"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.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Bishop Iker Endorses GAFCON Statement

The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker has welcomed and endorsed the concluding statement of GAFCON. The text of his statement appears in full below.

June 29, 2008

It has been a joy to participate in the GAFCON experience in Jerusalem, and I welcome and endorse the proclamation that has been issued at the conclusion of our week of deliberation and prayer.

It is a positive contribution to the future direction of the Anglican Communion, as well as a very encouraging affirmation and validation of the realignment that has been taking place in the Communion over the past few years.

We stand in solidarity with the GAFCON movement and principles, and we in Fort Worth look forward to the continuing saga of this exciting development in our life together as faithful Anglicans.

May the Lord continue to bless and guide us in the challenging days ahead of us.

The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker
Bishop of Fort Worth

RWF resumes: This is very good news indeed. There may be a line or two of the Jerusalem Declaration that I would have tweaked a bit. (I would, for example, have made it clear that the 39 Articles will not be used against traditionalist Anglo-Catholics. I am sure they will not be, but some of my brother priests here in Fort Worth still seem concerned. Long memories here reach back to some celebrated anti-Catholic cases in mid-19th century Britain.). But the Jerusalem Declaration is a good statement, and I am very much cheered by its adoption. May the GAFCON Primates Council quickly recognize the Common Cause Partnership as the orthodox Anglican province in North America. It is time to move ahead. Enough of this bickering with TEC. There is the work of the Kingdom to be done!

God bless the good men and women of GAFCON. And a special thanks to Bishop Iker and the other leaders of our diocese who participated in this momentous event.

UPDATE: Fr. Lee Nelson of our diocese, a GAFCON participant, has a fine post on the end of the meeting and its closing statement on his photoblog.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Jerusalem Statement and the Way Ahead

The following statement was approved by the assembled pilgrims at GAFCON and is a very positive step forward. The "Way Forward" section that follows the Jerusalem Statement indicates that a new province should be quickly formed out of the Common Cause Partnership.

The Jerusalem Declaration

In the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit:

We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, have met in the land of Jesus’ birth. We express our loyalty as disciples to the King of kings, the Lord Jesus. We joyfully embrace his command to proclaim the reality of his kingdom which he first announced in this land. The gospel of the kingdom is the good news of salvation, liberation and transformation for all. In light of the above, we agree to chart a way forward together that promotes and protects the biblical gospel and mission to the world, solemnly declaring the following tenets of orthodoxy which underpin our Anglican identity.

We rejoice in the gospel of God through which we have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because God first loved us, we love him and as believers bring forth fruits of love, ongoing repentance, lively hope and thanksgiving to God in all things.

We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation. The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading.

We uphold the four Ecumenical Councils and the three historic Creeds as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.

We gladly proclaim and submit to the unique and universal Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, humanity’s only Saviour from sin, judgement and hell, who lived the life we could not live and died the death that we deserve. By his atoning death and glorious resurrection, he secured the redemption of all who come to him in repentance and faith.

We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture.

We recognise that God has called and gifted bishops, priests and deacons in historic succession to equip all the people of God for their ministry in the world. We uphold the classic Anglican Ordinal as an authoritative standard of clerical orders.

We acknowledge God’s creation of humankind as male and female and the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family. We repent of our failures to maintain this standard and call for a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married.

We gladly accept the Great Commission of the risen Lord to make disciples of all nations, to seek those who do not know Christ and to baptise, teach and bring new believers to maturity.

We are mindful of our responsibility to be good stewards of God’s creation, to uphold and advocate justice in society, and to seek relief and empowerment of the poor and needy.

We are committed to the unity of all those who know and love Christ and to building authentic ecumenical relationships. We recognise the orders and jurisdiction of those Anglicans who uphold orthodox faith and practice, and we encourage them to join us in this declaration.

We celebrate the God-given diversity among us which enriches our global fellowship, and we acknowledge freedom in secondary matters. We pledge to work together to seek the mind of Christ on issues that divide us.

We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed. We pray for them and call on them to repent and return to the Lord.

We rejoice at the prospect of Jesus’ coming again in glory, and while we await this final event of history, we praise him for the way he builds up his church through his Spirit by miraculously changing lives.

The Road Ahead

We believe the Holy Spirit has led us during this week in Jerusalem to begin a new work. There are many important decisions for the development of this fellowship which will take more time, prayer and deliberation. Among other matters, we shall seek to expand participation in this fellowship beyond those who have come to Jerusalem, including cooperation with the Global South and the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa. We can, however, discern certain milestones on the road ahead.
Primates’ Council

We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, do hereby acknowledge the participating Primates of GAFCON who have called us together, and encourage them to form the initial Council of the GAFCON movement. We look forward to the enlargement of the Council and entreat the Primates to organise and expand the fellowship of confessing Anglicans.

We urge the Primates’ Council to authenticate and recognise confessing Anglican jurisdictions, clergy and congregations and to encourage all Anglicans to promote the gospel and defend the faith.

We recognise the desirability of territorial jurisdiction for provinces and dioceses of the Anglican Communion, except in those areas where churches and leaders are denying the orthodox faith or are preventing its spread, and in a few areas for which overlapping jurisdictions are beneficial for historical or cultural reasons.

We thank God for the courageous actions of those Primates and provinces who have offered orthodox oversight to churches under false leadership, especially in North and South America. The actions of these Primates have been a positive response to pastoral necessities and mission opportunities. We believe that such actions will continue to be necessary and we support them in offering help around the world.

We believe this is a critical moment when the Primates’ Council will need to put in place structures to lead and support the church. In particular, we believe the time is now ripe for the formation of a province in North America for the federation currently known as Common Cause Partnership to be recognised by the Primates’ Council.

Conclusion: Message from Jerusalem

We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, were summoned by the Primates’ leadership team to Jerusalem in June 2008 to deliberate on the crisis that has divided the Anglican Communion for the past decade and to seek direction for the future. We have visited holy sites, prayed together, listened to God’s Word preached and expounded, learned from various speakers and teachers, and shared our thoughts and hopes with each other.

The meeting in Jerusalem this week was called in a sense of urgency that a false gospel has so paralysed the Anglican Communion that this crisis must be addressed. The chief threat of this dispute involves the compromising of the integrity of the church’s worldwide mission. The primary reason we have come to Jerusalem and issued this declaration is to free our churches to give clear and certain witness to Jesus Christ.

It is our hope that this Statement on the Global Anglican Future will be received with comfort and joy by many Anglicans around the world who have been distressed about the direction of the Communion. We believe the Anglican Communion should and will be reformed around the biblical gospel and mandate to go into all the world and present Christ to the nations.

Feast of St Peter and St Paul
29 June 2008

A Sermon for Sunday, June 29th

The crowds were tired. It had been a long day, extraordinary even for one of the major imperial game days. The spectacle had begun in the Circus Maximus, ancient Rome’s horseracing track. In the morning there were the usual beast fights, where professional hunters dispatched ferocious lions and bears for the amusement of the crowd. The afternoon had featured gladiators, both in single combat to the death and in larger groups reenacting famous battles from the Roman past. During the lunch hour in between it was customary to stage the public execution of condemned criminals. And today the body count of Roman “justice” had been enormous.

This was Rome in 64 A.D., and the day’s events had been orchestrated by the Emperor Nero. But Nero had a public relations problem. Large sections of the city had recently burned, and the public had come to believe—perhaps correctly—that the emperor had ordered the setting of the fatal blaze himself in order to clear the ground for his grand, new royal palace—the Golden House. The ancient historian Tacitus tells us that in order to deflect this suspicion the emperor had selected a scapegoat to take the blame for the burning of Rome. Or rather, Nero had selected an entire community of scapegoats—the fledging Christian Church of the capital.

Hundreds of Christians had been rounded up in a sweep of the city during the preceding weeks, and now they were being executed for arson. At today’s noontime public executions large numbers of these Christians, sheepskins draped over their shoulders, had been marched into the middle of the Circus Maximus. The Roman mob howled its approval as wild lions were loosed upon the convicts—a fitting punishment for the flock of Christos, a dead Jewish rebel against the empire whom the Christians knew as “the Good Shepherd.” But even though hundreds of the members of the Jesus cult had died in the arena that day, a sizeable number had been held in reserve for an even more impressive display of Roman vengeance that night.

Around dusk these surviving Christians were driven from their prison and each victim was forced to take up a wooden beam, very much like the one their Lord and Master had carried to Golgotha thirty years earlier. They carried their burdens through the streets of the city into the imperial gardens, where Nero awaited them along with the still blood-thirsty mob. They were then nailed to their crosses and raised up alongside the road that ran through the emperor’s gardens. In an ironic twist highlighting their alleged arson, the emperor ordered these crucified Christians to be set on fire while they were still alive. The light of those burning crosses illuminated Nero’s path as he drove a chariot through his pleasure garden that night. We will never know the number of these steadfast martyrs, but their courage still shines as beacon in our own times.

God alone knows what was in the hearts and minds of those early Christians as their captors lead them to crucifixion in 64 A.D. But their minds likely turned to the words of our Lord Jesus in the Gospel lesson this morning: “whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” You and I must spiritualize these words in order to apply them in our lives. But the first generations of Christians lived them—literally taking up their own crosses and dying for Christ. But as they lost one life to the jaws of lions, the iron and wood of Roman crosses, and the searing pain of sacrificial fire, they found a new life of far greater value than the one ripped from them by Nero’s henchmen.

That new life—eternal life in the presence of their God and Savior--they received in its fullness when Roman executioners dispatched them from this earth. But it is a new life they had already begun to live through grace while still in the body--through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, born anew through the Spirit in the waters of Holy Baptism. Their old lives--lives tied to this fallen world, subservient to the corrupt desires and passions that draw us from the love of God--were already a thing of the past for these martyrs even before their physical deaths. For as St. Paul reminds us today, “all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Those early Christians took up their crosses in the sure and certain hope that, as they were being “united with [Christ] in a death like his,” they would “certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

The Apostle Paul, of course, knew what he was talking about. He had once led a very different life, a life infused with sinful rage and dedicated to the destruction of the Body of Christ. But God had grabbed him by the scruff of the neck on the road to Damascus and brought his old, sin-shackled life to an end. Paul was utterly changed in an instant. His old self became extinct, for all practical purposes. Virtually everyone he had ever known among the Jews would have turned their backs on him, a stark example of the contentious personal relationships our Lord Jesus speaks of in the Gospel today.

But for St. Paul the gracious gift of faith in Christ was nothing less than new life from the dead. “We know that our old self was crucified with [Christ],” he tells us today, “so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.” This was the Good News that Paul dedicated the remainder of his earthly life to spreading: forgiveness of sins through the cross of Christ and resurrection to eternal life through faith in the holy Name of Jesus. Of course, in the end the blessed Apostle would himself also perish in the persecution of the Church in Rome by the tyrant Nero, enjoying the “privilege” accorded to Roman citizens of being beheaded by a swordsman rather than enduring the “humiliation” of crucifixion. But Paul certainly knew it would come to this one day, and he did not flinch. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth;” the Lord Jesus had once said, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

Every baptized believer here this morning, the blessed Apostle tells us, is now dead to sin. “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies,” Paul exhorts us, “to make you obey their passions.” That is a very tall order, indeed. But Paul knows that this seemingly super-human degree of self-control cannot be rooted in the present order of a fallen world. The death of our “old self” and our subsequent faithfulness to the will of God is only possible because, as Paul reminds us in his second letter to the Corinthians, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Thus, my brothers and sisters, you and I are the vanguard of the new heaven and the new earth, despite the fact that we also still live very much within the confines of the old world. For to those of us who have repented of our sins, turned to Christ Jesus in faith, and been baptized into His saving death, a new world order has already dawned. It is a transcendent reality founded upon the mystical Body of Christ. And it is only through union with Christ’s Body the Church, when we submit ourselves to the authority of Holy Scripture and avail ourselves of the means of grace God offers us in the sacraments, that death to sin and life in the Spirit become a reality in our daily lives.

The new life of self-giving love and steadfast faithfulness that our Lord Jesus and St. Paul call us to today is possible. Those early martyrs of Rome--and countless saints in centuries since--demonstrate that this is true. Let us never forget that you and I—like those great saints--are called to be holy, even as our Father in Heaven is holy. And God our Savior would not summon us to such a lofty vocation if He did not also give us the ability to live it out. We are already citizens of a heavenly Kingdom, having died to sin and been born anew in the New Jerusalem that is breaking into this world. Let us strive every day to live more and more as men and women from above., subjects of the Holy One of Israel, our King.

May the unbounded grace of the Holy Spirit enliven our hearts as a new creation and make us walk in newness of life to the glory of God the Father, through the power of Christ’s resurrection life. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, June 23, 2008

St. Michael's Youth Conference--Southwest 2008

As I noted just over a week ago, I was a faculty member at St. Michael's Youth Conference--Southwest last week. I taught the Scripture survey for second year Michaelites and an elective on the Revelation to St. John. (The photo of my class below was taken by Fr. Timothy Matkin of St. Albans, Arlington, TX.)"St. Mike's" has jokingly been called "Anglo-Catholic Boot Camp," and it was a truly remarkable week. About 80 teenagers--together with adult consellors and ten priests from the dioceses of Fort Worth, Dallas, and Quincy--spent seven days at Camp Crucis worshipping together, praying together, studying together, and having an amazingly fun time together. The daily round of worship included Morning Prayer, Solemn High Mass, Evensong, and Compline. There was also Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament on Wednesday (with prayer before the exposed Sacrament on Thursday and Friday nights). We had a special blessing with holy water from Walsingham, England, at the closing ceremony as well. Most of the Michaelites also made their confessions before the week was over.
This year's event was even better than last year's spectacular conference, for me at least. The weather was certainly better!Photos above are by the Rev. Will Brown of Holy Cross, Dallas. Those below, except for the large group photo, are by the Rev. Joshua Whitfield of St. Gregory's, Mansfield. Fr. Ron Drummond of the diocese of Quincy provided lovely music for our worship, and the Michaelites really filled that chapel with a joyful noise!
The Michaelites did fine service as acolytes and subdeacons, as well as serving on the altar guild and as lay readers, during the course of the week. At the close of the conference there were tears of joy and much gratitude to God for having given us this time together.
Sadly, I had to be away from the conference for one night. I missed a first-class talent show and the group photo above. Next year, I will plan better!

Fr. Nelson's Photoblog from GAFCON

One may find Fr. Lee Nelson's (St. Laurence Church, Southlake, TX) photoblog of his travels in Israel during this week's Global Anglican Futures Conference here.

May God bless the deliberations of our orthodox Anglican leaders this week in Jordan and Jerusalem, and may they be responsive to His Spirit. And may Bishop Iker and our priests and lay members travelling with him be under the Lord's protection on their journey.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

RIP Henry Chadwick, Priest

From the NY Times:

The Very Rev. Henry Chadwick, an Anglican priest, professor, editor, translator and author whose historical voyages into early Christianity won praise for depth, insight and evenhandedness and helped shed light on modern religious problems, died Tuesday in Oxford, England. He was 87.

Fr. Chadwick was the author of the first book on the Patristric period that I ever read, and I first learned to love the Fathers through reading his works. Thank you, Father.

May Henry, priest, and all the faithful departed through the mercies of God rest in peace, and may light perpetual shine upon them. Amen.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Post for the Road

I head down to Camp Crucis at Granbury early Sunday afternoon to participate in St. Michael's Youth Conference--Southwest, a truly remarkable event in which 80+ teenagers from across our region will come together to worship, study, and pray during a week-long retreat. As a result, I will be away from my computer until next Saturday. I will be teaching two sections of "Receiving God's Word," the Scripture survey for the second-year Michaelites. I will also offer an elective class entitled "Apocalypse Wow!," introducing some of our young conferees to the glories of the Revelation to St. John (certainly my favorite book of Holy Writ).

I leave you, Gentle Reader, with this lovely piece of music from what may be my favorite film, The Mission. The vocals here are by Sarah Brightman, with Italian lyrics written by her to suit the film. See you in a week!

A translation of Brightman's lyrics, evocative of the New Jerusalem of Revelation 20 & 21:

In my fantasy

In my fantasy I see a just world,
Where everyone lives in peace and honesty.
I dream of souls that are always free
Like the clouds that float
Full of humanity in the depths of the soul.

In my fantasy I see a bright world
Where each night there is less darkness.
I dream of spirits that are always free,
Like the clouds that float

In my fantasy exists a warm wind,
That blows into the city, like a friend.
I dream of souls that are always free,
Like the clouds that float
Full of humanity in the depths of the soul.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

TEC Blessings for Gay Marriages in California

Read this official letter from Bishop Andrus of California (a.k.a. San Francisco and its environs) telling his clergy how to respond to the legalization of gay marriage in that state. Among the little gems in this pastoral letter is this news:

The Diocese of California will publish advertising around June 17 celebrating the Supreme Court ruling and inviting same-sex couples to our churches for pre-marital counseling and nourishment in communities of faith.

Amazing. Simply amazing.

And TEC has the gall to insist to the world-wide Anglican Communion that they are not "walking apart"! Words fail me. Our November vote in the diocese of Fort Worth cannot come soon enough for me.

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