Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Yes, Virginia, There Is a War on Christmas

VA Medical Center Reportedly Bans Christmas Trees From ‘Any Public Areas This Year’ — and Now Lawyers Are Making a Demand

From The Blaze where there is more:
A conservative legal firm fired off a letter to a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical center on Tuesday in an effort to push back against a memo that was reportedly emailed to staff last week, effectively banning Christmas trees from display in public areas within the facility. 
That decision was overturned following outrage, but the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal firm, is now requesting a written assurance that the medical center will respect the religious rights of its employees and of those it serves. 
The veterans’ center, located in Salem, Virginia, purportedly said in the memo that staff members could only engage in ”private religious expression in their personal work areas that are not regularly open to the public” in an effort to be welcoming to all. 
“The wording of the memo leaves open the possibility that employees could be punished for Christmas decorations or ‘merry Christmas’ greetings to veterans except in personal workstations that are out of public view,” reads a press release from the Alliance Defending Freedom. 
Here’s the memo that was reportedly emailed to staff:
A copy of the memo that was reportedly distributed (Alliance Defending Freedom)
A copy of the memo that was reportedly distributed (Alliance Defending Freedom)
The document reportedly took specific aim at Christmas trees as well, with the text proclaiming that such decorations are unwelcome in public areas. 
“Please note that trees (regarless of the types of ornaments used) have been deemed to promote the Christian religion and will not be permitted in any public areas this year,” reads a copy of the document that was posted by the Alliance Defending Freedom.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

French Lesson

This World War II poster illustrates a lesson about ISIS that should be clear from the tragedy in Paris:

Friday, November 06, 2015

Col. James S. Munday, Happy 100th!

I was in Savannah, Georgia last weekend for my last surviving uncle's 100th birthday.

Lt. Munday in 1942
Col. James Stanley Munday's flying career began several years prior to World War II, when he and some buddies barnstormed all over the Midwest.  When the war arrived, "Uncle Stan," as many in the family now call him, went off to flight training for the US Army Air Force (before the US Air Force became a separate branch of the military) and emerged as a First Lieutenant and pilot (yes, you read that right, he skipped 2nd Lieutenant), commanding the crew of a B-24 "Liberator" bomber.

Before he could depart for overseas duty, the Air Force commandeered his squadron's B-24s for anti-submarine duty and switched Lt. Munday over to the venerable B-17 "Flying Fortress."  With barely more than a few hours to get "checked out" on the B-17, Lt. Munday found himself and a crew ferrying their own B-17 over to the 384th Bomb Group at Grafton Underwood, England, which would be their base for the duration of the war.

Bastille Day, July 14, 1943 found the Americans engaged in a "maximum effort" assault to show our French allies that we were determined to win their freedom and achieve victory over the Nazis.  After bombing the Nazi-occupied Villacoublay Airfield and aircraft factories outside Paris, Lt. Munday and his crew succumbed to enemy flak and strafing from Focke-Wulf 190s.  Lt. Munday himself took an enemy machine gun round from a FW 190 in the leg.  Keeping the B-17 aloft while his crew bailed out, Lt. Munday finally bailed out almost too low for safety.

Col. Munday (2nd from left) with Alex Gotovsky (left)

Landing in his parachute in a grove of trees, near the village of Les Essarts-le-Roi, Lt. Munday was aided by a young French boy, Alex Gotovsky, who hid Munday's parachute and directed him to a hiding place.  (Young Alex' family had become refugees in France following the Communist Revolution in Russia.)

The treatment and recovery from the wound in Munday's leg would take many weeks.  Finally, with the help of the French Underground, Lt. Munday was disguised as a French surveyor, equipped with forged identity papers and sent south.  Being out of uniform and in civilian clothes with forged papers meant Munday would be shot as a spy if caught.  The long journey led over the Pyrenees (traveling through the mountains at night on foot) to Barcelona, then Madrid, then at last to Gibraltar, where he could secure a flight that would take him back to his base in England.

Col. Munday in 1963
Thus began an Air Force career that would take James Stanley Munday through B-29 duty in the Pacific, hurricane hunting over the Atlantic, and finally into the ranks of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) in which he would spend the remainder of a long and distinguished career.  In those years, he flew every model of bomber and tanker (and most of the transports) that the Air Force possessed, becoming a Command Pilot and rising to the rank of Colonel.

In 1997, Col. Munday returned to the village of Les Essarts-le-Roi where he was awarded a medal and had the opportunity to be reunited with Alex Gotovsky, the young boy who had once helped him hide from the Nazis, both of them now much older.

The celebration of Col. Munday's birthday took place at the national "Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum" ourside Savannah, which Col. Munday helped found and where he volunteered each week as a guide for many years.  There was nothing quite like hearing about the Mighty Eighth Air Force's many adventures from a pilot who had been a part of them all.

Col. Munday with yours truly at his 100th birthday celebration.
If you are ever in the Savannah area, I strongly encourage you to take a tour of the museum, with its many exhibits and aircraft, and the magnificent grounds with a chapel that is a reconstructed English parish church like the one near their World War II base at Grafton  Underwood, England.

Col. Munday turned 100 years old on November 1 and is still sharp, vigorous, and in good health.  In what I consider to be a real act of faith, he just bought a new computer.  He will probably outlast this one too.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

John Rhys-Davies on political correctness, Islam, and the greatness of western civilization

Gimli takes an axe to political correctness in this interview:
But the real point is, if you play down the things that bind you, you weaken a society. If you do not believe that America is great, if you’re not allowed to say ‘My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty,’ you will find sectional forces in your country trying to break it down. All countries have centrifugal forces trying to tear them apart. The way that you hold your society together is because you have that extraordinary document, the Constitution. Be very wary of people who seek to change the Constitution because it is the glue that holds your disparate peoples together.

Western Christian civilization, of which you’re a part, is one of the great glories of mankind. These are the things we stand for. We stand for liberty, liberty of association, freedom of speech. We stand for the equality of everyone in our society before the law, men as well as women. We could make a list of all the things. But let’s get back to respecting these things. These are the glories of our ancestors. These are what thousands of our ancestors died to protect and preserve. And if we allow those things to go because we are afraid of being politically incorrect, or of hurting somebody by suggesting that perhaps their value system may not be quite as nice as ours, then we are fools, and ultimately, scoundrels.
 There's much more. Read it all.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Will the World End on October 7th?

Well, since it is now October 8, I think I can say, without fear of contradiction, the answer is, "No!"

Chris McCann, the founder of the fringe Christian group eBible Fellowship, said the world was going to end on October 7, 2015.  He confidently claimed that the Earth would be completely “annihilated.” 

According to McCann, God “shut the door to heaven” on May 21, 2011, meaning that "salvation is ended."  (I am wondering how he explains all those who have come to faith in Christ since then.)

But none of this means that McCann isn’t hedging his bets.  Looking at the website yesterday, I couldn't help but notice that they had a schedule of broadcasts posted for October 8th and the days following.

Of course, in making this prediction, McCann is simply adding himself to the list of those down through history who have predicted the end of the world.

There comes a point at which orthodox Christians must say "Enough!" to foolishness of this sort.  Why?  Because our Lord is going to return and the world is going to end someday, and the Scriptures have much to say concerning that end.  Scripture tells Christians to be watchful and to be ready.  But it also admonishes us, "But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" (Matthew 24:36).

Just before his Ascension, the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”  Jesus replied, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority (Acts 1:7).  

The damage done by Christians who purport to know the date of Jesus' return or the end of the world is that it brings the legitimate prophecies of those events, the totality of the Bible, and even Christianity as a whole into disrepute.  Misguided teachers seeking the limelight end up making the Christian faith the subject of jokes and ridicule.  

As one who teaches systematic theology, I firmly believe that we are called to teach about eschatology—the study of prophecy and the end times.  And as a pastor I know that we are called to be prepared, sober, and vigilant.  But part of being "sober" in this context means that we are commanded to avoid those things that "promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God's work—which is by faith" (1 Timothy 1:4, 1 Timothy 6:4, 2 Timothy 2:14, Titus 3:9).

When people make sensational predictions about the return of Christ or the end of the world, it is more about them than about the Gospel, because people focus more on the prediction and the one making it than they do on Jesus.  But when the prediction doesn't come true (as it hasn't 100% of the time thus far) the world scoffs not only at the prediction but at the Lord the one making the prediction claims to represent.

My advice to Mr. McCann and other end-time speculators: Preach the Gospel, win souls for Christ, build up his Church.  It may not get your name in the media as much, but it will bring more glory to Christ, which is what Christian ministry is about in the first place. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Church of Who???

Those Aussie's sure can be a crazy lot!  Not that we haven't had our share of craziness in the US with a clown Eucharist, a Seusscharist, and the unforgettable U2charist.  (Caution: once you have seen some things, they cannot be unseen nor forgotten.)  But judging from their Facebook page, the folks in Branxton, New South Wales, sure like Elvis A WHOLE LOT--maybe even more than that other church guy...  you know...  what's His Name?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

In the Service of the Church

A few years ago I was meeting with the Council of Episcopal Seminary Deans, and we were taking turns "sharing" what had been happening in our various schools.  One dean spoke about the several new faculty he had recruited in the past year--each of them fresh out of a PhD program or post-doctoral fellowship in a prestigious university.

A while later we were discussing the challenges we were experiencing in our seminaries, particularly around the question of how well we were forming men and women for ministry in the Church.  And this same dean commented, "All my faculty want to do is advance their academic careers.  I just can't seem to get my faculty to understand that, in a seminary, our academics are to be in the service of the Church."

I interjected, "Think about what you were just saying a few minutes ago about where you recruited your faculty!  Faculty who have been brought up in that kind of academic environment have no concept of their academics being in the service of the Church."

At Trinity School for Ministry, where I was blessed to serve the larger part of my academic career, we saw our task as forming Christian leaders for mission with a commitment to discipleship of the whole person as essential preparation for ministry.  Trinity faculty were engaged in publishing written works that made a contribution to the academic world and the reading public.  But we never engaged in the "publish or perish" mentality that characterizes the pursuit of tenure in other academic institutions.  In fact, we never had tenure at Trinity.  Our commitment was that if we ever ceased to serve the mission of the School, we didn't belong there.

Some seminary faculty see the notion that their academics are to be in the service of the Church as some sort of threat, as though it risks compromising their academic integrity.  But if God is ultimate truth, how can there be a conflict between the pursuit of academic enlightenment and spiritual truth?  Are not both pursuits parallel (and sometimes even intertwining) paths to the same destination?   

Now, after more than thirty years in academia, I find myself in the rectorship of a parish.  (I jokingly say sometimes that I am engaged in an experiment to see if all that stuff I taught for 30 years actually works!)  But I am reminded of a colleague who left seminary teaching a few years ago (a remarkable professor who had set students on fire with a love for the Scriptures!) to take the pastorate of a church; and another colleague spoke of his departure somewhat dismissively, as if to say, "Well, he was not really a serious academic anyway."  And I wonder, now that I am a pastor, would that colleague say the same thing about me?

I have heard the same kind of dismissive remarks ("not really a serious academic") made toward John Piper who has dared to challenge N.T. Wright's contributions to the "New Perspective on Paul."  Piper, though also an academic, has been primarily known as a pastor for more than thirty years (in which he has influenced thousands of people and hundreds of fellow clergy).  Wright has, for most of the same time, been primarily an academic, (though he was, by all accounts, an outstanding chief pastor as Bishop of Durham).

Does the fact that one person is primarily an academic give him superior access to truth?  On the one hand, lengthy study may well result in greater insight.  On the other hand, the pressure to "publish or perish" or even the desire to publish to achieve a greater academic reputation can result in insights that are more speculative than true in any real sense.

Cynics tend to recognize that, if one is looking for something to publish in academic circles, a sure method is to take something around which there has been a scholarly consensus for years (or decades, or centuries) and publish a thesis which draws on all the available material (often mixed with a good deal of speculation and imagination) to challenge the prevailing consensus.  Can it be that the pressure of having something novel to publish, in a subtle and insidious way, colors a scholar's pursuit of truth?  (I am not alleging this to be the case with Tom Wright, but merely raising the question with regard to academia in general.)

What I know for certain is that, not only in academia but also on a popular level, published works that are reassertions or restatements of orthodoxy aren't nearly as successful as works that challenge the status quo, even to the point of heresy.  I am not for a minute suggesting that we blindly follow orthodoxy or that we need to suspend our search for the truth, wherever that may lead us; because, if all truth is God's truth, we have nothing to fear.  But I am suggesting that the allure of worldly acclaim has a way of influencing what we view as wise and, therefore, true.  (Cf. 1 Corinthians, chapters 1-3.) 

In evangelical and orthodox Anglo-Catholic institutions, there is less pressure to publish and more emphasis on the fact that we are forming clergy and lay-leaders.  We are, in a very real sense, producing the Church of the future.  In place of articles and books, we run into the products of our work all the time--human volumes on whose minds and hearts we have impressed the truth of the ages.  And they, in turn, impress that truth upon others, save souls, promote growth, and build churches.  Scholars of all kinds, those who teach and those who publish, each do their part in equipping the saints for the work of ministry.  And if we are to do that in a way that stands the test of eternity, we must always do it with a submission that recognizes we are doing it in the service of our Lord and his Church.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Dearth (Death?) of Anglican News

For most of the last two decades my daily ritual has included checking the Anglican blogosphere as one of the first things I do when I turn on my computer each day.  Parenthetically, I will mention for those who were probably never aware, that, in 1994, the Rev. Tom Prichard (who was then executive director of SAMS) and I (when I was on faculty at Trinity) founded the now defunct "" website and hosting service.  We hosted websites and listserv discussion groups including White Horse Tavern, which some will remember, and Virtuosity (which later changed its name to Virtue Online due to a trademark dispute).  I developed my avocation as a web designer and designed websites for many of the  member organizations of PEWSACTION, as well as the original website for the American Anglican Council, which were all hosted on  So one might say I was something of a pioneer in the the Anglican online world.

In 2001 I left Trinity to become Dean of Nashotah House. Tom Prichard left SAMS not long afterward.  SAMS and Trinity showed no interest in maintaining; and, by then, the avenues for hosting websites and discussion groups were so numerous that was no longer needed.

Having monitored the Anglican news scene for so long, I am noticing a sea change.  Some Anglican news outlets seem to be having trouble finding stories to report.  There have been slow seasons in Anglican news before, and the period following the Episcopal Church's triennial General Convention (which we are now in) is often one of those seasons.

But this time it is different, and I find myself questioning whether the Anglican news scene will ever be the same again.  In July, I wrote a piece entitled,  "Probably My Last Post about General Convention--Ever."  I felt safe in entitling it that because, not only has the Episcopal Church moved beyond my ability to care, it has moved beyond the ability to surprise.  For something to be newsworthy, there has to be a certain "Man Bites Dog" element to it; and, frankly, we will never see that kind of newsworthiness from the Episcopal Church ever again.

Gay bishops--done that.  Gay marriage--done that.  Transgendered clergy--done that.  Panentheist theology--now so much a part of the landscape that orthodoxy is virtually extinct.  Episcopal Church tries to co-opt African churches with its money--entirely predictable.  What is left to surprise us?  Polyamory?  Rewriting the Prayer Book for a gender-neutral or feminine God?  These are just the next stops on the train ride to Perdition.  The track is already laid and the destination is certain.  Any stops along the way are already mapped.  We may even get to the stop where the old canard comes true: "Farmer Marries Cow in Episcopal Ceremony."  (Though it appears the Russians may have us beat in the Bovine Matrimony race.)

Now the focus has shifted to the Anglican Communion, where we see the same pattern the Episcopal Church has followed for decades being played out all over again:  The official structures become increasingly heterodox, and a orthodox resistance movement forms which becomes the foundation for a movement of renewal.

But therein lies room for surprise!  It will make news when the Anglican Church in North America surpasses the Episcopal Church in average Sunday attendance.  It will make news when GAFCON separates from the dying Communion structures to establish structures of its own to which all orthodox Anglicans look.

The focus of our news will change:  We can now turn from the Obituary page to the page announcing new births.  New churches.  New dioceses.  New seminaries.  New mission enterprises.  New efforts to complete Christ's Great Commission and take the Good News to every people, tribe, and language.

Why do I know this is true?   Because Christ has promised that he will return and that his Great Commission to take the Gospel to every people group on earth will be fulfilled before he does so.  As we see events with apocalyptic significance happening in our world, our eyes should be mainly focused on this:  "And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14).  That is good news indeed, and that is where our energies should be focused and our prayers concentrated.  

We may be witnessing a dearth--and a death--of Anglican news.  But for those who are looking for Christ's kingdom, the best news is yet to come.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Island

Last night I saw a movie I had somehow missed when it came out in 2005: The Island.  Once I realized the plot of the movie, my attention was riveted.

Lincoln Six-Echo (played by Ewan McGregor) is a resident of a seemingly Utopian but totally enclosed, underground facility in the year 2019.  Like all of the inhabitants of this carefully controlled environment, Lincoln hopes to be chosen to go to the "The Island" -- a paradise that is reportedly the only uncontaminated spot on the surface of the planet.  But Lincoln soon discovers that everything about his existence is a lie.  The earth's surface is not contaminated.  It is, in fact, very much like the earth we know.  He and all of the other inhabitants of the underground facility are actually human clones, being raised as "insurance policies" to provide organs and body parts for transplants to prolong the lives of their look-alikes on the surface--people who have no idea that the "tissue" and organs they receive are harvested from the clones.  Those inhabitants of the facility chosen by "the lottery" to go to the Island are actually selected to be killed when their organs are needed.  

Lincoln makes a daring escape with a beautiful fellow resident named Jordan Two-Delta (played by Scarlett Johansson).  Relentlessly pursued by the forces of the sinister institute that once housed them, Lincoln and Jordan engage in a race for their lives to literally meet their makers and to let them know that their "insurance policies" are actually human beings who are being killed for their organs and body parts.

What compelled my attention was the similarity between this work of science fiction and the recent revelations of  Planned Parenthood's involvement in harvesting fetal organs and body parts.  As in The Island, Planned Parenthood perpetuates the myth that those from whom the tissue and organs are harvested aren't actual human beings. 

In the now famous video, Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical services, discusses harvesting tissue and organs from aborted fetuses over lunch in Los Angeles:
I’d say a lot of people want liver.  And for that reason, most providers will do this case under ultrasound guidance, so they’ll know where they’re putting their forceps.  The kind of rate-limiting step of the procedure is the calvarium, the head is basically the biggest part.  Most of the other stuff can come out intact . . .  So then you’re just kind of cognizant of where you put your graspers, you try to intentionally go above and below the thorax, so that, you know, we’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m going to basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.
Is this not the most callous discussion of harvesting human organs you have ever read?

After an extended and exciting chase, Lincoln and Jordan eventually reach the home of Lincoln's clone donor (also played by McGregor), who in a twist of deception proves to be more interested in prolonging his life than in caring about where the necessary body parts come from.  I couldn't help but wonder if those who support Planned Parenthood's outrageous conduct could see themselves in this character.

Finally, Lincoln and Jordan break back into the underground facility in order to destroy it and liberate the residents, eventually being aided by the very mercenaries who were sent by the facility to track them down and kill them.  Even in science fiction, the idea of harvesting human organs is too repugnant for all but the worst villains.

Write or call your representatives in Congress and demand that they stop funding Planned Parenthood with our tax dollars.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Brothers, We Are Not Professionals

We pastors are being killed by the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry. The mentality of the professional is not the mentality of the prophet.  It is not the mentality of the slave of Christ.  Professionalism has nothing to do with the essence and heart of the Christian ministry.  The more professional we long to be, the more spiritual death we will leave in our wake.  For there is no professional childlikeness (Matt. 18:3); there is no professional tenderheartedness (Eph. 4:32); there is no professional panting after God (Ps. 42:1).
But our first business is to pant after God in prayer.  Our business is to weep over our sins (James 4:9).  Is there professional weeping?

Our business is to strain forward to the holiness of Christ and the prize of the upward call of God (Phil. 3:14); to pummel our bodies and subdue them lest we be cast away (1 Cor. 9:27); to deny ourselves and take up the blood-spattered cross daily (Luke 9:23).  How do you carry a cross professionally?  We have been crucified with Christ, yet now we live by faith in the one who loved us and gave Himself for us (Gal. 2:20).  What is professional faith?
Thus begins, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, by John Piper.  Released in a second edition in 2013, this convicting and compelling work is probably more necessary now than when Piper wrote the first edition thirteen years ago.  It is more necessary because the "professionalism" of the church has only increased in the intervening years.

The seduction of the Church takes many forms.  The most obvious seduction is the one that has occurred in mainline traditions that have adopted the sexual morality of the culture.  The seduction that has affected the evangelical church is the one to which Piper points prophetically--the notion that a professional style and management techniques learned from a secular culture can somehow substitute for the radical nature of our calling and the spiritual graces and power that are God's gift along with that calling.

This outstanding work is now available as a FREE .pdf download from John Piper's ministry, Desiring God.  It is also available for purchase as a paperback or Kindle version.

If you are a pastor, or if you train or disciple clergy and lay leaders in the church, this book is an indispensable part of your formation in how to raise up servant leaders who have a passion for God and who are truly useful in his service.

And, after all, isn't that what it is all about?

Download or buy this book and read it now!