Thursday, January 29, 2015

The "gay Christian" movement gets some much needed critical scrutiny

Some notable Christians who experience same sex attraction have, of late, become quite comfortable identifying themselves as "gay Christians." The term, however, is problematic for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that it is self-contradictory. In a helpful critique, Brian Patrick Mitchell of Touchstone exposes the danger posed to the church by the "gay Christian" movement.
The first problem is the term "gay Christian," which can mean either kind of gay—the professed Christian who lives gay or the professed gay who lives Christian. This ambiguity complicates the discourse, causing considerable uncertainty about how each self-styled "gay Christian" sees himself or herself and about what his or her public plea for acceptance might entail for other Christians. Since those who call themselves "gay Christians" differ greatly in what they mean and want, traditional Christians are justified in objecting to the term on the grounds that it is likely to cause misunderstanding and lead people to presume that it approves more than it should.

The ambiguity of "gay Christian" also hints at a more serious problem, one that challenges fundamental Christian beliefs about sin and human nature. Despite their different lifestyles, both kinds of self-styled "gay Christians" see gayness as so much a part of who they are that they have no choice but to admit it and embrace it. One embraces it by indulgence, the other by abstinence, but both believe they can be nothing but "gay," and this belief separates them from those Christians who suffer same-sex attraction yet do not identify as "gay" and strive instead to live heterosexually as much as possible in the hope of escaping the attraction. The "gay Christian" harbors no such hope, as Tushnet's diminishment of the "ex-gay narrative" shows. He therefore resigns himself to living with his homosexuality, inviting others to accept it as his personal norm. "I'm gay," he says, "so stop expecting me to marry."

Many "gay Christians" are inclined to believe their homosexuality is genetically or otherwise biologically based. Some describe it as "ontological"—inherent in their being as God has made them and therefore nothing to be ashamed of, so long as they do not act on it. They "come out" so as to be themselves. In the language of the postmodern, tribalistic, identity-driven Left, "coming out" makes them more "authentic." The "gay Christian" Matt Jones, whom ["gay Christian" author Eve] Tushnet quotes, writes on his blog:
A central part of my decision to be honest about my sexuality is the desire to foster authenticity. To be closeted usually requires a constant and exhausting self-awareness, a meticulous and intense image-management that can only be maintained through various forms of manipulation, half-truths, and, at times, outright deception.
The impatience expressed here with having to live according to heterosexual norms is remarkably similar to the impatience felt by nineteenth-century European Jews struggling to live by gentile norms after centuries of isolation. The Jewish experience inspired Sigmund Freud's theory of the trifurcated psyche consisting of the natural, instinctual id (who we are deep down); the moral, aspirational superego (who we strive to be), and the resulting, mediating ego (who we end up being). It has also contributed to the revolt of the postmodern id against the constraints of Christian civilization, seen in the Sexual Revolution and in the multicultural/diversity movement. In both, the claim is made that people cannot be expected to live according to Western, Christian, European, American, middle-class, bourgeois, or heterosexual norms, because that's just not who they are "authentically."

Therein lies the problem, for the sexual attraction of men for men and of women for women cannot be said by Christians to be in any sense normal or "authentic" without corrupting Christianity's understanding of human nature. Traditional Christianity has always taken a fundamentally positive view of human nature, believing that God did not make man to sin; that sin is therefore not natural to him but something he introduced on his own; and that, although the first sin made sinning easier by alienating man from God, human nature, even in the fallen world, is still not naturally sinful. The proof of this is the Incarnation, in which the Son's assumption of human nature demonstrates that nothing naturally human is unworthy of God and that when reunited with God, man, too, can live sinlessly and even divinely, like Christ. Healing is therefore always possible through Christ to those who believe.
Also helpful is Daniel Mattson's recent essay on "The Strange Notion of 'Gay Celibacy.'" Mattson himself experiences same sex attraction but refuses to self-identify as a "gay Christian."
 
Of late, much attention has been given in both the secular media and Christian media to those who call themselves “gay celibate Christians.” As a man attracted to men yet committed to traditional Catholic teaching on human sexuality, I find the notion both of being “gay” or “celibate” strange. Indeed, in the context of what the virtue of chastity is all about, neither of them make sense.

The gift of the virtues can be summed up by Christ’s words: be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect. “The Christian man,” Gaudium et Spes tells us, is “conformed to the likeness of that Son Who is the firstborn of many brothers.” Christ “fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear” and is “Himself the perfect man.” His life is man’s paradigm and the virtues are the template for how Christ, the perfect man, lived.

The commandments are not arbitrary “does and don’ts.” Rather, they are the way man would naturally live—if man knew who he truly was. Those who have virtue will spontaneously live in accord with the commandments. They are not perceived as impositions that deny us pleasure, but as safeguards against harming ourselves and others. Such was the case with Christ.

Despite what most people might think, the virtue of chastity, like all other virtues, isn’t so much concerned with what we do or don’t do. Rather, chastity is the virtue that helps us see things truly and objectively—things as they really are—within the realm of sexuality. This clarity of vision is necessary for true human freedom and human flourishing. It is chastity that gives us the freedom to order our sexual appetites and therefore make decisions that correspond with reality. Christ lived as a chaste man, not because he followed every dot and tittle of the law (which of course he did), but rather, because he lived in accordance with the truth of what it means to be a man, made in the image and likeness of God. Like Christ, a man who truly knows who he is will naturally lead a life of chastity.

When it comes to homosexuality, then, the reason I mustn’t have a relationship with a male isn’t based on an arbitrary whim of God. Rather, it is immoral because it is irrational for human beings to live in such a way, based on the sort of creature that human beings are.

Put more simply, the reason it is immoral for me to live out a life according to my subjective desires and inclinations is precisely because I am not, in fact, a gay man.

Nor is any man.
Both articles are quite lengthy, but well worth your time. They give much needed scrutiny to a nascent movement which, while presenting the church with many legitimate questions, may need to prayerfully reconsider some of its terminology.

Monday, January 26, 2015

January Pastoral Letter from GAFCON Chairman

To the Faithful of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and friends
from Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya
and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates’ Council

January 2015

‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.’ Romans 12:2


My dear brothers and sisters,

As I send this first pastoral letter of 2015, receive greetings in the precious name of our Lord Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today and forever!

As we begin a new year, we thank God that through Christ he has rescued us from futile ways and taken us up into his eternal purposes. Our new life in Christ brings a fresh dimension to even the most ordinary work because it is now done for God and his glory. What marks out a disciple of Jesus Christ is that this is a person who has not just had a conversion experience, but a person whose whole way of thinking has been radically changed.

One of the great challenges for African Christianity is for the many who identify as ‘born again’ to become mature disciples of Christ. This is especially necessary given the challenge of what Pope Francis last week described as ‘ideological colonisation’, which is the practice of tying aid and development resources to the promotion of alien understandings of gender, the family and sexual behaviour.

Money is a very powerful tool and manipulation can happen with varying degrees of subtlety. Such practices must be challenged, but the best defence is for ordinary Christians to have renewed minds that are profoundly shaped by the Bible. When each local church is able to see itself as a colony of heaven, its members will be much more resistant to being colonised by non-Christian ideologies.

In this respect, the Churches of Africa need the GAFCON movement’s emphasis on restoring the Communion’s commitment to biblical truth just as much as the Churches of the West. We are committed to equipping the Anglican Communion as a whole to survive and thrive in the face of many twenty-first century challenges, of which ‘ideological colonisation’ is just one, and to do this we are building global partnerships and support networks.

So I am very encouraged that connections made at GAFCON 2013 continue to bear fruit. For instance, a few weeks ago, a team from Australia participated in a youth convention in the Church of Uganda’s West Ankole Diocese with over 10,000 attending and next month a mission team from All Saints Cathedral here in Nairobi will be flying to Chicago as part of a reciprocal mission partnership with the Anglican Church in North America’s ‘Greenhouse’ church planting initiative.

We shall also be strengthening the work of our global fellowship with the launch of the Australian Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in March and an expanded GAFCON Primates Meeting in London the following month.

In a world where image is often preferred to substance and where minds are more often changed by money than by conviction, I want to appeal to all of you to help us build a movement which has depth and spiritual strength.

Jesus said ‘the truth shall set you free’ (John 8:32) and there is a particular urgency for confessing Anglicans around the world to encourage one another in the continual renewal of the mind that comes as we humbly hear and accept God’s Word. So in the year ahead, let us be wholehearted in faithful prayer and in financial support (to set up a regular payment please go to http://www.globalfca.org/subscribe ) as we share together in this great calling from God to the work of renewing his Church.

Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates Council

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Ten years later . . . still the right decision

Ten years ago this month, I relinquished my credentials as a presbyter in the mainline United Methodist Church and dove head first into the deeper, and often troubled, waters of Anglicanism, John Wesley's cherished tradition from which he himself never departed. The transition was not what you would call smooth, by any measure. Before finally landing on my feet in a full time parish last year, there were more than a few times that I found myself wondering if I had made the right decision. Such doubts, however, have long since been erased and the events of the last few days have only served to confirm that, indeed, I was not mistaken.

The Mere Anglicanism conference in Charleston, which I attended this weekend, featured an all star cast of speakers, including N.T. Wright and Michael Nazir-Ali, and a powerfully moving celebration of the Holy Eucharist which was the closest thing to heaven on earth I have ever experienced. Meanwhile, in Washington, the March for Life drew over a half million marchers to commemorate the sad anniversary of the Supreme Court's abominable Roe v. Wade decision. Notable for taking exception to the message of the marchers was one Bill Mefford, a bureaucrat holding the exalted title of "Director of Civil and Human Rights" for the General Board of Church and Society of (yes, you guessed it) The United Methodist Church. With no apparent sense of the inappropriateness of a person in his position making light of the murder of 56 million unborn children over the last 42 years, Mr. Mefford posed for this picture outside of his office as the march was taking place behind him.


Noting the absurdity of such a stunt, Matthew Schmitz of First Things held nothing back in chastising Mefford.
Here’s a thought. A great proportion of the pro-life marchers are young people. They are volunteers, unpaid and untrained. Mefford, on the other hand, is a grown man, one whose actual job is to represent Christians in the public square. How is it, then, that if we compare Mefford and the young marchers, the adolescents are the ones who come out looking like adults?

Why isn’t Mefford marching for the unborn if he stands for human rights? If he doesn’t think those rights extend to all humans, why doesn’t he request a change in his job title? Something like “Director of Civil and of Select Human Rights” is concise and has a satisfying ring of exclusivity. It would almost sound like a promotion.

I am not sure what the sign is supposed to mean, but Mefford’s blithe comparison of the moral weight of fetuses and sandwiches reflects the abortion lobby’s deep unwillingness to face facts. Time and again, they tell us not to take any of this too seriously (What about pocketbook issues?) to direct our gaze elsewhere (It’s about a woman’s right to choose) above all, to avoid considering the life that is lost. It claims the mantle of sensitivity, but the pro-choice viewpoint still leans heavily on human callousness.

As for Mefford, I cannot see how he has any business representing either human rights or a Christian church unless his intent is to drag both into disrepute. People will call for him to be reprimanded. I wonder if it not likelier that he will be commended.
As for the leaders of my new ecclesiastical home, if they weren't in Charleston, they were at the march, as well. Only they displayed a seriousness quite lacking in their Methodist counterpart.
 
A delegation of one dozen bishops from the Anglican Church in North America joined in the annual March for Life on Thursday, January 22 in Washington, D.C.

Led by Archbishop Foley Beach, the Anglican group was organized for the third year by Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic Bishop John Guernsey and Georgette Forney of Anglicans for Life.

The March for Life is the largest annual protest in the United States, regularly drawing tens of thousands of people to mark the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision that struck down state restrictions on abortions in 1973.

The theme of this year’s march, “Every Life is a Gift” is intended to counter the perception that some lives are not worth living, and that prematurely ending a life by abortion is preferable in those instances.

“Every life is precious – God knew us before we were born and I believe in protecting human life,” shared Wes Jagoe of the Falls Church Anglican, one of many young participants.

“My reason for being here is to give a voice to those who never get a chance to use their lips, to walk for those who never get to use their legs — and, hopefully, relieving that pain,” declared Bishop John Miller of the Gulf-Atlantic Diocese on the way to the march.

The bishops began the day at the ecumenical prayer service held at Constitution Hall, then visited the nearby offices of the Institute on Religion and Democracy for a brunch. The delegation bussed to the National Mall at noon as the march was beginning.

Tens of thousands of participants marched from the National Mall up Constitution Avenue past the U.S. Capitol and the Supreme Court.

“I’m always moved by the number of young people here – it is very encouraging,” shared Ken Fisher of the Falls Church Anglican, one of several churches represented in the Anglicans for Life group, including Truro Anglican Church of Fairfax, VA and St. Stephen’s Anglican Church of Heathsville, VA.

“It is so heartening to be at the march with hundreds of thousands of young people, and to see the pro-life generation stepping forward in leadership,” cheered Guernsey as he moved with a crush of enthusiastic participants waving signs and chanting on Constitution Avenue. “It is a privilege to walk with them.

“This nation continues to lose its blessing as long as we don’t honor God’s sovereignty,” said Armed Forces and Chaplaincy Bishop Derek Jones.

A full list of bishops participating in this year’s Washington, D.C. March for Life:

Bishop David L. Hicks, Diocese of the NorthEast and Mid-Atlantic of the Reformed Episcopal Church

Bishop Ray R. Sutton, Bishop CoAdjutor of the Diocese of Central States of the Reformed Episcopal Church

Bishop Neil Lebhar, Bishop of the Gulf-Atlantic Diocese

Bishop John E. Miller, Assisting Bishop, Gulf-Atlantic Diocese

Bishop William Murdoch, Anglican Diocese in New England

Archbishop Foley Beach, Anglican Diocese of the South

Bishop William Wilson, Assisting Bishop, Diocese of the South

Bishop John Guernsey, Anglican Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic

Bishop Julian Dobbs, Convocation of Anglicans in North America

Bishop William H. Ilgenfritz, Missionary Diocese of All Saints

Bishop Stewart E. Ruch III, Anglican Diocese of the Upper Midwest

Bishop Derek Jones, Armed Forces and Chaplaincy
I still have many Methodist friends who continue to fight the good fight in that beleaguered denomination, but it is this kind of stark contrast between oldline Methodism and the emerging new Anglicanism which reminds me why I made the decision I made and why, a decade later, I am glad I did.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Reagan: Abortion and the conscience of the nation

Forty two years ago today, the Supreme Court handed down its most abominable decision since Scott v. Sandford. Through the tortured legal reasoning of Roe v. Wade, the Court created two categories of human beings: the "person," that is, those  living outside the mother's womb, and the "non-person," the unborn child inside the womb. The former was entitled to equal protection under the law as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. The latter, tragically, was not.
The appellee and certain amici argue that the fetus is a “person” within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. In support of this, they outline at length and in detail the well-known facts of fetal development. If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant’s case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment. The appellant conceded as much on reargument. . . . The Constitution does not define “person” in so many words.
Ten years after Roe, President Ronald Reagan reflected on the ongoing challenge legalized abortion presented to the conscience of the nation.
The 10th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade is a good time for us to pause and reflect. Our nationwide policy of abortion-on-demand through all nine months of pregnancy was neither voted for by our people nor enacted by our legislators-not a single state had such unrestricted abortion before the Supreme Court decreed it to be national policy in 1973. But the consequences of this judicial decision are now obvious: since 1973, more than 15 million unborn children have had their lives snuffed out by legalized abortions. That is over ten times the number of Americans lost in all our nation's wars.

Make no mistake, abortion-on-demand is not a right granted by the Constitution. No serious scholar, including one disposed to agree with the Court's result, has argued that the framers of the Constitution intended to create such a right. Shortly after the Roe v. Wade decision, Professor John Hart Ely, now Dean of Stanford Law School, wrote that the opinion "is not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be." Nowhere do the plain words of the Constitution even hint at a "right" so sweeping as to permit abortion up to the time the child is ready to be born. Yet that is what the Court ruled.

As an act of "raw judicial power" (to use Justice White's biting phrase), the decision by the seven-man majority in Roe v. Wade has so far been made to stick. But the Court's decision has by no means settled the debate. Instead, Roe v. Wade has become a continuing prod to the conscience of the nation.

Abortion concerns not just the unborn child, it concerns every one of us. The English poet, John Donne, wrote: ". . . any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

We cannot diminish the value of one category of human life-the unborn-without diminishing the value of all human life. We saw tragic proof of this truism last year when the Indiana courts allowed the starvation death of "Baby Doe" in Bloomington because the child had Down's Syndrome.

Many of our fellow citizens grieve over the loss of life that has followed Roe v. Wade. Margaret Heckler, soon after being nominated to head the largest department of our government, Health and Human Services, told an audience that she believed abortion to be the greatest moral crisis facing our country today. And the revered Mother Teresa, who works in the streets of Calcutta ministering to dying people in her world-famous mission of mercy, has said that "the greatest misery of our time is the generalized abortion of children."
Thirty two more years have passed since Reagan's monumental essay, the number of the dead has risen to 56 million, and the "prod to the conscience of the nation" grows more unbearable by the day. In his final letter, written only days before his death, John Wesley offered encouragement to William Wilberforce in his tireless crusade against the British slave trade.
Feb 24, 1791

My Dear Sir,

Unless the Divine power has raised you up to be as Athanasius contra mundum, I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise, in opposing that execrable villany which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils; but if God be for you who can be against you. Are all of them together stronger than God? Oh be not weary of well-doing. Go on in the name of God, and in the power of His might, till even American slavery, the vilest that ever saw the sun, shall vanish away before it. That He who has guided you from your youth up may continue to strengthen you in this and all things, is the prayer of,

Dear Sir,
Your affectionate servant,
John Wesley
Like slavery before it, abortion must and will vanish away before the sun because the conscience of the nation will, in the end, be unable to bear its burden. Those of us who pray for that day to come must never grow weary.

Neuhaus: Never weary, never rest

In one of his final public appearances, at the July 2008 convention of the National Right to Life Committee, the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus delivered what his First Things colleague Robert George quite correctly calls "the greatest pro-life speech ever given." It is inspiring, uplifting, at times even tear-inducing. Most of all, it is a clarion call to see the journey through to its destination, with the assured hope that the culture of life will, in the end, overcome the culture of death.
Once again this year, the National Right to Life convention is partly a reunion of veterans from battles past and partly a youth rally of those recruited for the battles to come. And that is just what it should be. The pro-life movement that began in the twentieth century laid the foundation for the pro-life movement of the twenty-first century. We have been at this a long time, and we are just getting started. All that has been and all that will be is prelude to, and anticipation of, an indomitable hope. All that has been and all that will be is premised upon the promise of Our Lord’s return in glory when, as we read in the Book of Revelation, “he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be sorrow nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” And all things will be new.

That is the horizon of hope that, from generation to generation, sustains the great human rights cause of our time and all times—the cause of life. We contend, and we contend relentlessly, for the dignity of the human person, of every human person, created in the image and likeness of God, destined from eternity for eternity—every human person, no matter how weak or how strong, no matter how young or how old, no matter how productive or how burdensome, no matter how welcome or how inconvenient. Nobody is a nobody; nobody is unwanted. All are wanted by God, and therefore to be respected, protected, and cherished by us.

We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every unborn child is protected in law and welcomed in life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until all the elderly who have run life’s course are protected against despair and abandonment, protected by the rule of law and the bonds of love. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every young woman is given the help she needs to recognize the problem of pregnancy as the gift of life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, as we stand guard at the entrance gates and the exit gates of life, and at every step along way of life, bearing witness in word and deed to the dignity of the human person—of every human person.

Against the encroaching shadows of the culture of death, against forces commanding immense power and wealth, against the perverse doctrine that a woman’s dignity depends upon her right to destroy her child, against what St. Paul calls the principalities and powers of the present time, this convention renews our resolve that we shall not weary, we shall not rest, until the culture of life is reflected in the rule of law and lived in the law of love.

It has been a long journey, and there are still miles and miles to go. Some say it started with the notorious Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 when, by what Justice Byron White called an act of raw judicial power, the Supreme Court wiped from the books of all fifty states every law protecting the unborn child. But it goes back long before that. Some say it started with the agitation for “liberalized abortion law” in the 1960s when the novel doctrine was proposed that a woman cannot be fulfilled unless she has the right to destroy her child. But it goes back long before that. It goes back to the movements for eugenics and racial and ideological cleansing of the last century.

Whether led by enlightened liberals, such as Margaret Sanger, or brutal totalitarians, whose names live in infamy, the doctrine and the practice was that some people stood in the way of progress and were therefore non-persons, living, as it was said, “lives unworthy of life.” But it goes back even before that. It goes back to the institution of slavery in which human beings were declared to be chattel property to be bought and sold and used and discarded at the whim of their masters. It goes way on back.

As Pope John Paul the Great wrote in his historic message Evangelium Vitae (the Gospel of Life) the culture of death goes all the way back to that fateful afternoon when Cain struck down his brother Abel, and the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And Cain answered, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said to Cain, “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground.” The voice of the blood of brothers and sisters beyond numbering cry out from the slave ships and battlegrounds and concentration camps and torture chambers of the past and the present. The voice of the blood of the innocents cries out from the abortuaries and sophisticated biotech laboratories of this beloved country today. Contending for the culture of life has been a very long journey, and there are still miles and miles to go.

The culture of death is an idea before it is a deed. I expect many of us here, perhaps most of us here, can remember when we were first encountered by the idea. For me, it was in the 1960s when I was pastor of a very poor, very black, inner city parish in Brooklyn, New York. I had read that week an article by Ashley Montagu of Princeton University on what he called “A Life Worth Living.” He listed the qualifications for a life worth living: good health, a stable family, economic security, educational opportunity, the prospect of a satisfying career to realize the fullness of one’s potential. These were among the measures of what was called “a life worth living.”

And I remember vividly, as though it were yesterday, looking out the next Sunday morning at the congregation of St. John the Evangelist and seeing all those older faces creased by hardship endured and injustice afflicted, and yet radiating hope undimmed and love unconquered. And I saw that day the younger faces of children deprived of most, if not all, of those qualifications on Prof. Montagu’s list. And it struck me then, like a bolt of lightning, a bolt of lightning that illuminated our moral and cultural moment, that Prof. Montagu and those of like mind believed that the people of St. John the Evangelist—people whom I knew and had come to love as people of faith and kindness and endurance and, by the grace of God, hope unvanquished—it struck me then that, by the criteria of the privileged and enlightened, none of these my people had a life worth living. In that moment, I knew that a great evil was afoot. The culture of death is an idea before it is a deed.

In that moment, I knew that I had been recruited to the cause of the culture of life. To be recruited to the cause of the culture of life is to be recruited for the duration; and there is no end in sight, except to the eyes of faith.

Perhaps you, too, can specify such a moment when you knew you were recruited. At that moment you could have said, “Yes, it’s terrible that in this country alone 4,000 innocent children are killed every day, but then so many terrible things are happening in the world. Am I my infant brother’s keeper? Am I my infant sister’s keeper?” You could have said that, but you didn’t. You could have said, “Yes, the nation that I love is betraying its founding principles—that every human being is endowed by God with inalienable rights, including, and most foundationally, the right to life. But,” you could have said, “the Supreme Court has spoken and its word is the law of the land. What can I do about it?” You could have said that, but you didn’t. That horror, that betrayal, would not let you go. You knew, you knew there and then, that you were recruited to contend for the culture of life, and that you were recruited for the duration.

The contention between the culture of life and the culture of death is not a battle of our own choosing. We are not the ones who imposed upon the nation the lethal logic that human beings have no rights we are bound to respect if they are too small, too weak, too dependent, too burdensome. That lethal logic, backed by the force of law, was imposed by an arrogant elite that for almost forty years has been telling us to get over it, to get used to it.

But “We the People,” who are the political sovereign in this constitutional democracy, have not gotten over it, we have not gotten used to it, and we will never, we will never ever, agree that the culture of death is the unchangeable law of the land.

“We the People” have not and will not ratify the lethal logic of Roe v. Wade. That notorious decision of 1973 is the most consequential moral and political event of the last half century of our nation’s history. It has produced a dramatic realignment of moral and political forces, led by evangelicals and Catholics together, and joined by citizens beyond numbering who know that how we respond to this horror defines who we are as individuals and as a people. Our opponents, once so confident, are now on the defensive. Having lost the argument with the American people, they desperately cling to the dictates of the courts. No longer able to present themselves as the wave of the future, they watch in dismay as a younger generation recoils in horror from the bloodletting of an abortion industry so arrogantly imposed by judges beyond the rule of law.

We do not know, we do not need to know, how the battle for the dignity of the human person will be resolved. God knows, and that is enough. As Mother Teresa of Calcutta and saints beyond numbering have taught us, our task is not to be successful but to be faithful. Yet in that faithfulness is the lively hope of success. We are the stronger because we are unburdened by delusions. We know that in a sinful world, far short of the promised Kingdom of God, there will always be great evils. The principalities and powers will continue to rage, but they will not prevail.

In the midst of the encroaching darkness of the culture of death, we have heard the voice of him who said, “In the world you will have trouble. But fear not, I have overcome the world.” Because he has overcome, we shall overcome. We do not know when; we do not know how. God knows, and that is enough. We know the justice of our cause, we trust in the faithfulness of his promise, and therefore we shall not weary, we shall not rest.

Whether, in this great contest between the culture of life and the culture of death, we were recruited many years ago or whether we were recruited only yesterday, we have been recruited for the duration. We go from this convention refreshed in our resolve to fight the good fight. We go from this convention trusting in the words of the prophet Isaiah that “they who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength, they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

The journey has been long, and there are miles and miles to go. But from this convention the word is carried to every neighborhood, every house of worship, every congressional office, every state house, every precinct of this our beloved country—from this convention the word is carried that, until every human being created in the image and likeness of God—no matter how small or how weak, no matter how old or how burdensome—until every human being created in the image and likeness of God is protected in law and cared for in life, we shall not weary, we shall not rest. And, in this the great human rights struggle of our time and all times, we shall overcome.

Mother Teresa: "Let us bring the child back"

In 1994, Mother Teresa addressed the National Prayer Breakfast. In an unequivocal defense of the sanctity of human life and a call to everyone to seek true peace by caring for the most defenseless among us, she declared that abortion is "the greatest destroyer of peace today. . . because it is a war against the child - a direct killing of the innocent child - murder by the mother herself." On this 42nd anniversary of the abominable Roe v. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, it is fitting that we meditate again on the words she spoke that day.
On the last day, Jesus will say to those at his right hand, "Come, enter the Kingdom. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was sick and you visited me."

Then Jesus will turn to those on his left hand and say, "Depart from me because I was hungry and you did not feed me, I was thirsty and you did not give me drink, I was sick and you did not visit me."

These will ask him "When did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or sick, and did not come to your help?"

And Jesus will answer them, "Whatever you neglected to do unto the least of these you neglected to do unto me!"

Let us thank God for the opportunity He has given us today to have come here to pray together. We have come here especially to pray for peace, joy and love. We are reminded that Jesus came to bring the good news to the poor. He had told us what that good news was when he said, "My peace I leave with you, My Peace I give unto you." He came not to give the peace of the world, which is only that we don't bother each other. He came to give peace of the heart which comes from loving, from doing good to others.

And God loved the world so much that he gave His Son. God gave His Son to the Virgin Mary, and what did she do with Him? As soon as Jesus came into Mary's life, immediately she went in haste to give that good news. And as she came into the house of her cousin, Elizabeth, Scripture tells us that the unborn child - the child in the womb of Elizabeth - leapt with joy.

While still in the womb of Mary, Jesus brought peace to John the Baptist, who leapt for joy in the womb of Elizabeth. And as if that were not enough - as if it were not enough that God the Son should become one of us and bring peace and joy while still in the womb - Jesus also died on the Cross to show that greater love.

He died for you and for me, and for that leper and for that man dying of hunger and that naked person lying in the street - not only of Calcutta, but of Africa, of everywhere. Our Sisters serve these people in 105 countries throughout the world. Jesus insisted that we love one another as He loves each one of us. Jesus gave His life to love us, and He tells us very clearly, "Love as I have loved you."

Jesus died on the Cross because that is what it took for Him to do good for us - to save us from our selfishness and sin. He gave up everything to do the Father's will, to show us that we, too, must be willing to give everything to do God's will, to love one another as He loves each of us.

St. John says you are a liar if you love God and you don't love your neighbor. How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live?

Jesus makes Himself the hungry one, the naked one, the homeless one, the unwanted one, and He says, "You did it to me."

I can never forget the experience I had in visiting a home where they kept all these old parents of sons and daughters who had just put them into an institution and, maybe, forgotten them. I saw that in the home these old people had everything: good food, comfortable place, television - everything. But everyone was looking toward the door. And I did not see a single one with a smile on his face.

I turned to Sister and I asked, "Why do these people, who have every comfort here - why are they all looking toward the door? Why are they not smiling?" (I am so used to seeing the smiles on our people. Even the dying ones smile.) And Sister said, "This is the way it is, nearly every day. They are expecting that a son or daughter will come visit them.

See, this neglect to love brings spiritual poverty. Maybe in our family we have someone who is feeling lonely, who is feeling sick, who is feeling worried. Are we willing to give until it hurts, in order to be with our families? Or do we put our own interests first?

I was surprised in the West to see so many boys and girls given to drugs. And I tried to find out why. Why is it like that when those in the West have so many more things than those in the East? And the answer was: "Because there was no one in the family to receive them."

Our children depend on us for everything: their health, their nutrition, their security, their coming to know and love God. For all of this, they look to us with trust, hope and expectation. But often father and mother are so busy that they have no time for their children, or perhaps they are not even married, or have given up on their marriage. So the children go to the streets, and get involved in drugs, or other things.

We are talking of love of the child, which is where love and peace must begin.

But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child - a direct killing of the innocent child - murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?

How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts. By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world.

Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching the people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. That is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.

And for this I appeal in India and I appeal everywhere: "Let us bring the child back." The child is God's gift to the family. Each child is created in the special image and likeness of God for greater things - to love and to be loved. This is the only way that our children are the only hope for the future. As other people are called to God, only their children can take their places.

But what does God say to us? He says, "Even if a mother could forget her child, I will not forget you. I have carved you in the palm of My hand." We are carved in the palm of His hand - that unborn child has been carved in the hand of God from conception, and is called by God to love and to be loved, not only now in this life, but forever. God can never forget us.

From our children's home in Calcutta alone, we have saved over 3000 children from abortion. These children have brought such love and joy to their adopting parents and have grown up so full of love and joy.

I know that couples have to plan their family and for that there is natural family planning. The way to plan the family is natural family planning, not contraception. In destroying the power of giving life, of loving; through contraception, a husband or wife is doing something to self. This turns the attention to self and so it destroys the gift of love in him or her. In loving, the husband and wife must turn the attention to each other as happens in natural family planning, and not to self, as happens in contraception. Once that living love is destroyed by contraception, abortion follows very easily.

That is why I never give a child to a family that has used contraception, because if the mother has destroyed the power of loving, how will she love my child? I also know there are great problems in the world, that many spouses do not love each other enough to practice natural family planning. We cannot solve the problems in the world, but let us never bring in the worst problem of all, to destroy love, to destroy life.

The poor are very great people. They can teach us so many beautiful things. Once one of them came to thank us for teaching her natural family planning and said: "You people who have practiced chastity, you are the best people to teach us natural family planning because it is nothing more than self-control out of love for each other." And what this poor person said is very true. These poor people maybe have nothing to eat, maybe they have not a home to live in, but they can still be great people when they are spiritually rich.

One evening, we went out and we picked up four people from the street. And one of them was in the most terrible condition. I told the Sisters: "You take care of the other three. I will take care of the one who looks worse." So I did for her all that my love can do. I put her in bed, and there was a beautiful smile on her face. She took hold of my hand, and she said one thing only: "Thank you." Then she died.

I could not help but examine my conscience before her. I asked, "What would I say if I were in her place?" And my answer was very simple. I would have tried to draw a little attention to myself. I would have said, "I am hungry, I am dying, I am cold, I am in pain," or something like that. But she gave me much more - she gave me her grateful love. And she died with a smile on her face.

Then there was a man we picked up from a drain, half eaten by worms. And after we had brought him to the home, he only said, "I have lived like an animal in the street, but I am going to die as an angel, loved and cared for." Then after we had removed all the worms from this body, all he said - with a big smile - was: "Sister, I am going home to God." And he died.

It was so wonderful to see the greatness of that man, who could speak like that without blaming anybody, without comparing anything. Like an angel - this is the greatness of people who are spiritually rich, even when they are materially poor.

And so here I am talking with you. I want you to find the poor here, right in your own home first. And begin love there. Bear the good news to your own people first. And find out about your next-door neighbors. Do you know who they are?

I had the most extraordinary experience of love of a neighbor from a Hindu family. A gentlemen came to our house and said, "Mother Teresa, there is a family who have not eaten for so long. Do something." So I took some rice and went there immediately. And I saw the children, their eyes shining with hunger. (I don't know if you have ever seen hunger, but I have seen it very often.) And the mother of the family took the rice I gave her.

"Where did you go? What did you do?" And she gave me a very simple answer: "They are hungry also." What struck me was that she knew. And who were "they?" A Muslim family. And she knew. I didn't bring any more rice that evening. I wanted them - Hindus and Muslims - to enjoy the joy of sharing.

Because I talk so much of giving with a smile, once a professor from the United States asked me, "Are you married?" And I said, "Yes, and I find it sometimes very difficult to smile at my spouse - Jesus - because He can be very demanding. Sometimes this is really something true. And there is where love comes in - when it is demanding, and yet we can give it with joy.

If we remember that God loves us, and that we can love others as He loves us, then America can become a sign of peace for the world. From here, a sign of care for the weakest of the weak - the unborn child - must go out to the world. If you become a burning light of justice and peace in the world, then really you will be true to what the founders of this country stood for. God bless you!
Choose Life

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Joe Carter on defining marriage and loving our neighbor

In this excellent essay, Joe Carter reminds Christians of two very important truths: 1) Marriage is ordained by God and cannot be redefined by either church or state. 2) Loving our neighbor means desiring Christ's kingdom for them.
Because the three institutions of church, state, and marriage have interdependent yet independent existence, they can decide whether to recognize each other’s legitimacy, but they cannot delineate each other’s boundaries. In this way, the relationship is similar to nation-states. The U.S. government, for example, can decide to “recognize” the state of Israel, but it cannot redefine the country in a way that contracts its border to exclude the Gaza Strip. The U.S. either recognizes Israel as it defines itself or it rejects its legitimacy altogether.

Some Christians may even concede that while the state doesn’t truly have the authority to redefine marriage, we should go along with the legal fiction for the sake of the gospel witness. Although such Christians may have the best of intentions, they are actually subverting the very gospel they want to protect.

In acceding to laws that redefine marriage, they are doing the very opposite of what Jesus calls us to do: they are hating their neighbors, including their gay and lesbian neighbors. You do not love your neighbor by encouraging them to engage in actions that invoke God’s wrath (Ps. 5:4–5; Rom. 1:18). As Christians, we may be required to tolerate ungodly behavior, but the moment we begin to endorse it, we too become suppressors of the truth. You cannot love your neighbor and want to see them excluded from the kingdom of Christ (Eph. 5:5).

What is needed is for the church to have the courage to speak the truth of the gospel: we cannot love our neighbor and tolerate unrepentant rebellion against God. We cannot continue with the “go along to get along” mentality that is leading those we love to destruction. We must speak the Word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31) and accept the fact that those who have fallen away may not ever return. We must choose this day whom we will serve. Will we stand with the only wise God or with the foolish idol-makers of same-sex marriage?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Communiqué from the College of Bishops of The Anglican Church in North America


January 5th to 9th, 2015

"For the word of the Cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." ~ 1 Corinthians 1:18

Led by our new Archbishop, The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach, we met as a College to worship and pray, to study Scripture and the historic faith, and to pursue our common life as servant leaders. Meeting in Orlando from January 5th to 9th under the Cross of Christ, we sought to deepen our relationships with God and with each other, and learn ways to be more effective and fruitful.

Conscious of the weight of our responsibilities as bishops, we spent important time together in prayer, teaching, business, and fellowship; all in light of our recognition of the power of the Cross. Without question, the College emerged from this week stronger and more unified than ever before, sharing a common vision for reaching North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ, and strengthening the bonds of trust.
Prayer

We followed the Anglican patterns of prayer, with both Daily Offices and daily Holy Eucharist. Homilies by several bishops richly added to our worship, inspiring us and challenging us to grow in authentic fellowship and discipleship.

Throughout the week, we were blessed by having David Clifton, Minister of Worship Arts at the Church of the Apostles, Knoxville, Tennessee, leading our music. He wove historic and contemporary music in a gentle and powerful way that enriched our time together.

On Thursday evening, we held a prayer vigil for our countries and for those issues facing our cultures and the nations of the world.

Teaching

We were enriched and strengthened in our apostolic ministries through the inspiring sessions presented by the Rt. Rev. John A.M Guernsey, Bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic and Dean of Provincial Affairs, and the Rt. Rev. Dr. Ray Sutton, Bishop Coadjutor of the Diocese of Mid America (REC) and Provincial Dean.

Bishop Guernsey spoke about the importance of a bishop's prayer life and accented his presentations with powerful testimonies of the ways Almighty God had answered prayers of faith and vision. We were reminded that Jesus himself instructed the disciples to pray earnestly to the Lord of the Harvest to send out laborers into his harvest (Luke 10:2). Each afternoon the College of Bishops was enriched by Bishop Sutton's outstanding and anointed teaching on the office of the Bishop. He presented an historical survey of the ministry of the bishop, highlighting many godly examples for us as we seek to live, pray, love, and minister.

In surveying seven eras in the history of the Church, from the Apostolic Age of the New Testament to the present day, Bishop Sutton challenged the College to recover the best of the apostolic office as it has been revealed in Scripture and experienced in the life of the Church. His presentation concluded with a tremendously stirring call to us to fulfill our vocations.

In small groups, we responded to these presentations by sharing how we had received God's vision for our ministries and discussing the importance of prayerful leadership in the Church.
Fellowship

Guest of the College

We gave thanks for the presence of Bishop Mark Lawrence throughout the meeting. Our prayers continue to be with him and the faithful people whom he leads in the Diocese of South Carolina.

Wives' Retreat

Over the years, the bishops' wives have developed warm and loving relationships which were further deepened during the week through sharing and prayer. They also heard Bible teaching each morning from Krista Williams of Monroe, GA.

Business

The business portion of our meeting began with an address from Archbishop Beach, and then proceeded in four parts, each led by one of the Deans. Prayers were offered prior to the presentation of each report, and at the close of each report prayers were offered again for the respective leader and their ministry.

Archbishop Beach's Report

Archbishop Beach gave thanks for the presence and grace of God that has been evident in the first six months of this new ministry. Reaffirming the principle of subsidiarity - that the ministry of the Province is only to initiate or minister in ways that a diocese should not or could not - Archbishop Beach shared some of the unique ministry opportunities of his archiepiscopate that are strengthening both the Province and the larger Body of Christ.

These opportunities included his recent trip to Southeast Asia and Australia where our relationships with the Anglican provinces and dioceses in those regions were deepened; sitting down to dinner with Metropolitan Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church; and being invited by members of the Canadian Parliament to pray for the nation in the wake of the terrorist attack that affected the capital in October.

In discussion, we commented on how encouraging it is that our new Archbishop is being so well received by our international and ecumenical partners.

Archbishop Beach expressed his commitment to shared leadership in the College and Province, and demonstrated this commitment by having his four appointed Deans lead the business sessions throughout the week.

College Affairs

The Rt. Rev. Terrell Glenn, Dean of College Affairs, led the sessions on matters that touch upon the College's common life.

First, we turned to reflections on the Conclave, and the process by which we selected our new Archbishop. We overwhelmingly affirmed the Conclave's prayerful process.

We then turned our attention to the development of a process for the care of a bishop's soul should discipline be required for an act committed against our Lord and His Church. More information about the process can be found at this link. No member of the College is presently under disciplinary measures, thus making it a helpful time to develop a pastoral process.

We spent significant time in small groups, praying together, addressing personal issues, and strengthening relationships. Many commented on the growing depth and genuineness of our life together.

Provincial Affairs

Bishop John Guernsey, Dean of Provincial Affairs, led the sessions affecting the internal life of our Province.

Review of the Preface to Confirmation

The Liturgy and Common Worship Task Force submitted to the College a "Preface Concerning the Confirmation Liturgy". The intention is to ensure that each Anglican makes a public profession of faith and receives the laying on of hands by a bishop. After minor revisions, the Preface was adopted. The text is available at this link.

Task Force on Marriage

Over the past fifty years there have been massive changes in the understanding and practice of marriage in Western society, including such matters as the sexual revolution, no-fault divorce, same-sex marriage, and abortion. These changes spring from a larger rejection of the Christian worldview in Western society.

There is an urgent need for the Anglican Church in North America to review our Anglican teaching and enrich our practice in areas relating to marriage. To this end, the College approved the formation of a task force, to be chaired by the Rev. Dr. Stephen Noll, that will work to strengthen marriage by developing a comprehensive provincial marriage initiative. This initiative will consider marriage from a variety of interlocking perspectives: theological, liturgical, pastoral, legal, canonical, ecumenical, and public policy.

Holy Orders Task Force

The Holy Orders Task Force currently is working on Phase Three of its stated procedure. In this phase, the task force is focusing on the manner in which ecclesiology relates to ordination and holy orders. In 2014, the Task Force met on March 20-21 (Ft. Worth, TX), May 14-15 (Bedford, TX), September 25-26 (Pittsburgh, PA), and November 20-21 (Bedford, TX). With the help of several outside scholars, the task force has developed working documents to assist with its task.

As was the case with the previous phase, the task force found it helpful to identify and summarize what the formularies say about the particular issues related to this phase of work. This represents the commonly accepted foundation, which forms the basis for discussion. The task force also has been working to identify those perspectives on ordination which lead to divergent understandings within our tradition about the nature of ordination and holy orders. This includes, but is not limited to, women's ordination. By examining the premises upon which varying perspectives are based, the bishops will be in a better position to discuss a way forward in resolving the concerns about how holy orders are understood and function in the life of the Province.

Anglican Unity Task Force

The Anglican Unity Task Force reported on its work to facilitate simplifying the overlapping structures of our Church, particularly for the sake of the coming generations of leadership. While the task force does not have authority to mandate realignments, it hopes to foster conversations and create clear processes for local review of parish and diocesan alignments, with a particular focus on times of succession for rectors or bishops.

Multi-ethnic Ministry

We discussed our commitment to multi-ethnicity as an essential element of our life as a Church and our witness to the wider North American culture. We celebrated the advances being made by our growing Latino works as evidenced by Caminemos Juntos, gave thanks for developments among our Asian brothers and sisters as led by Bishop Stephen Leung, and gave thanks for the contributions of African-American bishops, clergy and members of our Church. We identified the significant need for growth in our engagement with the greater African-American community, and are planning a symposium to help us chart a faithful way to honor this Gospel imperative and minister to this critical need in our current culture.

Other Provincial Initiatives

We received a number of other ministry reports. The Young Anglicans Project shared a short but poignant video about young people who are spiritually lost and unconnected. We were, however, encouraged by a program that is being piloted in the Diocese of Pittsburgh which pairs young people in a one-on-one discipling relationship with an older Christian. The reports of its effectiveness are very encouraging.

Our emphasis on church planting continues with some exciting developments, particularly in new work among minorities. The Rev. Dan Alger, Canon for Church Planting, is facilitating the next chapter of church planting in the province, and has begun bringing together key church planting leaders from dioceses and regional networks in order to share wisdom and resources.

The Provincial Retirement Fund task force reported on important work being done to strengthen and improve the retirement plan of the Anglican Church in North America by merging the ACNA retirement plan with that of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) and other diocesan and parish plans. This will result in greater buying power in the retirement plan marketplace, reduce management fees, provide superior fiduciary oversight, allow for greater ease of movement within our Province and is intended to improve the rate of return for all plan participants.

International Affairs

A report on international affairs was presented by the Rt. Rev. Dr. Bill Atwood, Dean of International Affairs. His report celebrated the scope of global relationships that bless the Anglican Church in North America. We have relationships of full communion and recognition from the vast majority of the world's Anglicans, and have robust mission partnerships with many Provinces.

We heard reports from Sharon Steinmiller on behalf of the Anglican Global Mission Partners (AGMP) and Bill Deiss, Executive Director of the Anglican Relief and Development Fund (ARDF), about the breadth of outreach in which our Province is engaged. There is a large and growing number of missionaries deployed around the world and a host of projects being undertaken. Canon Deiss reported that ARDF has funded over $6.5 million in 133 projects in more than 40 countries. All of these projects have been prioritized and approved by the ARDF board which is made up of Anglican Primates from both the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GFCA) and the Global South. In addition, it was noted that our relationships with leaders from Youth With a Mission (YWAM) have led to hosting a Discipleship Training School program for the Province.

We also discussed the grave tear in the fabric of the Anglican Communion caused by decisions of some provinces and dioceses to depart from historic faith and practice. Inspired by the witness of provinces abroad, we are committed to upholding and proclaiming Biblical truth as members of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.

We have also identified "point bishops" to help facilitate communication and relationships with each of the sixteen provinces where we have many friends and joint activities.
Ecumenical Affairs

A report on ecumenical relationships was presented by the Rt. Rev. Dr. Ray Sutton, Dean of Ecumenical Affairs.

The Anglican Church in North America is engaged in eight different ecumenical dialogues: Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox Church in America, Polish National Catholic Church, North American Lutheran Church, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, Messianic Jewish churches, Good News Methodists, and Presbyterian Church in America.

Each dialogue committee is led by a member of the College, and we heard brief updates on the status of each dialogue. One of the highlights was Archbishop Duncan's reflections on the experience of the seven members of the GFCA who were invited to the Vatican's Humanum Colloquium on the complementarity of man and woman. A second high point in these conversations has been the warming of relationships with the Orthodox Church in America, punctuated in October by a visit with Metropolitan Hilarion (Russian Orthodox) and Metropolitan Tikhon (OCA).

Archbishop Beach noted that in an increasingly secular time, it is all the more essential to be working across denominational lines as we seek to reach our culture with the Gospel.

Conclusion

We leave this meeting of the College with hearts that are thankful for God's love for us and for His providential care. As we take the next steps to reach North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ, we continue to invite your prayers for our Church and for the nations we serve. To God be the glory.

Pictures and videos from the meeting can be found at this link.

A PDF of the Communique can be found at this link.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas message from Archbishop Foley Beach

Christmas is the birthday of peace -- St. Leo the Great

Although the state of infancy, which the majesty of the Son of God did not disdain to assume, developed with the passage of time into the maturity of manhood, and although after the triumph of the passion and the resurrection all his lowly acts undertaken on our behalf belong to the past, nevertheless today’s feast of Christmas renews for us the sacred beginning of Jesus’s life, his birth from the Virgin Mary. In the very act in which we are reverencing the birth of our Savior, we are also celebrating our own new birth. For the birth of Christ is the origin of the Christian people; and the birthday of the head is also the birthday of the body.

Though each and every individual occupies a definite place in this body to which he has been called, and though all the progeny of the church is differentiated and marked with the passage of time, nevertheless as the whole community of the faithful, once begotten in the baptismal font, was crucified with Christ in the passion, raised up with him in the resurrection and at the ascension placed at the right hand of the Father, so too it is born with him in this Nativity, which we are celebrating today.

For every believer regenerated in Christ, no matter in what part of the whole world he may be, breaks with that ancient way of life that derives from original sin, and by rebirth is transformed into a new man. Henceforth he is reckoned to be of the stock, not of his earthly father, but of Christ, who became Son of Man precisely that men could become sons of God; for unless in humility he had come down to us, none of us by our own merits could ever go up to him.

Therefore the greatness of the gift which he has bestowed o us demands an appreciation proportioned to its excellence; for blessed Paul the Apostle truly teaches: We have received not the spirit of this world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. The only way that he can be worthily honored by us is by the presentation to him of that which he has already given to us.

But what can we find in the treasure of the Lord’s bounty more in keeping with the glory of this feast than that peace which was first announced by the angelic choir on the day of his birth? For that peace, from which the sons of God spring, sustains love and mothers unity; it refreshes the blessed and shelters eternity; its characteristic function and special blessing is to join to God those whom it separates from this world.

Therefore, may those who were born, not of blood nor of the will fo the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God, offer to the Father their harmony as sons united in peace; and may all those whom he has adopted as his members meet in the firstborn of the new creation who came not to do him own will but the will of the one who sent him; for the grace of the Father has adopted as heirs neither the contentious nor the dissident, but those who are one in thought and love. The hearts and minds of those who have been reformed according to one and the same image should be in harmony with one another.

The birthday of the Lord is the birthday of peace, as Paul the Apostle says: For he is our peace, who has made us both one; for whether we be Jew or Gentile, through him we have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Just in time for Christmas, an "historical Jesus" article as fresh as Albert Schweitzer's dirty socks

You knew the liberal media would not be able to resist poking a finger in the eye of the Christian community just prior to the celebration of the birth of Christ. However, if this Washington Post article by some character named Raphael Lataster is the best they can do this year, it's a pretty good indication that these Christ hating reprobates are running out of steam . . . and rapidly!
Did a man called Jesus of Nazareth walk the earth? Discussions over whether the figure known as the “Historical Jesus” actually existed primarily reflect disagreements among atheists. Believers, who uphold the implausible and more easily-dismissed “Christ of Faith” (the divine Jesus who walked on water), ought not to get involved.

Numerous secular scholars have presented their own versions of the so-called “Historical Jesus” – and most of them are, as biblical scholar J.D. Crossan puts it, “an academic embarrassment.” From Crossan’s view of Jesus as the wise sage, to Robert Eisenman’s Jesus the revolutionary, and Bart Ehrman’s apocalyptic prophet, about the only thing New Testament scholars seem to agree on is Jesus’ historical existence. But can even that be questioned?

The first problem we encounter when trying to discover more about the Historical Jesus is the lack of early sources. The earliest sources only reference the clearly fictional Christ of Faith. These early sources, compiled decades after the alleged events, all stem from Christian authors eager to promote Christianity – which gives us reason to question them. The authors of the Gospels fail to name themselves, describe their qualifications, or show any criticism with their foundational sources – which they also fail to identify. Filled with mythical and non-historical information, and heavily edited over time, the Gospels certainly should not convince critics to trust even the more mundane claims made therein.
Okay. You get the drift. That phony "Jesus of history/Christ of faith" dichotomy predates Albert Schweitzer, and that's going back a long way. Lataster is eager to knock down such low hanging fruit as Crossan, Eisenman, and Ehrman (somewhere John Shelby Spong is quietly lamenting not making the list), but seems blissfully unaware of the voluminous works of N.T. Wright, Ben Witherington, John Meier, and numerous other contemporary "New Testament scholars" who could easily swat away his skepticism and recommend a few competent counselors to help him deal with his obvious anger issues.

This pathetic essay, apparently an excerpt from a larger (and doubtless even more laughable) work, is useful only in that it illustrates the depths of depravity to which a Christ-denying malcontent can sink.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas message from Canon Andrew White

Happy Christmas

It is the most beautiful time of the year. A time of light, food of parties and fun and presents. We must not forget how much it means to children. The other day I was in Toronto. There were children all around me. There was snow on the ground and a log fire burning. It was all-reminiscent of every you could imagine about Christmas. Despite being in Church one of the parents told herd child “If you are not good, Christmas will not happen”. So the little boy no more than 6 said, “what if we are not good wont Jesus be born”. With me the preacher sitting there the parents did not dare answer.

The fact is that Christmas has one reason only that Jesus was indeed born. Throughout history from the Jewish tradition there was the profound belief that one-day the Messiah the anointed one of God would be born. He would be the one who would lead people to their heavenly father God. He would be the one who would change peoples understanding of God forever. He would be the one known as the King of Kings.

Yet he was not born of the right stock, he was born of an unmarried mother who was no more than a refugee. She gave birth to her son in a grotty stable, in a grotty little town just outside of Jerusalem called Bethlehem. Not a very grand start for the person who would change history. From the day he was born history was divided into before him BC or after him AD. Those who follow that refugee child now call themselves Christians.

Christmas is also a time when you assess what has happened over the past year. For me this year has been so hard because I am not the vicar in a leafy Parish in the Hampshire/Surrey boarders where my family live. My parish is Baghdad in Iraq. The nation where the Christians have been dismissed from their hometowns in there hundreds of thousands. They have fled in their masses to the very North of Iraq fleeing the onslaught of the terrorist group known as ISIS. There for weeks my staff team have fed and clothed, provided mattresses and cradles for the thousands and thousands of internally displaced people.

Here in their refugee camp, the Christians with no Christmas like us in the West have placed a refugee tent for Jesus and there in the camp is a tent for another person who was also a poor refugee who had nothing.

This Christmas as we celebrate what we have, let us not forget that we too are celebrating the birth of a refugee who had nothing but gives us everything. As we delight in what we can give to people this Christmas let us not forget what this Christmas is really all about the time when this refugee child comes to all of us as the one who leads us to God and offers us the most wonderful gift possible this Christmas. Christmas is all about relationship with our ultimate creator.

I will never forget the day in Baghdad when we had some visitors. They had come to see what it was really like for Christians in Iraq. They were so surprised by how happy the thousands of people were in our congregation. “How can you be so happy when you are surrounded, suicide bombs, mortar’s rockets and such violence”. One of our young people answered the statement. “You see when you have lost everything, Jesus is all you have got left”.

All you have got left is the love of that refugee child. That to us in the Middle East is all that matters this Christmas. The terrorism has got so bad in Iraq that I have had to leave. So I have moved to the other place where I work Bethlehem. That little town where Jesus first came. Two thousand years after he first came he is still everything to the people, He is still everything to our Christians in Iraq and he can still be everything to us. You see when Christmas is over, when you have had all your presents and food, Jesus is all we have got left.

So Christmas is a time when we should never loose the meaning of this Christ Child who came to us so that by simply trusting in him we will have a life filled with hope and purpose and love. He is still with us 2000 years after he first came. This Christmas let us not forget that he so loves us that we must love him and in response our life will be changed forever.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The "Religion of Peace" strikes again, Part MMXXVIXXIVIXIII

Canon Andrew White describes the horrors of living under the threat of ISIS in Iraq.



Four Christian children were beheaded by ISIS militants in Iraq for refusing to denounce Jesus and convert to Islam, according to the leader of the Anglican church in Baghdad. 
Canon Andrew White, known as the “Vicar of Baghdad,” fled Iraq in October for Israel and recounted how brutal the country has become for Christians. 
“ISIS turned up and said to the children, ‘You say the words that you will follow Mohammed,’ ” White said in video posted on the Christian Broadcasting Network website. 
“The children, all under 15, four of them, they said, ‘No, we love Yeshua [Jesus], we have always loved Yeshua.’ 
“They chopped all their heads off. 
“How do you respond to that? You just cry.”

Annual re-post: The Grinch returns

Yes, it's that time of year again!


How the Grinch Stole Back Christmas

‘Tis a tale often told, and every Who knows,
How the Grinch first descended from Mount Crumpet snows
And stole away Christmas (its trappings, at least)
Then had his heart changed, and came back for roast beast.
Not everyone knows what has happened since then;
How the Grinch came to think he must steal it again –

For Grinches are grinchy, and grinch-genes will tell –
And in some ways, he wasn’t adjusting too well.
Though his heart grew three sizes, his brain had not shrunk
And he tired of buying up masses of junk
And dealing with hassles and hustles barbaric
For “holidays” swiftly becoming generic.

The customs traditional, which the Grinch loved
Were watered-down, fluffed-up, or “new and improved”.
Why, at one Christmas feast, by one misguided Who,
The roast beast itself was a glob of tofu!
And the songs which reformed him with simple Who joys
Were increasingly drowned out by “noise, noise, noise, noise.”

And deep in his heart, underneath his green fur,
The Grinch knew that things weren’t right as they were.
His ponderer once more was sore as could be
In the checkout line near the HDTV’s,
When the half-hearted clerk with a faraway gaze
Blandly muttered to him, “Happy Holidays”.

Well, the Grinch’s lips curled in a most Grinchy smile
(More grinchy, perhaps, than he’d been in a while!)
He remembered his heritage, cunning and sly,
He thought, “I was made this way – p’raps this is why!”
Then he fixed his eyes on the unfortunate knave,
And regarded him mildly, and told him, “How brave!”

“Brave?”, asked the clerk, “Why, what did I say?”
“My good man, you have wished me a fine Holy Day!
“I thank, good sir, and return it sincerely;
“For you wished for me, sir, not a merry day merely,
“But a day blessed with favor from our Lord divine –
“I return it; may your Holy Day, too, be fine!”

“No! I just said ‘holiday’,” stammered the clerk,
“For that is the policy here where I work…”
“Delightful!,” the Grinch interjected with glee.
“Such corporate boldness – it overwhelms me!
“A spiritual awakening – that’s what it means!
“Now, sir, sell me some cards with nativity scenes.”

There were no such cards, for he’d sold his last few
But he did have a Santa. The Grinch said, “He’ll do,
“That old Bishop Nicholas, merry and stout.
“He once punched the heretic Arius out!”
And the clerk looked about – and no bosses he saw -
“Merry Christmas!,” he whispered, and shook a grinch paw.

The Grinch strode from the store and out into the street,
“Merry Christmas!”, he said to each Who whom he’d meet,
And he said to himself, “Why, this really is nice!
“A good deed which has gained all the thrill of a vice!
“This holiday season need not make me blue;
“For with each ‘Merry Christmas’, I break a taboo!”

Some heartily answer, returning his greeting;
And others more shyly, ere swiftly retreating –
Some say “Happy Hannukah” back with a grin,
Which the old Grinch returns, and calls that a win/win.
Some never quite notice; too stressed and engrossed.
But some look offended – and these he likes most.

“Now, don’t kid a kidder,” he tells such a one –
“I stole Christmas once, and I know how it’s done.
“But I stole it with style; I stole it with flare.
“You aren’t that clever, or else wouldn’t dare;
“To my exploits, your Christmas theft can’t hold a candle –
“You’re not even a thief – just a wannabe vandal.”

For a Grinch is a Grinch, at the end of the day
(And as he observed, Someone made him that way)
As wise as a serpent (and almost as green)
And not really worried if folks think he’s mean.
He stole Christmas once, but he made his amends –
Now he’ll steal Christmas back, for his more timid friends.

So when you’ve the chance (if, that is, you’ve the guts)
Please join me and the Grinch, driving PC-folks nuts.
Reclaiming the Holy Days, joyous and rightful,
From the purely commercial or pettily spiteful.
Co-conspire in this bold holiday counter-crime –
Committed one “Merry Christmas” at a time.

— Joe Long