Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Religion in American Life

The Pew Forum has released an interesting study on the American religious lifestyle. In particular, the study focuses on why Americans change religious affiliation.

The group that has grown the most in recent years due to religious change is the unaffiliated population. Two-thirds of former Catholics who have become unaffiliated and half of former Protestants who have become unaffiliated say they left their childhood faith because they stopped believing in its teachings, and roughly four-in-ten say they became unaffiliated because they do not believe in God or the teachings of most religions. Additionally, many people who left a religion to become unaffiliated say they did so in part because they think of religious people as hypocritical or judgmental, because religious organizations focus too much on rules or because religious leaders are too focused on power and money. Far fewer say they became unaffiliated because they believe that modern science proves that religion is just superstition...

I think that ticked off Anglicans in the US who are about to form a schismatic quasi-church would do well to digest the information in this report. In light of recent comments from the Rt. Rev'd. Bob Duncan, deposed bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh concerning his being a cradle Anglican and the Most Rev'd. Katharine Jefferts Schori being a convert, this study seems very relevant. Listening to Duncan, you can't help but wonder if a lot of this is coming from the breakdown of the good-old-boy structures of leadership in the Episcopal Church.

“I’m a cradle Anglican. My grandfather was a boy chorister. . . My theological views haven’t changed. The problem is that folks who have become the leadership of the Episcopal Church in the United States have pulled the rug out from under me. The person who is our Presiding Bishop, she didn’t begin as an Anglican. I did. She represents something very different. I don’t think I’m a breakaway....

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

And there were giants in the land in those days

Jim Dunaway was a dear friend and mentor. The message was on the answering machine when I got home from Evening Prayer and Beer & Bible tonight. He will not soon be forgotten...

Dr. James C. Dunaway, age 71, of Dayton, departed this life on Monday, April 20, 2009 after a 2 ½ year battle with prostate cancer. Jim was born on August 10, 1937 near Enterprise AL. A son of Herman and Lillie Mae (Crumpler) Dunaway. He was preceded in death by his siblings, Pete, Edsel and Lovie.

He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Carole (Bock) Dunaway; four sons, David (Rebecca), Dr. Daniel (Angela), Matthew (Kirsten), and Dr. Romeo (Lena) Massoud; 11 grandchildren, Spencer, Ike, Drew, Drake, Darick, Dawson, Grace, Katherine, Christian, Vianna, and Safia; and his extended family, Jerry (Jane) Bock, Marilyn (Richard) Bock Woolums and Michael Bock.

He served as pastor in the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church for 50 years. Churches served were Moscow Ohio Charge, Glenwood in Columbus, Somerset, John Wesley in Cincinnati, Christ Church in Kettering, Trinity in Milford, First Church in Van Wert and Centerville Church. He held degrees from Asbury College, METHESCO and United Seminary. Jim loved his family and his churches and was a great friend to all. Jim touched many lives both in and out of the church. He will be greatly missed.

Rest eternal grant him, O Lord. Let light perpetual shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the depart, rest in peace...Amen.

A little laughter

A little laughter from the back bench. A tip of the biretta to Dan Martins for digging up this jewel...Hope you enjoy.

What a Voice

I wish we had stuff like this in America...instead of all the Britney Spears wanna-be types on that other Idol show...

Check it out...

I can't wait to hear more of Susan Boyle. Who would have thought? From church choir to center stage.

Watch it and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Considering the Lilies

I have never thought of these verses from Matthew 6 as being directly part of the resurrection story...not until this morning.

As I walked back to the office from my Tuesday sermon-study group and past our prayer garden at All Saints', I happened upon the Candy Tuft in full bloom. My heart was stirred not only by their beauty but also by the words of our Lord on the placard hovering over the gorgeous white blossoms. My mind went immediately to the words I had just poured over with some of my colleagues....

...While the disciples were telling how they had seen Jesus risen from the dead, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."

I wonder sometimes if we really believe this anymore? In our desire to be as PC and non-offensive as possible is the resurrection something that has now grown out of fashion for us? Has our passion for deconstructing the stories of the Bible and the events of scripture gone so far as to strip them of any real efficacy? Or have they simply become nothing more than moral lessons--our collective nursery rhymes?

Maybe I should consider the lilies and not worry about it so much. After all, Jesus is the one who comes to us. He is the one who breaks down those doors that we have shut for fear. He is the one who speaks peace to us in the midst of our troubles. And maybe, we might see him at dinner or on the road somewhere between here and our own Emmaus.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Video Easter message from Canterbury

This is a must watch video, I hope you'll take a moment to view it...

Easter is here...

This is one of the readings from the Eucharistic lectionary for today...Acts 2:36-41

Peter said to the multitude, "Let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified."

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, "Brothers, what should we do?" Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him." And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added...

We had a full house on Easter Sunday. It was a beautiful morning, the altar guild were fantastic in their decorating of the church for this high holy day. The choir hit a home run. The congregation was excited to be there. It was one of those moments when you knew why you were a christian, and being a christian at that moment felt incredible. A long way from just a couple of days before and the solemnity of Maundy Thursday and stark sadness of Good Friday.

It's moments like this that I am reminded it takes all our human experiences to make us who we are, the good and the bad...life it not perfect, it is not always safe or error proof. And moving from great sadness into great joy-just like the rhythms of Easter-reminds one of the great power of God to be front and center in the human life story...always working for the good...always moving us from Good Friday to Easter morn.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

The shepherd has been struck and the sheep have scatter...the disciples have fled in fear and there is none to mourn at the tomb of Jesus...

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, "Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him." So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, "Here is the man!" When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him." The Jews answered him, "We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God."

Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, "Where are you from?" But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, "Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?" Jesus answered him, "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin." From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, "If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor."

When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge's bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, "Here is your King!" They cried out, "Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!" Pilate asked them, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but the emperor." Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but, 'This man said, I am King of the Jews.'" Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written."

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it." This was to fulfill what the scripture says, "They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots." And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), "I am thirsty." A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, "It is finished." Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, "None of his bones shall be broken." And again another passage of scripture says, "They will look on the one whom they have pierced."

Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Holy Thursday

Having no oil aumbry at All Saints', I have been keeping the sacred chrism in the Tabernacle with the consecrated host...I haven't thought much about this until this afternoon when I discovered an article by Fr John Hunwicke, who is Priest-in-Charge of St Thomas the Martyr, Oxford, and Senior Research Fellow at Pusey House. His article has nothing to do really with why I should or should not continue the practice, but I thought it interesting nonetheless...

In antiquity, the Bishop of Rome used to send a fragment of the Host, each Sunday, to each of the presbyters of the Roman title churches as a sign of his Communio with them ... and of his own Eucharistic presidency. It was commingled with the chalice at the Fraction; the origin, in fact, of the Commixture which has bravely survived Bugnini and still exists even in the Ordinary Form.

A little while ago, Bishop Andrew reminded us that it is not good enough just to have any old validly consecrated Chrism around; the Chrism in fact functions now as a expression and diagnostic of Communio. The C of E never has had proper incardination; the Tudor Establishment preserved the old medieval bureaucratic legalities (Gregory Dix liked to point out that the Church of England is riddled with more unreformed medievalisms than any other body in Christendom). But whose oils one uses in the radically liminal rites of Initiation shows which Bishop one is a presbyter of.

Sometimes our Traditionalist English bishops refer to their clergy as "Clergy who look to me". Perhaps a crisper, more theological, more sacramental, formula would be "Clergy who receive my Chrism".

I think it's a good point. 'Whose Chrism' is so much better an indication of a presbyter's ecclesial location than legal pieces of paper like licences. Chrism, after all, is not about lawyers but about the sacramental structure of Christ's Church.

On Tuesday past, Priests from all over the diocese received chrism from Bishop Breidenthal to take back to the parishes and missions...Just got me thinking on this Holy Thursday when we talk about being connect in the Eucharistic feast...

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Holy Wednesday

Yesterday clergy and laity from the diocese of Southern Ohio gathered for our annual renewal of vows. This is always an emotional moment for me as I am confronted with promises I made years before. It is also a time for me to reflect on the previous year and ask just how well I am living into those promises. Am I a good priest? Do people hear the good news of Jesus Christ when I preach? Am I living into a more abundant life in Jesus Christ?

I can't always give satisfactory answers to these questions and more and more I rely upon this heartfelt petition to my Lord, Jesus have mercy upon me a poor sinner....

Here are the some words from the eucharistic lectionary for today...

Be pleased, O God, to deliver me; *O LORD, make haste to help me....
But as for me, I am poor and needy; *come to me speedily, O God.
You are my helper and my deliverer; *O LORD, do not tarry....

Monday, April 06, 2009

Language and how we think about things...

A great piece on NPR this morning...how language effects how we think about the world around us...

Boroditsky suggests that the grammar we learn from our parents, whether we realize it or not, affects our sensual experience of the world. Spaniards and Germans can see the same things, wear the same cloths, eat the same foods and use the same machines. But deep down, they are having very different feelings about the world about them.

William Shakespeare may have said (through Juliet's lips): "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," but Boroditsky thinks Shakespeare was wrong. Words, and classifications of words in different languages, do matter, she thinks....

Take time to read the whole article here.

Bishop of Bethlehem PA on Northern Michigan

Bishop Paul Marshall responds to the election in Northern Michigan...

As a Church we are increasingly a laughing-stock. Not because we welcome lesbian and gay people, and carry on social ministries that enact the sacrifice of Christ on a corporate basis, and certainly not because of our latitude and the conversation it engenders. We are a laughing stock because we do not consistently proclaim a solid core, words as simple as "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God," yet "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself."

Increasingly it seems that the Cross has become foolishness in the Church, and our former hallmark teaching of the Incarnation is seldom heard, and less seldom heard to matter. If our embarrassment is going to end, the voices of bishops as clear, traditional, and powerful evangelists need to be raised in the churches and in the market place. Many bishops find a number of techniques that come from the social sciences useful in their ministries, and have significant investment in Eastern meditation -- their qualification to be bishops, however, is as the chief confessors of the creeds and presidents at the sacraments. They are to be unambiguously ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through them...

Read it all here...

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Bishop Breidenthal's response to the Northern Michigan election

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I am writing to inform you of my decision not to consent to the consecration of Kevin Thew Forrester as Bishop of Northern Michigan. I did not want to make a public statement before I shared my concerns with the Standing Committee. I was able to do this at their meeting last Friday, March 27.

Two subjects have arisen as matters of concern in the wider discussion of consent for this Bishop-elect. I want to be clear that these matters have not contributed to my refusal of consent.

First, the internal process which led to Bishop-elect Thew Forrester's election. In my view, it violated no canons, and, although I have questions about it, these have not entered into my decision to withhold consent. Second, some have voiced concern that Bishop-elect Thew Forrester has been recognized by the Zen Buddhist community as one who practices Zen Buddhist meditation in an exemplary fashion and accepts the basic ethical principles of Buddhism. I have no problem with this. Many Christians have deepened their own faith through Buddhist prayer practices, and in my view the moral framework of Buddhism is largely consonant with that of Judaism and Christianity.

But obviously I do have concerns. These concerns lie closer to home. My own reading of Bishop-elect Thew Forrester's sermons over the last year (these sermons were available on the website of his parish church, St. Paul's, Marquette, Michigan, as of March 16, but are no longer posted) reveals an understanding of the Christian narrative that is troubling to me. I have spoken about this with the Bishop-elect on the phone, and he has followed up with e-mails, but I remain troubled.

According to Thew Forrester, Jesus revealed in his own person the way that any of us can be at one with God, if only we can overcome the blindness that prevents us from recognizing our essential unity with God. The problem here is that the death of Jesus as an atonement for our sins is completely absent, and purposely so. As I read Thew Forrester, nothing stands between us and God but our own ignorance of our closeness to God. When our eyes are opened, atonement (not for our sins, but understood as a realization of our essential unity with God) is achieved. Thew Forrester's rejection of salvation understood as an atonement for sins we cannot procure for ourselves is not an idea he is merely exploring. In a very consistent manner, he is developing this idea. In materials he submitted to the House of Bishops earlier this month, he has shared with us his own revision of the Prayer Book rite for Holy Baptism, in which references to salvation are replaced with references to union with God.

Why is Thew Forrester's teaching troubling to me? Because it flies in the face of what I take to be the conviction at the heart of our faith tradition, namely, that we are in bondage to sin and cannot get free without the rescue God has offered us in Jesus, who shouldered our sins on the cross. Our tradition certainly declares God's closeness to us and God's love for us, but insists that this is solely due to God's gracious initiative, made known to us in Jesus. In other words, Jesus in his singular closeness to God is as much a reminder of our alienation from God and from God's ways as he is God's word to us that we are loved despite our collective wrongdoings.

I would not worry about this so much if Thew Forrester were merely speculating about alternative ways of understanding the Christian faith. I would not even worry so much if it were simply a matter of the content of a number of sermons (although I think we should expect to be accountable for what we preach). But, as his revision of the Baptismal rite makes clear, he appears to be settled in his conviction that our relation to Christ is not about salvation from a condition of objective alienation from God, but about a more realized union with God.

Some may say, "So what?" Should the Episcopal Church not allow as much latitude as possible when it comes to theological reflection on the meaning of Jesus in our lives? Yes, of course. We are a church that values a broad range of opinion on practically every subject. Yet our (unrevised) Baptismal liturgy (Book of Common Prayer, beginning at p. 299) is extremely clear about what it means to be a follower of Jesus: we are to turn to him - the same Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified and rose again and continues to invite us into a personal relationship with him - and accept him as Savior. Whatever else we have to say about Jesus follows from that (even though different people may end up saying quite different things).

I cannot emphasize enough that clarity about our relationship to Jesus through our baptism is especially important as we move on from the Lambeth Conference, where the bishops of the Episcopal Church pointed repeatedly to our Baptismal rite as evidence of our commitment to Jesus as Lord.

I write this with a heavy heart. Kevin Thew Forrester served as an assistant in the parish where some years earlier I was ordained a priest and served as an assistant. He has been raised up by a sister diocese in our own Province V, and I know how highly he is regarded there and what a blow it would be to the people of Northern Michigan if he were not to receive the requisite consents to be consecrated. But I also know that the Episcopal Church needs at this crucial juncture in the life of the Anglican Communion to be clear that all our hope is founded in the cross.


+Tom Breidenthal
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio