"The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine." A proposed canon of Elizabeth I, 1571

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Location: Bedford, Texas, United States

I am a presbyter in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (Anglican Church in North America). I serve as Chaplain at St. Vincent's School and as a canon of St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas. In addition to my parish duties and teaching Religion classes in the school I am also the Middle School Social Studies teacher.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

"Come, follow me"

This is the view from the apse of Canterbury Cathedral looking west. The candle marks the site of St. Thomas Beckett's shrine. Today I will preach to the 250 children and teachers of St. Vincent's school about the calling of SS Peter and Andrew. This put me in mind of the beginning of my own first sense of a calling to follow Jesus in ministry. I had received Holy Baptism at All Saints' Church in Austin on June 3, 1990 and set off immediately afterwards to do historical research in England. During that month I travelled widely on "pilgrimage." One of these journies took me to Canterbury. While kneeling in prayer near the spot shown above I first began to feel a pull in my heart to follow St. Thomas in serving God within His Church. But being literally only a few weeks old in the Faith I soon dismissed this thought as the vain imaginings of a puerile Christian mind. I think of that day often now. May God bless us all, along with St. Andrew, in following after our Lord Jesus Christ. Posted by Hello

Monday, November 29, 2004

Chrysostom and Gregory the Theologian heading home to Constantinople

Some very good news from Rome this last week--two of the "Three Holy Heirarchs" have been sent "home" to Constantinople. The Pope has returned the relics of SS John Chrysostom and Gregory of Nazianzus to Bartholomew I, the Patriarch of Constantinople, who made a special trip to the Vatican to celebrate the event (see photo above). The relics have been in Rome since the tragic sack of Constantinople by western knights in 1204. May God use this occassion to further the reunion of Christ's Church on earth. Posted by Hello

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Sermon for 1st Sunday in Advent

Texts: Rom 13:8-14; Matt 24:37-42, Delivered at St. Vincent's Cathedral Church (Anglican), Bedford, TX, Nov. 28, 2004

“For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand.” From St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The scene is aboard a Boeing 747 heading across the Atlantic. It is night, and many of the passengers are sleeping. Suddenly, one of the passengers calls out her husband’s name in surprise. She summons a flight attendant and asks her for help tracking down her missing husband. He is gone, it seems, but his clothes are laid out neatly on the seat where he had been sitting. Why had he suddenly wandered off, stark naked? But he isn’t the only one. We soon find out that many others on the aircraft have suddenly disappeared, including one of the cockpit crew. Only their clothes are left behind where they had last been seen. Radio contact with the mainland reveals that chaos reigns worldwide, as millions of people have suddenly and inexplicably disappeared without a trace.
Some of you may recognize this as an early scene in “Left Behind,” the first installment of a best-selling series of novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, which was made into a major motion picture a few years ago. The “Left Behind” movie is a gripping portrayal of the End of Days, and I will admit to having enjoyed it a good deal more than I thought I would. For tens of millions of Americans and others around the world, the sudden disappearance of faithful Christians as described in “Left Behind” has shaped their understanding of what will happen when our Lord Jesus returns in glory. The missing passengers, of course, have been taken away in what is popularly known as “the rapture, ” and those left to puzzle over their disappearance have been “left behind.” The crucial Scripture text behind LaHaye and Jenkins’ fictional depiction is our lesson today from the Gospel according to St. Matthew: “Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left.”
I suspect there are not many Anglicans among the millions who have purchased the “Left Behind” books. To the extent these novels have been mentioned from the pulpits of Episcopal churches in the last decade, I am sure those references have been overwhelmingly negative. But I have not brought up “Left Behind” in order to trash it. The speculations of LaHaye and Jenkins do go beyond what can clearly be demonstrated from Holy Scripture and some aspects of their theology were unknown to Sacred Tradition before the nineteenth century. Consequently, these books should be read with considerable caution. But with those caveats in mind, I believe these authors have performed a valuable service in getting Christians to think again about the Last Things. The people who buy the “Left Behind” books take the Bible seriously. These Christians want to make sense of mysterious Scriptural teachings concerning our Lord’s promised return and apply them to the world in which we live. This is quite understandable, even laudable. Until we Anglicans share their zeal for the written word of God, we should hesitate to cast the first stone at them as mistaken or ill informed. The sheer number of people who have purchased these books tells us this is not a “fringe” phenomenon. We share the New Testament with the Christian readers of “Left Behind,” and it will not do for Anglicans simply to ignore the bits of the Bible we don’t “get.” Our Scripture lessons today stand challenging us to grapple with them. Some serious refection on the end of the world is in order as we enter a new Church year.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the season when we prepare for the “coming” of our Lord Jesus Christ—his adventus in Latin. It is a season of beginnings and ends. During Advent we will wear Biblical bifocals as we prepare to celebrate Christ’s first coming into our world more than 2000 year ago and look forward to his coming again in glory at the End of Days. Even as we mail colorful cards to friends and family bearing images of the Blessed Virgin Mary cradling our infant Lord, in the coming weeks our worship here at St. Vincent’s will resound with the divine Judge at our door, the axe at the root, and chaff burning in unquenchable fire, as well as lambs lying down alongside lions, the lame leaping like deer, and swords beaten into plowshares. We await the descent of the New Jerusalem as well as the coming of the Holy Family into Bethlehem.
We hear Advent readings about the future Day of the Lord for a month every liturgical year, but I suspect most of us don’t spend much time reflecting on these Scriptures. Such texts are difficult to interpret and their relevance to our day-to-day lives isn’t always obvious. After all, the mysteries they describe are completely outside our personal experience. The End Times language of the Old Testament prophets and the authors of the Apostolic age is deeply poetic, rich in metaphors and double-entendres relating to the ancient Mediterranean world—a far cry from the standard reading fare of twenty-first century Americans. But the events these texts describe--the “resurrection of the dead,” the Lord’s coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead, the life of the world to come—are professed by the universal Church every Sunday in the Nicene Creed. They are integral to the catholic faith. Evading challenging Scriptural passages about the Last Day is not an option. If we ignore the consummation of all things we have a truncated faith, a faith that does not fully grasp the great benefits procured for us by Christ’s holy Incarnation, his precious death and glorious resurrection.
There are dozens of references to the Close of the Age spread throughout the Bible. In the New Testament, for example, we find a host of passages that describe a general resurrection when the Lord Jesus returns. According to the twentieth chapter of the Revelation to St. John, this resurrection of the dead will be followed by the Last Judgment. While the various inspired authors use different imagery to get their points across, the same presuppositions span the New Testament: the Son of Man will return and the dead will be raised and judged, with the result that everyone will either enter into eternal life in God’s presence or be separated from Him by an impassable gulf—a fate so bitter it can be described as “burning with unquenchable fire.”
None of this sits very well with the spirit of this present age, of course. There may once have been a time when Christians were so focused on the life of the world to come that they did not fully appreciate the spiritual gifts God gives us in our earthly lives. But this is clearly no longer the case in the western world. Most Americans focus overwhelmingly on this life, with physical health, material wealth and peace of mind summing up secular salvation. Bodily resurrection and a final Judgment with eternal consequences are a far cry from the consequence-free “spirituality” of this New Age. But Resurrection and Judgment are found in most books of our New Testament, and are alluded to in the Old Testament as well. They have always been central to the faith of the Church. They are not optional extras. We may not discard them in order to make Christianity more marketable to contemporary Americans.
Today many sincere Christians seldom give a thought to the eternal backdrop against which we live our lives. But this is not the approach found in Holy Scripture. The apostle Paul today in his letter to the Romans grounds Christian ethics in our future hope, “for salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand.” As St. Paul sees it, you and I are in the final stages of a Titanic battle against the spiritual forces of darkness, a battle that will finally be won on the Day of the Lord when our salvation is manifest in full. “Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light,” Paul commands. This armor of light—our equipment for the battle at the End of the Age—is the fruit of a righteous life. The apostle therefore instructs us to “conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.” Instead, we must “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” The whole of a believer’s life ought to be lived in wakeful expectation. It is time to wake from sleep. We should live as if we really did expect to see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with his holy angels tomorrow morning. What would it mean if we truly made every moral choice with an eye to what would best equip us to stand in the Lord’s presence forever? We would be shining warriors, indeed, if we could pull that off!
In our Gospel lesson today we find the Lord Christ himself teaching much the same thing we have just heard from St. Paul. Our passage from Matthew 24 is not primarily a description of a sudden departure of the faithful before the tribulations of the Last Day. Instead, Jesus exhorts his followers to live their daily lives as if the return of the Son of Man was immanent. The behavior of lost humanity in the days of Noah provides a counter-example for Christians. Jesus takes it for granted that his hearers remember what Genesis 6 says about Noah’s world, “the wickedness of man was great in the earth.” The human race had lived as if there were no consequences to moral actions, “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage,” as if they could carry on that way forever. But it is not to be so with the followers of Christ. Instead, the Lord commands us to “be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour [we] do not expect.” Jesus turns us away from sinful complacency and toward expectant, faithful living as we await the close of the Age. According to Jesus and Paul, we are to be fully conscious, not sleep walking through life. We should understand our moral choices and the consequences that flow from them. Above all, we are to remember whose we are and where we are heading.
I do not pretend to know exactly what Jesus’ enigmatic statement “one is taken and the other is left,” means here. It is not even clear from the text whether those who are “taken” away are the good guys or the bad guys, and there is little elsewhere in Scripture to shed further light upon the question. The rapture theology of “Left Behind” reads a great deal into the Biblical texts in the quest to have clear answers. Even as we cannot follow the secular world in ignoring the End Times, we also must guard against saying more about this mystery than God has chosen to reveal to us. We stretch these mysterious verses to the breaking point if we press them for details about the mechanisms of the Second Coming. They are simply not there to be found. That is what makes Christ’s return in glory a mystery of the Faith, after all. The Bible has never revealed a consistent, detailed itinerary of the end of the world, despite the best efforts of countless readers looking for signs of the times. The whole point of Jesus’ teaching here is that mankind will be caught by surprise when God acts decisively to set the world right. We have to be ready for anything, keeping on our toes. You and I are not going to figure it all out in advance.
The flowing poetry of prophecy often refuses to yield to the rigid demands of the modern western mind, and this is especially true when it come to the End Times. The questions we typically ask are too mundane to comprehend the eternal truth of the revealed word of God, particularly when it touches upon ultimate things. No mere human construct—as any timetable for the End of the Age would certainly be--can ever match the fullness of Spirit-breathed Biblical reality. But despite the limitations of our understanding, Christ still calls us to await the consummation of all things with eager expectation. That is our special charge this season. The message of Advent could be summed up in brief, “Don’t let your attention wander. This is going to be awesome!” May God grant us the grace to wake from sleep and remain alert, for the night is far gone, and the day is at hand. Amen.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving to One and All!

I have returned from a pleasant trip to San Antonio, thankful for time spent with good friends and the opportunity to learn some interesting things from papers presented at the 2004 national convention of the American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature. Unfortunately, while the fellowship and the food were great we had rain every day we were there so there was not very much opportunity for sight-seeing. And the flooding of I-10 prevented me from spending Thanksgiving with my dear friends Rebecca and Mike Leppala in Houston as I had planned. But considering that I now have a rather unpleasant cold it may be for the best that I simply came home. Still, God has been good to me this year and I am grateful. May God bless you all this day and always!

A reflection for Thanksgiving from the Sarum Missal, Preface and Sanctus:
"It is meet and right, true and just that we should always and everywhere give thanks to thee, O holy Lord, Father Almighty, Eternal God, through Christ our Lord. Through whom angels praise thy Majesty, Principalities adore, Powers tremble. The heavens, and heavenly virtues, and blessed seraphim with united exultation praise thee. With whom we pray that we may be admitted to join our humble voices, in suppliant confession, saying: Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God of Hosts. Heaven and earth are full of thy glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest."

VERE dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere, Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, Aeterne Deus, per Christum Dominum nostrum: per quem Majestatem tuam laudant angeli, adorant dominationes, tremunt potestates, cœli cœlorumque virtutes ac beata Seraphin socia exsultatione concelebrant. Cum quibus et nostras voces ut admitti jubeas deprecamur, supplici confessione dicentes: SANCTUS, SANCTUS, SANCTUS, DOMINUS DEUS SABAOTH. PLENI SUNT COELI ET TERRA GLORIA TUA. HOSANNA IN EXCELSIS. BENEDICTUS QUI VENIT IN NOMINE DOMINI. HOSANNA IN EXCELSIS.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

This is a nice picture from a recent celebration of the Holy Eucharist at St. Vincent's Cathedral (my home parish) in Bedford, Texas. Here the deacon is chanting the Gospel text. Posted by Hello

What I have been up to lately

My apologies to faithful friends who have been checking this blog and been disappointed by the recent lack of news. It has been a busy week. Several old friends of the family have been hospitalized and then “called home to glory” in the last couple of weeks, meaning hospital visits and funerals to attend. Then there was my talk to the Catholic Clerical Union on Tuesday to prepare, which took a great deal of time. The CCU is an organization of Anglo-Catholic Anglican priests who meet monthly for mutual support and continuing theological education, and our CCU meeting here in the diocese of Fort Worth last Tuesday drew about 30 priests. I was their featured speaker this month on “Athanasius and Orthodox Unity.” It was nice to meet many of the clergy of the diocese, and I was honored to be invited to speak. Then yesterday I was supposed to serve as chalice bearer at the monthly St. Vincent’s School Eucharist (the rest of the month our chapel is Morning Prayer). But our scheduled sub-deacon didn’t show up and I got a “battlefield promotion” to sub-deacon on the spot two minutes before we started! (Not to worry, for us sub-deacon is a lay position in which any licensed lay reader can serve so no canons were violated.) It was a bit nerve-wracking having to do the job without proper training, but I survived without completely embarrassing myself—I think! Tonight I teach my class on Medieval spirituality at the cathedral, then tomorrow I teach an extended class for my middle school students on Buddhist worship and meditation practice (its grandparents’ day, hence the extra-long lecture to inform and entertain our senior visitors). Starting tomorrow I will be away from home for a week. I will be attending the national Society of Biblical Literature/American Academy of Religion meeting in San Antonio from Friday through Tuesday morning. Then I will be driving down to Houston to spend Thanksgiving with my dear friends, fellow Rice alums Becky Jo and Mike Leppala and their kids. It should be a good time all around. Have a great Thanksgiving, everyone!

Anglican theological variety

It occurs to me that there may be some friends reading this blog who are mystified by the frequent discussions of internal Anglican affairs. For those who aren’t familiar with Anglican practice, a brief word on the variety within our Communion might be in order. Anglican clergy and the parishes they serve can generally be broken down into three “parties.” There is the “High Church” or Anglo-Catholic tradition (probably 80% of our priests and parishes here in Fort Worth fall into this group), the Evangelical or “Low Church” tradition (about 20% of our diocesan clergy), and the “Broad Church” or Latitudinarian custom. These “Broad Church” types are today in the US mostly on the theologically liberal end of the spectrum, and here in Fort Worth we really don’t have very many—or perhaps any—of them, but they are the dominant voice in ECUSA nationally. It was once the case that Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals were at odds on many points, especially about worship practice and equipment (Anglo-Catholics are into “smells and bells” on the ceremonial side and emphasize the “Real Presence of Christ” in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar, while Low Churchmen tend to prefer simplicity in worship and emphasize the homily in a Morning Prayer context). But as the Broad Church party began drifting farther and farther to the left theologically, High and Low Churchmen began to realize that they had more in common theologically with each other (esp. in their common high regard for the authority of Holy Scripture and the creeds of the Church) than they did with their Broad Church brothers, who typically thought of themselves as “reasonable” types in the "middle." IMHO, the dominant “Broad Church” party in ECUSA today has more in common with theological liberals in such “progressive” Protestant denominations as the UCC and the Disciples of Christ (though admittedly with a “higher” liturgical sensibility than is typical in those congregationalist denominations) than they do with Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals within the Anglican Communion. The recent much-publicized troubles in world-wide Anglicanism stem from this disconnect within the Anglican family between “classical” Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals and the “progressive” leadership of ECUSA. I hope this brief discussion helps. You can't tell the players without a program!

Friday, November 12, 2004

Inclusive language question

Readers of this blog, I imagine, might have a fairly wide variety of opinions on the use of "inclusive language" for God in the liturgy. I found this recent piece by Ward Nelson from "The Living Church" to be of interest. I invite your own comments on the question.
The matter of liturgies and hymns using so-called “inclusive” or “expansive” language seems to have gotten lost over the past few years. Owing to the relative silence in the midst of the continuing exploration of these texts, one could come to the conclusion that the use of this language is a done deal.
While I don’t believe that expansive language in liturgies and hymns is all bad, I am concerned about the avoidance of references to God the Father, other than in the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.
I am not opposed to liturgical development. The three eucharistic prayers in Enriching Our Worship all have points to commend them. The difficulty with these texts, including the acclamations and blessings, is that, in avoiding the name “Father,” the only nouns of address left are essentially deistic: “Holy One,” “the One,” “Holy One of Blessing,” “the one holy and living God,” “Creator,” “All Holy God,” “Maker.”
The irony is that whereas one central facet of Jesus’ ministry was to reveal the nature of the heavenly Father, Abba, who has the hairs of our head numbered, we’ve gone back into the ether, worshiping a God who is up there and out there.
Other examples: In place of the traditional salutation “The Lord be with you,” which is personal, we now have “God be with you,” which is less so. In place of the traditional Trinitarian blessing, we now have “Holy eternal Majesty, Holy incarnate Word, Holy abiding Spirit, Bless you for evermore. Amen.” How much more distant and remote could we get?
Preachers often refer to God nowadays as “the Divine,” rendering him even more remote and distant, and using language which at its essence isn’t biblical.
A new hymn styles the Trinity as “Maker, Son, and Spirit.” There’s nothing wrong in calling God “Maker,” but in the context of the Trinity, how is that an improvement over “Father”? After all, Jesus didn’t say, “Maker, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Some will argue, as Ruth Meyers has, that Jesus didn’t really call God “Father” all that much, and that this usage reflects theological development in the early church. There are biblical scholars who will refute that; nonetheless, it does not address the central problem in these liturgies of God’s distance. Besides, why is it OK to search the scriptures for feminine images of God while ignoring the plain sense of the New Testament that God is, indeed, Father? If you take Jesus seriously, he was praying to his Father, not to a metaphor nor an image. Surely the Episcopal Church cannot build liturgy upon the slippery premise that “Jesus didn’t say it.”
All 10 eucharistic prayers in the latest edition of the Church of England’s alternative services use “Father” as the noun of address for God, even the one which says, “As a mother, you …” All the eucharistic prayers in the 2004 edition of the Irish BCP [TLC, June 27] are addressed to the Father. In fact, the website of the Church of Ireland says, “The sometimes vexatious issue of inclusive language we have tackled head-on. No opportunity has been lost to affirm that men and women equally share the image of God and make up the body of Christ. In relation to God, and the Fatherhood of God in particular, we have naturally been more cautious.” Our church needs that caution.
Bishop Christopher Epting, the Presiding Bishop’s deputy for ecumenical and interfaith relations, reminds us [TLC, Sept. 12] that the primary form of addressing God in liturgical prayer is as “God,” “Almighty God,” or our “Heavenly Father.” The birthright of every Anglican is to come to church on Sunday and worship God: Father, Son, and Spirit. Liturgical commissions have no business taking that away from people unless they have some special gnosis the rest of us have not received.
Our supplemental liturgies need to re-enlist the aid of the Father, not in every situation, but surely at least once in every eucharistic prayer as well as in other places. To do so is only to acknowledge the one whom Jesus acknowledges in the New Testament: our gracious, loving heavenly Father, the Lord of heaven and earth.
Ward Nelson, is music director and organist at St. Bartholomew’s Church, Beaverton, Oregon. This guest editorial was first published on page 21 of the October 24, 2004 issue of THE LIVING CHURCH magazine. (Guest editorials do not necessarily represent the editorial opinion of THE LIVING CHURCH or its board of directors.)

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Randall Foster

This is a recent photograph of me. I hope you are enjoying the blog. Thanks for reading.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Bishop Iker of Fort Worth on recent developments

From my bishop's address to the diocesan convention on Saturday morning:

As you know, this past year has been a time of intense controversy and serious division in Anglicanism, as a result of the consecration of "a declared and sexually active homosexual bishop in the Diocese of New Hampshire" and the tacit approval for the blessing of same-sex unions given by last year’s General Convention of the Episcopal Church. By resolutions of a Special Called Convention of this diocese in September of last year and again at our regular Diocesan Convention last November, this diocese repudiated these actions as schismatic acts that violate the clear teaching of Holy Scripture and of the Anglican Communion. At last count, a total of 22 of the 38 Anglican Provinces around the world, representing over 75% of the membership of the world-wide Communion, have declared impaired or broken communion with the Episcopal Church because of this. At the same time, they have declared their commitment to remaining in full communion with those members of the Episcopal Church who reject and will continue to oppose these grievous departures from historic Biblical teaching. The Anglican Communion Network was formed last year to provide a way for orthodox Christians in the Episcopal Church to have a place to stand and witness together, as we continue our ministry as faithful members of the Anglican Communion. Today this Diocese remains in full, unimpaired communion with all the other Provinces of Anglicanism because of our membership in the Anglican Communion Network, not because of our membership in the Episcopal Church in the United States. As your Bishop, I remain in full communion not only with the Archbishop of Canterbury, but indeed with all of the Primates of the entire Anglican Communion beyond ECUSA, which is a whole lot more than can be said for Frank Griswold, the Presiding Bishop.
God is bringing forth life and giving growth in the Anglican Communion, to be certain. But make no mistake about it, the growth that is taking place and most of the new life that we are experiencing are not in the decaying churches of the West – not in the Episcopal Church here in the States nor in the Anglican Church life in Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, where the numbers of worshipping Anglicans go down year after year after year. No, the phenomenal growth and new life within Anglicanism is taking place in the churches of the Global South, in the so-called "two-thirds world," where the people are proud to be called Anglicans, and where Christians are hurt, confused and angered by what the Episcopal Church in this country has done.
As you know, the Lambeth Commission on Communion, appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to address the controversy and brokenness with our brothers and sisters that our General Convention and parts of the Anglican Church in Canada have created, has now released its report, known as The Windsor Report 2004. I commend this Report to you for your careful consideration, and I propose that every congregation in the Diocese prayerfully study it and reflect upon it in the weeks ahead. Remember that this Commission was created by the Primates of the Communion, and its recommendations are now to go to the next Primates’ Meeting in late February for action. Rather than speculating on how the Primates might strengthen or implement the recommendations in the Report, I simply want to take note of what is proposed and to remind you that they are in full accordance with the position taken by this Diocese last year.
The Commission unanimously affirms the historic, biblical doctrine of sexuality as expressed in Resolution 1:10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, as the teaching of the Anglican Communion, and then goes on to recommend a moratorium on the ordination and consecration of practicing homosexuals and the blessing of same sex unions. This moratorium would remain in effect until such time as a new consensus emerged in the Communion for a change in this position. Furthermore, it is proposed that those bishops who participated in the consecration of Vicky Gene Robinson, as well as those bishops who have authorized the blessing of same-sex unions, should express their regret for having done so, and in addition, that they should not participate in any meetings of the Anglican Communion until they have done so. Much has been made in the press about exactly what the Commission means when it calls for these bishops to express their regret for what they did. Does it mean to apologize? Does it mean to repent of their actions and pledge not to do it again? As you know, Frank Griswold and others have already said, ‘Oh, I can express regret for the hurt and division that has been caused by what I did, while at the same time continuing to believe in the integrity of what I did.’ The Presiding Bishop is on record as saying he doesn’t believe a moratorium will be imposed and that he would probably participate in the consecration of others like Robinson in the future. How sad that this Report should be met with this kind of dismissive attitude. What kind of strange logic is it that says ‘I regret the hurt and division that I have caused, but I’m going to keep on doing it anyway?’
The purpose of the Commission was to recommend ways for the church to remain in the highest possible degree of communion among all our Provinces. The Windsor Report is an invitation to healing and reconciliation, not a proposed punishment for those who have caused the division. Nonetheless, it is clear as to the source of the problem. I quote: "The Episcopal Church (USA) has caused deep offence to many faithful Anglican Christians both in its own church and in other parts of the Communion." (paragraph 127) I do not believe the Communion is willing to accept a lame expression of regret in place of an expression of genuine repentance. So the question before us is this: "Will the Episcopal Church accept the invitation to reconciliation and do what is necessary, in the opinion of the Primates, to bring it about? Do we want to maintain the unity of the Anglican Communion?" A special meeting of the House of Bishops will address this issue in mid-January.
The Windsor Report suggests that there can be no true unity or reconciliation without repentance, without a sincere apology and a change of practice with a clear commitment to the moratorium that is being requested. We must recognize that the Primates’ Meeting in February may indeed come face to face with an unwillingness by some of our bishops to accept and live by the stated position and clear teaching of the Anglican Communion. In the last paragraph of the Windsor Report, we find these ominous words:
" There remains a very real danger that we will not choose to walk together. Should the call to halt and find ways of continuing in our present communion not be heeded, then we shall have to begin to learn to walk apart." (Paragraph 157)
The Episcopal Church in the United States may choose to walk apart from the Anglican Communion, but I will not, and this Diocese will not. We are committed to the unity of the Church; we are committed to the mission of the Church; and we are committed to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But unity, mission, and truth can only be maintained when we remain faithful to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures and commit ourselves to living within the boundaries of the Anglican Communion on these crucial matters that have divided us. If the Episcopal Church chooses to walk apart, it will become nothing more than another small Protestant sect, a decaying but ever more libertine, American denomination choosing to go it alone, while all the time distancing itself more and more from the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
In the uncertain days ahead, as these matters are discussed and hard decisions are made, let us pray for the Church, that we may remain faithful to God and to one another. Let us remain obedient to the Holy Scriptures and to the teachings of the catholic faith. Let us remain united in love and in truth, thus proving ourselves to be true missionaries of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us depend upon the grace of the Holy Spirit to do what He alone can do - to bring forth life and give growth in the Body of Christ. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore. Amen.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

These lovely Anglican prayer beads were made by my dear friend, Mary Beth of Chicago and Taiwan. Thanks so much, friend! I shall use them every day. May God bless your generosity. The beads are stone and glass, and the cross is pewter. Marvelous! Posted by Hello

Bishop Iker and Canon Harmon Speak

I've just come from diocesan convention this morning, where I served as lay reader at morning prayer (about 170 in the congregation, including 50+ priests and two bishops--I was a little nervous, but all went well). I also heard two excellent talks this morning, one by our Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker, and another by the Rev. Dr. Canon Kendall Harmon of South Carolina. Both were inspiring. Canon Harmon examined the theological roots of the present crisis in the Anglican Communion, and I am sure he will put a version of his talk on his marvelous blog as soon as he can. Bishop Iker reviewed recent developments in our diocese before launching into a discussion of his recent mission trip to our sister diocese of Northern Malawi. Here at home he noted that while ECUSA nationally has had a net decrease in members of more than 30,000 since General Convention 2003, the diocese of Fort Worth has gained members in the last year. In fact, since August 2003 we have had an increase of 17% in confirmations and receptions in this diocese over the previous year! That says something about the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the flourishing of communities that remain faithful to the Truth! The bishop's report on Malawi was moving. They do so much with so little there. May God bless them. But surely the highlight of the bishop's address was his discussion of recent events in the Anglican Communion. Near the end of his remarks he pledged that he and the diocese of Fort Worth will remain a faithful part of the world-wide Anglican Communion no matter what happens with regard to national ECUSA. This drew an extended standing ovation from almost all present, a vivid testimonial to the near unanimity of the diocese behind Bishop Iker's steadfast defense of the true Faith. (I say ALMOST all stood and clapped. There was one table of delegates from a parish that shall remain nameless who sat Stoically and didn't move. But on the whole, it was an amazing show of support for our leader's courageous stand with the world-wide Communion against the heterodox innovations of ECUSA.)
Last night's opening Mass as wonderful. Beautiful music and a fine Evangelical sermon by Canon Harmon on the Rev. Charles Simeon's "cross-shaped life." May God bless the work of the business meeting of the diocese as they conclude their work today.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Diocesan Convention

One little tidbit of news from Bedford this week: St. Vincent's Cathedral in Bedford (my parish) is hosting our diocesan convention today and tomorrow. Curiously, with all the turmoil in the Anglican Communion in the last year our diocesan convention figures to be quite peaceful. After ECUSA's General Convention of August 2003 the diocese of Fort Worth held a special convention to denounce and nullify the controversial actions of GC2003, and those measures were overwhelmingly passed. And Fort Worth was the first diocese to officially join the Anglican Communion Network last spring, if memory serves. We are as close to unified in our stance regarding present events in ECUSA as any diocese in the country. So there really isn't much to argue about this week. The Rev. Kendall Harmon, canon theologian of the diocese of South Carolina and a prominent "classical Anglican" writer, is the preacher at Mass here tonight and no doubt there will be some talk about the Anglican Communion Network, the Windsor Report, and CAPA, but basically we should not be making any "news" this week here in Fort Worth. Just the normal--and vastly important--work of building up the Kingdom. Thanks be to God!

Thanksgiving for Forty

I have been thinking a good deal about time and mortality lately. I preached on All Soul’s Eve last Monday, which was also my fortieth birthday (tick, tock, tick, tock). I have also been to the hospital several times this week to visit elderly friends of the family who are clearly in their last days. The ravages of time and the certainty of death are clear enough, especially since I am now indisputably middle aged. I just saw a photo of myself at an awards banquet at Brite Divinity School a mere seven years ago. I looked so young! Tempus fuget.
I can’t say that I am exactly where I thought I would be a few years ago. When I enrolled at U of C in 1998 I thought I would probably have my PhD in hand by the time I turned forty. Then as I began to discern a possible call to ordained ministry a few years ago I figured I might already have been priested before reaching the big four-oh. Neither of those things has yet come to pass (though progress is being made on both fronts), and I cannot shake a feeling that I have failed to meet some of my goals.
That being said, I am a happy man. I am doing things that I feel are important at both the cathedral and its school. I feel that in some small way I am making a positive contribution to the Kingdom in a concrete way. Certainly I am immeasurably happier than I was when I was practicing law. And it is a pleasure to be home with family and “my people” generally. God has been very good to me, and it would be preposterous for me to complain.

Almighty God, Father of all mercies,
we thine unworthy servants
do give thee most humble and hearty thanks
for all thy goodness and loving‑kindness
to us and to all men.
We bless thee for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for thine inestimable love
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And, we beseech thee,
give us that due sense of all thy mercies,
that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful;
and that we show forth thy praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to thy service,
and by walking before thee
in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with thee and the Holy Spirit,
be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

To my complete surpise, I actually received a teaching award today--for teaching middle school! This afternoon Mrs. Mayes, our middle school principal at St. Vincent's Cathedral School, presented me with a sort of "teacher of the month" candle at our all-school staff meeting. Apparently the sixth and seventh graders are enjoying my religion class and my sermons at daily school chapel. Or perhaps I am just too easy as a grader! Posted by Hello

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