Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday at the Cafe

Robyn Hitchcock's imaginative cover of the song that opened my eyes to Dylan in 2004.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Justin Welby on the death of his daughter

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.

Isaiah 43:2

Monday, March 25, 2013

Trisagion Revisted

It's snowing and a good morning to listen.

Holy Courage and the enthronement of Archbishop Justin Welby at Canterbury Cathedral

Highlights from the BBC of the enthronement of the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury:

Chris Sugden of Anglican Mainstream writes in The Times:

I left the installation service for Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury feeling the same as after the Royal Wedding or the Diamond Jubilee or the Olympics. Archbishop Robert Runcie said that some events inspired energy and other events drained energy. He would have been greatly energized by yesterday’s installation.

Archbishop Justin Welby began the service with a new and fresh piece of liturgy written by himself.

Following the traditional three knocks, the great west doors of the cathedral opened to frame Justin standing in silence his hands in front of him grasping his bishop’s staff. Standing in front of him was the slim figure of a dark haired girl in a green sari. She asked him: “Who are you and why do you request entry?”

“I am Justin, A servant of Jesus Christ, and I come seeking the grace of God, to travel with you in his service together.”

Evangeline Kanagasooriam, standing less than forty feet from the font where she had been baptised 17 years ago, continued: “How do you come among us and with what confidence?” “I come knowing nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified, and in weakness and fear and in much trembling.”

One suspects that this liturgy will find its way into future entrances of other bishops into their cathedrals, not inappropriate for the day that the church remembered Thomas Cranmer the father of the English Prayer Book.

As the Archbishop’s procession made its way into the Cathedral, he stopped particularly to greet Evangeline, an academic and music scholar at the King’s School, who was sitting with her mother, a long standing member of the Cathedral congregation at the very west end of the nave. Behind them sat the press corps, who flocked around them both at the end of the service, not least to express appreciation for Mrs Kanagasooriam’s wonderful singing during the hymns. Unsurprisingly she is a trained singer.

And the hymns were worth singing with all our heart. “When I survey the wondrous cross”, “The Church’s one foundation”, “In Christ alone my hope is found”, Wesley’s “And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Saviour’s blood”, “Great is thy faithfulness” – these are the great hymns of the church chosen by Archbishop Welby that speak of the centrality of Jesus as Lord and his death for sin.

The service designedly had elements from around the Anglican Communion. A lovely hymn by the Sri Lankan writer D.T.Niles, ‘Saranam, Saranam, Saranam”, the signature hymn of the Churches of the Indian Sub-Continent; a prayer in French from the Primate of Burundi, and those Ghanaian drums. African drums in worship are a signature of the Archbishop of York, who may have given advice, but close neighbours of Justin Welby in Liverpool close were also the (now retired) Archbishop of Ghana and Mrs (Dr) Akrofi.

In his sermon, Archbishop Welby used the word risk three times, the word courage eight times, and Jesus or Christ twenty four times. His text was “Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid” from Jesus’ call to Peter to walk on water. Immediately he said “Uniquely in all of human history, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the one who as living love liberates holy courage”. Then “the utterly absurd is completely reasonable when Jesus is the one who is calling.”

He was clear and confident about the contribution of the Christian faith to public life in Britain. “For more than a thousand years this country has to one degree or another sought to recognise that Jesus is the Son of God; by the ordering of its society, by its laws, by its sense of community… Slaves were freed, Factory Acts passed, and the NHS and social care established through Christ-liberated courage.”

On Tuesday morning in preparation for the enthronement John Humphreys chaired a broadcast debate on BBC Radio 4 on whether Christianity was at a crisis or crossroads. It culminated in a discussion of whether God was needed to have morality. Archbishop Justin gave his own answer in his sermon – you need Jesus Christ for the courage to practice it, both personally and nationally and for the forgiveness when you fail: “Courage is released in a society that is under the authority of God.” He immediately tackled issues of immigration through the Biblical story of Ruth – “a Moabite refugee – utterly stigmatised, inescapably despised – taking the huge risk of choosing a God she does not know in a place she has not been, and finding security when she does so. The society Ruth went to was healthy because it was based on obedience to God, both in public care and private love…There can be no final justice, or security, or love, or hope in society if it is not finally based on rootedness in Christ.”

After the service I happened across Ed Milliband, about to leave the precincts. “It’s a great appointment” he said. Hopefully Archbishop Welby will have time and opportunity to share with him more about a society needing to be under the authority of God.

Later in the evening Archbishop Welby met other primates over dinner in Rutherford College at the University of Kent, seated by a window that frames the floodlit Canterbury Cathedral. The Primate of Kenya gave him a letter later released like other letters the Archbishop has recently received. It emphasises that he and others from Africa and Latin America came to take part in the ceremony and the celebration and worship. Discussion of issues facing the communion would be for another time and place.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and The Lord Jesus Christ.

We greet you on this day of celebration and assure you and your family of our prayers for your future ministry.

We are grateful for this opportunity to worship in Canterbury Cathedral and be reminded of our historic faith that is grounded in the revealed Word of God.

We encourage you to stay true to the ‘faith once delivered to the saints’ and as you do we will stand with you for the sake of Christ.

We do look forward to a future opportunity to meet and discuss how we can work together.

To Him be all the glory.

The Most Revd Dr. Eliud Wabukala Anglican Church of Kenya

The Most Revd Nicholas Okoh Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)

The Most Revd Stanley Ntagali Church of the Province of Uganda

The Most Revd Onesphore Rwaje Province de l’Eglise Anglicane au Rwanda

The Most Revd Daniel Deng Bul The Episcopal Church of the Sudan

The Most Revd Hector Zavala Iglesia Anglicana del Cono Sur de America.

Following the service I asked an African Primate for his assessment. “Courage needs company” he said.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

With a grateful heart ...

Yes, it's my birthday and it's been so wonderful to hear from friends today.  This song came to mind again, it's been up on the Cafe Stage recently, but here it is again - because it just gets better.

Friday, March 22, 2013

PBS Interviews Justin Welby

Kim Lawton of PBS's Religion & Ethics interviews Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby:

How can I keep from singing?

For friends near and far.

Archbishop Justin - An Evangelical and No Mistake

Get thee hence and read Peter Ould's latest post on the enthronement yesterday of Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury - it is a great review of an amazing service where if one is looking for this man's theology just look at the hymns which he chose for the service.

Peter writes:
As I watched the installation (enthronement?) of Justin Portal Welby as Primate of all England and Primus inter Pares amongst the leaders of the Anglican Communion, there was a tangible sense that something awesome was happening in front of our eyes.
Just look at the hymn choices. Song after song, even those before the service officially started, were chock full of clear Biblical language. Classic orthodox themes of genuine dying to self and rising in Christ were repeated again and again in the words being sung in the Cathedral. Even the first hymn lay down the form to come.
COME down, O Love divine,
Seek thou this soul of mine,
And visit it with thine own ardour glowing;
O Comforter, draw near,
Within my heart appear,
And kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing. 
O let it freely burn,
Till earthly passions turn
To dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
And let thy glorious light
Shine ever on my sight,
And clothe me round, the while my path illuming.

Peter goes through the service, hymn by hymn, including this:
As the procession, Archbishop now attached, moved back down the Nave, the sound of Isaac Watt’s classic hymn “When I Survey” sounded around the ancient walls, significantly with the addition of the often dropped fourth verse re-emphasising the themes of dying to self and the world.
His dying crimson like a robe,
Spreads o’er his body on the Tree;
Then am I dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me. 
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

And if that is not enough, then there's this (though I had earlier missed that it was indeed a Wesleyan tune):
Evangelical hymn followed Evangelical hymn. Procession to the Quire happened as the congregation sang “The Church’s One Foundation” with Samuel Stone’s words and Samuel Wesley’s tune.
THE Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord;
She is his new creation
By water and the word:
From heaven he came and sought her
To be his holy Bride;
With His own blood he bought her,
And for her life he died.

Elect from every nation,
Yet one o’er all the earth,
Her charter of salvation
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses
With every grace endued.

And then comes one of my contemporary favorites that spells out the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Peter writes:
On and on it went. The cries of dismay from liberals on twitter when the Cathedral sang “In Christ Alone” were evidence of the way the service was going – clearly and unambiguously returning to the Church of England’s Reformed roots. 
In Christ alone! – who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe.
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied –
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live. 
There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine –
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
“The wrath of God.” “Satisfied.” “Bought” with Jesus’ blood. The words echoed around the Norman pillars, carried down the fibre-optic cables and thundered into living rooms and media operation centres up and down the country and across the world. Powerful words of a powerful Penal Substitution.

Peter reviews the sermon as well, writing:
And then the sermon. Oh what a sermon. If ever there was a moment to read the sub-text this was it. Beautifully crafted words that alluded to powerful messages from Scripture and left you to read on where the Word of God had been referred to and connect the dots of the simple picture Archbishop Justin was painting for us through his choices for this service. 
Today we may properly differ on the degrees of state and private responsibility in a healthy society.  But if we sever our roots in Christ we abandon the stability which enables good decision making. There can be no final justice, or security, or love, or hope in our society if it is not finally based on rootedness in Christ. Jesus calls to us over the wind and storms, heed his words and we will have the courage to build society in stability. 

What is “justice” if we don’t know Jesus? What is love if we have not surrendered to Jesus? 
For nearly two thousand years the Church has sought, often failing, to recognise in its way of being that Jesus is the Son of God. The wind and waves divided Jesus from the disciples. Peter ventures out in fear and trembling (as you may imagine I relate to him at this point). Jesus reconciles Peter to Himself and makes the possibility for all the disciples to find peace. All the life of our diverse churches finds renewal and unitywhen we are reconciled afresh to God and so are able to reconcile others. A Christ-heeding life changes the church and a Christ-heeding church changes the world: St Benedict set out to create a school for prayer, and incidentally created a monastic order that saved European civilisation. 
Oh yes, ++Justin is well up for reconciliation, but the primary reconciliation he points out must be the sinner to a holy God, the rebel to the Divine one he/she has attempted to supplant. If we wish to be agents of change in the world we must be ones whose whole world has been changed by Jesus. What’s more, real genuine change does not look like the world around it but rather is so often despised by the society within which it incarnates. 
The more the Church is authentically heeding Jesus’ call, leaving its securities, speaking and acting clearly and taking risks, the more the Church suffers. Thomas Cranmer faced death with Christ-given courage, leaving a legacy of worship, of holding to the truth of the gospel, on which we still draw. I look at the Anglican leaders here and remember that in many cases round the world their people are scattered to the four winds or driven underground:  by persecution, by storms of all sorts, even by cultural change.  Many Christians are martyred now as in the past.

And as the service comes to close and I was somewhat storming in my boots wondering how all this could be happening with a Wesleyan hymn, well - here's Peter's take:
How to end such a litany of orthodoxy? What else but the hymn of the man ejected from the Church of England for daring to simply preach the truth. John Wesley’s magnificent testimonial was the backdrop for the return of the newly enthroned Metropolitan Archbishop to the Nave altar and the vast body of his people. 
AND can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died he for me, who caused his pain?
For me, who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
That thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray -
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light,
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in him, is mine!
Alive in him, my living head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ, my own.
So get thee hence and read it all here.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Profile on the Archbishop of Canterbury: Justin Welby is no fluffy spiritualist – he's the tough leader the church needs

Interesting commentary on the new Archbishop of Canterbury, from here:

The new archbishop of Canterbury will not be easily fazed by the burdens thrust upon him. Welby is a decisive man of action. 
Archbishop Justin Welby visits central London. 
Rowan Williams' parting wish, as he bid farewell to Lambeth Palace after a difficult decade, was that his successor might be blessed with "the constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros."  
Many are wondering how the new archbishop of Canterbury will cope under similar stress. Justin Welby, a risk-taker and reconciler by nature, is gifted with unusual mental toughness, shaped through personal suffering. His background at Eton, Cambridge and Kensington gives the impression of untroubled privilege, but must be set alongside a broken home, an alcoholic father, and the tragic death of his firstborn daughter aged just seven months. 
While triumphalistic Christians sing exuberant choruses and talk of miraculous healing, Welby knows from firsthand experience that bereavement and tears and unanswered prayers are part of the reality of life. His confidence in the Christian message is wholehearted, but not superficial. He talks freely, not just of social reform and economic regeneration, but of relationship with Jesus Christ as the answer to humanity's deepest needs. His ultimate aim is the reconversion of Britain and his adamantine resilience springs from his faith. 
Welby's doctrinal foundations as an undergraduate were laid at conservative evangelical house-parties, more like a boot-camp than a holiday. The Bible teaching was combined with peeling potatoes, sweeping floors and cleaning lavatories. It instilled both humility and discipline. 
Another profound influence was Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan, imprisoned for 12 years by the communist regime in Vietnam, nine of them in solitary. Thuan's example of Christian persistence in extreme hardship is a familiar refrain in Welby's teaching. The archbishop's spiritual director is a Roman Catholic monk in Switzerland who goes to bed at midnight and rises at 4am every morning to pray. To prepare himself for high office, Welby recently undertook a gruelling spiritual retreat at a French monastery, not for the fainthearted. One of the many things he and the new Jesuit pope, Francis I, hold in common is admiration for Ignatius Loyola, the soldier-saint. They don't do fluffy spirituality. 
So archbishop Welby is not easily fazed by the tremendous burdens now thrust upon him as primate of all England and leader of the worldwide Anglican communion. He is unimpressed by holders of power, political or ecclesiastical. His withering put-downs and witty repartee at the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards has warmed him to the public. He is happy to embarrass the chancellor of the exchequer and the big banks, or to tackle the coalition on its economic policies. Welby is his own man, determined to speak his mind. His years as a treasurer in the oil industry, and negotiating with militia in the Niger Delta, taught him to be decisive.  
Where Rowan Williams was obfuscatory, Welby's communication is crystal clear. Where Williams was ill at ease with the press, Welby rolls up his sleeves and gets stuck in. Within the Anglican communion, Canterbury's role has become a political football in the tug-of-war between North American revisionists and African conservatives. The archbishop likens it to the brutal conflicts he has encountered during his reconciliation ministry in Nigeria and the Middle East, "only without guns." 
Standing in the crossfire, he is likely to receive a pummelling, but won't take kindly to being kicked about. He begins his public ministry on a wave of optimism amongst those calling for strong spiritual leadership for church and nation.
Read it all here.

Why we have hope!

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." -Romans 5:1-5

LIVE: Archbishop of Canterbury Enthroned

The enthronement of the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury.
You may watch the live coverage of the enthronement of the Rt. Rev'd Justin Welby as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury here.  You can follow the ceremony on Twitter at #ABC105.  You can download the Order of Service here.

Here are highlights:

Here is his inaugural sermon:

Sermon at the Inauguration of the Ministry
of the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Portal Welby
Canterbury Cathedral, 21st March 2013

(Commemoration of Thomas Cranmer, Feast of St Benedict)

Ruth 2:10-16; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Matthew 14:22-23; "Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid", Matthew 14:27

To each one of us, whoever and wherever we are, joining us from far away by television of radio, or here in the Cathedral, Jesus calls through the storms and darkness of life and says “Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid”.

Our response to those words sets the pattern for our lives, for the church, for the whole of society. Fear imprisons us and stops us being fully human. Uniquely in all of human history Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the one who as living love liberates holy courage.

“If it is you tell me to come to you on the water” Peter says, and Jesus replies “come”. History does not relate what the disciples thought about getting out of a perfectly serviceable boat, but Peter was right, and they were wrong. The utterly absurd is completely reasonable when Jesus is the one who is calling. Courage is liberated, and he gets out of the boat, walks a bit, and then fails. Love catches him, gently sets him right, and in a moment they are both in the boat and there is peace. Courage failed, but Jesus is stronger than failure.

The fear of the disciples was reasonable. People do not walk on water, but this person did. For us to trust and follow Christ is reasonable if He is what the disciples end up saying He is; “truly you are the Son of God”. Each of us now needs to heed His voice calling to us, and to get out of the boat and go to Him. Because even when we fail, we find peace and hope and become more fully human than we can imagine: failure forgiven, courage liberated, hope persevering, love abounding.

For more than a thousand years this country has to one degree or another sought to recognise that Jesus is the Son of God; by the ordering of its society, by its laws, by its sense of community. Sometimes we have done better, sometimes worse. When we do better we make space for our own courage to be liberated, for God to act among us and for human beings to flourish. Slaves were freed, Factory Acts passed, and the NHS and social care established through Christ-liberated courage. The present challenges of environment and economy, of human development and global poverty, can only be faced with extraordinary courage.

In humility and simplicity Pope Francis called us on Tuesday to be protectors of each other: of the natural world, of the poor and vulnerable. Courage is released in a society that is under the authority of God, so that we may become the fully human community of which we all dream. Let us hear Christ who calls to us and says “Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid”.

The first reading we heard dates from the time of Israel before the Kings. It is the account of a Moabite refugee – utterly stigmatised, inescapably despised - taking the huge risk of choosing a God she does not know in a place she has not been, and finding security when she does so. The society Ruth went to was healthy because it was based on obedience to God, both in public care and private love.

Today we may properly differ on the degrees of state and private responsibility in a healthy society. But if we sever our roots in Christ we abandon the stability which enables good decision making. There can be no final justice, or security, or love, or hope in our society if it is not finally based on rootedness in Christ. Jesus calls to us over the wind and storms, heed his words and we will have the courage to build society in stability.

For nearly two thousand years the Church has sought, often failing, to recognise in its way of being that Jesus is the Son of God. The wind and waves divided Jesus from the disciples. Peter ventures out in fear and trembling (as you may imagine I relate to him at this point). Jesus reconciles Peter to Himself and makes the possibility for all the disciples to find peace. All the life of our diverse churches finds renewal and unity when we are reconciled afresh to God and so are able to reconcile others. A Christ-heeding life changes the church and a Christ-heeding church changes the world: St Benedict set out to create a school for prayer, and incidentally created a monastic order that saved European civilisation.

The more the Church is authentically heeding Jesus’ call, leaving its securities, speaking and acting clearly and taking risks, the more the Church suffers. Thomas Cranmer faced death with Christ-given courage, leaving a legacy of worship, of holding to the truth of the gospel, on which we still draw. I look at the Anglican leaders here and remember that in many cases round the world their people are scattered to the four winds or driven underground: by persecution, by storms of all sorts, even by cultural change. Many Christians are martyred now as in the past.

Yet at the same time the church transforms society when it takes the risks of renewal in prayer, of reconciliation and of confident declaration of the good news of Jesus Christ. In England alone the churches together run innumerable food banks, shelter the homeless, educate a million children, offer debt counselling, comfort the bereaved, and far, far more. All this comes from heeding the call of Jesus Christ. Internationally, churches run refugee camps, mediate civil wars, organise elections, set up hospitals. All of it happens because of heeding the call to go to Jesus through the storms and across the waves.

There is every possible reason for optimism about the future of Christian faith in our world and in this country. Optimism does not come from us, but because to us and to all people Jesus comes and says “Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid”. We are called to step out of the comfort of our own traditions and places, and go into the waves, reaching for the hand of Christ. Let us provoke each other to heed the call of Christ, to be clear in our declaration of Christ, committed in prayer to Christ, and we will see a world transformed.

Read it all here.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Investigating The Nasty Effect

Cherie Harder, President of the Trinity Forum, comments on the decline of civil discourse online:

Nastiness, new research shows, corrodes not only relationships, but also reading comprehension. 
A recent study published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication and reported in the New York Times sought to study what was termed “the nasty effect” – the impact of insulting comments about an article on readers’ capacity to accurately understand the article’s content. 
In the study, researchers asked test subjects to read a blog post that explained the various advantages and risks of a new technology product, then read comments on that post (purportedly from other readers). 
Half of the study participants were given reader comments that included either epithets or profanity. The other half of the sample read comments to the original blog article that were similar in content, length, and intensity, but were civil in tone. 
Simply reading the nasty comments, the researchers found, could significantly distort what the test subjects thought the original article reported. The authors noted: “Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the new story itself…. Simply including an ad hominem attack in a reader comment was enough to make study participants think the downside of the purported technology was much greater than they’d previously thought.” 
In short, a nasty comment not only changed a reader’s response to what he’d read – it changed his recollection and perception of it. As the authors concluded: “it’s not the content of the comments that matters. It’s the tone.” 
As anyone who has scanned reader comments in the blogosphere knows: this is bad news – not only for civility in public discourse, but for our collective capacity to accurately understand what we are reading and viewing. Given how thoroughly nastiness has polluted the vast blogosphere, what can one do? 
Certainly, an obvious place to start is to strive for civility and courtesy in correspondence and conversation – and to log in and tune in to others who practice it, rather than the predictable mudslingers. 
But it is also necessary to recognize that the choice of medium through which we receive our information is not value-neutral. Whether or not one agrees with Marshall McLuhan’s assertion that “the medium is the message,” it seems almost incontrovertible that various media frame, translate, distort, and constrain the content of their message in a variety of ways. Reading a news article in a paper is different than reading it online, seeing it on television, listening to it on radio, scanning the headline via Twitter, or hearing of it from a friend. In each case, we perceive, process, analyze, remember, and integrate such information differently. Reading intelligently and understanding rightly requires attention paid to context and medium. 
Another, more proactive measure is to regularly participate in forums of idea exchange that are both robust and civil, and actual and relational (as opposed to virtual and anonymous), where reason and imagination are celebrated and valued. Restricting one’s information diet largely to what is served in the polarized blogosphere may well leave one starved of the context to fully digest the larger meaning and import of an idea.
Here are some recommended readings:

Recommended Readings:
* Dominique Broussard and Dietram Scheufele, “This Story Stinks,” The New York Times, 3/2/2013.
* Vaclav Havel, “Politics, Morality, and Civility," The Trinity Forum Reading, 2006.
* Dorothy Sayers, “The Lost Tools of Learning,” The Trinity Forum Reading, 2004.
* Flannery O’Connor, “Revelation,” The Trinity Forum Reading, 2005.

Learn more about the Trinity Forum here.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Episcopal Church lawsuit asks federal court to overturn state court order and strip Diocese of South Carolina of its identity

From here:
The U.S. Post Office and Courthouse in Charleston, SC.
Episcopal Church lawsuit "demands that Bishop Lawrence be blocked from doing 
what Circuit Judge ordered that only he is legally permitted to do."

Charleston, SC, March 13, 2013 – A new lawsuit filed by The Episcopal Church (TEC) asks a federal court to effectively nullify a South Carolina Circuit Court order by granting a splinter group, formerly associated with the Diocese of South Carolina, control over the Diocese’s identity and properties.

“The national church’s suit is an apparent effort to move a state property rights case to a court that might support the denomination’s seizure of local assets,” said the Rev. Jim Lewis, Canon to Bishop Lawrence. “It seems to be more focused on undermining the state court’s authority and prolonging the litigation than addressing the underlying issue.”

The suit asks a federal court to prohibit Bishop Lawrence from doing what a South Carolina judge has ordered that only he can do: use the diocese’s names and symbols.

The language used in TEC’s filings appears to ignore the temporary injunction issued on January 23 by South Carolina Circuit Judge Diane S. Goodstein – and agreed to by attorneys for TEC – blocking the denomination, its continuing parishes, individuals, organizations or any entity associated with it from, using, assuming or adopting the registered names and the seal or mark of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina.

In response to the Judge’s order, the TEC remnant group adopted the name of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina – which it did not use in last week’s federal court filings.

TEC’s federal lawsuit is very similar to one it filed in 2009 against the Diocese of Ft. Worth, Texas, after it disassociated from the denomination. When the federal judge realized the underlying issue of who controlled the diocese was being litigated in a state court, he stayed proceedings, pending the state court’s decision.

In the South Carolina Federal case, the suit specifically claims the Plaintiff represents the rightful Diocese of South Carolina and identifies Bishop Charles von Rosenberg as the rightful bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina. This issue is already a part of the state court case .

Busy week for TEC legal action

TEC’s suit was filed the same week that a Fresno, Calif., Superior Court judge tentatively ruled against a TEC motion for summary judgment in its lawsuit against the Diocese of San Joaquin, Calif. The court held that TEC failed to show that a diocese is prohibited from leaving the denomination as a matter of law.

TEC and attorneys for the San Joaquin Diocese will be able to make oral arguments on March 13, which could cause the court to change its ruling. If, however, the ruling stands, the issue can only be resolved by going to trial.

Currently, TEC is involved in lawsuits with four former dioceses, which all disassociated from the denomination. Only one legal case, involving a disassociated diocese in Pittsburgh, concluded in TEC’s favor because of agreements the diocese had entered into prior to disassociation.

TEC has filed approximately 80 lawsuits against parishes and dioceses that have disassociated from the denomination in recent years. The denomination, which has lost more than 17 percent of its members since 2000, has been aggressive in using the law to seize property from disassociated parishes, effectively using the threat of legal action to discourage further disassociation over theological reasons.

Recognizing that TEC has historically used the courts to seize local assets, the Diocese of South Carolina filed suit in South Carolina Circuit Court in January to prevent the denomination from hijacking local property. The suit asked the court to prevent TEC from infringing on the protected marks of the Diocese, including its seal and its historical names, and to prevent the church from assuming the Diocese’s identity, which was established before TEC’s creation. It also asked the court to protect the property of individual churches in the diocese.

The Diocese asked the court for protection when a few individuals and parishes remaining with TEC began identifying themselves as the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina after the Diocese had disassociated from TEC.

Locally, 46 of the Diocese’s original 71 parishes and missions have voted to support the Diocese; 19 support TEC and 6 remain undecided. The parishes and missions supporting the Diocese represent 80 percent of the Diocese’s 30,000 members.

The Episcopal Church and the remnant diocesan group, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, have until April 4 to respond to the circuit court filings.
Read it all here.  Anglican Curmudgeon has commentary here.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Where John Dominic Crossan goes AWOL

Fascinating commentary on John Dominic Crossan by the Very Rev. Robert Barron, president of Mundelein Seminary in Chicago, IL. Note to Bishop Johnston - how about inviting this guy as a follow-up to Dr. Crossan?

Breaking News: Bishop Johnston releases a statement

From here:

A Statement from Bishop Johnston


The Rt. Rev'd Shannon Johnston, Bishop of Virginia
On the Teachings of John Dominic Crossan and the Witness of the Creeds

This week, I received some questions and concerns about the fact that I was a co-sponsor of a "Clergy Day" with Dr. John Dominic Crossan, hosted by the Church of the Holy Cross in Dunn Loring. This event was in conjunction with two evenings of presentations by Dr. Crossan at that congregation which has been studying his writings as part of a Lenten program. When approached by the rector about the possibility of a day when clergy might have the chance to hear and question Dr. Crossan, I readily agreed that this would be a fine opportunity for our clergy (and clergy from neighboring dioceses) to engage first-hand a scholar who is a world-renowned figure and who would be speaking about a topic of great import: the final week of Jesus' life. It is my firm conviction that clergy should be current in their knowledge of various schools of thought that, agree or disagree, have broad dissemination and can be influential for a large number of people, both churchpersons and those without a community of faith. In short, it is important that our Church's leaders know "what's out there," what is being said and taught.

Admittedly, Dr. Crossan is quite controversial with respect to some of his views concerning Jesus' life, the historical context, and the resulting theology of Jesus' ministry, death and resurrection. But these very controversies are precisely why I believe it is important to have the opportunity to hear directly from him, to think critically (in the larger sense of the word) about what he has to say, and to ask probative questions so as to gain the clearest possible understanding.

Due to the meeting of the House of Bishops, I was not able to be in attendance at the Clergy Day, and so I did not myself hear Dr. Crossan on this occasion. But from my own reading and from what I have heard about the Clergy Day's content, I have been able to gather some perspective. Reports of the presentation and the Q & A sessions, even from those who took issue with him, have been quite affirming, saying that Dr. Crossan was energizing and provocative, substantive and responsive. I think it is a healthy dynamic that some questioners pushed back at Dr. Crossan's premises; I also know personally that Dr. Crossan encourages and welcomes critical feedback, as he did at this event.

What concerns me is the assumption that by co-sponsoring this event, I am "endorsing" or signaling agreement with Dr. Crossan's opinions and teaching. I mean to imply nothing of the sort. I simply do not think that we need to be fearful or reticent to encounter ideas different from our own personal convictions and the Church's official teachings, even if we find those ideas to be objectionable in some way. Indeed, I find some of Dr. Crossan's points to be offensive to the faith.

Some of the questions put to me about allowing Dr. Crossan to teach in the Diocese of Virginia challenged my own creedal orthodoxy - a kind of "guilt by association." I reject such reasoning completely. Allow me to quote from my own pastoral address from January 25, 2013, delivered before the diocesan Council:

"I am as creedal a Christian as you will ever find. The core of my faith is utterly and absolutely defined by the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds. I do in fact believe that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments contain all things necessary for salvation. But I also think that inevitably, people will have differing ways of understanding, interpreting, appropriating and applying these essential truths. I do not accept that my own dearly held faith is in any way compromised by agreeing to disagree over the ways in which the catholic and apostolic Church gives witness and offers ministry, any more than I feel that my Church is compromised by my doing so . . . To me, the plain fact is that I - we - need to hear and understand other views of Christian truths."

As I've noted here, I quite disagree with many facets of Dr. Crossan's theology - for example, his view of the Resurrection of Jesus, which I believe to have been bodily, personal and unique to the Lord, accomplished in a moment of historical time. This is a central tenet of the Christian faith and is without qualification the proclamation of the Episcopal Church and of this bishop. Indeed, any teaching that is contrary to the Creeds is contrary to the witness of our Church and, specifically, is at odds with my own faith and teaching.

Nonetheless, I will not be a censor of ideas, a roadblock to inquiry that is grounded in a search for "God with us." The Holy Spirit is still at work with and within the Church and, in my view, we cannot shut down that which pushes our limits. Many times in human history, we have seen how the Spirit has pushed the Church beyond itself.

I give thanks for scholars, like John Dominic Crossan, who are part of that work that challenges us, even if it turns out to be an occasion to return to our own orthodox convictions with stronger roots. No less do I give thanks for scholars, like N.T. Wright, who keep us grounded with such compelling integrity. I also give thanks for those places, like Church of the Holy Cross, Dunn Loring, that provide the forum and the hospitality for all who would seek a deeper understanding of faith in Jesus as our risen Lord and Savior.

The Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston

Breaking News

This past week the Rt. Rev'd Shannon Johnston, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, hosted a person advertised as an authoritative Christian teacher but who grievously denies the resurrection and other foundational doctrines of the Christian faith.  You may read more about it here.

The Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic, the Rt. Rev'd John Guernsey, has released a statement here and and the Rector of Truro, Fairfax, VA the Rev'd Dr. Tory Baucum has released a statement here.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Words have meaning and they have power

I am thinking there may be much confusion between what we mean when we say forgiveness and reconciliation. In order for any of us to be reconciled to God and to one another there must be repentance.

Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me."

Our reconciliation to God is through the cross of Christ and what we bring is our repentance. No repentance, no reconciliation.

Forgiveness is another matter. We begin with the forgiveness God has for us, again through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. We are forgiven not on our own merit, but in the merits of the Son of God who gave His life that we might have life. He has paid the debt we could not pay.

Forgiveness is something we extend to others in response to the forgiveness that we have received. It is not the same as reconciliation. Bishop Festo of Uganda was quite clear on that in his own teachings - he could forgive Idi Amin for what Amin did to him, but that is not the same as reconciliation.

I think we do underestimate the power of forgiveness - of what can happen when we forgive others for what they have done to us. When we ask forgiveness of others, we begin our own journey of repentance. But even that is not reconciliation.

We pray every time we pray the Lord's Prayer, "Forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us." But even that is not reconciliation.

Tory Baucum and Truro, as are so many of us who were once in the Episcopal Church - we may be walking out forgiveness, even mutual forgiveness - but that is not reconciliation.

I do think it's important that we all be careful about our words - our words have meaning and they have power. We do need to be careful that we say forgiveness when we mean forgiveness, that we say trust when we mean trust, but that we don't reimagine reconciliation to be either - reconciliation includes forgiveness and trust, but it also includes repentance.

One of the best ways to teach is to model the teaching, to be a disciple, to live out the teaching in one's life, even when we fail. It seems that when trust has broken - and God knows that trust was destroyed between Truro and The Episcopal Church and remains so even now, what we learn from Bishop Festo is that we learn to forgive. Forgiveness is not repentance, forgiveness is not reconciliation - but forgiveness is what Jesus instructed us to do and it is so powerful that when we forgive another, indeed their sins are forgiven.

'Forgive our sins as we forgive,'
you taught us, Lord, to pray,
but you alone can grant us grace
to live the words we say.

How can your pardon reach and bless
the unforgiving heart,
that broods on wrongs and will not let
old bitterness depart?

In blazing light your cross reveals
the truth we dimly knew:
how trifling debts are owed to us,
how great our debt to you.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Late Night at the Cafe: The Servant King

A Must-Watch Anglican Unscripted: George Conger shares his testimony - and other news from the Anglican Communion

Catch the latest Anglican Unscripted as George Conger shares his testimony following his surgery - it is a must-watch - as well as the latest news from the Anglican Communion:

Truro Anglican Church Vestry releases statement on marriage, nuptial theology, and missional strategy

From here:

“And By This Beauty, The World Shall Be Saved”
March 10, 2013

Sunday morning worship at Truro Anglican Church.
Truro Anglican Church remains as Christ-centered and committed to biblical orthodoxy as the day it voted to leave the Episcopal Church on Sunday, December 17, 2006. By any fair reading of our teaching and ministry, we have only deepened in our orthodoxy since that time. Under the leadership and teaching of our rector, Tory Baucum, Truro Anglican is growing in its understanding of the ancient resources of our tradition and deploying them to strengthen teaching, discipleship and missions, especially as these resources relate to issues of sexuality, marriage and family.

We are firmly committed to the “no” of God as it relates to homosexual behavior and, by extension, the erroneous concept of “same-sex marriage,” which Scripture, Christian tradition and human physiology render antithetical to God’s unitive and procreative purposes for sexuality and marriage. For the purposes of teaching, discipleship and mission, however, we believe this “no” is but a small fraction of what God has to teach us about the meaning and potential of human sexuality. Beyond this “no” is the profound “yes” of God to the one-flesh union of man and woman. We believe the male-female relationship, sealed in marriage by the Holy Spirit, mirrors and models the total self-giving love of the Trinity. It is through biblical marriage that God makes us participants in the love he expressed in creation and through which he acts to heal and renew the world. Marriage is God's sign of our ultimate union with him and thus a gift to all persons - married or unmarried.

This nuptial theology lies at the very heart of Truro's mission and its evangelistic outreach. It is the basis for our vibrant marriage and parenting education programs that are bringing the Gospel to growing numbers of people who previously had no contact with any church. It is why we are partners with our Bishop John Guernsey’s diocese-wide initiative to better equip our parishes in marriage preparation and divorce prevention. It is why we are investing extensive resources in building our understanding and application of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, including three parish conferences devoted to the topic since 2011.1 In all of Truro Anglican’s life and mission, the "no" of God is fully and faithfully presented but always as part of the equally adamant “yes” found in the “great mystery” of Christ and the church that the Apostle Paul teaches in Ephesians 5.

One outgrowth of Truro’s teaching and missional outreach has drawn considerable comment: the personal friendship between our rector and Bishop Shannon Johnston of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. This outreach has been undertaken with the full knowledge and support of the vestry. In public and private conversation with +Shannon, Tory has been frank about his and the parish’s conviction that the Episcopal Church is schismatic, that +Shannon is engaging in false teaching relative to sexuality, marriage and nuptial theology, and that he needs to repent. The friendship Tory has pursued with +Shannon is personal and in no way portends institutional reconciliation between Truro Anglican Church and the Episcopal Church. In light of these facts, we offer this reassurance to our brothers and sisters across the Anglican Church of North America: we are unalterably and irrevocably committed to biblical orthodoxy and equally opposed to the heresies and self-deceptions that permeate the Episcopal Church. The personal friendship and exhortation Tory is extending to +Shannon is one expression of what the vestry believes the image of God, as manifested in every person, calls forth from us and is consistent with our larger missional strategy to communicate truth in love to a world that is in deep confusion and pain.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Jude 24-25

Friday, March 08, 2013

Today at the Cafe: A prayer for today

Yes, this is usually a hymn we hear in Advent, but this year - it just seems to be appropriate for Lent. Come though long expected Jesus - come!

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Moving the Frontiers

BB NOTE: Okay, this is so darn cool - it looks like our new Archbishop is a blogger!  Never imagined such a thing possible, but here he is.  Justin Welby writes of his personal experience at the recent conference at the Faith in Conflict Conference at Coventry Cathedral in England last week.  This is a great way to get to know him and how we may continue to pray for him.

Justin Welby - a fellow blogger!

I am still reeling from the recent Faith in Conflict (FiC) conference at Coventry Cathedral. The event had been a dream of mine for years, ever since the Church of Scotland hosted a gathering on the same theme, which a friend attended. The reality was far greater than the anticipation. 
The conference aimed to look at what causes conflict in the church, and whether it is necessarily destructive. More than 200 delegates from Christian churches across England discussed fresh ways to view conflict, and different options for intervention. 
By nature I am a conflict avoider; I like to keep my head down and get on with the job. So I have always felt that church disagreement was at best a distraction, and often worse.
That is true up to a point, but mainly because we disagree so unhealthily. In a series of brilliant talks over the three-day conference, Sam Wells and Jo Bailey-Wells set conflict in a completely new light. Conflict, they argued, is something that springs from our being created different. The problem is that we then respond to difference with aggression and fear. When that happens in the church, it is utterly repellent to people who are not Christians. Sam and Jo showed how, in the grace of God, conflict can be transformed. (You can listen to and read their talks here.) 
So that was really good; thoughtful talks, brilliantly delivered. But the cream on the cake was seeing it all in action. For example, the Reverend Tory Baucum and Bishop Shannon Johnston – the Episcopal Church Bishop of Virginia – were interviewed together about their experience of being in the most profound dispute over enormously important issues. The disputes led to years of legal action, yet they found a way to meet and talk together – and pray together. There was no compromise: Tory was forthright in his disagreement with Bishop Shannon and gave no ground, nor vice versa. But there was a clear love for each other which spoke powerfully. It was transformed conflict. 
The second example was from Jo herself, and her experience of the Anglican House of Studies at Duke. It’s in her talk, and to me it was as powerful as the dialogue. It said that our differences are both great and important: but the greater call is to a world that does not know Christ. And while we strive and struggle, rightly, for holiness and correct conduct in the church, we must do so in a way which shows that His love, spread through us, is a reality. 
The journey of transforming conflict is a long and hard one (by the way that is how I understand reconciliation in the church: not agreement, but conflict transformed from being destructive). It is also always a necessary one – and essential if our preaching of the good news of Jesus is to have any credibility. It does not mean compromise – that was clear in what we heard at Coventry – but it does mean allowing the Spirit of God to warm our hearts towards those whom we too easily classify as to be hated.

Read it all here.

‘Don’t fear conflict,’ Archbishop tells the Church

By Chris Sugden, Church of England Newspaper

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby
THE ARCHBISHOP of Canterbury has said that the Church should not fear conflict. The comments by the Most Rev Justin Welby were made at the Faith in Conflict Conference which took place at Coventry Cathedral last week. The conference offered ways to address disagreement in the local church and more widely without one party seeking to eliminate the other: to prevent disagreement becoming destructive.

The Archbishop told delegates that conflict was normal but should not be definitive. This differs somewhat from earlier complaints that the roof was falling in on the Anglican Communion. “Our fear of it [conflict], our sense of it being wasted time and effort, is wrong. So often we seek like-mindedness so that we can get on with the job of worship, of making disciples, of serving other human beings.” He also drew on his experiences in visits to Africa and spoke in personal conversations of how he owed his faith to the Kenyan Church.

What enables people to be resilient in conflict is to be part of a supportive community said the Rev Dr Jo Bailey Wells, announced at the conference as the chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury. She expounded the twin message of Jeremiah that the exiles should seek the good of Babylon, which at the same time was under and would experience the judgment of God. She described her experience at the Anglican Study Centre at Duke University, which had students from both ACNA and TEC.

Lord Alderdice from Northern Ireland, the leader of the Liberal Democrats in the Lords told how he studied medicine and psychiatry in order to understand why a population with so many Christians and Christian values had become self-destructive. Did the answer lie in investigating the pathology of self-destructive individuals? People turn to violence not because of disagreement but because they feel disrespected and humiliated. Mediation helps to redress the balance and ensure people are listened to.

Interviewed alongside Bishop Shannon Johnson of Virginia, the Rev Tory Baucum, who had presented the case for the Anglican Church in North America at a General Synod Fringe Meeting in 2009, was clear that he was not preparing a way to go back to TEC. Their two years of conversations, he told me, had achieved a longer period for Truro Church to find and develop a new property in which to move. He said that the consecration of Gene Robinson was a schismatic act, and that Bishop Johnson was a brother who had taken a wrong turn and should repent. But is the kindness, not the wrath of God that leads to repentance, he said.

The conference addressed the question of whether mediation and reconciliation assume that issues of principle and truth can be negotiated away. Reconciliation, in its biblical sense, may be too strong a word for a process whose goal is that people might live at the highest degree of Christian unity possible given their disagreements.

The appointment of Justin Welby to Canterbury and of Canon David Porter as Director of Reconciliation, both with extensive experience of such mediation in Nigeria, Burundi and Northern Ireland, shows there is a wind behind this. A mediation process sought to establish some common ground in the February Discussions of the Women Bishops issues.

The Cathedral and local “budget hotels” were used in an imaginative way. The 300 participants met in main sessions in the spectacular nave. Lunch and dinner was taken at tables at the “west end”. Sessions were framed in worship. Senior figures including General Synod’s Secretary General William Fittall, Bishop Christopher Cocksworth and Archbishop Welby, at his first public church engagement as Archbishop, attended throughout.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Archbishop of Canterbury interviewed on Religion & Ethics

Kim Lawton has the scoop - more coming soon.

Time for a Time Out

Was sitting in the pew this morning at Truro and thinking about the week when I sort of came to and and realized the choir was rocking on a gospel tune - and what a tune it was.  I grabbed my iPad and recorded a sampling.  Sometimes gospel music is just the best music of all.

And by the way, a special shout-out to the awesome folks at the Auld Shebeen who serve the best coffee in the best pub this side of the Potomac. Plugged into a booth there to get this post up because, well, I just couldn't wait to get home to do it.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Tonight at the Cafe: Bishop Festo Kivengere

Festo Kivengere
NOTE: One of the major highlights of my life was hearing Bishop Festo Kivengere preach when he was at Truro.  I daresay, I may be an Anglican Christian today because of the significant contribution of his preaching at Truro.

Here is some background on him:
Bishop Festo Kivengere (1919–1988) was a Ugandan Anglican Christian leader referred to by many as "the Billy Graham of Africa." He played a huge role in a Christian revival in southwestern Uganda, but had to flee in 1973 to neighboring Kenya in fear for his life after speaking out against Idi Amin's tyrannical behavior. 
Kivengere had been made bishop of Kigezi and was among several bishops summoned to Amin's quarters. Angry mobs called for their deaths. Eventually, all were permitted to leave but one, the archbishop, Janani Luwum. The others waited for Luwum to join them but he never came out. The next day the government announced that Luwum had died in an automobile accident, though in fact he had been martyred. Four days later, despite government threats, 45,000 Ugandans gathered in the Anglican cathedral in Kampala for a memorial service honoring their fallen leader. Kivengere did not attend the service. Urged to flee by friends who said, "One dead bishop is enough," he and his wife that night drove as far as their vehicle could take them and with the help of local church people in the hills they walked until the next morning brought them to safety across the border in Rwanda. 
He later authored the book I Love Idi Amin to emphasize the qualities of forgiveness for those who wronged you and love of those who persecute you. Kivengere stated, "On the cross, Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, because they know not what they do.' As evil as Idi Amin is, how can I do less toward him?"
Here is a sermon called The Triumph of God's Glory.  Why then do we not lose hope?

10,000 Reasons Revisited ...

Put this up a few days ago - but it is just seems to be the best place to go with so many in need. Come, Holy Spirit - come.

Friday, March 01, 2013

A talk for the Season of Lent

Click below to hear the most recent sermon by the Rev'd Dr. Tory Baucum, Rector of Truro, entitled
"I am the food for the hungry."

Click here for more talks at Truro.