Sunday, March 25, 2012

Radical Hospitality: Failure To Discern The Body

Fr. Dale Matson

“For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.” (I Corinthians 11:29, NIV)

The contemporary church continues on the path of its downward incremental slide into apostasy. In particular, there is a new TEC convention proposal from the diocese of Eastern Oregon that would allow communion for the unbaptized.

One crucial benchmark for this humanistic trajectory toward eventual universalism was pointed out by the late Peter Toon in 2006, regarding the 1979 BCP language changes for Holy Baptism.

With the 1979 BCP, Baptism was now in three parts with a “covenant” as the central part. In this covenant, the candidate promises to “strive for justice and peace” and to “respect the dignity of every human being.” (p.305). Accepting Christ as savior and renouncing Satan are a part of the examination questions in the preceding section but not a part of the “contract.” It is interesting to note that the mission of TEC was further redirected from evangelism to justice and inclusion issues, in part because of this human centered (not God centered) “covenant”. The baptismal covenant is often linked to mission in TEC, thus the Millennium Development Goals have become a major focus of mission.

Because of the centrality of the “covenant” in the 1979 BCP those who insist on radical inclusivity have been able to argue for unlimited inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments. In this case, inclusion means more than tolerance. It means participation. Baptism was once the entry point for participating in the life of the church but it was preceded by a period of instruction for adult catechumens. In the early church catechumens like Perpetua and her companions (Feast day March 7) understood that they would be giving up their life figuratively with their confession of Christ and in many cases literally as martyrs even before the opportunity for baptism. The baptismal font is frequently placed just inside the red doors of an Episcopal church. This symbolized that we entered the church via the blood of Christ and were initiated into His mystical body through the sacrament of baptism.

Those who call for radical hospitality may see it as an attitude and act of non-discrimination. I would see it as a failure to discern the body. The following rationale is offered for communion of the unbaptized. We believe appropriate preparation and readiness to receive the spiritual body and blood of Christ is experienced within the unfolding of the Divine Liturgy, providing whatever an individual needs for examination, repentance and forgiveness amid the call to be in love and charity with all people. (Catechism, p. 860)

It is a stretch of even the 1979 catechism to understand a single liturgy as suitable preparation for receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Catechumens in the early church were allowed to participate in the liturgy of the Word and heard the Gospel message. However, they were dismissed before communion until they were properly prepared for baptism and communion.  Where is the discernment in this current proposal? This is not hospitality, inclusion or justice. It is an injustice to the sacrament of Baptism and violence to the sacrament of Communion. It is also providing an opportunity for self-harm of the unbaptized communion recipient.

“…not discerning the Lord’s body.” has more than one meaning here. St. Paul is stating in context that that those who ignore the needs of brothers and sisters in the body of Christ as they participate in His body and blood bring harm upon themselves and their brothers and sisters. Failing to discern that Christ is truly present in the gathering and in the elements is a failure to discern the body also.

Altar and pulpit fellowship is rather narrowly defined by some denominations. For example, Missouri and Wisconsin Synod Lutherans do not celebrate the Eucharist together. The opposite approach of unlimited inclusion is an even bigger issue. We believe it essential our Liturgy reflect the unconditional hospitality our Lord employed for his mission (DEO). When are Christians no longer a peculiar people, the elect, the called out ones? Now the call is for all the sacraments for all the baptized. Eventually it may become all the sacraments for anyone who asks. “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.” (Matthew 7:13, ESV)  

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Virtue As Power To Heal

Feast of Bishop Thomas Ken
Fr. Dale Matson

Perhaps the primary characteristic of Bishop Ken was his principled and virtuous life. It gained him respect even from those who disagreed with him. The Gospel reading for his feast day is in the context of the Christ’s sermon on the plain. In this portion of the Gospel reading for the feast day of Bishop Thomas Ken, we hear the following from St. Luke.
“And he came down with them, and stood in the plain, [This is the Sermon on the Plain which can be compared with the Sermon on the Mount from St. Matthew’s Gospel]. and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judaea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases; and they that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed.” (Luke 6:17-18)
I think there is an attitude today that in times past, illness and disease were thought to be from unclean spirits. Notice how the physician, St. Luke, makes a distinction between illness, disease and demon possession. “And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.” (Verse 19) Notice here, in the KJV, where Luke uses the term “Virtue” and not some mysterious force or power. This is the same phrase used in the Gospel of Mark.
“And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, when she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole. And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague. And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, who touched my clothes? (Mark 25-30)
The light of Christ is virtue. With faith as our prism, we are able to see the many aspects of virtue as we see many colors when sunlight passes through a prism. The theological virtues are faith, hope and love and the cardinal virtues are justice, temperance, fortitude and prudence.
As I was finishing reading and putting these two passages into this homily, my wife Sharon called me to say that a hummingbird had flown into our window. I went outside to see it flopping on the concrete deck as if its wing, neck or back was broken; I picked it up and sat down with it in the palm of my hand. I had my glasses on and could even see eye lashes on the bird’s tiny eyes. There was what looked like a thin string, half the diameter of dental floss, protruding from its long beak. I touched it and the bird pulled what I then realized was its tongue into its mouth.
I thought about the passages I had just been reading about the touch of Jesus. I began stroking the bird and we prayed over it. As we prayed I imagined the virtue of our Lord flowing into the bird. Sharon took a picture of it in my hand with her phone camera. This is actually not the first time I had put an injured hummingbird in my hand and prayed over it. The same thing happened about five years ago. On both occasions, the bird seemed to need just a few minutes in a caring hand. The virtue of Christ healed today as it did in our Gospel lesson from Luke. On each occasion, the birds flew away as if nothing had happened. Glory to God, Who even cares about sparrows and hummingbirds. How fitting that God would bolster our smaller than a mustard seed faith as it was applied to one of the smallest of His creatures.
            “Aren't two sparrows sold for only a penny? But your Father knows when any one of them falls to the ground.” (Matthew 10:29, CEV) 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Archbishop Rowan Williams: Fare Thee Well

Fr. Dale Matson

My personal reflections on the resignation of Rowan Williams

Rowan Williams is a broad church intellectual from his head down to his toes. During his tenure, he was involved more with social issues, CoE issues and allowing the revisionist agenda to advance than he was with respecting and representing the views of the majority of Anglicans in the Communion. He was often tone deaf and never has reflected the mind of the conservative communion. He acquiesced to the liberal agenda because in his heart, it was his agenda too. His proposed Anglican Covenant did not restore order or unity to a deeply divided communion. Ultimately both liberals and conservatives reject it. Based on current voting the Covenant will even be rejected by the Church of England. Like the poorly attended last Primates meeting they are votes of "no confidence". The Covenant was not a band aid or even wall paper that could hide the cracks. He was at times even disloyal to Tradition and Scripture, calling passages from the Book of Revelation “paranoid fantasy”.            

The revisionists used him but have never respected him. He has been more willing to speak out in favor of incorporating Sharia Law than apostasy in the Anglican Communion. He squandered the authority of his position and diminished the office. He has been a terrible serial disappointment. Many of us hoped in vain that he would step in and step up at each turning point during his tenure. We are further from reconciliation with the Roman and Orthodox Churches than when he began.

The Dar es Salaam Primates Communique 2007, Lambeth 2008, the TEC General Convention 2009 were watershed moments that lacked a definitive response from the ABC.  Eventually we got the message and so did the Bishops of the Southern Cone who countered the Lambeth Conference with GAFCON and the Anglican Covenant with the Jerusalem Declaration before Lambeth in 2008. The Jerusalem Declaration reflected an existing unity unlike the Anglican Covenant, which attempted to create unity where it did not exist. The Bishops representing most Anglicans formed and framed a plan B for Anglicanism. Make no mistake. They have been patiently waiting to see who will become the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

He has employed a Hegelian approach to leadership that insisted on the traditional side listening to the innovators. There can be no synthesis of Gospel and another gospel. The traditional side got tired of listening. Conservative Anglicans saw that innovation did not stand the test of Scripture and Tradition. Meanwhile TEC was deposing orthodox bishops in an effort to silence conservative voices, calling themselves "inclusive". This was done without one comment from Rowan Williams. When the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin voted to leave the Episcopal Church, Rowan hastily invited Jerry Lamb to Lambeth even though Bishop Schofield held an invitation, thus recognizing a retired and improperly elected bishop. When the ACNA was formed in North America he did not publicly encourage the new province recognized by more Anglicans than TEC and led by another bishop improperly deposed by TEC, Archbishop Robert Duncan.

I am concerned by the high praise of his most likely replacement, the Archbishop of York who said the following. The last decade has been a challenging time for the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. Thankfully, Archbishop Rowan is a remarkable and gifted leader who has strengthened the bonds of affection.  Despite his courageous, tireless and holy endeavor, he has been much maligned by people who should have known better. For my part he has been God’s apostle for our time. (

For me, Rowan’s tenure has produced one thing. It has produced clarity. It may seem like grasping at straws at this point but I do believe a suitable replacement can be found to fill the position of Archbishop of Canterbury. I believe the fate of Canterbury Anglicanism may well rest on the supreme governor of the Church. Elizabeth II, who may, like her predecessor Elizabeth I, provide God’s will for the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. The Queen’s 2011 Christmas message was stirring. I hope she would consider someone like Bishop Michael Nazir Ali.   If Canterbury is lost then England may be lost too. This is not just a flesh and blood issue. The Anglican Communion will survive. I pray for Canterbury and God's will in the selection of the next Archbishop. May the Lord have mercy on us all.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Noah Lawson Ember Letter

Almighty God, whose loving hand has given us all that we possess: Grant us grace that we may honor you with our substance, and, remembering the account which we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of your bounty, through Jesus Christ our Lord.Amen.
March 10, 2012

Greetings Bishop Menees,

I apologize for the tardiness of this Ember Letter. At the writing of this letter I am completing the sixth week of the second semester. Time really does fly when you are having fun. I hope that this note finds you well and blessed and basking in the glory, wonder, and mystery that is the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.  


Classes are engaging and papers are coming due! My class schedule is as follows:

Monday/Wednesday/Friday: Ascetical Theology (Monday/Wednesday), Historical Theology, New Testament (Gospels)
Tuesday/Thursday: Church History, Parish Ministry, New Testament (Patristic Interpretation, Tuesday only)
In addition to classes this semester I have been blessed to participate in a number of extra-curricular activities:

The Pusey Guild: On Tuesday, February 28th I became an official novice in the Pusey Guild. I find it to be a great forum for discussing the important ideas of the catholic faith and for mutual encouragement as we advocate for those ideas.

Saint Michael the Arch Angel Anglican Church: I have started a 12 week intense discipleship program for high school youth. It is a program called FIRESTARTERS and has a specific emphasis on action (going out and praying for healing, giving words of knowledge, etc.). So far it is going really well and I am expecting some significant results. We have a group forming for a second 12 session. I am also teaching Sunday school for the larger young adult population that is not in FIRESTARTERS and teaching in the Lenten soup supper series.    

United States Navy Chaplain Candidate Program: In early February I was approved to enter the Navy’s Chaplain Candidate Program. On March 9th I was commissioned as an ensign in the United States Navy. This means that I will be attending Officer Development School in Rhode Island this summer followed by the Chaplain School.  My current status is in the Inactive Ready Reserve where I will have the ability to work with active duty chaplains through the course of my seminary career (when seminary is not in session). After being ordained I will have the option of applying for full time chaplaincy in the Navy. My understanding is that Bishop Jones (bishop for the armed forces) hopes to touch base with you, as my diocesan,  concerning my involvement in the chaplain candidate program.  

Saint John’s Military Academy: Once a week I meet with a small group of young men who live and go to school at SJMA. They come from all over the United States and from different countries around the world to attend school here. Our time is spent discussing issues of faith, challenges they are having academically, and issues they may be having because they are away from home.

Lad Lake: I have been approved to be a volunteer chaplain with Lad Lake. This is a facility that houses young men who are wards of the state and in some cases juvenile offenders of the law. I expect to begin volunteering by the end of March.     

Nashotah House Theological Seminary Board of Trustees: I was recently elected by my class to represent them on the Nashotah House Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees exists to hold in trust in perpetuity the assets of Nashotah House and to establish the policies by which the institution is governed. In particular, the Board is charged with providing effective short- and long-range planning for the House, nurturing and safeguarding the highest academic and religious quality of the seminary, ensuring sound financial and physical asset management, promoting communication among all constituencies and to the public, and selecting the Dean. Trustees meet once each semester and represent a wide breadth of the Anglican and Episcopal Churches. The board is comprised of laymen, priests, and bishops.

One of the activities that we are required to do  as seminarians is to find a parish internship. I am considering an AMiA church in Wheaton, IL called Church of the Resurrection. It is quite large and evangelical, has a connection to the seminary, and is fairly close distance wise. These internships involve a several week commitment for teaching, shadowing a mentor priest, and are supposed to happen during the summers. Do you have any direction for me relative to securing an internship (type, location, etc.)?  

As you may know, I have worked hard to raise ongoing financial support from friends and family. I recently have changed how the money is being processed. The information below reflects how the new system will work. Prior to these  changes Christ Church was issuing tax statements to contributors. This ended up being a considerable amount of work for Christ Church’s volunteer treasurer. By shifting the tax function to the seminary the church treasurer will have less of a work load.  

1)      2011 Contributions:
a.       As of the writing of this letter contributors should have received a statement from Christ Church recognizing their contributions for 2011 as tax-deductable.
2)      2012 Contributions:
a.       Christ Church will continue to receive contributions in my name and will forward the balance to the seminary in my name. Contributions received by the church starting in April 2012 will not be tax-deductable.
b.      Contributors who desire a tax-deduction will need to send their contributions directly to the seminary scholarship fund at Nashotah House (see information below). The seminary will then credit my account.
Checks should be made out to:
Nashotah House
(on the memo line write: Bishop Parson’s Scholarship Fund: Noah Lawson)

Mail Checks to:
Nashotah House
2777 Mission Road
Nashotah, Wisconsin 53058

I feel truly blessed to be here at Nashotah House. I am having a great time and value the gift that this experience is. I pray for you and the diocese daily. Are you still hoping to visit? Thank you again, and I pray that you will know more and more the depth and breadth of God’s love for you.  

Blessings to you...Keep the Faith,

Noah Soares Lawson
Seminarian, Nashotah House Theological Seminary
2777 Mission Road
Nashotah, Wisconsin 53058
(262) 646-6500 (office)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Fr. Dale Matson

“When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Mark 2:17, KJV)

I had a tonsillectomy at age 11. Other than a spiral femur fracture, it is the most traumatic experience I have ever had. The surgery was done by our family doctor in a small suburban hospital. I can still remember the doctor coming in after his first two tonsillectomies with blood all over his surgical apron. I walked into the operating room and was told to lie on the table. I was held down by the staff and the ether mask was put over my face. I was terrified as I lost consciousness. I threw up in the parking lot as we left that day. A week later at our summer cabin, I began to vomit blood and clots. I remember my mother saying, “You’ll stop bleeding.” My response was, “Yeah, when there is no blood left.” My dad drove me the 40 miles to the emergency room at William Beaumont Hospital. By the time we arrived I had fallen asleep and stopped bleeding. The emergency room physician gave my dad some aspirin which is probably the last thing I should have taken since aspirin promotes bleeding. That summer I was extremely anxious and had recurrent flash backs of being held down on the operating table. It was probably what we would diagnose as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder today. I vowed to myself never to be forced to go to sleep again, had a mistrust of the medical community and have put off necessary surgeries since that time.

Recently, I have had two surgeries with a little more than a year separating them. They were not without risk but ordinary and routine by today’s standards. These surgeries could be considered “elective” but eventually both problems would have become necessary surgeries. Both were delayed for years because of my fears about the operating room and my distrust of the medical practice in general. My quality of life has suffered because I delayed the surgeries.  My surgery a year ago was a local anesthetic (spinal) and the surgeon Dr. Cunningham did excellent work. Three weeks ago I had a local anesthetic once again and once again the surgeon Dr. Grewall did excellent work. There are many folks who would just as soon be asleep during their surgeries but I have not come to that place.

Both surgeries have restored a quality of life that I have not had for at least a decade. In addition to the Spiritual Gifts of healing, God has given us physicians and caregivers who can produce miraculous results in cooperation with the healing powers He has given our bodies.

It seems like the older I get, the more “ologists” are a part of my contacts list. This week, I went to my dermatologist for itching that was as severe as the times I have gotten poison oak. I was sure it was some exotic untreatable disease. Her diagnosis confirmed it. I was aging and no longer had the skin oils that plagued me with pimples at age 13. It was just a matter of better self-care using a skin lotion daily. Problem solved. Thank you Lord for those who practice medicine.