forgotten today as a movement,
that struggle permeates theology today.
The bible simply does not provide
a guide for all of life's vicissitudes.

In the drive to abolish slavery,
Wilberforce and company had to
counter the acceptance of that
evil in recorded biblical times.

Their ultimate argument rested
upon the great commandment
to do under others as you would
have them do unto you.

Unfortunately, such a simple order
fails to resolve those social issues
in which it may be used by both
sides to support their positions.

Some Christian denominations
have built their theology entirely
around a hard and fast doctrine
that brooks no exception.

And yet we all stand up in
church and recite the creeds
together without question as
to their validity and application.

Why can't we all be latter day
latitudinarians, and accept the
differences among us on issues
for which the bible is silent?

Friday, February 28, 2014

Lovely People

On a guided tour to Devon and
Cornwall, we were booked one
night into a seaside hotel on the
shore of the dull grey Irish Sea.

Before dinner, we had a cocktail
near one of those bay windows
in which the British like to sit
whilst observing the drab scenery.

In one bay was an elderly couple
we labeled Winston and Clementine.
They engaged us in a chat asking
whence we came on the trip.

"Is Cape Cod near Florida?"
"No, it is on the Atlantic shore,
but a thousand miles north
of the east coast of Florida,"

"I spent a fortnight in Pensacola,
learning to fly the PBY.
I flew it for the rest of the war,
spotting U-boats near harbors."

After this conversation, we heard
the call for dinner for our group.
On the way to our table, Clementine
remarked to Winston, "lovely people!"

Lovely people once filled the pews
of Episcopal churches, in order
to worship God, be thankful for
His gifts, and visit with their friends.

Although snobbery is surely one of
the defining Episcopal sins, along
with pride, arrogance, and indifference,
it was never committed with malice.

These lovely people always behaved
graciously toward those not like them,
but it did not occur to them to try to
make friends with outsiders.

They simply assumed that different
people would be happy in churches
where they could accompany people
of similar circumstances in worship.

Episcopalians were usually the movers
and shakers of a community,
committed to performing good works
from the top down, so to speak.

Someone recently posted that the snobs
have all fled to the Anglican churches,
leaving the riff-raff and unwanted to
the continuing Episcopal bodies.

Not so, the lovely people simply
faded away like old soldiers,
leaving their names never to be
removed from phantom congregations.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Cardinal and the Lady

The particulars of their encounter
are unimportant, but the picture
of the two has sent shock waves
around religious circles.

She is a Methodist minister;
he is an archbishop and cardinal.
She wears an alb and a stole;
he is clad in a Friar Tuck robe.

She looks like a middle-aged mom.
He is a little leprechaun
with white chin whiskers
and a red beanie on his head.

His appearance belies his toughness.
He cleaned up the pedophile mess,
closed declining ethnic churches,
and crushed a laity revolt in his see.

In the ecumenical service they attended,
he spoke and anointed persons present.
Then he paused and asked her
to anoint him, that is to bless him.

What prompted his request?
Was it a planned gesture of fellowship
of a spontaneous, seize the moment,
recognition of another godly person?

Perhaps he was influenced
by the actions of the new pope
to relate to people at their level
and humanize the Catholic clergy.

He has said nothing about the incident.
She said that she was moved to tears
by his request, as recognizing
the holy orders that she possesses.

All the women of my acquaintance
have reacted to the picture with praise
and joy for what it represents,
whatever that may be, now or later.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

People of the Way

Anglicans and Episcopalians should read
"People of the Way," by the Rev. Dwight J. Zscheile
even though the author does not quite fulfill
the subtitle, "Renewing Episcopal Identity."

He spends a good deal of print chronicling
the demise of the "Establishment" Episcopal church,
that was the worship site for country club members
and the movers and shakers of a local community.

The author proposes a "mission" church
which directs its offerings to all residents.
He details how some Episcopal parishes
Have found unique ways to serve their congregants.

Carefully avoiding being ensnared in
the theological thicket that divides
the Anglican Communion, Zscheile argues
for autonomy of action at the parish level.

He proposes that "local churches become
the primary centers of mission and that
dioceses be the the means of networking
those churches into a collaborative whole."

Thus the command and control mode of
organization in The Episcopal Church would
be replaced by the "flotilla of lifeboats"
strategy of the Anglican Church in North America.

Rev. Zscheile is not so bold as to advocate
revolution within the Episcopal ranks.
Rather, he sees local parishes as needing
to be innovative in order to survive.

That does not really establish an "identity"
for a denomination which has relied on a
"progressive" set of beliefs to attract and
hold a significant number of new members.