Friday, September 08, 2017

"Gender" Confusion in Holy Orders

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
-George Santayana

I have tried to abstain from saying much about the fairly new Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). But in light of the news about them at this time, it seems that a few words are in order. Clearly, one cannot tell, despite their name, if they are a church or a confederation of churches. In reality, it is confusing even to many on the inside; actually they are both in certain ways.

The tragedy of their decision regarding Women's Ordination is that they are following on the same road, in the same direction as the Episcopal "Church" from which they claimed independence only eight years ago (although absorbing two other Anglican church bodies that were older, the Reformed Episcopal Church and what used to be called the Anglican Mission in America, later renamed Province de l'Eglise Anglicane au Rwanda in the USA). Once again they have imitated the Episcopal "Church," which years ago had decided that the ordination of women would be accepted, or not, by each local diocese. That is exactly what the ACNA bishops decided to reaffirm for their church just one day ago. 

"September 7, 2017
PREAMBLE In an act of mutual submission at the foundation of the Anglican Church in North America, it was agreed that each Diocese and Jurisdiction has the freedom, responsibility, and authority to study Holy Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition of the Church, and to seek the mind of Christ in determining its own convictions and practices concerning the ordination of women to the diaconate and the priesthood."
Later in the same paragraph they say:
"It was also unanimously agreed that women will not be consecrated as bishops in the Anglican Church in North America."
Such was also the rule of the Episcopal Church until 1988, and of the Church of England until the 1990s. Once the idea of women's ordination is accepted at all, it is arbitrary at best merely to limit it.  So, do not expect this to last.
Then, with telling irony, they declare:
"We agree that there is insufficient scriptural warrant to accept women’s ordination to the priesthood as standard practice throughout the Province. However, we continue to acknowledge that individual dioceses have constitutional authority to ordain women to the priesthood."
Learning from history
A brief history lesson is in order. What the ACNA bishops have reaffirmed is exactly the official position that the Episcopalians took concerning Women's Ordination throughout the late 1970s, into the 1980s and 1990s, before becoming heavy-handed and dictatorial about it when the new century began. Furthermore, this is the position taken by the Episcopalians at their General Convention in 2000 about the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions (they stopped short of saying "Same-Sex Marriage" at that time only for legal reasons. But the meaning was clear enough to anyone who knows that the ministers of Matrimony are the man and the woman. The role of the Church, through the clergy, is only to bless, not to effect, the Union of a married couple). In 2003 they repeated that, but have, since then, become quite solid in their affirmation of Same-Sex marriage. Their most recent General Convention was little more than Satan worship, reveling in heresy, apostasy and immorality in an open manner that was rebellious and brazenly malicious against Almighty God.
Ten years ago, when the ACNA was not yet even a gleam in Bp. Robert Duncan's eye, I wrote the following for this blog:
"The fact is, once the 'ordination' of women was accepted, the movement to bless same sex unions was inevitable. The arguments for Homosexualism are not merely similar to the arguments for women's 'ordination.' Rather, they are the exact same arguments. The blessing of same sex unions, practiced now throughout the heretical but official Canterbury Communion, is performed as a church rite by sincerely lusting couples under the direction of clergypersons of both sexes and all genders, to be as close to the semblance of marriage as the Law of each state, province or nation makes possible. In short, it imitates the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, and does so on the newly understood basis that the sex of a person has no significance in a sacrament. If Shirley and Maggie can be "ordained" they can also be married, and so can Adam and Steve.

"The 'conservatives' among the Anglicans have failed to understand the gravity of logic. It works the same way as this illustration. If I stand at the top of a thirty foot hill with a big round rubber ball, and decide to roll the ball only ten feet down the hill and no farther, like it or not, the ball will roll the entire thirty feet to the bottom before it stops after rolling even farther still. It does not matter that I intended only to roll it ten feet. Once I let go, gravity will take the ball the whole way. This is how a premise works in relation to logic. Once you let go of the ball, that is, once you state or merely accept a premise, the gravity of logic will take over. Perhaps you only meant to let women be priests, but not to let the premise take its own logical course to the final end. However, the premise itself is subject to the gravity of logic, and must keep rolling until you are "blessing" Adam and Steve in the imitation sacrament of Unholy Unmatrimony. Those who want to argue that this was not inevitable have two problems facing them: First, we predicted this would happen, and second, it has.

"So, with all due respect to our conservative and principled Anglican friends who want to keep their priestesses, and make new ones, we cannot surrender the doctrine that the sacrament Holy Orders is, by God's revealed will, reserved to men. Otherwise, we only slow the process down instead of preventing it. We don't need to be ECUSA part II, waiting to happen again."

In light of our plans
I invite the bishops and people of PEARUSA (formerly the AMiA), and those in Forward in Faith North America to consider those of us in the Continuing Church, despite our own obvious failing to stay together in unity in the past. It is not because we are perfect that I ask them to look at us seriously, because, indeed, we have been all too often ignorant of Satan's devices (II Corinthians 2:11). But that history is behind us, very much consigned to a previous time. This newer generation of bishops is working to repair every breach made by some who caused divisions in the early days. The upcoming Provincial Synods being held jointly in Atlanta merely make official what has been reality for years.

Human flaws are everywhere to be found, of course. The problem with false doctrine, however, creates a greater danger than mere human failing. It takes people down a destructive path, and at a pace that they cannot control, no matter how much they may feel in control. As I wrote ten years ago, once the premise is released, it shall go all the way to its inevitable end. Nothing can stop it, because it exists in the realm of ideas, and is committed to each new generation.

Gender Identity Confusion
Is it not obvious that "Gender Identity" is the great new deception of this time, and that its main victims are children and youth? The lie is spread everywhere that contradicts one simple fact: "God made them male and female (Genesis 1:27)." Children are suffering abuse at the hands of adults who actually force this confusion on young minds, incapable of putting up a defense. This can lead to the plastic surgery falsely called a "sex-change" operation, after which a patient becomes twenty times more likely to commit suicide.

The issue of women's ordination is part of the entire struggle, no less than same-sex marriage and "Gender Identity" confusion. It is part of the same overall deception that is harming the future of the whole society, and creating confusion for children and youth about basic human nature. I see it as part of the great spiritual warfare against the powers of darkness. My position may seem radical; but, I fear that nuance is never called for when people are racing to the edge of a cliff, or even merely plodding along at a somewhat slower rate than those who are racing. The destination is the same, and ultimately it is worse than rolling down a hill.

Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

Click here.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Twelfth Sunday after Trinity 2017

II Cor 3:4-9 * Mark 7:31-37
Many years ago, back in the 1970s, some of the notable figures of the Charismatic movement- the popular “neo-Pentecostal” movement that spread across all denominational lines- would address the burning question “why does God not heal everybody?” The truth is, miracles of healing can and do happen every once in a while, but, to be honest, not most of the time. The reverse question that ought to have been obvious, but that no one seemed to ask, was: “Why, considering that ‘all have sinned,’ has God ever healed anybody?”

In popular religious movements it is all too easy for false doctrine to arise. Furthermore, one of the insidious results of false doctrine is to hide true doctrine from view. People become obsessed with the demands of false teaching. In the case of the healing and faith emphasis of popular Charismatic ministers, the concept was introduced that people can receive healing for any and all ailments (as if they could never die) if only they would embrace methods to work their faith up to such a level that all things would be possible on demand. This mistaken notion of faith carried with it no moral implications, and this kind of faith itself was the substitute for all of the virtues. In this whole mess of confusion, the truth that was lost was the Gospel itself. I am not saying that everyone in that movement was guilty of this; however, the right question was not asked. Why has God ever healed anybody?

Indeed, why did Jesus heal this man in this portion of the Gospel of Mark? Why does He give to him ears that hear and a tongue that speaks? Why did the Lord heal people? Why did he show compassion? If He had handed out what was due, he would have slain everybody; “for all have sinned.” But, instead we see His ministry described in the words of St. Peter: “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. (Acts 10:38).” The purpose of the Incarnation includes this fact: He does not deal with us as our sins deserve. If we repent, He forgives us.

Some people misread the Lord’s words: “Thy faith hath made thee whole." All too often, this is presented as if faith worked like some kind of magic charm, or, as if faith becomes the one work that brings salvation. Such an idea would invert the great teaching of St. Paul that faith does for us what our own works cannot do. It is not the one human merit that earns either healing, blessing or salvation, but instead is the doorway by which we may receive God’s gifts.

In today’s Epistle reading we see two curious phrases: “the letter” and “the Spirit.” We learn that the letter, which refers to the Law, kills; but the Spirit, which is the life of Christ given to us in the New Covenant, gives life. The letter, the Law that God gave in the Covenant of Sinai when He revealed His commandments to Israel in the days of Moses, is “holy and just and good," as St. Paul tells us in another Epistle, the one to the Church in Rome. The glorious ministry of the Law is condemnation, and the severity of that condemnation justifies no one. Our Lord is the one who brought this fact out most clearly. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount each of us learns that he has received the sentence of death, utter condemnation- damnation. The parable of the Pharisee and the Publican that we looked at only last week demonstrates the folly of anyone pleading for life by the letter that kills. Only a self-deceived man living in a fantasy of self-inflicted and extraordinary delusion, pleads the Law of God, expecting to be justified by it. The Pharisee deceived himself into believing that he was not a sinner “even like this Publican.”

The glorious ministry of that Old Covenant revelation of the Law is that it slays each of us; it condemns each of us. “All have sinned, and come short of the gory of God.” So, then, why did Jesus go about and do good to sinners? Why did he heal anybody ever? Because the glory of the ministry of the New Covenant is even greater than the glorious ministry of condemnation.  In the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord spoke of the blood that would be shed from his own body as “the blood of the New Covenant which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The disciples understood this from the prophecy of Jeremiah, in which the greater glory of the ministry of the Spirit of life was foretold:

“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” ( Jer. 31:31-34)

Israel looked ahead to the time when this covenant would produce the new man who has the Spirit of God within him writing the commandments of God on his heart. The forgiveness of sins and the promise that each person would know God, was the promise of the new Covenant. 

The promise of forgiveness was demonstrated by the works of Jesus, and supplied only by way of the cross. Not one person that Jesus healed deserved that healing. But by healing Jesus showed that he forgives sins. Every time he healed someone, and every time he spoke the words of forgiveness to a repentant sinner, he knew that it was all due to the pain he would endure as he would pour our his soul unto death, with the nails through his hands and feet, and the thorns piercing his brow. It was not free of charge, for he would pay the price. The burning question “why does God not heal everybody?” can be answered only by saying, in terms of God's perfect will, "but he does"- if only because all who believe in the Son of God, all who eat the Bread of Life, all who live by the Food and Drink of eternal life, will be raised up on the Last Day, when Christ comes again in glory.

We need the ministry of condemnation in order to appreciate and understand the mercy of God in Jesus Christ. Jesus never approved of sin; he was far more condemning than Moses, speaking of Hell in a way no other preacher ever did. Forgiveness requires condemnation. Churches that approve of sin cannot meet the greatest need of the human heart; and they cannot bring healing. For, there is no acknowledgment of the wound among them. Forgiveness itself is very condemning, for what is approved cannot be forgiven. Jesus condemned all sin on the cross in the most powerful way possible. Justice and mercy met where the cross intersected, where he hung beneath the charge of the Roman governor. But, St. Paul, in another place, tells us that the real charge that hung over the Lord was the Law of God (Colossians 2:14). There He paid the full price of sin for you and me. Then He rose the third day, and overcame death. So, the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

And that my friends, is why God has ever healed anybody.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Tenth Sunday after Trinity

1 Corinthians 12:1-11 * Luke 19:41-47a
"...thou knewest not the time of thy visitation."

In the Gospel we see the Lord himself entering His city and His temple, present in a very direct way, cleansing and purifying His Father's house. The city belonged to Him in a special way, His chosen city, the place of the throne of David that signifies the Lord's own eternal rule. The temple was the chosen place for His abiding Presence in the Holy of Holies, where the Blood of Atonement was carried within the veil and sprinkled once a year, and where no one but the High Priest dared to go, and never without that Blood of Atonement shed on Yom Kippor. The City was always the place of the Temple, the abiding place of His glorious Presence.

          And, yet, even though the abiding Presence of God was there, Jesus speaks of His arrival at that hour as their time of visitation. The opening of this passage is sober: "And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes."
          The Epistle speaks also of the abiding Presence of God in His temple, that is, in His Church. And, it speaks, also, of Christ's visitation in this, the living temple of His people. For, Christ Himself is present whenever and wherever the Holy Spirit is present. In the Church we have always the Presence of Christ with us. He is with us by the abiding Presence of His Holy Spirit. By that abiding Presence He makes His Presence known further by charismatic realities.
          The word "charisma" is the New Testament Greek word (χάρις- charis) that is translated both as "grace" and as "gift." When we say that something is charismatic, we do not mean, necessarily, that it is exciting or spectacular. Neither are we speaking, necessarily, about what was called, or is called, the Charismatic Movement. We speak, rather, of the graces or gifts of the Holy Spirit, doing so by using an English form of a word from the original language of the New Testament.
          We hear a lot and read a lot about the charismatic reality of the sacraments, and of the mystery of His Presence in the sacrament of His Body and Blood. That sacrament is one of the charisms or charismata, one of the gifts that operates in His Church, in this case through the ordained ministry of the priesthood. The Presence of Christ's Body and Blood in the sacrament comes from the abiding Presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church; it is, in that proper and true sense, charismatic.
          This chapter from St. Paul's First Epistle to the Church in Corinth ties all of these realities together. Christ is, by the Holy Spirit, always present in His Church; His is the abiding Presence. And, yet, each time He uses a member of His Body, the Church, He comes to us with a visitation. We can receive and acknowledge Christ our Lord, as He comes to us through the various members of His Body, the Church, or we can fail to know the hour, the time of our visitation. We can be reverent about His Body as He is present in the sacrament, and yet be irreverent toward His Body, the Members of that same Body who surround us here and now, the people sharing this room with us, Christ's Body the Church. When you stand in the presence of another member of His Body, you are faced with the hour of visitation. How will you respond?
       Perhaps you might see, even now, why St. Paul followed this chapter, chapter twelve, with the famous chapter thirteen about that highest kind of love, the love we call charity:

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal...And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." (from I Corinthians 13)
                 We have not even begun to learn the lesson in today's Epistle. We may talk for hours about the Real Presence in the Eucharist, even debating various fine points of sacramental theology. In this chapter twelve, St. Paul tells us that the Church is the Body of Christ, that the members of the Church are the members of His Body. Paul places this in a very significant context: Between chapter eleven about the sacrament of Holy Communion, and chapter thirteen about charity, the love without which we are nothing, and without which we would be counted dead while we live.
          In this chapter Paul teaches us that the gifts and graces God gives, without which each one of us is incomplete and terribly needy, are given to the people who surround us right now, in these members of the same Body, the Body of Christ. Metaphorically, and also somehow quite truly, you may be an ear, another may be a hand or a foot, unable to function all alone; and we all need what the other members have been given by the Holy Spirit. We depend on each other, we need each other. What we need is not each other's faults and failings; we need to be forgiving of those, because what we need are those gifts of the Holy Spirit God has placed even in the least comely of members.
          We have different passages in the New Testament where gifts of the Holy Spirit are listed, and no two lists are the same. The possibilities are endless, because it is God who works in His Church according to His will. But, you may rest assured that you can afford to be hateful and resentful of absolutely nobody in your congregation, and of nobody in the Church; you can afford to be unfriendly to no one. Each member of the Body presents you with a visitation from Christ.
          Furthermore, we cannot afford for any of you to miss your calling, to ignore the gifts of the Holy Spirit that have been given to you for our common good, and to further the witness of this parish in our common mission to spread the good news of the Kingdom of God. You must not become lukewarm in your commitment to Christ and His Church, or turn away from it. You were given gifts for our benefit, even if you have yet to discover them.
          I like to point out to those who study for Confirmation that C.S. Lewis wrote about the sacrament of Confirmation in his book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In the chapter where the children meet Father Christmas, he gives them gifts; but these gifts are not toys; they are not given for the amusement and fun of the children. For example, Peter, in the story, is given a special sword to help win the battle to liberate Narnia, and Lucy is given a flask of liquid to use for healing. That is, the gifts are given to each of the children not to use for themselves, and not just for fun, but to use for a common war effort against evil, and for the benefit, indeed the healing, of others. That is a picture of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
          To know this, the time of our visitation from Christ, we need to see the gifts that flourish from the abiding Presence of the Lord. We need always to see each other in the light of Christ, quick to forgive and always motivated by love. Indeed, if ever we wax ignorant of Satan’s devices we could develop a thousand reasons not to love one another; and we could not afford to yield to even one of them. We need always to walk in charity, because, as much as we need to have reverence for the Presence of Christ in the Holy Sacrament, we need no less to have reverence for Christ in the members of His Body the Church--indeed, your own church, right here and right now.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A passing thought

Jesus told us how to live, most clearly in the Sermon on the Mount. A rather "solid Anglican" explained to me the other day why he wouldn't obey part of it. All I can say to that is, stop wasting time in religious hypocrisy; why not rather just spend your the time in honest sinning and unbelief?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Ninth Sunday after Trinity

                        To read the sermon click on the picture