Category Archives: Anglican Corner

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

The Church of England Plays the Postmodern Card on Bias Training

Archbishop Cranmer relates the following rather odd exchange at the Church of England synod:

A few other Synod questions relate to the diversity obsession:

Miss Prudence Dailey (Oxford) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops: Q21 Is the House of Bishops aware of evidence that unconscious bias training is ineffective in increasing the representation or advancement of minority groups within organisations, and may even be counterproductive in that regard?

To which the Bishop of Chelmsford replied:

The question unfortunately misunderstands the nature and purpose of Unconscious Bias training. There has never been any suggestion that this work is designed to increase representation of minority groups. The training addresses the fact that everyone, from whatever social group, is affected in their judgements about others by unconscious factors which can lead to bias. The objective is better and more conscious awareness of one’s self, and better and more conscious decision making which will benefit the Church, as it has demonstrably benefitted many other organisations.

But this begs the question: if Unconscious Bias training doesn’t have as one of its goals increasing representation of “minority” groups, then what’s it good for?  It’s the same sort of shell game we play when we say that we’re against quotas, but…diversity departments do this all the time.

What we’re seeing here is the same thing we saw in the Episcopal Church: the proponents of the LGBT+ agenda gumming their opponents to death with endless postmodern “dialogue” (they won’t shut up long enough to really have a dialogue) until their goal is achieved.  That will generally work in a weak Western organisation like the Church of England; the issue is always when.  The big difference between the two sides of the Atlantic is that the Brits are more patient; we’re always in a hurry to get nowhere fast, so we call in Anthony Kennedy or other lawyerly types to force a solution, with acrimony following.

And as Cranmer points out elsewhere, with all the maudlin pining about the persecution of “minorities” in the West, there’s little concern for the real persecution (with death following in many cases) of Christians in many parts of the world.  But that’s what happens when the people whose goal in life is to get laid, high or drunk get the upper hand: everyone else’s concerns get shoved off the agenda.

You Could Just Stand There and Look Stupid: An Ascension Day Reflection

Today is Ascension Day, when we celebrate Our Lord’s bodily ascension into heaven.  The Acts of the Apostles describe the “aftermath” on earth as follows:

While they were still gazing up into the heavens, as he went, suddenly two men, clothed in white, stood beside them, And said: “Men of Galilee, why are you standing here looking up into the heavens? This very Jesus, who has been taken from you into the heavens, will come in the very way in which you have seen him go into the heavens.” (Act 1:10-11 TCNT)

For some reason, this reminds me of an encounter I had with one of my students.  This student was unique in many ways.   I found out independently that he had a hard life: abandoned by parents, brother in jail, poverty, but that he had given it his best shot in life and was working on his civil engineering degree (which he completed.)  Helping students like this makes teaching worthwhile.

One day he came to see me in my office.  My office is away from most of the College of Engineering and Computer Science in a building with 24-hour card access.  If you don’t have a card, during the day you can ring the doorbell and be admitted.  He did that and got to my office, but then he asked me a serious question: “What would I do if I didn’t know to ring the doorbell to get in?”

“Well, you could just stand there and look stupid,” I replied.

He thought a second and sad, “I could just stand there and look stupid.”  In spite of this inauspicious start, we had a good meeting.

Every time I read the passage in Acts I cited above, I always think to myself, “You know, those two men were certainly angels, otherwise they would have said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing here looking stupid up into the heavens?'”  Our Lord had just given them instructions as to what they were supposed to be doing:

So, when the Apostles had met together, they asked Jesus this question–“Master, is this the time when you intend to re-establish the Kingdom for Israel?” His answer was: “It is not for you to know times or hours, for the Father has reserved these for his own decision; But you shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit shall have descended upon you, and shall be witnesses for me not only in Jerusalem, but throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Act 1:6-8 TCNT)

But they just stood there looking upward until the angel gave them the reality check they needed.

Two thousand years have passed, and many Christians, mesmerized by whatever “spiritual happening” is going on around them, or what’s trendy in the church.  But Our Lord not only gave us a mission; he sent the Holy Spirit to empower us to accomplish that mission.

Our Lord’s messengers were too polite to tell the disciples to quit looking stupid and get on with their task.  But, polite or not, it’s the truth: the mission has not changed, and is still out there for Christians to accomplish it.

Women’s Ordination: The ACNA’s Trickiest Minefield

…and they’ve stepped into it with their report on the subject, visible here.

The image opponents of WO dread the most: Navy Chaplain Jerry McNabb saluting his female superior at his retirement.

The ACNA came into the world with considerable baggage, some of which was due to the way they had to “patch together” the institution from several provincial efforts.  That was one of those things that led Greg Griffith to swim the Tiber, characterising the effort as  having “…the institutional feeling of something held together by duct tape and baling wire.”

But the ACNA also came into the world with two unresolved issues: the Anglo-Catholic vs. Reformed (or Evangelical, or Charismatic, or…) divide and women’s ordination.  The two are related to some degree but are certainly not same.  This report represents trying to “start a conversation” on the subject, and that in the Anglican/Episcopal world is always a dangerous proposition.

The report makes it clear that, for the moment, there is no change in real policy, which leaves the issue as a diocesan option.  And I would confess that I have not gone through its 316 pages myself.  Having said that, I will outline my position on the subject, one which I have discussed before.

In supporting the practice, Lord Carey has referred to Acts 2:

‘It shall come about in the last days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour out my Spirit on all mankind; your sons and your daughters shall become Prophets, your young men shall see visions, and your old men dream dreams; Yes, even on the slaves–for they are mine–both men and women, I will in those days pour out my Spirit… (Act 2:17-18 TCNT)

That’s a pretty strong statement and a strong case.  If women can get the prophetic gift, why not the rest?  That said, and looking at everything else, for a church to have women’s ordination, two things must be in place.

The first is that the gifts of the spirit must still be operating in the church.  It doesn’t make sense to ordain women based on the prophetic gifts when same have ceased.  That leaves the cessationists out, which takes most of the Reformed types with them.

The second is that the church cannot claim the magisterium, i.e., the ability to authoritatively interpret the Scriptures and establish doctrine.  That leaves out Roman Catholicism and the Anglo-Catholic community, although the latter has its own authority issues.

Protestant churches de jure deny the magisterium, but de facto you’d never know that based on the way many act.  I discussed this issue in my piece Authority and Evangelical Churches.  Beyond that, a church which claims the continuance of the gifts of the Spirit enters into a different concept of authority whether it wants to admit it or not.

With Anglicanism things are a muddle, because, while they retained the episcopal form of government and set forth the Articles of Religion, they denied the magisterium.  I had an interesting discussion on this and other topics on the authority of the church with the “Ugley Vicar,” the late John Richardson.

At this point I think the ACNA is between a rock and a hard place because, while it could go one way, the other, or take its half out of the middle, it embodies so many other contradictions in its borders it’s going to have a hard time doing things consistently one way or the other.  It’s an unenviable position.

There are two other important points that I would like to make.

The first is that WO isn’t a “women’s rights” issue.  The Episcopal Church has discredited the concept by making it one.  There were women ministers in Pentecostal churches long before Robert Appleyard ordained the first ones in what was then PECUSA, but they not only didn’t do it as a women’s rights issue, they were of an entirely different character.

The second is that you cannot separate the issue of women ministers from women bishops.  If the laity must come under the “authority” (see above) of a woman as rector, then the clergy can do the same under a bishop.  Clergy exempting themselves from things like this is about as admirable as Congress exempting itself from the many things it imposes on us.

The ACNA’s “James Pike Moment”

It’s in front of them:

Now, a close associate of the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Rev. Tory Baucum, the Rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, Virginia (along with his eighteen-member vestry), has followed along this postmodern Humpty Dumpty trajectory, re-defining “Reconciliation” away from its biblical meaning of unity in Christ and in the truth of the Scriptures. This week, they announced the establishment of a “School of Peace and Reconciliation” based at their church, a parish in the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), in partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. This is ironic, in that the TEC Bishop of Virginia has participated in law suits against numerous congregations of the ACNA in Virginia. Further “muddying the waters” are the terms of the agreement for this new school, which appear to include having a TEC Bishop resident at Truro Church and, while granting permission to visit Truro for the ACNA Bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic (ACNA), who has oversight of Truro Church, neither the Archbishop of the ACNA nor any other bishop may visit the church without TEC approval!

Truro for its part attempts to put an evangelistic face on the thing:

It is the natural outgrowth of Truro’s “ministry of accompaniment,” most visibly expressed in our Alpha and Amore (domestic church) missional communities. To better export Truro’s DNA we are developing an internship program for young people to learn the practices that “make for peace” in spiritually and socially conflicted situations such as prevail in the greater Washington DC region. The situations we will focus on in the early years of the program will include, but are not limited to, ministry among Muslims, immigrants and at-risk-children.

In the greater scheme of things, I don’t see what a partnership with TEC will do to enhance any church’s evangelistic mission.  For openers, it really too small of a slice of the population (and getting smaller all the time.)  Moreover, at one time it had a serious reach to the upper levels of our society, but now the upper reaches are just too secular any more, it’s best to start with something completely different and representing the real Gospel.

It’s no secret that this is a part of Justin Welby’s “reconciliation” initiative.  That should be no recommendation.  It’s the critical moment: the leadership of the ACNA needs to make up its mind that all the agony and money expended on a new “province” in North America was neither in vain nor just an exercise to manufacture more purple shirts.  In the context of the present situation, it’s the ACNA’s leadership’s “James Pike moment,” and we would do well to remember the last one, fifty years ago:

In 1966, a group led by Henry I. Louttit, bishop of the Central Archdeanery of South Florida, demanded that Pike be tried for heresy.

John Hines, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, met with Louttit and a small delegation in New York and told them he had polled key figures in the mass media, who had declared unanimously that a heresy trial would severely, disastrously damage the Church’s image.

Most of the bishops agreed. The Bishop of New York expressed the feelings of the majority: “Of all the methods of dealing with Bishop Pike’s views, the very worst is surely a heresy trial! Whatever the result, the good name of the church will be greatly injured.”

Hines asked Louttit and his cohorts to allow an ad hoc committee to address the problem more informally, less visibly. Louttit reluctantly agreed. Members of the committee met, engaged in a great deal of hand-wringing, and came back with a report that said in part:

It is the opinion that this proposed trial would not solve the problem presented to the church by this minister, but in fact would be detrimental to the church’s mission and witness…This heresy trial would be widely viewed as a “throw back” to centuries when the law in church and state sought to repress and penalize unacceptable opinions…it would spread abroad a “repressive image” of the church and suggest to many that we were more concerned with traditional propositions about God than with the faith as the response of the whole man to God.

At Wheeling, West Virginia, the House of Bishops adopted this statement by an overwhelming vote, though they also agreed to “censure” Bishop Pike – a small, dry bone tossed to Christian orthodoxy. In the above passage, two phrases — “acceptable opinions” and “repressive image” – revealed what was really going on.

It’s time to quit worrying about what “everyone thinks” (and that includes Justin Welby) and do the right thing.

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (Jos 24:15 KJV)

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.