Archive for February, 2013

Help Wanted: Small C of E parish needs Vicar. Any takers?

February 27, 2013

Rod Dreher posted this on his excellent blog and, frankly, these kindly Church of England folks look like they could use a hand. They also look like they are having way too much fun at church!

This summer’s class is an introduction to the Old Testament. You’re invited!

February 27, 2013

As was reported a few weeks ago, the Anglican School of Ministry will continue its academic mission preparing ministers, educators and leaders. Here is a link to the ASM home page. The continuing education school which I am privileged to lead has been reorganized and recognized by the Arkansas State Board of Private Career Education as an exempt religious institution. Our new name is Christian Foundations for Ministry and our goal is to help train lay leaders for service in God’s kingdom. Many of the classes are also appropriate as refreshers for clergy and to provide spiritual stimulation for those seeking a deeper understanding of the Christian faith. Here is the  CFM Catalog.

The principle summer offering is an introduction to the Old Testament and the text will  be an excellent workbook produced by the Trinity School for Ministry in Pittsburgh. This is a 12-week class and our first meeting will be on a weekday evening in late May or early June. There is no formal homework, no term papers and no exam. Students are expected to do about two hours of reading every week. The discussions are “live” on the internet and are not public meetings. Since I am in Little Rock, Arkansas, there will probably be a core group gathering in one location. Here is  the  Syllabus FOU 001.

The tuition is very reasonable ($150.00), the conversations are outstanding and it is always a very lively group. Non- Anglicans are very much welcome! My email and phone number is on the syllabus. Let’s rap.

FOOTNORE: CFM has a new, and very well received, course directed at local teachers and small group leaders. It would be my pleasure to lead that course this summer. Interested? You know where to find me!


A discussion starter: How do you get God to like you?

February 26, 2013

One of my best friends passed on a discussion question from a Bible study group. Here goes: what do you think you have to do to get God to like you? Participants were to pose this question to three different individuals. I can imagine there would be some pretty diverse and compelling answers. My friend made the mistake of asking me. This discussion starter is just laden with possibilities.

I have to resist going full-on Calvinist because the topic deserves a little lighter touch. It is not a seminary final exam, after all. This many take some of the laughs out of the conversation but let us put the concept of “total depravity” aside. God is infinitely holy and may not tolerate that which is defiled. I am prepared to stipulate that human beings are a bad lot.

Liking is a human characteristic? Can God, the absolute “other,” like a think or a being in the same way that humans might? Let’s break this down a little, so please feel free to add your own comments. And, yes, I am going to get down to the “love” distinction, so just settle down for a few paragraphs.

If God were to “like” a thing or person, he would do so completely, perfectly and eternally. Humans fall out of “like” whenever something gets old or damaged. An individual might be likable, until he ran out of money, got sick, came out of the closet, or changes political parties. We are fickle. There is a tendency to like what is convenient and familiar. God approves of his creation. That may qualify as a like. Does God like me? Well, in the very strictest sense, he certainly does. God is with me through thick and thin, but that is because God is faithful and does not have any resemblance to my fallen human nature. God sticks with me despite my many failings.

That is actually love. The Father has, “blessed us [believers] in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Eph 1:3-5). God loves us even before we existed – before anything existed. God has an eternal purpose to reconcile all creation under the rule of Jesus Christ (Eph 1:7-10).

Yes, Christians are saved by grace through faith. God offers his divine favor as a gift. There is no give-and-take with God anyway. It’s always all-give and the Almighty’s generosity cannot be outdone. What’s more, he loves every human being. We mortals are bound up in prejudices and presumptions that often restrain our outgoing affections. There is always a certainly weakness in all human dealings. God plans to spend eternity with many of the beings created in his image and likeness.

If God likes humanity, it is not with the flighty uncertainty of mankind. He put on human flesh and came down to live and die among fallen people. That is a powerful, wild, boundless kind of love that we just do not “get” while dwelling in the ordinary human mind. We try to know the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator, but he is completely unlike us or anything we have ever encountered. He cares about the creation, about the church, and every one of us with a concern that knows no boundaries.

And so we struggle to know what he is like and to be more like him. Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity and express image of the Father,  sets the example. Before the crucifixion, he called the disciples friends. How is that possible? He said that knowing that all but one would soon abandon him to the Roman executioners. Such an extension of friendship can only happen in the divine economy of complete love and generosity.


Collect for the Second Sunday in Lent

February 24, 2013

ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thoughts on the Vatican’s ‘gay lobby’ | National Catholic Reporter

February 24, 2013

By John L. Allen Jr.I’ve received numerous requests to comment on the sensational story in an Italian newspaper Thursday suggesting the existence of a shadowy “gay lobby” in the Vatican, linking it to the prospect of blackmail and suggesting that such dark forces may have factored into Benedict XVI’s decision to resign.

For what it’s worth, I’ll lay out my initial reaction here.

First of all, the paper that carried the story, La Repubblica, is not a scandal sheet. It’s the largest circulation daily in the country, with a center-left editorial stance. It’s sometimes critical of the church, but it’s not the National Enquirer.

What makes the piece slightly hard to evaluate is that it was written by a journalist named Concita De Gregorio, who’s not among La Repubblica’s usual stable of Vatican writers. (Sometimes Italian papers will let somebody else author stories likely to ruffle feathers in the Vatican so their regular beat reporters don’t have to face the fallout.)

As a rule of thumb, one should usually take unsourced speculation with a grain of salt, especially in the Italian papers. As I’m fond of saying, God love ’em, Italians have never seen a conspiracy theory they’re not prepared to believe.

Continue reading at the link below.

Thoughts on the Vatican’s ‘gay lobby’ | National Catholic Reporter.

Collect for the First Sunday in Lent

February 18, 2013

O LORD, who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights; Give us grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit, we may ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness, and true holiness, to thy honour and glory, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

Benedict XVI’s way of the cross

February 18, 2013

After almost a week of commentary and reporting on the historic decision of Pope Benedict to vacate his office as head of the Roman Catholic church, it is something of a challenge to find something to say that has not already been spoken or published. This is by no means meant to be original thinking. Instead, the intention here is to combine some good analysis and mix it in with some informed personal opinion.

Yes, Anglicans do care about the Papacy. If only we had a strong magisterium to crack down on liturgical foolishness, correct theological error and punish serious wrongdoing, we would probably be as foolish and human as the Church of Rome sometimes appears. We “conservative” Anglicans are beset with schism and bitter name calling, divisions over women bishops and prayer books, high ritual and low ritual, and a general lack of self-confidence. And then there are the Episcopalians. Benedict has faced conflict over the Vatican Bank, liberation theology, altar girls, mouthy nuns, pedophile priests, and the bishops that shield them from the proper judicial consequences of their unspeakable crimes. It looks like Jesus is right again. The wheat and the tares grow alongside each other and you may not forcibly separate them until the final harvest and God’s ultimate judgment.

The Anglican view includes the Roman Catholic Church in the household of God. The universal church, all orthodox denominations and all believing individuals, comprise something called “the body of Christ.” We are the active living presence of the Lord and Savior in the world today. Jesus Christ himself is the head of the body and each of the members (us) is essential. When one member is impaired, there is trouble in the entire body. This is part of the Father’s divine purpose established before the creation, back in a time when there was no time. The Almighty Father knew from the onset that we fallen humans would disfigure his vital living body on earth. Despite our inherent grave weaknesses, he trusted us with the job of spreading the gospel.
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SNL takes on the resurrection and divine retribution: Djesus Uncrossed #SNL #DEJESUS

February 17, 2013

Often I feel like the Grumpy Anglican. It can be a challenge to articulate Christian belief (a belief system rejected by most Americans) from an Anglican perspective (diminished by its own tendency to schism). There is, however, something about the Church of England heritage which is both necessary and beneficial to the modern world. I will try to bring that theological patience to bear in this review.

I do not generally watch SNL. In fact, I gave up on it years ago, but maybe I should get back on board. The NBC icon takes on here the currently popular revenge genre, which relies heavily on alternative versions of history. Academics spend a lot of time wondering what might have happened if; Benedict Arnold had received the promotions and respect he deserved,  Lee had won Little Round Top, the plot to kill Hitler had been successful. This is a bit different, and very disquieting, approach to the resurrection. “Djesus Uncrossed,” casts Jesus Christ in a Tarantino-directed, ultra-violent revenge flick akin to “Django Unchained.”

NOTE: The video was removed from YouTube because of copyright concerns and is, therefore, no longer available on this blog.

Please understand, I completely reject the entire vengeance theme. Haven’t any of these people read The Count of Monte Crosto? One current film presents a fantasy retaliation against slave owners. What good does that do? It is just more violence injected straight into the veins of a society with too much bloodshed and shoot-’em-ups. This SNL parody, however serves a very useful purpose in that it gives Christians a real opportunity to explain the true life-giving message of Jesus, out savior and coming king.
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Collect for the first day of Lent, commonly called Ash Wednesday

February 13, 2013

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we,worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness. may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

UPDATED TWICE: A few nagging questions as Pope Benedict XVI steps aside #rogermahoney #bernardlaw #B16

February 11, 2013

It is a great astonishment, although it should not be, and very entertaining to observe so-called journalists trying to sort out the Roman Catholic Church. This commentary comes from an odd bird, an unashamed Protestant Anglican and Catholic of the Reformation. I can forgive mortal reporters not understanding the squabbling offspring from the Church of England, but darn it, Roman Catholics are important. This matters.

Let me give you the question that everybody missed in the early morning. It is indicative of a grave lack of background from those entrusted to report the news. Excuse me for whining, but these are jobs that are so elite, so exalted, so intellectually demanding, that a college degree is absolutely mandatory – no exceptions. (Whew! That sure feels better now!) What about retired Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahoney? He may be removed from public ministry, but Mahoney still has a vote in the College of Cardinals. Will he slip out of the country, out of the reach of pesky prosecutors who might have a few hard questions about the apparent pattern of obstructing justice and protection of pedophile priests? Will he join retired Boston Cardinal Bernard Law in luxurious exile, hiding from the long arm of the American judicial system. Law voted in the 2005 conclave, but I am unsure of his current status. It may be that Law is no longer an elector. These are questions that American journalists might pose to some competent authority. American Catholics should be embarrassed that Vatican City is becoming a foreign refuge for shade characters who wear their collars backwards. Let’s hope the California prosecutors get the jump on Mahoney before he splits the country for good.

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