Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Man Of Joy, Courage and Prayer: Bishop John David Schofield RIP

Fr. Dale Matson

Last Mass of Chrism For Bishop Schofield

I left an autographed copy of my first book on his desk the previous morning and stood in Bishop Schofield’s office door the following day. Fishing for a compliment, I asked, “So Bishop, what did you think of my book?” “Find yourself a good editor”, he responded. This was followed with predictable gales of laughter.  Although an intellectual, his office was filled with humorous cartoons along with an impressive library. Most of the time his humor was self-deprecating. In exasperation, he said to me the last time we were together, “I’m busier in retirement than I was as a Bishop.” I responded, “That’s because June (his administrative assistant) is no longer here to save you from yourself.” He hated meetings and freely admitted that he did not have the gift of administration. +JDS had more stories than you can shake a stick at and mentioning her name ‘reminded’ him of a story about her. June had a habit of reading the ending of a book to determine whether she wanted to read the book. He once gave her a book with the last pages removed to get her to read the book. I will always remember his laughter. He was a man of joy.
Bishop Schofield was the first bishop to remove his Diocese from the Episcopal Church. It was a necessary step in the eventual formation of the Anglican Church North America (ACNA). For that he has made enemies who reviled him. A man is as well known for his enemies as he is for his friends. His friends loved him. He suffered more than we will ever know. He was tormented with physical ailments akin to Job. He once told me that Satan attacked him through his sister's health until she died and then Satan came after him. With failing health, his last two years as bishop were difficult but he stayed on at the request of Archbishop Duncan. For 23 years, he led the Diocese of San Joaquin. As the bishop, he attracted and hired conservative clergy. It made our diocese different. The clergy were, for the most part, more conservative than their parishioners. He is the last of the princely Bishops and a man of courage.
He had discernment about things and his wisdom was employed as an exhortation to people like me.  He ordained me as a vocational deacon. After two years, I went into his office and asked what he thought about me seeking the priesthood. “I was wondering when you would ask that question.” “I’m surprised you haven’t asked already.”
There is also a pastoral side to him that his clergy especially experienced. Before our ordination, he would spend two days with us on retreat at our conference center in Oakhurst. During that time he handed down the faith once delivered and instructed us about self-care including nurturing our spirituals lives. As he talked about his mornings spent in intercessory prayer and showed me his book of prayers he recited daily, I became fully aware of the depth of his spiritual life. He was a man of prayer.
My current devotional given to me by my brother Fr. Van is called Voices of the Saints: A Year of Readings. (Bert Ghezzi) Bishop Schofield’s life compares favorably to many of the saintly stories. At 75, he lived longer than most. If he were to respond to my comparison, he would say, “Why, of course I compare!” In fact,  some of them were rascals.” He would then offer up one of his patented belly laughs. God bless you Bishop Schofield and thank you for your service. YBIC Dale+

Here is a video clip from an interview I did with him in late fall of 2010.

The full-length video interview is available from Amazon as a download or rental here.

Monday, October 28, 2013

GAFCON II: The Nairobi Communiqué

Fr. Dale Matson

“When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Akbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.” (2 Kings 22: 11-13)
I believe the Communiqué speaks for itself and does so clearly. This response is simply my understanding of it. I couldn’t help but think of this Old Testament passage as I read the Nairobi Communiqué.  King Josiah rediscovered the Book of the Law while renovating the temple. From it came repentance for the king. God’s people turned their backs on God.  They were the worst sinners of all. They were idolaters.  GAFCON II was about renovating God’s temple and finding God among the ruins.
To me it is as if, Anglicans have rediscovered the centrality of the Gospel, so important to the reformation.  The Communiqué begins and ends with Christ. It is a reaffirmation of an orthodox Christology as a continuation of the East Africa revival. East Africa has comforted us with the comfort they were comforted with. 
We have had enough of other gospels and are joined together in Christ as His body the church; the Anglican Church. It is a Spirit of unity reestablishing the preeminence of Scripture and need for Evangelism even in the face of persecution.
It is the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans who are now an instrument within the greater Communion. There is no repentance from the leadership of the western churches and no turning back for the GFCA. It is they who will determine what is means to be an orthodox Anglican.  It is they who will develop seminaries that honor Scripture.  “The character and boundaries of our fellowship are not determined by institutions but by the Word of God.”  It is not a prosperity gospel. Anglican Christians, witness, evangelize, disciple and suffer. They honor boundaries set and blessed by God for men and women and their families. The Anglican Christian is to live a holy and fruitful life of repentance, forgiveness for sin, believing in the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to transform his /her life.
We will not be setting back and letting contemporary culture set the agenda for the church. We will defend the Word of God and live the Christian Life in a world culture that opposes and despises it. There is Truth and we will proclaim Him.
There is still ‘Broad Church’ compassion without the poison pill arrogance. It is the spreading of the Gospel that will transform both individuals and society. “…empowering those who are deprived of resources; and that we should not ignore the cries of the marginalized and oppressed who need immediate aid.
We have been brought to this point because we are steadfast. God is a God of love but He is also a Holy God. We are hardy through persecution but the church catholic has been praying for us and we are thankful to them. We also thank the saints in Heaven.
As I read the Communiqué I was also reminded of a familiar Christian hymn removed from the Mennonite Brethren Hymnal because it was too militaristic.  The chorus goes like this.

“Onward, Christian soldiers! Marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus Going on before.” Thank You Lord for GAFCON II


Friday, October 25, 2013

Instructions to the Church # IV

Let Marriage be Honored Among All

Bishop Eric Menees

In the first century, the Church catholic was under attack from every side: the Roman pagan government viewed Christians as a non-conforming oddity; Jews viewed Christians as sacrilegious pretenders; and within the church there were struggles between orthodox believers and proponents of Gnostic religions who were trying to insert themselves into the church.

In the midst of that struggle, God brought forth brave men and women to lead the church and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews was inspired by the Holy Spirit to instruct and encourage the Church to be strong, faithful, courageous, and loving.

In this morning's Bishop's Note we continue our examination of Hebrew's Chapter 13:1-9, and take up the issue of marriage. Hebrew's states: "1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. 4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous."

While written in the first century, this exhortation for the church to honor marriage and to maintain biblical sexual morality is absolutely vital to the life of the church and our society. We live in an environment that is increasingly like that of the first century. Marriage is challenged in the courtroom and in the classroom. The political and social emphasis is on acceptance and affirmation, rather than on honoring marriage and biblical morality. The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) and the Diocese of San Joaquin oppose these innovations, and even though the courts legalize same sex marriage, I will not permit a priest in this diocese to preside at such a service.

However, that being said, the greatest threat we have to marriage is not from homosexuals challenging the laws of the land -- it is from the Church’s own failure to maintain the sexual morality that we've been called to practice. Recent studies sadly point out that American Christians have nearly the same divorce rate as do non-Christians. (March 2008, Barna Research Group) The number of people having extra marital affairs is nearly the same for Christians and Non-Christians, and the same holds true for the number of men who regularly look at internet pornography. George Barna, who conducted the divorce study, said: "There no longer seems to be much of a stigma attached to divorce; it is now seen as an unavoidable rite of passage." Interviews with young adults suggest that they want their initial marriage to last, but are not particularly optimistic about that possibility. There is also evidence that many young people are moving toward embracing the idea of serial marriage, in which a person gets married two or three times, seeking a different partner for each phase of their adult life."

While not taught in the church, this statement reflects a growing attitude among Christians in the church. If we want to honor marriage and practice biblical sexual morality, we need to get serious about biblical teaching in the church. We need to empower parents to teach their children, in word and example, the importance of marriage as a gift from God, meant to be lived out in a life long relationship between one man and one woman. Christians are to remain celibate prior to marriage, and chaste within marriage.

We will see a mighty strengthening of the church when we begin to practice what we preach!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Instructions To The Church # III

#3 "Remember Those Who Are In Prison."

Bishop Eric Menees
Over the past two weeks we looked at verses 1-2: "1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares".

Verse 3 continues giving us a concrete example of what "Brotherly Love" is: "Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body."  
Hebrews speaks to a situation that we in the USA have a very difficult time identifying with. In the First Century, Christians who refused to utter the words "Caesar is Lord" and offer a pinch of incense before a statue of Caesar, were imprisoned, publicly flogged, and humiliated. This often meant economic disaster for the individual and, of course, the family, along with public embarrassment and loss of friendships.  

Jesus told the disciples, and us, that we are to pick up our cross and follow Him. (Matthew 14:24) When a brother or sister was imprisoned, the church came to their aid and the aid of the family. This was unique in the first century, and continues to be unique in the twenty first century - it is a mark of what it means to be the Church of God and the body of Christ.
But what about us in the Diocese of San Joaquin?  How do we fulfill this command of scripture to express brotherly love? By sharing the gospel with those in prison, and ministering to their families. KAIROS Prison Ministry is an up and coming ministry in the diocese, and a wing of the national prison ministry. KAIROS (Greek for God's time as opposed to CRONOS - earthly time) is a four day retreat for prisoners that seeks to introduce people who have done very bad things and known the depth of sin and despair, to the love, grace, and transforming power of Jesus Christ. As I write this Bishop's Note, Christine Miller of Trinity, Bakersfield, is serving on a KAIROS retreat at the Women's Prison in Chowchilla. The Women's Prison at Chowchilla is one of two prisons in the Valley that have a KAIROS retreat - the other being the Men's Federal Prison in Atwater.  Dcn. John LaMar, Chaplain Edwin Peraza, and I are working with KAIROS national to establish a KAIROS ministry at Pleasant Valley Men's Prison, which we pray will begin in 2014.
Over the years, I've had the great honor of serving on KAIROS retreat weekends, and have had the blessing of witnessing some of the very worst people come to Christ and have their lives transformed.While still serving their time in prison, they've become counselors, lay chaplains, and mentors to hundreds of other prisoners. These were not "jail house conversions,” but truly and utterly transformed lives of Grace and Love.  
This is not a ministry that all can participate in first hand, but it is a ministry that all can aid through prayer, writing letters, and through financial gifts. When we "Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them," we discover that not only do we bless our brothers and sisters, but we are blessed ourselves.

My wife and I are in Kenya for the GAFCON conference, just weeks after the terrorist attack at the Mall in Nairobi. Needless to say, a good deal of nervousness arose in us following the attack and we wondered to one another, "should we go?" Two weeks ago I participated in an international conference call hosted by Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney, Australia. Archbishop Jensen stressed the importance of standing with our Kenyan brothers and sisters in their hour of need - just as Hebrew's encourages the church to do - and thus made the decision all the more easy to make.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Fr. Dale Matson

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” (Tertullian paraphrased)

“I pray for Kenyans and all the victims that may God protect, strengthen and comfort you. I declare the defeat of the terrorists in the Name of Jesus. May God see you through and heal all the victims. Amen.....” Christina Newton [letter to the editor]

On September 21st the Westgate Mall in Nairobi Kenya was attacked by Islamist militants. 67 civilians and security personnel were tortured and murdered during the siege.  The attack was portrayed as a warning against Kenya’s government involvement in driving al-Shabaab out of Somalia. Supposedly the terrorists were targeting non-Muslims but such was not the case. “Recite a passage from the Koran, they ordered. Being Muslim, they did so. The terrorists shot them anyway. “Why did you do that? Why did you shoot them?” the little boy wailed. “Because,” replied one of the gunmen, “they were not wearing the hijab.”

The larger picture here is not a political struggle. It is not even a struggle between Muslims and Christians. It is a struggle against evil. The timing could not be more obvious to Anglican Christians who will be attending GAFCON II later this month. Whenever there is an outpouring of God the Holy Spirit, evil mounts an attack in advance.

The Most Rev Dr Eliud Wabukala Primate of Kenya, who is hosting and leading the conference, recognized this when he stated, “I know however that, like me, you will have been very distressed by the callous and violent attack on the Westgate shopping centre here in Nairobi last week. It seems that this was an exercise carefully designed in cold blood to create a climate of fear and break the spirit of the Kenyan people. We have seen a manifestation of evil in this city, but my prayer for our conference is that it will be a manifestation of the presence of God in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

The church in East Africa is no stranger to violence and persecution. It was built on the Cross of Christ and the blood of the Martyrs of Uganda. Between 1885 and 1887 Roman Catholic and Anglican Converts were murdered by the forces of King Mwanga for refusing to offer sacrifices to pagan gods.

The East African Church was also influenced by the East African Revival. An important participant was Joe Church who became a Christian while a student at Cambridge. “Church soon returned to his mission station in Gahini, Rwanda, where he instituted a similar regimen of plain Bible readings and daily prayer, from which the pattern of the East African Revival emerged in the early 1930s. The message was then carried throughout East Africa by small bands of African preachers, who brought a message of the severity of sin and the need for individuals to confess their sins publicly and have them washed in the powerful blood of Jesus.”

“The Student Volunteer Movement (SVM), which from 1850 to about 1950 sent nearly 10,000 missionaries to inland areas, often at great personal sacrifice. Many early SVM missionaries went to areas with endemic tropical diseases left with their belongings packed in a coffin, aware that 80% of them would die within two years.”
They too had a faith worth dying for. 

The Jerusalem Declaration is a Godly document, reaffirming Anglican Christian truth, unity and doctrine. It was birthed during GAFCON I in Jerusalem. It was in response to a compromised Anglican Christianity. Today it is to Christ and His church in the Global South including East Africa that we look to for orthodox leadership. Brothers and Sisters, you have a robust faith with a Christ worth dying for. Bring Him back to us.

"And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death." (Rev. 12:11, ESV)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Instructions to the Church # II

"Do No Neglect To Show Hospitality To Strangers"

Bishop Eric Menees

Last week in The Bishop's Note, I introduced a new series on the Instructions to the Church from the Epistle to the Hebrews. The author of Hebrews closed the epistle in the thirteenth chapter by giving a charge to the church that began with this foundation: "Let brotherly love continue." (13:1) He builds upon that declaration by describing acts that demonstrate that love, including verse two, which states: "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." (13:2)

Hebrews states that a clear sign of "brotherly love" is showing hospitality to strangers. In the first century, the virtue of hospitality was held in the highest esteem. Travel was dangerous, and Christians had to assist one another. Prior to the conversion of the Emperor Constantine (AD 312), the danger level for Christian travelers was even higher than for pagans. Thus the early church, which met primarily in secret, would put out the Christian symbol of the fish, ΙΧΘΥΣ (Ichthys), which served is an acronym for "Ίησος Χριστός, Θεο Υός, Σωτήρ", (Iēsous Christos, Theou Yios, Sōtēr), and which translates into English as "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior". (Wikipedia) This fish would be on the side of a building like graffiti, with the fish’s nose pointing in the direction where the underground church would meet. Thus Christian visitors in a city would have a road map of where to go in order to worship with brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. Receiving those strangers was then, and is now, of the highest priority.

Hebrews tells us that, in welcoming the stranger, we may never know when we are entertaining angels. This may be a reference to the story in the eighteenth chapter of Genesis, where Abraham and Sarah welcome three strangers into their midst, who turn out to be three angels (or as some argue the Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

We need to be intentional about welcoming the visitors to our churches. This means that we must have well trained greeters meeting people at the door as they come to visit. We need parishioners ready to sit with them in order to help them navigate the liturgy if they are not familiar with it, and to invite them to coffee hour afterwards.

I suspect we've all been to churches where we were warmly welcomed, and to churches where we were present but not seen. Just reading these words probably brings back memories for you. For me, I will never forget being in Alexandria, Virginia several years ago. I arrived at the service early, took a bulletin off the table in the foyer, and made my way down towards the front of the church. Minutes prior to the service, an usher came forward with a family and politely asked me to move. "Of course," I said and slid over toward the end of the pew to make room. The usher said, "Oh I'm sorry, this is a family pew; we have pews in the back for visitors." I politely got up and walked out of that church, never to return. 

What a tragedy, if anyone visiting one of our churches would not be warmly welcomed and invited into the fellowship for worship, prayer, and the opportunity to become a valued part of the body of Christ in the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Instructions to the Church # I

"Let Brotherly Love Continue."

Bishop Eric Menees

1 “Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. 4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. 5 Keep your life  a free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said,“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” 7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and  imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9 Do not “be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace,  not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.” (Hebrews 13:1-9 ESV)

Over the next eight weeks, I would like to begin to explore this familiar scripture from the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 13:1-9). In these nine verses, the author of this letter gives profound and practical advice to the church - advice that is as good today as it was in the first century, when this was written.

The author of the epistle does not identify himself, though we do know he was friends with Timothy (13:23) and that the church he's writing to had suffered persecution, including the confiscation of property and imprisonment (10:32-34). Scholars also believe that this church was made up of Jewish Christians who were tempted to leave the life of Grace and return to the old familiar life under the law of Moses. Hebrews speaks to the church of the first century and of the twenty-first century, with principles that apply directly to the Diocese of San Joaquin.

"Let brotherly love continue" (vs. 1) The church of the first century was marked by "brotherly love" (φιλαδελφίᾳ (philadelphia). The church of the twenty-first century should also be marked by brotherly love - the kind of love that gives without expectation of anything in return. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you,  that you love one another:  just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35)

That brotherly love is not limited to those in our families, or even to those in the church. In fact, Jesus was clear that his love was not only for the 99 sheep in his fold, but also for the 1 that was lost. (Luke 15:3-7) The Church, as the body of Christ, must display that same love for the lost - those who do not yet know Jesus and don't even know that they need him. That love for the lost must be the distinguishing characteristic of the church.

This week, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet the Most Rev. Ben Kwashi the Archbishop of Jos, Nigeria, along with a group of clergy and church planters, in Chicago. Archbishop Kwashi spoke of the persecution, pain, and poverty that Anglican Christians have experienced over the past decade. When asked what we could pray for, Archbishop Kwashi did not ask for money, or even for peace. Archbishop Kwashi asked us to pray for a resurgence of love in the church. He explained that Christian Love transforms and defeats violence and terrorism. Secondly, Abp. Kwashi asked us to pray for honesty, because all poverty is the result of dishonesty.

Brothers and sisters of the Diocese of San Joaquin, join me in praying for love and honesty in the Anglican Church in general and in the Church of Nigeria and the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin in particular!