Category Archives: Anglican Corner

Once the religion of snobs, now not quite one religion at all.

Truro Anglican’s Faustian Bargain

After putting up the tough fight, a deal:

In this Easter season of rebirth and renewal, Truro Anglican Church is pleased to announce a new ministry of peace making and reconciliation called the Truro Institute:  A School of Peace and Reconciliation.  The Institute represents the continued fulfillment of God’s work at Truro over many decades and is consistent with our congregational history and DNA.  It is also the culmination of our outreach to and discussions with the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia with whom we are joining in this exciting initiative. Years after the costly litigation and sometimes on-going animosity with the EDV, we have arrived at a new era of community building and peacemaking.

The victory lap from Shannon Johnston, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia’s prelate:

As I noted in my Pastoral Address at January’s Annual Convention, members of the Diocese have spent the past three years building new ties of trust and friendship with the Truro ACNA congregation, which is leasing the Truro campus from the Diocese. Those efforts have helped to give birth to an Institute for Peace and Reconciliation at Truro. The governing board of this Institute will have equal representation from the Diocese and the Truro ACNA congregation.

For some reason I’ve found the whole sage of Truro parish, Tory Baucum and Shannon Johnston of special interest.  Some of that is ancestral: my family made the DC area its home from the turn of the last century to the start of World War II, and I still have family in the general area.  But there’s always been something about Shannon Johnston that has gotten under my skin, as I ranted in The Church of the Palm Crosses Becomes the Church of the Double Cross.  Evidently he’s living up to his skills with duplicity, now that he has this agreement with Truro’s ACNA parish.

I still ask this question:

What was the point of secession, of the cost of litigation and for most of the losers relocation, when you’re just going to throw in the towel?  And, to get back to the key issue, what’s the purpose of a church whose beliefs are little different from the world around it?

The reality is, as it always is in things Episcopal, that the property is an important part of the pastiche of the spirituality, which is why both sides spent so much time and money fighting over it.  “And a Teacher of the Law came up to him, and said: ‘Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.’ ‘Foxes have holes,’ answered Jesus, ‘and wild birds their roosting-places, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.'” (Matthew 8:19-20 TCNT)  But Truro has far better…

Palm Sunday: God Unlimited’s “Ride On”

I’ve featured traditional music (well, unless you’re Baptist…) for Palm Sunday, but this year I’m posting something more contemporary, namely “Ride On” from God Unlimited’s album by the same name.

It’s something of a “tour de force” which covers most of the Passion.

I noticed that the YouTube poster of the song used my “review” from this page (which features God Unlimited’s early albums.)  Who knows, someday I just might get more cut and pastes than Ken Scott

A Lesbian Bishop Learns a Hard Lesson

She got the boot from Jon Bruno:

The Episcopal Church’s first “lesbian” bishop was forced out of office by the Bishop of Los Angeles after she defied him by backing the congregation of St James the Great in Newport Beach in its dispute over the proposed sale of its parish properties.

On 29 March 2017, the attorney for the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, Bishop of Los Angeles, questioned the vicar of St James the Great, the Rev. Canon Cindy Evans Voorhees, about the events that led to Title IV ecclesiastical proceedings being lodged against the bishop.

The bishop’s attorney. Julie Dean Larsen, alleged Canon Voorhees had orchestrated a campaign to discredit the bishop and had conspired with other members of the diocese to halt the sale of the St James the Great in Newport Beach to developers.

One of the forgotten things in our rush for this new world is that, no matter how politically correct they are, if the people you’re dealing with lack basic integrity and transparency, ugly things will happen.  When Jon Bruno took over St. Athanasius church from Ian Mitchell, he told the LA Times that he was “no angel.”  The orthodox he evicted from the parishes he did know that, and now liberal lesbians such as Mary Glasspool know that, too.

Note: the president of the Hearing Panel who is overseeing Jon Bruno’s ecclesiastical trial is Bishop Herman Hollerith IV.  I’m pretty sure he’s the great-grandson of the original Herman Hollerith, who invented the punch cards that were ubiquitous a generation ago in computers.  Perhaps Bruno has found someone who is as good at punching things out as he is.

The Five Lessons of Creation

From Philo Judaeus, On the Creation of the World, LXI:

And in his before mentioned account of the creation of the world, Moses teaches us also many other things, and especially five most beautiful lessons which are superior to all others.

  1. In the first place, for the sake of convicting the atheists, he teaches us that the Deity has a real being and existence. Now, of the atheists, some have only doubted of the existence of God, stating it to be an uncertain thing ; but others, who are more audacious, have taken courage, and asserted positively that there is no such thing; but this is affirmed only by men who have darkened the truth with fabulous inventions.

  2. In the second place he teaches us that God is one; having reference here to the assertors of the polytheistic doctrine men who do not blush to transfer that worst of evil constitutions, ochlocracy, from earth to heaven.

  3. Thirdly, he teaches, as has been already related, that the world was created; by this lesson refuting those who think that it is uncreated and eternal, and who thus attribute no glory to God.

  4. In the fourth place we learn that the world also which was thus created is one, since also the Creator is one, and he,making his creation to resemble himself in its singleness, employed all existing essence in the creation of the universe. For it would not have been complete if it had not been made and composed of all parts which were likewise whole and complete. For there are some persons who believe that there are many worlds, and some who even fancy that they are boundless in extent, being themselves inexperienced and ignorant of the truth of those things of which it is desirable to have a correct knowledge.

  5. The fifth lesson that Moses teaches us is, that God exerts his providence for the benefit of the world. For it follows of necessity that the Creator must always care for that which he has created, just as parents do also care for their children. And he who has learnt this not more by hearing it than by his own understanding, and has impressed on his own soul these marvellous facts which are the subject of so much contention namely, that God has a being and existence, and that he who so exists is really one, and that he has created the world, and that he has created it one as has been stated, having made it like to himself in singleness; and that he exercises a continual care for that which he has created will live a happy and blessed life, stamped with the doctrines of piety and holiness.

I would suggest that you (especially if you’re NEC) read this in light of this piece.

An Anglican Divine Gets the Point

Growing up at Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church was my first exposure for the rector to have an earned doctorate.     That exposure came from Hunsdon Cary, who “oversaw” the beginning of the Church Mouse resale shop and whose relatives got the property boot from Jon Bruno.  This has generally not been the case with the churches I have haunted since that time.

St. Michael’s Church, a charismatic Anglican church in Chattanooga, TN, is graced with the Rev. Dr. C. Bruce Hilbert as a permanent deacon.  Recently Pointwise, a firm in Dallas that specialises in grid generation, featured Bruce on their blog as a user of their software, and congratulations are in order.

But that in turn brings up another point: Bruce’s doctorate is in Computational Engineering, the same as mine.  For those of you who are getting nervous about stuff like this, it’s a relief.  Bruce is one of those Anglican divines who gets the point in every sense of the word, because we all know what happens when church becomes pointless.

Some Lessons for Pentecostals from the “Recent Anglican War”

Those of you who are regular followers know that I have followed/participated in what I call the “Anglican Revolt,” a term which comes from a North American perspective.  Brewing for years, in 2003 it was detonated in full force by the ordination of V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay man who subsequently went into and out of same-sex civil marriage, as Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire.  That event was the major impetus in ultimately birthing the Anglican Church in North America (ANCA,) and many of the events between those two were well covered on this blog.

Those of us with roots in Anglicanism and who have attempted to suppress amnesia on the subject know that the left bent of the Episcopal Church is of long-standing, that we’ve been through (and been a part of) a membership bleed before, and that the Episcopal Church’s abandonment of the basics of Christianity–both those about sex and those which don’t–has been a major reason the church has shrunk and continues to shrink.

Now, it seems, those same disputes have come to the Pentecostal world, with Urshan College giving the Society of Pentecostal Studies (SPS) the boot as a venue for their gathering because the SPS had the bad taste to allow a prominent LGBT activist on the program.  (Pentecostals will have to excuse my Palm Beachy characterisation of things, you like to celebrate roots, those are mine.)  This has led to a firestorm on the “online trash fire” that Facebook has become.  For those of us who have marched through this battlefield with the Anglicans, it’s “déja vu all over again.”

I think at this point it would be worthwhile for Pentecostals to draw some lessons from the experience of others, while at the same time highlighting some differences too.  I dealt with this issue from a more general Evangelical perspective two years ago, but some more thoughts are as follows:

  • The Christian sexual ethic is non-negotiable.  People find this difficult because they think that Christianity is a popularity contest, and since we live in a society where people are defined by what they do with their genitals and how often they do it, we must go with the flow to survive.  But Our Lord and his Apostles laid down a standard which is really higher than the one we see counselled in our churches; we either have to make a serious attempt to live it (I’m not talking about politics at this point) or stop professing and calling ourselves Christians.
  • Don’t obscure the issues with gaudy rhetoric.  In the Anglican world that means the infamous “Anglican fudge,” and I’ve called that out more than once.  The Anglicans have tried to paper over their differences with it, and it hasn’t worked.  In the Pentecostal world we see a similar thing where people adopt a “spiritual” form of rhetoric, which obscures the substance (or lack of it) of what they are really saying and what they really believe.  In addition to opening oneself up to the charge of being duplicitous, this kind of thing only delays getting to the bottom of the issue, it doesn’t avoid it.
  • Don’t let academia rule the waves.  I grazed over this issue from a Roman Catholic perspective in my review of Christ Among Us.  Their idea was that seminary academics would work to redefine the doctrines of the church.  Needless to say, that got a smackdown under Pope John Paul II, much to the relief of the #straightouttairondale crowd.  I’ve seen the same idea unspoken (usually, sometimes verbalised) by many Pentecostal seminary academics, and some of these are in turn in the SPS.  But that’s not the job of the academy, and that comes from a PhD holding academic.  The primary job of the academy is to train our future ministers to be effective preachers and stewards of the Gospel.  Irrespective of the serious authority issues in Pentecostal churches, there is no Biblical sanction for moving that to the academy.
  • Don’t let academia waive the rules, either.  One lesson from the Episcopal Church’s experience that bears repeating is that their drift from orthodox Christianity began in their seminaries with the introduction of “higher criticism” and other new ideas that undermined the faith of the church.  By the time of the critical moment in the 1960’s, the church folded when confronted with the likes of James Pike.  That process is much slower in Pentecostal churches because, overall, the educational level of our ministers is lower than that in Anglicanism (as is the case with the laity, that’s the preferential option of the poor in action.)  But it’s something that need not be ignored.
  • Don’t be an institutionalist.  This cuts both ways.  One of the perennial frustrations I have with the ACNA is its fixation on being in communion with Canterbury.  The recent Church of England synod should put paid to that obsession, but I wouldn’t count on it.  They have the chance to both make a gain for orthodoxy and to break a racist-colonialist structure by making GAFCON the “real Anglican Communion,” but they can’t bring themselves to do it.  OTOH, it is silly (and dangerous in the current circumstance) for people to insist that the institutions they work for accept their idea just because they have it and it looks trendy.  As I noted in this piece, it’s their institution, not yours; deal with it.

I hate to see this issue come to haunt Pentecostal churches, but I guess in my gut I felt it would sooner or later.  As I said before:

Before he went to trial, suffering, crucifixion and death, Our Lord exhorted his disciples in this way: “I have spoken to you in this way, so that in me you may find peace. In the world you will find trouble; yet, take courage! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33 TCNT)  That has not changed.  Neither should our response.

Is It Necessary for a Roman Catholic to Agree With Everything the Church Teaches?

One thing that comes up for those of us who “swim the Tiber” is the idea that anyone who becomes a Roman Catholic must agree with “everything” that the Church teaches.  This issue came up when Greg Griffith stunned the Anglican blogosphere with his conversion.   “Does he really agree with all that?” people asked.

The answer to that question is, like so many things in Roman Catholicism, complicated, and it depends upon whom you ask.  That, in turn, depends upon the relative stance of the person you’re talking to with the real teaching of the church.  For many years those with a leftward drift tended to discount that kind of fidelity, while those on the other side (like the #straightouttairondale crowd) enthusiastically proclaim it.

A more thoughtful treatment comes from the conservative side of the church with this post, formally entitled Quaeritur: What is the Status of a Catholic Who Dissents from the Magisterium? It comes from the Ite ad Thomam blog, maintained by one Francisco J. Romero Carrasquillo, Ph.D.  I hasten to add that my church counts several Carrasquillos (also Puerto Rican) as members; they have not done much for the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, but they have brought honour to the family name, as they are fine Christian people.

He starts to answer this question as follows:

It depends on the level of the Magisterial teaching in question. Some teachings have been defined dogmatically, for example, the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the virginity of Mary, and many, many others; such that believing in these teachings is part of the definition of what it means to be Catholic. And if someone obstinately denies even the least of these, then they no longer meet the requirements for the definition of what it means to be Catholic. There is no such thing as a Catholic who denies the divinity of Christ—or for that matter a Catholic who denies that the sacramental accidents of the Eucharist continue to exist without a subject in which to inhere.

This is reasonable.  Most conservative Christians would say that there is a core of belief which is essential to being a Christian.  Where differences arise is in what makes up that core, although again there is a great deal of overlap between what the RCC says is the core and what others do.

Dr. Romero also addresses the issue of whether people who do not are really Catholic; he says they are not.  That goes against the idea of some who believe that Roman Catholicism is like flypaper; once it gets on you, you are stuck with it.  On one level that makes sense, but it has always struck me as duplicitous that people loudly proclaim to be X while believing things that are flatly contradictory to that proclamation.

But then he goes on as follows:

On the other hand, if someone denies a teaching that is not dogmatically defined, or especially one that is not directly part of the Deposit of Faith, but is simply a theological conclusion or common teaching of the ordinary Magisterium, then this would be different. You wouldn’t cease being Catholic by denying it.

I’m speaking, for example, of the case of a Catholic who for some reason would deny that Our Lady is the Mediatrix of all Graces—a doctrine that hasn’t yet been defined. The same is true of teachings that are logically or theologically derived from defined dogma, but which are themselves not defined.

Many non-Catholics have the idea that being a Roman Catholic is to throw away the brains and accept the teachings of the church without question.  That’s simply not the case, if for no other reason than the breadth and complexity of the teaching and the intellectual and historical development behind it is far beyond just about anything else in Christianity. It’s true that many Catholics have never investigated that breadth, and it’s also true that the state of things in most parishes doesn’t encourage that kind of inquiry (which is one reason the RCC bleeds members the way it does.)  But it is true that there is a fairly extensive body of belief which the Church has not definitively pronounced on, and in these cases there is room for variance, although Dr. Romero points out that you may be a “bad Catholic” for doing so.

An interesting example comes from Dr. Romero himself: the idea that Our Lady is the Mediatrix of all Graces.  It’s safe to say that the #straightouttairondale bunch would proclaim that to be essentially Catholic, but Dr. Romero points out that this has not been raised to dogma by the Church.  There are many problems with making that step, not the least of which is that it would make a purely created being the conduit of uncreated grace, something that is avoided in Jesus Christ because he is both God and man united, and thus with an uncreated, divine nature.

So the simple answer to this question is “no.”  It depends upon the level a certain dogma holds in the magisterium.  Whether that satisfies Protestant concerns is another matter altogether.  But we cannot have a discussion on the issue unless we understand where everyone is at, and this should clear up an important point.

Empower the Laity? Don’t Hold Your Breath

The Church of England takes a crack at it:

A LONG-AWAITED report on lay leadership in the Church of England, published last week, has set out to “empower, liberate and disciple” the laity — not in churches, but in schools, workplaces, gyms, shops, fields, and factories. It is to be presented to the General Synod on 16 February.

The report, Setting God’s People Free, was commissioned by the Archbishops’ Council, and prepared by the members of the Lay Leadership Task Group, as part of the Renewal and Reform vision to increase vocations. It was approved by the Ministry Council in November.

Having actually worked in this field, I must admit I’m taking a “seeing is believing” view of this.  I’ve seen calls for this many times before, but getting results is another matter.  Some of this is generic and some of this is specific to churches like the Church of England.

First problem is in the call itself; the order is wrong.  The first thing to do is to disciple the laity, which liberates them and then they can be empowered.  Making disciples is at the core of the Great Commission, and that (as part of their salvation experience) sets them free, at which point they can be empowered to do God’s work.  Many lay people go through life in a church with only a foggy notion of what they’re there for; proper discipleship addresses this problem.  Without it it’s impossible to get things off of the ground.

The second is that the clergy tends to look at itself as a “trade union,” with certain tasks to be carried out by its members only.  “Scab” labour is considered an intrusion.  There are all kinds of justifications given for this, ranging from the Roman Catholic concept of the priesthood to the Pentecostal assignment of the “anointing” to preachers.  Bossuet, noting that the word “Christ” means anointed, said that Christians were the anointed ones.  And that came from a Catholic bishop!  There is really no New Testament justification for this strict division of labour, but that has never stopped churches from trying to find one.

These are generic to most Christian churches, who labour under them to varying degrees.  There are two which, depending upon what type of Anglicanism is involved, further hobble lay activity in the church.

The first is an over-reliance on the sacraments as transmitters of God’s grace.  This is a bigger deal with the “un-English and unmanly” Anglo-Catholics than the more Reformed types, but both suffer from the effects of infant baptism.  Same turns a declaration of decision and commitment into a cultural event, which is a major reason I don’t support the concept.  (Stuff like the “Contract on the Episcopalians” only makes matters worse.)  The message that this transmits is that, if we go through the process, we’re okay, and that’s simply not the case.

The second is that centralised, episcopal churches tend to centralise everything, including the life of the church.  Although this type of church is advantageous in certain situations, when it comes to lay involvement congregationally centred structures have an advantage.

I hope the Church of England means business about furthering the cause of the laity.  But it’s a path fraught with pitfalls and a lot of “we’ve always done it this way” in the path.  Christian churches, however, are never what God intended them to be without a laity with a meaningful role in the life of the church.

National Cathedral Doesn’t Really Want to Participate in the Inauguration? Let Bethesda Handle It!

They’re getting nervous over at the National Cathedral:

The Episcopal cathedral is garnering criticism from some Episcopalians – including within the Episcopal Diocese of Washington – for hosting a regular interfaith prayer service as part of festivities marking the U.S. Presidential Inauguration, and for agreeing to send its boys choir to perform at the Inauguration itself.

There’s a lot of Anglo-Episcopal fudge in this piece, from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry down.  I don’t find Anglican fudge very admirable from left or right, so let’s cut to the chase: given the Episcopal Church’s left-wing stand on just about everything, if they don’t really want to be a part in this inauguration, they just need to come out, say it, and pull out of it.  It’s the same re John Lewis and all the Members of Congress boycotting the big event: if they don’t want to be there, it’s fine, don’t even add to the publicity in a response.

Of course, my home church, Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach, gave him a standing ovation last month.  That’s enough from an Episcopal church, and IMHO better than anything National Cathedral could do for him.  Bethesda may get dirty looks from the rest of the church, but given that they send a lot of money “upstairs,” that’s about as far as it will get.

The Episcopalians: Trying to Change History While Missing What’s Important

In the middle of a post on her “Rip van Winkle” return to Seattle, Julia Duin makes this observation about growing up Episcopalian:

In high school, we had just moved to Seattle from Maryland, where there was so much social ferment. It even affected the Episcopal church we attended in Severna Park, which was close to Annapolis. I found a letter in the scrapbooks from a friend explaining she had left St. Martins (as had numerous other families) because of its emphasis on politics. The Episcopal church got really into the anti-war movement during that time period. What they missed was the burgeoning Jesus movement that was also happening. I returned to that church when I was a junior in high school and challenged the priest as to why, after 5 years there, I had not heard about the Jesus I encountered later in Young Life at Redmond High School. He felt the message had been there but I had not heard it. I didn’t challenge him at the time, but actually, the message wasn’t there.

The message really wasn’t there, as I discuss in this post about John Stott.   What I was getting was this kind of thing, by a school chaplain who ended up on the Left Cost.  Those who were “Jesus freaks” (or even more conventional Southern evangelicals) either laid very low or were attacked at my Episcopal prep school.  It made swimming the Tiber a lot better cover for what was going on in my life, something Hillary Clinton’s people figured out in this last election cycle.

Duin opens with one of the best descriptions of left-wing gentrification I’ve seen, which is one reason I support #Calexit.