"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, July 31, 2007

The Common Cause is Endorsed by the Network

Front Row: Jon-David Schofield, San Joaquin; Jack Iker, Forth Worth: Bill Cox, Southern Cone/Asst. Oklahoma rt; Gregory Venables, Primate Southern Cone; Robt Duncan, Pittsburgh; William Wantland, Eau Claire rt; Keith Ackerman, Quincy.
Second Row: James Stanton, Dallas; William Ilgenfritz, Forward in Faith bishop elect; Bill Atwood, suffragan bishop elect of All Saints Diocese Kenya; Bishop Ray Sutton, Reformed Episcopal Church; John Guernsey, suffragan bishop elect of Uganda; Richard Boyce, Anglican Province of America; Jeffrey Steenson, Rio Grande; Don Harvey, Western Newfoundland rt; David Bena, suffragan Albany rt/Asst Bishop Cana; James Adams, Western Kansas; William Love, Albany

St Vincent’s Cathedral, Bedford Texas. July 31, 2007.

In a hugely important step toward orthodox Anglican unity in North America, today the ACN ratified the Theological Statement and Articles of the Common Cause Partnership. This grouping will allow close cooperation, amounting in truth to a federation, of groups including the Network, the AMiA, CANA, the APA, and the REC. Ministers should be able to be called between the jurisdictions, and even "officiate transiently" in each other's jurisdictions. This is a great first step toward the new "ecclesial structure" envisioned by the Global South primates.

Here is the story on the actions of the Network's annual meeting (at my home church, St. Vincent's Cathedral, Bedford) today:

Council Ratifies Common Cause Structural Document

Delegates to the Network’s Annual Council voted unanimously to ratify the federating Articles of the Common Cause Partners, to clarify the relationship of Network affiliates to The Episcopal Church, and to restate the Network’s commitment to making space for different opinions about women in Holy Orders.

Describing the federating Articles, Bishop-elect John Guernsey said, they are “a step forward for Common Cause that allows the constituent partners to retain their identity and autonomy while forming a more coherent and accountable structure. None of the groups disappear and none of the groups stop their gospel mission… Yet we are forming a more coherent whole.”

The Articles create a leadership council, outline the purpose of the Common Cause partnership, and envision structures that will allow Common Cause Partners to work more closely together in communications, mission and education. Providing it meets each partner’s canonical requirements, the articles also envision Partners making arrangements for the orderly transfer of members between the parishes of different jurisdictions and allowing the clergy of Partners to “officiate transiently” in jurisdictions other than their own.

Delegates also unanimously approved an amendment to the bylaws of the Anglican Communion Network. Noting that many individual parishes and leaders in the Network are no longer part of The Episcopal Church, delegates voted to add the following statement: “Nothing in the charter or bylaws shall be interpreted as requiring submission to the constitution of The Episcopal Church by affiliates of this Network who are not themselves members of The Episcopal Church.

Finally, delegates voted unanimously to ask the Common Cause Partners to add an article to the Common Cause Partner’s Articles that acknowledges differences between Anglicans over women in Holy Orders and pledges that partners “shall recognize and honor the positions and practices on this issue of other members in the Common Cause Partnership.”

Bishop Robert Duncan, moderator of the Network, thanked delegates for their work. “I think we have done a very good job on some very significant things. God
has been, and continues to be, so good to us. Thank you,” he said.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Global South "Encouraged" by the Way APO Dioceses are Moving

The Global South Steering Committee, representing some of the world's largest Anglican provinces, has just released an important statement on the present crisis. Two paragraphs are of great interest to those of us in dioceses that are appealing for Alternative Primatial Oversight (with my emphasis in boldface):

6. Because of the categorical rejection of the unanimously agreed Pastoral Scheme and the urgent needs of the growing number of congregations now linked to various Provinces in the Global South, we have had no choice but to provide additional episcopal oversight from the concerned Provinces. We believe that failure to do so would have resulted in many individuals and congregations lost to the Anglican Communion. The rejection of the proposed Pastoral Scheme has also had a profound impact on those dioceses that had requested alternative primatial oversight. We are aware that they are exploring various ways in which they can maintain their Anglican identity apart from The Episcopal Church. We are encouraged by this and also that they are working together within the Common Cause Partnership to avoid unnecessary fragmentation. We recognize that this is a temporary measure and look forward to the time when it is either no longer necessary or they are all part of a new ecclesiastical structure in the USA.

7. We are aware of the anticipated visit by the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and the ACC to the September meeting of the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church USA. Sadly we are convinced that this decision, made jointly by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chair of the ACC, undermines the integrity of the Dar es Salaam Communiqué. We believe that the Primates Meeting, which initiated the request to the TEC House of Bishops, must make any determination as to the adequacy of their response. We strongly urge the scheduling of a Primates’ Meeting for this purpose at the earliest possible moment

You can read it all via Stand Firm.

The Members of the Global South Steering Committee are:

President: Most Rev’d Peter J. Akinola, Primate of All Nigeria
General Secretary: The Most Rev’d John Chew, Bishop of Singapore
Treasurer: The Rt. Rev’d Mouneer Anis, Bishop of Diocese of Egypt
Most Rev’d Emmanuel Kolini, Province of Rwanda
Most Rev’d Drexel Gomez, the Province of the West Indies
Most Rev’d Bernard Malango, Province of Central Africa
Most Rev’d Gregory Venables, the Province of the Southern Cone

Monday, July 09, 2007

Greetings from Nashotah House

Hello, Friends.

Just dropping a line to say I arrived safe and sound in Wisconsin. I will be studying at Nashotah House Seminary here for the next month (the "Petertide term" in Nashotah parlance) beginning my work toward a Master of Sacred Theology degree. I will taking one liturgy class and one history of spirituality class with Dr. Klukas of the NH faculty. I will also be taking a class on New Testament pneumatology with a visiting professor named Seemuth. It should be a great deal of fun, and hopefully valuable as well.

I will still be able to post, so please keep dropping by for news and occassional comment.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

A Sermon for Proper 9

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in the day of battle; be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust down to hell Satan and all wicked spirits, who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen

Now before you start wondering, today is not the feast of St. Michael and all Angels. That feast is still two and half months away. But I wanted to begin today with a prayer for St. Michael’s assistance because the Scripture lessons we have just heard are in significant part about spiritual warfare. And according to the twelfth chapter of the Revelation to St. John the archangel Michael is our battlefield commander in our fight against the spiritual forces of wickedness that corrupt and destroy the creatures of God.

The thrust of my message this morning may make some people a bit uncomfortable. In the first place this is the year 2007, and in our “scientific” age it is common for people to doubt the literal existence of demons. And secondly, I am sure all of us prefer to reflect on the Scriptures that focus on the love of God and peace for the faithful rather ones about combat against the forces of darkness. But our Lord Jesus clearly took the threat of the demonic seriously, and He confronted and vanquished that evil on a daily basis during his earthly ministry. And we have just heard that Christ gave His church “authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy”, so much so that even the demons of Hell were subject to early missionary teams in Christ’s name. So if you and I are going to be faithful to our own commission to spread the Gospel and serve the Lord as He desires, we cannot ignore His summons to battle as well as the call to share the Good News.

Virtually every culture in the ancient world accepted the existence of evil spirits. In the New Testament demons are referred to more than seventy times. They are most frequently referred to as daimonia, literally “little demons,” reminding us of their relative powerlessness before the awesome might of the God’s only-begotten Son. In the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles demons are often associated with physical illness, including blindness and symptoms that look very much like epilepsy to the modern reader. Even more frequently demonic possession is described in ways that strongly resemble what we would call “mental illness,” ranging from catatonia to self-destructive behavior to uncontrolled outbursts of violence. Jesus directly confronts demons that cause these physical and mental problems and He expels them by a word of command, just as He cures physical ailments that are not clearly demonic by His word and His saving touch. In fact, Biblical texts are often ambiguous as to whether or not a purely physical healing is being described or an exorcism of a demon. Notice that in today’s Gospel lesson, for example, that Jesus sends out the seventy missionaries with instructions to “cure the sick who are there, and say to them, `The kingdom of God has come near to you.'” Yet when they return, the seventy do not speak expressly about physical healings but instead report, "Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!" It seems likely that in the minds of our Lord Jesus and His disciples liberation from spiritual darkness and freedom from physical and mental illness went hand in hand. For they have a common source—the Fall.

According to an ancient Church Tradition recounted by St. Ephrem the Syrian in the fourth century A.D., immediately after God created Adam in His own “image and likeness” the first human being bowed in humble obedience to his Creator. The archangel Michael then turned to the other angels surrounding the throne of Glory and said, "Worship the image of the Lord God just as the Lord God has commanded." Satan (also known as Lucifer), one of the greatest of the angels, was outraged by this demand. "I do not have it within me to worship Adam," he replied, "I will not worship him who is lower and later than me. I am prior to that creature. Before he was made, I had already been made. He ought to worship me." In his anger Satan rebelled against the majesty of God and was cast out of Heaven along with a third of the angelic host who had joined him in his treason. According to Tradition, these fallen angels became the demons of Hell. Satan’s exile at the dawn of Man may be reflected in our Lord’s statement in the Gospel lesson today, “"I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.”

Satan’s desire to deface the image and likeness of God borne by mankind prompted his temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden, and our First Parents tragically chose to betray the divine likeness they already possessed and joined in the demonic rebellion. The results of their Fall have been catastrophic for us, their children. We were meant to care for God’s world through a share of His own strength, yet we become weak and ill. We were intended to partake of the Source of Life and Light, yet we have inherited death and darkness. Satan and his minions have been highly effective in their wretched task. For millennia they have toyed with us before we return to the dust from which we came.

And it is not only the human race that suffers the effects of the Great Rebellion. St. Paul, in the eighth chapter of Romans, tells us “that the sufferings of this present time” are part of the subjection of the whole created order! “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly,” the blessed apostle tells us, “but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” The whole Universe groans in bondage to decay.

The sending out of the seventy by Christ was therefore an act of cosmic significance--a key step in bringing the travail of creation to an end. For when those early missionaries healed infirmities through the power of God and cast out demons in the name of Christ, they were on the front lines of the battle to restore the whole of creation to the freedom God intended from the beginning. For a message of liberation was inseparably bond up with Christ’s healing power. “Cure the sick who are there,” our Lord instructs them, “and say to them, `The kingdom of God has come near to you.'” The reign of “the [unclean] spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” is ending and the sovereignty of God is made manifest in the Church’s message and work. The seventy were witnessing the dawn of “the new creation” that St. Paul tells us today “is everything!”

It is now, of course, our turn to take our place in the line of battle. You and I are heirs through faith, repentance, and the waters of baptism to Christ’s authority to tread over “all the powers of the enemy.” And we have the Lord’s promise that nothing will “hurt” us in this fight. This does not mean, however, that the battle will be easy, or that we will not be changed by spiritual combat. Indeed, we will be triumphant only if we are conformed to the divine image of the One who sent us. St. Paul, one of the greatest of the spiritual warriors fighting at our side, no doubt had this in mind when he said that he carried “the marks of Jesus branded on [his] body.” Let us not forget that you and I, like Paul, were sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever in our baptisms. And if we take up our crosses daily and follow after Christ that will leave a mark on our hearts, and minds, and souls as well. And if we are transformed by our Savior’s cross, when the spiritual forces of darkness see us coming, they will see Christ and His kingdom drawing near as well —and they will quake in fear and be subject to us in His holy Name. “Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." All that we may ever have and do is a gracious gift from our Lord.

Long ago Satan and his demonic cohort refused to bow to the image of God present in Adam. And the powers of Hell have done everything they can to keep the divine image in Man from shining forth in the world again. But now Satan has no choice. For in Christ’s perfect obedience, even to death on the cross, the once defaced image of God has been fully restored in Him. The image of God radiates flawlessly from the Body that still bears the scars of perfect Love. Therefore “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.” Amen.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Can an Anglican Parish Grow Under the Present Circumstances?

For those who are familiar with the general decline in membership in TEC during the last few decades, I find this information about average Sunday attendance (ASA) at my home parish, St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas (the pro-cathedral of the diocese of Fort Worth), to be very interesting. I would remind readers that this parish, like this diocese, is soundly orthodox and has been very "up front" about the errors abroad in TEC over the last few years. At St. Vincent's the Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached daily and traditional Christian morality is upheld without compromise. Might the fruits of this faithfulness be seen in the statistics below?

At the close of the first half of this year, our average Sunday attendance (which includes Easter – but not one “ice day”) is 418.

For the whole of 2006 ASA was 404.
For the whole of 2005 ASA was 392.
For the whole of 2004 ASA was 383.
For the whole of 2003 ASA was 367.
And ASA for 2002 was approximately 350.

Note that there has been an increase in "average Sunday attendance" at St. Vincent's of 68 persons since just before the Gene Robinson affair began in 2003, an increase of approximately 19%!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Pictures from St. Mike's

Father Lee Nelson, one of our worthy faculty last week, has posted some fine pictures of the St. Michael's Youth Conference Southwest. They may be found here. Check them out!

Also, Fr. Matkin has some excellent pictures here.The Last Supper/Institution of the Holy Eucharist scene from the "Pageant of Redemption" at the close of the Conference is above, while the Crucifixion is shown below.

(The top photo is by Fr. Nelson, the bottom two by Fr. Matkin.)

UPDATE: More photos of St. Mike's have been added to the official Conference website. Check them out here.

Below is Communion at the final Mass of the Conference.

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