Archive for September, 2008

I don’t comment publicly or post regularly on the situation in the Episcopal church because it can so easily become an unhealthy obsession for so many people. I encourage myself and encourage my people to focus on Christ and when an action or response becomes necessary for us at Trinity then I will be happy to do whatever is necessary under Christ. Nevertheless, from time to time, important statements are made by people who directly affect our congregational life. Below is one such statement. I encouarge you to read it all.

All of this leads me to believe that the challenges that lie before a predominately conservative diocese like South Carolina have now been enormously increased if only because of the perception of our parishioners and clergy—but, more pertinently from what I fear is a failure of the present House of Bishops to realize just how far from historic Christianity our church has drifted. To many of our minds this, far more than Pittsburgh’s present challenge to TEC’s discipline and polity, is what has led to this current crisis. Beyond this the checks and balances previously given to us in the Constitution & Canons seem profoundly weakened. Phrases long understood as clear apparently can be spoken of as ambiguous. If what appears to be the plain meaning of a canon can be dismissed with apparent ease and with no recourse; if the request from such a monumental gathering as Lambeth 2008 urging greater dialogue and forthright conversation within the body of Christ seems to count for so little here in the first action of the House—even after so many TEC bishops report being profoundly moved by the grace exhibited toward us from those provinces grieved and hindered by our prior actions; and when there seems to be so little recognition that it has been the very actions of our General Convention and HOB in recent years that has so alienated dioceses like San Joaquin, Pittsburgh and others that their laity and clergy vote in such large majorities to remove accession clauses—judicious governance and Christian unity will drain like water from an opened hand. One might have wished for a more generous spirit and greater patience toward our own aggrieved members. Indeed one has to wonder where such tone deafness and purblindness come from.

I hesitate to write such words because I have been treated with respect within the House of Bishop since my first meeting in March 2008, then again at Lambeth, and most recently at this last meeting. But since to hold my words on such a crucial matter will serve no one well, including my own diocese of South Carolina, I try to present these concerns respectfully and for the purpose of more forthright conversations within the House of Bishops and the Church at large.

read it all here

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Iran’s parliament has passed the death penalty for apostasy, which is viewed in that country as converting to any other faith than Islam.

 Thousands of Iranians have been converting to Christianity, and the underground church is thriving, according to reports. But other Iranians are returning to Zoroastrianism, which was the dominant religion in Iran at one time. Jonathan Rocho, with International Christian Concern (ICC), explains.
 
“We, as a Christian organization, are very much concerned about this because this means many Christians who converted from Islam are going to face death, simply because of their decision to follow Jesus Christ,” Rocho laments.
 
He says Iranians are questioning the Muslim faith after living under the regime, which has been dominated by the religion since the revolution in the 1970s. “They have not seen any change in their lives,” Rocho adds. “There is even more repression, more problems going on in the country, so they are very much confused about the Islamic faith.”
 
Already, two Christian converts accused of apostasy have been given the death penalty. Since Iran does not easily succumb to international pressure, Rocho urges people to pray.

read it all here

This is a challenging, complex, and immense essay written by Frederica Matthewes-Green. It tends to get off track and ramble at points, but I found it very engaging. I’ve only excerpted what was its most compelling point for me. Read the whole thing by clicking through to the next page and following the link.

There is a pop-sociology concept called “imitating the oppressor,” which means that when a group struggles for a new identity it tends to adopt the values of whoever it perceives to be holding power. Thus, anything that looked “feminine” made feminists uncomfortable, because in the opinion of men it was weak. Why we should think that men were smarter than our mothers and grandmothers was never clear. Most of the time, we acted as if men were made only a little higher than pond scum. Yet we accepted unquestioningly that a man’s life was the ideal life. Everything about men seemed more serious, more important. We felt embarrassed at our soft arms, and betrayed by our soft emotions. Motherhood was a dangerous sidetrack, a self-indulgent hobby that could slow you down. That’s the way men saw it, and who were we to argue? Whatever men treated with contempt was contemptuous; whatever men valued was valuable. And what men valued most was success.

Though I use the term “careerism” to identify this value, I don’t mean that women shouldn’t have careers. I mean rather a half-conscious ideology which holds that the most important thing in life is the rank conferred by a place of employment. It’s as bad for men as it is for women.

Careerism is a foolish idea on many levels, not least because only the most fortunate, and elite, people get to have careers. Most people just have jobs. When I was a young feminist mouthing off about how I was going to be out in the workplace and not stuck at home, my dad gave me a few wise words that, improbably, sunk in even then. He pointed out that most of the people in the world don’t get their fulfillment from the thing that gives them a paycheck. They get their fulfillment from other facets of life: faith, family, hobbies, literature, and music. For most people, a job represents only the hours they must spend each week to earn the free hours in which they can do the things they really care about. Careerism is the misguided notion that work trumps everything else. (more…)

There is one more word I must notice before I have done with this sweet portion—that is the word “shall.” Oh! I love God’s “shalls” and “wills.” There is nothing comparable to them. Let a man say “shall,” what is it good for? “I will,” says man, and he never performs; “I shall,” says he, and he breaks his promise. But it is never so with God’s “shalls.” If he says “shall,” it shall be; when he says “will,” it will be. Now he has said here, “many shall come.” The devil says “they shall not come;” but “they shall come.” Their sins say “you can’t come;” God says “you shall come.” You, yourselves, say, “you won’t come;” God says “you shall come.” Yes! There are some here who are laughing at salvation, who can scoff at Christ and mock at the gospel; but I tell you some of you shall come yet. “What!” you say, “can God make me become a Christian?” I tell you yes, for herein rests the power of the gospel. It does not ask you consent; but it gets it. It does not say, Will you have it? But it makes you willing in the day of God’s power. Not against your will, but it makes you willing. It shows you its value, and then you fall in love with it; and straightway you run after it and have it. Many people have said, “we will not have anything to do with religion.” yet they have been converted. I have heard of a man who once went to chapel to hear the singing, and as soon as the minister began to preach, he put his fingers in his ears and would not listen. But by-and-by some tiny insect settled on his face, so that he was obliged to take one finger out of his ears to brush it away. Just then the minister said, “he that hath ears to hear let him hear.” The man listened; and God met with him at that moment to his soul’s conversion. He went out a new man, a changed character. He who came in to laugh retired to pray; he who came in to mock went out to bend his knee in penitence; he who entered to spend an idle hour went home to spend an hour in devotion with his God. The sinner became a saint; the profligate became a penitent. Who know that there may not be some like that here? The gospel wants not your consent, it gets it. It knocks the enmity out of your heart. (more…)

Luther’s “little point” would have most assuredly been the soteriological aspects of Reformation theology, which will always be a battle as long as this first world endures. Nevertheless, I find this applicable on so many fronts that I would be curious about your thoughts.

If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point. (Luther’s Works. Weimar Edition. Briefwechsel [Correspondence], vol. 3, pp. 81f.)

A VISION FOR THE FUTURE
SESSION 3: LEADERSHIP: FRAMING A CHURCH


Recap: In our first week together we discussed how the foundation of the church is the Word of God. In our second week together we discussed how the Word of God points directly towards God’s saving action on Golgotha. Today we will be discussing what God uses to build a church once a firm foundation of the Gospel has been laid in a community of believers.

After a foundation has been laid, the process of framing begins. The frame is what will eventually give the house its shape, style and beauty. In the church, the leadership is the frame. Built on the foundation of the Gospel, gathering its strength from the Gospel and being bound by it, the leadership shapes, styles, and beautifies the church into a group of people who reflect the glory of God. (more…)

When the divine command comes to a butterfly, “Fly!” it feels no burden, no fear, no guilt. It just does what it has been made to do: it flies—and sings to the grace of God with every flap of the wing. It has the new nature of a flier that it didn’t have when it was a larva in the cocoon. That is what Scougal means by the “vital principle” of true religion in the soul.

But when the divine command comes to the larva in the cocoon, “Fly!” it does not fly. Instead it has three options for how it can respond. 1) It can sink in despair and say, “I can’t fly! There is no hope for me!” Or 2) it can soar in self-deceit and say, “I am flying! See, there is the ground way down there.” Or 3) it can do what St. Augustine did and cry out, “Command what you will, and grant what you command—Make me a butterfly, O my God!”

The true and wonderful thing about the comparison is that it points to the necessity and the miracle of the new birth. To be a Christian is to have a new vital principle of life in the soul so that the commands of God are not oppressive, but are the beckoning of a beautiful spring day and the aroma of a flower-filled garden. By the grace of God we have been transformed into butterflies. The life of God has come to dwell in our soul and it is now our nature to be up and flying for the Savior.

read it all here