"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 24, 2008

Excellent Op-Ed Piece in FW Star-Telegram

Do please take the time to read this fine Op-Ed piece from the NY Times. It is written by a fine parishoner at St. Laurence, Southlake.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

PB Schori on Lambeth

Presiding Bishop Schori and a professor at the Episcopal Divinity School spoke to journalists today about the upcoming Lambeth Conference. According to the report in The Living Church, the journalists were told that the conference will not have "winners and losers." TLC reported the PeeBee as saying (boldfaced emphasis added by me):

“The parliamentary system as it is generally practiced in the West produces legislative winners and losers,” Bishop Jefferts Schori said. She added that she was hopeful for the conference because of its emphasis on a traditional understanding of conversation. “Conversation entered into deeply and fully leads to conversion and hope,” she noted.


Prof. Douglas said the unprecedented format for the once-every-10-year conference, which was first held in 1867, will be difficult for journalists to cover and for the public to follow because there is no “focal point of up-down decision-making.” He said the new format will not shy away from discussion of controversial issues, but it is not designed to offer statements implying that various issues have been resolved.

He suggested that rather than taking on these issues “head on,” they will be discussed face-to-face. “Is a process that creates winners and losers the best way to meet a problem head on?” he asked rhetorically. “It is incorrect to describe Lambeth as a closed shop. The design has allowed for and encouraged wide open hospitality."

One might hope that the PeeBee and her professorial associate were inaccurate, and that something substantive might actually be done at Lambeth to resolve matters related to human sexuality that have roiled the world-wide Anglican Communion over the last decade. But, sadly, they are quite correct. The Archbishop of Canterbury's plans for Lambeth involve nothing more than "conversation." No legislation, or even formal resolutions, are even contemplated. Here is his formal notice to the world's Anglican archbishops on the matter (boldfaced emphasis added by me):

I indicated in earlier letters that the shape of the Conference will be different from what many have been used to. We have listened carefully to those who have expressed their difficulties with Western and parliamentary styles of meeting, and the Design Group has tried to find a new style – a style more reflective of that Pentecost moment when all received the gift of speaking freely about Christ.

At the heart of this will be the indaba groups. Indaba is a Zulu word describing a meeting for purposeful discussion among equals. Its aim is not to negotiate a formula that will keep everyone happy but to go to the heart of an issue and find what the true challenges are before seeking God’s way forward. It is a method with parallels in many cultures, and it is close to what Benedictine monks and Quaker Meetings seek to achieve as they listen quietly together to God, in a community where all are committed to a fellowship of love and attention to each other and to the word of God. ...

As I noted when I wrote to you in Advent, this makes it all the more essential that those who come to Lambeth will arrive genuinely willing to engage fully in that growth towards closer unity that the Windsor Report and the Covenant Process envisage. We hope that people will not come so wedded to their own agenda and their local priorities that they cannot listen to those from other cultural backgrounds. As you may have gathered, in circumstances where there has been divisive or controversial action, I have been discussing privately with some bishops the need to be wholeheartedly part of a shared vision and process in our time together.

So there you have it. Unless the Global South can somehow force a major change in both the agenda and structure of the conference after it starts, absolutely nothing will happen there to help the position of the orthodox in North America. There will be no resolutions or legislation on sexuality. There will be no meaningful decisions of any kind, if the ABC and PB Schori have their way. Certainly nothing will be done to discipline TEC. Lambeth has been intentionally designed to be simply a huge "talking shop." It will be a giant "facilitated conversation" meant to get traditionalists to give up their prejudices against the cultural wisdom of enlightened North Americans on matters of sexual morality, and just possibly to get North Americans to slow down a bit in their race for "social justice" out of deference to the conservatives until the Global South can catch up to the advances of the West.

So the odds are strong that nothing worthwhile will happen at Lambeth at all. What a sad business.

PS--I find it interesting that the legislative/parliamentary aspect of Lambeth has apparently been eliminated because some bishops did not relate to the "Western" aspects of the parliamentary model. But it appears to me that the only people who will benefit from the abandonment of formal resolutions at this conference are those provinces in the Western, industrialized world who have been on the cutting edge of God's "new thing" in recent years. The Global South is the portion of the Communion that would have been able to carry the day on such votes on human sexuality (and perhaps "boundary crossings") had Lambeth been carried on the traditional way this year. These changes serve PB Schori far more than they do non-Western Anglicans!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Sermon for Trinity Sunday

A few years ago Dan Brown’s best-selling book, The DaVinci Code, and the popular movie starring Tom Hanks the thriller inspired aroused great interest across the globe in the history of early Christianity. Among the many spurious assertions made by Brown in his novel was the claim that Jesus of Nazareth was not considered “God incarnate” by most Christians until four centuries after His death, when the Roman emperor Constantine allegedly had Him divinized by manipulating the council of Nicaea. To better-informed readers, of course, this claim is laughable.

In one of the earliest Christian documents in existence--the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians, dating from the early 60's A.D--Christ is described as having “equality with God” before He humbled Himself in becoming human. As a result of the Savior’s sacrifice on the cross for us, Paul continues, Christ has again been exalted, His name worshipped by every creature in the Universe. These are unmistakable claims of divinity for Jesus made only thirty years after the first Easter. It would be easy to multiply this example dozens of times using the writings of the New Testament. The Church has consistently taught that Jesus Christ is “our Lord and our God” ever since St. Thomas trembled in awe before the risen Christ a week after His Resurrection from the dead.

Of course, from the beginning the proclamation of Christ as Lord and God has raised serious questions. Christians are, of course, monotheists. The followers of Jesus still worshipped the one true God of Israel--the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And yet these first Christian preachers claimed that Jesus of Nazareth was the incarnation of God's Word, “through whom all things were made.” This Word, the Apostle John had taught, was “in the beginning … with God, and the Word was God.” But how does that work? Did they really claim the all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present, and eternal God of all creation also existed as an individual human being on the earth at one particular place and time? That claim seems, on the surface, to violate the basic principle of monotheism. There can only be ONE God, after all. How can there be only one true God and a God-man walking around in Galilee?

These earliest Christian evangelists had not yet have developed a full vocabulary to discuss the nature of the only true God, the God who became incarnate in Jesus Christ. But their writings as preserved in the New Testament clearly reflect the fundamental Truth later elaborated by councils of the universal Church—the one true God is triune, existing in three distinct but indivisible persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Paul the Apostle gives us an early glimpse this eternal truth in our epistle today, where he asks that divine blessings flow to his friends from three sources, “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit.”

But this early Christian insight into the three-in-one nature of God did not materialize out of thin air. The Truth had been waiting, undiscovered, in the Holy Scriptures of Israel since Moses first came down from Mt. Sinai. The opening chapter of Genesis, for example, reveals the triune nature of God for those with eyes to see it. There the Creator God speaks, "Let there be light," as His Spirit moves over the waters of chaos—the Father utters His Word as agent of creation in the power of the Spirit and all created things come into being. The Word of God, whom Christians also know as God the Son, exists before time and space, energy and matter come into being. Indeed, time and space exist because of Him. The divine Son is eternal and uncreated, “begotten of His father before all worlds.” He is God in the same way the Father who uttered Him is God. He is entitled to the same honor, glory, worship, and majesty, bearing a Name that is above every name, in heaven and on earth. And this incomprehensible power and majesty of God the Father and His Son was manifest in the eternal Spirit of God that moved through the formless void of nothingness before the dawn of time. Thus, the Holy Trinity is already revealed in the first three verses of the Bible!

Nor did early Christians neglect the fact that the Creator God speaks of Himself in both the plural and the singular in the creation story: “Let us make mankind in our image, according to our likeness. … So God created mankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Thus the creation story further reveals that there is some mysterious multiplicity in the oneness of God, a fact driven home by the creation of Adam in the second chapter of Genesis. There “the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” In both the Hebrew original and the Greek Old Testament commonly used by the early Church the same Hebrew and Greek words are used for “breath” and “spirit.” Therefore the passage could justly be translated “the LORD God … spirited into his nostrils the Spirit of Life.” From the first instant of the human race’s existence, God the Holy Spirit has revealed Himself as “the Lord and Giver of life.”

It is no accident that the Holy Trinity is clearly visible in the Old Testament in the creation of man. For the most complete revelation of the nature of God would later come through a descendent of Adam and Eve—the God-man, Jesus Christ. The One “in whom the fullness of Deity was pleased to dwell”--the incarnation of the divine Word, God the Son—came in human flesh to the world He had once created when, according to the will of God the Father, the Holy Spirit overshadowed the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Thus Jesus of Nazareth is in truth God, the same God who created the Universe, split the Red Sea, and gave the Law to Moses. The doctrine of the Trinity reveals that Christ is God in every way that our feeble minds can fathom, His divinity in no way less than that of God the Father. The words Christ spoke were the words of God. The love Christ showed was the love of God. And the Blood He shed for our salvation was the Blood of God Himself. At Calvary the very One “in whom we live and move and have our being” hurled Himself into the abyss of death so that He might fill it with resurrection Life through the power of the Holy Spirit. And to those who received the only-begotten Son it was given to be born again as children of His divine Father, sealed by God the Spirit in baptism, members of the Body of Christ.

In our Gospel lesson today we hear the final commandments given by the risen Lord Jesus to His disciples before He returned to His Father. They are the words of One who speaks with the authority of God Himself, One who possesses “all authority in heaven and on earth.” Christ orders His disciples to carry His authoritative teachings out into the world and lead the nations of the earth into obedience to the Divine Will as exemplified in His own life, death, and resurrection. The work of the Trinity had been visible in Christ Jesus from the moment of His conception until He walked out of the tomb on Easter morning. Now the Triune God forms the centerpiece of the Great Commission, underpinning the sacramental life of Christ’s Church: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Christianity without the Holy Trinity is unthinkable, for Jesus Christ could not be our Savior God in truth if God is not Three-in-One. All those who worship Christ as Lord would be idolaters if He is less than fully God. But Christ came into the world to reveal God in His fullness and He has given His Church on earth the sacraments, empowering us to approach the Triune God He revealed and enabling us to have fellowship with the Creator as Christ has made Him known. Through God the Holy Spirit baptismal water purifies us to approach the throne of the Father in the footsteps of the Son. Through the power of the Spirit bread and wine become the precious Body and Blood of the Son as we re-present His once-for-all sacrifice upon the altar, joining our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to the eternal oblation offered by the Word made Flesh. You and I are creatures of the Trinity, made a new creation through our baptism in the Triune name and sustained by the Life the threefold Godhead gives us in the Eucharist. May God give us grace to take the message of that God out into the world for the healing of the nations.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, even unto ages of ages. Amen.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

St. Andrew's, Breckenridge, Texas

This morning my father and I travelled 120 miles west of home to attend St. Andrew's Church in Breckenridge, Texas. I was the celebrant at their Pentecost Eucharist. They are presently between rectors and various priests of the diocese, including myself, are taking turns supplying there. The new rector, the Rev. Joel Hampton (a former Presbyterian minister who is now in transitional deacon's orders), is finishing his "Anglican year" at Nashotah House Seminary and will take up his ministry in Breckenridge in July. The folks of St. Andrew's were welcoming and gracious, and Pop and I both enjoyed our visit very much. Pop took these pictures of their lovely church. Do please visit them if you are ever in the Lake Possum Kingdom area on a Sunday.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

++Venables at St. Vincent's Last Saturday

Hat tip to Apostolicity. Fr. Chris Cantrell of Holy Apostles, Fort Worth, posted the videos. He also has a helpful analysis of and response to a statement released by the "Steering Committee" (an umbrella group formed last month by 815 loyalists in the diocese of Fort Worth) regarding Archbishop Venables' visit of last weekend. Give it a read here.

For my fifth and sixth grade religion classes ... This is what I have been talking about for the last two days!

Don't be surprised if the lyrics of this hymn appear on my next religion exam for your interpretation! (Especially you sixth graders ... hint, hint.)

More on ++Venables' Visit to Fort Worth

Suzanne Gill has a nice recap of Archbishop Venables' recent visit to our diocese, as well as to the Anglican diocese of San Joaquin and to parishes in his care in Canada. The article may be found here.

It is good that plain-spoken, orthodox leaders like Bishops Duncan and Iker will be joining the good archbishop at Lambeth. There must be a steadfast witness to the Truth, even if most of the people presently steering the world-wide Anglican Commuion will not act upon it--the essence of the lack of leadership to which ++Venables referred.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

++Venables in the Diocese of Fort Worth

Our diocese is pleased this weekend to have as our honored guest Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Province of the Southern Cone.* On Friday he preached at a Eucharist celebrated by Bishop Iker at Holy Apostles, Fort Worth, following which the archbishop met for several hours with the clergy of the diocese and answered our questions. Today he addressed a special convocation of our diocesan convention in the gym of St. Vincent's Cathedral School, taking questions from the delegates following his talk for more than an hour.

Both meetings went marvelously. The archbishop was inspiring, convicting his listeners of the seriousness of the battle for the Truth of the Gospel that is presently underway around the Anglican Communion. The present strife is not merely a battle about human sexuality, he stressed, but about the the absolute truth of God's Word written and the reality of the Word of God Incarnate, Jesus Christ. This is ultimately not about the consecration of an active homosexual as a bishop or the performance of same sex blessings. Rather it is about whether Jesus of Nazareth is the Way, the Truth and the Life or not, about whether God has revealed His sovereign will for our lives in Holy Scripture or not. The Truth is not relative, no matter how much some leaders in TEC and the rest of the Communion might wish it to be so.

We were also reminded that the present debate over SSB's is about far more than the proper way to order society according to Biblical principles (which it is), but even more importantly it is about preserving the sacrament of Holy Matrimony as a type of the relationship between Jesus and His Church. If we tamper with the sacramental union of man and woman, we jeopardize a God-given revelation of Christ's complete giving of Himself for and to His bride, the Church, and the total self-offering required of us in return.

During both question-and-answer sessions the archbishop reminded us of the overwhelming approval given by the leadership of the Southern Cone to that province's offer to receive dioceses departing TEC into its structure. And although these new relationships would be on a "temporary and pastoral basis," the Southern Cone will soon take steps to adapt their provincial constitution and canons so as to better incorporate the received North American dioceses into an orderly and stable framework. We were warned not to "hold our breath" while waiting for a long-term resolution to the present crisis. Clearly Archbishop Venables recognizes that we could be within his fold in the Southern Cone for several years to come. But while he doesn't foresee a rapid resolution of the Communion's difficulties, he does view the upcoming GAFCON in Jerusalem as a crucial step in building a viable future for orthodox Anglicanism in the world today.

We were repeatedly reminded that in the Southern Cone dioceses are almost entirely "autonomous." We will order our own affairs here without interference. And no one from the provincial "headquarters" (I don't believe they actually have one!) will ever show up and try to dictate how a parish worships if we should vote to join their province in November!

I, for one, was extremely impressed. Archbishop Venables is a dedicated man of God and a gifted preacher. He is steadfast in his defense of "the faith once delivered to the saints," yet there is nothing dour about him. His personal faith is lively and joy-filled. He speaks of Satan, sin and death in somber tones, as one who understands our desperate need for salvation. But he practically glows when he talks of Christ's love for us displayed in His cross and empty tomb.

And the good archbishop is also incredibly funny! Everyone I talked to afterward mentioned his great sense of humor. (Ever notice how often people on the Left come across as humorless?) The archbishop has deepened both my joy in Christ and my zeal for the Gospel. His enthusiasm and dedication are positively infectious! And the sight of Archbishop Venables with his arm around the shoulders of my own worthy shepherd, Bishop Iker, warmed my heart. May God grant them both many more years.

I know how I am going to vote at the next diocesan convention. And I suspect many others may have made up their minds today as well. I rejoice and thank God that Archbishop Venables may soon be my primate.

The archbishop will preach at St. Vincent's Cathedral, Bedford, at our 9AM and 11:15AM Eucharists on Sunday. He will also preach downtown at St. Andrew's, Fort Worth, at Evensong at 5PM on Sunday evening.

UPDATE: The good archbishop continued to minister to us at St. Vincent's Cathedral Sunday morning. His homily and his talk at Adult Forum were more of the same--a straightforward, no-nonsense proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, confronting error head-on and building up the Body of Christ in truth, joy, and love.

One moment from this morning struck me as telling about this godly man's character. Today was the last morning one of our long-time acolytes would be serving in the sanctuary, as she is soon leaving town for college. When the archbishop heard this news, he gave her a big hug, kissed her on the forehead, and thanked her for her service to the Lord--and he had never met her before that instant! ("Right Reverend Father in God," indeed. What a striking contrast ++Venables makes to the present leadership of the national Episcopal church. All we get from 815 is the back of the hand!) As you can tell, I am now a big fan of "Bishop Greg"!

May God grant ++Greg and his wife, Silvia, safe travels home and may He give the convention of our diocese wisdom in making our upcoming decision.

PS--Anglicans United has a thorough recap of the archbishop's remarks to our convocation on Saturday. Do be warned, however: the posted remarks appear to be fairly complete (though of necessity, choppy) notes taken by a listener, not the actual text of the archbishop. He had no text. It was an extemporaneous address. I'm not even sure he had many notes--just a floppy Bible!

*While the constitution of the Province of the Southern Cone refers to his position as "Presiding Bishop," we were informed of a range of titles that are acceptable to this worthy man of God--Archbishop, "Bishop Greg," Presiding Bishop, or simply "Greg. " So please don't remind me that he is a "PeeBee," rather than an "archbishop." In the first place, the title "presiding bishop" has been so compromised in my mind as to seem unworthy of such a fine Christian leader. And secondly, I have been told that I have "an innate sense of hierarchy." So "Archbishop Venables" it is! :-)

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