"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.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Gathering Storm

A photograph taken tonight from the parking lot of L.D. Bell High School, my alma mater in Hurst, Texas, by my father, Randy Foster.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A reflection from an ELCA Pastor on their actions this week in Minneapolis

A reflection from a good friend of mine, Pastor Ryan Mills of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Grand Prairie, Texas, who was a "voting member" (i.e., delegate) to this year's Churchwide Assembly:

Kyrie Eleison. Christe Eleison. Kyrie Eleison.

Minneapolis...there's something about this city that leads church bodies into temptation, and to abandoning the faith of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

As a "voting member" to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), I've witnessed firsthand the agony of a faithful, orthodox, minority crying out like a voice in the wilderness. In the same room where the General Convention of TEC voted to part ways with the rest of the Christian church and affirm +VGR, this week the ELCA Churchwide Assembly voted to "find ways for congregations that choose to do so to recognize lifelong, monagamous, same-sex relationships", and to ordain and "roster" (i.e. license) such persons as members of the clergy. It was no freak of weather that a tornado hit the convention center during deliberations, and broke the cross off the steeple of the church next door.

My overall feeling, after despair and righteous anger, was that this decision exposes an eschatological flaw in the structure of our "denomination". The Scriptures, Ecumenical Creeds, writings of the Fathers, Magisterial works of the Reformers, and our Luthearn Confessions and catechisms in the Book of Concord all bear witness to the Truth, Jesus Christ, at work at present in his Holy Word and Sacraments in the power of the Holy Spirit within the life of the Church. Supposedly this Tradition is the norm of our proclamation, teaching, faith and life. In fact, the "social statement on sexuality" that also passed in Minneapolis, (by 66.6%!) frankly recognized that any vision of sexual relations outside of celibacy in singleness and chastity within marriage would be "in contradiction" and a departure from this lode of teaching and Tradition. The "bound consciences" of congregations, synods, and bishops to disagree with the ministry policy changes, and to retain traditionalist oversight over their own clergy and pastoral practices is enshrined within these changes, but as we know from Richard John Neuhaus, where orthodoxy becomes optional, it will eventually be proscribed.

Unfortunately, as in the case of TEC, this week's small, supposedly representative deliberative body, became captive to the political designs of postmodernists dedicated to accomodating culture, appeasing sexual minorities, advocating for a gospel of "inclusiveness", rejecting classical understandings of Scripture and tradition, and in general played into the wiles of the devil.

These decisions, quite frankly, do not represent the heart of American Lutheranism, which is made up of many different faithful streams, the vast majority of which are Scripture-centered, mere-Christian creedal, sacramental, Eucharist-centered, evangelical/missional, with a unique piety shaped by a classical Western liturgy, strong hymnody, catechisms, devotional Bible study, confession & forgiveness, daily remembrance of Baptism, and a larger social-ministry apparatus than any other U.S. Church.

My guess is about 10% of ELCA congregations, mainly urban, elite, and "progressive" will embrace these changes. The remaining 90% of congregations either see themselves too congregationally to care about this bizarre statement that has no authority under Scripture, or will be outraged at the rejection of the authority of Scripture, and the breaking of communion with our thriving orthodox Lutheran churches in the Global South developing world, our immigrant/migrant ethnic congregations (up until now the fastest growing within the ELCA), and grieve our creating a stumbling block for all Scriptural, Gospel-centered Christians: Protestant, Evangelicals, Anglican, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic alike.

Those who opposed these votes vehemently came from 2 particular streams, in ways that I think compare intriguingly to the faithful orthodox who have emerged from TEC into ACNA: the Scripture-centered Evangelical pietist Lutherans, and the evangelical catholic Lutherans; perhaps roughly comparable to the Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic parties who now comprise the ACNA.

Scandinavian Pietism, responsible for the vast number of Luthearn churches through the U.S. East and Midwest, focused on Scripture, discipleship, and holiness of life. The evangelical catholic movement within Lutheranism, particularly as represented by clergy in the Society of the Holy Trinity (STS, similar to SSC), see the Lutheran church more as a reform movement within the Western Church, destined for a relationship with Rome, liturgically maintaining the Western Rite with Gospel-centered proclamation of Jesus Christ, crucified.

Lutherans understand God's Word as always at work in both law and gospel, together. The law kills, exposes sin, convicts of guilt, and declares God's righteous judgment. The gospel comes as promise, as forgiveness for Christ's sake, by grace alone without any merit on our part, and as a word that accomplishes in the hearer a new creation in Christ.

Perhaps this Churchwide Assembly and the ELCA as a whole now experiences the "law", and rightly so. But for those who are faithful at the foot of Christ's Cross, something new will emerge on the 3rd day.

A gathering of congregations in Indianapolis in September under the oversight of 6 or more retired bishops, seeks a new biblical, confessional, orthodox, missional Lutheran body in North America. Dozens of very large congregations, large swaths of evangelical catholic congregations, scores of rural pietist congregations, long-alienated Canadian congregations, and many African and Asian immigrant congregations will be represented. Do not expect an immediate "leaving" of the ELCA, or individual Synods (Dioceses) to withdraw, but the gradual emergence of a robust and faithful ecclesial substance. There have already been overtures to this group from streams of Christendom that have surprised me. In Christ, the future is bright.

Pray for us, dear readers. Know that under the "accidents" of this week's actions, the "form" of Christ's true church will yet be found within the Lutheran witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, within the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. Ora pro nobis.

Kyrie Eleison. Christe Eleison. Kyrie Eleison.

The Rev. Ryan Mills, STS


Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Grand Prairie, TX

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Response to Bishop Lawrence's Remarks to the Clergy of South Carolina

Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina, one of the most stalwart orthodox bishops left inside TEC, has addressed his clergy and called for a special convention to discuss responses to GenCon 09. His remarks may be found here. Please read them all carefully. They are important, though not nearly as strong as I would have hoped.

I freely admit that this is a powerful statement from a faithful shepherd. He is a good and godly man, trying his best to serve God and his people. I certainly mean no disrespect to the worthy bishop by what follows here, but I just don’t see any proposal in these remarks to take much more than a few symbolic protest actions. As a “strongly worded letter of protest” at what TEC has been up to, the bishop's remarks are superb. But we have seen many such fine protest letters defending the true Faith over the last six years, haven’t we? What concrete actions does the bishop of South Carolina envision? What is DioSC actually going to do differently now that GenCon 09 has made the course of TEC clear? I see five things in these remarks:

1. Action will soon be taken to clarify that ordinands in South Carolina won’t be taking oaths to support recent, illegitimate actions by TEC when they are ordained. This is a good thing as a symbol, but of little practical importance as far as I can see.

2. DioSC will apparently be taking steps to formally endorse the Ridley draft of the Covenant individually, and we all know national TEC will not ever do so. This diocesan endorsement of the Covenant may one day have some significance if ABC Williams’ prediction of “two tracks” in the world-wide Communion ever comes to pass. But in practical terms such an endorsement by DioSC will matter little for years to come, if ever. This looks to me like just another symbolic action, at least until TEC definitively rejects the Covenant. (Will that final rejection come six years from now at GenCon 2015? You know TEC will stall as long as possible in making a final decision that might result in consequences from Lambeth Palace.).

3. There are calls here for DioSC to offer support to orthodox parishes elsewhere within TEC. The bishop mentions increased engagement by parishes and the laity in this effort. I am not clear exactly what this increased engagement in non-DioSC orthodox parishes still inside TEC would entail. DEPO has been around a long time, so surely +Lawrence means more than that. Time will tell how this can be lived out. I hope it is of great help to the orthodox in TEC around the nation.

4. There are signs the bishop hopes for increased engagement with GAFCON and ACNA. That’s a good thing. What precisely that would mean, I don’t know. If it means dropping certain lawsuits, that would really miff PB Schori, and that would surely be a good thing!

5. Finally, there is the most important proposed action in the text: “The Standing Committee and bishop will be proposing a resolution to come before the special convention that this diocese begin withdrawing from all bodies of governance of TEC that have assented to actions contrary to Holy Scripture; the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this church has received them; the resolutions of Lambeth which have expressed the mind of the Communion; the Book of Common Prayer (p.422-423) and the Constitution & Canons of TEC (Canon 18:1.2.b) until such bodies show a willingness to repent of such actions. Let no one think this is a denial of the vows a priest or bishop makes to participate in the councils of governance.”

Yet as Anglican Curmudgeon points out, this is not a call to formally terminate membership in any ecclesial body, even General Convention. Rather, it appears to mean only not sending representatives to meetings in order to “participate in the councils of governance.” Unfortunately, it seems that DioSC doesn’t presently have any reps on any national committees of TEC, so they may have no one to “pull” from TEC governance meetings to effectuate this “withdrawal” other than Bishop Lawrence himself. In practical terms in the next few years this would mean little more than +Lawrence boycotting House of Bishops meetings and DioSC not sending any representatives to take part at GenCon 2012 (though Dr. Seitz of the ACI seems to be saying they should send ‘observers’ to GenCon 2012).

So, for all practical purposes we will notice little more different with regard to DioSC during the next few years than the following: a few symbolic steps to “differentiate” themselves more from national TEC (ordinands will formally be told that they are not swearing to uphold illegitimate actions of GenCon and DioSC will sign the Covenant individually), there may be increased, as-yet undefined links between DioSC and orthodox TEC parishes elsewhere and with GAFCON/ACNA, and Bishop Lawrence may boycott House of Bishops meetings. (I should note here that Bishop Iker didn’t attend HoB meetings for years before we left TEC last fall. No one seemed to think that was a particularly bold move at the time.)

Have I left anything important off this list?

Perhaps these moves aren’t exactly "timid" but they surely are not the bold action I was hoping for from the worthy Bishop Lawrence. This very cautious approach may be exactly what the good people of DioSC want to happen. But does the “third way” some are looking for between a.) endorsing TEC's present trajectory into folly and heresy, and b.) departing TEC for ACNA, amount to anything more than I have just summarized? As far as I can tell this “third way” constitutes little more than tending faithfully to church local affairs while taking a few symbolic actions to "differentiate" from national TEC a bit more and ignoring 815 as much as possible.

Sadly absolutely nothing proposed in this new "middle way" will save DioSC in the long run. One day the worthy Bishop Lawrence will leave the scene and they will have to elect a new bishop. And as long as they remain under the Constitutions and Canons of TEC their new-bishop elect, whoever he is, will have to receive consents from a majority of the heretical leadership of TEC in order to be consecrated. Any plan DioSC adopts now that does not rapidly move toward departure from TEC will eventually spell their doom. I hope they have the wisdom to see that.

Friday, August 07, 2009

My Final Thursday Night Class of the Summer

This photograph was taken Thursday night by my father as I taught the final summer installment of my "Thursday night class" at St. Vincent's Cathedral. The topic of the summer class was "Hollywood and Early Christianity." We watched the fifties classics The Robe and Quo Vadis in forty-five minute installments each week, then discussed ancient sources reflected in each movie for forty-five minutes. The final class session dealt with the big finish of Quo Vadis, then covered the deaths of Gaius Petronius and St. Peter as described in ancient sources, and the final days of the Roman emperor Nero as related by Suetonius. A good time was had by all.

Our next class begins on the first Thursday night in September and will cover the writings known as the Apostolic Fathers, a collection of orthodox Christian writings of the second century A.D. Classes begin in my Middle School classroom, Room 103, at 7:35PM following 7PM Eucharist in St. Mary's Chapel. Everybody come if you can!

The textbook for the Apostolic Fathers class may be procured from Amazon here.

(Three final notes for the observant:
First, yes, I left out an "s" in "presbytery" when I wrote it on the white board. How embarrassing!
Second: I am reading from the Revelation to St. John in the first-rate ESV Study Bible. It is the best study Bible on the market, if you ask me. Get one today! You won't regret it.
Finally, on the wall behind me you will see one of my most treasured possessions--a photograph of my St. Vincent's School kids celebrating with me immediately following my ordination as a priest on Holy Cross Day 2007. They presented me with this signed photo the following week. It meant a great deal to me that so many of the kids not only elected to spend their Friday night at a two hour church service but then stuck around another hour or more at the reception. God bless them all!)

Monday, August 03, 2009

An Interesting Political Quiz--Give it a try!

My Political Views
I am a center-right moderate social authoritarian
Right: 1.81, Authoritarian: 2.96

Political Spectrum Quiz

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