Overcoming Obstacles: A Reminder For Us All

Back in 2000 there was a funeral for Nadezhda Shatova, a Ukrainian Pentecostal living in California.  As noted below, on the surface there wasn’t anything extraordinary about it.  But one of her relatives shared the testimony about their lives–and the persecutions they suffered in the old Soviet Union–and this account was put into the piece below.

It’s a reminder of the price that many have paid for the Gospel, especially under regimes such as the USSR.  (This is the same "scientific" regime that brought you Lysenko!)  It’s also a reminder of why these people came to the US, for the freedoms that we seem to be so eager to throw away in the name of political correctness.

No matter what kinds of difficulties you may be suffering–whether persecution such as this, realising that the "game is up" in the Episcopal Church, or whatever, we present this piece as an encouragement to you.

By Vladimir Kupinich

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed." (1 Peter 4:12-13)

On the 24th of November, 2000 a funeral was held for sister Nadezhda Shatova who turned 60 years old when the Lord called her into his eternal land. Relatives and close friends, the members of the church she attended and many other brothers and sisters came to the funeral to express their sympathy to the family of the deceased and to the whole family of Feodosi Linchuk who had left for the eternal promise land of our Lord Jesus Christ a while ago.

Brothers in Christ preached the Word from the Scriptures that open to us the mystery of our eternal life with Christ: “Whoever believes in Son has life everlasting…" (John 3:36), "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on…" for" their deeds will follow them." (Rev. 14:16)

At the end of his life Apostle Paul said: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness." (2nd Tim. 4:7-8)

At first glance there was nothing extraordinary about the funeral. A lot of them are held at our church. Besides, the deceased sister Nadya did not seem to stand out among the rest of us. But when a minister from our church Adam Semenovich Bondarchuk asked Luba, the sister of the deceased, to tell us something about the deceased and about her life, sister Luba lold us that they, that is their family, went through great trials of faith and did not deny the Lord during some of the hardest times of the persecution of the Evangelical believers. When we heard her testimony, we were amazed and said: "They seem to be such ordinary brothers and sisters, but in reality they are true heroes of faith!"
Here is what sister Luba Kirakovskaya told us:

“My father and mother, Feodosi and Palageya Linchuk, who have already gone to be with the Lord, became believers in the early 20s when a missionary from America came to the Ukraine to preach the Word of God. Having received new life, my parents also received water baptism in the village of Ivanovtsi, Berclich region, Zhitomirskaya area. This was the time when persecutions against God and His people were beginning. Believers were hated and persecuted Komsomol leaders would try to make Christians turn away from their beliefs by beating them up, putting fear into them, slandering them in mass media, firing them from their jobs and sending them to prison. In spite of it "… more and more people were added to their number." (Acts 5:14) That is how a small church was formed in the village of Ivankovtsi, a full Gospel church. Church services were held in the houses at night. My father, Feodosi Linchuk, became the overseer of the new community, undertaking this dangerous labor in God’s harvest field.

Once, when the believers gathered together at night for prayer and worship and my father was standing at the table and preaching, they heard the glass shatter and a big rock flew by his head. If the father had not turned his head right at that moment, the rock would have hit his head and killed him. Anxiety came upon everyone after that incident. Brothers and sisters understood that they became believers in the Lord Jesus Christ at a very dangerous time. The father, however, being the pastor of the church, encouraged the believers not to get discouraged, but to stay together and love the Lord even more.

This was not the end of their trials, though. The "American faith", as they called it in those days, had to be done away with. Thus, at one of the Komsomol meetings it was decided to burn the house of the Linchuk family. They decided to do it at night so no one could get away. At 3 o’clock at night young guys poured gasoline all over the house and set it on fire. People in the house started panicking. The father ran to save the children. As soon as he took them out into the street, the roof fell in. When the barn caught on fire, the cow started mooing, but none of the .neighbors tried to untie it because they were afraid they would be treated the same way if they helped this family. So the cow burned inside the barn. This happened in 1939.

This tragedy was very painful for the Linchuk family. All of the belongings that were in the house burned. Feodosi found a little room and the family moved into it. The financial life was very difficult. The children had to kneel before the Lord and ask Him for bread daily.

Luba went on to tell how her father and mother got hired to work on the collective farm. They were not given any money for their work, just some soup and 400 grams of bread. The parents ate the soup at work and brought the bread for the kids at night. The children always eagerly waited for the parents so they could eat some bread once a day. One night when the parents were returning from work, they oldest daughter Manya who was only 5 years old ran out to meet them and said: "Anya is asleep. She kept calling for mommy and saying: "Mommy, give me some milk and bread", and then fell asleep." When they came to the house, they found their daughter dead, she had died of hunger. She was only 3 years old.

Dear women, you like no one else understand the feelings of a mother who looses her child to hunger without being able to do anything.

No one wanted to bury the child since everyone was afraid to help believers. You can imagine the heart of a mother breaking from grief and anxiety. One can understand why a song was put together about mothers:

"Your hair turned gray too early from grief…"

They did not have the money to get a coffin, but as best as they could they buried the dear child. Trying to save the rest of the children from hunger, the parents continued to go to work, and would tell the children that there is God in heaven who hears and knows all their troubles.

Time went by and new trials came into the life of the Linchuk family. Because Fedosi was a minister and held night services in the villages of Ivantsovi and Semenovka, he was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison in a Siberean camp. Palagea was left all by herself to take care of the family while her beloved husband was taken away by godless authorities. The mother tried to do her best to save her children from hunger and also from godlessness that was everywhere. At nights, when the children were asleep, she would stretch out her hands towards heaven and cry out to God to save her children and her husband who was in the camp.

The authorities decided to go further in their persecutions and take the children away from the mother and send them to an orphanage. The mother refused to give her children up and she was brought before court and sentenced to prison for 6 months. The children were left all by themselves and had to go through the valley of tears.

The oldest sister Manya (she was 14 at that time) took it upon herself to take care of the rest of the children. She found jobs wherever she could to feed us, – Luba testifies. She tried to dry little pieces of bread and send them to prison for her mother. Luba and her brother Vasili (he now lives in Portland. Oregon) went to the same grade. The teachers hated them because they were from a family of believers. More than once they put up students that were older to beat them up and drag them by their legs after classes.

The youngest sister Anechka who now lives in Sacramento went through a lot of mockery and mean treatment from her godless teachers. One day, when she was going home from school, some hooligans, students from her school, grabbed her and wanted to throw her into the river, but Nadya having heard the screams, ran out and defended her. Anya enjoyed visiting services, tell poems, sing in the children’s choir, visit the funerals and the sick. She was 12 then. Because she was so active in the church godless people hated her.

Today Anya has 2 daughters. The oldest one, Lina, is married and lives in Sacramento. Her husband’s name is Ghena. They live happily and serve the Lord. The youngest one, Larissa, is now 16, she sings in the choir of Nicoli Ribin and is interested in missionary work. The mother is happy for her children. Anya went through many troubles and tribulations, but the Lord will reward her in His Kingdom.

Time went by; the children grew up to become good Christians. They did not deny the Lord during the trial times. They survived the German occupation, the war, postwar destruction and in all of this they never went away from the Lord. The postwar years were not easy years either. The year of 1947 was especially hard. The Ukraine did not have any bread, so the people were hungry. One day Vasili, who was 9 at the time, asked his mother: “How many days one can live without bread and die in order not to be in constant pain from hunger?" When the mother heard those words, she took him inside the house and the two of them fell on their knees and cried out to God. At that time someone knocked on the door. They opened the door and several believers came in and said that God had revealed it to them that children were dying of hunger in that house. God gave them the address and they brought them enough food to last for 3-4 months. Then everybody kneeled before the Lord and praised God.

In 1948 mother returned from prison again which made the children’s life easier. Feodosi returned from the camp in 1949 after 10 long years of separation. The children were so happy to see their parents back. Feodosi resumed the work of the pastor in the villages of Ivanovtsi and Semenovka and did it for the next 17 years. The Lord took him back in 1996 when he was in Sacramento. The oldest daughter Mary went through a lot of hardships in her youth and died at a young age of 48. The second daughter Galya now lives in Sacramento and is faithful to the Lord. Th,e third daughter – Nadya Shatova – died this year. Her husband, Vasili Shatov, is grieving the loss of his dear wife.

When Nadya was still alive, she read the Bible every year. Here in America she recorded the Bible on the tape recorder (47 tapes) and left them for her sisters in order that they could listen to the Bible since their eyesight was going bad and it was getting hard for them to read. Nadya and Vasili have 3 children: Oleg who is married to Irina from the Semenuk family; daughter Marina who is a member of the local church and the youngest daughter Lana. They all are grieving over the loss of their deceased mother.

The third sister that Niidya has, Lubov Kinikovskaya, lives in Tennessee with her husband Edward. Nadya’s brother Peter lives in the Ukraine, with his family in the city of Vinitsa. He as well was sentenced to 5 years in prison for the Word of God and went through many trials and tribulations. Brother Vasili lives in Portland with his family. The youngest sister Anya has a daughter named Larissa. They all grieve the loss of Nadya, but they know that she is in Heaven with God.

Thus, dear grandchildren do not forget the blessed family of the Linchuks. To God be the glory for

Internationalism is a Two-Way Street

TEC House of Bishops’ recent rejection of the Anglican Primates’ request for a "primitial vicar" to help those parishes which could not stomach the church’s left-wing agenda is an illustration of how it’s easier to tell others to be internationalists than to be one yourself.

Liberals–and not just Episcopal ones either–have been telling the rest of us for years that we should be better "internationalists," heeding super-national authorities such as the UN.  They criticise the Bush Administration’s unilateralism in Iraq (they also criticised his multi-lateral approach to North Korea!)

But now that a very international body has told TEC to have some regard for those to disagree with them, they reject the call because it impinges their "national sovereignty" (or the TEC’s equivalent thereof.)  Sounds like the Bush Administration’s playbook if you ask me.

Back when the UK "ruled the waves," sometimes people found they also "waived the rules."  Sounds like the "English church" in the U.S. (for the moment, at least) is trying the same thing.  If, as Emerson said, consistency was the hobgoblin of little minds, liberals must be geniuses.  But they are unreliable ones.

Sell All or Shut Up

“And a man came up to Jesus, and said: “Teacher, what good thing must I do to obtain Immortal life?” “Why ask me about goodness?” answered Jesus. “There is but One who is good. If you want to enter the Life, keep the commandments.” “What commandments?” asked the man. “These,” answered Jesus:–“‘Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not say what is false about others. Honour thy father and thy mother.’ And ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thou dost thyself.” “I have observed all these,” said the young man. “What is still wanting in me?” “If you wish to be perfect,” answered Jesus, “go and sell your property, and give to the poor, and you shall have wealth in Heaven; then come and follow me.” On hearing these words, the young man went away distressed, for he had great possessions. At this, Jesus said to his disciples: “I tell you that a rich man will find it hard to enter the Kingdom of Heaven! I say again, it is easier for a camel to get through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” On hearing this, the disciples exclaimed in great astonishment: “Who then can possibly be saved?” But Jesus looked at them, and said: “With men this is impossible, but with God everything is possible.” Then Peter turned and said to Jesus: “But we–we left everything, and followed you; what, then, shall we have?” “I tell you,” answered Jesus, “that at the New Creation, ‘when the Son of Man takes his seat on his throne of glory,’ you who followed me shall be seated upon twelve thrones, as judges of the twelve tribes of Israel. Every one who has left houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or land, on account of my Name, will receive many times as much, and will ‘gain Immortal Life.’ But many who are first now will then be last, and those who are last will be first.” (Matthew 19:16-30)

One of the strange things about Christianity–and the current dispute between TEC and the Global South is the perfect illustration–is the fact that the most "socially conscious" churches tend to have the wealthiest congregations.  TEC, in fact, has made a career out of attracting such people.

But when it comes to actually meeting people of lesser means on their own level, TEC cannot bring itself to do this, even when the Scriptures make it clear that the Global South is in the right about the real meaning of the Word of God.

We have gone down this road before but two things bear repeating:

  1. Wealthy congregations have the means to right many of the inequities of the world, but they will not do it.  It is more convenient for them to get the government (or the UN, through the MDG’s.) to solve the problem for them.
  2. As long as they have wealth they will not part with, they are part of the problem, not part of the solution, at least from the "zero-sum" view that dominates the Left.

Evangelical churches have been criticised for their obsession with tithing and giving.  People say that "tithing is Old Testament."  But the above scripture shows what the New Testament standard might look like.  In this perspective 10% is the easy way out.

We have had enough of wealthy churches such as the TEC whining about the "social injustices" of the world while they not only continue living as they do but pander to others to "join the club."  If the current Presiding Bishop really wants to turn the tables on the Global South, she should direct her congregants to sell all as Jesus commanded the rich young ruler.

It’s time to sell all or shut up.

When “Doing Right” Isn’t: A Follow Up

In the course of the back and forth over the "failure" (technically at least, but there’s dispute over that) of Mark Lawrence to obtain the necessary consents for his election as Bishop of South Carolina, I brought up SC’s last legal miscalculation: attempting to block All Saints Pawley’s Island’s departure, which I originally commented on in When "Doing Right" Isn’t.  A response came that pointed out that the parish was the first to sue.

To buttress this claim, a letter from Bishop Salmon to the parishioners was produced.  I will reproduce this in its entirety with some comments:

January 16, 2004

My piece was written a year and a half later.  Quite a lot transpired in that time; obviously that wasn’t covered in the letter below.  I did my best to keep up with this, but it wasn’t the easiest thing to follow.

TO: The Members of All Saints’ Parish, Waccamaw

FROM: Bishop Salmon

Dear Friends in Christ,

The opening chapter of St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians provides the greeting to you for this letter. “I never stop thanking God for all the graces you have received through Jesus Christ” (I Cor.4). in the same chapter St. Paul appeals to the Corinthians “for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ to make up the differences between you” (I Cor. 1:10). In that spirit I write you all this letter.

In all the recent events around All Saints Parish and the Diocese of South Carolina, a number of Public statements have been made about our relationship. It is my intention in this letter to present the position that I have taken and offer documentation to support that position. Having heard both sides, you may then draw conclusions, as you are so led, which conclusions will I pray move us closer together rather than apart.

When Bishop Murphy was consecrated in Singapore in an irregular consecration in 2000, I was not in favor of the consecration because I believed that it would be divisive to orthodox unity. I believe it has. I could not change the fact that it had taken place. Since Bishop Murphy was no longer under our Canons, I had no control over the exercise of his ministry. The hope and expectation was that All Saints Parish would remain a faithful part of the Diocese of South Carolina.

When the Vestry in Moorhead City, N.C. voted to leave the Diocese of East Carolina they first transferred title to the church property to another group, and then informed the bishop that they were leaving the Diocese of East Carolina. Because of this the Chancellor advised me to record in the Georgetown County Courthouse, the Canons of the Diocese reflecting the requirement regarding property under which all congregations operate. In the North Carolina suit AmiA claimed that because the Diocese of East Carolina had not done so, the Diocese had no claim on the property. In the suit filed against the Diocese, the claim has been made that because the Diocese of South Carolina recorded the applicable canon, we had placed a cloud on the title. Bishop Murphy has stated that it was similar to building a swimming pool over a property line. It must be removed by legal action.

The facts are the opposite. If permission of the Bishop and Standing Committee are not given the title is clouded. Ross M. Lindsey, Parish Chancellor, admitted in his deposition, that in a transaction in 1986 the bank itself asked that such permission be sought. I am enclosing a letter written by Bishop Murphy, when he was a member of the Standing Committee, asking permission for All Saints to borrow money from the bank in 1988. The canons require such permission and not to seek permission clouds the transaction. I am also enclosing a sample page from the Standing Committee records showing similar permission requested by St. Peter’s by-the-Sea and the Church of the Holy Communion in 1965 as standard operating procedure for the Standing Committee. This has been a part of our common life for well over a hundred years.

If I were the bank, I would expect this permission also even if its necessity were in doubt.  Bankers are generally very conservative about these things.  The fact that the bank required this may only reflect the bank’s desire to "cover its bases" completely.

When All Saints Waccamaw sued the Diocese ( we are the defendants) over the recording of the applicable property canon, they claimed, in a deposition, that they were not under the canons, and kept them as a matter of courtesy. The Chancellor ruled that a church could not be not under the canons and in union with the Diocese at the same time. The convention, hoping for some reconciliation, voted to give All Saints Parish seat, voice, not a vote.

The fact that the Diocese is the defendant may not be a significant as it looks.  As was the case with SC itself 20 Dec 1860, All Saints’ objective was to secede from the TEC.  The only way to accomplish this was to secede from the Diocese as well.  When the Diocese decided to perfect its interest in the property, All Saints was faced with one of those "fish or cut bait" moments, so they had to sue to prevent this.

In the meantime, Bishop Murphy has continued to live in the rectory, meet with the Vestry when he is in town, appoint a vicar to represent him, and generally to be in charge. Tim Surratt who, until now, has been the only clergyman canonically resident in the diocese, has been the supposed interim rector. He has, as of January 12, asked to be transferred to Rwanda. I plan to do so.

Because of the legal action, I have not met with the Vestry or made a visitation. Bishop Skilton has been to All Saints, for a visitation once.

I discovered, by happenstance, that the All Saints vestry had voted to amend the 1902 Charter which the then serving Chancellor had assisted the parish in securing. By way of background, the granting of the 1902 Charter by the Secretary of State was followed by the Trustees of the Diocese’s conveying the title to the church property to All Saints Church Parish by quit claim deed dated 1903. Because of the actions of the vestry, I immediately informed the Chancellor and notified the then Wardens and Vestry that they had in fact voted to leave the Church and could not longer be considered the vestry because by leaving they were no longer communicants in good standing, and thereby did not qualify to be vestry members. I did not excommunicate them as has been said. They are free to receive communion whenever and wherever they choose. They cannot vote to leave the church and at the same time be the vestry. I am enclosing copies of the letter and documents sent to them.

I called a meeting of the Standing Committee and informed them of my actions. After considerable discussion, the members of the Standing Committee decided to talk directly with the vestry. I gave my full support to such discussions. I am enclosing the report of their meeting written by the president of the Standing Committee. I told the Standing Committee that I was more than willing to consider and implement their suggestions, but that I was not willing to drop the appeal because (1) it had already been heard (September 10) and we were simply waiting for a ruling. I reminded them that (2) because of the original ruling no one now owned the property and this issued needed to be settled.

The basic issues on the table are those of lawlessness and the stability of the Diocese itself. We have no theological issues with All Saints. If any parish in the Diocese can unilaterally decide to not be under the Canons, appoint vicars, do what they want to when they want to, our strength as a Diocese is soon destroyed. There is no authority, only individual choice. That is exactly why the Episcopal Church is in the mess it is in. Bishops have individually acted without accountability, believe or not believe as they choose. That is lawlessness. It is my duty to oppose it.

This paragraph comes as close as anything I have seen to elaborating Salmon’s rationale for spending the Diocese’s money on this.  His position is a straightforward, American conservative "rule of law" type of stance.  Unfortunately it’s getting harder and harder to mechanistically apply this in the situation we’re in these days.

To start with, we need to make a clear distinction between civil law and God’s law.  The central problem with TEC stems from the fact that large numbers of clergy and laity alike have opted to dispense with God’s Word as the basis of their life’s convictions.  People like Henry Louttit tried to stop this, but the church at large didn’t have the stomach to carry through.

Churches operate in a framework of civil law because they have to.  In the Middle Ages the Catholic Church tried with varying degrees of success to remove themselves from the jurisdiction of kings and nobles.  No church today has that option.  In SC, for example, an unincorporated religious body can be sued, and it is done by suing the membership!  But the bottom line is that going to law needs to be a last resort, and that going to law needs to be done in the context of preserving the doctrinal integrity of the church, not just the institutional integrity of the Diocese.

This is where I part company with the Diocese on the issue of All Saints.

I have met with members of All Saints who are loyal to the Diocese. It was my decision to treat the loyal membership as a parish rather than a mission. We have organized and elected wardens. We plan to meet again as All Saints Parish Waccamaw under the Canons of the Diocese. We have notified the Secretary of State that there is a new vestry representing All Saints Parish, and Articles of Correction will be filed with the Secretary of State giving notice that the original charter of All Saints, Waccamaw remains unchanged.

It is my prayer is that the Holy Spirit will give us all a way to Godly solution to this situation, which is painful for all concerned. You are in my prayers. I cherish yours.

“May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (II Cor. 13:13)

Yours Faithfully in Christ,

Edward L. Salmon, Jr.

Bishop of South Carolina, XIII

Salmon reminds me of Colonel Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai.  Nicholson insists on building a top-flight bridge, irrespective of the fact that it is for the enemy, and resists its destruction.  Nicholson does this because it is the "proper" thing to do, and shows that he and his men are superior to their captors.  But the end result is that the enemy has a bridge.  With Mark Lawrence’s difficulties it seems that they have found how to run their train over it.

The Best Argument for Disestablishment

Ruth Gledhill’s piece about former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey calling for the disestablishment of the Church of England is an intriguing one, if a little disorienting for Americans.  (Not this one, as you can see for yourself!)

The best practical argument for disestablishment, however, is that it would give more freedom to the church to set its own agenda.

We’ve already noted that there has been talk about Parliament forcing the CofE to admit women bishops.  In the gay-crazy mood the UK is in these days, we’re honestly surprised that the government allowed Rowan Williams to humour the Global South the way he did in Dar-es-Salaam.  The main reason why they haven’t is that the CofE isn’t a very significant part of Britain’s landscape any more except for its empty church buildings.  And there’s always the National Trust for those in a crunch.

But we know that, with the homosexuals, there’s not an insignificant enough opponent they won’t try to crush sooner or later.

Historically, in the nineteenth century the CofE had difficulties "getting to the masses" because it literally took an Act of Parliament to establish or abolish a parish.  This rigidity helped the growth of the Nonconformists.

The only unknown is whether or not the Church of England would use the freedom of "privitisation" wisely if it ever got it.

Amazing Grace and the Army of Joshua

The film Amazing Grace–or at least the life of William Wilberforce–highlights something that most people have forgotten: many of the "social justice movements" had their roots in the evangelical Christianity that emerged towards the end of the "Age of Reason," and specifically Wesleyan Methodism.  (The French proved that the "reasonable" didn’t need any help from John Wesley or anybody else to end the Age of Reason.)  Today social justice movements aren’t what they used to be, and a large part of the problem is that the secularists which dominate them now have no objective basis in fact to be interested in social justice, a result that speaks for itself in places like, say, the Anglican Communion.

The film also highlights something else: the United Kingdom managed to abolish slavery with one act of Parliament.  The United States, that "shining city on a hill," put itself through a civil war to get the same result.  Why was this?  Let’s centre our discussion around the two things they had in common.

The first is that evangelical Christians were instrumental in both abolitions.  In the U.S., the "revival" (singular) that burst forth at the beginning of the nineteenth century made abolition a cause célèbre as much as its UK counterpart.  Preachers such as Charles Finney relentlessly kept the evils of slavery in front of their audiences, and the audiences in turn responded.  Evangelicals in those days were unafraid of putting social value into the gospel they preached, as opposed to those after the First World War (which made social value problematic for everyone.)

However, the reaction they got illustrated the key difference between the UK and the US.  Slavery in the British Empire was something that took place away from the mother country, in the colonies, making it a lot easier to accomplish.  In the U.S.–until recently a set of colonies itself–slavery was home-grown, so much so that the end of importing slaves didn’t brake the growth of the institution, as it would have done in a harsher environment such as Brazil.  Making matters worse was that the region which practiced slavery was full of people whose ancestors didn’t come to the New World to do the work, but to be free and let someone else do the work.

The immediate result of this was that the "revival" that swept the Northern states in the first half of the nineteenth century never reached the Southern ones, shifting from places such as Cane Ridge, Kentucky to upstate New York.  The South remained the "Booze Belt;" the "Bible Belt" is a result of what followed, namely the Civil War.

And that leads us to the second similarity: both acts of national righteousness were enforced by the power of the state.  In the case of the British Empire, it was in the normal course of law enforcement.  In the U.S., it took Mr. Lincoln’s Army to get the job done.

In an earlier piece entitled The Army of Joshua, we contended that, in order to make the Ten Commandments the law of the land, it would take an act of military force, as it had done in ancient Israel.  This is a shocking result, but what’s even more shocking is that, for revivalists of yore, the Army of Joshua was in fact the same army that suffers IED’s in Iraq, and that did Clinton’s will in places such as Bosnia and Kossovo.  Half-cocked militia groups won’t get the job done; not even the Confederate army could resist.

But there was a downside to all of this.  Finney expressed the following in advance of the great conflagration:

I believe the time has come–although I am no prophet, I believe it will be found to have come, that the revival in the United States will prevail no further and no faster than the Church takes the right ground on this subject (slavery)…

What is the condition of the nation?  No doubt God is holding the rod of WAR over the heads of this nation.  He is waiting, before he lets loose his judgments, to see whether the Church will do right.  The nation IS under His displeasure, because the Church has acted in such a manner with respect to revivals.  And now suppose war should come, where would be our revivals?  How quickly would war swallow up the revival spirit.  The spirit of war is anything but the spirit of revival.  (Revivals of Religion, pp. 315-6, 321)

What Wilberforce did for the slaves was right and needed to be done.  But the American experience is a cautionary note for all those who make "bringing the nation back to God" their top priority, along with the social causes of abortion, etc.  In Finney’s day the Civil War–which accomplished a major objective of the revival–stopped same revival in its tracks, as Finney predicted it would.  The use of the power of the state to accomplish the will of God had a backwash that we still feel today.

The Preferential Option of the Poor

One of the most militant expressions of left-wing Christianity was and is Liberation Theology, that creation of Latin American Roman Catholicism that brought Marx into the Church for so many years.  One of the enduring slogans of that movement was "the preferential option for the poor," which means that the Church acts in such a way that the poor have an advantage in the result.  Although one thinks first of Marx’s dictum in the Critique of the Gotha Programme "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need," the truth is that the Gospels are tilted strongly in the direction of the lower reaches of society, to say nothing of James:

“My Brothers, are you really trying to combine faith in Jesus Christ, our glorified Lord, with the worship of rank? Suppose a man should enter your Synagogue, with gold rings and in grand clothes, and suppose a poor man should come in also, in shabby clothes, And you are deferential to the man who is wearing grand clothes, and say–“There is a good seat for you here,” but to the poor man–“You must stand; or sit down there by my footstool,” Is not that to make distinctions among yourselves, and show yourselves prejudiced judges? Listen, my dear Brothers. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the things of this world to be rich through their faith, and to possess the Kingdom which he has promised to those who love him? But you–you insult the poor man! Is not it the rich who oppress you? Is not it they who drag you into law-courts? Is not it they who malign that honorable Name which has been bestowed upon you?” (James 2:1-7)

In listening to the aftermath the recent Anglican Primates Meeting in Tanzania, one hears the "noise of the renegades" (a good Chinese Communist phrase,) i.e., the liberals in the Episcopal Church, whining about the "spirit of inclusiveness" and "discussion of justice and morality" that has been checked by the African and other conservative Global South primates.  For them, inclusion of homosexuals in the hierarchy of the church and same-sex blessings and marriage is an issue on par with racial equality (something many black people in the U.S. find offensive) and the many other causes liberals espouse.

But let’s think about the passage from James.  The Lord’s brother (that’s right, Roman Catholics) makes an assumption: "…suppose a poor man should come in also…"  In the church that James led, that was a regular occurance.  But in the modern Episcoal Church–along with the other Main Line churches–that is an exceptional event in the general scheme of things.  TEC remains a largely white, upscale church, wondering how to fix the problem but seemingly unable to do so.  The poor go elsewhere.  In the meanwhile the homosexuals, an upscale group in their own right, remain a tempting target for TEC, thus all of the moves towards accomodating them.

On the other hand, had Presiding Bishop Jefferts-Schiori lifted up her eyes and look around her at the Primates’ meeting, she would have seen prelates whose churches have quite a few poor people–millions of them, in fact.  Many of the divisions that plague the Anglican Communion–to say nothing of Christianity in general–stem from disparities such as this.  In spite of the TEC blunders on, attacking the Global South for their lack of social concern when in fact TEC’s "social concern" is badly misplaced.

It is our core contention that any church whose membership’s average per capita income is above the average for the country it’s in is not really serious about social justice.  Its social justice is mere paternalism whose main purpose is to assuage guilt about its superior economic status, not to really fix the problems in front of it.  Supporting groups of like elevated status like the homosexuals only shows how far removed from real social justice these people have strayed.  This doesn’t only apply to churches; it also works in the secular realm as well.

To put it in terms Liberation Theology people would understand, the church that isn’t the "preferential option of the poor" cannot have the "preferential option for the poor."  Until TEC recognises this simple fact, everything they do along these lines, from their enthusiasm for the Millennium Development Goals to the money-favouring they spread around the Communion–will be a farce.

The Real Meaning of Affirming Catholicism

In our last three posts on the different parts of Anglicanism, we’ve looked first at Anglo-Catholicism, then Evangelicalism, and after that the Charismatic renewal.  Now we turn our attention to a group of people who seem to have influence well out of proportion to their numbers, or for that matter to the substance of their message.  We’re talking about Affirming Catholics.

And the last point is the tricky part: it’s hard to figure out just what their message is, other than a) we need “unity” and b) we need to do so in a liturgically beautiful manner.  On the Affirming Catholics’ UK site, the “what we think” page is still “in the future,” making one wonder about the thinking that’s supposed to be there.  Perhaps it’s like my Muscovite friend said about the Russians: act first, think later.  So we’re left to our own devices to sort this out.

As with any form of liberalism, an individual or group that attempts to affirm everything affirms nothing.  However, there may be a little method to their madness.  One thing that we’ve come to understand in the three studies that we’ve done on various components of Anglicanism is that many of these are the result of ideas being carried to their logical conclusion.  The Reformation is a classic example; it is Augustinian theology, which had loomed large for more than a millennium before Luther, taken to its logical conclusion.  The same can be said with Wesley and sanctification.  Is some of this going on with Affirming Catholicism?

We said that Roman Catholicism’s greatest mistake was to set the Roman Catholic Church up as a formal mediator between man and God.  That means that the church is free to define (or redefine) the terms and conditions of our relationship with God, both for this life and the life to come.  Roman Catholicism has a strong enough continuity to avoid some of the worst abuses of this, but not all of them.  And, if that continuity is broken, all bets are off, as is the case with groups such as the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Since liberals are the breakers of continuity par excellence, with an idea like Affirming Catholicism they can proceed to redefine just about everything.  One only needs to look at the TEC since the 1960’s to see what this means.  It does explain one important shift in the rhetoric.  Back in the 1960’s liberals in the church tended to speak in strongly secuarlistic terms, such as the wholesale denial of basic Christian doctrine.  Today they talk in religious ones, even appropriating terminology and phrases from groups diametrically opposed to their idea.  The worst example of this are the endless claims that the move towards pansexuality are led by the Holy Spirit.   They swiped the idea that anything could be led by the Holy Spirit from the Pentecostal/Charismatic world.  No self-respecting Pentecostal, for example, would make statements such as this that are contrary to Scripture, even as he or she believes that the Holy Spirit still speaks today.  But, if you can redefine the religion, you can redefine God, or at least think you can.  As the Moody Blues used to say in Days of Future Passed, “But we decide which is right/And which is an illusion?”

Beyond that, a central hallmark of Roman Catholicism is that the church dispenses the grace entrusted to it through the sacraments.  The most prominent expression of that concept is eucharistic theology, where the transubstantiated Body and Blood of Jesus Christ are considered by some to virtually send people to eternal life by themselves.  But the Catholic church can read the New Testament, and knows that those who receive this heavenly food unworthily (for them by not receiving absolution through the sacrament of penance) will achieve an entirely different result from those who take the proper preliminary steps.

But Affirming Catholicism is about getting rid of restrictions such as this.  No where is this more obivious than their idea about baptism.  Their idea about baptism is simple: if it’s done, you’re in.  You have a “place at the table” and are eligible for anything from communion to ordination, irrespective of anything else you do or say.  The only thing you really have to do is to live up to the last clause in the Baptismal Covenant (that “contract on the Episcopalians“) to spead peace and justice, and this is most easily done by getting the government to do the work for you through political action.

The only minor detail that Affirming Catholics forget is, once anything goes, a church is completely dispensible.  All that’s left to do is party, and since this was posted on Mardi Gras, that’s probably the most substantive result of Affirming Catholicism.

Waiting for the Cops to Show Up

The drama that is taking place this week behind closed doors in Tanzania has created a real guessing game in the Anglican Communion.  While we wait for the results–assuming there are meaningful results–let’s think for a moment about an obvious question: how has liberal “Christianity” held on as long as it has?

Everyone knows that liberal churches are going in reverse in terms of membership and revenue.  They have been for a long time; the Episcopal church is, believe it or not, doing better than most.  Nevertheless it surprises me that people continue to go to churches which really don’t believe much and which either are universalist–in which case what one does in this life is irrelevant to what follows–or don’t have a vision for an afterlife.

Perhpaps the problem is me.   Coming from a long line of people for whom meaningful religion was entirely dispensable, I cannot grasp the whole idea of going to church whose people are little different from the world around them, or whose beliefs are basically the same as the culture.  The “smells and bells” are nice but, honestly, a good stiff cup of joe at home on Sunday morning is preferable to a church filled with upper class people listening to a boring sermon whose content they could get from listening to NPR (NPR does a better job of holding your attention, too.)

In any event, liberal church does have appeal to some, but those who are turning from smells and bells to joe are more than those going the opposite way.  Moreover study after study shows that conservatives are more faithful to support a church financially than their liberal counterparts (which means that TEC would be better off making cash deals for property rather than taking departing congregations to court.)

The Episcopalians have elected a Presiding Bishop who is more up-front about her polticised, left-wing version of “Christianity” (if that word can be applied to what she believes) than any of her predecessors.  She’s prepared to fight for everything she can.  But what’s there to fight for?  And how can she win with declining membership, whether from apathy and revulsion?

One of the great legacies of Marxism is the concept of “historical determinism,” i.e., the idea that history is going the way of the theory that’s being propounded.  Although few American liberals are Marxists (they would be better off if they were,) they still revel in the idea that the world is going their way and that their opponents cannot win.  To some extent that is what motivates TEC liberals.  They still think that their way is the way of the future, and that their opponents will disappear, even though time after time they, like Engels sheepishly admitted, have been proven wrong.

Buttressing their idea is the thought that their philosophy will be reflected in the actions of the government.  The congressional election of 2006 has only given them additional hope. If we consider trends such as the emergence of hate crimes legislation, the use of child protection laws to take away children from real Christian parents, the application of the tax code to silence and destroy churches and other Christian institutions that don’t suit the fancy of those in power, all of these give the ultimate hope to the liberals at 815: that their opponents will not only be deprived of the church property they worship in, but also their freedom by the state.

To put it bluntly, Katherine Jefferts-Schiori may be figuring that all she has to do is to hang tough long enough for the cops to show up and haul her opponents away.  (Andrew Hutchinson in Canada is closer to that than she is.)

But this game hangs on two thin threads.

The first is that the system that she’s relying on can deliver.  In addition to the alternating course of politics, even if the liberals can “finish the job” and hold on to power for a long time, their inability to resolve Dzerzhinskii’s Dilemma virtually guarantee the weakness of such a state, and weak states don’t last.

The second is that the state doesn’t figure out that they don’t need a liberal church any more than anyone else does.  The Bible directly addresses this for the last times:

“And the angel said to me–‘The waters that you saw, where the Harlot is seated, are throngs of people and men of all nations and languages. The ten horns that you saw, and the Beast–they will hate the Harlot, and cause her to become deserted and strip her bare; they will eat her very flesh and utterly consume her with fire. For God has put it into their minds to carry out his purpose, in carrying out their common purpose and surrendering their kingdoms to the Beast, until God’s decrees shall be executed.” (Revelation 17:15-17)

The Harlot, of course, is the false “church” (religion would be a better term) of the last times.  The Beast–the Antichrist, the leader of the one-world government–will destroy the Harlot when he finds her dispensable.  That’s something that even Jefferts-Schiori should think of when she campaigns for the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.

So the left, while claiming to be “mainstream” and “Main Line” is in fact playing a dangerous game.  Today they wait for the cops to show up to take us, but then they will be waiting for the cops to come and take them away as well.

Charismatic Anglicans: The Missing Link

When many people hear of the Charismatic Renewal, they roll their eyes and pray that the conversation goes another way.  It is amazing that a movement that had such a wide impact in its day is not only forgotten but gleefully so.  There are a few holdouts out there–the Charismatic Episcopal Church is the main reminder, but there are pockets in the AMiA and even the TEC if one looks hard (and fast at the rate things are going) enough.

It is our opinion that the Charismatic Renewal was the great missed opportunity of North American Christianity in the twentieth century.  Had it succeeded, it could have stopped liberalism dead in its tracks and brought the disparate Christian groups and "traditions" (we hate that word but don’t know a good alternative to it) together in a more positive way than the sappy "ecumenical movement" could or can do.

But it didn’t do these things.  It did a lot to fuel an exodus out of the "Main Line" (the capitalisation is deliberate) and Roman Catholic churches into many places–in some cases classical Pentecostal churches, but more frequently conservative Evangelical churches and even more independent Charismatic churches.  It left these churches in the control of others: the Main Line churches in the hands of the liberals, the Roman Catholic church in the hands of John Paul II.

How did this result take place?  One problem was the lack of support from the hierarchy of their respective churches.  Their idea of renewing the church from within was ground to powder from above.  But another part of the problem was a lack of effective leadership, as we discuss elsewhere. Many of the leaders of the Renewal were inexperienced and basically not up to the job.

The one group of people with the experienced leadership that could have helped were the classical Pentecostals, but they (with a few exceptions) did not do so.  Part of the problem was a turf battle; after years of carrying the standard of the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues, they looked askance at those who not only had found it without them but weren’t planning to join their churches after receiving it.

But another, more serious problem, was doctrinal.  Pentecostals had a very definite sequence of events in mind for the believer.  You first got saved, then you were sanctified (whether this was an event or a process was a matter of dispute) and then baptised in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues.  Charismatics were unwilling to accept the Pentecostals’ rigid idea of holiness, leading one very prominent Pentecostal preacher to tell his denomination that there could be only one standard of holiness, not one in the North, one in the South, etc.  (We deal with what this could mean in At the Inlet.)  Moreover many Charismatics, although speaking in tongues, could not bring themselves to rigidly link tongues with the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

The Charismatics’ "open-ended" approach to tongues has led to much of the silliness that surrounds the subject today.  Many consider the whole thing as a "tradition" or a "spirituality" on par with meditation or whatever happends to be trendy at the moment.  They ignore the central role of Holy Spirit baptism had at the founding of the church or throughout the book of Acts.

Beyond that, however, the Charismatics’ greatest mistake surrounding the baptism in the Holy Spirit–the "missing link," if you please–is their overlooking of the importance of sanctification preceding the baptism.  Coming out of the Holiness-Wesleyan stream, Pentecostal pioneers knew that personal holiness had to be in place before the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  The alternative is chaos, which is pretty much what we had in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Pentecostals’ concept of holiness in rigidly legalistic terms has come in for justified criticism–to which many Pentecostals have responded by chucking the whole holiness business altogther–but the idea is correct.

And this leads us to the centre of our contention: as shocking as it will sound to some, the whole modern Pentecostal-Charismatic movement is the end game of the English Reformation from a purely doctrinal standpoint, if not an institutional or liturgical one.  This deserves an explanation, and with God’s help we’ll give one.

Reformed theology made inheriting eternal life a simple matter: you had faith in God (an act which God caused,) your name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and that was it.  There was no need for penance or the church, but there was no need for spiritual growth or having to do anything, good, bad or indifferent.  The logical end to this is a butt-sitting religion where people can pompously proclaim they’re going to heaven without any further action on their part.  Mercifully many members of Reformed churches have not "connected the dots" in this way, and they are a blessing to themselves, the people around them and to God himself.

But, when things get across the Channel, there’s Article XVI.  The whole idea that people can fall way ("backslide," to use the traditional terminology) implies movement.  If people can move back in their relationship with God, they can move forward.  This turns the Christian life from a static to a dynamic business.  It puts movement into one’s relationship with God.  It also puts movement into one’s life to serve God and to do the work that he left us here to do.  The "fuel" behind this, from Jewel to Wesley, is sanctification, personal holiness that enables the believer to “… lay aside everything that hinders us, and the sin that clings about us, and run with patient endurance the race that lies before us…” (Hebrews 12:1b)  Sanctification as the work of the Holy Spirit means that God interacts in a positive with us after we are reborn in him.

And this leads us to the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  It is more than a tradition; it is rooted in the early church from the day it started.  But, as explained in LifeBuilders Essentials, it is not a principally emotional experience either.  It is the "fuel" to empower the believer to share one’s faith with others in whatever way that God has directed an individual to do so.  Once again the idea is the same: progress for the individual in one’s walk with God, and progress for the church as it seeks to fulfil it’s God-given mission.  This is why, after barely a century on the earth, so many Christians consider themselves to be Pentecostal or Charismatic, and show the gifts and manifestations that go with that.  But in the process many were saved through the exercise of the same power, so the movement that is seen to be demonstrative is also evangelistic.

So where does this leave Anglicans?  Like the Charismatic Renewal, Anglicanism is one of those great missed opportunities in Christianity.  As we explained in Taming the Rowdies, the Church of England started off with everything: state support, Protestant doctrine (with the seeds of fixing the Reformation) and a rich liturgical worship.  Unfortunately the whole thing got caught up in both the doctrinal tug-of-war between Reformed and Catholic and in the socio-economic conflicts of seventeenth-century England.  The result was that the truly comprehensive, scriptural Anglicanism of Elizabeth I died with Laud and Charles I.  Ever since too much of Anglicanism has felt duty-bound to present a "nice" religion that didn’t offend people or create controversy, and in North America that meant one whose primary appeal was to the upper reaches of society.

But that wasn’t the original idea.  And there’s no reason why Anglicans can’t be the leaders in the sweep towards the new Pentecost that they, in one way, initiated.  There’s no reason why liturgical worship cannot be Spirit-led (it has been done.)  And there’s no reason why the religion whose foundational doctrinal statement implies the important of forward movement cannot emphasise personal holiness instead of losing itself in aesthetics or social niceties.

But one major obstacle to the last point is the emergence of the business of "Affirming Catholicism," and it is to this we will turn next.