"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, May 27, 2006

A Sermon for Sunday, May 28th

They stood there on the Mount of Olives that Thursday gaping at the sky. Christ was gone, taken up into the clouds before their very eyes. Their risen Lord and Teacher had appeared to them frequently over the forty days since Easter Sunday, “speaking about the kingdom of God.” Christ had reassured them with His presence for more than a month after His triumph over death and the grave—a living, breathing confirmation of the promise of eternal life to all who believe in His name. And significantly, as St. Luke tells us in his Gospel and the Book of Acts, Christ had “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” and “had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom He had chosen.” But now that was over. The Lord had returned to Heaven, whence He had come. And they were alone again on the hilltop, staring into the sky in wonder … and, no doubt, with a bit of apprehension.

What exactly were they supposed to do now? Before His Ascension the Lord had instructed His disciples to “stay in the city until [they were] clothed with power from on high,” which had something to do with what Christ called being “baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” This new power from the Spirit was clearly somewhat more comprehensive than the ability to forgive sins that the risen Jesus had conferred upon the apostles when He breathed upon them on Easter Sunday. This new “power from on high” would enable the disciples to be Christ’s “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” That was quite an ambitious project for a community of believers that numbered only 120 souls at the time of the Ascension. No wonder they stood there hoping Jesus was coming right back! “Lord, please come back down. We have a few more questions!”

But their wonder and confusion was brought to a sudden end. Two angelic figures appeared to them, chastising their hesitation. “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” The implied message of the angels? “Quit stalling! The Lord will come back when the time is right. In the meantime there is work to be done. Get on with it!”

So they returned to Jerusalem to await the promised “power from on high,” whenever God might choose to send it. The Eleven surviving apostles, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the women who had followed the Lord, and His relatives gathered together again in the upper room. And as St. Luke puts it, “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer.”

But the disciples didn’t just pray. They acted. Saint Peter stood up and, citing the Psalms of David as authority, made a bold proposal: they needed to appoint another apostle to take the place of the traitor, Judas Iscariot. “One of the men who have accompanied us during all the time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,” Peter said, “beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” The witness of the community of believers to the salvation wrought by Jesus Christ, Peter knew, could not be allowed to falter. And as chief witnesses and guardians of the testimony, it was especially important that the apostolic college remain intact. But please note, the new apostle must be able to testify to the whole body of Sacred Tradition, not only what Jesus said and did during His earthly ministry, not only His cross and empty tomb, but also what Christ did and taught after His resurrection. The saving work of God in Christ Jesus is made of whole cloth, and an apostle had to be able to pass that entire sacred tapestry along to others intact. After prayerful consideration, the lot fell on Matthias, “and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.”

But there was more to the appointment of Matthias as an apostle than simply insuring there were enough authoritative witnesses to spread the message about Christ’s ministry, death and resurrection. There was a deeper, mystical meaning in the selection of the new apostle. St. Peter and the others knew that the restored Israel, redeemed with Christ’s own sacred blood, must not be deprived of wholeness through the treachery of Judas. The Lord Jesus had desired unity for His people. In His high priestly prayer after supper on the night He was betrayed, Christ had prayed for this unity in the strongest possible terms: “Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” The bond of unity that Christ desires among His people is meant to be as sure as the limitless communion between God the Father and God the Son. Christ wills for His Body the Church—which soon will draw members from “every tribe and people and language and nation” on earth--to mirror the unity of the Holy Trinity itself!

But as serious students of the Old Testament, St. Peter and the other apostles knew that when the unity of the twelve tribes of Israel under King David and his son, Solomon, had collapsed more than nine hundred years earlier, then apostasy, immorality, and—ultimately--destruction followed closely behind. This could not to be the fate of the renewed Israel of the Messiah Jesus. The number of her patriarchs must be complete at twelve, and these leaders must be united in their witness, “devoting themselves to prayer”…“with one accord.” The wound inflicted by the kiss of Judas could not be allowed to maim the Israel of God forever, not if all were to be one as Christ and the Father are one. Hence, the apostolic college was restored to wholeness by the appointment of Matthias and the people of God were prepared to take the Gospel of salvation into the entire world “when the power from on high” came upon them a week later at Pentecost.

This mission to take the Good News of Jesus Christ out into the world is, of course, our highest duty as Christians. Shortly before His Ascension, our Lord commanded us to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” This Great Commission is an unshakable obligation for every Christian, even if it makes us staid Anglicans a bit uncomfortable at times.

But we have a second sacred obligation as well: to work for the restoration of the unity on earth of Christ’s Body, the Church. It is deeply saddening that you and I remain separated today from millions of Protestants who believe every word of the Nicene Creed and revere the Holy Scriptures as God’s written revelation. And it is nothing less than a tragedy that Catholic Anglicans, such as the good people of St. Vincent’s Cathedral, are not in full communion with our Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, with whom we share 98% of the deposit of Faith. As the apostles knew in those first days after the Ascension, whenever the unity of God’s people is compromised there is danger to the entire Body. We are most sound and best able to serve our Lord when we are “of one accord” in testimony and practice. And lest we forget, Christ desired the unity of His people so much that He made it a centerpiece of His final prayer before being handed over to suffering and death on the cross on our behalf. How can you and I not do everything in our power to see that His will be done?

Please note: I am not talking about a “lowest common denominator” approach. The sad fact is there is virtually nothing that all people who call themselves “Christian” can agree upon, not even the divinity of Christ. We must not trade away a single treasure in the deposit of Faith that the ancient Church handed down to us in order to reach agreement with those who hold unsound teachings. Any resulting “unity” would be fatally compromised from the start. Rather, I am talking about restoring the visible unity of all those who sincerely share “the Faith once delivered to the saints,” what C.S. Lewis called “mere Christianity”: those who believe our risen Savior Jesus Christ is truly human and truly divine, who reverence the Bible as the written revelation of God’s holy Word, who affirm the historic Creeds of the ancient Church without reservation, and who respect the Spirit-filled wisdom of the hundred generations of Christians who have come before us. There are about a billion and a half such Christians in the world today. What a witness it would be if we all truly were one as Christ and the Father are one! The gates of Hell could not prevail against that!

It is especially fitting that you and I, as Americans, reflect upon this sacred obligation to work for Christian unity on Memorial Day Weekend, when our nation honors those who, with courage and determination, have given “the last, full measure of devotion” for the unity and integrity of the American Republic. You and I need a similar devotion to the great work ahead of us. May God, through His grace, give us courage and determination to work without ceasing for the restored unity and integrity of Christ’s Church on earth, and may He hasten the day when all Christians devote themselves to prayer “with one accord,” as those first saints did long ago in the upper room. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Awards Assembly at SVCS--the School Year is Over!

Today we had our annual awards assembly at St. Vincent's Cathedral School, ending our 2005-6 school year. Students were recognized for various achievements in academics, athletics and community service. We welcomed the incoming sixth grade class to the Middle School and had a "coming up" ceremony for our present eighth graders, who now qualify as our first High School class--the freshmen of the Class of 2010. I was quite surpised to discover that I had been chosen to receive the Spirit of the Covenant Award, which is St. Vincent's School's version of Teacher of the Year. The winner is selected by the school's corps of teachers. You could have knocked me over with a feather! Not only did the award come with a plaque and a much needed cash prize, but the first graders in our lower school, who know me as the lay chaplain who leads their chapel service twice per week, created a special book of "letters to Mr. Foster." The image below is the cover of that marvelous book. I am deeply honored, and most grateful to the teachers and students of St. Vincent's for their kindness.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Deacon Matthew Cantrell Ordained at St. Vladimir's Seminary

A friend of many readers of this blog, Brice Cantrell, was ordained a deacon last weekend at St. Vladimir's Seminary in Yonkers, New York, by Metropolitan Herman of the Orthodox Church of America. He will be known as Deacon Matthew, his chrismation name. Photos of the ordination may be found here. May God bless Deacon Matthew and his family as he begins his new ministry (his wife Jenny is expecting, btw).

Home Again, Home Again

The St. Vincent's School eighth graders, our principal and I made it back home to Texas last night from a fine trip to our nation's captital. I enjoyed myself a great deal, and I think our young folks did as well. Even more importantly, I think we all learned something about our heritage as Americans and our responsibilities as citizens. All are in good health (Thanks be to God!), and we are looking forward to our end-of-year awards assembly at school tomorrow. Thanks for all of your prayers while we were away.

Here are a couple of photos from our journey. The first is a picture of our students and me with the kind and gracious Bob Schieffer of CBS News on the set of "Face the Nation" following the broadcast that we observed from the control booth.
Here are the students and I with Mr. Schieffer and Senator Diane Feinstein of California, the in-studio guest on last Sunday's "Face the Nation", in the Green Room before the broadcast. Finally, here are our kids on the steps of the Capitol. (There were police sharpshooters protecting the Senate while it was in session just to the right of this picture's frame, but they preferred not to be photographed!)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

I'm Off to D.C.

There won't be any posts on this blog for the next few days, as I will be serving as a chaperone for St. Vincent's Cathedral School's eighth grade trip to Williamsburg, Jameston, and Washington, D.C., over the next five days. The tour we are taking is quite comprehensive, and I am looking forward to the trip a lot. I haven't been to Washington since 1989. One special treat on the trip: Bob Schiefer of CBS News is allowing our eighth graders and me to observe the taping of "Face the Nation" this Sunday. "Face the Nation" normally does not have a live audience, but Mr. Schiefer is the brother of our principal, Mrs. Sharon Mayes, so we are getting special access. (Mrs. Mayes' other brother, Tom Schiefer, is the present American ambassador to Japan.) I will give a full report upon my return to Texas. God bless.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Bishop Iker at the Tomb of St. Leo the Great

The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker, my bishop here in the diocese of Fort Worth, and several other leading priests of our diocese travelled to Rome three weeks ago on pilgrimage. From what I have heard, it was a deeply meaningful trip for all. The image above depicts Bishop Iker kneeling in prayer at the tomb of St. Leo the Great, his patron saint and an exemplary defender of the Faith as pope in the fifth century. Our clergy also attended a papal audience and had a lengthy meeting with Cardinal Law (over tea, of course) during their visit to the Vatican. More details may be read here.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Blue/White Day at SVCS

Yesterday we celebrated our Blue/White Day at St. Vincent's School. This spring our middle schoolers began preparing for our first season of six-man tackle football next year (and as we all know, you don't have a real Texas secondary school until you have tackle football!). Yesterday's game allowed the team to debut their new helmets and pads. The White team won the scrimmage 8-0.
Also participating in the festivities were our pep band and lower school cheerleaders. The whole event very much had the feel of small town America about it, and a good time was had by all. Photos by R.D. Foster. Go Eagles!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Register for St. Michael's--Southwest

Just a reminder that registration for St. Michael's Youth Conference, Southwest, has now opened.

St. Michael's Youth Conference is a superb opportunity for Anglo-Catholic youth to learn and grow in "the faith once delivered to the saints." It has been described as "Anglo-Catholic boot camp," due to its strong emphasis on disciplined worship and concentrated study of the deposit of faith, but I am certain a great deal of fun will be had as well. The conference is being held at Camp Crucis, the diocese of Fort Worth's marvelous retreat center outside of Granbury, Texas. The facilities are first-rate and the St. Michael's staff--under the supervision of Fr. Christopher Cantrell--is knowledgeable and devout. I cannot encourage you strongly enough to consider sending young people in your parish to this week-long experience of education, worship and spiritual renewal.

Information about registration may be found here.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

California Elects Bishop Andrus of Alabama

The diocese of California today has elected a heterosexual man as its next bishop, perhaps allowing ECUSA to step back from the brink. GenCon 06 can now avoid a straight "up-or-down" vote on confirming an openly gay bishop-elect.

The new bishop of California will be the Rt. Rev. Mark Andrus, presently the suffragan bishop of Alabama. Three of the candidates on the ballot in California today were openly gay or lesbian, and the election of any of them would have presented GenCon with a clear choice as to whether or not to flout the will of the world-wide Anglican Communion. Bishop Andrus, however, while clearly a theological liberal, is a married man with college-age children. His election has been hailed by Integrity, a "gay rights" group within ECUSA, in these terms: “Bishop Andrus is a long-time Integrity ally and will bring his support for the full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the church to his ministry in California.”

It looks increasingly unlikely that GenCon 06 will present as many clear decisions on whether or not ECUSA will choose to "walk apart" from the world-wide Anglican Communion as was once thought. With Bishop Andrus' election and the carefully-guarded language of the recommendations on compliance in the Windsor Report put forward by the Special Commission on the Anglican Communion, GenCon 06 may be able to pacify orthodox Anglican leaders overseas just enough to avoid being permanently ejected from the world-wide Communion. We shall see, but I longer expect major fireworks this summer at the national level. It remains to be seen what the Anglican Communion Network and overseas leaders will do in response to this slightly more eirenic tone.

Friday, May 05, 2006

More from Jeff Moore

For those who might be interested, Jeff Moore, formerly curate at St. Vincent's, has published a supplement to his apologia for departing from our diocese for the Roman Catholic Church. It may be found at Pontifications.

I cannot say that I usually find this sort of essay particularly enlightening. The authors typically assume as given points that I consider open. For example, one crucial question in any such discussion is "What is the precise relationship between the authority given to St. Peter by our Lord during his earthly ministry and the present claims of the bishops of Rome to govern the universal Church?" That is a very worthy topic for consideration, and should provide the keystone of any effective argument that an Anglican ought to "swim the Tiber." Mr. Moore, however, simply assumes that wherever the present successor to the apostle Peter is, there is the plenitudo potestatis to lead Christ's Church on earth. The assumption he makes demands his conclusion, but the assumption is unproven. Hence, I do not find the essay persuasive.

For me the intervening 1975 years of historical development are relevant to the issue. The claims made by the bishops of Rome in antiquity were clearly less sweeping that those of their medieval successors and Vatican I (primacy of jurisdiction, infallibity of the Petrine office, etc.). Leo I and Gregory I would surely have been dumbfounded by the "imperial papacy" of the high middle ages. (I am not, incidentally, referring to the wicked personal lives of some long-dead popes. My concerns with the claims of the papacy are theological, not moral. A great many of the popes have been devout, holy men, certainly including the present incumbent.) Must one swallow all of these later developments "hook, line and sinker" in order to be faithful to God's will for the Church? That is the issue for me.

It appears to me that one must be willing to accept Cardinal Newman's arguments about "the development of doctrine" for Mr. Moore's apologia to persuade. Before I could submit to the full authority presently claimed by the bishops of Rome, I need to be convinced that the view of the Eastern Orthodox Churches on the primacy of Rome (e.g., a primacy of honor within a conciliar Church, which I take to be closer to the ancient Church's understanding) is not correct. I would need to be convinced that this later evolution of the Petrine office has been guided by the Holy Spirit and is God's will for the Church. I am not so persuaded at present, and I am afraid that Mr. Moore's essays have not moved me any closer to being convinced.

The image above is of Gregory I of Rome, one pontiff (among many) for whom I have the highest esteem.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

GenCon 06 as ECUSA's 1984?

The clever image above was posted on Brad Drell's blog, citing Binky as his source. A fine comment on the "newspeak" that the Presiding Bishop seems to have mastered and which increasingly typifies portions of North American Anglicanism. Hat tip to Fr Cantrell the Younger.

Monday, May 01, 2006

A Thank You to the Priests of Our Diocese

I am not certain what brought it particularly to my mind today. Perhaps it was the week-long absence of our dean while he, Bishop Iker and several other senior priests of the diocese of Fort Worth were on pilgrimage to Rome. But today I was strongly reminded of a conversation I had a few years ago with a good friend of mine in Chicago. My friend is also a conservative Anglo-Catholic, and we were lamenting the sorry state of affairs for doctrinally orthodox Episcopalians in that area. Then he turned to me and said words to this effect: "You know, Randall, I have been worshipping in parishes in this diocese of years now. The sad fact is that I don't know a single Episcopal priest whom I truly respect as a priest. I know some who are likeable as people and have been decent to me, but not a one that I truly admire and trust as a priest."

I knew immediately what he meant. There were a few ECUSA priests I knew in Chicago who were doctrinally orthodox and treated the liturgy with respect, but there were elements of their personal lives or their personalities that were less than admirable to me. Then there were the vast majority: the teachers of unsound doctrine, advocates/practitioners of unhealthy lifestyles, and leaders of folly-ridden worship that made up the majority of ECUSA priests I met in my six years there. There were some ECUSA priests that had been decent to me personally, but I had no desire to emulate them--or even go to them for confession. This realization brought me low. Here I was prayerfully considering a possible vocation to the priesthood, and I didn't have regular contact with a single priestly role model in Chicago!

Then I came back home to Fort Worth. Almost as soon as I got back in town the diocese held a weekend "Vocations Retreat" at Camp Crucis (near Granbury, Texas), where all the seminarians and aspirants to Holy Orders in our diocese spent three days together and heard presentations on the theology of the ministerial priesthood and the lives and ministries of Anglican priests from men who had been serving as priests for decades. It was amazing! I found myself inspired, even emotionally overcome, by the presentations. I got to spend time with senior priests in Fort Worth, worshipping with them, talking with them over meals, praying with them. I realized on the third day of the retreat that after spending six years in a place where I met not a single priest whom I truly admired, in three days I had met a dozen priests whom I did respect--deeply respect. I cannot tell you how much that meant to me. I literally wept.

This is not to say that all of our priests are perfect. They are men, after all, not angels. They have their quirks like everyone else, and occassionally they come up short. But they are dedicated and sincere servants of God, sound teachers of the Faith and positive moral examples to their flocks. In the last two years I have met a dozen superb role models for aspirants and postulants. I just wanted to say, "Thank you, gentlemen, for your service and your example. Thank you for your fidelity."

The photo above is of the Renewal of Ordination Vows at the Chrism Mass held at St. Vincent's on Tuesday of Holy Week. The priests on the front row are among the most senior in our diocese. But don't be deceived--Fort Worth actually has one of the youngest Anglican presbyteries in the nation.

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