Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Bread of Life - Sermon Preached on Pentecost 10

1 Kings 19:4-8
Psalm 34:1-8
Ephesians 4:25-52
John 6:35, 41-51

Many of the stories in the Old Testament have an epic character to them, where the forces of good battle against forces of evil. This is no less of our story from 1 Kings. The hero of our epic story is the prophet Elijah – one of the last surviving prophets of God. He is a wanted man, for the wicked Queen Jezebel has been purging the nation of its prophets of Yahweh and replacing them with prophets of Baal. In our Old Testament reading (1 Kings 19:4-8), we see Elijah at a tragic, low point in the story… a low point in his life… ready to give up. At first reading, this seems strange, because he has just won a major battle against the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18). However, no sooner had Elijah defeated the forces of Baal than Queen Jezebel resumed her manhunt with renewed vigor, and Elijah is forced to flee into the barrenness of the desert. In the desert, under a solitary broom tree, Elijah falls into a deep depression and asks God to take his life. “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors” (1 Kings 19:4). At this point, God sends an angel to minister to him. Upon waking him, the angel bids Elijah to get up and eat the baked bread lying near him on hot stones. He does this twice in fact. And through this bread, prepared by God’s angelic messenger, Elijah is given the strength, encouragement and endurance he needs for the forty day journey to the mountain of God – Mount Horeb.

Once again the connection between our Old Testament reading and the Gospel appointed for this Sunday (cf. John 6:35, 41-51) is the metaphor of Bread. Our gospel begins with the words of Jesus: “I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to me will never be hungry. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (Verse 35). Bread is an incredibly powerful metaphor, both in Scripture and in the historical narratives of virtually every culture. Bread is as old as culture itself. Anthropologists mark the beginning of civilization with the cultivation of grains – e.g., wheat, rye, barley, rice. Our earliest human ancestors may have had a diet richer in protein, gathering nuts and fruit and hunting game, but it was not until humankind mastered the tilling of the soil for grain crops that human populations could settle into communities and nations. Ancient Rome was just as dependent on the breadbasket of Egypt to advance its dominion as are Western nations today dependent on oil rich countries to fuel modern society and advance modern values and ideals.

You see, there is more to bread than meets the eye or nourishes the body. It is the root of human ingenuity and industry, the fundamental building block of culture. Bread is fundamentally a human “invention,” yet the ability to make bread depends entirely on God’s goodness in creation – i.e., in creating the seeds of the earth, sending the rains, and providing the nourishment to grow. In a very real sense, one could say that the making of bread defines what it means to be human. Yet if this is true, it is true in the sense that it defines what it means to be human in relation to each other and human in relation to our Creator. This is expressed well in the Offertory of the Roman Mass:

“Blessed are you, Lord, God of all Creation: Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life. Blessed be God for ever.”

It should not surprise us, then, that throughout the biblical narrative God meets his people in and through bread. The preparation, giving and eating of bread is no less than the juncture of divine and human fellowship – whether it is in the unleavened bread of the Passover meal, the Manna in the wilderness, the showbread in the Tabernacle which David and his men were permitted to eat to replenish their strength, or in the bread that Elijah ate to strengthen his body and replenish his soul. Throughout Scripture, God demonstrates his companionship towards humankind in bread. In fact the words “companion” and “companionship” come from the Latin words “com” meaning “with” and “panis” meaning “bread” – i.e., to partake of bread together.

For Jesus then to make the claim to be “the bread that came down from heaven” would have been astounding to his hearers. Remember these were people who were steeped in these stories from the Old Testament; good Jews who knew that Jesus’ statement amounted to a claim that he was in himself the mediator between God and humankind, that God meets us and communes with us in Jesus. Indeed, our Gospel tells us that it was this claim that caused the crowds to complain about him and disbelieve his message; this same prophet who only a day before had fed the five thousand with five loaves and two fish. “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?” Is he not a mere man like the rest of us? No doubt they could have accepted Jesus as a good teacher, a rabbi, or perhaps a prophet; no doubt, had he given them the sign they demanded they would even have accepted him as a prophet on par with the great Moses! Even today there are people who can accept Christ as a good teacher or perhaps a prophet. But Jesus claims to be more than this, much more. At one and the same time, his claim is grounded both in the human and the divine. By saying that he is “bread” he is claiming to be fundamentally human (in fact the fundamental human – the founder of a “new humanity”). By claiming to be “from heaven” he claims a divine origination, like the Manna from heaven, and yet much more than Manna that merely feeds for a day. For the Bread that Jesus gives is his own flesh, and the life that he gives through his body is eternal. It is in Jesus, in partaking of him through his broken flesh, that we meet God, that we are strengthened, encouraged, and given eternal life. But more than this…it is in Jesus, in participating in our human condition, that God meets us and solidarity and companionship with God is established.

It is for these reasons that on his last night with his disciples, Jesus gave us the bread and wine of the Eucharist – the holy food and drink of eternal life. Through these actions at the altar, the Church’s primary act of worship together, that we meet the Christ who died for us, the Christ who is risen for us, and the Christ who will one day come again us. This is the Church’s hope and faith. This is our faith as the body of Christ.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Standing in the Gap - Sermon for Pentecost 7

“We are called to stand in the gap and that has not and will not change.”(Carol Barnwell, Communications Director, Diocese of Texas, July 2009)

Sometimes we can be very na├»ve in our reading of the New Testament. We read it with rose-colored lenses, thinking that there were no serious or divisive controversies in the New Testament age – at least none as serious as those which threaten to divide our churches today. Well, I have news for you: there has never been a time in church history when the Body of Christ has not been under the threat of division; and this includes the New Testament age. Today’s reading from the Book of Ephesians [2:11-22] reminds us of this.

Read in light of the controversies of the day (rather than reading it as just another theological treatise) we can begin to appreciate that, in context, this passage was an admonition of sorts. Specifically, it served as an admonition directed towards a predominantly Gentile church – i.e., a church tempted to think too highly of itself as it looked down upon those of Jewish descent, and thus a church in danger of division. The “presenting cause” (if you will) was the Law of Moses and, more specifically, the practice of circumcision which Gentile believers rejected, but which many believers of Jewish descent still regarded as a necessary rite of initiation.

By the time this letter was written, Gentile Christians no doubt outnumbered those of Jewish descent in most places, and were presumably enjoying their newfound preeminence in the Church. But here the author takes the opportunity to remind them that they were once “far off” … “without Christ and aliens from the commonwealth of Israel” … “strangers to the covenants of promise and without God in the world.” After reminding them of their former alien-status, the author proceeds to tell them that there is absolutely no basis or reason for divisions amongst Christians of different backgrounds, because “…Christ is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.”

Once again – this week – we were made painfully aware of how divided our own Church and Communion are. (On a personal note, I tried very hard to ignore what was going on in Anaheim. However, the media and blogosphere managed to break through my self-imposed indifference to remind me of just how close the Anglican Communion actually is to dividing and separating into factions.)

True, the issues of today are very different from those of St. Paul’s day. Nevertheless, we are witnessing the same dynamics at work: people of strong convictions on both sides of serious issues alienating each other, and setting up walls of division between themselves for the sake of preeminence in the church. Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten that “Christ is our peace”; and that in his flesh he has made us one Body, by breaking down dividing walls and abolishing all of our hostilities.

I know it is natural at this point to object to what I am suggesting. After all, if this statement were true (or if it applied to OUR controversies) – i.e., if Christ really has broken down all “dividing walls” and abolished all hostilities through his flesh – then how is it that otherwise sincere Christians still find themselves so divided? Why are there differences of opinion at all? How can it be that the Church of Christ is of two minds on such important matters? I believe the answer can be boiled down to a simple distinction: The difference between “being” and “knowing;” i.e., the difference between “what we are” and “our understanding of what we are.”

Now the dirty little secret in academic circles is that philosophers and theologians have known about this distinction for a long time; indeed, they have built whole careers on it! How this distinction applies to the Body of Christ is quite simple: there is a crucial difference between “what we are in Christ” and how we understand and experience “what it means to be in Christ.” Intuitively, we all know this to be true, especially when it comes to our own personal Christian walks. For example: We so fervently believe in Christ’s victory in our lives! And yet… how difficult is it to live that life of victory? As a tenet of our faith we believe that Christ has conquered sin and death, and yet… we continue to struggle with sin and the prospect of death! Each week we drop to our knees in confession, because we believe that God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. But if “knowing” was identical to “being,” we would never have to confess our sins because we would never sin!

Individually, we experience salvation as a process. It is process for us corporately as the Body of Christ as well. Hence, if “knowing” was identical to “being,” it would stand to reason that there would no longer be any differences in the Church. Yet as St. Paul reminds us elsewhere, what we know we know “only in part”: “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:9, 12).

It is when one or more parties in the Church confuse “knowing” with “being” that separation and division in the Body of Christ becomes inevitable. It is only a matter of time.

Most of you know I have not always been an Episcopalian. My original ordination was in the Reformed Episcopal Church, a group that separated 136 years ago from the Episcopal Church because they could no longer tolerate differences of opinion in that denomination. However, 136 years ago the controversies were not over homosexual bishops and same-sex unions, but rather whether or not ministers should wear Eucharistic vestments … and whether candles should be placed on the altar … and whether the altar should even be called an altar (rather than a table) … and whether a priest should be called a priest! These issues seem petty and unimportant to us today; indeed, they are no longer important to the Reformed Episcopal Church! But they were important enough at the time to separate from the main body. Though the issues have changed, the underlying problem for the original Reformed Episcopalians is the same one we face today: the confusion of “knowing” with “being.”

When someone or some group insists that they alone “know” or possess the truth they are, in essence, making a claim to be the embodiment of the truth. Recent events clearly demonstrate this. On the one hand, we have the “ultra-conservatives” (for want of a better term) who have so settled the issues in their minds that no amount of potential new evidence, scientific research, or even careful consideration of and attention to pastoral needs could ever dislodge their conviction that not only do they KNOW the truth but that they themselves ARE the truth – that is, that their separate existence apart from the rest of the Anglican world embodies “true Anglicanism.”

On the other hand, what is becoming ever so clear to the rest of the Anglican Communion is that the “elites” and “social activists” in our Church are confusing American-style democratic processes with the voice and leading of the Holy Spirit, and majority voting procedures with the consensus fidelium (i.e., the consensus of the faithful). As a result, our national church ends up ignoring or belittling the legitimate concerns and consensus of the rest of the Anglican Communion, while insisting that the Anglican Communion should accept us on our terms (always under the veiled threat of withdrawing our financial support).

That’s why I’m thankful to part of the Diocese of Texas, and indeed, your priest. You may not always feel like it (and I sometimes might be negligent in telling you), but you are a gift to this diocese; and the diocese as a whole is a gift to The Episcopal Church. Why? Because, as Carol Barnwell (communication director for the diocese) recently expressed it, “We [as a diocese] are called to stand in the gap and that has not and will not change.” As your priest I am here today to remind you that this parish in particular is called to “stand in the gap” as well. I’m not telling you anything you do not already know from your own experience. We live this calling every day. We are keenly aware of the costs and the struggle. It will always be a part of our DNA.

So what does it mean to stand in the gap?

Standing in the gap means guarding and protecting that which has been received by the Church and remaining faithful to our Anglican heritage and consensus. But it also means remaining open to the guidance and prompting of the Holy Spirit, and thus perhaps to the possibility (if only hypothetical) of the emergence of a new consensus on issues that, at present, are controversial.

Standing in the gap means understanding the difference between “knowing” and “being.” It means that if we would ever hope to know the fullness of Christ we must first live into the truth that we – ALL OF THE BAPTIZED (even those with whom we disagree) – are the Body of Christ.

Standing in the gap means standing precisely where others will want to build walls of separation, walls of hostility and division, walls that Christ through his flesh tore down, and refusing to step aside or out of the way.

Standing in the gap means being called to offer ourselves as a bridge of reconciliation to those, on both sides, who cannot see beyond their own prejudices to appreciate the gifts that others of different opinions might bring to the table.

Monday, June 08, 2009

God Speed Jeffrey!

Fr. Jeffrey Steel of De Cura Animarum has recently announced that he is swimming the Tiber. By last count that makes eight of my former students who have gone either to Rome or Orthodoxy. Jeff is a man of deep conviction and theological reflection, so I am confident that his conversion is the logical and necessary next step in his pilgrimage. Anglicanism's loss is Rome's gain, for Jeff is a gifted thinker. But alas, as Jeff knows firsthand, there is no greater struggle than to live in inconsistency. And for this next step, I rejoice with him and support him.

I wish him and his family all the best in this next chapter of their lives. They will be in my prayers while they relocate to London, seek employment, schools, etc.

Read about Jeff's conversion HERE.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Science vs. Norse Mythology

See The Pain.

Warning: language may be offensive to more sensitive audiences.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Evolution and Incarnation

The following excerpt was taken from an article by Roland over at his blog Two Natures. I found it insightful.

Evolution and the Incarnation

In a stereotypical creationist-vs.-atheist debate, I have no one to root for. Both sides have already lost me before the debate even begins. Once the debate is joined, it looks like they disagree on every single point, and that is how they are usually perceived. To me, however, it seems that they agree with each other on the central premise that underlies the debate: in the provocative form attributed to Richard Dawkins, "If Darwin's cosmology was right, then theology is senseless babble." And creationists like Phillip Johnson accept the premise and join the debate on those terms. This all-or-nothing proposition, for those who accept it, validates both the conflict and the energy they expend on it.

When combatants on both sides find a rare proposition they can agree on, one is tempted to let it pass without further examination. But this premise is both illogical and heretical. It assumes that God's only purpose is to serve as a causal explanation of phenomena in the physical universe, and that if a completely natural explanation can be found for every phenomenon then we can dispense with God as redundant and dismiss the supernatural entirely. This argument might be compatible with a Deistic "God of the gaps," but it cannot be reconciled with the God of orthodox Christianity. We believe that Jesus was both fully divine and fully human – that these two natures dwelt in him without contradiction. From this orthodox Christian understanding of the Incarnation, it follows that the supernatural is not excluded by the natural; rather, the supernatural manifests itself in and through the natural. Therefore, even if science were somehow to demonstrate the truth of an entirely materialistic explanation of the universe, it could not exclude the existence or activity of God.

Therefore, from an orthodox Christian point of view, a debate premised on the mutual exclusivity of the natural and the supernatural is flawed from the outset.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Meaning of "Liturgy"

The term "liturgy" means different things depending on context. Considered as a field of scholarly inquiry, "liturgy" refers to worship in general. A liturgiologist is someone who studies how various religious traditions order their public acts of worship. In this general sense, Baptists are just as "liturgical" as Roman Catholics.

However, in the churches of the catholic tradition (I obviously include Anglicanism in this mix), "liturgy" and "liturgical" take on very definite and specific meanings that are not really applicable to the "free churches" of the Protestant evangelical tradition (e.g. Baptists). In this case the distinction between "liturgical" and "non-liturgical" is valid, and indeed this is what most people instinctively mean when they employ these terms.

Probably some of the best theological material on what the catholic tradition means by "liturgical celebration" is to found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Considered abstractly, "liturgy" refers to the Church's celebration of the Paschal Mystery of Christ, preeminently in the sacraments. Indeed, the catholic tradition holds that the greatest sacrament of all is the "Church at prayer." In this sense, liturgy is the action of the Body of Christ with Christ as its head. The Church is "liturgical" in that it orders or sanctifies (i.e. "sets apart as holy") time, space, and material things for the service of adoration of the Triune God. Liturgy is thus practically synonymous with "Sacramental Economy." More concretely, "a liturgy" or "the liturgy" (with either article) refers to the specific formulaic or normative forms, standards, or conventions of any particular worshiping community at any point in its history (e.g. the 1979 BCP).

Although the Paschal Mystery is rooted in the historical events of Christ's life-death-resurrection-ascension, the Church nonetheless believes that the Paschal Mystery transcends historical event and is "made present" in all times through the Church's liturgical life. Hence, the Church itself transcends history, events, and times. Churches of a "liturgical mindset" thus see themselves as the continuation of the original "apostolic community," historically manifested in apostolic succession (sacramentally in its holy orders), and thus in continuity with apostolic churches of all ages. This continuity is not something to which our evangelical friends can easily lay claim, even though they also participate in such things as baptism and the Lord's Supper.

One example may suffice in demonstrating the difference between the "liturgical" and "non-liturgical" mindsets. Many evangelicals recognize and celebrate Christmas and Easter just as those churches in the catholic tradition do. However, the non-liturgical mindset views these "holidays" as mere annual observances or commemorations on par with other annual observances such as Memorial Day, Thanksgiving or Labor Day. This is not to deny that evangelicals recognize Christmas and Easter as being more important than other annual observances. Indeed, most evangelicals certainly recognize the distinctly Christian nature of Christmas and Easter as opposed to secular holidays. But the difference between, say, Christmas and President's Day (considered as annual observances), is really one of degree of importance and significance, rather than a difference of kind.

In the "liturgical mindset," Christmas and Easter are the two annual cycles around which whole of the Church Year is ordered. In and through these cycles the Church celebrates and relives the various "epochs" of the Paschal Mystery, which epochs are thus "made present" to us sacramentally. This cannot be said of Presidents Day or Memorial Day. So the difference is one of kind not of degree.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Letter to Jason Loh (Augustinian Successor)

If you can't at least be civil (let alone act like a Christian), then I'd appreciate if you wouldn't visit my blog. Don't worry, I won't waste my time visiting yours either.

Don't bother writing back. I really don't care to communicate with you ever again.

Have a good life.

Posted for the purpose of exposing a nuisance blogger.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Answering Todd's Question

A continuation of the discussion that started over my letter of disaffiliation with the AAC...

Todd Granger writes:

"Simply put, no, I don't think that you've declared yourselves out of communion with the folks in the American Anglican Council. But by means of this letter - and your posting it publicly - you have differentiated yourselves from the American Anglican Council in a way that at least seems asymmetrical in terms of differentiating yourselves from the unfaithful direction of The Episcopal Church."

Okay, Todd, I think I know where you're coming from. My asking you the follow up questions was just my way of making sure you weren't suggesting some kind of Yin-Yang approach on my part was necessary to balance out the forces of good and evil...like, say, if I disaffiliated from something on the conservative side of the spectrum then I must act in a reciprocal fashion against the liberal side to keep things in balance.

Feel free to correct me where I may be misreading you. You seem to understand that it was necessary for my parish to disaffiliate from the AAC. Yet, nonetheless, you think that posting the letter publicly was a bad idea because (I presume) you think such a letter might potentially cause a rift between conservatives who should be working together. I think I also detect in your "asymmetrical" language a hint of skepticism on your part that I take the problems in TEC seriously enough, or perhaps you perceive a measure of apathy on my part to the obvious misdirections of TEC.

Well, sure, I'll concede that I'm not as venomous or knee-jerk reactive towards revisionism as are the folks over at Stand Firm (nor do I have as much time to blog as they have). But that doesn't mean I'm apathetic or that I'm only too willing to turn a blind-eye to obvious heresy. On the contrary, I am a firm supporter of the Covenant Process as the way forward for the Anglican Communion and for TEC. But this requires patience on the part of those willing to see the process through, and I suspect that this patience is what is being misunderstood by you and others as tolerance for evil.

Moreover, as a supporter of the Windsor Process I view the federalist approach of the GAFCON/FOCA/ANCA crowd not only as counterproductive to the process, but also as potentially destructive of the Anglican Communion. In fact, I view GAFCON federalism as more of a threat to the fabric of the Communion than any other challenge facing the Communion at present, including TEC's innovations. (I suspect that this is where you'll demur, but demur if you must.)

To my way of thinking, the GAFCON crowd has "disaffiliated" from the Windsor Process. In so doing, GAFCON has essentially forsaken the Communion itself. Thus any pretense of there being two parallel strategies working together towards the same ultimate goal -- one "inside" and one "outside" -- is, IMO, a total farce; and I have precious little time, and precious little patience, to pretend otherwise. So while I don't necessarily see myself as "out of communion" with the federalists, I certainly don't see myself working together with them either.

So, yes, if you detect that some of my greatest criticisms are directed towards fellow conservatives, then I take this as a fair assessment. However, I don't view this as indicative of a fundamental "asymmetry" in my approach. Indeed, it is perfectly consistent with everything I've said up to this point.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Answering Fr. Jeffrey's Questions

Despite the fact that I posted it almost two months ago, my last entry - "My Parish's Disaffilication with the ACC" - generated quite a lot of discussion of late. I thought I might see if we could continue the discussion in a new thread. My friend and former student, Fr. Jeffrey Steel, SSC entered the dialogue rather late in the game, and he has seen fit to take his old teacher to task. What follows are the questions he asked in his last response:

"Has heresy only become for you anything that is substantially denied in the Creeds?"

No, and I'm not certain where you got this idea. Certainly not from anything I have said on this blog or anywhere else. But note the distinction that I made in my last response to you between heresy and apostasy. In light of that distinction, perhaps a better question to have asked me is whether I think it possible for a church to be tolerant of heresy or even be formally in error at certain points of its teaching and STILL be regarded a true church. I think the self-evident Anglican answer to that question is: YES. This is essentially how Anglicans, since John Jewel and Richard Hooker, have regarded the Church of Rome, and in recent times, how those who deny the ordination of women somehow manage to remain in the Church of England.

"What sort of theological criteria do you use to define something as heretical?"

My theological criteria are very much like yours, I'm sure. My first appeal is to the consensus fidelium. This has been my approach for years, and is what I taught you in the classroom. In one of his responses to my earlier entry, Andy B. went so far as to issue a call for me to return to my "roots." Ironically, I've never left them.

"How far do the goal posts need to be moved before one is on another pitch?"

This is where that heresy/apostasy distinction comes in. I have stated on many occasions that something along the lines of a formal denial of the Trinity would indicate an irreversible departure from the faith and an indication that TEC was no longer a Christian church. It may not be an answer that satisfies you or Andy B., but it is an answer, and it's logically consistent with everything I have ever said on the matter.

But here's the rub: I at least have given an answer with a theological rationale. Apart from hearing the rhetoric that TEC has finally "gone too far," where are the goal posts for those who have or are anticipating leaving TEC?

Is apostasy merely a matter of how much heresy one is willing to tolerate before it becomes unbearable? Is TEC apostate because it has a gay bishop? Or because those who have left over Bishop Robinson simply cannot live in a church that has a gay bishop? Is TEC apostate because some heretical elements have gone so far as to endorse and/or authorize blessings of same sex relationships? Or is it that some simply cannot live in a church that is tolerant of those who endorse and/or authorize such blessings?

And when did/will the Church of England fall into apostasy? Over women priests? Over women bishops? Over gay priests/bishops? Over the official policy of the CoE that turns a blind eye to homosexual lay people who live in committed relationships? Over priests who undergo surgery for a sex-change? Over priests and bishops who are allowed under law to enter into "celibate" same sex unions? When? Where are your goal posts, Jeff?


NOTE TO READERS: Be sure to visit Father Jeffrey's excellent blog De Cura animarum.

Monday, February 16, 2009

My Parish's Disafiliation with the American Anglican Council

The Rt. Rev. David Anderson, President and CEO
C/o The American Anglican Council
2296 Henderson Mill Road NE
Suite 406
Atlanta, Georgia 30345-2739

Dear David,

This letter is to inform you that, after prayerful consideration, the vestry of The Episcopal Church of the -------- at its regularly scheduled meeting on February 16, 2009 voted unanimously to disaffiliate with the American Anglican Council (AAC).

Over the years, -------- parish has valued its longstanding affiliation with the AAC, as a support to its own commitment to orthodox faith and practice in The Episcopal Church and The Anglican Communion. However, certain recent actions and events have caused us to reconsider this relationship, particularly your organization’s collaboration in parish and diocesan realignment efforts, inevitably leading to the formation of the self-styled “Anglican Church in North America,” of which your organization is listed as a “founding entity.”

These efforts demonstrate that the AAC has moved substantially beyond the purposes of its original mission, and thus is no longer able to be an advocate for, or represent the interests of, parishes that are committed to remaining in The Episcopal Church and The Anglican Communion, such as --------.

We respectfully request the AAC to remove The Episcopal Church of the -------- from its list of affiliated parishes.

Sincerely yours,

The Acting Rector

Note: The names have been removed to preserve my loosely-guarded anonymity. Some of my readers might recall that a nuisance attack some months ago caused me to go semi-anonymous on this blog. It's also one of the reasons I haven't been very active of late.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

N. Michigan Set to Elect a "Christian-Buddhist" as Bishop

Over at Stand Rigid, they are reporting that Northern Michigan's only nominee for Diocesan Bishop, the Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester, has actually received "Buddhist lay ordination." Of course, one can always count on Stand Rigid to add its own knee-jerk reaction to any news story, and Greg Griffith's commentary in this case is no exception. But I thought the following comment left by "A Senior Priest" to be most intriguing. I guess I'll file this away in the "For What It's Worth" folder.

Despite the unfortunate choice of words of the late bishop, I’d reserve judgement on this one (apart from the likelihood that Mr Forrester is a theological revisionist). At present the Roman Catholic Church has several respected priests who are not only clergymen but also hold legitimate ‘inka’ or the status, not of mere lay vows, as Mr Forrester has, but fully ordained Zen Masters (Roshi)! As well, there are several nuns and priests who old the rank of ‘Sensei’, or ‘teacher’, just short of full Inka. And this is with the permission of the hierarchy. No doubt you all remember, as well, that Fr. Bede Griffiths (Benedictine Camaldolese) founded Shantivanam, a RC Ashram in India which is a part of the Benedictine Camaldolese Order. Also, you all remember Pere Henri Le Saux, who became, with the explicit blessing of the Roman hierarchy, a Christian renunciate in the Indian tradition by the name of Abhishiktananda, and who wrote several notable books on the intersection of Christian and Hindu spirituality. While I depore the facile and stomach-churning shallowness of most TEC syncretic ‘interfaith’ rubbish, there is, dear friends, an authentic meeting which monastics of all religions experience, as Thomas Merton pointed out very forcefully in his Asian Journals.