"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.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

A Sermon for Sunday, September 25th

A sermon delivered at St. Vincent's Cathedral Church this morning:

“At the name of Jesus every knee should bow.” From St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

The second chapter of Philippians is not on the Scriptural “Hit Parade.” I have never seen it quoted on a T-shirt or a bumper sticker, never heard it read at a wedding or a funeral. It is a bit long and it does not lend itself to “sound bites.” Many other Scriptural passages are more beautiful and touch our hearts more readily: John 3:16—“For God so loved the world”--or 1 Cor 13—“Love is patient, love is kind”— or the marvelous 23rd Psalm—these Scriptures make up the Bible of our memory. But I believe we would be well-served to have Philippians 2 engraved upon our hearts and minds as well. Here we find the saving gospel of Jesus Christ as proclaimed at the dawn of the Church, perfectly preserved like a prehistoric insect in amber. Scholars today generally agree that Philippians 2:6-11 is a quotation from one of the earliest Christian liturgies, perhaps from one of the first hymns that honored Christ in worship. It may be a hymn that Paul himself learned when he was baptized into Christ’s Body only months after Easter. This “Christ hymn,” therefore, reflects the message that the apostles preached while their hearts still glowed with the fire of Pentecost. And what a remarkable message it is!

“Though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to horde up, but he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of human beings. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God super-exalted him, and gifted him with the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” This is my own very literal translation of the original Greek. The Greek has rawness and vividness that should not be smoothed away, as many modern English translations do. We need to feel the same punch this morning that those first believers felt as they sang in adoration of our Savior. We need to hear these words as the Christians of ancient Philippi did when St. Paul’s letter was read aloud to them—immediate and clear and uncompromising.

These days it is not difficult to find an ill-informed person arguing in a book or on television (or even from certain pulpits) that Jesus of Nazareth never claimed to be divine, but that “divinity” was imposed upon him by later Christians long after his death. I’ve heard dates given for this “transformation” as late as the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., as if Christianity were some sort of conspiracy cooked up by the emperor Constantine! My friends, this is poppycock! We hear the truth today in the ancient Christ hymn: from its origin on the day of Pentecost the Church has always proclaimed that before He was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary the pre-existent Christ possessed equality in godhead with His Father. “Equality with God” belongs to Christ by His very nature. Yet, out of unbounded love for His creation and unswerving obedience to the will of His Father, God the Son laid that equality aside, “emptying Himself” and “putting on the form of a slave.” And the Greek word used here (doulos) is best rendered in English as “slave”—to translate it as “servant” is to downplay its harshness. The imagery is one of stark role-reversal: the Master of the Universe took on the form of a slave in a voluntary act of self-humiliation that is beyond our comprehension. Imagine, if you can, a human being freely choosing to become a worm purely out of love for worms. The idea is both preposterous and disturbing. And yet, the chasm between Creator and creature spanned by our Lord’s coming in the flesh was infinitely greater than the divide between a human and an insect. In truth the Incarnation is a once both too beautiful and too terrible for the mind to grasp. How could God do such a thing? How can we possibly understand such love? And yet it is so.

The form in which Christ chose to be born, the hymn tells us, was that of a slave. At first blush, this reference to slavery may seem nothing more than a poetic reference to the humble origins of Jesus, the carpenter’s son. After all, Christ was born, not in a royal palace, but in a borrowed stable. Jesus had to earn his living by the sweat of his brow, and life surely was no easier for Him than it was for other people in Palestine who worked in the building trades. But the reference in Philippians 2 to Christ’s being “born in the form of a slave” does not relate to His socio-economic status. Instead, this slave-like form is equated with “in the likeness of human beings.” The reference, therefore, is to all of us—the entire human race.

Every human being on the face of the Earth who has not yet been freed by Christ remains a slave—a slave to sin and death, in bondage to all the things that draw us from the love of God, subjected to spiritual forces that corrupt and destroy His creatures. This slavery is our heritage as sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. It is the human condition in this fallen world. And this is the “form” of slavery into which Christ was born. He took our human nature upon Himself, bearing the form of our enslaved humanity, becoming like us in all things except sin.

And it is not only the human race that groans in bondage to corruption and death. By choosing to become one of His own creatures, the Son of God incorporated Himself into an enslaved Universe. All of “creation has been subjected to futility”, St. Paul says in his letter to the Romans. Humanity is not alone in its misery. Our sin has tainted everything around us. As a result, the entire created order must wait for the day when it “will be set free from its bondage to decay.” That is the broken world our Savior gave up everything to enter. Flawless Divinity emptied itself out so that God might share in our brokenness. How can we possibly understand such love? And yet it is so.

Of course, Christ became incarnate in this fallen world in order to free it from its chains. By becoming “obedient unto death, even death on a cross,” Christ submitted Himself to the ultimate yoke of our slavery. Death had mastered the fallen human race from the day we were driven out of Eden. If Christ were truly to bear the form of our slavery, He too must present Himself before the gates of Hades, subjected to the power of death. But thanks be to God death proved to have no power over Him! For the obedience of Christ was neither to the dread lord of darkness, nor to the prince of this age. Uniquely in the history of the human race, Jesus Christ conformed His will to that of the only Master worthy of service. Our Savior was utterly and completely obedient to the will of His Father in Heaven, even if that meant taking all the pain and grief the world has ever known--or will ever know—into his own body and soul. And by this perfect obedience to our true Master--obedience even unto death on a cross--Christ shattered the chains that have bound His brothers and sisters to the false slave masters of sin and death since the dawn of time. How can we possibly understand the power of such self-giving obedience? And yet it is so.

The cross to which Christ was nailed in humility became the vehicle of His exaltation. Infused by the power of “the Lord and Giver of life,” He trampled down death by His own death. “Therefore God super-exalted him, and gifted him with the name that is above every name.” We see here that the ancient Christ hymn demanded more from human language than it could deliver. The mere word “exalted” was insufficient for what they needed to say. You see, not only will the angels in Heaven adore their King; not only will the faithful on earth reverently worship Him; but even those under the earth—the very demons of Hell—will cower before Him in submission. The earliest Christians had to make up a whole new word for that kind of Majesty—God has “super-exalted” Christ, they marveled!

Of course, the full reality of our Lord’s exaltation is simply too great for human speech to convey. The Savior’s present glory has implications for the entire human race. For the humanity of Christ has been exalted along with His divinity. The name that is above all names is a human name, Jesus of Nazareth. The hands that now hold the scepter of universal dominion are human hands, bearing nail scars that no longer testify to our slavery but to our freedom. Everyone who has been baptized into Christ Jesus our Lord, everyone who partakes of His precious Body and Blood in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar, has received a share of His exalted, divinized humanity. The day will come, in God’s own time, when the Church triumphant will share in the fullness of her Lord’s exaltation. The humanity that we bear is destined to become as spotless as the Lamb who was slain for our salvation. That is an awesome thought, confusing…even frightening…and wonderful beyond description. How can we possibly understand the future glory that Christ has won for us? And yet it is so.

So I commend for your prayerful consideration the second chapter of St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, the proclamation of Christ’s Church from its earliest days. May it remain her proclamation until there is no one on the face of the Earth who has not received its astonishing message. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Richard on Anglo-Catholicism

There is a worthwhile essay on Anglo-Catholicism on Richard's Ramblings. I commend it for your consideration.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

++Venables Says Alexandria Will Not Split AC

It appears that my hesitation about accepting press reports on the upcoming Alexandria meeting at face value was warranted. Archbishop Greg Venables, who leads much of the Anglican Church in South America, denies that a formal split in the Anglican Communion is in the cards at the meeting. Here is a quote from the Church Times:

Speaking from Buenos Aires on Tuesday, Bishop Venables said that the meeting of Global South leaders was not an official meeting of the Anglican Communion, but "very definitely" a private meeting for those invited. Whatever was being said in England because of civil partnerships, there was no talk of separation from England and Canterbury.

He said: "The rampant rumours and assumptions that the Anglican Communion will fracture in Egypt and be reconstituted in a different form at our upcoming Global South meeting are not in any way founded on reality. Apart from any other consideration, they fail to take into account the fact that a structural change of this magnitude in the Communion would have to be approved by each provincial synod around the world. There is great resolve and commitment to move forward in a way that is consistent with historic teaching and discipline, but it is not as simple as just having a small number of leaders make a declaration. Rest assured that, although Anglican leaders will doubtless act and speak clearly in Egypt, 50 or more years of conflict will not be resolved in the week we spend there."

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Bell Tower Dedication, September 17th

Today the Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker, bishop of Fort Worth, presided at the dedication of our new campanile at St. Vincent's Cathedral Church. The architect of the tower presented Dean Ryan Reed with the blueprints. The dedication took place in the context of the parish's 50th anniversary celebration. Barbara Burton played the new electronic carillon following the service. All of these photographs were taken by my father, R.D. Foster. More images of the dedication may be found here. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram photo may be found here.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Nigerian Anglicans Take An Interesting Step

While it would be overreacting to say it validates the dramatic predictions about the upcoming Alexandria meeting noted below from The Scotsman, the recent step by the Church of Nigeria that Canon Harmon has called our attention to today is noteworthy. This constitutional change is reported on the web site of the Nigerian Anglican Church:


With a careful rewording of her constitution, the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) redefined her relationship with all other Anglican Churches.

All former references to ‘communion with the see of Canterbury’ were deleted and replaced with another provision of communion with all Anglican Churches, Dioceses and Provinces that hold and maintain the ‘Historic Faith, Doctrine, Sacrament and Discipline of the one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church’.

Archbishop Akinola has famously reminded the entire Anglican Communion that one does not need to go through Canterbury to reach Christ. This change codifies that aphorism. But it does raise the question of exactly what it means to be "Anglican" if Canterbury is no longer invoked as the symbolic center of our Communion. The Nigerian amendments look to the 1662 Prayer Book and the 39 Articles as touchstones, but a great deal of water has passed under the bridge (including the Oxford Movement and Catholic Revival) since those venerable texts were composed. It will certainly take time to see what this sort of change might mean for the world-wide Anglican Communion. But at least in the short term, the Anglican Communion Network here in the United States can take heart. The change was clearly drafted to indicate that the Nigerian church is still in full communion with the faithful ACN dioceses, even if the national ECUSA is no longer in communion with that sizeable and dynamic Anglican province.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Goal Posts are Up!

Saint Vincent's Cathedral School is really going to have a high school. I know this because this is Texas, and we now have a real football field! And as you know, football is sine qua non for a real Texas high school. The sod is growing nicely and the goal posts (pictured left) are in place. The bleachers have also been assembled. In addition, there is a new soccer field (the goal of which is visible in the background) behind the upper school building. Our Lady of Victory, pray for us. Go Eagles!

Alexandria-based Anglicanism?

I must admit that I am rather skeptical about this story by Trevor Grundy in The Scotsman today about an upcoming conference in Alexandria, Egypt, but I pass it along for your consideration:

"AFRICANS say they have had enough of the Church of England's endless discussions over the ordination of gay vicars and same-sex blessings. With help from their colleagues in Latin America, African primates, bishops, priests and laymen are getting ready to strike out on their own and establish a new Anglican Church based in Egypt.

A conference that could turn the Anglican community on its head takes place in Alexandria, Egypt, next month, organised by angry Africans and Latin Americans who say they are "sick and tired" of endless debate about same-sex blessings and the ordination of gay Christians. "We've had enough," the Archbishop of Central Africa, Bernard Malango, said last week.

The Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) and the recently formed Council of Anglican Provinces of the Americas and Caribbean (CAPAC) will represent up to two-thirds of the world's 77 million Anglicans. In a new African-based Anglican community they plan to replace the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams as their spiritual leader with the Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Jasper Akinola, and exclude homosexuals from full church life."

Read the full story, such as it is, here. There can be no doubt, however, that many of the Communion's primates are increasingly unhappy with the left-ward drift of the churches in the industrialized West on issues related to sexual ethics. Alexandria will certainly be worth watching. Lord, have mercy upon us.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Exorcism Course in Rome -- An Article from Zenit

Why Another Course on Exorcism and Satanism: Interview With Carlo Climati

ROME, SEPT. 8, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Interest in Satanism hasn't waned. That is why the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University and the Socioreligious Research and Information Group are offering a course on "Exorcism and the Prayer of Deliverance," the second of its kind. To better understand the objectives and reasons for the course, which starts Oct. 13, ZENIT interviewed one of the program's teachers, Carlo Climati, a journalist who has written on youth Satanism.

Q: How did the idea arise to organize a second course on exorcism and Satanism, after the one already imparted in February, March and April of last year, which received unexpected coverage by the media worldwide?

Climati: There was a need to respond to the numerous requests that came from various parts of the world. The second course will be held from October 13 to February 9, 2006, with a break in mid-November and mid-January. It is reserved for priests and students with a licentiate in theology who are preparing for the priesthood. Moreover, it will be possible to follow the course by videoconference from Bologna, Perugia, Assisi, Maddaloni and other cities around the world.

Q: What are the novelties of this second edition?

Climati: All the professors of the first course have been confirmed. To these will be added Archbishop Angelo Comastri, the Pope's vicar general for Vatican City, and Bishop Andrea Gemma, F.D.P., of Isernia-Venafro, for the opening session, as well as several exorcists for the closing session.

Q: How has the first course been evaluated?

Climati: Optimally. A total of 127 people participated from Italy, Africa, Mexico, Brazil, the United States, Austria, Germany and Slovakia. In particular, its interdisciplinary character was very much appreciated, which allowed for a complete view of the arguments, including the scientific point of view. Without a doubt, among the objectives of the course was to remove such a difficult and delicate argument from a superficial and sensationalist approach.

Q: Did the interest of the media in the first course contribute to this result?

Climati: Undoubtedly. Newspapers, radios, magazines, news agencies and television channels from all over the world talked about our initiative with a correct and balanced language, which corresponded to the spirit of the course. Our sincere gratitude goes to all the journalists who made that course known, for the seriousness they demonstrated in their task of informing.

Q: What are the objectives of the second course?

Climati: In addition to the topic of exorcism, there will be much discussion on the problem of Satanism and sects. This second course also has the objective to give priests useful instruments for their pastoral work of information and support to families. Some incidents mentioned by the media recently must be a sign of alarm to take seriously a problem that is still underestimated: the increase of interest in Satanism. With his solid preparation, a priest can offer an important contribution to address this problem, which can affect above all young people.

Q: How would you describe the phenomenon of youth Satanism?

Climati: Youth Satanism is, above all, domestic Satanism, "homemade." There are increasingly more youths who admit to being fascinated by devil worship and by a world of lugubrious and dark environments. For many of them, shadows seem to be more attractive than light. "Homemade" Satanism is an even more harmful phenomenon than sects. A sect, in fact, can be discovered and easily controlled. But the personal initiative of three or four youths gets out of control. One only succeeds in intervening when the evil has already been done. For this reason, it is important to offer appropriate information to families. In this connection, a priest can have a determinant role and offer precious preventive action.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Classical Anglicanism and Me

I just received word that a friend of mine from the University of Chicago is going to be received into the Roman Catholic Church in Colorado in a few weeks. This young man was once a youth minister at an Episcopal parish in his home state, though while in Chicago he joined Moody Memorial Church (a keystone of the American evangelical movement). I haven’t really been in touch with him since I returned to Texas fifteen months ago, so I don’t know exactly what took him from Moody Church to Catholicism. I certainly wish him well, and I rejoice that he is joining a branch of the Church that teaches the apostolic Faith, values the great Tradition of the Church, and cherishes all the Sacraments. May God bless him on this new path.

This news has made me pensive. He is not the first friend of mine who has “swam the Tiber” during the last two years. One friend (whose wife is still an ECUSA priest, btw) was received into the RCC a year and a half ago. I think it was the philosophical heritage of Roman Catholic theology that attracted him more than anything else. A young U of C undergraduate friend, whose father was an Episcopal priest all her life, was received into the RCC last Easter with the rest of her family. A third dear friend of mine in Chicago--I have heard through the grapevine--is close to taking the plunge any time. (It is possible that he has already made up his mind to do so and is holding back from telling me.) All of these people were Episcopalians until the events of General Convention 2003. And they all no longer felt at home within ECUSA. After having spent seven years living in the diocese of Chicago, I certainly understand that feeling. It is very difficult to maintain “the faith once delivered to the saints” under present conditions in much of the Episcopal Church. But why have they all left but I have not?

I am first and foremost a Catholic Christian, dedicated to the one Faith of Jesus Christ as revealed in the two Testaments of Holy Scripture, summarized in the three great historic creeds, defined by the first four Ecumenical Councils of the Church during the first five centuries of the Christian era. I want to live and die in the undivided Truth of the Church as it was taught before the sad division between East and West.

I personally stand within western Catholic tradition because it is the western expression of the undivided Truth (i.e., Augustine, Gregory the Great, Anselm, Bernard, Thomas) that resonates most strongly in my heart (though I certainly honor those who find the eastern expression of our common Faith more compelling). I am an Anglican rather than a Roman Catholic today largely because I do not agree with present RCC teaching on the papacy. I do not find the claims to infallibility that the First Vatican Council made on behalf of the Holy Father in Rome to be consistent with the practice of the ancient Church (or of the undivided Church at any time in her history). To my knowledge the East has never accepted the claims to papal infallibility that arose in the West in late antiquity and the Middle Ages. Also, I believe that the present configuration of the Pope's "universal jurisdiction"--especially the claimed right to appoint every bishop in the Church (or even just the western portion of the Church)--is a further innovation that is inconsistent with ancient practice.

This hesitance to accept universal papal jurisdiction or infallibility in no way implies a lack of respect for the present Pope as a man of faith and a Christian leader. (Readers of this blog have no doubt noticed that I hold Pope Benedict in very high esteem). Rome clearly has a strong traditional claim on a “primacy of honor” within the worldwide Church, and the bishops of Rome deserve great respect for the fine work they have done in preserving the orthodox Faith down through the centuries.

Please do not mistake my reservations about the powers and claims of the papacy for "anti-Catholicism." I have carefully studied The Catechism of the Catholic Church and could happily affirm all but five or six paragraphs in that hefty compendium as my own understanding of the Christian faith. That would, I suspect, make me a more enthusiastic son of Rome than 80% of the Roman Catholics who attend Mass on a normal Sunday in the United States. And I long for the day when classical Anglicans and Roman Catholics are once again reunited in the visible Church on Earth. But I cannot in good conscience affirm a power of infallibility in the successor of St. Peter as an individual. (I feel this power would reside only in a genuine ecumenical council of the Church, not an individual bishop no matter how venerable his see.) I certainly understand why many people find comfort in papal infallibility in the face of so much doctrinal division today, but I am afraid that I cannot concur.

I am encourgaged that under Pope John Paul II, and now perhaps under Pope Benedict XVI, there is a new willingness to rethink how the Petrine office can be more effectively used to serve the unity of the Church. There is, for example, some practical value in having a "court of final jurisdicition" available to settle doctrinal disputes, and one can easily foresee such a ministry for the bishops of Rome in a future reunited Church. In light of the present pontiff's express desire to heal the breach between Rome and the East, one can imagine a future where the reservations of traditional Anglo-Catholic Anglicans (which closely parallel those of the Orthodox) have been sufficiently addressed for organic reunion to occur between our branches of Christ's Body. But under the present circumstances, classical Anglicanism is the expression of western Christianity that I find most consonant with the ancient heritage of the Church.

Another aspect of classical Anglicanism that I find appealing is its traditional ability to reconcile Catholic and evangelical viewpoints within a single orthodox body, both constituent parties of which are devoted to the veracity of Scripture, the validity of the Sacraments and the unity of the Body. This is the true meaning of the Anglican Via Media, and I believe that at its best it enriches our Catholic heritage with a zeal for the Gospel that honors our Savior highly. I am an Anglo-Catholic by conviction, but I honor my evangelical Anglican brothers and sisters sincerely for their dedication to the Truth.

These are the reasons I remain an Anglican. But let me be clear—I am a Catholic Christian standing in the tradition of classical Anglicanism. Increasingly it is becoming difficult to find this kind of Anglicanism in practice in North America and Great Britain. Many Episcopalians in the US are in fact liberal Protestants by conviction. They just happen to prefer a “fancy” style of worship, with esthetically appealing worship spaces, vestments and music. Many liberal Episcopalians could care less about the authority and integrity of Scripture or Tradition. Classical Anglicanism has been marginalized within ECUSA. A dozen dioceses, a few dozen embattled parishes in heterodox dioceses, a couple of seminaries—that is about all that remains today. I have to admit that if I were not in a solidly orthodox diocese with a faithful bishop and presbyterate, I might despair of a future for classical Anglicanism. Under the circumstances that prevail in much of ECUSA the Tiber might beckon to me as well. I therefore wish those who have already left the Episcopal church Godspeed. But the Anglican Communion Network gives me hope that classical Anglicanism may not perish from our continent, and my diocese remains steadfast. May God have mercy on us and preserve our Anglican heritage, if it is worthy of being preserved. If it is not, may He take what is worthwhile from its wreckage and pass it along for the good of the Universal Church. As for me, I will stay the course and follow the lead of Bishop Iker, my reverend father in God.

I wish all my friends who have been received into the Roman Catholic Church well and assure them of my prayers. I also pray for the day when we all may be one as Christ and the Father are One.

The image above is Canterbury Cathedral, looking down the sanctuary from the site of St. Thomas Beckett's tomb.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Hurricane Relief

The Anglican Communion Network and the American Anglican Council have launched a joint effort for the relief of victims of Hurricane Katrina. You may find information about how to contribute here. May God be with the victims, their families, and the relief and public safety workers in this trying time. And may the souls of the faithful departed through the mercies of God rest in peace. Amen

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