George Conger for Bishop?

That’s what’s on the street:

Enter George Conger, the ambitious evangelical cleric from Central Florida. Is he qualified? Eminently so. He is by far away the most credentialed of all the candidates with a good track record in his own diocese. However, there is no love lost between Conger and his bishop, Greg Brewer, who may well be glad to see the back of him.

It’s actually official and you can see his candidacy page here.

Conger and I grew up at the same parish in Palm Beach (which he lists as his home town, like I do.) I was there in the 1960’s while I think most of his years there were in the following decade. So his course of life has been of interest.

It’s really surprising that someone who has pointed out the deficiencies of the Episcopal Church the way he has (and from the viewpoint he has) is even in the running, but that reflects the more desultory way the Episcopal Church is organised (?). The left has picked off the dioceses one by one; Katherine Jeffert-Schori’s brutal reign is atypical in a church which values riding the fence. Springfield is one of the last outposts of any semblance of orthodoxy, and given the statistics that David Virtue points out, will do well to remain an outpost during the tenure of any new bishop.

In any case Virtue points out something else that stands in the way of my fellow Palm Beacher becoming the Rt. Rev. George Conger: getting enough consents from the other bishops, most of whom (as both of them have chronicled over the years) are lefties. It should be remembered that Mark Lawrence had trouble with this before being elected Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina. After initiating the unfinished task of taking that diocese out of the Episcopal Church for the ACNA, I’ll bet that many in the Episcopal Church–including its Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, will do just about anything to avoid that happening again.

As far as his episcopal qualities are concerned, Conger is an interesting person in that he combines being a very pastoral person with being the quintessential Episcopal snob, a quality enhanced by the place of his upbringing. That combination may sound strange but the latter has been a key element in attracting people to the Episcopal Church for many years, and the former is sorely lacking in pastors of all kinds. If the task of the bishop is to be the pastor to his clergy, he’ll do well. Whether it’s enough to reverse the decline of the diocese is a different matter altogether, although I doubt anyone else could do better.

One thing we have disagreed on is the role of givebacks vs. renunciation. I’ve always felt that he started with givebacks and, with his ministry in central Florida, ended up with renunciation, while I did the reverse in swimming the Tiber and the other things I did at the time, and gave back later in my own church work. He ruefully noted that a salary cut is in order. Although I’m sure that some inherited wealth will tide him over, his elevation to the episcopate–if it happens–may be the greatest act of renunciation of all.

Two Defeats, Two National Nervous Breakdowns

A few years back I did a review of Andreas Killen’s 1973 Nervous Breakdown. It’s hard to argue against the fact that what we went through in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s was in fact a national nervous breakdown. Two years later, of course, came the fall of Saigon and the real end of the Vietnam War, complete with Chinook helicopters evacuating the American embassy. Our enemies at the time (principally the Soviets) took notice.

As Yogi Berra used to say, it’s deja vu all over again. We’ve had another national nervous breakdown, followed by another defeat in Asia with Chinook helicopters once again evacuating people from the American embassy, this time in Kabul. Don’t think what we’ve been through is a nervous breakdown, after what we’ve been through with Antifa, COVID-19, and the redneck storming of the Capitol? As Ayaan Hirsi Ali notes:

In today’s perverse American culture, however, more attention is devoted to the use of preferred gender pronouns than to the plight of women whose most basic rights — to education, personal autonomy, the right to be present in a public space — are either removed or under serious threat.

And the Chinese, along with the other power challengers in the Islamic world, take note.

In both cases, the national nervous breakdown precedes the national defeat. We lost at home before we lost abroad.

So why does this keep happening, twice in the lifetime of some of us? I don’t have a neat explanation, but perhaps a couple of thoughts are in order.

The first is the perfectionistic streak in our culture. I discussed this in our current state in my recent piece Teaching Secular Blasphemy, but to some extent it’s always been that way. Boomers’ parents, worn out by going through a depression and a world war, wanted to create something of an earthly paradise for their children. Same children have never known how to handle that, as evidenced from Berkeley onwards. Their children and grandchildren are likewise challenged.

The second is that our elites, especially our foreign policy elites, are trained in an unreality formed by a long-running, successful form of government. For all of their pseudosophistication, that renders them narrow-minded and provincial when crunch time comes. All of our efforts for “democracy in the Middle East” and “democracy in Afghanistan” have been expensive failures. It seems that, the more moralism we try to inject into our foreign policy, the less real morality we end up with.

The result is disheartening. How many major defeats can we endure before one takes us down for good? Is the much-vaunted patriotism my father shoved down my throat really justified? How much more do we have to go through before enough people (and more importantly the right people) have a reality epiphany to stop the madness?

Some people blithely tells us that “we’ll come back from this.” Coming back from the last one wasn’t a given and it is less so now than it was then, given the condition of the country and the multiplicity of the opposition. Our last comeback was a great one but I’m not counting on the next one being inevitable.

During the last breakdown, I turned upward, to God, for the ultimate deliverance. That’s what I’m trying to do now. Additionally I try to honour those who have given their best to the service of our country, specifically the veterans I come into contact with. I have at least one Afghanistan veteran in my class this semester; I added a “thank you for your service” to her and the other veterans in the class during the syllabus review, which I have done before. Our country is not worthy of the sacrifices the men and women who have put on the uniform have made.

So we move onward, uncertain of the future that’s in front of us in spite of the vacuous assurances of our elites, remembering this:

Pope Paul VI: An Historic Journey to the Holy Land, January 1964

Twentieth Century-Fox TFM 3129 (1964)

It’s something of a departure from our usual offerings, but this is a vinyl phonograph documentary of Pope Paul VI’s visit to the Holy Land at the time of the Epiphany in January 1964.  First, however, some explanation of the medium is in order.

Until the advent of video disks and ultimately the VCR, there was no convenient way outside of a television studio for people to do “video on demand,” and thus phono documentaries like this one were very common in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  It was the best way that people could relive events like this one.

Paul’s visit to the Holy Land was described as historic, and in the context of the time it certainly was.  To begin with, none of the occupants of the See of Peter had come back to the homeland of the first one until that time.  (Kind of reminds you of Brother Andrew’s remark that Jesus told his followers to go, he didn’t tell them to come back!)  It was also the first time in 150 years that a Pope had left Italy, the result in part of the Vatican’s sixty year “imprisonment.”  To visit the Holy Land then and now required that the Holy Father visit the State of Israel, something dicey given Roman Catholicism’s penchant for replacement theology.  Last but not least the Pope met with the Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras; a Pope and Patriarch hadn’t met since the two branches of Apostolic Christianity angrily parted company in 1054.

The centrepiece of the recording at least is the Pope’s Mass in Nazareth.  Although Vatican II had been recently concluded, it wasn’t until 1970 that the Novus Ordo Missae was promulgated.  The Mass was thus conducted both in Latin and in what is now called the “Extraordinary Form” but was then the ordinary one.  That should warm the hearts of Trads who usually use this pontiff’s picture as a dart board, but this Mass was not elaborate.  Then as now media types didn’t understand religion very well; the narrator proclaims the conclusion of the Mass only to have the Pope begin his recitation of the Creed.  (I’ve been to Masses like that, but…)

Outside of the Mass, the Pope addresses the President of Israel, the crowd at Nazareth, and the Patriarch in French.  At the time French was the language of diplomacy; our world has come a long way since then.  He also invited the Patriarch to recite the Lord’s Prayer; good thing he didn’t use the Creed, with the still-ongoing “filioque” controversy, that would have blown things up again for another 910 years.  It wasn’t until he returned to Rome that he addressed the crowd in his native Italian.

The world has changed a great deal in the nearly seventy years since this visit and recording, but the historic nature of the visit–and the way it was disseminated–are both worth remembering.

The Sad Case of COVID and the Westmore Church of God

The reality of COVID 19–instead of just a dreary recitation of statistics–came home when an outbreak took place at the Westmore Church of God in Cleveland, TN.  Things haven’t gotten any better, with the passing of two of its members.  All of this led to this message from its pastor, Kelvin Page:


We are members at another Church of God in Cleveland, North Cleveland.  Westmore was formed in the late 1960’s when several members of our own church left to start it. The two churches are in many ways sister churches; members from one visit the other for special occasions, and not infrequently the two trade members.  We’ve been on road trips with their senior group, including the Billy Graham museum outside of Charlotte, NC.

The sanctuary that Westmore used for many years was nice but the property was very vertical; not only was expanding it difficult but it was a nightmare for handicapped people.  They had planned for many years to move (with commendable financial planning to go with it;) however, their move coincided with the full impact of COVID in March.  After years of work their new facility was idle.

Like most of the larger churches in the area, Westmore went in with an ongoing online outreach, which proved handy when things shut down.  Going through drive-in services through April, at the end of May they resumed in-person services while formally opening their new facilities.  It should be noted that resumption of in-person services varied among the Churches of God in the area, and that includes how things like how social distancing was handled.

Westmore had several large events in June.  We went to a couple of these, wearing masks, practicing social distancing.  The last one was an event organised by the Church of God state office (diocese, if you please) on 22 June.  Westmore had made provision for a remote room where those of us who wanted to be especially careful could go and spread out away from the sanctuary proper.  We opted for that, and were led up there by one of the young people of the church.  We got up there to find ourselves in a large room with a big screen tv to watch the service, large couch in front of it…and by ourselves.  We had the best seats in the house.

They were best all around; our diligence paid off, we avoided COVID, but many of those in the sanctuary for this and other meetings didn’t fare so well.  The disease is no respecter of persons: it got Cleveland’s mayor, many of our church’s officials (the “Vatican” for the Church of God is in Cleveland) and of course many of the members.  The fallout is ongoing and it has affected many people near and dear to us.  Our own church has shut down again, going back purely online.

It’s worth stopping and asking the question Evangelicals hate more than any other: why?  It’s hard to get to the bottom of things in a country which is having a nervous breakdown, the second in my lifetime.  But at least for the benefit of my Anglican and Catholic readers, who have supported this blog with visits, I think some kind of explanation is necessary.  There are two things going on here.

The first is the sacramental nature of Pentecostal/Charismatic worship.  I don’t know of any other word to describe it.  Catholics grieve at being barred from the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, but for Pentecostals worship in churches like Westmore is a sacramental event.  It’s the special place where God’s real presence comes and dwells.  It’s not an understatement that our ministers are obsessed with our worship, and I have long lost count of the sermons on how important worship is, how we need to come together to it, and do it properly.  “Properly” can be tricky with the music wars; advocates of two styles of music and worship are as adverse to each other as TLM and Novus Ordo types.  But coupled with the convivial nature of Pentecostal churches (certainly more so than their Anglican and Catholic counterparts) Kelvin Page’s appeal to get back together again had a powerful appeal.

The second is our “no fear” culture.  I’ve talked about the theodicy issue before and won’t belabour the point, but our culture has pushed for a long time that life should be perfect and without adversity.  The church has responded with things like prosperity teaching, we like to think of ourselves as invincible.  It’s the same mentality that drives people to crowd bars.  (Bars and churches are really both houses of worship, just to different deities.)  We’ve been conditioned to believe that it won’t happen to us.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that “it” can and will happen to us.  We’re at the beginning of a bumpy ride for our country, and for Christian churches in particular.  Beyond this present plague churches are going to have to prepare themselves for a different environment.  Many of our brothers and sisters overseas have experienced this for a long time (as this missionary to the Middle East attested) and now “it” has come for us.

If they can endure to the end, why can’t we?


Now St. John’s Episcopal Church Feels the Wrath of #BLM

From Twitter:


Evidently the protesters look at the Episcopal Church as it is and not as it would like itself to be.

The Social Justice Church Loses on the SC Property

Yes they did:

Making factual findings as to each of thirty-six individual parishes, Judge Dickson ruled (1) following the still-controlling decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court in All Saints Waccamaw, ECUSA’s Dennis Canon by itself does not create or impose a legally binding trust on any church property in South Carolina; (2) none of the thirty-six parishes ever expressly acceded to the Dennis Canon in any written document; and (3) Bishop Lawrence’s Diocese did not lose its status as beneficiary of the Camp Christopher Trust when it exercised its legal right to disassociate from ECUSA (again following another holding of the Waccamaw case).

If there’s one thing in recent history that belies the entire social justice thrust of the Episcopal Church, it’s the USD60,000,000 campaign of theirs to retain their church property.  Doesn’t anybody know that any social justice effort is ultimately about redistributing property from those who have it to those who don’t?  You can bet that any Antifa or BLM Marxist knows that.  So why did they spend so much money (which had better use elsewhere) on this project?

I’m sure that some you will attempt to rebut this with the following:

When Jesus was still at Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, while he was at table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of choice spikenard perfume of great value. She broke the jar, and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those who were present said to one another indignantly: “Why has the perfume been wasted like this? This perfume could have been sold for more than thirty pounds, and the money given to the poor.” “Let her alone,” said Jesus, as they began to find fault with her, “why are you troubling her? This is a beautiful deed that she has done for me. You always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has perfumed my body beforehand for my burial. And I tell you, wherever, in the whole world, the Good News is proclaimed, what this woman has done will be told in memory of her.” (Mark 14:3-9 TCNT)

But this exegesis won’t work any better that the vestry’s did at Bethesda.  Today Our Lord, having sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, is in heaven, ever-interceding for us.  We still have the poor, and this dreadful campaign of legal war hasn’t helped them one iota.

So much for the social justice church…I hope the ACNA learns something from this sad adventure.

R.R. Reno Comes Out on the Short End of the Gas Attack

It was a vicious counter-attack, to be sure, and had the desired effect:

I regret my foolish and ill-considered remarks about masks and mask wearing on Twitter on Tuesday, May 14. Masks are clearly indicated in many situations. I used over-heated rhetoric and false analogies. It was wrong for me to impugn the intentions and motives of others, for which I apologize.

As a World War I buff, I was honestly gobsmacked by this.  The Germans first used poison gas at Bolimow on the Russians; it didn’t work out very well because it was winter and the gas mostly froze.  The Germans got better with it, as did the Allies, although on Western Front the Allies had the upper hand because the Germans were on the wrong end of the prevailing winds.  Soldiers on both sides had good reason to wear gas masks.

World War I was an especially nasty business, but until armies broke under the strain the men who fought were courageous.  Their courage and devotion to duty in the face of an awful situation inspired J.R.R. Tolkien in his portrayal of the hobbits heading to Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings.  Reno’s “over the top” comments (another World War I expression) deserved the gas attack they got on Twitter, which led him to can his account.

As an aside: trad Catholics should celebrate these people too, the Catholic soldiers of France, Italy and Austria celebrated Mass under difficult conditions ad orientem.

Yes, You Can Use That Music

That sentiment came to mind when I read this comment on my posting of the Word of God album All of Your People:

I was worship leader in an Antioch CA prayer group and an Assemblies of God mission for 5 years in the ’90’s where I used these songs.  I first heard them at Friday night Healing Masses at Holy Redeemer Center Oakland, CA.

There’s a lot of history packed into this little comment, and some lessons to be learned.

First: yes there were such things as “Healing Masses,” people like Francis McNutt were very much in the forefront of things like this.  Current interest by Pentcostals in liturgical worship and how to integrate the full Gospel into it would do well to take a look at what actually happened.  (This was also very evident at the Steubenville conferences of the early 1980’s as well.)

Second: in all of the discussion of the Charismatic Renewal of the 1960’s and 1970’s, there’s very little attention given to the obvious dumb question: “What were the classical Pentecostal churches doing in response?”  Since they had carried the standard of modern Pentecost since the turn of the last century, it’s reasonable to ask this question.  The answer is simple: it depends…the Assemblies of God churches tended to be more receptive to some kind of involvement in the Renewal.  That paid off when many Catholic Charismatics (and others) realised that the metastable nature of communities and prayer groups was unsustainable, and suddenly Pentecostal and independent Charismatic churches reaped the rewards of new members.  In some cases (like this one) they brought their music with them.

As for the Church of God…well, not so much, there was some hostility to the Renewal, probably because they didn’t go through the ordeal of legalism that was usual in those days.  There were exceptions, the largest of which was Paul Laverne Walker’s Mt. Paran church in Atlanta, but they were exceptional, at least for a long time.  (The Church of God eventually rewarded Paul Walker by making him General Overseer in 1996; his son Mark is the new President of Lee University.)

When I joined the North Cleveland Church of God, it was inconceivable that worship music such as the Word of God would be used.  It went against nearly a century of music tradition in a stylistic way; most in the Church of God preferred a more lively worship style.  That is going by the wayside; that’s one of the complaints I made in this post, what was considered heavenly in the past is no longer, now we are going for a worship style that is slower and more repetitive than was practiced in Ann Arbor!  But now we know it’s possible to use Ann Arbor’s music in a classical Pentecostal church.

I think the lesson from all of this is that church music and worship styles are products of many things, including doctrine and theology, culture, ethnicity, socio-economic and generational preferences.  To simply get up and proclaim that “this is from the throne room, that’s it” isn’t helpful and has led to a great deal of the conflict on this subject.  We need to worship in a way that really does draw us closer to God, and not just because someone says that it should.

Note: my YouTube channel, which is now mostly music from the “Jesus Music” era, has gotten a little boost during this COVID-19 isolation era.  Maybe people are taking my suggestion seriously about checking things out!

Wednesday Night Church Online, and One of My Favorite People

My church has decided to go completely online to avoid the crowd issues of COVID-19.  This is our first crack at Wednesday night service online, called “Word at Home.”  It features our Pastor, Mark Williams, and a gathering of men to do music, led by Jeremy Richardson, formerly of the Christian group Avalon.  After that Mark interviews his dad, Bill Williams (that starts at around 26:45,) who like most in his generation has been through some tough times.

Bill Williams is one of my favourite people, for reasons I hope become evident.  He grew up in West Virginia, but spent many years as a pastor in Texas, where Mark was raised.  While there he became a University of Texas fan, but after he retired and moved to Cleveland I leaned very heavily on him to switch to the Aggie faith.  (Texas A&M’s entry into the SEC in 2012 helped.)   I told him one time that if he had been an Aggie fan from the start, his grandson Austin Williams would have been named College Station.

His response: “It’s not too late.”