Saturday, July 18, 2015

Probably my last post about General Convention--ever!

Between 1991 and 2009, I attended seven General Conventions of the Episcopal Church, five of those Conventions as a Deputy.  However, I was very glad not to have attended this most recent General Convention in Salt Lake City.  And I am especially glad not to have been there when the Supreme Court's decision legalizing homosexual marriage was announced.  It simply would have been too heartbreaking to watch the revelry as Episcopal bishops and deputies celebrated the nation's highest court giving validation to their degeneracy--Church, State, and Culture marching in lockstep on their relentless descent.  All that is missing is a handbasket.

Not all those present were celebrating:  Twenty-six bishops (vs. 129 in favor and 5 abstentions) went on record in the roll call vote as opposing the adoption of same-sex marriage.  Among those was Bp. William Love of Albany, who stated, "As we contemplate changing the understanding of marriage we must remember our Lord’s words in Matthew (19:5), 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’.”  Love continued,
If our Lord is the son of God … God incarnate, he is quite aware of the nature of marriage and could have offered alternatives but did not,” Bishop Love said.  The argument has been based on all sorts of things.  But it is not an issue that men and women can love each other... that is not the issue.  God has told us that is not appropriate to use the gift of sexual intimacy outside of the marriage of one man and one woman.
Bishop Love stated the church should ask partnered gay and lesbian couples, “Do you love your partner enough not to engage in sexual intimacy?  The issue before us is not about relationships but sexual intimacy.”

Writing from General Convention following the decision, Bishop Dan Martins of Springfield blogged that:
Nonetheless, the Episcopal Church has, today, effectively redefined marriage--a universal and timeless human social institution that Christians have believed is, in fact, not merely a human social institution, but a gift from God that is literally prehistoric, participating in the order of creation.  We have done so, moreover, without even a pretense of consultation with the other provinces of the Anglican Communion, to say nothing of the rest of the Christian world.  It is an act of breathtaking hubris, an abuse of common sense truly worthy of the descriptor Orwellian.
But then, Bp. Martins makes two distinctions that I am inclined to question.  His first questionable distinction has to do with the definition of heresy:
Is it heresy?  This is the question I will continue to ponder.  I don't use that term loosely.  It has a high bar.  Mere false teaching (which this manifestly is) is not necessarily, or even often, heresy.  Heresy must ultimately be traceable to the denial of one of the articles of the creeds.  The creeds don't talk about marriage.  The creeds do, however, talk about creation.  They name God as the creator of heaven and earth.  If marriage was indeed established by God in creation, we are denying the character of that creation when we trivialize the sheer given-ness of "make and female created He them."  These are some preliminary thoughts, at least.
His second questionable distinction follows:
One of my ecclesiological taproots is that one is obligated to remain in communion with a church that engages in false teaching as long as it continues to be a church.  When such a church progresses from mere false teaching into formal heresy--not just de facto heresy, but heresy enshrined in its liturgies and canons--and then persists in that heresy over more than one generation--and I would suggest forty years as a benchmark for "more than one generation"--then it ceases to be a church, and a faithful Christian is obligated to not be in communion with it.  We've certainly been winding the forty-year clock. Is it now ticking? 
Here is why I say the distinctions are questionable:  The New Testament makes no such distinction between false teaching and heresy.  When the Apostle Paul tells his disciple Timothy and the various churches to which he wrote not to tolerate false teachers, he did not make a distinction as to whether their false teaching concerned a matter that would someday be included in the Nicene Creed.  In fact, the admonition was often to separate from false teachers who promoted immorality (1 Corinthians 5:11, 1 Corinthians 10:8, 2 Corinthians 6:17, Ephesians 5:3).  The same is true for other apostles (2 Peter 2:1-10, Jude 3-7).

Heresy has also been defined as any departure from the faith of the Catholic Church, which Vincent of Lerins identified as that which has been believed by the whole church throughout the world, from the beginning, and by all (universality, antiquity, and the consensus of the faithful).  Who can disagree that the Episcopal Church has seriously departed from the received faith of the universal and ancient church--and on a matter of ultimate importance: God's stated will for humankind in the matter of sexual relations and God's ordained sacrament of Holy Matrimony?

And as to remaining in communion, the New Testament makes no such stipulation.  The Apostle Paul does not say, if the body with which you are associated continues in false teaching for a generation, then you (or, more likely, your children) are obliged to separate from it.  No, the admonition is that those who are serious about following the way of Christ are either to expel or to separate from false teachers immediately.

Further, as Attorney Allan Haley writes, the Episcopal Church has not only committed heresy but blasphemy:  "It was God Himself who defined marriage as between a male and a female in Genesis 2:24, and thus to invoke the name of that same God in blessing (or celebrating) a pairing that is not one that he made provision for in Holy Scripture is a blasphemy on His name."

Commenting on the proposals for same-sex marriage prior to General Convention, Mr. Haley had already written
What hope is there for the Episcopal Church if any of these Resolutions passes its General Convention?  At that point, the Church will be on record as promoting and encouraging its ordained clergy to speak blasphemously of the relationship between Christ and his church every time they perform a same-sex marriage.  And so at that point, the Church will most definitely no longer be a church, let alone a part of the "one true, catholic and apostolic church" instituted by our Lord.  Instead, it will be at war with our Lord's church.
Can anyone seriously disagree that the Episcopal Church, which has chosen the way of the world, the flesh, and the devil (1 John 2:15-16), has put itself in the position of being "at war with our Lord's Church?"

Bishop Martins has now issued "A Word on Holy Matrimony" in which he states the following policies for his diocese:
  • The new marriage liturgies will not be authorized in the Diocese of Springfield.
  • No member of the clergy who is either canonically resident in the diocese or resident elsewhere while licensed in the diocese may preside or officiate at any service in which the recently-adopted rites are used, either in whole or in part. This restriction applies both within the bounds of the diocese and beyond them.
  • No resident or licensed cleric may sign the civil marriage certificate for a union between persons of the same sex.
  • No resident or licensed cleric may preside or officiate at the Blessing of a Civil Marriage for persons of the same sex.
  • Failure to abide by these expectations will be understood as a breach of an ordained person’s canonical vow of obedience to the Bishop, and dealt with accordingly.
  • No church building of the diocese, nor any other venue owned by or associated with a church of the diocese, may be used for such a ceremony.
  • No such ceremony may be recorded either in the Service Register or the Marriage Register of any church in this diocese.
In giving these directives, Bishop Martins has taken the path of a faithful, catholic Christian.  God bless him!  How long he and his fellow dissenting bishops can remain on that path in the Episcopal Church remains to be seen.
  

Monday, July 06, 2015

Where is the Outrage?

Kathryn Steinle, 32
I am reprinting this story (below) that I posted in July 2013 for an obvious reason.  A a 32-year-old San Francisco woman, Kathryn Steinle, was shot to death last week while taking a picturesque walk with her father down Pier 14 in San Francisco, a popular tourist area.  Police have arrested, Francisco Sanchez, 45, an illegal immigrant and a repeat felon who had already been deported five times, for the crime. 

This heinous murder points to (1) the the utter failure of this administration to secure our borders, (2) the general attitude that the President's executive amnesty is encouraging throughout our law enforcement community of looking the other way when it comes to illegal immigrants, (3) the stupidity of San Francisco and other cities who have made themselves "sanctuary cities" by refusing to cooperate with federal authorities to enforce immigration laws, and (4) the fallacy of thinking that gun control laws (which only affect law-abiding citizens) have anything to do with preventing situations like this.

Louise Sollowin, 93
At the time of my earlier article (July 2013), the Trayvon Martin story was attracting all the media coverage, while a 93-year-old Omaha woman was sexually assaulted and beaten to death by a 19-year-old illegal alien.  I predicted then that, apart from a local Omaha newspaper and television station, the national media are going to bury this story.  And they did.  No one outside Omaha heard about Louise Sollowin.  While President Obama called for a "national conversation about race" over the death of Trayvon Martin, there was no outcry for a "national conversation" about illegal immigration.

The murder of Louise Sollowin two years ago and the murder of Kathryn Steinle last week are not isolated incidents.  You can Google "illegal alien crimes" and read about hundreds and even thousands of similar incidents.

A lot has changed in the two years between these two murders: (1) the President has openly defied Congress and the will of the American people with his executive amnesty orders, and (2) more than a million more illegal immigrants have entered the US.

But a lot has also not changed: (1) nothing has been done to secure the borders, and (2) no one in Congress seems to have the political will to tackle this issue.  The voters gave Republicans a majority in the Senate and increased their majority in the House of Representatives with a clear mandate:  Securing the borders was a principal part of that mandate.  Now, establishment Republicans are acting like Democrats on this issue.  Meanwhile American jobs, American cities, and American lives are being lost as a consequence.

Here's the article from July 2013:

Where Is the Outrage?

Yo!  Trayvon Martin supporters!  How about saving a little of your outrage for this:

Church remembers longtime south Omaha matriarch

OMAHA, Neb. — A church and community are in mourning following the senseless death of a 93-year-old south Omaha woman.

A crowd is expected to turn out Friday night and Saturday to pay respects to Louise Sollowin, who lived most of her life in the home where police said she was beaten and sexually assaulted Sunday.

Sollowin died of her injuries Wednesday.

Her alleged attacker, Sergio Martinez-Perez, 19, returned to court Friday to face a first-degree murder charge in connection with Sollowin's death.

Those who knew Sollowin are now preparing to say goodbye.

"I can tell you at mass when we announced it, there were definitely tears," said Rev. James Buckley, of St. Francis Cabrini.  "I mean, we still have people in the parish who were raised with Louise, so they knew her, they remember her.  It's just a difficult time for the whole parish."

Buckley understands how difficult it is to process the unimaginable way Sollowin died.  He spent the last moments of her life at her hospital bedside praying with her and her family.  Buckley said he still can't shake the image of Sollowin's battered face or the severity of the crime.

In court Friday, prosecutors said Martinez-Perez admitted to looking for a victim because he was "mad at women."  He randomly picked Sollowin's house, prosecutors allege.
Read more (with video).

Police: Elderly woman who was beaten, raped dies

Sergio Martinez-Perez faces murder charge

OMAHA, Neb. —A 19-year-old accused of beating and raping an elderly woman who later died will now face a murder charge.

Prosecutors said Sergio Martinez-Perez beat and sexually assaulted 93-year-old Louise Sollowin in her home Sunday.  Sollowin died Wednesday.

Martinez-Perez is charged with first-degree murder.  Charges were dropped for first-degree sexual assault and first-degree assault and burglary.

A judge denied him bond on Friday.

Autopsy results showed that Sollowin's cause of death was blunt force trauma.

Sollowin's family remembers her as a strong woman with many stories and talents.

“She loved her family and her family loved her,” said Teresa Hartzell, the victim’s granddaughter.  “She was all about family.”

“(She was) a wonderful seamstress.  We all got pajamas from her for Christmas, all the grandkids.  She made her children’s clothes,” Hartzell said.

Sollowin's daughter found her suffering in her home Sunday morning.

“She heard my grandmother, and she went in the bedroom, her grandmother called, ‘Help me. Help me,'” Hartzell said.

Hartzell said her mother pushed Martinez-Perez away from her and was going to help her grandmother and saw that it was serious, ran into the other room and called police.

Hartzell and her husband arrived moments later, seeing the man police arrested.

“I was there when the police took him out and he just glared,” she said. “I don’t think there’s any words for it. I just can’t understand why someone would do that. Doesn’t make any sense.”
Prosecutors said Martinez-Perez admitted to the assault and rape, saying he was mad at women after a night of drinking.

Joe Sollowin, Louise's son, said Perez stole precious years from his mother, and the family is demanding justice.

“I want him to get the electric chair. That's what I want. Of course that can't bring my mother back, but he doesn't deserve anything,” he said.

Joe said he is haunted by the pain his mother suffered.  "I still can't get the thought of seeing what happened -- beating her up.   That's not how you want her to go and that's not right,” he said.

Martinez-Perez, who had been working as a roofer, has no ties to Omaha and no known relatives in the metro.

Investigators said Martinez-Perez is not a legal resident of the United States, and that his country of origin is not yet clear.

The victim’s family said a detective told them Perez has been in the country for about four months.  [Emphasis added.]
Read more (with video).
(with video)
Hello! White House?  Hello! Justice Department?  If the killing of Trayvon Martin is enough to merit the personal involvement of the President of the United States and the Attorney General, and if it is cause to open a national conversation about race, then shouldn't the brutal murder of Louise Sollowin by an illegal alien be sufficient to make us rethink the immigration proposals that are currently before Congress? 

Of course it is.  But the main reason it probably won't happen is because, apart from a local Omaha newspaper and television station, the national media are going to bury this story.
How many more lives will we lose before our political leaders act?
  

Friday, June 26, 2015

Unprecedented Four SCOTUS Dissents Promise to Keep Marriage Debate Open

Today, by a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court of the United States announced a new constitutional right that requires all 50 states to license and recognize same-sex marriage.  In a rare show of disapproval, all four dissenting U.S. Supreme Court justices have issued independent dissenting opinions for today’s landmark case of Obergefell v. Hodges.

Today's SCOTUS decision does grave injury to the basic concept that the people—not the courts—make the law.  The Court has abruptly cut off the ongoing debate over the definition of marriage, unilaterally imposing its view of what’s good for society by suddenly discovering a new constitutional right that almost no one would have imagined just a few years ago.  The "separation of powers" most of us learned about in grade school is daily being undermined by executive fiat and judicial overreach.  It is time for all of us to remind our elected leaders that all governmental power ultimately resides in the consent of the governed—not in kings, dictators, or judges.

You can read the majority decision, and the four separate dissenting opinions, here.

Here are some excerpts from the dissenting justices, which show the level of alarm raised by this astonishing judicial act:

Chief Justice John Roberts:
"But for those who believe in a government of laws, not of men, the majority’s approach is deeply disheartening....  The majority’s decision is an act of will, not legal judgment.  The right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or this Court’s precedent.  The majority expressly disclaims judicial 'caution' and omits even a pretense of humility, openly relying on its desire to remake society according to its own 'new insight' into the 'nature of injustice.'"
In doing so, Roberts contends, the majority justices have usurped the role of legislators and ultimately of the people themselves:
"The majority today neglects that restrained conception of the judicial role.  It seizes for itself a question the Constitution leaves to the people, at a time when the people are engaged in a vibrant debate on that question.  And it answers that question based not on neutral principles of constitutional law, but on its own 'understanding of what freedom is and must become'"
Similarly, Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito all object to what they consider a horrifically wrong-headed decision not because they personally disagree with same-sex marriage, but because they care deeply about the role that the U.S. Supreme Court is commissioned to play in our American republic. 

Justice Antonin Scalia:  
"The [majority's] opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic.  It is one thing for separate concurring or dissenting opinions to contain extravagances, even silly extravagances, of thought and expression; it is something else for the official opinion of the Court to do so...  The stuff contained in today’s opinion has to diminish this Court’s reputation for clear thinking and sober analysis."
Justice Scalia also notes that at the time the Constitution’s 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868, “every State limited marriage to one man and one woman, and no one doubted the constitutionality of doing so.” 

Justice Clarence Thomas:  
"Our Constitution—like the Declaration of Independence before it—was predicated on a simple truth: One’s liberty, not to mention one’s dignity, was something to be shielded from—not provided by—the State.  Today’s decision casts that truth aside.  In its haste to reach a desired result, the majority misapplies a clause focused on 'due process' to afford substantive rights, disregards the most plausible understanding of the 'liberty' protected by that clause, and distorts the principles on which this Nation was founded.  Its decision will have inestimable consequences for our Constitution and our society."
Justice Samuel Alito:  
"Today’s decision usurps the constitutional right of the people to decide whether to keep or alter the traditional understanding of marriage.  The decision will also have other important consequences.  It will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.  In the course of its opinion, the majority compares traditional marriage laws to laws that denied equal treatment for African-Americans and women.  The implications of this analogy will be exploited by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent."
From the standpoint of those who support the traditional definition of marriage, there is no way to put a positive spin on today's ruling.  It is just about as bad as it can get.  The Court has plunged our nation into a world where, as Justice Scalia put it, "the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court."

We should take no solace in any assurances that our religious liberties will remain safe.  They will not.  Justice Alito is prescient in his estimation of the effect of today's decision: "It will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy."  We fool ourselves if we rest in the belief that we are safe from those who wish to outlaw the sincerely-held views of millions of Americans who know the truth about marriage.

As we see most clearly on days like today, it really DOES matter who we elect to office, especially those who appoint judges!

May God have mercy on the United States of America!
  

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Report: ISIS Jihadist Converts to Christianity After Seeing Jesus in His Dreams

From here:
ISIS slaughters Christians and destroys churches while they establish their caliphate in Syria and Iraq. But one militant reportedly converted to Christianity after “a man in white” appeared in his dreams.

Gina Fadely, the director of Youth With A Mission Frontier Missions (YWAM), told The Voice of the Martyrs Radio Network one of their workers met a former ISIS fighter who murdered Christians, but converted after a dream:

“He told this YWAM leader that he had begun having dreams of this man in white who came to him and said, ‘You are killing my people.’ And he started to feel really sick and uneasy about what he was doing,” Fadely continued. “The fighter said just before he killed one Christian, the man said, ‘I know you will kill me, but I give to you my Bible.’ The Christian was killed and this ISIS fighter actually took the Bible and began to read it. In another dream, Jesus asked him to follow him and he was now asking to become a follower of Christ and to be discipled.”
Read the rest.
  

Monday, June 15, 2015

Pope Francis Encyclical Calls for Climate ‘Justice,’ Formation of Global Political Body

From The Guardian:
Pope Francis will this week call for changes in lifestyles and energy consumption to avert the “unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem” before the end of this century, according to a leaked draft of a papal encyclical. In a document released by an Italian magazine on Monday, the pontiff will warn that failure to act would have “grave consequences for all of us”.

Francis also called for a new global political authority tasked with “tackling … the reduction of pollution and the development of poor countries and regions”. His appeal echoed that of his predecessor, pope Benedict XVI, who in a 2009 encyclical proposed a kind of super-UN to deal with the world’s economic problems and injustices.

According to the lengthy draft, which was obtained and published by L’Espresso magazine, the Argentinean pope will align himself with the environmental movement and its objectives. While accepting that there may be some natural causes of global warming, the pope will also state that climate change is mostly a man-made problem.
Read the rest of the story here.
  

Saturday, June 06, 2015

NOAA Fiddles With Climate Data To Erase The 15-Year Global Warming ‘Hiatus’

From here:
 
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists have found a solution to the 15-year “pause” in global warming: They “adjusted” the hiatus in warming out of the temperature record.

New climate data by NOAA scientists doubles the warming trend since the late 1990s by adjusting pre-hiatus temperatures downward and inflating temperatures in more recent years.

“Newly corrected and updated global surface temperature data from NOAA’s [National Centers for Environmental Information] do not support the notion of a global warming ‘hiatus,'” wrote NOAA scientists in their study presenting newly adjusted climate data.

To increase the rate in warming, NOAA scientists put more weight on certain ocean buoy arrays, adjusted ship-based temperature readings upward, and slightly raised land-based temperatures as well. Scientists said adjusted ship-based temperature data “had the largest impact on trends for the 2000-2014 time period, accounting for 0.030°C of the 0.064°C trend difference.” They added that the “buoy offset correction contributed 0.014°C… to the difference, and the additional weight given to the buoys because of their greater accuracy contributed 0.012°C.”

NOAA says for the years 1998 to 2012, the “new analysis exhibits more than twice as much warming as the old analysis at the global scale,” at 0.086 degrees Celsius per decade compared to 0.039 degrees per decade.

“This is clearly attributable to the new [Sea Surface Temperature] analysis, which itself has much higher trends,” scientists noted in their study. “In contrast, trends in the new [land surface temperature] analysis are only slightly higher.”

Global surface temperature data shows a lack of statistically significant warming over the last 15 years — a development that has baffled climate scientists. Dozens of explanations have been offered to explain the hiatus in warming, but those theories may be rendered moot by NOOA’s new study.

NOAA’s study, however, notes the overall warming trend since 1880 has not been significantly changed. What’s increased is the warming trend in recent decades.

“Our new analysis now shows the trend over the period 1950-1999, a time widely agreed as having significant anthropogenic global warming, is 0.113 [degrees Celsius per decade], which is virtually indistinguishable with the trend over the period 2000-2014″ of 0.116 degrees per decade, according to the study.

The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s “statement of two years ago — that the global surface temperature has shown a much smaller increasing linear trend over the past 15 years than over the past 30 to 60 years’ — is no longer valid,” the study claims.

But that’s not all NOAA did to increase the warming trend in recent decades. Climate expert Bob Tisdale and meteorologist Anthony Watts noted that to “manufacture warming during the hiatus, NOAA adjusted the pre-hiatus data downward.”

“If we subtract the [old] data from the [new] data… we can see that that is exactly what NOAA did,” Tisdale and Watts wrote on the science blog Watts Up With That.

“It’s the same story all over again; the adjustments go towards cooling the past and thus increasing the slope of temperature rise,” Tisdale and Watts added. “Their intent and methods are so obvious they’re laughable.”

Adjusting Good Data Upwards To Match Bad Data Seems Questionable’
NOAA’s updated data was also criticized by climate scientists with the libertarian Cato Institute. Scientists Richard Lindzen, Patrick Michaels and Chip Knappenberger argue the adjustments made by NOAA were “guaranteed to put a warming trend in recent data.”

Cato scientists also argued that NOAA’s new data is an outlier compared to other global temperature records, which overwhelmingly show a hiatus in warming.

It “would seem more logical to seriously question the [NOAA] result in light of the fact that, compared to those bulk temperatures, it is an outlier, showing a recent warming trend that is not in these other global records,” the three scientists wrote.

“Adjusting good data upwards to match bad data seems questionable, and the fact that the buoy network becomes increasingly dense in the last two decades means that this adjustment must put a warming trend in the data,” wrote Michaels, Knappenberger and Lindzen, who is a top climatologist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Scientists and climate experts skeptical of man-made global warming have become increasingly critical of temperature adjustments made by government climate agencies like NASA and NOAA. Skeptics charge that agencies like NOAA have been tampering with past temperatures to make the warming trend look much more severe than is shown in the raw data.

“It is important to recognize that the central issue of human-caused climate change is not a question of whether it is warming or not, but rather a question of how much,” they wrote. “And to this relevant question, the answer has been, and remains, that the warming is taking place at a much slower rate than is being projected.”

Georgia Tech climate scientist Judith Curry also chimed in, arguing that NOAA excluded extremely accurate sea buoy data in order to erase the hiatus in warming. Curry wrote that it “seems rather ironic, since this is the period where there is the greatest coverage of data with the highest quality of measurements — ARGO buoys and satellites don’t show a warming trend.”

“Nevertheless, the NOAA team finds a substantial increase in the ocean surface temperature anomaly trend since 1998,” she wrote. “This short paper in Science is not adequate to explain and explore the very large changes that have been made to the NOAA data set. The global surface temperature datasets are clearly a moving target. So while I’m sure this latest analysis from NOAA will be regarded as politically useful for the Obama administration, I don’t regard it as a particularly useful contribution to our scientific understanding of what is going on.”
  

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Words and Phrases Remind Us of the Way We Word

Sent to me by e-mail:  Some of these expressions predate me by quite a few years, even decades.  But I love the classics:
Words and Phrases Remind Us of the Way We Word

by Richard Lederer

About a month ago, I illuminated some old expressions that have become obsolete because of the inexorable march of technology. These phrases included "Don’t touch that dial," "Carbon copy," "You sound like a broken record" and "Hung out to dry."  A bevy of readers have asked me to shine light on more faded words and expressions, and I am happy to oblige:

Back in the olden days we had a lot of moxie.  We’d put on our best bib and tucker and straighten up and fly right.  Hubba-hubba!  We’d cut a rug in some juke joint and then go necking and petting and smooching and spooning and billing and cooing and pitching woo in hot rods and jalopies in some passion pit or lovers’ lane.  Heavens to Betsy!  Gee whillikers!  Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat!  Holy moley!  We were in like Flynn and living the life of Riley, and even a regular guy couldn’t accuse us of being a knucklehead, a nincompoop or a pill.  Not for all the tea in China!

Back in the olden days, life used to be swell, but when’s the last time anything was swell?  Swell has gone the way of beehives, pageboys and the D.A.; of spats, knickers, fedoras, poodle skirts, saddle shoes and pedal pushers.  Oh, my aching back.  Kilroy was here, but he isn’t anymore.

Like Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle and Kurt Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim, we have become unstuck in time.  We wake up from what surely has been just a short nap, and before we can say, “I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!” or “This is a fine kettle of fish!” we discover that the words we grew up with, the words that seemed omnipresent as oxygen, have vanished with scarcely a notice from our tongues and our pens and our keyboards.

Poof, poof, poof go the words of our youth, the words we’ve left behind.  We blink, and they’re gone, evanesced from the landscape and wordscape of our perception, like Mickey Mouse wristwatches, hula hoops, skate keys, candy cigarettes, little wax bottles of colored sugar water and an organ grinder’s monkey.

Where have all those phrases gone?  Long time passing.  Where have all those phrases gone?  Long time ago: Pshaw.  The milkman did it.  Think about the starving Armenians.  Bigger than a bread box.  Banned in Boston.  The very idea!  It’s your nickel.  Don’t forget to pull the chain.  Knee high to a grasshopper.  Turn-of-the-century.  Iron curtain.  Domino theory.  Fail safe.  Civil defense.  Fiddlesticks!  You look like the wreck of the Hesperus.  Cooties.  Going like sixty.  I’ll see you in the funny papers.  Don’t take any wooden nickels.  Heavens to Murgatroyd!  And awa-a-ay we go!

Oh, my stars and garters!  It turns out there are more of these lost words and expressions than Carter had liver pills.  This can be disturbing stuff, this winking out of the words of our youth, these words that lodge in our heart’s deep core.  But just as one never steps into the same river twice, one cannot step into the same language twice.  Even as one enters, words are swept downstream into the past, forever making a different river.

We of a certain age have been blessed to live in changeful times.  For a child each new word is like a shiny toy, a toy that has no age.  We at the other end of the chronological arc have the advantage of remembering there are words that once did not exist and there were words that once strutted their hour upon the earthly stage and now are heard no more, except in our collective memory.  It’s one of the greatest advantages of aging.  We can have archaic and eat it, too.

See ‘ya later, alligator!

After while, crocodile!
 

Monday, May 25, 2015

IRANIAN SPECIAL FORCES COMMANDER: ‘OBAMA HAS NOT DONE A DAMN THING’ TO FIGHT ISIS

The title pretty much says it all.  But there is more.
Iranian elite paramilitary force leader Major General Qassem Soleimani accused the United States of having “no will” to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and blasted President Barack Obama as not having “done a damn thing” to quell the terrorist insurgency. The remarks follow news that Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah is planning to increase its presence in Iraq to combat ISIS.
  
Oh, just peachy--Hezbollah increasing its presence in Iraq to fight ISIS!  That should make the region and the world a safer place (not!).   On this Memorial Day, we need to remember that the United States has been a powerful force for good in the world for more than 200 years; and where the US is absent, evil flourishes.  
  

Saturday, May 02, 2015

How to preach sermons that don’t suck

From the Covenant blog, where there is more.  (Be sure and read it all.)
Let’s be honest, most sermons today are terrible.  They are boring.  They ramble.  They sound like bad imitations of high school book reports.  Listening to a sermon today is often like listening to the teacher from the old Charlie Brown cartoons.  And I believe the reason why preaching has gotten so bad, particularly in liturgical churches, is rather obvious.  We do not have good preachers because we do not understand what preaching is for.

Like being a great cello player or a great center fielder, a great preacher is born with a certain degree of raw talent that then must be honed and trained in order for the preacher to reach his or her full potential.  But in liturgical churches in the contemporary West, we see preaching as less important than other aspects of ministry.  We assume that anyone can be a great preacher and that the honing of preaching skills ought to be relatively low on the clergy’s priority list, something to tend to once all the other fires are put out.  We reap what we sow.  We treat preaching like it is nothing, and thus it becomes nothing.

What I offer here are a few maxims on what makes great preaching.  They are culled from my own experience both as a preacher and as someone who listens to sermons.  I am no expert, and this list is nowhere near exhaustive, but it is a start. I hope that others will build on this.  “Faith comes through hearing,” Paul says (Romans 10:17).  It is no secret that the Church in the West is in decline, and I see no scenario for its revival that does not include a renewal of great preaching.
Read it all.
  

Friday, April 24, 2015

And it is good...

Someone asked a retiring seminary president what he was going to do with his time once he retired.  "Well, for one thing," replied the president, "I am looking forward to getting back to my book."  His friend looked surprised and said, "I didn't know you were writing a book."  "No," said the president, "I mean the one I was reading."

I have told that story a number of times because it fits my life to a tee.  I have spent 31 one years in graduate theological education, ten of those as a seminary dean/president.  For much of that time, I was involved in administration.  My PhD program required two minors (in my case, New Testament and Missiology) and even my major was a double major: Historical and Systematic Theology.  I have taught in all these areas, as well as Church History, Christian Spirituality, Liturgics, and Christian Education.  But it was never enough to concentrate on my subject area; I always had a concern for creating a learning environment, recruiting good faculty, providing the infrastructure to make learning possible.  So it was almost inevitable that, at some point, I would become a seminary president.  At the same time, being involved in administration has meant that I have missed being able to immerse myself in research and writing to the degree I would have liked.

Even though the last three houses where we have lived have had a study where I could work, it didn't prevent books, computers, and a work area from overflowing into the master bedroom.  In our current house, we devoted the room that could have been a study to other things, so our master bedroom now has two desks, three computers (1 PC, 1 Mac, and 1 Linux) and enough floor to ceiling bookcases to hold roughly 2,000 books.  It looks more like a large study with a bed in it than a master bedroom.  (I have a very understanding wife.)   The remainder of our books (more than half ) are on shelves elsewhere in the house or still stored in boxes because there isn't enough room to unpack them.  Of the books in the master bedroom, I have read slightly over half of them.  So I lie in bed sometimes and look at all the books and think to myself, "If I knew everything that was in all these books...  Wow!"

I didn't retire as a seminary president; I left and became rector of a very wonderful congregation.  I am blessed to have in this congregation three other Anglican priests (in addition to myself), a Foursquare Gospel minister, and a Lutheran pastor who is also a psychologist.  Then there are three professors (Fuller Seminary, Biola University, Trinity School for Ministry) who are members, and a fourth (from Westminster Seminary) who owns a condo in the area and worships with us when he is in town.  Then there are few more MDs and PhDs--in total I would guess that more than a quarter of the congregation has one or more advanced degrees.  If you were to think that makes us a stuffy or pretentious bunch, you'd be wrong.  The congregation (aptly named "All Saints") embraces everyone from the wealthy to the homeless, from high IQ individuals to the developmentally challenged, and is the warmest, friendliest, most welcoming congregation I know.

The transition from seminary president to pastor has been a very natural one in some ways and monumental in others.  I have been here 18 months, and it has taken me almost that long to learn to read again.  I mean really read--seriously, deeply, enjoyably.  Maybe I'll get to read the rest of the books I own after all.

My life today is far from devoid of academic pursuits:  I helped found the St. Benedict School for Ministry in the Diocese of Quincy, to make quality theological education accessible online.  In addition to teaching Church History and Theology, I am the Dean and President of the School.  I continue to serve on the boards of Anglicans for Life, the Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders (SAMS), and Anglican Frontier Missions, in addition to serving on the Commission on Ministry, the Diocesan Council, and the Committee on Constitutions and Canons in the Diocese of Quincy.  I served as one of the writers of the new Catechism for the Anglican Church in North America, and I currently serve on the ACNA's Ecumenical Relations Task Force and the Theology Working Group of the newly-appointed Task Force on Marriage, Family, and the Single Life.

(I didn't realize how busy I was until I typed that last paragraph.  No wonder I am tired sometimes.)

As a member of the ACNA's Ecumenical Relations Task Force, I wrote the paper on the Filioque (the phrase in the Nicene Creed translated as "and the Son") that was received by the College of Bishops and has influenced how the Filioque is treated in the Nicene Creed in the ACNA's Texts for Common Prayer.  For Forward in Faith North America, I wrote a paper entitled "An Anglican View of the Seven Ecumenical Councils that has been reprinted as one of their position papers.  Both of these papers are available at academia.edu.

At All Saints, our mission statement is: "Reaching Out With the Transforming Love of Jesus Christ."  We are exploring what it means to be a "place of healing" to all who come to All Saints and a "place of blessing" to those in the community around us.  By the grace of God, we are growing at a time when many congregations are finding that to be a challenge.

I am growing too--not always in the ways I would have chosen if it had been solely up to me.  But one of the challenges we all face in life is learning to "bloom where you are planted."  And again, by the grace of God, it is happening slowly but surely.  And it is good.