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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Has Something Changed Along the Way ?– Part 2

One year ago I put up a posting titled, Has Something Changed Along the Way? which attempted to show that Dr. James Simons, onetime President of the TEC Diocese Standing Committee, had changed his position on property issues.Read it here

Apparently there have been changes in diocesan standards concerning the clergy as well. The policies of the TEC diocese, which considers itself to be the true continuing diocese, have apparently evolved in the area of church discipline. In March 2008 I was asked to take a three month leave of absence for using “inappropriate language” with a parishioner. Then diocesan spokesman Peter Frank was quoted as saying, “The diocese upholds a very high standard of behavior for its ministers. While the behavior involved inappropriate language, it technically falls within a policy that demands zero tolerance”. Read it here

Recently I was told that: “There are three openly partnered gay or lesbian priests licensed and functioning in the TEC Diocese, there is a priest licensed and functioning who has been divorced at least twice perhaps three times and married three times perhaps even four times and a heterosexual priest living with a woman to whom he is not married also licensed and functioning.Obviously the once “very high standard of behavior for its ministers” appears to have been relaxed.How could it happen, Virginia? -- especially with clergy who are committed to high moral standards and are committed to the reformation of the Episcopal Church! In January 2008 twelve priests, “including the president of the diocese's clergy association and its longest-tenured rector, mailed a signed, one-paragraph letter yesterday to the diocese's 66 churches saying that while they supported the "reformation of the Episcopal Church we have determined to remain within, and not realign out of" it.In addition, “the group does not support ordination of openly gay clergy or conducting same-sex blessings, the so-called "innovations" at the forefront of denominational disputes since 2003. However, members said they do not believe it is necessary to leave the Episcopal Church, the American arm of the worldwide Anglican Communion, to make that point”. Read it here

Given their stated and upfront convictions in 2008, there must be a mistake? Surely these folks will have opposed these so-called “innovations" that have allegedly crept in to the TEC Diocese. After all we aren’t talking about back benchers here. We are talking the Canon to the Ordinary, the Canon for Formation, the Secretary of Convention, the Priest Developer of Cranberry Township and two former, one current and one future President of the Standing Committee. Wowser! It doesn’t appear that way!

Perhaps my expectations are just too unrealistic. When the PeeBee, Katherine Jeffords Schori, visited Pittsburgh this past April not one of these 12 “conservative clergy” spoke up about the most pressing issue facing the Diocese, ---“She wasn't asked about legal or property issues, and didn't comment on them.” Read it here (1st comment).

Why do I write this? I write because I don’t want those of us in the ACNA Diocese of Pittsburgh to be naive. If we think our former mates over in TEC will somehow ally themselves with us or support our position and stand up on principle to the powers within the TEC diocese or the national church based on past affections or past convictions, we are sorely mistaken. Reconciliation and/or settlement with TEC has always meant capitulation to their position --- nothing more and nothing less.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summer at St. David's

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Dust off the sun and moon and sing a song of cheer

For all you youngsters out there, this is the chorus of a Nat King Cole hit from the summer of 1963 that peaked at # 6 on the Billboard charts and in some measure it sums up our thoughts about the season. In the summer Church is in somewhat of a fallow mode as our programmatic emphasis takes a hiatus, the pre-school is out of session and many of the staff and others take a well deserved vacation.

However, church life doesn’t come to a complete halt. This summer season has seen a Healing Mission led by the Rev. Canon Dr. Mark Pearson on June 26 in which many were blessed by Mark’s preaching and prayer ministry. And over 20 including vestry members, staff and their spouses and children attended a vestry/staff fellowship hosted by Terra and Eric Elsberry on July 18.

Vacation Bible School begins next week at St David’s; August 1-5 from 9:30 AM to 12 noon. Our theme is the 10/40 Expedition and we will explore the least evangelized regions of Asia (China), South Asia (India), Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia (Vietnam etc.). We have well over 50 children pre-registered already and much help on board.

Kathi Marks and I will be attending the A4D Grand Ultreya at St Stephen’s Church on Friday and Saturday August 5-6. This is the national gathering of the leadership of the Anglican 4th Day movements in the dioceses of the Anglican Church in North America. This is the ministry formerly known as Cursillo.

On Saturday August 20th we gather at St. David’s for the ordination of Rege Turocy to the vocational diaconate. Rege will be the first deacon in the Diocese of Pittsburgh ordained under the new ACNA ordinal! And a great day that will be as we celebrate this monumental event in Rege’s life and in our life together as a parish. A reception in the parish hall will follow the service. You will be hearing more in the days to come about how you can help with this celebration. I hope we have a massive turn-out.

Finally Rally Sunday when we kick off the new Church year will occur September 11. Pastor Pierre of LaCroix Haiti will preach that Sunday as well. Our Wednesday morning Bible Study resumes on September 7, our Wednesday evening potluck and teachings will resume September 14, and Sunday morning Adult Education starts up on September 18. Keep watch for more details on these happenings in the next Chronicle and through email, the website and the Almanac.

Roll up those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer
Roll up those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Open the Bible and notebook and sing a hymn that's dear

The Late, Great, Rev Dr John R W Stott

John Stott died yesterday at age 90 at a retirement home for Anglican clergy in the southeast of England. I always thought of Dr. Stott and the Rev. Dr. J.I. Packer as the two greatest Anglican bible scholars of my generation and the two "patron saints" of Trinity School for Ministry, the seminary which trained me for the ordained ministry.

Before ordination however three of Dr. Stott's book really helped form me theologically: The first book of his I read was "Our Guilty Silence" an apologetic for evangelism. The image of a "rabbit-hole Christian" still is fresh in my mind -- we as Christians scurry from one Christian enclave to another like frightened rabbits fearful to engage the world around us. Second, I grasped the meaning of grace when I read "Man Made New: an exposition of Romans 5-8". Third, I read the "Cross of Christ". That book and "Knowing God" by J.I. Packer really are the two books that shaped my thinking more than any others. I heard John Stott preach twice and met him once when he visited Trinity in the mid 1990s as a Simeon Lecturer.

What is amazing is how he influenced Anglican evangelicalism and has been instrumental in making it a worldwide force. In my mind the ACNA owes John Stott a great debt of gratitude for it would not have been even conceived without him and his work.

Stott's influence however did not end with evangelical Anglicanism. He was widely respected by all Protestants: Reformed, Charismatic, Pentecostal, and Wesleyan and Lutheran, as well as the Orthodox, Anglo-Catholics and even many Roman Catholics. He was truly a Christian statesman. I would rank him with Billy Graham, Pope John Paul II, and Mother Theresa as the greatest ambassadors for Christ in the 20th century.

A wonderful obit from Christianity Today on Dr. Stott is here.

Very moving tributes from the vicars that succeeded him at his parish, All Souls Langham Place London UK are here.

"Thinking Anglicans" has some additional obits and tributes from England, including the Abp of Canterbury, Rowen Williams here.

And a moving tribute by the Langham Partnership is here

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

13 Statements and Questions to Drive Your Pastor into Early Retirement

Well known Anglican blogger, the Rev Matt Kennedy, posted these 13 thought-provoking questions over at the Stand Firm in the Faith (SFIF) blog. What do you think?

1. A lot of people are really upset with you because of your position on_____but I won't tell you how many or who.

2. I know what the bible says I should do about this dilemma but I've been praying about it and I feel like the Spirit is telling me...

3. I have a child-like faith so I don't like to think too much about serious stuff like theology

4. Our former pastor always did it this way...

5. Strictly in confidence and just for prayer I've heard [enter name] is struggling with [enter scandalous sin issue]

6. I feel closer to God in the forest than I do in church.

7. Don't worry pastor, we'll be here every Sunday that Junior doesn't have soccer practice or a game.

8. I don't have just one church. I belong to every church and every Sunday morning I go wherever the Spirit leads me

9. Why are we spending so much money on missionaries in other countries when we could be spending that money here?

10. Can't you tell that new family from the Baptist church to bow when the cross passes by ?

11. In so many words: "I give a huge pledge to this church. It sure would be a shame if you gave me a reason to reduce it."

12. Where did all these new people come from? I want my old church back.

13. We want you concentrating on getting old lapsed members back not running around after people who've never even been to church.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

St Paul's Kittanning - Now and Then

I was up in Kittanning this week to do some work on a house I own there which I am desperate to sell. Nevertheless while crossing the bridge over the Allegheny River from West Kittanning I noticed my former parish St Paul's looked different and lo and behold -- it is. So I snapped a pic with my handy, dandy cellphone camera. The stone is being cleaned of the all the grime, soot and dirt probably in anticipation of celebrating the 100th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone in 1912. As you can see so vividly in the two pics now and then.

I also saw on the signboard that they now conduct only one Sunday Service at 9:30 AM. While I was rector, St Paul's had an 8AM Rite I, a 10:30 AM Rite II and a Sat Night Rite III. Another example of now and then.

The membership, attendance and income really dipped after I left, but it looks like attendance is rebounding a bit. Click here Again, another example of now and then.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Big Ben, fiancee to tie the knot at Christ Church, Grove Farm

Roethlisberger, fiancee find acceptance at Christ Church

It is not uncommon to see Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and fiancee Ashley Harlan stay after Sunday service at Christ Church at Grove Farm in Ohio Township, mingling with parishioners where the couple will marry this weekend, a pastor at the church said.

"Ben and Ashley have been very consistent and genuine in their worship," the Rev. Bruce Cote, senior associate pastor and interim lead pastor, said Sunday. "I often see them talking with other people before and after services."

The couple joined the church about a year ago. After they did, a letter was sent to parishioners asking them to treat Roethlisberger like any other member. Cote said it is hard to know what Roethlisberger goes through, being such a popular sports figure, but added he and Harlan have embraced the church community.

Read it all

UPDATED 7/22: The Battle over Homosexuality: Gays vs Ex-gays

It's amazing how intolerant some groups can be in the name of tolerance in order to force an idea on us all. I have personally known five ex-gays or ex-lesbians who are among the most tolerant and loving people, I have ever had the privilege to know and they are vilified even within the church. Go figure?

There has been a brouhaha over Republican Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann's husband, who runs a Christian counseling ministry.

July 14, 2011 ( - Why have gay activists instigated media attention over ex-gays and the husband of Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann?

Apparently, Mr. Bachmann, who has a PhD in clinical psychology, operates several counseling centers which also offer services to homosexual clients seeking to overcome unwanted same-sex attractions. But because even one ex-gay proves that homosexual behavior is not innate or immutable, the gay lobby’s fear of their former members results in false claims and attacks aimed at preventing homosexuals from exercising their right to self-determination. They cannot bear to have even one homosexual leave homosexuality, hence their outrage at Dr. Bachmann.

Read it all

The liberal blog "The Lead" over at Episcopal Cafe has of course weighed in against the Bachmanns. Click here for their spin.

To show how far this can go: there is a report that the Scottish government has banned government officials from using the word "homosexual". The directive from the Scottish version of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth states: ‘It is not acceptable to use the word ‘homosexual’, this term is offensive to many people as it is the term that was used in law to make same sex relationships illegal.” Click here for full story

UPDATED 7/22/11 click here

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI)

My good friend Deacon Tara Jernigan has posted on her blog, Free Range Anglican, a whimsical piece on Myers- Briggs personality types and running her household titled Myers Briggs and Marriage. In that vein, above is a chart of logos and pithy slogans about each personality type --- you can even buy a tee shirt of your type.

I have always enjoyed taking the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and seeing how I have changed over time. The first time my wife Gale and I took the Indicator some twenty-five years ago I came out as an ENFP and she as an ISFJ -- so we were (are) almost total opposites, giving truth to the axiom that “opposites attract”. Each time I’ve subsequently taken the MBTI I have moved toward the Introversion side of the axis. On the other hand Gale claims that Christian culture is one of forced Extroversion – introverts are forced out of their “shells” so to speak. They are not allowed to stay introverts unless they want to be counter cultural and risk being stigmatized by the prevailing cultural norm.

Back in the day when I began the ordination process we were required to take the MBTI. We went away on an overnight retreat in Greensburg. The Rev. Karen Stevenson, then a lay person, did a teaching on personality types and then we each discussed our personality type in a small group. I remember we had this wag in our group who explained that it wasn’t so much his” T-ness” that defined him but his “P-ness”. It's hard to understand, but for some unknown reason he washed out early in the ordination process. Unfortunately, I never worked in a setting where we’ve used the Indicator to help the staff understand each other.

A few weeks back the Rev Canon Dr. Mark Pearson visited our parish for a healing mission. I bought his book on Myers-Briggs personality types from the perspective of the Christian faith, “Why Can't I Be Me?: Understanding How Personality Type Affects Emotional Healing, Relationships, and Spiritual Growth” I hope to read it soon.

If you would like to take the MBTI, you can do so online, click here

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Is the Anglican Church in North America Being Pruned or Purged?”:

Hat-tip to Steve Wood for this.

Our guest blogger today is The Rt. Rev’d David Bena. David serves as Suffragan Bishop, Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). He writes on the topic, “Is the Anglican Church in North America Being Pruned or Purged?”:

Rev Steve Wood, rector of St Andrew's Church (ACNA) Mt. Pleasant SC and author of the Treading Grain blog

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ

Although I’ve never met you all, I have been following your pilgrimage for some time. I am duly impressed with your stand for the truth of Jesus and the implications of such belief. Your stand has cost you, but you are standing under the banner of The Way, The Truth, and The Life (John 14:1-6), and that makes all the difference in the world and in heaven.

All over the land, congregations are evaluating what it means for their parishioners to be Anglican Christians. We find ourselves in a time when most institutions are experienced a great cultural shift. In the USA, many senior leaders in the Episcopal Church seem to have given in to an anything goes culture, widening the Episcopal tent so far that all doctrine is now up for grabs, and sexual ethics is gone except for the immeasurable ethic of “what is authentic is what is good.” This widening divide has caused many of us to say that we can continue no longer in a denomination whose leaders (many but not all) have ceased to be Anglican and have moved the Episcopal Church away from its biblical moorings. This has been difficult for us – spiritually, emotionally, occupationally, and financially. But we know in our hearts that the more difficult road is the road which leads to our ultimate destination and the easy road leads to perdition. Thank you for choosing the more difficult road.

Which leads to that wonderful passage in John 15:1-8: Jesus said, “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” These words are not from a milk toast, mealy mouthed Jesus. They are a reality check for us. While some scholars would claim that Jesus never said those words, I would counter by saying that these same scholars seem to claim that all hard sayings can’t possibly have come from Jesus. Guess what: Jesus said it and I believe it! Now what do I do with it?

Is the new Anglican Church in North America being purged, cut off, because it bears no fruit, or is it being pruned so that it will bear even more fruit? In all humility, I have to say that we are being pruned. While some religious groups may be experiencing the first stages of being cut off due to the lack of fruit their biblical apostasy brings, we in ACNA are staying closely connected to and nourished by the VINE. In the process, we are experiencing some pruning in order to allow for more of a rich harvest. Some of us have given up properties and positions; some of us have had to endure ridicule from friends, neighbors, and those who prefer the status quo; some of us have even had to deal with family members who can’t handle our stand for biblical truth. That, my friends, is called pruning. Although pru seems painful at the time, it makes us stronger. The pruning equips us to become stronger disciples for Jesus Christ, to be disciples who make disciples of Jesus.

We are bearing fruit! The ACNA is growing in parishes and members, but especially in joy. We have experienced a new sense of freedom, maybe similar to that which the Israelites experienced after leaving the slavery of Egypt. And it is wonderful!

Feeling pruned lately? Give praise to God. You are being prepared for a great harvest.

Link here

Monday, July 4, 2011

Freedom in Christ Retreat July 15-17: Healing the Father-Wound

Two old sayings are: “there’s nothing new under the sun and what goes around; comes around” or in the immortal words of baseball philosopher Yogi Berra, “it’s like déjà vu all over again.” Well, in my case yes it truly is!

The Lazarus Center has recruited me to serve as spiritual director on an upcoming Freedom in Christ Retreat (FIC) from July 15-17 at LaRouche College in the North Hills of Pittsburgh and it has been like déjà vu. Much of the leadership of the weekend is drawn from Church of the Savior (COTS), old friends from a previous time in my life but there is also a good mix of new folks from other churches and denominations. The founding vision for the Lazarus Center was to be a transdenominational ministry – reaching across the Christian Church with the healing power of Jesus Christ, body, soul and spirit and so it is. You can call 724.266.7576 for a retreat application.

I am delivering a talk titled "God, Can we Trust Him?" which deals with our relationship with God the Father and how our images, our perceptions and our understandings of Him are often colored by our relationship with our earthly fathers. We experience a father-wound. This revelation, which I share in my talk, is based largely on the work of Christian author and speaker, Gordon Dalbey. You can read his bio here. Two excellent articles by Gordon are here and here.

Please pray for this retreat and my part in it. Thanks.

Joey Chestnut Wins Fifth Mustard Belt in a Row: Inhales 62 Hot Dogs in 10 Minutes. Former Champ Kobayashi is a no-show at Coney Island Event

NEW YORK -- Joey Chestnut hoisted the Mustard Belt for the fifth straight time Monday while chants of "Joey, Joey" ascended from the crowd and Chestnut reigned once again as Nathan's International Hot Dog Eating Contest champion.

Chestnut downed 62 hot dogs in 10 minutes at the July 4th annual event held at the famous Coney Island in Brooklyn. Patrick Bertoletti, of Chicago, Ill., hung tight early but finished second with 53 hot dogs and hometown eater Timothy "Eater X" Janus, last year's runner-up, was third after consuming 43.

Joey Chestnut got off to a slow start but never trailed en route to winning his fifth straight Nathan's International Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Former six-time champ Takeru Kobayashi, instead of crashing the stage the way he did last year, ate simultaneously at a midtown bar while the contest in Brooklyn aired on ESPN. A Wall Street Journal report said Kobayashi claims he scarfed down 69 dogs. The mark, if recognized, would beat Chestnut's world record of 68 set in 2009. Kobayashi was ineligible to compete because he won't sign an exclusive contract with Major League Eating, the fast-food equivalent of the NFL.

Read it all

‘A Queer Thing Happened to America: And what a long, strange trip it’s been’ by Michael L Brown

Reviewed by Harry Templeton of Anglican Mainstream UK

The Sixties sexual revolution heralded, what for many, was a freedom of spirit from the assumed oppressive constraints of a moral order that had historically formed the very foundation of our society. In its place, we now confront a new tyranny in which freedom of conscience and speech is near bludgeoned to death. Increasingly, political correctness now dominates daily discourse.

Read it all. Click here