Monday, February 28, 2005

What do we need?

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us“We need a church that will move the world, not move with the world” G.K. Chesterton

I read this on a blog discussion today and had to post it!

Centre of Christianity Moves to Africa

In the West, Christianity no longer remains the faith that is held by the majority of its population as secularism has and continues to triumph over the faith that made Europe and the Americas what they are. We are depleting the "bank account" of those who have given their lives for the Gospel; we may have already gone into debt and drained the account. There is a new centre of Christianity today and it is the Global South. We see a faith that is growing there that the western material world has no idea how to respond to its development because we simply don't "get it". When the Gospel isn't for sale, those of the west who try to buy their way into power do not know how to react to someone rejecting their money and not selling out the Gospel for personal gain. Here is an article that talks about this move of Christianity's new centre.

Philip Jenkins has a book that I have been meaning to buy and read called The Next Christendom that I hear wonderful things about. With all that is going on, I will order this book immediately and use it for my Sunday reading. I am sure I will have more to say about it once I have finished. it.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

+Ackerman's Response

Bishop Ackerman is the bishop of the Diocese of Quincy in the state of Illinois, USA. Here is one of his latest statements. More statements and information like this is found on his Diocesan site.

Beloved in Christ,

For all who have committed themselves to praying for the venerable Primates of the Anglican Communion especially this past week, this has been a week of many emotions and perspectives. It is unlikely that we will ever know the full import of what transpired during the frank, pointed, and direct encounters between those who are the Guardians of our Faith entrusted with the defense and proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ. The final result of the meeting held from February 20 - 25 in Newry, Northern Ireland will to some extent be seen in The Anglican Communion Primates' Meeting Communiqué published on the Feast of St. Matthias the Apostle, the one elected to fill the vacancy created by the death of Judas, who had betrayed Jesus.

Thirty five Primates representing the thirty eight Provinces of the Anglican Communion were present, presided over by the Primate of All England and titular head of the Anglican Communion, first among equals, the Most Reverend Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury in Succession to St. Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury.

The purpose of this meeting was to take the next step in the process necessitated by continued unprecedented actions by two Provinces of the Anglican Communion, namely the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada. While the presenting issues were related to specific actions taken at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church meeting in Minnesota in 2003, and in Canada, in particular, actions taken by the Diocese of New Westminster. Apart from the subject of the issues, the reality of these two Provinces taking unprecedented actions apart from the rest of the Anglican Communion has called into question the intention of those Provinces in remaining a part of the Anglican Communion.

There are several key documents which are available on our web site, and I commend them to you. I urge you to read them before reading any number of commentaries that lack an understanding of the integral relationship between Provinces that is quite unlike the various Communions and Denominations of Christendom. These nuanced differences have been stated eloquently in the Windsor Report, and indicate that there is obvious confusion between "independence" and "interdependence." It could be said that many Episcopalians think of themselves mistakenly as existing apart from the Anglican Communion, as if the War of Independence meant the end of Anglicanism in the newly created United States and the beginning of Episcopalianism as an American denomination. While this minority view may be held by some, it is not the prevailing view of our Faith as members of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

In particular the documents I believe that are essential in order to have an accurate understanding are as follows:

· The Windsor Report (2004)

· The Anglican Communion Primates Meeting Communiqué (2005)

· A Statement by the American Anglican Council and the Anglican Communion Network

· A Statement by the Moderator of the Anglican Communion Network

I recommend these documents in particular because they are written by those who have been intimately involved in matters directly related to the events represented in these documents. All of these documents are available on our web site, and to read my poor words in isolation from these documents would be a disservice to you.

I do, however, wish to make some salient points related to the articulation of the Communiqué, that is, noting that what is said in print does not always convey what was intended in spirit. Upon speaking in an organized way with a number of people who have been intimately involved in the deliberations reflected in the above documents, one can reach the following conclusions:

· This is a pivotal moment in Anglican Church history, for it is now obvious that there are limits to the ways in which we deal with tenets of the Faith, as it relates to conciliar votes. That is, the democratic principles of majority rule do not always apply to matters of Revealed Truth and Faith.

· Anglicanism has regularly attempted to hold together the Provinces of the Anglican Communion, and in some ways, did not anticipate unprecedented actions taken by an individual Province, and thus, new ways must be developed to meet this new challenge that has the potential rendering asunder the bonds of affection and Communion

· Rather than expelling a Province for unprecedented conciliar and nonconciliar actions, the Primates have adopted a charitable principle whereby those Provinces that separate themselves in terms of doctrine, discipline, and worship from the rest of the Anglican Communion must be given a time certain to determine if they wish to remain in the Anglican Communion or if they seek to establish their own new denomination apart from the Communion. As the Press in the United Kingdom has indicated, this Communiqué is effectively a writ of "suspension" inasmuch as the offending Provinces must address quite intentionally and seriously their intentions as it relates to the rest of the Communion.

· The fact that at no time during the five days did the majority of the Primates receive the Eucharist together indicates the seriousness of the brokenness that exists.

· Overseas Primates have already expressed disbelief in the content of many press releases and articles related to the meeting.

· The Archbishop of Canterbury clearly wishes to uphold officially the Faith as articulated in our instruments of unity. Moreover Resolutions passed by the Lambeth Conference will be upheld by the Archbishop.

· The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada have been asked to withdraw their representatives from the one representative Council we hold in common, namely the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) immediately. Being asked voluntarily to withdraw, the two provinces have been effectively suspended from the Communion until at least July 2008 in order to consider their place within the Anglican Communion. In particular it was noted that while the Bishops of the Church of England unanimously supported the Windsor Report, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church did not.

· In summary, the teaching of the Communion is sustained. The authority of Scripture is upheld, and "autonomy in Communion is defined.

As it relates to the Diocese of Quincy, there simply is no change in its polity, its doctrine, its discipline, or its worship, as it is in complete compliance with the actions of the Communion of which it is a part. It is altogether possible that not all American Bishops will be invited by Canterbury to the next Lambeth Conference, for the onus has been placed on the American Province to accept or reject that which has been articulated by the worldwide Anglican Communion. The Diocese of Quincy will certainly attend the next General Convention of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America in 2006, and, God willing, I plan on attending the Lambeth Conference by invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2008 in England.

The task ahead of us is never as great as the Power within us, as we seek to serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

"Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power." (Ephesians 6:10)

May the same Jesus Christ our Lord sustain you and keep you in the palm of his hand this holy Season of Lent.

In Christ,

The Right Reverend Keith L. Ackerman, SSC, DD

WebMaster -Jesus Christ
E-mail the WebServant
Copyright 2003-2005, Diocese of Quincy

ACI Response

The Anglican Communion Institute Reports the following from the Primates Meeting:

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates indicated that a sufficient statement of regret/repentance had yet to be received from ECUSA, and that such needed to be forthcoming;

1. In terms of one Instrument of Unity (The Lambeth Conference) ECUSA’s status is currently ambiguous. It must consider its place within the Anglican Communion and, before it meets in 2008, signal that it is committed to the interdependent life of the Communion set out in the opening sections of the Windsor Report.

2. In terms of a second Instrument of Unity (The Anglican Consultative Council), which is the next Instrument to meet, ECUSA is asked to withdraw its members and not to participate for the period leading up to the Lambeth Conference, although the ACC are asked to invite it to send a group to explain its theological position on sexuality;

3. In terms of the third Instrument of Unity (The Primates’ Meeting), no announcement of a next meeting was made, and one can conclude that the kind of response ECUSA makes over the next period will be determinative in respect of its ongoing involvement;

4. It was clear from most reports that the Instrument of Unity which actually gathered outside of Newry, Ireland, this past week, the Primates Meeting, is already under severe strain, and that its normal patterns of functioning have been altered. This is partly due to the actions of provinces in North America (e.g., strained eucharistic fellowship) but also because it has acted in line with past Lambeth Resolutions and recommendations in the Windsor Report to take enhanced authority within the Communion and in relation to the other Instruments.

5. Given the seriousness with which the North American churches were treated at Newry, it was agreed that further extra-territorial incursions should not be encouraged or initiated by provinces or dioceses outside ECUSA or Canada;

6. However, a ‘panel of reference’ is to be formed as a matter of urgency, and Alternative Episcopal Oversight arrangements are to be considered for difficult circumstances in the ‘withdrawal’ region of North America. It is clear that in these two provinces it cannot now be ‘business as usual’ and we urge those Bishops in the ECUSA able to comply with The Windsor Report to avail themselves of this important development.

We further note that ECUSA was not ‘suspended’ (in a quasi-legal sense). Rather, consistent with arguments made by the ACI, ECUSA has by its own actions jeopardized its status as an invited member to Communion affairs, undertaken by the Instruments of Unity. It remains fully possible that the Archbishop of Canterbury would decide to withdraw invitation entirely, should the steps asked of ECUSA not be taken.

The Anglican Communion Institute
26 February 2005

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Keeping up with the Primates Meeting

If you are wanting to see the different responses to the Primates Meeting and interact with the statements that are beginning to flow out of this historical meeting, then I would suggest you visit The Rev'd Canon Kendall Harmon's site for the latest of various articles and the ability to comment and interact with what is being said. Rather than repeating statements on my blog, I refer you to his blog. Thank you Kendall for your hard work and keeping us informed.

Friday, February 25, 2005

+Robert Duncan Responds to Primates Meeting

Primates Statement - Bob Duncan's Response
25th February 2005

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us“The clarity with which the Primates have spoken is breath-taking. Individual provinces do have the freedom to act as they see fit under their various constitutions, but the exercise of that freedom beyond agreed teaching and practice will imperil their standing and participation in the Communion. The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada have been asked to withdraw their representatives from the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) effectively immediately. This suspension of relationship continues until the constitutional assemblies of each church indicate their willingness to conform to what was asked of them in the Windsor Report.”

“The teaching of the Communion is sustained. The authority of Scripture is upheld. ‘Autonomy in Communion’ is defined. Moratoria are called for Communion-wide. The need to turn our global attention to the great social crises of disease and poverty is re-asserted.”

“Provision for the ‘integrity and legitimate needs’ of theological minorities is guaranteed by the creation of an international ‘panel of reference.’ This is an extraordinary and essential development. The Anglican Communion Network, together with the much wider circle of orthodox believers in the United States and Canada (including especially the Common Cause movement) now has an international promise and an Anglican Communion provision that should stem the flow of three decades of believing life-blood.”

“For some months now, I have maintained that the 2005 Primates Meeting would prove a defining moment in Anglican history. So it has proved. As the Synod of Whitby in 664 AD decided for unity with the universal Christian Church in matters of worship and church order, so the 2005 Primates meeting has decided for unity with the universal Christian Church in matters of doctrine and morals. The decisions taken at Newry in Northern Ireland are epochal.”

“For all of this, we should be profoundly grateful to Almighty God and to the godly leaders of the Anglican Communion for a new day dawning for Anglicanism and for us.”

You can find more news at Anglican Mainstream.

Please be sure to offer your thoughts and comments. Thanks.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Forever splintering: When will it stop?

Here is an article that will be in tomorrow's Church of England News. Any thoughts?

C of E News and the Primates Meeting

There is little to no news coming out of the Primates Meeting in Ireland. The Church of England Newspaper has published a report but no "new" news. Tomorrow will be the day.

Snow and Wind

Well, it is quite cold this morning along with wind and the 5th day of steady snow. Even as I write at almost 9:00 am GMT snow is falling heavily outside my window.Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe view is absolutely stunning! With the temperatures that have been forcasted for the next week, it looks like the white stuff will not be going away any time soon. So, it makes for a good day to stay inside and get a lot of reading and hopefully some writing done. Now the kids have a different idea about these things than I do. Presently I am just about finished with Eamon Duffy's book The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400-1580. It has brought many questions to my mind concerning what took place from 1580-1640. This is especially true in light of the Caroline Divines such as Andrewes, Cossin, and later Taylor and Johnson and their views of the Eucharist and the Church's celebration of that Rite. More thoughts on this will follow once I get somewhere quiet and can really think out loud.

UPDATE on WEATHER: Just looked into the forecast as the wind has really begun to build strong out of the north to find out that in our region they are expecting 15 cm of snow by tomorrow which is six inches. Lots of snow pictures to come. Sleet is falling in between the good snow falling and it is creating what looks like layers of snow separated between some ice. Temperatures are below freezing every day so it will be here for a while. It's funny because my parents, who live in Florida in the States, are experiencing 80f. temps there. Well it looks like winter has made it to Durham, England.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr Feb 23

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God of all creation,
You gave Your bishop Polycarp
the privilege of being counted among the saints
who gave their lives in faithful witness to the Gospel.
May his prayers give us the courage
to share with him the cup of suffering
and to rise to eternal glory.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. +Amen.

First Reading: Revelation 2:8-11
And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: 'The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.

I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who conquers shall not be hurt by the second death."

Gospel Reading: John 15:18-21
"If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all this they will do to you on My account, because they do not know Him who sent Me.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

A Snowy Day in Durham

Well, we woke up this morning to a completely white day! It has been absolutely beautiful here in Durham, England today as the snow has been falling since early this morning. We are completely covered in white and as I type the huge flakes continue to fall at 5:30 pm. Word is that we will be getting snow from now through Thursday at least. So it should be quite nice by the time it's all over with. I will venture up to the cathedral tomorrow to get some pictures as they will be beautiful. I'll post a few here for your viewing pleasure. It is coming down quite hard now as it did this morning. The kids are just loving it. It was also nice to be back in the pulpit today. I preached at our church, St. Margaret's (built in the 12th century) this morning and all seemed to go quite well. Some of you may be surprised by my time, but it was 18.5 minutes. Things are moving on quite nicely and I will be preaching again during Holy Week on Mon-Wed at another parish in Darlington. After 8 months away from it, it was nice to be back at it.
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Thursday, February 17, 2005

Eucharist and Sacrifice: The Institution Narrative

I am not able to post the entire article here due to the length of it but I will link it in order that you may read it and then feel free to discuss it. I doubt it will provide the discussion that is found at Pontifications, but maybe he'll join in the discussion which always helps the traffic to continually flow! :-) The article is by Raymond Moloney on the sacrifice in the "Institution Narrative".

Martyr: Abp. of Uganda Janani Luwum

Today we pause to give thanks to God for Abp Luwum who suffered death in martyrdom in Uganda in 1977. At a time when the Church is undergoing many trials and its faithful suffer in many places, let us take the time this Lent to pause and seek forgiveness for not praying for the Catholic Church around the world and especially for those who daily face suffing and death for the faith once delivered to the saints.

Early in 1977, there was a small army rebellion that was put down with only seven men dead. However, Amin determined to stamp out all traces of dissent. His men killed thousands, including the entire population of Milton Obote's home village. On Sunday, 30 January, Bishop Festo Kivengere preached on "The Preciousness of Life" to an audience including many high government officials. He denounced the arbitrary bloodletting, and accused the government of abusing the authority that God had entrusted to it. The government responded on the following Saturday (5 February) by an early (1:30am) raid on the home of the Archbishop, Janani Luwum, ostensibly to search for hidden stores of weapons. The Archbishop called on President Amin to deliver a note of protest at the policies of arbitrary killings and the unexplainced disappearances of many persons. Amin accused the Archbishop of treason, produced a document supposedly by former President Obote attesting his guilt, and had the Archbishop and two Cabinet members (both committed Christians) arrested and held for military trial. The three met briefly with four other prisoners who were awaiting execution, and were permitted to pray with them briefly. Then the three were placed in a Land Rover and not seen alive again by their friends. The government story is that one of the prisoners tried to seize control of the vehicle and that it was wrecked and the passengers killed. The story believed by the Archbishop's supporters is that he refused to sign a confession, was beaten and otherwise abused, and finally shot. His body was placed in a sealed coffin and sent to his native village for burial there. However, the villagers opened the coffin and discovered the bullet holes. In the capital city of Kampala a crowd of about 4,500 gathered for a memorial service beside the grave that had been prepared for him next to that of the martyred bishop Hannington. In Nairobi, the capital of nearby Kenya, about 10,000 gathered for another memorial service. Bishop Kivengere was informed that he was about to be arrested, and he and his family fled to Kenya, as did the widow and orphans of Archbishop Luwum.

The following June, about 25,000 Ugandans came to the capital to celebrate the centennial of the first preaching of the Gospel in their country, among the participants were many who had abandoned Christianity, but who had returned to their Faith as a result of seeing the courage of Archbishop Luwum and his companions in the face of death.

O Almighty God, who didst give to thy servant Janani Luwum and His companions boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of the same our Lord Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

St. Sigfrid

Also known as Sigfrid of Wexlow; Sigfrid of Vaexjoe; Apostle of Sweden
15 February
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usPriest at York and/or Glastonbury in England. Monk. Evangelized in Norway, Sweden, Denmark. Converted Olaf, King of Sweden. While Sigfrid was away on a mission, his three nephews (Saints Winaman, Unaman and Sunaman), who had come to help with the work in Sweden, were beheaded by pagan raiders. Sigfrid returned, recovered their heads, and claimed they could talk, a claim that terrorized the pagans. King Olaf decided to execute the murderers, but Sigfrid spoke against capital punishment and the killers were spared. Olaf then ordered them to pay a large fine, but Sigfrid refused the blood money, and thus achieved such a moral high ground that his missions became even more successful.
Born at Glastonbury, England
Died c.1045 at Vaexjoe, Sweden
Canonized by Pope Adrian IV
Patronage Sweden
Representation travelling in a ship with two fellow bishops; baptizing King Olaf of Sweden; bishop menaced by devils; bishop carrying three severed heads; bishop carrying three loaves of bread (misrepresentation of the heads)

Monday, February 14, 2005

domus orationis 'the house of prayer'

In his sermon for +Andrewes' funeral, +John Buckeridge had this to say about the Bishop:

"Of this Reverend Prelate I may say, his life was a life of prayer; a great part of five hours every day did he spend in prayer and devotion to God...and from that time [warning of his own death] till the house of his dissolution he spent all his time in prayer; and his prayer-book, when he was private, was seldom seen out of his hands; and in the time of his fever and last sickness, besides the often prayers which were read to him, in which he repeated all the parts of the Confession and other petitions with an audible voice, as long as his strength endured, he did--as well observed by certain tokens in him--continually pray to himself, though he seemed otherwise to rest or slumber; and when he could pray no longer with his voice yet by lifting up his eyes and hands he prayed still; and when both voice and eyes and hands failed in their office, then with his heart he still prayed, until it pleased God to receive his blessed soul to Himself."

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Words Today From Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton is definitely in my top five authors outside of my theology books that I simply love to read. I am working through Heretics and Orthodoxy for a second time. He is usually close by my bed so I can grab a bit of him before I sleep. The problem with this is that he is usually so stimulating that I find it hard to sleep after a good dose of him as he keeps the wheels in the head turning. Words from Browning today are these:

Chesterton: LET it never be forgotten that a hypocrite is a very unhappy man;Image Hosted by ImageShack.us he is a man who has devoted himself to a most delicate and arduous intellectual art in which he may achieve masterpieces which he must keep secret, fight thrilling battles and win hair-breadth victories for which he cannot have a whisper of praise. A really accomplished impostor is the most wretched of geniuses: he is a Napoleon on a desert island.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

The Throne of Love

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usFor our Lenten devotions this year, our family is working through Charles Fillmore's book Keep a True Lent. In my reading this morning to meditate on what I will do in our family worship time this evening I read the following that reminded me of Paul's words in Philippians 2:5-11. That passage has begun and continues to shape what I see as the theology of liturgy, ethics, and the whole Christian life. Getting our heads and hearts wrapped around this passage produces in our lives what Fillmore describes as the Throne of Love.

"Divine Love is the force that dissolves all the opposers of true thought and thus smooths out every obstacle that presents itself. When love ascends the throne and takes complete possession of our life its rule is just and righteous. Even destructive faculties, such as resistance, opposition, obstinacy, anger, jealousy, are harmonized through love. Perfect love casts out all fear. When love harmonizes the consciousness we find that our outer affairs are put in order and that where once there seemed to be opposition and fear co-operation and trust prevail.

We demonstrate no resistance by denying all intellectual opposition or antagonism. When the substance of divine love is poured out upon all alien thoughts we are not bothered by them any more. This leads to joy, a positive force that has not been bearing fruit because of the obstructions heaped upon it by the failure to fulfill the law of the All-Good. The wonderful kingdom within man is developed through keeping the commandments; that is, commanding, controlling, and directing every thought according to the harmonious law of love to one another.

The dissolving power of spiritual love is the antidote for a dictatorial will, but we must deny all selfish desires out of our love before we use it in softening the imperious will. When the conciousness of love stands in the inner court of our being we cannot help acceding to its demands. Unselfish love is fearless, because of its forgetfulness of self. Will divides its dominion with love when it is approached in the right attitude; that is, with understanding. Understanding of the law is necessary in all permanent unions. When we know Truth we know that we are all one, that there is no separation whatever. They that love without the adulteration of selfishness or the lust of sense come into the very presence of God."

He went on to talk about how love must be directed by wisdom. "If we give up blindly to the impulses suggested by human love, we shall suffer many downfalls." One of the things that he ends with that is always helpful in family situations where children at times are "at each other" is to explain to them what it means for us to realize the love of God. But this is not only for children who are young in years. It is especially true for us who are children of the Living God in our older years. He said,

"When we even faintly realize the love of God we begin to love our fellow men. There is a fervent love among Christians that is not found among any other group. Love is a divine ordinance, and those who let the love of God pour itself out in charity do truly cover and forgive a 'multitude of sins,' not only in themselves but in others; love pours its balm over every wound and the substance of its sympathy infuses hope and faith to the discouraged heart. Divine love has a balm for every ill."

Almighty Father, whose Son was revealed in majesty before he suffered death upon the cross: give us grace to perceive his glory, that we may be strengthened to suffer with him and be changed into his likeness, from glory to glory; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. +Amen.

Friday, February 11, 2005

The Tug of War

Christians often have a hard time dealing with people who struggle with homosexual attractions. We don't want to hang out with them or confront their struggles in a real incarnational way. What is presently happening in the Anglican Communion is in our faces to deal with same-sex attraction in a way that seeks to help people understand their identity as those who are in Christ and not an identity of being gay. I read the following on Anglican Mainstream this morning and thought I would put it here for your reading. This is an issue that is before the WHOLE Church, not just Anglicans, where we need to deal with it in an open, honest, and biblical way all the while loving those in the tug of war. They not only need to hear these words, they need to see our presence in their lives of those who genuinely love them and seek a better identity for them in Christ. Visit Anglican Mainstream's site to read more about a ministry that is seeking to confront this sexual crisis with love, compassion and truth.

Tug of War - Mario Bergner
10th February 2005

Like the rope in a tug of war, I once was pulled by homosexuality on one end. My soul, relationships and the Church pulled the other end. In childhood I met God’s saving love through Roman Catholic sisters and American evangelicals. During adolescence, cruel schoolmates whispered “homo” as they passed me in hallways. Concurrently, two well-known Christians engaged in a national media campaign against homosexuality. They viewed homosexuals as predators. The gay community perceived Christians as bigots. The conflicting pull between homosexual attractions and Christianity was agonizing.

At university I met openly homosexual people, none of whom were predators. Two compassionate gay professors encouraged me to find meaning in homosexuality. Declaring myself gay, I disengaged from the Christian pull for a while and became involved in gay political theater. Trying to reconcile homosexuality with Christianity, I read pro-gay Christian arguments by writers such as John Boswell, a Catholic scholar who taught at Yale Divinity School. But his scholarship failed to convince me. Meanwhile, I engaged in an internal dialogue with Jesus. One night in a gay bar, the anguished eyes of older gay men pierced me. I pleaded to Jesus, “Surely you have more for these men than this?” He responded, “You will help me deliver these people.” I left the bar quickly. Jesus now pulled on the rope. The tug of war was re-engaged.

At twenty-three I was hospitalized with eleven symptoms of AIDS. From my bed, I questioned the Lord about homosexuality and Christianity. Jesus appeared saying, ”I want to heal your whole person, not just your sexuality. Choose.” Not understanding what “choose” meant I just chose him. I recovered and years later tested HIV negative.

My sister telephoned expressing concern over my hospitalization. I assured her, “I prayed to Jesus and He healed me . . . but I don’t want to talk about it.” She responded by sending a book about overcoming homosexuality. I read it, but didn’t believe most of it. Between its pages Annelyse included a letter asking forgiveness for harshly judging me. The book and her letter softened my heart. My conversations with Jesus now included forgiveness prayers toward my father for abusing me as a child. Not only was the tug of war in full force, but for the first time in years the Christian pull was winning. Conversely, the pull of self-identification as gay was weakening. When I accepted myself exclusively as a Christian, not gay and not gay-Christian, the tug of war ended

In the following years I discovered a number of authoritative works on homosexuality ignored by both the politically correct gay movement and the Church. These include Lawrence Hatterer’s Changing Homosexuality In The Male (McGraw-Hill, 1970), William Aaron’s Straight (Double Day, 1972), Irving Beiber’s Homosexuality (Jason Aaronson, 1988), Elaine Siegel’s Female Homosexuality: Choice Without Volition (The Analytic Press, 1988), Charles Socarides’ Homosexuality: A Freedom Too Far (Margrave Books, 1995) Jeffery Satinover’s Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth (Baker, 1996), and Robert Spitzer’s recent study published in the October 2003 Archives of Sexual Behavior: Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation? All these secular sources offer considerable hope of change for those seeking it. Recently, a fellow priest took offense when I said to some of his parishoners, “If your teenager tells you his or she is gay and they want help, don’t go to a clergyman. Go to a good psychologist, secular or Christian, who specializes in such treatment.” I am sorry to have offended him. Unfortunately, what I said is true.

In America’s culture war between homosexuality and Christianity, the Episcopal Church has consistently sided with the gay agenda. Episcopalian conservatives have focused energy and money fighting Integrity, a pro-gay group and the Episcopal Church’s only official outreach to homosexuals.

For thirty years, revisionists have set the agenda to which conservatives have reacted. A Place To Stand October 2003 in Dallas was historic because as faithful Episcopalians we proactively set an agenda and stood. We are still standing. However, conservatives, weary from fighting revisionists, seem disinterested in doing anything pro-active for the gay community.

Ministries such as Redeemed Lives and Living Waters, which offer pastoral care for overcoming same-sex attractions receive little attention or resources from Episcopal churches. Because we pose so little a threat, revisionists do not bother us. At Redeemed Lives twenty per cent of individuals who come to us are seeking help for homosexuality. The other eighty per cent need help with impaired intimacy related to the fall-out from the sexual revolution. Our main source of help is our twenty-six week program of pastoral care and discipleship. We also equip leaders to use this and other programs in their ministry settings. Additionally, we work with local psychologists and psychiatrists to better serve those who come to us for help.

I live near a city of seven million people. With homosexuals accounting for three percent of the American population, the Episcopal Church offers little to Chicago’s gay population, which numbers two-hundred-ten-thousand souls. The spiritual poverty of the Episcopal Church (especially here in Chicago) is such that a self-identified homosexual entering one of our churches is likely to find an affirmation of their same-sex attractions by one of our many openly gay priests. I can say with certainty that Redeemed Lives is rarely, if ever, offered as a possible course of pastoral care.

Alongside my priesthood, I teach at a secular university. One of my students asked me about a Christian who scours Boystown, one of Chicago’s gay neighborhoods, shouting condemnation through a megaphone. I told her, “He’s wacko and doesn’t speak for all Christians.” She inquired, “What do you think about gays?” I replied, “Jesus hangs out with sinners until they find transformation.” She frowned and smiled. She’s in the tug of war.

Through effective pastoral care and discipleship, as well as psychotherapy, I dealt with my homosexual attractions and found freedom for heterosexual marriage. After living in abstinence for twelve years I met a wonderful woman. We married and now have five children. Homosexual attractions occasionally still pull at me, but I understand them now and they no longer identify who I am. The tug of war is over for me.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Goodness of God in Us

This morning I was reading in the Works of Andrewes and in particular the Funeral Sermon by +John Buckeridge for +Lancelot Andrewes. The first half of the sermon is tying the sacrifice of the Church that is celebrated in the Eucharist to the giving of alms as the fruit of our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. When he speaks of what it means to worship God he shows from Heb. 13:16 that it includes the giving of alms to the poor. It is not enough to go and offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving on Sunday and ignore the needs of our brother the rest of the week. For the offering of praise and thanksgiving can never be separated from the offering of alms for the poor. These two are indivisible. In this sermon Buckeridge says,

"And true religion is no way a gargleism only, to wash the tongue and mouth, to speak good words; it must root in the heart and then fructify in the hand, else it will not cleanse the whole man. Now God only is good, and the universal good of all things, and goodness itself. If there be any good in man, it is particular, no universal, and it is participatum; man is not good in himself, but only by participation; goodness in God is essentia, 'essence and being,' and He is so goodness that He cannot be but goodness, good in Himself and good of Himself....Man is only good by the similitude and imitation of the divine good; the nearer to God the nearer to goodness, and the further from God the more removed from all goodness."

This gives us plenty to think about during the season of Lent. Let us remember that we are called to not only offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, but also alms for the Church and those outside. Let us give cheerfully and generously. This is a call for the Church during Lent and every Sunday.

The Music of Bryan Steel

I just was informed of my cousin, Bryan Steel's album that has just recently been released. Go visit his site and listen to three of his songs. Read his bio before you listen and then download the lyrics. You can here more here. He really speaks to many of us in his music. Good job Bryan. May God bless your music.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Ash Wednesday

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Collect: Lord,protect us in our struggle against evil.As we begin the discipline of Lent,make this day holy by our self-denial.Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,one God, forever and ever. +Amen

Joel 2:12-18
Yet even now", says the Lord, "return to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments". Return to the Lord, your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repents of evil. Who knows whether He will not turn and repent, and leave a blessing behind Him, a cereal offering and a drink offering for the Lord, your God?

Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber.

Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord weep and say, "Spare thy people, O Lord, and make not thy heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?"

Then the Lord became jealous for His land, and had pity on His people. The Lord answered and said to His people, "Behold, I am sending to you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations.

Help us, O God our Saviour.
And for the glory of thy Name deliver us; be merciful to us sinners, for thy Name's sake.
O Lord, hear our prayer.
And let our cry come unto thee.

Let us pray.

O LORD, we beseech thee, mercifully hear our prayers, and spare all those who confess their sins unto thee; that they, whose consciences by sin are accused, by thy merciful pardon may be absolved; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

O MOST mighty God, and merciful Father, who hast compassion upon all men, and who wouldest not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his sin, and be saved; Mercifully forgive us our trespasses; re-ceive and comfort us, who are grieved and wearied with the burden of our sins. Thy property is always to have mercy; to thee only it appertaineth to forgive sins. Spare us there-fore, good Lord, spare thy people, whom thou hast re-deemed; enter not into judgment with thy servants; but so turn thine anger from us, who meekly acknowledge our transgressions, and truly repent us of our faults, and so make haste to help us in this world, that we may ever live with thee in the world to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

TURN thou us, O good Lord, and so shall we be turned. Be favourable, O Lord, Be favourable to thy people, Who turn to thee in weeping, fasting, and praying. For thou art a merciful God, Full of compassion, Long-suffering, and of great pity. Thou sparest when we deserve punishment, And in thy wrath thinkest upon mercy. Spare thy people, good Lord, spare them, And let not thine heritage be brought to confusion. Hear us, O Lord, for thy mercy is great, And after the multitude of thy mercies look upon us; Through the merits and mediation of thy blessed Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O GOD, whose nature and property is ever to have mercy and to forgive; Receive our humble petitions; and though we be tied and bound with the chain of our sins, yet let the pitifulness of thy great mercy loose us; for the honour of Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Advocate. Amen.

THE Lord bless us, and keep us. The Lord make his face to shine upon us, and be gracious unto us. The Lord lift up his countenance upon us, and give us peace, both now and evermore. Amen.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Oxford Visit

I have not been posting anything lately because on Friday last week the Steel family headed down to Oxford for a short visit since the children are on mid-term break for a week. We had a wonderful time as the beauty of Oxford cannot help but make the trip enjoyable. I'll post a few pictures so that you can see part of its beauty in case you have never had the opportunity to go yourself. On Sunday we worshiped at Pusey House and their choir was marvelous. We really had a great time. The top left church is St. Mary the Virgin where Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley were condemned as heretics and taken outside and burned at the stake. The picture on the top right is a beautiful place where Rhea and I had dinner: ALONE. The stream that is pictured beneath it was on the back patio where there was a fire and you could sit outside and enjoy the beauty of the place. Quite romantic dining. Inside you have sectioned rooms with tables with low lighting and a fire place in each room. It was very nice and a much-needed date. The High Altar photo towards the bottom is taken at Pusey House. Yes, the smoke you see is incense from the service!! The final picture is the Steel family in front of the Eagle and the Child which was often frequented by C.S. Lewis, Tolkien and friends for their discussions over a pint or two.
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Friday, February 04, 2005

Addleshaw: High Church Tradition

Here are a couple of quotes that I picked up recently in Addleshaw's book The High Church Tradition. This book reminded me of why I am doing a PhD on Bishop Lancelot Andrewes. This year is quite special for those who admire Andrewes and his life that was encircled by the Eucharistic mystery as it is the 400th year anniversary of his consecration as bishop.

Addleshaw: They made their theology something of concern and interest to the whole Church. The theology of the Tridentine divines is embalmed in scientific treatises; the High Churchmen were content to expound theirs in sermons delivered to ordinary congregations. It was not learning for learning's sake; it was learning acquired with devotion and self-sacrifice, so that they might be enabled to lead their countrymen from the spiritual desert in which they had been left at the Reformation, to the pastures of eternal truth.

They [17th century Churchmen] reject any idea of a repetition of Calvary of Christ being mystically slain afresh in every Mass. But this is not the only point on which they part company with what they believed to be current Roman teaching. They dislike it because it makes a barrier between priest and people in the offering of the Eucharist. The priest does something in which the people have no share; the sacrifice is external and has no living connection with the life of the community. The thought of the High Churchmen moves round a different idea, that of the community being joined in the Eucharist with Our Lord's offering, viewed not as something done in the past on Calvary, but as an eternal reality.

Church Fights

I found this on a friend's site today and thought it would make a good entry here as well. Thanks to Peter for posting it.

In an unsentimental discussion of the promise and difficulties of Christian community (in Freedom for Ministry), Richard Neuhaus has these sage words about church fights: "Not infrequently, life together is mainly strife together. This commonly comes as a shock to young men and women entering the ministry. Among those who later leave to go into professional counseling or to take holy orders in the church of Health, Education, and Welfare, a frequent reason given is disillusionment with sheep who turned out to be wolves. It is easy to say that such ministers should have known better, that their idealized view of the Church was naive and immature, and what did they expect from a Church that is, after all, made up of people. But it must be admitted that there is no adequate preparation for the virulence of sheer nastiness that so often erupts in the life of the Christian community. It is a special sort of nastiness, perhaps because proimity to the sacred multiplies the force of the demonic. Envy, resentment, and unalloyed hatred can make their appearance in any human association, but they seem so ghastly in the Church because they so flagrantly contradict the stated purpose of the association."

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Pontificator's Interactions

A blog that I regularly read 'Pontifications' has recently been having an exchange with another blog writer that I regularly read '40 Bicycles' on Transubstantiation. The post is "Armstrong and Roberts on Transubstantiation". I linked both sites for you to read and discuss amongst yourselves or with me if you wish. Both always have very thoughtful posts. I am honestly not sure if I have ever known another blog writer to post as much as Pontificator does. Does anyone know if he sleeps?

Post-Christian West Crumbling

What happens to a society when it denies the Christian principles upon which it was founded? Where are the European West and the North America's heading?

'If you don't take a job as a prostitute, we can stop your benefits'
By Clare Chapman(Filed: 30/01/2005)

This story was linked on a friend of mine, Mark Horne's, web blog. It is wicked. I have printed the story below for you to read. One of my new friends here in Durham is a University Professor of Law and he is from Germany having just moved to Durham this past fall. I will get his take on this and will try to report something back. I know this post is a bit different from what I usually put on my site but this was a warning to Christians that I couldn't resist reporting. I read this story here.

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison, Kyrie Christe!

    O God, most glorious, most bountiful, accept, we humbly beseech thee, our praises and thanksgivings for thy holy Catholic Church, the mother of us all who bear the name of Christ; for the faith which it hath conveyed in safety to our time, and the mercies by which it hath enlarged and comforted the souls of men; for the virtues which it hath established upon earth, and the holy lives by which it glorifieth both the world and thee; to whom, O blessed Trinity (+), be ascribed all honour, might, majesty and dominion, now and for ever. Amen.
    --Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

Societas Sanctae Crucis

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