Friday, July 24, 2009

Jail and the Gospel of John

Jail and the Gospel of John
Dcn Dale Matson
We recently received a call that the adult son of our close friends had attempted suicide in his jail cell. Fortunately he was discovered by his cell mate who contacted jail officials and after time in the hospital, it appears that there was no permanent injury. I will call him David but that is not his real name. He has been in jail for months now because of an incident that is partially related to his diagnosis of Bipolar Affective Disorder known formerly as Manic Depression. His mother told me that there had been problems with him getting the proper medication while incarcerated.
When I heard that he had attempted suicide I wondered to myself what I could offer David that would make a difference to someone who had given up to the point of attempted suicide. I have known him for years and found him to be bright and engaging during better times but quite put off by religion and not sensing any spiritual needs. Would a Bible be suitable at this point? The thought came to me that if I had only one thing to give him it would be the Gospel of John. For me this Gospel has a special place since God called me back to faith and the church as I read it. Jesus Christ is God and God is Jesus Christ. What a connection this Gospel made for me. As with so many things good intentions I have considered, this also slipped into the closet of my mind.
The following day I was completing my Saturday “long run” with the plodding pace that requires me to jog alone. As I was finishing my run, another runner who I had never seen before crossed the Eaton Trail and offered me what looked like a large tract or pamphlet. He only had the one and told me that he had felt that God has directed him to give it to me. It was a pocket edition of the Gospel of John. I was somewhat surprised and told him that I had the Gospel of John in my head and heart and was a Deacon in the church. It was such a surprise that I had not made the connection yet. As he began to jog away, I said, “Wait, I do know someone that I want to get it to” and told him about David.
After finishing my run I couldn’t wait to clean up and call David’s mother and tell her about this. She came over and I told her the story and gave her the Gospel to pass on to David. She was moved by this and I believe it gave her a ray of hope for her son also. This experience has been difficult for the family. Since this time I have had an opportunity to reflect on this and realize in God’s grace and sovereignty, how much he is the God of the prodigal son. God wants desperately to have people meet His beloved Son. He knows that if they do meet Him, their lives can be redeemed and transformed into His image. I almost missed the connection that God had so miraculously put in front of me.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Bishop William White and the Episcopal Church

Last night while I was reviewing the history of Bishop William White and the beginnings of the Protestant Episcopal Church, I came across two quotes that I found fascinating in light of the current situation in TEC – particularly after what has emerged simultaneously out of Anaheim and Newport Beach, CA.

Bishop White was the motivating force behind the establishment of a national Church in the newly formed United States and he was also chaplain to the Congress. Though he studied and was ordained in England, he was passionate about establishing the Church in America corresponding to the ideals and structures of the new Federation. Powel Mills Dawley wrote the following in “Chapters in Church History”:

“dioceses agreed to sacrifice some of their jealously-guarded independence in order to create a national organization. Actually, the Episcopal Church was a federal union of independent diocesan units, and each diocese a federation of independent parishes, rather than a single, closely-knit ecclesiastical institution.” [page 222]

Why did Dawley make this distinction? He did so noting the fact that the American clergy were very much concerned about not establishing a hierarchical Church like the one in Britain. Such was the concern for maintaining this independence that some of the clergy were opposed even to having bishops. Though the need for bishops – constrained under this new structure - was finally accepted by the majority. This is why they decided on a presiding bishop, as one who simply presided over the meetings and conventions, rather than an archbishop.

The framers of the Episcopal Church were interested in fellowship and unity but not at the cost of orthodoxy. Robert Prichard writing about the first conventions and prayer book revisions of the 1780s in “A History of the Episcopal Church” observed:

“Charles Miller, the rector of King’s Chapel, Boston, wanted, for example, to remove all references to the Trinity. When the conventions did not agree to do so, the congregation . . . distanced itself from other Anglicans, and became the first explicitly unitarian church in America (1786).” [page 86]

There are two sad ironies that come out of this as we look back: First, that The Episcopal Church has lost that sense of the American ideal of communities of equals (federalism) and has willing exchanged it for an oligarchy like that which they rejected over two-hundred years ago. And second, that much of The Episcopal Church now looks like the Unitarian Church with vestments and liturgy.

“The schismatic is the one who causes the separation, not the one who separates.” - J. C. Ryle, Charges and Addresses (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1978) p. 69.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Motion to recognize ACNA now before Church of England Synod

July 13, 2009

by Mary Ailes

Kendall Harmon reports that the first motion for the Church of England to recognize the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) has picked up six Church of England bishops and at 121 sponsors. According to the London Times, this will "guarantee it a place on the next Synod agenda in February.

The motion reads:

"That this Synod express the desire that the Church of England be in communion with the Anglican Church in North America."

This comes as the House of Deputies passes D025 that will officially recognize the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals and overturn the moritorium enacted at General Convention 2006.

It reads in part . . .

Please read the entire article here.

Running the Good Race

Running the Good Race
Dcn. Dale Matson
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1 NIV).
After a period of spiritual renewal the Lord revealed to me in a gentle way that my drinking, smoking and obesity were not the marks of an ambassador of His kingdom. It was a personal revelation and I don’t intend to generalize beyond that. At age 42 and at 235 pounds, I began walking a mile a day and then two miles with a goal to run a mile. One thing led to another and eventually I completed a marathon. This kind of training requires discipline, patience and focus. The byproduct is weight loss and a sense that most goals can be reached if one is willing to persevere. Many will attest that completing a marathon is a life changing event that transfers to other aspects of one’s life. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about me is that I am so ordinary. What I have accomplished has always required God’s help.
For those like me who believe that everything worth doing is worth overdoing, I discovered that there is also what is called “Ultramarathons”. These are distances of 50 Kilometers, 50 miles, 100 Kilometers, 100 miles and beyond. Perhaps the dream of most marathoners is to run the Boston Marathon but for folks who run Ultramarathons, The Western States 100 mile endurance run is what is referred to as the Holy Grail of endurance runs. The trail begins in North Lake Tahoe and finishes 100 miles away in Auburn CA. Like Boston, one must successfully complete another qualifying event first but there is also a selection lottery too. Not everyone who qualifies is selected.
The training requires absolute dedication with months of trail running in the mountains and 100 mile weeks. I also biked and cross country skied to build endurance and avoid injuries associated with too many running miles per week. The cutoff for the event is 30 hours. In 2001, I finished in 29 hours and 17 minutes on my third try following two previous failures in 1994 and 1995. Needless to say, it was the hardest thing I have ever done.
My life goal continues to with God’s help, to run the good race. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. “ (2nd Timothy 4:7).

The Americans know this will end in schism

From the Times

July 15, 2009

Support by US Episcopalians for homosexual clergy is contrary to Anglican faith and tradition. They are leaving the family

by Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham

In the slow-moving train crash of international Anglicanism, a decision taken in California has finally brought a large coach off the rails altogether. The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (TEC) in the United States has voted decisively to allow in principle the appointment, to all orders of ministry, of persons in active same-sex relationships. This marks a clear break with the rest of the Anglican Communion.

Both the bishops and deputies (lay and clergy) of TEC knew exactly what they were doing. They were telling the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other “instruments of communion” that they were ignoring their plea for a moratorium on consecrating practising homosexuals as bishops. They were rejecting the two things the Archbishop of Canterbury has named as the pathway to the future — the Windsor Report (2004) and the proposed Covenant (whose aim is to provide a modus operandi for the Anglican Communion). They were formalising the schism they initiated six years ago when they consecrated as bishop a divorced man in an active same-sex relationship, against the Primates’ unanimous statement that this would “tear the fabric of the Communion at its deepest level”. In Windsor’s language, they have chosen to “walk apart”.

Granted, the TEC resolution indicates a strong willingness to remain within the Anglican Communion. But saying “we want to stay in, but we insist on rewriting the rules” is cynical double-think. We should not be fooled.

The article continues with insight on the sanctity of marriage from an historical and theological perspective.

Please read the rest of the article at Times Online

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Salvation is for communities, not individuals, says Presiding Bishop

Thursday, 9th July 2009. 4:31pm

By: George Conger for Religious Intelligence

US Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori has denounced as a “heresy” the proposition that individual believers can find salvation through Jesus Christ.

The grace of God is a gift to the community of believers, not for the individual believer, Bishop Jefferts Schori said in her opening statement to the 76th US General Convention, meeting in Anaheim, California from July 7-17. The presiding bishop set the tone and the agenda for the 10-day meeting of the US church’s triennial synod, loosening a broadside against conservative evangelicals, while calling the church to engage in social action.

While offering strong dollops of rhetoric to her supporters among the politically dominant left-wing of the Episcopal Church, the presiding bishop, however, is quietly pulling the Episcopal Church back from direct confrontation with the wider Anglican Communion --- pursuing a policy of consolidating the left’s internal political gains within the Episcopal Church while pursuing an entente with the wider Communion over the question of gay bishops and blessings.

Support for relaxation of the ban on gay bishops and blessings remains high among lay and clergy deputies to convention, but the mood of the House of Bishops at the start of convention was somber --- with little enthusiasm evident among the bishops to repudiate the call by Lambeth 2008 and the ACC for forbearance.

[. . .]

The few remaining traditionalist members of the House of Bishops were less encouraged by the presiding bishop’s remarks, with one bishop musing that the presiding bishop’s words were hard to reconcile with Paul’s statement that if one confesses with his lips and believes in his heart that Jesus is his Lord and Saviour; he will be saved, as found in Romans 10:8-10.

[. . .]

The Presiding Bishop’s “ignorance of the Bible and Christian theology is nothing short of breathtaking” the Dean of Moore College in Sydney, Dr Mark Thompson told Religious Intelligence.

[. . .]

For evangelicals “more serious still” was the presiding bishop’s “caricature” of a confession of faith that she said made salvation dependent “ on reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus’,” Dr Thompson said.

The confession that “Jesus Christ is Lord’ was “certainly a form of words,” but “they are never simply words,” he explained. “They represent a fundamental orientation of life which includes a willingness to have our thinking and behaviour shaped by the One we acknowledge has such a supreme claim upon us,” he noted.

“Perhaps more time should have been given to considering how idolatrous is an institution which demands loyalty to itself above faithfulness to the word which God has spoken,” Dr Thompson said..

Please read the entire article here.

Episcopal Bishop calls individual salvation 'heresy,' 'idolatry'

From the Associated Press - July 9, 2009

ANAHEIM, CA - Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori says it's "heresy" to believe that an individual can be saved through a sinner's prayer of repentance.

In her opening address to the church's General Conference in California, Jefferts Schori called that "the great Western heresy: that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God."

The presiding bishop said that view is "caricatured in some quarters by insisting that salvation depends on reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus."

According to Schori, it is heresy to believe that an individual's prayer can achieve a saving relationship with God. "That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy."

The entire article is here.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Seeking the Lost

Seeking the Lost
Dcn Dale Matson
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10)
Because of the Great Commandment to love God and neighbor we are called to mission. Our mission is The Great Commission from Matthew’s Gospel (28:16-20) and it commands the disciples and us to seek and rescue the lost. Perhaps another way of saying this is that we as Christians are Christ’s ambassadors in the saving of souls. That is our spiritual assignment on this earth. Some take this very seriously as missionaries or evangelists. These folks go into the mission field and at times this puts their own life at peril. Nineteenth century missionaries to Africa included a coffin as part of their luggage.
I am also a deputized civilian who is a part of the Mountaineering Unit of the Fresno County Search and Rescue Team. It is also the mission of the SART to save the lost. The team is composed of a horse unit, a “Jeep” unit, a helicopter, mountaineering unit and a command center. There is always a sense of careful urgency in what we do because the longer a person is missing, the more they are at risk to the elements. This is especially true in The Central Sierras where most of our searches take place.
Search work is difficult (three miles of “bush whacking” is equal to about ten trail miles) and demands that searchers be fit, prepared and available. This means that I must have a day backpack and a three day backpack ready to go when I am called. It also means having a full tank of gas in the truck when I go to bed at night since most of the calls come when you least expect them. It also requires a willingness to set aside one’s schedule for the sake of the search. Searches today are conducted using grid patterns established based on and working out from the point last seen or the last known location of the lost individual(s). Each team member has a Global Positioning System (GPS) device that records the searcher’s route and is later downloaded into a computer. This way the Command Center can determine the extent to which an area has been covered by the searchers and they can estimate the probability of detection (POD) in a given search area.
We find some people, some find themselves, some don’t want to be found and some want to be found but unfortunately perish. This is quite like the work of an evangelist. We are told to preach the Good News. We hope this Good News finds its way to everyone. It is up to them after that. If only we had the same sense of urgency and commitment of resources for Evangelism as we do for the person lost in the forest.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Archbishop Duncan to the people of San Joaquin

1st July, A.D. 2009

Dearest Friends in Christ,

I wanted you all to know that many outside your borders are praying for you in the present trying season. Please do not lose heart.

If there is anything we have learned it is that "There is none other that fighteth for us, but only Thou, O Lord." The just completed Provincial Assembly was testimony to what our God can do with the likes of us, especially if we do not waver.

St. Paul's counsel at the end of II Corinthians is so appropriate to all the things we have faced and will face: "Be watchful, Stand Firm in your Faith. Be Courageous. Be strong. Let everything you do be done in love."

Thank you for having led the way among dioceses departing from the Episcopal Church. We have all benefited by your efforts. I will never forget the privilege of being present for, and speaking at, that seminal Diocesan Convention in 2007.

Please also know that Archbishop Venables and our brothers and sisters of the Southern Cone continue to intercede for us, even as they shift jurisdiction to these shores.

Faithfully and fraternally in Christ,

[+Robert Pittsburgh]

Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America
Anglican Bishop of Pittsburgh