The Triumphant Entrance of Our Lord into Jerusalem — The Bossuet Project

From Meditations on the Gospel, The Last Week of the Saviour, First Day. The triumphant entrance of Our Lord into Jerusalem. He is acknowledged King, son of David, and the Messiah (John xi. 12-20; Matt. xxi. 1-17; Mark xi. 1-17; Luke xix. 28-48). These sermons or discourses will teach us about the triumphant entrance of […]

via The Triumphant Entrance of Our Lord into Jerusalem — The Bossuet Project

My Tribute to Dave Lorency

One of the hardest parts of getting older is seeing loved ones, friends and colleagues pass away.  It’s not often that I do a tribute to one of them, in part because a) my audience is very diverse, most people aren’t known to a wide range and b) if I did it I would pretty much dominate the blog.  But I’m making an exception in this case for my friend Dave Lorency, who passed away suddenly early this morning.  Dave is best known as the President of Operation Compassion, the relief organisation that has been to so many disasters, including the many tornadoes and hurricanes that have struck our country and world, and even the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia.

David Lorency
Dave Lorency. Photo courtesy of Church of God Chaplains Commission.

Most of all, though, Dave was my friend.  I’ve met many interesting people and great men and women of God in the Church of God during my two score in it, but Dave is, to use the Latin phrase, sui generis.  His ministerial career was unique, and the way he brought Operation Compassion to the forefront of Christian relief work illustrates both how he leveraged the strengths and transcended the weaknesses of the Pentecostal denomination which he served for so many years.

Dave started out in what used to be called the Tidewater area of Virginia.  His ministerial career–and don’t be silly, that’s the way many of our ministers look at it–was not out of the ordinary until he got involved in and was made Executive Director of Operation Compassion.  To make a relief organisation like OC successful requires a skill set that is different from many of our ministers, but Dave was God’s man for the hour, so to speak.

What a great loss. He was a powerful force in humanitarian work and a dear friend of mine. He will be missed more than we will ever know. He was one of Mercy Chefs earliest supporters and advocates. I will miss him terribly.  Gary LeBlanc, Mercy Chefs

oclogo-headerTo start with, he was committed to the ministry body, soul and spirit, which is important for the success of any ministry.  I have always been impressed with the energy and dedication of many of our ministers, and he was certainly exhibited both.  Beyond that, he had the organisational skills to put it together.  Operation Compassion’s mission is simple but vital: to gather food and other supplies and then to deliver them to places and organisations which in turn would distribute them to those in need.  That doesn’t sound like much of a mission, but a relief organisation that arrives empty handed won’t bring much relief.  OC helped to avoid that problem.

To do that requires not only organisational skills, it requires the supplies, either donated or bought.  For the former he had extensive relationships with corporations of all kinds who would donate their surplus to OC’s warehouses, from whence they went to the field.  Beyond that Dave was an effective fund raiser, not only in the Church of God but also outside of it.  OC started out as an integral part of the Church of God; it was “set loose” (made its own corporation and given autonomy) in 2006, when Dave was made President.  As he reminded us frequently, much of the cash income they had came from Roman Catholics, a crossover rare for an organisation with Pentecostal roots.  And he did all of this while keeping the overhead below that of many other relief agencies and ministries.

OperationCompassion.SMCH
Operation Compassion’s warehouse, with supplies ready to go to the field, 2005. Photo courtesy of the Church of God Chaplains Commission.

As for me, I first got to know Dave when I was the webmaster for the Church of God Chaplains Commission, which I was from 1998 to 2010.  Both OC and the Commission are under the umbrella of the Care Division of the Church of God, even with OC’s status as a separate corporation.  After I left the formal employment of the denomination I was appointed to the Care Board, which oversees the ministries under its umbrella, including OC.  In both of these I got to know Dave as a friend.  Unpretentious and straightforward in his opinions of people, ministries and churches, he was in many ways an atypical minister.  In his passing I am shocked and grieved.  Our General Overseer Tim Hill said that he “…has left a legacy in the Church of God that will never be duplicated,” and that’s an understatement.

My heart and condolences go out to his family, friends and colleagues, his passing leaves a hole in our lives which will not be filled until we see him again on the other side.

What Will the Church Look Like? — Ad Orientem

Father Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), in a 1969 radio broadcast: The future of the Church can and will issue from those whose roots are deep and who live from the pure fullness of their faith. It will not issue from those who accommodate themselves merely to the passing moment or from those who merely […]

via What Will the Church Look Like? — Ad Orientem

A Break from the Worship Wars

Last post I quoted a missionary to the Middle East who was having good ministry in spite of the social distancing restrictions.  In a place like that, not being able to gather en masse isn’t as big of a change as it is here.  But not having live services has spared me a conflict that I was stuck in going into this lockdown: the “worship wars” that have engulfed our churches for a long time.  It’s easier to handle from a distance, and easier since I don’t have to interact with my church people on the subject.

So, you ask, where do I stand in the worship wars?  I feel like I’m in “No Man’s Land” on the Western Front during World War I.  On either side are two implacable foes which shell and/or gas attack each other.  Occasionally one goes over the top, but no matter how many people do that or get themselves killed in the process, neither side makes a lot of progress.  All the while I’m hunkered down hoping that we can have a Christmas Truce or something like it, or that someday someone will actually have a victory before there’s no one left to fight.

So how did I get caught in the middle?  That is the result of the way I got to this place.

As many of you know, I was raised in the High Episcopal Church.  We used the 1940 Hymnal, the hymnal that didn’t have “Amazing Grace” in it.  (It’s a great hymn, but I find its endless repetition tiresome.)  Unless they brought a rock band in (which they did once) the pipe organ was the only instrument used in church.  I actually liked the hymnody I sang in the paid youth choir.  That would mark me as a traditionalist in most places but the Anglican tradition isn’t really the same as in other Protestant churches.  For example, we sang different hymns on Palm Sunday and Easter than, say, the Baptists did, and our hymns were far superior to theirs.

When I swam the Tiber and went to Texas A&M, I was introduced to Catholic folk music.  I didn’t like Catholic folk music to start with because a) it was American (and I preferred what came from the UK) and b) it was folk music, and I was a progressive rocker.  Eventually I came around, although I’ve discovered that the folk music we did wasn’t all there was or even the best.  From there I moved to Dallas and was introduced to the Ann Arbor/South Bend worship style, which is very worshipful but also has its own musical limitations.

After a few more peregrinations I ended up in the Church of God.  Worship in the Church of God in the early to mid-1980’s was the end result of many years of Southern Gospel built up by campmeeting songbooks and a lively musical tradition that is different from “nominal” Protestant churches, to say nothing of the Anglican/Episcopal world.  In the hands of the gifted, it is a great worship style.  I thought, “this is where I’m at, I’ve arrived, it’s not what I’m used to, but I expected that.”

Silly me: late in that decade the “praise and worship” music from Integrity came bubbling up and the split in what music to do at our church began in earnest.  Praise and worship music is a moving target, both with the sources and to a lesser extent the style.  The problem is that it is always at any given moment presented as what’s being done in the “throne room,” which means that those who don’t like it are not in the throne room and possibly never will be.  It also means that those who don’t like it (or at least the way it’s presented at any given moment) get “aged out,” and for someone who teaches college students for a living, that’s galling.

At this point we are split into two camps.  The traditionalists (and keep in mind it’s not my tradition, but theirs) have retreated into the “Red Back Hymnal” version of Verdun, that being the Church of God’s Church Hymnal, produced in the early 1950’s and the most successful gospel hymnal ever published.  (One retired Church of God State Overseer refers to it as the “Red Neck Hymnal.”)  On the other side are those who lead worship with basically what’s going on in the vast majority of megachurches in the Anglophone world.

I really don’t have a dog in this hunt.  One of my responses is to create the “Music Pages” on this site, so I can propagate (and enjoy) music from the “Jesus Music” era.  This music was a stylistic step forward from any Protestant or Catholic music of the era, and joining a Church of God was a step backward in many ways.  It was also produced before the excessive commercialisation that has plagued CCM and praise and worship music ever since.

But now, with the break we’re having in physical corporate worship, it’s worth nothing that there’s a lot out there in terms of worship and music style.  Don’t like what’s going on at your church?  Check it out.  Many of you already have been doing this.  It beats complaining, and it gets better results.  And it certainly makes life in “no man’s land” a lot easier.

Elevations on Prophecies — The Bossuet Project

This series continues from the last series, and is an interesting treatment of several topics concerning the Old Testament’s prediction of Jesus Christ: Prophecies under the Patriarchs The Prophecy of Moses The Prophecy of David The other prophecies Reflection on Prophecies The Appearance of God in a new way; and what does the promised coming […]

via Elevations on Prophecies — The Bossuet Project

Intiction: “I Don’t Think You Can Do That”

The raging COVID-19, “…like a roaring lion, is prowling about, eager to devour you.” (1 Peter 5:8 TCNT)  The way some people are reacting to this make you wonder.  I follow a fair number of people on Catholic Twitter and some of them have jumped the shark.  One trad even disparaged Thomas Aquinas because he had the temerity to point out that poison in the Host was not eliminated by transubstantiation!  I always thought a trad that disparaged Aquinas was an oxymoron.

In any case the celebration of the sacred mysteries has been seriously muddied by the social distancing necessary to slow the spread of this “lion.”  For Anglicans, one solution would be the increased celebration (face-to-face and online) of Morning and Evening Prayer, but after a half century of trying to “be like Rome” that may be a hard adjustment for many Anglican parishes, even though both of these services are in reality a form of “ante-communion” such as was practiced in Roman Empire Christianity.

One alternative that one would think is helpful is intiction, i.e., the practice of dipping the transformed bread into the equally transformed wine.  I’ve heard trads disparage that too, although Rome has never been keen on this practice.  (Aquinas clearly explains why they receive the Host in one species, too.)  Anglicans and Orthodox have used this for many years, and my experience with it, although a little strange, should be interesting to some.

My mother, brother and I were confirmed within a year of each other.  Our church assured us that the alcohol content of the wine would kill the germs for each person who received directly from the cup.  But my mother, raised on the big trays and Bill Clinton’s Eucharistic Theology, didn’t buy it: she opted for intiction and I followed suit.  That’s the way I rolled at the Holy Communion until I was sent down Florida’s Turnpike to the St. Andrew’s School, that Episcopal education institution in the “land of lakes and pine” (soon to be surrounded by development.)

The 1960’s hit Palm Beach pretty hard, but Bethesda for the most part held back on change.  St. Andrew’s was another story; I endured two fairly liberal school chaplains until I swam the Tiber.  My freshman year there I went to my first “hippy dippy” Holy Communion complete with the inseparable companion to it: French Bread.

I don’t understand the fixation on French bread in Holy Communions or Masses like these.  To start with, it’s not authentic in any way.  At the institution of the Holy Communion, taking place in the Middle East the way it did, the bread there was probably more akin to pita bread or the matzos of the Jews.  Both have practical issues, but they pale in comparison to the French bread.  It’s crummy (in every sense of the word) and to break it in a common ceremony requires everyone to handle it, which is a good way to spread COVID-19 or any other plague that happens to be going around.

In the context of the 1960’s and 1970’s, French bread was “exotic” compared to the “light bread” that was standard issue.  One Soviet trade representative compared the texture of light bread to that of cotton, and he was right: even under Soviet socialism, bread was better than that.  If the standard issue of Anglican and Catholic churches doesn’t appeal, no matter what lose the French bread.  Bread has marched on, even if the superannuated hippies from the 1960’s have not.

Getting back to St. Andrew’s, one Holy Communion the French bread was rolled out.  So I took a piece and prepared to dip it in the cup, following my mother’s fine example.  The traditional Episcopal priest (and my Latin II teacher) administering the cup, a fine man named Raymond O’Brien, looked at me and said “I don’t think you can do that.”  I gave way, consumed both species separately and directly, and that was that.

I survived this episode, although St. Andrew’s presented other noxious challenges I had to face.  When I swam the Tiber, I thought I left this issue behind, but that was not the case: at Texas A&M our Newman Association Masses, especially those on retreats, featured the French bread, surely the low point of those generally good experiences.  My ecclesiastical wanderings eventually took me into the churches of the big trays and Bill Clinton’s Eucharistic Theology, and so I thought I had left both the sanitation issues that worried my mother and those posed by the French bread behind.  That was partly right: there are sanitation issues with the big trays, which many churches need to address at this time.

Well, almost partly…in the last few years there has been heightened interest in liturgical worship amongst Pentecostals.  So just before this past Thanksgiving we had a communion service with–wait for it–French bread and several common cups.  Since the Scots-Irish penchant for binge drinking has forced Evangelical churches to ban alcohol, we were instructed to dip the bread into grape juice.  I know that Fr. O’Brien was rolling in his grave at that point, and justifiably so, but I went ahead and did it, my church oblivious and uncaring for someone who had a real history in this method of the Holy Communion.

At this point I think that intiction, if properly done, is one way to address the health issues surrounding this.  There are others that can be done.  But this post wasn’t meant to be a “how to” for either the theology, sanitation practices or practical considerations of the sacred mysteries.  It was meant to document a journey of one person through at least the last two of them, and hopefully it was found to be informative and perhaps a little entertaining.

The Pamplona Exemplar — Aquinas Institute

On February 18 we had the great pleasure and privilege of viewing one of the authoritative original manuscripts of Thomas Aquinas’s commentary on Book III of the Sentences: the Pamplona university exemplar. A university exemplar is a master copy made from an author’s original text by a stationarius for the purpose of producing further copies…

via The Pamplona Exemplar — Aquinas Institute

Just a thought: after what Spain went through with this, it’s amazing this is still in existence.

A Good Place for Lent

Over the years, I’ve noticed that some people take a break for Lent on social media.  Some of that is to avoid the dumpster fire that social media is and has been for a long time, and that’s understandable.  On the flip side, some want to take a break from putting out content and concentrating on what they’re supposed to be concentrating on.

I’ve always had trouble doing that, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that stuff happens during Lent and some of it needs to be commented upon.  (Some doesn’t.)  But I think the best thing to do is to put out stuff that is edifying, uplifting and makes for introspection.  The one site that I can guarantee does that all year around is the Bossuet Project.  The heart of the project is translating Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries and, in addition to the elevations already there, during Lent this year I’ll be putting up “Elevations on Prophecies,” which deal with the subject in the Old Testament and how it relates to the new.

You can subscribe to the Bossuet Project by clicking the link on the right hand side of any page.  Blessings!

Elevations on the Law and Prophecies that heralded the Liberator and prepare for him the way — The Bossuet Project

This series takes us literally out of Egypt and into the promised land with the following topics: The Captive People: Moses is shown to them as their deliverer Two ways in which Moses is shown to the people Moses, figure of the divinity of Jesus Christ The Passover and the deliverance of the people The […]

via Elevations on the Law and Prophecies that heralded the Liberator and prepare for him the way — The Bossuet Project

Are Anglican Ministers Successors to the Apostles?

Back in December I published a post in response to one Rev. Chris Findley on Dodging the Important Questions on Priests and the Holy Communion.  Unsurprisingly there was no response.  Who knows, Rev. Findley might still be stuck in Murfreesboro’s traffic, which is experiencing serious spillover from Nashville.  In any case, in that post I touched on an unspoken assumption in Findley’s piece: that, if we say (as he does) that “the charge of conducting the sacraments is an apostolic charge for the care of the Church,” we’re saying that those to whom it is charged are successors to the Apostles.

Is that really so?  The Roman Catholics have denied this, although I think their basis for doing so is more the result of how the Church of England came into existence and less about their stated reasons of defective transmission.  The opinion of those on the other side of the Channel has been different.  John Jewel, for example, opines as follows:

“For whereas some use to make so great a vaunt, that the Pope is only Peter’s successor, as though thereby he carried the Holy Ghost in his bosom, and cannot err, this is but a matter of nothing, and a very trifling tale. God’s grace is promised to a good mind, and to one that feareth God, not unto sees and successions. “Riches,” saith Hierom, “may make a bishop to be of more might than the rest: but all the bishops,” whosoever they be, “are the successors of the Apostles.” If so be the place and consecrating only be sufficient, why then Manasses succeeded David, and Caiaphas succeeded Aaron. And it hath been often seen, that an idol hath stand in the temple of God. In old time Archidamus the Lacedaemonian boasted much of himself, how he came of the blood of Hercules.” Jewel, Apology for the Church of England, VI

I thought that this opinion (and the authority) were impeccable, but when I set this forth during controversy my disputant, from The State to the North, thought otherwise.  Is there a way out of this dilemma?

The best way to resolve this is to consider what it really means to succeed the Apostles, and that leads to consider what the main task of those successors really is.  The main task of the Apostles’ successors is to preserve and uphold the apostolic tradition, the paradosis, as they have received it.  In the early years of the Church that task was especially crucial because the canon of the New Testament had not congealed as we know it now: the only Scriptures they had to go on at the start was the Old Testament.  That congealing more sharply defines the apostolic tradition, and by extension simplifies its transmission.  If there’s one thing Reformed Anglicans would like to see, it’s a more Scriptural view in the church.  That’s in line with this “main thing.”

Opposed to this is the Roman Catholic concept that the Apostles’ successors’ main task is to act as Christ’s representatives on earth and dispense the sacraments, and by extension grace.  That puts “binding and loosing” at the front of the Church’s agenda when, in light of Our Lord’s emphasis on servant leadership, it should be well down the list.  If we separate the whole concept of apostolic succession from the “baggage” that’s been attached to it, we can see things in a new light.

And so we come to the serious question: what happens when (and after all these centuries “when” is appropriate) the apostles’ successors “sell the pass” on the apostolic tradition?  Churches which have that succession complain about the ones that don’t, but the reality is that had the apostles’ successors stuck to their original task more faithfully, we wouldn’t have many of these breakaway groups.  (Some are so far removed from the trunk that they can’t even be described as breakaway.)  That’s the core issue facing Catholic “trads” right at the moment, but it’s been going on for a long time.

Finally, there are many things which divide the Anglican/Episcopal world these days, but one of them that doesn’t get much press is basic ecclesiology.  What is the church all about?  What part of it are we in?  Coming to some kind of common understanding on this would go a long way to solving the many other problems out there, but don’t hold your breath for a solution any time soon.