Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Excellent article from the Anglican Communion Institute!

Written by: 
Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Bishop Pierre Whalon’s recent essay, “Polity Politics,” offers a critique of the amicus curiae brief submitted to the Texas Supreme Court by ACI and seven bishops of The Episcopal Church. Surprisingly, there is much with which we agree in this essay, especially the conclusion Bishop Whalon reaches at the mid-point that “on the face of it, the seven bishops are right.” He goes on to assert that although we are right “on the face of it,” we are nonetheless ultimately wrong in light of his interpretation of TEC’s history, Constitution (which he never quotes) and ordination vows. While we disagree with him on these latter points, it is useful to start with the common ground where Bishop Whalon’s observations support the perspective expressed in the amicus brief.
Common Ground
First, Bishop Whalon observes correctly that while “hierarchy is natural” each denomination exhibits it “in wildly different ways.” In this broader context, he finds TEC’s form of government “idiosyncratic.” We agree with this because it underscores the basic point of the amicus brief. Bishop Whalon’s observations about TEC’s idiosyncratic governance are based on his readings of 2000 years of church tradition and 200 years of TEC history. He puts these interpretations forward in an effort to go beyond what is true on “the face of it” to opine more fully on “what a hierarchy is.”
It is important to stress that the document Bishop Whalon critiques in his online essay is a legal argument filed in a court of law. We welcome the opportunity to engage in a lively online debate on these important issues and to discuss them in church meetings and journals. But it is not the role of the civil courts to delve into this fascinating topic, sort through multiple issues of church history and attempt to analyze properly each of the “wildly different” church polities. This becomes an imperative when the civil courts confront a form of church government that is admittedly “idiosyncratic.” The courts must stop at what is true on the face of it or go no further. That, in a nutshell, is the primary argument of the amicus brief.

These are the first three paragraphs in the article. It really is an excellent summary of the points and arguments in the amicus brief and how it applies to dioceses today and in particular The Diocese of South Carolina. 

Today is the Feast Day of St. James of Jerusalem.....

One of today's readings in Forward Day by Day is from Acts 15:12-22. Remember that story? Here is the commentary from FDbD:

James was the leader of the believers in Jerusalem. The members of that community were mostly Jews who believed in Jesus and had been baptized. The few baptized Gentiles among them had been required to convert to Judaism, be circumcised, and keep the Mosaic Law in its entirety.  Paul and Barnabas had a different experience in their missionary work in Greece and Asia Minor. Their converts were mostly Gentiles and had not been required to become Jews in order to become believers.

This caused dissension between the two groups (sound familiar?). The first ecumenical council was held in Jerusalem to settle the dispute. Both sides presented their case; amazingly, they listened to each other. Even more amazing, James and the elders of Jerusalem changed their minds and agreed with Paul (Notice they did NOT sue them over this difference but LISTENED). It took real courage for them to leave their comfort zone and break bread with people who were not observant Jews.

What can James and other first-century leaders teach the church today?

Pray the Diocese of Iran (Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East).

My answer: Simple:
1) LISTEN to those with whom who have disagreements/disputes! I mean really listen not just hear and then re-state your arguments.
2) Do NOT sue those who disagree with you!
3) Do NOT "abandon" fellow believers just because they disagree! <sarcasm on> Well done, TEC! Nothing like "abandoning" 29,000 fellow believers with a stroke of the pen. Well done,+KJS)<sarcasm off>

Sunday, October 21, 2012

To all the world...: Episcopal Church Hits Bottom, Keeps Digging.

 To all the world...: Episcopal Church Hits Bottom, Keeps Digging.  This post from one of the church's most faithful priests and seminary professor, Robert Munday (Nashotah House). A must read as it has a wonderful letter from a priest in the diocese to his parish. Thanks,  Father Munday!  May your ministry be blessed as well!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Going, going......... gone?!

Why title this post "going, going, gone?!"? Who is going ? And where are they going? Good questions all!

According to the Diocese of South Carolina's website, some very important moves have been made by the national Episcopal Church against the Diocese. The diocesan website has links to several articles and many linked documents which should be read for complete understanding. Here, in this post, I will give a brief overview of recent events concerning the diocese.

1) From the Diocese of South Carolina website:
On Monday, October 15, 2012, Bishop Mark J. Lawrence, the 14th Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina was notified by the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, that on September 18, 2012 the Disciplinary Board for Bishops  had certified his abandonment of The Episcopal Church. This action by The Episcopal Church triggered two pre-existing corporate resolutions of the Diocese, which simultaneously disaffiliated the Diocese from The Episcopal Church and called a Special Convention. 

Bishop Lawrence was notified of these actions taken by the Episcopal Church between two meetings, one held on October 3 and one to be held on October 22, which Bishop Andrew Waldo of the Upper Diocese of South Carolina and Bishop Lawrence had set up with the Presiding Bishop to find a peaceful alternative to the growing issues between The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of South Carolina. The meetings were to explore “creative solutions” for resolving these issues to avoid further turmoil in the Diocese and in The Episcopal Church. A timeline of these events and their associated documents may be found below.

Two of the three charges had previously been determined by a majority vote of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops in November 2011 not to constitute abandonment. The Diocese has not received a signed copy of the certification and also remains uninformed of the identity of those making these charges. (update: we do know the names of the accusers- see below part 3).

We feel a deep sense of sadness but a renewed sense of God’s providence that The Episcopal Church has chosen to act against this Diocese and its Bishop during a good faith attempt resolve our differences peacefully. These actions make it clear The Episcopal Church no longer desires to be affiliated with the Diocese of South Carolina. (bold is mine). 

Please be sure to read at least some of the linked documents as they are important for understanding these recent events.

2)As stated above, there will be a special convention of the diocese on Saturday, November 17th. The business to be transacted at this meeting shall be the nature of an appropriate response to the recent actions taken against Bishop Mark Lawrence by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, to include any relevant constitutional and/or canonical changes. For more information, please visit the diocese's website.

3) We now know that these most recent accusations against Bishop Lawrence were made by 14 people     ALL of whom who are members of the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina.  Of the 14 accusers, 12 are laity and 2 are clergy (retired).  A recent article written (also on the diocesan website) by Canon Jim Lewis of the Diocese is an excellent summary of what we know about these 14 people whom I list below:

The 12 lay communicants include: 
Robert R. Black
Margaret A. (Peg) Carpenter and Charles G. Carpenter
Frances L. Elmore
Eleanor Horres
John Kwist and Margaret S. Kwist
Barbara G. Mann and David W. Mann
Warren M. Mersereau
Dolores J. Miller
Robert B. Pinkerton
M. Jaquelin Simons
Mrs. Benjamin Bosworth Smith
John L. Wilder and Virginia C. Wilder

The clergy who were named are:
 the Rev. Colton M. Smith
 the Rev. Roger W. Smith

4) Canon Jim Lewis gives a brief but excellent summary of the recent Forum actions against the diocese.  What follows is from his excellent article in the diocesan e-newsletter. 

“Now that the names of those responsible for bringing accusations against Bishop Lawrence before the Disciplinary Board for Bishops is known, it is instructive to consider what that list reveals.

1. All of the 14 are presently members of the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina.
2.     They represent six of a total of 21 current Board Members of the Forum.
3.     They come from five parishes and one unaffiliated congregation [St. Mark's Port Royal is NOT in union with the diocese] with half the lay members indicating they are parishioners of Grace Church, Charleston. [my note: The other parish with 4 lay accusers is St. John's, Florence. So TWO parishes account for 10 of the 12 laity]
4.      Of the 12 laity, eight represent four married couples.
5.      The legal representative of the group, who presented their case to the disciplinary board for     Bishops, is also a member of the Forum Board and is married to Forum Board member and fellow accuser, Bob Black. That means at least 1/3 of their Board was actively engaged in this project.

Despite their assertions to the contrary, this is clearly a group comprised of the primary leadership of the Forum. To attempt to claim the Forum is not responsible for these actions is disingenuous at best.  It is also clearly not a group representative of a large portion of the diocese. It is representative of a very narrow slice of what is a small group in a handful of parishes. They have nothing like the broad, concerned constituency they proclaim. 

For the opinions of others on these events, I recommend the following blogs/websites:

1)  Titus One Nine is one of the best blogs of Anglican news there is. This is the personal blog.  The Rev. Canon Kendall Harmon, Canon Theologian of the Diocese of South Carolina. Titus usually has 
diocesan news posted very quickly. 

2) From a legal perspective and from an attorney who is also a Church canon lawyer, there is none better than the Anglican Curmudgeon. The Curmudgeon has several posts concerning the Diocese of SouthCarolina. It may take a bit of looking thru the extensive archives but the posts are there. He has two recent posts concerning these events.

3) Probably one of the most widely read blogs in the Anglican blogosphere is Stand Firm which has 6 posts about the events in the Diocese of South Carolina.

 Happy blog reading! Please keep yourself informed about what is happening in the diocese. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Choosing the next Archbishop of Canterbury.....

This decision is an important one for the future of the World Wide Anglican Communion (aka WWAC). This is also a decision that does not seem to be coming easily to the Crown Nominations commission which is charged with finding a suitable candidate for the Prime minister to give to the Queen to approve.

 There has been quite a bit of discussion on various Anglican blogs including Stand Firm in Faith, one of my favorite blogs in Anglican blogland. Here is a recent post from Standa Firm about  how the Crown Nominations commission is deadlocked without no decision in sight  or from here over at Peter Ould's website. Here is Kevin Kallsen and George Conger of Anglican TV on what is happening or ....... not happening from Anglican Unscripted episode 51.

Why is it that some Anglicans have such a difficult time making important decisions????

Monday, July 23, 2012

The beginnings of the Episcopal Church- The first in a series of posts

    This is the first in a series of posts that I hope will be a "Reader's Digest condensed version" of not only the history of the Episcopal Church but also of recent events that have lead to the chaotic state of today's Episcopal Church. So without any further ado, my first post about the history of the beginnings of the Episcopal Church.
     The first English Settlement at Jamestown, VA in 1607 brought the faith of the Church of England to this continent. These early settlers were accompanied by a chaplain, the Rev. Robert Hunt, who celebrated Holy Communion a mere six weeks after landing at Jamestown. Despite many hardships and sufferings of these early settlers, the settlement was securely established by 1614.  Over time as settlement along the eastern coast occurred, the faith of the Church of England was spread up and down the coast from Rhode Island to Georgia. In the colony of South Carolina, the earliest Church of England Parish is St. Philip's Church in Charleston, SC which was established in 1680.  St. Philip's Church is the Mother Church of Anglicanism south of Virginia and the Mother Church of the Diocese of South Carolina.
     After the Revolutionary War, the  Church of England in the various colonies was in a state of confusion and disarray. This situation left members and clergy of the Church of England wondering what independence from England would mean for them. The various state legislatures had abolished the taxes which had supported the Church and left many clergy to survive on their own or from the giving of their parishioners. Hundreds Church of England clergy being loyalists to the King left the colonies for England or Nova Scotia. However, in South Carolina, fifteen out of the twenty clergy in the colony were patriots! The church needed to develop a plan for unity of the church in the various colonies and to provide an episcopate. These two goals took a decade, the 1780s, to achieve. First, I will discuss how the church in the colonies established an episcopate in this country and then how the various churches in the colonies/newly formed states became to be one entity called the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. 
      Even though the church in the colonies was supposed to be overseen by the Bishop of the Diocese of London, the reality was very different for the nearly two hundred years (from 1607 until the 1780s). The Bishop of London was typically a very distant figure during most of this time and as such the churches in the colonies had become accustomed to to existing largely on their own with very little oversight. Even with this much neglect,  churchmen in the colonies had requested a bishop not once but three times starting in 1701 and continuing  until the start of the Revolutionary War.  After the war, in 1783, Samuel Seabury was elected the first Bishop by the church in Connecticut. Seabury went to England for consecration but the bishops there would not consecrate him because consecration in the Church of England required (and still requires) clergy and bishops to swear an oath of loyalty to the Crown. He waited a year for the English Parliament to change the laws requiring an oath of loyalty but it became clear that parliament would not do it, so he decided to travel to Scotland where he was consecrated by three bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church. There were bishops in Scotland who had refused to take an oath of loyalty to the king in 1688 who were called "non-juring" bishops. These bishops did not require a loyalty oath to the crown for those they consecrated as bishops. In 1784, Samuel Seabury was consecrated a bishop in Aberdeen, Scotland by three of these "non-juring" bishops- the Bishop and Coadjutor Bishop of Aberdeen and the Bishop of Ross and Moray. In 1785, he returned to this country as a bishop and presided at the first convention of the church in Connecticut in August of that year.
     The second half of the story as to how the church became to be one entity starts in September 1785 when elected representatives (16 clergy and 24 laity) from Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York met as the first General Convention of the Protestant  Episcopal Church in the United States of America. Because of the established nature of some of the state churches (South Carolina being an example), their representatives did not have the authority to agree to anything. However, they met again in 1786 and adopted a tentative Constitution which they proposed for final approval at the next triennial General Convention scheduled for 1789 in Philadelphia, PA. The three years between General Conventions had seen the development of a constitution for the nation. In fact, the constitution for the church was drafted by lawyers who also took part in drafting the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution for the newly formed Church was deliberately worded to maintain the independence and autonomy of each diocese organized within the colonies. To quote Mark McCall, "It was the explicit intention of TEC’s founders to create a decentralized structure with primary authority reserved to the diocese". The Convention of 1789 not only adopted a Constitution and Canons for the church but also authorized a Book of Common Prayer (BCP) which was used for more than a century until the 1928 BCP was authorized. For a more comprehensive look at the formation of TEC's Constitution and Canons and the early history of the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Curmudgeon's blog is an excellent place to start. Hope you have enjoyed this rather brief look at the beginnings of the Episcopal Church. 

Addison,  James Thayer. The Episcopal Church in the United States 1789-1931.  Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, NY. 1951. 
Anglican Communion Institute- http://anglicancommunioninstitute.com
Anglican Curmudgeon- http://accurmudgeon.blogspot.com/
St. Philip's Church- http://www.stphilipschurchsc.org/

Friday, July 20, 2012

What if Screwtape were at General Convention?......

This is the title of a very funny and ironic article from the Center Aisle (Diocese of Virginia) written by a deputy to General Convention from the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, Mr. Belton Zeigler, and a  writer for that publication, The Rev. John Ohmer.  I will just give you a couple of paragraphs so you can decide for yourself whether you would like to read the entire article at Center Aisle. If you do, just click on the above link to the article.

Here they are:

The introduction to the article:

The sleep-deprived minds of Deputy Belton Zeigler, Upper South Carolina, and Center Aisle writer John Ohmer got to wondering about “The Screwtape Letters.” If there was an update for General Convention to C.S. Lewis’ famous exchange between two devils, in which the senior devil advises his nephew on how to win over a human soul, how might it read?

The beginning of the letter to Wormwood:

My Dear Wormwood:

So your patient is attending what they call their General Convention.

There is no need to despair. This General Convention of theirs is principally an unwieldy and expensive engine for producing bits of paper that the vermin call resolutions. You are correct in saying that irrelevancy is the great virtue of these documents and, in fact, no one outside of a small cadre of institutional insiders pays the slightest attention to the vast majority of what the poor darlings are laboring so diligently to produce.

The last paragraph:
Should calls for reform gain force, all is not lost. Encourage your patients to see every attempt to change Church structure as limits on the Church’s ministries, not on their personal power or agenda. Our patients lack the ability to see the irony in calling for radical changes to the society around them, while resisting so inflexibly the call to reform the one institution that they in fact control.

Your eager uncle,


I find it an incredibly funny and oh so true description of what happens at General Convention. I only wish the authors had waited until the end of General Convention to write the article. That would only be more funny and tragic considering some of the resolutions passed at General Convention. More on that in another post.

Brief background....

Brief Background:

     Me: Lifelong (aka "cradle") Episcopalian currently living in South Carolina and worshipping in the Diocese of South Carolina. [For those who don't know, there are two Episcopal dioceses in this state. The Diocese of South Carolina  which roughly covers the eastern half of the state from Columbia to the Coast and the Diocese of Upper South Carolina which covers the rest of the state (from Columbia westward)].

     The Diocese of South Carolina:
Some brief facts about the diocese.
The diocese was established in 1785 and is one of the original nine dioceses that came together in 1789 to form the Protestant Episcopal Church USA (now known as the Episcopal Church USA).  The diocese has its origins during the colonial period with several parishes in the diocese being 300+ years old.  These parishes continue to be active in the ministry and work of the diocese. For more history of the diocese, please read the excellent article at Wikipedia .

Recent history from the diocese's website:
      The Diocese of South Carolina has over 29,000 baptized members spread across the eastern and coastal portion of the state. Of the 181 priests canonically resident in our diocese, 107 are actively serving in parishes and missions.

      In response to the current situation in the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church, Bishop Lawrence, the 14th Bishop of the Diocese, in his message at the 2009 Diocesan Convention, urged us to focus on "Making Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age."
       Our continuing mission is, "To respond to the Great Commission by so presenting Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit that all may come to know Him as Savior and follow Him as Lord in the 
fellowship of His Church".

       This diocese is one of a handful of conservative dioceses still in the Episcopal Church. The other 
conservative dioceses are Albany, Central Florida, Dallas, and Springfield. The ongoing controversies in the Episcopal Church have been simmering for decades and have ocassinally boiled over at General Convention (the every three year gathering of lay and clergy deputies and bishops) . It is impossible to give any sort of attention to these controversies on a personal blog and expect a full and impartial statement of facts but I will give links to those who have analyzed some of the worst and more recent 
crisises in TECUSA as I find documents and blogs and link to them. 

O K. This was not so brief but it is background. On to a funny/ironic post about the 77th General 
Convention of the  Episcopal Church that just happened  (July 5-12th,2012). If you like C. S. Lewis' book, The Screwtape Letters, I think you will enjoy "Screwtape goes to General Convention".  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I am back!

WOW! I can't believe it has been several months since I posted. Much has happened in my life especially concerning The Episcopal Church and my diocese,  South Carolina. Stay tuned for an update soon!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A most inspiring sermon from Mark's Gospel!

      This morning, the Gospel reading was from Mark Chapter 1 verses 14-20.  These words are probably the earliest recorded words of Jesus as the Gospel of Mark was the first Gospel to be written dating from the mid first century (50-60s) AD. These verses deal with Jesus calling the first of his disciples; Simon, Andrew,  James, and John.  The Rev. Luke Lucas preached on this Gospel reading and focused on Jesus' call not only to his disciples but also to each of us. Luke had three main points: 1) Jesus' call to us is unique, 2) Jesus' call to us is a process,  and 3) Jesus' call to us and  his supporting grace.

1)    How is Jesus' call to his first disciples and also to us unique???  Yes, in a sense, everybody's call is unique but one point Luke made was that in the first century students sought out a rabbi to follow not the other way around. Thinking from an academic perspective, nothing much has changed in 20 centuries. Students still seek out the best colleges and/or graduate schools based on faculty, their reputation, etc.  Luke's point was that Jesus called Andrew, Simon, James and John. Not the other way around.  TRULY RADICAL !!! Remember this is not just any ole rabbi, this rabbi is also the Creator, King of the Universe! God's only begotten son!!  I was incredibly humbled to realize that the Creator of the Universe sought out me !!  AND YOU!
       Another point Luke made was that many world religions are more about advice than anything else. As Luke said, there is nothing wrong with advice. There is place for it. However, Luke's point was that so many religions of the world from Buddhism to Islam simply are codified ways to get from where we are to somewhere else- Nirvana, Paradise, etc- thru a lot of advice. If you will just do these things, you will become a better person, you will live in paradise for eternity, etc.  Jesus' call to the disciples does not promise nirvana, or living in paradise if you do certain things. What is Jesus' call? Repent and believe in the Gospel! Also to be fishers of people! What? fisher of people? What does that mean?
        Luke went on to explain that the sentence "Follow me and I will make you fisher of people" is more accurately translated in the ESB as "Follow me  and I will make you become fishers of men. AH...... crucial difference. Becoming........ versus.... be. This lead to his next point which is Jesus' call to us is about a process.

2) Jesus' call to us is a process.  Often in Evangelical Christianity, the emphasis is on the conversion experience. The favorite question often being- "Are you saved?" As if you are O K if you just experience being "saved".  The use of "becoming" here really speaks to that Jesus' call is a process not just a one time event. A call that is a process takes a lot of faith and trust.  Luke mentioned a story, The Princess and the  Goblin written by George MacDonald. While I have not read the story, here is a very brief synopsis from Amazon.com.

      "Princess Irene lives in a castle in a wild and lonely mountainous region. One day she discovers a steep and winding stairway leading to a bewildering labyrinth of unused passages with closed doors - and a further stairway. What lies at the top? Irene's mysterious and beautiful great great grandmother, who lives in a secret room at the top of the castle stairs. Filled with images of dungeons and goblins, mysterious fires, burning roses, and a thread so fine as to be invisible and yet--like prayer--strong enough to lead the Princess back home to her grandmother's arms. Can the ring the princess is given protect her against the lurking menace of the goblins from under the mountain?" 

         Luke mentions that the ring Irene is given by her great great grandmother has a very fine thread (as if made of glass) attached to it.  She is told to "follow the thread" by her great great grandmother. When Irene hears some goblins getting closer and closer to the castle and becomes afraid that they will capture her, she starts to follow the thread thinking it will lead her outside and to safety. It does lead her outside but it keeps going, and going, and going until she ends up at a large pile of boulders. She decides to keep following the string and finds she is digging deeper and deeper into the rocks. As her hands are bloodied by the sharp boulders, she keeps digging until she finds a miner boy named Curdie.  How patient are we that we will "keep following the thread"despite being "bloodied" by life's events/problems?  Are we willing to "follow the thread" and trust where it may lead us in life?  This idea reminds me of the response to the questions in the BCP's service of Holy Baptism where we renew our own baptismal covenant: I will, with God's help.  Which leads me to the third point: Jesus' call to us is supported by His grace. 
3)    Jesus' call to us and His supporting grace. I must admit by this point in the sermon, my mind was  spinning with the new ideas that Luke had introduced that I am not sure I "got" the 3rd point. So for this 3rd point, I will depend on what Dietrich Bonhoeffer says about Grace and christian discipleship in his book, The Cost of Discipleship.  [italics mine].

         Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.  Now one point, I do remember Luke making is that Christianity is different in that God comes to us in our form as a human. In many other religions, the goal is for followers to come nearer to the divine however that may be achieved. This Incarnation of God in human form is truly RADICAL in that it is the opposite of what most other religions exhort their followers to do.   

         Costly grace is the sanctuary of God; it has to be protected from the world, and not thrown to the dogs. It is therefore the living word, the Word of God, which he speaks as it pleases him. Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus. It comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. Grace is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

       WOW! I did not intend for this post to become so long but The Rev. Luke Lucas' sermon was  so incredibly inspiring that I had to share some of my thoughts.  I hope my words will help you understand even a little bit better Jesus' call to us.  

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Further thoughts on "Surprised by Christ".......

Now that I have finished reading the book and have had time to think about it in light of what I learned this weekend at the Mere Anglicanism conference (topic for another post), I have some further thoughts about this book. What follows are my thoughts/my review of this book. I have put this on Amazon's website.

This book was recommended to me by a Greek Orthodox priest. I had enjoyed reading most but not all of it. I enjoyed the autobiographical part which includes his spiritual journey from Judaism to Orthodox Christianity. The story of how Rev. Bernstein comes to faith in Christ is indeed fascinating. But the last half of the book is much more difficult going. Bernstein makes a crucial mistake in thinking that Christianity is divided into Evangelical Protestants, Roman Catholics and Orthodox. This misses one of the largest (3rd largest) groups of Christians- Anglicans. What a shame!

I found it rather difficult to continue reading after this glaring mistake on page 163 in chapter 11. He discusses how Communion among Christians has been *closed* among Christians. This means only baptized Christians can take part in Holy Communion. Yes, I agree that is extremely important. HOWEVER, Rev. Bernstein makes a HUGE mistake with this sentence: "For example, until the beginning of the twentieth century, Anglicans and Episcopalians practiced closed Communion." Ummmm........ that would make one think that Anglicans no longer practice closed communion. I have news for Rev. Bernstein most if not every Anglican group STILL practices closed Communion in the 21st century. Even in TECUSA, Canon Law does NOT allow/forbids open communion. 
In fact, Rev. Bernstein seems to think that the standard was that only baptized Christians could partake in Communion. Wrong again. Among Anglicans, a person not only had to baptized but also to be confirmed BEFORE partaking of Holy Communion. In some ways, a stricter standard than what Bernstein think is universally acceptable for Christians. Now I can understand his confusion as the Orthodox baptize and confirm at the same time but that is not universal. The Anglican position has changed somewhat in that now ALL baptized Christians are allowed to take communion regardless of denomination. That change is fairly recent (since 1979 in the USA). So when Bernstein was writing this book, the Anglican practice was that baptized Christians could participate in communion which was recent change from the baptized and confirmed position previously held. 

I have to admit after this error, I found it difficult to take seriously what Bernstein said about non Orthodox Christianity. While he may understand Jewish and Orthodox Christian theological positions, his knowledge of other Christian denominations is sadly lacking. Unfortunately, this means his "information" about other christian denominations is often misleading and then uses this mis-"information" to put forth the Orthodox position as the correct position. Alas, this meant I was not particularly receptive to his "arguments" about the Orthodox Church being the One, True Church as his arguments for the Orthodox position were based on misleading/inaccurate info about other Christian denominations. While I enjoyed reading about his spiritual path, I am afraid his glaring lack of knowledge of other Christian denominations means the last half of the book is a waste of time to anyone who has any understanding of other Christian denominations. Hence my rating of two stars.

So if you want an understanding of why and how A. James Bernstein came to faith in Christ, this book is an interesting read. However, just be aware that the last half of the book has misinformation about other Christian denominations.If  this is supposed to be a comparison of various Christian theologies, this book is a dismal and total failure.  If this is  considered a "primer" on Orthodox theology, well..........that is enough reason not to become Orthodox. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Books I am reading in 2012....

 I am in the middle of reading two excellent books.

The first book is Our Father ABRAHAM: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith by Marvin R. Wilson,  faculty member of Gordon College. The book is about the history of the early Church as well as the relationship between Church and Synagogue into the late 20th century (1989) when this book was written.
This is an excellent, thought provoking book.

The second is Surprised by Christ: My Journey from Judaism to Orthodox Christianity by The Rev. A. James Bernstein.  This book is part spiritual autobiography and part primer on  basic Orthodox Christian theology. While I enjoyed the spiritual autobiography part,  the primer on basic Orthodox theology was not as enjoyable as it was bit took heavy on how the Orthodox Church is the "ONE True Church"- according to A. James Bernstein...... anyway.  Overall though, I enjoyed the book even if it is a bit too "preachy" for me.

Two excellent books that  I hope you will consider adding to your list of books to read in 2012!
Happy reading in 2012 ! 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Happy Epiphany!

Hello All and Happy Epiphany to everyone!

Despite our secular culture's view that "Christmas" starts on November 1 and ENDS on Dec 25th,  Christmas which actually BEGINS on December 25th  and is twelve days long continues until January 5th. Thus Christmas is a season in the Church's liturgical year. "Christmastide" is another word used to designate these twelve days.  The title, The Twelve Days of Christmas, is not just a nice title for merry Christmas Carol but a statement of fact. While January 6th was this past Friday, many parishes will celebrate Epiphany on the closest Sunday (today)- hence my post about Epiphany. I will say that Orthodox Christians continue to celebrate Christmas on January 6th so Merry Christmas to all Orthodox Christians. The reason they celebrate Christmas on Jan. 6th is they still use the "old style" Julian calendar not our usual calendar (i.e. the Georgian calendar).

What is Epiphany anyway?  From Wikipedia's article about Epiphany:  

General Information:
Epiphany, (Koine Greek: ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia, "manifestation", "striking appearance"[1]) or Theophany,[2] (Ancient Greek (ἡ) Θεοφάνεια, Τheophaneia) meaning "vision of God",[3] which traditionally falls on 6 January, is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ. Western Christians commemorate principally (but not solely) the visitation of the Biblical Magi to the Baby Jesus, and thus Jesus' physical manifestation to the GentilesEastern Christianscommemorate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, seen as his manifestation to the world as the Son of God[4]    Epiphany is celebrated by both the Eastern and Western Churches, but a major difference between them is precisely which events the feast commemorates. For Western Christians, the feast primarily commemorates the coming of the Magi, with only a minor reference to the baptism of Jesus and the miracle at the Wedding at Cana. Eastern churches celebrate the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan. In both traditions, the essence of the feast is the same: the manifestation of Christ to the world (whether as an infant or in the Jordan), and the Mystery of the Incarnation. The miracle at the Wedding at Cana is also celebrated during Epiphany as a first manifestation of Christ's public life.

Western Christian Churches

The Three Magi: Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar, from a late 6th century mosaic at the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo inRavennaItaly.

Even before the year 354,[25] the Western Church had separated the celebration of the Nativity of Christ as the feast of Christmasand set its date as December 25; it reserved January 6 as a commemoration of the manifestation of Christ, especially to the Magi, but also at his baptism and at the wedding feast of Cana.[26] Hungarians, in an apparent reference to baptism, refer to the January 6 celebration as Vízkereszt which term recalls the words "víz" as water, "kereszt, kereszt-ség" as baptism. In parts of the Eastern Church, January 6 continued for some time as a composite feast that included the Nativity of Jesus: though Constantinople adopted December 25 to commemorate Jesus' birth in the fourth century, in other parts the Nativity of Jesus continued to be celebrated on January 6, a date later devoted exclusively to commemorating his Baptism.[25]

Eastern Orthodox Christian Churches
Usually called the Feast of Theophany (GreekΘεοφάνεια, "God shining forth" or "divine manifestation"), it is one of the Great Feasts of the liturgical year, being third in rank, behind only Paskha (Easter) and Pentecost in importance. It is celebrated on January 6 of the calendar that the particular Church uses. On the Julian Calendar, which some of the Orthodox churches follow, that date corresponds, during the present century, to January 19 on the Gregorian or Revised Julian calendar.
Eastern Churches following the Julian Calendar observe the Theophany feast on what for most countries is 19 January[5] because of the 13-day difference today between that calendar and the generally used Gregorian calendar.[6]
The earliest reference to the feast in the Eastern Church is a remark by St. Clement of Alexandria in Stromateis, I, xxi, 45:
And there are those who have determined not only the year of our Lord's birth, but also the day… And the followers of Basilides hold the day of his baptism as a festival, spending the night before in readings. And they say that it was the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, the fifteenth day of the month of Tubi; and some that it was the eleventh of the same month.

National and local customs

Epiphany is celebrated with a wide array of customs around the world. In some cultures, the greenery and nativity scenes put up at Christmas are taken down at Epiphany. In other cultures these remain up until Candlemas on February 2. In countries historically shaped by Western Christianity (Roman CatholicismProtestantism) these customs often involve gift giving, "king cakes" and a celebratory close to the Christmas season. In traditionally Orthodox nations, these celebrations typically center around water, baptismal rites and house blessings.

PS: I apologize for all the odd fonts and print sizes, sometimes Blogger does not allow me to do what I would like to do.