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Back to Church Sunday was September 27, 2009.  Whilst this annual attempt to bring back lapsed churchgoers is primarily a UK initiative, this year Canada’s Anglican Church launched it in a big way.

Back to Church Sunday Tony Bock Toronto StarPictured at left is Bishop Linda Nicholls issuing invitations in front of Toronto’s Union Station, which, like many other stations in a metropolis, is packed with commuters.  Some are stressed, some are sarky, some are dog tired.  So, it  takes a certain amount of guts for four bishops to gently greet the public in episcopal attire with a warm smile and an invitation to … church!

I give the bishops a lot of credit in being so up-front about it.  I wonder what would happen if they tried this in the UK.  I’m sure it would offend someone. 

Anyway, The Toronto Star covered the story — excerpts follow:

Most who stopped to chat with the bishops seemed to be regular churchgoers already. Making his way from Whitby to Bay Street via GO Train, Gerald Godinho stopped to debate with Bishop Linda Nicholls about ordaining gay and lesbian priests, a contentious issue that has led various international Anglican Communion members to threaten fissure from the central church.

He said he has invited a friend with him to Carruther Creek Community Church in the past. ‘A single friend of mine, about a year back,’ Gondinho said. ‘I introduced him to the pastor of our youth group and I think he liked it. He lives downtown, so I set him up with Meeting House in Toronto.’

Chartered accountant Bruce Armstrong exclaimed happily at running into Bishop Philip Poole-the two sang in the choir together at Wilfrid Laurier University, back when the school was known as Waterloo Lutheran.

‘I’ve got a spring in my step this morning,’ said Armstrong, who still sings in the choir at his current church, Armour Heights Presbyterian in north Toronto.

A cynic would say they were preaching to the converted.  That may be, but it’s always a good idea to get in touch with the public in a bold way.  I hope they found it worthwhile enough to repeat the exercise next year.

H/T: Anglican Samizdat

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Fetus 20weeks080509I’ve been trying to find this film ever since the inauguration.  If you have pro-choice friends who support President Obama’s views on life, ask them to watch this advert dated January 18, 2009.  Don’t worry — it’s only a minute or so long — but it should give them pause for thought.  It’s the one that CNN and NBC turned down.

If that starts bringing them around, why not share this file with them entitled ‘Forced Abortions in America’ from the Elliot Institute?  In it are short news stories of the most horrible abortion-related crimes from boyfriends, husband and family members.  There are 22 pages of unbelievably shocking material.  Please make sure that you share this with men as well as women.  After all, it takes two …

This is not for people of a sensitive disposition.

Here are the headlines:

64% of abortions involve coercion, which can be violent: men jumping on women’s stomachs, forcing injections of abortifacients on them and transporting them against their will to abortion clinics.  

65% of women suffer trauma and they are at seven times more likely to commit suicide, because of lack of counselling, undergoing abortions against their wills or suffering violence in connection with their pregnancy.

Reasons for coercive abortions (my term): in 95% of cases, the male partner played a decisive role. Some women were uninformed as to what would happen once in the clinic and also lacked support from their families.  School officials are also guilty of getting young girls to abort but, perhaps surprisingly, so are pastors!  

Gruesome stories you just couldn’t make up:

A 13-year old abused by her 23-year old foster brother was told by her Planned Parenthood counsellor that she would ‘look back on the whole episode and laugh’.  The second time she ended up pregnant and returned to the clinic, a judge found Planned Parenthood negligent.  The foster brother was sentenced to prison and lifetime probation.

A 36-year old man posed as the father of the 16-year old he was abusing and took to an Omaha abortion clinic. 

Nine detainees in a juvenile detention centre for young women filed a lawsuit claiming that male prison guards beat and pressured them into having sexual relations — along with subsequent abortions.  This had allegedly been going on for 20 years. 

A man from New Mexico had been sexually abusing a young woman from the time she was seven years old.  The two knew each other from the days when the girl had been living in Mexico.  The man threatened to kill her if she told anyone.  Upon becoming pregnant, he drove her to a Planned Parenthood clinic.  When he saw it was shut, he punched her in the stomach, causing her to miscarry.

A New York physician forcibly injected his girlfriend with an abortifacient on the ground near a hospital carpark.  She later gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

 

Sadly, there are many more episodes in the document.  Please share with those who support you in the pro-life fight as well as with those who remain unconvinced.  Abortion can be criminal.  It is not a clean, tidy, middle-class affair.

EarthAs a follow-up to my post of September, 21, 2009, on evolution and the LCMS position, Cyberbrethren‘s Pastor McCain has added another post, entitled ‘How Old Is the Earth? The LCMS Does Not Answer That Question‘.  Whilst this is unrelated to my own, as it is dated September 18, 2009, I shall reproduce parts of the post and the comments it received.

Getting to the heart of the matter, Pastor McCain clarifies the LCMS position neatly in a comment to reader Michael Mapus here (emphasis mine):

Let’s not compare belief in a 6,000 year old earth with belief in the Resurrection. The Scriptures testify explicitly to the Resurrection, but they nowhere tell us the earth is 6,000 years old. This is precisely one of the point of this post. Many, even LCMS Lutherans, assume we have embraced some of the popular tenets of American Fundamentalism, at least as it is popularly understood. In fact, we do not.

Now, back to the post itself.  Here are the main points, although it is worth reading both it and the comments in their entirety:

– The LCMS has no doctrinal position on the age of the Earth.

– The LCMS is not a fundamentalist church.

– The reason it does not take a position on the age of the Earth is that the Bible does not state how old our planet is. 

– The LCMS does not believe in a total literal interpretation of the Bible, however, the Bible — not man — determines at what points it should be read literally, e.g. Adam and Eve.

– The LCMS Synod believes there can be ‘no actual contradiction between genuine scientific truth and the Bible’.

– It is possible to harmonise Biblical teaching with scientific knowledge, ‘e.g. God created the world in an already ‘mature’ state, so that scientific ‘data’ lead one to the conclusion that it is older than it actually is’.  

The LCMS Synod affirms that:

‘God by the almighty power of His Word created all things in six days by a series of creative acts,’ that ‘Adam and Eve were real, historical human beings, the first two people in the world,’ and that ‘we must confess what St. Paul says in Romans 5:12‘ about the origin of sin through Adam as described in Genesis 3 (1967 Synodical Resolution 2-31). The Synod has also, therefore, stated that it rejects ‘all those world views, philosophical theories, exegetical interpretations and other hypotheses which pervert these biblical teachings and thus obscure the Gospel’ (1967 Synodical Resolution 2-31).

Pastor McCain gives reasons for the LCMS’s hesitancy to give the age of the earth and evolution a simple yes or no answer here:

What does a person wanting to nail down a specific age of the earth have to say about a six day creation of the world, a real, historical and factual Adam and Eve as the first human beings created by a direct act of God, as recorded in Genesis, and a real, factual, historic fall into sin, etc. In other words, I’d want to explore fully what is animating any assertion about an age of the earth and what else comes along with it, either as cause, or result, of a conviction about the age of the earth.

That makes sense and sounds better than the Synod’s statement, which, hmm, seems to support my original post. As one of the commenters said there, there’s a ‘culture war battlefield’ between the ELCA and LCMS on interpretation. Back to Pastor McCain: He’s not saying a pastor would tell you not to believe in evolution but he would wish to explore your logic and reasons for wanting to believe it in light of other episodes that Genesis 1 contains: Adam and Eve, their fall and Original Sin.

Bible ourhomewithgodcomHere is another forbidden Bible passage — the type you seldom hear in church anymore.  Not only is this one probably forbidden — it’s pretty forbidding, too.  Today’s reading comes from the King James Version.

Past forbidden passages have featured Psalm 12, Psalm 15, Romans 1:16-32, 1 Corinthians 6:9-20 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-14.

1 Chronicles 10:1-14

 1Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell down slain in mount Gilboa.

 2And the Philistines followed hard after Saul, and after his sons; and the Philistines slew Jonathan, and Abinadab, and Malchishua, the sons of Saul.

 3And the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers hit him, and he was wounded of the archers.

 4Then said Saul to his armourbearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and abuse me. But his armourbearer would not; for he was sore afraid. So Saul took a sword, and fell upon it.

 5And when his armourbearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise on the sword, and died.

 6So Saul died, and his three sons, and all his house died together.

 7And when all the men of Israel that were in the valley saw that they fled, and that Saul and his sons were dead, then they forsook their cities, and fled: and the Philistines came and dwelt in them.

 8And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his sons fallen in mount Gilboa.

 9And when they had stripped him, they took his head, and his armour, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to carry tidings unto their idols, and to the people.

 10And they put his armour in the house of their gods, and fastened his head in the temple of Dagon.

 11And when all Jabeshgilead heard all that the Philistines had done to Saul,

 12They arose, all the valiant men, and took away the body of Saul, and the bodies of his sons, and brought them to Jabesh, and buried their bones under the oak in Jabesh, and fasted seven days.

 13So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the LORD, even against the word of the LORD, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to enquire of it;

 14And enquired not of the LORD: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.

 

When men are in a position of leadership, such as Saul, they have a responsibility to obey God’s laws and commands.  This story of Saul’s final moments is a cautionary tale. 

Leaders, like Saul, are not the only ones to suffer when they disobey God.  They also put at risk the lives of their people, as we see in verse 1.  It wasn’t that the Israelites were blameless in the run-up to this war, but God was particularly displeased with Saul.  And it was his sin that counted most.

Note in verses 2 and 3, that the Philistines are in the thick of battle against the Israelites.  They kill Saul’s sons, Jonathan, Abinadab and Malchishua. Then Saul himself is wounded. 

In verse 4, Saul asks his armourbearer to kill him to avoid further injury by ‘these uncircumcised’ — non-Jews.  As his armourbearer is too frightened to obey his master’s command, Saul kills himself — ‘falls on his sword’. 

Verse 6 notes that Saul and his lineage are now finished.  His other family members are alive, although there would be no further descendants through the male line. 

In verse 7, the Israelites discover that Saul and his sons are dead.  They flee and the Philistines take over the land.  Rejoicing, the Philistines gather Saul’s armour and his head and show it to their people and their idols.  Meanwhile, a few brave Israelites quickly remove Saul’s body and those of his sons to bury reverently.  In accordance with Jewish law, they fast. 

Saul died because of his earlier rebellion against God, which also cost him his lineage. He did not obey God’s command sincerely or completely (stay tuned for next week’s post). Neither did he ask for His help reverently.  Therefore, through the war against Philistines, God saw fit to end Saul’s life through suicide.  And that is how the kingdom of David began.  

We, too, must remember to praise God, to worship Him, to give sincere thanks for the many blessings He bestows upon us.  We must never forget God in our daily lives, or we, too, may end up going the way of Saul.  To put it more positively, if we stay true to God and the commandments that He and Jesus established for us, we stand to inherit the eternal Kingdom. 

Find out more about Saul next Sunday and why God was angry.
To read more about this week’s passage, click here and here.

CB064044Yesterday’s post explained what a Spiritual Director (SD) is and gave an idea of what can be expected when you engage one.

Today’s post lists places which offer spiritual direction. Remember — there is a dearth of SDs at the moment, so you might need to be patient.  Please note that some sites listed below also offer retreats. 

Australia

– Victoria – ecumenical: Uniting Church in Australia

– Nationwide – various denominations, including Catholic: Australian Ecumenical Council for Spiritual Direction

Canada

– Calgary – ecumenical: FCJ Christian Life Centre – aimed at women

England

– Home Counties – Anglican: SPIDIR

– Sussex – Anglican: Diocese of Chichester

New Zealand

– Nationwide – various denominations: Association of Christian Spiritual Directors

United States

– California – Catholic: University of San Francisco

– Colorado – Catholic / Episcopal: Sisters of St Benedict – Denver, Grand Junction, Colorado Springs

– Colorado – Episcopal: Cursillo in Ridgway – run by laypeople

– Colorado – Episcopal: Diocese of Colorado

– Delaware – Catholic: Diocese of Wilmington – scroll to bottom of page

– Illinois – Catholic: St Thomas the Apostle Church – Naperville

– Indiana – Catholic: University of Notre Dame

– Kansas – ecumenical: Tallgrass Spiritual Retreat Center – Matfield Green – aimed at women

– Minnesota – ecumenical: David Rothstein, PhD – St Paul

– Minnesota – Catholic: College of St Benedict and St John’s University

– Nebraska – United Church of Christ: Countryside Community Church – Omaha

– New York – Catholic: Diocese of Syracuse

– Oregon – ecumenical: Sacred Path Ministry – Eugene

– Pennsylvania (Eastern) – Catholic: Franciscan Spiritual Center – Aston

– Pennsylvania – Episcopal: St Paul’s Chestnut Hill

– Texas – Catholic: St Mary’s Catholic Center – College Station

– Texas – Catholic: Oblate Renewal Center – St Antonio

– Texas – Episcopal: Diocese of Texas

– Virginia – Catholic: Arlington Cursillo

– Washington State – ecumenical: CFDM Pacific Northwest

Of course, this is just what I could find in a search of a few hours.  So, please contact your priest or local retreat centre to see if they can give you any leads. Failing that, you can always go on a 34-week online (Catholic) retreat through Creighton University.

God speaks pinkerwjhharvardeduMany people today are looking for focus in their spiritual lives.  This comes when a person attends church, prays, reads the Bible yet wants an added extra something to help them grow personally.

In such cases, a spiritual director (SD — my abbreviation, not theirs, by the way) can help.  St Josemaria Escriva described an SD as ‘a director for your soul’.  Writing for CatholiCity, Fr John McCloskey explains:

You may have several or even many during the course of your life. He will provide you the answer to your many questions as our circumstances change and as we grow ‘in wisdom and grace’.

… One would search with great difficulty throughout history to find canonized saints who did not receive regular spiritual direction. After all, even our Blessed Mother, the Immaculate Conception herself, found her vocation through the words of the Archangel Gabriel. And even she asked how this might come about.

Finding a Spiritual Director

Father McCloskey advises asking your more spiritually-developed friends if they have an SD.  If they do, ask them for a referral.  Philip St Romain, in his Handbook for Spiritual Growth, advises asking your parish priest for recommendations or phoning a nearby retreat house for spiritual direction. You can also become a lay associate of a religious order, since the religious community will offer spiritual formation as part of their programme for you and other laypeople.  (Specifics will be in the next post.)

It is important to note the following about SDs:

– They may be laypeople, religious or ordained.  When he was still a layman, Pope John Paul II’s first SD was a tailor.

– Look for faithfulness to your church’s teachings, along with exceptional piety, wisdom, prayerfulness and maturity. 

– They do not necessarily need to be certified SDs, although it may help if they are, because they will understand Christian mysticism and psychological development. 

– They may be trained in the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius.

– They are more than just a ‘big buddy’ on your spiritual journey. 

– They are normally in spiritual direction themselves and have also worked through challenges in their own lives.

– They are not psychotherapists, and they may or may not be trained counsellors. They are also not confessors.  Nor are they your parents!

– They are not gurus but enlightened pilgrims on the same journey as you.

Evaluating a Spiritual Director

Choose more than one initially and perform ‘due diligence’ on them.  Ask them about the points mentioned above.  See how they mesh with your personality and your needs.  Your best friend’s SD might not necessarily be right for you!  

On your first meeting, say that you would like an initial consultation.  Explain why you are looking for an SD.  Ask them how they can help.  Ask them about their qualifications, experience and so forth — the points in the aforementioned section.  Ask them what sort of programme they might propose for you.  It may be more structured or more fluid, depending on their style. Don’t decide immediately at the end of the conversation whether they are right for you.  Thank them and tell them you’ll be in touch once you have decided. Once your consultation is over, think about how that relationship would potentially work for you. Be sure to follow up with those who have met with you for a consultation. 

Ask how much the sessions cost. Sometimes they are free of charge. Generally, however, you will need to make some payment or, in the case of religious or ordained SDs, a donation to their church or religious order. The sessions are usually reasonably priced, perhaps $40 a time.  If you really would like SD but cannot afford the outlay, ask them if you can make another arrangement — perhaps pay less or barter (e.g. donation of skills in repairs or gardening).  You never know!

What happens in Spiritual Direction?

Generally, you and your SD meet once a fortnight but at least once a month.  You also are likely to:

– Get to know one another in the first few sessions.

– Reveal aspects of your life and thoughts from the start, maintaining honesty in all your sessions.

– Avoid game-playing with the SD.

– Set ground rules and expectations from the start — these are likely to come from each of you.

– Delve into your personality type more than you have before — at least in a different way.

– Receive spiritual exercises to practice or assignments to complete between sessions — prayer, Bible readings, keeping a journal.

– Discuss your marriage, relationships, family and work.

– Discuss spiritual failings that might be preventing you from moving closer to God.

This may sound daunting — and at times it can be — but if you are serious about your relationship with God and wish to move forward with spiritual direction, be prepared to transform your life. 

For more information, please read the articles cited at the top of the post.

Tomorrow: SDs near you

This is my faith; this I know, and no one shall wrest it from me

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 38 [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971], pp. 224-25)

j0255559Would you — could you — defend your faith?

With the increase in anti-Christian news stories and commentary in the West, initially European, but increasingly American and Australian, we have to decide how we will defend our faith.  A Jewish comedian, Jackie Mason, asks if it is now a crime to be a Christian.  You can see his very short stand-up routine here (place your cursor over the screen without clicking until you get to the August 20, 2009 video, then click to view). 

One of Churchmouse Campanologist‘s regular readers, Cinzia, wrote the Australian daily newspaper, The Age, to comment on the columns of a lapsed Catholic, Catherine Deveny, who enjoys attacking the Church.  Her robust letter to the editor reads as follows (in part):

Dear Sirs

I am appalled by Catherine Deveny’s anti-Catholic article published in the Age on 12 August 2009 (Title: Pew, that was a lucky escape) and by your role in spreading this anti-Catholic commentary.

I am also very disappointed that you ignored the fact that her vile and spiteful words would certainly offend Catholics all over Australia, and I am sure that faithful of the other Christian communities have also been deeply offended.  Christians, who are taught to turn the other cheek, are an easy target, and mocking them and their deeply held convictions is a cowardly act, plain and simple.

I notice you have terms and conditions that apply to all readers who wish to have ‘their say’ and post comments on blogs – the rules essentially say:   Comments that are offensive, defamatory, unsuitable or that breach other aspects of the terms will be deleted.

Rules of this kind apply universally and under all circumstances by decent people.  Even when there are no written rules, human beings with any intelligence and decency  follow a golden ‘unwritten’ law in terms of how to respect and consider other people and their beliefs.  

How is it then that Catherine Deveny alone is considered to be ‘above’ these rules and is allowed to publish such offensive material on a regular basis?  I have seen other articles by her.  She seems to take every opportunity to vilify the Catholic Church (see for another example her article dated 28 May 2008 titled ‘Easter? Oh wake me when it’s over.’) And how is it that The Age doesn’t adhere to its own rules by way of example?

Sure enough, we’re all sinners, some more, some less, and weak as all human beings. 

… By what she writes, Ms Deveny displays absolute ignorance on matters of faith, religion and the Catholic Church.  An example of this is her “repeat like a parrot”  talk of pedophile priests which in reality constitute a very small MINORITY among the Catholic priesthood.   She chooses to ignore the REAL facts – one of them being, for example,  that thousands of Catholic priests the world over live a highly moral  life dedicated to helping others, materially and spiritually.

While I do not dispute that Ms Deveny has an absolute right to express her opinions, what good can really be achieved with such offensive language and hurtful words?

… The Catholic religion will continue to foster faith, forgiveness, respect and goodness throughout our world – and maybe that’s a lesson Ms. Deveny can learn from, as a start.

Cinzia also sent a copy to the Archbishop Hart of the Archdiocese of Melbourne with a cover letter, which began:

Dear Archbishop Hart

Here below, for your information, is copy of a letter I sent to The Age in response to the journalist Catherine Deveny’s appalling article which appeared under the ‘Opinions’ section on 12 August.

My question to you is this:  Does the Archdiocese ever respond to such articles?  or do they just get ignored?  Surely as Catholics and followers of Christ, we should have the courage to stand up against such vilification and stand up to our faith?  What do you, as leader of the Catholic Church in Melbourne, do about these kinds of things?  This particular columnist no doubt has a deeply rooted hatred for the Catholic Church …

Unfortunately, the Archbishop doesn’t seem to respond to newspaper editorials or letters from concerned Catholics.  But, that doesn’t matter — the fight must go on, with or without clergy or their representatives who, rightly, should be taking the floor and aren’t, for whatever reason

Speaking of which, in March I attended a Lenten talk given by our area’s Member for Parliament (MP) on being Christian in an increasingly secular world.  He’s a nice guy and gave a good talk, but when we asked him what could be done with regard to all the anti-Christian rhetoric we heard on the news and read in the papers, he said to write in to those organisations.  Was our MP going to help us?  ‘Well, no, I won’t be able to do that.  That’s your job as Christians.’   Maybe he figures if he speaks up for Christians, he will need to do the same for every other faith; he didn’t say.  People then said that they had written in to the BBC and newspapers, but to no avail.  His response was, ‘If enough of you write in, your message will get through.’  We’ll see.  There were clergy present, but, as in Cinzia’s case, they weren’t as upset as we were.  Still, we’re not deterred — we’ll keep hammering away in a polite, persuasive manner.

In the US Fox News Channel’s Glenn Beck had the courage to read a Bible passage on stage at the Washington, DC Tea Party.  A first-person account from a woman who was scheduled to speak at a local  Tea Party on September 12, recounted her experience and inspiration from Beck.  Victoria Jackson wrote the following for Andrew Breitbart’s Big Hollywood:

Liz:  …  Did you see Glenn Beck today?

Me:  The protest sign in the Washington D.C. crowd that said Ephesians 6:12? *

Liz:  Yeah!

Me:  I looked it up!  And, right while I was reading it, Glenn Beck said, kind of apologizing, ‘I don’t usually do this…ya know, read the Bible on the air…but…’

Liz:  I know!  He read it! 

Me:  He read the Bible on the air! 

Me:  I wish I had a Bible.  I should read that Psalm 12 thing in my speech.

Liz:  I think I have a Bible in the car…(she looks around and finds one in the glove compartment!)

She has one! 

… We get to the Federal Building.  It is a beautiful California day.  Lots of American flags are flapping against the blue sky… I have Liz’s Bible stuck in the waistband of my jeans because my hands are holding two protest signs.

I start thinking about whether or not to read the Bible in my speech.  Why am I afraid to? 

This is not a Liberal crowd.  Liberals would not approve of Bibles being read in public.  They took them out of the schools and are trying to get “In God We Trust” and “One Nation Under God” taken off of our money, and out of the Pledge of Allegiance…  

All decisions and most political issues all come down to whether you are FOR GOD or AGAINST GOD. 

The reason Liberals-Communists-Atheists don’t like Bibles is because they do not want the competition.  ‘No man can serve two masters…’  Matthew 6:24.  You cannot worship God and the State.  You must choose one. 

As I stood in front of the sea of faces, flags, and signs, I opened my mouth and let my heart speak.  I saw myself digging the Bible out of my waistband and holding it up in the air.  I heard my mouth saying, ‘I always took my freedom for granted.  My freedom to worship.  This is the next thing Obama is going to try to take away from us.  Newly appointed Cass Sunstein’s agenda is to stop conservative/Christian talk radio and TV and Internet …’ 

At the end of my speech I said, ‘Psalm 12 says…’  Right then, I was given the ‘Wrap It Up’ sign.  I paused for a second. I mumbled something about hoping in God and not a man.  Then, I left the podium. 

I did not read it out loud.  I don’t know why.

Well, let’s assume Victoria was a woman properly brought up and when time was called, she stopped speaking.  She, too, tried.  Rest assured, there will be future occasions for all of us in the West to defend our faith.  And let us pray that it continues to remain a struggle fought with words and ideas alone.  In the meantime, let us pray for the thousands of persecuted Christians around the world whose churches, work and lives are taken away each day.

* For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places

Ephesians 6:12 (King James Version) 

Episcopal Church welcome 0A7AB222-279F-4A6F-8122C192BD2E1165A warm welcome to Anglican and Episcopal bloggers and readers from WebRing.  Your insight and comments would be appreciated, particularly on this post.

This is my church story, which started in the Roman Catholic Church and has concluded in the Anglican Church.  I have been an Anglican for over 25 years.

Except for a happy few, most of us will find some occasion on which to differ with our churches, either at a congregational or an institutional level. Others may begin to examine the teachings and practices of their denomination, adhering to some less and less over time. Some of these people will continue to worship in the denominations into which they were baptised and, one hopes, confirmed.  Others, after much prayer and consideration, may find it time to seek a different path.

Had Vatican II never happened would I would have changed denominations?  I tend to think that I would have remained a Roman Catholic and been an insufferable apologist for it!  By ‘insufferable’, I mean, overzealous and dogmatic. 

The Roman Catholic Church will always mean a great deal to me.  ‘Once Catholic, always a Catholic’.  ‘You can take the person out of the Catholic Church, but you can’t take the Catholic Church out of the person.’  But, I left even before the scandals of the late 1980s and 1990s and before I knew of the left-wing perspectives of the bishops. 

I didn’t like the routine quality increasingly being imparted to the Novus Ordo Mass, in particular, the habit of priests to recite the prayers so quickly that one could barely follow along.  Many reminded me of horse race commentators you hear on television.  Mass seemed like a race to the finish every Saturday evening or Sunday morning.  I didn’t like the way Holy Communion was distributed — also very quickly: ‘Body of Christ Amen.’  Furthermore, the hymn singing: ‘We will now sing verses one and two of “Faith of Our Fathers”‘.  Quick, quick.  Why not sing all the verses?  (Having sung in a church choir in high school, I know that one is not to sing once the priest is in his ‘presidential chair’;  I speak of other parts in the Mass.)  And the sermons were frightful.  I always had the impression the priest and the congregation wanted to be somewhere else.

So, yes, I realise it is — as one priest has explained it recently — my lack of spirituality in an atmosphere which has drawn so many others closer to Christ.  But, regular readers of this blog will know about these postmodern justifications of irreverence and my opinion of them.  Therefore, I shall not rehash those points.

As a youngster I attended Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran and Episcopal services as a guest of friends. Remembering a couple of times when I had gone to the Episcopal Church for weddings, I recalled the then-traditional language (this was still in the days of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer), the quiet and the reverence.  The churches were beautiful, too.  I felt as if I were in God’s house, not a consecrated big-box. 

So, I began going to an Episcopal Church in my area.  By then, the 1979 Prayer Book was in common use, yet the traditional services for Morning Prayer and Holy Communion were still there.  The hymns were also ones which had been sung for centuries.  At that time, there was no modern music.  The sermons were exceptional.  For the first time in my life, I had thoughts and meditations to take away for the following week, challenging though they were.  Although it was a self-termed ‘low church’ (Holy Communion at the main service once a month), each principal Sunday service had a dignified Oxford Movement procession beginning and concluding it.  Needless to say, the ‘wow’ factor was sky-high.

The people were friendly, too.  The Episcopal Church — like the greater Anglican Communion — does what it says on the tin: it really does welcome you.

One of the ministers lent me a rather compact book which explained the history of the Anglican Church and the Episcopal Church in the United States.  Unfortunately, I cannot remember the title or author, who, I believe was a retired bishop from South Carolina.  It was an inspired book.  It drew on the early social and political history of the United States as well, which was particularly useful. 

I ended up taking instruction a year later and was received (no need to be rebaptised or reconfirmed) by the bishop, amidst the confirmands — all of us kneeling at the Communion rail.  I was the only Roman Catholic that year.  The following year, there were 12 and the year after that there were 18 Roman Catholics received into the Episcopal Church for the same reasons as mine.  I didn’t know any of them before they started attending that church, so I had no part in their being there or continued participation.  As it was a large congregation, I didn’t know many of them there were until they were received.

Has my decision lost me friends?  Yes, the few people I told of my decision were the ones whom I thought would accept it.  Did it affect my relationship with my family?  Yes, on one side.  For the other it was less of an issue.

Do I wish for union with Rome?  It is something I would accept if it happened organically, without contrivance, although I would not expect to see full union in my lifetime.  Something of Biblical proportions would need to bring it about, and that would be only if the Roman Catholic Church had an internal Reformation (see my past posts) and the Anglicans were able to somehow mend their many divisions which have weakened their ranks since the 1980s, which seems unlikely. 

What do I get out of being an Anglican?

– Being able to read a wide variety of Protestant theological writings without having to do so under the covers with a Maglite. 

– Receiving Communion in most churches without worrying whether I’m sinning or also having to go to my own church because the other one’s service wasn’t good enough.

– Experiencing a greater fellowship amongst Christians.

– Learning to be more accepting of other churches and beliefs. 

– Belonging to a church with a set of teachings with which I agree.

So, why Anglicanism and not another Protestant denomination?

– The combination of Catholic mysterium tremendum and Protestantism — the best Christian traditions.

– The freedom of liturgical choice between a 1662 Book of Common Prayer service (England) or a more modern one.

– The choice of receiving Communion or attending Morning or Evening Prayer.

– The freedom from people saying, ‘You’re doing it wrong!’ — whether it be prayer, devotions or church attendance.

– The aesthetics of most Anglican churches and services.

– The ability to pray directly to The Source without intermediary intercessions.

– The ability to debate Christianity freely in love and understanding with other members of the same church.

Some may call Anglicanism a wishy-washy denomination.  In spite of some of its recent failings, I call it my church.

Holy Communion stained glass home2romeFollowing up on a post from August regarding intinction and another with regard to the 1547 Sacrament Act, I have found more information on how other Anglican priests are distributing Holy Communion to their congregants during the swine flu scare.

The following are excerpts with my explantatory notes and highlights taken from a short but fine post on Fr Hunwicke’s Liturgical Notes entitled, simply, ‘Swine Flu’:

Fr Hunwicke: ‘I have implemented: Communion in the hand; Communion in one kind; discontinuance of the use of the Holy Water stoups [fonts]; and during the Sanctus at Sunday Mass I surreptitiously rub the thumb and forefinger of my right hand with an alcoholic gel.’ 

Fr Steve: ‘If you use wine, wine is an alcohol. Intinction might be best, and if you have a problem with consuming what’s left, dig a hole in your cemetery and dispose of it.’

The Right Revd Peter D Robinson: ‘Communion in one kind into the hand is acceptable for the time being. However, Communion should continue to be offered in both kinds but communicants should drink from the chalice, not intinct. The chalice is wiped and turned slightly after each communicant. The high ABV (15%-18%) of most communion wines should take care of any virus present. Any communicant who wishes not to receive the Cup should cross his/her arms over the chest after receiving the host.

‘Communion by Intinction should be discontinued for the time being. This is the second least sanitary way of administering communion. Only leavened bread, “wee cuppies” and grape juice are worse.

‘Keep the number of people handling the elements down to a minimum. For the time being the celebrant should prepare the vessels and elements for the Eucharist, and/or the altar guild make generous use of hand sanitizer or soap and hot water.’

Fr Richard Evans: Public health specialists in Birmingham and Coventry [England] have advised that the use, or non-use, of the common chalice would have no affect on the spread of swine flu. This is based upon the level of spread of the disease in the general population and the fact that the risk of exposure is through normal contact (ie, a person sitting in a church with an infected person during a service would spread the disease, regardless of whether Communion was taken).

I believe Fr Evans’s is the best comment, as it is supported by the NHS in Birmingham and Coventry: there is no need to dispense with the Cup — continue to use it.  The reaction of Fr Hunwicke, a learned man, surprises me, particularly as he adds in his introduction: ‘I am too young to die.’  As a layperson, I have never been afraid of receiving this holiest of Sacraments, regardless of what bugs are in the air or on my neighbour.  Why would a priest?

My view is supported by two commenters, one on Fr Hunwicke’s blog, johnf, who says:

I don’t know how the Catholic Church survived the flu pandemics of 1918, 1957, 1968 not to speak of the minor one of 1947, when receiving of Our Blessed Lord by mouth was then the only means available.

I don’t think it even occured to people that Holy Communion by mouth could be a cause of transmission.

And I dont think people were ignorant of modes of transmission of diseases in those days.

So I believe we are overreacting – the spirit of the age I suppose.

and an excellent comment on my post about the Sacrament Act from Gabriella:

Do we really believe that Holy Water is a divine reminder of our baptism and a sacramental that can heal the spiritually and physically sick, and do we believe that the ‘wine in the chalice’ is the Precious Blood of Christ? And, do we decline these gifts out of fear or indifference?

Our saintly missionaries were not afraid to catch leprosy when they set out to help and cure these people.

Should we really deny ourselves the Blood of Christ and Holy Water because we are afraid of what we might catch … ?

Yes, we are overreacting.  We — whether priests or laypeople — need to remind ourselves of the Divine Presence of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. And to think that churches are emptying their stoups — it’s absurd. So, many people today would run a mile because of a hyped-up scare over flu. Which would mean that flu trumps Holy Communion? What a bunch of ‘believers’!

He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart— Proverbs 11:29 (KJV)

 

Luther Rose ML 125pxIt never occurred to me that believing in evolution could exclude you from a mainstream Protestant church, until I read a thought-provoking exchange about the potential of ELCA members moving to LCMS churches.

The post was on Cyberbrethren, which is a fantastic blog for all things LCMS.  Pastor Paul T McCain, who is the Publisher and the Executive Director of the Editorial Department at Concordia Publishing House.  His site, like Concordia Publishing House, covers various aspects of historic Lutheranism.  It’s well worth a read.

The other day I read several posts, nodding my head to each, then ran across the comments in ‘How the ELCA Left the Great Tradition‘.  (Readers may recall that Churchmouse Campanologist also covered Dr Benne’s analysis here.)  In the comments readers debate whether ELCA members will join the LCMS.  One in particular caught my eye:

September 15th, 2009 at 18:05 | #13

[CJF writes]

Pastor McCain:

I am currently in ELCA and would like to leave given what occurred at the CWA [Churchwide Assembly]. I am seriously considering the LCMS but I have some questions…

In order to become a member of the LCMS,

Do I have to believe that God created the world in six 24 hour days?

Do I have to completely reject the theory of evolution?

Do I have to believe that the earth is 10,000 years old?

If I join an LCMS church, Will my mother and father who choose to remain in the ELCA, yet come from an LCMS background, and believe that the body and blood of Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, be able to take communion at my LCMS congregation? Does the answer change if my father is a freemason?

If the answer to all the above is NO then, respectfully, LCMS is not an option.

McCain response: In order to become a member of The LCMS you need first to visit with a LCMS pastor who has the responsibility for such matters. He will be most concerned to assure himself that you are committed to the six chief parts of Luther’s Small Catechism, and are sincerely committed to them. As for the details in your note I hesitate to give yes/no answers because the questions you ask deserve conversation, not “litmus test treatment.” And I know of no good pastor in our Synod who would want you to “grill” them on these points without good conversation. My encouragement is seek out an LCMS congregation and go speak to the pastor. If you want to e-mail me privately … I can let you know what LCMS congregation is close to you.

One of the tenets of the LCMS is the belief in Scriptural inerrancy.  Upon first reading, I thought the first three questions were somewhat irreverent.  But then, I always understood Biblical inerrancy to pertain to the eternal truth of God’s word.  I didn’t equate it with ‘literal interpretation’.  It’s interesting to read that it involves discussion with a pastor.  I would like to think that it would be to assess whether one believes, first and foremost, that God created the world, which may or may not have been created in six 24-hour days.

I went to a Catholic school from third grade (age eight) through university.  We were always taught theistic evolution: God created the Earth, but it evolved over time and took longer than a week. (Intelligent Design was way after my time.)  I knew very few people who believed the six-day Creation story.  My parents always advised me not to ridicule them.  Not that I would have.  My parents as well as the nuns at school told the story of the Scopes Monkey Trial, the stage and film version of which is Inherit the Wind

Then, I read that Creation, the new British film about Darwin, won’t be playing in the US because it could not find a distributor.  That left me gobsmacked.  Am I concerned whether Darwin wrestled with his faith?  No.  Did I care what Jonas Salk‘s religious convictions were?  No, I never gave them a thought until I read the link for this post.  I’m just glad he invented the polio vaccine.  Similarly, I find the Origin of the Species fascinating.  Why couldn’t evolution be God-given?  Well, I don’t want to harp on about it, but I will never stop believing that God gave us our beautiful universe which He perfected over time.   

Now I see that back in February (2009), Gallup took a poll of Americans to gauge their belief in evolution.  Thirty years after I finished university, the numbers look worse than ever.  If I find a comparison over time, I’ll post one.  The Telegraph (UK) published the latest figures:

… only 39% of Americans say they believe in the evolutionary theory he outlined in On the Origin of Species, contradicting the biblical creation story in the Book of Genesis. A quarter say they don’t believe  it and the other 36 per cent were unsure or did not have an opinion…

For regular church-goers, belief in evolution slips to just 24 per cent. The figure rises consistently across education levels – from 21 per cent of those who did not study past high school to 74 per cent of people with postgraduate degrees.

Knock me down with a feather.  Seriously.

I hope that I have not offended any members of the LCMS, Pastor McCain in particular, with this post.  That was not the intention.  I simply wonder if an LCMS member has the option to believe in evolution.

I also hope that Pastor McCain would allow me the opportunity to respectfully share LCMS theology with you, particularly about the importance of the Cross, fasting and more.  Traditional Churchmouse Campanologist readers would find Cyberbrethren posts informative and useful in their spiritual journeys.  I do.

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