Friday, July 26, 2013

Why I Am An Anglican II

Bishop Eric Menees
When Archbishop Cramner and the other Anglican Reformers first broke from the Roman Catholic Church, they wanted to keep the richness of the faith and the tradition of the Apostolic and Patristic periods of the church. In doing so, the Anglican reformers placed a strong emphasis on both the Word of God and the Sacraments of the Church - the 39 Articles of Religion state that, "The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same." (Article 19)
I love the Anglican Church because we recognize that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the Inspired Word of God! The 39 Articles are clear in stating:

"Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church." (Article 6)

For Anglicanism, it begins and ends with God's self-revelation through His Word. The Book of Common Prayer itself is made up of something like 80% that is just a guess on my part, (but I'm sure someone with lots of time on their hands has already done a study) however, it is an educated guess. Look at the words of institution (the words Jesus used at the Last Supper) during Holy Eucharist, which are taken from the Gospels and Corinthians. Or take the Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer services where, for example, the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) and the Nunc Dimittis (Luke 2:29-32) are taken directly from scripture.

This was done in a radical move to make the scriptures accessible to all people: rich and poor, literate and illiterate. By attending the services, the people were immersed in the Word of God. Equally, when the lectionary was put together, the intention was to allow the scriptures to be taught and learned on a Sunday by Sunday - day by day basis.

This emphasis on the Word of God has been brought into modern day Anglicanism, and has been affirmed in current documents like the Jerusalem Declaration and the Constitution and Canons of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). "The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in the plain and canonical sense, respectful of the Church's historic and consensual reading" (Jerusalem Declaration)

This emphasis on The Word of God is also one of our points of separation from the Episcopal Church, which has, for a generation now, taught that the Bible contains the "words" of God but is not necessarily the inspired Word of God that is authoritative for our lives. In the Anglican Church we read, believe and follow the words of St. Paul when writing to Timothy, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17) Our lives - public and private- are to be modeled upon the the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

As the ACNA puts together our Prayer Book and develops the lectionary, I've encouraged Bishop Thompson and his committee to reverse what the Episcopal Church did in removing large sections of scripture that they disagreed with from the daily and Sunday readings. We have a wonderful opportunity to get it right, and to make sure that we begin and end with the Word of God!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Why I Am An Anglican

July 18, 2013
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
Today, I begin a series on the reasons why I am an Anglican.

After eighteen years of ordained ministry, and more than ten years of working to change the Episcopal Church from inside out - serving on every commission and committee I could get on to - I made the choice to leave the Episcopal Church, lock stock, and barrel. As I made my exit, I was asked many times why I wanted to be an Anglican. This question was asked most poignantly, perhaps, by my brothers - one a faithful Roman Catholic, and the other a faithful Lutheran (Missouri Synod) - who asked if I would like to join one of them.

I have to admit that my initial response to their questioning was no, of course not "I'm Anglican." They kindly asked me why, and I had to take some time to think about that - it was not sufficient simply to say, "Because that's what I have always been." I would like to share in my Bishop's Notes why it is that I am an Anglican, and perhaps some of these reasons will resonate with you; though assuredly you will have other reasons why you are an Anglican.

In order to define why it is that I am an Anglican, it is important to say that I am a repentant and redeemed sinner, made a child of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, first and foremost, I am a Christian who has his expression of Christianity in Anglicanism. That means that I am a Catholic and Reformed. This is not to say that I am undecided about whether I am Catholic or Protestant. Rather, the Anglican Church was born with the understanding and intentionality to maintain the very best of Creedal Catholic faith, depending on the revelation of the Holy Spirit through the Church Fathers and the Councils of the Church, while at the same time receiving the evangelical call of the reformers to unabashedly proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

When I speak of the Anglican Church, I am referring to the Anglican Communion world wide that uses the Book of Common Prayer - based on the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (including the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion), which was a light revision of the 1552 Book of Common Prayer, which was largely authored by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer
Notably, the Anglican Church is estimated by Sociologists of Religion to be about 75 million strong. Of those 75 million, on any given Sunday you will find approximately 5 million in church on the Lord's Day in the "West" - Europe, North America, Australia & South Africa. You will find 40-50 million in church on the Lord's Day in what is referred to as the Global South - Africa, Asia, and South America. That statistic is remarkable, and speaks to a church that is rapidly growing and healthy in the Global South versus an anemic church in the West. You may be saying to yourself, 75 minus 55 leaves 20 million - what of those others? That number represents people who self identify as Anglican but only attend their wedding, occasionally Christmas and Easter with their grandmother, and their funeral - and some may argue that they don't attend their own funeral.

I mention this because some of the very reasons that I am an Anglican are the same reasons why the Anglican Church in North America and the churches of the Global South are growing and vibrant. Some of those reasons are that Anglicanism is: Biblical, Historical, Liturgical, Ecclesiastical, Episcopal, Ecumenical, Pastoral and Rational, to list just a few and to provide the source of my following Bishop's Notes.
May The Lord bless you!

Bishop Menees

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Bishop William White and the Episcopal Church

Reflections for July 17 by the Rev. Canon Van McCalister

Bishop William White, the first bishop of Pennsylvania, was consecrated in 1787. Two years later he organized and presided over the first general convention in 1789 and became “the chief architect of the Constitution of the American Episcopal Church” [Lesser Feasts and Fasts – July 17].    Bishop White was not only the motivating force behind the establishment of a national Church in the newly formed United States, 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” offered this example:

“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]

Correspondingly, the Rt. Rev. William Stephens, marked the centennial of the consecrations of Bishops White and Provoost with this sobering warning:

Let not our minds rest alone on the study of the framework, eminently worthy as that framework is of careful study, but let us remember that, behind all these human plans and organizations, there has been present the Divine Architect of all, the Holy Ghost, and the unseen but ever spiritual presence of Him who "walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks."

We may have the most perfect church organization which earth can furnish; we may have a well attested apostolic lineage for our ministry; we may have as grand a liturgy as the human mind can construct; we may have as gorgeous a ceremonial of worship as the loftiest aesthetic art can devise; we may have as magnificent cathedrals and churches as human architects can build;--but if our diocesan organization does not rest on Christ as its corner-stone; if that apostolic succession is merely the articulation of dry bones, and is devoid of the life-blood and nerve-force of apostolic fellowship and doctrine; if that lofty worship degenerate into mere lip-service and ceases to be the true worship of God in spirit and in truth; if that gorgeous ceremonial tends to fasten the mind on the accessories of divine service, and obscures, rather than unfolds Christ, and if our noble church edifices only echo through their aisles a teaching not warranted by Scripture, not supported by the Book of Common Prayer, not meeting the soul's true and eternal needs--teaching for doctrine the commandments and traditions of men, at once "strange and erroneous,"--then is our church indeed without Christ--a fair temple without the schekinah; like the Church of Ephesus, having "left its first love"; like Sardis, "having a name that thou livest but art dead," and like Laodicea, "lukewarm, neither hot nor cold."

Only as the Holy Ghost, the living Spirit of truth, teaches in our churches; only as the living Christ is heralded there in his perfect fulness as the sinner's only Saviour; and only, as the one living and true God, is worshipped there "in the beauty of holiness" and "in spirit and in truth," can we fulfil the true conditions of our existence as an organized Christian Church,--then only can Christ speak to us as he did to the angel of the Church of Philadelphia, one of the seven Churches of Asia, and emblemized by a golden candlestick, saying "I know thy works. Behold I have set before thee an open door and no man can shut it, for thou hast a little strength and has kept my word and hast not denied my name." God grant to the Church in this Philadelphia of the western world, a large increase of strength, a more faithful keeping of His Word, a deeper reverence for the "name which is above every name," and "in which name every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." God grant that "the open door" set before us may be entered in, that we may more sedulously improve the opportunities for possession and expansion, until "the open door" shall become the triumphal arch of the Church's progress, through which, the sacramental Host, under the leadership of the Great Captain of our Salvation, shall march on its way to the gate of pearl and to the door that was "opened in Heaven."

[Excerpt from “A Commemorative Discourse” By Wm Bacon Stevens, Bishop of Pennsylvania (1887).  via]

After only one hundred years, Bishop Stevens reflections are ominously prophetic as he identified both the threat to the Church, and the great responsibility to guard the her apostolic treasure.  After more than 200 years, what has become of Bishop White's legacy?  The current leadership of The Episcopal Church more resembles King Henry VIII during the dissolution of the monasteries, than it does Bishop William White.

“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.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Technology And The Elderly: Being Left Out And Left Behind

Fr. Dale Matson

About 20 years ago I was introduced to “email” by our Information Technology (IT) folks at the University. During my tenure, there was an ongoing struggle to communicate with the technology types who walked us through every new computer software and hardware upgrade. Keeping pace with the changes was a professional requirement and responsibility.

I am retired but my professional requirements as a publisher and priest help keep me apace of changes. My latest challenge was installing a new wireless printer for our home computers. The trick was getting the machines through a process called ‘discovery mode’ (a small and uncertain window of opportunity) to recognize and communicate with each other.

I have older siblings and friends who have not been as fortunate, who lack the initiative, curiosity or ability to keep pace with the technology. Computer literacy is no longer optional. It is a necessary requirement for citizenship. To some extent, computer software and hardware have become more ‘user friendly’. Those who could not reprogram the clock on their VCR ten years ago after a time change or power outage can deal with the DVR that has replaced it.

While computer technology is more user friendly, computer technology is also more pervasive. It is common now to ‘talk’ with a computer when making a reservation. Those who are frustrated by internet organization websites can’t really bypass the technology by talking to a person on the phone any more.

Navigating the menus and sub-menus requires careful listening and patience. What about my question which is not one of the menu options? What about my question which is not one of the ‘Frequently asked questions’ (FAQ’s)? How many people are there like me who hear the dreadful comment on the phone, “For more information please go to our website www. [fill in the blank] com? I was on the phone because I couldn't navigate the website in the first place. If only more government websites were designed like

I recently made a reservation for a wilderness permit online. It was not easy and I only have the receipt to pick up the trail permit, not the actual permit. Reservations can no longer be obtained by phone. Increasingly there is no person out there who can answer your question or direct you to a person who can answer your question. Google has become the ‘go to’ option of choice. Reference librarians are becoming extinct. It has become high tech-low touch.

The reason I brought this up is how difficult things have become for those who have not kept up with the technology. Those folks have no choice but to live in a world that is shrinking as they age. They are becoming isolated and alienated.  It is because they lack the life skills to interface with the modern world. An octogenarian triathlete friend has to have another friend enter him in the local events because he cannot go beyond receiving email on his computer. This is a person who otherwise is very engaged in life and remains a social person.

I believe the church has a missionary opportunity and responsibility to help the elderly access their world. Those of us who can use the technology can come alongside those who cannot. Those who cannot are being left behind and left out. It is a modern version of caring for the widows and orphans. We provide help and hope to the homeless yet we ignore the isolation of those in our congregations who lack the necessary computer skills. These skills are a means to help keep these folks connected and self-sufficient. Even after losing a driver’s license, they can still ‘get around’ on the internet. The internet is also a way to remain connected to the church family and activities.

Thirty years ago my father-in-law took tape recordings of the church service to the home-bound. We can do much better than this today. An obstacle for others is an opportunity for us and an opportunity to serve Christ in others.   

Saturday, July 6, 2013

GAFCON II: A Way Forward For Anglicanism

Fr. Dale Matson

“The Archbishop of Canterbury has used his first presidential address to the General Synod to call on the church to recognise that the ‘cultural and political ground’ in Britain is ‘changing’, and to ‘accept that there is a revolution in the area of sexuality, and we have not fully heard it’".,-welby-tells-synod

I wrote in January of 2011. “Will the See of Canterbury remain the focal point of 21st Century Anglicanism”? “It can remain the center of Anglicanism but Canterbury must represent more than the historical roots of Anglicanism viewed through the blurred lens of contemporary culture. It must represent the heart of the faith also. This is what is missing.”

At that time ++Rowan Williams was still the Archbishop of Canterbury and I called for him to step down in hopes that someone who reflected the majority of the mind of the Anglican Communion and the church catholic would lead the World Wide Anglican Communion in the 21st Century. ++Williams did step down (I am sure he made the decision apart from my urging). He was followed by ++Justin Welby and early signs   have proven to be reliable indicators that ++Welby is ++Williams 2.0. and

What ++ Justin Welby has essentially said here is that the church needs to accept what contemporary culture is promoting, repent that she hasn't come on board and prepare herself for even more change “…we have not fully heard it.” Apparently he has not just been “listening”. He perceived “notable hostility” to the churches’ position which he had supported in opposing the Same-sex Marriage Bill. He then went on to discuss “homophobic bullying” which is another issue. Bullying of anyone is morally wrong. Isn't the murder of Christians because they are Christians a serious matter also?

Am I asking for ++Justin Welby to step down? No, because I believe he does represent the progressive mind of the Church of England, TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada.

The Church of England and ++Welby are culture bound. They formerly sent missionaries to the far corners of the earth. Much of the pushback against Canterbury is from lands Canterbury missioned through the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. The prophetic voice for Anglicanism is from the Global South not Canterbury.  It should be Canterbury speaking truth to power not cowering and renting her garments because she is ashamed of her guiding documents and Lord. Does accommodating the cultural change make the church more relevant; more genuine; more truthful; more liked? Does ++Justin Welby actually speak the mind of the WWAC any more than the former ABC ++Rowan Williams? His collaboration, while cloaked is progressivism not true reconciliation or repentance.

The bitter irony is that Canterbury in an attempt to be more relevant and responsive to her immediate culture has made herself less relevant to the Christian church in general and the WWAC in particular. Since when does taking the majority side make the church right or more liked? Does Canterbury even understand that lukewarm Christianity is no match for Islam which will ascend to power by demographics alone? England is in danger of having a new and less tolerant established religion.

The title of my article is “A Way Forward For Anglicanism”. It is different than two years ago. We are further down the road. There is more clarity.  GAFCON II will be meeting in Kenya in October. I am hopeful. The press release states in part, “We continue to face the triple challenge of skeptical secularism, militant religion and compromised Christianity. GAFCON 2013 has been summoned so that GFCA can help both plan for and experience the future of the Communion of which we, with many others, are part.”  It is the “compromised Christianity” that most troubles me.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Christians: Strangers In A Strange Land

Fr. Dale Matson

A Stranger In A Strange Land is the title of a novel written by Robert Heinlein and published in 1961. It is the story of a human born and raised on Mars by Martians. He was later brought back to earth. The protagonist Valentine Michael Smith has supernatural powers and intelligence with almost limitless funds. He is attracted to the ideals of a neo pagan hedonistic cult and founds his own cult “Church Of All Worlds”. He is eventually murdered by a mob instigated by the rival ‘Fosterites’ cult, his body is eaten by his followers and he has post death appearances.
It is not an original story with Smith being a pagan version of a Christ-like figure. Even the title is from Exodus 2:22, “And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.”

Heinlein had an interesting remark about his book. "I had been in no hurry to finish it [the book], as that story could not be published commercially until the public mores changed. I could see them changing and it turned out that I had timed it right."

A pagan “Church Of All Worlds (CAW) was actually formed in 1968 using ideas from the book. “This spiritual path included several ideas from the book, including polyamory, non-mainstream family structures, social libertarianism, water-sharing rituals, an acceptance of all religious paths by a single tradition, and the use of several terms such as "grok", "Thou art God", and "Never Thirst". Though Heinlein was neither a member nor a promoter of the Church, it was formed including frequent correspondence between Zell and Heinlein, and he was a paid subscriber to their magazine.”

The similarities with the contemporary Episcopal Church  (TEC) and CAW are both striking and unfortunate. “CAW's members, called ‘Waterkin’, espouse paganism, but the Church is not a belief-based religion. Members experience Divinity and honor these experiences while also respecting the views of others. They recognize "Gaea," the Earth Mother Goddess and the Father God, as well as the realm of Faeries and the deities of many other pantheons. Many of their ritual celebrations are centered on the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece.”

Heinlein was right when he said that the public mores had changed when his book was published in 1961. It was the beginning of the era of sex, drugs and rock and roll. There is a certain irony in this because I was a part of that changing society. I had been raised in a different Kingdom. I was raised in the Baptist church with much of my formation in the 1950’s.  The 60’s transported many of us to a new planet; a new era. I came to believe, that God was dead and that abortion was a good solution to the “Population Bomb” (Paul R. Ehrlich, 1968). My morals changed with this new world of premarital sex, drugs and rock music that promoted a pagan life. It almost destroyed my life and did destroy the lives of many around me. I am a survivor of that era.

Having been rescued by Christ, I became a stranger in a strange land. It is a land on a trajectory of entropy not evolution. The people of this land are rushing headlong into an abyss. One characteristic for the unsaved people today is their state of confusion. No matter how words are arranged, much of what is said is nonsense. It is word salad. It is a kind of “New Speak” lacking meaning. “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1st Corinthians 13:1) “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:10-12) 

Are you a stranger in a strange land? I believe these are the last days, Lord, pour out Your Spirit on all flesh.